Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04-37

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

MONDAY, MAY 3, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW - Upper Kennetcook: Roads - Repair, Mr. J. MacDonell 2977
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1297, Battle of Atl.: Participants - Remember, Hon. R. Russell 2978
Vote - Affirmative 2978
Res. 1298, LeBlanc, Neil: Univ. Ste-Anne - Hon. Degree,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 2979
Vote - Affirmative 2980
Res. 1299, N. Amer. Occ. Safety & Health Wk. (05/02-05/08/04) -
Participate, Hon. K. Morash 2980
Vote - Affirmative 2980
Res. 1300, Motorcycle Awareness Mo. (05/04) - Proclaim,
Hon. R. Russell 2981
Vote - Affirmative 2981
Res. 1301, Nat'l. Forest Wk. (05/02-05/08/04): Forests -
Importance Recognize, (by Hon. K. Morash) Hon. R. Hurlburt 2981
Vote - Affirmative 2982
Res. 1302, Drinking Water Wk. (05/02-05/08/04) - Celebrate,
Hon. K. Morash 2982
Vote - Affirmative 2983
Res. 1303, Chester-St. Margaret's MLA: Hurricane Juan -
Efforts Applaud, Hon. E. Fage 2983
Vote - Affirmative 2983
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 67, House of Assembly Act, Hon. M. Baker 2984
No. 68, International Interests in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act,
Hon. M. Baker 2984
No. 69, United Way of Halifax Region Act, Mr. B. Taylor 2984
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1304, Canyon, George - Nashville Star: Performance - Applaud,
Mr. D. Dexter 2984
Vote - Affirmative 2985
Res. 1305, Howe, Joseph: Memory - Honour, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2985
Vote - Affirmative 2986
Res. 1306, Canyon, George - Nashville Star: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2986
Vote - Affirmative 2987
Res. 1307, World Press Freedom Day: Journalists - Recognize,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2987
Vote - Affirmative 2987
Res. 1308, Rebels With A Cause Awards: Honorees - Acknowledge,
Ms. D. Whalen 2987
Vote - Affirmative 2988
Res. 1309, Gov.-Gen's Cert. Of Commendation: Waverley Rescue -
Recipients, Mr. G. Hines 2988
Vote - Affirmative 2989
Res. 1310, Grant, Lana: CD Release - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 2989
Vote - Affirmative 2990
Res. 1311, Cox, Keith - COGS: Graduation - Congrats., Mr. S. McNeil 2990
Vote - Affirmative 2990
Res. 1312, Fraser, Scott: Death of - Tribute, Mr. B. Taylor 2991
Vote - Affirmative 2991
Res. 1313, Creighton, Wilfrid: Birthday (100th), Mr. J. MacDonell 2991
Vote - Affirmative 2992
Res. 1314, Cdn. Mental Health Assoc.: Staff/Vols. - Congrats.,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2992
Vote - Affirmative 2993
Res. 1315, Kentville Lodge - Members: Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 2993
Vote - Affirmative 2994
Res. 1316, Robb, Dr. Ian Stewart: Death of - Tribute, Mr. H. Epstein 2994
Vote - Affirmative 2994
Res. 1317, Comeau, Tina: CCNA Award - Nomination, Mr. W. Gaudet 2995
Vote - Affirmative 2995
Res. 1318, McCoul, Danny & Joanne/Chester Save Easy:
Award - Congrats., Mr. J. Chataway 2995
Vote - Affirmative 2996
Res. 1319, Central Spryfield Elem. Sch.:Spring Fair - Congrats.,
Ms. M. Raymond 2996
Vote - Affirmative 2997
Res. 1320, Maggie's Place: Contributions - Acknowledge, Ms. D. Whalen 2997
Vote - Affirmative 2998
Res. 1321, TPW - Motorcyles: Safe Riding Season - Wish, Hon. J. Muir 2998
Vote - Affirmative 2998
Res. 1322, Pictou Co. Rivers Assoc.: Expo - Congrats., Mr. C. Parker 2998
Vote - Affirmative 2999
Res. 1323, Smith, Robin: VLT Stance - Congrats., Mr. H. Theriault 2999
Vote - Affirmative 3000
Res. 1324, Boutilier, Mel/Parker St. Food Bank: Training Progs. -
Success Wish, Hon. P. Christie 3000
Vote - Affirmative 3000
Res. 1325, Timmons, Ness: Coaching Award - Congrats., Mr. G. Gosse 3001
Vote - Affirmative 3001
Res. 1326, Freedom of the Press - MLAs: Importance - Celebrate,
Mr. D. Graham 3001
Vote - Affirmative 3002
Res. 1327, Sports: Carvery, David/Africville Lakers -
Basketball Championship, Hon. B. Barnet 3002
Vote - Affirmative 3003
Res. 1328, Sports - Wong's Tae Kwon Do: Students - Medals,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 3003
Vote - Affirmative 3004
Res. 1329, Nat'l. Hospice Palliative Care Wk. (05/03-05/09/04):
Providers - Work Acknowledge, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3004
Vote - Affirmative 3004
Res. 1330, Myra, Gary: N.S. Firefighters Burn Treatment Soc. -
Fundraising, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3005
Vote - Affirmative 3005
Res. 1331, Nat'l. Forest Wk. (05/02-05/08/04) - Participate,
Mr. K. Colwell 3005
Vote - Affirmative 3006
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Cape Breton: Methadone Clinic - Establish,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3006
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 3007
Mr. K. Colwell 3011
Mr. J. Chataway 3015
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 3:30 P.M. 3019
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:31 P.M. 3019
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Financial Measures (2004) Act 3019
Ms. D. Whalen 3019
Ms. M. More 3023
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3025
Ms. J. Massey 3042
Mr. Gerald Sampson 3045
Mr. J. MacDonell 3051
Adjourned debate 3057
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., May 4th at 12:00 noon 3058
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1332, Bonang, Mrs. Lesley - Prov. Rep. Vol. (2004),
Hon. E. Fage 3059
Res. 1333, Westchester FD: Exec./Firefighters - Commend,
The Speaker 3059
Res. 1334, Ellis, Andrew: Basketball Award - Congrats., The Speaker 3060
Res. 1335, Chapman, Jonathan: Basketball Award - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3060
Res. 1336, Gilbert, Mary Ann - RCL Aux. (15 Yr. Pin), The Speaker 3061
Res. 1337, Ellis, Melissa - RCL Aux. (5 Yr. Pin), The Speaker 3061
Res. 1338, Barre, Diane - RCL Aux. (15 Yr. Pin), The Speaker 3062
Res. 1339, Ship Hbr. Auto & Excavating: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3062
Res. 1340, Peter S. Conrod Const.: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3063
Res. 1341, Porters Lake Chiropractic Health Ctr.: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3063
Res. 1342, Sure Air Systems: Contributions - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3064
Res. 1343, R&B Gutter Services: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3064

[Page 2977]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 3, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause is, "The residents of the King and Cross Roads, Upper Kennetcook would like to complain about the road conditions. An immediate repair of these roads is needed. A.S.A.P." I have affixed my signature to a total of 49.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

2977

[Page 2978]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 1297

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

Whereas during the first weekend each May, the valiant efforts of our military in the Battle of the Atlantic is commemorated; and

Whereas 4,234 Canadian sailors, airmen and merchant marines lost their lives during the Second World War battle to maintain the shipping routes between North America and Europe; and

Whereas this weekend is not only a time for remembrance of those who perished during the battle but is also a time to say goodbye to those who have since passed away, with the HMCS Sackville commissioned to assist with the committal of the ashes of 13 veterans and two of the spouses;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House stand for a moment of silence to remember the fallen and those brave military personnel who participated in such a critical battle of World War II and whose remains now lie at rest in the waters of the Atlantic, bringing, as one said, a sailor's life full circle.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and a moment of silence.

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.

I would ask all members to rise for a moment of silence, please.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Please be seated.

[Page 2979]

The honourable Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 1298

M. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: M. le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu à que chaque année, l'Université Sainte-Anne honore la contribution de quelques personnes dans des domaines particuliers en leur décernant chacun un doctorat honorifique; et

Attendu que cette année, l'Université Sainte-Anne a choisi de reconnaître Neil LeBlanc de Wedgeport pour son travail exceptionnel dans l'administration des affaires publiques et surtout dans plusieurs dossiers qui touchent la communauté acadienne; et

Attendu que M. LeBlanc a reçu le grade de Docteur en administration publique, honoris causa à l'occasion de la cérémonie de collation des diplômes de l'Université, le samedi 1 mai;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée transmette ses plus chaleureuses félicitations à Neil LeBlanc et le remercie pour sa contribution à la Province et au développement de la communauté acadienne.

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

Whereas each year, Université Sainte-Anne recognizes the contribution of individuals in special fields of activity by awarding each an honorary doctorate degree; and

Whereas this year, Université Sainte-Anne has chosen to honour Neil LeBlanc of Wedgeport for his exceptional work in public administration and especially his achievements related to the Acadian community; and

Whereas Mr. LeBlanc received an Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration at the convocation ceremonies of the university on Saturday, May 1st;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates Neil LeBlanc and thank him for his long-standing work and commitment to the province and to the development of the Acadian community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2980]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour .

RESOLUTION NO. 1299

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 goal of the Occupational Health & Safety Division of Nova Scotia Environment and Labour is to improve health and safety in the workplace; and

Whereas the week of May 2nd through May 8th has been designated as North American Occupational Safety and Health week all across the continent; and

Whereas North American Occupational Safety and Health Week is intended to increase understanding and raise awareness of occupational health and safety issues among employees, employers and the public;

Therefore be it resolved that we acknowledge the official opening of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week in Nova Scotia, which took place at 11:00 a.m. today, May 3rd, at the Grand Parade in Halifax, and encourage all employees, employers and the general public to take part in this week's events.

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 2981]

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1300

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

Whereas motorcycles are a popular form of transportation and recreation for more than 12,000 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas more than 1,100 motorcyclists learn to ride responsibly every year through the efforts of the Nova Scotia Safety Council; and

Whereas it's important for all motorists to be aware of motorcycles, their drivers and passengers, and unite in the safe sharing of roadways throughout the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House proclaim the month of May to be Motorcycle Awareness Month, and urge all citizens to join this effort to keep our roads safe.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1301

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

Whereas May 2nd to May 8th is National Forest Week, a week observed annually, that provides an opportunity for all Nova Scotians and Canadians to learn more about their forest heritage and to support greater recognition of its valuable resources; and

[Page 2982]

Whereas the theme of the week this year, Canada's Forests - A Fine Balance, focuses on the more than 70,000 wildlife species that depend on our ecosystems for survival and which have seen a significant decline in habitat; and

Whereas we want to ensure that our forest continues to shelter wildlife, safeguard watersheds, provide soil stability and protect countless other values;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the importance of our forests to the environment and the wildlife it supports by taking time to walk through the woods and enjoy all that it has to offer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1302

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

Whereas water is a basic and essential need of every living being; and

Whereas our health, comfort and standard of living depend upon an abundant supply of safe drinking water; and

Whereas we are calling on all Nova Scotians to help protect our source water from pollution, practice water conservation and get involved in local water issues;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with me as we celebrate Drinking Water Week in Nova Scotia, from May 2 to May 8, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2983]

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 responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1303

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

Whereas there are many memories from the blizzard of 2004; and

Whereas one of those memories involves the member from Chester-St. Margaret's, who trudged through waist-deep snow to deliver medicine to 19-month-old Madison Miller of Simms Settlement, Lunenburg County, who had a temperature of 39.9 Celsius; and

Whereas the member for Chester-St. Margaret's walked 45 minutes in huge drifts of snow to deliver this medicine, when all other delivery methods had been exhausted;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the heroic efforts of the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, who was described by Ms. Miller, the mother, as the kind of MLA who went above and beyond the call of duty. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2984]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 67 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 (1992 Supplement) of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The House of Assembly Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

Bill No. 68 - Entitled an Act to Implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment in Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an introduction in concert with this piece of legislation. In the Speaker's Gallery, I would like to recognize and acknowledge the presence of two very important members of the United Way of the Halifax Region and I would ask that the Vice-Chairman of the board of directors, Mr. Peter Doig, and Evelyn Barkhouse, the Director of Operations with the United Way of the Halifax Region, stand and receive polite applause from members of the Legislature. (Applause)

Bill No. 69 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 73 of the Acts of 1972. An Act to Incorporate the Halifax-Dartmouth United Appeal. (Mr. Brooke Taylor)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1304

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

Whereas the pride of Hopewell, Pictou County, country music performer and songwriter, George Canyon placed second in the competition for Nashville Star title this weekend in Nashville, Tennessee; and

Whereas George Canyon has joined other famous artists such as Garth Brooks and Shania Twain by signing with the same major management company and agency; and

[Page 2985]

Whereas George Canyon's strong performance has opened many promising doors, providing him with opportunities to create songs with other well-established writers and putting him in a strong position to line up a major record deal and secure future television performances;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join all Nova Scotians in extending our congratulations to George Canyon on his stellar performance and wish him and his family all the best as he pursues his dream for much success in the country music industry.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1305

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

Whereas Joseph Howe was one of the most important figures in the history of Nova Scotia and of this House; and

Whereas on this date in 1835, Joseph Howe won the case for freedom of the press in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (now the Legislative Library) where he was tried for libel for printing accusations of government corruption in his newspaper, the Nova Scotian; and

Whereas Joseph Howe went on to serve his province as Leader of the Liberal Party, Premier, Member of Parliament and Lieutenant Governor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House honour the memory of Joseph Howe by upholding the ideals that he stood for and by ensuring that government remains open and accessible and accountable to the public and that our Freedom of Information legislation is the best in Canada.

[Page 2986]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1306

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

Whereas George Canyon of Hopewell, Pictou County was given the chance to showcase his incredible talent and personality to millions through the 10-week program, Nashville Star; and

Whereas Canyon's family and friends spent countless hours supporting George and his quest to share his love for music; and

Whereas despite placing second in the formal competition, he is number one with Nova Scotians and has already signed on with the same individual who manages Garth Brooks and Shania Twain;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House and indeed all Nova Scotians congratulate George Canyon on his success and join with his family and friends in wishing him all the best as he continues to capture the hearts of country music fans world-wide.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2987]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1307

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

Whereas today, World Press Freedom Day, a day set aside to pay tribute to those who make sacrifices to bring us the news, we remember the 53 journalists around the world who lost their lives last year while trying to get at the truth; and

Whereas to quote Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, journalists provide a voice to the neglected and disadvantaged while simultaneously preventing governments from insulating themselves from public criticism; and

Whereas a free press is vital to the strength of democratic governments including our own here in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the hard work, determination and sacrifices made by journalists the world over.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park

RESOLUTION NO. 1308

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

[Page 2988]

Whereas the 6th annual Rebels With a Cause awards ceremony to be held on May 8th, will honour the work of five outstanding women in the community, and this event helps raise essential funds for the continuation of advocacy services and vital programs which the Elizabeth Fry Society offers in the community to women and families; and

Whereas each of these women have contributed in a wide variety of ways working in the communities on social issues, human rights and equality for women and their families; and

Whereas this year's honorees are Rose Mary Brooks, East Preston community worker; Cathy Love, children and women's advocate; Maureen MacDonald, social worker and MLA for Halifax Needham; Sister Mary Morris, Educator and social justice advocate; and Philippa Pictou, community development activist);

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House acknowledge the tremendous work of these women and all others who work together every day within their communities and extend best wishes to them.

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. 1309

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

Whereas as a result of a dramatic rescue less that two years ago, Don Burgess, Jeff Winters, Paddy Hilchie, Mark Hoadley and David Hill have all received the Governor General's Certificate of Commendation; and

Whereas the dramatic rescue took place near Waverley where Shelley Yates and her four-year-old son Evan hydroplaned in their car and landed in a flooded marsh; and

[Page 2989]

Whereas Winters, Hoadley, Hilchie and Hill immediately pulled over upon seeing the car and dove into the water, but after rescuing Evan's mother but not being able to find Evan anywhere, Mr. Burgess got a boom truck to pull the car up from the water;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House recognize the heroic and selfless efforts demonstrated by Jeff Winters, Paddy Hilchie, Mark Hoadley, David Hill and Don Burgess, and congratulate them on receiving their honour from the Governor-General of 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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1310

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

Whereas Lana Grant is an independent singer/songwriter/recording artist who has released two CDs on her own record label, Granted Records; and

Whereas Lana Grant has appeared at the ECMAs, opened for Blue Rodeo, and has played to support local charities such as the Metro Food Bank and Phoenix Youth Programs; and

Whereas Ms. Grant released her most recent album "Hovering Above" in January;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lana Grant and wish her great success with her second CD entitled "Hovering Above" and all of her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2990]

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1311

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Campus of the Centre of Geographic Sciences held their Spring convocation on Saturday, May 1, 2004; and

Whereas the President's Award is awarded to a graduating student of a college certificate program who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and contributed to campus and/or community activities; and

Whereas Keith Cox, a graduate of the Survey Technician program, was the recipient of the President's Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Keith Cox and all graduates of this fine Nova Scotia institution.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 2991]

RESOLUTION NO. 1312

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

Whereas 33-year-old Scott Fraser, a four-time stock car racing champion, died suddenly in the early morning hours of March 20th following a snowmobile accident; and

Whereas May 29th will be the opening day for the 2004 race season at Scotia Speedworld with the entire day being marked as a tribute to Scott Fraser; and

Whereas Scott was considered to be one, if not the best, stockcar racer anywhere in Canada and was a second-generation driver, son of widely-known Maritime stock car racing legend Frank Fraser;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House express their deepest sorrow and extend their heartfelt sympathies to parents Frank and Grace, brother Frank Jr., sister-in-law Trisha, and his niece and nephew, knowing Scott will always be with you no matter where you go or what you do.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1313

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

Whereas on Saturday, May 1st, friends and family gathered at St. Andrews United Church Hall in Halifax to celebrate the 100th birthday of Dr. Wilfrid Creighton; and

[Page 2992]

Whereas returning from studies abroad in 1934, Mr. Creighton brought forestry practices he learned in Germany to his work in the Department of Lands and Forests, serving as deputy minister from 1949 until he retired in 1969, during which time he was responsible for numerous demonstration projects and the negotiation of 500,000 acres for the Crown; and

Whereas Mr. Creighton's forward-thinking forestry management expertise is still appropriate today and is evident in his own 1,450-acre woodlot, Christmas tree growing and saw log operations and in his millennium project, a sugar maple operation;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly extend warm birthday greetings to centenarian Wilfrid Creighton on the occasion of his 100th birthday on Wednesday, May 5th with best wishes for health and happiness for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1314

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

Whereas May 3 to May 9, 2004, is Mental Health Week across Canada; and

Whereas this national awareness campaign provides Canadians with many opportunities to find out more about the importance of mental health; and

Whereas this year's theme, Making Connections, reinforces the message that reaching out and making connections with families, groups and decision makers is the first step toward well-being;

[Page 2993]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the staff and volunteers at the Canadian Mental Health Association for their dedication and efforts not only during Mental Health Week but throughout the entire year.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1315

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

Whereas members of the Kentville Lodge, Number 58, recently met to honour the First Master, Dr. Henri Shaw, and members who have attained 25, 50, and 60 years of service; and

Whereas Jack Lord was the recipient of his Master Mason certificate and William Haines was presented his Past Master's certificate for serving as Master of the Lodge of 2002; and

Whereas others recognized for long-time service to the lodge were Barry Gibson, Scott Gibson, David Waterbury, and Donald Cameron Keith;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the Kentville Lodge on their recent awards and recognize their many years of service to the organization.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2994]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1316

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

Whereas we note with sorrow the passing of Dr. Ian Stewart Robb at the age of 87 on April 27, 2004; and

Whereas Dr. Robb had a distinguished career of public service, including being a medic with the Canadian Army during World War II, as a medical missionary in China, and a physician aiding war refugees in South Korea in association with the United Church; and

Whereas Dr. Robb was known for his dedicated support of human rights and social justice organizations, in later years focusing on the negative effects of video gambling;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House express their sympathy to the family of the late Dr. Ian Stewart Robb upon the occasion of his passing.

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.

[Page 2995]

RESOLUTION NO. 1317

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

Whereas Tina Comeau wrote a six-part series "Searching for Answers", examining eight high-profile unsolved crimes; and

Whereas Tina Comeau is a reporter with the Yarmouth Vanguard, which published the series last Fall; and

Whereas the Canadian Community Newspaper Association has named Tina Comeau one of three finalists in the Best Feature Series category, circulation 4,000 to 12,499, in their annual awards program;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Tina Comeau on her accomplishment and wish her good luck on June 5th when the award winners are named at the CCNA National Convention.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 1318

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

Whereas the Building Healthier Future Corporate Award recognizes a corporation that has made significant contributions through support and encouragement of employee volunteerism, or shown corporate support for community initiatives; and

[Page 2996]

Whereas Chester Save Easy has been selected as this year's Building Healthier Futures Corporation of 2004 for its dedicated support of local organizations such as the Lions Club, the Chester Legion, the Chester Food Bank, the Chester Family Centre and the Wherehouse Youth Centre, just to a name a few; and

Whereas store owners Danny and Joanne McCoul have a policy in place that encourages staff to volunteer by offering incentives and a flexible work schedule;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Chester Save Easy owners Danny and Joanne McCoul for their many efforts to encourage volunteerism among their employees and all the contributions they made to their community, and congratulate them on winning the Building Healthier Futures Corporate Award for 2004.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1319

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

Whereas Central Spryfield Elementary School on the Herring Cove Road held its first-ever Spring Fair on April 24th, after nearly 50 years of existence; and

Whereas the children of Cental Spryfield have set up a knitting club, and have, since Christmas, knitted, baked, made jam, apple dolls and other crafts and forced flowering bulbs for sale; and

Whereas every nook and cranny of the school was bursting with games, students, parents, teachers on the day of the fair;

[Page 2997]

Therefore be it resolved this House congratulate Principal Connie Pottie, her staff, and all the children and parents of Central Spryfield on the splendid success of their fair, and wish them luck with many more in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 1320

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

Whereas Maggie's Place is offering a variety of parenting classes to help parents with children from pre-school to teenagers; and

Whereas these courses will be offered free of charge, and will range from, Hey Who's in Charge workshops for parents with teens, to workshops on pregnancy resources on how to care for yourself and your baby; and

Whereas the seven week, low-cost nutritional program will also assist parents to provide nutritional well-balanced meals for their families; and

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature acknowledge the contributions Maggie's Place makes to improving the lives of families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2998]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1321

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

Whereas on May 1, 2004, more than 325 motorcyclists, along with their passengers, attended the 16th annual Bike Blessing service in Truro; and

Whereas May is the beginning month of Nova Scotia's motorcyce riding season; and

Whereas motorcycles are a less conspicuous motor vehicle and, thus, increased awareness will improve safety habits and help prevent injuries;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the public to increase its awareness of motorcycles and wish all motorcyclists an enjoyable and accident-free riding season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1322

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

Whereas the Pictou County Rivers Association held a successful Fishing and Outdoor Recreation Expo this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the New Glasgow Stadium; and

[Page 2999]

Whereas exhibitors from throughout northern Nova Scotia were on hand displaying a variety of recreation and fishing products as well as federal and provincial fisheries officers answering questions from the public; and

Whereas all monies raised by the Pictou County Rivers Association go towards river and stream maintenance and other conservation activities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the Pictou County Rivers Association on another successful show and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1323

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 bar owner Robin Smith is no longer allowing video lottery terminals in his establishment; and

Whereas Robin Smith wants other local bars to follow his example because of the negative effect gambling addiction has had on some of his patrons; and

Whereas gambling addiction is a problem that affects the lives of countless Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Robin Smith for taking a stand and not letting the need for profit outweigh the destruction to people's lives gambling addiction can cause.

[Page 3000]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1324

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

Whereas under the selfless leadership of Mel Boutilier the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank has provided help to those with needs in Halifax since 1983; and

Whereas Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank is now providing training programs that are helping people get skills needed for meaningful employment; and

Whereas Parker Street Food Bank has just completed a successful fundraiser to provide funds for their clients needs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Mel Boutilier and the Parker Street Food Bank success as they work to help those with needs in Halifax.

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 3001]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1325

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

Whereas for the third time in the past four years, Ness Timmons, Coach of the UCCB women's soccer team, was named Atlantic University Sport Coach of the Year; and

Whereas Coach Timmons has guided this team of dedicated young athletes to four consecutive divisional titles; and

Whereas Coach Timmons was also a member of the coaching staff of the World University Games, held in Korea;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Ness Timmons for his commitment and dedication to UCCB's soccer program, thereby reinforcing UCCB's place on the athletic map.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1326

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

Whereas Joseph Howe became known to Nova Scotians as a speaker for the rights of people when he got to his feet and spoke in this very Legislature for six and a half hours on liberty and the need for freedom of the press; and

[Page 3002]

Whereas today, May 3, 2004, thousands of journalists around the world are commemorating World Press Freedom Day; and

Whereas last year, 53 journalists worldwide died while working to promote truth, liberty and fairness;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature celebrate the importance of freedom of the press, especially in those societies whose journey toward recovery and stability are beset with uncertainty, and applaud the brave men and women who bring us news despite obvious risks and dangers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 1327

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

Whereas the Africville Lakers captured the Bantam Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship earlier this month; and

Whereas Coach David Carvery and his team worked very hard this year to come out ahead against other very formidable teams; and

Whereas Coach Carvery will continue to be the coach for the next season and will hopefully duplicate his efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with me in congratulating Coach David Carvery and the Africville Lakers on their recent Bantam Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship.

[Page 3003]

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1328

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

Whereas Tae Kwon Do is an artistic discipline whose techniques are done with powerful and graceful movements, developing strength, flexibility, endurance, speed, balance, coordination and self-control; and

Whereas Master Brian Wong opened Wong's Tae Kwon Do in Sackville less than a year ago, instructing his students in the tenets of this martial art, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit; and

Whereas Wong's Tae Kwon Do students Lawson Gillespie, Shaina Goodwin, Mikelle Porter and Marlee Porter competed with more than 350 other competitors from across Canada on Friday, April 30th at the Canadian Junior National Tae Kwon Do Championship at the Dartmouth Sportsplex;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Coach Brian Wong and students Lawson Gillespie, Shaina Goodwin, Mikelle Porter and Marlee Porter on their outstanding performance at the Canadian Junior National Tae Kwon Do Championships held this past weekend, winning one gold and four silver medals in the colour belt divisions, and wish them future successes as they continue their training.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3004]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1329

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

Whereas May 3rd to May 9th is National Hospice Palliative Care Week; and

Whereas hospice palliative care programs allow patients to gain more control of their lives, manage pain and symptoms more effectively, and provide support to informal caregivers; and

Whereas this week's theme, Caregiving - The Many Gifts That All Caregivers Bring, celebrates, recognizes and shares the achievements of hospice palliative care professionals, family and friends in communities throughout our province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature acknowledge the tremendous work of palliative care workers, family caregivers and volunteers in our province, and work together to ensure that hospice palliative care is given the resources to provide services within our health care structure.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 3005]

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1330

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

Whereas Lakeside volunteer firefighter, Gary Myra, has led the initiative to raise funds for the Nova Scotia Fire Fighters Burn Treatment Society; and

Whereas Gary and the workers at the Lakeside Fire Hall bingo have raised $2,600 through their efforts; and

Whereas this money will be used to assist burn victims with their recovery;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank Gary Myra and the members of the Lakeside Volunteer Fire Department for their continuing dedication to fundraising for the Nova Scotia Fire Fighters Burn Treatment Society.

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. 1331

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

Whereas May 2nd to May 8th is National Forest Week, and the theme this year is Canada's forests; and

Whereas the forests contribute greatly to the economy, health and traditions of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 3006]

Whereas Nova Scotia has a long history of forest industries and economic growth, while trying to maintain a balance with nature;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage the people of Nova Scotia to contribute and take part in the various activities planned for this very special week, and urge the government to ensure that the beauty of our province is maintained while encouraging sustainable forest practices.

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.

Order, please. Just before we go to Orders of the Day, there has been a request to revert back to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the Antigonish Diocesan Catholic Women's League. The petition was sent to the Health Minister and it calls on the government to immediately fund the establishment of methadone clinic in the Cape Breton area. The petition is signed by some 200 people and I have affixed my signature to it as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 3007]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, 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 Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I just want to make mention of some concerns that have been brought to my attention over the last nine months or so from my community of Sackville. As I go through some of them, we will realize that most of these concerns aren't just limited to my area - they affect the surrounding areas and I'm sure they affect a lot of the communities throughout Nova Scotia. They are concerns that were brought to me not only through the election, but afterwards, and they're still being brought up to me on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, to my constituency office and passed along to me.

So I thought that it was time that I could bring some of these forward, things like skyrocketing car insurance, skyrocketing house insurance, skyrocketing user fees, the conditions of some of the schools in my area. Health care is a big concern for many of the residents, especially emergency room wait times and waiting times for appointments with specialists. Part of the concerns that I'm hearing are not just from older adults, but from the youth in my community. A lot of the youth are becoming more aware of what's happening in the province and the different events that take place throughout their community and the effects of user fees, car insurance. Some of the concerns they have, the older residents of my community, are skyrocketing car insurance, skyrocketing tuition, skyrocketing user fees for schools. So, as you can see, a lot of these concerns - and I used the word "skyrocketing" because that's what these individuals and residents in my community are saying the state of these concerns are.

[Page 3008]

These topics, all or most of them, deal with monetary funds or expenses on their behalf and they're finding it very difficult to make ends meet. So I just want to talk a little bit about the car insurance. As you're aware, last year there was legislation brought in to reduce car insurance for the people of our province, and it was a 20 per cent reduction in the rates, which is great, I've got to applaud - anything to reduce car insurance is a good thing, but the problem I've been hearing from a lot of the residents is insurance has gone up 60 per cent, 70 per cent, 80 per cent, even 90 per cent over the last several years, Mr. Speaker, and a 20 per cent reduction is a small portion of what their increases have been over the years.

So they're still seeing a large portion of their income every month going to auto insurance. A lot of the people who talk to me do pay their insurance rates on a monthly basis, so it comes out of their monthly income and they're really finding it difficult. A lot of them are selling vehicles and selling them because they can't afford the insurance on them and they're needed in their families to enable them to travel to work or get their kids to schools or go to functions, extracurricular activities and now they're relying on other means of transportation.

The other big concern that has been brought up to me, especially over the last nine months, is the increase in house insurance. Many residents in my community have called indicating that the insurance rates for their homes have doubled at times. There are several incidences that come to mind over the last nine months where they have doubled. This is really hard on their monthly income with the auto insurance to pay for these home insurance costs. So that has been a big concern of many of the homeowners in my community. They're wondering if the trend is going to continue - as we have seen with the auto insurance over the last several years - with the house insurance. I think potential legislation down the road would be maybe to address something like this.

As an elected official I think it's important for us to make sure that our residents are being dealt with adequately by companies, especially insurance companies, and we need to really take a look at the trend that has been going on over the last several months, if not several years in house insurance. I think that's something we need to really look at over the next year or so and see if we can help alleviate some of these costs for our residents because they too are finding it hard to insure their homes.

Another concern is some of the user fees that the residents have been paying over the last several years. I always revert back to life experiences and, of course, my past profession as you are aware, Mr. Speaker, working as a paramedic in the province and pretty much working most of my career in my community where I live and where I grew up and the community that I represent now in this Legislature. The ambulance user fees has a been a big deterrent for residents to call for an ambulance. You would be amazed at how often I have to convince someone to go to the hospital and they're worried about how much the user fee is. Paramedics in the province are quite honest to patients when they go and assess them and see their needs and determine if they need to continue on to the hospital or not. I've always

[Page 3009]

practised that if the condition warrants, the patient should be seen by a physician or seen in the ER, so I encourage patients to not worry about the user fee at that time and to come with us and seek medical attention and go to the hospital and get checked.

It has been numerous times now over the last several years that this has come up. Not only the user fee, but the increasing auto insurance on some of the motor vehicle accidents that I go to. People are very afraid that they will have such a huge increase on their motor vehicle insurance or their coverage once they claim for a user fee because in this province the cost of an ambulance trip to the hospital is over $600. If you were to fall down outside let's say, and fracture your leg and you're taken to the hospital by an ambulance, your user fee is $120 now, but if you're in a vehicle or you're a passenger in a vehicle, you get the brunt of the total cost for that trip. So you actually get a bill for the $600 and you're supposed to approach your insurance company or the insurance company of the vehicle you're a passenger in and they're supposed to cover the cost of that.

Many people are afraid to even pay or go and see their broker and say that they have an insurance bill, because one, they'll ask why do you have an insurance bill? They will say because I've been in a motor vehicle accident, even though maybe they're paying out of pocket for the damage done to their vehicle, so they're afraid to put in the claim for their ambulance bill because the insurance company may question it, there might be damage to their vehicle and they're truly afraid of the increased cost of their auto insurance.

Along the line of auto insurance, the youth in my community are paying a fortune to get their vehicles insured or be part of their family's insurance package. On a personal note, my spouse works in a financial institution and actually she is a loans officer and most times now she witnesses young people coming in to get their first loan on a vehicle and one of her first questions is, how much is your insurance? They have to make arrangements with her or show proof that they have insurance on the vehicle and sometimes the insurance costs more than the price on the vehicle. So young people in our communities are finding it hard to get their first vehicle and get it insured to enable them to maintain their studies, say, if they're coming from Sackville into Halifax to go to university. The cost incurred for this is increasing dramatically over the last several years.

That brings me to the next concern that they have, which is the cost of tuition nowadays for the youth, especially in my community. A lot of them do travel back and forth, they don't stay on campus, they don't live in the residences and they need vehicles. They tie both of them in very closely, the decision on if they should extend their education by going to a secondary institution or college or university in town. The determining factor is, can they get there, for one, with the cost of insuring their vehicle or the cost of tuition, which we all are aware has risen dramatically, even since the early 1990s when I attended Saint Mary's. It was something of a transition for me to go to university and to try to figure out what I was going to do and nowadays it's hard for a youth to say, I'm just going to go on to university to keep my options open, because of the costs involved in this. The parents that do support

[Page 3010]

the youth or their kids to go on to university or college, it's a big expense when they're not too sure what the end results or what their end career is going to be. So that's a big factor in deciding if they're going to go to university.

The other thing is, the school fees paid now when you attend school, such as high school, elementary school, junior high school. There were reports last week in the news that HRM alone brought in nearly $20 million in user fees, school fees. I know Sackville High is in the range of $300,000 to $400,000 they take in for user fees. These are fees that students have to pay for their lockers, for sports teams, not only just one sports team but if you play on three sports teams you have to pay $35 for each sports team. So here are students, especially nowadays with the promotion of the Health Promotion Office and trying to promote an active lifestyle for our youth, and we're penalizing them in our school system if they choose to play one or more sports. It's a very hard burden for them to carry and it's a burden for their families to carry with all the increased costs in insurance for their vehicles, for their houses, for user fees and it's very concerning for them, these increased costs that just continue to grow and grow.

The next topic that a lot of my residents are concerned with is health care. Of course, many people in this room have heard over the last several years - and it has always been a hot topic - health care is important to pretty much everybody in this province and everybody in this country. In Sackville, we've had the opportunity to seek some medical attention at the Cobequid Community Health Centre, which is a great facility that's been there for many years. I've worked with the people there, I've brought patients in there over the years and it's a great asset to have in our community. The Cobequid Community Health Centre has a catchment area of over 100,000 people; Mr. Speaker, that's almost a quarter of the population of HRM that uses that facility or has the potential to use that facility.

[3:00 p.m.]

Over the years, I've realized bringing patients in there that the facility that's currently there, they outgrew it many years ago. There's a dire need to get this new community hospital open and the community is fully behind it - they've been fundraising for years for the Cobequid Community Health Centre Foundation, they've raised over $3 million to date. The youth, especially, are committed to this facility with the four high schools around the area - Sackville High School, Millwood High School, C. P. Allen High School and Lockview High School - committing to raise $80,000 over the next several years for that foundation for the centre. Everybody out there has been really working hard to get this centre open and get it finished. I think with the growth seen in the community and surrounding areas, Sackville deserves a 24-hour emergency room.

A lot of people have concerns that when the new facility is open that it will be limited or the same hours that we have now. I think with the commitment that the community has given to this facility over the years and the commitment they will continue to give, they really

[Page 3011]

need to look at this opportunity to help alleviate some of the problems we see in the emergency rooms here in Halifax. There is a crisis going on and I think the Cobequid centre out in Sackville can be a vital tool in addressing some of the issues here in the city. I think by the growth out there, the people deserve to have that issue addressed. Hopefully over the next several years we can sit down and take a strong look at this and open this facility - extended hours or even 24 hours.

I would just like to thank the community members and the people in my community who keep in touch with me and make sure their concerns are brought to my attention so that I can bring them to the floor of the House of Assembly. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to speak about some of the problems I have in my area with roads and some general things with the road problems in rural areas. We presently have a bridge on the Candy Mountain Road that's one lane - it was fixed last year by the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Just recently it was rated down to 20 tons. Unfortunately if you're building a new home there, you can't get a fully loaded gravel truck over it, cement mixer and I'm not too sure about a fire truck at this point.

I remember last year when they were working on the bridge they stationed a fire truck on the far side of the bridge just in case they had a fire. Hopefully, they'll be able to bring the proper equipment over the bridge now if they need to without causing a problem. It's caused a great deal of difficulty for the people in the community and will continue to create a problem in the community. Unfortunately this is the only road in or out of the community - no other access. If you need a vehicle in there that's heavily loaded for whatever reason, you just simply can't get it at the present time. You can't move a good-sized excavator, a bulldozer or any of those things that you may need in order to do some work around your property.

Those are minor. If you can't get a fire truck in there, if a fire truck isn't available, it's a serious problem. Just one of those old one-lane steel bridges that the government is committed to replacing, but I don't know exactly when that's going to happen. Hopefully it's sooner than later.

Then you look at some of the other roads in the East Preston area between the Highway No. 107 turnoff at East Preston down to Lake Echo where it was paved by the Liberal Government a few years ago from Lake Echo through to Porters Lake. That road desperately needs repairs. It's full of potholes, extremely rough and it's the main road through the community and definitely is not helping the economic growth of the community as it moves forward. Those are things that have to be done.

[Page 3012]

When you talk about potholes, which are a major problem this time of the year, there needs to be a system put in place in the Department of Transportation that when a call is received regarding a complaint, that a certain protocol should be followed to repair that pothole or, indeed, even a worse situation is when a road sign is knocked down during winter maintenance - no fault of anyone, it just happens to get knocked down.

In the past we've had to call people within HRM to get a new sign supplied to the Department of Transportation to have the sign put back up, and pointed out to senior staff at the Department of Transportation that they may be libel if someone dies because an ambulance can't find a person's home because there's no street name or number on it, and that has gone on and on. Some of the signs have been down for over a year, and in the last year we've managed to get a lot of them repaired, using 911 as the reason and the need to have fire and police and ambulance have easy access to the community and to the residents.

We definitely need to set a protocol to have these things in place in a certain amount of working days. I think, if I remember the protocol we're supposed to be following, it's something like 27 working days from the time a sign is down. That's a poor thing to tell a father or a mother whose child has a serious illness and the ambulance couldn't find them, that in 27 days' time the sign will be put up. It's not acceptable. I know some of the municipalities have a five-day or two-day turnaround for installing signs that are important for the location of homes and properties. We have to have that. There also needs to be put in place a system of documentation for complaints, when it comes to calls going in.

Typically, now in the province, a call comes in to a local garage and usually the gentleman who answers the phone is usually quite cordial to get along with, however, sometimes the information doesn't get to the supervisor or the supervisor claims it doesn't get there. I think this system should be set up, with all the technology there is today, a central system that you call in, log your complaint, whether it be a pothole, a road sign or whatever the case may be, to have the problem resolved, and then a certain protocol set in place, so many days or so many hours, based on the urgency of the complaint, when the complaint can be satisfied, and a follow-up back to the constituent or the person who called, letting them know that indeed it has been looked into, this is the standard process to getting this repaired. In that time, they have confidence it will be happening. That isn't the case today. I think that has to change.

The other thing that has to happen, if you're going to have a protocol in place or even the service that they have now, the local crews have to have the resources, they have to have the equipment, they have to have the raw materials, and they have to have the crew members to do the work. Maintenance on a road is so critical. If we don't have the proper maintenance done on our roads, it affects tourism, it affects businesses, it affects everybody. It probably leads to more accidents, it puts insurance rates up, and generally deteriorates the value of our vehicles, because they're beat to death on the roads. You see the damage from that, I have had several calls this year from people who have had broken rims and suspension systems and

[Page 3013]

fenders broken on their cars, because they've hit a pothole and it wasn't even marked, never mind being repaired.

On my own street they did a really good job the other day of putting some gravel in the potholes, which lasted until the first rain, and now we have big potholes again. It's been probably two or three months since they've been there. I realize that recently the weather hasn't been good, but it has to get better to get these things fixed. Look at other areas where the roads need to be repaired. If you go from Lake Echo, where the roads have been paved, about five or six years ago, into Porters Lake, the old No. 7 Highway, that needs to be repaired, too. It's full of potholes, it's very rough and in very bad condition, again, making it not very safe for people to travel and to do things they need to do every day when they're travelling back and forth to schools, to homes, to their workplaces, whatever the case may be.

One road in particular that needs immediate attention, and it's a gravel road, is O'Connell Drive in Porters Lake. It's in deplorable condition continuously. It's a gravel road, and it goes to O'Connell Drive School. There's a lot of traffic there every day, school buses and parents, going back and forth, service vehicles, and the holes in the road are so bad sometimes that you can't even drive around them. You have to go up the road at an extremely low speed, which is fine, and you still hit the potholes and do damage to your vehicles. This is one road that has to be maintained.

What if there was a fire at the school, and they needed the fire trucks there in a hurry? The fire trucks simply cannot get there in a reasonable response time. I believe there has to be some consideration given to that road, to see if it can't be brought up to some kind of standard or at least graded on a regular basis to make sure that the road is looked after and the residents get a reasonable level of service that should be expected on such a high-traffic road.

Again, it is an unusual situation, where the subdivision isn't that big but the traffic - there's a tremendous number of school buses every day and cars and service vehicles, such as oil trucks and other vehicles going up that road. That road really does need some very special attention. We had to have it graded once this year - and I thank the department for doing it quite promptly after they requested it - so that people could just simply get up and down the road. So that has to be rectified and it has to be rectified in the very near future.

Then we go into East Preston and Upper Governor Street. Well, in the summertime, in the best possible conditions and everything is there, it's almost impassable. It's a paved road, but I don't think it has been repaired probably in 30 or 40 years and it definitely has to be repaired. If you see the condition of the road and the poor condition it's in, it just makes me wonder why there isn't more damage to vehicles and the rest of it. Also, you don't see any growth in housing there. Nobody would build a home on this piece of property even though

[Page 3014]

it has road access maintained by the province. You definitely wouldn't want to build a home there. It's just simply in that bad of a condition.

As you move to the end of Upper Governor Street, where it continues on into North Preston, through East Preston and North Preston, the connector road, that has been a real big problem in the last few years with debris on the sides of the roads. One problem with that is if the road isn't maintained properly, you can't get people to go and travel the road, which would stop the illegal dumping. Last year, through Clean Nova Scotia and some very dedicated volunteers in the community - and the Department of Transportation, too, did a very good job on this, cleaning this road up, at a cost of $120,000 - the road was cleaned up. If you had seen the tons of material that came out of there, you wouldn't have believed it. If you get something that's easy to access, you go in there and you know there's almost no traffic on it because nobody will travel through it, it makes it very, very easy to go in there in the middle of the night, or even in the daytime, and dump garbage.

The other problem with that road is it really needs to be finished and probably should be paved because it's a main connector between the two communities of East Preston and North Preston. Now when you go into North Preston, it's quite a long, winding road you have to continue into the community and really the only access where if this road was finished and built properly, you could have easy access and make more connections between the families in the two communities, many of whom are related. It's important to keep family values and the availability of those values in place, and a simple road system would do that.

In my area under the past government there has only been one road paved, one road, which was a government area, the Myra Road which needed to be paved forever. It was number one on the priority list in 1999 when I was in government. It took them four years, just before an election, to get the road paved and, hopefully, it was done to a positive standard, but it didn't seem like there was very much asphalt laid and it didn't seem like it was a very solid base on the road. We will see in the next year or so how the road stands up. But if that's the case, only one road paved in four years under this government in my area, I can imagine with a member that's not a government member, getting any pavement done. So we will pressure the government to do just that to make sure we do get some work done in the community which is so badly needed.

I'm fortunate in one way, with roads, because about half of my district is serviced by HRM which has a higher standard of service than does a lot of the other areas in my area where the Department of Transportation does the work, and we have very few complaints from that area - a couple complaints this winter about snow removal, and that has been about it. But the two standards cause problems, too with the province doing it on a lower standard than the municipality does and people expect the one standard across the board, and they deserve to have that same standard.

[Page 3015]

I can give you an example of a four-year-old problem that happened. There's a family in Lake Echo, when the road was paved through there, that had a lip left on the edge, a drop actually from the pavement to their driveway of some eight inches. They contacted the Department of Transportation, and, indeed, when I was councillor I wrote to the engineer at the time and asked him to look at the problem. He went and looked at the problem and said there was really no problem, and didn't repair it. The family has the bills where they had tow trucks haul their cars out of the end of the driveway that got stuck there time after time. They put gravel on it themselves to try to cure it, but the water keeps running off the road and washing it away and causing a serious, serious problem.

With that kind of service, it's important that the service standards be set and service standards that people know when they call with confidence, that a thing will be repaired, whether it's a pothole, street sign, whatever the case may be. There need to be standards established to do these things. Possibly go into a standard call centre that addresses these calls and then forwards them out to the particular bases for the basemen and the supervisors to look into and resolve in an orderly manner, and a reporting back system, through the supervisors and the department to make sure this has been done in a timely and safe manner.

[3:15 p.m.]

Another issue I want to talk about is tourism, and the need for roads and tourism. If you don't have good roads in this province you can't go to the beautiful areas outside of the Halifax area that will absolutely guarantee that people will return. But, if you have a road that's so bad that your trip there is not enjoyable, you won't come back. You'll tell all your friends when you go back to New England, or New Brunswick or Ontario that it is a horrible place to visit because the roads are so horrible. That's a shame and we all lose as Nova Scotians, because Nova Scotia has the best reputation for wonderful, friendly people, and wonderful scenery.

We have to make sure our roads are maintained and more money goes into roads, and make sure that every penny we get from the tax dollars from gasoline goes into roads, and stays in roads, and no other place. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity, and I understand I have 15 minutes. Certainly enough has happened in this House that people that have my last name could talk for days and days. Basically I don't intend to use more than 15 minutes, but I certainly do very much appreciate this opportunity.

Of course, the Spring is budget time and indeed I think not everyone agrees on every sentence. I think that many people in this House agree that there's far more good than bad in this debate. Certainly, I read the budget highlights, and I haven't memorized the pages and

[Page 3016]

pages of books, but one thing it points out is the steady economic performance of Nova Scotia, that we really do have strong provincial revenues. It's just amazing, after 40 years we didn't have one, but in the last three years, Nova Scotia has a balanced budget. That certainly didn't happen as oh, tomorrow we'll have a balanced budget. Great planning and thought had gone into that.

Of course the thing is, the surplus over last year of the revenues, the surplus over the expenses, was $14.5 million. This may seem like a lot of money, but when you realize that to run Nova Scotia costs you $5.5 billion dollars. We have a $14.5 million surplus. That's very good, especially - remember 2003, what a year it was. We had floods in the Spring, we had blizzards, we had Hurricane Juan, and luckily Hurricane Juan didn't hit the whole province, but the parts it did, it certainly left its mark. Then in some areas we had the white Juan. That is much snow in a very short time. But we survived all of that, and still ended up with a surplus.

That of course, is good management. I think the other thing too was that we've started a debt retirement fund. This is the first time ever, all surpluses go into that account. What I understand, there's $10 million, and if this budget gets passed, there will be $10 million in it; $6 million will go to retire the debt and then of course $4 million will be contingency fund if we have any unexpected expenses. Indeed we do have unexpected expenses. Nobody predicted we would have a Hurricane Juan last year. I think many people also appreciate we don't have to wait for another 100 years until it happens again. Of course the Gross Domestic Product for Nova Scotia is 3.4 per cent, that's the growth expected this year. It isn't just a conservative figure, large "C" conservative figure, it's done by a formula. It's very often considered, by many people, accurate. We are growing faster than many other parts of Canada. So that's another great thing to go ahead with.

Of course, there are certainly people on this side of the House, and I think many people in the whole House, who also appreciate that we have to do whatever we can to lower taxes. Isn't it arrogant for some government to come along and say, oh, I'll take all your money, I know better than you do how to spend it? You don't know how to spend it any better than the people who actually gave you the money. So the lower you put the taxes, the better it is. That seems like common sense, but some people say, oh no, spend it all, don't give them back anything.

Basically, I think this budget very much reflects that 96 per cent of Nova Scotians, 96 out of 100, will have lower personal income tax than they did last year. Okay, it isn't as low - if you make over $100,000, you have to pay that 10 per cent, whatever. That's fine, whatever. We couldn't predict everything. But we went in the right direction, and we want to keep up that direction, and keep it up with balanced budgets. My goodness, we have a plan. (Applause) My, oh my, it's a pretty emotional day, I'll tell you.

[Page 3017]

Of course, I think the other thing is I think everybody also appreciates that businesses have to be supported. The more we support business in Nova Scotia - it's great. Of course small businesses, their threshold went up to $300,000 and is in line with the tax rules in Ottawa, and we're going in the right direction. It went up from $250,000 to $300,000. Basically, of course, I think everybody appreciates - at least, I'm sure, on this side of the House - that all the businesses were not all Irving or General Motors, but 75 per cent of businesses in Nova Scotia have between one and five employees. We certainly don't want to do something that would impede their keeping ahead and going ahead in that direction. I think it's a very sensible budget for most businesses.

Of course, the number one choice is, what do we have as needs? Inevitably, people say give me money for this, give me money for that, give me money for this, you can't run a sensible business or a sensible household or a sensible province if you give everybody all that they ask, because it has to be prioritized. In prioritizing, we said, number one, health care. The budget has increased for health care in Nova Scotia and health promotions, et cetera, to $2.36 billion. Well, that's certainly a lot better than it was the year before and the year before and the year before. (Applause) My, oh my.

The other thing, of course, is you can't do everything at once, but I think many people appreciate that seniors living in nursing homes will no longer pay for medical costs, effective as of January 1, 2005. I think this is the time. Many members around the whole House, both sides of the House, we all got up and said, hey, that's a good point. Certainly, I think everybody appreciated that.

Then, of course, there's certainly the funding for long-term care beds, Pharmacare, ERs, orthopaedics, provincial wait time projects, I could go on and on. These are the things that are getting concentrated on and we're certainly going in the right direction. We have hospitals that will receive $78.5 million more, medical payments, where people need medicine, et cetera, this is up $85.6 million. The thing is that anybody who has the honour of being an MLA, we're all aware of homes for long-term care. They will receive $24.1 million more for doing those operations. Health care is our first priority.

The second priority is education. I don't want to bore everybody with all the things going on in education. Certainly, we realize that you have to support education, because, as I think somebody said in the House here, when people are young they get their education, they leave the province, they work all their lives, so we didn't want people to come back to Nova Scotia just to retire. When they come back to retire, they should come back to see their grandchildren, because their grandchildren and everybody else should, hopefully, want to work and support Nova Scotia. That's certainly the goal that you have to have. You can't say, oh, tonight we'll do this tomorrow. It has have good planning and we're going in that direction.

[Page 3018]

We've done a lot for families, Community Services budget is up $27.7 million, community supports for adults budget has increased by 10.3 per cent, and I'm sure that everybody in this room can read just about as badly as I can or as good as I can and read this booklet, because it's very, very important. It's saying what we should be doing and that's what we are doing.

Of course, the one thing that I think is very, very important is that we are paying down the debt. I always get a kick out of some people who say, oh, we're increasing the provincial debt, we're increasing the provincial debt, but what they have not told you and they haven't made you realize is that in 1999 the provincial debt was about 48 per cent of all the money, all the assets of the Province of Nova Scotia owned, now it's 41 per cent. That was in 2003 and it's going down again, because by the year 2008, we'll have more money going against that. Why is it? It's going in the right direction, because we have to have a plan to do it and you can't do it overnight but this budget has certainly highlighted many of the things that we're going in the right direction with.

How many minutes left do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately 3 minutes.

MR. CHATAWAY: Oh, even a person with my last name can't stop in that time. I'll only run after you with some ideas. But basically, we very much appreciate Bill No. 40. I think many of the people sitting in this room were at one time municipal councillors. I was one and I know many on our side and many on the other side too, were municipal councillors. Because I think it's very, very important that we have to have Bill No. 40. I would just like to read the plan that we're using in this regard. This Party certainly supports that we "Protect homeowners from sudden and dramatic increases in property assessments by working with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) to establish a limit on yearly increases in cases where there has been little or no physical change to the property." That is our goal and we're certainly very proud of that. I don't think that that goal goes against anybody else's idea. Basically, we have come up with a real problem. You can't run away from a problem, you have to solve the problem.

Of course, everybody realizes, too, that municipalities, everybody that was a municipal councillor or has followed municipal council, things going on in municipal councils, is that they have a very dedicated task too and every municipal councillor says yes, we have to give these goods, we have to have these revenues, we have to use these goods or these services in order that we do as well as we can, and inevitably 55 municipalities in Nova Scotia - not all municipalities agree with everybody 100 per cent of the time, but I really think they're doing as much as they possible can with their limits, with their budgets. Of course we all realize that costs have gone up for giving the same services or better services; the costs have gone up and so will revenues have to. So that is a very legitimate point. However we have to - we can't ruin municipalities or ruin the province by having so dramatically changed.

[Page 3019]

Mr. Speaker, there's not enough time to do that and I very much appreciate this opportunity and thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[3:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Russell MacKinnon in the Chair.]

[7:31 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. 62.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park. You have 25 minutes left.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I have a few more points to go over. I finished off the other day speaking about the large corporations tax, so I would like to pick up the thought there. Essentially, last August, when we were campaigning, the Liberal Party stood for a number of things. We stood for freezing user fees, freezing corporate taxes and holding the line on personal income tax. What we see in the budget and, again, brought into the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, are increases in user fees and new taxes by $12 million,

[Page 3020]

increased corporate taxes amounting to $17.5 million and, finally, a grudging reality check for the government where the tax cut has been reversed for all but the lowest tax bracket.

Mr. Speaker, it's easy for the government, perhaps, to increase corporate taxes. It's sort of an easy target. We wouldn't expect any opposition from the NDP on that, and perhaps that's because they don't fully understand the repercussions. It's an easy hit and perhaps politically popular, but it is a job killer. The tax will not help government achieve its surplus in the long run, because what we need to do is grow jobs. We need to spur the economy.

Another part of this Financial Measures (2004) Bill is the introduction of a new tax bracket for Nova Scotia. We've added a fourth bracket, and that bracket kicks in at $93,000. Now New Brunswick has a similar fourth bracket, but their's, which was introduced some time ago, is considerably higher. I think it's $104,000, at which it kicks in, which is $11,000 higher than the rate that we've chosen. That, again, makes us uncompetitive and not able to attract the higher-income earners, if in fact they're choosing to move here and are looking at the different costs.

I really think that although $93,000 sounds like an awful lot of money and there are not a lot of people who would fall into that bracket, these are the sort of people that we need in Nova Scotia because they are the people who are creating wealth, who are filling very important professions, people like doctors who we need to attract to the province. It is ironic that having just settled with a wage increase for the doctors, we've now gone forward and taxed that bracket even higher. I think that has been pointed out by the Nova Scotia Medical Society.

Looking at those tax brackets, in every case, just comparing ourselves to the closest . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park has the floor.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, just comparing ourselves to our closest neighbour, New Brunswick, in every one of those tax brackets, we have considerably lower brackets, which means that our people are paying higher taxes overall, and that is most accentuated at the top level, at this new fourth bracket. But, in every case, our thresholds are lower and our basic credits are also the lowest in Canada. It brings us back to a much-discussed element of the lack of indexation on our tax brackets. We are one of the very few places that doesn't have that indexed in concert with what the federal government is doing. That means that over time, all of us are having our taxes increased through an erosion brought about by inflation. Because we're not allowed to keep pace with the inflationary value, we're paying higher taxes on those dollars.

[Page 3021]

So, even for those many people who have been able to retain the 10 per cent tax cut, where they're declaring income of $29,500 or less, slowly but surely over time, they will lose that benefit because of the fact that inflation will erode it every year. Low income Nova Scotians are not being protected from inflation and that means that over time this tax cut will be lost completely. That's something that many people would not realize.

Mr. Speaker, government members have been congratulating themselves on how well they've listened to Nova Scotians about the priorities of health and education. I have to wonder out loud during this time where the Tories were last summer when they - mistakenly - thought that Nova Scotians cared more about an unaffordable tax cut than they did about the real priority of health. Government had been boasting for so long about the planned tax cut that they were not able to readjust their position and look at the facts.

People are angry now because of the state of the health care system - ask anyone and they'll tell you that that's what really matters, and, that's what they were saying last summer as well. Paying less taxes was definitely a secondary issue at best. The Metro Chamber of Commerce spoke out loudly against the tax cut and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives cautioned against it last year and again this year in their alternative budget.

We will have other opportunities to discuss this bill, clause by clause, but I wish to make some comment on the increase in taxes for registering an unlimited liability company. I had an opportunity to ask the Finance Minister a few of these questions earlier today in estimates. The measure is touted as bringing in a new $1.6 million in revenue to the province but I think that there's some fallacy in the thinking at either the Department of Finance or somewhere in looking at what the real value is of that service that we now offer in Nova Scotia.

Up to now Nova Scotia's been the only jurisdiction that's allowed unlimited liability companies to be registered here and that has provided a tax advantage to American companies choosing to do business in Canada. So for that reason, we've enjoyed, basically, a monopoly on that service. Over the years, since 1994 when we began to offer this, the numbers have picked up dramatically - about 1997 when the tax advantage became realized - but we've registered about 4,500 companies over that time. Perhaps 3,000 of them are still active, which means that every year they'll be paying the $2,000 a year to continue their registration. So if there's roughly 3,000 companies doing that on an annual basis, we're looking at $6 million right there, just from that service alone. On the roughly 600 that are registered each year, they'll be charged, I believe it's $4,000 to register so that's additional monies.

Really, we stand to lose that if another jurisdiction enters this market. In their last budget, the Alberta Government introduced measures that will allow these companies to register in Alberta. That means we need to be more competitive than ever in those rates and we've chosen the same year that Alberta's entering this market to double our costs. If we're

[Page 3022]

going to double the cost to companies to register and to keep their registration current here in Nova Scotia, I would suggest that we are threatening all of that revenue which, as I see it, amounts to more than $8 million a year.

So I have asked the Finance Department to provide some greater detail and perhaps to look into this because I think it is much more significant than $1.6 million. Given the very slim budget surplus that we're suggesting this year of $2.1 million, even figures of this amount make a huge difference in whether or not we'll see a positive or a negative effect at the end of the year - whether we'll have a surplus or a deficit. So I think that's very important that that be looked into.

Another side issue of that business is that it provides a great deal of work for both our legal and accounting firms in Nova Scotia. There are lawyers and accountants who specialize in this kind of work. So it will also harm their businesses as well, which ultimately means less money back in terms of income or corporate tax. I just feel that's being done at a very inopportune time when other places like Alberta are looking at it. In fact, Ontario was on the same track as well before the change of government last summer. So it isn't long before competition does arrive. If Alberta, for example, has lower fees, there's absolutely no question that we'll lose revenue.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate some of the thoughts I have on the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. We're certainly alarmed to see that government has tried to pass off fee increases as cost recovery when, in fact, they were taxes and now this Financial Measures (2004) Bill makes that clear. We're disturbed that the government has chosen to claw back taxes from people relating to the months of January to June, 2004, by charging additional in order to raise that money and credit it to last year. It makes it even more ludicrous really that we had the tax cut when it was a risky business to begin with and now we've reversed it, which is good, but we've gone back in time which harms people even more and I think people are more annoyed about that than anything. I think they understand the need to reverse the tax cut and I think they appreciate the government's position where they had to come up with enough money to pay for the essential services that people really value more.

I do believe it took some courage on the part of government to do that so I will give them that credit, but I think that going back in time and clawing back is a very regressive thing to do. I'm not sure even of the ethics of it. However, I've been told it conforms with GAAP and since we worship at the shrine of GAAP, then I'm sure it's all right, but I have to wonder when you compare it to a business and wonder what would happen if you simply increased your prices in a new year and tried to say that you had a profit for two years running. It doesn't really work that way in business and I think they conform to GAAP in their own way as well.

[Page 3023]

The question arises really in terms of accountability and so on, we do wonder how we can trust this government when the standard of disclosure in debate has not been held high and I'm referring again to the user fees and taxes and questions that were raised early on. We are concerned that the debt management plan is unreachable and I have referred to that somewhat on my previous occasion to talk on this bill, but that it really is designed to get this government past the current Spring session.

You know we really question whether or not it's possible for the government over a three-year period to increase the surplus from a very slim $2.1 million to over $106 million in that period of time. I think we've had some very good years in Nova Scotia and I think we have to be cautious because there are a lot of indicators that would say that we won't be attaining the same growth and the same expansion that we've enjoyed in the last few years. For example, if housing starts happen to taper off in the HRM, which is really one of the growth engine of this province, that would harm us immeasurably. So we have to be very cautious in terms of looking at that.

I really feel the bill demonstrates a lack of vison for the government and it really will get us just through this Spring session, is how it appears to be crafted. So we'll be looking at supporting it in second reading, but we say, again, that it could have some amendments when we're finished with the whole business. We're not suggesting that it will pass just as is, but we're willing to support it at this time and I would like to thank you very much for your time.

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on one area of Bill No. 62, the Financial Measures (2004) Act and that's the area, Part XVI, the Public Service Act, which basically authorizes Cabinet to terminate for cause and without notice the employment of the chief executive officer of certain governmental units and government business enterprises if the unit or enterprise fails to comply with the reporting requirements established by Treasury and Policy Board.

I'm particularly concerned about how this applies to the regional school boards in the province. Originally this amendment was proposed as Bill No. 45 and it's now part of the financial measures package. It applies to a long list of what are usually referred to as government service organizations - school boards, commissions, funds, councils, et cetera - all receiving provincial funding. I have concern about including the regional school boards in this measure because they are a fourth level of government. Getting fully elected school boards in this province was a long, hard battle and I have serious concerns about any legislation which undermines their authority and responsibility.

[Page 3024]

[7:45 p.m.]

I was part of that struggle in the 1970s and1980s to achieve fully-elected status, and it happened in two stages. In fact, Dartmouth had the honour of having the elections for the first partially-elected school board in the province in 1978, and I was one of the first four fully-elected school board members. You might be interested to know that the other elected members during that election were John Savage, Betty Ross and Pat Brownlow, all who at different times in their careers had affiliations with different Parties in this Legislature.

Sydney's elections were soon after and the rest of the province went in 1979 and 1980. These partially-elected school boards, you might remember, were one-third directly elected, one-third appointed by the municipal councils and in many cases were the aldermen and councillors, and one-third were provincial appointments. Fully-elected boards were not implemented until 1991.

One of the early forms of collective action and responsibility in Nova Scotia was setting up public schools under boards of trustees. Many early settlers wanted educational institutions that were in the control of the community, and not the church or government. The principle of keeping control in the community, keeping it as close to the people as possible, has been an important concept in Canadian history. You fully recognize that education is not a federal responsibility it's a provincial responsibility, and few citizens question the need for provincial standards coordination funding, which is the responsibility of the provincial government. However, the local boards of trustees evolved into school boards and have remained the community decision maker.

The role of school boards has been seriously undermined, in my view, by a series of government actions which included increasingly larger amalgamations. Another challenge has been the lack of funding control leading to the underfunding of school boards in this province. In one case it's the lack of control over the supplementary funding in the Halifax Regional Municipality and in other cases it's the lack of control over which the funding formula is used by the provincial Department of Education.

You may be aware that currently about 75 per cent of the funding for school boards is calculated under the old funding formula and about 25 per cent is calculated under the more recent funding formula and this leads to the ability of the provincial government to control how much money they're putting into the school boards and seriously underfunds the mandated and legislative responsibilities of the school boards.

I would like to suggest that the latest threat to school board autonomy is this bill which would make the superintendents or the CEOs accountable to the Department of Education and not to the elected school boards. I have served on a school board in Nova Scotia for over 10 years, I've been the Treasurer of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and I currently serve on the Public Accounts Standing Committee of this

[Page 3025]

Legislature, and I'm confident that there are mechanisms in place to deal with any misuse of public money. Those accountability measures include the school board finance committees, annual local audits, financial reporting to the Department of Education and audits through the Office of the provincial Auditor General.

It's interesting to note that many of the school boards have not been audited by the Office of the provincial Auditor General in the last five years and the reason for this is underfunding of the Auditor General's Office. In fact, about 37 per cent of entities receiving provincial funds have not been audited by the Auditor General in the last five years. The plea of this office to have their staffing requirements raised to the same level that they had in the early 1990s, seem to remain unheard. They need six more staff to bring them up to those staffing levels from 1992, and if they had it they would then be able to audit entities receiving provincial funding within the nationally accepted standard of five years. The government seems to instead have chosen an unnecessary power grab from the school boards. So I feel that if they better funded the Office of the Auditor General, this might better protect the provincial taxpayer, which was the stated intent of this section of the bill.

The last concern I have about including school boards in this bill is the possibility of intimidation - this also applies to the other entities that would be covered by the legislation. CEOs would be very nervous about sharing with their boards and commissions legitimate concerns about provincial underfunding or views and priorities that were not shared by the Party in power. If the purpose of these clauses is to increase transparency, responsibility, and accountability as it relates to financial decision making, there are much better ways of achieving those objectives than the threat of being fired for missing a reporting deadline.

I will support the Financial Measures (2004) Bill in order to bring it to the Law Amendments Committee, but there are serious implications in this section which need to be reconsidered.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Quite unexpectedly it is a pleasure for me to get up and speak on the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. (Interruptions) That's right. However, it is a pleasure for me to be able to join this debate on the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, and, Mr. Speaker, it has been said more than once that this is an omnibus bill, but I'd like to refer to it as an ominous bill. This bill enables government to implement a large number of mostly unrelated financial measures, and some of which are not related to finances at all. An example of that would be that this bill includes everything from a debt retirement fund to a change in the governance structure of the South Shore, Tri-County and Strait district boards. It's important for members on the government side to recognize that once the budget that's before this House now passes - if it does - the government is certainly not out of the woods.

[Page 3026]

Mr. Speaker, if anything that is hidden in the budget that is not disclosed by government during estimates, we will get a second crack at on this bill, so I urge governing members to take this into consideration when being probed on the estimates, particularly the Cabinet Ministers involved. This bill represents an admission by the government - it means on a simple level that some of the 506 fees announced earlier were in fact taxes, and not user fees, which the government has certainly made public in the past week or so that they were finally changing the term "user fees" to taxes - something that we have been calling for for over two years of this government now.

The government, quite regularly, were bringing in so-called user fees and saying, well no, this is not a tax, this is just something we have to take from the pockets of the people of Nova Scotia because it's a service that they should be paying for. Well, all of a sudden, they're all taxes now.

AN HON. MEMBER: They were to begin with.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: They were to begin with is what we said from day one and now we've been proven to be right on that. They were always taxes and now, finally, the government is calling them taxes.

It is important to note this fact, Mr. Speaker, because it speaks to the honesty of this government. The Finance Minister in particular has not been cooperative - he has held very superficial meetings with Opposition Parties, but he revealed nothing. In the Fall we received a preview of the Public Accounts and a preview of the forecast update; on both occasions we did not get full disclosure. What is worse is that the government failed to disclose measures which added $500 million to the debt. Again, with this bill we have proof that the government is not being up front.

Mr. Speaker, I urge the government to immediately start a more open dialogue, rather than paying lip service to Opposition demands or inquiries, particularly on tax matters. Cooperation is in short supply around this place this Spring, despite the government's spin to the contrary. One of the prominent figures of this bill is the creation of a fund and $6 million to help stop the debt from growing - $6 million to stop the debt from growing. A debt that is over $12 billion in this province, and growing, and $6 million is going to somehow stop this debt from growing?

Mr. Speaker, the debt will only stop growing in three years if everything goes to plan, and that's a big if. The problem with the so-called Debt Retirement Fund is that it does not seem like anything has changed. In fact, the only difference is that management was changed to retirement, and the minister has to deposit another $6 million a year. This seems, on the surface, to be nothing more than a public relations exercise. The reality is this government will need big surpluses to stop the debt from growing, and those surpluses do not seem to be in any early forecast.

[Page 3027]

In 2007-08, the government hopes the Debt Retirement Fund will have enough money. Again, it's based on hope, more than experience. Government is projecting that it needs another $100 million to stop the debt from growing. Is that realistic? Is it realistic? Is it possible to have a $86 million to $100 million surplus in 2007-08? The way this government is going, I don't think so. Again, I hope I'm wrong in that assessment, but is the government being honest when they say this is possible? Well, we only have to go with history here, and history says it's not possible. The truth is this government is not looking beyond the Spring session. They are buying time, and that is why this plan is being put into place. Again, the reality is that the surpluses required are very doubtful.

Mr. Speaker, it's called getting past next Tuesday, and then worrying about it over the next year. Remember, this is the same government that said we could afford a tax cut, when we really could not. You remember that, Nova Scotians remember it, I certainly remember it, and our Party remembers it, because Nova Scotians know full well our position on that matter and what our position was, that we couldn't afford it in the first place, and we were proven right. The tax cut was premature, until we start to attack the debt. Unfortunately, we are really no further in our goal with this bill. What is possible, that is what the government should ask before any bill is put forward. What is possible? What is doable? That proved not to be doable.

Mr. Speaker, another part of this bill is making it increasingly difficult for government to attain a surplus. The only way government will be able to achieve a surplus is to grow the economy. There is nothing in this bill that will help grow the economy. The words grow the economy seem to be missing, in any reference, in either this document or in the estimates or in the forecasts for the Department of Economic Development, which continues to shrink from $90 million some three years ago down to less than $50 million today. That's not very much incentive money to grow the economy in this province.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, portions of this bill will slow the economy, in particular, the large corporations capital tax. Our Party does believe in tax cuts, but only when they are affordable. They are not affordable now, and we never wanted to see the tax cut implemented. Tax cuts will not be affordable in this province for some time, nor any realistic attempt to reduce the debt in this province, based on the current figures that the government is putting forward, that's not realistic either, for doing anything towards the long-term debt of this province.

As I said, tax cuts will not be affordable for some time in this province, due to the fact that the interest payments on the debt of this province right now are still approaching $1 billion a year. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, last year, the debt repayment cost to this province was more than the entire Education budget. It's the second line item, next to Health, in this province. The second-largest line item. Money just went out the window, up in smoke, nothing for it, almost $1 billion a year on a $5.5 billion budget, $1 billion. Think what we could do with that $1 billion in terms of education and health care and roads in this province,

[Page 3028]

which are in deplorable condition. We opposed new taxes in the election, and we are not pleased with this tax measure that this government put forward.

[8:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's easy for the government to say one day they can put in place a tax decrease to give the feeling that they're giving something back to the taxpayers of this province. It's easy for the government on the eve of an election to decide they're going to send a cheque out for $155 to every Nova Scotian who paid provincial income taxes in the previous year - which, by the way, meant that those on social assistance who didn't pay taxes, didn't get the $155. Students in university didn't get the $155 to help them out with their costs in university. Senior citizens didn't get the $155 unless they paid provincial income taxes. Everybody else in between got the $155 on the eve of an election.

So I don't even think it was a good political move on behalf of the government. Whoever the spin doctors were on that one, all they did was end up with a minority government as a result of it. They thought they were going to fool Nova Scotians into voting for them in a landslide, but they lost and the taxpayers are out $68 million that could have been used for education or health. Instead, they sent out cheques and the people they sent them out to said to me, I'm taking the $155 and if they think they're going to buy my vote, they're crazy - I'll spend the $155, but I'm not voting for them.

Then they came along and the Premier said, we can afford a 10 per cent tax reduction in this province and it's not going to impact on our budget one bit. We have the money to do it. The Premier said the time is right to do it, it's necessary to do it to grow the economy. Well, if it was necessary then, why did the government change its mind and start clawing it back? The Premier has yet to explain that to Nova Scotians. That's the kind of voodoo economics that goes on in that government. What looked good one day is suddenly not good the next day.

The tax will not help government achieve a surplus in the long run. Another part of the bill indicates who this government thinks is rich in this province. The government is adding a fourth tax bracket and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the new tax bracket starts at $93,000 a year. New Brunswick implemented a fourth tax bracket some time ago, but they set their final tax bracket at $107,160. For most people in Nova Scotia, $93,000 is a lot of money - no question. Unfortunately, doctors, engineers and others will be lost to New Brunswick because our highest tax bracket is $14,160 less than New Brunswick.

Again the spin doctors have miscalculated here. Every tax bracket is lower in Nova Scotia and the basic personal exemption is the lowest in Canada. The reason is inflation and the failure of this government to index tax credits to inflation. Taxes increase every year in this province through the back door. Every year taxes are going up because of inflation and Nova Scotians are none the wiser.

[Page 3029]

Again, government should freeze taxes, not decrease them and not increase them. Even if a small tax cut remains in place for Nova Scotians making under $29,000, they will see their tax cut disappear. Low income Nova Scotians are not protected from inflation and the tax cut is an illusion. Another thing, in terms of the fees that this government has put on the people of this province, all 500 of them, affect everybody in this province. Regardless of income, regardless of whether they have the ability to pay them or not, they set them out and they said, these are user fees - if you use the service, you're going to pay an increase in fees.

But, now, it's no longer fees. It's taxes. It's new taxes. People who can't afford these taxes are now being gouged by this government for additional money. People who can't afford it - those people in that $29,000 tax bracket are now being asked to pay for virtually every good or service they use in this government in Nova Scotia. They simply cannot afford it.

Mr. Speaker, another part of this bill with regard to pensions is necessary yet could have been avoided. Increases in the amount of 1 per cent will be made to the Teachers' Pension Fund and the Public Sector Fund. The Public Sector Fund was over 100 per cent funded three years ago and the Teachers' Pension Fund was at 90 per cent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber and I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The question is, Mr. Speaker, what happened? How do you go from 100 per cent funded to a little over 76 per cent three years later? The markets were down, but why were risks being taken at over 100 per cent funded? I believe the true nature of pension loss requires further disclosure on the part of this government and I'm sure the people who are interested financially in those pension plans would want to know the same information that we're asking for in regard to the pension funds.

Mr. Speaker, we're going to have other opportunities to discuss this bill clause by clause, but I wish to make some comment on the increases in taxes for registering an unlimited liability company. This measure will bring in $1.6 million for the province as long as Nova Scotia is unique as the only Canadian jurisdiction that currently provides the service. Not only does registering these companies bring in money for the province, the registration process involved in the setting up of limited liability companies provides work for our legal and accounting professions. Our concern is that this increase will chase business away.

Mr. Speaker, we, in our Party, are concerned about the measures in this bill. We're concerned about the fact that this government will try to push this bill through as an omnibus bill or, as I said at the outset, an ominous bill. I think the more that Nova Scotians have a chance to learn because of debate in the House on second reading, or a clause by clause in the

[Page 3030]

Committee of the Whole House on Bills, the more Nova Scotians have a chance to observe what's in this bill, the less they're going to like it, and the more they're going to know that they're being gouged for every single penny that government can get out of their pockets.

Originally the government tried to pass off the fee increases as necessary to cover the increased costs to provide services and that's why they're saying the fees were going up. Well, you know, now they're having second thoughts about that, that maybe this is nothing more than a tax by any other name, I guess, a tax that literally takes money right out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and has little relation to what it costs for any particular good or service that the government is providing. The government has finally fessed up to that and now is calling all these fees by their rightful name - taxes.

So, Mr. Speaker, for a Premier who came into office in 1999 saying, there will be no new taxes under my regime except taxes on tobacco. What did we have? The first time the Premier broke the promise was an increase in gas tax. Now he has broken it 506 times that we know about in user fees and now he has broken it with a promise to reduce taxes and then clawed it back which means he has increased income taxes in this province. So not only has he broken the promise once, he has just thrown the promise out the window and, as far as I'm concerned, this government on it's position on taxes has no credibility any more.

Mr. Speaker, the bill demonstrates a lack of vision by the government. Any government that would say that they're working on the retiring of the debt of this province when the debt is well over $12 billion and they're going to put $6 million, as a start, towards the retirement of that long-term debt when, in fact, they've projected that the debt will keep going up to the year 2007 and I don't know what the plan is then - this government won't be there, but whoever is in office will have to deal with it at that time.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that it won't be the crowd opposite and I can tell you that Nova Scotians know this government has no plan. This government's plan extends to next Tuesday - the day that the budget debate ends and the vote on the budget is done. After that they'll come up with a new plan, if they're still there, and if they're not there, it will be somebody else who will have to worry about it, but this government's only vison goes to next Tuesday night. That's all. That's what they came into this session for and that's what they're hoping they'll get out with a vote on this budget, to then plan another strategy for next year. I suggest there'll be many changes opposite before next year. I suggest there will be many changes opposite. This government will perhaps come in with a new look, in trying to encourage Nova Scotians to support them once again.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at what's happening in Nova Scotia, when you look at the conditions of our roads - I drove up here yesterday on the Trans-Canada Highway, coming up on Route 4 and it was worse than the Burma Road, coming up here yesterday afternoon. You could literally lose your car in the potholes. Also, I've been getting complaints in my riding and in ridings that are familiar to me in Cape Breton County, that the roads are

[Page 3031]

in deplorable condition, that the bridges are in bad shape in our area - some of them on the verge of collapsing - that the government has not addressed some of the problems with the municipality. In other words, I can't get one day in my riding without getting some complaint about what the government is not doing.

The government says they're putting more money into roads, well, it must all be going somewhere else, other than Cape Breton, because it's certainly not going in the streets and the highways of Cape Breton. I'm sure that some rural members in the Tory caucus are complaining about the condition of their roads as well, because some of them have told me so, that they're not pleased with the lack of attention to their roads as well.

The government doesn't seem to have a plan for that. The government doesn't seem to have a plan, Mr. Speaker, for anything other than getting this budget through and getting this Financial Measures (2004) Bill through at some point over the next six to eight weeks that we spend in this House, prior to July 1st. It's estimated now that given the level of debate that's going on here, perhaps we may be here for another six weeks, but that's only a guess on my part. It could be a little bit less, it could be a little bit more.

Certainly until the work is done here, we're not prepared to go anywhere, Mr. Speaker. The Financial Measures (2004) Bill is truly an ominous Act, one that tries to tell Nova Scotians that they're doing everything that's in their best interests, when, in fact, when you look at this year's budget, for example, educators in this province are not happy with this budget, educators are not happy that this government didn't consider education to be a priority in this government. At the same time - you know, the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour laughs at that, he laughs at it. The 1 per cent increase in Education this year, the schools are in desperate shape in this province, and that member laughs when we make a comment on it. That's the intelligence of the member for Guysborough - Sheet Harbour. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton South to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would retract that, and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . say that's the inability of the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour to comprehend what's going on here in Nova Scotia. The inability of him to know that if this government were concerned about education, they would have paid some attention to educational needs in this budget, and they didn't. School boards are still facing the same problems they've faced in the past. This government turned its back on education, as far as we're concerned. There wasn't anything in this budget to help out

[Page 3032]

students, nothing in this budget this year to help out students who are having severe problems, trying to get an education in this province. If the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour thinks that's okay, well, I will leave it to his people to decide his future on that issue.

Mr. Speaker, in regard to health care, this government said, when they took office, that health care didn't need any more money, what the health care needed was a better system of management, a better way of doing things, a plan. So instead of coming up with a plan to make health care better in this province, they just threw some more money at it this year. They never did anything except throw some more money at it and hope that that would solve the problem, instead of coming up with a long-term strategic plan for health care in this province, the number one issue on the minds of the people of Nova Scotia. Did the government do anything about it? They just threw some money at it. We haven't seen a comprehensive plan yet, by this government.

Mr. Speaker, we haven't seen what Nova Scotians are looking for, a plan to finally fix the highways. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works should have tabled by now, a long-term plan, in this House, that would dedicate funds on each and every road that's having a problem, in various ridings in this province, and set down a schedule for improvements, instead of continuing to play politics with this issue.

[8:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, over the next few days we're going to continue to debate the estimates, we're going to continue to do that until next Tuesday and there is going to be a vote in this House on the budget and as I've said before, this government is content to get out of Dodge if they survive the budget next week. Anything else and everything else can wait for another day with this budget. That's evident by the lack of legislation that's coming before the House. That's evident by the fact that this government, I consider, did an end run on the workers' compensation problem. They're going to do something by regulation now, instead of debating the workers' compensation problem in this House, they're going to do it by regulation, by Cabinet decree.

The two Opposition Parties are not going to get a chance to debate the Workers' Compensation Board changes in this House this Spring, and that is a plan by the government. The plan is to get out of here and they know they're not going to be able to get out of here if they start debating the workers' compensation bill. They know they're not going to get out of here if they bring any contentious bills to the House for debate. The budget is the be-all and end-all. You know why, Mr. Speaker, because the Premier wants it, because the Premier's credibility is on the line here. The Premier has said he wanted three balanced budgets in this province - the last three years he was here.

[Page 3033]

If you think, Mr. Speaker, that when the Auditor General comes back in the next quarter and says that this was nothing but a fudge-it-budget, that it was not really balanced or oops, our revenue projections that we projected at 3 per cent are going to be less than 1 per cent, so this budget is not going to be balanced. One has to wonder, is this Premier going to be around to hear that? Is this Premier going to be around to hear that, or is this Premier going to say, I brought in three balanced budgets and now I'm leaving. I'll leave it up to the new Leader and I don't see one over there, but wherever he or she comes from will have to deal with the fact that the Auditor General will say, I'm sorry but somebody goofed here, this budget is not balanced.

What's going to happen then? The budget will have passed. The Premier will probably be gone, saying I did what I said I was going to do. Although he said he wasn't going to increase taxes and he did. He increased at least 56 that we know of, plus an increase in income tax, plus an increase in gasoline tax, and heaven knows what else. He said he wasn't going to do that, so what's the difference? He said he was going to balance the budget. If the budget is not balanced, he won't be around to answer for it.

Mr. Speaker, you see almost no reference in this document or in the budget to where this province is heading with economic development. There is no mention from anybody on that side of the House about our proposal for rural economic development in this province. Not a word. A lot of those members represent rural areas. Not a word about rural economic development has come from that side of the House. Not a word.

Mr. Speaker, also, the Minister of Energy whose sole responsibility in this Cabinet is to be the custodian of a $7 million budget and he has a full ministry to do that and there is absolutely nothing, zero, going on in the energy matters in this province right now. Yet that minister does not have any other responsibilities in Cabinet except to be Energy Minister with a $7 million budget. Contrast that to the Department of Economic Development, which has sunk so low in importance to this province that it's now called an Office of Economic Development. It's not even a ministry. So the previous Minister of Economic Development took that department down from slightly less than $100 million a year to less than $40 million a year and now he's the Minister of Energy and that budget has gone down to $7 million a year. He is the minister of cut and slash obviously, because everywhere he goes the budget disappears. So that minister has nothing to do. He operates the Ministry of Energy in this province, which does nothing. They'll spend more money on a few trips than they will on developing the energy sector in this province right now.

What I'm saying is this government has forgotten all about economic development. It's easy to develop the economy of metro Halifax because it's a buoyant economy and the private sector does a great job of doing it by themselves here. As a matter of fact, in some cases, the private sector wish government would get out of their way so they can get on with doing business here in the provincial capital.

[Page 3034]

But, within 20 miles of Province House, there seems to be a start towards a forgotten rest of Nova Scotia. I don't even have to go there when it comes to Cape Breton because the unemployment rate is approaching 20 per cent there right now and the Minister of Energy, who is the political minister for the area simply states, everything is fine in Cape Breton. Twenty per cent unemployment, but everything is fine. No problem. The total job creation of this government in Cape Breton consists of two people - both of them defeated candidates, both of them started off in the Cabinet office and one of them is over at Sydney Steel. That's the total number of people were hired by the Tories in Cape Breton, or job creation projects. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, that'll be two more than the NDP will ever have to worry about in Cape Breton.

When I'm talking about economic development I'm talking about the fact that Nova Scotia Business Inc., was an agency brought in here to deliver for Nova Scotians. What have they delivered so far? A bunch of call centres. More call centres. There's so many call centres here now, they must be talking to each other. It's going to be, in a five-year cycle, we're going to have to start looking at something else. The tax credit system that was put in place in Nova Scotia to bring the call centres here was put in place by the MacLellan Government. That's why they're here. They're not here because they like NSBI or because they like Nova Scotia. They're here because they're getting a payroll tax rebate.

My point is, how long is NSBI going to exist before they start doing something meaningful in terms of long-term economic growth in this province? And, to make matters worse, they're not responsible to the Legislature. I can recall on every single deal that was done in Nova Scotia when we were in power, we had to answer and answer regularly on the floor of this Legislature during Question Period. That is as it should have been. It should be that way today. NSBI is using $30 million a year - no, it's reduced this year by the way to $25 million this year - so that budget is even going backwards. But the $25 million they have, they're not responsible to the Legislature. The minister is, but it's not a line item of his department. It's sort of off over there somewhere, it's not accountable to anybody.

I'm not criticizing the people who work for NSBI, they have some very capable people working there, but their mandate should be a little bit more than to bring in some call centres. I think their mandate should be to get out in rural Nova Scotia and talk to rural Nova Scotians about what their priorities are. Their mandate should be to talk about the small-business people in rural Nova Scotia. The entrepreneurs who need a leg up to get started because the banks won't lend money in rural Nova Scotia. That should be a priority of NSBI.

Another priority should be NSBI talking to fishermen in this province, talking to farmers in this province, talking to woods people in this province, talking to groups of people in rural Nova Scotia who need the assistance of an agency like NSBI because the private sector won't look at them. I've said it before in this House, the banks in this province only go for sure things. Unfortunately, they are less likely to lend money to small entrepreneurs

[Page 3035]

in Nova Scotia than they would be to lend money to somebody on Barrington Street in Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, we both know that if the economy of Nova Scotia is going to grow, it has to include rural Nova Scotia. It has to include efforts to stop the depopulation of rural Nova Scotia. Everybody in Nova Scotia can't move to Halifax Regional Municipality. There has to be a reason to have people stay in their own communities in this province and prosper there. That can only be done with a mandate that this government should give to NSBI.

In other words, stop looking at the sure things. Get out there and talk to people in Nova Scotia who would need your assistance to grow their products or to sell their merchandise or to develop a new small business somewhere in rural Nova Scotia, but that's not happening. NSBI is taking the "sure thing" route. Anybody can lure a call centre into Halifax with a payroll tax rebate system that's already in place. But try to lure one into Pictou County or try to lure one into Colchester County or go down to Guysborough with one or down to Cape Breton, in rural Cape Breton, Inverness County, or do some other businesses.

AN HON. MEMBER: They're already there.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The member again says, they're already there. But I'll bet you that there are a lot of small businessmen in that riding who would like to be able to access funds from NSBI to do some projects in rural Nova Scotia. I can remember, Mr. Speaker, that when the Economic Development Department was in my riding, a few years ago, it had eight people working for it and it had people who were executives, who could go out and talk to small businesses in our area and actually loan money from that office to worthy endeavours. That office today is down to one person, no ability to loan money to anybody and they have one manager there who is waiting for retirement. A guy who's a great civil servant and is awful disillusioned today and I don't blame him, but he's just waiting it out because they have no intentions of beefing up that department anymore in Sydney for Cape Breton or, indeed, in Yarmouth for the western part of the province or anywhere else in rural Nova Scotia.

Our vision for economic development in rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, is certainly a vision that you won't find in any of the government documents in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. But you will find it in our bill and in our subsequent statements that we want a system in place in Nova Scotia that will give equal access to government throughout this province, from Yarmouth to Glace Bay, that will help people in rural areas to grow and to stay there, to grow their businesses there and to stop the depopulation that's going on.

Also, I believe that this government has a responsibility - and it's funny, this government, Mr. Speaker, always seemed to pride itself on rural Nova Scotia initiatives but seem to have abandoned ship when it comes to that now. They seem to have gone inward, with no programs - well, as a matter of fact, no programs on anything, only to get them by

[Page 3036]

next Tuesday and then they'll regroup and see what they're going to do at that point in time. But they paid the price for that in the last election in the Valley. They paid the price in the Valley and they're going to continue to pay that price in the Valley in the next election. They're going to continue to pay that price in Cape Breton. I would suggest to you, that the small toehold they have in Cape Breton now will disappear in the next election, I can guarantee you that, unless things change dramatically down there.

As I've said, we have a Cabinet Minister out of Cape Breton and I have no problem with the gentleman personally, but I do have a problem with the fact that this government and this Premier think so little of that gentleman that they give him an Energy portfolio with a budget of $7 million and there's nothing going on in the energy sector. The Laurentian group in Point Edward, outside of Sydney, has a mandate from the federal government and the regional municipality and other private stakeholders to develop Point Edward for the offshore. The only problem is, there is nothing going on in the offshore. What we see out here is two rigs in the harbour and any time you see two rigs in the harbour for an extended period of time, you know there's something wrong.

You have the oil companies leaving this province, regularly, as a matter of fact, and some of them have said to me that Nova Scotia is not a good place to do business, because you cannot get any answers out of this government on where they want to go in terms of energy alternatives in the future. That is a problem that this government continues to face, it's a credibility problem. It's a problem that I believe is not going to go away because there is no vision over there to make it go away. There is absolutely no vision.

Here we are, Mr. Speaker, getting ready to vote on a budget that the government says is balanced. But yet - and I want to remind you again that that was based on revenue projections of some 3 per cent growth, when in fact the economists in this country say that the growth is going to be less than 1 per cent. How does the Finance Minister reconcile that? He says, well, those are only figures.

[8:30 p.m.]

But at some point the Auditor General is going to have to come back, and I will say it here first, that when the quarterly reports start to flow in on this budget, in the next quarter, and the quarter after that, you're going to see some danger signs go right up the pole. This budget is going to be anything but balanced. The government knows that. This is a credibility budget for the Premier, that's all it is, a credibility budget for the Premier. I venture to you, Mr. Speaker, that that will be his last budget, and somebody else will have to worry about the next time around, because along with the Premier's credibility on tax increases, on user fees which are now tax increases, his credibility on balanced budgets is going to be shot down in flames by the Auditor General before the end of this year.

[Page 3037]

Mr. Speaker, I guess the question remains whether or not the Premier has been told this, or whether or not he's been told don't worry about it, we're going to have a balanced budget, and you will be vindicated. Where have we heard that before? I'm going to tell you - the Premier - he said to Nova Scotians there will be no tax increases during my mandate, except tax increases on tobacco, which nobody had a problem with, at the time.

So we've had tax increases on virtually everything we do in Nova Scotia since then, and the Premier can still say I have a balanced budget. Well, it's not hard to balance the budget, it's not hard to balance it if you tax everybody to death in Nova Scotia, which is what's going on here. And then they try to balance the budget, but they forgot one thing, they forgot that there are outside agencies making statements about the state of the revenue projections in Nova Scotia over the next little while.

Guess what, Mr. Speaker? Those revenue projections are nowhere near the revenue projections that they put in their budget to make this budget balance. I suggest to you it's a long way from even being close to coming together with the external forces saying that the economy of this province is going to grow by less than 1 per cent, and the Finance Minister in this government saying it's going to grow by 3 per cent. Big difference.

Mr. Speaker, how will that manifest itself? Well, after a couple of quarters, and we know that the external forces that are out there saying that this economy is not really going to grow, their message is going to get through. The Auditor General is going to do some figuring out that this budget is far from balanced. We know that now. We can tell you now that it's not going to be balanced. I will dare anybody in that caucus to stand up and say, unequivocally, that six months from now this budget will be balanced. If they can do that, I would suggest they should do it, and if they're not right, they should resign, because anybody who would knowingly go into a next fiscal year, knowing or saying that their budget is balanced and is, in effect, far from being balanced - if the Auditor General comes out and states that - then those members have lost credibility with me and with Nova Scotians, because they would have known that.

I say again to you, Mr. Speaker, the only date that matters to this government right now is next Tuesday evening, around 8:00 p.m. I would say, when the budget vote will come. It will probably be 8:05 p.m., I will predict, next Tuesday evening, when the vote will come on this budget. That's what matters to the government. Anything other than that doesn't count, because if they survive that vote next Tuesday night, and I use the word if, then they gain another year. Then they can figure out ways of telling Nova Scotians that, oops, our budget was not really balanced, or, oops, we have to increase more taxes, or we have to find out other ways of picking the pockets of Nova Scotians in order to survive for another year.

I want to add, Mr. Speaker, that with all of the things that I've talked about we still have a serious situation with students in this province. This government has not addressed the problem with higher education costs for university students. Our plans for rural Nova Scotia,

[Page 3038]

Mr. Speaker, we talk about incentives for students to stay and work in Nova Scotia; a forgiveness of student loan costs; a bursary situation in this province that students are working for; that students will be looking for if it's available; no mention of anything like that to help students out.

Some references made to down the road, they are going to do something for students; down the road. That doesn't help the students that are out there right now. The debt load is staggering on post-secondary students in this province. I suggest that this government has completely abandoned ship when it comes to students as well. Mr. Speaker, those are the things that a caring government should be talking about. Those are the ways to improve the economy in this province, to make the climate in this province one in which students would want to stay here and work and be close to their families and settle down in this province instead of going west or overseas, which is happening with all too much regularity these days.

When it comes to a Financial Measures (2004) Bill, the one we're talking about, the one we're debating tonight, or should be debating, when it comes to that, Mr. Speaker, you and I both know, and Nova Scotians know that this is an enabling piece of legislation that gives the government carte blanche to do just about anything it wishes. But there are a number of people in this province who will continue to be affected. The government has to realize that even some of the good things the government has done have holes in it. I'll give you a good example.

The government came in the budget this year and promised relief for the medical cost for people in nursing homes, but they didn't make it retroactive. People who are applying now are subject to the old rules. People are calling me up and saying, if I turn it down now, will I get in in the future? Because I'd rather wait until the new rules come into play. Instead of making it instant, it's, I believe, June 1st, or January 1st, it was going to be a couple of years away, but now I believe it's January 1st, next year. What do the people do between now and January who have to get into a nursing home? They pay under the old regime, or If they turn down the bed, they'll never get another chance at one. So they're caught. The government couldn't even do that right.

Mr. Speaker, we suggested to this government, in our plan for seniors, in terms of their meager allowance of $105 a month, be upped to $200 a month, and that there be no restrictions. Well, the government caught the spirit after awhile of listening to seniors complain, and as a result of the promise that this Premier made in the last election, when he was talking to senior citizens said, I will increase that allotment, that comfort allowance in the homes. I will increase that. It almost took him a year.

It was only prodding by the Opposition Parties, prodding by seniors in homes for special care, seniors like, Mrs. MacLeod, who used to call us regularly about all the problems seniors were having in the homes. This was in Harbourstone in my area, saying they didn't have enough money to get their hair done, or they couldn't buy treats at the canteen or they

[Page 3039]

couldn't put money away for gifts for their children or grandchildren at Christmas time because - this government was clawing it back if they dared to save any money for three months - imagine, save any money for three months, at $105 a month, is what they were getting.

The government didn't go the full route that we wanted. They didn't go to $200 a month. But, however, I will give credit, they went to $150. Hopefully that will be followed - I would have thought that they would have said $150 now, and we'll up it to at least $200 next year. That is little enough, Mr. Speaker, for our seniors who are in homes for special care. Very little said about seniors who are trying to maintain their own homes who are being taxed out of them.

The housing programs in this province are inadequate, Mr. Speaker, no reference to that, and also for the Minister of Housing to stand in this House and say that 14 units that they put up were something wonderful, or marvellous, out of 1,500 that they should have been putting up, and those going to $50,000 and $60,000 a year families, when the people who need the housing can't get it in this province, for the minister to say that this was great, we fulfilled our mandate, 14 homes out of 1,500, and they fulfilled their mandate. You would even think the minister would duck at least and say, you know, we didn't do the job here, but I'm not going to make a mockery out of it by getting up and trying to tell Nova Scotians we did.

Here you have a situation where that same minister, Mr. Speaker, and certainly I hope to have an opportunity to go to some extensive questioning on Community Services about the tactics being used by that department, and people of this province who are making the grand total of $7,000 a year in Canada Pension, between the ages of 60 and 65, and people who are on community services and happen to get an award for Canada Pension with some back payments and the Community Services Department goes and claws it all back, and if you can't pay it, they send a letter over to Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to threaten you and then if you still don't pay it, they threaten to take your GST from you or anything that's owed to you by the federal government. That in a department that used to be a department that cared about people. It used to employ social workers at the senior level. Now, it has nothing but bean counters running the place over there and the people in this province, the people who make less than $9,000 and $10,000 a year are being threatened on a daily basis.

I know that the minister knows about that and I know that the minister has on occasion responded to my requests for help for some of these people, but fundamentally, Mr. Speaker, the policy has to change and the Department of Community Services in this province has to go back to being a caring agency and not a collection agency in this province because that's what it's turning out to be. How can you go to people who make $7,000 a year and tell them you must repay money that was clawed back from Community Services because you got a Canada Pension award of $3,000 or $4,000 last year and you maybe put a couple of new

[Page 3040]

windows in your house or you paid off some bills, or you bought some medicine. They didn't care about that. They want their money back and I certainly am going to have something more to say about that when the debate on Community Services' estimates come up.

But I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that there should have been some reference to the people in this province who need help in housing. How in the name of heavens can anybody live on some of the amounts of money that people are getting in this province? I can't and I don't think anybody in this room could, but this government not only expects them to do that, they expect them to pay money back. You know, one case, and there's no reference to it in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, there's no reference to community services at all, but one person at Community Services was charged $12,000 in back payments for 10 years while she was on Community Services and it took her caseworker 10 years to find out that she wasn't eligible for it and after it took the social worker, or the Community Services' worker, I don't know whether it's a social worker or not, 10 years to find out, and then when they found out, they immediately sent the bill out and said you owe us $12,000 in the past 10 years in overpayments.

Well, if they were overpayments, Mr. Speaker, how did they get away with that for 10 years, you know, the meagre amount of money they were getting, they needed the overpayment to survive and now because of bureaucratic bungling they missed that, so now they're trying to collect the money from them and I think that is atrocious. It's those kinds of things that make me wonder where this government is really coming from.

Now, I want to shift gears just for a moment, Mr. Speaker, back to students. There has been very little said about the problems facing students as they enter university with the student loan program, which is becoming another bureaucratic nightmare in this province for people, number one, to get answers from student loans. Another is to have some relief in student loans for students who leave university and can't get a job. How can you bill a person the very month after they leave university to start repaying and send bill collectors after them if that student doesn't have a job? Now, you tell me, how those students can pay a student loan back when they're not even working? But worse than that, if they don't pay back on the first bill, they get another bill. Then they get a phone call and then they get a phone call every day from a collection agency.

[8:45 p.m.]

This government has allowed collection agencies to take over. There is a collection agency, Mr. Speaker, in Ontario that this government has employed to collect student loans from Nova Scotians. A call centre in Ontario is hounding people, young people in this province for repayment of student loans, some of them not even working. They're calling up, they're hounding single mothers, who are trying to go back to university, for student loans, call centres are calling them. That should not be tolerated by this government That should not be allowed.

[Page 3041]

Most people in this province are honest people who will pay their bills if they have the money to pay them but how do you expect a person to pay a $40,000 student loan if they're not even working? This government expects that. But this government does it second-hand, they'll farm it out and not only will they gouge the money from the student, they'll pay a surcharge to the call centre in Ontario or wherever to hound the people to get the money. So, Mr. Speaker, where's the fairness in that?

Where's the fairness in a Financial Measures Act that does nothing but take, take, and take in terms of taxes? Everything we do in this province is going up. Everything we purchase from the government is going up. Income tax has gone up again now. The hidden charges are innumerable. The Premier has said no increases in taxes, yet we have over 50 tax increases, it used to be called user fees, but now they put the rightful name on them, increased taxes in this province. So no longer can they hide behind well, that's not a tax, that's a user fee. Well, I'm sorry, it is a tax, a tax by any other name is still a tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you hear that, Peter?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Now, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the Finance Minister is listening very intently. The other thing, is that this government has, I think, forgotten to consider Nova Scotians and what they're going through today in trying to survive in Nova Scotia in the economy that we have, particularly outside HRM, again, I refer to rural Nova Scotia. It's our intention that any government that we would be part of in the future would appoint a minister of economic development for rural Nova Scotia and dedicate funds to employing rural Nova Scotians in rural Nova Scotia, to growing small business in rural Nova Scotia, to stop the depopulation of people from the towns and villages throughout Nova Scotia from Yarmouth to Glace Bay.

We think it's important that Nova Scotians have an opportunity to work and live in their communities. It's an opportunity that we shouldn't let slip. It's an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, that we have to take advantage of. People in Nova Scotia want to remain in their own areas, fishers, people who work in the woods, loggers, farmers, people who work in small business in rural Nova Scotia should have an opportunity to stay in that part of Nova Scotia which they dearly love, and raise their families and be able to make a living for themselves there.

All too often, Mr. Speaker, people are pulling up and coming to metro. I'm sure that pretty soon metro is going to become pretty crowded. I refer to the fact that this government couldn't even provide anything in the budget to grow the film industry in Cape Breton. Instead of that, they destroyed it, when they took office. So, now, there's a trained force down there and no film studio any more on the Island of Cape Breton. A chance to employ 300 or 400 people regularly is no more. It's a warehouse now. Those are the kinds of practices that were allowed to happened that we, as a Party, think Nova Scotians deserve

[Page 3042]

better and I refer again to our rural economic development plan. Thank you very much, and I'll be back.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to take a few minutes this evening to talk about the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. I'm not going to quote from the bill, but my understanding in Clause 20 is that the Minister of Environment and Labour is going to have an added authority to add on some fees in relation to emissions and effluent discharge levels in Nova Scotia, so I'm going to try to talk about that issue specifically a little bit later on.

When I look at that clause, I guess I'm looking at it and thinking that it's a way for government to make money, not in a proactive way but sort of in a - I don't know if you want to call it regressive, but instead of going forward with putting on pollution controls and these sorts of things, it seems to me what they're doing is going forward with some kind of, well, we're going to tax you on the amount of pollution you're producing. They're not really giving an incentive to stop polluting, they're more or less saying, okay, we're not going to stop you, keep going at it, but here's what's going to happen if you do these certain things.

I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that during the Budget Speech - and I said this the other day in the Red Room when I got to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour questions - I was really disappointed that in the Budget Speech there was no mention, per se, of the environment. The government took great pains, spent a lot of money, I believe, in putting out a green plan that really doesn't even begin to address any sort of timelines. It doesn't put responsibilities on certain areas of the government to carry out the timelines, which aren't there in the first place, and it certainly didn't lay out any conditions for compliance. In fact, in a lot of cases it wasn't tied into the Environment Act at all. Certainly in Nova Scotia we do need a stronger set of regulations and firm enforcement.

I guess since nobody talked about the environment in the Budget Speech, I'm going to talk about the environment now. I'm just going to list a few things that weren't in there and then I'm just going to try to elaborate on the actual parts that weren't in there that have to do with emissions and effluents and all those good things like pollution.

Kyoto wasn't in there, climate change, any talk about pollution, our environmental assessments, the bio-solid issue, our protected areas issue, the water issue in Nova Scotia. As we all know there are dozens of schools in Nova Scotia right now that can't even drink their own water. The government did talk about designating Gully Lake and Eigg Mountain and they haven't done that. I think that's, you know, been on the back burner for quite awhile and I'm just to the point where I'm like, just do it, and that would have been a good spot to do it, in the budget. Anyway, it didn't happen.

[Page 3043]

The Sydney tar ponds continue to be an ongoing issue. Where else can you find 700,000 tons of tar and 50,000 tons of PCBs in a lagoon, but again, not really any concrete plans in the budget to talk about how they're going to resolve that issue that's been going on since goodness knows when; they have higher cancer rates, birth defects, these sorts of horrible things.

Seismic blasting, that whole issue. The government ignored the wishes of a whole sustainable industry there and went ahead with doing that against the wishes of many people in this province. The Tobeatic Wilderness Area wasn't in the budget; Black Bull mines moving within feet of that pristine area and if that's the way we protect areas in Nova Scotia, well, I don't know where we're going from there but we're going downhill. The Digby Neck quarry - which is our famous 380-acre mega-quarry that's masquerading as a little project of 10 acres - no mention of how we're going to protect that area or what's going to happen there.

I'm going to talk about some of the issues revolving around Kyoto and climate change, Mr. Speaker. We know that our biggest contributors to climate change here in Nova Scotia are transportation emissions and our electrical energy generation, and as far as I can see there's no concrete plan in place to reduce our reliance on electricity generated by the burning of these fossil fuels. I have not seen any major plan coming from the government in relation to bringing in some public transit, any kind of funding or any kinds of initiatives that would bring companies from here or other provinces that could bring us into a better form of transportation.

We've a lack of infrastructure, the province is not promoting cycling, car pooling, van pooling or any of these initiatives that would improve our environment. The province has not dealt with Nova Scotia Power's history of coal-fired energy issues, and we have acid rain, smog, climate change.

We have to move forward and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet our Kyoto targets. We know that we are going to need to reduce between two and three megatons annually before 2012. We know that 84 per cent of our air pollution in this province is from power production. We know that energy generation is the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia at 38 per cent.

So there are all kinds of questions out there in relation to those facts, and we've got the facts but we have to somehow move ourselves forward and deal with those facts. We'd like to know what the reduction rates were that we reached last year. I don't know, it wasn't in the budget; I don't know what they are. What incentive is the province going to make available to companies that want to generate renewable energy in the future? How are we going to reduce our mercury emissions by 30 per cent by 2005? Where's the plan for that? What percentage of reduction have we reached as of today?

[Page 3044]

I know the government, in the green plan, wants to expand air monitoring programs to improve our air quality, but again there's not really any talk about how they've been expanded or any public consultation or how we're going to educate people, or are we going to give that information out to the general public?

What funding are we going to provide for homeowners in Nova Scotia to reach energy efficiency on their own? Some of the other provinces in Canada give free inspections, allow people to have free inspections, they have phone consultations, they put on energy efficiency workshops - they even give out loans and rebates to move people into a more efficient way of keeping themselves warm.

We know that recently the Pentagon released a document that stated climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe. That may be far-fetched, who knows? But we know the reality is that the climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. We know that our carbon dioxide levels have risen and yet we continue to burn fossil fuels. There are year-on-year increases right now in global temperatures. The green plan says that emissions created by the burning of fossil fuels can affect air quality and are also known to be a major contributor to climate change. We know that current models of climate change are predicting rising sea levels - what is this government going to do to address that rising sea level in the future?

Nova Scotia Power continues to generate 60 per cent of their power from the burning of coal. The government is not stepping forward to move them into more meaningful targets for establishing their reductions in these gas emissions.

Environmental assessment in Nova Scotia last year, I believe there were 10 to 12 registrations - none of them were turned down. The majority of registrations under environmental assessments get approved here in Nova Scotia. Some of these projects have a heavy impact on our environment. At the moment, we don't have an environmental assessment board in place that could actually even carry out a Class II environmental assessment. We haven't done one for six years, so who knows when we're going to need one of those again. Again, Nova Scotia Power plans on adding another generator to the station, even though the government's own regulations state that a new facility that produces more than 10 megawatts must undergo a Class II, however, they're continuing to say it's just an addition, even though it's going to produce 50 megawatts.

[9:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, a topic that's been in the newspapers recently is the one on bio-solids. I will give the government credit, they just put an extension on the moratorium for the spreading of bio-solids and sewage. There's an awful lot of information right now on bio-solids, and more and more of it is coming across my computer every day. People are very concerned about where we're going with this. Number one, the guidelines, they shouldn't just

[Page 3045]

be guidelines, they should either be in legislation or regulation. I'm not even sure how we're going to enforce the guidelines, because, apparently, we're not adding new staff on, we're going to go with the amount of inspectors we have now in the province, and I believe we have 80 inspectors now in the province. They're going to be responsible for inspecting all of our lagoons, and we have 22 plus 7 of those; pits and quarries, I don't know, there could be 10,000 of those, I'm not sure of the number, there are a lot of them (Interruptions)

So there's nothing there, concrete, that's going to protect us from these new things that we're going to be doing to the environment. We're not sure how we're going to educate these approval holders, when they build these lagoons and they store the bio-solids; we're not sure how the data they collect is going to be checked and monitored; we're not sure what the cost is going to be involving all of those added jobs that people are going to have to do to protect us, the consumer on the other end, because we are going to be growing our food in this. I'm not sure if we're going to have more inspectors, and what kind of inspection schedule we're going to have to inspect these facilities.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to say that implementing regulations to reduce and eliminate airborne pollutants is one way that this government could improve our air quality in the province; however, they have not enacted legislation, putting specific limits on these things, and that hasn't been done either provincially or federally. I think it's time to step up to the plate and really go to bat for the environment in Nova Scotia. I guess I will just end it there.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to take a minute - in the west gallery - to introduce my constituency assistant, Dorothy Boudreau, who is here tonight observing the proceedings. Hopefully she can get a warm recognition from the members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton-The Lakes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, speaking on the bill respecting financial measures, I take a little exception to the words respecting financial measures, because I think I would like to tell you that I heated my house this winter for free. Going to believe me or not? If I was capable to move that bill from this winter to next Fall, then I've heated it for free. But what do I do next year when I have to pay the bill for this year, plus buy my fuel for next year? So all I'm doing is taking the bill off of one - I guess you would call that juggling or creative bookkeeping or whatever you want to call it.

[Page 3046]

Anyway, it's owing money in the future and adding to the debt. That's the way I feel about what I have experienced since I've been here, on financial measures, because I was quoted in the media as saying, I am not on the Public Accounts Committee, but I did sit in on there, and I was quoted as saying that my impression of it, the both times I was there, was that our money was rolling around like marbles. Nobody challenged me on that. So I must be reasonably sure of what I observed.

Mr. Speaker, rural depopulation. Is there a cure? Is there some way we can remedy that? Let's focus on the youth. They're involved in high-speed computer Internet access, broadband as it's known. Speaking for Victoria-The Lakes there's a process ongoing down there to try to wire the rural area, and thanks to the co-operation of the CAP sites and the Victoria County CAP Sites Association along with all the CAP sites in the Cape Breton area, and ECBC through Mr. Rick Beaton, they're trying to have that the first island completely wired, and that would allow young college students to remain in their rural areas, because with high-speed broadband they're exposed to the world. If they want to create a business, if they want to bring in information, if they want to export information it'll never be a level playing field, because the bigger centres have that access now. But when it does come to rural areas that would allow people to stay in the rural areas and develop the business.

Mr. Speaker, by staying in a rural area and developing the business, that you would want to create the next business at hand, I would imagine, for a young man or woman would be to create a family. And there is where your rural depopulation will start to swing from a negative to a positive. Without that they owe tremendous amount of loans, student loans. As you heard the honourable member for Cape Breton South point out the fact that how do you finish school and college in one month, and begin paying on a loan the next?

There's an article in today's newspaper pertaining to two young doctors who have graduated, they are making $40,000 each in their internship and between the two of them they owe over $200,000. They had to consolidate and they couldn't afford the $1,300 a month. Now I think they are paying in the vicinity of $950 on a consolidated loan trying to make ends meet. Whereas there should be some sort of at least interest forgiveness for the first five years that people are out of college. I say they have to pay back the money that they borrowed, yes. But there should be some special circumstances for people who are willing to educate themselves, stay in the province and create employment here.

Reference has been made to Community Services; I see the honourable minister is here. Mr. Speaker, I have some specific cases, and I know, as they say, policy doesn't dictate that people can be forgiven. But sometimes you have a situation where people are applying for Canada Pension or applying for some kind of income and around Community Services for a period of time, and then when the Canada Pension comes about, that money has to be clawed back according to policy. If that's policy, policy has to be followed. But I'm one who always talks about, you should have flexibility in any and all policies for extenuating circumstances.

[Page 3047]

When people fall on hard times, especially through poor health situations where they just can't afford to work anymore, they require excessive medical attention and there's just the impossibility they had to live while they were waiting for the Canada Pension to come through, and now that it has come through, spending it on the needs. Now it has to be paid back. It creates a very stressful situation for the family, especially when the partner, the wife, is also having physical and mental problems.

Mr. Speaker, the time arrives every year when there are large write-offs of the provincial books for businesses and corporations. Why couldn't we have something similar in a write-off for these people who I would say are in dire straits and in extra financial needs? Does this province listen? Does the government listen?

I tell you that I personally campaigned along with the rest of my fellow Liberals on living within your means and on financial responsibility. We were against the 10 per cent tax rebate from day one and still are and we're pleased to see that it was rolled back, but it took extenuating circumstances, dire needs and tremendous financial stress. I guess sometimes people don't listen unless you hit them where it really hurts and that's in the wallet. When the wallet was being emptied, then that is when and, only when, the province decided to roll back the tax rebate.

Touching again on rural economic development depends also on part of the infrastructure, not only high-speed broadband, but on rural roads. I refer to the one economic development initiative down my way in Victoria-The Lakes - trying to get the local ski hill up and running. The roads to that ski hill are in very poor condition and it's very hard to try to promote an industry and get it up and running when the roads to it are in very poor shape. Yet, the ability is there to operate that on a year-round basis for just the beautiful vision and view that you get from the top of the ski hill in the summertime by taking a ride up on the lift.

Let me touch now on hospitals. Almost every aspect of our life in Nova Scotia has been under attack. We talk about being open and transparent yet every day the hospitals and the health care system is front and centre in the newspapers. A lot of it is negative publicity and struggling by putting more money on a yearly basis - money after money after money going into the hospitals. Yes, the extra money is required, but as I said previously in the House, throwing money at a problem doesn't resolve it. What's the cause?

Let's take a lesson out of the book from the Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation who have phenomenal results in their brochure about a town in Finland with over a 50 per cent reduction in cancer and heart rates simply by having the population become active and by having them eat a healthy diet. If it worked one other place, we have a template, a precedent, why can't we try and follow it here?

[Page 3048]

Well, we are. To a certain extent, I must say that the province has started the healthy living and active programs for children, but that leads me into the announcement of the new school down in Cape Breton. Four schools going into one. Four gymnasiums being reduced down to one. Four schools in communities reduced to one. Bigger is not always better and I'll prove that by saying that what we have, you're taking the heart out of the communities. I would agree with two schools - one in North Sydney and one in Sydney Mines, but to take the schools and combine them is not proper. There's an awful economic impact to those communities.

The flow of traffic, the people in the community who travel to and from these schools. The activity that's created around the gymnasiums with the students and classes from other schools coming into these areas, students from these areas travelling to other schools. The interaction of communities created by the schools. Schools have become the heart and the blood of communities - the activity centres, the education centres and the recreation centres.

I look at the fact that you're joining junior high and elementary. I hear the honourable members over here with their jousting, but education for children is a very serious matter and when you take junior high and mix them with elementary, it's not a good mix as far as I'm concerned. Any negative habits, bad habits, that could be started or that could be avoided in elementary and started in junior high, here you have a combination of both now and those bad habits can go through the whole school and the junior highs can influence the elementary to a negative effect. I wonder how much community consultation has gone on before the decision was made to join four schools into one - a new school, yes, but one in each community, not to take the heart out of either/or community and make it into one.

[9:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to touch on energy. The honourable Minister of Energy is not here, but I would like to say that there is very little, if no activity (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The member perfectly knows that he's not allowed to reference a minister not being in the Chamber.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: I want to be respectful and not say anything against the minister with him not here. Sorry about that, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) No, I will withdraw that and wait until the time is proper for me to reference that, but I still will talk about energy. I will still talk about energy and that ExxonMobil released the fact that there is little or nothing going on in the offshore this year.

They advised the local companies that the best thing they can do, Mr. Speaker, is to bid on contracts for foreign companies because there would be very little activity off the Cape Breton and Nova Scotia shores. I wonder about the consultation on fisheries, simply because there has been a lot of talk about seismic testing, a lot of fear about it. It has been done before, yes, but at the time where there is fish larvae around, what time are they going to do

[Page 3049]

it. Another point that I've referenced in the past is the fact that there are numerous registered munition dumps in and around Nova Scotia's coast with a massive amount in the Sydney Bight area. Very little seismic or any other disturbance can set off some of these munitions as they're referred to in military terms as unexploded ordinance. A munitions expert advised me that if a bomb as big as 250 pounds exploded at the depth that they're in in the water out there, you would never know it on the surface. You would have no indication that that exploded because there is so much water over it, the shock wouldn't get to the surface for the average person to know it was there. So there's a definite fear of the mercury and the lead, along with the mustard gas that's contained in these munitions. For them to be released into our environment, it would probably poison the fishing industry which is renewable and sustainable.

Mr. Speaker, I refer also to the lack of help. One of my previous questions was to the fact that we have Nova Scotia companies that are suffering. We have Finewood Flooring down in Middle River. We have new schools being announced, which appears positive on one side, yet our own local companies cannot supply the hardwood for the floor although they produce Triple A grade hardwood that's second to none anywhere in the world, but because there's a special stamp formulated in the United States, they're getting the business and our local companies are suffering.

Recently in the news with the closure of Sydney Steel, it was front and centre, the local steelworkers couldn't get work loading the scrap from the steel plant onto the vessel that was taking it away to a steel company and, as I stated in a newspaper article, it proves that we can't even get the scraps in Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker. How about Maritime Drilling? I referenced that company the other day - a local Nova Scotia company, money invested by a local entrepreneur to train people in the oil and gas industry, recognized in the United States and yet cannot be recognized in Nova Scotia. What do you have to do in Nova Scotia to be recognized by the province? You look for economic development, you try to entice people to invest in your province, and yet you don't recognize them. It goes right back to what I said, Mr. Speaker, we always wind up fighting our own.

What about education, Mr. Speaker. Recently we're front and centre again in the media and in a negative connotation. Our tests on scores show that we're lower in this area than we should be. Why is that? Is it the students? Is it the teachers? Is it the schools? Is it that the tools that we're giving them aren't adequate enough? There's got to be a reason.

Mr. Speaker, I think consultation with the Education Department, the people involved, and I would think that any consultation absolutely requires the input of the students. Let's ask the students what's wrong with this system, instead of asking the so-called professionals. Let's go right down to basics and see what the kids in the classroom say, what the students in junior and senior high say and what the college students say. They're the ones that are experiencing the program that the senior people are delivering and they are the ones who are failing in their scores. So, let's ask them what the problem is.

[Page 3050]

Mr. Speaker, it's front and centre again in the media, again in a negative connotation, the oil refinery in Dartmouth. Nice to see the province wanting to look after the jobs over there, but how do we do it? There's payroll tax rebates, but if they get the relief in assessment that's planned or being promoted, what about big companies like Stora? What about Nova Scotia Power because they're a large generating company. What about them? What about the small companies who are assessed and are struggling to try to make their taxes. A small company with five or 10 employees that is struggling to make ends meet, it's just as important to the people in those companies as the multi-millionaire companies who have the means to pay their fair share. Taxes are taxes and we all pay our fair share. Something is going to have to be decided that everybody pays their fair share, with no exceptions. If there's, like I say, a tax rebate or payroll rebate or something that is available to them, then it should be also available to smaller companies. It has to be fair. We have to care about our small companies the same way we care about the large ones, so that when there's a caring and a fair policy for all companies, then you will have companies coming in here and willing to invest because they know they'll be treated equally.

We asked where the consultation was for the student tuition? Students who are graduating, owing a mortgage and as I've already mentioned, Mr. Speaker, what about some kind of interest relief or a period of one to two years after they graduate to give them a breathing space after college, to get on their feet. Then you could always make it almost mandatory like a payroll deduction, that it would have to be paid back at a certain portion, so that we would be guaranteed that the money would come back in a continuous, steady flow.

Mr. Speaker, touching again on Community Services. I've been elected since 1991 as a local councillor and I was unaware of the program of the provincial portion of the HST being rebated back to somebody with disabilities. This only came to my attention and knowledge when I was called by a constituent and the only reason the constituent discovered it was because a family member had received a tax rebate on a vehicle they had purchased, but because they suffer a disability, they applied and received the provincial portion of the HST. They enquired of me could I help them out on that. I did enquire and lo and behold there's a two-year window for you to apply. The gentleman was six months past that window and therefore I took it as far as I could, only to receive the information that they could not allow him to be given special consideration because he was past the due date, and it would create a precedent if he was to receive the HST portion of the tax.

Mr. Speaker, these are programs that the public - and I will just refer to myself - is totally unaware of, because they're never advertised, never mentioned, but here's a person who is 95 per cent incapacitated, who was a professional person in their working years, now totally dependent upon his wife, purchased a five-year-old vehicle, and because he was unaware of the fact, cannot get his HST portion back, the provincial portion.

[Page 3051]

No flexibility there, again, in policy, and, like I said, when I see money rolling around like marbles and we can't give special consideration to people like this, there's something wrong. I refer right back again to when we have this yearly write-off from government departments, that, all of a sudden, today you owe it, tomorrow you're free. I don't see the fairness, and I don't see how we can treat people the way we do, in such a harsh manner, when people are fighting every day just to have a little bit of help that they require.

Mr. Speaker, I've touched on a lot of topics but, at the same time, rather than going into specific figures, I'm just going by what I've experienced and what I've seen firsthand. Let me tell you of a similar situation. As Warden of Victoria County, I turned to work and brought to the province a copy of the budget, a pie chart, and at that time, it showed that 52 per cent of the budget of Victoria County was predetermined by the province. Now, I defy anybody in this House, for me to walk in and say, I'm taking 52 per cent of your income, now you do more with less. That's exactly the situation we were in, and we were very frugal in that county and were able to absorb a tremendous amount of downloading.

At times I felt it was abuse, because when you would almost begin to see a little bit of light in a municipality that now has a $7 million budget that had a $4 million budget when I was there, to run a total county on $4 million, I would like to see most of the larger areas or municipalities do the same. But you don't spend it when you don't have it, you live within your means; we did it, we proved it, and it's still being done. That's what I would like to see the province adopt, live within their means. I'm the first one to help anybody out, when I can afford it. You do with what you have.

Like the fellow says, it's not what you have, it's how you use it, Mr. Speaker. I would like to see this province use our money wisely. (Interruptions) It looks like the honourable members like that saying, about it's not what you have, but it's how you use it. I just wonder what they're referring to; I know I refer to spending the money in a frugal manner and paying for what you owe. (Interruptions)

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to give a little bit of advice to the honourable gentlemen around, those who are laughing and joking and whatnot, and I can join in with them, and I will be a comrade in this House, so long as we live within our means and we spend our money wisely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, "There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who would moil for gold." I will assume you know who said that first, and it wasn't me. These are the words of Robert Service in his poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee. When I look at the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, that's what came to mind. Strange things done "By the men who would moil for gold." - actually, in this case, it's men and one woman.

[Page 3052]

[9:30 p.m.]

This bill really gives you some indication of where the government is going. It certainly gives us more indication of where the government is going than we ever got from the Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance. Budget Speeches are similar to Throne Speeches in that they try to instill in the listeners some feeling of optimism, some feeling of goodwill, some feeling that the ship is being directed appropriately and that we are stabilizing a certain good course in terms of the province and its future.

I was surprised in the Budget Speech by the Finance Minister in the fact that it, for the most part, totally ignored rural Nova Scotia and never mentioned agriculture at all - not one word - or Cape Breton. That's not new; that's happened time and time again in this House. The Financial Measures (2004) Bill certainly draws more clarity to the direction of the government and I would have to say that probably, to a point, it has indicated that the government at least feels compelled to follow the law or at least figures it's not worth it to try to bring in any of these user fees or try to sell them any longer as user fees. They feel that the Eurig court decision, which someone actually challenged - I think it was a probate fee in Ontario, somewhere in the range of $10,000 or some significant amount. An amount high enough that it was worth it to hire a lawyer. If it had been $5, the principle might be the same, but the point of arguing and hiring a lawyer and spending $200 or $500 or $1,000 with a lawyer, for a $5 fee, most people wouldn't do it unless they have significantly deep pockets and want to stand on the principle, and for the ordinary person that probably wasn't going to happen.

In this decision the court said that you cannot charge beyond the cost of the service without going through the Legislature; in other words, without indicating to the public and making it transparent what it is exactly that you're doing, and that a fee that is beyond the scope of the cost of delivering the service would have to be indicated in your Statute, and that, in fact, is a tax.

That's the direction this government has gone. They're indicating to Nova Scotians that the increases that we see under this bill, and I think I counted about 20 different Acts that are affected here, and not all affected in a monetary way - and I'll go into that in a minute - but certainly these were pieces of legislation that had to be changed in some way to give the province its ability to collect those additional revenues.

I started my talk this evening with that first line from the Cremation of Sam McGee, and I said this was a poem written by Robert Service. I'm sure if not all members opposite, I'm certain many of them would be aware of Robert Service. The one thing I think this government has forgotten is service - that's service to the people of this province and also the ability of Nova Scotians to get some service from the province. In other words, Nova Scotians have been very patient, since the time of the Premier, the Honourable Donald Cameron I think was the first Premier who initiated a wage freeze, a tightening of the belt. The same thing with the Honourable John Savage and on it goes, and here we are in 2004 and

[Page 3053]

Nova Scotians are expected to keep cinching the belt. I'm saying, Mr. Speaker, there are many of us who would have to keep adding more holes to the belt because we're getting it pretty far beyond what would be the traditional holes given on any belt that most people wear.

Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians have become certainly disillusioned by politicians. They've become disenchanted with our governments for sure, and the fact that this government is in a minority situation is an indication that Nova Scotians don't really feel that the government's history prior to the 2003 election was significant enough to give them a majority.

Hopefully with the members in the Liberal Opposition and with ourselves, we've been able to move the agenda of the government slightly. I would say, Mr. Speaker, it's certainly something that's not mentioned in this bill, but the government's move, I would say to the left, was to take care of the medical fees in nursing homes for seniors. I have to applaud the government in that regard, and I do. That was not only a good move for Nova Scotians, it was a smart move on the part of the government and I think they deserve the credit that Nova Scotians would want them to have on that movement by them.

Mr. Speaker, I'm a little worried, I have to tell you. I've been here long enough that when you get something good, after a few months when it starts to unravel, the assessment process, the ability of the government to actually do this in a way that kind of meets the test for compassion, that day hasn't come yet and it's not clear entirely how this is going to happen and it's not clear whether it will be as straightforward as members in the Opposition would think that it might.

I'm really looking forward to January 1, 2005, to see how the government will do this. I'm getting calls from my constituents. They have questions in this regard that I haven't been able to answer for them and I'll have some discussion with the minister and hope to clarify some of the fears and allay some of the fears that my constituents have.

Mr. Speaker, a couple of interesting things in this bill, along with the fact that there are fees upon fees in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill, but also the fact that there are a number of fees that the government is raising to Nova Scotians and they're not being done here. Not everything that has to be done or that the government wants to do is necessarily being made clear in this bill. There certainly are a number of fees and the Premier mentioned 500 user fees. There's a lot of those fees that don't have to come through the Financial Measures (2004) Bill and they're not.

I was interested to see changes to the Education Act in this bill and that's a curious event, Mr. Speaker, because there doesn't seem to be a monetary connection here, that this would have to come through the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. Really what it does, it stops that pilot program regarding the southwest region which was split into two boards, or I will say two districts, and not necessarily single boards, but that's what this bill does now. It

[Page 3054]

makes that a fait accompli and splits that region into two school boards and you have to ask yourself, well, what does that have to do with financial measures?

So if you ask me that, Mr. Speaker, I would have to say I don't know. I don't see the connection to the Financial Measures (2004) Bill with this and what I see is the ability of government to throw a number of things in this bill that are not necessarily budget related and so I guess what it does is it forces the Opposition to actually decide, well, if we're going to support the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, then we have to accept these other things that are not financial measures. The other one was the ability in this bill for the government to fire CEOs - it's not clear for what reasons - and the question of why is that here is because the Public Service Act, Bill No. 45, is on the order paper and the province hasn't called it. So what they've done is they've placed that in this bill as well, knowing that when this bill passes, that that will be done at the same time.

It's a curious mishmash of amendments and changes to a variety of Acts and the incorporation of parts of a couple of Acts that really don't have anything to do with financial measures, Mr. Speaker. So I guess this is the government's way to try to ensure that they get out of the Financial Measures (2004) Bill what they really need to get and it doesn't give the House actually and the Opposition, and Nova Scotians in general, any chance to see some clarity to those pieces of legislation that should be debated on the floor of the House and that members would actually have an opportunity to stand and speak to those concerns. I guess if there's anything most telling in doing that and including those pieces of legislation in the bill, it is that it probably shows a bit of a timeline that the government wants to stay in the House.

I listened as the member for Cape Breton South spoke and he was talking in terms of six or eight weeks into the future of us being in the House and I would say that certainly doesn't seem to be in the cards to me, Mr. Speaker. The fact that there are pieces of legislation tied up in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill that really would have been debated through the process of the House, gone through second and third reading, that's not going to happen for those and, therefore, the amount of time necessary to keep the House here isn't required. So I would think that this would be a clear indication that the government doesn't intend to stay around very long once the Financial Measures (2004) Bill gets through the House. So time will tell whether that will be the case or not.

Mr. Speaker, the whole budgetary process is an interesting one and I'm not sure if it's more interesting for the government than for the Opposition, but I remember the Premier's words, I believe back in 1999, when he told the Opposition to ferret it out. So there are many things that I think budgets pass and the Opposition is still not clear what any particular part of an agenda might be for the government.

I mentioned earlier that I was disappointed to see such little attention to rural Nova Scotia, the fact that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries really saw no increase in it's budget. The fact that we are still in an unclear circumstance around the BSE issue, the fact

[Page 3055]

that the provinces task force last Fall recommended $10 million to the industry and only got $3.5million. Yet, in the area of risk management in the budget we didn't see any ramping up of dollars for those programs and that's a bit troublesome because it's not clear yet what will happen in terms of the BSE tragedy.

[9:45 p.m.]

We're all hopeful. Mr. Speaker, you were in Washington as I was, and I think the mood there was about as optimistic as we could hope, but there's no clear indication that the border will open, and we could be coming into another year of serious implications for the beef industry in Nova Scotia. There is nothing in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill that would indicate that the government intends to move in any direction towards more help for farmers. I'm assuming that many of Nova Scotia's beef producers kept more animals last winter, or the past winter, than they intended, simply because prices were so low that they couldn't move their feeders.

That would mean that those same animals they still have and they are coming into the summer season, so depending on what acreages they have, they are going to need more land, more forage to keep these animals, at least until they through what they hope will be the short, worst period. Which I think we're all hopeful that by June there will be some resolution in this difficulty. Yet, they just didn't stop completely last year. I'm sure many of those beef farmers if they kept breeding cattle that they bred them. Those cattle will be calving and they're going to be facing this year's crop of calves plus last year's crop if they've held on to them.

If nothing happens this coming Fall, they are going to have that many more animals to think about feeding and I think there is going to be some pressure all around the industry in a lot of ways, for availability of forages for those extra animals, and I don't see anything here that would indicate that the government has a plan for that in continued emergency. It's been difficult enough to be an Opposition member the past number of years; certainly when the Liberals were in power, Mr. Speaker, we did see things that made it difficult for Nova Scotia families and those on community services certainly who had the child tax credit clawed back by the Liberals.

I heard the previous member talking about some way to give money to students that in a couple years, payroll tax or some way to get that money back from them. Mr. Speaker, I saw recently in the paper where the province wrote off $44 million. They would do that, if they can't collect that debt, they'll write that off to various businesses, and fairly large businesses to get $44 million accumulated but they'll hound a single parent or someone on community services, student loans, they'll hound those people to the end of the earth to collect $1,000 or $500 or $10. They'll write off $44 million to businesses, and whatever ink it takes on the piece of paper it takes to do that. It's only another indication of the attitude that the government has towards it's own people.

[Page 3056]

That's actually seen very clearly in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill, because of the fees that we see imposed in this bill in the form of taxes. I see the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley indicating that he loves Canadian beef, well, I'm glad to hear that. (Interruptions) The honourable member's timing is about right for showing that logo, I think, to the House. I think members opposite would agree with me that we have a beef with this government. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, what is the message that Nova Scotians should get from this Financial Measures (2004) Bill or from this government? Well, it should be that you're going to pay more and you're going to get less. I talk about the fact that this government has forgotten about service, it's forgotten about service to its people. I think that Nova Scotians are fair-minded, they've been willing and obviously they've been able to pay, because they've been paying and paying for some years now, and they're not getting appropriate service for the dollars that they pay.

I remember back, I guess it was, 1998, it was the previous minority government, the then-Leader of the Tory Opposition, who is now the honourable Premier, met with our Leader at that time, the member for Halifax Atlantic. Out of that meeting, the Premier said that the New Democrats were going to raise taxes. News to us. That was the first time we had heard it, and we had to hear it from the Leader of the Tory Party.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier sent that message across the province - we're not going to form any union with the New Democrats because they want to raise taxes. What have Nova Scotians put up with from this government? Well, actually it's only in this bill that the government has clearly indicated, in writing, they've put it in black and white, that they're raising taxes. They're calling them taxes, they're not backing away from that, and they've made it clear to Nova Scotians that they are going to increase taxes for you.

I think, as much as Nova Scotians aren't going to like that, Nova Scotians would buy that if they got some service for their tax dollars. But when Nova Scotians are lining up at emergency rooms and waiting hours and hours to get service, or going home without it, then they can't see any justification for paying more. When they're breaking shocks or springs or struts on their cars on Nova Scotia roads, and they are, then they don't want to pay more. As a matter of fact, they would like to be treated quite fairly when it comes to taxes. I think they've been fair. I think they've tried to absorb as much as they dare.

Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians are starting to feel it. I think when it comes to spending money for their children, whether it's on clothing for children to go to school, on school supplies, whether it's to join the rep hockey team or the rep soccer team, it doesn't matter what interest people's children have, they feel compelled to try to offer as much for their children as they can. People are starting to feel the pinch, and they're starting to think the money that they earn seems to evaporate before they really get a chance to do anything significant with it.

[Page 3057]

I would say that if ever Nova Scotians had a clear indication of what their government thinks of them, they can see it in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill. I would say that that's particularly sad. I think that Nova Scotians have been reasonable for over 10 years. I think they've been quite giving and actually, amazingly forgiving of governments. It wasn't Nova Scotians generally who are responsible for the financial situation of the province, it was the previous Tory and Liberal Governments.

The members from the Liberal caucus who spoke earlier about how this budget isn't balanced and so on, well, boy, we can take a page right out of Hansard in that regard when it comes to when the Liberals were on that side of the House. I remember one Finance Minister in this House who had the nickname "Merlin".

AN HON. MEMBER: Was it balanced?

MR. MACDONELL: It wasn't balanced. That's right, that budget wasn't balanced. And, there's no clear indication yet that this budget is balanced.

The DHAs last year, they were months after the budget came through this House before the government approved them. There's no indication where they fit in terms of the budget process today. The minister hasn't given any indication of how close the DHA budgets are to his projection in this budget, so we'll go another few months - maybe October, maybe November - before the government will approve those budgets. And in whatever quarter we get to, they'll announce we have a shortfall of $30 million, $40 million that we weren't expecting.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Because of the late hour, would the honourable member like to move adjournment of debate?

MR. MACDONELL: I'd be glad to move adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit until 8:00 p.m. Following Question Period, we will do four hours of Supply and then carry on with Public Bills for Second Reading.

[Page 3058]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]

[Page 3059]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1332

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Economic Development)

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

Whereas volunteers are of vital importance to all of our communities; and

Whereas the 2004 Provincial Volunteer Awards were presented to individuals from across Nova Scotia at the Provincial Volunteer Award Ceremony and Dinner on April 12th at the Westin Hotel to pay tribute to the thousands of Nova Scotians whose generosity and compassion help to create a better future for us all; and

Whereas Mrs. Lesley Bonang has been selected by the Town of Amherst as its Volunteer of the Year for her long-standing and unselfish commitment to her community as a volunteer in many capacities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Mrs. Lesley Bonang for being named a Provincial Representative Volunteer for 2004 and offer thanks to Mrs. Bonang and volunteers from across the province for their continued hard work and dedication.

RESOLUTION NO. 1333

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Westchester Fire Department answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Westchester Fire Department for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

[Page 3060]

RESOLUTION NO. 1334

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Andrew Ellis of Springhill, a member of the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team, was honoured at the Basketball Association's Award Night in April 2004; and

Whereas Andrew was honoured by sharing the award for the Most Valuable Player for his team this year; and

Whereas Andrew has made a strong contribution to the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team and earned the title of Most Valuable Player;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Andrew Ellis on this outstanding award and wish him all the best and continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1335

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Jonathan Chapman, a member of the Senior Boys Springhill Basketball Team, was honoured with an award in Springhill during the Springhill Basketball Association's annual Award Night; and

Whereas Jonathan's enthusiasm and dedication to his team over the year earned him the award for Most Dedicated Player; and

Whereas Jonathan has shown much promise to the Springhill basketball team and they have acknowledged that fact with the award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jonathan on this award and wish him all the best in the future.

[Page 3061]

RESOLUTION NO. 1336

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mary Ann Gilbert received an anniversary pin at a celebration of service evening held by the Ladies Auxiliary of Branch 45, Royal Canadian Legion in Parrsboro; and

Whereas the pin was presented to Mary Ann for 15 years of dedicated service to the Ladies Auxiliary in recognition of very important and selfless work; and

Whereas the pin was presented during the Auxiliary's 55th Anniversary Charter Night Dinner;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mary Ann Gilbert on receiving this pin of appreciation for all of her years of dedication and hard work and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1337

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Melissa Ellis received an anniversary pin at a celebration of service evening held by the Ladies Auxiliary of Branch 45, Royal Canadian Legion in Parrsboro; and

Whereas the pin was presented to Melissa for five years of dedicated service to the Ladies Auxiliary in recognition of very important and selfless work; and

Whereas the pin was presented during the Auxiliary's 55th Anniversary Charter Night Dinner;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Melissa Ellis on receiving this pin of appreciation for all of her years of dedication and hard work and wish her all the best in the future.

[Page 3062]

RESOLUTION NO. 1338

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Diane Barre received an anniversary pin at a celebration of service evening held by the Ladies Auxiliary of Branch 45, Royal Canadian Legion in Parrsboro; and

Whereas the pin was presented to Diane for 15 years of dedicated service to the Ladies Auxiliary in recognition of very important and selfless work; and

Whereas the pin was presented to Diane during the Auxiliary's 55th Anniversary Charter Night Dinner;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Diane Barre on receiving this pin of appreciation for all of her years of dedication and hard work and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1339

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 Ship Harbour Auto and Excavating in Ship Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Ship Harbour Auto and Excavating in Ship Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3063]

RESOLUTION NO. 1340

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 Peter S. Conrod Construction Ltd. in Head of Chezzetcook 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 Peter S. Conrod Construction Ltd. in Head of Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1341

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 Porters Lake Chiropractic Health Centre in Porters Lake is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Porters Lake Chiropractic Health Centre in Porters Lake for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3064]

RESOLUTION NO. 1342

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 Sure Air Systems Ltd. in Head of Jeddore 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 Sure Air Systems Ltd. in Head of Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1343

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 R&B Gutter Services in Jeddore 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 R&B Gutter Services in Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.