Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04/05-73

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 3243, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. P. Christie 6473
Hon. P. Christie 6473
Mr. G. Steele 6493
Adjourned debate 6497
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. S. McNeil 6498
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. D. Dexter 6499
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. W. Gaudet 6499
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6500
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation 2003-04 Annual Report,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6500
Civil Procedure Rules Amendments, Hon. M. Baker 6500
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3416, Concert for Asia: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6501
Vote - Affirmative 6501
Res. 3417, Health Prom. - Healthy Eating Action Group: Work -
Recognize, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6501
Vote - Affirmative 6502
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 171, Workers' Compensation Act, Mr. C. Parker 6502
No. 172, Rocky Lake Commons Ice Rinks Act, Mr. G. Hines 6502
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3418, Cdn. Youth Remembrance Soc.: Efforts - Commend,
Mr. D. Dexter 6503
Vote - Affirmative 6503
Res. 3419, Eaton, Michael - Order of Can., Mr. K. Deveaux 6503
Vote - Affirmative 6504
Res. 3420, Valley Reg. Hosp. Fdn. - Urology Laser: Fundraising -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 6504
Vote - Affirmative 6505
Res. 3421, Twelfth Night: Prince Andrew HS - Production,
Ms. J. Massey 6505
Vote - Affirmative 6506
Res. 3422, Environ. & Lbr.: Coastline Protection Plan - Create,
Mr. L. Glavine 6506
Res. 3423, Jones, Nicole: Prov. Vol. Award - Nominee,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 6506
Vote - Affirmative 6507
Res. 3424, West Branch United Church - Heritage Designation,
Mr. C. Parker 6507
Vote - Affirmative 6508
Res. 3425, Econ. (N.S.) - Michelin: Commitment - Acknowledge,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6508
Vote - Affirmative 6508
Res. 3426, Health - Digby-Annapolis: Nursing Homes - Increase,
Mr. H. Theriault 6509
Res. 3427, Political Office: Women - Encourage, Ms. M. More 6509
Vote - Affirmative 6510
Res. 3428, Conrad, Lynda: Lawrencetown Book - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 6510
Vote - Affirmative 6511
Res. 3429, TPW: Hwy. No. 101 (Digby-Weymouth) - Prioritize,
Mr. H. Theriault 6511
Res. 3430, McHugh, Kelli: Basketball - Recognition, Mr. G. Gosse 6511
Vote - Affirmative 6512
Res. 3431, Cdn. Cancer Soc.: Relay for Life - St. FX Nursing Sch.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 6512
Vote - Affirmative 6513
Res. 3432, Official Opposition: Policy Outcomes - Recognize,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6513
Res. 3433, Millman, Peter - Da Costa Award, Hon. J. Muir 6514
Vote - Affirmative 6514
Res. 3434, Cyr, Maureen - Metro Transit: St. Marg. Bay Rd. - Init.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6514
Vote - Affirmative 6515
Res. 3435, VON (C.B.): Service (100 Yrs.) - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6515
Vote - Affirmative 6516
Res. 3436, Sackville Flyers AAA Hockey Team - Congrats.,
Hon. B. Barnet 6516
Vote - Affirmative 6516
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 734, Fin. - Budget (2005-06): Vision - Omission Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 6517
No. 735, Fin. (Budget 2005-06): Debt Increase - Justify,
Mr. Michel Samson 6518
No. 736, Fin. - Budget (2005-06): Tax Cuts - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 6520
No. 737, Prem. - Atl. Accord Passage: Stephen Harper - Consultation,
Mr. Michel Samson 6521
No. 738, Educ. - Student Debt: Reduction - Details, Mr. D. Dexter 6522
No. 739, Educ. - Tuition Fees: Barrier - Acknowledge, Mr. D. Dexter 6523
No. 740, Immigration - Foreign Credentials: Evaluation System - Improve,
Mr. H. Epstein 6524
No. 741, Prem.: Educ. Funding - Misleading Info., Ms. D. Whalen 6525
No. 742, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Internet Access: Proj. - Fund,
Ms. M. Raymond 6526
No. 743, Environ. & Lbr. - Williams Point (Antigonish): Development -
Study, Ms. J. Massey 6528
No. 744, Educ.: Per-Pupil Funding - Rating, Ms. D. Whalen 6529
No. 745, TPW - Rural N.S.: Bus. Serv. - Ensure, Mr. C. Parker 6530
No. 746, TPW - Como Rd. Repair: Promise - Misleading,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 6531
No. 747, Environ. & Lbr. - Prospect Rd. Cleanup: Bus. Owner - Assist,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6532
No. 748, TPW: Apple Blossom Mennonite Sch. - Signage,
Mr. L. Glavine 6533
No. 749, Pictou Shipyards - Prem.: Jobs - Ensure, Mr. C. Parker 6534
No. 750, Health - Wait Times: Report - Time Frame,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6535
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 3:05 P.M. 6536
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:12 P.M. 6536
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 27th at 2:00 p.m. 6538
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3437, Health - Physician Recruitment/Retention: Plan - Outline,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6539
Res. 3438, Dowe, Travis - Basketball Award, The Speaker 6539
Res. 3439, Ferguson, Sgt. David - Marksmanship Comp., The Speaker 6540
Res. 3440, Ferguson, CWO Alan - Marksmanship Comp., The Speaker 6540
Res. 3441, Falconer, Clarence - CSC Exemplary Gold Bar, The Speaker 6541
Res. 3442, Fahey, Blake - Basketball Award, The Speaker 6541

[Page 6473]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2005

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Daniel Graham

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

[Res. No. 3243, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred - notice given Apr. 21/04 - (Hon. P. Christie)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to a notice of motion given by me on April 21, 2005, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006 which is:

6473

[Page 6474]

"I hereby transmit Estimates of Sums required for the Public Service of the province, for the year ending March 31, 2006, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them together with the Budget Address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures to the House of Assembly.

Signed,

Myra A. Freeman

Lieutenant Governor

April 26, 2005."

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House; I would also like to table the Estimates Book, table the Consolidated Fiscal Plan for the government consisting of the Government Business Plan and other information contained in the budget, table the Crown Corporation Business Plans, table the Estimates and Crown Corporation Business Plan Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and move the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

Mr. Speaker, Premier, colleagues, today is a big day for me and for all of us in this Chamber. But for most Nova Scotians it's just like any other day. They got up this morning, got dressed for work. Perhaps they got the kids off to school before heading out to check on an aging parent. Perhaps they went for their first job interview or celebrated their last day on the job before retiring. Many, I'm sure, are not even aware that today is Budget Day. But it's a day, Mr. Speaker, that will affect practically every Nova Scotian - either immediately and directly, or over time - in important ways they may not even notice.

I say this, Mr. Speaker, because the decisions we take and the choices we make here and now have far-reaching implications for our province and the people we serve, not just today, but well into the future.

I say this, Mr. Speaker, because I want Nova Scotians to know that, just as we have with each and every budget we have brought before this House, we once again thought long and hard, not just about what is the right budget for today, but about the best budget to build a better Nova Scotia tomorrow. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present my second budget as Minister of Finance and Nova Scotia's fourth consecutive balanced budget. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, this is a budget

[Page 6475]

that includes significant new dollars to help our kids do better in school and to grow into healthy, productive adults. A budget that continues to build on our economic strengths, to address our social challenges, and to help struggling families better cope with the demands and costs of raising a family. A budget that remains true to our commitment to live within our means, while doing everything within our means to address the priorities of Nova Scotians. A budget, Mr. Speaker, that contains no new taxes and will end the year with a $63.3 million surplus, $61 million of which will go toward debt reduction.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is forecasted to end fiscal 2004-05 with a $87.5 million surplus, every penny of which will be applied to our debt.

[12:15 p.m.]

Let me take a moment to point out that Nova Scotia is one of only two provinces in the country in recent years to have tabled four balanced budgets in a row. As things go, 2004-05 was a good year, a better year than most. Our economy did better than many of our private forecasters expected, generating 10,300 new jobs (95 per cent full-time). In fact, last year, Nova Scotia recorded the highest job growth in the country. (Applause)

In addition, Mr. Speaker, finally, after pushing hard for a fairer health care deal and a fairer equalization-sharing agreement, Ottawa came through with both. In September we reached a new Health Accord and in October a new equalization deal.

Both of these new agreements, along with an economy that exceeded expectations, allowed us to make additional investments in the third quarter of 2004-05; Investments that will have a positive impact on the programs and services we provide to Nova Scotians throughout 2005-2006 and well beyond. Investments we used to meet and/or exceed the commitments we outlined in our Blueprint for Building a Better Nova Scotia. Investments we made knowing they would help address the priorities of Nova Scotians:

like $500,000 for a new wheelchair recycling program for children 18 years and younger; $400,000 to launch a new breakfast program for our elementary students; and $2.7 million more to repair the homes of our seniors and low income Nova Scotians; like $8.8 million to support struggling farm families and $10 million more to promote tourism; and $20.3 million in university funding, including $12.3 million for the first installment on our multi-year funding agreement.

Mr. Speaker, our strong economic performance throughout 2004-05 and the additional dollars we received from Ottawa will enable us to make a $60-million down payment on our debt, which in turn gives us greater capacity over the next two years to address the urgent need to fix more of our roads and to replace more of our aging bridges - something every member of this House has said, and every Nova Scotian knows, is crucial, not just to public safety, but to supporting a growing economy.

[Page 6476]

Mr. Speaker, our economic indicators, as well as those prepared by private sector forecasters, indicate Nova Scotia can expect steady growth over the coming year. Employment growth is expected to increase 1.5 per cent in 2005 and 1 per cent in 2006, with the unemployment rate dipping slightly in 2005 and remaining stable through 2006. It is also anticipated that there will be modest growth in personal income over the next two years and that the Consumer Price Index will increase by 1.9 per cent this year and 2.0 per cent next. As well, Nova Scotia is expected to witness a 4.2 per cent increase in personal expenditures on consumer goods and services and a 4.4 per cent growth in retail sales.

Mr. Speaker, real GDP is projected to increase by 2.1 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent in 2006.

Mr. Speaker, this government was among one of the first governments in Canada to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). We were the first government in Nova Scotia to successfully eliminate the province's deficit and to table a debt reduction plan. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, if it is the will of the Opposition to allow this minority government to continue, we will be the first government in the history of Nova Scotia to watch our debt go down. Our debt reduction plan is not just on target, it has been accelerated.

As our Premier has already said, every penny of every dollar from the $830-million up-front payment we expect to receive from Ottawa as a result of successfully negotiating a better offshore deal will go to the debt. This will free up significant new dollars that would otherwise go to servicing the debt, an estimated $20 million this year and approximately $50 million annually.

Mr. Speaker, as a minority government, and at a time when demands are great and the dollars to meet them still in short supply, it could be awfully tempting to bow to the demands to spend some or all of the $830 million in new offshore money. But that is not the way of this government or our Premier. We will continue to make the right decisions for our province today, but always with a view to building a better future.

We will continue to do what we can, whenever we can, to ease the burden of debt that weighs heavily on our minds, and heavily on our children's shoulders. With that said, let me take a moment to address the significance of the debt, and why it is what it is.

Mr. Speaker, almost 80 per cent of the increase in the debt since 1999 is the direct result of adopting transparent accounting rules and the provisions for closing Sysco, the sale of NSRL, and the addition of assets for P-3 leases. Before 1999, the debts of Sysco, Nova Scotia Resources Limited, and the regional health boards, for example, were not included in the provincial budget and not accounted for when recording our true debt. Today they are, as they should be. (Applause)

[Page 6477]

As well, in keeping with subsequent changes to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and Public Sector Accounting Board policies, we consolidated and recorded $1.1 billion in pension and retirement allowances, including $75.2 million for school boards retiring allowances.

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, before you can tackle the debt, you need to eliminate deficit spending, which we did in 2002, on time, and as promised. We also borrowed over our time in government so we could begin addressing Nova Scotia's significant infrastructure deficit.

Money we used to pay for the capital costs of road improvements, better hospitals, and new schools that, thankfully, we once again own and control.

We did just as any responsible business man or woman who is expanding their business would do, just as any responsible home owner who is making needed repairs to their home would do, we set aside money from our revenues to cover the cost of the dollars we borrowed.

Mr. Speaker, we could have chosen to neglect our roads, hospitals, and schools. We didn't. We could have chosen to cut deeply into program spending and lay off hundreds if not thousands of highway workers, nurses, or teachers to pay for urgently needed capital improvements. We didn't. We rejected that approach because it would have been bad economics based on faulty assumptions that would have led to chaos throughout the Public Service and concern among investors.

Instead, we did what was responsible and right. We did what was totally consistent with GAAP and totally consistent with the most modern and transparent rules of accounting - we borrowed the capital dollars needed to support the needs of the travelling public, of patients, of students, and of a growing economy and amortized the annual costs of our capital investments. This year, total capital spending on highways, schools, health care facilities and other important infrastructure investments will total $280 million.

Yes, the debt has grown, but so has our economy. In fact, in many ways, the dollars we borrowed for capital improvements to our roads, hospitals, and schools helped put unemployed Nova Scotians back to work, which in turn provided an extra boost to our economy.

Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, Nova Scotia's capacity to manage its debt has significantly improved in recent years. Nova Scotia's net direct debt to GDP ratio is projected to go down once again - for the fourth year in a row - from 46.8 per cent in 2001-02 to a forecast of 39.6 per cent this year. And so is our foreign currency exposure. In 1999 it was 51 per cent; today it is 16.2 per cent. These are two important indicators of the government's improved financial strength.

[Page 6478]

Mr. Speaker, it was sound and prudent management of the province's finances that prompted all three of the province's credit-rating agencies to improve Nova Scotia's credit rating during this government's time in office. In fact, it was the first time ever the Dominion Bond Rating Agency positively adjusted Nova Scotia's credit rating.

So, for those who disagree with borrowing the capital dollars needed to fix our roads, replace our aging schools, or modernize our hospitals, the question becomes: how would you pay for infrastructure improvements without throwing us back into deficit, without huge layoffs, wage freezes, or rollbacks, without significantly increasing taxes, without damaging the economy?

This government provided an orderly transition from years of over-spending and huge deficits to a new period of fiscal stability, while at the same time improving services to Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's fiscal health has significantly improved since 1999 and continues to steadily improve to this day. And even though this gives us a bit more flexibility to address the needs of Nova Scotian families, we must continue to keep our shoulder to the wheel, our eye on the ball, when it comes to managing the province's finances.

We must continue to make investments that count and that contribute to Nova Scotia's long-term economic success and social progress. That is why this budget includes significant new investments in education and to support healthy living.

Mr. Speaker, in his most recent State of the Province Address, the Premier said, "We are going to apply the same kind of discipline and determination to improving the health and academic success of young Nova Scotians, as we did to improving the fiscal and economic health of our province."

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the budget to help our Primary to Grade 12 students do better in school is increasing by $53.7 million, bringing the total amount to $928.6 million, a 6.1 per cent increase over 2004-05. (Applause)

Of course, I think we all know that it's not just how much you spend, but where you spend it, and how you spend it, that counts. That is why, in February, we brought hundreds of parents, teachers, school board members, administrators, and others together for the largest education forum ever held in our province. We discussed with them the next steps for building on the success of our Learning For Life plan and shared with them our vision of an education system that is more responsive to student needs, more accountable to parents, and more supportive of a healthy, more productive learning environment. The budget I am tabling today reflects, to a great extent, what they told us. They told us our plan was solid and our vision on the mark.

Mr. Speaker, this year's budget includes $5.6 million more to hire more specialists - more speech language pathologists, school psychologists, and teachers, including more

[Page 6479]

resource teachers to help students struggling with reading and math, and more physical education teachers to help get our kids in better shape, and stay in shape. It includes $6.3 million more to extend our multi-year plan to reduce class sizes in the early years. As promised, this Fall the 25 student per classroom maximum will be extended beyond Primary and Grade 1 to include all Grade 2 students.

[12:30 p.m.]

As well, in all Primary and Grade 1 classes where there is a special needs student following an Individualized Program Plan, either the class size will be capped at 20, or there will be the additional supervision of another adult. Mr. Speaker, once again, these measures demonstrate this government's commitment to give more of our youngest learners more one-on-one time with their teachers.

The budget also includes an additional $1 million for more books and teaching resources. And, Mr. Speaker, this is on top of the $500,000 we announced in December. It also includes new dollars to address an issue of serious concern to parents, teachers, and Nova Scotia's business community.

Mr. Speaker, we are investing $1.9 million to help more young Nova Scotians at risk of dropping out of school and at risk of losing out on a good future here at home. We will do more to help them find new opportunities to apply their talent and their skills in ways that will have lasting and positive benefits for them and for our economy.

Beginning this Fall, and starting in Grade 10, Options and Opportunities will provide at-risk high school students with hands-on trades training that matches potential high school dropouts with qualified employers who will provide structured, co-operative learning experiences in partnership with the Department of Education and local school boards.

Mr. Speaker, students who enter this program and meet or exceed expected outcomes will be guaranteed the opportunity to continue their learning experience and their journey toward personal success. We will make sure there is a seat open and available to them at a Nova Scotia Community College campus where they can continue their studies.

Mr. Speaker, this is just one example of the good work and forward thinking of businessmen and women within our province who are determined to see Nova Scotia's economy grow. It is just one example of this government's commitment to work in partnership with them, our school boards, and our community college, to address our skills shortage and to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that are available to young Nova Scotians across our province.

[Page 6480]

In addition, the Department of Education will introduce new youth apprenticeship programs to build important workplace skills and to help young Nova Scotians make better, more informed career choices.

Mr. Speaker, in the interest of time, I will not be able to cover all that we are doing to advance the academic success of our students. But let me cover a few more highlights.

As promised, we will soon pilot up to 20 free and full-day, activity-based preschool programs for four-year-olds in areas that meet the following criteria: where there is known demand, where there is a lack of readily available day-care spaces, and where existing schools have room to accommodate additional students. Our preschool program is designed to better prepare our youngest learners for their first big step onto the school bus and into the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, many of the new dollars we are investing in education will be targeted to programs where we know the need is great and where we have established specific outcomes, such as improving the ratio of specialists to special needs students.

The balance of the increase in program spending will go directly to school boards to cover wage and other operating costs pressures, as well as, for example, to increase funding for healthy living and to enhance literacy support programs. (Applause)

As announced last month, no school board, despite steep declines in student enrolment, will receive less money this year, based on the findings of the recent School Funding Review Process. In fact, every board will receive more in 2005-06. We will, however, in the interests of fairness and in the interests of ensuring equity throughout the public school system, increase by a larger margin, the funding to boards with unique pressures, such as the Halifax, South Shore and Tri-County School Boards.

Mr. Speaker, our schools have a big influence on healthy attitudes and a big role to play in shaping healthy decisions. That is why the Department of Education, and the Office of Health Promotion, will be spending an additional $3.5 million on school-based initiatives to help our kids get in shape and stay in shape. Included in this amount is $750,000 more to introduce a province-wide healthy breakfast program for our elementary schools and $345,000 more to expand the hugely successful healthy eating strategy that was piloted in our Valley schools - a pilot, that clearly demonstrated the health dividends for our children when our schools promote healthy eating and provide healthy food choices. (Applause)

I have covered only a few of the highlights of our plan to revitalize and re-energize Nova Scotia's public education system. The full plan, which will provide a lot more detail to students, teachers, and parents, will be released in the coming weeks.

[Page 6481]

Mr. Speaker, beyond the $53.7 million in new operating dollars we are providing to improve the academic performance of our students, we are also providing $55.7 million in capital funding to either replace or make additions and alterations to our P-12 schools.

Mr. Speaker, two years ago, we announced a 10-year, $123-million capital expansion plan for the Nova Scotia Community College. That plan will see a new state-of-the-art facility built in the Halifax Regional Municipality and major upgrades at virtually every other campus across the province, providing an additional 2,500 young Nova Scotians with the opportunity to pursue a quality education and a good future here at home.

This year, we are investing an additional $30.1 million, for a three-year total of $68.9 million in capital improvements. We are also increasing the operating grant to the Nova Scotia Community College by an additional $7.8 million, bringing it to $81.8 million for 2005-06. This investment, Mr. Speaker, underscores this government's commitment to help more Nova Scotians get the skills and trades training they need to succeed. It also underscores this government's commitment to make sound investments today that will support a stronger economy tomorrow. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, as mentioned earlier, late last year, we signed a multi-year funding agreement with our universities - an agreement that will see annual grants to universities increase by approximately $34.7 million at the end of three years. As part of this agreement, our universities have agreed to hold annual tuition increases to no more than 3.9 per cent. This, Mr. Speaker, is significantly better than the average increase of 6 or 7 per cent in recent years, and a far cry from the mid-1990s when government cuts to university grants forced tuitions to rise sharply.

Let me take a moment to set the record straight. It has been suggested - wrongly suggested - that Nova Scotia is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to funding our post-secondary students. This is simply not true. In fact, on a per-capita basis, Nova Scotia's funding for post-secondary education is higher than most provinces.

It has also been suggested that we should simply impose a tuition freeze on our universities. Something that has been tried elsewhere with significant financial consequences for those students who were in the midst of their university education or just about to enter.

For example, British Columbia imposed a tuition freeze that lasted six years. When it was lifted, as was inevitable, and the quality of education began to rapidly decline, students found themselves grappling with huge tuition increases and hefty new fees. In fact, within three years tuition rose by as much as 80 per cent at British Columbia universities and by more than 100 per cent at B.C. colleges.

Mr. Speaker, our universities, like virtually every other business or public institution, are not immune to rising cost pressures, such as the cost of increased wages or other

[Page 6482]

operating expenses. And while it might seem like imposing a tuition freeze on our universities is the politically convenient thing to do, it would be the wrong thing to do when it comes to protecting the quality and accessibility of a university education for tomorrow's students.

Having said that, as a government we have done, and we will continue to do, what we can to help young Nova Scotians better manage the cost of their investment in a quality education. Our student debt-assistance program, introduced two years ago, now enables graduates who make an earnest effort to repay their loans and who work in Nova Scotia to qualify for up to 40 per cent loan forgiveness on the provincial portion. This year, we are increasing the budget for loan forgiveness by an additional $1 million as more students take advantage of this program.

As well, in partnership with the federal government, we are making changes to the Nova Scotia Student Loan Program to enable more students to qualify for a student loan and for the loan forgiveness programs I just referenced.

All told, the government has increased support for Nova Scotia's post-secondary students by $13.4 million, for a total of $309.5 million in 2005-06.

Mr. Speaker, the increased investments in our public school system, in skills and learning, and in our post-secondary education system for 2005-06 amount to $71.7 million, bringing the total budget for education to $1.28 billion, a substantial increase that will help our students do better in school and lead them to a better future here in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has one of the country's oldest populations, along with some of its highest chronic disease rates, both of which put huge pressures on our budget.In order to keep up with demand and enhance our efforts to improve access to quality care, we are increasing the operating budget for the Department of Health to $2.56 billion, an increase of $218 million, or 9.3 per cent, over 2004-05. For the record, and as promised, every cent of every additional dollar received as a result of our new Health Accord with Ottawa and more will be spent on health care.

In December of last year, we accelerated our efforts to speed access to care by increasing funding to our district health authorities and the IWK by $18 million. This funding will now be carried forward in their base budgets. All told, funding to our DHAs now stands at $1.21 billion; a $102.3 million or 9.2 per cent increase over last year.

As well, Mr. Speaker, every dollar of the $15 million provided through the Federal Diagnostic and Medical Equipment Fund is being used to purchase new state-of-the art equipment. A fifth linear accelerator was recently purchased for the Capital District Health Authority, reducing wait times for radiation therapy. And the number of publicly funded MRIs will soon double with the addition of four new scanners and the replacement of two others.

[Page 6483]

Once they are on stream, Nova Scotia will lead the country when it comes to accessibility to magnetic resonance imaging. As well, in order to ensure access to more precise diagnostic testing, three new mammography screening units will be purchased to replace aging equipment.

Other investments to reduce wait times include: funding for the additional 21 beds and to expand the emergency room at Valley Regional; an additional $2.3 million to operate the 25-bed orthopedic expansion at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre; $800,000 for the addition of another operating room at the Cumberland Regional Hospital; an additional $850,000 to expand the orthopedic program in New Glasgow; and $1.65 million to open an additional 50 restorative beds across the province.

As well, in order to improve services to children and youth, enhance emergency and crisis services, and expand community supports for Nova Scotians suffering from chronic mental illness, we are increasing the mental health budget by $6.4 million. Two million of this will be dedicated to implementing Nova Scotia's new mental health standards.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, recognizing the hardship on Nova Scotians who must travel, often long distances, for dialysis, we are also investing $750,000 to identify opportunities for them to receive this vital service closer to home, including examining ways to expand satellite dialysis. We will also conduct a thorough review of existing pain-management services with a view to reducing wait times for patients suffering from chronic pain; and we will introduce a new palliative care program for the people of South West Nova.

Mr. Speaker, here are a few of the other investments we are making to expand or enhance health-care services to Nova Scotians. In consultation with the Diabetes Association of Nova Scotia, we will launch a new Low-Income Diabetic Assistance Program. This program will help diabetics offset the cost of the supplies they need to better manage and control a disease that all too often and all too soon robs them of their quality of life. A total of $2.5 million has been budgeted for this, the first year of the program.

In consultation with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia and the South West Nova District Health Authority, we will spend $500,000 to pilot new efforts to prevent stroke and improve acute care, emergency care, and rehabilitative services for stroke survivors.

In co-operation with the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic, we will introduce Sound Start, a new program that will test every newborn for hearing impairment and direct babies with hearing problems to early intervention services.

[Page 6484]

We are also committing $500,000 to operate Cape Breton's new methadone clinic, $750,000 to increase the personal care hours available to home care clients, and an additional $500,000 to expand the Self-Managed Attendant Care program. This program provides Nova Scotians with disabilities direct funding so they can control, manage, and pay for their own care needs.

These investments are just a few examples of the steps we are taking to ensure that Nova Scotians receive the care or assistance they need, when they need it, hopefully preventing many of them from prematurely requiring either hospital or long-term care. But even with these investments, we recognize that Nova Scotia's aging population requires an additional investment in continuing care. We recently opened an additional 32 long-term care beds at Grand View Manor in Berwick and announced 25 more for Cape Breton.

As members know, the Department of Health is presently conducting provincewide consultations to identify the best approach to meet Nova Scotia's long-term care needs and to respond to communities where the need is most urgent. Notwithstanding, we already have sufficient evidence to confirm that there are two significant pressure spots: Cape Breton and Halifax. That is why, this year, we will begin planning for an additional 100 long-term care beds in Cape Breton and another 100 to 150 beds for the area of Bedford-Sackville.

Of course, the program investments we are making would mean little without the necessary health-care professionals to deliver them. That is why we are committing an additional $300,000 to enhance our nursing recruitment efforts. This investment will be used to attract and retain nurses in our rural communities and is an important addition to our successful Nursing Strategy, which, since 2001, has significantly increased the number of registered nurses working in Nova Scotia. As well, beginning in September 2006, we will fund an additional 25 nurse training seats at Acadia University.

We are also investing $650,000 to increase the number of community-based, multi-disciplinary teams available to serve the primary health-care needs of Nova Scotians. As part of this initiative, four additional nurse practitioners will be hired to support this creative, collaborative approach to health-care delivery.

Mr. Speaker, despite having one of the best doctor-to-patient ratios in the country, we know we cannot relax our efforts to ensure that every Nova Scotian has access to a family physician. That is why, two years ago, we opened up eight new seats at Dalhousie Medical School. As a result, 16 medical students are now making their way through med school. This year we will provide an additional $450,000 to increase that number to 24 future doctors.

As you can see, Mr. Speaker, we are making significant new dollars available to reduce wait times, to provide health-care services closer to home, and to secure the right number and mix of health-care professionals needed to improve the quality of health care to Nova Scotians. But there is no denying that unless we take the necessary steps to help Nova

[Page 6485]

Scotians, particularly young Nova Scotians, make healthier choices, the budget for health care - which now represents 47.9 per cent of total program spending - will continue to eat up more and more of the dollars we have available to us. That is why, two years ago, we became the first government in Canada to establish an Office of Health Promotion, with its own minister and budget.

Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to double the budget of the Office of Health Promotion by year four of our mandate. This budget brings us within a shade of our goal - a full two years ahead of schedule.

The Office of Health Promotion will receive an additional $5.4 million, for a total of $23.9 million. Included in this amount is an additional $1.8 million to implement some of the school-based initiatives I referred to earlier, such as our Sports Animators initiative and our Healthy Foods in Schools and breakfast programs. Additionally, we will provide $360,000 to enable our district health authorities to hire additional public health nutritionists, who, as part of their responsibilities, will be working closely with our school boards to promote healthy food choices.

As announced with the release of our Responsible Gaming Strategy, $3 million has been earmarked for the prevention of problem gaming and for treatment services. The balance of the increase in the Office of Health Promotion budget will largely be used to: allow for a Chronic Disease Prevention Co-ordinator in every district health authority; launch a new program aimed at reducing problem drinking; further support our Injury and Suicide Prevention strategy; enhance our Active Kids, Healthy Kids initiative; and, in consultation and co-operation with our district health authorities, our community health boards, and numerous health charities, launch a social marketing program to help more Nova Scotians change their unhealthy lifestyles.

Mr. Speaker, last year we invested an additional $330,000 in KidSport, a program designed to help children from families of modest means participate in sport. This investment tripled the total dollars available to support low-income children and resulted in hundreds more young Nova Scotians joining their friends on the baseball or soccer field or at the local rink.

This year, we have budgeted $1 million to provide parents who register their children in organized sport, or in recreational activities that support our goal of promoting physical activity, with an allowable tax deduction of $150 per child. Mr. Speaker, this is admittedly a modest first step, saving families approximately $15 dollars per child. But in time, and as revenues permit, we hope to increase the amount of the expense deduction and do more to help offset the cost of registering children in organized sport and recreation programs. This will come into effect on July 1, 2005.

[Page 6486]

This investment is over and above the dollars referred to earlier through the Department of Education and Office of Health Promotion and brings the total investment to promote good health and/or prevent disease and injury to $8.1 million.

The total operating dollars available across government to provide better health-care services or to enhance health promotion and prevent disease and injury amounts to over $2.6 billion.

Mr. Speaker, there is no denying that many parents are struggling with the cost of raising their families, many seniors struggling with the cost of maintaining their homes, many Nova Scotians with disabilities struggling to participate more fully in the lives of their communities. That is why we have been doing everything we reasonably can to help those who are struggling to make ends meet or to make life better for themselves and their families.

That is why one of the first things we did as a government was lift the grandfather clause on our Senior's Property Tax Rebate Program, which provides seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement with up to $400 to put toward their municipal property taxes. It's why we froze Seniors' Pharmacare premiums at last year's level. It's why, this past December, we increased the budget for seniors' home repairs by $1.1 million and increased the funding to upgrade seniors' housing units by $1 million.

It's also why we announced a home-heating fuel rebate program, capped property assessments, and took the steps to lower auto insurance premiums, saving consumers approximately $50 million. And, Mr. Speaker, it's why we ended the National Child Tax Benefit clawback, introduced Nova Scotia's first Back-to-School Supply Program, launched Nova Scotia's highly successful School of Adult Learning, and significantly enhanced programs that help social assistance clients move from welfare to work, including adding more portable, subsidized day-care spaces and increasing the amount of the subsidy.

Mr. Speaker, we also increased funding to support a wide range of programs and services to support Nova Scotians with disabilities. We recently provided an additional $2 million in capital grants to expand and/or repair Nova Scotia's sheltered workshops. As well, and as noted earlier, we tripled the funding to support children with autism and introduced Nova Scotia's first wheelchair recycling program.

Over the past five years we also spent $1.4 million to make our buildings more accessible and $1.6 million to improve accessible transportation. Mr. Speaker, once again, we will invest $250,000 to ensure that Nova Scotians with disabilities have access to their local church, community centre, legion, or library. We will also increase our support for accessible transportation services by increasing the subsidy currently provided to non-profit operators providing accessible transportation from $1.41 to $1.60 per capita. This brings the total amount we will invest this year to improve transportation for Nova Scotians with disabilities to $550,000.

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Over the course of this year, we will also continue our efforts to make life better for seniors and low-income Nova Scotians. I have already stated that we will invest an additional $17 million to hold the Seniors' Pharmacare premium at last year's level, increase the personal care hours for home care clients, provide more assistance to repair seniors' homes, and increase access to continuing care.

[1:00 p.m.]

In addition to this, effective January, 2006, the personal use allowance for seniors in long-term care who are currently receiving $105 per month will keep $115. And, in keeping with the changes we made when we moved from an asset- to an income-based calculation of a senior's contribution, seniors can now accumulate this money and use it for the purposes they wish, without any restrictions.

I am also pleased to announce that the budget for the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens' Secretariat will increase by $207,000. The additional dollars we are providing to the secretariat will be used to advance a strategy to prevent elder abuse and to carry out the important work of the Task Force on Aging, which has already held 34 public meetings, consulted more than 1,000 Nova Scotians, and received well over 100 written submissions on how government, in co-operation with all of its partners, can better utilize the skills of today's seniors and better prepare for the needs of our seniors in future.

Mr. Speaker, last year the Department of Community Services committed an additional $1 million to expand supports for adults in care. Another $1 million will be added this year. The total budget to support adults in care in fiscal 2005-06 is $162.2 million, a 33.6 per cent increase over the past five years. Additionally, the monthly personal use allowance for adults in care will also increase, from $105 to $115, effective January, 2006.

We are also increasing the shelter allowance for single income assistance recipients who are either renting or boarding. The monthly allowance for renters will increase by $50, while boarders will see an additional $25 per month. As well, on October 1, 2005, and for the second year in a row, we will increase the personal allowance budget for all social assistance clients for a two-year increase total of $4.6 million.

Meeting the housing needs of our seniors and families of modest means is also a priority of this government. To date, more than $19 million has been announced by the provincial and federal governments for the construction or renovation of more than 400 units in the province since the Canada-Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Agreement was signed in September of 2002. Additional units, such as the 66 units announced for Northwood and the recently announced seniors' housing project in St. Andrews, Antigonish County, will soon come on stream.

[Page 6488]

It is estimated that by 2008 the Canada-Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Agreement will have spent more than $56 million to support the housing needs of seniors and low-income families.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia welcomed the recent announcement by the Government of Canada to significantly increase its contribution to early childhood development. Just as we have in the past, we will use every dollar resulting from our agreement with Ottawa to maximize the benefits to parents and their children.

Just as we have in the past, we will broadly consult with all of the stakeholders who share our desire to make the most effective use of every dollar available to support the interests of Nova Scotia's children. We anticipate that the combined new federal and provincial dollars available to support the early learning and lasting success of children aged six and under, will almost double this year.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the $22 million increase the Department of Community Services is receiving this year, the Department of Justice will also invest more to help low-income Nova Scotians. Funding for Legal Aid will increase by $1.4 million. As well, funding for maintenance enforcement will increase by $309,000, and grants to transition houses and men's treatment programs by $250,000.

Mr. Speaker, admittedly, the dollars we are investing this year to support Nova Scotians in need won't make life perfect for everyone. But they should go a long way toward making life a little easier for many of our seniors, for many Nova Scotians with disabilities, and for many families of modest means. But, as we all know, Mr. Speaker, this could all disappear in an instant without a steady hand on the wheel and a solid plan to grow our economy.

Mr. Speaker, there are a wide range of factors that go into supporting a growing economy: fiscal stability; a competitive tax and regulatory environment; support for research and development; a strong, integrated transportation network; a quality education system; and, of course, quality of life.

There's something else that contributes to a growing economy, solid planning. When we came to office in 1999 there was no focused plan to generate new investment or create new jobs. There was no energy plan, no debt-reduction plan, no immigration plan. There was no plan to revitalize our public school or community college systems, no plan to create a culture of healthy living. So we got to work, knowing we had a lot to accomplish in a very short time. Today, after broadly consulting Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, we have plans for all of the above, and Mr. Speaker, they are working. Over 38,000 new jobs have been created - more than 10,000 in the past year alone. And, as I have already noted, our fiscal health continues to improve. But more needs to be done to build on our progress.

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That is why we are investing an additional $30 million to build or repair our roads this year, bringing the total capital budget for highway spending to $142 million. And next year's capital budget will either meet or exceed that amount. It is important to note that every cent and more of the motive fuel tax we collect is spent maintaining and improving our roads, replacing our bridges, or making our highways safer.

Our rail connections are also vitally important to our economy. And that is why we are providing an additional $1.5 million to ensure that Cape Breton's only commercial rail link to the mainland remains in operation until at least 2009. This investment will provide potential investors with the added assurance that they can locate in Cape Breton and get their products to market.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's offshore has provided a significant boost to Nova Scotia's economy in recent years. In order to ensure that Nova Scotia does not lose out on any opportunities for future development, the Department of Energy will step up our efforts to assess the potential of new offshore development and aggressively share its findings with the oil and gas sector.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's small- and medium-size businesses continue to generate the majority of new jobs that are being created across our province. In order for them to create even more, we are making a number of important investments, including providing an additional $500,000 to help them access new export markets and increasing the funding to our Supplier Development Program by $250,000. This program makes Nova Scotia businesses aware of the wide range of opportunities for selling their goods or services to government and supports our goal to do more to stimulate business growth and job creation within our province.

We are also investing another $5 million in Nova Scotia's Research and Innovation Trust Fund. Since its inception in March 2001, this fund, which is administered by our universities, has helped leverage over $55 million in new research dollars, dollars that are being used to turn good ideas into commercial success stories.

There is no denying that Nova Scotia's tax and regulatory environment also plays an important role in business growth and job creation. For over 10 years the province and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities have been working on a way to eliminate the business occupancy assessment tax. This tax sends the wrong message to potential investors and is an outdated, awkward, and inefficient method of collecting commercial taxes, resulting in significant lost revenues to the municipalities. I am pleased to say, that after many attempts to find a fair and balanced way to end this double tax, we have agreed on an approach that will address the concerns of small business, while at the same time protecting the interests of residential taxpayers and municipalities. Legislation to eliminate the business occupancy assessment tax will be introduced this session. This is just one example of our efforts to reduce red tape and to send a positive message to investors. Here is another.

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We will shortly establish a new approach to address regulatory duplication across and between governments. The Department of Environment and Labour will receive an additional $500,000 to establish a new Competitiveness and Compliance office to examine and implement best practices for making it easier for businesses and individual Nova Scotians to deal with government.

This initiative, along with our recent agreement with the Government of Canada to expedite the regulatory process for dealing with offshore gas proposals, and along with the considerable progress already made through the Red Tape Reduction Task Force, speaks to our efforts to make Nova Scotia the most business-friendly environment in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, for three years in a row we have increased the small business tax threshold, saving qualifying businesses as much as $12 million. Effective April 1, 2005, we will once again increase the threshold, from $300,000 to $350,000, saving Nova Scotia's small businesses an additional $1.25 million this year. On April 1, 2006, the threshold will increase again to $400,000.

Effective July 1st of this year, the large corporation tax will be reduced from 3 per cent to 2.75 per cent, at a cost of $4.5 million. And over each of the next three years it will be reduced by another quarter per cent annually, reducing it to 2 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, our plans to further grow the economy are not limited to our infrastructure investments, our education investments, our investments in research and development. They are not limited to our small business program enhancements, our red tape reduction efforts, or the tax measures I just referenced.

We know that our future economic success depends to a great extent on encouraging more people to come and stay in Nova Scotia. That is why we recently announced a strategy to promote Nova Scotia as the best place to live, work, and raise a family. To further these efforts we will provide the newly established Office of Immigration with an annual budget of $2.6 million.

We will make an additional $2.5 million available to support our Come to Life brand initiative. Mr. Speaker, branding is not simply coming up with a song, slogan, or logo. It's about a lot more than that. It's about changing and shaping misguided attitudes. And it's about making sure that when people the world over hear the words "Nova Scotia" they have an immediate and positive reaction.

We have a great story to tell, Mr. Speaker, and we are going to tell it. We're going to aggressively sell Nova Scotia and all it has to offer, whenever and wherever we can. Among other things, we're going to tell them that Nova Scotia is home to many of the world's leading companies and has some of the finest research institutes and universities found anywhere in Canada and beyond.

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We're going to tell them that we have the best-educated workforce in the country and are one of the hottest film destinations in North America. We're going to tell them that Nova Scotians are smart, innovative, and generous. We're going to tell them that Nova Scotia's quality of life offers them a rare commodity - balance.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that, over time, those who have wrongly branded our brand initiative will see the value of our investment. Here are some other notable investments we are making to grow our economy and to support our efforts to demonstrate that Nova Scotia is a great place, not just to come and visit for a while, but a great place to come and stay forever.

[1:15 p.m.]

To support our cultural industries we will match the dollars we provided last year to launch Nova Scotia's first Music Strategy, increase funding to our network of community museums, and as previously announced, provide an additional $600,000 to the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation. In addition, the film tax credit will increase from 30 to 35 per cent in urban areas and from 35 to 40 per cent in rural Nova Scotia.

As well, in consultation with the Nova Scotia Federation of Heritage, we will develop a new strategy to preserve Nova Scotia's rich heritage.

To further protect our environment, we will provide the Energy Department with an additional $1.2 million to advance new climate change initiatives and to fund a new Energy Efficient Housing Program.

Natural Resources will see an increase of $750,000 to further protect Nova Scotia's Crown land base, and another $800,000 to establish an Integrated Enforcement Task Force, exclusively dedicated to the enforcement of off-highway vehicle compliance. As well, the Public Prosecution Service will be given additional dollars for a dedicated Crown attorney to handle occupational health and safety and environmental offences.

An additional $500,000 will also be provided to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to help reverse Nova Scotia's declining recreational salmon fishery and another $250,000 to establish a new Commercialization Centre designed to develop new agri-food, seafood and bioresource materials.

As well, as was demonstrated with the purchase of Cape Split, the designation of Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake as protected places, and the agreement recently signed between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, we will continue to work to safeguard Nova Scotia's protected places and species at risk.

[Page 6492]

To ensure that Nova Scotia communities continue to be safe places to live, work, and raise families, the Department of Justice has budgeted $1 million to bring the province's municipal police forces into a national, intelligence-based policing system. Funding for this important initiative will increase to $1.7 million in each of the next three years for a total four year investment of $6.1 million.

Mr. Speaker, I know I have challenged the patience of some members, so let me quickly recite a number of the other initiatives and investments we are making to support stronger communities and a stronger economy.

We will also continue to assist municipalities across the province with the cost of providing their residents with safe drinking water, better sewage systems, and new roads. In addition to the current $195 million Canada-Nova Scotia Municipal Infrastructure Program, it is our intention to enter into a new $111-million Municipal-Rural Infrastructure Agreement with Ottawa. The province is prepared to contribute $37 million toward this new fund over the next six years. As well, we will invest an additional $200,000 to advance our strategy to promote community development and an additional $350,000 in core funding to regional development authorities across the province.

In addition, we will increase the provincial grant in lieu of taxes for university residences from 40 per cent to 50 per cent, providing eligible municipalities with an additional $250,000 to support the needs of their residents.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me sum up with a note to taxpayers. As we have throughout our mandate, we will continue to work hard to be open and transparent and to manage their tax dollars carefully and wisely.

The Auditor General's Office will receive an additional $146,000 this year, exclusive of salary adjustments, in order to ensure independent scrutiny is more fully brought to bear on how government manages taxpayers' money.

The Department of Finance will also receive $375,000 more to increase its auditing and risk management capacity, while Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will receive $125,000 more to enhance internal controls, and an additional $125,000 for consumer protection and compliance.

As well, the Public Service Commission will receive an additional $2 million to advance an aggressive Human Resource Strategy designed to help the province recruit and retain talented people who can further the interests of the province and provide top-quality service to Nova Scotians. As part of this strategy, we will increase funding for Career Starts and more aggressively promote diversity throughout the Public Service.

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All told, Mr. Speaker, this budget should further assure Nova Scotia taxpayers that their government is managing their tax dollars carefully and always with a view to building a better Nova Scotia tomorrow.

Colleagues, this is a big day for all of us; but for most Nova Scotians it's just like any other day. But when they get dressed for work tomorrow, they should feel better knowing their government is investing in better roads for them to drive on and a stronger economy they can count on. When they get their kids up and ready for school, they can feel better knowing their government is investing in a healthier future and a better education for their children.

When they go off to visit an aging parent, they can feel better knowing their government is investing in better health care, more affordable housing, and new programs to help seniors live longer, more comfortably, at home. And all Nova Scotians should feel better knowing the province's fiscal, social, and economic health continues to steadily improve.

Mr. Speaker, this isn't just the right budget for today but the best budget for building a better Nova Scotia tomorrow. Thank you. (Prolonged Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it's my honour as the Opposition Finance Critic to lead off debate in reply to the budget, and this year, more than any other year, I have to say that I do so with mixed emotions. First, we're pleased at many of the measures in the budget - and I will list a few of them in particular, and it's impossible, certainly, to name them all - but we're also wary of this government because often, very often, what they promise falls so far short of what they actually deliver.

Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that this budget falls so far short of what the government promises - the vision, the Education budget, is nowhere to be found. I'm disappointed, we're disappointed that our decision about what to do with this budget is going to be much more difficult than we had expected. In the remainder of the time that is available to me today, and then again on Thursday, I will outline for the House and for Nova Scotians why it is that we have these mixed emotions.

Let me say first of all how pleased we are that the budget addresses two of the New Democratic Party's key commitments, two elements of the better deal for today's families that we promised in the last election and that we are in this House to uphold and to forward. We are pleased that the government is addressing the issue of wait times in the health care system. We are pleased that the government is addressing, in particular, the time that Nova Scotians have to wait for diagnosis and test results. We are pleased, Mr. Speaker, that the government

[Page 6494]

is addressing wait times in the mental health care sector, it's about time that the government took this seriously.

We are pleased, as well, to see that as a result of this budget there ought to be, there may be, more resources in the classrooms of our children, but in both cases it's far too early to tell whether the government can actually deliver on these promises because we saw, for example, on the long-term care issue that what the government says it's going to do and what it does can be two very different things.

Mr. Speaker, we are all learning now that the same hands that reached out to help seniors and others in our nursing homes, our homes for long-term care, also took back - at the same time they were making positive changes for which we congratulated them last year, they were making negative changes as well. They received no publicity, but are still hard on those residents and their families. We've been discussing that here in the House over the last few days. So the issue of wait times and the issue of resources in the classroom, it's going to take time for us to see whether it's actually going to achieve the results that the government promises. Implementation here is the key and it's impossible for us to stand here today and say whether it's going to work or it's not. We're going to have to wait and see.

Let me mention, Mr. Speaker, a few things about which we're very happy, and these are only a few. We are very pleased that the government is taking the initiative to assist low-income Nova Scotians with diabetes testing supplies. I would like to congratulate, in particular, Mr. George Archibald, a respected former member of this House, and the Canadian Diabetes Association, because they have been talking about this for many years and I'm pleased that the Government of Nova Scotia today is delivering on that promise, on that need which presents a real hardship for Nova Scotia families who have a member with diabetes.

We're very pleased to see the funding for the early intensive behavioural intervention treatment program for children with autism, Mr. Speaker. Like the low-income diabetes program, this has been previously announced by the government, so these are not things that we're hearing for the first time today. We are pleased, I particularly am pleased to see the government expanding the reach of the Breakfast Program in schools. (Applause) That is a good initiative and the government should be congratulated for that. There are far too many children in my community, in our communities, who go to school hungry and, in a province like this, that is a tragedy.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see no increase this year in Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay or premiums. That's a good thing but, again, it has been previously announced and like so much of the budget that we just heard, it simply rolls out things that we already knew the government was going to do.

[Page 6495]

There are choices in this budget, Mr. Speaker, that underline very starkly the difference between the governing Party and our Party, and there is no choice more stark than the decision of this government in this budget to offer tax relief to the largest corporations and nothing to Nova Scotia families. The government is introducing in this budget tax measures, tax cuts for large corporations that will, when they're fully implemented, amount to $24 million a year. Over the next four years, as it's rolled out, it's going to add up to more than $53 million - and there's even more than appears on the surface because in one of those quirks of government terminology, the largest corporations get the tax break for small businesses as well. So there is a break for small business, which is a very good thing, but the funny thing is that all the largest corporations get that same break as well.

So at the same time that we have a budget that says absolutely nothing about the HST on the essentials of life, like children's clothing, like home heating - the budget says nothing about that - the government has plenty of money, millions of dollars, for a corporate tax break. Mr. Speaker, that, more clearly than anything, outlines the choice between them and us.

Mr. Speaker, this is also a budget that not only does not help students in the post-secondary education system, but goes out of its way to criticize those five provinces in Canada that recognize the need and have either frozen tuition or are rolling it back. So, not only does the government not help our students and their families with tuition, but they go out of their way in this budget to criticize those who do. That is a very stark choice between them and us.

[1:30 p.m.]

This is a budget that does nothing on the poverty agenda. In a province like Nova Scotia there is far too much poverty, too many children in poverty, too many women in poverty, too many seniors in poverty, too many families in poverty. To that the government offers very small amounts that don't even keep up with inflation.

Once again, people who are most in need will fall further behind while this government pats itself on the back for giving them an increase that won't even keep up with inflation and won't even come into effect at the same time as the corporate tax cuts. The corporations only have to wait until July 1st, but anybody receiving social assistance - for unexplained reasons - has to wait until October 1st. Why can't that be today? Why can't that be as of April 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year? Why do we have to wait until October 1st for people to get these small increases that see their income falling in real terms? That is a choice between them and us.

There are other things in this budget that are hard to explain, other than the fact that the government wants to do a little bit for everybody - something over here, something over there. Not very much, but just enough to be able to say they're doing something. The increase

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in the personal use allowance by $10 appears to be the best they could do, but it allows them to say they're doing something - $10.

The healthy child tax credit for families amounts, on average, to $15. That's only for the families who have enough money to put their children in these recreational programs that qualify for the tax credit. We're not sure at this point whether it's a refundable tax credit and if it's not a refundable tax credit, then it applies only to families with income to actually pay income tax. If it's not refundable, then those hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians who don't earn enough money, the families who don't earn enough money to pay income tax, will get nothing. It's a small amount, it's too small, but it allows them to say they're doing something.

Apparently, the social assistance rates are going up again. I mention this briefly, but there's going to be - I think our caucus is clear, we're going to pay a lot of attention in the estimates debates of the Department of Community Services. There's trouble in that department, there's big trouble, Mr. Speaker. Every single one of us in this caucus knows from our communities and our constituency offices that if there's one department in government that is in trouble, that can't seem to carry out its mission to help those among us most in need, it's the Department of Community Services. (Applause) We have a minister, who, when the last increase was put in place - which was much less than the rate of inflation - suggested that people on social assistance could stretch their budgets by eating more pasta.

There's trouble in the Department of Community Services and that's one of the differences between them and us because it's a matter of priorities. It's a matter of choices. A choice will be presented to the people of Nova Scotia about whether they want a government that is dedicated to delivering a better deal for today's families or a government that is content to run in place just faster. They're on a stationary bicycle and they pedal faster and say, look at us, we're pedalling faster but they're not actually going anywhere, they're not going in the right direction.

When will that choice be presented to the people of Nova Scotia? It could be this year, it could be next year, it could be sometime in the future - it's difficult to know. The decision about whether to support this budget or defeat the budget is a decision we have to make jointly with the Third Party, with the Liberal Party. It will come as no surprise to anyone in the House if I say that we are somewhat easy in our partnership with the Liberal Party about whether it's time to present Nova Scotians with that choice.

It's not just entirely up to us, but we will, every one of us will, be going back to our communities, talking to people over the kitchen tables, knocking on the doors, listening to them, to what they want. Does this budget address their needs? Do they want the choice this year or do they want it in the future when we have to take frank account of the fact of what's happening at the federal level, Mr. Speaker. We have to take into account that we have a federal government in turmoil, a federal Liberal Party in turmoil. We have to take frank

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account of the fact that it appears that we are on the eve of a federal election, which will probably be triggered within a matter of weeks, at exactly the same time that we are deciding how to vote on this budget.

We also have to take frank account of the fact that much of what the government has promised today, particularly on our priorities, the priorities of the people we represent, are things we will only know if the government has achieved some time in the future.

Mr. Speaker, laying out that choice between the governing Party and our Party, in full knowledge that the decision about where the people of Nova Scotia want to go rests with the people of Nova Scotia, knowing that our decision this time is whether we will do what we can to give Nova Scotians that choice, this year, next year or at some other time, we will do our job to make sure that Nova Scotia families get the better deal that they so desperately need. With that, Mr. Speaker, I move that the budget debate be adjourned.

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

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: On an introduction, Mr. Speaker, before we get into the daily routine, I see up in the gallery is Brian Churchill from Cole Harbour who was my opponent actually for the Liberal Party in the last election, but I'm glad to see him here observing the budget and I just wanted to introduce him to the House, in the west gallery. Would he stand up and be warmly welcomed. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery today we have the chief financial officer for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, who is visiting with us today, Mr. Rick Farmer, and I'm sure that Mr. Farmer was here anxiously wanting to know what was in this budget for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I think he'll be the judge of whether there's anything there or not and report back to the mayor. I would like to ask Mr. Farmer to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 6498]

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like acknowledge in the gallery as well, the west gallery we have Danielle Sampson with us. She's a student at NSCAD and also a representative of the Canadian Federation of Students and I wonder if she'd stand to be acknowledged by the House. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Also in the gallery we have Mary Rothman, who is a long-time disability rights activist with the Canadian Association for Community Living, and also Carolyn Earl, who is involved in so many organizations, I can't name them all but certainly has been involved with the face of poverty coalition. I'd like members to extend both of these women a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Clare.

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government make education for the children of Nova Scotia a priority.

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 Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with 116 signatures of post-secondary students with the operative clause which reads:

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to:

� Make a considerable re-investment in core funding to Nova Scotia's post-secondary institutions

� Tie increased core funding to progressive reductions of tuition fees at Nova Scotia's public post-secondary institutions

[Page 6499]

� Implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants;"

I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 120 post-secondary students in the Province of Nova Scotia. The operative clause reads:

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to:

� Make a considerable re-investment in core funding to Nova Scotia's post-secondary institutions

� Tie increased core funding to progressive reductions of tuition fees at Nova Scotia's public post-secondary institutions

� Implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants;"

I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with over 120 signatures. The operative clause reads:

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to:

� Make a considerable re-investment in core funding to Nova Scotia's post-secondary institutions

� Tie increased core funding to progressive reductions of tuition fees at Nova Scotia's public post-secondary institutions

� Implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants;"

[Page 6500]

I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table another petition involving post-secondary students and, as a father of a young woman who attends NSCAD, I am proud to say that I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation 2003 & 2004 Annual Report.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant of Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the civil procedure rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on the 1st day of October, 2004, and Practice Memorandum No. 22 which is approved by the judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia the 29th day of October, 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 6501]

RESOLUTION NO. 3416

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

Whereas many Nova Scotia musicians and communities participated in benefit concerts this past winter in support of the Asian tsunami relief efforts, and I had the pleasure of taking part in the Concert for Asia, which was held at the Halifax Metro Centre; and

Whereas more than 10,000 people attended the Concert for Asia, and the concert raised more than $100,000 to assist aid organizations working in Southeast Asia; and

Whereas the Concert for Asia recently received an "Outstanding Special Event" award at the 2005 Maritime Philanthropy Awards for organizing such an impressive concert in such a short amount of time;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in commending the organizers, musicians, corporate sponsors, and everyone involved in the Concert for Asia for their unprecedented generosity and caring.

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 Promotion

RESOLUTION NO. 3417

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Health Promotion has accepted the lead role in implementing the recommendations of the Healthy Eating Nova Scotia Strategy; and

[Page 6502]

Whereas the Healthy Eating Action Group of the Nova Scotia Alliance for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity developed this strategy; and

Whereas the strategy identifies four priorities with the potential to achieve the greatest health gain for the province, food security, breastfeeding, vegetable and fruit consumption, and youth, including 13 recommendations, six of which we are already addressing;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the work of the Healthy Eating Action group in developing this strategy, and the benefits that will be seen once recommendations are implemented to improve nutritional health and well-being among Nova Scotians.

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.

[1:45 p.m.]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 171 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Workers' Compensation Act. (Mr. Charles Parker)

Bill No. 172 - Entitled an Act to Exempt from Municipal Taxation Certain Ice Rinks in the Rocky Lake Commons, Halifax Regional Municipality. (Mr. Gary Hines)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 6503]

RESOLUTION NO. 3418

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

Whereas 2005 has been declared by the Government of Canada as the Year of the Veteran to recognize the contributions made by Canadian war veterans; and

Whereas it is important that the youth of our country learn about the many achievements of our veterans and remember the sacrifices made by these brave men and women, at home and overseas; and

Whereas the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society was officially launched on Friday, November 5, 2004, with a mission "to educate all youth about the contributions of those who went before them and to increase their engagement in the further development of this great nation";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society for their efforts to educate their generation, and commend Patrick Milner, founder of the society, for his dedication and commitment to efforts commemorating the veterans of our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 3419

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

[Page 6504]

Whereas Michael Eaton of Cole Harbour worked for many years as a volunteer in his community with regard to ecological and recreation causes, including the Salt Marsh Trail and the Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association; and

Whereas Michael Eaton, scientist emeritus with the Canadian Hydrographic Service, is known as the father of the electronic chart; and

Whereas on February 8, 2005, Michael Eaton was appointed to the Order of Canada for his outstanding work in the development of navigational tools and the advance of hydrography;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of this Legislative Assembly express appreciation to Michael Eaton for his outstanding contributions to greater marine safety and extend congratulations to him on being inducted into the Order of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3420

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

Whereas patients at the Valley Regional Hospital will soon have access to a new urology laser thanks to the fundraising and support from the Annapolis Valley community; and

Whereas the new laser will be purchased from the $118,000 raised during the Valley Regional Hospital's annual Festival of Lights campaign; and

Whereas the laser will be used for treatment of bladder and kidney stones, in addition to bladder tumours, prostate obstructions and other urinary tract diseases;

[Page 6505]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Valley Regional Hospital Foundation, campaign chair Florence Lutz and Valley residents for supporting the efforts to obtain a new urology laser that will enhance patient care.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3421

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

Whereas on April 16th I attended the production of Twelfth Night, a comedy by William Shakespeare, performed by students of Prince Andrew High School; and

Whereas to put on such a production requires much work by staff, students, parents and the community; and

Whereas the play received a rave review in the ChronicleHerald where comments such as energetic and buckets of fun were just some of the words used to describe the show;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the students and staff of Prince Andrew High School, the parents and the performers and all those who made this wonderful production of Shakespeare's, Twelfth Night possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6506]

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. 3422

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is in need of developing and implementing a comprehensive coastal management plan; and

Whereas this plan must ensure public access to the coast since approximately 90 per cent of coastal land is privately owned; and

Whereas this plan should focus on saving money, protecting the environment, protecting present infrastructure and safeguarding this unique treasure for all Nova Scotians to enjoy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House urge government to begin work on a plan immediately to protect our coastline for present and future generations.

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 3423

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 hard-working provincial volunteer award recipients have now been named for every town and municipal unit across Nova Scotia; and

[Page 6507]

Whereas Nicole Jones, for her tremendous volunteer efforts, is the Town of Clarks Harbour nominee for 2005; and

Whereas Nicole has volunteered many hours with the youth and seniors of Clarks Harbour, as well as assisting in the organization of many sports including mixed and ladies softball, hockey and soccer along with a variety of other initiatives;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature commend Nicole Jones from the Town of Clarks Harbour, for her outgoing community leadership and encourage her to continue with her fantastic work.

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. 3424

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

Whereas West Branch United Church in Pictou County was recently designated to receive municipal heritage status; and

Whereas this gothic revival style building with a bell tower opened in 1888; and

Whereas this church received its first organ to accompany the choir in 1908 and held Gaelic services until 1923;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this historic Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate church treasurer Ruth Baillie, Minister Rev. Mary Rowe and the congregation of West Branch United Church for their heritage designation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6508]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3425

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

Whereas this year Michelin Nova Scotia will be hiring up to 250 people to replace retiring employees, plus 450 students for Summer jobs; and

Whereas Michelin Nova Scotia continues to employ full time some 3,500 people with good-paying, high-quality jobs; and

Whereas Michelin's commitment to maintain current employment levels signal that Nova Scotia is a healthy environment in which to invest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly acknowledge Michelin's commitment to Nova Scotia's economy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis

[Page 6509]

RESOLUTION NO. 3426

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

Whereas the population in Digby-Annapolis is growing older every year, our nursing homes are overfilled and we have no place to put our seniors anymore; and

Whereas we have had to send many of our seniors away from home to other counties only to overfill their nursing homes; and

Whereas on several occasions, I have made calls for the children of these seniors who are very upset because they are not in a position to visit their mom or dad because they are so far away;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the Hamm Government to renew its plan for more nursing homes in the Digby-Annapolis area.

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 Dartmouth South-Portland Valley

RESOLUTION NO. 3427

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

Whereas April 26th marks the 87th Anniversary of the Nova Scotia Franchise Act which gave women in this province the right to vote; and

Whereas Nova Scotian women have made and continue to make their mark on every aspect of society in this province; and

Whereas in spite of this, Nova Scotia has one of the worst track records in the country for women running for federal, provincial and municipal politics;

[Page 6510]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature commit to working together to encourage more women to seek political office for the betterment of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 3428

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

Whereas local author and historian, Lynda Conrad, has published a book chronicling the history and evolution of Lawrencetown; and

Whereas this book will be released June 30th and has 500-plus pages of historic acts and photos for everyone to enjoy; and

Whereas Lynda is also the writer of The History of Three Fathom Harbour;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Lynda Conrad on her recent publication and thank her for taking the time to research and interview hundreds of people for this exciting historic novel.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 6511]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3429

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

Whereas the people in Digby-Annapolis who live between Digby and Weymouth on the old No. 1 Highway are approximately 20 feet off that road; and

Whereas this road is being used by heavy traffic coming off Highway No. 101 and recently two trailer trucks have gone off this road, barely missing school children getting off the buses at their homes; and

Whereas for 30 years people have been asking for a new controlled access highway in this area and now people are afraid to go to sleep in their homes at night, not knowing if a trailer truck will be coming through their house;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge this government to put this piece of No. 101 Highway on its priority list immediately in its newly announced Nova Scotia road plan.

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 Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3430

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

Whereas Kelli McHugh, a third year guard with the Cape Breton University Capers, was named a second team all-Canadian for the second consecutive season; and

[Page 6512]

Whereas Kelli was also named a first team all-star in the Atlantic University Sports Conference; and

Whereas Kelli led the Capers in scoring and was second in the league with 16.2 points as well as 4.7 rebounds per game;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Kelli McHugh on being recognized as one of the top female basketball players in Canadian inter-university sport.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3431

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

Whereas the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life made its maiden debut in Antigonish in late March; and

Whereas this debut involved students, faculty and community members from the school's nursing program, along with donations from area residents, resulting in just less than $25,000 being raised for the Cancer Society; and

Whereas the Relay for Life involved nursing students, faculty and community teams walking laps in the school's gymnasium from 7:00 p.m., Friday, March 18th, to Saturday, March 19th, at 7:00 a.m.;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the significant fundraising achievements accomplished by the St. F.X. Nursing School students and its faculty, while commending all those individuals who were so kind with financial donations.

[Page 6513]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[2:00 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 3432

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

Whereas the Minister of Environment and Labour has announced the new regulations and six new classifications for video games rented or sold in this province; and

Whereas these new rules will allow parents to make informed choices about the games they rent or buy for their children; and

Whereas these new rules are the direct result of an Opposition bill presented by the member for Dartmouth East;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the good policy outcomes that benefit Nova Scotian families when they result from listening to the ideas of the Official Opposition and the member for Dartmouth East.

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 6514]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3433

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

Whereas Peter Millman, a Grade 5 student at Douglas Street Elementary School in Truro was one of 11 winners of the Mathieu Da Costa Challenge Awards; and

Whereas the Mathieu Da Costa Challenge Awards result from a Canada-wide competition and are presented annually in Ottawa to 11 students, aged 9 to 18; and

Whereas Peter Millman was recognized for his 2,500 tile mosaic of Josiah Henson - an American slave whose escape to Canada inspired the novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Peter Millman on receiving the Mathieu Da Costa Challenge Award and wish him continued success in his educational pursuits.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3434

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

Whereas a reliable, efficient Metro Transit service is vital to the residents along the St. Margaret's Bay Road in the communities of Hubley, Lewis Lake and Upper Tantallon; and

[Page 6515]

Whereas Maureen Cyr of Hubley has collected a petition urging HRM officials to address this need; and

Whereas Ms. Cyr continues to press for a quality transit service that will meet the needs of our growing community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature recognize Maureen Cyr for her initiative and urge the HRM to provide a quality transit service to these residents.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3435

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 Victorian Order of Nurses, referenced as VON, received its Royal Charter in November, 1897 as a charity guided by the principles of primary health care addressing community health and social needs; and

Whereas the VON, a national registered charity, addresses health needs of people in Canada through services provided by nurses, other health professionals, support service workers and volunteers; and

Whereas in 2005, the VON is celebrating 100 years of service in Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved all members of the House of Assembly acknowledge the dedicated team of nurses, other health professionals, support service workers and volunteers of the VON in Cape Breton and congratulate the VON for its 100 years of service in Cape Breton.

[Page 6516]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 3436

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

Whereas the Sackville Flyers won the Kent Cup Challenge Atom AAA Hockey Championship in Moncton in early December; and

Whereas Andrew Arthur, head coach, along with Len Boudreau, Mark Munro and Dale Keizer, assistant coaches worked and continue to work with this team to improve their hockey skills and to teach them how to be team players; and

Whereas this is a team of bright, young boys with bright futures ahead;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending along congratulations to the Sackville Flyers Atom AAA hockey team and to the coaching staff.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 6517]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:05 p.m. and end at 3:05 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

FIN. - BUDGET (2005-06): VISION - OMISSION EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Finance Minister has just said that for most Nova Scotians, today is just like any other day. Unfortunately, that is all too true. The budget that has just been delivered by this government is, I have to say, uninspiring. It fails to point a clear direction, a clear path to achieving a better deal for Nova Scotian families. Now there was much talk about this being an education budget, and while there are certainly some long overdue investments in school nutrition, in children with special needs, the overall increase for the Education Department is barely half that of the other departments. So my question to the Premier is a simple one, where is the vision that you promised the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. It gives me an opportunity to say to all members of the House, and through them to all Nova Scotians, that the government has put the focus on education. We believe, and we are still researching it, that this is the single largest increase in the investment in education in the history of the province. Simply put, the changes that were brought to the attention of members of the House, and to all Nova Scotians, today in the Budget Address will start a change in the way in which all of us look at education, and will start to improve those results that all of us want to achieve.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the Premier, with the greatest respect, of course, that the vision that he outlines is a very blurry one. Four years ago, education made up a greater percentage of the budget than it does today. Two years ago, the report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee called for an immediate injection of $20 million, and that was simply to catch up. This year we have heard about the thousands of children languishing on wait lists for access to assessment and assistance. Will the Premier explain to Nova Scotians why it is that he refuses to listen to the expert advice about helping children with special needs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the government should spend more on education. Now if the member opposite really believes that the government should readjust its priorities and increase its spending on education, then I think it's incumbent on the Leader of the Opposition to tell us, do we take the additional money out of the Health budget, do we take it out of the infrastructure budget, do we take it out of the budget of Community Services? Where do we get the additional money?

[Page 6518]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is right, it underlines the difference between this Party and that Party and that we would not take that money to fund big insurance companies. That's what we would not do. We would invest in the children of Nova Scotia. Too many children in our high schools feel that the opportunities available to them don't match up with their interests and don't offer them the choices they seek. I know that you know access to vocational and trades training in our high schools is a crucial factor in meeting the looming skills shortages the province faces. Today we heard that only at-risk students will be given those opportunities. So my question for the Premier is, can he explain to this House why this government is choosing to limit access to such a needed form of education and training for so many Nova Scotia students?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the government has recognized there are too many dropouts in the public school system in Nova Scotia. There are too many students who are not achieving academically, with the proper program, through a program we're calling Options and Opportunities, access the talents and the skills to then move on to the community college system. An opportunity that without this program would not be there for them.

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

FIN. (BUDGET 2005-06): DEBT INCREASE - JUSTIFY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today we have a budget of excuses, excuses for the last five years of neglect of our children's education; excuses for the last five years of losing focus on the issues in our health care system, excuses for the Premier breaking his word by adding to our debt over the past five years. Mr. Premier, Nova Scotians are tired of your excuses. My question today is that after five years of governing, you now receive $1.8 billion more in yearly revenue than you did in 1999, how can you justify tabling a budget that will add $90 million to our province's debt?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges that we faced back in 1999 was coming into office with the province each year spending over $500 million more than it took in. It was a long and difficult road to get us to where we are today in which we could table a balanced budget. We would have a debt management program. We would spend more for health, more for education, more for community services and more to the other departments. It was a long and difficult road, but we have managed to get there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable members that no specific budgetary questions are allowed. Certainly general questions around the expenditures of the government or the philosophy of government, but not specific budget questions. Thank you.

[Page 6519]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in his history lessons, it's too bad the Premier doesn't remind Nova Scotians of what was inherited by Liberal Government in 1993 after John Buchanan's reign, and that your own Deputy Premier was a proud member of back in those days, it's too bad your history doesn't go back that far, Mr. Premier.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier wanted the Budget Address to review its time in office, well let's review some of it's time . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, we can all remember that this was the same Premier who told Nova Scotians in 1999 he could fix health care for $46 million. With this budget he has now put in an additional billion dollars in health care, with no end in sight and no plan in sight. Nova Scotians were told the Premier would provide a quality education system, yet today's commitment either keeps us in tenth place or, at best, we now move to ninth place in the country on a per student funding. So my question is how much more money does this Premier need before he can give Nova Scotians a quality education system as promised?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is pleased that some of the changes we made in the curriculum in the earlier grades are starting, in fact, to influence test scoring and the recent literacy marks that were achieved are improving. We have made basic changes in the public school system, particularly in the earlier grades, and as those young people move through the system, the standardized testing that will be part of the public school system in the Province of Nova Scotia heretofore will start to improve, proving that starting early and starting with the young people, improving their curriculum will work.

Mr. Speaker, all of these things don't cost a lot of money. They are sensible things and we will work with school boards and teachers to improve the results in the public school system.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, that's right, I forget, because this is a government that has a Deputy Minister of Education who says more money in education doesn't mean better education, so I guess that same philosophy applies with the government.

Mr. Speaker, in 1999, the Premier told Nova Scotians that he would not mortgage his grandchildren's future by adding to the provincial debt, yet he has done so in the past and he has tabled a budget today where he will do so again despite Nova Scotia's economy being strong and despite record transfers from Ottawa. So my question to the Premier is, how can you stand in front of Nova Scotians today and table what you call a balance budget, a provincial surplus, and yet at the end of the day you have once again added to the debt of this province?

[Page 6520]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Province of Nova Scotia has adopted the GAAP in accounting and the Province of Nova Scotia follows those to a "t" and, Mr. Speaker, it's interesting, either we're going to have GAAP and we are going to follow GAAP and we're going to have GAAP accepted, or we're not. But you know it's interesting, the bond rating agencies, three of them, have upgraded the credit rating of the Province of Nova Scotia. The first time in the history of that rating agency they ever increased our rating. If you look at it from an objective point of view, we are moving forward and we are moving forward significantly.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

FIN. - BUDGET (2005-06): TAX CUTS - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, again my question will be for the Premier. Nova Scotia families are, in many cases, still struggling to make ends meet with a minimum wage that is among the lowest in the country with increasing costs for home heating, electricity and many other essentials, family budgets are growing tighter each day. Instead of providing or seeking to provide some relief to those families by removing the HST from the essentials of life, the government chose a different direction. Today they have announced a large corporation tax cut that will cost at least $24 million a year when fully implemented. So my question for the Premier is, why has his government chosen tax cuts for insurance companies and other large corporations rather than HST relief for ordinary Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the easiest ways that government can provide money for essential services is by growing the economy. We've been very successful. The Minister of Finance reminded us today that 38,000 jobs have been created in Nova Scotia since 1999; 10,000 in the last year. The best social program is jobs, and being competitive creates jobs.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is correct about only one thing and that's about priorities. In this case the priorities of the government are so out of whack with the priorities of other Nova Scotians. The Premier promised to increase the personal use allowance - here's an example - for long-term care residents, but they have to wait until 2006 for a $10 increase. He did not, on the other hand, promise large corporations a tax cut. In fact, John Hamm's Blueprint for Building a Better Nova Scotia only talked about tax cuts for small businesses, yet the large corporation tax cut will start six months before long-term care residents will get their $10. My question for the Premier is this, why is it that a tax cut for large insurance companies and other corporations are more important to you than a better deal for seniors and their families?

[Page 6521]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in the last year more Nova Scotians have gone to work and received a pay cheque than ever before in the history of this province. This government believes that it has a challenge ahead. There are some 38,000 Nova Scotians who are still registered, who haven't got a job. This government will not rest until we find employment opportunities for every one of those 38,000 Nova Scotians, and we will do that by being competitive.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if the Premier is indicating he's going to put seniors in nursing homes to work. Is that a new policy of the Province of Nova Scotia? Do you know who generates the most jobs in this province, it's actually small business, but it's the large corporations in Nova Scotia that the government is going to give a 33 per cent tax break to, in addition to the benefit that large corporations will also receive from the small business tax break because they get to take advantage of it as well. This includes insurance companies that had been raking in record profits, $4.1 billion last year. So my question is this, why is this the moment that your government chose to give tax cuts that weren't among your hundreds of promises?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I care about the jobs that large corporations create. I care about the jobs at Michelin; I care about the jobs at Trenton Works; I care about the jobs that are all over this province that are a result of the competitive environment we have here in Nova Scotia. These corporations will not be here unless we are competitive, and we are not going to take advice that will drive these employers away.

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

PREM. - ATL. ACCORD PASSAGE:

STEPHEN HARPER CONSULTATION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the budget tabled today presumes the passage of the $830 million Atlantic Accord sometime before April 2006. When we introduced a resolution last week calling on all political Parties to pass the federal budget so Nova Scotians could get the immediate benefits of the accord, the government members voted it down. The Premier later tabled a letter dated April 11th from Stephen Harper establishing his commitment to the accord. Based on the fact that the Premier has added the benefits of the accord to the financial projections for our province even though it has yet to be passed, can the Premier inform the House when he last spoke to Stephen Harper about the ultimate passage of the Atlantic Accord.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the letter I received from Mr. Harper, I think I have a copy here, was dated April 11th, the Leader of the Third Party was correct, it was April 11th. I had a conversation with Mr. Harper around that particular time, I don't remember the exact date.

[Page 6522]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: It's good to see that they keep in regular contact, Mr. Speaker. I guess he's not on speed-dial. The Premier admitted that our province is losing a million dollars a week, each week that this accord is not passed. One million dollars a week could go towards university tuitions, seniors' programs, more doctors or even more paving. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said he wants the accord passed before any election is called so that his province can enjoy the benefits of the accord immediately. So my question is, why will the Premier not demand the Atlantic Accord to be passed before any possible election, or is he once again hoping Danny Williams will do all the heavy lifting for him?

THE PREMIER: I can remind Nova Scotians that the accord passage is contained in the Budget Implementation Act, 2004 that the Government of Canada has tabled. If the member opposite is really serious about having that Act passed, he could get in touch with the Government of Canada and ask them to put it on the order paper because they have taken it off the order paper in Ottawa.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this Premier had an opportunity to show leadership on behalf of Nova Scotians, to demand from Stephen Harper passage of this budget before any election, to do as Danny Williams has done for his province in demanding that they get the benefits immediately. I ask the Premier once again, why do you sit by quietly while Nova Scotians are losing what you've termed to be a million dollars a week while this accord is not being passed up in Ottawa.

THE PREMIER: The Leader in the House of the Liberal Party is very correct. The more quickly that the Budget Implementation Act, 2004 is passed in Ottawa the better it would be for Nova Scotians to the tune of almost one million dollars a week. Mr. Speaker, it can't pass if it's not on the order paper in Ottawa so maybe the member opposite will use his influence to get it back on the order paper so there can be a vote.

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

EDUC. - STUDENT DEBT: REDUCTION - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Pursuing a post-secondary education in Nova Scotia is no longer a choice for many students. It is essential for them to compete in an increasingly tight job market to provide for themselves and for their families. What we as a province need to do is to support these students to eliminate as many barriers as possible. Nova Scotia has the highest tuition fees in the country, more than $1,800 higher than the national average, students are graduating with more than $25,000 in debt. This government got rid of the Debt Reduction Program and as of today have put back only two-thirds of that money. My question is this, Mr. Speaker, why is the government still doing so little to ease the debt burden for Nova Scotia students?

[Page 6523]

THE PREMIER: I would use this opportunity to remind members of this House of the debt reduction plan that is in place for the provincial part of the student loan debt that our students have in this province.

With the current program that we have in place, students who remain in the province and make regular payments, they have 40 per cent of their provincial debt forgiven. I will remind members of the House that it is a third year blueprint commitment that we will increase two aspects of that loan remission program - next year, that will increase the loan forgiveness for Nova Scotia's students to 50 per cent.

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

EDUC. - TUITION FEES: BARRIER - ACKNOWLEDGE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, despite what the Premier says, this government's policies will force up tuition by another 12 per cent over the next three years. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador have all frozen fees for this year. Those governments recognize that post-secondary education is no longer affordable for too many families. Those provinces have acted. Yet, the Progressive Conservative Government here remains unrepentant about their failure to meaningfully reduce the barriers to post-secondary education. My question is this, will the Premier tell the House when his government will realize that his sky-high tuition fees are a real barrier for many talented young Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is very aware of the increasing fees, particularly fees to go to university in the Province of Nova Scotia. However, we still have, despite all of that, we have our students going to university in record numbers. The highest percentage of high school graduates in the country go to university in the Province in Nova Scotia. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the universities to slow the increase in tuition fees.

The reason the government is not amenable to arguments that result in a freeze is that it would simply result in a dilution of the very good programs that Nova Scotia universities provide for their student attendees. It would dilute the product and that is counterproductive.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is fundamentally misinformed. The government today has talked a lot about the deficits that we face in infrastructure. One of the groups who understand this problem all too well is our universities. The facilities that our students learn in, in some cases, are virtually ready to fall down around them. At the current rate, it will take nearly 200 years to deal with the deferred maintenance on our campuses. My question for the Premier is this, why is your government refusing to make the needed infrastructure investments in our campuses?

[Page 6524]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is particularly good at identifying problems. The government is in the business of solving the problems. I think we have made a start. We have indicated very clearly in the budget that was just tabled a couple of hours ago in this House, that we are making education at all levels our priority. It will take a series of steps to climb the ladder, but we will climb the ladder.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

IMMIGRATION - FOREIGN CREDENTIALS: EVALUATION SYSTEM - IMPROVE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: To the Minister of Immigration, after years of being prompted, the government has finally taken some limited action to promote the attraction and retention of immigrants and refugees to Nova Scotia. Members of this House will know that many well qualified professionals, whose education and experience were gained in other countries, are encountering difficulties in having that education and experience recognized in Nova Scotia. Will the Minister of Immigration tell us what his government is doing to create a better system for the evaluation of foreign credentials?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good point and it's a point that many people raised during the consultation phase in the Fall. It's certainly something which many immigrants coming to our province face, not only in our province but, indeed, across the country. I'll use one such example, Mr. Speaker. We're working very closely with the Department of Health, with the Medical Society, with respect to that avenue with respect to credentials. That is one area where we're working very closely and we should have some news later this Spring.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, it's not just positions. It's engineers, it's nurses, it's dentists and it's teachers. I have a school teacher, in fact, in my constituency who has worked in the U.K. He has taught in the U.K. and he can't get his qualifications recognized in Nova Scotia. Now, look, there's clearly a problem. What I would like to know is, will the minister take the lead and work to convene panels of professional certifying bodies for all the provinces to get on with working out a uniform approach across the country? Will he take the lead in doing that?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in fact, we are already taking part in a strategy with respect to a national framework for immigration and taking a look at the various types of initiatives that the member has indicated here today.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, if the government is serious about wanting to increase the attraction and retention of immigrants and refugees to our province which has been so far

[Page 6525]

behind in this and knowing that nonetheless the national negotiations might take some time, is the minister prepared to convene meetings now with all of Nova Scotia's certifying bodies for the various professions to start tackling the problem right now for our province - Nova Scotia?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that those types of discussions have already started with a variety of associations. The fact of the matter is when individuals do come here to our province, it's important not only that they be appropriately recognized for their appropriate field, but also that we have in place a process that provides them the opportunity to have their skills recognized, and also to have them evaluated. That's vital if we are to crack the challenge that's ahead of us with respect to immigrants and the challenges they face.

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

PREM: EDUC. FUNDING - MISLEADING INFO.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Today in the House the Premier has boasted that this is the biggest increase in education spending in a single year and I believe he said the same outside of the House. I would like to mention and bring forward information about June 1998. At that time, and I will read you just the first sentence here, it says: the provincial government is making an unprecedented investment in children and education. The bottom line for school boards shows an $82.3 million increase in provincial funding in a single year.

Mr. Speaker, this amount is clearly higher than the $53.7 million promised to public education in this budget. So my question to the Premier is, how can the Premier mislead the House so blatantly?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to my original remarks and looking at the record investment in infrastructure in our schools in this province, looking at the record investment in the community college system, looking at the record investment in our universities through the memorandum of understanding, and looking at the very significant increase in the funding of the school boards for the upcoming year, if you look at all of those numbers, this is a record investment.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the Premier providing that information to us because I don't believe that it will be a record investment when you consider that for the school boards alone, this budget had included in 1998, $82.3 million for the school boards themselves. There were also new schools being built and the capital budget is not at question here today. So, again, I ask how the Premier can be so blatant in bringing forth a figure that this is the biggest, most unprecedented increase in spending when, in fact, it is not and when, in fact, more bold things have been provided?

[Page 6526]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we seem to be getting into a bit of a budget debate, but I will remind the member opposite of something that occurred when she wasn't in the House. It was back in the mid-1990s when the government of the day reduced university funding to $175 million a day. Each year of our mandate we have increased university funding and as a result of the memorandum of understanding we will, four years from now, have increased by $34 million the investment in universities compared to last year. A very significant improvement.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier is giving us an opening to ask about the Buchanan years and the bad and terrible condition of the budgets at that time. The province . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The province was on life support.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. WHALEN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the province was on life support in 1993 when the Liberals became government, and this government across the way is still digging out from that tremendous draining of the public purse. So, Mr. Premier, I would ask whether or not you agree with me that you are still digging out from the mess made by the Buchanan Tories? Do you agree that you are still digging out now from the financial mess left by the Buchanan Tories?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite is I will answer to this House and I will answer to Nova Scotians what has happened since 1999. I can tell all members of this House and I can say to all Nova Scotians, things are very much better in Nova Scotia today than they were in 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - INTERNET ACCESS: PROJ. - FUND

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, maybe it's a good idea to turn to the present now. I'm sure I've heard recently that this government has committed to growing the economy and making it a business friendly climate. High-speed Internet access is one of those things. It's an important and economic and educational advantage for communities that do have it, but some areas in Nova Scotia don't. It makes a big difference to the opportunities available for local businesses, students and other residents. On the Eastern Shore, people have been working very hard on a project to get access to high-speed Internet. One provider has expressed some interest, but the area is remote and is going to need the support of the province and other levels of government. My question to the Minister of Service of Nova

[Page 6527]

Scotia and Municipal Relations is, will the province take a leadership role in the project, grow that economy and commit to funding?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. As the member would know, the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund has a component of it that allows for expenditures on high-speed Internet. As we said here today, we will support that initiative to the tune of $111 million, the provincial share of $37 million, and we encourage municipalities to bring forward projects such as that so that we can benefit Nova Scotians.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I think that $37 million is going to have a ways to stretch, but anyway. Computer access is a major issue for the residents in my area and most people agree that waste really is bad business. The federal CAP site program was a great idea, but it was a start-up project and that money has long dried up. This government has stated that it has a goal of providing more services on-line and it means that many government services are now available only to those with both the equipment and the training to access them. But without core funding from any level of government, this valuable, in fact irreplaceable, equipment for many, is gathering dust in storerooms, both in my constituency and elsewhere across the province. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, what is your government prepared to do to ensure that these expensive sites are in fact maintained and used?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable member. My guess is that it would be more appropriately asked to the Minister of Economic Development, but I'll attempt to answer the question. We'll continue to support groups and organizations that host access centres. We believe it's a worthwhile initiative and I believe the federal government will as well.

MS. RAYMOND: Actually I think it wouldn't be continued but perhaps started. Mr. Speaker, some local businesses in the Eastern Shore have said they're ready to move out if there's no high-speed access in their area soon. Commercial providers have expressed interest in cost-sharing to bring that access to the Eastern Shore, and now the residents are waiting to hear from the government. My question to the minister is, how much longer will they have to wait for the government to come up with its share, whether out of that $37 million or not, to get this project started?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, considering I haven't seen an application come forward from any municipality with respect to this, I would say they'd have to wait at least until the municipality moves forward with that initiative. I'll say to the member opposite that Industry Canada has worked well with the industry to provide connections to high-speed Internet. The Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund also has a component of it that will allow for that to happen. This government supports that initiative. We've included $37 million towards that

[Page 6528]

initiative, and we'll continue to work towards ensuring that all Nova Scotians have access to high-speed Internet.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - WILLIAMS POINT (ANTIGONISH):

DEVELOPMENT - STUDY

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Residents from Williams Point, Antigonish, are concerned about the impact that development on a nearby flood plain is going to have on their homes and any new development. The developer has already started to bring in fill, and some homes have already flooded. Residents worry the local road is in jeopardy. My question for the Minister of Environment and Labour is, residents have asked you to intervene to ensure a proper study is done, why have you not intervened?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we received that request, and staff is currently reviewing it.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, the area in question has never been mapped, but local residents know the land well. They have 71 testimonials indicating that this area floods regularly. In September 2003, the Department of Environment and Labour thought an independent study was a good idea, and put it in writing to the municipality. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, what will it take for your department to work with the local municipality to ensure that an independent study is done?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, land use planning is primarily the responsibility of municipalities. We support and encourage municipalities where and whenever we can. We will continue to do that, including this municipality.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that's not going to be any comfort to the people whose homes have already flooded and those who are waiting for theirs to flood. Anyway, so far over 100 residents have signed a petition to have the area zoned properly. All the residents want to do is ensure that their homes are protected. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, careful planning does make sense for everyone involved, so when are you going to intervene with this situation?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the municipality would be responsible for zoning. All those people who are interested in seeing the zoning changed should contact their councillors on the municipal council to pursue that route.

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

[Page 6529]

EDUC.: PER-PUPIL FUNDING - RATING

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. For several weeks now this government has been spinning the budget as an education budget. Today we are here to tell the people of Nova Scotia exactly what the government doesn't want them to hear, and that is that nothing could be further from the truth. Today's increase in public education amounts to only $383 per pupil. We are still in last place in Canada on a per-pupil basis funding. My question to the minister is, how can you call this an education budget when you are still spending the least amount per pupil in the country?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am astounded to hear that Party that decimated education have the audacity to stand up in this House and criticize a government that has increased education spending, has made it noticeably better over the five years it has been in power.

AN HON. MEMBER: You wouldn't table the report that says it's noticeably better, would you?

[2:45 p.m.]

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, this morning we ranked 10 out of 10 when it came to per pupil funding and this afternoon, according to the most recent information from Statistics Canada, we are still in tenth place. That's some accomplishment. In fact, this government even with today's budget will spend $1,160 less than the Canadian average per pupil. Again my question to the minister is, why do you continue to tell Nova Scotians that you care about education when, in fact, you have not demonstrated that?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, no government in the history of this province has demonstrated a greater commitment to education than the Progressive Conservative Government.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think that we've already established that an earlier government had proposed a budget of $82.3 million more for public education in a single year. That would be the highest amount ever planned for education. (Applause) This government is always and always will be about spin. They will spin a message that is untrue and hope that everyone else will believe it. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, here's a message right back to the government, that Nova Scotians won't fall for the smoke and mirrors PR exercise before them. My question to the minister is, why did you deceive Nova Scotians?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's out of order.

[Page 6530]

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, Nova Scotians . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That statement is out of order.

MS. WHALEN: I will retract it.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MS. WHALEN: Why did you mislead Nova Scotians when you told them that this was an education budget?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that is a Party that doesn't know numbers, it doesn't know roads, it doesn't know education. It knows third place, that's what it knows. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to find out if it's an education budget, I would refer the honourable member to the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, and all of those students and parents whose children are going to benefit from the good things that are contained in this budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW - RURAL N.S.: BUS. SERV. - ENSURE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Minster of Transportation and Public Works, there's a growing need today for public transportation in our rural communities and, as one example, the residents of the Eastern Shore have counted on Zinck Bus Co. to provide transportation from Sherbrooke to Halifax and return and all points along the way, but now Zinck Bus Line has applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to amend their licence and drop the service provided to the residents of the Eastern Shore. The hearing date is set for June 2nd.

So my question to the minister, Mr. Minister, what are you prepared to do for this area and others across the province that need access to public transportation in a desperate way?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the public transportation system in the Province of Nova Scotia is competitive and the bus services will not continue in those areas where the public does not support them.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, there are people on the Eastern Shore who really depend upon this service - seniors who do not drive and need to get to a doctor's

[Page 6531]

appointment. There are parents of children with special needs who rely on the bus service to get their children to appointments with specialists here in the city. So my question to the minister, what is this government going to do to make sure the people in rural Nova Scotia can access the services of specialists here in Halifax?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think that is beyond the capability of the Department of Transportation and Public Works because we have no control over the provision of bus services for people who have to attend medical services. I think that would probably come under the department of - I'm not too sure, who it would come under, but it would not come under the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I think the Utility and Review Board probably controls the public transportation system.

MR. PARKER: That's the problem, Mr. Speaker, he doesn't again have the answer, but there are 13,000 residents along the Eastern Shore, there are 600 businesses that depend upon this bus service and it doesn't really matter why Zinck is going to drop the service. Local residents want answers from this minister and from this government and to stand up for their issues. My question, Mr. Minister, when will this government stand up for issues important to the residents of rural Nova Scotia, including those along the Eastern Shore?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party of johnny-come-lately's in far as looking after rural interest in this province. I can assure the honourable member that this government is committed to supporting the rural part of Nova Scotia.

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

TPW - COMO RD. REPAIR: PROMISE - MISLEADING

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the luxury of dealing with today's budget, I have to go back to a question that I posed to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works last week. The promises of the future don't look too bright when I have to go back. This time last week I tabled a photograph of the huge sinkhole in Fort Ellis, Colchester County. A car could disappear in this sinkhole. The state of Como Road is simply appalling. Last Tuesday the Minister of Transportation and Public Works told this House, his department was taking steps to repair that particular problem. Well, I have here another set of photos taken just today, and nothing has been done with that road. Anyone can see the department has taken no steps whatsoever to repair the hole. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, why did the minister mislead this House last Tuesday when he promised his department was fixing the problem?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the Department of Transportation and Public Works was out there today, repairing that sinkhole.

[Page 6532]

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, before I came over here today we had a phone call from a very concerned resident that those cracks and holes have now proceeded completely across the highway. The people are worried. They're afraid to drive that road in the nighttime, that their vehicle will sink into it. The only thing the Department of Transportation and Public Works has done is put up a few wooden barriers, and some of those wooden barriers are now falling into that sinkhole. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, you are aware of the problem and you promised it was being fixed, will you keep your promise?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes. In fact, at the conclusion of Question Period, I'll phone across to the department because it was my understanding that there was a crew on the job this morning.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, the sinkhole on Como Road in Fort Ellis is a danger to anyone travelling the road. The honourable minister says that he's fixing it now, but why should it take four weeks. This is the fourth week of a hole that's extremely dangerous to any and all of the travelling, motoring public, to have the danger of such a hole exist in a common highway. Mr. Minister, you're committing to addressing the problem and you will see yourself that it will be done today, can I count on that?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - PROSPECT RD. CLEANUP:

BUS. OWNER - ASSIST

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Stephen Little is a small business operator in my constituency, who assisted with the cleanup of an oil spill on a property at 2819 Prospect Road. This cleanup was necessary immediately due to its proximity to neighbouring homes. On March 4th, Mr. Little wrote to the minister, and I'll table a copy of that letter, asking for assistance with the remaining cost that is still owed to this small business operator of the Prospect Road. Mr. Minister, how are you prepared to assist Mr. Little?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we are a regulatory department, and we do regulate the cleanup of the environment. However, we are not a funding department and we really don't have funds available to assist in that kind of a matter.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, as you well you know, this spill happened in March of 2002. Environment officials from your department ordered the cleanup, but the family at this location was unable to cover these costs. In future, small businesses like Mr. Little's could refuse to co-operate unless guarantees are given by officials from your

[Page 6533]

department. My question to the minister is, what is your department proposing to do when your officials order a cleanup and the owners of the property are unable to cover the cost?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, if we've ordered the clean-up, we certainly will look into the issue and see if there is anything available. However, as I said, we are not a funding agency.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Little and other small business operators that come to the rescue of seniors in the community when a clean-up is necessary, to assist in this important issue, they want some clarification. This problem has lingered on for far too long and Mr. Little still needs payment. So, what will the Department of Labour and Environment do in future when a small business operator is told, clean this up and he or she refuses?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I think it's important for the member opposite to know that in this particular case I'll endeavour to look into this and get back to him with an appropriate answer.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

TPW: APPLE BLOSSOM MENNONITE SCH. - SIGNAGE

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, some school children in my riding are in danger every day. Students at the Apple Blossom Mennonite School walk or bicycle to school, yet unlike all the other children in my riding, there are no signs near the school to advise motorists of the presence of school children. My question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. When will the minister instruct his department to install warning signs to motorists in order to protect the children?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is aware of the criteria for putting up signs. I believe that in this particular case it's a private school and it does not have the population to warrant signs.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my investigation of this situation reveals discrimination against the children at the Mennonite school by the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Members of the Mennonite community don't vote, their voice is a gentle one in our community. Yet, they are concerned about the safety of their children. When will the Minister of Transportation and Public Works do the right thing and instruct his department to place warning signs on the Black Rock Road to protect children?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are a great many private schools in Nova Scotia, particularly small schools. The Department of Transportation and Public Works examines each one of those cases when they apply for signs - if they do not meet the criteria which is

[Page 6534]

established in this province and it's a common criteria across this country, then we do not put up signs.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, the position of the Department of Transportation and Public Works is because this school is private, it can cop out of putting up signs near the school - this in spite of a study that showed excessive speeding on the Black Rock Road. I will table that. My question for the Minister of Transportation is, does he have to wait for a tragic accident or a close call in order to act and protect these children?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, further to this matter, I can certainly send to the honourable member, again, the criteria. We've investigated this particular school I think on four or five occasions to see if we can accommodate the school under the existing criteria and we cannot.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

PICTOU SHIPYARDS - PREM.: JOBS - ENSURE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, Pictou County has a long history of ship building over the centuries. In recent decades Pictou Shipyards in the Town of Pictou built many quality vessels, including the present Confederation that plies the Northumberland Strait to and from P.E.I. In recent years, fabrication of components for the offshore have been a mainstay, however, at the present time, there's no work at the yard because there are no contracts. More than 100 people have been laid off. These jobs are vital to our rural economy and I'd like to ask the Premier what he's doing to ensure these skilled workers are able to get back to work?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the member opposite's concern about the plight of the local union who provide the workforce for Pictou Shipyards. I was there the day the Confederation was launched, the last significant project in terms of shipbuilding at that particular yard. I recently had an opportunity to meet with senior union people from the yard and we are doing what we can to explore opportunities for the Pictou Shipyards. It is a serious situation and I commend the member for bringing it to the attention of the House and the government.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have been contacted by the President of the United Steel Workers, Local 4702, at the Pictou Shipyards and a number of other workers who are very concerned about their lack of work. More than 100 workers have been without employment since last Summer. Their EI benefits are about to run out and soon many of those skilled workers will have to leave our province and go elsewhere. Time is running out for

[Page 6535]

many of these workers and, again to the Premier, this now is an urgent situation. Mr. Premier, will you give this your urgent attention?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will guarantee the member opposite that it is on my front burner; as a matter of fact I made a call relative to this particular problem today. But I want to point out to the members of the House the discrepancy in this question and the one that was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition who was criticizing the government for providing a good opportunity for large corporations to create employment in Nova Scotia, and then we have a backbencher asking what can you do to put my people to work. Well, Mr. Speaker, we will put those people to work. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, Pictou Shipyards is really a small local industry that has been providing a lot of employment to our local area, but I'm glad to hear the commitment of the Premier and this government to helping out, and because this government has an important role to play - they own part of the shipyards still through the marine railway and other components of the yard - as we know jobs are scarce in rural Nova Scotia, we need our shipyard back to work. Mr. Premier, will you stand up for rural Nova Scotia? Will you stand up for our Pictou Shipyards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, through you I can reassure the member opposite that we are working on the file. We are aware of the problem and we will do what we can to find suitable work for those who work the Pictou Shipyards. It is under lease to a large corporation and I believe that by supporting business we can put people to work. That's why we do what we do as Conservatives.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - WAIT TIMES: REPORT - TIME FRAME

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, in the document, Your Health Matters, government committed to releasing the first annual minister's report to patients on wait lists and they've made that commitment for the Fall of 2003. Well, guess what? We waited for the report and it was late. It arrived in March 2004, and it shared very little information with respect to wait times. Despite the fact that it has now been more than a year since the last report, the public has yet to hear from the minister on wait lists.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that brags that they are addressing wait times, yet they fail to produce a report that will reassure Nova Scotians that they are actually understanding the pressure points and have things well in hand. My question for the Minister of Health is when can Nova Scotians expect the next report on wait times to be released, and what are you hiding, Mr. Minister?

[Page 6536]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we're hiding a lot of good news and the report will be out shortly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay on your first supplementary. You have about 45 seconds.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister wants to make people wait longer for the wait times report? I stated earlier the last report that he released was to say the least, scant in detail; in fact many would consider it nothing more than a great big glossy public relations document which simply included wait times for areas the government had already made a commitment to addressing. Would the minister please confirm whether this year's report, whenever it's tabled, will incorporate more detail with respect to wait times than last year's report, and how long do we have to wait for the wait times report?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We'll have to wait for another day of Question Period, I guess. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[3:05 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. James DeWolfe in the Chair.]

[3:12 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the whole House on Bills reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 117 - Emergency Health Services Act.

Bill No. 134 - Yarmouth Marketing and Promotions Levy Act.

Bill No. 146 - Cross-border Policing Act.

Bill No. 148 - Justice Administration Amendment (2005).

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Bill No. 152 - Liquor Control Act.

Bill No. 158 - Paramedics Act.

Bill No. 159 - Université Sainte-Anne - Collége de l'Acadie Act.

Bill No. 160 - University College of Cape Breton Act.

Bill No. 161 - Special Places Protection Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Government Business for today and I would ask that you call on the House Leader for the Official Opposition to detail the business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. After the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Bill No. 157 and Resolution No. 3373. I have a copy of that for both other Parties as well so they can get a copy of the resolution. It was a resolution from yesterday, I have a copy of it. So that will be Bill No. 157 and Resolution No. 3373 and I so move adjournment until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 6538]

The motion is carried.

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

[The House rose at 3:14 p.m.]

[Page 6539]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3437

By: Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

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

Whereas over 47,000 Nova Scotians throughout our province still don't have access to a family doctor; and

Whereas despite actions taken by other jurisdictions, this government has failed to revise or develop any incentive programs that would assist communities in the recruitment of physicians; and

Whereas the retention of physicians is an area that has been all but forgotten by this government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the Minister of Health to outline immediately his comprehensive plan for the recruitment and retention of physicians in our province.

RESOLUTION NO. 3438

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Travis Dowe, a 14-year-old student of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, won first place in the 14-year-old division in the District Basketball Shoot-out competition held by the Knights of Columbus; and

Whereas Knights of Columbus member Jerry Lisi presented Travis with a certificate for the accomplishment; and

Whereas Travis was pleased to win the first place honour and will no doubt be the winner of many more awards in the future;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Travis on this achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 6540]

RESOLUTION NO. 3439

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Sgt. David Ferguson and his team members of the Springhill Marksmanship team recently took home first place from the Cadet Nova Scotia Provincial Marksmanship competition in Halifax; and

Whereas the Springhill team, representing Springhill 1859 RCACC, scored 1,481 points out of a possible 1,600 points to win the competition; and

Whereas the competition has qualified the Springhill team to participate at the national level as one of the two teams representing Nova Scotia cadets at the National Cadet Marksmanship competition to be held at Valcartier, Quebec in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sgt. David Ferguson and his team members on this outstanding achievement and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 3440

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas CWO Alan Ferguson and his team members of the Springhill Marksmanship team recently took home first place from the Cadet Nova Scotia Provincial Marksmanship competition in Halifax; and

Whereas the Springhill team, representing Springhill 1859 RCACC, scored 1,481 points out of a possible 1,600 points to win the competition; and

Whereas the competition has qualified the Springhill team to participate at the national level as one of the two teams representing Nova Scotia cadets at the National Cadet Marksmanship competition to be held at Valcartier, Quebec in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate CWO Alan Ferguson and his team members on this outstanding achievement and wish them continued success in the future.

[Page 6541]

RESOLUTION NO. 3441

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Clarence Falconer, a long-time employee of Correctional Service of Canada and current Springhill Town Councillor, received the Exemplary Gold Bar from Myra Freeman, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, one of only 17 awards that were handed out; and

Whereas the award to Falconer is his second from CSC as he was previously awarded the Exemplary Service Medal. The Gold Bar is for long and outstanding service in the field of corrections; and

Whereas the Correctional Service of Canada honoured Clarence Falconer at a special service at Province House on Thursday, April 17, 2005;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Clarence Falconer on this outstanding award and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 3442

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Blake Fahey was honoured at the Springhill Student Appreciation Night in Springhill; and

Whereas Blake was awarded a plaque for the Most Improved Player of the Jr. Boys Basketball team; and

Whereas it was a night for the school and the students and staff of Springhill Regional High School to show their appreciation to all the athletes who work so hard and show so much dedication all year to their team and their school;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Blake Fahey on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.