Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04-38

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1344, World Asthma Day (05/04) - Recognize, Hon. A. MacIsaac 3066
Vote - Affirmative 3066
Res. 1345, Environ. & Lbr. - Plant a Row-Grow a Row Prog.,
(by Hon. B. Barnet) Hon. K. Morash 3067
Vote - Affirmative 3067
Res. 1346, Taste of N.S. Soc.: Award Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 3067
Vote - Affirmative 3068
Res. 1347, Nat. Res. - Wildfire Protection Brochure, Hon. R. Hurlburt 3068
Vote - Affirmative 3069
Res. 1348, TCH: Gaelic Culture - Preservation, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3069
Vote - Affirmative 3070
Res. 1349, Educ.: Leaves of Respect - Sir Charles Tupper Sch.,
Hon. J. Muir 3070
Vote - Affirmative 3071
Res. 1350, Clarke, Nancy: Accomplishments - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 3071
Vote - Affirmative 3071
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1351, Gov't. (Can.): Shipbuilding Policy - Change, Mr. D. Dexter 3072
Vote - Affirmative 3072
Res. 1352, Sacred Heart Sch.:Student Coun. - Election Congrats.,
Mr. D. Graham 3073
Vote - Affirmative 3073
Res. 1353, Newcombe, Brian & Edna: Outstanding Young
Farmers Award - Finalists, Mr. M. Parent 3073
Vote - Affirmative 3074
Res. 1354, KOC Mills Coun.: Blue Mass - Organization,
Mr. K. Deveaux 3075
Vote - Affirmative 3075
Res. 1355, Wood, Melissa - COGS: Graduation - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 3075
Vote - Affirmative 3076
Res. 1356, MacKay, Lynn - The Beacon: Publication - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 3076
Vote - Affirmative 3077
Res. 1357, Nat. Res. Min./Emera: Vegetation Mgt. Firms -
Negotiate, Mr. L. Glavine 3077
Vote - Affirmative 3078
Res. 1358, Fin. - Fuel Prices: Increases - Prevent, Mr. D. Dexter 3078
Res. 1359, Watters, Dan: Death of - Tribute, Hon. D. Morse 3079
Vote - Affirmative 3079
Res. 1360, Sydney Mines JHS: Heritage Fair - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 3079
Vote - Affirmative 3080
Res. 1361, Rawdon Hills Health Ctr.: Directors - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 3080
Vote - Affirmative 3081
Res. 1362, Gould Family: Sobeys Award - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 3081
Vote - Affirmative 3082
Res. 1363, Cops for Cancer: Fundraiser - Vols. Thank,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3082
Vote - Affirmative 3082
Res. 1364, Agric. & Fish. - Gulf N.S.: Fish Harvesters - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 3083
Vote - Affirmative 3083
Res. 1365, Sports - Motor Mart Mariners: Hockey Season - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 3083
Vote - Affirmative 3084
Res. 1366, Baie en Joie: Dance Awards - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 3084
Vote - Affirmative 3085
Res. 1367, Holm, John/Brown, Holly: Heritage Credit Union -
Bd. of Directors, Ms. M. More 3085
Vote - Affirmative 3086
Res. 1368, Houston, William: Hockey Comments - Admonish,
Hon. R. Russell 3086
Vote - Affirmative 3086
Res. 1369, LeBlanc, Neil: Increased Debt - Legacy Recognize,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3086
Res. 1370, Sydney & Area CC Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 3087
Vote - Affirmative 3088
Res. 1371, Gaetz, Floyd: Truro & Dist. CC Award - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 3088
Vote - Affirmative 3089
Res. 1372, Educ. Min.: Dal. Founding - Info Read, Mr. L. Glavine 3089
Res. 1373, EMO: Nova Scotians - Emergency Preparedness,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 3089
Vote - Affirmative 3090
Res. 1374, Facey, Audrey - Antigonish Co. Vol. of Yr.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 3090
Vote - Affirmative 3091
Res. 1375, Cipak, Agnes - Birthday (79th), Mr. G. Gosse 3091
Vote - Affirmative 3092
Res. 1376, Martin, Mike: Bodybuilding Championships - Congrats.,
Hon. B. Barnet 3092
Vote - Affirmative 3092
Res. 1377, Bedford MLA - Int'l. Bureaucratese Award, Mr. K. Deveaux 3093
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 371, WCB: Supreme Court Ruling - Compliance, Mr. D. Dexter 3094
No. 372, WCB - Chronic Pain: Fair Treatment - Ensure, Mr. K. Colwell 3095
No. 373, Econ. Dev. - Britex: Employees - Treatment, Mr. D. Dexter 3096
No. 374, Econ. Dev.: Trenton Works Forge - Plans,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3098
No. 375, Health - Facilities: Equipment - Contamination Protocols,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3099
No. 376, Health - CJD Cases: DHA Reporting - Protocols,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 3101
No. 377, Fin. - HST Removal: Negotiations - Details, Mr. D. Dexter 3102
No. 378, Econ. Dev.: Bridgetown - Betrayal, Mr. S. McNeil 3103
No. 379, EMO: Emergency Preparedness - Evaluations, Mr. H. Epstein 3104
No. 380, Health - Nursing Homes: Anti-Psychotic Drugs -
Prescription Rates, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3106
No. 381, TPW: Hwy. 1 (Digby-Weymouth) - Prioritization,
Mr. H. Theriault 3107
No. 382, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.:Gov'ts. (Prov./Mun.) - Consultation,
Ms. M. Raymond 3108
No. 383, Econ. Dev.: Avon/Britex Foods - Consultation,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 3109
No. 384, Commun. Serv.: Habitat for Humanity - Discussions,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 3111
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. G. Gosse 3112
Hon. B. Barnet 3115
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:19 P.M. 3120
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:01 P.M. 3120
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health: Attendant Care - Institute:
Mr. J. Pye 3120
Hon. A. MacIsaac 3123
Mr. S. McNeil 3125
Ms. D. Whalen 3127
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 3128
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:54 P.M. 3128
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Financial Measures (2004) Act 3129
Mr. D. Dexter 3129
Mr. W. Gaudet 3138
Mr. J. Pye 3143
Adjourned debate 3143
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 3143
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 5th at 2:00 p.m. 3144
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1378, River Hebert FD: Banquet/Awards Night - Best Wishes,
The Speaker 3145
Res. 1379, Southampton FD: Exec./Firefighters - Commend,
The Speaker 3145
Res. 1380, Fox River-Port Greville-Wards Brook FD: Exec./
Firefighters - Commend, The Speaker 3146
Res. 1381, Collingwood & Dist. FD: Exec./Firefighters - Commend,
The Speaker 3146
Res. 1382, Oxford FD: Exec./Firefighters - Commend, The Speaker 3147
Res. 1383, Springhill FD: Exec./Firefighters - Commend, The Speaker 3147
Res. 1384, Lobban, Nancy, CGA: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3148
Res. 1385, Cameron Seafoods: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 3148
Res. 1386, Down East Starter & Alternator Serv.: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3149
Res. 1387, General Contracting (Lake Charlotte): Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3149
Res. 1388, Chezzetcook Towing & Recovery: Contribution -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 3150

[Page 3065]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that this government finally live up to its campaign promise and institute self-managed attendant care for Nova Scotians with disabilities.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

3065

[Page 3066]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1344

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

Whereas today, May 4th, is World Asthma Day, a day for us to recognize that asthma leaves 25 per cent of Nova Scotia's children and 11 per cent of Nova Scotia's adults struggling to breathe; and

Whereas asthma is the number one cause of medical emergency in children and school absences due to illness; and

Whereas the Lung Association of Nova Scotia is working with health professionals in Nova Scotia to educate those with asthma and to help individuals become actively involved in their own treatment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize May 4th as World Asthma Day and acknowledge the good work done by the Lung Association of Nova Scotia in helping people to manage the disease.

[12:15 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 Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 3067]

RESOLUTION NO. 1345

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

Whereas May 2 to May 8, 2004, is Composting Awareness Week, a time to recognize Nova Scotians who are committed to helping their environment through composting and are willing to share the benefits with those in need; and

Whereas the Plant a Row - Grow a Row program encourages gardeners to grow an extra row of vegetables or donate their excess fruit and vegetables to their local food bank or soup kitchens; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour has partnered with the Composting Council of Canada, the Metro Food Bank, the Halifax Seed Company, and the Resource Recovery Fund Board, and many other community-minded groups and organizations, to sponsor the Plant a Row - Grow a Row program throughout Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contributions of the Composting Council of Canada to the success of the Plant a Row - Grow a Row program, and applaud the hard work of all Nova Scotians who donate their time and energy to end hunger in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 1346

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

[Page 3068]

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Society Awards were introduced in 1999, to encourage the pursuit of excellence within the Taste of Nova Scotia membership, and to recognize commitment within the culinary profession; and

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Society honoured the 2003 Taste of Nova Scotia Society Award recipients on Wednesday, April 28, 2004, at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax; and

Whereas the 2003 Taste of Nova Scotia Restaurant of the Year Award was presented to Salty's in Halifax, the 2003 Special Merit Award was presented to Donnie Campbell at Glenora Inn and Distillery in Glenville;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the recipients of this year's awards and all members of the Taste of Nova Scotia 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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1347

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

Whereas 98 per cent of fires in Nova Scotia are started by humans, with many of the fires occurring in Spring and early summer when outdoor activities increase; and

Whereas Spring fire season is now here and, with the possibility of warmer and drier conditions prevailing, property owners should take steps to ensure any potential fire hazards such as downed trees or dry brush within 10 to 30 metres of their structures are removed or appropriately spaced; and

[Page 3069]

Whereas property owners are responsible for reducing fire hazards on their properties or they may be liable for any damage that occurs if a fire originated on their property;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House review the attached brochure, entitled How to protect your home and property from wildfire, and they encourage their constituents to obtain a copy of the brochure at Department of Natural Resources offices and take steps to reduce potential fire hazards on their properties this fire season.

Mr. Speaker, I have copies of the brochure for all members, and I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1348

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

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia is committed to preserving and presenting the Gaelic language and culture for the benefit of all Nova Scotians and visitors; and

Whereas the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage continues to foster new links between the shared Gaelic cultures of Nova Scotia and the Highland Council of Scotland; and

Whereas a recent study states that Gaelic activities in Nova Scotia generate more than $23 million annually in direct revenues;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the importance of preserving the Gaelic culture in this province as we mark Gaelic Awareness Month during the month of May.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3070]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1349

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

Whereas the students of Sir Charles Tupper Elementary School in Halifax, led by Principal Rice, are not only taught the traditional three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic, but also focus on one more R, respect; and

Whereas one of the elementary school's program assistants, Irene Wilkinson created an inventive way of teaching students the importance of showing respect toward others, through a program she developed called, Leaves of Respect; and

Whereas the school's tree, painted by art teacher, Marijke Simons, is already laden with many leaves, leaves with the names of students who, as noted by their teacher, have shown thoughtful acts, good deeds and positive actions toward others;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the inventiveness and creativity of Ms. Wilkinson, who is helping to teach some of life's most important lessons to our young students, through a very simple but highly-effective method.

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 3071]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1350

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

Whereas last week Nancy Clarke, a public health services coordinator and board member of the Pictou County Health Authority, was honoured by the international nursing society, Sigma Theta Tau, for her almost perfect grade point average in Dalhousie University's Master of Nursing Program; and

Whereas Ms. Clarke's story is remarkable, as she worked through a rare form of deadly cancer and a great deal of adversity to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at St. F.X. University, and she continues to further her education and career while helping others; and

Whereas Ms. Clarke credits her survival to her faith, her children and her ability to make a difference in community health care;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize Ms. Clarke's commitment to shedding light on a rare form of cancer, while giving hope to those battling the disease, and contributing to her community as a health care professional and DHA board member.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

[Page 3072]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1351

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 federal government has finally announced the construction of three badly-needed supply vessels for the Canadian Navy, but will not commit to building these vessels in Canada by changing its procurement policy that says it should only buy Canadian ships if there is a competitive environment; and

Whereas the shipbuilding and maintenance jobs that come with the manufacture of these vessels are desperately needed in an industry that continues to suffer from a lack of support from the federal government; and

Whereas yesterday Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore MP Peter Stoffer joined with business and labour leaders in Ottawa to call on the government to change its policy and to have the supply vessels built in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the federal government to support our shipyard workers by changing its policy and ensuring that the three new supply vessels will be built and maintained right here in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 3073]

RESOLUTION NO. 1352

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

Whereas Sacred Heart School of Halifax held elections for student council on April 23rd; and

Whereas the school elected Caroline Whalen as Head Girl and Amanda Harwood as Vice Head Girl for 2004-05; and

Whereas Sophie MacIntyre and Emily Row were elected as treasurer and secretary respectively;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the incoming student council and wish them well in their role of representing the long history of excellence at Sacred Heart School.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1353

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

Whereas Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers is a program founded by the Canadian Junior Chamber which recognizes couples for their farming efforts as well as their contributions to community, province and country; and

Whereas Port Williams residents, Brian and Edna Newcombe, have been selected as finalists for the 2003 award; and

[Page 3074]

Whereas the Newcombe family operates Cornwallis Farms Limited which has dairy, poultry and crops;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Brian and Edna Newcombe on their selection as finalists for the Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers award and wish them much success in their future farming endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise and to do an introduction. In the west gallery we have with us today students from Eric Graves Memorial Junior High School. They're Grade 7 students; the leaders of this group are Cindy Smart and Sue MacKenzie who are here to observe some of the proceedings of the House. I wonder if the House might give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Thank you. I beg the indulgence of the Speaker to do an introduction before my resolution. Mr. Speaker, in your gallery are representatives of injured workers throughout Nova Scotia. I want to name three of them because they are the presidents of their respective associations and I will ask all of them to stand to receive a warm reception from the House. We have June Labrador who is the President of the Mainland Injured Workers Association. We have Mary Lloyd who is the Pictou County Injured Workers Association President and Jimmy Lyle who is the President of the Cape Breton Injured Workers Association. The injured workers are here today to take in the proceedings, hear Question Period, and hopefully have a chance to talk to the Minister of Environment and Labour, I hope. So would you all stand and be recognized by the House. (Applause)

[Page 3075]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1354

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

Whereas Knights of Columbus Father Joseph E. Mills Council 10486 in Eastern Passage has a distinguished history in the community; and

Whereas the Knights of Columbus wanted to pay tribute to the police officers, firefighters, paramedics, Coast Guard, soldiers, sailors and Air Force personnel who keep our world safe and secure; and

Whereas the Knights of Columbus Eastern Passage held a Blue Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Chapel at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater on March 14th to pay tribute to those who serve;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of Knights of Columbus Father Joseph E. Mills Council 10486 for organizing a Blue Mass for those who serve their community and country with distinction.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1355

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

[Page 3076]

Whereas the Nova Scotia Community College gold medal is awarded to a graduating student of a college certificate program who has achieved the highest academic standing; and

Whereas Melissa Wood, a graduate of the survey technician program, was the recipient of the Nova Scotia Community College gold medal;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Melissa Wood and all graduates of this fine Nova Scotian 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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1356

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

Whereas The Beacon is a monthly community newspaper that serves the communities of Eastern Passage, Cow Bay and Shearwater; and

Whereas for the last eight years, editor, Lynn MacKay, has worked with a team of volunteers to publish this fine publication; and

Whereas Lynn MacKay recently decided to take a well-deserved break after many years of tireless effort;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank Lynn MacKay for her tremendous service to the people of Eastern Passage, Cow Bay and Shearwater as editor of The Beacon and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3077]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1357

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

Whereas four vegetation management firms, Atlantic Arborists, Highland Vegetation Management, GPF Tree Services, and R. MacLean Forestry, and the people of Nova Scotia have all been negatively impacted by Emera's decision to award a single source vegetation management contract to a U.S.-based firm; and

Whereas these small firms have served Nova Scotia Power effectively for many years and have made substantial investment in equipment, training, and have employed many rural Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources has agreed to meet with the representatives of Emera and the affected firms to try to rectify this dramatic deviation in business practice;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the minister and representatives of Emera for listening to the concerns of small business and rural Nova Scotians, and encourage the minister to continue to pursue negotiations until the situation has been resolved in favour of Nova Scotians.

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3078]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1358

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 gasoline prices posted in Nova Scotia this week, 88.9 cents a litre for self-serve, are higher than the prices reported in 2003 and the first four months of 2004; and

Whereas despite a record average gasoline price in 2003, the only reassurance now offered by private-sector analysts is that the price is not likely to exceed a dollar a litre in the next few months; and

Whereas Cabinet Ministers and government MLAs have agreed that Nova Scotia should consider adopting some means of limiting price spikes and ensuring that fuel prices are justifiable;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge early legislative action to help protect drivers, businesses and homeowners from unjustified hikes and destabilizing spikes in the price of fuel.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 3079]

RESOLUTION NO. 1359

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

Whereas on February 15th of this year the residents of New Minas and surrounding area lost a great friend; and

Whereas Dan Watters was a man who spent much of his free time helping others, doing things such as helping seniors get to their doctors appointments, serving at community breakfasts with the Lions Club, mediating disputes between neighbours, or championing the cause of those in need of assistance; and

Whereas Mr. Watters served as a county councillor with a dedication and compassion that is almost unparalleled;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House express our deep sorrow at the death of Dan Watters and extend to his family and friends our condolences at the loss of such a great friend.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1360

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

Whereas on April 28, 2004, as part of Education Week, a Heritage Fair was held at Sydney Mines Junior High with competitors from Grades 7, 8 and 9 demonstrating visual displays and written essays on Canadian heritage; and

[Page 3080]

Whereas there were over 100 entrants in the Grade 7 level from Sydney Mines Junior High, and four out of the top five winners were from the French Immersion Program; and

Whereas at the Grade 7 level, Kendra Campbell from Boularderie won first place, Brennan MacNeil from Boularderie won second place, and Emily Yorke from Boularderie won an honourable mention, and all three graduated last year from Grade 6 at Boularderie Elementary School;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these young people, the teaching staff at Sydney Mines Junior High, and all the winners and entrants, and also honour Valerie Patterson, the Grade 6 teacher at Boularderie Elementary School for her in-depth preparation and discipline in preparing these students for junior high.

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. 1361

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

Whereas innovative health initiatives will enhance the lifestyles of Nova Scotia's population and reduce health care costs; and

Whereas making accurate medical information available to people to help them understand and deal with illnesses and conditions is an important step in this direction; and

Whereas the Rawdon Hills Health Clinic has received a grant, from the East Hants Community Health Board, to develop a health education library to be run out of the clinic;

[Page 3081]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the directors of the Rawdon Hills Health Centre for taking the initiative to provide low-cost, self-help medical care to the residents of Rawdon Hills and surrounding area.

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 Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1362

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

Whereas the Sobeys Family Volunteer Award recognizes a family in Nova Scotia that has demonstrated outstanding and consistent caring for the improvement of the community around them; and

Whereas Sharon and Stanley Gould and their children, Michele, Ron, David, Kevin, Mark, Glenna, and Paul, are all deeply involved in all aspects of their community and have dedicated their lives to fight kidney disease; and

Whereas this Amherst family has been awarded the Sobeys Family Volunteer Award for the remarkable volunteer work each and every member of this family performs in their community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in extending our appreciation to the Gould family of Amherst, Cumberland County for their enormous contribution to their community and to fighting kidney disease and congratulate them on receiving the Sobeys Family Volunteer Award for 2004.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3082]

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. 1363

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

Whereas the Cops for Cancer program is a very popular one in which cops, students and members of the community get their heads shaved to receive bids for a wonderful cause; and

Whereas fundraising events, like these, also promote awareness and encourage students to become active in their communities; and

Whereas Dalbrae Academy's School Students Helping our World Committee, RCMP officers from the Inverness detachment, as well as several community members participated in this worthwhile event last month, which raised $2,846.67;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House acknowledge the tremendous work of the volunteers who took part in this event and congratulate them on their success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 3083]

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1364

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

Whereas fish harvesters in the Gulf area have recently voted for professionalization; and

Whereas there are 663 core harvesters or captains of the fishing boats and an additional 1,683 registered crew members and casual workers employed in the Gulf region; and

Whereas this designation will allow for more professional development and training and help create in the public a stronger image of fish harvesters;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate the fish harvesters in the Gulf Nova Scotia area for the certification of the professional designation 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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1365

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

Whereas the Motor Mart Mariners have continued to delight fans - young and old - during their second season in Yarmouth; and

[Page 3084]

Whereas the popular team succeeded in winning their division - the Bent Division - this season; and

Whereas the Mariners made a valiant effort at the 2003-04 Maritime Junior Hockey League Championships in a hard-fought game before a packed house at the Mariners Centre against the eventual champions the Campbellton Tigers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the Motor Mart Mariners on another great season and wish them much success in the seasons 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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1366

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

Whereas La Baie en Joie, a dance group from Clare, recently participated in the British Association of Teachers of Dancing Festival of Dance, April 30th to May 2nd, 2004; and

Whereas La Baie en Joie placed 1st in their category which included other dancing groups from Atlantic Canada and had the highest mark for step-dancing; and

Whereas La Baie en Joie placed 1st amongst the Nova Scotia dancing groups that competed in the category of Nova Scotia Traditional Dancers;

Therefore be it resolved that La Baie en Joie be congratulated for winning the BATD trophy for the Festival of Dance Rose Bowl and for winning the Dance Nova Scotia Trophy for traditional dance.

[Page 3085]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1367

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

Whereas Heritage Credit Union has been meeting the financial needs of its members and the communities in which they operate for 65 years; and

Whereas Heritage Credit Union held its annual general meeting on Tuesday, April 20th, 2004 and elected several new members to continue the great work done over the years; and

Whereas new board of director members elected for 2004 include Holly Brown and the former NDP MLA for Sackville-Cobequid, John Holm;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate John Holm and Holly Brown for their commitment to the community and to Heritage Credit Union and extend best wishes to both as they provide guidance and direction in their roles as directors of this financial 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.

[Page 3086]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 1368

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

Whereas Globe and Mail Columnist William Houston in last Thursday's national edition of The Globe and Mail reported an inaccurate statement; and

Whereas Houston said, "two years after propping up the phony claim by Windsor, N.S. to be hockey's birthplace," Hockey Night in Canada gave Montreal its due before Game 3 of the Canadiens-Tampa Bay series when host Ron MacLean called Montreal the site of hockey's first organized game; and

Whereas an old saying goes, you should never write half of what you know, because it is the part that you don't know which can spell a lot of trouble;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House applaud Mr. Houston for being correct about Montreal as the site of hockey's first organized game, but admonish him for his cheap shot against Windsor, Nova Scotia, which is truly the birthplace of hockey and where the game originated.

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. 1369

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

[Page 3087]

Whereas last Spring former Minister of Finance, Neil LeBlanc, told this Legislature, "Health care in Nova Scotia is dependable and accessible. Our investment in education is providing young Nova Scotians with the solid foundation they need for success. Our budget is balanced. The time for tax relief has arrived."; and

Whereas health care is not fully accessible, post-secondary education has become the domain of the wealthy, the jury is still out as to whether the budget is balanced, and $500 million has just been added to the debt; and

Whereas it has since been proven that we could not afford a tax cut or the cynical $155 cheques;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize that the true legacy of Neil LeBlanc is one of the increased debt, a failed tax scheme, higher taxes, longer wait lists, inaccessible education and increased political cynicism.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1370

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

Whereas the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce held their 15th Annual Excellence in Business Awards ceremony on Monday, May 3, 2004; and

Whereas the recipients of this year's awards went to Kathryn and Warren Gordon of Gordon Photographic, Suzanne Annesty of the Bean Bank Café, Eric and Kathleen Lewis of Alderdale Greens, Paul Wareham of Dynagen Technologies Incorporated, and Sean Burke of Polysteel Atlantic Ltd./East Coast Rope Ltd.; and

Whereas Jim Kehoe of Jonel Construction was the winner of the Business Person of the Year Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly recognize and congratulate Kathryn and Warren Gordon, Suzanne Annesty, Eric and Kathleen Lewis, Paul Wareham, Sean Burke, and Jim Kehoe for their outstanding business contributions, and congratulate them on their well-deserved awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3088]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1371

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

Whereas Floyd Gaetz of Truro was presented with the 2003 Business Achievement Award at the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce 114th Annual Dinner; and

Whereas Floyd Gaetz who embodies the term "entrepreneurial" has had diverse business interests ranging from interior decorating and flooring through automotive detailing to wireless communication, computers and Web-based applications; and

Whereas Floyd Gaetz also embodies the term "community service" through active involvement in organizations such as the Colchester Regional Hospital Foundation, the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce, and the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, and has given financial and logistical support to many others;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Floyd Gaetz for earning the 2003 Business Achievement Award of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce, thank him for his community leadership and wish him every success in the future.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3089]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1372

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

Whereas the Minister of Education rose in this House yesterday and attributed the founding of Dalhousie University to an unnamed native of Pictou County, and offered to provide proof; and

Whereas Dalhousie College, which later became Dalhousie University, was founded in 1818 by George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie and Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1820, after which he returned to his native Scotland; and

Whereas the money to found Dalhousie came from the Castine Fund, taxes raised by the British in the State of Maine during the War of 1812, and not from Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take the time to read, The Lives of Dalhousie University - Lord Dalhousie's College, by P.B. Waite, or seriously consider taking a remedial course in the history of his own province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1373

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:

[Page 3090]

Whereas May 2nd to May 8th is Emergency Preparedness Week, and emergency personnel throughout our province are always well-trained and ready to respond when needed; and

Whereas emergencies can happen at any time, and all Nova Scotians should protect themselves and their families by being prepared and ready to respond to emergency situations; and

Whereas this year's theme, Prepare Now! Learn How!, encourages Nova Scotians to take steps like enrolling in first aid courses or having an emergency kit ready to prepare themselves in the event of an emergency;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage all Nova Scotians to take the time and prepare for emergencies to reduce the risk of injuries to themselves and their families, and thank the thousands of trained emergency personnel who stand ready to respond to any emergency situation.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1374

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

Whereas Audrey Facey was honoured by Premier John Hamm during National Volunteer Week as Municipality of the County of Antigonish Volunteer of the Year; and

Whereas Audrey Facey spends her time volunteering for the VON Volunteer Services, as well as for various seniors' groups and her church; and

[Page 3091]

Whereas Audrey Facey is a representative on the seniors' committee for the Antigonish Town and County Seniors;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Audrey Facey on being named County of Antigonish Volunteer of the Year, and thank her for her dedicated service to her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1375

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

Whereas Agnes Cipak of Whitney Pier has been a long-time member of the NDP; and

Whereas Agnes Cipak joined the Party as a young CCFer, and continued her support of the Party her entire life; and

Whereas Agnes Cipak, today, May 4, 2004, is celebrating her 79th birthday;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly wish Agnes a very happy birthday, and wish her many more.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3092]

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. 1376

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

Whereas on April 3, 2004, Mike Martin of Lower Sackville placed first in the junior men's category at the Nova Scotia Bodybuilding Championships; and

Whereas only one week later, on April 10, 2004, Mike won first place for the junior men's category for the Atlantic Region; and

Whereas Mike is only 20 years old and has only been competing professionally for one year and has already claimed two first prizes, and will travel to London, Ontario on July 24th of this year to compete in the Canadian Championship and hopefully earn an invitation to the Mr. Olympia competition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mike Martin on his recent successes, and wish him the best of luck in his upcoming competition in Ontario and in bringing the national championship to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 3093]

RESOLUTION NO. 1377

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

Whereas each year an international award is given for the best, or maybe that should be worst, example of bureaucratic speech used by a public official; and

Whereas last year's winner was Tory favourite, United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld - also known as "Rummy" - for his twisted attempt to explain those things known and not known and how you know what you know; and

Whereas yesterday the member for Bedford, the Minister of Finance, did adherents of bureaucratese proud with his explanation that some of the government restructuring fund might go to, "business process re-engineering";

Therefore be it resolved that this House agree to nominate the member for Bedford, the Minister of Finance, for the international bureaucratese award so he can proudly take his place beside the U.S. Defense Secretary.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Before we begin, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to make kind of an awkward introduction because the person or persons are not actually here. I drew to your attention in your gallery just a short time ago, the students from Eric Graves Memorial Junior High, they are one-half of the class that's actually visiting. The other half of the class will be joining us through Question Period, so I won't have a chance to introduce them and I wanted to draw them to your attention. They're here with their teachers, Ms. Vineburg and Ms. Sterling. Also, one member of that class is my son. I know that those teachers are among the most patient in the world because they display the same patience, Mr. Speaker, that you often extend to me, so you understand the problem. So I would just like to note that they will be joining us over the course of Question Period. Thank you very much. (Applause)

[Page 3094]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:52 p.m. and end at 1:52 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

WCB: SUPREME COURT RULING - COMPLIANCE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on October 3, 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Section 10(B) of the Workers' Compensation Act was unconstitutional. It said that workers with chronic pain must have the same access to workers' compensation as other injured workers. At that time, the court gave the Nova Scotia Government a six month window to comply with the court's ruling. Yesterday, seven months after the Supreme Court decision, the Minister of Labour announced that he will establish regulations to reflect the approach recommended by the Workers' Compensation Board. The minister said he thought this was a fair approach, but neither injured workers nor labour, nor employer groups agree. I want to ask the minister, we are well past the date that the Supreme Court gave for complying with the decision on chronic pain, isn't he concerned that the WCB recommendations apparently don't address the concerns of the very people who took this issue to court in the first place?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I think it's worthwhile to point out that a great deal of work has been done since that Supreme Court decision. We've had people in all areas working very diligently to try to meet the deadline. There have been resources added, there has been a lot of additional work that has taken place to make sure that we would be in compliance with that Supreme Court order.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of work done. Last December, the Workers' Compensation Board announced that it was going to begin holding consultations with stakeholders on a new approach to chronic pain. Hundreds of hours were spent in meetings, submissions came into the Workers' Compensation Board and yet, the board has refused to listen to the stakeholders. In the end, the board recommended the option they wanted all along - they've called it a consensus. We know from the reaction to the government's announcement yesterday that the approach is far from a consensus position of stakeholders, but the minister seems to be saying that if everyone is equally unhappy, then the government must have achieved the right balance.

My question to the minister is, why did he allow the Workers' Compensation Board to set up these sham consultations and string this process along for seven months when all along it was the board's line they intended to accept over the objections of injured workers, labour and employers in this province?

[Page 3095]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, this process was a good process. We had a lot of people give input. We listened to the people who gave input and as we worked through, we worked through the decision-making process to come up with the statement that was made yesterday.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister missed it but yesterday injured workers said they were disgusted by the announcement of the new regulations. Business said that while they pay the second-highest premiums, the workers get the second-lowest benefits and that that is wrong. No one, other than the Workers' Compensation Board is happy. The regulations will be done by Cabinet, behind closed doors, on the basis of more bad advice from the board. There is nothing in that process that will restore any degree of trust in the board or in the government's handling of workers' compensation issues. My question for the minister is this, will he admit today that the Workers' Compensation Board gave him bad advice and the approach he has taken is wrong and commit to an open process that truly recognizes and incorporates input from stakeholders.

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we announced a fair system using the AMA Guides' 5th Edition, and our goal was to ensure that people with chronic pain were treated in a way that was comparable to any other compensable injury. That's what we intend to do. Yesterday, as well, we committed to adding two more board members to the Workers' Compensation Board - one from the injured workers group and one from the industry group - to ensure in the short term we had more stakeholder interest and input into that process. As well, in the longer term, we committed to having a subcommittee take a look at governance and report back to me on October 1st.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

WCB - CHRONIC PAIN: FAIR TREATMENT - ENSURE

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act. Yesterday, the minister announced that the government would be passing regulations to respond to the Supreme Court decision on chronic pain but no actual regulations were presented. This decision by government to hide behind the walls of Cabinet is disgraceful. My question to the minister is, what assurance can you give that this plan will address the chronic pain issues and will ensure injured workers are treated fairly and employers are not over burdened with unreasonable premiums?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, our goal is to ensure that employers and employees are treated fairly in this system and that's what we intend to do. We have been working with other groups, we have been working with other parties to look at draft regulations that will meet this need.

[Page 3096]

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, not surprisingly, there is not much comfort for either the injured workers or employers in that answer. The minister has been quoted in the press on more than one occasion as saying that the rates charged to employers will not immediately be affected. Given the power to set rates with the Workers' Compensation Board, not government, what guarantee can the minister give that rates charged to employers will not be affected or is this simply political posturing?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, this is a process that we are going through and we admitted yesterday that our numbers aren't completely firm. We have some soft numbers. We have had the best people take a look at this situation, try to give us the best advice they can, but we can't guarantee the numbers at this point in time and the Workers' Compensation Board appreciates that and have told me that they will need experience under their belt before they can look at any type of rate changes.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, there are many unanswered questions in this proposed solution. Injured workers have not been assured that this will be a fair and equitable settlement for them, that injured workers will be treated with respect. So my final question to the minister is, what assurance can he give that his proposed solution will ensure us we will not be back in this House next Spring dealing with the same basic fairness issues for injured workers and will the minister commit today to completing Bill No. 20 in this sitting of the Legislature?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly committed to ensure that this system moves forward in a fair and equitable manner. This is something there has been a great deal

of work involved in, there has been a lot of input. Certainly the consultation process, we have listened to people. It's important to get people involved. We're looking at having additional people on the board so that we can have those stakeholder interests move forward and with regard to the bill, it is in the legislative process and I have no reason to believe that it won't proceed.

[1:00 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV. - BRITEX: EMPLOYEES - TREATMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, we're moving from one set of forgotten workers to another. People in Centrelea are feeling ignored by this government and it's little wonder. For 43 years an elastics plant has operated in that community, providing jobs and support for many families, but the last 100 people working at the Britex plant have been laid off and the assets are being sold off by the liquidator retained by NSBI.

[Page 3097]

Not only did these employees get laid off with only one week's notice, Mr. Speaker, but the government refuses to abide by its own laws that would give the employees eight weeks' notice or pay in lieu. My question is this, will the minister explain to this House how he can turn his back on this community?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is extremely unfortunate, the situation at Britex. It is a company that has operated for many years and certainly the textile market with various changes in the international market has been very tough over the last number of years. Creditors have been patient, but certainly there are a large amount of dollars owed in arrears and NSBI, a Crown Corporation, did put Britex into receivership. They've gone through an exhaustive search through a receiver to see if it was possible to find a new owner. Unfortunately, that situation has not occurred and currently the receiver is going through the process of liquidation and dealing with the employees in the fairest manner possible.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure how this could be dealing with the employees in the fairest manner possible. The payroll for these 100 employees is significant. Over five years there would be $10 million in wages, much of which would have been reinvested in the local community. Instead of fighting for the rights of these people, many of whom have worked at that plant for 15 or 20 years, the government is shrugging its shoulders. The Labour Department has told them that there is nothing they can do - just the same as they did with the employees at the Irving shipyards. So I would like to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, why is your department not prepared to offer these people even the most basic Labour Standards protection?

HON. KERRY MORASH: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I just received a note. I was wondering if he would repeat the question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, would you repeat the question, please.

MR. DEXTER: I will do the last part of the preamble, too. Not only did these employees get laid off with only one week's notice, Mr. Speaker, but the government refuses to abide by its own laws that would give the employees eight weeks' notice or pay in lieu. My question for the minister is, will he explain to this House why the department is not prepared to offer these people even the most basic Labour Standards protection?

MR. MORASH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much for repeating the question, I appreciate that. Certainly we will do everything within the law to ensure that these employees are taken care of. We will work with them and certainly we will work with any particular individual who has an issue to ensure that they are treated fairly under the law.

[Page 3098]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister should read the comments from his own department. They have decided that they are going to do nothing for these employees. My question for the minister is, when calculating the risk that this government is willing to take to save these jobs, one thing the government needs to do is assess the cost of doing nothing and I think it's fair to say that people in Centrelea feel this government is doing nothing for them. My question is, why is it that this government is busy analyzing job statistics instead of taking action to save jobs in rural Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly as the honourable member knows, this government is extremely concerned about jobs and job creation in Nova Scotia and that's the principal cornerstone of how two successive balanced budgets have been delivered and a third one will be delivered.

The situation with regard to Britex, every effort has been exhausted to find a replacement for the ownership at Britex. The issue involving public dollars that have been loaned to the company is certainly one that has to be considered and the taxpayers protected. We have dealt with, through the liquidator and NSBI, a number of interested companies and we continue to negotiate with any interested group if they do show up, but time is running short.

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

ECON. DEV.: TRENTON WORKS FORGE - PLANS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today my question is to the Minister of the Office of Economic Development. It is becoming more apparent every day that this government is neglecting the economy of rural Nova Scotia. Many examples of this are in evidence throughout Nova Scotia. Trenton Works forge is one of the largest forging facilities in North America and the largest open-die forging press in Canada. It employs 42 people currently but not for long, unless Greenbrier keeps it open or unless they find a buyer that will run it as a going concern.

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, has his office or NSBI discussed the future of this facility and whether it can still provide employment in Trenton?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does point out a critical situation at Greenbrier, that foundry or forge, has been there for many years and certainly the company has endeavoured to keep it operating. They made an announcement on the weekend that they were looking at closing the foundry. We have had contact with the company to initiate discussions, if there are ways that we can be helpful in a possible sale or retention of operation, and those discussions will continue as we ascertain more facts from this private company.

[Page 3099]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, once again, rural Nova Scotia seems to be taking a hit. Britex is in the process of liquidation, rural roads are falling apart and businesses cannot find access to capital in rural Nova Scotia. Losing this forge will hurt Nova Scotia's ability to compete for large-scale projects. My first supplementary question to the minister is, what is this minister doing to ensure that the Nova Scotia economy is on a sound footing with adequate industrial infrastructure in rural Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: I think the honourable member highlights the integrated economic effort that this government has put forward over the last three years. When we look at key infrastructure such as roads, we've had over a doubling of the capital budget to ensure that rural communities have those links that are absolutely key for transportation of goods and services throughout Nova Scotia. We've seen the new credit union loan program that provides loans to businesses throughout Nova Scotia, and primarily rural Nova Scotia, to ensure access to capital and we will work when contacted with any existing company in Nova Scotia that is experiencing financial difficulties or would look at options for expansion.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, people in Pictou County are concerned, people in Nova Scotia are concerned about what's happening in rural Nova Scotia with regard to business, and Trenton Works is no exception here; it's problematic for the economy of rural Nova Scotia when something like this happens. The Trenton Works forge has been in operation for 130 years. It's an important economic driver in Pictou County and for all Nova Scotia. My final supplementary to the minister is, will this minister commit to helping Greenbrier find a buyer that will operate the Trenton forge as a going concern and not sell it off for parts?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as everyone in the House knows, Trenton Works made their announcement several days ago. We've initiated those contacts with Trenton Works to assess the situation, to see where we can provide support and help to, hopefully, have a very positive outcome of the furnace remaining or sold as a going concern. We have to have those discussions with Greenbrier first, before we can talk about solutions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - FACILITIES:

EQUIPMENT - CONTAMINATION PROTOCOLS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are understandably concerned with two cases where people with suspected CJD were treated with equipment that was later used on other patients. Thankfully, 33 people in Yarmouth can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Health Canada has advised the Department of Health that the equipment in question tested negative for any contamination and would not have transmitted CJD, even if it were present. But, 26 people in Halifax are still waiting for answers, and I want the Minister of Health to tell Nova Scotians what province-wide protocols are in place for health

[Page 3100]

facilities to avoid exposure to potentially contaminated medical equipment in similar situations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member and members of the House that the protocols that are in place in this province are very good protocols. Unfortunately, in the situation referenced by the honourable member, it appears that improvements are required. We are going to review that case and ensure that the protocols that exist are improved in order to ensure that any such circumstance in the future would not present a similar situation as is under discussion now.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when we require surgery in hospitals, we believe that the equipment will be sterile, that we'll be protected because the necessary checks are in place to prevent exposure. I will table a media report from last November, the headline of which reads, "Updated QE II procedures make woes unlikely." In this story, the head of infectious disease at the QE II says, we "are confident as we can be that the right procedures are in place." My question for the minister is simply this, if the right procedures are in place, why is it that 26 patients face an agonizing wait to see if they were exposed to CJD?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, if we were entirely satisfied with the procedures that were in place, I would not have initiated the review, the terms of reference of which I will be making public in the very near future. We are going to request that there be a timely reporting with respect to the results of that review, so that any breaches in protocol can be corrected as quickly as possible.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister downplayed a case of flesh-eating disease in this province and, in light of the very tragic case of the New Brunswick woman who has just died from this deadly disease, wouldn't the minister agree that he should have been far more forthcoming about the cases in our own province and in reassuring Nova Scotians that all the proper procedures were in place to protect patients in the facility where this has occurred?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, in situations such as infectious disease, I rely very heavily upon the advice of the medical officers of health in this province. It is based on their advice as to when we feel it is appropriate or not appropriate to bring forward information relative to diseases. In my discussions yesterday, everything that I said relative to this disease was said with considerable concern for anybody who is affected by these diseases. However, I also said yesterday that if we were to come forward with notification of every infectious disease that exists anywhere in the province, the volumes of our newspapers would have to double, indeed triple, because they are handled on a very routine basis on a day-to-day basis.

[Page 3101]

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - CJD CASES: DHA REPORTING - PROTOCOLS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This past Saturday we heard the Chief Medical Officer of Nova Scotia report on a second suspected case of CJD in our province. The messages that were relayed by the Chief Medical Officer were, inform individuals and reduce public anxiety, making information public could help ease fears. People are confused, upset and apprehensive yet there does not appear to be any communications coordination in that department, either internally or externally. I note with interest Health Canada maintains a Web site dedicated to disease surveillance, called Infectious Diseases News Briefs. While the CJD case in the Capital District has been reported, there has been absolutely nothing reported on the case in Southwest Nova Scotia. So my question to the minister is, why is there no consistency among the DHAs when it comes to reporting probable and suspected CJD cases to Health Canada?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the honourable member and members of the House is that we were in constant contact with Health Canada in all of these circumstances. I cannot be held accountable for the decisions that Health Canada make with respect to what they do or do not include in their Web site.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I would think to the minister and certainly to the average Joe Q. Citizen in this province that something is terribly wrong. In their minds, you should have the answers, Mr. Minister. What is clear is that there is a distinct lack of communication protocols in place here. In response to the case of flesh-eating disease, which incidentally we heard about through the media, the minister stated, "'If we were to begin having public announcements about every disease that is a disease of concern . . . to the individuals who have it when they contact it, . . . the newspapers would have to double their capacity.'" Mr. Speaker, what a bunch of malarky. I believe that the flesh-eating disease being a communicable disease, should be a concern not only for those who have it, but those who could potentially come in contact with it. My question to the minister then is, why has the minister had no one in his department do anything, any PR follow-up, that will inform the public, especially those in the immediate area, of the symptoms or what they should do if they begin to exhibit any of those symptoms?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what is important in dealing with an infectious disease is that that disease be controlled and that there be no spreading of that disease. There are the protocols in place with respect to the disease referenced by the honourable member. Those protocols in this situation were followed. The patient was being treated and that is not a unique situation. Those situations occur from time to time in this province and they are dealt with and treated and they are treated appropriately.

[Page 3102]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to remind the minister that reporting to the public does not mean that the health care system is not working. Quite the contrary. It is when people perceive that the government is keeping things from them, that's when doubts begin to rise to the surface. My question to the minister is, will the minister confirm today that both internal and external communications will be on the top of his list when he announces the much-anticipated review guidelines of the public health situations that are currently unfolding in our province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, there are many instances of infectious disease that come forward. I am briefed on many of them from time to time. Others are dealt with through the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for this province. When there is a likelihood that there would be public interest, we are prepared to discuss those issues.

Communications is always a priority and the protocols are extremely important and that is why we have initiated the review, and obviously that review is going to focus on the capacity of institutions to communicate internally and externally.

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

FIN. - HST REMOVAL: NEGOTIATIONS - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The harmonized sales tax has been in the news a lot lately. In January there was a flurry of articles after the Premier and the Minister of Finance said they were negotiating with the other provinces to remove the HST from essentials. Today there's more speculation from the Finance Minister about this issue. The only problem was that the other provinces denied that there were any negotiations taking place. In fact, New Brunswick's Finance Minister went so far as to issue a one-line press release saying, "I want to be clear that New Brunswick is not negotiating or holding discussions with any other provinces or with the federal government about removing home heating oil, children's clothing or any other items from the HST tax base". My question is, will the Premier tell the House today what formal negotiations, if any, are underway about taking the HST off of essentials?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I'll refer that to the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member made reference to newspaper articles. What I did indicate to people in estimates yesterday is that Finance officials talk with other financial officials of other provinces, essentially the discussions of this point and of late have been regarding the tax sharing agreement and the governance of that. And that's what has been discussed lately.

[Page 3103]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, In today's newspaper story, which the Minister of Finance just referenced, he seemed unclear about what the process is for changing the agreement. It seems almost impossible that the Department of Finance would be unclear about this process and I will table the ministerial briefing notes obtained under freedom of information for January 2003. These documents clearly outline the process for changing the HST agreement. My question for the Minister of Finance is this, will he explain to the House how his department could have been clear on the protocol for changing the formula in January 2003, but seems unclear about it today?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for submitting those documents to us, but I can say to the honourable member what the Department of Finance's job and task in doing all of this is to get the best deal for Nova Scotians that we can and that's what we're doing.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, one way the government can get the best deal for Nova Scotians and one way they could afford to actually enter into these elusive HST negotiations, is to crack down on HST fraud. While this government stands by, other governments are taking action. We have already informed the House what the Government of Quebec is doing and today I would like to table a press release from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. They have announced a boost in enforcement to crack down on the underground economy. My question is, will the minister explain to this House what concrete steps the government is taking to protect businesses and taxpayers by cracking down on HST fraud in this province?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week to the honourable member when we were discussing this question, we had indicated that we view this as something where we have to work with other provinces nationally so we want to work with the Department of National Revenue, but also the honourable member knows that Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has taken opportunities to work on that, to strengthen their auditing procedures. Those are a few of things that we're doing. We recognize this as an issue, as do all Canadian provinces and it's a great challenge for all governments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

ECON. DEV.: BRIDGETOWN - BETRAYAL

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Britex is in the process of liquidation. In today's ChronicleHerald it was indicated that an un-named Britex executive said that the Tory Government seems to be betraying its rural base by contributing to the downturn in the rural economy. My question is to the minister. Why is the minister betraying the people of Bridgetown and the surrounding area?

[Page 3104]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, myself, our office and our government have worked openly and very hard since the situation of Britex's finances has arose. Certainly through NSBI and the receiver, the search has been exhaustive to see if there was another operator that could come up with the financial backing and the business plan to continue to operate Britex. I've certainly dealt with the member opposite on a number of times urging if the employees were interested in operating the plant that they should put forward an offer. It's my understanding that the liquidator and NSBI continue to hold that option open as they move toward liquidation. As I said earlier in Question Period, time is becoming very short.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, those employees came forward to the Minister of Economic Development as well as to NSBI, and each time they were turned away, told that they did not have a proper plan in place. That same executive is saying it's going to cost more to liquidate Britex than to keep it operating. My question is, what specifically is the minister going to do to replace those jobs in the Bridgetown area?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it's extremely important to note that Britex is a difficult situation given the world situation dealing with textiles. That being said, certainly rural Nova Scotia is the focus of this government in job opportunities. I certainly have noted that the member opposite was pleased and impressed when we made the announcement of 500 jobs in his area for the Convergys contact centre, so I assume that he thought that was proper economic work and effort on behalf of NSBI and this government to help site those jobs in his area.

MR. MCNEIL: The Britex situation may be a difficult situation Mr. Speaker, but what's difficult is when 80 families in my constituency are going home and saying to their children that they do not have a job. That is a difficult situation. My question is, will the minister table in this House a plan that will see the replacement of those jobs lost by Britex?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier it is a very difficult situation with Britex and that work continues. As I said earlier, as well, there are certainly new opportunities as new companies locate in various communities across rural Nova Scotia. I would point out to the honourable member, he seemed to be extremely pleased when we were able to locate 500 jobs with Convergys in the area a couple of months ago.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EMO: EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS - EVALUATIONS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question I would like to direct to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization. The EMO identified new risks and challenges in this year's business plan. What EMO is expecting is more forest fires, more flooding, more tidal surges and severe winter weather thanks to climate change. EMO

[Page 3105]

has also predicted that Nova Scotia will experience a flu pandemic in the next few years. The agency is also concerned over security issues.

Last year, one year ago, we learned that nine communities were not prepared to deal with a major emergency. Hurricane Juan revealed even more holes. Yet, the province decided not to do another municipal evaluation this year, and will not report back to Nova Scotians likely until 2005. Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister responsible for the EMO is, will the minister speed up his department's evaluation to ensure municipal evaluations are reported this year?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, Nova Scotia, according to the Senate committee last Fall, has the highest rating and was recommended by the Senate committee as the example or the template for Canada on response and coordination. Certainly, on a whole host of fronts, and a number of the ones, if those situations unfortunately arose, we work very closely in our coordination with local municipal governments to improve their response and, therefore, improve the response to any disaster for the Province of Nova Scotia.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this happens to be Emergency Preparedness Week. The theme is "Prepare Now! Learn How!" Senate Committee reports notwithstanding, disasters in the last year have shown Nova Scotians that we do need better plans, yet this government has refused to allow the EMO to be reviewed by an independent body. Nova Scotia Power was subjected to an independent review and learned a great deal. My question to the minister responsible for the EMO is, why is he continuing to refuse to order an independent review of the EMO?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly, as the honourable member knows, the response of the EMO and the coordination throughout Nova Scotia, particularly with Hurricane Juan and white Juan, attracted national attention and it was positive accolades given to the EMO in Nova Scotia and their dedicated employees for their quick and timely response. What we're concentrating our efforts on though is improving the amount of equipment, improving trained people to respond to any disaster. Certainly that's one of the reasons we're very pleased to be announcing that there will be an additional $600,000 in training and equipment, to be able to respond to hazardous waste situations that would arise throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. That's where we're concentrating our time and effort, in improving EMO's response with training and equipment.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, what needs to be externally reviewed is the whole history of activities associated with the lead-up to Hurricane Juan, what occurred during it and what occurred after. During that debriefing we learned that some people were shut in without food, water or power for days - everyone knows that and it's a widely held opinion

[Page 3106]

that if a disaster of this magnitude had occurred in colder months there would have been great tragedy. So, again, to the minister, what will it take for his government to take this matter seriously and ensure that we actually have better plans in place by this time next year?

MR. FAGE: Certainly the learned honourable member, I am sure, has, hopefully, reviewed the debrief and summations from the response to Hurricane Juan and will assist EMO and community organizations in reviewing any shortcomings and improving the already impressive response that EMO has provided in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES:

ANTI-PSYCHOTIC DRUGS - PRESCRIPTION RATES

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that one-quarter of seniors in nursing homes in Ontario are prescribed sedating drugs within one year of admission. It's very troubling. The majority of those patients were on those drugs for the long term, not for the short term, for specific symptom results. So I would like the Minister of Health to tell us, what information his department keeps on the prescription rates of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes in this province?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I, too, read the article referenced by the honourable member and I certainly share the concern which she is expressing with respect to the treatment of seniors in that fashion. It did, indeed, prompt me to ask the question. I'm not aware of any evidence within our province with respect to situations of this, but I certainly have asked to be briefed relative to that article, as it may influence or raise questions within this province, so that we can be certain that the activities that you place in our nursing homes do not reflect the circumstance described in the article referred to by the honourable member.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the research clearly indicates that there's also the use of physical restraints as well as anti-psychotic drugs and that this often does far more harm than good. Canada's use of restraints is far higher than the United States or the United Kingdom. The United States Government recently enacted legislation to strictly limit the use of physical and pharmacological restraints, especially on seniors in care facilities. So I want to ask the minister what policies are in place in this province to either prescribe or restrict the use of restraints in hospitals and in nursing homes?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again the honourable member is discussing a situation which is always one of concern and there is a real challenge in our nursing homes, and, indeed, in hospitals from time to time, to achieve an appropriate balance between care for the individual and care for others. Sometimes appropriate care for the individual requires treatment that is not the preferred method of treatment. However, achieving that balance is

[Page 3107]

a challenge and it's one that is continually worked at by all involved in the delivery of health care.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, achieving the balance is one of having policies in place and I haven't heard that the department has these. I'm hoping they do. Restraints must be an option of last resort and their use must be tracked very closely, Mr. Speaker. So, my final question to the minister is this, will you commit to providing this House with information on the use of physical and pharmacological restraints in nursing homes and residential care facilities that is up-to-date, information that's up-to-date that will reassure Nova Scotians of what the situation is in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I feel quite certain that the information that we could provide would be information that Nova Scotians would deem to be appropriate for the circumstances surrounding the treatment and care of individuals within long-term care facilities and within our hospitals. We have no reason to conceal any of those policies and would be more than happy to share them.

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

TPW: HWY. 1 (DIGBY-WEYMOUTH) - PRIORITIZATION

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I recently received a letter from Phil Corkum, a provincial highways' planning manager, regarding Highway 1 from Digby to Weymouth. He acknowledges the concerns of the users of this section of Highway 1 and that traffic volumes are relatively low and growing very slowly and collision rates are good which must mean there are not too many people dying yet. It seems that he is saying that highway priorities in Nova Scotia are based on how many people are hurt or killed on a certain stretch of highway. My question is, can the minister tell me why we have to wait until people start getting maimed and killed before we act to build better highways?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are many factors that go into setting up the parameters for prioritizing highways. One of them is traffic volume certainly; another is the geometry of the road that's causing accidents; another is the amount of industry. There are a great many factors. Highway 1 is a priority, but, however, it is not at the top of the priority list at the present time and, secondly, we have to remember that that section of the road is part of the National Highway System and, as such, it is federally funded for 50 per cent of the cost of improvement, and until such time as we have a long-term agreement with the federal government for funding, I'm afraid that particular stretch will not be done.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, in the Department of Transportation and Public Works Business Plan for 2004-05, it is stated that a safe and effective transportation system plays a critical role in supporting the government's effort to maximize economic growth and

[Page 3108]

achieve greater prosperity for the province. Can the minister tell this House why the people of Digby-Annapolis aren't part of this plan?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, all the people of Nova Scotia, no matter where they live, share in the efforts of the Department of Transportation and Public Works to maintain an adequate and safe transportation system.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, speaking of priorities, I wish to table a list of priorities submitted to the federal government by the province for this road in 2002. The Digby-Weymouth section is 18th on the list, which is pretty well at the bottom. If this section of highway is a priority for government, why is it on the bottom of the list?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that if that stretch of highway is 18th on the list, he should be aware that there are many hundreds that are further down the list.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

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

GOV'TS. (PROV./MUN.) - CONSULTATION

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, the province seems determined to download more and more provincial expenses and responsibilities onto municipalities. The latest to land on municipal shoulders is teacher pension costs; this, after last year, municipalities were asked to begin paying for teacher benefits. Mayor Peter Kelly of the Halifax Regional Municipality says that municipality was not adequately consulted on the pension issue. He says they were simply told to pay more. This uncertainty and the ebb and flow of budgets is leaving Nova Scotians washed high and dry. My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, provincial and municipal governments have to build a good working relationship, how can they do this without adequate consultation?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, it's a very good question. I agree with the context of the question that the municipal governments and the provincial government must develop good relationships. Having said that, I have spent a great deal of time, over the past six months, meeting with individual municipalities and the UNSM, and I believe I have a good relationship, and so does the Province of Nova Scotia, with municipalities.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, well, they have to go both ways. Ensuring affordable child care is supposed to be a provincial responsibility, yet last week the Minister of Community Services asked the municipalities to give child care centres the break that he won't, by giving them a lower tax rate. My question is, when will this stop?

[Page 3109]

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the issue that the member brings forward is not as she points out, in fact, what we have indicated to municipalities is that it's our intention to allow municipalities greater freedom to choose whether or not they want to provide opportunities for people in their constituency who offer a private system of daycare, so they can provide opportunities for the parents of those children to have a lower tax burden. As a government, we believe that's good for the children of Nova Scotia and it's good for municipalities.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I quite agree, but - and it's a very constructive suggestion - I hope it will be mirrored at the provincial level as well. Nevertheless, there is a problem with communication between the government and municipalities. The Imperial Oil assessment issue is still not resolved, whether or not it was due to a keying error is not yet clear. My question is, why is it taking so long to resolve this particular issue?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member opposite and to all Nova Scotians that we have worked very closely with municipalities whenever there are areas of conflict. We will continue to strive to have a good relationship. Friday, I met with the UNSM for two and a half hours, we had a good, frank and open discussion. It was described by many of the people there as a very positive step forward in the relationship between municipalities and the Province of Nova Scotia and I will continue to work towards that.

[1:45 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV.: AVON/BRITEX FOODS - CONSULTATION

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Economic Development. There's a sorry state of affairs in rural Nova Scotia despite this government's, at best lacklustre, attempts to confuse and pacify the people of our rural communities. I will be quoting from a speech the Premier made on May 12, 2003. "Our government has always made community consultation a cornerstone of the way we govern."

This is news to the people of rural Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, where and when was the consultation when Britex and Avon Foods are closing?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I believe the honourable member is aware, both of these companies are private companies. One, Britex, owed institutions of this province money and had been supported through the years. The second one was a private company that has made business decisions. Both of those companies, once their situation became clear, announced it. Staff members have been dealing with those situations since they arose and will continue.

[Page 3110]

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: I again will be quoting from the speech the Premier gave. "We are investing $123 million in the Nova Scotia Community College system so 2,500 more students can find an education throughout Nova Scotia - and build a better future - close to home." Mr. Speaker, what does this government consider close to home for the people of rural Nova Scotia? Halifax, Ontario or Alberta? My question to the minister is, what is this government doing to support businesses like Finewood Flooring of Middle River which produces a triple-Grade A hardwood product yet cannot even tender for a gymnasium floor for a new school construction?

MR. FAGE: I will refer that question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question and one that at the present time is in the Department of Transportation and Public Works and I expect a decision on a change to the specifications sometime next week. (Applause)

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I hope that comes true and I will hold the minister to that promise. I quote again from the Premier's speech, "More Nova Scotians are working today than ever before." - five times in the past 18 months. (Applause) The problem is that the honourable members on the opposite side of the House believe that. Yes, records have been set by this government - dramatic job losses in rural areas. I quote again from the Premier's speech, "According to the latest census data, between 1996 and 2001, Guysborough County lost more than 10 per cent of its population." He goes on to say that many rural regions face a similar problem. Well, we agree with that. Communities are losing their young people and they are not being replaced through immigration or other channels.

My final supplementary to the minister is, how can we expect our young people to take advantage of offshore economic benefits being touted by this government when companies like Maritime Drilling School cannot get recognition in their own province and some rural areas are just beginning to receive some of the benefits of high-speed Internet access? Mr. Minister, what is the government doing for rural Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question, because in each one of his questions, in his preamble, he pointed out very strongly that this government is responding to the situation they inherited from the previous crowd in 1999. Employment is up in Nova Scotia. People are working in rural communities. There are more education and training facilities, there are more highway improvements, there's more broadband Internet. This province is on the move, and he just explained all the reasons why it is, we're responsible for it.

[Page 3111]

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

COMMUN. SERV.: HABITAT FOR HUMANITY - DISCUSSIONS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. Recently a call for proposals under the Affordable Housing Agreement went out, so I have a proposal for the minister. I will table a press release from Habitat for Humanity, announcing the Jimmy Carter Work Project for 2004, which will build 150 homes in one week, for needy families in Mexico. My question to the minister is, has your department had any discussions with Habitat for Humanity to consider any volunteer-led initiatives in this province?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of the specific proposals that have come in since we put out the call for proposals, but I do know that in the past we have worked with Habitat for Humanity. They are a good group and we would be pleased to receive a proposal from them.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, so far our province has managed 21 units in 18 months, under the Affordable Housing Agreement. I think we need to take examples of organizations like Habitat for Humanity and address serious numbers in this province for our public . . .

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

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the east gallery, where we have, visiting with us, people from the Cobequid Education Centre in Truro, indeed, 14 students in the OPP History class, accompanied by teachers Peter Keaveney, Roger Crowe and Brenton McFee. I would ask those folks, all, to stand, please, and receive the warm welcome of all members. (Applause)

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.

[Page 3112]

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

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today to speak about the riding of Cape Breton Nova and its constituents. I was going to rise today to talk about all the good things, but I think there's an announcement in the air to do with the Sydney tar ponds, coming up very shortly, we hope. As you can see today by the large crowd in the gallery - I've been an MLA in this province for all of eight months. I had the honour and privilege of attending six of those monthly meetings of the Cape Breton Injured Workers Association.

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

MR. GOSSE: I certainly will.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's not often that a group that comes to visit with us gets introduced three times, but that's going to happen today. I mentioned earlier to the House that there was a second group from Eric Graves Memorial Junior High School here today; they have now, in fact, joined us in the gallery. As I mentioned earlier, these students are coming to observe the House and some of the work we do here. So if they would stand, we would give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the young people today, to speak about what goes on here in democracy. The announcement yesterday, by the Minister of Environment and Labour, I don't think was very democratic. We talk about the Supreme Court of Canada's decision for the injured workers that came down. The Supreme Court of Canada, in October 2003, found Section 10(B) of the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Act not to be fair. Injured workers with chronic pain must have the same access to the workers' compensation system as other injured workers.

[Page 3113]

[2:00 p.m.]

The many meetings that I attended at the Injured Workers' Association in Cape Breton on the final Sunday of every month, I've heard many injured workers coming to the meetings and talking about their injuries and how they're not receiving any compensation and how hard it is for them to deal with the board of directors and especially the board chairman.

Mr. Speaker, I know the Environment Minister said that he was very pleased that they were going to have a member of the Injured Workers Association on the board of directors at the Workers' Compensation Board. A little while back, I remember on ATV news, I was sitting home one night listening, and heard Louis Comeau, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Compensation Board, adamantly state that there would never be an injured worker on the board of directors. Well today, half of that is true. To put an injured worker on that board with no voting right - when you're 18 years of age you have the right to vote in this province, the right to vote in this country, the right to run for office, the right to do many things in society. I find it deplorable now that we have four business, two labour, and one injured worker on this board, but the injured worker is a non-voting member. Is that a democratic process? I very well think not.

Mr. Speaker, also in this legislation, as a democratic society, we have the right to put things on the floor of this Legislature to debate, legislation, to go to the Committee on Law Amendments and hear the opinions of many injured workers who travelled up here to tell us what their problems were that they had with the Workers' Compensation Board, and other problems they had dealing with their injuries over the years.

Many people have committed suicide, family break-ups and lost homes, and other things, Mr. Speaker, for the things that were feared the most when this process started, I remember attending my first meeting in Cape Breton and it was said that the most feared thing was that the regulations would go back to the board of directors. Yesterday this announcement has happened. These regulations are going back to the board of directors. The place that these injured workers feared the most for this to happen. To be assessed by the same compensation doctors again. I find that shameful. I do.

Then using the American Medical Association Guidelines, 5th Edition. How many members of this Legislature have seen a copy of that or how many members of the government have seen a copy of this AMA 5th Edition Guidelines? Nobody. It's $675, and everybody feared this at home in Cape Breton, that this was going to happen. That these guidelines are a meat chart, and that's exactly what it was. With a 3 per cent, 6 per cent and 0 per cent. These workers will be going back and getting assessed by the same doctors that they were assessed by over the years and denied what was rightfully theirs for injured workers in this province. It's a shame on the government to do this. I think that, as a democratic society, we should have the right as an elected official to voice our opinion on the floor of this Legislature on what is wrong with what was announced yesterday. It's a shame that these

[Page 3114]

things happen. There should be legislation, not regulations. I just think that it's unfair what's happening.

I will go home this weekend and listen to many friends - as a former steelworker after working 20 years in the steel plant and heavy industry, Mr. Speaker, I'm very fortunate that I wasn't seriously injured. Not that I didn't see many of my fellow workers injured, and some are in the gallery here today who were injured out there in the steel plant, and serious injuries. To have to fight the Workers' Compensation Board on this issue on a constant basis, I find that to be unfair and deplorable.

I myself was elected as an MLA to come up here and do the best I can for the people and constituents I represent, Mr. Speaker, and I find that I cannot do this when these regulations are given to the Workers' Compensation Board.

Mr. Speaker, years and years of denial from this board and the doctors on this board. I've heard guys being denied for industrial bronchitis after spending 25 years in the coke ovens department. Anybody who has ever spent 10 days out there would probably have industrial bronchitis, but to be denied by these doctors continually, all the time. Another thing I found, this bill - for months I've attended these meetings and the reasons I went there was to find out the concerns of these people. The concerns of these people were that they're going to go back to see the same doctor again and again, and be assessed again. Instead of having these people assessed, why not just settle this in a proper manner and give these people what they deserve. They've been seriously injured, some for over 30 years and these regulations that are going back to the Workers' Compensation Board, how many of these people are going to get rightfully due what's theirs? Not too many. Not too many at all.

As I looked at the handout yesterday and I see the nice glossy brochure, a new approach to chronic pain benefits for worker related injuries, Mr. Speaker. I looked at it and I read the whole thing and I said, AMA Guidelines. There were three proposals that were given to the government sometime in December, and one of the proposals, the first one was the AMA 5th edition, the second one was AMA 4th edition with the LMDA. This was the approach that these workers were hoping that the government was going work on and accept as a part of the injured workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Yet again yesterday, we see regulations. It's the same as when the MLA for Cape Breton Centre, Mr. Frank Corbett, put a bill in for the whistle-blowers, for protection for workers in the government who come forward as we see what's going on right now nationally in this country. Again, the government decides to go and put regulations in.

I just find it unfair, Mr. Speaker, it's always regulations. Why not put it on the floor of this Legislature and let us as MLAs discuss this, and go to the Committee on Law Amendments and discuss what's going on. Not what goes on behind closed doors. I think that this is not an open process. I don't think it has been very open. You can tell the stakeholders who've showed up all the time, it's always been the stakeholders, injured workers, business.

[Page 3115]

I don't think business is very happy, paying such high premiums and they feel like they're not getting their money's worth out of this, Mr. Speaker, and I just think that's unfair to everybody here.

To put an injured worker on the board and not give them voting rights, Mr. Speaker, would be like putting an MLA in this Legislature and not giving him voting rights and not being able to talk. (Applause) That is unfair. What does that do? Well, they said we'll please the injured workers in this province, the second class citizen by putting them up there and saying, you can go there but you can't vote. You can sit there and you can enjoy the snacks that we have at break time, but you can't vote. Is that a democratic society? A democratic position in this government? No it's not.

I personally just think that this is unacceptable to myself and the people at home. When I go to these monthly meetings, how am I going to go home and go to the monthly meeting at the end of May and tell these workers, this is my position as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, but that this is how this government has taken this position. I find it unfair and very cruel. I think it's just very unfair, Mr. Speaker.

Also, Mr. Speaker, they've traveled here today from all over this province and you can tell that they're upset. I understand why they're upset. I had the privilege and the honour of being at those meetings and listening to them. I just think that it's not fair to those people and their families, their children and their grandchildren. My riding in Cape Breton Nova covers a lot of the old steel plant, the Devco piers, the Devco railway and there have been a lot of injuries over the years down there. Still this always comes back to the Workers' Compensation Board.

Since I was elected I had people coming into my office asking me, I've been injured on the job, can you please help me? I have to appeal this. I have to go to the Workers' Advisory Council. I inherited a riding after 32 years of the previous MLA, who was quite well-versed at handling Workers' Compensation and Canada Pension cases, Mr. Speaker, and that's what he did. Many cross my desk on a daily basis. I just hope that the government will realize that this not the fair thing and maybe come up with another alternative, and come up with legislation instead of regulations. Again, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise here today.

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

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to participate in the debate going into Supply. I had thought initially that I wanted to speak specifically about issues in my constituency, however, over the past week or two I've changed my mind. I want to share with members of the Legislature and all Nova Scotians, some of the work that I've been doing on

[Page 3116]

behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia, particularly with respect to the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

In August when the Premier appointed me as the Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, one of the things that I felt it necessary for me to do, to better understand the issues and the concerns facing African-Nova Scotians, is to go out and meet with those individuals. We began a process of consultation and meetings with a variety of groups and individuals and I want to share with members of the Legislature today and all Nova Scotians, some of the people we had the opportunity to meet with.

Early on, Mr. Speaker, we took the opportunity to meet with Dr. Sharon Oliver, in the Annapolis Valley, to receive her views. She's an outstanding African-Nova Scotian, who has contributed a great deal to her community and to African-Nova Scotians through a variety of means, particularly and most recently with respect to her work with the African Heritage Society, the Black Loyalists Heritage Society, and to work with those groups and organizations to help them move forward with their initiatives that they've brought forward to government and to other community groups and organizations.

During the time of our tour and our visits with various groups and organizations, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet with people in large settings and individual settings. We met with individuals in their basements, in their rec rooms, and in their kitchens. We met with groups and organizations in halls, in meeting rooms, in offices, and we met from one end of this province to the other end.

Mr. Speaker, to highlight to members of the Legislature some of the groups that we met with, we ended up meeting with and discussing issues of African Nova Scotian Affairs with groups like the Black Construction Association, the Cape Breton Black Employment Partnership, the African United Baptist Association, the Black Cultural Society, the Black Employment Partnership Committee of the Whole, the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association, the Lucasville/Upper Hammonds Plains Development Association, the Black Education Association, the Black Business Initiative, the African Nova Scotian School Board Caucus, the Africville Genealogical Society, the Weymouth Falls Community Unity Program, the Black Loyalists Heritage Society, the African Nova Scotia Music Association, the Council on African Canadian Education. We met with the African Canadian Services Division of the Department of Education; we met with individuals like Irma Johnston and Dave Hartly; we met with the RCMP Advisory Group on African Nova Scotian issues; and, as well, we met with a variety of other groups and organizations.

As I said early on, Mr. Speaker, we criss-crossed the province to meet with African-Nova Scotians in their communities. I felt it necessary that rather than to bring them to me, I would go to them and see first-hand the concerns and the initiatives that they were working on. We visited Shelburne, Yarmouth, Glace Bay, Whitney Pier, Lequille, Kentville, Southville, Weymouth, Digby, Hammonds Plains, Lucasville, East Preston, North Preston, Cherry

[Page 3117]

Brook, Truro, Amherst, New Glasgow, Upper Big Tracadie, Lincolnville, Sunnyville, and other areas in between. We have visited nearly every one of the 47 African-Nova Scotian communities in this province and we have had the opportunity to meet with groups and individuals from each and every one of those communities as we travelled through.

Mr. Speaker, the work enabled me to better understand the issues and the concerns that have been brought to government over a period of decades and the work enabled me to better understand the way that we in the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs can begin to address these concerns in a systematic approach. I want to point out, as well, that some of the earlier successes that we had as an office were in many cases small successes as you would see it in the scheme of the entire Province of Nova Scotia, but big successes with respect to the individual communities.

I can point to a concern that was brought to my attention very early on when we had the opportunity to visit the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I met with a group or an organization there that was working very hard to protect a hall in Glace Bay. The hall was slated to close and go to tax sale. There was an initiative put forward by African-Nova Scotians to protect this hall and to keep it and revitalize it as a community facility - the hall has historic significance to that community. It's a hall that had historic significance to all of Nova Scotia, and the community brought this concern to my attention. I was able to immediately meet with the mayor of CBRM who was able to work with the community to bring a process forward that protected that hall, that keeps it in the community's domain, that ensures that that hall will be protected and used for community interests indefinitely, and that's an initiative that was something that was seen as a positive win for that community and that group, and something that I would say will stand out as a very early highlight of some of the work that we were able to do.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, it was brought to our attention early on about an initiative in the Digby area where a group, an organization, was working on a housing project, a housing initiative, and the individual who brought it to my attention was concerned with some delays that were being caused, or may have been caused by her ability and their ability to work with the system. We were able to meet with the Minister of Community Services, to talk to him and bring this matter to his attention. He was then able to go to his staff and clear up the confusion and the project was able to be completed on time, on schedule, and enabled the community group to help with a housing initiative for an individual family that was absolutely essential to be done in a time frame that enabled this family to meet weather constraints that were approaching. It was an initiative that was being pressed because of encroaching weather and winter and I'm pleased to say that the group was able to meet their commitment to that family.

We were able to, as a government, ensure that the bureaucratic process followed through in a timely manner and the family was able to take advantage of their new home, or their renovated home, in advance of Christmas and in advance of impending weather, and that

[Page 3118]

success is something that I am very proud of, and our office is very proud of - that we were able to participate in and to free up a bureaucratic log-jam that was not essential, and we're very pleased that we were able to help those individuals and that group.

In addition to that, we also see our role in supporting government's initiative particularly throughout the implementation of the BLAC report. In the coming budget, that we'll be voting on in the near future, this government has installed significant funds towards recommendations from the BLAC report as a result of the report that came subsequent to government from CACE and those substantial revenues show our genuine commitment to move forward on the matter of education, particularly with African-Nova Scotians. I think it's something that has been seen by the community as a progressive step forward and it enables us to work with the community and the community groups like CACE and, like the earlier group, the Black Learners Advisory Committee, to systematically step forward to take those recommendations, to priorize them, and to make them into reality and bring programs to the people of Nova Scotia.

I also want to highlight, Mr. Speaker, the opportunities I had within my own constituency - I represent Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville, which is a constituency that consists of three African-Nova Scotian communities. The community where I live, Maroon Hill in Middle Sackville, is an African-Nova Scotian community, as well Lucasville, and Upper Hammonds Plains. These community groups are working hard to ensure that the services provided to all Nova Scotians are received by them in their communities and that government is able to respond to them.

I had the opportunity on the weekend to worship in Upper Hammonds Plains at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, with the congregation there. As members would recall, last week I tabled a resolution with respect to the Emmanuel Baptist Church and their pastor, Lennett J. Anderson. Lennett Anderson received a national recognition for the work that he has done, taking a church with a congregation of about 40 and developing it to a place now where they're looking at a multi-million dollar expansion just to house their congregation. To say they're overflowing at the seams would be an understatement, to say the congregation has a vigorous and vibrant grasp on the issues they face would be an understatement.

They are certainly the kind of growth and the kind of hope and prosperity that we expect to see around this province and I'm very proud of the work that Pastor Anderson has done on behalf of his congregation. He described during the church service on Sunday that they used to worship for the faithful few. And he said that, in his words: Worshipping for the faithful few is a defeatist attitude and it's time to start worshipping for all of Nova Scotians. They spent a great deal of time, Mr. Speaker, talking about the work that we have been doing in the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs on Sunday, and about the fact that it's time for communities to stand up and to work towards positive solutions. I'm pleased to say that that community is certainly showing leadership, and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to not

[Page 3119]

only worship with them, but to participate with them in bringing them services and to act as their member of the Legislature here in this House.

Mr. Speaker, as well, I spoke briefly about the success that we had, particularly with the Melnick Hall in Glace Bay. I want to highlight to members of the Legislature why that hall is so important to the African-Nova Scotian community. That hall happens to be the only place east of Montreal where civil rights activist Marcus Garvey spoke. Marcus Garvey is seen as a leader who has provided a great deal of vision and support to African-Americans as well as African-Canadians. The community wanted so badly to protect that hall, and protect the significance of that hall, and we were able to intervene on their behalf with the support, I would say, of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and particularly Mayor John Morgan who was able to step in and quickly saw the significance and the importance of protecting the UNIA hall in Glace Bay, and I would say that is certainly a demonstration of some of the work that we have been able to do.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I don't feel compelled to list or read off to members of the Legislature the meetings that we've held, but I would like to highlight a number of them. Over the past number of weeks and months, I've had the opportunity to meet with Dwayne Provo. For those of you who are sports minded, Dwayne Provo is an ex-NFL and CFL football player, who now works as the Executive Director of the Black Education Association.

Dwayne Provo and I have met on a number of occasions and spoke about specific issues related to African-Nova Scotians, particularly around education. He has brought to my attention some initiatives that he and his group have brought forward.

I expect we will see opportunities in the future where the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs will work closely with Dwayne Provo and his group to ensure that many of the concerns that they bring to government are addressed in a timely manner, and that we share opportunities with our federal counterparts, particularly the Minister of State for Heritage Canada, who I've also had the opportunity to meet with, Mr. Speaker. She shared with me how pleased she was that Nova Scotia has made this bold step forward.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say I was absolutely surprised by the interest across the country, from coast to coast, by African-Nova Scotians and by Canadians and by African- Canadians, in the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. I was particularly surprised at the interest we received, as well, internationally. I had the opportunity to meet and to speak with the special rapporteur to the United Nations, Doudou Diène, who was here on a fact-finding mission to investigate issues, particularly with respect to Canada, and as well with Nova Scotia. I had a very frank and open discussion. Members would know very clearly that Mr. Diène tabled a report not that long ago with the United Nations and provided us with a copy of that report.

[Page 3120]

I would say that Nova Scotia takes seriously the work of Mr. Diène, and we are working progressively forward with the Africville Genealogical Society, hoping to encourage our partners, particularly the Halifax Regional Municipality and the federal government, in resolving what may be one of the longest standing disputes between communities and a government in Nova Scotia's history. I'm speaking specifically about the relocation of Africville residents. I would point out that at a meeting that was attended by the member for Halifax Needham, as well as the federal member for Halifax West - I believe that's the right riding - we met and talked with those individuals, and I agreed at that time to host a meeting that happened on Monday, and we're progressing forward. I think I'm out of time.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you are.

The motion is carried.

[2:19 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Ms. Joan Massey in the Chair.]

[6:01 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH: ATTENDANT CARE - INSTITUTE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, the resolution for tonight's late debate was submitted by the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. I'm honoured to have the opportunity to speak to this issue, because it's primarily around a service provided to disabled persons. For the record, I would like to read the resolution. The resolution says, "Therefore be it resolved that this government finally live up to its campaign promise and institute self-managed attendant care for Nova Scotians with disabilities."

Mr. Speaker, in this Legislative Assembly, it's extremely important that we as legislators develop programs and services for persons with disabilities that will allow them to have the kind of independence that we so greatly enjoy. Often, that doesn't happen. That doesn't happen in this Legislative Assembly. I want to tell you why it's so important to have self-managed attendant care. If you will recall, the other day during Question Period, when we talked about the $50 fee that was going to be charged to home care individuals, to

[Page 3121]

disabled persons who did not notify the department, that was providing the home care services that they were not going to be available within a 24-hour notification.

Mr. Speaker, that in itself is wrong. Many Nova Scotians have said that it is wrong. But with self-managed attendant care, those disabled individuals would not have to address or deal with that particular issue. The reason is that a disabled person who becomes a part of a Self-managed Attendant Care Program gets the opportunity to hire his or her care provider. That is significantly important to disabled persons, because this gives a disabled person an opportunity to make an application for the employee who is going to provide the services to them and the care management that they need.

Mr. Speaker, those individuals who are disabled come with a varying degree of disabilities. When they make that application for that care provider, that care provider builds a relationship with the individual disabled person. These care providers are not simply home care providers, these people come with certain expertise in their particular field to provide a service to those individuals who are disabled.

For example, an individual who has muscular dystrophy, an individual who has poliomyelitis, an individual who has varying degrees of disabilities, all which require special services provided to them, with the opportunity for them to hire their own attendant care, provides a level of service to them that they become comfortable with, they build up a relationship with their care provider, and they don't have to worry about being on call for a 24-hour notification. They don't have to worry about paying a penalty because they did not meet that time requirement. The time schedules are set out, the kind of services that are provided by that care provider to that individual then becomes a routine matter.

It's an innovative way of doing things, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, it allows the kind of relationship to be built up that gives the individual person with the disability the opportunity to enjoy a lifestyle most of us take for granted. It gives them the freedom of movement, the flexibility to set time schedules, the opportunity to know when and where they can go at particular times and what kind of care they will receive from the caregiver. The person who is seeking the self-managed attendant care is an employer themselves because they are the ones who search out the appropriate fit for them to provide that care giving service.

I can tell you that there have been many studies done with respect to the conduct of self-managed attendant care versus home care. I know the minister is very much aware of some of the aspects of those studies. Those studies point to the fact that those individuals who are in self-managed attendant care have more paid hours of care, fewer medical problems and as a matter of fact, there's fewer hospitalization times with respect to those individuals going to the hospital. They had a better perception of their health and a greater level of satisfaction with the care.

[Page 3122]

That needs to be pointed out quite clearly. There's a better level of satisfaction with the care. Self-managed attendant care greatly reduces the financial burden on their families and on their clients. It greatly reduces the financial burden on the government because if these individuals have control of the services that are provided to them, require less services from government, primarily around hospitalization, then that has to be a good thing. That has to be truly a good approach to a delivery of a program for disabled persons, let alone that this allows the mobility of individual persons to govern their time to give them access to the greater freedoms that they would enjoy.

Having said that, the cost is significantly reduced to the government. I know that this government has recognized through the pilot projects that are on - some 10 pilot projects - those 10, I do believe, are going to reach their period of majority at the end of their scale and I believe that might be in 2005 if it is not here today. I know the minister and his department are very much aware of the benefits and I know the comments that have been provided to the minister and his department with respect to those who enjoy the benefits of having the opportunity to have that Self-managed Attendant Care Program. This is a 10-year pilot project which is reaching its expiration date and I will say to you, Mr. Speaker, this government in its 1999 election campaign said that it would introduce more Self-managed Attendant Care Programs.

It was 1995 during that blue book campaign that this government had indicated that it recognized the importance of self-managed attendant care. It recognized the value - both to the care provider as well as to the disabled person who was seeking the care. Ten years, five years later there has not been one single increase in the policy which the government has said it would adopt and bring forward. There has not been one single individual release of a care giver to the Self-managed Attendant Care Program or not one opportunity for individuals with disabilities to take advantage of that.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to you and I would say to this government that it is time, Mr. Minister, and your government, to live up to its promise. We all know the value of self-managed attendant care and I can tell you that with respect to this level of care, it takes the stress off all those persons with disabilities who have the opportunity to be involved in such a program.

The value, once again, Mr. Speaker, as I stand before this Legislative Assembly having the opportunity to speak about this, is invaluable to those disabled persons in our province. Again, as I have said, we can measure the economic value of that by the reduced level of hospitalization that occurs as a result of disabled persons not having the opportunity to manage their own care and have that available to them. I do know that my time is up so I will take the opportunity to thank you.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have this opportunity to talk about home care initiatives as part of our continuing care program. Those of you who were here in the Chamber last week during the budget debate for Health will recall that in this fiscal year we're investing $24 million additional in the continuing care sector. That sector includes home care as well as long-term care. We recognize the need to provide dollars for health care needs that are delivered outside the acute care sector in a continuing care model.

Last week, Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of being at Northwood Centre in Halifax where we announced the creation of 28 long-term care beds. These beds were for seniors who need some supervision and possibly some help with personal care, but do not require professional nursing care such as nursing homes provide. We actually had very few beds of this type in the metro Halifax area and we hope the addition of these beds will not only increase the capacity in the long-term care sector, but also will enable more seniors to stay as independent as they can as long as they can. In our blueprint for building a better Nova Scotia, we indicated that through a review of our continuing care sector we would look at assistant living options. We want to examine new innovative alternatives for supporting independent living.

Mr. Speaker, our continuing care branch will be focusing on that review this fiscal year as part of our continuing care provincial consultations. We know that the way we care for Nova Scotians and the way they care for themselves will continue to change in the coming years. We need to know what kind of long-term care Nova Scotians want and we are committed to long-term planning and developing a vision for continuing care so that we are finding solutions for the future and not just for the pressing needs of today. We look forward to talking to the continuing care sector to hear what they recommend for program delivery.

As a government, we are responsible for the health care priorities of Nova Scotians. We know, for instance, that in recent years Nova Scotians have indicated that the cost of health care services and nursing homes should be covered by the provincial government. We had been doing that for 80 per cent of those seniors residing in nursing homes whose care costs were subsidized, but the belief was strong that all nursing home residents should be exempt from paying health care costs. In response, we moved up the rollout of subsidizing the total health care costs of nursing home residents by nearly four years. Furthermore, seniors entering a nursing home as of January 1, 2005, will have their ability to pay based on their incomes only and not their assets.

We also responded to the needs of a geographic community. Today Premier Hamm was at the opening of the new Women's and Children's Health Centre at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater. That centre brings together a full range of services for women and children, including in-patient obstetrical and paediatric care, obstetric and paediatric clinics, and educational programs. It allows the district to combine hospital-based

[Page 3124]

care with health and wellness initiatives for a more comprehensive and integrated service. It reflects the combined work of the community, including the district health authority, health professionals, hospital foundations and community organizations in Lunenburg and Queens Counties, who work together with the Department of Health to develop this community health care service.

[6:15 p.m.]

Home care is a growing community-based service. It is one of those services that speak to the structural change that has taken place in the health care sector in recent years. In the era before home care services, Nova Scotians would have to spend longer recovery times in hospital, where they may have required full-time residency in a facility simply because they could not get the care they needed at home. Home care was recognized in the First Ministers' Health Accord of February 2003, in which there was a commitment to improving access to a basket of services in the home and community that will improve the quality of life of many Canadians by allowing them to stay in their homes or recover at home.

Health ministers were directed to determine the minimum service to be provided. By 2006, available services could include nursing, professional services, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment supplies, support for essential care needs, and assessment of client needs and case management. Staff from provincial and territorial governments work together to determine what the basket of services should be. The proposed basket of services was presented to the federal government in December 2003, but five months later we don't have a decision from the federal government as to how to proceed with home care. Mr. Speaker, we agree that there needs to be change that takes place in the delivery of services, and home care services is an example.

Mr. Speaker, in my budget estimates I noted that our government recognizes that health care is a top priority for Nova Scotians. That is why this year, despite the many financial pressures the province faces, we have been able to increase our health care spending by $230 million over last year - and that, sir, is an increase of 11 per cent. That is allowing us to keep the same level of services; however, the challenge is to fund new services that would allow us to restructure the health care system. We simply do not have pockets deep enough to enable us to keep the services operating at the current level, while at the same time spend money to restructure the health care system.

That is why we need more sustainable long-term funding from the federal government. The Prime Minister has indicated that this summer he will meet with the Premiers to work out a health care accord to replace the short-term funding deals with a more stable, long-term funding agreement.

[Page 3125]

Mr. Speaker, we would welcome that development, as I know all members of the House would, and indeed all Nova Scotians. There is only so much Nova Scotia can do on its own. We have put as many resources into health care as possible. But we know there is more to do, there is more funding needed to enable us to broadly introduce innovative programs such as self-managed care. We know home care is one of the areas that the federal government highlighted in last year's health accord, and we hope that this summer the federal government will make a funding commitment that will enable more Nova Scotians to receive the care they need in their homes and communities.

We are prepared to act when funding becomes available from the federal government. We have many initiatives within the Department of Health, and we are prepared to embark upon those initiatives when the opportunities present themselves. But, as I indicated, the resources that the province has available to it now are resources that are required to continue to do what we are doing in terms of providing health care. We are prepared to expand our capacities and our programs, but we need the federal government to step up to the plate and do what it said it would do with respect to responding to the priorities that we have put forward. And I have referenced those priorities as having been put forward in December 2003.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is winding down and I don't know what amount of time is left, but I thank the Speaker for the opportunity to participate in this debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: I'm pleased to rise in my place once again to address the needs of the Self-managed Attendant Care Program for the province. I want to congratulate the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley for bringing this resolution forward. I'd like to read the resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that this government finally live up to its campaign promise and institute self-managed attendant care for Nova Scotians with disabilities."

During the last session of the Legislature I questioned the minister on three separate occasions on this very important policy initiative. Today, some six months later, I'm pleased to welcome the NDP to the debate, but I really would look forward to welcoming the government to this debate, Mr. Speaker.

As all of you would know that the Self-managed Attendant Care Program was a Liberal initiative. As a result of a partnership with the Department of Health and the Metro Resource Centre for Independent Living, some 10 participants - five men and five women, ranging in the age of 20 to 45 - have had their requirements assessed and have been allotted a sum of $2,000 a month to buy the services required. This model of home care puts the disabled in the driver's seat, giving them greater flexibility and independence.

[Page 3126]

The project coordinator provided a monitoring function as well as ongoing training for the participants. The individuals involved are coping with conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and any number of other disabilities, Mr. Speaker. The idea is to provide a tailored form of government-funded home care that will allow these participants to maximize their ability to function on their own and by doing so, improve the quality of their lives.

Mr. Speaker, that is the essence of this program. The self-managed program has a potential to deliver more flexibility at a cheaper cost than the traditional home care service. Most importantly, it would without question, increase the quality of life for the participants.

In 1999 this government promised to introduce a self-managed care program province-wide. Today some five years later, with the health care budget some $600 million more than when they assumed power, we see no sign of the program. Mr. Speaker, when you make a commitment to Nova Scotians, you should honour it.

Last Fall I brought forward a case of a constituent, Mr. Rick Laird. Mr. Laird, as you may recall, was cut off home care and had no other options available. Well Rick was fortunate to have a brother who could assist. His brother worked 3-11, and during that time Rick had no one who could help him get in or out of bed. Mr. Speaker, as a result of the absence of home care, Mr. Laird ended up back in the hospital. From October 11, 2003, until February 18, 2004, Rick occupied a hospital bed at Soldiers Memorial Hospital that could have been better utilized, reducing wait times in the acute care system.

Mr. Speaker, the greatest insult of all was a solution offered by the department. A nursing home bed, at some $4,000 or $5,000 a month. Here is a perfectly capable, intelligent individual, 46 years old, who could thrive if he could direct his own care. However, there was never any flexible assistance available for Rick through home care. If there were, Rick could have been more happy and certainly more than capable of performing a job and earning a living.

The home care program, which when it was available to Rick, was inflexible. A self-managed program would be ideal, yet, despite what the government promised, it's not available. A program that enhances the quality of life, while saving money in the system and reducing the burden on the acute care system, is a government's wish come true. Just not this government's.

Last year Department of Health officials indicated that the self-managed care program would cost $5 million to $6 million. Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, Rick spent from October 11, 2003, to February 18, 2004, 116 days at Soldiers Memorial Hospital. Conservatively estimated at $700 a day, it's $81,000 spent on Rick's health care in that period of time.

[Page 3127]

Mr. Speaker, that would have allowed Rick to stay in this program for three and a half to four years. Imagine the cost savings to the Province of Nova Scotia. This represents about 0.6 per cent of the acute care budget of Nova Scotia. It is not acceptable for the government to say that they are spending more money on acute health care, because they believe they are doing so, and this will somehow magically fix the system. They must demonstrate that they are investing in the right areas so that everyone in this province irrespective of where they live, or the type of health care they need, are able to obtain it.

Mr. Speaker, the government's own documents show that $1 invested in a program for people with disabilities saves the government $4 in the long run and yet they will refuse to implement this self-managed care program. It has been my opinion for some time that the self-managed care program is a direction this government should go. The Health Reform Fund from the federal government provides for this government the opportunity to implement such a program, yet we hear nothing.

The $155 cheque scheme would have paid for a self-managed care program for some 10 years, Mr. Speaker, yet we hear nothing. It's all about priorities and the question is, when will the minister honour his government's commitment and make self-managed care his priority? When will he give people with disabilities the dignity to be able to provide their own care? I would like to share my time with the member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park, you have about three minutes.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to get up and be able to say a few words on this very important subject of self-managed attendant care. As a new MLA, I have already had constituents come to me with some very upsetting problems, problems that cannot be easily addressed in the current system the way we have it managed. What I noticed is a real tension or problem between Community Services and Health - who's responsible, which program works the best. I'm left to wonder, really I would have to wonder out loud, how it is that this program could have begun in 1995. If only 10 people had access to it, there's been loads of time to see what the outcomes are, to prove that it has been effective for those people who had access to it, and yet here we are nearly 10 years later and no further ahead.

The family that I spoke to most recently came to me and said that at one time they were managing all right, you know, as they were with the mother providing care in the home and she said at that time she had been told that the option would be available for her daughter to live independently, with government money to help for the support she needed, at such time as it became necessary. What has happened in the ensuing few years is that the mother is now unable to care for her daughter on a continuing basis and there is no support and she was extremely depressed to find that because she didn't take that step earlier, it's no longer available and she hasn't got any help.

[Page 3128]

Again, very similar to my colleague, the member for Annapolis, the option given to this young woman who's only in her 30s was that she could go to a nursing home and I can tell you that that option is extremely depressing. It is in no way attractive to her. It is basically, her mother said you're suggesting we warehouse my daughter for the rest of her life and that is what the option is, that or a group home, and the kind of group home they had suggested, I may not have the right term, but it's one that has quite a large number of residents, perhaps 15 or 16 people living in one of these larger group homes. She doesn't want to go there either because the woman in question does not have a lot of mental illness. She has some disability, but she's not mentally disabled and the whole idea of being put into a place like that would be really soul destroying for her and it's not appropriate.

What we need to do is look for a lot more flexibility in the way we approach this and I know that our government has many, many professionals who deal with specific cases and know and have studied what is the best knowledge and the best processes out there and it really pains me to see that we're not instituting the changes that are necessary here. So often when we have these debates here in the House, the issue is money. The issue is we can't afford the best kind of program that other provinces have, but in this case, you know, this isn't a question of money. In this case it's redirecting money. Is my time up?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. I would like to thank all members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The House will now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

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

[6:54 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.

[Page 3129]

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 Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak on the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, which, of course, as everyone in this Chamber certainly is aware, and I'm sure that many others are aware, is essentially about the implementation of the budget. It is the mechanism that the government uses in order to put in place its budgetary plan for the upcoming year, at least that's what the Financial Measures Act is supposed to be about. As was pointed out by my colleague, unfortunately, the Financial Measures Act often becomes a kind of amalgam of many different pieces of legislation that amend many different Acts of this Legislature, and some of them, arguably, are in order to facilitate the plans that are laid out in the budget.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I think the problem that we have is that many times those are not used in that fashion. In fact, the government tends to lump just about everything under the sun into the Financial Measures Act, especially those pieces of legislation that, in and of themselves, would probably engender a fair amount of debate and controversy, because if they are lumped into the Financial Measures Act, what that means is that once they successfully get the Financial Measures Act through, they don't have to worry about bringing forward all those other pieces of irritating legislation in which the members of the Opposition get an opportunity to speak and there's an opportunity before the Law Amendments Committee for the public to come forward.

The government, many times, just finds that all very annoying, because, after all, what they want to do is just get the - as I've heard it said often, the government has to do its business. It's got to get the business through the House. They see those of us who sit on this side of the House as being somewhat of an obstacle, in the way of the government's agenda of just trying to push this stuff forward.

I know that this will come as a great shock to you, Mr. Speaker, and certainly a great shock to the government, I make no apology for that whatsoever. In fact, our job here on this side of the House and as the honourable Government House Leader has heard us say and as many others have said, that is why we're here. We're here because we are the instrument by which the people of Nova Scotia hold the government of the day accountable for the things that they do. That is why we are here.

[Page 3130]

Whenever I see a Financial Measures Act often referred to as an omnibus bill - I think the member for Cape Breton South referred to it as the ominous bill and I don't know how many times that joke has been told in this Legislature, but I'm sure it goes back before time; I'm sure that governments for time immemorial have been trying to shove everything under the sun into the Financial Measures Act. I'm going to touch on it a little as I go through things tonight.

I think that we should be treating this House as something that is a bit of an opportunity for the members who are here and for the people of Nova Scotia. I think that by and large the election of a minority government to this House has been a very positive outcome - not only for the government members but for the Opposition members and for the people of this province. I think the way in which we're going to move forward (Interruptions) I hear the members over there saying, it should continue. Well, we'll see. That's the very matter that we're debating tonight. That is essentially it - that is what we are debating. We are debating the continued viability of the government. That is another reason why we're here.

I believe that we now have a much more responsible government than we have had in years past. I believe that each Party in the Legislature today has to take a greater share of responsibility for the things that are happening here. The Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party - the Official Opposition - the government, everybody here now does not have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and not taking responsibility for the things that happen in this House. We all have a role to play. I don't think we can simply sit on the sidelines and criticize; there has to be an opportunity and there is an opportunity here for us to participate in what I think is a very meaningful way.

[7:00 p.m.]

I will also give some encouragement to the honourable member for Eastern Shore, he should know that minority governments do not always end in quick exits back to the polls. I would point out that the Government of Saskatchewan existed I think four, going on five years as a minority government and they operated with the support of the Third Party. I think, in the end, the members of the Third Party actually joined the government and that didn't turn out as well for them as they might have liked. (Laughter) But nonetheless, it in fact meant quite a long period of good responsible government in the Province of Saskatchewan.

Now, for us on this side of the floor, in the Official Opposition caucus, the New Democratic Party of Nova Scotia, we really only have one goal and that goal remains the same, whether there is a majority on the other side or whether the House is in a minority situation, and that is to try to make the lives of the people of Nova Scotia better. That is truly our function here. Even when the government brings forward, in a majority situation, what we would consider to be bad legislation, our job is to try, even if we vote against it in the end,

[Page 3131]

to make it the best possible bill in the circumstances that come forward. So, that's why we're here, that's why we exist.

I want to assure you, Mr. Speaker, as I'm sure many others have said that that is why I got into this job in the first place, that my profound belief was that politicians, people who participate in public life can have a profound and beneficial effect on the lives of their neighbours, of their communities and of their province and I think and still believe that this is a noble profession to take part in. I think all those who cynically try to lump everybody in politics into one pot are making just a dramatic mistake, because all of us come to this with different ideological perspectives, different points of view. We come from different backgrounds and any time you knock on a door and you hear somebody say, you guys are all the same, I would encourage everyone who engages in this process to spend a little extra time with those people, because it simply is not true.

We're not all the same. We come with different strengths and weaknesses and we come with different points of view, from different backgrounds. We should be telling people that the fundamental truth is that anybody who tells you that politicians are all the same are really attacking your right to make a decision, your right to make a choice. That's what they're trying to take away from you. They're trying to tell you that nothing you do can make any difference. It attacks the very foundation, I believe, of democracy, because it's not true, it's fundamentally not true.

There is an onus on the public at large, and I believe there is an onus on political Parties to educate the public as to what those difference are, but an onus on the public at large to educate themselves as to who the candidates are and what they stand for. So, this is maybe a small tangent from the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, Mr. Speaker, but I think a valuable one because it's about what this House represents.

I think in a minority government, with legislation like this, there has to be good communication between the people of Nova Scotia and all the political Parties. As I have gone around the province over the last number of months, I have told every audience that I have spoken to that they should communicate with all of the caucuses - not just ours, with all of them - because the key decision maker with respect to any bill, with respect to any piece of legislation could be in any one of the three caucuses. That's the value of having a minority government, that's the value of empowering the voice of the people of the province. It's about better communication, it's about the wider sharing of information.

I think it could lead to a more open government, and that would really be something in this province. As you know, this government has won awards for being among the most secretive governments in Canada, so anything that we can do to open up the process (Interruptions) Well it's true. It is literally true. It was the Cone of Silence Award, and I think it was given by the National Journalists' Association - they pointed out that with the implementation of higher and higher freedom of information fees that they were making an

[Page 3132]

effort essentially to stifle investigation and accountability for government measures. So anything that we can do to cause that to recede would be a good thing, Mr. Speaker.

As you know, we're in second reading, and I essentially believe at the end of second reading probably this will receive unanimous support to move on to the Committee on Law Amendments. In many cases I often hear people say, well, we're going to vote in favour of this because we want to get it to the Committee on Law Amendments, we want people to have an opportunity to comment on it, and it is at the Committee on Law Amendments after all where the public gets their chance to have a say about the various provisions in that bill.

It seems to me that this particular budget is somewhat different than the others. Certainly it seem to have drawn on the suggestions, it has drawn on the platforms, it has drawn on the positions of all three of the political Parties that operate in this House, Mr. Speaker. I think it has gone some way to try and advance the ideas that came forward from each of them, and I think it's because, essentially, in the last election the people of Nova Scotia sent a message to the government that could not be ignored. That's what happened on election day - they said, we're going to put you in the position of having the most seats, but we are not going to make you a majority and, henceforth, until such time as there's another election you are going to have to listen to those people across the aisle who exercise our right of veto on your government - and that's what we're doing.

As a result, Mr. Speaker, I want you to think about some of the differences that have occurred as a result of the election of that minority government, because I remember and perhaps many other people do - I remember the opening shots fired in the debate around long-term care. It wasn't that long ago. It was right here in this Chamber when we first starting bringing forward long-term care cases. I remember the then Minister of Health standing on his feet and saying, somewhat exasperated, why do you think the taxpayers of Nova Scotia should pay for these people? I remember saying, at that time, who do you think these people are? They are the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we were told (Interruption) the former Minister of Health says he doesn't remember that. Well I remember it, and I remember all of those things that happened over the course of that debate, as the government went from being indignant to manufacturing a Web site that tried to tell people that if we had to take over long-term care costs that they would have to do away with the ambulance service, they would have to do away with this program and that program. Oh, it was terrible. It was, dare I say it? (Interruption) Oh, I see I am being joined in this debate.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. While I do respect the honourable member's memory, I also respect mine, and I would suggest that there is some difference in detail about what he is reciting and what perhaps was said, at least what I remember.

[Page 3133]

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order, it was certainly a disagreement of the facts.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, don't you remember the Minister of Health standing on his feet and talking about the health care spectre? Don't you remember the infamous health care spectre? The spectre that was stalling this government, and did for two and a half years? That's what happened. I'd be happy to send him over the - we still have them, we still have copies of the Web site that laid out the hard choices the government was going to have to make if they had to live up to the promise of Medicare which was to provide health care for those in need. The government treated the idea that we should be moving forward on long-term care with a great deal of, I think to be generous I would say skepticism, but on many occasions I daresay that it bordered on distain.

So now we have a budget that comes forward and the budget comes forward and, lo and behold, long-term care costs on January 1st of next year are going to be covered for all the seniors in this province. So it wasn't naive, it wasn't an improper suggestion, it wasn't something that couldn't be done. It was perfectly possible. The government just needed the will to do it. It just needed to have its spine stiffened and it's amazing the way that a minority government will do that. It's amazing the way that a minority government will focus the attention of the government. Then there was HST on the essentials. Do you remember that? I remember it very well. We raised this and we were told this was impossible, it couldn't be done. No, the other provinces would never agree, that they couldn't consider it.

What do we find out, Mr. Speaker? It turns out that the Minister of Finance, as he put it, is deep in negotiations with the other provinces to see if the HST can be taken off certain essentials of life. I guess it wasn't a foolish idea. I guess it was possible. Now, I will admit that apparently the other provinces didn't realize that they were deep in negotiations because they issued press releases and they didn't know what the Minister of Finance was talking about but, nonetheless, I appreciate the fact that the Finance Minister, at least in his head, was focused on this very important piece of public policy and I would say the reason why the Minister of Finance believes he's deep in negotiations is because the minority government has focused his mind on those things that are truly important to the people of Nova Scotia.

Then we have gas regulation, Mr. Speaker. You remember the debate around gas regulation where people said, no, well, not us, but others in this Chamber said that gas regulation was a terrible idea, it shouldn't happen, that a free market should be allowed to determine what the price of gas should be and, you know, price spikes were an unfortunate side effect of the free market system and everything would be okay if we just allowed the free market to operate. Now there are members of the government caucus speaking up. I think this weekend at an evangelical rally the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley said that he thought gas regulation was a very good idea. (Interruptions)

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: He confessed. (Interruption)

[Page 3134]

MR. DEXTER: That's right. The member for the Eastern Shore said he confessed and apparently that is so. The member for Kings North said he caught the spirit. I don't care which it is, Mr. Speaker, I just know that the minority government has focused the minds of all the members opposite on doing what is right and what is best for the people of Nova Scotia and that is really what is important in all of this.

Mr. Speaker, there's just a couple other little comparisons I would like to draw for you, if I might, on this because I think that the members of the public and the members opposite would remember that before there was a minority government, when Bill No. 68 was introduced into this House, Bill No. 68 was called the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act. Now I know you remember that. I know that you remember the 24-hour-a-day sessions that we had in this House, a number of people who protested outside these very walls, the number of health care workers who sat here 24 hours a day in the gallery to watch over the proceedings. I'm sure you remember what was described as a courageous stand by the member for Shelburne when he said no. There were cheers outside the House when the member for Shelburne said no to Bill No. 68 because that Bill No. 68 did away with the right of members to bargain collectively. It imposed a contract. It prevented union members from even talking to each other about their union or about their employer. It was an awful piece of legislation, the most Draconian piece of legislation that came into this House in recent memory. That was the Bill No. 68 that you got under a majority government,

a majority Progressive Conservative Government. The Bill No. 68 that was introduced this session was called, the International Interests in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act. The Government House Leader says it's a good bill - I have no doubt. I must admit, I do have some doubts, but I'm sure that they will be allayed when he explains the bill in greater detail.

[7:15 p.m.]

But, it certainly isn't the Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act, that's for sure. I don't expect to see those who are concerned with the International Interests in Mobile Aircraft Equipment Act jamming the gallery every day for the next three weeks in protest over this bill. I don't think there are going to be protests outside the House. I don't expect to see picket signs and that is the difference between a minority government and a majority government.

I want to make another comparison Mr. Speaker. I have before me a piece of the Budget Speech delivered April 11, 2000 by the honourable Neil J. LeBlanc, Minister of Finance. I understand he's Dr. LeBlanc now. Under the heading, Impact on Public Service - Fair Treatment for Employees, this is how it read, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure you remember it. "Mr. Speaker, there will be layoffs. For those directly affected by a layoff, we intend to follow the processes outlined in the current collective agreements and establish fair severance arrangements. This budget results in a reduction of approximately 600 full-time equivalent positions in the direct Civil Service of the province. In addition, 400 teacher reductions are expected to occur through normal attrition. Restructuring in the health facilities and boards

[Page 3135]

will result in 600 fewer full-time equivalents, primarily from administration and support. Taken in total, the expected reduction in full-time equivalents for the broader public sector is 1,600 . . . Mr. Speaker, this is a very large number. We hope to manage approximately one-third of the expected reduction through normal attrition and retirement. The impact on individuals is undeniable and painful."

That was the Budget Address in 2000. That's the way that many people in the Public Service of this province learned about what was going to happen to them and the impact it was going to have on their families, their communities and on their co-workers, because the work that they did didn't disappear, it got loaded on to the backs of other people.

What a difference when the Minister of Finance stood up this year and said, Mr. Speaker, let me wrap up by saying this - if it wasn't for good management and the fact that Nova Scotia's economy continues to move in the right direction, Nova Scotia might well be looking at a different budget and a much different future. Well, they looked at a much different budget just a few years before. One where taxes were going up for everyone as opposed to down for the vast majority. One where there were deep cuts in priority areas as opposed to significant new investments. One where wage freezes, roll backs or massive layoffs were expected as opposed to steadfastly rejected.

This government-talking about steadfastly rejecting the notion of wage roll backs and freezes - something that they had, of course, only a short time ago engaged in lustily - with gusto, they brought forward huge cuts to the Civil Service in this province. The truth be known, there's not a heck of a lot more left to cut. I don't think the Minister of Finance really had anywhere to go with this. But, the sound, the tone of the budget that was delivered this year as opposed to the budget that was delivered in the year 2000 was vastly, vastly different and the impact much, much greater.

Mr. Speaker, I said that I would take the opportunity to speak this evening only for a half an hour so there is one - not to diminish what I have already said - but there is one very, very important issue that I would like to bring to the attention of this House that bears directly on the Financial Measures (2004) Bill and that is this: the Financial Measures (2004) Bill contains a very significant benefit for the owners of many major corporations operating in Nova Scotia. Right now, when a business is partly or completely being wound down and that business has a defined benefit pension plan, the employees whose age and service total 55 have the right to unreduced early retirement benefits. This is called the grow-in provision since they grow into early retirement as a result of the shutdown.

This is a significant benefit for people whose job disappears, disappears through no fault of their own. Typically, defined benefit plans are offered by major employers. I am told that on average this benefit is triggered in this province about once a year, by a shutdown in the province. It is very likely that the grow-in benefit, for example, was there for the Ultramar Refinery workers whose jobs were eliminated by new corporate owners, who thought it was

[Page 3136]

better to have fewer but larger refineries. Pension benefit experts say that for a mid-size refinery, this benefit will represent between $5 million and $8 million for the employees, that's money saved by the employer.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there was a case, you may remember, I think it was with Hawker Siddeley, where they were successfully sued by the employees who had been denied this benefit. The company was forced to pay loyal Nova Scotia workers whose jobs were wiped out. That money was paid out to those Nova Scotians, rather than being added to the profit of those who shut down the operations in this province.

Mr. Speaker, in every case, if the employees don't get the benefit, that money goes into the pockets of the owners who have fully or partially shut down a workplace in this province, have thrown Nova Scotia workers out of work, have, in a very unfortunate set of circumstances, caused distress to the community and to those working people. This is a benefit for people with a significant number of years of service with one employer, for those who are nearing age 55 and therefore are at a particular disadvantage in their search for a new job.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has not explained why it is that he wants to remove this benefit. He has not consulted with the labour movement, that has been charged with the duty of representation of organized workers and to advocate on behalf of all workers in this province. There has been no outcry from the corporate community, and even if there were, why should Nova Scotia workers lose this benefit for the sake of enriching an owner, usually an absentee owner who is shutting down Nova Scotia jobs.

Also, this amendment comes forth at the very same time, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian Association of Pension Superintendents has asked all provinces to discuss the adoption of grow-in benefits as part of the new model Pension Benefits Act.

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

MR. DEXTER: Sure, Mr. Speaker, my pleasure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on an introduction.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for your indulgence. I hope that all members of the House will recognize the members of the 1st Jollymore Pathfinders, 12 members who have come from Halifax Atlantic, my constituency, with their leaders, Cathy Kelly and Nancy Durnford. Would you all please stand for recognition. (Applause) Including my daughter.

[Page 3137]

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: I would extend, certainly, our welcome here, as well. We're discussing the pension benefits section of the Financial Measures (2004) Bill that might not be of stimulating interest to you quite yet, but at some point in time it potentially becomes very important. I was pointing out, Mr. Speaker, that the amendment that is part of the Financial Measures (2004) Bill, in fact, takes away a benefit for Nova Scotia workers at the exact moment when the Canadian Association of Pension Superintendents have asked all provinces to discuss the adoption of grow-in benefits as part of a new model Pension Benefits Act.

Mr. Speaker, experts in the field of pension benefits are surprised that Nova Scotia would repeal a significant pension benefit at the very same time that new model legislation has been submitted for review by each province. Our Finance Critic has made the point that this is not, in fact, a financial measure for the province. In fact, much to our surprise, the Finance Minister did not even mention this very significant change in pension benefits when he began second reading debate. This change was not mentioned in the news release about the Financial Measures (2004) Bill. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done to notify those who would be affected by the change, something that the Finance Minister should know needs to be done.

To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, there has been no information transmitted to the public, or to employees, about the possible effects that this section in the Financial Measures (2004) Bill will potentially have on them and on their pension benefits.

I urge the government to strongly consider dropping Clause 30 and Clause 31 altogether. They do not belong in the bill. Nova Scotia workers deserve advance notice and sufficient opportunity to be consulted before any such change is introduced. As part of any pension benefits bill that arises under the current consideration of a new model Act, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very important piece of the Financial Measures (2004) Bill which I believe, up until this time, has not been debated or discussed in this House.

Mr. Speaker, I see that the allotted time that I had suggested I would take earlier, has now exhausted itself. I'm looking forward to having this move on through to the Committee on Law Amendments. I'm sure there will be much input on this particular aspect of the legislation and I'm looking forward to that and to the further debates. Thank you very much. (Applause)

[Page 3138]

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 62, the Financial Measures (2004) Act. This bill is to support the government's budget that was introduced earlier in this Spring session, a couple of weeks ago. This bill is like an appendix to the budget. This piece of legislation ensures that different measures introduced in this budget act as the authorization that the government needs in order to implement them. Also, this bill enables the government to implement some unrelated financial measures.

Going through this bill quickly, you see that government is planning to amend the Education Act? So why is the Education Act included in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill, is a good question. I'll speak on these proposed amendments later.

Mr. Speaker, this budget has generated a lot of discussion, and a lot of speculation, while being put together. Putting this budget together has been a very difficult exercise for this Tory Government. As you are aware, governing under a minority government puts additional pressure on the government and on the Premier. The government recognizes that they need some support from the Opposition benches, in order to get their budget through this House. The minority Tory Government knows that if this budget doesn't pass, the government is defeated. Mr. Speaker, I remember in 1999 when our budget was defeated by the Opposition, and that minority government, the House was dissolved and an election was called.

Mr. Speaker, some may call this budget a desperate budget, for a desperate government, for a desperate Premier. Many people recognize, putting this budget together was a tough exercise. Why? Because of political decisions that were made by this Tory Government.

[7:30 p.m.]

Everyone remembers the $155 cheques that were handed out before the last general election, at a cost of $74 million to the taxpayers of this province, $74 million to send out these $155 cheques. It was nothing more than an attempt to buy votes. Everyone recognizes this money, this $74 million could have been put to better use. I'm sure everyone can think of areas where this $74 million could have been spent and I'm sure the list is long. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government campaigned on giving a 10 per cent tax cut last summer. This tax cut was projected to cost about $147 million.

Mr. Speaker, our Party, the Liberal Party does believe in tax cuts but only when they are affordable. I believe the Premier did the right thing, on Tuesday, April 20th, when he announced he was cancelling the 10 per cent tax cut for some Nova Scotians. I am sure you have heard the Premier and other government members blaming Ottawa for not giving us enough federal funding for health care and also heard the Premier talking about the

[Page 3139]

interruption. He called it the interruption to deliver on his promise to give Nova Scotians a 10 per cent tax cut until Ottawa gives us more funding.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it's hard to justify asking Ottawa for more money and going ahead with this tax cut. I personally don't believe when the federal government gives Nova Scotia some federal funding, that this funding is to be used by this government to play their own political games. Looking back I'm sure again that if the government had not gone ahead with plans to spend $221 million on their own political agenda, the government probably would have had an easier time trying to put the Spring budget together. I'm sure the government looked at many options before they decided to table the Spring budget. Many of those options were shared with the media, and with Nova Scotians.

We all remember the Minister of Finance, early last month, talking about looking at tabling a balanced budget and back in early April, still being about $100 million out from achieving a balanced budget. Mr. Speaker, this was just a few weeks ago from tabling a provincial budget. The truth behind this budget is simply trying to survive the critical vote on the budget. Everyone recognizes the budget vote will take place sometime next week, and the outcome of that vote will decide the future of this government. Looking back at 1998 and 1999, those budget votes were very critical in order to determine the future of the then Liberal minority government.

Mr. Speaker, in looking at this bill, one section talks about the creation of a debt retirement fund or some type of management fund. Our debt this year will continue to grow by another $120 million. Our provincial debt will grow to $12.459 billion this year. That's almost $12.5 billion. According to the government's projection, our provincial debt will only stop growing in another three more years and that's if everything goes according to plan. That's a big if. So with this $6 million the government is looking at putting in their debt retirement fund, for many Nova Scotians it just seems to be on the surface nothing more than a PR exercise. Maybe someday when Nova Scotians see for themselves that our provincial debt is not increasing and the government of the day is living within its means, maybe then Nova Scotians will believe that we have a balanced budget. I'm sure many Nova Scotians will welcome that day and I'm sure the government of the day will as well, but many people are asking themselves, how can this be a so-called balanced budget with a forecast of a $2.1 million surplus if our provincial debt this year will grow by another $120 million.

The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that the government will have to attain surpluses big enough to offset the borrowing for tangible capital assets and that's for hospitals, for roads, for schools. Looking at the budget, the government is projecting in 2007-08 that the debt retirement fund will contain $106 million, that if you believe, again - and that's a big if - the fund will result in a real surplus of $19.2 million. So there are lots of ifs attached to this budget.

[Page 3140]

Mr. Speaker, the government is projecting that it needs another $100 million in the fund in order for it to hit the $106 million mark. So, again, you know, is that realistic? I hope I'm wrong, but it's highly doubtful that the debt retirement fund will ever hit that amount in 2007-08. Again, I hope I'm wrong, but is government being honest when they say that this is possible - remembering this is the same government that said we could afford a tax cut when we really could not. As I have said, the government will need at least $86 million to stop the debt from growing. Whether that comes from the debt retirement fund or from a surplus, we will have to wait and see. Another part of this bill is making it increasingly difficult for the government to attain a surplus. Right now the government is forecasting a $2.1 million surplus in a $6 billion budget. So in a 12-month period many things can happen that could throw this plan off its target, you know, we just have to look back at last year.

Mr. Speaker, the only way government will be able to achieve a surplus is to grow the economy. There's nothing in this bill that will help to grow the economy. In fact, there are portions of this bill that will slow the economy. This bill includes a change to the corporations tax. The Tory Government is going ahead, it's going ahead and increasing the corporation capital tax and the large corporations tax. Some may say it's an easy hit and probably politically popular, but this tax is a job killer. This tax will not help government achieve a surplus in the long run, but I'm sure this tax will have a negative impact on investments in Nova Scotia, a negative impact on jobs, on job growth in Nova Scotia.

Again, Mr. Speaker, looking at the small surplus of $2.1 million that the government is forecasting on paper, it makes you wonder if this is truly a balanced budget. Last week, Statistics Canada indicated that the growth in our economy last year was at 0.9 per cent; unfortunately, in last year's budget, our growth was based on a 2.1 per cent growth. I just want to make reference to an article that appeared in The Chronicle-Herald last Thursday, on April 29th, "Nova Scotia lagged behind other provinces in economic growth in 2003, 'says Statistic Canada.' The agency said the province's real gross domestic product grew only 0.9 per cent, the slowest pace since 1996, and lowest among the provinces as oil and gas extraction declined." I will table that later.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the government is forecasting a growth in this year's economy, and, looking at the provincial forecast assumption in this year's budget, all indicators are up. I hope that the government is right in their assumptions. Unfortunately, Nova Scotians will have to wait to look at our quarterly reports to see how well the economy is doing and to see if this government is on track with its projections. The first quarterly report, I think it will certainly be too early for us to have a good sense, but I'm sure the second quarterly report will give Nova Scotians a good indication of whether or not we're on track, or by how much we're off track.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will now allow this government to go ahead and increase user fees through regulations. What does that mean, through regulations? That means that Cabinet will now be able to go ahead and increase user fees when they wish, without having to come

[Page 3141]

to the House for authorization. All Nova Scotians recall the April Fool's reality this year, when they were told by this government that over 500 user fees were going up in order to raise another $12 million. Again, you have to wonder if this Tory Government knows what they're doing. One day the government decides to give out $155 cheques, a 10 per cent tax cut that we can afford, according to them, and then, on another day, this same Tory Government decides to take money back from us.

You really have to ask yourself if this Tory Government knows what they're doing. No wonder some Nova Scotians are starting to lose confidence in this Tory Government, increasing taxes on one hand and giving money out with the other. Again, recently we've learned that the Supreme Court of Canada has told provinces that these user fees have to match the cost of the service provided or else they should be called taxes. Now we hear some user fees that were increased were increased more than the cost of the services provided, so our government will have to change some of these user fees to taxes. Are we surprised? No, this is the same Tory Party that told Nova Scotians they wanted to be open and accountable, and, yes, transparent, too, I may add. So, the only question that Nova Scotians have is, when is this Tory Government planning to start to be open and accountable?

[7:45 p.m.]

Another section in this bill deals with amending the Education Act. Mr. Speaker, why these amendments are included in this Financial Measures (2004) Bill and not brought forward in a separate bill, I don't know. The government is proposing to dissolve the Southwest Regional School Board and establish the South Shore Regional School Board and the Tri-County Regional School Board. Both previous district school boards, the Tri-County District School Board and the South Shore District School Board have been requesting this for some time, so I'm pleased to see the government has finally decided to move forward in addressing their request.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of initiatives in this budget that need to be acknowledged. As an MLA, I, and I'm sure others in this House, welcome the fact that the government will be increasing the personal allowance for people on social assistance. The government has indicated they're looking at putting in an extra $1 million this year, starting in October. Why not now? I'm sure these individuals could use the extra money now. Again, the government is looking at adding an extra $2 million next year, 2005-06. I'm sure everyone in this House has heard from constituents in their ridings who are on social assistance wondering how some of these individuals are able to live and make ends meet with the little that they receive. I know I couldn't, and I'm sure many of us couldn't. So, again, I welcome the fact that the government is looking at increasing these personal allowances for people on social assistance.

[Page 3142]

Mr. Speaker, I was also pleased to see that government is coming forward with extra funding for seniors in this budget. Effective January 1, 2005, seniors living in nursing homes will no longer have to pay for health care services. Many people have been asking me what these medical or health care services are? I just want to make a reference to an article that appeared in the Yarmouth Vanguard last week on April 27th. Health care services provided in nursing homes include the cost of nurses, licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and others who are employed by the home. These costs make up $91 of the $162 average daily rate at nursing homes. So, looking at the fact that the government is looking at making changes to health care costs faced by seniors in nursing homes, this is certainly welcome news, and this government should be congratulated on bringing this initiative forward earlier than they had anticipated.

Mr. Speaker, I'm also pleased to see that the government is looking at increasing comfort allowances for seniors in nursing homes to at least $150 a month. We know currently the comfort allowances are $105 a month, with many restrictions attached to them, and I hope that the government will look at these restrictions as well.

Mr. Speaker, I remember my mom telling me on different occasions of the need to help her sister financially who was living in a nursing home. I remember once her telling me that my aunt wanted a small TV for her room. It was hard for her sister to save the money to buy a TV. Living on a monthly allowance of $105 and trying to save for a TV was practically impossible for her to do. So I hope that the government will review the restrictions around these comfort allowances.

Another clause in this bill will add a fourth tax bracket. This new tax bracket will start at $93,000. For most people in Nova Scotia, $93,000 is a lot of money. There's no question, but when you look, especially at the neighbouring Province of New Brunswick where they've set their final tax bracket at over $107,000, I understand when you're looking at the difference between both provinces, our highest tax bracket is about $14,000 less than New Brunswick. That, to me, could be a disadvantage in attracting certain professionals to our province. Or, yet, encourage some individuals to leave our province. Again, you have to wonder how much more money the government will take in with this change.

Another part of this bill with regard to pension is necessary, yet, could have been avoided. Increases in the amount of 1 per cent will be made to the Teachers' Pension Fund and to the Public Sector Fund. The Public Sector Fund was over 100 per cent funded three years ago and the Teachers' Pension Fund was approximately 90 per cent funded. So the question is, what has happened here? How do you go from 100 per cent funded to a little over 76 per cent three years later, as I understand? Yes, the markets were down, but why were risks being taken at over 100 per cent funded? I believe that the true nature of pension loss requires further disclosure on the part of the government. I'm sure we'll have other opportunities to discuss this bill, clause by clause, at a later date.

[Page 3143]

Mr. Speaker, in closing, you have to wonder what the budget would have looked like if we had a majority Tory Government in Nova Scotia. You really have to wonder what this budget would have looked like if instead of a minority government we had had a majority government. Just looking at the neighbouring provinces, what has been tabled in other provinces. Again, I guess we'll probably never know what that budget would have looked like. But I believe Nova Scotians will view this budget as a desperate measure put forward by this minority Tory Government. Thank you for the time to speak on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

Due to the late hour, I would ask the honourable member to move adjournment of the debate please.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the Committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 49 - Mi'kmaq Education Act.

Bill No. 50 - Credit Union Act.

Bill No. 51 - Provincial Acadian Day Act.

[Page 3144]

and the Committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the House on Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I refer the matter to the good services of the House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Bill No. 63 and Bill No. 65.

Mr. Speaker, I move that we do now adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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

[The House rose at 2:56 p.m.]

[Page 3145]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1378

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 the lifeblood of rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the River Hebert Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance, being called out to respond to many types of emergencies; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters and their families would be a community living on the edge, not knowing who they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Chief George Rector, the executive, all firefighters, the ladies' auxiliary and the families of the firefighters from the River Hebert Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required, and wish them an enjoyable evening as they gather for their annual banquet and awards night in River Hebert on May 8, 2004, and a safe year.

RESOLUTION NO. 1379

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 the lifeblood of rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the Southampton Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing who they could call at a time of peril or distress;

[Page 3146]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Southampton Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

RESOLUTION NO. 1380

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 the lifeblood of rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the Fox River-Port Greville-Wards Brook Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing who they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Fox River-Port Greville-Wards Brook Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

RESOLUTION NO. 1381

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 Collingwood and District Fire Department answers a number of alarms annually; and

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

[Page 3147]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1382

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 Oxford 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 members of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Oxford Fire Department for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 1383

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 Springhill Fire Department has answered their share of challenging calls on an annual basis; 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 members of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Springhill Fire Department for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

[Page 3148]

RESOLUTION NO. 1384

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 Nancy Lobban, Certified General Accountant in Musquodoboit Harbour, is one such individual who 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 Nancy Lobban, Certified General Accountant in Musquodoboit Harbour, for all the contributions she makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1385

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 Cameron Seafoods 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 Cameron Seafoods in Head of Jeddore for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3149]

RESOLUTION NO. 1386

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Down East Starter and Alternator Services in East 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 Down East Starter and Alternator Services in East Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1387

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 General Contracting in Lake Charlotte is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing General Contracting in Lake Charlotte for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 3150]

RESOLUTION NO. 1388

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 Chezzetcook Towing and Recovery in East 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 Chezzetcook Towing and Recovery in East Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.