Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04/05-79

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Tuition Fees - Reduce, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6943
Educ.: Tuition Fees - Reduce, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6944
Health - Satellite Dialysis Unit: East Hants - Support,
Mr. J. MacDonell 6944
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. D. Dexter 6944
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Public Accounts Committee - 2003-04 Annual Report,
Mr. G. Steele 6945
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Hfx. Co. District School Bd. Agreement(1975), Hon. J. Muir 6945
WCB (Gary Dean) Summary of Expenses 2003-04-05,
Hon. K. Morash 6945
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Pay-For-Performance Policies, Hon. M. Baker 6945
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3631, Beaton, Pte. Douglas Angus: Dutch Honour - Celebrate,
The Premier 6949
Vote - Affirmative 6950
Res. 3632, Bacon, Hon. Roger: NSAC - Hon. Deg., The Premier 6950
Vote - Affirmative 6951
Res. 3633, 4-H Prog.: Value - Recognize, Hon. C. d'Entremont 6951
Vote - Affirmative 6952
Res. 3634, Forsythe, Therese: Science Book - Inclusion,
Hon. J. Muir 6952
Vote - Affirmative 6953
Res. 3635, Milk Energy Sport Fair: Sport N.S. - Thank,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6953
Vote - Affirmative 6954
Res. 3636, Adopt-A-Hwy. Day (05/04/05) - Acknowledge,
Hon. R. Russell 6954
Vote - Affirmative 6954
Res. 3637, Environ. & Lbr. - Composting: Commitment - Encourage,
Hon. K. Morash 6955
Vote - Affirmative 6955
Res. 3638, NSAC: Class of 2005 - Congrats,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 6955
Vote - Affirmative 6956
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 186, Judicature Act, Mr. D. Dexter 6956
No. 187, Labour Standards Code, Mr. F. Corbett 6957
No. 188, Education Act, Ms. D. Whalen 6957
No. 189, Education Act, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6957
No. 190, Education Act, Ms. D. Whalen 6957
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3639, CBC Newsworld - Boys from Pictou: Production - Congrats,
Mr. C. Parker 6957
Vote - Affirmative 6958
Res. 3640, Gov't. (N.S.) - Motorcycle Usage: Roads - Repair,
Mr. S. McNeil 6958
Res. 3641, History N.S.: Motor Vehicle Age - Appreciate,
Mr. M. Parent 6959
Vote - Affirmative 6959
Res. 3642, VE Anniv. (60th) - Cdn. Elected Reps.: Participation -
Permission Thank, Mr. D. Dexter 6959
Res. 3643, AGNS - Gov't. (N.S.): Progs. - Protect, Mr. S. McNeil 6960
Res. 3644, Guysborough Journal - Youth Editorial Bd.: Creation -
Congrats, Mr. R. Chisholm 6961
Vote - Affirmative 6961
Res. 3645, Jessome, Bernie - Birthday (69th), Mr. G. Gosse 6962
Vote - Affirmative 6962
Res. 3646, O'Flaherty, Ron - NSSAF: Service - Recognize,
Mr. L. Glavine 6963
Vote - Affirmative 6963
Res. 3647, S. Shore Reg. Sch. Bd.: Terry Fox Run -
Vol. Participation (100 per cent), Hon. M. Baker 6963
Vote - Affirmative 6964
Res. 3648, Health Prom. - Nat'l. Track & Field Championship:
Uniforms - Fund, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6964
Res. 3649,TPW: S. Range Cross Rd./Sissibo Rd. - Repair,
Mr. H. Theriault 6965
Res. 3650, Harvey, Bob: Commun. Serv. - Thank, Hon. B. Barnet 6966
Vote - Affirmative 6967
Res. 3651, TPW - Route 4: Work - Continue,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6967
Vote - Affirmative 6967
Res. 3652, Off-highway Vehicles: Task Force Recommendations -
Implement, Ms. M. Raymond 6967
Res. 3653, TPW - Whale Cove: Guard Rail - Install,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 6968
Res. 3654, MacLeod, Chief Edgar - Police Leadership Award,
Hon. M. Baker 6969
Vote - Affirmative 6970
Res. 3655, Paul, Logan - Truro Sport Heritage Soc. Award,
Hon. J. Muir 6970
Vote - Affirmative 6970
Res. 3656, Blue Beach - Fossils: Mansky/Wood - Applaud,
Hon. D. Morse 6970
Vote - Affirmative 6971
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 802, Nat. Res. - Wildlife Sanctuaries: Delisting - Protection,
Mr. J. MacDonell 6971
No. 803, Health - Private Hospitals: Prem. - Awareness,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6972
No. 804, Hum. Res. - Dep. Min. Bonuses: Misinformation - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 6974
No. 805, Health: Ophthalmology Clinic - Proposal,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6975
No. 806, Prem. - Freedom of Information Review Office - Plans,
Mr. Dexter 6977
No. 807, Health - Private Surgical Clinics: Info - Source,
Mr. D. Dexter 6978
No. 808, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Private Companies: Tax Breaks - Policy,
Mr. Michel Samson 6979
No. 809, Ins. - Cap: Retention - Time Frame, Mr. D. Dexter 6980
No. 810, Ins. - Victims' Rights: Limitation - Reasons, Mr. D. Dexter 6981
No. 811, C.B. & CNS Railway: Maintain - Plan,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6983
No. 812, Ins.: Consumer Advocate - Duties, Mr. G. Steele 6985
No. 813, Justice - Youth Crime Prevention: Funding - Amount,
Mr. Michel Samson 6986
No. 814, Health Prom. - Bedford Private Rink: Tax Break - Details,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 6987
No. 815, Sysco: Subsidization - Explain, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6988
No. 816, Health - Autistic Children: Interim Funding - Provide,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6990
No. 817, Nat. Res. - Spruce Longhorn Beetle: Cleanup - Cost,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6991
No. 818, Justice: McEvoy Inquiry - Mandate, Mr. Michel Samson 6992
No. 819, Nat. Res. - Dominion Beach: Opening - Assure,
Mr. F. Corbett 6994
No. 820, Nat. Res. - Prov. Wildlife Mgt. Areas: Delisting - Details,
Mr. L. Glavine 6995
No. 821, TPW: Louisbourg/Main-à-Dieu Hwys. - Plans,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6996
No. 822, Com. Serv. - Brass Tack Ind.: Funding - Inadequacy,
Mr. G. Gosse 6997
No. 823, TPW - Needs Assessment (2002): Follow-Up - Info.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 6998
No. 824, TPW - Rural Roads: Repair Plan - Explain, Mr. C. Parker 6999
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 170, Income Tax Act 7001
Mr. L. Glavine 7001
Mr. K. Colwell 7003
Hon. P. Christie 7003
Mr. M. Parent 7005
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 7006
Mr. S. McNeil 7009
No. 151, Water Royalty Act 7012
Mr. H. Theriault 7012
Mr. K. Colwell 7014
Hon. K. Morash 7017
Mr. J. MacDonell 7021
Mr. Gerald Sampson 7024
Mr. G. Hines 7027
ADJOURNMENT
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
NSCC - Gov't. (N.S.): Funding Increase - Importance:
Mr. Mark Parent 7028
Mr. L. Glavine 7030
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7033
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 5th at 12:00 noon 7036
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3657, Eureka Vol. FD/Ladies Aux.: Contribution - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 7037
Res. 3658, Ling, Elmer & Margaret - Citizens of the Yr. Award,
The Speaker 7037
Res. 3659, Lockhart, Ryan: Motocross Achievements - Congrats,
The Speaker 7038
Res. 3660, McClelland, Christie: RRFB Bursary - Congrats,
The Speaker 7038
Res. 3661, Masters Forestry - Corkum Award, The Speaker 7039
Res. 3662, Maddison, Marilyn - Kidney Fdn. Award,
The Speaker 7039

[Page 6943]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that this government's initiative in increased funding to the Nova Scotia Community College is one of the most important contributions to post-secondary education that any Nova Scotia Government has undertaken.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 119 post-secondary students in this province requesting this government reduce tuition fees. As a proud parent of a daughter who attends the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, I have affixed my signature.

6943

[Page 6944]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by Nova Scotians concerned about the high and ever-rising costs of post-secondary education. I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition of 831, when I signed this petition, for support of a satellite dialysis unit in East Hants. I signed and support it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 120 post-secondary students in the Province of Nova Scotia, 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."

I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce in the east gallery a good friend of mine, and a representative of the people, who represents the people at the school board level. Jenny White is one of the representatives for the area that I represent on the provincial level, and she is accompanied by Therese Forsythe, who will be introduced more fully later by the Minister of Education.

Right now I would just like to introduce to you and ask the House to give a warm welcome to Jenny White. We'll ask Jenny to rise. (Applause)

[Page 6945]

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest to the gallery today, and hope she enjoys the proceedings.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for 2003-04.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to the request of the member for Preston yesterday during Question Period, I'm tabling a press release which contains information on the agreement reached between the Halifax County District School Board and the residents of Cherry Brook, Lake Loon, East Preston and North Preston. We weren't able to provide a copy of the original agreement which was reached between the parties in 1975, but as I understand it progress has been made on many of the issues of concern. In addition, there is still a monitoring committee in place under the current Halifax Regional School Board, which involves school board members, school board officials and members of the community. The Halifax Regional School Board may be able to provide more information about that. I'm pleased to table that information.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, as was requested in Question Period the other day by the member for Preston, I'd like to table a summary of expenses for 2003-04-05 for Mr. Gary Dean, who is a Workers' Compensation Board member.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to bring some clarity to discussions held here yesterday concerning pay-for-performance policies of this

[Page 6946]

government for Crown Corporations, members of agencies, boards and commissions, senior officials and civil servants. I want to make it abundantly clear that this government has always been and remains committed to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability.

Nova Scotians have every right to know exactly how much they are compensating the people who work in their service. In recognition of that, Mr. Speaker, our current practice sees the total compensations of all civil servants published in the Supplement to the Public Accounts, and any pay-for-performance amount awarded to an employee is included in that amount. This government has supported the provisions of pay for performance as part of the compensation package for its employees as a means of recognizing and encouraging exemplary performance.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to pay-for-performance awards and the communication of those awards to the public, this government has made the following decisions:

1. We commit to an immediate review of pay-for-performance policies for senior officials of Crown Corporations. (Applause) We will require them to publicly report pay-for-performance awards on a routine basis and in a timely fashion.

2. We will ensure that there is appropriate accountability to the Executive Council and the respective minister responsible for the Crown Corporation.

3. Effective today, we have made a change with regard to pay for performance for senior officials, Mr. Speaker. (Applause) From today onward, agreement by senior officials to a timely and routine release of pay-for-performance awards is a condition of their participation in the pay-for-performance plan. In other words, if a senior official wishes to participate in the pay for performance plan, they must consent to a routine and timely public communication of any award they receive under the plan.

Mr. Speaker, our commitment to be more transparent around pay for performance for senior officials is already apparent in this example. The list of senior officials' pay for performance awards released in July last year covering 2002-03 awards was accurate, although it was not as transparent as it could have been or should have been. This has been rectified. The list released just last week for 2003-04 is more complete and transparent. There is a better way of providing the information and this is the way it will be provided in the future.

I would also point out that senior officials' employment contracts, as well as a myriad of other government information, are now available on a routine access basis. No FOIPOP application is required, it is as simple as picking up the phone and asking.

[Page 6947]

Mr. Speaker, government today also commits to review the disclosure of pay for performance awards to Civil Service employees. These are the non-bargaining unit employees under the Management Compensation Plan.

Our commitment is clear. Nova Scotians have every right to know how their money is invested in the time and talent of people who serve them and we will continue to see that information is readily available. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what a difference a day makes.

First of all, I would like to thank the minister for providing me with an advance copy of the statement, it's appreciated. I have to say this government will sometimes do the right thing. The unfortunate part, of course, is that they will only do the right thing when they are left with no other alternative. That, I think, is a very unfortunate and circuitous way to arrive at the ends that Nova Scotians seek.

In this particular situation, it has been well over a year-long process. In late 2003, our office applied for the bonuses received by deputy ministers and after a process of extensions we were eventually granted the global amount, but we were told we would not receive the individual amounts. The government claimed this was the personal information under Section 20 of the FOIPOP Act, a submission that was completely and thoroughly rejected by the Review Officer in May, 2004.

Still, the government persisted with their interpretation. What we revealed in the House yesterday, the government then scrambled to do something under pressure from the Opposition and the public to release bonuses. In July they released information for some deputy ministers, which we have established was incomplete. Then when our office approached the Crown Corporations and government agencies for that kind of information, we were told to apply through FOIPOP as well. We did, and over the past nine months they have continued to release this information as we have come to receive it. In each case, the level of public frustration has increased. More troubling, however, was the level of public cynicism also increased with each release of this information because of the way it had to be obtained in the first place.

[2:15 p.m.]

Yesterday, we pressed the government on this very important issue. We asked for a number of different things. We asked for a review across government. The government has responded with a review across Crown Corporations and they will also order the routine disclosure of these bonuses. We asked for the approval by Cabinet of all bonuses. They have responded that there will appropriate accountability - whatever that means - to the Executive

[Page 6948]

Council. We have asked that all senior officials' bonuses be disclosed in line with the Review Officer's decision, regardless of what opinion the deputy in question expresses on the matter and the government has finally agreed to follow this recommendation.

We have also made other points, Mr. Speaker, including a moratorium on the practice pending a government-wide review. This was not included in the government's statement. Nor was a timeline given to conduct the review, although we expect the government understands the seriousness of this issue and are prepared to act quickly and report publicly on the findings. There is one element of this statement though that causes me concern. The minister still maintains that the list released for the 2002-03 deputy minister bonus amount was "accurate" although it was not as transparent as it could have been or should have been. This is another example of government spin.

The government knows the list was not accurate and they know that they've scrambled to save themselves from having the embarrassing details leaked out as they did yesterday. It was not a pretty sight to watch the government in retreat from something that they have so strongly defended and endorsed as a blanket of secrecy around this program across government. It is nonetheless, a welcome step forward towards greater accountability and openness on the part of the government. (Applause)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the minister for providing a copy in advance. I guess a good defence is a strong offence sometimes, but in this case, not this time. This act of contrition that we're seeing before the House here this afternoon is reactionary, reactionary to say the least. I'm surprised by the minister because this is the minister who never admits he's wrong on anything in this House, since I've been here at least, since he's been in the Executive Council, and today we witness this spectacle of the minister coming before the House and telling all of Nova Scotia that he and his policy are wrong, in this particular regard.

This is an important issue, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians deserve to know how taxpayers' dollars are being spent, and talk about developing a policy on the run. Yesterday this matter was disclosed in the House by the Official Opposition and one day later the government is changing its policy. What kind of a government can you allow to run this province, when they can change a policy in one day, because the Opposition Party brings a matter to the House? I believe that if this is going to be a sign of things to come with this government, then it's time we put this government and its policies to rest and elect somebody else in this province who can get the job done. (Interruptions) And I don't mean them.

This, Mr. Speaker, is an issue of communications for Nova Scotians and those within government. Talk about FOIPOP, the NDP talked about FOIPOP and the one thing wrong with FOIPOP is that it takes forever to get any information out of them. They talk about an

[Page 6949]

open and transparent policy, well, you just try to access anything through FOIPOP. It takes months and months and then you get a ream of paper with everything blacked out on it and you have to go back and ask why that is so. It's just impossible to get any timely information. That's why you have to go to other means of getting the government to come clean on some of their policies.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said yesterday - and I'll table this article - that the information does get released and he sees no problem. That was yesterday; today they're changing the policy. The Minister of Finance says yesterday there's no problem; the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board today says there is a problem and he's moving to change it. They can't even get their act right in the front benches over there. It's reactionary, and that's not a solid base on which to operate a government. When you react on a daily basis because somebody brings a problem to the floor, all of a sudden the government policy that was good yesterday and explained in the House by the Premier and the minister yesterday that the policy was fine, today it's not fine.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, if this government feels that senior civil servants working for the government are worth more money, they should say so. They should say so and they should pay them more money if they feel they're worth it and explain to Nova Scotians why they're worth it and then let Nova Scotians be the judge on whether or not they're worth it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery where we have with us today Deborah Pink and seven young Nova Scotians who are all members of the Leave Out Violence; Links Youth Employability Program. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings. Any further statements by ministers?

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3631

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in the small Dutch town of Zutphen, the short yet valiant life of a young Canadian soldier from Inverness County was honoured Monday for his contribution in the battle to liberate the country's citizens from the tyranny of the Nazis; and

[Page 6950]

Whereas Beaton Straat or Beaton Street will now honour the memory and brave actions of a 22-year-old private, Douglas Angus Beaton who was raised on West Bay Road, Inverness; and

Whereas the town has chosen this special anniversary to officially name 10 streets and one bridge after 11 Canadian soldiers who died liberating its people;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with the people of Holland who are celebrating the freedom awarded to their country 60 years ago. They are thankful recipients of the bravery and the courage of the young soldiers who fought on these foreign shores so far from home so that their nation, too, would live in peace.

I ask members to stand for a moment of silence in memory of this brave Nova Scotian who was not able to return home, but whose life is now being commemorated.

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.

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

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, please be seated.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3632

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

Whereas Roger Bacon's involvement and contributions to politics, to the agricultural industry, and to education are numerous; and

[Page 6951]

Whereas Mr. Bacon's leadership was pivotal in the development of the current degree program, in association with Dalhousie University, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College; and

Whereas Mr. Bacon was responsible for the significant expansion of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College facilities during the 1980s and his leadership laid the foundation for the success the NSAC enjoys today as one of the most research intensive universities in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Bacon on receiving an honorary doctorate during the 100th convocation ceremony of the NSAC on Friday, May 6, 2005.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 3633

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

Whereas the 4-H program was established over 80 years ago to provide Nova Scotia's youth with an opportunity to develop teamwork and other essential skills that will help them as they develop into responsible members of society; and

Whereas the 4-H program is the largest youth organization in the world, with clubs in more than 80 countries and 7 million members worldwide; and

Whereas 4-H members from across Nova Scotia will compete in provincial public speaking and demonstration competitions and other skill development activities during the annual 4-H Weekend at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro on May 6th and May 7th;

[Page 6952]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the value and benefits Nova Scotia's youth receive from the 4-H program and offer best wishes to the participants in this year's event.

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 Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, in advance of reading the resolution, I'd like to do an introduction. In the east gallery, I'd like to introduce Therese Forsythe. The National Science Teachers Association, which is an international education organization, has just published a brand new monograph entitled Exemplary Science in Grades 9-12, and it includes 15 success stories - only 15 success stories and most of these are from American schools. However, one of these success stories is about Therese Forsythe and her class of chemistry students at the former Cornwallis High School. The book was edited by Dr. Robert Yager who is a major force in shaping the science curricula across the globe. I would ask Ms. Forsythe to rise and receive the warm and congratulatory greeting of the members of the Assembly on her inclusion in this very exclusive book. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3634

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

Whereas an international organization, the National Science Teachers Association, has just published a book entitled Exemplary Science in Grades 9-12; and

Whereas one of the chapters in the book was dedicated to Therese Forsythe and her chemistry students at the former Cornwallis High School; and

[Page 6953]

Whereas Ms. Forsythe was recognized for encouraging students to learn chemistry using integrated technology applications and co-operative learning techniques;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House celebrate Therese's success story and her inclusion in this very exclusive book.

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. 3635

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 is sponsoring the Milk Energy Sport Fair taking place at Dalplex starting today until May 6th; and

Whereas thousands of students from HRM will come to Sport Fair where they will have the opportunity to try more than 30 different sports; and

Whereas we must help our province's youth adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as sport and physical activity;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Sport Nova Scotia for producing this event that allows Nova Scotia's youth to try on any sport they like, encouraging them to make sport and physical activity part of their lifestyle.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6954]

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 Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 3636

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

Whereas hundreds of hard-working volunteers will soon be spending many hours picking up litter from along the highways of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this work will benefit all Nova Scotians by allowing the natural beauty of this province to shine through for all travellers; and

Whereas all Nova Scotians are called upon to do their part by driving with extra care and caution around clean-up areas;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge that May 4, 2005 is Adopt-A-Highway Day in Nova Scotia and urge all Nova Scotians to use this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of these many volunteers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

[Page 6955]

RESOLUTION NO. 3637

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

Whereas this week is Compost Awareness Week in Canada; and

Whereas Nova Scotians are leaders in composting, using more than 100,000 tonnes of organics every year for gardening rather than throwing away this valuable resource; and

Whereas many Nova Scotia gardeners use their compost to grow food for those in need through the Plant a Row, Grow a Row program, which is supported by Environment and Labour, the Resource Recovery Fund Board, municipalities and business like Halifax Seed;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage Nova Scotians to continue their commitment to composting and participate in this important program to help their fellow citizens in need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 3638

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, one of the oldest centres for agricultural education and research in Canada has quietly evolved over the past 100 years into

[Page 6956]

an applied-science university of excellence, positively impacting Nova Scotia's agriculture and fishing industries; and

Whereas the NSAC has 100 years of experience in educating and creating the leaders of our globalized food system; and

Whereas we celebrate the NSAC and its students' achievements as Friday, May 6th, marks the college's 100th convocation ceremony;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate NSAC class of 2005 for their accomplishments and hard work and wish them luck with their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 186 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 231 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, The Insurance Act and Chapter 240 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Judicature Act. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, may I do a short introduction before I introduce this bill. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery we have a restaurant worker who lives in the Sackville area and her name is Cheryl Noseworthy. I would ask Cheryl if she stand and receive the applause of the House. (Applause)

[Page 6957]

Bill No. 187 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 246 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Labour Standards Code. (Mr. Frank Corbett)

Bill No. 188 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

Bill No. 189 - Entitled an Act to Implement Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2004, An Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Mr. David Wilson [Glace Bay])

Bill No. 190 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3639

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

Whereas CBC Newsworld television will broadcast this evening and again on Sunday, a documentary film entitled, The Boys from Pictou; and

Whereas this story focuses on Pictou and its contribution to the Second World War, both overseas and at home; and

Whereas this film is seen through the eyes of Pictonians, including veterans, families who lost loved ones, and war brides;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate CBC Newsworld for producing this documentary, The Boys from Pictou, and all Pictonians who helped in its production.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6958]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3640

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

Whereas motorcyclists represent a significant portion of the transportation traffic on Nova Scotia's roads and highways, with over 10,000 motorcycle owners in the province; and

Whereas motorcyclists from abroad are becoming increasingly aware of the dismal state of the roads and highways within this province and the lack of government action to remedy the infrastructure erosion; and

Whereas the month of May has been designated Motorcycle Awareness Month, a month devoted to the awareness of their issues and the need for caution and restraint from motorists with the increasing number of motorcycles on the road;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature encourage this government to implement relevant programs and initiatives to repair Nova Scotia's roads so that motorcyclists from abroad can become aware of the beauty within our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 6959]

RESOLUTION NO. 3641

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

Whereas last week a significant anniversary passed us by in this House of Assembly, as it was April 28, 1907, when Nova Scotia's first motor vehicle law came into effect, requiring registration of all motor vehicles in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas it was during this time of year, 101 years ago, when Mr. Archie Pelton and a Mr. Porter from Kentville went to New York to attend the first automobile show in New York City, while purchasing two Curved Dash Oldsmobiles; and

Whereas the purchase of these automobiles was the beginning of the motor vehicle age in Nova Scotia, which saw 18,000 cars on the road in Nova Scotia by 1923;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly, while always looking forward, appreciate Nova Scotia's great history, in this case the beginning of the motor vehicle age.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3642

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

Whereas today, and all this week, the people of the Netherlands and all the residents of Europe are marking the 60th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, VE Day; and

[Page 6960]

Whereas the threat of a sudden confidence vote had cancelled the participation of Members of Parliament in this important event; and

Whereas yesterday, after intense pressure from veterans, other Canadians and outspoken parliamentarians like Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, the federal Conservatives agreed to permit an all-Party delegation to participate in the conclusion of the VE commemorations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank the Leaders of the federal Parties for finally permitting the participation of Canadians' elected representatives in the commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of Victory in Europe.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3643

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

Whereas the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is currently home to great art from around the world and often showcases the talents of our own extraordinary artisans; and

Whereas the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia works hard to share with its visitors the art of our province, which appears to have slipped the minds and plans of this government; and

Whereas the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage has apparently forgotten the number of Nova Scotians who value the art community, whether it be in our province or beyond;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge this government to give the necessary attention to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and ensure it does not have to cut programs in order to survive.

[Page 6961]

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 Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3644

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

Whereas the Guysborough Journal got a little younger this past March when it gave creative licence to six talented high school students from across Guysborough County; and

Whereas a full page in the paper will be dedicated to youth news, views and creativity, giving the students the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities; and

Whereas the content and coverage of the issues will be decided through regular meetings of the Journal's new Youth Editorial Board and each student involved will receive an honorarium at the end of the school year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Guysborough Journal for offering such an exciting opportunity to high school students across the county and wish them luck in their future publishing.

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 6962]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3645

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

Whereas Bernie Jessome, through thick and thin has demonstrated his commitment to the New Democratic Party; and

Whereas to this day Bernie Jessome is a fundraiser extraordinaire in Cape Breton Nova; and

Whereas today, May 4, 2005, Bernie Jessome will be celebrating his 69th birthday;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly wish Bernie Jessome a very happy birthday and wish him many more in the days ahead and acknowledge his dedication and loyalty to the New Democratic Party.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, if I could make an introduction first?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. GLAVINE: Turning our attention to the east gallery where Rick Fraughton, Liberal candidate in Chester-St. Margaret's and a group of friends from the South Shore, Rudi Haase, Cathy Pross, Francis Anderson, Gail Martin and Gail Smith. So, if we could give them a warm welcome to the House today. (Applause)

[Page 6963]

RESOLUTION NO. 3646

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

Whereas Ron O'Flaherty, the long-time Executive Director of the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation will retire after 29 years of outstanding service to the youth of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas during his tenure as director, Ron attracted excellent people to key roles in school sports throughout this province and promoted many initiatives; and

Whereas many people have benefited from his strong leadership and have become better citizens in their communities throughout Nova Scotia and beyond;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Mr. O'Flaherty's 29-year tenure with NSSAF as characterized by approachability, fairness, commitment to excellence and extend best wishes for his retirement.

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 Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 3647

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

Whereas Terry Fox has inspired many people to get involved with raising money for the fight against cancer; and

[Page 6964]

Whereas for many years South Shore schools have participated in the Terry Fox National School Run Day which is held each September and has raised thousands of dollars for the Terry Fox Foundation; and

Whereas the South Shore Regional School Board has achieved the distinction of being the first school board in Canada to have 100 per cent volunteer participation in the Terry Fox National School Run Day;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate the South Shore Regional School Board for being Canada's first school board to have 100 per cent volunteer participation in the Terry Fox Run.

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 Guysborough-Sheet Harbour on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to bring to the attention of all members of the House in the east gallery, the Mayor of the Town of Mulgrave is with us, along with Councillor George Freer. They're in talking to some government members and some Cabinet Ministers. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3648

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

[Page 6965]

Whereas this year Nova Scotia's Royal Canadian Legions will send 38 athletes, four chaperones and three coaches to the National Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, Alberta from August 5th to August 12th; and

Whereas these young athletes nobly represent our province; and

Whereas these young Nova Scotians must pay for the very uniforms that they wear representing our province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health Promotion instruct his staff to cover the cost of the uniforms of the Nova Scotia Athletes competing in the National Track and Field Championships this Summer as an example of support of youth sports in this province.

[2:45 p.m.]

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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3649

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

Whereas residents of South Range and the Sissiboo Roads in Digby County, must endure roads which consists of holes surrounded by mud as featured on the Liberal caucus Web page, "Neglected Road of the Week"; and

Whereas in the Spring residents of South Range Cross Road and the Sissiboo Road must do without service of emergency vehicles because of the condition of their road; and

Whereas residents of this area are beginning to feel as neglected as their road.

[Page 6966]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House direct the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to act immediately to repair this safety hazard on these mud roads.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 3650

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

Whereas Councillor Bob Harvey, a good friend of mine and former colleague was recently featured in the "Our People" section of the Bedford-Sackville Weekly; and

Whereas Bob was featured for celebrating his Irish connections on Saint Patrick's Day; and

Whereas Bob continues to be a strong voice for the people he represents in District 20;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending along our appreciation to Bob Harvey for his tireless efforts to improve the community in which he lives.

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 6967]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3651

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

Whereas tourism is one of the cornerstones to the economy of communities within Cape Breton West; and

Whereas in the past 10 years there have been considerable developments and expansions of businesses along Route 4, such as Rita's Tea Room, McPherson Cottages, Big Pond Beach in Big Pond, Ski Ben Eoin with more than 4,100 members, the Birches at Ben Eoin, a (four-star inn) Ben Eoin Beach and campground and Me and the Mrs. Food Bar and Variety store; and

Whereas much of these developments is due to recent upgrades of Route 4, benefitting residents, businesses and visitors alike;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government be encouraged to continue this good work on Route 4, which is part of the national highway system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 3652

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

[Page 6968]

Whereas all-terrain vehicles are a valuable tool for many people living and working in rural areas; and

Whereas they have also become a popular recreational diversion in more populated areas, with their loud engines being one of their outstanding features and to some people their most attractive; and

Whereas there are currently no regulations governing the use of off-highway vehicles in Nova Scotia, or requirements of owners and operators;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government follow through on the promise of the wide consultations of the past year and introduce legislation to implement the Voluntary Task Force recommendations on off-highway vehicles without delay.

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3653

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

Whereas in January 2000, John Morris Rankin was killed when his vehicle went off the road and down a steep incline in Whale Cove; and

Whereas since this tragedy, the residents have been begging and pleading with the Department of Transportation for a guard rail where the accident occurred; and

Whereas the winding road coupled with the winter driving conditions makes this area extremely dangerous for residents, school busses and the emergency medical vehicles which must travel the road daily;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the importance of keeping Nova Scotian roads safe on our roads and urge government to act immediately to

[Page 6969]

give the residents of Whale Cove and surrounding area their guard rail and, more importantly, their peace of mind.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 3654

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

Whereas Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Edgar MacLeod recently returned from Markham, Ontario, with a prestigious award for national leadership; and

Whereas Chief MacLeod, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, was selected over three Ontario police officers, and one from Vancouver, in winning the Police Leadership Forum of Canada 2004 Leadership Award; and

Whereas this particular award is based on a variety of standards, including the development of strategies, the ability to identify and meet community needs, and the ability to learn continuously and garner results from that learning;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly commend Chief Edgar MacLeod on his winning of this highly prestigious national award and wish him continued success in the world of law enforcement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6970]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3655

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

Whereas Logan Paul of Millbrook was named the 2004 Outstanding Male Athlete 15 Years and Under at the Truro Sport Heritage Society's 21st Annual Sports Awards Dinner for his achievement in boxing; and

Whereas Logan Paul, in 2004, won a provincial championship, earned a bronze medal in a national championship, and is also Indigenous Champion; and

Whereas Logan, a Grade 9 student at Onslow Junior High, is an active volunteer in his community and a role model for other youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Logan Paul on being named the 2004 Outstanding Male Athlete 15 Years and Under by the Truro Sport Heritage Society and wish him continued athletic and scholastic success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 3656

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

[Page 6971]

Whereas a discovery at Blue Beach, situated at Hants Border near Hantsport, has intrigued the fossil world; and

Whereas the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque is excited about the fact that not only footprints were discovered by amateur collector, Chris Mansky, but also bones 350 million years old; and

Whereas besides his collecting Mr. Mansky is also the curator of the Blue Beach Fossil Museum and Research Site;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs applaud the world attention presently being focused on Blue Beach, near Hantsport, due to the excellent work being undertaken by Chris Mansky and his partner, Sonja Wood.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:53 p.m. and will end at 4:23 p.m.

The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES. - WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES: DELISTING - PROTECTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have written the minister, I have asked questions in this House, and I'm frustrated that I must stand once again in the House to demand protection for our wildlife and their habitat in our current sanctuaries and wildlife management areas.

Mr. Speaker, I will table a quote in an article from Rural Delivery by Bob Bancroft, a former wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, where Mr. Bancroft

[Page 6972]

says: "I think at this stage if we've got any healthy forests with mature and multi-aged trees, we should be looking at protecting them." So my question for the Minister of Natural Resources is, what plans does the minister have to protect these areas once they are delisted?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put on the record again today, as I answered a week ago, that there has been no sanctuary delisted in this province.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his answer, he was paying attention to the question.

Currently Nova Scotia's protected lands equal just 8 per cent. Lunenburg County currently has no protected lands and Cumberland County has just 1 per cent. So that article that I previously tabled stated that once these areas are delisted they "will be classified as Category 1 under DNR's Integrated Resource Management (IRM) system" - which is considered a general use category, which is no protection at all. So will the minister please clear the air and verify the level of protection these areas will receive?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to all members of the House, I can tell all members and all citizens of Nova Scotia the sanctuaries are still in place to this day. There is a review going on until May 31st and then we will be making our decisions based on the information that we got from the citizens at large.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, yes, the timing will be great, because I expect that there will be no sitting of the House then and no way to get back to the minister. Reviewing these areas with the predetermined objective of delisting them does nothing to help protect our forests and the wildlife that calls this habitat home. We really need a discussion about what should be done with these area. So my question for the minister is, citizens concerned about the fate of the Blandford Game Sanctuary are here in the gallery today, Mr. Minister, will you meet with this group and discuss their concerns?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, that member opposite knows very well that he can dial a phone and he can call this minister any day of the week and he has done that in the past and he will do it in the future, but, absolutely, I will meet with that group after Question Period today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - PRIVATE HOSPITALS: PREM. - AWARENESS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, last week the Premier and the Minister of Health awoke one morning and-poof!-before their very eyes a private hospital had mysteriously appeared, one that they weren't even aware was in existence. Then we heard of a private clinic that is going to be open for eye surgery. Today we have learned that there is

[Page 6973]

a third private facility set to open in Halifax and yet another surgeon at the QE II is set to perform plastic surgery at this newest private health care facility, which will be located at Bishop's Landing.

My question for the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, Mr. Premier, are you aware of this latest private hospital?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'll refer that to the acting minister.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I just want to get the facts straight. You were talking about a plastic surgery clinic going down on Bishop's Landing. I understood, from last week's conversation, that was in Dartmouth, so I was wondering if maybe he would clarify in his (Interruptions)

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'll shake my head at that answer. There are private health care facilities popping up in this province like mushrooms after a rainstorm, and the Premier and the government don't seem to know and they don't seem to care. These private facilities, as the Premier knows, are creating huge challenges for our public health care system. We have a shortage already of anesthesiologists, of technicians and nurses, and, thanks to this government, new options have been created now for specialists who are currently practising or potentially interested in coming to this province and what I mean is that there a more lucrative, less stressful private health care system that's popping up, competing with the overburdened public health care system. Now, it has been revealed, a third private facility for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, my question again to the Premier is, does the Premier have any idea how many of these private surgical facilities exist and where they're going to be located in your province?

THE PREMIER: I'll refer that to the acting minister.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the service to which I think the honourable member is referring, there is the MRI clinic which is out in the western part of Halifax. But I want to tell all members of the House, and that member as well, that there are probably a number of private medical services up in his own constituency such as physiotherapists, dentists and all of these things. When we're talking about private services, we have to be very careful about those things of which we speak.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, please this question to the Premier. Don't give me him again, Mr. Premier, please answer the question. There are specialists who are recognizing the government's failure to manage the health care system. As a result, they're creating private options to fill the void. This government has now created an entire new growth system in the form of private health care in this province. They don't seem to

[Page 6974]

know and they don't seem to care that there's now a third private facility coming to Nova Scotia.

[3:00 p.m.]

So my final question for the Premier, what is the Premier going to do then to protect publicly funded health care in this province from what is now a rapidly growing private health care industry?

THE PREMIER: As a particular favour to the member for Glace Bay, I will not pass the question over. What the member opposite can be assured of is that our Department of Health and our minister will not make a decision, other than those decisions that will improve health care for the people of Nova Scotia.

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

HUM. RES. - DEP. MIN. BONUSES: MISINFORMATION - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: My question is for the Premier. Yesterday we tabled a series of e-mails about the bonus that was paid to the Deputy Minister of Education but was not disclosed to the public. Nova Scotians were told that the deputy was not eligible for a bonus although the government had, in fact, paid him a bonus of more than $4,000. The Premier said yesterday that he was caught cold by the issue. Now he has time to read the e-mails and learn for himself what was done to cover up this bonus.

So my question for the Premier is a simple one. Will the Premier explain why his office knowingly provided Nova Scotians with wrong information about the bonuses paid to deputy ministers?

THE PREMIER: In answering this question I will correct something that the member had said earlier to the House that the information for 2002-03 had only been recently provided. I have in this hand something that was taken off of the government Web site that was posted on July 9, 2004. It is a list of the pay for performance payments to chief executive officers or deputy ministers in the province. It is an accurate list. Opposite the name of Dennis Cochrane it indicated that pay for performance, Mr. Cochrane was not eligible. Technically that was correct because it was in his contract that he not receive pay for performance. But we did learn subsequently that the terms of his contract allowed him to have an MCP payment but it was the policy of the government not to publish MCP payments. Therefore it was not included in this list.

On reflection, I have in this hand the published list of payments that were incurred in 2003-04 and among those declarations in the name Dennis Cochrane, the Deputy Minister of Education and there is an amount there of $4,050. It's not a pay for performance, it is an

[Page 6975]

MCP payment. We made a decision long before that member brought this to the attention of the House that we could do a better job in being transparent and we put it on the list because it was more transparent and more accurate.

MR. DEXTER: I really hope that the Premier knows how wrong he is. I'm going to table here an e-mail dated June 16th, from Cathy Shaw to Howard Windsor and it says "Howard, we are planning to release this tomorrow." Now I am going to table what they were going to release dated June 10th, which is a list of deputy ministers' bonuses. The attached list actually shows Dennis Cochrane's bonus.

Now I'm going to table what was actually released - an altered list that removed Mr. Cochrane's bonus. He is listed as not eligible. So my question is, someone changed the list to hide the truth. To the Premier, who was responsible for removing the deputy's actual bonus from the list that was released?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm getting confused, because now I'm not aware of what list we are referring to. What I have in front of me is the most recent declaration of the pay-for-performance awards to senior public officials, and opposite the name of Dennis Cochrane is an amount of $4,050. This list is available to any Nova Scotian who wants to look at the government Web site. We have declared, and we have made it public.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the e-mails make it clear the loyal staff in the Premier's Office decided that Nova Scotians were not entitled to the proper information. The chief of staff was asked to advise the Premier about his situation, and then the bonus was removed from the list that was actually released. Will the Premier tell Nova Scotians just what the Progressive Conservative Government hoped to accomplish by deliberating releasing incorrect information?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia is committed to transparency. The Government of Nova Scotia made a decision in 2003-04 that on releasing these payments we would include not only the pay-for-performance but the MCP payment, something that, traditionally, this government has never released, or previous governments never released. We came to the conclusion that full disclosure is the right way to go and 2003-04 was completely disclosed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: OPHTHALMOLOGY CLINIC - PROPOSAL

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, last evening we heard, again through the media, the continuing saga of private health care delivery now in Nova Scotia. It was reported that a local ophthalmologist would like to perform services covered under the Canada Health Act at his private clinic. The Minister of Health, when questioned, not

[Page 6976]

surprisingly was unaware of the situation. However, it was reported that Department of Health officials were aware and that they're awaiting a proposal. My question for the Premier is, is the Premier willing to entertain that proposal?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can commit to, on behalf of the minister, is that this government will entertain no proposal that in any way jeopardizes the access of Nova Scotians to good health care.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, that would indicate to me that the Premier is not aware of it - not surprisingly, again. When you start using public funds to pay for insured services that are offered in private clinics you start to drain the public system of its resources, both financial and human resources, because specialists in the public system become frustrated and they leave, and that adds to wait times for procedures. The dollars that follow as a result of performing insured services in the public system will find their way into a private system. My question for the Premier, again, is, could the Premier please explain how that would be of any benefit to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what we have been able to determine is some buildings are being built. What we will determine, as government, is what relationship we will have, if any, to what is going on in those buildings.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and the Premier of this province should know that they are more than just buildings, there are hospitals and clinics springing up before your very eyes, Mr. Premier, and you stand in this Legislature and say you don't know what they are, except buildings. They're hospitals, sir, and they're going to service . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to direct their questions through the Chair, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm wondering if anybody knows what's going on in health care in this province, with private health care facilities sprouting up and the latest one we've learned of today, the third such facility. Let me ask the Premier my final question, how can the Premier say health care is better when our public system is at risk as a result of this government's inability to manage health care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'll refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member should keep in mind in his questions between insured and non-insured services what the Premier said in response to the first question, that this government is very much concerned about seeing that

[Page 6977]

the best possible health care is provided to all Nova Scotians. Indeed, if one looks at the actions of this government in health care over the last five years, you will find pronounced improvements including considerable increases in technology, more doctors, more nurses, better service.

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

PREM. - FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REVIEW OFFICE - PLANS

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In recognition of the secretive approach of this government the Canadian Association of Journalists awarded them the 2003 Code of Silence Award, a dubious distinction for sure. This morning, in appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, the Freedom of Information Review Officer expressed his firm belief that bonuses to staff should be made public. Mr. Fardy has put forward this and many other good recommendations which the government had ignored until today.

In fact, when Mr. Fardy's term expired this year, he offered to serve another two years. The government gave him only a year and there have been persistent rumors of a government plan to eliminate, downsize or amalgamate this office. So my question to the Premier is, what are your government's plans for the Review Office?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, our government remains committed to an open and transparent government and part of that open and transparent government is the fact that the Review Officer needs to be independent and we are committed to an independent Review Officer who will assess complaints from the public and make appropriate decisions.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, here they go again, whitewashing the reality of the situation. I will table a list of the government units that this government plans to delete from legislation this year. Among them is the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Office. The Review Officer tells us that he was never informed of this proposed change and has no idea what it means. So my question to the Premier is, what explanation can the Premier offer this House for proposing to delete the existence of this office from the list of government units, rather than adopting the recommendations to ensure there's a strong, independent Review Office.

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. The budget that was tabled in the House did not delete the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy

[Page 6978]

Review Office. It is in the budget. I'm taking a moment to look at the list, but obviously I don't know where the list came from, but I can tell you the office was not deleted.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the list is a schedule to the Financial Measures Act. That's where it came from. People see the lengths that this government went through to hide the bonus paid to the Deputy Minister of Education; such a government will be tempted to take or make opportunities to have a review office that is less likely to challenge the culture of secrecy in government. So my question to the Premier is, what assurances can the Premier give that Nova Scotians will continue to have an independent watchdog in the form of a stand-alone Review Office dedicated to the freedom of information and protection of individual privacy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we funded it this year and we'll fund it next year.

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

HEALTH - PRIVATE SURGICAL CLINICS: INFO - SOURCE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this morning in a radio interview, Dr. Dan Belliveau discussed the ambulatory eye surgery clinic he is opening in Halifax. He intends to perform insured as well as uninsured procedures. Furthermore, Dr. Belliveau says that he is in discussions with the Department of Health about billing facility fees to the province. So my question to the Acting Minister of Health or to the Premier is, why has the public had to learn about private surgical clinics from the media and not from the Minister of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there has been an ophthalmologist in the Halifax area and probably more than one who are doing non-insured eye surgery in their clinics for some time. This, of course, the fact that they're doing uninsured procedures in their own office doesn't conflict with the Canada Health Act. I can tell you I heard part of that interview as well and I know that the process that he's talking about is not related to wait times. I'm told that the wait times for the types of procedures he's talking are well within standard here in the Capital District.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, when the minister doesn't want to answer, he simply ignores the question. So I'm going to table an article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal in which the federal Minister of Health says that he is investigating Nova Scotia's compliance with the Canada Health Act over the private MRI clinic in Halifax. Adding even more privately delivered insured health services are going to increase the risk of financial sanctions in health care funding from the federal government.

[Page 6979]

So my question, Mr. Speaker, to the Acting Minister of Health or to the Premier is, what has his federal counterpart indicated to him, either by phone or in writing, about Nova Scotia's compliance with the Canada Health Act.

THE PREMIER: The member's question does bring a very serious issue to mind and that is the wait times in this province for MRIs. It was for that very reason that recently we have indicated that we will be funding MRIs in three rural parts of the province that to this day don't have MRIs. In addition, we are committed to improving the level of service in the Capital District. We recently indicated we are funding a new linear accelerator in the Capital District and, as well, it is my understanding that the minister is engaged in conversations relative to upgrading some aging infrastructure in the Capital District.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will have acceptable waiting times for MRIs much better than in most other areas of Canada.

MR. DEXTER: Again, Mr. Speaker, the Premier ignores the question and the question was about the health care funding and whether or not it's in jeopardy because of the growth of private clinics. The minister during estimates indicated that he will table legislation, this Fall or next Spring, preventing queue jumping. My question to the minister is this, the private MRI clinic opened three years ago so why has it taken so long for his department to take action to prevent more private clinics from delivering public health care in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member mentions MRI clinics and as the Premier told him in response to his second question, this government has brought six new MRIs to this province, four new and two replacements. I can tell the honourable member as well that this government and its Department of Health does ensure that its operation is in compliance with the Canada Health Act. Should there be an occasion when the federal minister would indicate that we were not, we would certainly have full discussion with the federal minister to investigate his concern.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - PRIVATE COMPANIES: TAX BREAKS - POLICY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. My question is, is the minister in the habit of allowing tax breaks for private companies without consulting the affected municipalities?

HON. BARRY BARNET: No.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, there is a member of the governing Party who's certainly interested in trying to give a tax break to a private company that's locating in the Minister of Finance's riding. What I'm talking about, of course, is a proposed ice

[Page 6980]

facility for the Rocky Lake Commons. This proposal came as a complete surprise to HRM councillors. So my question is, again to the minister, how can the minister justify a tax break for a private company without consulting the Halifax Regional Municipality?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member is talking about a bill that's before the House. Obviously, all members of the Legislature have the authority to bring forward pieces of legislation and a member did and it will be debated here on the floor of the Legislature and whether or not this bill moves forward is the will of this Legislature.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, all Nova Scotians know that any bills brought before this House, in order to be passed, in essence have to be called by the government so in essence the government will determine whether this bill is brought forward for debate and this seems to be a bit of a backhanded way of bringing forward a change by having a backbencher do it rather than having the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations do it himself.

Mr. Speaker, community arenas, with their volunteer boards that work so hard in this province to provide our youth with rink facilities at a cheap price, are questioning why this government would be looking at cherry-picking which arenas get to get tax breaks and which don't, in this case, the fact that it is a private facility being proposed. So I ask again, does the minister support spending the Halifax Regional Municipality's money by giving tax breaks to a private company, without proper consultation?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the bill is before the House, private members are able to bring forward pieces of legislation, Opposition members are able to bring forward pieces of legislation and the government is able to bring forward legislation. As is the practice in this House, bills of all three types have been passed and moved through this House. This bill will move through this House if this House decides to do so.

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

INS. - CAP: RETENTION - TIME FRAME

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Melissa Gionet was seven months pregnant when her vehicle was hit by another vehicle in December 2003. Luckily, the baby is fine but Melissa was diagnosed with lower back strain and a soft tissue injury. It's been over a year and Melissa still can't go back to work full-time because she is in too much pain. The insurance company involved told Melissa that the new cap on pain and suffering awards meant that $2,500 at most for severe cases and they said her case wasn't that serious, they offered her $2,000 and, unfortunately, Melissa signed a release.

My question, Mr. Speaker, for the Premier through you is, how much longer are you prepared to defend your government's unfair and unjust insurance cap?

[Page 6981]

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the honourable member opposite is saying, litigation is still possible under the new insurance scheme that was set up with Bill No. 1.

MR. DEXTER: Yes, it's a scheme, Mr. Speaker, it's a scheme to maximize the profits of insurance companies and a scheme to deny victims their rights. That's the scheme. Melissa Gionet is raising her family alone, she can't go back to work full-time because she is in too much pain, she can't even bathe her daughter, because she can't lean over. Melissa doesn't know how long she'll continue to suffer. Through no fault of her own she was in a car accident that changed her life and she received $2,000 for pain, $1,000 for lost income, Melissa says she feels like she was robbed. Lawyers across this province are seeing similar cases and, in fact, the Premier met with members of the Pictou Bar who told him to get rid of the cap. So my question to the Premier is, how many more stories like this one will it take before you realize that you must repeal the cap designed to maximize the profits of foreign insurance companies at the expense of our citizens?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite mentioned the fact that lawyers are asking for us to abolish the cap. No wonder, because I'm told by the legal profession that they're losing $140 million, which heretofore they were taking from the insurance companies in support of litigation following motor vehicle accidents.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the insurance cap that this government has placed on pain and suffering awards is wrong on so many levels. It places the victims of car accidents at the mercy of big insurance companies, most of them who send their profits out of this country. It is going to help big insurance companies earn higher record profits more than the $4.1 billion they earned last year. So my question to the Premier is, will you announce the changes you promised to the Pictou County legal community?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I agreed to do on any number of occasions is to monitor the situation and see if there are cases that are being hard done by as a result of our legislation. Our legislation is working. It may need some fine tuning, it may not need some fine tuning. If it needs fine tuning, it will receive fine tuning.

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

INS. - VICTIMS' RIGHTS: LIMITATION - REASONS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Coalition Against No Fault Insurance calls the cap on pain and suffering awards for victims of car accidents

[Page 6982]

unconstitutional. The coalition has launched a constitutional challenge and I know that the Attorney General is aware of this because the documents have already been filed.

The Tory and Liberal limit on pain and suffering awards is an affront to victims' rights and has completely severed victims' access to justice. So my question to the Premier is, why do you limit victims' rights forever when you must have known that insurance companies were making hundreds of millions of dollars in this province alone?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition raised a very interesting point. What he may have forgotten to mention is the fact that in the Province of Manitoba and in the Province of Saskatchewan, their public insurance scheme has just that - it has caps on the amount you can receive.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that's wrong and what's really wrong about it is the fact that he would stand up and make that kind of a claim, because that's wrong. If he thinks that's the case, he doesn't understand how their systems work but that doesn't surprise me.

The changes the Tories and Liberals made to the Insurance Act means that victims now have to prove they're suffering from a major injury - no easy feat considering the expense and wait times involved in accessing specialists. The definition of a minor injury this government brought in includes some comas, burns, amputations, and even brain injuries can be classified.

Few can afford to take large insurance companies to court. Lawyers like Barry Mason say the cap is unconstitutional, they argue the cap is unfair, offensive and an abuse of power. My question to the Premier is, just how high must the excessive profits be, and at what human cost before you will repeal the limit you have placed on victims' rights?

THE PREMIER: Thank you, I refer that to the Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, again to use another illustration - the Province of Ontario has had very similar kinds of limits on their litigation for many, many years; it is not an uncommon situation across the country. While I'm not going to refer to a particular matter that may be before the courts, I can tell the honourable member that this situation of the legislation in Nova Scotia is not uncommon in Canada.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the real tragedy here is that most Nova Scotians won't know what damage the Tories and Liberals have done until they get into a car accident. We're starting to hear from those - as I've told the Premier and his ministers what the consequences of their cap would be, even though they have ignored it. My question to the Premier is, is it

[Page 6983]

really going to take a Supreme Court decision, and an untold number of accident victims who are left defenceless when dealing with insurance companies, for you to realize your mistake and repeal this unjust and unfair cap?

THE PREMIER: It must be very disappointing that the Leader of the Opposition has promoted a plan that, simply, Nova Scotians have rejected. We are not interested in putting millions and millions of dollars into a publicly funded insurance plan, particularly when we look at the results of these plans in other provinces. What we have brought forward is a plan that is saving Nova Scotians million of dollars today. It is allowing Nova Scotians to drive their cars, fully insured, because we have a plan that now is allowing Nova Scotians to purchase affordable automobile insurance. It is at a fair price, something that member could not have guaranteed with his plan.

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

C.B. & CNS RAILWAY: MAINTAIN - PLAN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister responsible for the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. Much credit has been taken - but not deserved - recently by this government for keeping the rail line from MacIntyre Lake to Sydney up and running, giving the illusion they are actually doing something. The truth is, while this government is making grand statements that the Cape Breton rail link will remain in operation until at least 2009, the owners of the Cape Breton railway are proceeding with hearings next week to close down the rail link. My question to the minister responsible - I guess it's the Minister of Transportation and Public Works - can this minister tell the House whether or not this government has a real plan to save this railway and what that plan is?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the honourable Minister of Justice would be responsible.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the honourable member the very simple commitment of this government, the government's commitment is to take steps to ensure the rail line remains open.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, that's just a great answer. Hearings are still going on next week. Mr. Speaker, I thought this was a transportation issue, but I guess I'm wrong on that. I thought trains were a mode of transportation, but I guess they're not. I have a letter here from the representative for the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, dated April 27, 2005, that says, "As of April 26, 2005, no formal agreement has been entered into between the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway Limited and the Provincial

[Page 6984]

Government.", even though the government has committed millions to this railway, as evidenced in this year's budget. I would like to table this.

My question to the minister responsible, or the minister who's acting like he's responsible in this regard today, will this minister commit to tabling in the House this week the government's plan to spend millions of dollars on the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, and the book of business they keep talking about, to keep this railway running?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would be aware, railroads in this province are a very important means of economic development. The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway is very important to the economic development of that part of Nova Scotia. That is why this government is committing funds, to make sure that that railroad doesn't close. We are committed to doing everything in our power to do that. We have committed money to the project, and I believe the people of Cape Breton and elsewhere in Nova Scotia are satisfied with that commitment.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the railway is holding hearings next week in Sydney to abandon the line. This minister gets up in his place here today and says that everything is okay, they're committed to holding the railway to its obligations, and yet the railway is going before the URB next week to get out of that line. Next Tuesday in Sydney. The Liberal Party is committed to having this railway operate in the future in Cape Breton. It must not be allowed to abandon this line under any circumstances. It also indicates that talks between the rail operator and the province are ongoing. They're saying that. The hearings of the rail operator to shut down the railway is May 10th.

I'd like to know, and Nova Scotians would want to know, particularly those in the economically-deprived area of industrial Cape Breton which depends on rail, when is this government going to announce its plan for the railway, and when can it tell Cape Bretoners that this railway is going to be in operation well into the future?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member. I'm not sure if he's happy or sad about our government's commitment to the railroad, because he seems to be very upset that our government has made a commitment through the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Economic Development to keep this railroad open. We've indicated our commitment to that, and I am confident that the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Energy and other members of government will do what needs to be done to make that so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 6985]

INS.: CONSUMER ADVOCATE - DUTIES

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. We have seen and heard little from the consumer advocate over the last couple of years. This government said they hired him to represent consumers, research issues in other provinces, and assist in developing policies to help consumers. Yet, when we filed the freedom of information request, asking for briefing notes, summaries or analyses prepared by the consumer advocate regarding home, auto and liability insurance from January 2003 to the present, we received exactly one two-page document, and it's dated over a year ago. My question to the minister is very simple, what exactly is the consumer advocate doing?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely delighted to answer that question. The Ombudsman, the advocate for the consumers was extremely busy in the insurance business up until we introduced Bill No. 1, and since that time there's been so few complaints against the insurance industry that that side of his job has faded away.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, that's actually quite hilarious, because our original FOI request was to get copies of all the citizen complaints that came in, and we were told we couldn't get them because there were so many, it would be too expensive. There are only two bodies who hear insurance complaints from the public, namely the consumer advocate and the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance. The problem is that apparently neither of them keep any statistics or any other analyses of how many calls they received, what they were about or how they were handled. If they had them they should have been released to us under this FOI request. How does the government plan to address citizen complaints if no one in government is keeping track of them?

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I suppose we could be like the NDP and arrange for people to phone us with complaints. I can tell that honourable member that until about the end of 2004, I was getting maybe 10 calls a day from people who thought they were being abused by the insurance industry. I haven't had a call, one call, for approximately six or eight months.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm tempted to make my second supplementary the question, what is the minister's phone number because I know a few people who would like to speak to him, so maybe he will include his personal cellphone number in the answer to my question.

Nova Scotians need a consumer advocate now more than ever. We have a government that tried to solve its insurance woes by imposing an unfair, artificial and probably illegal maximum on injury compensation. We have a consumer advocate who from day one, despite the best of intentions, has had no teeth, no mandate and no resources. My question to the minister (Interruptions)

[Page 6986]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on his final supplementary.

MR. STEELE: Okay, maybe the reference to no teeth was a poor choice of words. My question to the minister is, when is that minister going to join with us and finally start defending instead of attacking the rights of Nova Scotian insurance consumers?

MR. RUSSELL: If there is one thing that we can demonstrate how effective this government is, I think, it's what we've done in the insurance industry. We guaranteed the people of Nova Scotia that we would decrease their automobile insurance rates by 20 per cent. I'm happy to say that today we know that that decrease in percentage is around 25 per cent. I think, quite honestly, that we have delivered on our promise and we've delivered in spades.

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

JUSTICE - YOUTH CRIME PREVENTION: FUNDING - AMOUNT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the issue of youth crime continues to alarm Nova Scotians. Reports of swarming and other violent acts have people worried. Just the other day a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old were arrested in Amherst after stealing a car in Halifax and ramming it into a truck. This is the minister who closed down the Shelburne youth facility which saved his government about $700,000 per year. My question to the minister is, can the Minister of Justice advise the House, how much of the $700,000 saved in closing the Shelburne youth facility has been reinvested in youth crime prevention programs?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite aware of the fact that this government has been very, very committed to the Department of Justice and to policing programs. We have had a number of initiatives that make a great deal of difference in crime in our province, for example, the Organized Crime Initiative that this government has started up. We are committed to working with police agencies on stamping out all crime, including youth crime.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: You know, Mr. Speaker, the question was how much money has been invested in youth crime prevention; in other words, to support the youth at risk in this province. What answer do we get? Oh, well, we invested in this new database for organized crime. More money for cops, get tough, throw them in jail, create new offences. At what point is this government going to realize that they need to take a proactive approach to work with youth at risk, rather than trying to create new offences. So I ask the minister again, you closed the Shelburne youth facility, it saved your government money, how much of that money has been invested in programs to help our youth at risk in this province before they commit any crimes?

[Page 6987]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to the honourable member that the Department of Justice is looking at a number of new initiatives in order to make the province safer and to assist those youth at risk in not offending, or in order to deal with those youth who do offend, to turn them to a different path.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Six years this government has been in office and now the minister tells us they're working on initiatives to deal with this. All this time, what has the minister been doing - blaming Ottawa, going up to Ottawa, saying they're the blame. On the provincial side, well, let's create new offences because let's get more of them and put more of them either in jail or in some sort of penitentiary. Six years of inaction on being willing to invest money to work with our youth so that crime is prevented. Get them before they commit crime, that is what Nova Scotians stand for. That's what Nova Scotians want of our young generation, that we can offer them support when they are at risk and try to make sure that they become productive members of society.

So I ask the minister again - we're always blamed for asking for more money - why will you not use the funds that you saved by closing Shelburne, for example, to invest in youth crime prevention initiatives today?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, this government has made commitments to youth criminal justice. An example of it is the intensive supervision program that we have in place for young people in this province, to assist those young people who are in conflict with the law, who are at risk to reoffend, to not reoffend, but this government has other initiatives. In the education area, simple things like the breakfast program are designed to do just that, to put youth who are at risk at less risk of offending. We have a lot of programs. Education programs are fundamentally programs to help youth at risk have a future and that's what we stand for.

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

HEALTH PROM. - BEDFORD PRIVATE RINK: TAX BREAK - DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health Promotion. Many people in HRM, and specifically in the Bedford-Sackville area, are asking questions about a proposal by a member of the government to provide a tax break to a private rink in Bedford. The only reason for this proposed tax break is that the facility will not otherwise be self-sustaining. This is a private facility which is located in a place that was not identified in a recent HRM indoor facility review. It's located just 2.5 kilometres from the Sackville Sports Stadium which HRM took over from a non-profit group because it had trouble making ends meet. So my question to the minister is, why would your government even consider this proposal when non-profit rinks across the province are struggling to make ends meet?

[Page 6988]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member is quite aware there's a private member's bill that we will have the opportunity to debate here on the floor of the House, but I'm disappointed to hear that the NDP is against recreational facilities in HRM.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, nobody here is against proposed facilities to hopefully increase health promotion in the province, but what we're against is the mysterious events that take place to bring this proposal forward. HRM has a process in place to deal with tax relief for non-profit facilities that need it. Many members of the HRM Council said last night that they were caught unaware by this proposal. They said that they had not been approached by the MLA in question, a former councillor at that, about this proposal until this issue was on their agenda last evening.

So I ask the minister, why did your government refuse to follow the established processes to deal with this proposal? Was it because you knew the facility could not make a go of it without this assistance?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is a private member's bill and we'll have time to debate it on the floor of the House. But the fact of the matter is this government has shown its commitment to recreational facilities across this province, whether it be in Springhill, whether it be in St. Margaret's, whether it be in Port Hawkesbury, whether it be in Yarmouth, or whether it be here in Halifax.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, all we're wondering is why the proper channels weren't followed in this. HRM should have been in contact before this piece of legislation came before this Legislature. I know the MLA for Bedford, who is also the Minister of Finance, has a great stake in this. He has been a big promoter of this facility. In fact, when I called the phone number on the advertising sign outside the proposed development area, I was put through to the MLA's constituency office - a very curious thing. So I would like to ask the Premier, who has a code of conduct for Cabinet Ministers, do you think there is either a perceived or real conflict here?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite is that we encourage all members on the government side to be interested in the infrastructure that's available in their local areas for recreational purposes. One of the reasons to be of this government is to promote wellness, and wellness we will promote.

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

[Page 6989]

SYSCO: SUBSIDIZATION - EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. I think most Nova Scotians would be surprised that the Nova Scotia Government is providing a $20 million subsidy to Sysco to make its bottom line look good. It's $20 million at a time when the plant is closed, thanks to that same Premier. In fact, I think most Nova Scotians would be surprised to find out that the Sysco Mill, sold to Zoom for $4 million, is being sold to Iran, a third party, for $25 million, for a profit of $20 million to this company, Zoom. Could the Premier enlighten the House as to why this government is still subsidizing Sysco to the tune of $20 million when the plant is closed, and why the $21 million gift to a middle man?

THE PREMIER: I'll refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member, I'm sure, is aware, the Sydney steel mill was on the block to be sold for a long period of time before Zoom decided to purchase the mill. I can assure the honourable member that that sale was consummated. Zoom paid the province for the mill. (Interruptions) Zoom is removing the mill, out of the country, and I can assure you that the steel mill has no particular military advantage or anything else, so whether they sell to Russia or to Iran or to North Korea for that matter, it doesn't really matter.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess it doesn't matter that this government has just given $21 million of taxpayers' money away to a third party when it was unnecessary. The battle cry in 1999 from this government was to close Sysco and open hospital beds. That was the battle cry, that was the war fought against Cape Breton in 1999. And here we are six years later, where are the additional hospital beds? We know there are no steelworkers working in an operational plant at Sysco. What happened to the promise that was made to displaced steelworkers that they would have work well into the future? Instead of giving a $21 million gift to a third party, they should be giving it to the steelworkers because they owe it to them.

My question to the minister responsible is, what we have here is a private company buying the plant at fire sale prices and selling it to a country with a dubious reputation, and making a huge profit. How can the Premier justify his management of Sysco in light of these facts?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite correct, the government, in 1999, made a decision to close the steel mill. Subsequent months and years have determined it was the right thing to do. If you think back, what happened in the months following our decision to close the steel mill? Mill prices plummeted. Mills far more financially stable than Sysco, even with government backing, would even be closed. We did the right thing, we did it at the right time, and in the long term, steelworkers and the people of Sydney will be the beneficiaries.

[Page 6990]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the beneficiary so far is Zoom and all the other companies that are working on the Sysco property, most of them controlled by Ernst & Young, a government appointee that was put in there as a liquidator some years ago and is still there. There are government operatives flying all over the place down there, including defeated candidates of that Party, working on the Sysco site. That's the kind of legacy this government is leaving. In addition to that, they're putting $20 million of taxpayers' money in there to make the bottom line look good this year, and an additional $21 million to a third company. Is that what the Premier calls good management? My question to the Premier is, when will the Premier commit to a full disclosure of the operation of the Sysco books and present that full disclosure to this Legislature?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible for the file.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I take offence at the remarks of the honourable member when he suggests that the severed Sydney steelworkers have not received any benefit from the cleanup of the Sysco site. There's been 400,000 hours of work provided by the severed Sydney steelworkers on the Sysco site.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - AUTISTIC CHILDREN: INTERIM FUNDING - PROVIDE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, last December the Minister of Health announced that families with children who had autism would finally get some necessary treatment, but it hasn't been all good news for families. Only children under the age of six will qualify, and the program is nowhere near to starting. Families are no better off today than before this announcement was made. Their children need therapy now, not months from now. So my question to the Minister of Health is, why won't his department supply interim funding to help families who need help today?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in December 2004, the government announced an additional $4 million in funding for an early intensive behavioural intervention program for treatment beginning in 2005-06, and this program is going to be delivered through the district health authorities, the IWK Health Centre, and the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic. I want to say that the government appreciates the challenges of children with autism and also those who raise children who have autism, especially while waiting for this treatment to begin. But I guess it's important to remember that when this program is up and running fully, it should be running in the way which is to the best advantage of those children who have autism.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think we all know in the House here a couple who have been here many times, Gerard and Tracey Avery, who have twin boys with autism. The four hours of treatment a week costs between $900 and $1,200 a month -

[Page 6991]

a huge financial drain for any family. Soon their sons will be too old to qualify for financial help, and this present time is also their best window of opportunity to benefit from this therapy. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, how can his department simply justify leaving children like the Avery children in the lurch right now when they need the help so badly?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Avery family and the, I guess, difficult time they are having and how they feel about not having the expense. The fact is that this is delivered through the IWK at the present time, and I don't know what service the Avery children are receiving at this particular time, but it has not been the practice of the Department of Health to provide money to families to purchase health care systems that are outside the health care system.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what's required is an interim plan before fully implementing the ABA therapy that was announced in December. It's clear that the best chance the children with autism have is early intervention to give them the skills that they need to function in life, and making families wait to get help puts the future of these children in jeopardy. So my question to the minister is, will his department put interim funding in place so families are not forced to continue to pay for a service that this government said they would provide?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in January of this year a project manager for the implementation of the program was recruited and an implementation advisory committee was formed in February to help work out the implementation details. That particular group is working now and, hopefully, before too long there will be a full implementation plan that will be available and in place and will be able to provide better service to children like the Avery children.

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

NAT. RES. - SPRUCE LONGHORN BEETLE: CLEANUP - COST

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Last week I raised the question of the quarantine in HRM regarding the spruce longhorn beetle, the quarantine that was put in place by the federal government in 2001; quarantine of over 60,000 hectares of land of which it's estimated that more than 2,900 hectares are identified as being completely infested. My question to the minister is, what is the total estimated cost of this cleanup?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, the approximate number that was given to me when I went to Ottawa was approximately $4 million, but it's a moving target. The number that we have right now is approximately $4 million.

[Page 6992]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in that 2,900 hectares, there is approximately more than 300,000 cubic metres of infested wood, which I would think would be, in cost, more than $4 million. However, my question to the minister is, is this a cost that's going to be borne strictly by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia or is it cost shared with landowners, the federal government or whoever? I guess, in particular, my focus is, given the fact that this is a federal quarantine, what is the cost participation with the federal government?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, the cost that I just announced was the cost for the cleanup for the damaged area by Hurricane Juan. That was nothing to do with the stumpage in the area. The member is absolutely right, if you put the stumpage in it the numbers would go up tremendously - $15 million to $20 million. I was talking about the actual cleanup numbers, that's what my department's estimating is between $3 million to $4 million. Our government has introduced and is now doing some of the cleanup with the million dollars that was committed by this government to do the cleanup. To date, the federal government has done nothing to assist us in the cleanup.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I know in British Columbia where there is a federal quarantine, the federal government has committed over $100 million. In the Province of Ontario, the federal government with a federal quarantine for a similar type infestation has committed over $7 million to one county alone. My question to the minister is, why hasn't the provincial government been able to secure funding for this infestation program, which is a federal quarantine?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I can assure that member and all members of the House and all Nova Scotians that this minister has done everything in his power. I've brought it to the attention of the Minister responsible for CFIA, the Minister responsible for Natural Resources for our great country of Canada. My good colleague, the member for the Eastern Shore. The councillor for HRM accompanied me and my staff to Ottawa. We pleaded with the federal minister to look at this issue. (Interruption)Yes, they did put the programs in place - over $100 million in B.C. to help clean up the disaster in B.C. They put funding in Ontario to help Ontario. I don't know if it has anything to do with politics, but they have not even acknowledged my letters to this date.

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

JUSTICE: MCEVOY INQUIRY - MANDATE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this government's record of supporting youth at risk is dismal to say the least. Earlier, when the Minister of Justice was asked to give examples of what his government is doing, he went too far out and said the new breakfast program at school was going to help our youth at risk and it should bring down our crime rates amongst youth in this province. I think that's a bit of a stretch, to say the least.

[Page 6993]

One of the things the Minister of Justice did commit to though is that he has promised that there would be a public inquiry into the events leading to the death of Theresa McEvoy. We still don't know what the mandate of this inquiry will be, who will lead the inquiry or when it will take place. So my question to the minister is, could the minister tell Nova Scotians what the mandate of this inquiry will be and when Nova Scotians can expect it to begin?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings up a very good point. I can tell the honourable member that I will be making an announcement immediately after the matter is heard in the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia in June.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see that there are some efforts on that and we're hoping that not only will we be receiving an announcement, but that clearly a lot of the details have already been worked out and we're not only going to hear an announcement of a later date of when this is going to take place. As we know one of the youth has received probation while another is awaiting sentence. It has clearly given this minister time to prepare for this inquiry.

Mr. Speaker, we all recall, this is the same Minister of Justice who publicly blamed two of his own Crown Attorneys for now pushing for the accused to have been held in custody, which may have prevented this from taking place, rather than the minister accepting ministerial responsibility for the error in his own department. So my question is, will the Minister of Justice commit to informing the House what the specific mandate of this inquiry will be before the House rises this Spring?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, the government will make clear in early June the name of the commissioner and the mandate of the commission.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's entirely possible that we will not be in session in June and I think it's important that Nova Scotians have an opportunity to see what the mandate will be, so that Opposition members and Nova Scotians have an opportunity to make suggestions to the minister, or even critique some of the direction that is taking place, prior to this inquiry taking place. That would be the responsible thing for this government to do, to allow that to be put before this House prior to it taking place.

Mr. Speaker, we all recall, as I mentioned before, it is the minister who blamed two of his own Crown Attorneys and it's the same minister on Friday afternoon who sent out a release blaming correctional officers for a handgun getting into the Burnside Correctional Facility, saying they were to blame. Again, the minister is refusing to accept responsibility for some of the errors taking place in his own department. Again, I ask the minister, will the

[Page 6994]

minister table in this House the mandate of the inquiry into the unfortunate death of Theresa McEvoy before the House rises?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I've answered the member's question. The government is committed to a public inquiry by a judge and with terms of reference that will satisfy the public. That's what the public will get, and the public will have an opportunity to judge for themselves in early June.

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

NAT. RES. - DOMINION BEACH: OPENING - ASSURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. After being made aware of some pressing concerns and a situation in my riding last year, the minister undertook a tour of this prime recreational area which is known as Dominion Beach, and I thank him for that. Unfortunately, as he may also be aware, that beach is closed more often than it's open during the Summer months because of sewage outfalls and erosion. So I want to ask the minister, what is he prepared to do this year to make sure that the beach is open more than it's closed?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, one of the many treasures that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia is all of our beaches, and Dominion Beach is another one of them. My department will do everything in its power to enhance that beach and do the cleanup that's proper on the beach, but there are other agencies that have to lead on the cleanup. The problem with the beach, it's not in the designation beach area, it's just outside and CBRM has to take the lead on that, and we have met with those people.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that this minister realizes that Dominion Beach is not only a recreational tool for CBRM, but indeed an economic tool that attracts tourists, because thousands of visitors come to that great beach every year and those who are returning to New Waterford and Dominion and areas on vacation go there for recreational reasons. So I want to ask the minister, if you understand what Dominion Beach means to the economy of CBRM, what are you doing, Mr. Minister, to keep in touch and get CBRM to do something?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, I can tell the member and all members what we've been doing. We've been meeting with the councillor who represents the area. We've met with the engineers from CBRM and we have asked them to make some dramatic changes to the sewer outfall that's going into the harbour adjacent to Dominion Beach. We have offered the expertise from our department in conjunction with the engineering team from CBRM to come up with a proposal to clean up the area so the people can enjoy the beach.

[Page 6995]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary then is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As he very well knows, I wrote to him last July 12th asking him to work with myself and the municipality to deal with the sewage outfall conditions that are so negatively affecting that beach. So I want to ask him, why have you not made the effort to work with the municipality to restore Dominion Beach to the prime recreational area that it should be, why, minister?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member is correct, he did provide me with a letter and so did the councillor. I met with the councillor as well. In December of this year our department offered through the provincial capital assistance program $250,000 towards this project - 50 per cent of the cost. The municipality was not prepared or unable to move forward. We will continue to work with the municipality. We will continue to offer assistance where and when we can to ensure that this environmental hazard or area is cleaned up. We expect that will be to the benefit of all Nova Scotians, particularly those in the member's riding.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

NAT. RES. - PROV. WILDLIFE MGT. AREAS: DELISTING - DETAILS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Department of Natural Resources is currently conducting a review of provincial wildlife management areas and game sanctuaries. They are re-evaluating the need to have these sites remain as sanctuaries which means that these sites could in fact become delisted which allows for potential problems, including an increase in clear-cutting. My question to the minister, will your department allow these sites, like Blandford, Liscomb, Chignecto, to be delisted?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, maybe tomorrow there could be a snowstorm, but I don't think that's likely, but I will tell you, Mr. Speaker and all members of this House, we are doing a review. We are open and transparent. We gave the people extra time to put their comments into my department. I will review all the comments that come in after the deadline and I will make my decision based on that.

MR. GLAVINE: Well, the department has already evaluated these sites based on a list of criteria. Several have been given a score of zero out of 30, including Blandford. My question to the minister, how can the minister say that the department is still evaluating these sites when his department has already made its decision?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, the member made it very clear that the department has made an analysis of the sanctuaries. I can tell him that this minister has not made an analysis because he has not had all the information provided to him because the deadline has

[Page 6996]

not expired. When that deadline expires, I will review every document that comes in and I will make my decision based on all the information that's given to me.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, the minister talks a good game about public consultation. However, we have residents from the South Shore area today and I'm pleased the minister is prepared to meet with them, but your department has asked the public for their input. Well, Brad Armstrong, a resident of the Lunenburg County area, through rural delivery has said this is a real step backward. He has tried to contact your office several times now and has yet to receive a response. Are you willing to finally listen and have real consultation by going to the affected areas?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I can tell that member and all members that I have visited the majority of the sanctuaries in this province. I can tell that member, and as all members know in this House, this minister is always available, all they have to do is pick up the phone and make a call to me and I always will reply. That's my policy since I've been in this department, it's an open-door policy and will be for as long as I am there, and I think that may be years to come, I may add. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I still believe in open and transparency and that's exactly why we're doing the review. I want to have the input from the citizens of the communities that are affected and that's why we're having the review.

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

TPW: LOUISBOURG/MAIN-À-DIEU HWYS. - PLANS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The Louisbourg highway and the Main-à-Dieu highway are vital infrastructures. My question is for the minister of Transportation and Public Works regarding the Louisbourg highway and the Main-à-Dieu highway. The minister is very familiar with Route 22, which is the main corridor feeding to the historic town of Louisbourg. The highway was last upgraded in 1970-71. I would ask the minister what plans he has for either the Louisbourg highway or the Main-à-Dieu highway in the upcoming fiscal year?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to be able to assure the honourable member that we're going to do it this year, but I can't do that. It is certainly a high priority in the department.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Main-à-Dieu highway was done in the mid-1960s, and since then, there was 2.5 kilometre upgrade in 1999, and there remains approximately 7.5 kilometres. The minister has received considerable presentation, petitions before this House, as well as representation from residents with considerable automobile damage to their vehicles. In some cases there is no asphalt whatsoever, it is just simply dirt

[Page 6997]

in sections of the road. I would ask that the minister would consult with his staff and give considerable consideration to paving the Main-à-Dieu highway.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes, that will be done.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, when he says that will be done, does it mean it's going to be paved or is he going to consult with his staff? I need some clarification. Perhaps if he could provide a little more detail, I would certainly appreciate that.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess the honourable member must have been paying attention to my answer. I'm not to sure what I said now, but we have considerable work going on in Cape Breton this construction season. In fact, this gives me an opportunity, perhaps, in my answer to remind my friends in Ottawa that we are presently carrying out a major project on the Coxheath Interchange and the Sydney River Bridge. This is a National Highway System piece of highway which, by the rules, the federal government shares 50 per cent. This is costing $21 million and the federal government is contributing $3.25 million. So I would expect that our friends opposite would be encouraging their federal members to pursue federal funding for this province for the National Highway System.

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

COM. SERV. - BRASS TACK IND.: FUNDING - INADEQUACY

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Community Services. Brass Tack Industries offers broadened day programs, vocational skill training and assistance with employment transition for 28 clients. These people with intellectual and physical challenges are given more opportunity to live fuller, more independent lives. Unfortunately, Brass Tack Industries is struggling to find enough funding to hire adequate staff to continue its programming. My question to the Minister of Community Services, why does this department allow this vital service to continually struggle with inadequate funding.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for bringing up the fine work done by Brass Tack Industries. Brass Tack Industries, like many other organizations operating for those clients, does a fabulous job. We've been working with them and we are aware that they want to expand their operation. We have tried to be accommodating and, in fact, I'm pleased to say that recently they were given an additional grant so they could hire some extra people to do some of these worthy projects that they want to take on.

[Page 6998]

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, this is the problem, living from grant to grant. We're talking about core funding. This agency has gone through 95 staff in three years, because of inadequate funding and its impact on employees. The clients deserve consistency and stability. My question to the minister is, when is he going to provide stability to this organization and its clients?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member opposite that there is an operating grant that's in place for them and there are per diems that attach to the clients, and we stand by those commitments to the clients of Brass Tack Industries and that organization.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the most vulnerable in our society. This agency is required to offer five programs while its source of funding chooses not to provide the adequate resources to do so. They are constantly fundraising in an economically-challenged area to make up the difference, but it has become more and more of a challenge. Like I stated last week to this minister, the non-profit organizations in this province have become beggars. My final question to the minister is, why does his government continue to turn its back on people with disabilities by underfunding necessary programs?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for allowing me to remind him that last November, when we got an extra $11 million in the department, one of the areas that we did target for the first time in years was infrastructure programming for adult service centres like Brass Tack Industries and, in fact, they have put in a submission. We continue to work with them, and we hope to bring that to a successful conclusion. I want to thank the member opposite for allowing me to point out that for the first time in years, this government has stepped up to the plate for adult service centres.

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

TPW - NEEDS ASSESSMENT (2002): FOLLOW-UP - INFO

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Back in 2002, the department released a 10-year needs assessment of our highways in Nova Scotia. That study found that Nova Scotia has a $3.4 billion deficit in road construction, and it will grow to $4.4 billion if action is not taken. My question to the minister is, could the minister indicate to this House what, if any, follow-up has been made to this study?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member is aware of why that deficit occurred, which was the result of the poor performance of the government of the day between 1993 and 1999. Secondly, I'm sure that the honourable member is aware

[Page 6999]

that the federal government has taken from this province, over just the last four years, $800 million and has returned to this province something in the order of about $13 million.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, what this member is aware of is that there is an extreme deficit, a financial problem, that is facing the Department of Transportation and Public Works with a $3.4 billion deficit. I coined the phrase yesterday, being pro-regressive, if there's such a thing that you can understand, just prior to the honourable minister mentioning about friends opposite, does that make us opposite friends? He seems to be talking in oxymorons. Looking forward to a $4.4 billion deficit, what is the solution? Does the minister have a long-term plan for addressing the deficit rather than sitting back and watching it grow?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the core business of the Department of Transportation and Public Works is paving roads, not printing money.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I guess it's a pave-as-you-grow approach and blame Ottawa for everything. You have a problem, it's their fault. If we want the roads fixed in a complete way, we need a long-term plan. Finally, one more time to the honourable minister, what is your plan?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my plan, if I had my way, would be to change the federal government. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW - RURAL ROADS: REPAIR PLAN - EXPLAIN

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, the honourable member for Pictou West has the floor.

MR. PARKER: If our rural communities are to maintain the ones they have and thrive, they need proper transportation infrastructure. In Shelburne County we have a road called the Upper Clyde River Road. People have long complained about the deplorable condition of their road. The area has changed over the last 20 years from being a hunting and fishing and recreational area into a community today of 134 residents and four businesses. This community is trying to grow, it's trying to thrive, but the government mind set has left it behind with a road that in no way can continue to safely handle the current traffic load, let alone any future increases. So my question to the minister is, for area residents this fight has gone on far too long, the same stories exist all over this province - will the minister explain to Nova Scotians this government's plan to repair rural roads?

[Page 7000]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, rural roads are repaired by getting out the paving machines and paving them. That's fairly obvious. We are doing the best we can with the resources that we have and we are indeed making improvements as evidenced by the satisfaction report which we do every year. This is done by an outside consulting firm and the satisfaction with the Nova Scotia roads has increased from around something less than 50 per cent in 1999 to something just over 60 per cent at the present time. I would suggest that is very good progress.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I don't think in that survey you asked any Harley Davidson riders, did you? Certainly around the province there are many, many complaints about the roads in this province. The Upper Clyde River Road is barely wide enough for a school bus to pass another vehicle and the road is frequently used by logging vehicles. There is also a very large safety factor here. So, Mr. Minister, when will you bring the Upper Clyde River Road up to an acceptable standard for the traffic it must handle?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know why we are so concerned about that one particular article written by one particular person. The reading we are getting from the majority of the tourists that come to Nova Scotia is that, yes, our roads could be better. However they accept the fact that you're going to drive slowly anyway to provide an opportunity to look at the scenery and the landscape.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on an introduction.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the Speaker's gallery where we have Brian Flinn who is well known to this House as a member of the legislative press gallery. But, more importantly, beside Brian are his parents, Errol and Ann who live in the Fairmount Subdivision in the constituency of Halifax Fairview. I just wanted to say he's a very good boy, a very fine journalist and I would like to ask the Flinns to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today we have from Moser's River in Halifax County two people that are involved with the Bay of Islands Community Centre. We have Gail Martin and Jurgen Toyvin and I ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

[Page 7001]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. During Question Period, the honourable Leader of the Opposition indicated in one of his questions about the schedule to the Financial Measures (2005) Bill, particularly around the FOIPOP Review Office. I'm advised by Department of Justice staff that communicated to the honourable member's office that, in fact, the reason the FOIPOP Review Office was removed from the schedule was because it is a Public Service vote and doesn't belong on the schedule where mostly Crown Corporations are found. It was purely a correction and in no way a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order, it's a clarification of facts.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On to something relevant. Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 170.

Bill No. 170 - Income Tax Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly pleased today to speak on this bill. The bill amends the Income Tax Act to allow a volunteer emergency worker to deduct from that person's taxable income the amount of $500 if the person performed at least 50 hours of volunteer service and $1,000 if the person performed 100 or more hours volunteer service.

We all know the value of our volunteer firefighter service throughout Nova Scotia. I'm sure every member here in the House at one time or another has attended a volunteer firefighter banquet or some event in their community. So they are a very important part of the safety net here in the Province of Nova Scotia. They, in fact, have a history of being the first responders at many emergencies on the highways of Nova Scotia and certainly to many other emergencies that occur in our communities of a great variety in nature.

The one thing about the volunteer fire service that we have in the province is that it is 24 hours a day that these volunteers are on call and, as we know, there are very few professions now that have that kind of a commitment to make. They have their vehicles, of

[Page 7002]

course, that they travel to fires. They potentially risk their lives to save the lives of others. So when we take a look at the important value that this group of people have in the life of the province and the level of commitment, I think this is a small measure that we would be giving to them to recognize that kind of contribution.

Those who have been around fire departments, and I had the opportunity to be a 15-year member of the Kingston Volunteer Fire Department, so I know firsthand of the selflessness that many of these firefighters approach their volunteer work. It's not uncommon to go to a fire department banquet and have people recognized in fact by the province and by the federal government for 25 years, 40 years, 50 years, and even more years of service. In fact, there's one in the neighbouring community of Middleton that will soon be recognized for 60 years of service, which is simply outstanding.

We have experienced a number of dry Summers over the last few years and volunteer firefighters have been crucial to securing quick ends to potential disasters. I think this is, again, a time to have this bill recognized, not just the efforts, but also the monetary output that volunteer firefighters have. This bill will do two things. One, it will provide a small but important reward to compensate for the time committed to the hours of practice, time on call and hours fighting the fires. We know today that firefighters have to get their Level I, their Level II, they come into the Waverley Fire School and go through that training. So it is, I think, some opportunity for us as MLAs, through legislation, to recognize this work.

We have been hearing that it's becoming more difficult to recruit volunteer firefighters. In fact, last year in one of my conversations with the fire chiefs in the Valley - Watson Armstrong in Kingston, Wayne Ritchey in Aylesford, Stephen Palmer in Berwick, and Stuart Johnstone in Waterville - this was one of the things that they most commented on. It wasn't so much our green light legislation, they were quick to comment on that, but it was the fact of getting volunteers, getting young members of the community to come forward. So this is, I feel, one little mechanism that can be used, this tax credit that they would receive if they put in volunteer hours. This is very easy to monitor, since, as we know, especially during a call to the fire department, their time is monitored, time in, time out.

[4:30 p.m.]

Each of the fire chiefs said that this was now one of their biggest challenges as their department aged, to bring on new firefighters. In fact, last year, for the first time in the 60-year history of the Kingston Fire Department, they had an ad in the newspaper. For the very first time, to fill their complement of 50 members, they had to run an ad. It really is a sign of the times.

There's no question, rural communities need an adequate number of firefighters, unlike HRM and other urban areas that have paid firefighters. The rural firefighting organization, the volunteer fire departments, in fact, are what I call a cornerstone volunteer

[Page 7003]

group in our communities across Nova Scotia. In fact, we know their work is well beyond firefighting. They are also organizations that do a lot of fundraising. They pick up on the good causes, the needs of the community. They will go out and have a fundraiser to support them.

One of the real concerns then is having the adequate number to make up the complement of each of these fire departments. Our rural communities, I feel, run a very serious risk if they don't have an adequate number in their departments. I think this tax incentive may help increase the numbers and keep and stabilize the numbers throughout our departments right across the province. With that, I will share my time with my colleague, the member for Preston.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. You only have about 30 seconds.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, thank you. Time's up, I guess.

MR. SPEAKER: You have 30 seconds.

MR. COLWELL: I would just like to echo the comments of my honourable colleague. It's a very important bill, it's very important for the members of the volunteer fire service who give so much. It's a very dangerous job, to do this, and at all hours when they have a full-time job, most of them. They take their time, all their spare time, to donate to the community and volunteer fire service. I would fully support this bill, and hope that the government will call it and allow this to happen in the budget, as they bring the budget forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to join this debate, and I'll be sharing my time with the member for Kings North. I think, as the former speaker indicated, we all know friends, we all have many friends, men and women in our communities, who serve as firefighters. Indeed, we know firefighters perform a valuable service to our province. Indeed, we have 315 volunteer fire departments and more than 7,500 volunteer firefighters who put their lives at risk and on the line to protect us from the ravages of fire. We know that in 2002, there were 742 reported fires in the province. These resulted in 12 deaths and 21 injuries, of which 10 were firefighters.

Clearly, volunteer firefighters deserve recognition. While I appreciate the honourable member's intention to recognize the contribution of firefighters, I'm not convinced this is the way to go. I guess it goes without saying, this government strongly values the contribution of firefighters, and we have taken steps to recognize those. In 2003, our government introduced the Firefighters Compensation Act, which allowed benefits to be paid to firefighters who contracted specific types of cancer, under workers' compensation. Insurance

[Page 7004]

and health coverage is available to all firefighters, both paid and volunteer, because cancer doesn't differentiate between those individuals who make a career of fighting fires and those who give freely of their time.

It isn't just about house fires and brush fires anymore, Mr. Speaker. The whole role of volunteer fire services is expanding more and more. More volunteer departments now deliver vehicle extrication, advanced medical first response, water rescue, and hazardous material response capabilities. In fact, a typical fire service volunteer spends about 10 hours each week in training or in operation. That's why in 2002 we introduced the Volunteer Fire Services Act that formally recognizes the contribution of volunteer firefighters and volunteer fire departments across the province. The Act authorizes Cabinet to designate one day each October as Volunteer Fire Service Recognition Day. It provides an accidental death benefit of $100,000 to the family or estate of a volunteer firefighter who is killed in the line of duty.

Furthermore, the legislation provides volunteer fire departments with some protection from seizure of assets, material, or financial assets for claims of damages. Since 1999, we have waived the vehicle registration fees and provided special licence plates for volunteer firefighters as well as for ground search and rescue organizations. These distinctive licence plates are not only a symbol of our appreciation of the job they do, makes it clear to those people and emergency workers and ensures their access to restricted areas during emergencies.

As of April 30th of this year, there were 8,784 volunteers firefighter licence plates in circulation throughout this province. While the province values and appreciates the work done by volunteers across the province, the tax system is not designed to deliver those kinds of benefits. Some volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia already benefit from a tax deduction provision at the federal level. The first $1,000 of income earned by paid emergency service volunteers is exempt from income tax, both provincially and federally.

There are more than 250,000 volunteers across this province who contribute an average of 160 hours a year each. We couldn't possibly reward each one of those volunteers and we know the monetary reward isn't why Nova Scotians volunteer for their communities in the first place. Therefore, that's why we suggest that's not an appropriate way to go and the tax credit is simply not the way to go.

We recognize the volunteers through other ways. We recognize them through providing the health services as I indicated. We recognize them though the licence plates and we have already set up the contributions that we have for the tax system for those. With that, as I indicated, I'll share my time with the member for Kings North.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 7005]

MR. MARK PARENT: The Minister of Finance has listed several things that this government has done to help our volunteer firefighters, things that I'm very proud that we help participate in. I too want to laud our volunteer firefighters. I have in my riding, two main stations, the one in Kentville with Chief Shawn Ripley and the one in Canning with Chief Terry Porter and then two substations. We have a new substation in Scots Bay because of the distance from Canning. It's served with Canning but they established a new fire station there and the community has rallied around and supported it very, very well. Then a substation in Woodville and I know that substation well because when I had a car accident they were the ones that came to my rescue, to my aid.

The role of our volunteer firefighters in our rural communities in terms delivering aid and help in times of various types of crisis is so incredibly important. As the Minister of Finance was saying, this role has been expanded in recent years and in the Canning Fire Department, in conjunction with the Scots Bay Fire Department, one of the roles that they've taken on is in helping people who are stranded out at Cape Split or who get in trouble out at Cape Split because of the fact that it's now provincial land. They've been very, very helpful in that regard.

Our volunteers are really the backbone of our rural communities. When I go into many rural communities in my riding, it's the volunteer fire department, the Legion, the Lion's Club, the Women's Institute, these are the organizations that keep our rural communities vital and alive and we have so much to be thankful for. The question is how do we motivate volunteers? That's what the person who introduced this bill, the member for Kings West, that's what he was really getting at. How do you promote more volunteers? He raised the plea that not enough people are volunteering for our fire departments. This is an issue I have been very interested in for many years. I've gone to the volunteer banquets that we have at the Westin Hotel, and those are volunteers who are lauded from across the province from their various communities.

What I have noticed, Mr. Speaker, at every volunteer banquet - I think I've been to all six since I've been in office - the vast majority of people who volunteer their time are also committed in their religious institution. There is a correlation between religious activity, activity inherent in their religious institution, be it church, temple, synagogue, and also their willingness to volunteer for the good of the community in whatever form, be it a firefighter or some other form. I was reading a book looking at the American situation, and the Gallup poll in the United States found exactly the same thing, that as people are committed to their religious institution, people of strong faith, they are much more willing to volunteer.

So really it's not so much the monetary award that would get people to volunteer if this correlation is right and I think it is, it's this sense that these are people who want to give and who want to share what they have with others, that they know that they've been blessed by God. They've been given certain talents, gifts, whatever, and so they want to share. So

[Page 7006]

that's how we motivate people. There is a little poem that is fairly well known about a volunteer that backs this up. It reads:

Why Be A Volunteer

It's not for the money,

It's not for fame,

It's not for personal gain.

It's for love of fellow man,

It's just to lend a helping hand.

It's just to give the tithe of self.

That's something you can't by with wealth.

It's not the thank-you's accepted with pride.

It's just that feeling deep inside.

It's that reward down in your heart.

It's the feeling that you've been a part

Of helping others far and near.

That's what makes you a volunteer.

I think really that's at the heart of it. I'm not speaking against helping our firefighters in other ways and we've done lots of those as the Minister of Finance has illustrated. I really think that our volunteer firefighters are motivated by this selfless feeling of wanting to care and to give and to share with others.

I think that's really, Mr. Speaker, what lies at the heart of their volunteerism. As I said, coming from a religious background myself, the correlation between high religious activity and volunteerism is one that I find particularly gratifying. So I want to thank the Speaker for the opportunity to advance these few thoughts.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure for me to stand and speak on this piece of proposed legislation. It's a very important issue throughout our province, because there are thousands of individuals, men and women who donate their time and their energy and their commitment to their family to provide a service for all Nova Scotians, and that's our volunteer individuals in this province. Especially our volunteer firefighters. I know that our medical first responders are quite active in a lot of the communities throughout our province in providing an important service to Nova Scotians and ensuring that their safety and well being is looked after in all the communities throughout this province.

It's important that we recognize some of the duties that these first responders do, and I'm encouraged to see in this piece of legislation that they make reference to medical or

[Page 7007]

ambulance technicians. I would hope that the member who brought this forward would entertain a change to that to include medical first responders. I think that's a more appropriate title to use these days, because there are so many fire departments in our province that actually do medical first response. There are a lot that don't and one of the main reasons they don't is because of funding, Mr. Speaker.

To have a department commit to providing emergency medical services or medical first response is a huge undertaking. I think that really shows the underlying problem in the province, the need for government to fund adequately these associations, organization that provide these services and really provide it for free to the taxpayers of this province.

Many volunteers in this province, firefighters, medical first response, if you were to ask them why they do this, it's not because they want to be paid, Mr. Speaker. We do have a great number of paid professional firefighters and definitely our paramedics in the province who do it for a career, thousands of them. As the Minister of Finance stated, there are about 7,500 volunteers in this province who provide this important service. What we have to recognize is that when these departments take on the task of providing these services for the residents, they need to know that the government's there to adequately fund these services.

[4:45 p.m.]

Many of these fire departments and volunteer organizations find it hard to attract new volunteers to their organizations. One of the main reasons, Mr. Speaker, is because of the commitment they need to give to these organizations, one, to fundraise for them to allow them to provide these services for the residents. That's a major issue. It's hard enough for an individual to decide to volunteer, especially in a volunteer fire department. Then once you are committed to that, you realize that the commitment is not just to go out and provide medical services or firefighter services for that area, or their community. It's their need to have to step up and fundraise in order for this department to continue those services.

I think that's where we need to bring light, to recognize that government needs to take a better stance on our volunteer organizations in the province, and hopefully encourage and promote their activities in firefighting and in emergency services. They find it harder and harder every day to continue to provide these services. Government needs to step in and recognize this and, like I said, give adequate funding to these organizations. They find it hard to provide the insurance costs for the members who belong to their organizations. The equipment costs these days, especially for emergency services, is through the roof. It's hard for these organizations and departments to afford to keep a well-stocked ambulance or a medical first response unit. I know you're quite aware of areas in the area you represent. The commitment and the funds it takes to provide these services for residents.

So, like I said, this piece of legislation brings awareness around the need for government to increase funding to volunteer organizations. I had the opportunity, before my

[Page 7008]

career as a paramedic, to be a volunteer firefighter in Sackville. We had a great organization, the Sackville Volunteer Firefighters Organization, that provided services for many years to the residents of Sackville and the surrounding areas, and they did that at no cost. Years ago, because of being probably a more wealthy organization or being able to access funding through the old county at the time, the Halifax County, they were able to obtain an honorarium. The county actually provided funding to the fire department to give an honorarium to the members to offset some of the costs that this bill is supposed to do. Hopefully, if it passes, to give funds back to those volunteers who provide this service.

The people of Sackville, and the volunteers in Sackville, were able to get funding through the old county system, Mr. Speaker, to provide this honorarium to the firefighters who spent so much of their time and energy and cost to providing the service, especially for the firefighter services in that area. What that does is it shows an inadequacy of the municipalities in the province to be able to fund this. We were fortunate, I was fortunate as a member of the Sackville Volunteer Firefighters organization to receive an honorarium. It was because our municipality was able to provide that funding. There are many organizations out there that provide services to municipalities that can't afford this. We hear it every day on the floor of this Legislature, how hard it is for our municipalities, especially in our rural communities, to just provide the services they provide on an everyday basis, not just what volunteers provide to this organization or the community.

Mr. Speaker, the other question is the cost involved with this piece of legislation. The Minister of Finance indicated 7,500 volunteers, and if you were to look at if they were to qualify for the $1,000 tax break, that's about $8 million that would be taken away from what, I would hope government would look at recognizing, and putting it back into those organizations. I would love for the Minister of Finance to stand up and state that they're going to provide the volunteer organizations in this province with $8 million, because I think if you were to ask volunteers why they do it, they don't do it for the money. They don't expect to get paid to volunteer in this province.

What they expect, I would hope, is that if they give their time and energy, that the province will be there to support them with their costs, especially the insurance for these organizations, the equipment they need. The equipment that volunteer firefighters organizations use is very expensive. The cost of one vehicle, a pumper for instance, could run into the $200,00, $300,000, $400,000 mark. Mr. Speaker, what we need is to ensure that these departments that are providing the services have the adequate funding. If they don't, if they belong to a municipality that just can't afford an increase or provide that funding to the organization, that it comes back to the government's responsibility. It's their responsibility to ensure that all Nova Scotians are protected and have the same level of care. The same level service provided in downtown Halifax as it would in Yarmouth or in Digby or in any other part of the province. It's the government's responsibility to ensure that. I think I would like to see rather $8 million going to those volunteers which they needed, I'm not saying they

[Page 7009]

don't, I would hope the government would look at this bill and say maybe it's time we stepped in and funded these organizations and hopefully continue their support.

It's very hard for organizations to attract volunteers today. There's an increased commitment to family and the cost of living in this province this year and every year. It goes up every year, it's harder for individuals and families to make ends meet. So I would hope this government would look at this piece of legislation and realize the need for proper and adequate funding in order for these people to continue the service they're providing.

Many of these organizations have been around for hundreds of years and now they realize the cost involved in providing these services. It's hard for them to say no, we're not going to do it anymore, when a small community has been adequately serviced for many years by the volunteers, by the men and women that work in the stores in the community, by members of the Legislature. I know that some have volunteered in the past and it's harder for them to continue to do it, if they don't have the proper funding.

I would hope the government looks at this piece of legislation and realize the need to address this important issue. I think they should realize the importance of funding these volunteer organizations. They provide a great resource and save this province millions of dollars every year. I think it's time we fund these services. It isn't hard for these organizations to provide volunteers.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I recognize the honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words on this bill, an Act to Amend Chapter 27 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Income Tax Act. I want to commend the member for Clare for bringing this forward as well as I recognize an MP from Cape Breton, Mr. Cuzner, who has also done a similar thing federally.

This is a small token of our appreciation for the number of volunteers who are not only volunteering on our fire departments. I think if you read the beginning of this bill, it says "Five hundred dollars . . ." of the tax paid " . . . in the taxation year at least fifty hours but less than one hundred hours of volunteer service as an ambulance technician, a firefighter or a person who assists in search or rescue of individuals or in other emergency situations;"

I think when we look around our many communities and we look at the volunteers who give up so many weekends, evenings and are on call all hours of the day and night, who go out and put their lives at risk to ensure that we, as a community, feel safe. This is a very small token of our appreciation. When I look around the constituency of Annapolis and I see in the community of Springfield, Middleton, Bridgetown, Lawrencetown, Port Lorne, Margaretsville, Annapolis and Nictaux the different volunteer firefighting services that are provided. What's rather interesting is the different sizes of those departments - some covers a very large territory and have a number of pieces of equipment while others just service a

[Page 7010]

very small community. But, each one of those communities take so much pride in the service that is being provided by those fire departments. It really provides them ownership of that department and the fact that we would recognize those individuals in those communities who have stepped up and said, we're here to ensure that your safety and the safety of your family and children with a very small token would go a long way, I think, for us to begin to recognize the volunteers in our community. Mind you, a very small number of volunteers, but yet a very well-deserving group of volunteers.

When I look around in my constituency, the number of things that is happening by not only the volunteer firefighter but the Emergency Measures Organization and the men and women who serve in those groups. I received a note from a friend of mine who was in the process of creating and an evacuation plan for a nursing home that he owns and runs with his wife. In the note he expressed how in the evacuation plan, the fire chief of the Bridgetown community, Robbie Brown, was on hand to ensure that that was being carried out in the proper way. This is on a weekend when after Mr. Brown has spent his week doing not only his job, but all the other hours that he's already volunteered for the department and being on call. I think that's the kind of individual we're talking about.

One of the other things which is taking place around my constituency which all too often is forgotten about, when a firefighter, and many of them who go out or even Emergency Measures Organization when they go out, they're really entering, in many cases, in some cases in danger.

A constituent of mine who I know quite well on a very personal level was involved in a motor vehicle accident on his way to responding to a fire. That accident occurred probably two and a half years ago now. Quite frankly, his life has been altered by that and changed forever in his unselfish act of going out and providing a volunteer service for us. This piece of legislation which is before you is in no way enough compensation for him or for any other volunteer who is injured doing that, but it is a recognition from us to be able to say, you know, we value what you're doing, we value it enough to put a very small token of appreciation it. In their case, in many cases for volunteers, they don't want to be recognized, they don't feel the need to be recognized. This is not, in my view, any way to say that this is what you're job is valued at. It's a way to just say we very much appreciate the fact that when we call, you're there and ready to support us.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other parts of this bill is, if you do over 1,000 hours or more volunteering we will recognize that with a $1000 tax credit. The other thing is each one of these need to be verified and would be verified, obviously, to ensure that the bill was being appropriately monitored by the municipality or by those fire chiefs.

One of the things that happened, and I'll give the government credit, was when they brought in the fire plates to volunteer firefighters. It was amazing how that small recognition went a long way not only to, I think, encourage the ranks and bolster the ranks a certain

[Page 7011]

amount in some of these volunteer firefighters, but it was a way to say thank you. It was a way for us as a Legislature to be able to say thank you to them. The government needs to be recognized for that and the tremendous job that that has brought forward. I think all members during those days recognized that, and appreciated the bill. I know, in my community, a number of my constituents have mentioned that to me and said, you know, it in no way compensates us, but it was a nice recognition.

I mentioned earlier when I look a some of my fire halls in Nictaux - and we often joked that Chet Balcom put his entire life into that fire department of 50 years, when you look at that fire department and the amount of work that has gone into that, men like Chet and women across my constituency need to be recognized. This would be just a small way of doing that.

It was rather interesting when the power was out in Western Nova Scotia last November, it was the volunteer firefighters and the EMO coordinators who came forward, who left their homes and, in many cases, their families were without power, and they were moving into the central spots to ensure that the emergency shelters were open for all of us to go in to and ensure that there was some warmth and food. They're ensuring that the senior members of our community were being looked after and that went on for a number of days. This in no way would recognize, and again I will say that this in no way will recognize the overall contribution that they make, nor is it intended to. It's intended really to be used as a way of saying thank you.

[5:00 p.m.]

When I look in Middleton, for example, when that was happening, you know, it was within hours when they found a generator at a farmer's farm that they brought in town, ran a tractor, had the fire hall up and going. They had a room in the fire hall set up where a doctor was coming in for elderly patients who were on oxygen, they were being there, while volunteers were coming in and providing food to ensure that those in the community were being looked after in the way they should be. We went into the community of Lawrencetown where immediately upon this emergency, the evacuation plan went into effect and that fire hall was up and going immediately and that is all through the effort of volunteers.

We often say that they're out protecting us at the worst times of the day and night, but they're also out in some of the best times of our day and night - volunteering and trying to raise money to ensure that the equipment is there when we require it; when it is there, to make sure that it's funded properly. I remember, unfortunately one of my siblings had the misfortune of having a fire on one winter night. I'm very pleased to say that they all got out of the house and were fine. They lost their property which is a very small thing, but it was amazing to me that night when we were there in the middle of a snowstorm and wind blowing and the men and women, not only from the Bridgetown and Annapolis Royal Fire

[Page 7012]

Departments who came in, but from all over Annapolis County who came forward to ensure that they did their very best, that they tried to protect that property.

It's that kind of a selfless act, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is trying to recognize. I think every speaker has spoken about the number of volunteers in our community and how the face of our community would be so much different without them. There is absolutely no way this government, or any other government, could perform the services that they do. I will go back to say to you that not only is this a recognition of our volunteer firefighters, but it is a recognition of EMO and the emergency people who were ensuring that our families, when needed, have the expertise of people who are willing to support us.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have spoken on this for the member for Clare and we will look forward to supporting this bill as it goes forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for this bill has expired.

The honourable Liberal House Leader on the next order of business.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 151.

Bill No. 151 - Water Royalty Act.

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill No. 151, the Water Royalty Act, which I introduced April 18, 2005. What prompted me to submit this bill to the Legislature is from when I was down in western Nova Scotia and we had an American company that came and found a great water resource, or thought they had. So they decided that they would bottle water there, millions and millions of litres per year and ship it to the United States and also maybe to Europe. We have other companies that I have knowledge of that are watching this one and we also have local people down there who are watching this. If they're going to bottle water, so are we.

So it's beginning, Mr. Speaker, and this bill will require water bottlers in this province who sell our water outside and inside of the province to pay a royalty to the Province of Nova Scotia. A royalty on freshwater that is bottled for consumption by consumers will do two things. First, it will help protect our precious natural resource of freshwater and, second, a royalty would help generate revenue for the province to manage this precious resource.

Mr. Speaker, keep in mind that we can live without oil and gas, but we cannot live without water. Yet we collect royalties on oil and gas. So surely we're going to collect royalties for the proper management of a vital resource such as our fresh drinking water.

[Page 7013]

Mr. Speaker, water is similar to the air that we breathe in this province. It belongs to us all. We cannot survive without drinking water. It is a necessity of life and of the well-being, of each and every one of us. Something this important must be very well managed for the future of our people's needs. We cannot just let anyone come to this province and help themselves to this very important resource without their giving something back. Our water resource, in the future, is going to be in high demand. It's already in moderate demand, as we speak. As other countries run low on drinking water from a lack of proper management on their own part, our water will be a very valuable resource, tempting who knows how many bottling plants to start up production in this province, to send away to who knows where.

Mr. Speaker, we, the people of Nova Scotia, who depend on this water as a necessity for life do not have a say in the management of it, and I'm afraid we will be in trouble with our supply of fresh drinking water in the not-too-distant future. Royalties received for the people of this province will give us the interest to properly manage this vital resource. In order to properly manage, we must have royalties from it for the management department that must police this for our future needs.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, we must find out how much water we do have in this province that can be used for our drinking purposes, and everyone else who wants it in the world. Secondly, we must find out how much we are using now and will use in the future. To properly manage a resource, you must know how much you have to manage.

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

MR. THERIAULT: Yes.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for allowing this introduction. I would like to bring the members' attention to the west gallery today. In the west gallery we have Mindy MacNeil from the riding of Cape Breton Nova. She is graduating from St. Mary's University; in the centre we have Patricia Nichols, who just graduated from the nursing school, St. Frances Xavier; and Lorway Gosse is in his third year, upcoming, at Dalhousie Law School. I would like for them to please stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings. Thank you to the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis for allowing that. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, thirdly, we must find out our annual rainfall and continue to measure this forever. Water levels must be kept in check continuously as water

[Page 7014]

is pumped out and shipped away to other countries and for our own use. This is going to take tremendous people power in the future, for the proper management of this vital resource.

Mr. Speaker, let's not forget that fresh drinkable water is a resource that becomes more scarce all the time, although it is often referred to all of the world as a renewable resource, the water supply, for all practical purposes, is limited. That is why other countries are looking at us for their water needs of the future. Let us not lose sight of this and let us not lose this opportunity to put in place a way to manage one of the most precious resources of our province.

Mr. Speaker, we must not let this go by, and find out years down the road that we didn't miss the water until the well ran dry. By thinking ahead of what is to come, we can become one of the great stewards of one of the most precious resources this province owns. In closing, I want to stress that this bill is for the good of all the people of Nova Scotia. We, the members of this House, should not let politics stand in the way of this vital bill that can protect and direct Nova Scotia's water supply for the future.

Mr. Speaker, it is just good common sense that we take care of our natural resource of this province for the future generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to share the rest of my time with the member for Preston.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How much time do I have this time?

MR. SPEAKER: This time you have eight minutes.

MR. COLWELL: A long time, it beats 30 seconds. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a very important topic, as my colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, has indicated. It's a very important topic. One thing in this world that we cannot live without is water. Pretty well anything else we can do without. You see the Arab countries and all the other countries with the rich oil reserves selling us oil and hold us to ransom for high, high prices and high gasoline prices, and home heating fuel and everything else, although these same countries need water. So it only makes sense that we put a small export tax on the water that we can use in Nova Scotia for all kinds of different things that will help Nova Scotians. It's long overdue that something like this is put in place. I know there's probably problems with the agreements with the Americans under the free trade agreement and other things, but I'm sure those could be negotiated very easily with the right approach, especially when you're going to export outside of North America.

[Page 7015]

The idea of having someone else help Nova Scotia pay down the tremendous debt we have in the province, which seems to be growing daily, would be an ideal situation to use some of the money for that, or perhaps we could have some extra money we could put into roads, or extra money we could put into health care, extra money we could put anywhere, and many of the things we need in this province that need to be done for the residents of Nova Scotia.

We see daily requirements coming to government that they need to spend money on different programs, many programs that are very worthwhile, and the province simply doesn't have the money to do it. A better way to get funds than putting another burden on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, put the burden where it should be on resources that we're shipping out of the country, to have the people receiving it on the other end help pay for the benefits that we receive in Nova Scotia. I think that's long overdue.

It's an excellent idea the member for Digby-Annapolis has come up with, especially when he sees this in his own backyard and sees the potential of this and what could happen to his community if the resource is depleted in Nova Scotia. Again, if you don't know exactly what the resource is, how do you know how much you can export? So that's a serious issue too, and that's going to cost the province money to find out. It's going to cost them some serious money to find that out, and probably a tremendous amount of studying to really realize that when you reduce the water levels in the province what the long-term effect is say in 50 years, 100 years, or 200 years' time.

So those are things that could be addressed and paid for by this sort of surcharge or charge on the water, whatever you want to call it, that's addressed in the bill. I think it's important that we do these things. Again, I stress, with the absolute debt burden we have in the Province of Nova Scotia that anything we can do to help reduce that debt burden in any way, or to provide a service that we would have to pay for otherwise, or actually reduce a debt in some way that someone else is paying for, I think is a benefit to all Nova Scotians and, indeed, the country.

So every time we can get some revenues from outside of Canada - I know when I was in the export business and my manufacturing facility, we called them real dollars when you get a dollar in from the Americans or Europe or Mexico or even Africa or someplace, they were real dollars in the country. They actually displaced $7 at that time of every dollar that was turned in the province. So $1 equals $7. So that was a fantastic turnaround in that regard. So anything we do to make someone else pay for our water, water they willingly would be paying for because they can't get it any other way, I think is an excellent idea.

The member for Digby-Annapolis has been working very hard on this and doing an excellent job in his community in working with the community members and the people who are coming there to work in the water industry, and that's going to become a very big industry. You see the cost of oil, crude oil, increasing. It would be nice someday to maybe

[Page 7016]

tie the costs of water to the price of crude oil. It would be quite an interesting scenario if all of a sudden the Arab countries that desperately need water, found out that every time they put the price of crude oil up, the water they're buying from Canada or somewhere else that needs their oil went up as well. They might hesitate before they put the price of oil up again. That would be an interesting scenario, especially if the funds were going to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia or anywhere else in Canada that might be exporting water to benefit the communities here that are hard hit by high energy costs.

[5:15 p.m.]

I think it's important these things are put in place quickly so we have the resources to work through the necessary research projects needed to go on with the water levels and the effect of removing water from the province will have. Also, to help put programs in place for Nova Scotians at no cost to Nova Scotians for a change. Usually everything we do in this province we have to pay for, either through the federal government programs that are in place or through direct taxation to the people in our communities. This will be a pleasant change in that regard.

I would encourage the government to call this bill and to implement it as we go forward and try to improve the situation and lifestyles of Nova Scotians in this province. It is so important to remember that as we go through these processes, we have to look out 50 years, 100 years' time and see what kind of impact it will have on our communities. Think about that. It's very difficult to visualize that far ahead. When you think about the concerns we now have with water quality and the improvements we're making in treatment systems for sewer that ensure our water tables and our water qualities are higher, we have to look at these things.

It costs a lot of money to do these things and to rectify them. Again, anything we can do to get someone else to pay for our costs is a bonus to the Province of Nova Scotia. We have to work towards these goals. Unfortunately, if really progressive ideas like this aren't put in place as put forward by the member for Digby-Annapolis, we will not be able to do those things and help all Nova Scotians. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to rise today to speak on Bill No. 151, the Water Royalty Act. The value of water is recognized as a key principle in the province's provincial drinking water strategy. A constant supply of clean water for drinking is essential for all of us. I do appreciate the comments the members opposite have made and certainly appreciate the hospitality of the member who put the bill into the House for allowing me to come up and have a tour of the area in question that is of concern in his area. We were able to gather some information, we were able to do a site visit and we were able to talk with some of the people who live close to where the proposed water

[Page 7017]

bottling plant is. I do want to thank him for that, we had some good discussions and I certainly learned and appreciated those.

We do have a drinking water strategy. There are some things I would like to point out with regard to water in the Province of Nova Scotia. There are some things taking place that are very valuable and are essential from the points that have been made here today. We have a provincial water drinking strategy which outlines a pretty dynamic plan for the protection and the conservation of our water for all Nova Scotians and for years to come. I know the points have been made that you have to be careful because when the well is dry, the well is dry. I'm very pleased to say there is a great deal of action that's taking place within the department that I'm part of, but with regard to a lot of interdepartmental discussions, to ensure we have safe drinking water.

I would also like to point out the value of the water is extremely hard to determine or to set a royalty on and that's not because it's difficult to pick a price, but it really doesn't matter what price or what fee you're going to put on water - we need it, it's necessary for life, it's necessary for all of us to survive. So water is really priceless and also putting a royalty on water doesn't necessarily mean there will be less consumption or more consumption or that things would be protected any differently than they're protected now.

We are looking at things and we'll work co-operatively with everybody in the House to make sure that we have clean and good drinking water for our grandchildren as time goes on. Other jurisdictions across Canada - well, I guess, no jurisdictions across Canada, no other provinces have a royalty on bottled water at this point in time. So this would be forging new ground and I know that the bill was introduced to look at a specific issue, but from a provincial point of view, we would have to look at everything. We would have to look at everything from one tip of the province to the other if a royalty was to be imposed and that, we believe, could pose some problems.

Nova Scotia does collect annual water fees from any company or individual that draws large quantities of water currently. So anybody who withdraws more than 23,000 litres, or 5,000 gallons, of water a day requires an approval from the Department of Environment and Labour. There is a usage fee that's charged based on the amount of withdrawal required and a fixed administration fee. So there is some money that comes back into the province with regard to these approvals. It's charged to support our water management systems and it allows us to do some things such as track water use across the province. So we do track the amount of water that's used, determine what it's used for, and certainly determine how it's disposed of because that's also an issue with regard to the department.

At this point in time there are about 375 water withdrawal approvals in place across the province and these fees apply to municipalities, to industries, to power companies, and certainly to others, and they also include three bottled water companies. They do have approvals at this point in time. I would like to point out as well that the approval system

[Page 7018]

applies to agricultural users which accounts for about 100 of those 375 approvals. Although the agricultural industry's withdrawals are exempted from any annual fees, it is significant the amount of water that the agricultural industry would withdraw. Bottled water companies account for less than one-half of 1 per cent of the total water withdrawals in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's a very small amount.

MR. MORASH: It is a very small amount and, again, it's less than one-half of 1 per cent. That's not a great deal of water when we look at the overall consumption in the province. The three companies operating in Nova Scotia now draw, I think, a little over 1.6 million litres of water per day which is certainly significant, but in the overall drawdown in the impact to the province, it's pretty minimal because currently we have approvals in the province for a withdrawal of 3.3 billion litres of water each day. That number is kind of staggering and this was brought to my attention yesterday during the estimates when we were talking about this, 3.3 billion litres a day is a fair amount of water to be taking from whatever means we take it from - either surface water, or wells, or aquifers - and we always need to be vigilant and careful to make sure that we do monitor where this water is going, how much we are drawing and what effects we are having on others who happen to be close by the source where this water is removed from.

The whole industry, including bottled water companies, accounts for 6 per cent of the total amount of water withdrawn in the province on a daily basis. So the bottled water companies are not the large users. They really only account for 6 per cent of that 3.3 billion that's withdrawn on a daily basis. Now, this doesn't include power companies which use water to generate hydroelectric power, but they don't really extract the water, they just use it on its route to the ocean and make some electricity from it on the way. Agriculture is about 66 per cent of the amount of water and that would account for the greatest draw that we have in any single day.

The vast majority of Nova Scotians already enjoy high quality, safe drinking water and the best way to maintain that is certainly through what we have developed and consider a multi-barrier approach to protection. We need to keep it clean. It's fairly simple when you look at protecting water. We need to keep it clean. If it isn't clean, we need to make it safe to drink and once we've made it safe to drink or we've kept it clean, we need to make sure that we test it to ensure that it continues to be safe to drink for the population of the province and anybody else who may be drinking the water. The drinking water strategy is based on the multi-barrier approaches I just mentioned, and confirms the commitment to making the protection of our province's water our number one priority.

I didn't realize, prior to joining the department, how many resources, how much money, how much time, effort is spent working to conserve, to protect, to maintain, the drinking water in the Province of Nova Scotia. I've said a number of times, I took for

[Page 7019]

granted, I grew up in a home that had a dug well that never went dry and had good water and just thought that's the way everybody else's was as well. I've found to a bit of my surprise, that that certainly isn't true for the whole province and water is not something that everybody can count on and none of us should ever take it for granted.

However, I am pleased to say that from the department's point of view, and from government's point of view, everybody appreciates how important this commodity and this resource is and just what we have to do to ensure that we are taking very, very good care of it.

I'm pleased to report that the commitments set out in the three-year plan have been successfully achieved through a collaborative team effort by all government industries or by all government industries and individuals. Some of our successes over the last three years include the renewal of operating approvals for all municipal water systems. We need to monitor to make sure we know what's out there. Developing due diligence handbook for municipal councillors and other water utility owners so that people have some consistent guidelines that we would expect them to work by so that we can maintain the quality of water for people who certainly need it.

Also, developing educational materials for private well owners. It's not something you can take for granted. It's something that you have to be continually educating the population on, and educating those who install wells, those who install municipal waterways, those who install treatment plants.

Implementation of this strategy has been overseen by an interdepartmental drinking water management committee, which includes senior representatives from six government departments in addition to Environment and Labour. They are not surprisingly Agriculture and Fisheries, because of the water use there; Health, who used to do testing at one point in time for water, wells and other things; Natural Resources, who are involved with water courses; Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations; Tourism, Culture and Heritage; and certainly, last but not least, we have Transportation and Public Works. I certainly understand the desire to protect the precious resource.

However, I do have some concerns as to the approach that's being proposed, and the honourable member opposite and I have discussed this. He does know what my concerns are. We're not sure if charging more for the water is going to preserve the resource any more. We also have some other challenges with regard to the legal ability for the province to be able to do that.

There are also a number of good systems in place across government that are there and do look at water quality. Environment and Labour employs hydrogeologists, we have watershed planners. We also have other water specialists across the province whose job it is to help us assess and to protect our water. These specialists support provincial activities and

[Page 7020]

work with municipal and public water supply operators, we offer some expertise and advice to assist these people. They track water data and help us to perform certain assessments to the quantity and the quality of surface and groundwater in respect to specific applications for withdrawals or activities or incidents which may threaten our water supplies. We have to, everyone in this room and beyond, be ever vigilant to make sure that we protect that water because we just appreciate how important it is for everyone.

We also have some concerns, as I said, over the legalities and the ramifications of charging a royalty on water, and NAFTA rules may be a factor in considering our royalty. There are no other provinces, as I mentioned, who are currently charging a royalty but those are some issues that we are looking into. We are checking into this. We certainly take the thought behind the bill very seriously, the protection of water is extremely important. We just don't know if it's the proper way at this point in time for us to proceed. Staff are getting some more information on the issue and we may not have the flexibility to look at any kind of a royalty fee. We do have to look at that. Also, since farmers and municipalities are some of the largest users, we do have some concerns as to the cost the decision might impose on those two sectors in particular. If we make a decision, it would have to be province-wide, it couldn't be isolated.

[5:30 p.m.]

I'm sure it goes without saying, access to safe drinking water is not a goal that's isolated to Nova Scotia. I think it's worthwhile mentioning that Nova Scotia is participating in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment initiative to analyze water conservation measures and economic instruments, including water pricing. So, throughout Canada, there are discussions between Ministers of the Environment on water pricing. Everybody appreciates it's worth more than we pay for it now. Nobody seems to have the answer at this point in time as to how much it's worth or the best process that we could take to develop water pricing, but there are discussions that are taking place. Through the provincial drinking water strategy, we're also reviewing the current water approval fee structure.

It's important to know that we aren't isolated here, we do have a lot of other people, a lot of other governments, whether they be municipal or provincial or federal, looking at what are the best processes for us to take or what are the best routes for us to take in the future to make sure that we maintain what we have. We did pass a bill in this House a couple of years ago to stop the bulk export of water. At that point in time it became obvious that that was a concern for the future. This Legislature saw fit to pass that piece of legislation to make sure that bulk water could not be transported, and that left the ability for people to bottle or process water on-site and in Nova Scotia, to be able to export that water, but it had to be produced here.

[Page 7021]

The intent and the concern at that point in time was the amount that could possibly leave by way of ship or tankers or other means. Whereas if you look at a bottling plant and there is still a lot of water that is pumped from the ground each day, as we said, however, it's shipped out by truck in smaller containers and it is much more controllable, something that can be managed, can be monitored, can be watched by the department of the government, and we can determine exactly how much water is leaving or how much is being withdrawn from the ground to ensure that we have the data we need to follow along in the future, and ensure that we have a handle on what's going on.

I'd like to thank you for this opportunity. I hope this sheds some light from the department's perspective.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. I want to say to the member for Digby-Annapolis, good on you. This is really an interesting idea. I think it's probably one that's long overdue. I'm not sure how much I could speak to the mechanics of how this should be done, the minister raised some interesting points, and I'll speak to some of those, but only much in layman's terms. He has staff researching some of those points, and I'm not going to try to make anybody think that I have all the background information that his staff might be able to get.

I guess I want members of the House, in particular, and all Nova Scotians to think a little bit about water and the value of it. The minister said it's difficult to determine what that royalty should be, if it's possible to do that. It's something we, I think, for the most part take for granted. It has probably only been in recent years, when people actually have been buying bottled water, that they really started to think about the issue at all, and prior to that water was one of those things that you never gave much thought to. I'm in a situation similar to the minister. I grew up on a small farm, it had a well. We had a good supply of water, and never gave it much thought.

The idea, actually, to me, of buying water is almost the same as buying air. This is such a valuable commodity that it's something I think should really be regulated in a way that provides a benefit to Nova Scotians and I worry, certainly on a national scale, what it is that our country does in terms of its water supply. The minister mentioned about research into international agreements, he mentioned NAFTA in particular. You know, Mr. Speaker, it's strange that so many things that we want to do domestically, we always have to look and see, well, how have we tied our own hands in terms of the international agreements that we've entered into and we've done those. The beneficiaries of those agreements are not the ordinary people walking the street in this country, but they really seem to be agreements that are tied to a benefit for corporations, rather than for people.

[Page 7022]

I'd like to see governments, or at least the negotiators for governments who sign these agreements or negotiate these agreements, to actually use people as the bottom line and how this agreement improves the lives of the people the politicians represent. That's what I would like to see to be the number one priority in negotiating agreements, how this benefits the people at home first. It's not clear to me that that is the issue. It seems to be how this benefits a corporation coming here, number one, and how this agreement benefits any of our corporations or any of our industries that want to move out of here into another jurisdiction and won't be too greatly impacted by rules and regulations in those areas.

The minister raised the issue of agriculture and presently there is an exemption, a water licence authorizing use for agriculture conservation or beautification purposes, is exempt from the fee, and user fees allocations of 23,000 litres per day or greater. The annual fee for an authorized use of water withdrawn from a water core shall be determined as follows: water licence for municipal, recreational, industrial and domestic purposes, the minimum fee for a water licence shall be $53.25 unless as otherwise provided under Sections 1 and 2(4). Annual fee calculation, the licensed fee shall be derived by summing the subtotals calculated as follows: for each million litres per day up to 2 million litres per day is $117.15; for each additional million litres per day over 2 million litres per day, up to 9 million litres per day is $122.47; for each additional million litres per day over 9 million litres per day up to 27 million litres per day is $133.12; for each additional million litres per day, over 27 million litres per day, up to 90 million litres per day is $138.45; for each million litres per day over 90 million litres per day is $143.77.

Mr. Speaker, when we say what value do we place on water, we're not placing any value on water presently, in this province. We are not placing any value on water. Now, there is legislation in this province actually that we can't sell bulk water, so I applaud the government for that legislation. If my memory is right, it was this government because I've been here since 1998 and I think that bill came through the House since 1998, and I don't think it was in 1998-99. So that's a smart move. I would think that if the government did that, they would have done the NAFTA research and whole nine yards to determine whether or not that legislation would stand the test, it would stand the NAFTA test. As far as I know, nobody's challenged it, so I'm thinking that probably the ground work on where we can go on a royalty has probably already been done.

I certainly encourage the minister and his staff to go down that road for sure. His comments were interesting and I'd like him to be thinking in a positive way of supporting this legislation and, if possible, if it meant he couldn't support it, that he could come up with something that would be similar, but appropriate, that would still meet the intent for the member for Digby-Annapolis.

This is a very good idea. I think the member for Digby-Annapolis should be applauded for it. I know it is probably one of those issues, that because it's happening in his backyard that he's a little bit sensitized to it, so that's where this came from. Actually, I don't think it

[Page 7023]

would be a ridiculous notion to think about a maximum price on water; a retail maximum price so that we take into consideration the value of water and the ability of people to buy it. This is not an item I think should wind up with the vagaries of the marketplace, that there will be people of low income who someday won't be able to afford bottled water.

If we're going down this road, let's do the whole investigation here and find out in terms of what it costs to get this substance out of the ground and get it bottled. Everything I've heard tends to make me believe - the technology around pumping water out of the ground has been around for awhile, this is pretty low cost per litre. I think it's well within the purview of government to think about, should we have a maximum price assigned to water sales so that Nova Scotians can afford to buy it?

People might say, ha, ha, a hardy belly laugh on that. I'll tell you, there was a day when I'm sure people would have had a hardy laugh on the thought that you actually would go into a store and buy it, that you would buy water at all. It never entered people's minds, I'm sure. This is one, looking down the road, I would like to see some thought go into this.

The minister said 6 per cent of the draw is bottled water. I was glad to hear him talk about agriculture, if the local fish plant had its own well. I'm not sure, since they're creating jobs and whatever, that they would have to be paying for water. People should consider that the water cycle is a natural cycle. The question of water and aquifers is an issue of - it's not really clear, and the minister may correct me, and the province is all mapped and we know exactly how much water there is, but I would say we probably don't.

With that in mind, there may be a reason to think about how many facilities we want in a particular area and maybe put a limit on the draw per year or whatever. If one company has found an aquifer and 10 more apply or buy land around and they all sink into that aquifer, maybe we want to set a limit on how much draw we actually want to take there and say, all right, there's a limit here in this area and you have to try somewhere else.

We don't want to run our resource to a point where what we're left with is people using purely surface water. There are all kinds of reasons to worry about that. It's the whole process of percolation through soil to the water table that aids in the purification of water and, obviously, there would be those contaminants that that process is not going to take care of, because we run the risk in this environment of more dissolved contaminants than we ever used to, but to have a secure, safe supply of water for Nova Scotians, number one, would be my concern.

If I remember the minister's comments correctly, I think it was almost to the point of worry about charging an amount that would affect businesses trying to do this. Well, I think that the minister, first of all, his priority, number one, should be a water supply for Nova Scotians and then some way to determine how much of that supply we can actually risk in selling. He mentioned as well about the specialists in his area, the hydrogeologists and so on,

[Page 7024]

and that they give fairly good up-to-date scientific information about the geology of the province and the water supply in the province. I want to say to the minister, you could have a team of hydrogeologists, specialists, and whatever category or title you want to give them, who can tell you to the nth degree about the water supply, but they will be worth absolutely nothing to you if this province or this country sells its water rights. It doesn't matter what information you have, if you lose control of your water, you lose control of your water. So I agree with the member for Digby-Annapolis and I encourage the province to secure its supply. With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll take my seat.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to speak on Bill No. 151. I agree with some of the statements made by the minister and the previous speaker, but I also take strong exception to some of the remarks. It's history repeating itself here. We have what we're all saying is the number one resource. We have lots of it and here we are willing to allow U.S. companies to come in, we are subsidizing foreign companies to come in to take our natural resources for free and create a business where they're going to make money.

When I say history repeating itself, I think of my poor father down in the hole of these ships when they were shipping coal, when I was a kid, with a pan shovel, shovelling the coal over in the corners of these gigantic ships, breathing in the dust and the dirt and everything else and working like a bull to make a living for us. Oh, boy, he got a small wage for that which we survived on, but who made all the money? Our natural resources were shipped out by rail, they were shipped out by these ships. Here we are now, we've got one thing that we cannot live without, it's water, and we're willing to let it go.

Mr. Speaker, what I want to quote from is part of the Halifax ChronicleHerald last year, "While most of the 30-odd countries serving with NATO's international security assistance force import their water from the Persian Gulf, France has been flying its water in from Europe at a cost of $3.40 euros or $5.50 Canadian a litre."

What we're seeing is, the honourable member, the previous speaker, said we should probably put a maximum price on it. When I was a kid, I could remember you could go to the garage and you couldn't put $2 worth of gas in a five-gallon can, you would overflow it. Now $2 worth of gas in there, you can put it in with a teacup. That's how valuable it has increased.

AN HON. MEMBER: How old are you?

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: I'm 105, the same as yourself, sir. The thing is, Mr. Speaker, it's okay to joke and laugh about this, but we've got a very valuable resource, that's serious, and I wish I had two hours instead of 10 minutes left to speak on it; 1.6 million litres a day is what the honourable minister said is being bottled.

[Page 7025]

Not all that long ago, I laughed, in Cape Breton, when I saw water in fridges in stores for sale. Selling water in Cape Breton, I thought that whoever got into that business had to be somewhat disillusioned. We hunted and fished and we drank from the streams, and every time we turned on the tap, there was good clean water, as the honourable members mentioned about growing up on a farm. Right now I live in a place where the well is only 14-feet deep. It's beautiful, clean, pure water. If you take that from my property, my property on the Bras d'Or Lake is worth nothing. You couldn't give it away. What good would it be without water? That's the only thing that's making it valuable.

Mr. Speaker, right now, the proposed strip mining in Cape Breton, the number one fear of the residents in Cape Breton, in my area of Victoria-The Lakes and especially on Bouladerie Island is the fear of losing the water. That's how valuable it is, and they'll all tell you, at their meetings, take whatever you want from my property but don't take my water. The water strategy is number one, as the honourable minister mentioned.

Mr. Speaker, that's the way it should be, to guard the valuable water that we have. What I find interesting or I guess it's an oxymoron as I've been quoting most of the day when I spoke, it seems the government is interested in doing business or doing work that costs the taxpayers money. What about something that we can get from our natural resource, something that would create money? I'll give you an example. In Scotland, off the coast of Scotland, they put a surcharge of 1 cent a barrel on oil. Now, 1 cent a barrel, how much is that going to be? They have millions and millions of dollars in a fund. What they do with that fund is they build rinks, sidewalks, roads, recreational facilities. They've put amenities into the communities. The communities have the resource, but the communities benefited from the resource.

What do we have here? Our resources going out the window and saying, thank you very much, sir, you have a nice day. They did the same thing with our steel plant down there in Cape Breton. We had a rail mill, that was the good part. They took that to the mainland. Anything else that came along, they come in from England, Ireland, and so long as you had a foreign ownership, you took the goodies and left the garbage for the Sydney steel plant. Of course all we had was the one good rail mill, and you can't survive on one source. Then when that's gone, everybody seemed to be happy.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm saying is we have something here - you're talking about 1 cent a litre. That would make this province rich with our natural resources. That would help resolve the problems that we have with the escalating costs of our highways. Our rural areas would benefit, the whole province would benefit. I have a retired engineer in my area, living down in Middle River by the name of Bruce Aikman and I have to quote Mr. Aikman, he's a very smart person, and he said to me one time, ". . . Gerald, our resources are controlled by others for the benefit of others." We never seem to control them for ourselves. He used the analogy of getting, I think it was, $3 for a large stick of wood at his farmgate, and by the time it was processed there would probably be five to seven boards in that piece of wood.

[Page 7026]

One of those boards was coming back processed at $11, for one board, and he's giving the whole thing away for $3. It's history repeating itself.

Let's go back to the newspapers again, and we'll quote from here. "It's incredible that the government allows multinational companies to extract millions of litres of water per day from Nova Scotia, for just the price of the $117.15 licence. The companies bottle the water, sell it at a higher price than gasoline, and reap huge profits. Theriault wants the government to start charging royalties. It's long overdue, and the Tories know it." It's a great bill. That was from David Rodenhiser in the Daily News.

Mr. Speaker, anybody who thinks they can't change anything because of NAFTA, a very senior lawyer who's been around for a long time, pushing 80 years of age, maybe around the same age as myself according to the honourable members across the way, said that the British North America Act can overrule anything in NAFTA, and anybody who doesn't know that, in the lawyer profession, is not worth their salt. That was a quote that gentleman gave us just last night. As I said, I laughed when they put the water on sale down in Cape Breton and I couldn't believe anybody would be buying it and I was almost shocked when the minister said that 6 per cent of the water market is being sold. I, myself, now, every day when you have lunch, you buy a bottle of water. It was never thought of before.

It's a resource giveaway. That's the best way to put it, but we have to find a way that we can make money for our communities. We should benefit from our natural resources, not foreign ownership, not outside interests, not be giving it away. As I said in the beginning, here we are with history repeating itself.

I have to reiterate the number one fear for the people in Cape Breton and in my area in particular, is the fear of losing their water because of the proposed remedial mining or strip mining or surface mining as it's being called. We are going to sit back and allow companies to come in and take our water for free, then they're going to be taking our aggregate, gravel, whatever you want to call it, and taking that for free. I'm wondering, when are we going to stop the repetition of history repeating itself and create an industry for us. We have it all here, all we have to do is develop what we have. Rather than that, we'd rather give away what we have.

Mr. Speaker, I think I've said enough. With that, I feel I should conclude my remarks because - I should mention, before I sit down, the farmers down in Boularderie. The honourable minister mentioned that agriculture consumes 66 per cent of the water on a daily basis. There's a strong concern in the farming community down in Boularderie about the loss of water for their farms also. There's a young lady down there by the name of Rita Campbell who has a well that's only 30 feet deep and she services a tremendous amount of hothouse plants and perennials and young trees and shrubs. That's her livelihood, that's her business and is the sole source of income for her family and she has the same fear as the farmers.

[Page 7027]

So, having said all that, I would really hope that the honourable minister would take what we have said into consideration. There's only one thing I could say in conclusion, that it makes common sense and I urge the government to move this bill forward and to think of what Mr. Aikman said, why should we have our resources controlled by others for the benefit of others? Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

MR. GARY HINES: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise in the House and talk about something that's near and dear to most individuals. I can remember, as a small child back home in Hants County, my grandmother walking a mile and a half carrying a bucket of water when she had a pump in the house, because it was good water.

I also had the pleasure of working with the Centre for Water Resources Studies and watched the development of the well water industry in this province as a professional industry. I believe that the professionalism in that industry is a lead up to the direction we're taking as a government to protect our water sources and to make sure this country and this province have water that's fit for consumption.

My community of Fall River has terrible problems with quality as well as quantity in many of the subdivisions. I hear daily what it's like not to have good water. In fact, I have somewhere in the vicinity of $5,000 worth of treatment on my water to assure that I have good water so I like the suggestion coming forward from the Opposition. I agree with my minister that we have to make sure that in going forward we're doing our duty, we're doing what's best for the country, the citizens, our communities and my community of Fall River in looking after our water.

At the risk of being hasty, I would suggest we must study this more fully and make sure when we do come forward with legislation that we are doing what we have to do. Then I can look back on those years when I was a child . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please the time has expired.

[6:00 p.m.]

The honourable Government House Leader with tomorrow's hours.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the order of business in the House, following the daily routine and Question Period we will proceed into Committee of the Whole House on Supply and, following four hours in committee, we will then go into Public Bills for Second Reading and we will continue the adjourned debate on the Financial Measures (2005) Act. The House will sit tomorrow from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m.

[Page 7028]

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The subject of the adjournment debate was presented by the MLA for Kings North.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government's initiative in increased funding to the Nova Scotia Community College is one of the most important contributions to post-secondary education that any Nova Scotia Government has undertaken."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

NSCC - GOV'T. (N.S.): FUNDING INCREASE - IMPORTANCE

MR. MARK PARENT: Looking across the aisles at my honourable opponent, I have a feeling that I may be getting back today some of what I gave him yesterday but I know that what he has to say will always be worth listening to.

The resolution is that ". . . this government's initiative in increased funding . . .is one of the most important contributions to post-secondary education that any Nova Scotia Government has undertaken.", and I should really add since Robert Stanfield, the other Progressive Conservative Premier who instituted the community college system.

The reason why I brought this resolution forward is because I get tired of hearing critics talk about how our government has ignored post-secondary education. We hear that from time to time and it's simply not true. That is not true. We have made one of the biggest investments in post-secondary education that's been made in the history of this province, about $140 million for the Nova Scotia Community College system. Of that $140 million, I'm particularly proud of the $13.4 million, just shy of $14 million, that has gone to refurbish the Kingstec community college, the Nova Scotia Community College branch in Kentville, Nova Scotia.

The reason why this is so important, this investment in education and particularly this investment is when you look at the educational background of Nova Scotians, the vast proportion of Nova Scotians have less than a Grade 12 education. We know that to be true. On the other side, those who do go to post-secondary education, the vast majority go to university and only a small minority go to community college and the reason why this is problematic is twofold.

[Page 7029]

In the first instance, we know from statistics that the new economy that we're in, the new jobs that are being created demand post-secondary education. It's very, very clear that jobs for people who have less than a Grade 12 education are disappearing while jobs for people who have some form of post-secondary education are increasing.

I was listening to Gwynne Dyer who we help bring to the Northeastern Kings Education Centre every year. He usually speaks on foreign affairs, and on the situation in Iraq; this time he spoke about immigration and the changing job market in Canada. He wove these two themes together in a very interesting way which I won't have the time to repeat. He made the point that when he was young there were about 30,000 jobs in the clothing business, mainly clustered in Montreal paying minimal wages and that those jobs have all but disappeared. On the other hand, the broadcasting field, the media field has expanded to take on those jobs at a far larger rate of pay.

We know we're in this situation where you have to have more than a Grade 12 education, you need a post-secondary education. The other factor, as I said, for the minority who do go on to a post-secondary education, the majority go to university. This is out of keeping with statistics in other provinces where they have a far larger percentage of people who go to community college and a better balance, as it were.

The community college system has some advantages that are worth looking at. It tracks the job market better than the universities do and it also tends to graduate only as many people as can fit into the jobs that they're training them for. The other advantage of it, of course, and this is an advantage for people today, that community college education takes less time to go through. So you not only get in the job market faster, getting income back, but you also don't have to spend as much time accruing debts for your education on the way through.

So I think the government, in looking at putting a very significant investment in the community college made a very wise choice because our community college system was underfunded and in many senses, outdated. What we had was an opportunity to infuse a massive amount of money into the system, but more than that, through the leadership of Ray Ivany - who's retiring, but a wonderful visionary leader - to help learn from other jurisdictions across Canada and move our community college system forward so that we're not now behind the other systems. But in many ways our community college system is ahead of other jurisdictions in what it's doing and some of the innovative work that it's engaged in.

I mention Kingstec and I want to come back to Kingstec because Kingstec in Kentville received the largest infusion of cash of any of the community college locations outside of the metro Halifax area. This is important, Mr. Speaker, because originally the plan was to have one big community college in Halifax. We would have lost our community college system in Kentville. I protested that. I protested that strongly. I am very pleased that as a result of some of the arguments I made and many others as well, that Kingstec is not only alive but it's flourishing with this infusion of capital.

[Page 7030]

The outgoing president, Paul Goulden, took my colleague David Morse and myself on two tours of Kingstec Campus as the building has gone on to show us what has been going on. The second tour was very informative as Paul Goulden took us through. We went to see the new woodworking facilities, the carpentry facilities, the small-engine facilities, the large- engine facilities, and the plumbing facilities. The training opportunities that are available for these people with the new facilities at Kingstec are a quantum leap forward from what they had before.

I remember with the large engines, for example, if they had a truck they wanted to work on, they had to flatten the wheels of the truck in order to get it in so that they could work on it. In the carpentry field, they now have room to bring in and build mini-homes within the building during the Winter months. Mr. Speaker, with Paul Goulden leading us, we went and visited with each of the students, the professors, and the teachers in each of these four fields and also toured the new atrium, the commons area, and one of the most interesting things was the enthusiasm of the students for what they were doing and the fact that they were all looking forward - with very good reason - to getting a job once they graduated.

At the tail end, we asked one of the teachers in the large-engine part of Kingstec , can you tell us how the students are faring compared to say, 10 years ago - we just picked that as an arbitrary number - in terms of getting jobs? He said, it's incredible, 10 years ago when we educated students they would be lucky to get a job in their field. Now, he said, they can have their pick of jobs and we can't educate enough people to meet the demands of the job market.

So this infusion of cash into the community college system, it's a sort of a chicken-and-egg thing I guess, but it comes at a very important time when industry is crying out for the jobs that can be provided by the community college system and fortunately we've met that challenge.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to state again - I know I'll get opposition in terms that we perhaps need to do more on the university side, I'm not going to deny that - but in terms of post-secondary education, this support for the community college system is a very significant step forward. I know firsthand from Kingstec community college, how important it has been to the residents in my community and to students who come across the province to study at Kingstec. I want to thank you very much and as I've said, I'm sure the speaker across the way will perhaps get a few licks in at me, as I did at him yesterday, so thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member across the way, I won't be too tough on him, but rather he has probably been a bit negligent in not taking all of the important historical developments and really of just fairly recent times into account when we talk about this particular resolution,

[Page 7031]

"Therefore be it resolved that this government's initiative in increased funding to the Nova Scotia Community College is one of the most important contributions to post-secondary education that any Nova Scotia Government has undertaken."

Of course there's always the temptation there to move in the direction of post-secondary generally and look at the university situation that we're currently in. However, I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that while funding is an important contribution to the Nova Scotia Community College system, I would say that the creation of the present day Nova Scotia Community College system likewise deserves attention. I'm certainly pleased to comment on the fact that it was a Liberal Government that was responsible for the creation of the Nova Scotia Community College system of today. We know that that is an absolutely critical piece in the education of Nova Scotians, and a piece that is very important to the future of this province; in fact, in that regard, it does pose one of the biggest challenges as well.

As the member for Kings North pointed out, we do have a disproportionate number of students who go to university versus our community college. In fact, 17 per cent of our students going to community college, is one of the lowest, if not the lowest in the country on a percentage basis. So that is an enormous challenge. However, another very important part of the community college structure that a past Liberal Government brought in was legislation for self-governance. Self-governance legislation went a long way to ensuring that community colleges became actually more competitive and created better training opportunities to support economic development.

We know that it is one branch of education in this province that tries to parallel, and in some cases be out in front of where business, industry are moving. So making our community colleges more competitive and creating the better training opportunities was an important development. As well, a Liberal Government ensured that a central management structure for the community college was developed. The central structure that serves our post-secondary education system is in effect today, again, another important dimension.

Also, 13 new community college programs were introduced and curriculum was developed creating 57 new programming sections under a Liberal Government. So, it is important to keep a balance here, because I certainly recognize the fact that the dollars in recent years and re-developing and re-configuring the physical structures of our community college is a very necessary part of moving forward. One of the areas that I feel, again, a past Liberal Government had an important part in delivering to the community college system was distance education programming. Distance education programming, without question, is what I would consider one of the greatest benefits to rural Nova Scotia, to the whole province, so that you can stay in your home community and have the benefits of courses delivered at a local site.

Of course, years ago we know that our schools in particular were very key to being centres, because they had the investment already in technology and equipment to receive

[Page 7032]

those courses. Today we know that the on-line programming is really an outgrowth of this distance education. On a recent tour of the Middleton campus of the community college system, it was interesting to hear that now some of the programming, especially around the GED, the adult learning network, is able to be delivered to students at home who have applied or are anticipating going into one of the trades and one of the programs that is offered by the community college. So distance education then enables Nova Scotians to a quality education in their own communities and probably is a milestone that should not be forgotten and, in fact, it's one that we should obviously keep in mind as we move forward because it will continue to be a central piece of the community college system.

[6:15 p.m.]

Again, I would have to say another very important development in the community college system, that came forward under a Liberal Government, was an increase in sales of customized training through the college system. This marked the first time our education system reached out to employers of our province to address their needs and, again, I'm sure many members of this House would be aware of how this is impacting on their local community. In our area, Michelin, for example, has been a major player in partnering with the community college to deliver very specific courses that move beyond the skills required on the production line, to ones that are very technical for using the latest equipment for the manufacturer of tires.

One of the ones that I have talked about recently about reaching out to employers is with Larsen Packers and with other food manufacturers in the Annapolis Valley who would actually like to see the production of a production line course. They're finding now that students who have dropped out of school simply don't have the kind of skills for the workplace that are using more data processing, electronic monitoring, that need to take a manual to learn about bio-security, all those areas now that have entered into the food processing industry. So this is the kind of advance that has been made and that will also be a critical piece in the community college.

In my opinion, post-secondary education at our community colleges is an important part and, in fact, is the well-being of our province and in that regard I feel that this is one of what I would talk about as three challenges that face our community college. Certainly getting more students and I think dovetailing programs in our high schools because we have lost a lot of the old industrial courses in our schools, vocational oriented aptitude courses. So, I think building a new bridge of courses through our PSP, through our public school program, would help tailor and gear students towards some of the trades technology courses. I think that is an important challenge, to raise the percentage of Nova Scotia students getting a better education and moving into the modern workforce.

One of the areas that is really a growing concern, and I know as the Education Critic I heard in many parts of the province, was the absence or the lack of places to look after basic

[Page 7033]

trades. We all know that now in many professions, 50 years and 55 years of age is sort of the average age of a group of plumbers, carpenters, electricians, steamfitters and so on in some areas. I think the idea which has started is going to actually need to increase and that is by offering mobile courses. I believe maybe Amherst is one of the areas that has been targeted right now, I know Shelburne has such a course this year at their community college, and I think more of those kinds of initiatives will need to be made. The other one, of course, is obviously keeping the grads of the community college because they have some outstanding programs and keeping them here in the province. I did want to spend my last eight or nine seconds saying Mr. Ray Ivany, as the member opposite said, has done just a marvellous job in giving us a vision of where community college can take us in the future.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: In the run of a busy day you always look forward to the opportunity to be able to discuss such an important issue. I had the opportunity, I had it in my day book here, Wednesday, March 30th, 10:00 o'clock in the morning, I had the opportunity for a guess really the last time to sit down with Ray Ivany.

Mr. Ivany is a man who has shown exceptional leadership over the years in his contribution to the community college system in this province. He is going to be remembered for many, many years, in fact, many, many generations. On that day of March 30th the Leader of the Official Opposition and myself had a chance to again talk to Ray, if I can use a first name basis because he's that sort of guy that you feel very comfortable with him because of all the things he's done for Nova Scotia's young people and all the things that he plans in whatever his next career move is. It's a pleasure to have worked with Ray Ivany and seen the accomplishments that he has brought.

The members of the Third Party talk about what they did, reinventing the wheel, and then pointing to what this government is doing. Let's just talk about what's best for kids, what's best for young men and women. I want to tell you right now we have many things to be proud of in the community college system across this province. I think one of the key things is, as Mr. Ivany said to us that day was that it's a network, it's in places all around the province.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and I think you know from where I come based on a member of your family's profession, as teachers, you know that university is not for everyone. I will say this, you can go out and get a B.A. in History these days and they ain't worth a plug nickel. I have a B.A. in History. Let me tell you, not that you should just go get one as an old college football player, but you go and get yourself a career and when I was in that situation, I knew, when I went to university, I wanted to become a school teacher. That was one of my career goals. But now when you're principal of the school or guidance counsellor of a school and they come along and say, "What are you gonna do?" Take the old man's money, if I can use that expression, Dad's money, and I'll go off to university for a year to see whether I like

[Page 7034]

it or not. They'll stick around because they picked up a few courses, they made some friends. Lo and behold four years later they got a degree and nowhere to go because they haven't made the tough decisions for themselves of what they want as a career or as a job.

That's one of the biggest accomplishments that the people who are involved with the community colleges have got. They have it very quickly identified that these are the attainable goals, these are the outcomes, this is what you can expect from what you are going to learn in that period of time that you're registered in these course. I want to point out - and I know we have some young Pages here this evening, as they listen to my comments. You know, if they're university students and you end up with that B.A. in History and then look back and say "Oh my God, I'd better go back to community college and get a real career," because there are people like that in community colleges now.

There are people who have degrees, and how shall I say it with a B.A. in History, no real skills. Perhaps they couldn't get into a B.Ed school, perhaps they didn't get into what considered as a professional career, but they go back to community college. I will tell you from the experiences I have had, the success of community colleges in this province can be attributed directly to the instructors and to the teachers and to the people who are working there with these young men and young women. The huge majority of these instructors, they've been there, they've done it, and they can pounce on the skills because they can say to whoever is in there classes, "This is how you're going to do it on the job site, this is how you're going to do it in an office situation, this is how your going to present yourself professionally in the career you have ahead of you."

I know from personal experience that, I'm privileged to say I play on a number of old timers teams with people from the trades and one particular teammate of mine is a plumber. He can play over-50 hockey, so do the math, but let me tell you, young plumbers are really at a premium these days in terms of getting an apprentice and making sure you've got somebodies who's willing to come back and get involved in the system. Our trades, our electricians, our plumbers, our steamfitters - we need more, more, more young men and women going into these trades.

I point out to the Pages present that I'm mentioning young men here, but I want you to know that when you go to community college there is an exceptionally great range of courses that are applicable to both men and women. Some of the better plumbers - and I have one for my own home and Mrs. Boutilier if you're watching me tonight, I want you to know that our plumber is a woman and she knows an immense amount more about the sump pump in my home that worked, thankfully, last Sunday. This is the sort of job-oriented career-driven community college system that we have.

Let's pass a bouquet on to the instructors in these various campuses around the province. I've heard about Kingstec and I know it's well recognized. I know there are other areas, in Cumberland County in particular, there are other parts around the province, but one

[Page 7035]

of the greatest advantages of it is that for reasons of expenses, you do not have to travel to the University of Maine for an education degree. You don't have to travel to St. F. X., for example, to become a phys ed teacher. You can cut down on your expenses, in a very manageable way to be able to handle the fact that you are going to take a course of one or two years and that when you come out of that course you now have the opportunity to look at the career that you have ahead of you.

Unfortunately, as you are well aware, perhaps you might have to move to another part of the province or another part of the country with the trade or the skill that you have acquired. Not just in the IT industries, not just in the electronic specialty industries today, I can say this with some pride and I say it to the men in my community that I know who I know through other recreational activities. The absolute positive thing is to be able to recognize at the end of the day that you've accomplished something with your day. You can look back and say, I rebuilt that engine today. You can look back and say, we put up those roof trusses today. That's the sense of accomplishment that young men and women in whatever particular career they're in, they are valuable contributors to our province.

We went through a stage in the school system, let me tell you where if you didn't have a shirt and tie on, you weren't successful. After all, everybody had to have a crack at university. Let me tell you, I know and I've seen it happen when young men and women have come back and said, this isn't for me, this just isn't for me. I'm more interested in doing this particular career or that particular career. That comes with maturity, of course.

I had the opportunity this Winter and I know the member from the Liberal Party was there also to attend a conference in Truro at Cobequid Educational Centre, the 43rd high school in the province according to AIMS, but I know the Minister of Education knows we don't believe that - it is one of the best high schools in Nova Scotia. We attended a workshop on options and opportunities - the O2 system and it's an initiative that the public school system is going to get involved in. It's really modelled on the success of the community college system because there is no better connector with the community and the resources at hand than the community colleges across this province.

The O2 system will be - the O2 options and opportunities and the theme is on closing the gap, incidentally - will be very, very popular with teachers in the public school system because it's following the example of what has made our community colleges so successful. They connect, they connect with the stakeholders and the partners. They become part of the community and they listen to the people who know what really makes things tick in this province - the people who are out there working day in and day out making a living and contributing to the employment of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time during this discussion. Community colleges are an important part of this educational system. We have come very far very quickly under the leadership of Ray Ivany. I compliment him, I wish him the best in future endeavours and

[Page 7036]

I do compliment the government for recognizing community colleges as an integral part of the school system and the professional training of young men and women in our province. Thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: I'd like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this very important debate this evening.

We are adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]

[Page 7037]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3657

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Eureka Fire Department recently held their annual banquet and awards evening; and

Whereas President Heather Manning and the Eureka Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary made a $4,000 donation to Chief Bill Holley and the department; and

Whereas firefighter Bill MacKay was honoured for his 25 years of service to the department, while ladies auxiliary member Jean Horton was recognized for her 25 years of service as was Donna Cameron and Charlene MacKay for their 20 years of service to the ladies auxiliary;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Nova Scotia Legislature recognize the tremendous contribution put forth by members of the Eureka Volunteer Fire Department and Ladies Auxiliary, while acknowledging the significant cost savings to all taxpayers in the Eureka Fire Department's coverage area, for the dedicated work of these volunteers.

RESOLUTION NO. 3658

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Elmer and Margaret Ling of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia were paid tribute to by the district board of trade at a dinner on March 11, 2005; and

Whereas Elmer and Margaret were honoured at the organization's Parrsboro Citizens of the Year banquet at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 45 hall in Parrsboro; and

Whereas the couple have been active volunteers in numerous organizations in their community for more than 35 years and both have been recognized in the past for the volunteerism;

[Page 7038]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Elmer and Margaret Ling on this outstanding award and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 3659

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Ryan Lockhart from Springhill, Nova Scotia has given the world of motocross something to talk about; and

Whereas a pair of runs in the THQ World Supercross Grand Prix circuit last month rose Lockhart's position in the Pro Class world and on the public's radar; and

Whereas Ryan's third place finish in Toronto and fifth place finish in Vancouver made Lockhart the highest ranked Canadian in the challenge while Ryan will be travelling from B.C. to Florida in February to race in Daytona;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ryan Lockhart on these outstanding achievements and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 3660

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Christie McClelland, a Grade 12 student at Oxford Regional High School, is a winner in the annual Resource Recovery Fund Board and Northern Region Inter-municipal Waste Management Committee Nova Scotia Recycles Contest; and

Whereas Christie was the runner-up in the Grade 12 category in the northern region, including Cumberland, Colchester and the district of East Hants, where she received a $500 scholarship; and

Whereas the contest is a chance to celebrate the role Nova Scotia youth have played in making this province a recognized leader in waste management;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Christie McClelland on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

[Page 7039]

RESOLUTION NO. 3661

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Masters Forestry Ltd. is the latest recipient of the prestigious Kevin Corkum Safety Award; and

Whereas this award, in memory of Kevin Corkum, who lost his life in a forestry-related accident over 20 years ago, is presented to a company, association, committee, employer or employee who has made a significant contribution that is worthy of recognition in promoting or establishing improved safety for the workers of any segment of the forest industry in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Masters Forestry Ltd. promotes safety with the utmost importance and the company's safety record has earned it this prestigious award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Masters Forestry Ltd. on receiving this outstanding award and wish them continued safety and success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 3662

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Marilyn Maddison has been recognized by the Kidney Foundation of Canada for her volunteer commitment; and

Whereas Marilyn received the award when Nova Scotia Chapter President Jim Irvine came to the Springhill and Oxford area chapter's meeting in February 2005; and

Whereas Marilyn became involved with the Kidney Foundation in 1991 when its Springhill presence was leading to extinction after which the Springhill chapter bonded with the Oxford chapter, as well as surrounding areas, leading to the growth of the foundation;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Marilyn Maddison on this outstanding award and wish her continued success in the future.