Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04-33

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 27, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW - Off-Highway Vehicles: Task Force Recommendations - Reject,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2663
TPW - Chedabucto ATV Assoc., Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2664
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 63, Executive Council Act/Public Service Act,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2664
No. 64, Capital Region Transportation Authority Act, Hon. R. Russell 2664
No. 65, Gasoline Tax Accountability Act, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2664
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1119, Chiasson, Rev. Anselme: Death of - Tribute, Mr. K. Deveaux 2664
Vote - Affirmative 2665
Res. 1120, Dugas, Annette - Clare Vol. of Yr., Mr. W. Gaudet 2665
Vote - Affirmative 2666
Res. 1121, Health - Communications Dept.: Size - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 2666
Res. 1122, Sydney Tar Ponds Cleanup: Gov't. (Can.) Responsibility -
Affirm, Mr. D. Dexter 2667
Vote - Affirmative 2667
Res. 1123, Kirton, Cst. Benny: Commun. Services - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 2668
Vote - Affirmative 2668
Res. 1124, LeGay Fiberglass - Mgt. Award, Mr. G. Hines 2668
Vote - Affirmative 2669
Res. 1125, Nat'l. Day of Mourning - Anniv. (20th), Mr. F. Corbett 2669
Vote - Affirmative 2670
Res. 1126, Patchett, Gordie - Wrestling Medals, Mr. L. Glavine 2670
Vote - Affirmative 2671
Res. 1127, Sports: Lockeport Reg. HS - Basketball Championship,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 2671
Vote - Affirmative 2671
Res. 1128, Dart. North MLA: Grandfatherhood - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 2672
Vote - Affirmative 2672
Res. 1129, McCarlie, Matthew - Wrestling: Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. H. Theriault 2672
Vote - Affirmative 2673
Res. 1130, Donna & Andy - MIANS Award/ECMA Nomination,
(by Mr. C. O'Donnell), Mr. M. Parent 2673
Vote - Affirmative 2674
Res. 1131, Capt. William Spry Ctr.: Web Site - Participants,
Ms. M. Raymond 2674
Vote - Affirmative 2674
Res. 1132, Deveau, Roland - AJEFNE: Pres. - Appt., Mr. W. Gaudet 2675
Vote - Affirmative 2676
Res. 1133, Liverpool Lions Club - Anniv. (40th), Hon. K. Morash 2676
Vote - Affirmative 2676
Res. 1134, Stirling, Ruth - Pictou Town Vol. of Yr., Mr. C. Parker 2677
Vote - Affirmative 2677
Res. 1135, Crossley Carpet Mills - RRFB Mobius Award,
Mr. K. Colwell 2677
Vote - Affirmative 2678
Res. 1136, Leverman, Alice: Cdn. Coun. Health Serv. Accreditation -
Surveyor, Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 2678
Vote - Affirmative 2679
Res. 1137, McHugh, Kelli (UCCB): Basketball Recognition -
Congrats., Mr. G. Gosse 2679
Vote - Affirmative 2679
Res. 1138, Cassa Bus. Equip. - BBB Award, Hon. R. Hurlburt 2680
Vote - Affirmative 2680
Res. 1139, Ridgecliff Mid. Sch. - Heritage Fair, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2680
Vote - Affirmative 2681
Res. 1140, Ackles, Tim/Duff, Gary: Bay Rd. FD - Commitment,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2681
Vote - Affirmative 2682
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 321, Health - OxyContin: Prescription Increases - Effects,
Mr. D. Dexter 2682
No. 322, Health: C.B. Drug Problem - Seriousness,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2684
No. 323, Ins.: Rebate - Monitoring, Mr. D. Dexter 2686
No. 324, Fin.: User Fees/Taxes - Differentiate, Mr. W. Gaudet 2688
No. 325, TPW - Bridge Maintenance: Funding - Usage, Mr. C. Parker 2688
No. 326, Econ. Dev.: Job Creation/Retention - Rural N.S.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2689
No. 327, Justice: FOIPOP Fees - Increases, Mr. K. Deveaux 2691
No. 328, Nat. Res. - Emera: Contracting - Policy, Mr. L. Glavine 2692
No. 329, Hum. Res. - Sr. Gov't. Staff: Bonuses - Explain,
Mr. K. Deveaux 2693
No. 330, TCH - Bluenose II: Agreement - Table,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2695
No. 331, Sysco - Cleanup: Bidding Process - Explain,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2696
No. 332, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Assessments: HRM/N.S. -
Discrepancies, Ms. M. Raymond 2697
No. 333, Hum. Res. - Pub. Servants: Bonuses - Non-Disclosure,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2698
No. 334, TCH - AGNS: Funding - Adequacy,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2699
No. 335, Nat. Res. - Tobeatic Leases: Revocation - Cease,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 2700
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON SUPPLY MOTION:
Mr. F. Corbett 2703
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2706
Hon. M. Baker 2710
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:14 P.M. 2713
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:59 P.M. 2713
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Com. Serv.: Daycare Spaces - Funding:
Ms. M. Raymond 2713
Hon. D. Morse 2716
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2718
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 2720
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:45 P.M. 2721
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 58, Mechanics' Lien Act 2721
Hon. M. Baker 2721
Mr. D. Dexter 2723
Mr. M. Samson 2726
Mr. K. Colwell 2728
Hon. M. Baker 2729
Vote - Affirmative 2730
No. 62, Financial Meaures (2004) Act 2730
Hon. P. Christie 2730
Mr. G. Steele 2731
Adjourned debate 2739
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 54, Saint Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Incorporation Act 2739
No. 55, Lenihan (Municipality of the District of Chester)
Retiring Allowance Act 2740
No. 56, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters Act 2740
Mr. B. Taylor 2740
Vote - Affirmative 2741
No. 60, Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company Act 2741
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 28th at 2:00 p.m. 2742
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1141, Barry, Dr. Andrea: Changes Health & Fitness Studio -
Anniv. (1st), The Speaker 2743
Res. 1142, Maple Syrup Council (N. American): AGM - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2743
Res. 1143, Century 21 ABC Realty: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2744
Res. 1144, Handyman Services: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2744
Res. 1145, EE Enterprises: Contributions - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2745
Res. 1146, Bud Chambers Const.: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2745
Res. 1147, RRFB Mobius Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Morash 2746
Res. 1148, Eco-Efficiency Ctr. - CCME Award, Hon. K. Morash 2746

[Page 2663]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 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 Dartmouth East:

Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to fund allocated, subsidized daycare seats and not transfer these existing spaces into portable ones.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 1,411 people from the Guysborough area on behalf of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. The operative clause is, "We, the undersigned respectfully ask that the Government of Nova Scotia do not adopt the recommendations put forward by the VOLUNTARY PLANNING OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE TASK FORCE in their present form." I have affixed my signature to that petition.

2663

[Page 2664]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I also have another petition here to table. It is from the Chedabucto ATV Association in the eastern part of Guysborough County and it is signed by approximately 50 members of that club. I table that petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 63 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 155 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Executive Council Act; and Chapter 376 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Public Service Act. (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

Bill No. 64 - Entitled an Act to Establish a Transportation Authority for the Capital Region. (Hon. Ronald Russell)

Bill No. 65 - Entitled an Act to Provide Accountability for the Expenditure of Taxes on Gasoline and Diesel Oil. (Mr. Russell MacKinnon)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1119

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

[Page 2665]

Whereas Reverend Anselme Chiasson, born in Cheticamp, Nova Scotia was a folklorist, writer and pioneer in Acadian history with a career spanning 60 years as a promoter of Acadian culture and history, through his research and books; and

Whereas throughout his career, Reverend Chiasson, the co-founder of the Societe Historique Acadienne, was honoured by regional, national and international organizations including the Order of Canada, the Ordre des francophones d'Amerique, and la medaile de chevalier de l'Ordre national du merite; and

Whereas at the age of 93, Reverend Anselme Chiasson passed away on Sunday, April 25th;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House offer condolences to the Acadian community for the loss of Reverend Anselme Chiasson, and recognize his tireless efforts to research and promote Acadian history and culture.

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 Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1120

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

Whereas the Clare community is very proud of its dedicated volunteers; and

Whereas this year the Clare community has selected one of its outstanding citizens as Volunteer of the Year and this individual has given in the way of time and energy to various organizations; and

Whereas this year, through this individual's genuine warmth and caring towards others, she has become a valuable asset to the organization that she is involved in;

[Page 2666]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its best wishes and congratulations to Annette Dugas of Church Point, for her outstanding contributions to many charities and organizations through the Municipality of Clare.

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 on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, we have friends of this House and indeed of this province in your gallery today. Barb and John Shaw are here joining us from Cape Breton. If they would rise and accept the warm greeting of the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1121

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

Whereas the Canadian Institute for Health Information confirmed that Nova Scotia's health care bureaucratic costs are the smallest in Canada; and

Whereas the Saskatchewan Health Department, for example, has a $2.7 billion budget, employing 19 full-time staff in its communications branch; and

Whereas the New Brunswick Health Department has a $2 billion budget, employing 9 full-time staff in its communications branch;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Nova Scotia Minister of Health for putting front-line health care first, and having among the smallest communications department for any Health Department in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2667]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1122

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

Whereas federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale is visiting Nova Scotia today, April 27, 2004; and

Whereas Mr. Goodale is very familiar with Cape Breton issues, the history of federal involvement with coal mining and coke production, as a former Devco minister; and

Whereas Mr. Goodale's recent budget provided an average of $50 million a year for the federal contribution to cleaning up the so-called shared responsibility toxic sites, of which the Sydney tar ponds is just one;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the federal government, and Finance Minister Goodale in particular, to affirm the federal government's responsibility for 70 per cent of the Sydney tar ponds cleanup costs, as outlined in the most recent federal-provincial cleanup agreement.

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 2668]

[12:15 p.m.]

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1123

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 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, Constable Benny Kirton's name has been added to the wall;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Constable Benny Kirton, and honour his service to 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 member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1124

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

[Page 2669]

Whereas ZCL Composites Inc. is Canada's leading supplier of fibreglass storage tanks to the petroleum industry, and was established in 1987 with a mandate to develop, manufacture and supply fiberglass underground storage tanks for use in the downstream retail petroleum industry; and

Whereas the Alberta-based company has numerous subsidiaries across Canada, including LeGay Fiberglass of 1334 Cobequid Road in Waverley; and

Whereas LeGay Fiberglass, in conjunction with ZCL Composites Inc., was recently chosen as one of Canada's 50 best-managed companies;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend LeGay Fiberglass of Waverley for their superior work as well as treatment of their employees and offer our congratulations on the company being selected as one of the 50 best managed in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1125

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

Whereas Wednesday, April 28th, is known as the National Day of Mourning, the annual day of remembrance for workers killed and injured on the job; and

Whereas on April 28th we mark the 20th year of commemorating the day of remembrance; and

Whereas at events around the province tomorrow, Nova Scotians will gather to publicly renew the commitment to "fight for the living" and "mourn the dead";

[Page 2670]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join with all Nova Scotians tomorrow to mark the 20th National Day of Mourning for those who were injured or lost their lives on the job.

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. 1126

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

Whereas Gordie Patchett, a Grade 8 student at Pine Ridge Middle School in Kingston, has become a fine all-around athlete specializing in wrestling; and

Whereas Gordie Patchett has demonstrated a strong commitment to his sport and is beginning to realize his potential; and

Whereas during the 2003-04 school year, Gordie has clearly achieved success with district and regional gold medals;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gordie Patchett for winning the provincial junior wrestling championship in the 75 kilogram class.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2671]

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. 1127

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 the Lockeport Regional High School Greenwaves senior boys' basketball team recently won their second Division 4, Nova Scotia Schools Athletic Federation Basketball championship in three years at a tournament in Oxford; and

Whereas this championship, besides being their second in three years, was also the 35th provincial basketball championship won by the school; and

Whereas tradition dating back to 1951 continued for the Kent Balish coached Greenwaves and upon returning to Lockeport following their championship win, they were greeted by well-wishers and paraded through town with the assistance of the Lockeport Fire Department;

Therefore be it resolved that congratulations are extended to the Lockeport Regional High School Greenwaves for a tremendous season, with MLAs in this House of Assembly recognizing the accomplishment of the high school basketball program in Lockeport.

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.

[Page 2672]

RESOLUTION NO. 1128

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

Whereas Brad and Beth Pye of Ottawa welcomed William Alexander to the world just minutes after midnight on April 27, 2004; and

Whereas young William weighed in at 11 pounds, two ounces; and

Whereas proud parents and new baby William are all doing well;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate the member for Dartmouth North on being a grandfather once again and extend best wishes to Brad, Beth and William Alexander Pye.

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. (Applause)

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1129

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's very own Matthew McCarlie has been wrestling for the last number of years and representing Digby Regional High School; and

Whereas from April 2nd to April 4th he represented Nova Scotia in the Canadian Wrestling Championships in Windsor, Ontario; and

Whereas Matthew McCarlie competed along with 690 other wrestlers, making it to the semi-finals and came away with a record four wins and two losses;

[Page 2673]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Matthew McCarlie and wish him every success in the future.

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.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1130

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley singing duo, Donna and Andy, has been gaining a lot of recognition in recent months; and

Whereas last Fall Andy Duinker and Donna Rhodenizer garnered the nomination as Children's Artist of the Year from the music industry of Nova Scotia and an East Coast Music Award nomination earlier this year; and

Whereas the duo's compact disk, Computer Cat, contains 13 original tracks written by Ms. Rhodenizer aimed at a young audience but can be appreciated by people of all ages;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the singing duo of Donna and Andy on their recognition by the music industry and wish them much success in their musical endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2674]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1131

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

Whereas the c@psite or Community Access Program was established to provide free public computer access and training; and

Whereas the multi-service office of the Captain William Spry Community Centre has for 19 years provided advice, board development and postage to the many non-profit groups active throughout Halifax Atlantic; and

Whereas the multi-service office and St. Paul's Family Resource Institute c@psite have just launched a Web site to promote and publicize the non-profit community programs and activities which proliferate in the area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the multi-service office, St. Paul's and the children of the Chebucto Boys and Girls Club who will be maintaining the Web site as it develops.

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.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 2675]

RESOLUTION NO. 1132

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: M. le président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse est engagé dans la promotion de services juridiques à la population acadienne et francophone de la Nouvelle-Écosse; et

Attendu que M. Roland Deveau a été récemment élu président de cette association des Juristes; et

Attendu que M. Deveau travaille depuis longtemps à la promotion de la collectivité acadienne de sa région et de la province; et

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée exprime ses félicitations et ses meilleurs voeux à M. Roland Deveau et aux membres de l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

M. le président, je propose l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débats.

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

Whereas l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse is committed to the promotion of legal services in the French language in this province; and

Whereas Roland Deveau has recently been elected president of this provincial French speaking lawyers' association; and

Whereas Mr. Deveau is dedicated to serving his community and the French speaking population of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its best wishes and congratulations to Mr. Roland Deveau and the members of l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2676]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1133

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

Whereas the Liverpool Lions Club was chartered on April 13, 1964, and is officially celebrating its 40th Anniversary on May 1, 2004; and

Whereas the Liverpool Lions Club has been involved with numerous important ventures over the past 40 years, including building the Girl Guide hall; purchasing a boat for the Queens Ground Search and Rescue; and donating tens of thousands of dollars toward projects such as the Queens County Museum, the Queens Memorial Arena and the Queens General Hospital expansion; and

Whereas in 1981 the Liverpool Lions Club organized the first Privateers Days and continued to manage the project for several years until it became too large for the club to host;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Liverpool Lions Club as it celebrates 40 years of participating in important philanthropic work in Queens County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 2677]

RESOLUTION NO. 1134

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

Whereas Ruth Stirling is the Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Pictou; and

Whereas Ms. Stirling is a lifetime member of the Pictou Garden Club, donating both plants and many cuttings to groups and individuals for many years; and

Whereas Ms. Stirling has long been a member of both the Monarchist League and Pictou's Princess Rebekah Lodge, as well as volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Pictou Food Bank, the Save the Children Fund and many other charities, and has for many years been active in the Pictou United Church, serving as a trustee and choir member;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate Ms. Stirling on being named Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Pictou, and offer its heartfelt thanks for her long service in so many important organizations and wish her all the best.

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. 1135

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

Whereas the Resource Recovery Fund Board's aim is to promote responsible solid waste management by industry, as well as residents, through numerous stewardship programs and promotions; and

[Page 2678]

Whereas on April 27, 2004, the RRFB will be handing out their annual Mobius Environmental Awards; and

Whereas Crossley Carpet Mills Limited of Truro has won the award for Business of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Crossley Carpet Mills Limited and all recipients of these awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1136

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas implementing and evaluating quality health care is crucial to good patient care; and

Whereas health care professionals must complete specialized training to become a Surveyor with the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation; and

Whereas South Shore health employee Alice Leverman has completed all the requirements necessary to become a Surveyor with the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alice Leverman on successfully completing the requirements to become a Surveyor with the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation and wish her much success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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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. 1137

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

Whereas Kelli McHugh, a second-year guard/forward with the University College of Cape Breton Capers, was named Second Team All Canadian; and

Whereas Kelli was also selected First Team All Star in the Atlantic University Basketball Conference; and

Whereas Kelli was named most valuable player in the Atlantic University Championship held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly congratulate Kelli McHugh, of the University College of Cape Breton Capers for her dedication and hard work in helping her team capture their first Atlantic University Sport title.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

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[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1138

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

Whereas Cassa Business Equipment Ltd. has received a community achievement award from the Better Business Bureau of the Maritime Provinces; and

Whereas this award is presented to companies that are not only in good standing with the bureau but are active in the Better Business Bureau and their community; and

Whereas Cassa Business Equipment Ltd. has been a strong supporter of numerous organizations including the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation, the Yarmouth Food Bank, Villa St. Joseph du Lac and the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Cassa Business Equipment Ltd. on receiving the community achievement award from the Better Business Bureau and recognize the many contributions business owners Garth Killiam, Roger King, Allan LeBlanc, Craig LeBlanc and their staff make to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1139

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

Whereas on Wednesday, April 14th, Ridgecliff Middle School held its first Heritage Fair; and

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Whereas the presentations of the 350 students involved were on the geography, history and heritage we share as Canadians; and

Whereas this highly successful educational experience was coordinated by teacher Cathy Viau;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly offer its congratulations to the students and staff of Ridgecliff Middle School on their Heritage Fair.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1140

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

Whereas on Saturday, April 3rd, the Bay Road Fire Department Station No. 59 held its appreciation banquet; and

Whereas on that evening, retired Deputy Chief Garry Duff and Chief Tim Ackles were recognized for their many years of dedication to the community; and

Whereas the contributions of Tim Ackles and Gary Duff to our community are exemplary;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate and thank Tim Ackles and Gary Duff for their outstanding commitment to our community and to the Bay Road Fire Department Station No. 59.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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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.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to table today some corrections to the Budget Address of last week. There were some printing errors, and I would like to table those today. Also, the corrections are done with the other Budget Address that is ready for distribution. Also, in the Crown Corporation Business Plans, which was adopted, there is a page that wasn't printed. So I would like to table those all today for members.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Order, please. I spoke to the Clerk about this and I don't think there is any place in the Orders of the Day that would specifically - I suggested the honourable minister get up on a point of order, but it was just a clarification of facts for the House. Thank you.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:33 p.m. and end at 1:33 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - OXYCONTIN:

PRESCRIPTION INCREASES - EFFECTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this weekend Cape Breton made the news in the Toronto Star. I'm tabling an article that outlines the devastating toll that OxyContin has taken on the people of Cape Breton. I want to quote from the Chief of Police, Edgar MacLeod, who says that, "In 30 years, no other drug has ever had this kind of impact - not cocaine, not heroin, not anything," I also want to quote from Father Graham who says, "I can't remember ever having a funeral for an overdose death before OxyContin came to Cape Breton . . . But in two years, I've had five funerals for men who all lived within a quarter-mile of here. It's a very small parish, and it's a very big problem."

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Mr. Speaker, the government response to this problem? A news release issued last Friday that says that soaring OxyContin use in 2003 over the previous year is an indication of better pain management care. I want to know if the Premier really believes that prescribing more OxyContin is going to contribute to better pain management for the grieving friends and family of 22 people who have died as a result of drug use?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the question is a question of substance, there's no question about that. The government has shown marked concern to the issue that was brought to the attention of government by responsible people in Cape Breton.

We must not lose sight of the fact that strong medication including OxyContin, used to treat terminal illness, very often finds its way into the hands of those who abuse it. We should not make a decision on OxyContin based on the improper use of the drug. We must put in place measures that will allow us to be certain that the drug is being used as it was originally intended. It's a good pain medication and those that have terminal cancer, very often need good pain medication. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's response underlines exactly what I want to ask him, because given the horrific increase in the illicit use of this drug, the government's press release is really stunning in its naivete. The department's spokesperson says that she can't explain the increase in the use of Oxycodone. I can tell her that there are drug addicts living in Cape Breton who can explain the increase.

The release ignores the reports from health officials that the rate of OxyContin prescribed by doctors is three times higher per capita in Cape Breton, than elsewhere in the province.

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister of Health is this, when will your department stop issuing news releases that praise increasing prescriptions of this drug and start dealing seriously with doctors, with health officials and addicts, in Cape Breton, to control its use and abuse? (Applause)

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the House, that the department, indeed, has been working through the district health authority, with the local community, with respect to addressing this very serious problem that the honourable member brings forward to the House.

In terms of our responsibilities within the department, we are, in fact, working to ensure that we are able to provide more up-to-date information relative to the issue of prescriptions and the use of prescriptions. We are making real progress in that, and I hope that we'll be able to update our technology in that regard, in the very near future. We continue to work with the local authorities. We continue to make this a high priority of the

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department. The responsibility for local affairs is with the DHA, but we're working very closely with them.

The honourable member might also appreciate that the Minister of Justice has, in fact, made an offer to the police department at CBRM, with respect to enhanced policing services.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the response of the Minister of Health underlines exactly the problem that we have in understanding the government's dealing with this issue. They download the responsibility and the cost onto the DHAs, instead of taking responsibility and leadership on what is a chronic problem existing in communities in Cape Breton. Despite our hopes and despite calls from the community for the establishment of the methadone clinic in Cape Breton, we didn't see that in the government's budget last week.

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister of Health is this, when will you make adequate resources and services available to deal with the epidemic of drug use and addictions in Cape Breton, and allow the people who live there to get their lives back? (Applause)

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member that we, indeed, are working very closely with the local DHA, and with the community. We will place a great deal of significance to the recommendations that are forthcoming from the community and through the DHA, and we will respond in an appropriate manner when those recommendations come forward. As I indicated, the Minister of Justice has, in fact, made an offer to the Chief of Police in Cape Breton Regional Municipality with respect to enhanced police services, and that is a very important element of this problem that exists there. It is not the appropriate prescribing of the drug that creates the problem, it is the misuse and the street traffic in the use of that drug that is creating the problem, and there is room for enhanced police services with respect to that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: C.B. DRUG PROBLEM - SERIOUSNESS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As we are all well aware, there is a serious prescription drug problem in Cape Breton. I have here with me today, and I will table it, a ministerial briefing note that proves that this government is actually downplaying that very serious situation. A paragraph in the briefing notes states: We know that OxyContin is prescribed on average to more patients in Cape Breton than in the rest of Nova Scotia.

Further information released from the department on Friday shows that the utilization rate in Cape Breton is higher than anywhere else in the province, as is the average number of prescriptions per patient. A highly-addictive narcotic is being prescribed to more people on more occasions than anywhere else in the province, and yet the government says we don't

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have a problem. My question to the minister is, why has the Minister of Health chosen to publicly downplay the seriousness of the prescription drug problem in Cape Breton?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what is appropriate is that all people understand that there is an appropriate use of OxyContin and there is the inappropriate use of it, and it is to the inappropriate use that the real problem exists. A major part of that, of course, relates to the issue of illegal activity, relative to the use of this substance. We are very much aware of the need to tackle this problem, and that's why we're working with the local community and that's why the Minister of Justice has made the offer he has.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, while the minister speaks, people are dying in the streets of Cape Breton, literally, as a result of drug overdoses. Thirty-nine people since 2001, nine deaths alone this year. As recently as this weekend, the police chief indicated the Cape Breton region is on target to record double that number of deaths, 18 deaths from OxyContin abuse this year alone, that's what they're projecting. Cancer patients on the drug are living in fear that they're targets of a robbery. The government could do some things: they could establish a methadone clinic, they could provide police with the resources they need to address the problem, and they could develop a computerized drug monitoring program.

Mr. Speaker, this government gave a cash-strapped DHA $50,000 to get some people together and talk about the problem. My question to the minister is, wouldn't it be better to spend the money fixing this problem instead of just talking about it?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member puts his finger on an aspect of the problem that would be appropriate for the Minister of Justice to address.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question, because he alluded to - in his question - the fact that there's this traffic in this drug and it's illegal. There are people who are preying on the addiction of people in Cape Breton. These people are criminals, and these criminals can only be identified through police activity. That is why our provincial police service has made an offer to the Cape Breton Regional Police Force to create a drug task force, so that we can find these criminals who are providing these drugs to people, and to track them down and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, in the meantime there are addicts in Cape Breton crying out for help, there are people who are dying, and the inaction of this government is killing people in my community and in communities around Glace Bay and area. That's what happening in Cape Breton right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. That's unparliamentary. I would ask the honourable member to retract that.

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MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I will retract that final comment, but the government insists on spending money on actions that are just going to see them through sittings of this House, rather than spending the money on problems that are really affecting the lives of people. The briefing note that I tabled here today says the department wants to computerize the prescription drug monitoring program. So my final question to the Minister of Health, will the minister commit here today to making a computerized prescription drug monitoring system in this province a priority of his?

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I indicated in response to the question of the Leader of the Opposition that, indeed, it was a priority of the department and of the government. My commitment to that priority has not changed in the last five minutes. I can also point out that the offer that was extended by the Minister of Justice is an offer that was extended in January 2003. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please, or I'll clear the room.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

INS.: REBATE - MONITORING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, last Fall the Progressive Conservative Government and the Liberal Party decided that they would sign away the rights of Nova Scotia drivers forever. In exchange, Nova Scotians were promised a 20 per cent rebate. Over the last number of months we have been hearing from drivers who still have not seen that rebate. My question to the minister responsible for auto insurance is this, what monitoring are you doing to ensure that Nova Scotia drivers receive the rebate that you promised?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, some days in this House you get very lucky. Well, this is my lucky day I guess. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I guess this is my lucky day because I got an update this morning, as a matter of fact, on the rebates and the results of our insurance amendments and, guess what, 297,000 Nova Scotians are sharing $50 million in rebates made from November until March. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

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MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it gets no less amusing than when they did it last year. I will tell you one who's not. Gary Randall's daughter paid $2,700 last year. She could have really used the $600 rebate that she was promised, but instead I will table the $3 cheque she got back from her insurer. The Superintendent of Insurance's office has been working on this. They've asked the Facility Association to recalculate the rebate. It has been two months and no answer. The Superintendent of Insurance's office advises patience. So my question to the minister is this, when does your government plan to side with drivers and get tough with the insurance companies?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member very much for that question and, as a matter of fact, the Premier would like to answer that question.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will table this. I have a letter here that I received from a Nova Scotian and I've removed the identification to protect his identity. The letter is in part, "I just opened a letter from my insurance company explaining to me how they are complying with the new law regarding insurance premiums. I had been facing an unfair 50 per cent increase in my rate. I had no claims and my record is spotless. In fact, I received most every discount available from the company and still they wanted to raise my rates 50 per cent. Well, sir, you put a stop to that hyper-inflation foolishness. My rates are still up more than I feel is warranted, but one cannot control inflation. As I read over the letter from my insurance company confirming my rebate, I feel compelled to convey my gratitude for your governance in this matter. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. First of all, the questions and the answers are getting too long. If there are a lot of interruptions, I will have to add time on to Question Period.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on your final supplementary.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that falls into the category that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but what they know is that you can't fool all the people all the time. The Superintendent of Insurance's office says that there are discussions with these companies, but there is no plan to take a harder line and I want to table a copy of a letter that has gone out to two other insurance companies telling them that they have to provide a full rebate. The deadline for rebates was January 31st, almost three months ago. My question to the minister is, when are you going to take responsibility for the actions that you took, and when are you going to start handling this situation and ensure those companies pay what you said they were supposed to pay?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, well, as I said in my initial answer to the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, most Nova Scotians are very satisfied with what we have done. If there are any insurance companies reneging on the 20 per cent rebate, they shall be dealt with and they shall be dealt with firmly.

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

FIN.: USER FEES/TAXES - DIFFERENTIATE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday we learned that what were once user fees have now become taxes. In the next three weeks we might even find the Premier has not tabled a balanced budget, but we will leave that to the estimates debate. My first question is to the Premier. Could the Premier explain why what he once called user fees are now called taxes?

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

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the question is very simple. We were putting those in the Financial Measures Act for a matter of clarity and just to take uncertainty away from them.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. In the case of user fees, the Premier has not been up front. If fees are really a tax, call them a tax and not a user fee. Again to the Premier, will the Premier ensure that any new tax increases will be called tax increases and not user fees?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's what the Financial Measures Act does.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will try again. It's important that the Premier be up front. The message is clear, when taxes go up, call them what they are, taxes and not user fees. Again, my final question to the Premier is, will the Premier pledge today to stop increasing fees every time he needs a new source of revenue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think it's fair, in answer to the member opposite's question, that we remind Nova Scotians that, yes, we did raise user fees to the extent of $12 million, but at the same time we actually provided income tax relief to Nova Scotians in excess of $50 million. That's a good deal for taxpayers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW - BRIDGE MAINTENANCE: FUNDING - USAGE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Out of the 245 bridges in this province, 200 are substandard. Many of these bridges are in rural areas, providing vital links between our communities. Documents suggest that up to $560 million will be needed over the next 10 years to replace or repair these aging spans. It's a critical issue for rural Nova Scotians. My

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question, through you, to the minister is, what assurances can he offer Nova Scotians that funding for bridge maintenance, specifically, is there to keep these structures safe?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is misunderstanding, actually, what was said. We have 200 bridges in Nova Scotia which are so-called steel truss bridges, which range in age of between 80 and perhaps 120 years. Those bridges were built in the days of the horse and buggy, and that's what they were built for. When we say that the bridges are substandard, we're simply saying that those bridges were not built for modern-day traffic.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, many of those bridges, as you indicated, are 50, 80, even over 100 years old, and I know in the county I come from, Pictou County, there's one bridge there that motorists can actually see the trusses hanging down at odd angles as they drive up near it. It hardly instills confidence in the bridge, and yet repeated pleas for action have been ignored by the department. Many of these structures would be in better shape if they had been properly maintained. My question to the minister is, why was the 2003-04 bridge maintenance improvement budget underspent by over $0.5 million?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, to concentrate on the age of bridges in Nova Scotia, I would suggest that the honourable member take a look at Europe and take a look at London Bridge or a few other bridges that have been around for a lot longer than 100 years. Secondly, the cost of replacing the steel truss bridges is not $550 million, that's for the replacement and repair and upgrading of the 3,400 bridges that we have in this province - in other words, our total inventory.

MR. PARKER: Thanks for not answering my question, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Speaker, bridge maintenance, under the highways and bridges program, also underspent its budget last year by nearly $300,000. My question to the minister is pretty simple, how can you keep these bridges safe when you're not spending the money?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this year we will spend $35 million on the bridges in this province, of which approximately, I believe it's $9.5 million will be spent on steel bridge replacement, and the remainder will be spent on upgrading our present inventory, as well as bridge replacements that come about, not because of the steel bridge replacement program but simply due to the general capital program.

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

ECON. DEV.: JOB CREATION/RETENTION - RURAL N.S.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Acting Minister of the Office of Economic Development, a department that used to be a ministry.

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Over the past number of months the Premier and the Minister of Finance have been bragging about the number of new jobs created in Nova Scotia, but they refuse to tell the whole story when it comes to employment. Rural Nova Scotia has been hurting since the election of this government because they have abandoned rural economy. Jobs have been lost, many jobs have gone from rural Nova Scotia. My question to the acting minister is, why has this government abandoned rural Nova Scotia in job creation and job retention?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to respond to that question by the honourable member because, quite frankly, the opposite is occurring. This government has been working, whether that's with the credit unions for loan programs in this province, community economic development funds, investing where possible to ensure that we have a stable economic future here. As he knows, in our region, this government has produced more jobs than when they were in government in our time in office and we continue to work through the challenges we have. No different than working with the federal government right now on the issues affecting the economy of Glace Bay.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I'm glad he mentioned that. The fact is, these are facts that come from the department's own Web sites and the Department of Finance stats. Since June 2003, the month people received the $155 cheque, the unemployment rate in the Annapolis Valley has gone up to 9.8 per cent - 800 jobs lost. North Shore region - 2,900 jobs lost. Southern Nova Scotia - 3,800 jobs lost and in Cape Breton, 3,900 jobs have been lost. The minister can say whatever he wants, but this government is responsible for devastating rural Nova Scotia. Will the minister admit that we have a problem in rural Nova Scotia and do something to correct it?

MR. CLARKE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I guess we do have a problem in rural Nova Scotia because some of them are being represented by Liberals at this time. The reality is that with the rates that member would quote here is the fact that more Nova Scotians are participating in the economy. What he does not tell this House and all Nova Scotians is there are more Nova Scotians working now than any other time in the history of this province.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this hyperbole comes from a minister over there who's now the Minister of Energy that's been reduced to a $7 million a year budget and was the former minister of a department of Economic Development that once boasted a budget of $90 million and in this year's budget only has a budget of $38 million to try and attract business to this province. This minister has the nerve to talk about what's happening in this department - well, I want to tell Nova Scotians what's not happening here in rural Nova Scotia. My final supplementary is simply this, we tabled a bill in this House today creating a department of rural economic development as a separate ministry. I want to know from that acting minster what is his government going to do in Nova Scotia to supplement the fears or to alleviate the fears and to supplement where it should be supplemented in terms of economic development - in rural Nova Scotia? Spend some of your money in rural Nova Scotia.

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[1:00 p.m.]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, this government has proven the ability to do more, more for less. That was what we were left when that government left office with a half billion dollar deficit, left it gutted out of ideas and a drought indeed there was. But, this government has built on the resources that Nova Scotians and communities are providing to us to ensure that we have a strong, rural economy and an overall good Nova Scotia economy, something they failed in attempting and accomplishing.

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

JUSTICE: FOIPOP FEES - INCREASES

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Four weeks from now will be a special anniversary for this government; May 25th is the first anniversary of the Code of Silence Award, which this government won from the Canadian Association of Journalists.

The Hamm Government was given this award, in part, because they raised application fees under the Freedom of the Information and Protection of Privacy Act, five times higher than they were before, to make them the most expensive in Canada, Mr. Speaker. Predictably, now that we've had a year under this new system, the number of applications has dropped 28 per cent. My question for the Minister of Justice is, will he now admit that it was a mistake to raise these fees and shut the door on information that the public has a right to get?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we are very proud in Nova Scotia of the fact that we have one of the most open Acts in the country. We have good freedom of information, and I can tell the honourable member that we are very committed to that Act.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, information is not accessible if people can't afford to pay for it, I guess that's how this government wants people to think.

Mr. Speaker, the review officer said some other disturbing things in his report that came out last week. Not only were FOI applications down almost one-third, but requests for reviews have dropped to their lowest level ever. I think I know why. In our office, on more than one occasion, we've been sent bills in the thousands of dollars for fees for copying information and presenting them back. This is clearly a tactic to deny access to information.

My question to the Minister of Justice is, why does this minister continue to make access to public documents more and more expensive and more and more inaccessible?

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MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of reasons, things I'd like to refer to. First is that this government has implemented a routine access to information policy with respect to documents. In many cases documents which were previously released under FOIPOP are now available to the public at no cost and therefore, there are no application fees.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the system is working at its best when there are fewer requests for review, because that means that the information is being provided initially (Interruption) The honourable member would have us believe that if we had three-fold the number of requests for review, the system would be working perfectly.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, only that Minister of Justice could have such Orwellian logic as to why we have such a reduction in the number of reviews in this province.

Mr. Speaker, in his report, the review officer also repeated his request to make that position, the review officer under FOI, independent, by having it report to the Legislature instead of to the Minister of Justice. Yet his government has ignored that request as well. My last question is, when will this government begin to respect this review officer and every review officer we've had, and Nova Scotians' right to have access to government information?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that this government is very committed to the independence of the review officer. That's why we agreed and put in legislation that established a five year fixed term for the gentleman in question.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that our government intends to come out very shortly with a response to the review committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which will detail this government's response to the proposal.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

NAT. RES. - EMERA: CONTRACTING - POLICY

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Constituents of mine came to me recently with a great concern, four small tree management firms have had contracts cancelled suddenly by Nova Scotia Power, contracts cancelled because Emera, the parent corporation of Nova Scotia Power, has decided to go to a one-source contract. The engine of our rural economic development is the small business enterprise. Mr. David Lee, of Atlantic Arbour, recently laid off nine of his 15 employees due to this decision by Emera and the other four firms around the province will follow suit.

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The group met this morning to develop a strategy for dealing with the sudden downturn in revenue. My question to the minister, is he aware of this decision by Emera and does he understand the impact it will have on rural Nova Scotia?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. No, I am not aware of the decision by Emera. But if the member would like to bring me the information after Question Period today, I assure him and all members of this House and all Nova Scotians, that this government looks at the rural parts of Nova Scotia and we want to help private industry and growth in rural parts of Nova Scotia. If there is anything that we can do as a government, we definitely will be there to help those nurseries out.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, in the aftermath of Hurricane Juan both the consultant hired by Nova Scotia Power to access the response and Mr. Michael Lester of the Emergency Measures Organization said, too few tree workers, properly equipped chainsaw operators are available in the province. This decision by Emera will not increase but will reduce the number of trained and experienced chainsaw operators available in the event of another disaster like Juan, not to mention the impact job losses will have on rural Nova Scotia.

My question is, is the minister willing to discuss and talk about the negative impact this decision will have on these small businesses in the communities they work in?

MR. HURLBURT: Yes, I'm willing to discuss this issue and, Mr. Speaker, also to inform this House that the Minister of Economic Development is aware of this situation and I will be discussing this with that department immediately. (Interruptions)

MR. GLAVINE: To get to the point then, considering the impact this decision will have, is the minister willing to meet with Rob McLaren, Trevor Fiatt, who the Premier delivered, Dan MacDonald, David Lee and other representatives of this industry to discuss this decision made by Emera, and Nova Scotia Power, on Thursday when they come to Halifax? (Interruptions)

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, everybody over here is trying to answer my questions for me, but I'll answer it myself. As every member in this House knows that this minister is open to meet with any group. If that groups wants to meet with this minister, I will be available on Thursday to meet with any group.

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

HUM. RES. - SEN. GOV'T. STAFF: BONUSES - EXPLAIN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources. Many Nova Scotians were shocked to learn earlier this year that the Hamm Government handed out $208,000 in bonuses to senior staff in the 2002-03 fiscal year. While

[Page 2694]

government programs were on the chopping block, deputy ministers and senior staff were getting an average of a $10,000 bonus; almost all of these staff earn over $100,000 a year and the government would not provide a breakdown of which staff got what amount based on so-called privacy concerns. So my question to the minister is, can the minister please explain to this House why it is appropriate for senior government staff to be eligible for bonuses while much-needed government programs are under funded or cut back?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest concerns within this department is recruitment and retention, this is part of the policy that is put forward. As far as identifying the names of the individuals receiving these bonuses, under confidentiality we're not able to do that.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, that minister must be reading a different Act than I'm reading, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last week, the FOIPOP review officer released a decision on a report which said that the Department of Community Services should release the breakdown of bonuses given to its staff in that department. So my question to the Minister of Community Services is, will his department comply with the review office's report and release the breakdown of senior staff's bonuses in the Department of Community Services?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I note with interest the information provided by the member opposite and I will look forward to a recommendation by FOIPOP people before I make that decision.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to go back to the Minister of Human Resources. It's quite clear that Nova Scotians will not tolerate top-ups for senior government staff when this government is in such dire financial straights. During this government's first mandate all the ministers' executive assistants became eligible for bonuses. So my question to the Minister of Human Resources is, can she tell this House today whether the government political staff are still eligible for bonuses and commit to tabling a list of which executive assistants and political staff received what bonuses?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: In order to provide the best possible services to Nova Scotia, again, it is important that we are able to recruit and retain. Throughout that measure we will be looking into the question that has been asked and those available facts will come forward. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 2695]

TCH - BLUENOSE II: AGREEMENT - TABLE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. For years the Bluenose II Preservation Trust Society claimed copyright over the name and image of the Bluenose. For awhile they were making life miserable for some business owners and even the province itself for using the Bluenose name or image. One business had to go to federal court to defend itself. Thankfully, and after the NDP raised questions in this House, the province intervened. The settlement was reached in late December. So my question to the minister is, when will the minister table in this House a copy of the written terms of settlement between the trust and the province?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned the issue of copyright and indeed we do not recognize those copyright issues that they say they have the rights to. In fact, we believe the people of Nova Scotia reserve those rights. The fact of the matter is we have put forward a process. We are moving forward on that process. I have put forward to the trust the terms of reference on which we would like the transition team to work on, as well as the names for the province, and we are waiting to finalize those recommendations.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, in fact it appears that this whole issue was settled without a written agreement. If there is a written settlement agreement, the minister has never produced it. Senator Willie Moore, who is the chairman of the trust, is appearing tomorrow morning before the Public Accounts Committee to shed light on the Bluenose II role in the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The trust has played hardball on the copyright issue and has refused the province's repeated requests, going back several years, for the trust's complete audited financial statements. So my question to the minister, in the absence of a written agreement and given the trust track record, what assurances can Nova Scotians have that the terms of this settlement will be respected? (Interruption)

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The member beside me recommends that we elect our own senators for one but, Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, the fact of the matter is there's a process in place. There are terms of reference. I have put forward the names, on behalf of the province of those we want to see on that team. The fact of the matter is we will ensure that the rights for the Bluenose are protected for Nova Scotians and we will take whatever necessary measures to ensure that that takes place.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, we've witnessed the attitude the province took when this issue came to light late last year - a wait-and-see attitude. The unwritten terms of settlement apparently included setting up a new body to oversee the Bluenose II, the transition to the new body to oversee the Bluenose II. The transition to the new body will be chaired by none other than Senator Willie Moore. My question to the minister is, will you commit today that the new organization will not get the same sweetheart

[Page 2696]

deal that the Liberals gave the Bluenose Preservation Trust Society, and that this new body will be fully accountable under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in fact I have written on past occasions, as the member well knows, with regard to the financial information, because I believe the people of this province and the people of this House deserve that financial information, number one. Number two, I agree with him, the sweet financial deal signed by the previous Liberal Government was wrong. It was wrong, and we're going to make sure that that problem is fixed in the future.

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

SYSCO - CLEANUP: BIDDING PROCESS - EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for what used to be Sydney Steel. This government has done an amazing thing. They borrowed $250 million four years ago, and no one noticed. In addition to that, now they are spending part of that $250 million, through an unaccountable third party called Ernst & Young, and they hope that no one is noticing that either, that cash cow that's been going to Ernst & Young, a firm that was sent in there just to do a dissolution of assets some two or three years ago. You won't find that $250 million in the budget, it has just been quietly spent with zero accountability to the public.

Mr. Speaker, in Saturday's Cape Breton Post it was announced that once again Murray Demolition - and you remember them, that used to be Philips Environmental, who went bankrupt the last time they were in Sydney and now they're surfacing under another name - supposedly won a bidding process to demolish three buildings. The spokesman for Ernst & Young said the bid was about $1 million, with no other bid comparisons in the Cape Breton Post. My question to the minister is, why is he allowing a private bid process that should be handled by government services procurement and not Ernst & Young?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, why we are allowing it is simply that we are getting good value for our dollar.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that's the kind of answer I would expect from that minister, who denies any responsibility for anything when it comes to spending taxpayers' money. This is getting absurd, the truth of the matter is that the government is skirting the boundaries of proper public announcements and proper spending of public dollars. This is the government that's demanding accountability by school boards, by hospital boards, but there's no accountability for the spending at Sydney Steel. Worse, there is no accountability to this Legislature. Nowhere will you find any money that Ernst &

[Page 2697]

Young spent here, nor will you find out how much they're paying John Traves, who is the president down there, running things on the Sysco property. You just can't find it, because it's hidden. My supplementary is, what will the minister do to ensure a fair, open and government-supervised bidding process for the cleanup of Sydney Steel?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the present methodology that we're using for the cleanup of Sydney Steel is working, it's on time, it's on budget, and I would suggest that the honourable member should be very pleased with the results in his area.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yes, I would be more pleased if they were using local contractors who are paying taxes in Cape Breton and employing people. That's what I would be more pleased about, instead of bringing in companies from Quebec and Ontario. This minister mentions about what he and his government are doing at Sydney Steel - what they're doing is playing hide-and-seek with the information. We've been trying for months now to get the information on how much Ernst & Young have been taking out of Sydney Steel, and how much the people - who are coming from west of the Canso Causeway to steal the jobs from Cape Bretoners - are making, and Cape Breton contractors. Why isn't this government using Cape Breton contractors and Cape Breton labour to clean up Sydney Steel?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of labour that has been employed on the cleanup of the Sydney Steel site has come from the steelworkers who were laid off at the time of the closure of Sysco. If the honourable member would care to send me a letter requesting the information with regard to Ernst & Young or anybody else who is employed on that staff, I would be delighted to respond to him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

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

HRM/N.S. - DISCREPANCIES

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, this government and Nova Scotia's largest municipality are yet again butting heads over a discrepancy in property assessment rolls. At stake this time is $2.5 million. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has told the Halifax Regional Municipality not to worry, even though it is the HRM which has to absorb the impact and hasn't budgeted for it. The problems with inconsistent assessment information are getting all too common. Just a few months ago, there were two versions of the Imperial Oil refinery assessment which are in dispute. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia is, why do there seem to be two parallel universes of assessments - one for the Halifax Regional Municipality, the other for the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 2698]

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, there are no two parallel universes. Our staff assess 660,000 properties in Nova Scotia. They do an excellent job and they will continue to do that.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, some of those are pretty large mistakes out of those numbers. Communication between the province and its municipalities is an ongoing problem. I understand that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations does have plans to meet with HRM councillors this afternoon, but there's a lot at stake. The Chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board is predicting that this particular $2.5 million mistake may lead to major cuts to classrooms and programs. My question to the minister is, how do you plan to correct the obvious problems with the department's communications on property assessments?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, part of my role as Minister of Municipal Relations is to regularly meet with and consult with municipalities. Having said that, I've met with every single municipality at least once, many of them twice, and in the HRM's case, three and four times. What I'll say to this House and to the member opposite and to all Nova Scotians is that in this particular case, it's important that I sit down with the municipality and make sure they understand how the difference between the figure that we have and the figure they have came to be.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I hope this consultation is not what we call top-down. It seems the government would rather fight with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality than engage with the economic crisis playing out in that region. The government would rather fight with the HRM over the exact numbers instead of ensuring that everyone is at the very least working from the same set of assessment rolls. Mr. Minister, why does this government seem to have so much difficulty in co-operating with the municipalities of the province?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I believe this government has shown that we have co-operated very well with municipalities. In fact, my track record speaks for itself. I've gone out and met with every single municipal unit in this province. I will continue to do that and I will continue to grow and foster relationships that are beneficial to all taxpayers.

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

HUM. RES. - PUB. SERVANTS: BONUSES - NON-DISCLOSURE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. Would the minister please explain why she is suppressing the names and the amounts paid to public servants in the amount of $208,000 plus bonuses while all other public servants in the Province of Nova Scotia are published and they are not?

[Page 2699]

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, we do not publish the annual salaries with names, but they can get the information through the Public Accounts of the total amount.

MR. MACKINNON: I don't know where that minister is, she's not even in tune with what's going on in her department. The name of every public servant is published as is their salary and expenses. Why is the minister suppressing $208,000 paid to public servants, some of which have close ties to the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia? Please, answer the question.

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: I guess the average amount that was included in that was in the vicinity of $10,000 per employee.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this minster needs help. This minister needs help and I would direct my next question to the Premier. Why is he allowing his government to pay generous bonuses to senior public servants and refusing to make public taxpayers' dollars public as to how those monies are spent and who they're spent on?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the public of Nova Scotia is well served by our public sector. We do believe that a pay-for-performance initiative will, in the longer term, fully benefit the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. They will get full value for their money.

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

TCH - AGNS: FUNDING - ADEQUACY

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is a first-class venue for local, national and international artists. This facility fulfills its mandate to bring the visual arts and people together. In addition to allowing the enjoyment of the visual arts, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia provides an important education to youth and adults alike in visual arts. My question to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage is, why is funding for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia not adequate for it to continue to put Nova Scotia on the visual arts map?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in fact we invest over $1 million dollars a year in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. They play a very important role in the cultural and artistic fabric of our province. If the member will take a look at the budget estimates, you will see a dramatic increase in our cultural budget this year.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, cultural development is critical to creating vibrant and sustainable communities. Stats Canada studies released by the Department of Tourism and Culture show the culture infusion of $1.2 billion for Nova

[Page 2700]

Scotia's economy in 2001, yet cultural organizations like the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, along with museums and other groups and operations, get the short end of the funding stick time and time again. My question to the minister is, what consultation has he done with the culture and heritage groups, and what are they saying about their funding needs?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: In fact, Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in the previous question, the Culture Division budget has increased this year. The member can see that through the budget estimates. The fact of the matter is we are investing in areas for cultural industries, cultural organizations, cultural activities, expanding the opportunities that we have in economic opportunities through our cultural sector. We believe in the sector and I can assure the member that whether it's through our music programs, whether it's through our visual arts programs, we will continue to invest very strongly in culture.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, yes of course, once we get to the minister's department we will definitely be going over the budget estimates for this year. Museums, galleries and other cultural groups are very concerned about the impact budget cuts may have on developing their industry. They need to know that there will be continued support that will enable them to build on Nova Scotia's incredible cultural and heritage sectors. I ask the minister, what assurances can he offer these groups that the money will be there to support their development and growth?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can assure that those dollars will be there for investment in our museums, as one such example. Whether it is through our Community Museums Assistance Program, or whether it's through the Nova Scotia museums program, which offers assistance to 27 museums and 68 community museums, we will continue to make a strong investment in the heritage sector. In fact, our commitment is so strong as to even change the name of the department to the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

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

NAT. RES. - TOBEATIC LEASES: REVOCATION - CEASE

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. On Sunday, on a CJLS radio call-in show, the Minister of Natural Resources finally broke his silence on the explosive issue of revoking camp leases in the Tobeatic Protected Area. Some families have maintained trapping and fishing camps in the Tobeatic for over 100 years. The minister said he was surprised to learn last week that it was his own department, that he would be responsible for forcing people off the land for generations. My question to the minister is, will the minister order his staff not to enforce this new plan that has been patched together without proper consultation?

[Page 2701]

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, there are two questions that I picked out of his comments. One is this minister is never silent - I always speak my mind in what I feel is right for the people that I represent. Number two, the report was submitted by an advisory committee to the Minister of Environment and Labour and it is going out now to public consultation for people to express their views of the draft report. That's where I stand on the report.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary goes to enforcement. As the honourable minister previously mentioned, there were other members around answering his own questions, so I think enforcement is a problem around the area and not only in Natural Resources.

Mr. Speaker, the so-called consultation process on the draft management plan, is a flawed plan and there doesn't seem to be any benefit for any stakeholder input. The department doesn't have the human resources to enforce any management plan. So you're going to go out and have consultation, you can't enforce the plan. So my question to the minister is, he has admitted that he's unable to enforce the plan after it's finalized, so how does he propose to make sure that the policy is followed?

MR. HURLBURT: Apparently, the member opposite was not listening to my first reply. I made it very clear that this was a draft plan that is going out for public consultation, Mr. Speaker. I would assume that there will be, maybe, some changes to the draft plan when it's finalized, with public input. I did mention on the radio show on Sunday that there was one user group that was not consulted in this process. I have sympathy for that group and I wanted that group to be heard and they are going to be heard because there are going to be public meetings in the Tri-County areas for these people to address their concerns to the department and to the TAG organization.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, enforcement is the issue here, along with consultation. You can go anywhere in the Province of Nova Scotia; in 1,000 square kilometres you might find one enforcement officer. So my final supplementary to the minister, since the minister didn't know he was supposed to enforce the flawed plan, is he now prepared to increase the number of enforcement officers in the area?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, when the final report is in and the Department of Environment and Labour and the minister have signed off on the final report, we will then address the report.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, you have about eight seconds.

[Page 2702]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Eight seconds. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works continues to not give clear answers for the twinning project on Highway No. 103 and it's a concern to the community that I represent . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I thank the honourable member for that. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, on an introduction.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege that I rise here today to introduce in the west gallery, Mr. Bernie Jessome from Cape Breton Nova up visiting today and his son, James. I would like the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I welcome our guests in the galleries today.

The honourable Premier, on an introduction.

THE PREMIER: As Members of the Legislative Assembly, we all know how well we are served by our constituency assistants, particularly when the House is sitting and we spend so little time in our constituency. Mr. Speaker, I would draw to your attention and to the attention of all members the presence in your gallery of some 20 constituency assistants who are here today receiving some information and as well being made aware of how the House of Assembly operates and does its business. I would ask members to show their appreciation for their efforts and welcome them to the House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the Premier for that introduction. I think all members would agree that they are the true workers of the constituency office, the assistants, we thank them on behalf of all members. Thank you.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham, on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of members to a guest in the west gallery, who is here joining us today, watching the proceedings, her name is Audra Williams, a.k.a. Lefty Lucy, and I would ask her to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 2703]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to use the time allotted to me today, to say a few words about a particular problem within my constituency. What I'd like to do, with the indulgence of the House, is to set the scene, if you will, because the problem concerns the loss of the Macdonald Complex, the school complex, in the Town of Dominion and the importance that facility played in the cultural, recreational and academic life of people in that community. I think it would be better put in the context of what the Town of Dominion is, then we'll move on to the real idea of the importance of having a full-fledged school system, a building that would house all the necessary requirements to get a full education for the students and for the community.

Let me just first set the scene, if you will, Mr. Speaker, around the fact that Dominion is a really significant little community and it's basically nestled between New Waterford and Glace Bay. One of the greatest beaches in this great province, which is known as Canada's Ocean Playground, is within the confines of the Town of Dominion. It's called the Dominion Beach. Many people in the local area just refer to it colloquially as the sandbar.

This sandbar has been, not only a point of recreation for many people throughout the years, but it's also been a point of industry, because for years when we weren't as cognizant of what a beach was to a community and that the beach itself is a living organism, we used it to extract sand and stone for construction aggregate, sand for cement making, Mr. Speaker. This was heavily used, plus the far west arm of that sandbar, at one time, anchored a bridge that connected the communities of Dominion and Lingan.

Mr. Speaker, this little community in a lot of ways, is built around, as I've said, that beach and what it means for tourism. It's a heritage site and as a matter of fact, is in the old one-room schoolhouse adjacent to the Dominion Beach. It tells you really, of the growth of this community, and what it means. Within the small community of Dominion, they have their own ice arena, which is there, due in no small part, to the hard work of the community in keeping it there.

[Page 2704]

What we also have, as do most of our communities across this province, a group of hard-working volunteers who make up many of the social and community-minded clubs, Mr. Speaker. There's an amalgam of Reserve, Dominion and Gardiner Kin clubs there. There's a very active Italian community, which I'll speak about in a moment. There's the Shamrock Club, it's obvious it comes from the many Irish descendants. Another very strong community-minded body, and that is a group called the Hawks Club. For quite some time, people within that community named their baseball clubs and their hockey clubs, the Hawks, By and large if a sport team came out of the Town of Dominion, it was the Hawks. There's a club over there referred to as the Hawks Club. These people do marvelous things in the community. I'll be speaking later on this week about the Hawks Club.

I lay this out about the various groups and some of the history and the influence the Italian settlement had in the Dominion area and how vibrant they were in that community, but all of these groups together make up the community. There is no one group. There's not the Hawks Club, there's not the volunteer fire department, there's not the Shamrock Club, the Italian Club. It's everybody in that community coming together to form the community but, by and large, what really is the hub and the growth centre of a small community is its education facilities. It's facilities that are needed day in and day out to do two primary things and I'll, hopefully, have time to explain them both.

One, and I would argue is the obvious one, is to educate our children and make them productive Nova Scotians. The other aspect of a school is from the community perspective. You know we were debating a bill in this House the last few days around school facilities and so on, Mr. Speaker, so we know the importance of accessing those type of facilities and, indeed, the problem with the Town of Dominion is not the matter of having to pay so much to get access to the facility, it's that they lost the facility. Now, we have a town without a high school, without a junior high. We have an elementary school that really, while it meets the basic, basic needs of our Primary and intermediate-aged school children, it's very basic in nature. It doesn't have a cafeteria, it doesn't have a lab, it doesn't have a gymnasium, these things that really should be reflective of what a school means to a community today.

This was a school, Mr. Speaker, the Macdonald School Complex, that wasn't shut down because the school board decided that the population didn't exist. It wasn't shut down by the malicious action of someone in the community who could have done something untoward, whether it was vandalism or arson or something like that. No, it was a community that lost its school through subsidence, an issue that haunts literally all of the coalfields in Cape Breton. We're used to hearing about subsidence and the effects in the residential areas and the devastation that's foisted upon these homeowners when they lose their home with no real access to government help. Now, at one time in this province in Pictou County there was some money given to people who suffered subsidence, but clearly that has not been a widely used method of settling issues around subsidence.

[Page 2705]

Mr. Speaker, what we have is literally a school that was devastated by subsidence where it actually fell almost a foot in some areas and indeed for safety reasons, they had to demolish and raze the building. So the building was razed and now the community and the students are left without a senior high, a middle school, and one would say a Primary to Grade 6 school that is less than adequate in today's terms and the idea of how we educate and have a fully rounded child coming out of that system. The people in Dominion could have been really just headstrong and said, look, we had a Primary to Grade 12 facility and we are going to settle for nothing less.

[1:45 p.m.]

The people in that community are good and fair-minded people. They have gone to the local district school board and said, look, you're right - we may not be able to sustain a high school, but what we will do is work on getting a Primary to Grade 9 school that has the facilities that we can use for our students and give them the education that they deserve. Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you agree with me that whether you live in Yarmouth or you live in Cape North, every Nova Scotian should have the right to the same education system. They should have the level - it shouldn't be any different in HRM than it is in Dominion. These people deserve nothing less.

As I said earlier, that school was lost through subsidence at a time when the federal government held the leases for the coal fields, where they could have come to bat and said we will help subsidize the building of a new school in the Town of Dominion, but they were largely silent on that to the point that I think the residents have given up even pursuing that angle of trying to get funding from the federal government. You know, I think that they did own those leases and I believe that they should have owned some responsibility, but here we are today with a community with no real school in it.

What I'm trying to put over to my colleagues across the way is the fact that when we're looking at new school construction in industrial Cape Breton, I think it's incumbent upon this government to find a way to accommodate these people. They've been so accommodating to us that they have said we will come back, we will not be intransigent in our position. We know what's out there, we know that on one side of us is Glace Bay High School, a fairly large school, and down the road a little further is Breton Education Centre in New Waterford, another large school. Neither one has full capacity and they know this. But they're talking about building a new junior high in that area so I guess my idea, in particular to the Minister of Education, that I think has to be seriously looked at, is erecting a school in that town.

Mr. Speaker, as I said to you starting out, it's as much a community thing as it is an educational thing. The reality is, the summer before this school met its demise, it celebrated its 50th year as an education facility in Dominion. That school would serve as an area for some of the great service clubs that I mentioned before, to have fundraisers and dances. It was truly

[Page 2706]

a gathering spot for the people in that community. It was a community school in all respects. It was not someone going to that school, closing that door and the gymnasium lights were never on at night. I would drive by that school 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 p.m. and the lights were on and the community was using it, whether it was for basketball or volleyball or cheerleading practice or community meetings. It was there for the community. It's something that community doesn't have.

I tell you, it's lost not because of lack of participation, lack of want for that school by the local residents, lack of respect for that school. It was a freak of nature. I think both levels of government - this provincial one and the federal one - deserve to say to the good people of Dominion, something happened to you that you had no idea of, you couldn't take control of, but that's why we're a government. That's why we're here. We're going to help you. We're going to build you a school and you're going to have a community centre in there and it's going to be the focal point for years to come. They deserve no less. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to join the debate this afternoon going into Supply and in the time allocated to me I want to spend some time talking about the need for rural economic development in this province. I think it's a topic whose time has come, given the fact that we introduced a bill today in the House calling for the establishment of a minister of rural economic development. That ministry would concentrate on efforts to develop the economy of rural Nova Scotia. I notice that many of the members on the government side represent areas in rural Nova Scotia. They should be very concerned about what's happening in rural Nova Scotia or, more correctly, they should be very concerned about what is not happening in rural Nova Scotia with regard to economic development.

Mr. Speaker, the economies of rural Nova Scotia have been in decline and the number of people leaving our rural towns and communities is far too great. There's a new word that's a buzz word in Nova Scotia and it's called depopulation and that word depopulation means simply that people are moving from the rural areas of Nova Scotia to the larger urban centres.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia at the time of Confederation had a strong and vibrant economy supported by the prosperity of each and every community from one end of the province to the other - industries like farming in the Annapolis Valley, shipbuilding in the South Shore, fishing in Guysborough and Yarmouth, forestry on the Eastern Shore, mining and steelmaking in Cape Breton and Amherst, in the economy of Amherst as well. Our province was prosperous because our small communities were prosperous.

[Page 2707]

Mr. Speaker, we in the Liberal Party have a vision to begin rebuilding the strength of rural communities. We envision a day, not too long from now, when the strength of Nova Scotia's economy is measured once again by the strength of all its communities, not just the community and the economy within one hour of Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, this is a message you've heard before and members of this House have heard before. It's usually followed by a promise or to put together a committee to look into this. Well, we've started an action plan today by introducing a bill to the House to create the ministry of rural economic development. We've asked many questions from one end of Nova Scotia to the other on what should be done. What will enhance the economy and keep people in their communities in rural Nova Scotia. Well, I would like to share a plan with you that our Party has developed and perhaps, in the not too distant future, we'll have the opportunity to implement. The first part of that program is putting gas tax back into roads.

Mr. Speaker, our Party has listened to the concerns of rural business and we understand the frustrations. The crumbling infrastructure in Nova Scotia, in rural Nova Scotia particularly, is an unfair burden on the people who live there and an unfair burden on Nova Scotians. We believe that the success of any economy depends on a good transportation system that will serve the needs of the people, particularly in rural Nova Scotia. Far too long have our roads in this province been neglected and are suffering the same fiscal restraint that we see in other departments of government. This current government has totally forgotten about the needs of rural Nova Scotia and the need to provide a good and adequate transportation system to get people to and from these communities and also to engage in vibrant economic activity in those areas.

Mr. Speaker, the first thing we will do upon assuming government in this province, and hopefully that will be sooner than later, we will guarantee that the tax you pay at the pumps will once and again be pumped back into roads - 100 per cent of it into roads in this province. That's what it was set out to do originally, but somehow that theory got lost when it came to practice because this government is not doing that. Secondly, we're going to create a department of rural economic development. Currently in this province we have a department of no economic development. In other words, nobody is minding the store in Nova Scotia when it comes to development in this province, nobody at all. I mentioned earlier during Question Period that the Department of Energy in this province is down to a $7 million budget. The only activity that's going on in the offshore right now are the two rigs that are sitting in Halifax Harbour. We could only wish there was one sitting in Sydney Harbour, but there are two sitting here in Halifax Harbour doing nothing. There's no activity.

The Department of Energy might as well disband and put the money back into the Department of Economic Development for all the good it's doing in this province. Can you imagine a Minister of the Crown, Mr. Speaker, his sole responsibility as a Minister of the Crown is the Department of Energy with a $7 million budget. His last responsibility was as the Minister of the Department of Economic Development, and when he took over that

[Page 2708]

ministry the budget was somewhere in the vicinity of $90 million; this year we see in the estimates, it's down to $37 million, $38 million.

NSBI has come into the picture. What are they doing for rural Nova Scotia? Nothing. What they're doing is cherry-picking around the province where they can strategically place jobs, most of them call centre jobs, taking into account the payroll tax rebate system that the previous Liberal Government put in place to encourage economic development in call centres in this province. What you need to bring the call centres into this province now is not NSBI, with its number of people - I don't know how many people they have right now, but it's considerable and with the considerable high-paid help they have they should at least do more than have a press conference very few weeks announcing they're going to bring another call centre here - what you need to bring call centres to Nova Scotia now is one clerk with a pencil and a paper, because the procedure is there.

The call centres are coming to Nova Scotia for one reason - the payroll tax rebate. Do you need an empire like NSBI to facilitate that? I say no. What NSBI should be doing is concentrating on rural Nova Scotia by getting into the communities and finding out what they can do for small business in these communities, finding out what they can do to facilitate entrepreneurs in these communities who need to access public capital to kick-start their businesses. Banks won't give it to them - the Department of Economic Development knows that, NSBI knows that and NSBI knows that.

Mr. Speaker, if you're a business person in rural Nova Scotia and you have a good idea, banks aren't going to look at you unless you have more equity than you need - and if you have more equity than you need, you don't need to go to the banks. So who's filling that void? Nobody. I will give you a good example. When I was Minister of Economic Development there was a very successful business in rural Nova Scotia, in Cumberland County, a very successful business that could not get a loan from the bank. They had to come to the government. The reason the bank used was that we don't know if you're buildings are going to give us enough comfort if your business failed in the future, so that we could recover our money.

So this business person - from your own county area, Mr. Speaker - had to come to the Department of Economic Development. They got the same loan from us they would get from the bank, at the same interest rate, and paid the loan back. But this particular concern could not access money from the banks, and I suggest to you NSBI needs to be talking to more rural Nova Scotians in this regard.

Mr. Speaker, we also have to make venture capital available to small business in Nova Scotia. We have to keep money in Nova Scotia. We have to keep money here in a venture capital process, and make that money available to entrepreneurs in rural Nova Scotia, right from Yarmouth to Glace Bay. I believe if we do that, if we set the wheels in motion by reaching out to rural Nova Scotia, by going into these communities and saying you, too,

[Page 2709]

matter - you matter to us, your small business in rural Nova Scotia, be it in Pictou County, Cumberland County, the Annapolis Valley, wherever, you mean something to us. We want your young people to stay here. We want them to be able to find a job here.

We want to set the wheels in motion to provide a venture capital outlay for these people financed perhaps by the 1 per cent we were talking about, of the public pension plan - which, by the way, is invested somewhere else, either on Wall Street or in London or somewhere else - 1per cent invested in Nova Scotia could give us the $30 million we need to kick-start a rural economic development strategy in this province.

It's not rocket science, it's doing what is best for Nova Scotians. In addition to that, college graduates, our best and our brightest, have to be encouraged to stay here in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and in order to do that, we have to provide incentives. We have to find out from these young people that if they're interested in staying in Nova Scotia, there will be incentives and some relief from the Nova Scotia portion of the student loans that these students have had to undertake in order to complete their education.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, some would say, well that's wishful thinking. No, it isn't wishful thinking. It's bad enough that the student has to pay the loan back if he's not working, why wouldn't it be appropriate to encourage business in Nova Scotia to hire these best and these brightest students, keep them in Nova Scotia and we will reward them by forgiving a portion of the Nova Scotia student loan they incurred. I think that's good business.

I think it's also good business to be positioning ourselves, in rural Nova Scotia, with people on the ground who can deal with the needs of small business people in this province, something that used to happen, in Yarmouth and Sydney, with the Office of Economic Development. I can recall having as many as eight people working with the Office of Economic Development in Sydney, talking to business entrepreneurs in that area, talking to people who had an idea to create jobs, and having the ability, up to a certain amount of funding, to be able to accommodate those requests. That's all gone, Mr. Speaker. There's no more of that.

The Office of Economic Development in Sydney has one person who's running the office and he's sitting there waiting to retire. He has no money to do anything. He's just there. He's a good guy - he did very good work when we were in government. He's certainly not a political person, Mr. Speaker. He cares about the people of our area. His name is Ross Kennedy and he is a most valuable employee. The problem is, his hands are tied.

I would suspect that perhaps NSBI would like to do some of the stuff that I'm talking about, would like to go into rural Nova Scotia, but they don't have a mandate to do that. Their mandate is too narrow. Their staff is growing, Mr. Speaker, the bureaucracy is growing,

[Page 2710]

and their accountability is less than it used to be in this House with economic development, but their vision is somewhat tunnel vision, because that's their mandate. There are very good people working for NSBI - in terms of the CEO of NSBI, a very well-respected person in this province. I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with the mandate.

Unlike other people in this Legislature, or people that are out there to condemn the people working in these operations, I don't intend to do that. What I'm saying is the structure is wrong, Mr. Speaker. The structure should be geared to going into rural Nova Scotia, into places like Cumberland County, Colchester County, Pictou County, the Valley, Cape Breton, other places, and taking a serious look at what we can do to invest money in those communities to keep people there.

If I may be so bold, Mr. Speaker, the one place that's receiving most of the largesse right now is Halifax, metro, HRM, which really doesn't need it. They'll take it if they can get it, but the economy here is fine. The economy here is buoyant. Most of the business people here in metro will tell you to get out of their way and let them go about their business, but the people of rural Nova Scotia and the small entrepreneurs in rural Nova Scotia, don't have that option. They don't have that option, they need a leg up from this government. We need a Nova Scotia Department of Rural Economic Department here to help them out. Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure today to rise and speak going into Supply. One of things I wanted to take a few minutes to do today is to specifically thank my constituency assistants who are here with me today. As all honourable members will know, constituency assistants are the backbone of a member and his office. There's so few hours in the day, it seems for all of us, to address the issues that we face, that it is imperative that we have competent, understanding, compassionate, attentive people, who can field the questions that the public comes to our offices about.

I know there are some honourable members whose spouses may even be constituency assistants. I'm sure they're even doubly aware of that importance of those kind of qualities, and I'm sure they bring those home with them, undoubtedly.

I specifically wanted to speak for a brief while and by name refer to Dale Keddy and Virginia Penny. Dale works out of my Lunenburg office and Virginia works out of the New Germany office. We're very proud of the work that they do. They're very busy dealing with all sorts of questions that members have from time to time on a variety of subjects. I know and I'm sure that all members' constituency assistants are busy, but I think in particular, rural members' constituency assistants can be particularly busy at particular times of the year. I think it's fair to say there are certain times of the year, particularly late Winter and Spring when in rural Nova Scotia roads become a very important issue. I would like to thank them

[Page 2711]

personally for all the work they do in fielding questions and concerns over a myriad of issues from snowplowing to potholes and those kinds of things which are so important to the residents that I serve.

That brings me to the kinds of issues that my constituency office deals with. I'm very fortunate to serve a wonderful part of Nova Scotia and I know all members are proud of their part of Nova Scotia, but I believe that Lunenburg County is a particularly wonderful part of Nova Scotia. We're very, very fortunate to have a very beautiful part of Nova Scotia - Mahone Bay and Lunenburg are absolutely beautiful. We have the whole LaHave River Valley which is a gorgeous part of Nova Scotia. We have some wonderful coastline and beaches. We have Hirtles Beach, Westhaver Beach, Backman Beach and of course we have islands of great beauty. So, I'm very fortunate to have such a beautiful place to represent.

I wanted to talk for a moment about the progress that we've been able to make in the last number of years in serving the people of Lunenburg. I'm very proud - one of the honourable members referred to roads and transportation concerns. I can tell you, unquestionably, the people of Lunenburg and Lunenburg County as a whole, are better off today as far as roads are concerned than they were in 1999.

If you look at the number of roads that have been done in the period from 1999 to present and you compare that to the period of roads that were done from 1993 to 1999 by the previous administration - we have made tremendous strides in improving the quality of the road network available to our citizens. I can name some of those roads - we have the Ramey Road, we have the Mullock Road, wonderful improvements on those roads. We have Route 10 where wonderful improvements have been made. We also have scheduled for this year a further improvement to Route 3, a road from Mahone Bay to Martin's River, beautiful Mahone Bay, a major tourist destination in this province and we're going to be doing something to improve the quality of the road. One of the honourable members raised a question about that road, well, the Minister of Transportation had already dealt with that problem. He had already called the tender for fixing the problem that was raised here in the House prior to it being raised.

There are other roads. There's a road called the Newburn Road which will be paved I understand; another very important piece of our highway infrastructure that serves the needs of rural Nova Scotia. It allows those people who live in those communities to get to work, to get to doctors, to get to all sorts of other important things, but most importantly it also allows the businesses that are located in those areas to prosper and thrive.

We are making real strides to improve the quality of our transportation infrastructure. There's much more to be done, much more to be done. I would not let it appear to anyone that I believe the job is done. There is much more to be done. There are many more bushes to be fixed, many more potholes to be fixed, there any many more culverts to be installed, but we are making improvements, we're making strides. It is better today than it was before. That

[Page 2712]

is all that anyone can expect from any government is to make a constant improvement in our infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to take a moment to talk about some of our industries and, for example, one industry that has been tremendously successful in my area of rural Nova Scotia is Composites Atlantic Limited. Composites Atlantic is not the stereotypical industry that some people believe is located in rural Nova Scotia. They manufacture high-quality aircraft parts right in Lunenburg. They also, by the way, manufacture parts for space as well. They're a very, very high-tech progressive employer providing good permanent jobs to the people of my constituency and other constituencies in rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we should be proud of those kind of jobs and the kind of quality people who work there. There is a company that could have located anywhere in the world, but they chose to locate in Nova Scotia. They have wonderful management, they have good staff, and that is the combination for success, but they're not alone. What other wonderful industries are there obviously in Lunenburg County? We have Michelin Tires and, to my understanding, the Michelin Tires plant located in Lunenburg County is, in fact, the very best Michelin plant in the Michelin system, something we can be all proud of in Nova Scotia because there's a world-wide company and we can prove that Nova Scotians can do a world-class job.

We have other industries, Mr. Speaker, in my area, other companies, and they're too numerous to mention, but I can tell you these companies are very competitive. They provide goods and services in the world market because we must remember that as Nova Scotians we're competing on the world stage. We cannot allow ourselves to have our horizons limited by underselling ourselves because we have both the people and the ability and the hard work to make Nova Scotians very competitive.

Mr. Speaker, part of the success story that is our government's track record in rural Nova Scotia has been the working together of both the private sector and the public sector to make opportunities possible for our people. You know, for example, Composites Atlantic was originally, the plan initially was begun using a certain amount of government money and investment money from a European company and that has worked out tremendously. So that company is now manufacturing parts for companies like Bombardier, Boeing and for Air Bus and those are world-class companies and we are here.

Mr. Speaker, if and when the Government of Canada can finally get itself around to replacing the helicopter fleet, which should have been replaced 10 or 11 years ago, there will be more opportunities in my riding for more people to be working and we'll be putting our Armed Forces personnel at less risk. That is an example of the kind of important investment that the federal government can be doing, that it could be doing immediately that would make a difference in rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 2713]

So in closing, Mr. Speaker, you know, I believe that our government has done wonderful things to promote my riding of Lunenburg and Lunenburg County. There's much more to be done and that is where we require not only the municipalities and the province but we require the Government of Canada to really make a real difference in making my part of Nova Scotia, as in other parts of Nova Scotia, the prosperous place that our people expect. So in closing, I would like to thank the members for an opportunity to talk briefly about my riding and about the promise that I believe my riding holds for Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:14 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[5:59 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to fund allocated, subsidized daycare seats, and not transfer these existing spaces into portable ones.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

COM. SERV.: DAYCARE SPACES - FUNDING

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to speak on behalf of the member for Dartmouth East. I'm very pleased to speak to this resolution, because I had a phone call about six weeks ago from a woman who said she needed help, she needed $60,000 by the next morning. I sort of said I don't think I can do that. She said, all right, I'm going to have to tell the staff tonight that they better go home and the daycare centre is closed. That's it. Full stop. I thought, goodness, gracious, that was an interesting phone call, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do about that.

A little bit more of the story unravelled, however, and what emerged was that the Riverview Children's Centre in my constituency, established in 1973, licensed for 88 children, with 81 allocated subsidized spaces, in Spryfield, near to the subsidized housing district of the Greystone, actually has the highest percentage of allocated subsidized places for children's

[Page 2714]

care in Nova Scotia. At the time when fire and then flood went through the building, there was an enrolment of 67. The school moved, and under the auspices of the Department of Community Services, again, received stabilization funding and wage subsidy grants. Although the board of directors was supposed to be composed of nine people, it was on the Registry of Joint Stocks with only four, one of whom was the executive director, as a member of the board of directors.

The centre ran into financial difficulties, and 67 families were left without childcare arrangements for the following day. A lot the people, in fact almost all of the people, who had children in that centre were depending on those spaces to allow them to go to work. I have been trying since then to persuade the Department of Community Services to restore the allocated subsidized - not I, we, and a working group has been working to attempt to persuade the Department of Community Services to restore funding, less than $60,000, I might add, to the centre.

Now the Early Childhood Development Initiative, which is a joint federal-provincial agreement signed two years ago, I believe, allocated some $1.8 million in funding for regulated daycare spaces. By the time the Riverview closed, $1.4 million of that funding had been spent. The remaining $0.4 million would serve to add 50 cents per day per child to the provincial subsidy rates. Now an interesting thing is that in the meantime some portable subsidized spaces have been created. Those portable spaces allow a parent to have their child move from one for-profit day care centre to another throughout the years during which they must be legally cared for when the parents are not at home; in other words, until 12 years old, 50 cents more a day to what is already the lowest per diem rate in the country - what has remained unchanged since 1998 - $14.98 a day. That's out of the sum of $28 a day, which it's estimated it costs to provide care for a child in Nova Scotia.

As I say, 50 portable spaces have been created in that time. There have been no new allocated subsidized spaces. There is only the one day care in Spryfield. Transportation is a problem. I've spoken to a woman who travels to Burnside from Harrietsfield every day. She gets up at about 6:00 a.m. to get on the bus to go to Burnside and back, and when allocated funding disappeared, she was without an available space. Most of the people whom I have met with since then have had their children with them and they're desperate to see this particular centre restored. It's very interesting because they believe very firmly that this is the heart of their community and if portable spaces replace the fixed spaces, children will begin to drift following the rather marginal kinds of employment that may be available from place to place and that the community heart will have disappeared, which is the Early Childhood Centre.

In Nova Scotia, 80 per cent of children whose parents are working are in unlicensed or informal arrangements. People are finding care and in these cases people are finding care frequently with the custodian's grandmother or other people's grandmothers. We have one of the highest labour force participation rates for women of any country; only in the

[Page 2715]

Scandinavian countries are they higher, but there are no seasonal, or 24-hour, or fixed emergency care services, and the more that children move from space to space - commercial space I might add - the less likely it is that there is continuity there.

I would like to say that one of the most important aspects of this decision seems to be that the funding, what the government ends up allocating in funding to portable spaces is $4 less per day than it is to allocated subsidized spaces. So multiply that by the number of children who are cared for in allocated subsidized spaces and you can see very tidy governmental savings. It says it all.

There are 367 centres in Nova Scotia in 2001 and, out of those, less than half are non-profit.

As the number of commercial centres increase, or may increase, which are funded entirely by parents with only a subsidy that contributes, it becomes more and more difficult for parents with less lucrative jobs to find care. As I say, in certain geographic areas, it can be a real stranglehold on employment.

In the case of the Riverview, most of the 67 families are still attempting to have funding restored to their centre. They're anxious not to take those spaces with them and find another commercial centre. They are working very very hard on programming. The local schools are supporting it. Once again, you have a huge amount of community will and investment in a centre which is guaranteed to be supporting or to at least be filled partly with children who receive these subsidies.

The other thing that I'd like to say about all of this is that throughout there seems to have been an abysmal lack of support or supervision by the Community Services Department of Family and Children's Services. I've noted that the budgets appear to have been underspent considerably in Family and Children's Services during the last couple of years. I would really have hoped that some of that could have gone to giving guidance to the board of this non-profit centre. These are centres - and this is not the only such centre - run by parents who do not have a great deal of experience with the mechanics of working a board of directors and, yet, they have received no guidance whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, to me, it seems like giving a full tank of gas and a set of keys and a very powerful vehicle to somebody who has never received training of any kind, who has never been tested for a driver's license. You pay your $35 to the Registry of Joint Stocks, you're incorporated and you go. The people of the Riverview daycare who are working so very hard to see those allocated spaces remain in their community are terrified by the liabilities they've taken on, without understanding, by joining the board of directors. Yet, they are still determined to put their hearts, souls and energy into ensuring that those places remain in their community and that there is a continuity.

[Page 2716]

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that this government will not continue to save money on the backs of an entire community saying it's cheaper not to support the centre but only to the individuals. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I was a little surprised by the NDP resolution that came forward tonight. I'd like to start by pointing out that I had prepared to respond to the resolution which was of more global sense than something that was specific to a centre.

As it pertains to a specific centre, that being the Riverview Centre, I would concur that there is a problem in terms of the management of the centre. The honourable member indicated that there were only four on the board and that one was the executive director and, indeed, as soon as we became aware that there was a problem, we were in there with staff, trying to assist the parents, and making other arrangements and we have worked with them through this and we'll continue to work with them.

Indeed, there are management problems there and I would point out that one of the concerns is even though they were all subsidized child care spaces, that even the $2.25, much of which might have been made available directly to the parents, was still outstanding and that, indeed, caused a problem in terms of the cash flow. I'm not sure if the honourable member is aware of that, but that was part of the problem. Regardless of whether a centre is a non-profit centre or a commercial centre, both providing excellent care, there is a certain expectation in the relationship between the centre and the parents to work together to continue the centre.

The NDP resolution actually was, "Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to fund allocated, subsidized daycare seats, and not transfer these existing spaces into portable ones." I also found that a little peculiar, Mr. Speaker, because I have actually met three times with the non-profit, daycare centre directors, and the non-profits are the ones that historically had the subsidized seats and the only ones that have assigned subsidized seats are to the non-profit centres.

In the meeting I had with them on December 11th, two things came out of it. One was, they expressed their concern about maintaining these seats, which is what it says here, and I told them that as long as the seats were being utilized by families in the area, in other words they were not vacant - and there was a vacancy problem with regard to Riverview Centre and with Woodside daycare and that was part of the reason why they were not generating enough cash flow, enough revenue to stay open - but as long as they were making use of the seats, that I would, in essence, grandfather them so long as I was minister. To have this come forward as a resolution from the NDP sort of surprises me, because I'd already addressed the directors' concerns.

[Page 2717]

Secondly, I would like to point out that the whole sector expressed a concern about the way that we allocate the subsidies. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I seem to be getting some attention from the member for Halifax Needham out there, she perhaps is learning something today about the workings of the child care system.

Anyway, the point of this, Mr. Speaker, is that subsidy review was actually requested by the sector and we've undertaken this, and as a result of the subsidy review, we're looking forward for some recommendations as to how we might better allocate those monies that do go under the subsidized child care seats. I'm sure that the member opposite, the member for Halifax Atlantic, will be pleased to know that, in fact, partly at the encouragement of the sector, a great deal to the encouragement of the sector, we moved ahead with this, so that we'd make sure that we're investing these early childhood development dollars and provincial dollars in as prudent a manner as possible, never losing sight of the fact that those who we are trying to serve, are the children and their families.

There is one anomaly here with these allocated subsidized child care seats is that, in fact, becomes part of the business plan of the non-profit centre and I acknowledge that to them, that I recognize that their planning depended on that future income and that is why I acknowledged that to them that I recognized that their planning depended on that future income. And that is why I felt that it was appropriate to grandfather those seats, so long as they were making use of them.

[6:15 p.m.]

The childcare subsidy program is a tremendous support for low-income Nova Scotians. These subsidies help low-income parents cover the cost of childcare, whether it is to allow them to go to work, or to go to school, advance their careers or indeed to provide some respite care, which is also necessary. The program has grown, with the addition of newly subsidized seats and funding increases - and I would like to correct the member opposite in terms of the announcement of more seats, the last announcement of new seats was in fact well before the problems with these two centres arose, and she was referring to one of them.

I did commit, back in a meeting last month, that there would be an increase of some $400,000 into the amount of the per diem paid to subsidize childcare seats. It worked out to about 50 cents a day at the time, with the caveat that if there was more federal money that came down, I would be prepared to augment that to the tune of another $900,000, which brings it in line with what was recommended by the Beech report. Mr. Speaker, I felt that that should have been good news to the non-profit centres in particular since by far and away the vast majority of the subsidized seats. On December 11th, they had indicated to me that if even it was a 10 cent increase that they would recognize it as a sign of good faith, so one would think that 50 cents, and now indeed it's going to be more than 50 cents, would be welcomed by the sector.

[Page 2718]

As these subsidies are intended to support parents and their children, it is critical that they be accessible to those that need them the most. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, time and time again, of the 2,706 seats that we have in the province, the 280 that are portable, I am reminded by parents and professionals that putting the child first - in other words worrying about addressing those children in greatest need, regardless of where they may live should be our focus. What we are talking about the portable subsidized seats, and this is something that has been recommended to us, and we have adopted that recommendation, and in future, any additional seats that are announced by our department, you can expect them to be of the portable variety, where the subsidy follows the child, so that we are always putting the child first, as opposed to the centre.

That's not to diminish the contributions of the various centres, whether they be non-profit or commercial, but it's important not to forget those that we are here to serve, and that is the children of this province, the children in greatest need of childcare, and their families.

Also, with the provision of the portable seats, it means the children can acquire childcare in areas where otherwise there might not be childcare because there's no non-profit centres. As long as the commercial centre has signed an agreement with the department.

Mr. Speaker, I know that time is drawing to a close for me here, but I do want to say that in terms of the early childhood development monies, back in May of 2001, there was a vision paper that was put out called, Our Children . . . Today's Investment Tomorrow's Promise, and that clearly lays out what we envision should be done with the early childhood development monies. We are following that plan, and that plan recognized the sustainability of the centres, and particularly the significant pressure that wages have on their operation - typically about 85 per cent of their costs are wages, and in fact the first thing that was done was that $4,000 per full-time childcare worker was put in place as a subsidy. I think that that speaks to this commitment, and in this case working with the federal government, the federal government's commitment to work with the provinces and territories to stabilize the childcare sector, and we are pleased to be partners with them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution, and for the benefit of all members of the House I think it's befitting that we read this resolution loudly.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to fund allocated, subsidized daycare seats, and not transfer these existing spaces into portable ones."

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the comments of the presenter of this particular resolution and, indeed, the comments from the minister, I was somewhat taken that the minister chose not to address the essence of the resolution, but rather localize his comments in a way that was almost a bit of an attack on the member for standing up for her constituents.

[Page 2719]

I thought that was a little bit disappointing. She has a constituency situation, a subsidized daycare centre with problems. That was quite apparent from the dissertation. The minister, rather than addressing some of the structural problems there, whether it's a lack of competency, whether it's a lack of professional experience, whether it's mismanagement of financial affairs, whether it's the fact that the government has turned a blind eye to some of the difficulties with this particular centre, I'm not sure, but we obviously have two philosophies here.

One, in preference to subsidized daycare and another one that allows for subsidized daycare in a fixed location and, obviously, the other one with portability which, by the way, Mr. Speaker, is clearly outlined in the government's blue book from 1999 where it says, "During its first mandate, A PC Government will: Ensure that day-care subsidies are portable and that they are attached to the child, not the facility." Now, the question asked is, what success has the minister and his government had on this particular issue. If I understand what he's saying, he has had no success; because of difficulties in subsidized daycare centres, he is now going to use that as an opportunity to purge rather than to address what is an obvious problem in the Province of Nova Scotia. There is a 4-year backlog for portable spaces, and what did he chose to do - attack, attack and divert attention away from the real issue.

Mr. Speaker, there is no secret, if you look at all the provincial jurisdictions across Canada, most are moving towards portability, but that doesn't mean to say that Nova Scotia has to be measured according to all other provinces. I agree that there are cases where portability is a must because, yes, the subsidization is cheaper for the government on portable spaces, but it certainly affords individual parents the ability, particularly if they live 20 or 30 miles from a daycare centre and they're working, it's very difficult if a daycare centre, for example, closes nearby them that's subsidized and they have no alternative. They have no alternative, they move, and in a portable situation, if something happens there, then they, as parents, will make the decision of what's best for their child.

The minister has indicated how benevolent he has been by offering 50 cents per space additional. He uses the comparative analogy, well, it's a lot better than 10 cents. I don't know where this minister is living when he goes outside the Legislature, but it's not in the real world. Whether it's subsidized or not subsidized, that wouldn't even buy you a half a cup of coffee let alone try to feed a child.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's fair for the government to try to pit the profit and the not-for-profit institutions against each other. It seems to me, if I'm reading between the lines, there's a philosophical problem within his department at the senior bureaucratic level, because it's almost as if he's taking advice, going one direction for a considerable amount of time, difficulties arise with two subsidized daycare centres and all of a sudden he's off in a different direction. I believe he owes it to all stakeholders to state quite clearly, is it the intent of his government to move to full, portable daycare centre activity in this province? He hasn't done that. Is he going to maintain that 50/50 equation? What's happening here in metro is unique

[Page 2720]

to many of the daycare centres, even the not-for-profit ones outside metro. For the most part, those outside metro, they have to be portable and, indeed, to a certain extent, those in metro, there has to be some portability.

The minister, and I will give him credit here, he's right, the issue is one of focus for the child, not for creating employment or a business, whether it be profit or not for profit, we have to be mindful of what it's for, Mr. Speaker. I think given the difficulties that have transpired with these two daycare centres and I think that may be the tip of the iceberg, there could be others - three - there were two when I started my dissertation, now it's up to three. So the minister has got a lot of work ahead of him, and maybe by the end of the day, it might be four.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think that there should be that type of polarization between the not-for-profit and those that are for a profit. I truly believe there is enough room in this province to accommodate both interests, because when you're in an urban core, for the most part, you have concentrated numbers of families that need that type of financial support from the Department of Community Services. That's not to suggest that they don't need it outside metro either, but outside metro they have to travel greater distances. So, there has to be a certain degree of stability and fixing of these centres. But the government and the minister, in particular, has to be a little more clear on what his objective is, because he's saying two things.

He's saying, as a part of the Tory Government one thing in his blue book and he's telling the Legislature something different. Now, which is it and how far is he going to go? That $1.8 million is gone. So what are they going to do now, now that that 50 cents is gone, spent? Is he going to remind us that perhaps he'll take some of the money that he's allocating for skipping ropes and put that towards the daycare centres? There's such confusion, it's almost like it's complete gobbledegook that's coming from across. There's such a lack of clarity on this whole policy. (Interruption) It's not even as good as fiction, because fiction is enjoyable. A good fiction novel we can enjoy but we can't even find out what this minister's talking about half the time.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would expect on a future day that the minister would come and speak to the resolution and not be making direct attacks on members who are trying to represent their constituents.

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

We will revert back into the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply, with Deputy Speaker Mr. James DeWolfe in the Chair.]

[Page 2721]

[6:45 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met, made progress and begs leave to sit again.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 58.

Bill No. 58 - Mechanics' Lien Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak on, and to move second reading of, Bill No. 58. I believe this is a very important piece of civil legislation, one that's, frankly, long overdue in Nova Scotia, where our legislation has lagged behind the equivalent legislation that exists in other Canadian provinces. This piece of legislation - I was asked by one member of the press in the bill briefing with respect to the bill, who wouldn't like the bill? The only ones I can think of who won't like this bill are those people who don't pay their bills because, fundamentally, those are the only people who are going to be negatively impacted by this bill.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of points to this bill that I wanted to just address briefly, and then, obviously, I will allow other members of the House to speak to the bill. First and foremost is just simply the renaming of the legislation from the existing Mechanics' Lien Act to the Builders' Lien Act, which I believe is certainly a much more accurate description of the legislation than what previously existed. When you try to talk to clients, as I have and as I know other members of the House have, about this legislation and you talk about

[Page 2722]

mechanics' liens, they think you're talking about automobile repairs and not necessarily about issues around construction liens.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, is the extension of the period for filing your lien from 45 to 60 days. Again, I know I've dealt with clients who - routinely in the building trades, most people are on 30 days' credit, and that seems to be fairly standard these days in many organizations, whether it's the building trades or, in fact, the furnishing of materials for the building trades, people are on 30 days. Well, routinely what would happen is that people would get very close to or slightly over the 45 days before it became obvious that somebody was not going to pay their bill. By that time, it was too late, because after you're over the 45 days, your ability to file a lien disappears.

Another provision of this bill which I think is significant is the trust provision. The trust provision has the effect of making sure that in a case of bankruptcy those funds are available to be distributed amongst the lien holders, so that the lien holders are in a position to be paid out of the funds held by the builder or contractors. I think those provisions are of great significance and will indeed improve the law in Nova Scotia.

Another one was sheltering. Sheltering was a very interesting process. It was very technical, it added great confusion, and actually made it very difficult sometimes to determine when liens had been satisfied, because the other side of the coin, of course, from the point of view of the builder, is once the liens have been paid, he wants to get on with the project. Sometimes with the sheltering rules such as they were, you could be in a situation where there was a question about whether or not a person who had not filed a lien was in a position to shelter or take advantage of a lien themselves.

Mr. Speaker, there are other provisions in the bill but, all in all, the general thrust of this legislation is to improve the nature of the protection that exists for those engaged in the building industry, for the benefit of those people who pay their bills and for the benefit of the those people who work for, and in many cases are small-business people working in the construction industry.

I should also indicate, Mr. Speaker, that this is based upon work by the Nova Scotia Law Reform Commission and that the Nova Scotia Law Reform Commission has done a report on this and has done a very good job in outlining some of the issues for the legislation.

I should also say, Mr. Speaker, that I'm very proud of the fact that we were able to secure stable funding for the Law Reform Commission for the next two years that will enable the Law Reform Commission to continue and, in particular, will allow them to engage in a very important project, which is the reform of the civil procedure rules in Nova Scotia. I might add that the reason that the two-year deadline was chosen was because the court itself is quite concerned that the project move quickly and that it doesn't become bogged down.

[Page 2723]

That, again, is a project that the Law Reform Commission is engaged in which I think will be for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, again I would move second reading and I would look forward to the support of the honourable members. I know that among the honourable members opposite that the Leader of the Official Opposition has a great deal of experience in this area and I believe a great deal of interest in the area, and I look forward to hearing from him and other members of the House with respect to the bill. Thank you.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to stand this evening and talk about the Mechanics' Lien Act. Those people who have been kicking around this House for a little while will know that among some of the first pieces of Legislation that I actually brought forward was a draft of the Mechanics' Lien Act. I brought if forward a number of times as the sessions rolled on. I can remember every time I would do it people would ask, what is the Mechanics' Lien Act and what is it about? So, I would have to explain it. Then, in caucus, every time we talk about things that we wanted to try and get out of the government, I would always say, the Mechanics' Lien Act. Let's get the Mechanic's Lean Act through.

This became more than a little bit of a jest around the caucus table that one of the preoccupations in my political life was the Mechanics' Lien Act because, for most people, this has nothing to do with the kind of operation of their daily lives. They go on blissfully unaware that the Mechanics' Lien Act even exists. When you contrast the Mechanics' Lien Act to things like the insurance issue that we brought forward or to the long-term care campaign, people would always say to me, where does the Mechanics' Lien Act fit next to the campaign for justice and long-term care? I would say they are both about justice. They are both about seeing that people are treated fairly.

The minister seems to be indicating that he thinks that's a bit of long bow, but I'll tell you, if you have had to go, as I've had to, to work day in and day out, working for small contractors, working for the men and women who are out there supplying goods to construction sites, those guys who are putting up the drywall, who are putting in the plumbing and who are just out there with a tool box trying to make a living every day, only to find that when the construction site, for whatever reason, goes under and the owners have filed for bankruptcy or simply contest the claims, that the only thing they are going to be entitled to is the amount that was held back, unless they can get more out of the owner.

What would happen, as you might know, Mr. Speaker, is that you go onto a site and you wouldn't actually know, necessarily, who the owner of the property is. It could be owned by a company, in which that could be the one asset that the company has is that piece of property, they own nothing else, but they own that piece of property. The developer is

[Page 2724]

developing that piece of property and your coming into work on it, in good faith, and their certifying the advances from the bank on the basis of the progress that's being done on the work that's being done on the site, and that money would get paid out. It wouldn't necessarily get paid out to the people who were doing work on the site.

We knew of cases, certainly many cases, where oftentimes the developer might be going ahead with two or three different sites at the same time and money from one site would be used to satisfy work that was being done on another site so, it would be very, very difficult to determine exactly where that money was going. What would happen is there would be a number of claims against the one site. Well, the developer might just walk away from that site. In fact, the bills might far outweigh anything that's going to be gained by paying them off and trying to sell it. So what would happen is the secured lien holder, usually the bank, would come in and they would end up with the property and what would happen is all of the other lien holders with the exception of the 10 per cent holdback, they would all be fighting that 10 per cent and if you were a small lien holder, you know, oftentimes when you came into your lawyer, what your lawyer would tell you was I can file the lien, I can go ahead and try to go through the process with you, but in the end your amount out of that 10 per cent is going to be less than what you're going to pay me and there's no other recourse for you.

A lot of small contractors, they're laughing over there because they said I guess I charge too much, but the reality is, you know, I wish that were the case. The reality was that it would be such a small amount that you didn't really recover enough to make it even worthwhile to do it and so a lot of these guys, then when big projects would go down, they could take down some pretty sizeable companies with them, let me tell you. If you remember the hotel out at the airport, if you remember NSC Diesel, if you remember some of the big projects that went down in this province, there were a lot of small contractors and some pretty good-sized contractors that took a pretty big hit as a result of the failure of those projects.

You can imagine some of the frustration, Mr. Speaker, when, as a supplier, let's suppose that you supply glass to a project and if you take one of these projects here in downtown, just the glass alone can be worth a heck of a lot of money. So you come in one day, you deposit the glass on the site because you're the supplier, and the next day the project goes down. You would think, well, I'm just going to send my truck in there and pick up that glass. No dice, no deal. You've delivered it on the site. It belongs on the site and you then become a lien holder against that project and even though it's sitting there, you can't go back in and recover it. Now, that's not to say that from time to time that happened anyway, but I'm just saying that that's not what's supposed to happen.

So people would find themselves in very, very difficult positions simply because they were caught up in a complex web of rules. The minister mentioned the sheltering rules which, you know, unless you did mechanics' liens work all the time, and even if you did it all the

[Page 2725]

time, you wouldn't necessarily completely understand how the sheltering rules would work in every case. So it was just a mess.

I agree with the minister that moving on to call this the Builders' Lien Act is also a good idea. I think it's more representative of what actually happens. The trust provisions, if you go back and look at the bills, really all my Mechanics' Lien Act bills said from time to time was that money shall be held in trust for the contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. I always knew that with the benefit of counsel and some more resources of government that they would do a more thorough job than that particular bill which they did in this particular Mechanics' Lien Act, but what that is meant to do is to tell anyone who's going out to develop a site that the money you receive that is advanced in respect to that site stays on that site. It's there to pay the contractors, the subcontractors, the suppliers, for the work they do and I think in the end the Mechanics' Lien Act, or now the Builders' Lien Act, is about a pretty simple concept for all of us.

Everybody out there can understand what it's about because it's about a very simple rule. You work, you get paid. That's all it's about. That's what the Builders' Lien Act was always about. People who go to work, who go into work every day and put their skill and put their supplies into working and constructing the homes, the commercial buildings, the condominiums that people live in, they should be paid for the exercise of that judgment, or that skill of the advance of that labour against those projects.

[7:00 p.m.]

For a long time, I've been here and I guess people may have thought it was funny that you do this, but I know there's a lot of people in the construction industry, I know some of them are here who are very happy about the fact that this is going ahead. Dare I say, in the paint store the other night I had the opportunity to talk to Ms. MacCulloch who is here this evening to observe these proceedings. I won't make a formal introduction, maybe the minister already introduced her before. We were saying that there's not everybody in the province who's going to sit up at night and think about the Mechanics' Lien Act. But, we happen to be two of them because they are important to a group of people who we have jointly and severally - to use the legal phrase - have represented over the years. Right? All of these small contractors.

When you have a small firm like I worked in or like I know the Minister of Justice worked in, you essentially do the work that comes through the door. In a small store-front law firm, that's what you do. Many of the people who come through the door are these small contractors - they're the three- and four-person firms that are out there just trying to make a living, trying to use the skill that they have and the knowledge that they have to support themselves and their families.

[Page 2726]

In lots of cases, they grow, they hire other people. This is what success is about. You gain a reputation as a good tradesperson, as a good contractor and you grow. So, I'm very pleased to see this piece of legislation come forward. I'm pleased - and I remember and I give some credit here, I remember speaking with a former member here, the former Minister of Economic Development, Gordon Balser, when he was in that position and I remember asking him about this and him telling me that it was going to be referred to the Law Reform Commission. I knew it was a prudent first step, in terms of the development of this new section of the Mechanics' Lien Act.

One thing that was surprising to a lot of people when this piece of legislation came forward, was the fact that it binds the Crown. For a long time, as people would know, that was just not on, not contemplated really, that the Crown would agree to be bound by the provisions of an Act. This one does and I think this is a good thing. This is essentially the Crown accepting its responsibility in these matters as well.

I know the one little piece of disappointment that's in here is that they won't be able to go, for example, to Small Claims Court. It still is necessary for you to go to Supreme Court in order to prosecute the lien. I understand what that's about - that's about jurisdiction. As the Minister of Justice demonstrates his law school ability to recite the appropriate section, Section 96, and they're known as Section 96 courts. However, I would point out to the minister that with respect to the Residential Tenancies Act, they use the Small Claims Court to act as a referee for the Supreme Court and get around that necessary provision by that, I think we would call a legal fiction, but it works. In the end, that's what everybody is really concerned about.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if there are many other people who are going to stand and spend much time talking about the Mechanics' Lien Bill, and I don't intend to go on any further because, as I said, it's one of those pieces that not everybody will understand, not everybody will recognize that it will have a profound effect on a lot of people, but it will. I'm pleased to see it. So with that, I will take my place. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise as the Justice Critic for the Liberal caucus to make a few remarks on Bill No. 58, the Mechanics' Lien Act. Certainly being a member from the Strait area, which has seen a number of large industrial projects in the last number of years, including the major expansion at Stora for Stora Enso, which was, I believe, the largest industrial expansion in the history of the province, this is an important piece of legislation, especially in regard to protecting the many small contractors who work on these large projects and on all other projects, and who work in good faith and expect to be paid at the end of the day for their efforts.

[Page 2727]

Mr. Speaker, we're pleased to see that the Law Reform Commission has done so much work on this piece of legislation, and it's certainly an opportunity to remind the Minister of Justice of the important work that the Law Reform Commission does. I think it's time that we look at long-term funding, not just two-year funding, for this commission, so that they no longer have to continue on the roller coaster that they have been on for the last number of years, not knowing whether their funding was going to be approved or not and what level of funding they would be able to achieve.

I think we've seen a number of bills come before this House to update our Acts and our laws that we have in this province, and I think it's time that we, collectively, support the efforts of the Law Reform Commission and allow them to do their work without having to fear for funding every year.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Carol MacCulloch and the work that she has done, not only on bringing about these changes, but one of the important things, as legislators, is to avoid the element of surprise when we arrive here in Province House when legislation is dropped. I can certainly say that I was pleased that Carol had met with myself and I believe a number of other members of this House beforehand to discuss these changes, to seek out support and to be there to answer questions before the bill arrives here and we're left to stand and ask all sorts of questions about the true intent of the bill.

I think it's an example that, hopefully, other groups will follow. It certainly makes our jobs as legislators that much easier, and I think it makes us that much more effective, which is always in the best interests of the taxpayers of this province, when we can all be collectively effective. I certainly want to commend Carol, and I'm sure her organization is pleased with the level of work that she has done on their behalf with this.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's been pointed out that this legislation almost mirrors legislation that's currently in place in Ontario. I think it's important that we bring our laws - a lot of work has been done here and I certainly commend the government for bringing our laws-in line with some of the laws in other jurisdictions.

The fact is that when I look at the expansion at Stora Enso, for example, a great deal of the major companies involved were from outside of Nova Scotia. It's bad enough when a company is unsuccessful and cannot pay its bill, it's that much more of a challenge to track them down when they're from out of province. That is when the true nightmare really kicks in, when they do not have any real assets in our province and you're left with jurisdictional issues, trying to be able to enforce your orders and judgments in other provinces and having to stand in line because of what might be actions that are taking place in other provinces.

[Page 2728]

I think this certainly helps bring about some harmonization in the area. The fact that we are living in a world today where we have companies, especially as we've seen in our offshore, coming from all corners of the world to do business here in Nova Scotia, it's essential that they have a clear understanding of the rules of engagement. I think bringing forward this bill, which will now be referred to as the Builders' Lien Act, is bringing Nova Scotia up to date with our laws, especially if we're going to continue to promote the growth of this province, the growth of our economy and the growth of our construction industry, that we clearly have modern-day rules applicable in that regard.

With that, again, I'm pleased the government did bring this forward. I think it did bring it forward, especially with the work by Carol MacCulloch in securing support from the Opposition caucuses prior to doing so. I look forward to seeing this bill go off to the Law Amendments Committee, and any presentations which we may see at that point, and seeing speedy passage coming to this bill. I commend the minister for bringing it forward during this session. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I too am going to support the bill and the work the department and the Law Reform Commission have done, and the staff of the department in this regard. It's an important thing for small business, because small business has an awfully hard time collecting funds. I remember one time I went to lien a company, it was past the 45 days so I lost the money, and that was it. You learn the lessons the hard way with some of these things, and fortunately it wasn't a big amount, so it wasn't a major issue for me.

There is one thing I'd like to maybe have the minister consider in this whole process, and I know you have gone through this in detail, and staff, I think has done an excellent job on it, there's no argument from me at all, as everyone else that's been involved in this. I was wondering if it's possible, when we go through the process, if the lien period could be changed from 60 days to 90 days? Just to give a small business time to get their liens in, to make sure that they are not missed out just by a time span. That's the only thing I'd like to see changed in this, at this point. Maybe when some of the businesses come in, if they do come into the Law Amendments Committee, they would suggest the same sort of thing.

Other than that, I think it's major. I'd like to ask the minister to sometime let me know why they're removing ships and vessels as well. That's the only questions I have, and with that, I'd like to again congratulate the minister and the department for bringing this positive bill forward.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 2729]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: It's my pleasure to rise and close debate on this. I should begin by closing the debate on second reading by again doing what my colleagues in the House have done, which is to acknowledge the work of Ms. Carol MacCulloch. Ms. MacCulloch's work on this bill on behalf of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, I would suggest is one of the best examples of what an advocate for a piece of legislation can do, in making sure that members on all sides of the House appreciate the importance of the legislation, how it will benefit the constituents that we are all trying to serve, and how it will overall effectively assist Nova Scotia business in being competitive in the environment in Nova Scotia and beyond.

I want to congratulate Ms. MacCulloch because it really has been a wonderful job and I consider stalking down the Leader of the Opposition at the paint store a particularly fine job of serendipitous work on her behalf, and I would like to thank her for that. (Applause)

I would also like to address one of the points that the honourable member for Preston had raised in his comments, that is the removal of ships. The reason for that is quite simply, first of all, we have the Personal Property Security Act which provides a much more effective means of enforcing that security, now with respect to liens on what are called personal property, which would include ships and those kinds of things.

The second reason was it was never a very effective remedy. I have by the way filed a lien at the land registry against a ship. The most nonsensical thing you can imagine is to file a lien against an object which by definition is incredibly movable, at a land registry, which deals with nothing but immovable property. The reason for doing it was twofold, it wasn't a very effective way to lien the property, and now there is a much more effective way to create security on that under the Personal Property Security Act. That's the answer to that. I understood his comment with respect to that.

[7:15 p.m.]

By the way, I do think the 60 days is an improvement, and maybe further improvement is possible. I won't speak at length, but I will tell you that I think all members who have dealt with this will know that when it was 45 days of work being done on the site to do improvements, or extra materials being delivered to the site to extend your lien period to get within the period. My hope is that whatever lien period that we find will, in fact, be the lien period and so that there will be a fairly black line as opposed to having to force people to try to create grey lines in order to take advantage of the legislation. I, like other members, have dealt with the difficulties that small businesses have dealt with in enforcing those liens.

I should also mention that with respect to the (Interruption) I'm going to stop speaking before the Government House Leader kicks me. I will say that I have also dealt with situations where people have had concerns about the size of the lien and enforceability. The Section 96 issue was problematic, but I can tell you that we are hoping to see if there is some

[Page 2730]

possibility for rules in the Supreme Court that may actually assist in making these smaller claims more enforceable. So, the matter is not lost on us and I'm sure it's not lost on Ms. MacCulloch either.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would close debate and ask for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 58. 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. 62.

Bill No. 62 - Financial Measures (2004) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak on second reading of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, this is a comprehensive piece of legislation and it includes a number of changes of a number of Acts and many of the items that were described in our 2004-05 budget. This bill deals with the tax changes and changes to our brackets to implement the tax changes we announced last week for personal income tax.

Mr. Speaker, one of the key elements of this bill is the establishment of the government's first debt retirement fund. Our plan to reduce the debt will be enshrined in this legislation. The plan's three components are: establishing a debt retirement contingency in fiscal year 2004-05; creating a fund for debt retirement using a portion of the interest earned on investments; and enacting legislation that commits ordinary revenues to the province, as well as money from the sale of provincially-owned assets to the debt retirement fund.

Mr. Speaker, as we announced last week, we are raising the taxes to be paid on unlimited liability companies. We are also changing the tax paid on corporation capital tax and we are moving that tax value 1 per cent as we announced last week at the budget. I think there are a couple of things I would like to draw the House's attention to, and one is the labour-sponsored venture capital funds. This bill could stimulate investment in Nova Scotia's enterprises. We have proposed amendments to the equity Tax Credit Act and to the Income Tax Act that would extend the tax credit for labour-sponsored venture capital funds for

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another five years. We have also proposed eligibility criteria which should keep more of these investments in Nova Scotia. As a further incentive to invest at home, we are proposing modest increases in the benefits for investors in labour-sponsored venture capital funds.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there are two items here that are related to education measures contained in this bill. We all know that we want to serve students with special needs in the public school system, however, we recognize that there are a number of students who may benefit from a short period of time with the specialized expertise of a private school. The provision in the Education Act for school boards to enter into tuition agreements with private schools will continue to exist. It will be entirely at the direction of the school boards whether any of these agreements are made. However, tuition support will be contributed toward the cost of private school tuition. The Education Act currently has no provision for this, so we must add this in order to offer this option.

Mr. Speaker, we all want quality education for students, and accountability for Nova Scotia taxpayers. It will continue to be the priority as the South Shore District, Tri-County District and Strait Regional School Boards move to regional school board status effective August 2004.

As members of this Legislature are aware, in 2000 the former Southeast Regional School Board was split into two district boards - the Tri-County and South Shore pilot district educational boards. These district boards shared a regional service provider which was responsible for managing the facilities, transportation, human resources and providing financial support services. With this bill, the amendments will move these boards back to regional status with responsibility for both education and the facilities.

In conclusion, there are a number of housekeeping and administrative measures contained in this legislation that are necessary to ensure the ongoing operation of the government of the people. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as the Opposition Finance Critic to address the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. There's one time every year that we can count on an omnibus bill coming before the Legislature and that's when we see the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. There is nothing wrong with an omnibus bill in principle, although it can certainly be sadly abused as it has been in other jurisdictions. What this government does every year, and has done again this year, is put things in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill that do not belong there.

The principle of a financial measures bill is supposed to be that it implements all the changes, the statutory changes made necessary by the budget. That's fine as long as that's what the government has done. But that's not what the government has done.

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Let me lead off my comments by noting the sections of this bill that do not belong in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. Part V, the changes to the Education Act, do not belong in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. The provisions that are being repealed and amended were enacted in the year 2000 in an Act to Amend the Education Act. There was a full and complete debate of what the government was doing at the time. At the time this Party expressed concerns about the powers the government was taking upon itself and how it was going about this business of taking over the Southwest Regional School Board.

If they can do it, if they can enact this stuff in a stand-alone bill, then why aren't they amending it in a stand-alone bill? This material does not flow from the budget delivered last week. It is only incidentally related to the province's finances in the sense that pretty much anything the government does has dollar implications, but by the government's logic we should just be debating one bill in here every year called the Financial Measures Act and then we can all go home once that bill is through the House.

This House needs to have the opportunity to debate fully and completely the kind of changes that are being made in the Southwest Regional School Board. This Part V does not belong in a Financial Measures Bill. Neither do all the various changes to the Pension Acts: the Pension Benefits Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Teachers' Pension Act because the changes that are being made do not impact on the province's finances.

Take for example the changes that are being made to the Pension Benefits Act. The Pension Benefits Act doesn't even apply to the Public Service Superannuation Fund. It does not apply. It doesn't apply to the Teachers' Pension Fund. This is a law that applies to all the other pension plans that are out there, not to the province's own pension plans, so what are amendments to this bill doing in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill? It does not flow from the budget so what is it doing here?

Also, the portion of this bill dealing with certain amendments to the Public Service Act do not belong in this bill. What am I talking about here? I'll be very precise. On this House's order paper is Bill No. 45 which is amendments to the Public Service Act. What it does to reduce a bill down to a single sentence is it gives the government the power to fire CEOs who aren't doing what the government tells them to do. There was a bill briefing in the House, a bill was introduced, there was some debate in the public, but that bill itself has never been called for debate in this House. And, do you know what, Mr. Speaker? We are never going to see that bill because they've taken the substance of Bill No. 45 and put it in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that what happened on the day that bill was introduced is the government caught wind of the fact that it wasn't going to be as easy a ride as they expected to get that bill passed. There were some fairly critical comments coming from the Official Opposition, coming from the Liberal Party and coming from some of the affected individuals, for example, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. So the government

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knew, clearly, that it was going to get a bit of a rough ride, but what have they done then? They've left Bill No. 45 on the order paper and they put it in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill.

That bill has nothing to do with the budget, and how do we know that, Mr. Speaker? Because it was introduced before the budget. It's already before the House as a stand-alone bill. It does not flow from the budget. What is it doing in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill? As a result of all these things, these provisions of the bill that are not about the government's taxing power, they're not about the government's budget, let me say to the Minister of Finance as clearly as I can, so there's no mistaking our intention on this, we are prepared to pass this Financial Measures (2004) Bill through second reading, but we do not make the commitment that we will allow every individual clause from this bill to pass through the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, those portions of the bill that do not flow from the budget can be taken out of this bill, if the House deems it appropriate, without it being a matter of confidence in the government, and we will certainly give those provisions the searching examination they deserve. If the government thinks that they can pass controversial stuff not flowing from the budget simply by including it in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, they are mistaken.

Mr. Speaker, let me move on to one of what you might call the themes of the bill. I'm going to now talk about a number of themes of the bill, and how we view these themes. One of the predominant themes in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill, of course, is user fees and taxes. It certainly takes up the bulk of the bill. Clauses 2 through 15, 20 through 23, 29, 33, 34, 48, 49 and 51, all involve, in one way or another, more and higher user fees, more and higher taxes.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of this material in the bill flows from a Supreme Court decision, several years ago now, called the Eurig decision. It kind of changed the legal landscape under which governments are operating. What happened in that case was that a particular person was charged a probate fee, a very large probate fee, because in Ontario, where the case arose, the probate fees were calculated as a percentage of the estate, not by any reference to the cost of service. So the more money involved in the estate, the higher the fee. So the executor of the Eurig estate ended up paying a fee - I can't remember the precise figure - that was tens of thousands of dollars, which, of course, is precisely why it was that kind of fee that got challenged in court. It was worth their while to pay a lawyer to fight it.

What the Supreme Court of Canada said is simply this, the government cannot charge a tax that is not authorized by the Legislature. It's a very simple, basic principle of our government. No taxation without representation. What had happened in Ontario, and in other provinces, including Nova Scotia, is that this system of probate fees had grown up, but there was no statutory authority to do it. There was no legislation that said government, you're

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allowed to charge a probate fee calculated as a percentage of the estate, because the important thing about that kind of fee, of course, is it is a tax.

The court has a legal test - I think it's a three-step test, three steps or four steps, I can't remember - and if it meets every part of the test, then it's a tax not a fee. Clearly, this percentage probate fee was a tax and, therefore, said the court, it had to be approved by the Legislature, and it had not been, therefore, it was illegal and had to be refunded. Well, the government has a right - the Government of Ontario and then the Government of Nova Scotia, they simply retroactively legalized the fee. But that's okay up to a point, because the Eurig decision is frequently misquoted, as standing for propositions it doesn't stand for. But the essential thing it does stand for is there shall be no tax without the approval of the Legislature. If it took retroactive legislation to do it, so be it. At least it had to be looked at, reviewed and examined by the Legislature.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that kind of rule, flowing from the Eurig decision, is particularly important in a minority government because suddenly now there is no guarantee that any particular taxing measure of the government will pass with the approval of the House. When the government can command a majority, they can pretty much take for granted that what they propose will be passed by the House. This government no longer has that assurance. So it's particularly important, I think, that they're operating under the discipline of a decision like Eurig.

Recently, just late last year, there was a similar decision in New Brunswick, though at the first level of decision making, not the last level like the Eurig decision, finding that the supplier premium charged by the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation was illegal. We have the same situation here in Nova Scotia where the Liquor Corporation - I know this is something that has always been a thorn in the side of the restaurant and food association and the members they serve, because their members are the highest-volume buyers of liquor products in the Liquor Corporation but they don't pay less than the rest of us, they pay more. They pay a premium on top of what you and I pay at the liquor store, Mr. Speaker. Not to suggest that you go to the liquor store, I don't know if you do or not. Nevertheless, you would expect that high-volume buyers would pay less but that's not the case. Recently a court in New Brunswick, basing itself on the Eurig decision, said that supplier fee was a tax, had never been authorized by the Legislature and, therefore, had to stop.

The fallout from that New Brunswick decision, still needs to be determined here in Nova Scotia because, of course, governments don't immediately jump when a lower court decision is made in another province. They have to work through the process of deciding whether it's likely that a similar decision would be made in this province.

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Let us remind ourselves that this government has relentlessly, since it was first elected in 1999, raised user fees. The only tax that has been sacrosanct to this government has been income tax. They appeared to have felt that as long as they left income tax alone they could claim that they haven't raised taxes. Mr. Speaker, we know, just by reviewing the budgets that have been passed every year in this House since they were elected, that many taxes have gone up; many user fees have gone up. Just in the latest round, over 500 - I think the count was 508.

This is the government that claims not to have raised taxes, but of course they did, Mr. Speaker. Every single tax line item in the budget, except for income tax, has gone up over the course of this government's stay as the government; every single line item except for one. Yet they claim to have - well, up until recently they claimed to have - reduced taxes. Of course that wasn't true. Nova Scotians know that it's not true. It's good for a government that has focused on user fees as the way to get the revenue that they need while claiming not to be raising taxes. It's good for them to suffer under the discipline under the Eurig decision.

This government has now been pressed, and it should be pressed, to justify the user fees it is charging. I think, Mr. Speaker, the government has only begun to hear from people affected by those user fees, who will ask the government, demand from the government, an accounting for how much revenue is raised by every fee and a justification and comparison to the cost of service.

In the Eurig decision, the Supreme Court of Canada says it didn't have to be a precise calculation because by its nature it's difficult to calculate the cost of collecting a particular fee. It has to be at least approximately equal, otherwise the government has to come back to this House, declare it to be a tax and pass it through this House as a tax. That, Mr. Speaker, explains a great deal of what's in this year's Financial Measures (2004) Bill, is line after line after line, the government is finally admitting that many of these fees are, in fact, taxes, they are not justified by the cost of services. There is no reason for all of these things to be in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill otherwise. They know that on the Eurig test, the fees fail. So, they have to finally admit that they are taxes.

As I've said, Mr. Speaker, this government should be pressed to justify further and they will be. I, certainly, and I know other members of the Public Accounts Committee look forward to the appearance of the Deputy Minister of Treasury and Policy Board before the Public Accounts Committee on May 5th to discuss this very subject of user fees.

Mr. Speaker, another theme on which I'm not going to spend a lot of time in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill are all the changes to the Education Act. I've already explained why these provisions do not belong in this bill. They were enacted as a stand-alone Act, they should be amended as a stand-alone Act, they do not belong in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill.

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The Southwest Regional School Board in the year 2000 was made the involuntary subject of a so-called pilot project whereby it was divided into two smaller boards and then certain subject matters were put under the direct administration of the Department of Education and the elected school boards had jurisdiction over a much smaller subset of the issues that are looked after, for example, by the Halifax Regional School Board, right here, which governs my constituency, which still has control, the governance, over the full range of education issues.

Mr. Speaker, it's possible that I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't seen the government declare the results of the pilot project. I haven't seen a study from them saying - and that's what a pilot project is supposed to be, a test case. There should be a study saying here's what we've done, here's what worked and why and here's what didn't work and why. Here's why we think that this should be continued or how it should be changed, here's how we think that these concepts are transferable or not transferable to other school boards in the province. It's possible that I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't seen that document. The first I saw of this was a news release issued by the government late last week, simply announcing these changes that we now find in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill.

Where's the study? Where's the community consultation? How do we know in this House if this is the right way to go, Mr. Speaker? I was disappointed to see that one community member, I believe a school member on one of these elected school boards had said, that their school board is opposed to going in the direction of the government and that they weren't consulted on the direction that the government is going.

I think we need to hear more, Mr. Speaker. We need at the Law Amendments Committee and outside the Law Amendments Committee and otherwise, to hear from the affected communities to say, is this the way you want to go and if not, why not. But the government, I would suggest deliberately, is putting a roadblock in the way of that kind of consultation or that kind of meaningful dialogue and debate by putting these measures in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill where they do not belong.

Now, Mr. Speaker, kudos where kudos are due. There is another part of the Education Act changes that are wonderful, excellent, and that is the changes to the way that special needs students are going to be governed in this province. I won't say a lot more about it because I know my colleague, the Education Critic for the Opposition, will have more to say and I know other colleagues over the course of the debate will have more to say about this, but I would say that in my brief time as an MLA, a little over three years, two of the most difficult constituency cases I've ever had have involved precisely this subject, special needs students who do not, can not fit into the regular school system and they desperately want alternative tuition agreements. Well, in both cases they were denied because the Halifax Regional School Board theoretically allows these tuition agreements but in practice says no to all of them.

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This was particularly difficult in one case, Mr. Speaker. One of the cases was a family that wanted a new tuition agreement and they said no to that family. But the really difficult one was a family where the child already had a special tuition agreement and had had it for five years, all the way through junior high, Grade 10, Grade 11, could not function in the regular school system, was going to graduate from the Thomas Aquinas Centre over in Dartmouth and in his last year, Grade 12, guess what? The regional school board yanked the tuition agreement and said, no more. The child was on the verge of graduating and do you know what the family did? They kept him at the Thomas Aquinas Centre without funding. The Thomas Aquinas Centre kept educating that child because they are so committed to doing what they're doing. It works. I'm very glad to see provisions, even if they're in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill where they don't belong.

Why on earth are we going to be debating special needs education in the context of the Financial Measures (2004) Bill? It doesn't belong there, but nevertheless it's there, it's a good thing, but like everything else, all the sort of bare bones powers that the government gives itself, the powers are good because the change is needed. Change is fundamentally needed, but the real test is not the powers the government is giving itself, it's how the government is going to use them.

I want to move on very briefly to Part VIII of the bill which is the MLA pay raise. There's something very important I think I need to say about this. This bill says that the pay raise recommended by Mr. Donahoe will not be implemented. What I don't think is widely known and I do want to put it on the record here is the fact that the pay increase, that too-large pay increase, was not going to be implemented, was already the subject of an all-Party agreement. All three Parties had agreed that pay increase could not, should not, would not be implemented. Right up until the day this House met and the Premier announced that it would not be implemented, the Opposition Parties were being led to believe that decision was going to be announced and implemented in a different way.

What happened is on the first day of this House the Premier announced it as if it was his idea and his idea alone. Uncharacteristically, I must say, the Premier did not acknowledge at any time that not implementing the pay increase was already the subject of an all-Party agreement because it appears - no, I shouldn't go there. That's imputing motive. The effect of what the Premier did was to imply that it was his decision and his decision alone. I think that did a disservice to this House.

Let me move on then to my next theme which is the changes to the Income Tax Act. There are aspects of the income tax cut rollback that we think are good. We particularly like the fact that the rollback is being done in a progressive way, not across the board, because that's not fair. This government has relentlessly raised regressive taxes and user fees which hit people at the lower end of the income scale harder than people at the upper end. So when it came time to give the reward to Nova Scotians, it was on those regressive taxes and those user fees that we should have seen the reward, so the people that were punished most by this

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government got the biggest reward, but that didn't happen, the government instead chose to deliver the reward through the income tax system so that the people who had been paying relatively the least over the life of the government were getting the most back.

It's good to see that when it came time to roll back the tax cut, the government did it in a progressive way so that people at the lower end of the tax cut scale kept their tax cut while people at the upper end are not only having it rolled back but they're paying a little bit more. That's fair, that's reasonable.

One other point worth noting about this tax cut rollback is that by rolling it back only for people at the upper end of the income scale, the government has taken back between $90 million and $100 million. So now we finally know the real story about who it was that was going to benefit from that income tax cut. By taking it away from people only at the upper end, the government is getting back two-thirds of the tax cut. So it's clear now. That's where the money was going.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we did ask the question earlier today about military personnel. The government said in the Budget Speech that military personnel were going to get a break in the provincial tax that was the same as the break recently announced on federal tax. We were puzzled when we read the Financial Measures (2004) Bill and didn't actually see anything there. Members may or may not be aware that there have been some changes at the federal level and, to be specific, in the original federal proposal soldiers serving in Bosnia and Haiti were excluded from the tax break. They have now been included and we wanted to make sure that the same changes have been made on the provincial level. After meeting with staff who were made available by the minister at my request, we have now established to our satisfaction that because of the way the provincial Income Tax Act is worded, precisely the same personnel who will get the federal benefit will also get the provincial benefit.

Mr. Speaker, let me move on then to the pension changes which is another theme in this bill. It appears in several places. Now, there is something in Part XII that I will just signal to the minister is of some concern. I think we need more information. Pension matters are always difficult, but a particular kind of benefit called the grow-in benefit is being eliminated. Now, I think in order for the House to debate this provision knowledgeably, we need to have more information from the government. Who's the winner here? Who's the loser? Who gets to decide? Who is lobbying for this? Have the government's pension partners been consulted? What's the reaction of the people, the admittedly few people in the province who understand pension matters inside out?

This is one of those provisions, Mr. Speaker, that I said does not belong in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill and one of the reasons it doesn't belong, well, it's not just because it doesn't flow from the budget, it's because in order for this House to debate

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knowledgeably and vote knowledgeably on complicated matters like pensions, we need to hear from people with the expertise. A category of benefits is being eliminated from all pensions governed by the Nova Scotia Pension Benefits Act and I daresay that there are not many people in this House who understand the implications of that and that is also a disservice to the House.

Similarly, the pension changes that are being made to the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Teachers' Pension Act, there's no question that these changes are being made for the benefit of the very highest income earners under those pension plans. Mr. Speaker, if I understand the information I received correctly, these changes affect only people who stand to get a pension - not income, but who stand to get a pension - of more than $105,000 a year, a pension of more than $105,000 a year. Some changes are being made to benefit those people and it's being made retroactive, not one year, not two years, not three years, but four years, so they must have particular individuals in mind. I think before the House can vote knowledgeably on these kinds of matters, we need to have more information. The explanatory notes offered by the Department of Finance when the bill was introduced are not adequate to address such complex and technical matters as pension benefits.

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

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I understand the Government House Leader has some routine business to transact and on that note I would move that debate be adjourned.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 54.

Bill No. 54 - Saint Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church Incorporation Act.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of moving that bill for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 54. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 55.

Bill No. 55 - Lenihan (Municipality of the District of Chester) Retiring Allowance Act.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I would take the honour of moving Bill No. 55 for second reading as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 55. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 56.

Bill No. 56 - Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters Act.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move this for second reading. Having said that, I've been asked by the Federation of Anglers and Hunters if I could possibly state for the record that "The Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters was established in 1930 by concerned resident sports people in Nova Scotia. Originally known as

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the Nova Scotia Fish and Game Protection Association, they were enacted under Chapter 148 - 1930 Nova Scotia Legislature."

The mission statement of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is - Mr. Speaker, I know you respect and appreciate the good work of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters - quickly, in respect of the late hour, "The Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is dedicated to the conservation and propagation of the wildlife in the province of Nova Scotia for those who hunt, fish, trap, or otherwise wish to enjoy the wildlife resources of Nova Scotia. This will be accomplished by education, cooperation and exchange of information with all people and by uniting provincial organizations having similar objectives."

Mr. Speaker, I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 56. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 60.

Bill No. 60 - Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 60. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable House Leader for the Official Opposition for tomorrow's hours and order of business.

[Page 2742]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the hours will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. After the orders of the day, we will be calling Bill No. 52, which is a road improvement bill, and Resolution No. 1098, with regard to post-secondary education. I move adjournment of the House.

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.

The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:54 p.m.]

[Page 2743]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1141

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Dr. Andrea Barry last week celebrated the 1st Anniversary of the opening of her Changes Health and Fitness Studio in Parrsboro; and

Whereas when arriving in Parrsboro, she was concerned about the lack of exercise facilities so she opened a facility that includes a 16-station workout with machines for strengthening all parts of the body; and

Whereas the fitness studio has been welcomed with open arms by the Town of Parrsboro and surrounding areas;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the initiative of Dr. Andrea Barry who not only came to Parrsboro to practice medicine but to look at methods of health promotion and also compliment the staff employed at the fitness studio who are working so hard in assisting people with a better and more healthier lifestyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 1142

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas nearly 300 maple syrup producers and exhibitors gathered in Truro late last Fall for the North American Maple Syrup Council's annual general meeting; and

Whereas in 2003 Nova Scotia's 63 maple syrup producers, 70 per cent of them from Cumberland County, had the third-best production season ever, producing 134,500 litres worth approximately $1.4 million at the farm gate; and

Whereas Canada produces almost 75 per cent of the world's maple syrup with a farm gate value in this country of approximately $200 million;

[Page 2744]

Therefore be it resolved that with the extensive work necessary to producing even a gallon of maple syrup, MLAs applaud Nova Scotia's maple syrup industry and extend our congratulations to the Truro organizers of last Fall's North American Maple Syrup Council's annual general meeting.

RESOLUTION NO. 1143

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 Century 21 ABC Realty in Lake Charlotte 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 Century 21 ABC Realty in Lake Charlotte for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1144

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 Handyman Services in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

[Page 2745]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Handyman Services in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1145

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 EE Enterprises 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 EE Enterprises in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1146

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 Bud Chambers Construction 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 Bud Chambers Construction in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1147

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas much of the success of Nova Scotia's waste resource management strategy is due to the efforts of many individuals, organizations and communities; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's Resource Recovery Fund Board has identified some 14 individuals, businesses, organizations and communities whose efforts have achieved great success in waste reduction and a cleaner environment; and

Whereas the Resource Recovery Fund Board is holding its sixth annual Mobius Environmental Awards luncheon today;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the 14 Mobius Award winners and thank them for their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.

RESOLUTION NO. 1148

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas each year the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment hold a Pollution Prevention Awards dinner gala to celebrate and profile the outstanding achievements of companies and individuals; and

Whereas the recipient of this year's award in the innovations category for the 2004 Pollution Prevention Award is the Eco-Efficiency Centre of Burnside; and

Whereas the Eco-Efficiency Centre is a not-for-profit, arm's-length agency that is helping small and medium-sized businesses to achieve better environmental and economic performance through resource conservation, recycling, reuse and general good environmental practices;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the staff of the Eco-Efficiency Centre on this prestigious and well-deserved national award.