Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04-63

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
UCCB - Renaming: Cape Breton - Include,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 5456
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2792, Brooks, Mary: Fulbright Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 5457
Vote - Affirmative 5457
Res. 2793, Nat'l. Gypsum (Milford Sta./Carrolls Corner):
Anniv. (50th) - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 5457
Vote - Affirmative 5458
Res. 2794, Health: Organ/Tissue Donation - Consider,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 5458
Vote - Affirmative 5459
Res. 2795, Econ. (N.S.) - BMO: Optimism - Acknowledge, Hon. E. Fage 5459
Vote - Affirmative 5460
Res. 2796, Tackling Bullying Prog.: HRM/SMU Huskies - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 5460
Vote - Affirmative 5461
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 137, Day Care Act, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5462
No. 138, Trade Union Act, Mr. W. Langille 5462
No. 139, Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. Gerald Sampson 5463
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2797, Educ. - Sch. Fees/Fundraising: Effects - Understand,
Mr. D. Dexter 5464
Res. 2798, Run for the Cure - Belliveau Motors: Sponsorship - Thank,
Mr. W. Gaudet 5465
Vote - Affirmative 5465
Res. 2799, Foote, Mark: Nike Fastest Kid in Can. Comp. - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 5465
Vote - Affirmative 5466
Res. 2800, Harmes, Tom/Beacon Bd. of Directors - Wall of Recognition:
Creation - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 5466
Vote - Affirmative 5467
Res. 2801, McBean, Cory: Environmental Awareness - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Glavine 5467
Vote - Affirmative 5468
Res. 2802, Jennex, John: Courage/Strength - Applaud, Mr. W. Dooks 5468
Vote - Affirmative 5468
Res. 2803, Beyond Ash - Band Members: N.Y. Music Fest -
Success Wish, Mr. C. Parker 5468
Vote - Affirmative 5469
Res. 2804, Gov't. (N.S.) - Problems: Responsibility - Assume,
Mr. S. McNeil 5469
Res. 2805, Crawley, Helen - Boys & Girls Club (20 yrs.):
Involvement - Thank, Mr. J. Pye 5470
Vote - Affirmative 5471
Res. 2806, Educ. - Sch. Supplies: Teacher Purchases -
Tax Deduction Introduce, Ms. D. Whalen 5471
Res. 2807, Morash, Sandy - Chester Yacht Club: Work - Commend,
Mr. J. Chataway 5472
Vote - Affirmative 5473
Res. 2808, HRM - Property Taxes: Increase - NDP Explain,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5473
Res. 2809, Nickerson, Clifton & Catherine: Anniv. (74th) - Congrats.,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 5474
Vote - Affirmative 5474
Res. 2810, Kenney, Edna: Can. Post Literacy Award - Congrats.,
(by Hon. C. d'Entremont), Mr. M. Parent 5475
Vote - Affirmative 5475
Res. 2811, Bridgewater Kinsmen/Cadet Corps.: Com. Serv. -
Congrats., Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 5475
Vote - Affirmative 5476
Res. 2812, Mawhinney, Laurence - Lunenburg Mayor: Anniv. (25th) -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 5477
Vote - Affirmative 5477
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 646, Educ.: Sch. Fees/Fundraising - Impact, Mr. D. Dexter 5478
No. 647, Agric. & Fish.: Illegal Fishery - Prosecute, Mr. H. Theriault 5479
No. 648, Hum. Res. - Whistle-Blower Protection: Leg. - Introduce,
Mr. D. Dexter 5480
No. 649, Agric. & Fish. - Illegal Fishery: Prov. Regs. - Enforce,
Mr. Michel Samson 5482
No. 650, Prem. - Whistle-Blower Policy: DHAs - Exclusion,
Mr. D. Dexter 5483
No. 651, Justice - Employees: Grievances - Hearing Procedure,
Mr. Michel Samson 5484
No. 652, Environ. & Lbr. - TrentonWorks: Employees - Pension Fund,
Mr. C. Parker 5485
No. 653, TPW: Fed.-Prov. Hwy. Agreement - Time Frame,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5487
No. 654, Justice - Correctional Workers: Collective Bargaining Process -
Details, Mr. K. Deveaux 5488
No. 655, Justice: Wilson Arbitration Hearing - Details, Mr. F. Corbett 5490
No. 656, Health - Sound Start: Funding - Support, Mr. W. Gaudet 5491
No. 657, Educ. - Student Suspensions: Dept. Investigations - Details,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5492
No. 658, TCH - RTIAs: Funding - Inadequacy, Mr. S. McNeil 5493
No. 659, Environ. & Lbr. - N.S. Spring Water Co.:
Water Withdrawal Application - Assessment, Mr. H. Epstein 5494
No. 660, Educ. - Boularderie Sch.: Teacher's Aide Changes -
Student Impact, Mr. Gerald Sampson 5495
No. 661, Justice - Mental Health Court: Start - Time Frame,
Mr. K. Deveaux 5497
No. 662, Educ. - Debt Reduction Prog.: Disbursement - Details,
Mr. L. Glavine 5498
No. 663, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Dartmouth Waterfront: Protection -
Details, Ms. M. More 5499
No. 664, TPW - SPAR: Access - Time Frame, Mr. G. Gosse 5500
No. 665, Health Prom. - Smoking Cessation Support:
South West Nova - Funding, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 5501
No. 666, Nat. Res. - Caribou Pk.: Changes - Consultation Lack,
Mr. C. Parker 5502
No. 667, Econ. Dev. - N.S. Film Dev. Corp.: Funding -
Reduction Explain, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5504
No. 668, TPW - Bicentennial Hwy.: Prov. Property - Maintain,
Mr. G. Steele 5505
No. 669, Nat. Res.: Porters Lake Prov. Park - Repair, Mr. K. Colwell 5506
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 124, Health Services and Insurance Act 5508
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5508
Hon. A. MacIsaac 5511
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 5514
Mr. J. MacDonell 5518
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 2542, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Residential Tenancies Act -
Amend, Ms. M. Raymond 5521
Ms. M. Raymond 5521
Hon. B. Barnet 5524
Mr. Gerald Sampson 5527
Mr. J. Pye 5529
ADJOURNMENT:
^MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Tremaine Cres. - Residents: Opposition Leader - Apologize:
Hon. D. Morse 5532
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5535
Mr. D. Dexter 5538
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 14th at 12:00 noon 5540
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2813, Day & Ross: Expansion - Congrats., Mr. G. Hines 5541
Res. 2814, Divine, Prof. David - Dal. Univ.: Johnston Chair - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 5541
Res. 2815, Smith, Algeron: Simmonds Scholarship - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 5542
Res. 2816, Downey, Larissa: Simmonds Scholarship - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 5542
Res. 2817, Mills, Melissa: Springhill Library Reading Club - Congrats.,
The Speaker 5543
Res. 2818, Mont, Mayor Bill: UNSM Scroll - Congrats., The Speaker 5543
Res. 2819, Moore, Seamus: Springhill Library Reading Club - Congrats.,
The Speaker 5544
Res. 2820, Morris, David (Pidge) - Barber Shop: Anniv. (40th) -
Congrats., The Speaker 5544
Res. 2821, Nicholson, Adam: Simmonds Scholarship - Congrats.,
The Speaker 5545
Res. 2822, O'Brien, Kyle: Simmonds Scholarship - Congrats.,
The Speaker 5545
Res. 2823, Oxford Reg. HS: Phys. Ed. Award - Congrats., The Speaker 5546

[Page 5455]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition immediately issue an apology to the residents of 70 and 72 Tremaine Crescent in Windsor for his outrageous and incorrect comments made in this House of Assembly last Wednesday afternoon.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

5455

[Page 5456]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition of which the operative clause reads, "We, who have signed the attached, petition the Members of the Legislature, with regard to the University College of Cape Breton, to include the full name of Cape Breton in the new name of the University. We make this petition in the absence of public participation in the selection of the name currently before the Provincial Assembly. The University grew out of this community. It will thrive by continuing to be identified with the people of this Island." The petition bears the names of over 3,000 people and I have affixed my name to it as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in advance of reading this resolution, through you, I would like to request permission to do an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: It is agreed.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to Dr. Mary Brooks, who is a Professor of Marketing and Transportation at Dalhousie University School of Business, who is visiting with us today with her husband, Mitch; son, Nathan; and Ruth Durrant. In addition to being a Canada-U.S. Fulbright Scholar at George Mason University in Virginia, Dr. Brooks has held visiting fellow appointments in Singapore and Australia. She is currently the Chairman of the Committee on International Trade and Transportation of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Locally, she is Past Director of the Halifax International Airport Authority and Past Vice-President of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. I would ask Dr. Brooks and her companions to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 5457]

RESOLUTION NO. 2792

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

Whereas Mary Brooks, a Dalhousie University professor, recently received the prestigious Canada-U.S. Fulbright Award; and

Whereas the Fulbright Program is one of the world's premier academic exchange programs and attracts exceptional scholars from more than 150 countries; and

Whereas Ms. Brooks is an expert on transportation policy and this winter will be a visiting researcher at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, Operations and Logistics in Washington, D.C.;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ms. Brooks on her award and wish her well in her academic pursuits at George Mason University.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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. 2793

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

Whereas National Gypsum Canada Limited of Milford Station, Nova Scotia, is one of the province's important foundation industries and has been a key contributor to our economy for half a century by providing well-paying and stable jobs, as well as the spinoff benefits to the goods and services sector; and

[Page 5458]

Whereas Nova Scotia produces 7 per cent of the world's gypsum, and National Gypsum is a significant contributor to the global community; and

Whereas the Milford quarry is the largest gypsum quarry in the world, which is reflected in the success of the company here in Nova Scotia, and is a mark of distinction and pride for the province's mining industry and its people;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate National Gypsum for their first 50 years of success in Nova Scotia, and recognize the importance of this industry, and our mineral resources generally, to Nova Scotia's future growth.

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. 2794

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

Whereas a Forum on Organ and Tissue Donation was held last week, in Capital Health, bringing to light once again the fact that, for many patients, organ and tissue transplantation offer hope for a healthy, productive life; and

Whereas although more Nova Scotians are signing donor cards, the need for donation continues to grow; and

Whereas donated organs and tissues can help save or enhance the quality of life of many, and everyone can consider themselves to be a potential organ or tissue donor, regardless of age;

[Page 5459]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House, and all Nova Scotians, take the time to talk with their families and consider giving the gift of life through organ and tissue donation.

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. 2795

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 Bank of Montreal is forecasting Nova Scotia's economy to be the third strongest in Canada in 2005; and

Whereas the Bank of Montreal is planning to open at least 80 new in-store branches over the next few years - including a number of them here in Nova Scotia - along with the possibility of the expansion of one current branch and the construction of a brand-new larger Bank of Montreal in Halifax; and

Whereas banks remain one of this country's leading employers, with more than 235,000 working in the industry, providing a net payroll of $16.1 billion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the significant optimism being shown by the Bank of Montreal toward the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5460]

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in advance of reading this resolution, with your permission, I would like to do an introduction.

In the east gallery today, I would like to introduce Rick Tully, Consultant, Safe Schools with the Halifax Regional School Board; Blake Nill, Head Coach of the St. Mary's Huskies Football team; Steve Sumarah, Offensive Coordinator of the Huskies; and Joe Taplin of the RCMP. Mr. Tully, Mr. Sumarah and Mr. Nill work together to coordinate the tackling-bullying program, a partnership between the Halifax Regional School Board and the Saint Mary's Huskies football team. Through their leadership and participation, this program has been successful in reaching thousands of Halifax youth. Mr. Taplin is involved with the anti-bullying initiatives of the RCMP. Mr. Tully, Mr. Sumarah, Mr. Nill and Mr. Taplin, would you please rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 2796

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 Halifax Regional School Board has partnered with Saint Mary's University football team, the Huskies, to deliver an anti-bullying program called Tackling Bullying; and

Whereas the Huskies have worked with the school board's Safe Schools program for three years to promote pro-social behaviour and a commitment to non-violence; and

Whereas the Huskies have visited more than 15,000 students throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and this year are donating 200 tickets to each home game to deserving students;

[Page 5461]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the Halifax Regional School Board and the Saint Mary's Huskies for their partnership to help make our school communities a safe learning environment for students.

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 on an introduction.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I believe after me, the member for Richmond also has introductions as well for the same group. In our east gallery today, we have correctional officers from NSGEU, Local 480. You probably saw them and heard them outside, they have many concerns about the collective bargaining and how it's going and also some issues about arbitration and health and safety, which I hope we'll have a chance to talk about some more later. But I wanted to particularly introduce in the east gallery five members of the Correctional Officers' Union - Rod MacDonald, John Elliot, Margo MacLean, Al Paris and Jason MacLean. If they could stand up and be recognized by the House, that would be appreciated. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the Justice Critic for the Liberal caucus, it gives me pleasure also to introduce some of the correctional officers from Local 480 of the NSGEU who are here, as the House Leader for the NDP has indicated, to express their concerns with how the collective bargaining process is going and some of the outstanding issues that the government appears to be dragging its feet on. It gives me pleasure today to introduce - I would ask them to rise afterwards to be recognized, - Mitch Simpson, Peter Lloyd, Steve MacDonald, Bob Backman and Don Wilson. I'd ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We welcome our guests to the gallery today.

[Page 5462]

INTRODUCTION TO BILLS

Bill No. 137 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 120 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Day Care Act. (Mr. Manning MacDonald.)

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

The honourable member for Colchester North.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, it's with pride that I stand here today in the Legislature and it's with pride that I make the following introductions, if I may, prior to introducing this very important bill. As you know, in the Speaker's Gallery we have a large contingent of police officers from all over Nova Scotia. These police officers are here today with one thing in mind and that is to have binding arbitration to give up their right to strike. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to introduce some of the people and maybe some members would like to introduce some also. Before I do, I would just like to say you, as a former police officer yourself, that you can appreciate these people travelling from all parts of Nova Scotia to be here today. I would like to introduce the Executive Officer of the Police Association of Nova Scotia, Mr. Joe Ross. Would you stand please? (Applause)

I know the President of the Police Association of Nova Scotia will be introduced at a later date. JoAnn MacNeil, is she here? JoAnn was in the lobby earlier today and she is with the Municipality Association of Professional Police, that's the Halifax Regional Police, expressing her support of the bill that I will be introducing. At this time I would like to say, again, that I appreciate all the police officers coming.

I would like to have the Cape Breton Regional Police Force stand up, please, in the gallery. It's hard to see with all the members. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, these 12 ladies and gentlemen drove all the way down from Cape Breton yesterday just to be here today to hear the presentation of introducing this bill. We have police departments from all over Nova Scotia. We have police departments from CBRM. We have police departments here representing Trenton, representing New Glasgow, representing Westville, representing Truro, representing Springhill, representing Bridgewater and, of course, we have police officers representing HRM. I thank them all for coming. I know there are some local introductions, with that, I will take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Introduce the bill first.

MR. LANGILLE: Before I do, I shall introduce this very important bill.

Bill No. 138 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 475 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Trade Union Act. (Mr. William Langille)

[Page 5463]

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it has been noted already with regard to the Cape Breton Regional Police, but I thought a little more point specific because of the relationship that all the Cape Breton members from both caucuses have with regard to the Cape Breton Regional Police, I give special note to the president, Jerome Kelly, who has travelled with his colleagues, and Mr. Barry Gordon who is a Communications Officer and a senior member with the Cape Breton Regional Police, and all members of the Cape Breton Regional Police Force, we offer a special welcome and ask for the full approbation of the House, through you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly, not to be outdone, there are two gentlemen who I would like to introduce in the gallery, two good friends of mine and two colleagues who I worked with for a number of years, Deputy Chief Dean Ruddick and Constable Doug Williams from the Springhill Police Department. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House as well. (Applause)

I certainly welcome all our guests in the gallery today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Take him out of here.

MR. SPEAKER: I think they had enough of me that they sent me here. (Laughter) Anyway, I certainly welcome our special guests in the gallery today and thank you for coming for the introduction of this well sought after and waited for bill.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I do have another introduction and it's in a different vein today, but I have two women who I would like to introduce who are in the west gallery, Heather Hansen-Dunbar is a resident of Clayton Park and Bronwein Richardson, also a Halifax resident and they're here as representatives of the Private Licensed Administrators Association of Nova Scotia Child Care Centres. I wonder if they would rise and please receive the warm welcome of the House as well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again we welcome our guests in the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes on an introduction of a bill.

Bill No. 139 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Mr. Gerald Sampson)

[Page 5464]

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would draw the attention of members to the west gallery where we have a visitor from Truro, Sergeant Wayne Mont of the Truro Police Force. I would ask Sergeant Mont to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2797

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

Whereas on October 12th, the Education Minister told this House that he assumed there was accountability by schools and school boards for the money paid and raised by parents, staff and students; and

Whereas today, October 13th, the deputy minister confirmed that at least $50 million in extra fees and fundraising is being collected without so much as a public accounting of the funds; and

Whereas when fees and fundraising represents such a major element of public school education, Nova Scotians expect to know what the money is used for;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should immediately start working with the home and school and other school representatives to ensure full accountability for school fees and fundraising and to understand their effect on educational and developmental opportunities for Nova Scotia school students.

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.

[Page 5465]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2798

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

Whereas on September 25, 2004, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation held its 5th annual CIBC Run for the Cure in Church Point and West Pubnico; and

Whereas Belliveau Motors co-sponsored the annual Run for the Cure again this year; and

Whereas this year's run far exceeded the organizers' expectations by raising $11,056.83 for breast cancer research, education programs, as well as diagnosis and treatment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend our gratitude and best wishes to Belliveau Motors for their active role, as well as the countless volunteers and participants who make the national campaign against breast cancer possible each year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2799

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

Whereas Mark Foote, a student at Northeast Kings Education Centre in Canning has been declared the fastest kid; and

[Page 5466]

Whereas Mark Foote won the Nike Fastest Kid in Canada competition held at Pier 21 in Halifax; and

Whereas Mark Foote competed against teams from across Canada at the National Nike Run Down competition in Toronto on September 5th;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mark Foote on his great performance and success, and wish him success in all his future competitions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2800

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

Whereas the Board of Directors of the Eastern Passage community newspaper, The Beacon, have for some time sought to establish a Wall of Recognition honouring those who have enriched the lives of others in the community; and

Whereas the dedication of the first honouree, the late Harry Sarson, will be recognized October 14, 2004, at the Tallahassee Community Centre in Eastern Passage, for his tireless effort on behalf of the community; and

Whereas the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of The Beacon, Tom Harmes, has been instrumental in establishing the Wall of Recognition;

[Page 5467]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Tom Harmes and the Board of Directors of The Beacon for creating a Wall of Recognition for those that have worked so hard to better the community of Eastern Passage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2801

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

Whereas Cory McBean, of Kingston, earned a Cub Scout badge and helped out a national beach cleanup, the Vancouver Aquarium's Annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup; and

Whereas Cory organized a group of volunteers, including his parents, Jeff and Janet McBean to clean up Margaretville Beach; and

Whereas every item collected had to be counted, Cory and his team wanted to convey the important message, "Trash damages sea life and shoreline ecosystems";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and acknowledge Cory McBean on his environmental awareness and act of citizenship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5468]

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. 2802

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

Whereas an Eastern Shore gentleman and personal friend, John Jennex, who resides with his family in the community of Jeddore Oyster Pond, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer; and

Whereas John Jennex, a well-known business person who supports and contributes to his family and his community, has demonstrated resilience and fortitude; and

Whereas John Jennex recently celebrated his appreciation of life by hosting a backyard family party attended by more than 200 relatives and friends, including his wife, Judy, their children, Doug and Laura Lee, and several grandchildren;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud John Jennex for the courage and strength he has exhibited, and continues to exhibit, on his journey through life.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2803

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

[Page 5469]

Whereas the Pictou-based band, Beyond Ash, is spreading its wings and heading out of the Shiretown next month to perform in the Big Apple; and

Whereas the group has been chosen to perform in a 10-day independent music festival in New York City, in front of 35 of the top industry insiders in the U.S.; and

Whereas the band will also be taking along a copy of their new CD, Wish, which is due to hit the stores very shortly;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate band members, Jared Poirier, Joel Boyce, Jody Turner, and Ashley George, of Beyond Ash, and wish them much success at the music festival in New York City.

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. 2804

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

Whereas this Tory Government instead of providing leadership and solutions, continues to blame everyone but themselves for the problems it faces; and

Whereas yesterday in this House, I asked the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage what he was going to do to help suffering regional tourism industry associations and he played the same old blame game, citing Ottawa as the root of the tourist industry's problems; and

Whereas Nova Scotians are sick and tired of this government blaming nurses, teachers, doctors, students, health authorities, school boards, unions - and the list goes on - for the inaction of this Tory Government;

[Page 5470]

Therefore be it resolved that this government finally, after five years and two elections, take the responsibility for the affairs of this province.

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 Human Resources on an introduction.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce two distinguished guests in your gallery from the Bridgewater Police Department, and I ask Constable Wade Keddy and Sergeant John Collyer to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, we certainly welcome our guests to the gallery.

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

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

Whereas Day and Ross Transport began their operations in June 1950 with one truck on the road hauling potatoes from New Brunswick to Quebec; and

Whereas Day and Ross Transport Group now has 800 power units, 1,300 tractor-trailers . . .

Mr. Speaker, I'm having a problem with my words, I can't do that, sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2805

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

[Page 5471]

Whereas the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club has played an integral part in the lives of many Dartmouth children and youth by offering programs and services that meet their needs; and

Whereas Helen Crawley, past volunteer and member of the parents' committee, served the club for more than 20 years, starting as camp cook at Camp Mush-A-Mush in the mid-1970s; and

Whereas the National Boys and Girls Club recognized the valuable contribution made by Helen Crawley to the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club by presenting her with the Bronze and Silver Keystone Award for parental involvement;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature thank Helen Crawley for her more than 20 years of involvement with the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 2806

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has stated that teachers spend an average of $500 per year of their own money to buy supplies for the classroom; and

Whereas the money is spent to provide basic supplies and teaching tools to support their dedication to education; and

Whereas the Provinces of P.E.I. and New Brunswick have recognized this professional costs by providing a tax deduction for teachers;

[Page 5472]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House request the government to introduce a similar tax deduction to recognize the exemplary work and financial contributions made by our teachers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2807

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

Whereas Chester Yacht Club employee, Sandy Morash, left on a trip of a lifetime Saturday morning and won't return until early in January; and

Whereas Sandy is working aboard the Polar Star Yacht as a bartender for the Karlsen Company; and

Whereas Ms. Morash is taking no small adventure as she is travelling to Central and South America, through the Panama Canal, while passing near Peru, Chile, Argentina and Cape Horn before reaching the Antarctica and the Polar Circle;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend Ms. Sandy Morash for her hard work at the Chester Yacht Club and for being given the opportunity to take this once-in-a-lifetime cruise.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5473]

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. 2808

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

Whereas the NDP are in favour of increasing property taxes in HRM by opposing Bill No. 129, the Pension Benefits Act; and

Whereas without approval of Bill No. 129, property taxes will increase by $60 million over the next four years; and

Whereas regarding Bill No. 129, the socialist dogma of the NDP is generally acknowledged as the brainchild of the member for Halifax Fairview;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the NDP caucus explain to the more than 130,000 property taxpayers in the Halifax Regional Municipality as to why they are anxious to increase property taxes for these residents without just cause.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

The honourable Premier on an introduction.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I wish to introduce to the House five members of the police forces in Pictou County we have visiting in the gallery today, Corporal Joe Dipersio from the New Glasgow Police Service, Sergeant Kevin Scott from the New Glasgow Police Service, Sergeant Danny Walsh of the Trenton Police Service, Constable Kelly Oickle of the Westville Police Service and Eric McNeil who is in the New

[Page 5474]

Glasgow Police Service, who is the current President of PANS. I would ask our visitors to please rise, and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to the guests in the gallery today.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2809

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

Whereas being in love is vital to a happy marriage and it is a feeling that can be sustained indefinitely; and

Whereas such is obviously the case for Clifton and Catherine Nickerson, of Barrington Passage, who celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary on Monday; and

Whereas Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson were married October 11, 1930 at the beginning of the great dust bowl recession and have lived happily in matrimonial bliss ever since;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature extend our sincerest and warmest wishes to Clifton and Catherine Nickerson on the celebration of their 74th Wedding Anniversary and wish them many more happy years together.

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.

[Page 5475]

RESOLUTION NO. 2810

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

Whereas Edna Kenney of Kentville has been awarded Canada Post's Literacy Award for Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Edna Kenney was tutored through the Laubach Program by Eric Wells and Graham Adams and she now sits on the program's board of directors; and

Whereas Edna Kenney now speaks to groups about the importance of the Kings County Learning Association:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Edna Kenney on her Canada Post Literacy Award and wish her continued success in her studies and members and volunteers of the Kings County Learning Association for the important work they do.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2811

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

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Kinsmen Club have sponsored the Kinsmen Army Cadet Corp for a lengthy period of time; and

[Page 5476]

Whereas the Kinsmen Army Cadet Corp has experienced summer camps, summer employment, leadership skill development and community living skills under Commanding Officer Bryan Riddle; and

Whereas the Kinsmen Army Cadet Corp has gone beyond the call of duty in providing support to the Relay For Life Cancer Fundraising event;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with me in sending sincere congratulations to the Bridgewater and Area Kinsmen Club, Commanding Officer Bryan Riddle and especially the members of the Cadet Corp for their service to their 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 Pictou East on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to bring to your attention and to the attention of this Chamber how lucky we are to have with us in our gallery today, members of the Energy Council. They are visiting Nova Scotia, and then going on to Newfoundland and Labrador tomorrow. They are Texas representative George "Buddy" West. Buddy is the Chairman of the Energy Council, and along with Buddy is his lovely wife, Mrs. Shirley West.

We have New Mexico Senator, Carroll H. Leavell, who is the Chairman of the Centre for Legislative Energy and Environmental Research. Along with Carroll, is his wife Mrs. Bobbi Leavell, who had a career in the energy field herself, and to their right is last but not least, Lori Cameron, and Lori is Executive Director of the Energy Council. To the far left of course, with them is Bernie MacDonald from Nova Scotia's Department of Energy. I will ask them to all rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings and their stay in Nova Scotia.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 5477]

RESOLUTION NO. 2812

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

Whereas the Laurence Mawhinney has been Mayor of the Town of Lunenburg for 25 years; and

Whereas Mayor Mawhinney has been active in leadership roles with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and

Whereas he has been more than a mayor of his community, he has been its voice in good times and not so good times;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Lawrence Mawhinney on the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of his election as Mayor of the Town of Lunenburg.

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 on an introduction.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery so I can introduce the brains and good looks behind the operation, my wife Andrea is here and I'd ask the House to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome this very special guest to the gallery today and our sympathies are with her.

The honourable member for Pictou West on an introduction.

[Page 5478]

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased today to introduce to you in our west gallery a number of Pictou County workers from all over Pictou County who are here today with concerns around pension issues. They all work at TrentonWorks, past, present and former workers at TrentonWorks and we're pleased to have them here this afternoon. I'm going to ask them to rise and ask the House to give them a warm welcome here this afternoon. (Applause)

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

Question Period will begin at 2:47 p.m. and end at 4:17 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

EDUC.: SCH. FEES/FUNDRAISING - IMPACT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, as you will recall, I raised the issue of school fees with the Minister of Education. He would not commit to investigating the issue. In fact, instead of addressing the problem or actually investigating the impact of school fees, the minister seemed to deny there was a serious funding gap that is being filled by parents. Today, the deputy minister estimated that school fees and fundraising activities may bring in at least $50 million to schools across the province. My question to the minister is, now that you've had more time to consider the request, will your department look at the impact of school fees and fundraising demands across the province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. Just let me clarify something because he also said it in the resolution. He implied that the deputy minister said there were $50 million worth of fees collected - that was a figure given by the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. He did not say that was the amount.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge there is a significant amount raised by parents. I will tell the honourable member that because school boards are going under GAAP, the next fiscal year, all school fees will have to be accounted for.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that's good news. I think the people of Nova Scotia have the right to know exactly how much is being raised by school fees. But, there's another important issue here and that is the impact that fees have on students and parents. This is an issue that affects thousands of children. Yesterday we tabled two reports on the impact of school fees. The reports identified the impact on students and they detailed the Newfoundland

[Page 5479]

Action Plan to deal with the issue. In Nova Scotia, we don't know the impact of school fees because no one's had a look at it. Quite frankly, the minister has been taking an I don't know and I don't care, kind of attitude toward this. We've seen it all before. My question to the minister is, will you take action to determine what role the funding gap plays in this issue?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member refers to a funding gap. I think that probably is just a fair bit of rhetoric. What I want to tell the people, I've also had a chance to look at that Newfoundland report and one of the things they were concerned about in Newfoundland is that under the legislation they had there, they could charge up to 40 per cent of the cost of textbooks and that, of course, isn't the case in Nova Scotia any longer. When I was in high school, you had to pay for 100 per cent, but things have changed. I do want to say that students in Nova Scotia do not have to pay for curricular materials.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is just simply in denial. Home and school associations are raising money to try to keep libraries open. We know that Nova Scotia comes dead last when it comes to education funding. We now know, because the deputy minister said that $50 million was a conservative estimate, that at least $50 million is coming from family pockets to cover the funding gap. What we don't know is how it impacts on students and parents, and, frankly, we owe it to them to find a better way. My question to the minister is this, when can we expect a report on this back to the Legislature from your department?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable member, it's one thing to talk about school fees and another is school fundraising, and, quite conveniently, he neglects to separate between the two. When I was a parent of a high school student involved in the band program, we used to send our school band away to a trip every year. In those years, which was a couple of years ago, the fee in those days was about $20,000. We did that for quite some number of years, and they still do it. But that is an optional fee. I will also tell you that there was no child denied because there was provision made.

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

AGRIC. & FISH.: ILLEGAL FISHERY - PROSECUTE

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the illegal fishing crisis in Southwest Nova. In the year 2000, this government introduced new fish buyers' licencing and enforcement regulations that gives the department more authority to monitor a wider variety of activities, and charge offenders. While the federal Fisheries Department is responsible for the activity on the water, the responsibility of the province begins when the fish is brought onshore and sold. The former minister said he would hire more inspectors and crack down on illegal buying activities. My question is, why is the minister failing to prosecute the illegal buying and selling of lobsters and other fish products?

[Page 5480]

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I want to give credit where credit is due on behalf of DFO. In the last few months, since June 1st, they have - (Interruptions) I can give credit where credit is due - taken down six illegal lobster fishing operations, which I think has been a tremendous amount of work on their behalf. I want to say that we have hired four new inspectors for the department in enforcement, and we currently have two more posted for the Southwest region.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, this is a crisis, and the minister is failing to act. It's estimated that unreported cash sales from fish products total $200 million over the last three years. That translates into about $20 million to $25 million in lost revenue for this province. The minister and his department have an obligation to stop illegal fish buying and exporting. The minister can revoke fish-buying licences, and he can enforce provincial regulations. If there are no buyers of illegal lobsters, there will be no illegal fishery. Will the minister enforce the fish buyers' licencing and enforcement regulations in order to stop this illegal fishery?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as early as sometime this morning, officials from my department were discussing with DFO the possible outcomes and how to pursue this. As I suggested and talked about in my answers to the questions yesterday, I wanted to tell you that the process has been designed, as I announced on June 1st, that will further strengthen our enforcement program, and that any licence holder found in violation can expect my office to take action immediately.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, we have to question whether the minister knows what's going on in that department. Last Spring, the minister said everything was great, and that he had a strategy to deal with the illegal fishery. The strategy is not working. You have seven provincial inspectors and I assume they are there to enforce these regulations. Will the minister tell this House that he is prepared to make enforcement of fish buyers' regulations a top priority, instead of hiding behind the federal government?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I already have.

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

HUM. RES. - WHISTLE-BLOWER PROTECTION:

LEG. - INTRODUCE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. In the gallery today are 11 NSGEU Civil Service locals from across the province. They're here to show the government their dismay at the so-called whistle-blower regulations brought in a few weeks ago. They believe that these regulations do the opposite of what they should. Instead of giving public servants the ability and protection to bring forward allegations of wrongdoing, they place a gag order on civil servants. They are faced with the threat of being fired if they fail to follow the new process.

[Page 5481]

Mr. Speaker, in other jurisdictions, there are legislated protections for those who wish to report wrongdoings. My question for the Premier is, why has your government refused to bring in legislation that amounts to real protection for whistle-blowers, instead of these punishing regulations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, what the regulations do on wrongdoing is set forth a set of regulations that give a clear process for employees to report any wrongdoing that they may encounter.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the civil servants in the gallery today know that what the minister just said, is that the government doesn't care what others think. They just did what they wanted to do. In fact, the government did ask the NSGEU for comments on draft regulations and then they refused to listen to the feedback that they got. They just went ahead and pushed through the flawed regulations. They ignored the NSGEU's concerns after a poll of public servants found that over one-quarter had witnessed wrongdoing or unsafe conditions. So, my question for the Premier is, why did your government pretend to consult with the most affected stakeholder, when you didn't intend to listen to what they had to say?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite goes through the regulations, there is clear identification of processes to be used by employees who wish to make reports. The advice that the regulation provides is very clear and it protects the employee.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House are aware that last year the Hamm Government was viewed as the most secretive government in Canada, by the Canadian Association of Journalists. They were given the award for a year-long pattern of secrecy. This kind of secrecy is virtually assured of continuing under these new regulations. We know that public servants and their representatives are prepared to work with the government hand in hand to stem corruption, abuse and wrongdoing, but this government isn't willing to do that. So, my question to the Premier is, why does your government refuse to work with instead of against civil servants in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that the government has demonstrated a willingness to work with civil servants. Recently, for example, we have come through some successful labour negotiations that were handled, I think, in a very appropriate manner and we look forward, over the next number of months, to completing the outstanding issues that we have with public sector employees. I believe that the working relationship that we are establishing with public sector workers is, at the current time, healthy and improving.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 5482]

AGRIC. & FISH. - ILLEGAL FISHERY: PROV. REGS. - ENFORCE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it appears it's time that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries be reminded of what his own Party has had to say about illegal fishing in the past. What we have is a minister who fails to grasp that he has a leadership role to play in the crackdown of illegal fishing. On November 18, 1998, the former member for Argyle, Neil LeBlanc, then the Tory Fisheries Critic, told this House, "No matter what happens, the province has the responsibility of showing leadership . . ." He went on further to say, "So, the point of the matter is, you either lead by example and put the penalties in place so the fishery people of this province will know that you are serious, and that you will follow through with them. You can come here in this House and make these general comments all the time. What this Party wants is specifics." My question to the minister is, why won't he take the advice of his so-called political mentor, the former member for Argyle, and take a leadership role and enforce provincial regulations to stop illegal lobster fishing in this province?

[3:00 p.m.]

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. We are investigating this issue. We will take this very seriously, unlike the member opposite. This is a serious problem in the southwest and we will do everything that we can to stop this illegal activity.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, when you start seeing that there's violence that is being done in areas by law-abiding citizens out of frustration who see that their livelihood is being threatened, and then the minister suggests that someone is not taking this seriously, and the fact that his department has not cracked down on this is why we are calling upon the minister today to take action to put an end to this before lives are put at stake and the fishery is put into jeopardy. His predecessor also said on May 21, 1999, "You are the spokesman for Nova Scotia, and if DFO is not doing it, then you have the responsibility, you have to take the leadership to basically make sure that that happens."

The buying of illegal lobster is clearly within the jurisdiction of the provincial Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. So my question is, when is the minister going to demonstrate leadership and prosecute now the illegal buying of lobster in Nova Scotia?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: As the member opposite can completely understand, this is a very complicated issue. There are a number of agencies involved in it. When there is clear evidence that there is wrongdoing happening, we will prosecute to the full extent of the regulation.

[Page 5483]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's go with the last quote. On November 19, 1998, his predecessor, the member for Argyle, told the then provincial Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, "I have bought lobsters before and I stand here today and I say, if I was to buy illegal lobsters and you were not putting the hammer down on me in whatever way you can, with whatever sanctions you can, then you are not doing your job." He went on to say, "Are you auditing their books? Are you going through every purchase slip that they have?" My question to the minister today is, when can we expect the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to do his job, as suggested by his own predecessor, by bringing the hammer down on the illegal fish trade, instead of its current do-nothing approach?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that the MLA for Argyle, the current one, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is doing his job and is going to crack down.

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

PREM. - WHISTLE-BLOWER POLICY: DHAs - EXCLUSION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is again for the Premier. Jane Van'Thof worked as a secretary at the South Shore District Health Authority for 17 years. Ms. Van'Thof was fired in January 2003 after she complained about intimidating behaviour and harassment. In May of this year, the Labour Standards Tribunal found the South Shore DHA guilty of wrongful dismissal. The new whistle-blower's policy doesn't apply to bodies such as district health authorities even though they are a provincial government agency. So my question to the Premier is, how can employees of these organizations feel safe reporting wrongdoing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have no personal knowledge of the singular matter that the member brings forward but if there is an issue of an injustice, if you were to make the government aware of the issue, we will make sure that every worker receives the full benefit of the law.

MR. DEXTER: MR. Speaker, the problem is that there is no law that applies to these workers. That is exactly the point we're trying to make. There's was no protection in 2003 for Ms. Van'Thof and there isn't any adequate protection today. The reality is that Ms. Van'Thof was awarded 15 months pay, plus interest, but, to date, she has not received a single cent of it. She was not awarded her legal costs, which were more than $20,000. So my question for the Premier is, why should any other government employee in Nova Scotia report wrongdoing given Ms. Van'Thof's experience?

THE PREMIER: There are two issues here, Mr. Speaker. One is the individual case, and if the member opposite would provide the information that he has to the government, the government will have a look at the case, because we promote fairness. The other thing I can

[Page 5484]

say is you do bring a very important issue to the attention of the House. It is the government's intention to extend the regulations to occur for these agencies, such as the district health authorities.

MR. DEXTER: Well, the problem, of course, is that the current regulations are not adequate, Mr. Speaker. I hope the government does learn from the Van'Thof case, and realizes that employees need better protection, protection that is enshrined in law. I've just set out the salient facts of the Van'Thof case for the Premier, so I want to ask this question. It's been nearly two years since her unjust dismissal took place, will the Premier ensure that Ms. Van'Thof gets her settlement in a fair and timely manner?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite would provide the government with the details that, obviously, he has, the government will make sure that that employee receives all of the entitlements that her employment should make available to her.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - EMPLOYEES: GRIEVANCES - HEARING PROCEDURE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, correctional officers are hardworking and dedicated public servants, and they deserve our gratitude and respect for the difficult jobs they do. That is why I am puzzled by the Minister of Justice's obvious disregard for their concerns. We all know that the correctional officers have been without a collective agreement for quite some time. At present, there are over 100 grievances that appear to have been ignored by the minister and his officials. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, does the minister respect the right of his employees to file grievances and, if he does, why is his department not acting on them in a timely and appropriate manner?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we appreciate the attendance of guests in the gallery, I would ask you to not respond, either positively or negatively, to what happens on the floor of the House, please.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a very good question. I, first of all, can begin by telling you that both the Department of Justice and this minister respect the contribution of our correctional workers. They are very valuable workers in the employ of Nova Scotia, who often work in very difficult situations. As part of the collective bargaining process that has been reached between those employees and the Government of Nova Scotia, as the member indicated, they have the right to file grievances. That collective bargaining process sets out the manner in which grievances are to be dealt with. I regret that sometimes those grievances aren't heard as fast as both the employer and employee representatives would like.

[Page 5485]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, when you have a correctional officer who gets disciplined or fired, and they have to wait at home with their family for up to two years before this department and this minister is willing to even have their case heard and to have their case finally arbitrated, that's an awful strange way for this Minister of Justice to show respect to the correctional workers whom he claims to have so much respect for. Correctional officers are waiting up to two years to get their grievances heard, and in some cases it's clear that it's causing very real hardship. These employees, as we all know, do not have the right to strike, and it would appear that the minister's actions would lead us to conclude that because of this lack of a right to strike, the department is dragging its feet in dealing with these issues. My question, again, is, does the minister believe that these long delays in having these grievances heard would lead us to believe that this is a delay tactic on behalf of his department?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, there is no delay tactic on the part of the department. These matters are set to be dealt with. There is a process. Unfortunately the process takes longer than anybody would wish, and if there are any particular cases, I would be glad to talk to the member in question about them to see what I can do.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, when we raise matters like this in the House, it's quite clear it's because of the frustration with the government and their lack of listening to the concerns from the membership and from their union representatives, which is why we raise this issue here today. The minister's department had said that they do not have the amount of staff required to hear these grievances in a timely manner, yet the minister refuses to hire or to contract out the necessary employees to deal with these matters, to have them finally dealt with. Again I ask, will the minister stand in this House today and give his personal guarantee that if he has as much respect for the correctional workers of this province as he would have us believe that he will ensure that these grievances that are currently outstanding will be heard and dealt with by the end of this year?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the honourable member my commitment to check to see if there's anything that can be done to accelerate the resolution of these matters. We do not want these matters to continue along without resolution. As the member knows, justice delayed can be justice denied.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - TRENTONWORKS:

EMPLOYEES - PENSION FUNDS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. This Summer I wrote to the Premier on behalf of the approximately 200 current and former employees of TrentonWorks - a number of which are here today in our gallery - considering their access to their Hawker-Siddeley pension money. The reply I received back from the

[Page 5486]

Premier was that no changes were planned. This pension money with Hawker-Siddeley started in 1969 and became locked in at various financial institutions after 1988. I will table that agreement. Some of those workers chose an individual RRSP and some remained in the company plan, now administered by AIG Funds, but in both cases the funds were locked in and not available to these workers.

So my question, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, what do you say today to these workers, some who have encountered financial hardship and who need access to some of these funds?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the Pension Benefits Act.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. We certainly have had some discussions with the department on this. It's unfortunate that the employees feel that they are in the situation they're in but they do have some options with regard to transferring, if they're over age 55, to a life income fund. There are some options that they can explore. Unfortunately, I do believe they have exhausted most options in this circumstance.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to go back to the Premier, since TrentonWorks is in his riding and these are his constituents as well as mine from throughout Pictou County. Some employees thought that recent changes announced by the Superintendent of Pensions in this province might provide some relief. I will table Form 9 of the Pension Regulation division that allows workers at age 54 to draw up to $16,000 in a life income fund. However, not all financial institutions are complying. We have heard that some banks and insurance companies are not in agreement and I have another letter I'll table, from London Life that says that, "We, at London Life are not offering this feature."

So, again, Mr. Premier, why did your government decide to give discretion on this to the financial institution and not to the workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, if there are instances where there are concerns that financial institutions are not compliant, they should bring those to the attention of the Superintendent of Pensions to look into.

MR. PARKER: Well, strike three and you're out. So, again, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to ask the Premier. Pension laws are complicated but really that's no excuse why we delay or deny benefits to our workers who really need them. Provinces like Ontario have taken positive steps to make locked-in arrangements more accessible by employees in case of financial hardship, which this province has failed to do thus far. These employees are not

[Page 5487]

getting any younger and, in fact, some have already passed on without being able to access the money if they really need it. So, to the Premier, when will you ensure that these workers get a fair redress to this issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite truly wants to be helpful, he could provide to the government and to the pension officers (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier has the floor.

THE PREMIER: . . . the names of financial institutions that are failing to comply with the law of Nova Scotia.

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

TPW: FED.-PROV. HWY. AGREEMENT - TIME FRAME

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in 2001 the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works issued a document called Nova Scotia's Primary and Secondary Highway Systems: 10-Year Needs program and to quote on Page 12, it says, " . . . the province is requesting that Ottawa sign a five-year, $270-million highways agreement to be cost-shared on a 50:50 basis". Since coming to power in 1999, the government has only signed one agreement, which is only a fraction of that. When can we expect another federal-provincial highways agreement that will address this deficit?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Probably with a change of government at the federal level.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it's important to be an optimist, I'll give him credit for that. Last year, during the election year, the provincial government spent over $116.4 million on capital highway (Applause) and bridge projects. However this year, a year later, they reduced that funding by 20 per cent - some $24 million. Ironically, that reduction came at the expense of constituencies like Richmond County that went from a capital expenditure of $1.2 million down to $23,800, and Victoria County that went from $8.1 million to $2.4 million and so on. My question to the minister is, why has the government reduced capital expenditure on highway and bridge construction? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 5488]

MR. MACKINNON: I know it's an emotional issue for some Tory backbenchers - my question to the minister is, why, in the face of the growing deficit and needs on highway repair and maintenance and capital construction and bridge repair, have you reduced funding by 20 per cent?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we haven't reduced funding by 20 per cent and to infer that we have reduced funding to Cape Breton by citing Victoria County and Richmond County I think the honourable member has to look at the experience over the last four years in Cape Breton where we have had the majority of our capital expenditures for districts in that area. Last year, I believe, in Cape Breton County alone, on bridges we spent something in the order of $20 million.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, he's not going to answer the question, so I will shift the focus slightly. On the RIM program the department has all the constituencies across the province itemized within the department as to who is getting what money - it's unprecedented because as I recall in a previous government they say you're not supposed to identify constituency concerns. Most of the money seems to be spent in Tory-held ridings, to the detriment of other ridings like Halifax Atlantic, $69,000, Preston, $37,000, and so on, while the others get hundreds of thousands. My question to the minister is, if you're supposed to have a non-patronage highway/roads policy, why have you broken down the expenditure based on a constituency basis?

MR. RUSSELL: The RIM program is acclaimed not only by the department, but by the motoring public of Nova Scotia as being the most successful program the Department of Transportation has ever put into effect. Further to that, Mr. Speaker, the amount spent on RIM programs this year was approximately $12-some million, which is roughly $2 million over last year.

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

JUSTICE - CORRECTIONAL WORKERS:

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING PROCESS - DETAILS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice with regard to the correctional workers who are here today in the House, as the minister is well aware. They're seeking answers as to why this government and this minster and his department have a pattern of dragging their feet with regard to actions with the correctional workers. The government's offer to the workers, quite frankly, in collective bargaining is insulting - a paltry wage increase, denying the right to automatic wage increases based on seniority, and the rollback of sick leave benefits. I want to ask the minister, why has this government not bargained in good faith with the correctional workers, taking a position that is seeking to roll back benefits for the correctional workers?

[Page 5489]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the honourable member quite simply that there is a collective bargaining process ongoing. I've indicated to those correctional workers I met with outside that I would meet with members from the bargaining unit tomorrow to discuss their concerns. I take their concerns very seriously and there is a collective bargaining process - one which I hope will come to a successful conclusion very soon.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, that collective bargaining process leads to my second question because what we have is another pattern. It's been almost a year - I think the end of this month - since their collective agreement ended. It's been since June, 2003 since the union has asked for negotiations to begin and at every stage, at every step, this government has dragged its feet and tried to prevent the negotiations from proceeding and what we had, even thus last year when negotiations were going nowhere, the union asked for binding arbitration and this government again dragged its feet in appointing the panel that would deal with the binding arbitration. So my question to the minister is, will he commit in this House today to stop stalling the arbitration process and work with the correctional workers to expedite the process to ensure we can get a final collective agreement with the workers?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate that this minister is not in any way delaying that collective bargaining process. I am committed to these matters being resolved fully and I only wish that the parties could have reached an agreement, but fortunately we do have a mechanism set out in legislation which will allow for a resolution of the matter.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear the minister in this House is putting on the record that he's committed to making this happen and isn't dragging his feet. Maybe he has to start telling the people in the Correctional Services Division of his department that that's what they should be doing as well because stalling on the collective bargaining isn't bad enough, but this department is slow to comply with orders under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Orders were issued by the Department of Environment and Labour against the Central Nova Correctional Facility in May 2002 ordering that facility to develop a safety program - just basic in any workplace. Yet it took over two years for that facility to come forward and finalize a safety program.

So I want to ask the minister, will this minister take immediate action to ensure the management of his Correctional Services Division starts recognizing the need for a safe and healthy workplace in and for correctional workers?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to you that I am very satisfied that the leadership in the Correctional Services Division understands completely the importance of safety in the workplace, but, for the benefit of everyone, I will obviously re-emphasize the concern to make sure that in the future there are no delays.

[Page 5490]

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

JUSTICE: WILSON ARBITRATION HEARING - DETAILS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Justice. We just heard about the plight of correctional workers in this province who are trying to get a fair deal from this very minister and this government. We know the government is stalling on the collective bargaining process and that it took two years to implement adequate OH&S standards at the Central Nova Correctional Facility. The government is not only stalling these workers, but they're also stalling correctional worker, Mr. Donnie Wilson, on a dismissal arbitration. After an unblemished career in Correctional Services, he was dismissed and has now been stalled for over a year for an arbitration hearing. My question to you, Mr. Minister, is why won't you treat this worker in a fair and timely manner?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the honourable member that I believe that it serves no one's interests to delay arbitration of these matters. I am going to do what I can but, as the honourable member also knows, it takes two parties to set down these matters for hearing and there are sometimes delays. I'm not aware of the specific issues of the situation, but I can tell you it takes both parties to set down one of these matters.

MR. CORBETT: This minister knows very well about the delay tactics of his department. I will also tell this minister one thing, Mr. Speaker, if the people who Donnie Wilson was sworn to guard, if they were faced with these delays, they would be thrown out of court for an untimely hearing. It's as simple as that. Donnie has worked for the correctional centre facility for many years and after one procedural offence was summarily dismissed. Despite this government's decision to stall him, the federal government was on his side when they gave him employment insurance because they said they believed he was fired unjustly.

So, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, why is this man not being granted an arbitration in a reasonable time frame?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, I am not aware of the specific reasons why this matter has not been heard to the present. All I can do is take the matter under advisement, based on the member's suggestion today.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that I've contacted his office over a month ago on this very issue and to say that he's unaware of it, you know, I find that hard to swallow. This problem has caused Mr. Wilson extreme hardship, as you can only well imagine. He's had to file for personal bankruptcy and has untold medical problems, because he was summarily dismissed by this government. Mr. Minister, your department had over a year to deal with this, why can't you hold this arbitration hearing before the end of the month to bring a resolution to Mr. Wilson and his family?

[Page 5491]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, I will take the matter under advisement and report back.

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

HEALTH - SOUND START: FUNDING - SUPPORT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Caucuses of all political stripes respect the great service that Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres provide to the residents of our province. Earlier this Spring our caucus, and I'm certain other caucuses, were briefed on a proposal brought forward called, A Sound Start. Included in this proposal was a program that would ensure that all newborns in our province have their hearing tested before they leave the hospital, similar to a program already offered in New Brunswick and P.E.I. A Sound Start would also provide much-needed speech interventions for preschoolers, the age when these interventions are most effective. My first question to the minister is, would the minister agree that the A Sound Start proposal, currently before government, is worthy of funding?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. It is my belief that money spent addressing the health care needs of youth is probably the most effective money that we can spend, in terms of ensuring that we have citizens who live long, productive lives. That is certainly the attitude that I bring toward the administration of my portfolio.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear the Minister of Health is in support of this proposal. After all, it would be a positive step if this government were to invest in a program that would detect problems early and begin to correct them when it is most effective to do so. When you do a universal hearing program, you detect problems earlier and you're able to make interventions sooner. Again to the minister, in light of additional federal funding, could the minister please confirm whether or not A Sound Start is on the priority list for funding?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm to the honourable member that one of the great challenges we have now within the Department of Health, of course, is to match the funding which we've received from Ottawa, which is an amount of $64 million for this year, with the needs that we were able to identify prior to the First Ministers Conference of $175 million. The exercise that we're involved in, of course, is an exercise of priorities within that shortfall. That is something that is very challenging. Again, the honourable member brings forward the appropriateness of spending money on programs to assist our youth, and that is one of the things which we try to keep to the fore at all times in these discussions.

[Page 5492]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, currently before the House is a bill that legislates francophone services in our province. However, if a preschooler happens to be francophone and needs speech therapy, there is no one, and I repeat no one, at the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centre who can provide these services. Given that this government is supportive of francophone services when it comes to government operations, my question to the minister is, could the minister please indicate whether he is willing to provide funding to the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centre so that they can begin delivering speech therapy to francophone preschoolers?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member's timing of his question is very interesting, because on the weekend I'm going to be in Vancouver with the federal and provincial Health Ministers and one of the topics that the federal Health Minister wants to discuss is the issue of providing language services. I can assure the honourable member that I will bring his question to the attention of the federal Health Minister and make a very strong and impassioned plea on his behalf.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

EDUC. - STUDENT SUSPENSIONS:

DEPT. INVESTIGATIONS - DETAILS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Education. Over the last number of months I've been looking into school suspensions across this province. I was very surprised to find out that the Education Department has not done any analysis on student suspensions and it does not keep records yearly. We've received totals from most of the school boards in the province and the results are alarming. It looks like Nova Scotian schools may be averaging almost 20,000 suspensions a year and we're still waiting for the statistics from one particular school board. So my question to the minister is, what effort has your department made to investigate student suspensions across this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does raise a good point, people are suspended for various reasons. The suspensions, as I understand it, are reported on a monthly basis to the school board and we receive them as part of the school board reports.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the lack of information on student suspensions and the difficulty obtaining the information is really very serious. There are 20,000 suspensions, or almost, and we know very little about why there are so many in our province. Without an analysis of the numbers, we don't know if the numbers are increasing or decreasing. We don't know what we could be doing to address the problem. We don't know

[Page 5493]

how many school days are lost. We do not know the ethnicity of some of the students or the number that are repeatedly being suspended. My question to the minister is, will your department undertake an analysis of student suspensions and report back to this House?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the matter of student suspensions is a matter for school boards, as the honourable member knows. The department does receive information on a monthly basis and I can tell the honourable member at least in one or two school boards with which I am personally familiar, that analysis of suspension by the categories or examples of categories that he gave, are indeed done.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, back in 2002, this Department of Education said they would be tracking school suspensions. They would be coordinating the collection of information. They would be providing follow-up when it comes to the suspensions-type of; reason for; days lost. What we really need here is for the department to look at the statistics in Nova Scotia and come up with some solutions. So my question again to the minister is, can we expect your department to take any action in a leadership role as we look at the very serious problem of school suspensions across this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of items that come up in the monthly meetings with superintendents and for example, the issue of school fees, which was raised in this Legislature today, was a topic raised by the deputy at the meeting of the superintendents earlier this month. Like the school fees, the department reviews things from time to time and I will endeavour to find out exactly, in reference to what the honourable member said, where the department is in relationship to that data and report back.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

TCH - RTIAs: FUNDING - INADEQUACY

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Yesterday I asked the minister to provide me with the budget allotted to the regional tourism industry associations and I thank him for that. Even with the government's spin on the numbers, the funding is desperately low. The RTIAs funding represents about 2 per cent of the departments budget. These associations support the province's goal of doubling tourism revenue by the year 2012, and work with more than 2,000 stakeholders and community groups to grow and advance the industry. My question is, how is the RTIA supposed to assist the tourism industry to grow, when they are so underfunded?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, the fact of the matter is that the RTIAs do play a vital role in our local regions. Not only do we provide money for fee and for service, also destination marketing opportunities. They are also our conduits for local regional groups for other programs throughout the department.

[Page 5494]

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the question is not what kind of a job they are doing, the question is the amount funding they are receiving. Out of the numbers that I received yesterday from the minister, less than half of that is actually provided to the RTIAs. Most of it is fee for service, which they are doing a job that the department should be doing.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated that he was not willing to sit down with me and representatives from the RTIAs to discuss the funding level. The minister must recognize that the funding is inadequate. Will the minister commit to increasing the core funding for the RTIAs so they have the resources to enhance the tourism industry in this province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, I find it very surprising that the member would question the vital role that regional tourism industry associations are playing. We very much follow the same model as the previous government in that respect because they do play a vital role, knowing the local regions better than anyone. The fact of the matter is always, with any consideration of budget measures, that would be considered in the upcoming budget.

MR. MCNEIL: I wasn't worried about the role that the RTIAs are playing and I recognize that the minister said they are following the lead of the previous government, the difference is, Mr. Speaker, the numbers are declining. Under the previous government the number for tourism were increasing. My question is why won't the minister do something concrete for the regional tourism industry associations?

MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the member is the member is wrong. The member should check his numbers. The fact of the matter is under this government we have seen tourism numbers in this province grow. Under this province we hit $1.3 billion. Under this government, under the leadership of this Premier, this government has made a difference with tourism, and we will continue to make a difference for tourism in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - N.S. SPRING WATER CO.:

WATER WITHDRAWAL APPLICATION - ASSESSMENT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The residents of Digby County are again worried about the future of their community. The Hyatt Nova Scotia Spring Water Company directed by Mr. John Hyatt, of New Hampshire owns about 1,000 acres of land at Gullivers Cove on Digby Neck. According to the local office of the Department of Environment, Hyatt is running tests right now, and they are expecting an application for water withdraw very soon. According to a ministerial note we have seen there may be plans to bottle up to 200,000 bottles a day. I

[Page 5495]

wonder if the minister could tell us how he plans to deal with this application when it comes to him and his department.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we'll deal with this application in the same manner we deal with other applications that come into the department.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it's exactly because of that problematic attitude that we're asking the question. The last time the residents of Digby County looked to the Department of Environment and Labour for help, they found none, this time they are hoping they will find more open communication. Hyatt may also propose installing a wharf at Gulliver's Cove, clearly, we're talking about a major project. In this case local residents are worried about their drinking water wells, they're wondering about social and economic costs. The minister will know that Digby Neck is narrow, freshwater supplies are fragile, so very specifically to the minister, I would like to know will you ensure that a Class II environmental assessment will be done on this project when it comes forward?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly will look at all the information that comes forward to us, if it comes forward to us, and make a decision on what type of assessment would be appropriate at that point in time.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, members of the House I think will be shocked to hear that the last time the Province of Nova Scotia held a Class II environmental assessment on anything, it was 1998. Our freshwater supply is one of our most valuable natural resources, yet we continue to give it away at bargain prices. A company could withdraw about 2 million litres a day and pay the province just slightly over $100 for the whole year in fees. What I would like to hear from the minister is, will he ensure that a cost-benefit analysis is done on the Hyatt proposal before it is ever allowed to go ahead?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly would endeavour to do a thorough investigation of the application and look at all aspects that might be involved with the application prior to giving any approvals.

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

EDUC. - BOULARDERIE SCH.:

TEACHER'S AIDE CHANGES - STUDENT IMPACT

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I was recently approached by Mrs. Kate Hennessy and her husband, Kevin Roland of Black Rock whose son, Noah Roland, is diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Noah is a Grade 2 student at Boularderie Elementary School and his autism causes a severe social interaction and a communication deficit. As a result, Noah finds changes difficult. Children with high-functioning autism need advance notice of impending changes of their surroundings.

[Page 5496]

So you can understand the disbelief Mrs. Hennessy felt last month when she learned that her son's teacher's aide, his facilitator in dealing with changes, was replaced by a total stranger overnight. The child's fragile world was rocked of stability and continuity. So my question to the minister is simple, how could the needs of this student be ignored?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the situation which the honourable member brings to the floor of the House is one which occurs from time to time in the province. We're acutely aware of how parents and students feel when somebody whom they have come to rely on is moved. The fact of the matter is, indeed, we are aware of this situation. This, unfortunately, is a matter of a collective agreement, and the collective agreement that is in place, these people are members of a particular labour association and, under the agreement, it's like many other union seniority clauses that, unfortunately, sometimes things don't work out necessarily for the best of everyone.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, while my question should have been a simple one, it is not. A substantial change like this to Noah's daily routine has serious consequences. He now has a new teacher's aide; because of the change, another student, Geordie MacAskill, who is a challenged student, also now has a new teacher's aide. It'll take months for these children to adjust to the change, months for them to become familiar and comfortable with another person, and because of this action, Noah was effectively denied education. It resulted in Noah being out of school, because to send him back would have created more misery. What's worse is that no one - not the school, not the teacher, not the principal, nor the parents, let alone Noah - was aware that this change was about to take place. My question to the minister is, how could a decision like this be made without consulting the stakeholders?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it would be a matter of policies and procedures within the board, but my understanding is, fortunately, the student is now back in school and things are working out. It is one of the glitches you sometimes find in collective agreements.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about challenged children here. The families have tried unsuccessfully at the school board level to resolve this issue. The decision representing a child's needs and made without any parent involvement has already caused unnecessary harm. This is an issue whose time has come. More guidelines are needed for challenged students. Child and adolescent services in hospitals could help incorporate and transition this into schools, in co-operation with school boards and the union. I must add that I used these children's names with permission. My question to the minister is, will the minister assure Mrs. Hennessy and Donna and Bill MacAskill, and, more importantly, young Geordie, and Noah Roland, that his department will work to find an acceptable solution to this problem?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that our department continues to be apprised of the situation which is being monitored locally and regionally.

[Page 5497]

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

JUSTICE - MENTAL HEALTH COURT: START - TIME FRAME

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The lack of mental health resources in our communities is having a devastating impact on the people dealing with mental illness and their family members. Too many people with mental health issues are ending up in the justice system because they can't get the help they need in the community. Over three years ago New Brunswick recognized this problem, they dealt with it and they set up a mental health court to make sure people got the help they needed as soon as possible, and it's been a huge success. Mental health courts have also been successful in Ontario, and Manitoba just announced that they're going to be starting it as well. My question to the minister is, when will that government decide to start a mental health court?

[3:45 p.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate that one of the tragedies of that question, one of the problems, is that there are people who are being charged criminally, because, today, the only way you can get the community treatment orders that you need in this province is to have certain people charged criminally. If the Mental Health Bill before this House were passed, there would be an opportunity to deal with many of these problems.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I could see it coming, but I will tell you that passing flawed legislation doesn't help the people who are suffering from mental illness in this province, and that's the problem with the Mental Health Bill. Mental health courts ensure that people get the treatment they need when they need it, and criminalizing the mentally ill serves no one's interest. Yet a freedom of information request that we made to that minister's department seems to indicate that this province has not done any work in the last five years investigating the possibility of mental health courts. I want to ask the minister, why has his department failed to even review or investigate the possibility of a mental health court in this province?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the real tragedy is that the honourable member still continues to want to criminalize those individuals, because, in fact, the mental health court is still a court. What we need in this province is a Mental Health Act that would allow many of these people to receive the kind of treatment they need in their communities, without using the criminal justice system.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the day that this or maybe the next government decides to introduce a Mental Health Act that will actually help people with mental illness in this province. Too many people are ending up in crisis. Early studies in New Brunswick's mental health courts show that for people who have participated, it has reduced the need for in-patient stays and reliance on emergency services. So my last question to the

[Page 5498]

Minister of Justice, will he commit today to do a report, bring it to this House, on whether or not there's a feasibility for having a mental health court in this province?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'll commit to looking at that issue, if the honourable member will commit to passing the Mental Health Bill through this House so that Nova Scotians get the help they need.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC. - DEBT REDUCTION PROG.: DISBURSEMENT - DETAILS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Last March this government introduced a debt reduction program after the Millennium Scholarship Foundation threatened to pull its funding out of the province. At this time the government committed $5.1 million per year to assist students with debt repayment; however, sources tell us that the department has only given out $300,000 of the $5.1 million to students. If this is true, it means that the government has pocketed $4.8 million that should have been given to students in this province for debt reduction. My question to the minister is, can the minister confirm that $300,000 was given to students for debt reduction for the 2003-04 academic year?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the debt reduction program was for persons who graduate and have Nova Scotia student loans, a person who gets full benefit of the program can have about 45 per cent of their provincial loan reduced for a qualifying year and if they can't, the Millennium Program, they can potentially qualify to have about 60 per cent of their provincial student loan reduced.

MR. GLAVINE: Well, I can only take that as an admission. Mr. Speaker, this funding is supposed to be an annual commitment by government to students. Therefore, every year the government should be committing $5.1 million toward student debt reduction. If this money was not used for its intended purpose, it was used for something else. On the day this money was announced, the minister said in the release that his government's goal was to help the greatest number of students possible with the resources we have. My question to the minister, can the minister identify where the $4.8 million intended for student debt reduction was spent?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are between 1,700 and 1,800 applications, the last information I have. So for him to throw out a $300,000 figure, I'm going to have to check on that. I have no idea where it came from.

MR. GLAVINE: Well, Mr. Minister, students in Nova Scotia face the highest debt load in the country. Despite that, Mr. Speaker, we learned today the government is hoarding funding that could be given to students to assist them with the massive debt burden they face

[Page 5499]

after graduation. My question, will this government guarantee today to provide the $4.8 million plus the interest the money has earned to student assistance?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the government has committed $5.1 million to that new student debt reduction program and, like other expenditures in government, if there is money committed towards student reduction, that's what it's going to be used for.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - DARTMOUTH WATERFRONT:

PROTECTION - DETAILS

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Dartmouth seems to be losing out in the planning strategy for Halifax Harbour. HRM has already approved preliminary recommendations that would allow a disproportionate amount of land on the Dartmouth waterfront to be reserved for future marine industrial and commercial use. Since both the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission and the Waterfront Development Corporation were involved in this planning, my question to the minister is, what will the province do to protect the quality of life of Dartmouthians regarding citizen use and enjoyment of the waterfront?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I will tell the member opposite and all members of this House that the province will work closely with HRM to ensure that the municipal planning strategies reflect the desires of the people that they represent in municipal government.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, the province recently handed over land near the Nova Scotia Hospital to HRM. Originally the surrounding residents were told by HRM that this land would be added to federal land already purchased by them to create more green space and to facilitate a trail as compensation for hosting the Dartmouth Cove sewage treatment plant. Now, Harbour Solutions is proposing to construct a new industrial, two-lane access road to the plant through the green space and redesign the community's trail to use part of the trail money to build the road. My question to the minister is, why is the province allowing the gift of land to be used to open up more of the harbour waterfront in this area for marine, industrial and commercial use?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would submit that's a question probably more appropriately put to the Halifax Regional Municipality, but I will tell the member opposite this, and all Nova Scotians, that we're committed to working with the Halifax Regional Municipality and provide a solution to their harbour cleanup project. We committed that piece of property for that purpose and part of that commitment was to have a trail there and I would be very disappointed if the municipality didn't fulfill their end of the commitment.

[Page 5500]

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I submit that the province has a public interest in making sure that HRM does what they originally promised these residents. They want to maintain and protect community access, recreational use and views of the harbour. There is not much parkland on the Dartmouth side, compared to other stretches of the harbour waterfront. Currently, more Dartmouth waterfront is being used for industrial, commercial and marine use than in Halifax and Bedford, and adding to this imbalance will only aggravate the situation. My question is, does the province have any means to ensure a balanced approach will be taken in developing the harbour waterfront?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I share the member's concerns, and inform the member that I would be prepared to meet with the mayor at any time to discuss this matter and express to him the concerns raised here today.

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

TPW - SPAR: ACCESS - TIME FRAME

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Currently the only way in and out of Whitney Pier is via Victoria Road. If there is to be further economic development in the Pier, the Sydney Port Access Road has to be opened. The road was supposed to be opened over a year ago. The new exit at Lingan Road has all the lights set up, the road is paved, and this issue continues to go on. The people of Whitney Pier have been told so many stories and rumours, they don't know who to believe. Will the people of Whitney Pier have access to the SPAR road?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe so, however, to be quite honest, I haven't got the answer at the tip of my fingers. I can get the honourable member a briefing note. I was there at the time the road was completed, and I understand that access will be to Whitney Pier.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I just said it was well over a year now that that road was supposed to be open. We have been told that the delays in opening this road have to do with two things, first, there is no crossing agreement with the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway. On September 23, 2004, I was informed that this problem would soon be resolved. The second issue has to do with an exchange of lands with Burnac, the property developer. Burnac does not seem to treat this issue with the same importance as the residents of Whitney Pier. Will the minister tell the people of Whitney Pier what is going on with this road, and where is this government in their negotiations with Burnac?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe there are ongoing negotiations with Burnac, he's absolutely correct. I will commit to providing a briefing note on the current situation, to the honourable member by tomorrow's Question Period.

[Page 5501]

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, this has gone on far too long. It's time for the minister to grab the bull by the horns, or in his case the sheep by the tail, and tell the negotiators to get this deal hammered out with the people of Whitney Pier. My question for the minister is, will the minister commit to finding a solution for this problem immediately?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that road has been something that I think the people of Sydney can be very proud of. There was an agreement between Sydney Steel and CBRM and the Department of Transportation and Public Works, and it was a successful project. I will get, as I said before, the honourable member an up-to-date briefing note by tomorrow morning.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH PROM. - SMOKING CESSATION SUPPORT:

SOUTH WEST NOVA - FUNDING

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health Promotion. On May 9th of this year, the Office of Health Promotion issued a press release entitled, More Help for Smokers to Quit. The lead in the press release stated, "Nova Scotians who want to quit smoking have even more support." Yet, we have been informed that the budget for those supports ran out in the South West Nova district on August 1st of this year, just three months after the Office of Health Promotion made the announcement. This was before the programs hit their peak demand with such events as Addiction Awareness Week or National Non-Smoking Week. My question for the minister is, how does he expect the South West Nova district to help smokers to quit, if their budget already went up in smoke in just three months?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, while the member is huffing and puffing over there, I will try to answer his question. The member raises a good question. Cessation aids are an important part of moving forward to decrease the number of smokers in our province. I'll get the member an update with respect to South West Nova, but I can assure the member and all members that if a need is there in one of our regions for additional dollars for cessation aids, they will get those dollars.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, you know, the minister's glib answers probably indicate that he never had an addiction to smoking before and he would have no idea how serious it is in this province, or how many people it affects in this province on a daily basis, or how many people die in this country from smoking every day.

[Page 5502]

I'm almost certain that the district there isn't going to turn away - addiction workers are creative and supportive of people who need their health. For districts like the South West Nova DHA and likely others who are running that fine line between meeting their budget, it takes more money from other addictions to support quit smoking programs. Given that this government is expecting to receive $175 million in cigarette taxes this coming year, would the minister admit that it's unacceptable to run out of budget money for quit smoking aids just three months into the fiscal year?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what it's a reflection of is the good job this government is doing with respect to its tobacco strategy.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, this a government that boasted about increased funding for quit smoking aids, only for a district to run out of money just three months later; in fact other districts are probably experiencing similar situations that we're unaware of. What this government touts is the great document Your Health Matters, which states that providing treatment can help individuals with addictions, and their families, turn their lives around. My final question for the minister is, could the minister please explain how a lack of funding, which is made up by taking monies out of other addiction programs and services, provides a treatment that can turn people's lives around?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that 30 per cent of Nova Scotians were smoking when this government came into play, 22 per cent of Nova Scotians now have that addiction - that's the difference between the job the previous Liberal Government was doing when they were here and this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - CARIBOU PK.: CHANGES - CONSULTATION LACK

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. In my constituency we have a very popular provincial park at Caribou. It includes a day-use area, a camping area, a sandy beach, and Monroes Island. This Summer there were some major changes to the park, especially to the day-use portion of the park, all of which occurred without any public consultation. The construction of a new parking lot means several longer trips for families going to the beach, longer hauls to picnic tables, and loss of use by the elderly who were often driven down to overlook the water. These so-called improvements have actually proven to be a major loss to many local people.

Mr. Speaker, my question, through you to the minister is, why was there no public consultation with the users of this park, the people who are most affected?

[Page 5503]

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. All of our parks in the province are very important, from one end of the province to the other. We have staff from one end of this province to the other and they have constant dialogue with the councils and with the residents of the areas and we work with those residents, and that member, if he had a question, he should have brought it to my attention prior to the work being completed.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, there was absolutely no consultation with members of the public . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, this time I'm going to address my question to the Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission Act. The biggest losers in this reconfiguration at Caribou are the persons with disabilities, some of whom are just not able to navigate from the new parking area to the beach, or even to overlook the water. A park planner indicated to me that not everyone's needs could be accommodated and they would have to find another site - and that is just not acceptable. The Pictou County's Let Abilities Work organization, who represent the disabled in our community, are so concerned about this lack of sensitivity that they've written a letter to the Human Rights Commission, and we do have a Disabled Persons Commission in this province who were never consulted on the issue. So why are disabled Nova Scotians being denied access to their own provincial park?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing up the operations of the Disabled Persons Commission. This is a commission that is in place to be a voice for the people with disabilities in the province. We do have a vision as a government in working with the Disabled Persons Commission that there will be an evolution where greater access will be achieved for all government facilities and we look forward to continuing to work with them to make that a reality. I thank the member opposite for pointing out the importance of the Disabled Persons Commission.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the member for not answering my question. I will go back again to the Minister of Natural Resources. I've heard from a number of community members who are very dissatisfied with the changes in the day-use portion at Caribou Park; 30 years of barrier-free access to the beach, 30 years of accessing picnic areas and the lookout are gone. There was no public consultation, no consideration for people who have used the park for decades, and absolutely no consideration for the disabled. Will the minister hold his department accountable so the needs of the local community, especially the disabled, can be addressed?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, to that member, if I had been aware of this situation I would have dealt with it a long time ago. This Spring, the member for Richmond brought to my attention the importance of Battery Provincial Park. This government made a

[Page 5504]

commitment that they would upgrade that park in a three-year plan. That member brought it to my attention, the members of that community brought it to my attention, we dealt with that, and I will deal with this situation. Thank you very much.

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

ECON. DEV. - N.S. FILM DEV. CORP.:

FUNDING - REDUCTION EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. In Question Period last week, the minister stated that the film industry is doing very well. It may be doing very well in provinces like Manitoba and Alberta, but not here in Nova Scotia. Production in Nova Scotia is down 18 per cent since 2001, a period when overall production across the country actually grew. In fact, the industry in the province has experienced one of its worst Summers since the Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit was established in 1995.

In this same period that corporation, the Crown Corporation mandated to help grow the industry, has been neglected. My question for the minister, if he is truly committed to the film industry in Nova Scotia, why has funding for the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation either declined or been held flat in the last five years?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member's question, certainly the honourable member is aware that funding increased through the film tax credit, and certainly funding has been constant since I have been the minister responsible for the film board.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I think the key word there, Mr. Speaker, was "constant". He didn't say anything about increasing funding for the Film Development Corporation. The film industry is an attractive career path in Nova Scotia for its young people. It can provide the skills needed to live and work in this province, and as a result, afford youth the opportunity to build a skilled career right here at home, rather than having to go down the road.

Further, Mr. Speaker, the industry helps to build a creative and innovative workforce, something essential to compete in today's economy. With this in mind, my supplementary to the minister is, will the minister agree to help keep some of our best and brightest youth in the province by committing to bringing the provincial government's tax credit to a truly competitive level?

[Page 5505]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would fully recognize, it was this government that raised the film tax credit to its current level. Several other jurisdictions have increased that level in the last year, and we will take that into consideration during our budget consultations.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for reminding me that it was this government that reduced the film tax credit to the point where it destroyed the film stage industry in Cape Breton, which is now a warehouse in Point Edward. That's what this government did in the film tax credit. Also, this government is truly not competitive with other provinces in this country; some provinces have up to a 40 per cent film tax credit.

Mr. Speaker, I know that there is a problem between the Department of Finance and

the Department of Economic Development regarding the film tax credit and its tax obligations. My question to the minister is, why has the minister not succeeded in convincing the Minister of Finance to increase the film tax credit in Nova Scotia to a competitive level, namely 40 per cent, which is being offered in other provinces in this country?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can remind the honourable member, this month is October - the budget comes down in March and April. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

TPW - BICENTENNIAL HWY.: PROV. PROPERTY - MAINTAIN

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation. Within my urban constituency are two stretches of provincial highway - the Bicentennial Highway as it comes down the Fairview hill to Bayers Road, and Northwest Arm Drive between Main Avenue and the Old Sambro Road. The problem I want to raise today is not the roads themselves, but rather the inadequate maintenance of provincial land running alongside the roads. In particular, I would mention the concerns of the residents of Abbott Drive, Elliott Street and School Avenue. These residents suffer to varying degrees from flooding, graffiti, garbage, unmowed grass and unrepaired tree damage on provincial lands. My question to the minister is, when will the Department of Transportation start taking seriously its responsibility to maintain provincial property alongside the Bicentennial Highway?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation takes very seriously the maintenance not only of roads, but of the areas alongside our highways.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, because this is an urban setting, these provincial roadside properties abut property owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality and sometimes the Halifax Regional Water Commission. Invariably there's confusion among residents and even

[Page 5506]

among provincial and municipal work crews about what portions of the roadside properties each is responsible for maintaining. The best maintained properties are the ones the HRM crews maintain by mistake and the worst maintained properties are the ones where each side is pointing the finger at the other saying it's their responsibility. My question to the minister is, what concrete assurances can the minister give people living near the Bicentennial Highway that provincial property will be maintained by provincial crews with adequate resources to get the job done?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess, as the honourable member is aware, if he looks out his window at the amount of work that's going on on the Bi-Hi at the present time, I believe just adjacent to School Avenue. That would be a road, I would think, that any member would be proud to have in his particular constituency.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't seem to understand - it's not about the road, it's about the property running alongside the road. A couple of weeks ago I looked at one particular area behind Abbott Drive - this is the area where the Bicentennial Highway is on concrete pillars above the residential area. This area is subject to regular winter flooding and the homeowner I visited told me that she wants to stay in the area, but the flooding problem is serious enough and persistent enough, that alone is enough to make her think about moving. My question to the minister is, in order that we can start working towards an effective and permanent solution to the problems experienced by people in my constituency who have the Bicentennial Highway for a neighbour, will the minister tour the affected area with me?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'll always be willing to tour with the honourable member for Halifax Fairview. Certainly I can do that. But, seriously, the concern that the honourable member has with regard to that area is one that is very, very difficult to identify as to whose responsibility it really is to maintain that area. I'll be pleased to take a trip with the honourable member sometime, but not during the Winter.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

NAT. RES.: PORTERS LAKE PROV. PARK - REPAIR

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. He just got up and said if you write about a park that's closed and have a problem with it, he'll react. Well, I wrote to you a year ago about the Porters Lake Provincial Park and you guaranteed me at that time, in writing, that the park would be repaired. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the honourable member for Preston to direct his comments through the Chair, please. The honourable member for Preston has the floor.

[Page 5507]

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, thank you. The minister at that time promised in writing that the park would be repaired. To this day, there's been absolutely no work done in that park except logged. That's the biggest provincial campground in all of Nova Scotia that the province owns, and I want to know when this is going to be repaired, to correct the problem with employment and the problems it's causing local businesses and the loss of business as a result of that park?

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, during Hurricane Juan, approximately 30 of our parks were affected by Hurricane Juan. The most devastation was to Porters Lake. We've been dealing with the federal government for the disaster relief. We've finally gotten that approved within the last couple of weeks. There's a tender going out. I made a commitment to that community that that park will be open next year for the season, and it will be open next year for the season.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the trouble is that next year never comes, and I'll believe it when I see it, and so will the residents of Porters Lake. This park has to be opened, and there's not enough time this year to do the work, and there won't be enough time next Spring to get the work done so it will open in a timely manner. (Interruptions) I'll watch you. I want to make sure that happens. Will you guarantee that will happen and it will be open in the early Spring?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, if that member had so much concern about it, he would have joined the member for Eastern Passage who went to that park twice with me. (Interruptions)

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

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would like for the Minister of Education to table in the House tomorrow documentation as to what has been spent of the $5.1 million on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's not a point of order. The only documents that are required to be tabled are ones that a member actually reads from during the House, not ones they made mention of or refer to.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

[Page 5508]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Natural Resources as often people misname my riding, so I'm glad someone actually identified it when he wasn't actually speaking of my riding.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 124.

Bill No. 124 - Health Services and Insurance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to rise and speak on Bill No. 124, which is an Act to amend the Health Services and Insurance Act in Nova Scotia. If I may, I'll just read the operative clause in this bill, it's a very short little bill. It says, "No person shall publicly advertise diagnostic imaging services to be provided by a private business." Essentially, Mr. Speaker, this is a bill to prohibit the advertising of private MRI services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, why did I introduce this bill?

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, perhaps members of the Legislature will recall that back in July of this year that there was The Householder that went out from the private MRI clinic - and I would be happy, at the end of my discussion of Bill No. 124, to table a copy of The Householder - it went out in flyers and went out in newspapers to households across the province. I'm not sure how many of these were actually circulated, but I understand it was certainly in excess of 100,000 households, which is quite a large number.

Mr. Speaker, The Householder raised a number of concerns, I think, is probably an understatement in terms of the content of this particular piece of advertising for the private MRI. For example, in the testimonials that constituted the back page of The Householder, there was a statement, unattributed to any individual that said, "It isn't supposed to happen, emergency cases are supposed to have priority in the Public Health System, but things happen and priority cases slip through the cracks. MRI's (sic) are delayed and people die." Now this is, surely, a piece of fearmongering that is unacceptable in relation to the legitimate fears and

[Page 5509]

concerns that people have about whether or not the public health care system is going to be there to meet their needs in their time of need or in the time of need of their family members.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there may be things that happen in cases of emergency, we know there have been very long wait lists in emergency departments and what have you, but I don't think, in all fairness, that it can be said that emergency cases are not given priority in the public health care system. Emergency cases, in fact, are given priority in the public health care system. Emergency cases, in fact, are given priority in terms of having access to MRIs in our system and priority cases are given priority through the triage system. I think this is sort of disgraceful as a piece of advertising. It is what caused me to think about whether or not we should permit advertising of this nature for private MRI services.

Mr. Speaker, on the front page of this piece of advertisement it says, "Your Health Care Should Be A Personal Choice" as if we were talking about a facial or a hair cut. We're certainly not talking about something that is so sort of basic and unnecessary in some ways as making a choice about where you get your manicure. We're talking about primary health care services and critical health care services.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about why people in this Legislature, members of this Legislature should consider supporting this particular piece of legislation. I think we're all aware of the proliferation of private services that have occurred in our province and in some ways some of these services have sprung up because the public system has failed to keep up with the need and the demand of the public, but in other ways some of the private services have really grown in a way that contributes to an undermining of our public health care system. This is certainly something that we're concerned about in the NDP.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that diagnostic services have historically been provided as part of the insured package of health care services that are available to people through the public health care system when you go to a hospital. We all know that the wait times for many public diagnostic services in hospitals have grown and partly this is because of outdated equipment or the fact that we haven't had enough of the technology available in the areas where we most needed it and also because there was a limiting of the number of trained staff that were available or the budgets that DHAs, for example, had to work with to put on that additional shift. But I think that one of the things that we have seen and we will credit the government with doing in this province has been doing the work that has eliminated some of the wait times, particularly for diagnostic services with respect to MRIs.

I can remember two years ago when the wait lists were quite a bit longer than what is the sort of industry standard or the national standard in the country to get an MRI over at the QE II, for example. We know that we've had an additional shift put on. I know that we're now using the MRI that's at the children's hospital to take some of the pressure off the wait times in the capital district and there has been the addition of an MRI in Cape Breton. I think

[Page 5510]

all of these initiatives have been positive initiatives and they contribute to a reduction in wait times for diagnostic services.

So I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that members of this Legislature would say to their constituents today that in the case where your family physician and treating specialist identify that you have an emergency need for an MRI and have priority on the list, you will get access in a timely fashion in our public health care system. You will not have to face the choice of trying to decide where you can come up with $750 or so to go to the private MRI clinic.

Mr. Speaker, there are numerous unattributed testimonials in this advertisement that went out and many of them engender a sense of fear that the public system will let people down at their time of need and I think that's a really unfortunate message. It's a message that's being put forward merely to exploit the fears that people have that they won't get health care in a timely fashion and will create a greater market for this private clinic.

Mr. Speaker, I've watched with interest the election in the Province of Ontario, for example, where the Liberal Party ran on a platform of really strengthening public sector services in that province. Premier McGinty, before he became Premier in that election campaign, said that he was going to restore the services that had been so badly eroded in the Province of Ontario under the former Harris and Eves Governments. One of the commitments he made, in fact, was to expand the access to MRI diagnostic services that had been seriously undermined in that province through the establishment of numerous private MRIs. Recently, in the last few months, he has followed through on many of those commitments that he made. I believe in the first budget of the McGinty Government in the Province of Ontario, in fact, there was money in the budget set aside to expand the public provision of MRI diagnostic services and, in fact, there is some negotiation going on with those private providers so that they will be brought into the public system.

Mr. Speaker, I think that that's an initiative that has also been a feature of what's happened in the Province of Quebec. So, you know, these are interesting developments I think that we have to keep ourselves apprised of here in Nova Scotia. There's a lot of debate about the role of private delivery in our health care system, but the thing that we really need to remember is that there is very little evidence that private delivery of health care in fact results in cost savings. Romanow asked, when he went across the country, for evidence - show me the evidence - and none of that evidence was forthcoming.

The other thing that we know, Mr. Speaker, no matter what you have in terms of the private delivery of health care service, there is still only one doctor, you know, and the doctors are in the public health care system. The private MRI system has the very grave potential of creating queue-jumping and this is something that is of concern right across the country. Radiologists, in fact, themselves, have urged a real limit on private MRI clinics across the country. They're very concerned about the unchecked privatization of these clinics and what the implication is for the long-term stability of health care. I think we have to look

[Page 5511]

ahead and we have to realize that MRIs, for example, are not the most sophisticated diagnostic tool that's currently available, that there is a new kid on the block, the PET technology that is extraordinarily expensive. There is a private PET clinic in Vancouver that charges $2,500 for a PET diagnostic scan.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we have to get grip and get a handle on the provision of health care services, on the extending of these services to everybody regardless of their ability to pay, which is the whole fundamental principle on which our health care system is established and it is the fundamental principle on which Canadians from coast to coast to coast repeatedly in polls and in elections expressed what their values and what their desires and what their expectations of their government are with respect to these services. I think that we need to take a much more rigorous line.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to comment on the bill which has been presented to the House this afternoon with respect to the issue of advertising the services of a privately owned and operated diagnostic imaging device. One of the observations that I would make with respect to this particular issue is I found it to be extremely interesting that the operators of this facility, indeed, would find it necessary to come forward with the advertising they have and the nature of that advertising. I share the honourable member's concern with respect to some of the claims that were made within that advertising, but when I consider the issue of the advertising itself, the question that it raises in my mind is whether or not they were entirely satisfied with the response that they have received to the provision of this service within the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things, of course, that happens and is happening at the same time that the private operators of this facility made their decision to come forward is that government, of course, was also investing dollars, very significant dollars, in the provision of this same service here in the capital district and in Cape Breton. We are committed, of course, to not only providing that service here, but we are very actively involved in the process of evaluating the needs for this service right across the province and I expect within the month to have a comprehensive report in my hands relative to the service that is needed.

So when I consider the issue of the advertising, the thought that goes through my mind is whether or not we should be so concerned about the advertising. I am concerned about the nature of the advertising, but the advertising itself, or whether or not it is reflective of the fact that we are, in fact, addressing the wait-time issue with respect to the provision of diagnostic services, and I will have a bit more to say about wait times in general as I proceed

[Page 5512]

in my remarks, but that is an observation that I share with the House with respect to the need for advertising for private MRI services, that perhaps we are doing even better than we had hoped in terms of providing this service because the private operators felt the need to get out and try and compete with the public facility.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we are very much involved in analyzing our future needs and, as I indicated to the House, we will have a report before us in the very near future relative to those needs. That report is examining, in depth, the site location of future facilities, the number of facilities that would be required and the nature of those facilities. For example, whether they be fixed facilities or whether we utilize the capacity to have mobile services within this province. So I'm looking forward to that report when it comes forward.

As we move forward, Mr. Speaker, in the provision of services within this province, I believe that the correct action for us to take is to strengthen the service that is provided by the government of the province and by strengthening that service, then we can ensure that issue brought forward by the honourable member is one that would be minimized in this province as we move forward and we move into the future.

The public health system in this province, Mr. Speaker, obviously is a service that has its challenges, there's no doubt about that. Anybody who would spend time in Question Period in the Legislature would understand that there are challenges with that because Question Period tends to reflect some of those challenges.

We have, in fact, made great progress. We have made great progress because as a government over a period of the past five years, we have invested over $500 million in health care; additional incremental spending in health care over the period of the past five years. Last year alone, we increased our budget by $230 million. That is a very significant commitment to health care in Nova Scotia.

We have, of course, concluded an agreement with the Government of Canada that will see additional dollars come to this province, $15 million of those additional dollars will be dollars that will be committed to increasing our diagnostic capacity through equipment and medical equipment that would be made available for this province to assist us in the delivery of health care and, in particular, in the area of diagnostic services, which are so important.

Indeed, the honourable member, in her remarks, correctly pointed out the fact that MRIs are no longer the forefront of medical services, that there are and will continue to be as we move forward, new and better devices that can be used in the diagnosis of illnesses for the people in Canada. Of course one of the challenges that we have is to ensure that we are aware of where these facilities are and that the practitioners of health care in the province are aware of where these facilities are and when they might be used as a substitute and perhaps used more effectively than some of the equipment we have within our province.

[Page 5513]

As we consider this particular bill, I want to say that I believe the emphasis needs to be on expanding the level of our service to our citizens and expanding our service in such a way that those who would seek to invest in the private sector would look at the job we are doing and say, there isn't really a market for us to move into the private sector. I believe that's the challenge that faces us within the Department of Health.

Of course, part of that challenge is for us to achieve success in the longer term with the efforts of the Office of Health Promotion. The more we can have our citizens begin to live healthier lifestyles, the less demand there will be for medical services and for the treatment of illnesses. So that has to be a major priority and continue to be and that's why we have committed to doubling the budget of the Office of Health Promotion over the period of the next - well, a four-year commitment - and we're well on the way to achieving that particular commitment.

As a matter of fact, I think we saw evidence today in one of the questions that was brought forward that we are perhaps more successful in achieving some of our objectives with respect to health promotion than we had even thought. As a result of that success, we need to revamp the money we commit to certain activities such as the cessation of smoking and consider even more money in those areas.

But that's a good problem, that's a positive problem to have when the take-up on the programs you bring forward is higher than had been anticipated. Indeed, the success that is being achieved, the reduction of smokers from 30 per cent of the population down to 22 per cent of the population and every indication that line will continue in a downward direction, is a tremendous measure of success relative to the activities in health promotion.

I want to say to all members of the House that our emphasis is going to be to ensure we provide a level of health care in this province that will discourage any people who would be involved or might seek to invest money in the area of private investment for the delivery of health care. We are committed to the tenets of the Canada Health Act, we are committed to ensuring that Nova Scotia receives the very best in health care service. As I have indicated, the principles of the Canada Health Act, the comprehensiveness, the universality, portability, access based on need and public administration - those are the principles to which we are committed. We continue to make the progress that we have made in recent years. We will discourage further investment by private enterprise and this as an issue will not persist within this province.

Back to my original point, indeed, part of the dilemma that appears to be coming forward on the part of those who have invested in the private MRI clinic is one where they are perhaps not getting the response to their service they had hoped. They found it necessary to go ahead and invest more money and as a result of that, they invest money in advertising to try to increase the demand for their service. We have decreased the demand for that service by meeting targets. The MRI in the Capital Health District has come down to the target of

[Page 5514]

42 days, and the average wait time has come down by more than 100 days over the past 13 months, and that represents real progress. As a result of that progress, many who would consider investing in the private sector with respect to health care, would be discouraged, because it is our intention working, the people of this province, to ensure that the public health care delivery system we have in place is second to none in this country and is one which will do the job that needs to be done to look after the health care needs of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, there's a couple of other points I wanted to make, perhaps you can give me some guidance as to my time frame.

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: One minute.

MR. MACISAAC: One minute. Well I'm not going to make too many points with one minute, Mr. Speaker. I will say that we do have a wait time monitoring project steering committee, it was established in 2003 in this province. We are investing $456,000 to assist that committee to address their priorities and their priorities are reducing wait times in our province. The area of priorities will result in Nova Scotians receiving much better service than they currently do because we continue to make real progress relative to the provision of health care. Orthopaedics is one of the areas where it is a priority and that, of course, is related to the diagnostic services provided. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has expired.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak on Bill No. 124, the Health Services and Insurance Act, which is a bill that prohibits the public advertising by public businesses of diagnostic imaging. With this bill, it becomes more and more apparent that the Official Opposition has run out of any new ideas to come forward with in this Legislature, and they seem to be rather stuck in the past.

Mr. Speaker, our Party is committed to a single-payer access to medical services for all Nova Scotians. I would agree that it would be preferable if this clinic was not desired by some Nova Scotians, I'll agree. The fact remains the services are being asked for and unfortunately it's a symptom of a public system that is failing to address their needs in the first place. Despite the best effort of health care professionals, government has failed to properly administer their funds, and this is a classic symptom of mismanagement.

[Page 5515]

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I think this bill could probably be more aptly titled the "head in the Sand Act. It is the New Democratic Party saying that we know the clinic exists, but please don't tell anybody about it. This bill accomplished nothing other than to highlight what the NDP wants to legislate, which is everything, including free speech. Advertising, whether you like it or not, advertising whether you're a member of the NDP or not, advertising is free speech. It is a form of free speech. So, where does it stop? What else is it that the NDP wants to ban? What else?

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, there are examples, of course, where advertising is restricted and even banned. Let me give you a prime example, tobacco advertising. Tobacco advertising is not tolerated by society, smoking is bad for your health, that's plain and simple. There's little evidence that this clinic, in itself, is bad for your health. There's absolutely no evidence of that. It's a symptom of a health care system that needs fixing. There's a lot of evidence of that, but to ban advertising does not make it go away.

The reality is that most Nova Scotians want the health care they deserve in a timely fashion. If you are sick, you are not concerned how the service is delivered as long as you get the treatment, as long as it's done under a single-payer government plan. As we have stated, the establishment of diagnostic clinics are a symptom of a system that simply needs fixing. Why do Nova Scotians feel they need to go to a private clinic? Well, I would suggest it's because they have no assurance that the system is working. Rather than penalize private companies, perhaps the government should be forced to let people know that the system is working.

Mr. Speaker, it's perfectly okay for the NDP to publish a partisan brochure with taxpayers' dollars, but they don't want a private company to be able to advertise using their own funds. Make no mistake, the NDP is a Party of do as I say not as I do. They have no problem whatsoever wasting taxpayers' dollars on things other than health or education, and the NDP believe that they're entitled to taxpayers' dollars, but they don't seem to believe that taxpayers should have the right to make up their mind where they spend their dollars. That would lead us to another place (Interruptions) I don't mind the jammering, that's not bothering me at all. It leads me to another place, the NDP and their role as the so-called Official Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, it was a great Canadian parliamentarian by the name of Stanley Knowles, a member of the CCF, a sort of social conscience for the NDP, who once said:

"I submit, therefore, that you do not have full political democracy, let alone the economic as well as political democracy for which my party stands, unless you include along with the ingredients that are taken for granted, such as universal suffrage, the secret ballot and majority rule, a full and

[Page 5516]

unquestioned recognition of the rights and functions of the opposition to the government of the day. Only in this way can you protect the rights of minorities; only in this way can you make sure that the force of public opinion will be brought to bear on the legislative process . . ."

Mr. Speaker, Stanley Knowles, I don't think, would be very proud of this lot today. Who's protecting the rights of Nova Scotians and ensuring that their voices are heard? Not the NDP. By failing to provide a proper Opposition, this government and this Opposition are failing Nova Scotians. We've seen some pretty, what you would call, fluff bills by members of the Party, and the government calls a couple of them and the NDP are very happy. Oh, isn't the government great, and we love the government. Now, this bill is somewhat of an exception. For the most part, the NDP doesn't want to criticize the government. They get a few crumbs from the government, and then they go away, and they leave the job of being the Official Opposition, the real Opposition, to the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, in fairness to the member for Halifax Needham, who introduced this bill, I think, honestly, that she tries to speak up on behalf of Nova Scotians. I really do. Now she's kind of put on the sidelines by an NDP Leader who is afraid to offend anyone anymore. He doesn't want to offend anyone, he wants to stay right on that fence, that's what he wants to do. Members like, for instance, the member for Dartmouth East, they get their little bills called by the government. And the media, sometimes they don't pay much attention to what happens on Opposition Day, but this time, however, let's have the media listen very closely. The government promised to pay for the medical costs of long-term care. But we have yet to see the final product. We don't know what the new system will look like, but the NDP Leader gave this government carte blanche to do whatever it wants.

The member for Halifax Needham, Mr. Speaker, who was once the champion of seniors in long-term care has been reduced to introducing one-paragraph bills that ban advertising. This is the same Party said that it would be political suicide to oppose a tax cut, even though we knew the government could not afford it. What happened to the NDP who championed the cause of seniors in this province? Basically what the government has been saying, NDP, you've got your long-term care, and we passed a few of your little bills, so just be quiet and go away. Don't bother us anymore.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been as quiet as a mouse since the government said that. Sure, we have some members that half-heartedly opposed the government, but for the most part, the government has the NDP just where they want them. I never thought that I'd see the day in this House when the NDP had been co-opted by government. The NDP, the so-called Official Opposition, propping up a government that fails to fund health care, fails to fund education, and just in general, it fails. In general, it just fails.

[Page 5517]

Mr. Speaker, by supporting last Spring's budget the NDP, as I mentioned, gave the Tories carte blanche to run roughshod over our health and education system. If there is one hospital bed closed, one ER closure, or one senior left out of the new long-term plan program, you have no one else to thank for that except the NDP. What they have given government is a blank cheque to do whatever they want.

On this side of the House, we have studied minority government. I can't find, in all the study that we've done of minority governments, I can't find one example where the so-called Official Opposition was in the position of propping up the government. Is that the purpose of a minority government, Mr. Speaker? It is really a groundbreaking concept when one Party decides that their role in minority government will be nothing more than to prop up the minority government side. Ground-breaking. Silenced by government.

There was a big joke when we first came into this House of Assembly when I was first elected in 1999, and the government backbenchers would say absolutely nothing, and we used to say in a joking manner, with all due respect Mr. Speaker, the silence of the Hamms. That was the big joke. We haven't come up with a slogan to replace that yet, but we are working on it for the NDP. It's just that nothing in the NDP rhymes with Hamm. We're still working on it, it's very difficult but we have research staff working on it round the clock until we finally come up with a replacement for Hamm on the NDP. Basically, the NDP is the same as Hamm and the government - it's very confusing as you can understand by what I am trying to say.

What has happened is that the NDP has actually bought into their own press that they are providing some sort of enlightened progressive Opposition in this House, Mr. Speaker. When everyone knows that in fact the opposite is true. They are providing no opposition at all in this House. That's what's happening. As I said, they are propping up the government, supporting the government at every turn, and every little once in a while, the government throws over a few crumbs and says here you go. The NDP says, oh, thank you kind sir, I'll take those crumbs and we'll prop you up once again in the next vote. Time after time, they are breaking their back (Interruptions)

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, some more examples have arrived - they are breaking their back to curry favour for a few crumbs in the form of maybe a piece of legislation or maybe even a road paved here and there. Oh the shame, the absolute shame that the NDP would be reduced to that kind of - I can't even find a term to describe it. Wait now, I have found a term, they've sold out, that's what they've done. They've sold out Nova Scotians for a few pieces of silver. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: While there is a bit of theatrical reference there, I would ask the honourable member, perhaps if he could rephrase that or withdraw the comment.

[Page 5518]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): And may I add what a fine job you're doing, Mr. Speaker.

The NDP is not an Opposition Party, what they've been relegated to is the position of a reluctant cheerleader for the government now - that's all they do. Of all the issues facing Nova Scotians today, this bill is the best they can do as the Official Opposition? Is this the biggest grievance that the NDP has against this government?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for the member has expired.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that if the honourable member who just spoke has to say if this bill is the best that they can do, I want to say to the caucus opposite is that member the best they can do to respond to this?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, it is.

MR. MACDONELL: Now we know why they're in third place. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I don't know what other members thought when they were first elected to the House of Assembly, but I know that probably I was a bit naive in what I thought I might be able to do for my constituents. I have to say that on lots of days I'm overwhelmed by what it is that my constituents ask of me; I'm surprised. When I was first elected in 1998, I was overwhelmed, I have to say, by the workload, and I thought I would just get used to it. Going on for - it will be seven years in March, I'm still not used to it. I'm amazed that on occasion - I've noticed twice since I was elected in 1998 that it ramped up a notch, that it seemed to get busier, when I thought I should be quite accustomed to the pace.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I think it has been the notion that I really thought when I got elected that I would grab the world by the tail and give it a shake and I would make it a better place, I would make it a better place for my constituents. I know that the usual things that I do on a wide variety of issues - and all members in the House do it - whether it's Community Services work, whether it's trying to get a pothole fixed, bushes cut along a road, working hard to try to get a better deal for farmers in this province, whatever it might be, I guess sometimes I think you get taken up in the day-to-day obligations that we've taken on in trying to represent our constituents, and I wasn't expecting that when I got elected.

I thought that my presence in this caucus and in this House would bring me to a point where I could actually significantly influence change in the province and improve the lives of people. One of the most telling times that I can remember that that happened actually was on the issue of the long-term care for seniors, which was an issue that was really taken forward by our Leader. It was a couple of years of hard work, and actually we did accomplish a goal,

[Page 5519]

or we think we have - January 1st is not here, and it's not clear to us exactly how this is going to be spelled out, but that is, for me, one of the single most issues that I can see we played a role in to improve the lives of people, but we don't see that every day.

The contradiction, as entertaining as the member for Glace Bay was, the contradiction I think of him is that they were a Party that last Spring had spoken openly against the tax cut and supported our initiative on the long-term care - to have the government pick up the health care side of those costs for seniors. Yet when those two things were offered in the budget, they voted against the budget except for one member. I'm not sure if there's a way to be more hypocritical than that, but there may be.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I started to read a little bit just prior to this presentation on the life and political times of Tommy Douglas and I have to say Tommy Douglas is a person that I only know from what I've seen on TV and the little bit that I've read. Certainly, being a New Democrat, that's a name that New Democrats certainly know. I never had the opportunity to meet him, although I think colleagues of mine had, but I've had a lot of opportunity to get to know the people around me, you know, my wife, my kids, my immediate family, and this bill that we're talking about, that would prohibit advertising for diagnostic services, that is the crux of the matter for me, the idea that publicly-funded health care in a public system is what we should support because of the people who are close to us.

Long ago, well, it would be in the 1960s, we turned our back on a system that would run people into poverty to pay for health care. Now, the Americans haven't done that yet. The American system, which is the system we left behind, should be a window into a world where we don't want to go. I have friends in South Dakota. They're getting to be elderly. The gentleman had a knee replacement roughly a year ago. The last time I talked to him was just before Christmas last year and he said to me, John, I'm starting to worry, my health insurance is $700 a month.

Now, I think my constituency assistant thinks of me as a conspiracy theorist because I don't believe that the Progressive Conservatives and Liberals in this country really support public health care, I don't believe it, and there are a couple of reasons I don't believe it. One is - I think if you underfund this system, underfund it badly enough, that Canadians will say I don't care how I get it, I'll pay for it, and when we open that door, there will be no going back. What has been allowed to happen in this country is the continual underfunding of health care that we can't afford and that's a statement that is not made often enough. We can afford to fund this system to give people timely, appropriate health care.

Now, I like the Minister of Health. I think the Minister of Health is a nice guy, but when he says that they're going to discourage the private sector, that's not good enough. I don't want a system where we're going to discourage the private sector. I want a message to the private sector that says we're not allowing you here. This bill doesn't do that, but this bill is a wedge at least and it's an appropriate wedge that my colleague is trying to bring to

[Page 5520]

this House because she knows that a bill to stop the spread of MRIs is not going to pass by this government, and that's another telling sign of this government agenda and of what it's willing to allow. At least if you could prevent them from advertising, then you would ensure they're not going to proliferate.

The other reason I think that this government is not concerned about this issue of privatization - and the member for Glace Bay to rail about freedom of speech and advertising, give me a break. That's not the issue. The issue is the privatization of health care. That's the issue. Advertising is something the private sector does.

The reason I believe the government is not interested in protecting public health care in this province is because an MRI costs about $1.2 million, $1.4 million. The $155 tax rebate that the government gave out last year cost about $70 million. Now, if the government was really interested - now that would be, what would that give us? Fifty MRIs? We wouldn't need 50 for sure, but we had the money to fund all the necessary MRIs in this province under a publicly-funded system, and the government didn't do that. They could have done it. They showed they had the dollars to do it and chose not to do it.

By the way, that $155 has been grabbed back in spades. In other words, probably anybody, what they're paying in extra income tax this year is more than $155, but the least they'd be paying would be $155. So, the government has grabbed that all back. It's the only time I've ever seen anybody take back a bribe, but I guess it's possible. (Interruptions) Well, the members opposite say I don't mean that. Well, I'm glad this is on the record, because they can check the wording.

Mr. Speaker, there's another reason I think the government has no problem with this. Actually, what worries me is that the Liberals have no problem with this. The member for Glace Bay talked about people wanting to pay for these services, so he seems to think that's quite all right. That helps clinch my notion that Liberals and Tories certainly are willing to go down the road of underfunding health care, number one, and number two, allowing for a private system.

The Minister of Transportation and Public Works has been trying to put forward a model in the Department of Transportation and Public Works for the Rural Impact Mitigation money, which is to turn as much taxpayers' money over to the private sector as possible. That would be very similar I would think to having diagnostic clinics with MRIs, to turn as much taxpayers' money over to the private sector. I'm not saying the government should be in the business of every aspect of roads in this province. I think construction of roads definitely should go to the private sector, tender that, and have the private sector build roads. Maintenance of roads should be in the public sector. In other words, the province should fund that department appropriately, keep it staffed appropriately and maintain the roads through the public sector. That's something we haven't been doing.

[Page 5521]

[5:15 p.m.]

When I think about the government's responsibility in terms of public health care, I think about one of my communities which is Upper Rawdon. The Upper Rawdon community had developed the community health board. They actually have a clinic in the basement of a church. They've been fundraising to try to build an actual building. They want a clinic that's a health clinic. They have a doctor, luckily - they've been fairly fortunate in that regard and I'll give some credit to the previous Minister of Health for his efforts. But when I think about what this government has done in terms of bonuses - I think we raised the issue of up to $35,000 in bonuses to liquor store commission bureaucrats, and I would think $35,000 would go a long way to build a health clinic in Rawdon and I'm sure those people would see it as definitely unfair that taxpayers' dollars would go to bonuses of that nature - and we can't be sure how many others - when they're trying to build a health clinic.

Mr. Speaker, I only have about a minute left and the point I want to impress upon members opposite is that publicly-funded health care is about all of us; it's about those close to us; it's about something that we all agree you cannot put a price on. You can hear that day in, day out - you can hear the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, when his health was in jeopardy here in this House, and the member for Cape Breton North the other day. We don't put a dollar value on people's health, so let's keep health care in the public sector. Let's fund it appropriately, so that we know that those people close to us will always have that protection. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for this particular resolution has expired.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

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

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 2542.

Res. No. 2542 - Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel: Residential Tenancies Act - Amend - notice given Oct. 5/04 - (Ms. M. Raymond)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this resolution. I brought this forward because there are so many constituents in my area

[Page 5522]

of Halifax Atlantic, and in other urban areas of this province particularly, who are unable to care for themselves adequately, to afford decent, even safe rooming accommodations. As this resolution points out, many people are living in literally dangerous and life-threatening conditions in apartments which are rented to them, in apartments which bring revenue to their landlords and it is the responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia, as is recognized in so many areas of consumer protection law, to ensure that its citizens are at the very least safe.

I have been approached by constituents and I have occasionally run into constituents who have been afraid to report their landlords for the kinds of conditions in which they are living. Some are living in apartments, particularly along the Herring Cove Road, but on some of the side streets as well, apartments which, at certain seasons of the year, are up to an inch deep in water, and the other seasons of the year see the walls covered in mould. Water, as you may also be aware, is something of a threat for exposed wiring, and I have at least once had the experience of speaking to a constituent, fearful of reporting exposed wiring, who a week later was able to report that exposed wiring had finally shorted and caused fire. There is damage consistently to the meagre belongings of these people, and there's also damage to the psyches of the people living here in these conditions.

Recent news has brought home to us, only too clearly, the connection between marginalized living conditions and unsafe living conditions. At Mitchell Street and at Cogswell Street both, we have had tenants evicted from unsafe rooming houses and we have had tenants who have lost their housing because the housing has finally been judged inadequate. What happens at that point? Why are these conditions allowed to reach this stage? We saw recently the introduction of a bill concerning regular inspection of amusement devices, fairgrounds, parks, merry-go-rounds, all sorts of other things which quite visibly jeopardize the lives of those who use them.

Quite visibly however, the lives of those who inhabit some of these apartments are jeopardized, and I should point out as well that these are not always only the marginalized who are subject to such things. Hurricane Juan showed us recently that it is sometimes not only the poor, but it can be very wealthy and disabled or elderly, who are, in effect, trapped in their apartments. Hurricane Juan showed us people living above the 11th storey in the City of Halifax, where water pressure provided by the Halifax Regional Water Commission is inadequate to reach above the 11th floor. If you combine that situation with an elevator which cannot be powered because there's no generator, and a person who is disabled or elderly and unable to come down, you have somebody who is not able to live in their own apartment. This is, of course, another end of the spectrum from those apartments which are consistently dangerous, hurricane or no hurricane.

I speak to this resolution because we require regular inspection of other devices which are responsible for people's lives and safety. They are amusement park rides; they are cars. I think we should be considering the very real potential for damage to life, health and safety, which arises from these very dangerous conditions allowed to perpetuate themselves. We've

[Page 5523]

had debate recently over whether or not it was reasonable to talk about dangerous living conditions elsewhere in the province, and the fact of the matter is that cleanups are often believed to precede anticipated inspections or visits.

What I am saying is that these inspections should be regular. If cleanup precedes these inspections, great, and if these inspections are regular, great. That means that the conditions are maintained consistently, and it's not up to the tenant who may be at a very disadvantaged situation to report the problems. If these things have to be kept at a regular level of maintenance, then there is not any kind of an issue of people suddenly being evicted because the apartment has become unsafe.

I feel that over time what will happen is what has happened with the inspection of motor vehicles and what I expect will happen with the regular inspection of amusement devices. That is to say, those commercially-available items, whether they are apartments, cars or merry-go-rounds, rides on merry-go-rounds, which are not sustainable, yes, it's true, they leave the market, but on the other hand, who really wants to take a cut-rate ride in a car with no brakes. Who really wants to take a cut-rate apartment in which you know, you pays your money and you takes your chances, but as long as it's not that much, maybe they shouldn't mind all that much.

I don't think we're a society that wants to see people doing that. I don't think that we're a society that wants to live knowing that we expect people to pay the money and take their chances on things which are absolutely fundamental. We inspect restaurants for sanitation. Why don't we inspect living quarters? If there is commercial revenue coming from an apartment, then that revenue needs to be at least partially used for the maintenance of that apartment. It is not simply reasonable - it's not fair to use it as a gold mine on the backs of those who are afraid to report lest they lose what little provision they have.

The government has a role to play in guaranteeing the physical safety of its citizens, and this is one important way in which I would request that the Progressive Conservative Government of this province step up. Commercially-available apartments on the market need to be regularly inspected. Do not place, on the backs of those least able to accept the burden, the burden of policing their own safety. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this will become an unquestioned element of Nova Scotia life. We cannot expect that these people, who are quite justifiably in fear of losing the roofs over their heads, should accept roofs that barely cover their heads, roofs that are full of holes. We don't expect it elsewhere and, as I say, we don't expect people to accept rides in taxis and cars that can't possibly pass a safety inspection.

If we have a homelessness crisis, we have a homelessness crisis. We know we have it and one element of that crisis is the fact that the state of these homes or these accommodations are suddenly known to be at crisis condition and all of a sudden you have a torrent of people poured onto the street from inadequate, unsafe accommodations. If those accommodations are inadequate and unsafe at the time of inspection, why don't we make

[Page 5524]

those inspections regular, mundane and something that anyone gaining revenue expects to have to go through. Let's not flood the streets with people who are suddenly discovered to have had what was essentially not accommodation. Let's make sure that if it's sold as accommodation, it is accommodation and that means shelter, a basic need and a basic guarantee of physical safety. This is something that we expect and this is something that all of our citizens deserve to expect.

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

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, this resolution offers a solution that is totally out of proportion with the problem. The resolution would have you believe that most renters in Nova Scotia live in squalid, terrible conditions and that is simply not the case. There is an estimated 100,000 rental units in Nova Scotia. If I didn't know better, I would take it from the resolution that most of these units are straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.

Mr. Speaker, let's get the facts straight. The vast majority of rental units in Nova Scotia are in good shape and offer their tenants quality accommodations for their monthly rent. Of course, there are some rental units that do not fit this description. Rather than lumping the good with the bad, the resolution should focus on a small minority of rental units that are not kept up to acceptable conditions, but the resolution doesn't do that. It assumes that all landlords are slum landlords and that all rental units are dangerous and subject to flooding, moulds, and electrical fires.

The result is a proposed fix that is way out of whack with the problem, Mr. Speaker. Let's take a closer look at the many holes in the approach proposed by this resolution. First of all, there is no current central registry of rental units in the province. So to carry out the resolution we would have to create this new central registry of residential rental units. Now, as I said earlier, there's an estimated 100,000 rental units in Nova Scotia. Creating a registry of 100,000 units would be a major undertaking. It would require substantial human resources and create undue red tape, not only for landlords but for tenants too, not to mention the cost to somebody and I would assume the somebody would be the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

So who would carry out these 100,000 inspections each year, Mr. Speaker? I can only assume that it's the intention for that to be done by the government. Government doesn't have these inspectors at the moment so what would we have to do? We would have to go out and hire them. I want to make the following assumptions and I want you to bear with me as I do this. Let's say each inspector needs two hours for travel time each day and one hour for the required inspection. This would allow for five inspections per day. Now, this is assuming that somebody is going to be there to allow them in because we know that tenants require a 24-hour notice and that everybody can be in the same spot at the same time and assuming that we gave those inspectors three weeks vacation and they worked five days a week, this would

[Page 5525]

mean that they would have 346 days each to carry out their work. Using these simple assumptions, one inspector could do about 1,230 inspections each year.

Now, in order to get all 100,000 rental units done each year, government would need to hire 82 qualified inspectors, Mr. Speaker. Assuming a salary and benefit costs, including travel and transportation of $50,000 per employee, this resolution would add more than $4 million to the cost of government each year.

[5:30 p.m.]

I heard the previous speaker say that an MRI machine is about $1.2 million. That means government will be spending enough money to buy three new MRI machines per year, on this new program being proposed by the New Democratic Party. My belief is that Nova Scotians would sooner see us spend that money on something like MRIs, just like the member for East Hants said, Mr. Speaker, than spend it on this. I'm assuming that the honourable member would say, just pass that cost on to the landlords. Fair enough. Let's say we did that.

What would the landlords do? Well they would pass that cost on to the tenants. And then are we helping those people? Absolutely not. We've created an entire new bureaucracy for the New Democratic Party, to pass on the cost to the tenants, who they propose to help. So, we are not helping these people at all. In fact, what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is, we are adding an additional cost, an additional bureaucracy and additional expense on to the taxpayers and the tenants of Nova Scotia.

The people the resolution claims to help would actually be the ones it hurts the most. I won't even go into the costs associated with training the inspectors, establishing a province-wide standard, test measuring for compliance with the standards, and the competency necessary for the evaluation of the premises against an established standard. I won't even talk about that, Mr. Speaker. In short, when you consider the financial cost and the red tape that would be created by this resolution, not to mention the fact of the inconvenience to the tenants. All of those tenants who are living in very good accommodations would have to open their doors on an annual basis to have a government inspector come in and make sure their accommodation is safe.

Regardless of whether or not there is a complaint or a concern, they'd have to do that, because that is what the NDP resolution proposes. Rather than take out a weapon of mass destruction to kill a fly, wouldn't it be better to apply protection we already have for tenants who might find themselves in these conditions. Allow me to read from Section 9 of the Residential Tenancies Act. I think I have done this before in this House, Mr. Speaker. Section 9 says, "The landlord shall keep the premises in a good state of repair and fit for habitation during the tenancy and shall comply with any statutory enactment or law respecting standards of health, safety or housing."

[Page 5526]

We have an Act in this province, Mr. Speaker. We apply that Act. In fact, as I said earlier in debate here in the Legislature, we have several thousand complaints per year. As I said earlier, we resolve those complaints as they come forward. Each year the residential tenancies program effectively deals with situations where landlords fail to comply with their Section 9 obligations, to maintain the premises in a good state of repair fit for human habitation.

The program response and complaints by tenants in the form of an application to the director. The complaint based process allows resources to be directed where they are needed most. We apply the resources to where the problems are. We don't apply the resources to every single residential unit in the province. Frankly, the people who live in those aren't calling us saying they have a problem. The NDP wants to fix everything all at once, and that's not the case. There's not a problem with every residential tenancy unit, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the honourable member for raising the issue, because it's another opportunity to explain how our staff, the staff at our department of the Residential Tenancies Act are able to resolve thousands of disputes between landlords and tenants each year in Nova Scotia. The Residential Tenancies Act exists to provide landlords and tenants with an effective, cost efficient means to settle disputes. Not the "$4 million fix everything all at once" approach that the NDP have. Frankly, I would expect that landlords and tenants would both be very concerned if a provincial government came forward with an initiative like this.

Every year, staff answers over 50,000 inquiries from tenants, both landlords and tenants contact the residential tenancies program to find out their rights and to help resolve their problems. When landlords and tenants can't find common ground, the Act provides for an effective dispute resolution process. Close to 5,000 disputes are brought to government each year. Of these, about 1,000 are mediated. This means the parties are helped by our staff to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides. (Applause)

Not all 100,000 residential units have a problem like we're hearing from the members opposite. Absolutely not the case. If that were the case, we would have 100,000 complaints each year. If that were the case, we would have 100,000 of these things resolved each year. Just 1,000 are resolved by our staff. That leaves about 3,000 that are settled by bringing the parties together through a hearing, collecting evidence, testimony and issuing the decision on the matter - including, I would say, Mr. Speaker, issues related to Section 9 which is clearly in the Act, that allows for and requires the landlord to keep their premise in a good state of repair, fit for human habitation during the tenancy and shall comply with any statutory, enactment or law respecting the standards of health and safety and housing.

That's something that's known by tenants. It should be known by members opposite, but obviously, it's not, even though I've read this several times in the House, I want to read it again. The background of this information is important because it's relevant to the resolution. The Residential Tenancies Act is already structured to allow for tenants'

[Page 5527]

compensation when landlords do not meet their obligations to them. As I said earlier in this House, there is provision for that in the Act.

In addition, Section 20 of the Residential Tenancies Act gives officials the power to protect tenants who may be victims of retaliation by landlords. I want to take a moment to read Section 20 to the members here, Mr. Speaker. "The Director or the Small Claims Court may refuse to exercise, in favour of a landlord, the powers or authorities under this Act or may set aside a notice to quit if the Director or the Small Claims Court is of the opinion that a landlord has acted in retaliation for a . . ."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the minister's dissertation has elapsed.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on the resolution this evening. I would like to commend the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, for bringing this resolution forward, to start a program to improve the Act over a period of time, not to take it in its entirety. I must comment on what the minister just said, that it's not all who are living in these squalid conditions, but, at the same time, that 10 per cent that the minister refers to, that is the 10 per cent that garners the attention and we need to do something for those. Although 10 per cent doesn't sound like much, it does amount to a lot of hardship for a lot of people.

Also, it's amazing in this day and age that there are landlords that are allowed to keep their buildings in a deplorable condition and some of them do. Some of them seem to find a way to make that happen and it happens far too often for some residents. The name slum landlord rings a bell with a lot of people and some of these landlords are rich beyond means. I said, the last time I spoke on this, I wonder if those people would live in those same conditions. Some, I would attest to as being close to conditions of squalor. Unfortunately the tenants may be forced to live in substandard conditions and I've had personal experience with some of these cases where people are living where the windows are tremendously drafty, single-paned windows that the weather seems to blow right through, doors that don't open or close properly, roofs that leak and basically sub-standard housing.

In an ideal world, the Residential Tenancies Act would not be needed, but we have to deal with, I suppose, human nature as it is. There's always those to whom the dollar is more important than human needs. If there are people out there who wish to operate outside the law or vaguely within it, those are the people I'd like to focus on.

I would say, the House should adopt this resolution, not in its entirety, but use it as a point of beginning to improve already on the Residential Tenancies Act. There's a lot of protection in there, but the problem exists, with the experience I had, the short time I was

[Page 5528]

there as a tenancy officer, you would get tenants who would come in, who knew little or nothing about their rights. On the other side of the coin, there was the odd landlord who might fit that, but most of the time they would be facing a landlord who would be represented mainly - not by himself - but would probably send a lawyer in to represent their needs or a very well experienced manager of the residential properties that were in their care. These people would be well versed in the rules and regulations of the Residential Tenancies Act and would act accordingly and it would leave the tenant kind of out in the cold.

Mr. Speaker, I was involved with barrier-free legislation and I wonder, when it comes to people with disabilities, how much is that enforced in some of these tenant places that they have to live. I think there's an actual need for enforcement. (Interruption) I hear the minister mention the enforcement officers that they have and I would like to see them be proactive, probably be authorized to make more personal visits to the properties unannounced, drive down, drive by, walk in and take a look-see with the permission of the landlord or with permission of the tenant, or maybe they could be empowered to walk in the same as an auditor could go in unsuspectingly to do an audit on a business. Then the inspector could go in unannounced and just see for themselves first-hand the conditions that exist. So they could visit the properties, they could check on the landlords.

Mr. Speaker, also what should be mentioned here, there are some, and sometimes a lot, of undesirable tenants who are functioning outside, or just slightly within the law and the rules and regulations of the Residential Tenancies Act, but the officers could enforce the standards as they now exist and maybe bring back a report to the honourable minister that they could suggest improvements.

Mr. Speaker, there have to be ways to bring about protection for the tenant and the House could pass the resolution on to further discussion for amendments or adjustments, but I would really like to see it as a starting point for further discussion. The member brought forth an issue which affects her constituents, but I would like to make mention of the fact that it's also one that affects people who rent from one end of this province to the other and the members of the House are limited in their powers, but we may be able to effect some change, as I said, and I'm being repetitive in using this as a beginning point. Tenants, like I said, are sometimes not aware and landlords with lawyers create intimidation for the tenant, especially people with disabilities, or a single parent with several children, where does that parent go? If they talk to the landlord, if they complain to the landlord, they could find themselves getting a notice to quit.

How about seniors? I know of situations where seniors, Mr. Speaker, are intimidated in the homes for special care where they reside. They're afraid to complain simply because of reprisal or maybe that some benefit that's coming to them, they may suffer the loss of it, and I'm speaking about the need for improvement on both sides - on the landlords side and on the tenants side - because as we are well aware, there are always those who seem to be able to manipulate the system.

[Page 5529]

Tenants and landlords, Mr. Speaker, I'll give you an example that happened in my own area, a young couple took their beautiful two-storey home and used it as a mortgage tool to gain money to purchase an old farm, which they did. They moved into the old farmhouse and proceeded to use the money that was garnered through the mortgage to improve the farmhouse, which is where they always wanted to live, along the Bras d'Or Lakes, overlooking the lakes in the old farmhouse. They maintained the structure of that house and the architecture and improved it the way it was way back years ago when it was first built. They rented their home, they walked out of the house the way that they used it themselves. They left all the furniture, beautiful hardwood floors, everything painted, clean as could be.

The people who moved in were well aware of the Residential Tenancies Act. They knew what they could and couldn't do - went in and immediately decided never to pay the rent. After two or three months of excuses, these people were totally unaware of the rules and regulations and conditions regarded in the Residential Tenancies Act and they chose then to find out about it. In July, they went in and told the lady, they gave her a notice to quit. That was July. The lady looked them in the eye and she said, I'll leave in December. Well, they were kind of shocked.

[5:45 p.m.]

The hearing was held at the Tenancy Board, it was ruled in favour of the landlord, the tenant was to leave within 30 days. Now we're into the first of August, the tenant then had two to three weeks to appeal; appealed, finally got a hearing around September. Again, that hearing ruled in favour of the landlord. The tenant then has the option to go and appeal to a Small Claims Court. The tenant did that. By the time they landed in court it was nearing the end of September, close to October, and guess what? By the time that ruling came about, the last time, they vacated in December.

What I'm saying is that there is good and bad on both sides and there is always that small percentage who will take advantage. I think I would like to see the minister, when he was talking about what's going on with the Residential Tenancies Act and how good it is, I think this should bring to his attention that there still needs to be room for improvement and maybe a five-year program could be implemented to improve it over a period of time without having undue cost, and yet gently improve slowly over the years to get to where we want to be.

With that, I will conclude my remarks. Thank you very much for allowing me the time to speak on that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I take my time to speak on Resolution No. 2542. A resolution that is extremely important to many Nova Scotian renters. Nova Scotian renters

[Page 5530]

are people who, in fact, find this as the only mode of providing shelter for themselves. We do know that shelter is considered a basic human right. I do believe that under the United Nations there is a Charter that deals specifically with the right to provide shelter to individuals. I think that section is the section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it's covered under that section of the United Nations to address this particular issue.

I want to tell you that when the member from Halifax Atlantic brought this resolution before this Legislative Assembly, it wasn't because she didn't attempt to take every other action possible provided to her. I want the honourable member who brought this resolution forward to know that I have stood in this Legislative Assembly since 1998. In 1998, the then minister, who is now the member for Preston, brought forward a discussion paper on amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. There were many, many stakeholders who participated in that discussion paper to the Residential Tenancies Act in 1998.

As a matter of fact, residential tenancies for the time first time, I didn't realize, also covered mobile homes. As a matter of fact, there were mobile homes residents who participated as stakeholders in that discussion. Not only were there tenants involved in that discussion, there were also property owners. I will tell you that the discussion paper was supposed to have wrapped up, I believe, in November of 1998, then there were going to be recommendations brought forward to the Residential Tenancies Act for revision.

That did not happen. We all know the turn of events in history. We all know there was an election during that year and one-half period of time, actually only a year and four months during that period of time in which a new government came to office. The then government that came to office, I then asked the minister who was responsible for this Residential Tenancies Act at that time, the honourable Minister of Finance, and the honourable Minister of Finance was responsible for this section of the Act during that period of time and he did indicate that yes, all this information was available. Yes, there was a need to review the Residential Tenancies Act and yes, it would come forward sometime soon. I asked that to the minister, and Hansard recorded it, as well as budget estimates recorded it, that I asked that to the minister in approximately the year 2000, and in 2001, during the Spring sitting, the minister did say that it would come forward. I asked the minister again and he said the Residential Tenancies Act review would come forward again in the Fall of 2002.

Needless to say, none of that has happened and as a result we have witnessed many issues with respect to unsightly premises, to shelters where people have to live in deplorable conditions, such deplorable conditions that they have actually spoken out about it. It has been covered in the media and it has been covered by everyone. As a matter of fact it became such an important issue in the constituency that I represent that I asked that the Executive Director, Mr. Gerald Hashey, responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, be the guest speaker at the District 9 Citizens' Association meeting. Mr. Gerald Hashey, as a matter of fact, at the end of September, the last Monday of September, attended the District 9 Citizens'

[Page 5531]

Association meeting and discussed a whole host of issues to residents there at that particular time, around residential tenancies.

How to resolve the matter, much of what the minister had spoken here today, was exactly almost to a T, the same presentation that Gerald Hashey gave to the District 9 Citizens' Association on the night he was there. The people were very pleased. Many of the residents in that area who rent were unaware of their rights within the Act. They also recommended that there would be an advocacy organization to help guide them through the Residential Tenancies Act so that they would have a better understanding of their particular rights.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question, and I will be the first to admit, that I represent a constituency where there is a high density of multi-unit residential developments and there is no question, and I say this once again, that there are some excellent landlords. There's no question about that. There are landlords who maintain their properties and look after them quite well and as the minister has said, there are 100,000 units in the Province of Nova Scotia that have to be administered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

What the minister also said is that there are 10,000 individuals there are problems with and residential units are available. I shouldn't say 10,000, he said about 10 per cent. I'm saying that equates to about 10,000 and there are some 10,000 people in this province and if you measure that out and consistent to a town or community, you know, if you were to put all these people who rent in units into a community and represent a community of some 8,000-10,000 people, it would be around the third or fourth largest community in the Province of Nova Scotia. That's what it would be like, and these are individuals who have absolutely no protection whatsoever.

These are the individuals who spend 50 to 60 and even 80 per cent of their income for shelter. These are individuals who are on fixed income, who live in constant fear that if they squabble or squeal on the landlord, or take the landlord to the Residential Tenancies Board that they're out on their feet and they're out there no matter what time of the year it might be. They're out there in the wintertime. The Residential Tenancies Act, has no specific time when someone can be evicted, with respect to seasons, from their units. So in the dead of Winter, people can certainly go, and I've known and had to deal with issues that should have been addressed by the Residential Tenancies Act that had to be addressed because they were so bad, the conditions that people lived in, they had to be dealt with by the then Board of Health. They're not dealt with now by a board of health. The people are left on their own, Mr. Minister. You talk about what it costs to provide a service for a person, and you talk about 82 inspectors being needed to address the issue of 100,000 inspection units and that that cost would be some $4 million. Well, I can tell you that government squanders at least $4 million annually. I'm not prepared to say in bonuses or anything of that nature, I'm prepared to say if we went through the book with a fine-tooth comb, we could come up with enough money to address a very basic human right of shelter.

[Page 5532]

What is wrong with implementing, even if you can't implement it in whole or part. When we as a political Party bring resolutions to this legislative floor for debate, we're open and receptive to changes that the government may bring forward, positive changes.

We do know that there needs to be a gradual phasing in, but we do not want the government to, out of hand, out of sight, just simply dismiss resolutions that come forward. I know the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has been in the community long enough and knows how serious the issue is in certain parts of Nova Scotia. He also knows the vacancy rate and the ratio in the Halifax metropolitan area. He also knows, Mr. Speaker, that this has an effect right across the Province of Nova Scotia and that honourable minister should be aware that there are avenues . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for Resolution No. 2542 has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Third Reading, Private and Local Bills for Third Reading and Private Members' Public Bills for Third Reading. There will be some bills on second reading and there will be some bills in the House for Committee of the Whole House on Bills. So we should have a rather busy day. With that, I move that we do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn today's proceedings. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Now we'll move into the late show adjournment debate which was submitted by the honourable Minister of Community Services, the member for Kings South.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

TREMAINE CRES. - RESIDENTS:

OPPOSITION LEADER - APOLOGIZE

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a mixed pleasure to be up this evening, because something happened last week which I feel should not have happened in our

[Page 5533]

fair province and to the affected seniors who were so offended by this. I'm referring to a resolution that was made in the House by somebody who is supposed to carry a good deal of responsibility in the governance of this province, that being the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, he got up in the House on that day and made some very disparaging remarks about the homes of some seniors who live in a public housing complex in Windsor. He was suggesting things in the House, and he got our attention. He got the member's attention, the Deputy Premier represents that area; he got my attention, I am the minister. I would like to advise you that I personally visited this place and met with staff, went out of my way to meet some of the residents. I know that the Deputy Premier also did the same. I know the mayor did the same. I know that the warden took an interest in this. I know that candidates for the election took an interest in this, and I know that the residents took a great interest in the comments not only made by the Leader of the Opposition about their homes and the condition of their homes, but also by the letter that was published by the defeated NDP candidate for the area. (Interruptions) That gentleman's name is Sean Bennett.

I want to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Bennett, I feel, was probably welcomed into these people's homes some few months ago when he had his meeting. Never did they realize how he and his Leader were using them. (Interruptions)

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the indignation that I think is felt by those people I have mentioned thus far is what I am trying to channel here, because what the message was from those residents was very clear. As I tabled yesterday in the my resolution to the House, there's one thing that they wanted, and that was a public apology from the Leader of the Opposition for the remarks that he made about their homes. If the member opposite wants to get up right now and apologize, we can adjourn this debate now. If he does not get up, then I will continue.

He is not getting up, Mr. Speaker. I think that's regrettable. I think it's an honourable thing to recognize when you've made a mistake. I would suggest that he's made a mistake, unless he gets some joy in going around trashing seniors, which is what they feel he has done to them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame. Shame on him. Shame, shame.

MR. MORSE: Implicitly, he has not only made disparaging remarks about the residents at Tremaine Crescent, 70 and 72, but he's also made disparaging remarks about the hard-working employees who work for the Annapolis Valley Housing Authority.

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the member for Cape Breton . . .

[Page 5534]

AN HON. MEMBER: Cape Breton West. Cape Breton West.

MR. MORSE: No, it wasn't Cape Breton West.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: You don't know . . .

MR. MORSE: The member who represents New Waterford finds the way that I am defending the employees of the housing authority to be amusing. Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you they did not find these comments amusing, but since I assume there's some sort of official record to be kept of this, perhaps they would be interested in how he is mocking their contribution towards assisting these seniors.

Implicitly, he is also making insinuations about the seniors' and the staff's working relationship, which I can tell you is second to none. Mr. Speaker, as I went around there, the staff member who happens to be a gentleman by the name of Orrien Smith, was known by everybody. They referred to him on a first-name basis; they were pleased to see him; he knew everybody there. He knew when they had come, he knew every concern they had ever brought to him. He knew how he had attempted to assist them, as did Jim Videto, the Executive Director for the Housing Authority. So there is a good relationship between the staff and the tenants. It's a warm relationship. They clearly like each other, and it's a good working relationship.

The Opposition Leader's comments implicitly reflected very poorly on the staff, as well as making regrettable statements about the seniors' homes. He has insulted the seniors who worked hard during their careers and now want to enjoy their retirement in this marvellous public housing development. The avalanche of indignation about his comments and offers of assistance for material that they wanted to have shared publicly with that honourable member was overwhelming. I got it from the residents; I have a voice mail message from the mayor of Windsor, who, sir, is no fan of the Leader of the NDP, I can tell you that, because of your comments. (Interruptions) I got it from a warden; I got it from people involved in the municipal elections, and of course we know that the member for the area actually went out and got a petition, which he tabled here yesterday, indicating their indignation with his public comments and that of his defeated candidate, Sean Bennett.

I would also suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this draws some interest on my part to the complete lack of mention of affordable housing in the NDP's seven points in which they ran their election campaign, something which is not lost on the advocates out there for affordable housing, something they have mentioned to me their disappointment in that Party's lack of public support for basically the housing authorities. We see that, clearly, their lack of mentioning it, is one of their seven speaking points in their platform, if that was their election campaign platform.

[Page 5535]

Clearly, it goes beyond that, to go out there and publicly attack the residents and the staff and all those that are serving their community in the capacity of mayors, wardens, councillors - I think it just reflects volumes on the Leader of the NDP.

Mr. Speaker, how many minutes do I have because I have a lot that I'd like to share?

MR. SPEAKER: One and one-half minutes.

MR. MORSE: One and one-half minutes. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: You have until 6:08 p.m.

MR. MORSE: I am going to run out of time on this, unfortunately. There are a couple of quotes that maybe the Leader would not find so amusing. Norma Eldridge. We had to tone down her comments, she just wants to say she's very happy with her apartment and the service and she believes that - I'm not able to name him, but it's the Leader of the Official Opposition, should apologize to the residents. She would like it to be public. That sentiment is echoed throughout the residence. Christina Fox, a 20 year, happy resident, put her feelings in this manner - ". . . disappointed with the Sean Bennett letter."

What I would like to say is that the Leader of the NDP callously and deliberately used seniors to advance a political agenda. That's what they feel. He abused their trust and those seniors want a public apology. I am going to say something about the NDP - anybody wishing to have their home publicly trashed can call their local NDP candidate or member . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the member has expired.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I must say, as I understand it, was there someone from the Liberal caucus who was intending to speak? We speak third, then, right? That's the way it works. There was nobody sitting in the seats at the time, so if they're not . . .

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Okay. Well, Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, I had not contemplated on speaking to this particular resolution. Quite frankly I'm astounded that a Minister of the Crown would introduce such a resolution for debate. Irrespective of his thoughts and his opinions about the Leader of the NDP, irrespective of the feelings of the residents in this particular home have towards certain comments or actions that have been either made or taken with regard to the Leader of the NDP or any other member of the House, there are processes to deal with this.

[Page 5536]

To use the valuable time and energy and resources of the House of Assembly to engage at this level of debate, I just find absolutely astounding. For a Minister of the Crown, of all individuals, when we consider that we have this affordable housing program - some 1,500 homes that were supposed to be built over a five-year period - we would have to construct at least 30 homes a month for the next four years in order to be addressing the problems. There are very serious housing problems in his department. What about transition houses? What are the minister and his department doing in regard to that? Instead, he's engaging in this most parochial, I hate to use the word senseless, but that's the appearance that it has. You respect the honourable Leader of the NDP, and any other member of the House, whether you agree or you disagree with them.

But this is bordering on personal attacks, Mr. Speaker, and I am very concerned that we are allowing the level of debate to be engaged at this level. Thank heavens that the time has elapsed for the Minister of Community Services when he starts referencing that if you want your house trashed, or if you want somebody to call upon you if your house is trashed, call an NDP member. My heavens above. Has the level of debate deteriorated that much? That's very concerning.

I know that the Leader of the NDP can certainly defend himself. He's a very able and skilful debater, and a politician. We may not agree philosophically, but, Mr. Speaker, I would submit that the Minister of Community Services deal with the number of individuals that are now going to food banks. There are over 300 a month going to the food bank in the City of Sydney.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask about the students in Wolfville.

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely, the students that attend in Wolfville who have to go. What about the more than 14,000 children who go to school every day without having breakfast? What's the minister doing about that, rather than engaging in this frivolous sideshow? (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, there was no thunderous applause for the minister advocating that they should stretch their dollars and eat more pasta. That's essentially what the minister said. I appreciate that it may be the first time in history this has happened, or in a long period of time, and any amount of assistance, any amount of help that is offered by the department is welcome news. But don't make it into a grandiose thing and in such a patronizing fashion as if you were doing a favour to people who are in genuine need. It is absolutely unacceptable.

For the minister to waste the time and the resources of this House because of some political difficulty that he has with the Leader of the NDP or members of the NDP caucus for that matter. There's a time and a place to engage into that political sideshow. I would respectfully submit that the minister accept the duties that he has dutifully sworn to accept. (Interruptions)

[Page 5537]

Mr. Speaker, when there's heat, sometimes you have to get out of the kitchen. I know there are rules on reference, but it can't be any more clear, because it really should not have been before this House. It really should not. I've been here since 1988, and I've seen a lot of debates, a lot of resolutions, some, Mr. Speaker, you've called into question, you've ordered them out of order, but this is the first time I have seen a resolutions of this calibre come before the House.

It smacks of some type of obsession that the Minister of Community Services has with members of the NDP caucus. Mr. Speaker; it could be a member of the Liberal caucus tomorrow, at the rate he's going; it could be a member of the Conservative caucus, like the member for Kings North, the way he attacks his own government. It's quite dangerous to be dealing with that. But there are some very serious issues. We've mentioned about transition houses, we've mentioned about food banks, we've mentioned about the affordable housing program.

What about women's centres? What about all these other issues within the Department of Community Services? What about the ever-increasing number of individuals that are applying for assistance for upgrading their homes, seniors, that because they get to a certain age and their health deteriorates, they can't go up to the second story of their home where their bedroom is, and the washroom is. They may have to make some moderate changes to their home. Why isn't the minister putting those issues here for us to deliberate and debate, and to assist these individuals?

[6:15 p.m.]

We have tens of thousands, Mr. Speaker, right across this province, who need help. They don't need these political sideshows. They add very little to the constructive value of what we, as provincial legislators and public policymakers and advocates for our constituents, are supposed to be here doing. So I would hope not only the Minister of Community Services, but certainly if not the Government House Leader, certainly the Premier should take notice of this. This is very concerning. What about the number of students who are attending university who, because of the increasing costs of transportation - for example, in Cape Breton, two-thirds of the students travel every day to go to university, and the cost of fuel has effectively doubled since last year for many of them, yet the cost of their transportation allowance has not increased. (Interruptions) Absolutely.

Mr. Speaker, there are many instances that they're trading off. They're trading off what little resources they have to try to make the best of a difficult situation, and we have a Minister of the Crown who would come before the floor of this Legislature and engage in a level of debate that I have never ever witnessed and I hope I will never see again. With that, I will conclude my remarks. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, you have about 35 seconds . . .

[Page 5538]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: . . . left of the honourable member's time, if you wish to use it.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. During the debate, at times, I know you've disciplined members of the House before for showing a lack of respect towards other members, and certainly it's something that some of us have been called to order on, but when the member for Kings North exited this Chamber, it was clearly audible to us, a derogatory comment and name was used towards the member for Cape Breton West, which could clearly be heard by myself and members of the Official Opposition. I'm surprised that the Speaker may not have heard it, but that's entirely possible. Clearly, I would hope that the Speaker would look into this. At the end of the day, we are all honourable members, and sometimes we slip, but to slip into name-calling, I think, is completely unacceptable for this House.

MR. SPEAKER: . . . I did not hear. Anytime I do hear something - I'm on the record as saying whether it's on the record or it's not, I've called members in question too on those issues. Anyway, I won't take up the honourable member's time, but I will follow up on that.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you live, you learn, every day. I never really thought there would be a day when the member for Cape Breton West would stand up to defend me in this House. I want to say that I appreciate his comments, and I've listened carefully to them and I would agree that it is a shame that the time of this House was taken up with this kind of a resolution. But, it does afford me an opportunity, not to speak to the minister, but rather to speak to the people on whose behalf he says he wants to speak. It seems to me his passion for this resolution far outstrips his actual knowledge of the question which I asked on the day in question.

The reality is, Mr. Speaker, and you can check Hansard, I went back and read the question, because I was concerned by what the minister was saying, and in fact I never, at any time, ever mentioned 70 Tremaine Crescent, not once, not by implication or otherwise. In fact, what the minister did was indicate that somehow I managed to disparage residents of a building I never mentioned and so that says something about how far the minister was willing to go in order to try to reel me into what he thinks, I suppose, is some kind of a controversy.

What I did do was I talked about the conditions at the premises on 72 Tremaine. I also referred in my comments to the minister to a specific resident and to the problem that that particular resident was also experiencing and, Mr. Speaker, you may remember that I tabled at that time a series of photographs and I'm going to table copies of those yet again so if the Minister of Community Services cares to have a look at them, he can see them. The purpose in the business that I'm used to being in, much like the business that you're used to being in,

[Page 5539]

this is what they call evidence, an exhibit, so that people can see exactly what it is that you are trying to prove.

In each case what I said in the question that I put forward was demonstrated or supported by the exhibits that I tabled in the House and the reason for this was to underline the particular difficulties that that resident was undergoing in the place that she was living, but also to draw to the attention of the minister a wider problem with respect to the housing authorities generally, the lack of their resources, and the lack of an overall maintenance schedule for the places in which the seniors of our province live.

This is the proper role for the Leader of the Opposition, I would say the proper role for any member of this House, to stand up and to bring to the attention of the government what is a deficit in the way in which they are dealing with the members of our various communities. That is certainly what I attempted to do and was trying to elicit from the minister a response that would help this particular resident, and the others who are affected by this across the province, and I don't have any way of knowing all of the difficulties that occur in all of the different residences. I only know the ones that occur in mine and I know that there are difficulties with the maintenance schedules because there simply aren't enough resources to go around.

So I will say this, the minister, along with the member for that area and apparently the mayor, or warden, I can't remember which, what I'm told, is they went to the building next door, but they didn't go to 72 Tremaine. Now, they may have gone to 72 Tremaine as well, but they elicited a letter of complaint out of the building, which I never referred to, by apparently indicating to these residents who, I understand, did not see the exchange in Question Period, only, I understand, saw a limited report in one of the newspapers, and elicited from them a letter of complaint.

Well, Mr. Speaker, interestingly enough, shortly before the minister actually showed up, I understand that miraculously in 72 Tremaine, the one that I actually talked about, there was a good thorough cleaning that took place in that residence which is great. I mean I suppose in some small sense we actually accomplished to a limited degree what we were intending to point out. I'm not suggesting that the threadbare carpets or the older curtains were replaced, and, in fact, if you actually read the text of the question, what I asked for was not necessarily even that that be done, but that the schedule of maintenance that would ensure that it did get done would be made known to the residents of the building. That's what I actually asked for because that's the difference between what the minister talked about, the implications of what I said, and what I actually said.

Mr. Speaker, it is, I think, very disappointing that that kind of activity would take place on behalf of the minister. Now, I understand, interestingly enough, from the individuals whom I was talking to at that particular residence, I want to make two points. I'm not sure exactly how much time I have, but I want to make two points. One is that I understand those

[Page 5540]

residents have now had an opportunity because they have a videotape of actually seeing the exchange; in other words, finding out what it was I actually said and what the response actually was. They now have a better appreciation for what it was I actually said. I understand they didn't have any problem with it. That's what I'm told. That's the first part.

The second part is, when I asked these questions - because I think like most people in here, I take what I do here very seriously. I take my job as a representative of the people of Cole Harbour but also my larger position as a representative of my Party and as a representative of New Democrats across the province, I take that very seriously.

I wrote to the people in 70 Tremaine Crescent and I told them that as soon as the House rose that I was willing to come to them and speak with them about any of their concerns. It's important not only that I get what I'm talking about right, which, and as far as I know what I said on that day was correct in all of its aspects, it's important that I also know how they feel about the work that I do. That's every bit as important to me as the fact that I deliver it in a straightforward way.

I don't know if it makes the Minister of Community Services feel any better or not that he took the opportunity tonight to castigate me and to suggest that I had all kinds of motives, that it was somehow nefarious, and that I wanted to abuse my position and to trash people. I don't think that any reasonable, any objective individual who has watched my performance in this House or in my job since I've been elected would come to the conclusion that that was the purpose with which I set out to bring to the attention of the House what I considered to be a serious issue, and I want to promise you, Mr. Speaker, I intend to continue to do that. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The time allotted for late debate has expired.

The House will adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:28 p.m.]

[Page 5541]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2813

By: Mr. Gary Hines (Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank)

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

Whereas Day and Ross Transport began their operations in June 1950 with one truck on the road hauling potatoes from New Brunswick to Quebec; and

Whereas Day and Ross Transport Group now has 800 power units, 1,300 tractor-trailer units and intermodal containers along with 2,500 employees across Canada; and

Whereas Day and Ross Transportation Group with four branch locations here in Nova Scotia, in Kentville, Sydney, New Glasgow and Dartmouth, plans a $28 million expansion at their Dartmouth facility where 149 people will work with the project expected to be finished early in the new year; and

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud Day and Ross Transportation Group for their continued confidence in Nova Scotia's economy with their latest expansion and wish them nothing but continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 2814

By: Mr. Keith Colwell (Preston)

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

Whereas the James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University was developed in 1996 to acknowledge the unique historical presence of Black people in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas on September 20, 2004, Dalhousie University launched Professor David Divine's tenure in the James R. Johnston Chair; and

Whereas Professor Divine has numerous objectives for his tenure including the creation of a Black Canadian Research Centre and a centre for coordinating conferences on Black Canadian research as well as Black community development;

[Page 5542]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Professor David Divine on the launch of his tenure and look forward to the progressive and positive work of this Chair.

RESOLUTION NO. 2815

By: Mr. Keith Colwell (Preston)

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

Whereas in October 2003, the Morton Simmonds Scholarship was announced to honour Mr. Simmonds, the first African-Canadian correctional worker in Atlantic Canada, who began work as a correctional worker in Nova Scotia in 1972; and

Whereas this scholarship provides tuition and books for the two-year correctional officer program at Nova Scotia Community College as well as a job placement after graduation; and

Whereas Algeron Smith of North Preston, is one of the first recipients of this scholarship;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Algeron Smith and wish him success in his studies and in his career.

RESOLUTION NO. 2816

By: Mr. Keith Colwell (Preston)

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

Whereas in October 2003, the Morton Simmonds Scholarship was announced to honour Mr. Simmonds, the first African-Canadian correctional worker in Atlantic Canada, who began work as a correctional worker in Nova Scotia in 1972; and

Whereas this scholarship provides tuition and books for the two-year correctional officer program at Nova Scotia Community College as well as a job placement after graduation; and

Whereas Larissa Downey of Cherry Brook/Lake Loon is one of the first recipients of this scholarship;

[Page 5543]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Larissa Downey and wish her success in her studies and in her career.

RESOLUTION NO. 2817

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Melissa Mills received a prize as a participant in the Summer reading club at the Springhill Library, which closed at the end of August; and

Whereas the program begins at the end of the school year and closes at the end of August, with over 60 students participating, picking several books that they would like to read and making out a log sheet to keep track of their progress; and

Whereas children from the age of two, with a reading buddy, to the age of 12, participated in the program, reading, and discussing their books with each other;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Melissa Mills for her interest and enthusiasm in this very important reading program.

RESOLUTION NO. 2818

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mayor Bill Mont, of the Town of Springhill, was honoured by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities with a golden scroll commemorating the 24 years he served as Springhill's mayor; and

Whereas Mont, who began his political career in 1967, was a former insurance adjuster, who had already finished a military career, having been stationed overseas during World War II, which included providing security escorts for Queen Elizabeth before her coronation, to Field Marshalls Alexander and Montgomery and even to Winston Churchill; and

Whereas Bill Mont decided to step down as mayor and pass his responsibilities on to a newly elected mayor and council;

[Page 5544]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mayor Bill Mont on receiving this prestigious golden scroll, thank him for his years of dedication to the Town of Springhill and wish him many years of health and prosperity.

RESOLUTION NO. 2819

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Seamus Moore received a prize as a participant in the Summer reading club at the Springhill Library, which closed at the end of August; and

Whereas the program starts at the end of the school year and stops at the end of August, with over 60 participating, picking several books that they would like to read and making out a log sheet to keep track of their progress; and

Whereas children from the age of two, with a reading buddy, to the age of 12, participated in the program, with children reading and discussing their books with each other;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Seamus Moore for his interest and enthusiasm in this very important reading program.

RESOLUTION NO. 2820

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas David (Pidge) Morris of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, celebrated his 40th Anniversary as a barber; and

Whereas stepping into Pidge's Barber Shop is like stepping into a sports memorabilia store where hockey sticks, jerseys, baseballs, pictures of some of the great sports players and much more line the walls and ceiling of the little barber shop in Parrsboro; and

Whereas some dedicated customers have been using Pidge's services for as long as 32 years and his warmth and dedication have kept his business going for 40 years;

[Page 5545]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate David (Pidge) Morris on celebrating his 40th Anniversary at the barber shop and wish him many more prosperous years of business.

RESOLUTION NO. 2821

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Adam Nicholson received a prize as a participant in the Summer reading club at the Springhill Library, which closed at the end of August; and

Whereas the program begins at the end of the school year and closes at the end of August, with over 60 students participating, picking several books that they would like to read and making out a log sheet to keep track of their progress; and

Whereas children from the age of two, with a reading buddy, to the age of 12, participated in the program, reading, and discussing their books with each other;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Adam Nicholson for his interest and enthusiasm in this very important reading program.

RESOLUTION NO. 2822

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Kyle O'Brien received a prize as a participant in the Summer reading club at the Springhill Library, which closed at the end of August; and

Whereas the program begins at the end of the school year and closes at the end of August, with over 60 students participating, picking several books that they would like to read and making out a log sheet to keep track of their progress; and

Whereas children from the age of two, with a reading buddy, to the age of 12, participated in the program, reading, and discussing their books with each other;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kyle O'Brien for his interest and enthusiasm in this very important reading program.

[Page 5546]

RESOLUTION NO. 2823

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Oxford Regional High School's commitment to encouraging and providing students with healthy lifestyle choices has been recognized by a national education association; and

Whereas ORHS is one of 221 Canadian schools to be awarded the Diamond School Recognition Award for Quality Daily Physical Education for 2003-04; and

Whereas the award is presented by the Canadian Association for Health Physical Education, Recreation and Dance to high schools that provide students with at least 150 minutes of quality daily physical education per week;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Oxford Regional High School on this outstanding award and thank them for their dedication to the health of their students.