Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03/04/05-96

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

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 8567
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rpts. of the Cumberland Health Authority; N.S. Health Research Fdn.,
Collaboration and Partnership; Pictou Co. Health Auth.; IWK
Health Ctr. Rpt. to the Community, Building Better Care
Hon. A. MacIsaac (By Hon. J. Muir) 8568
GOVERNMENT NOTICE OF MOTION:
Res. 4684, Educ.: Science & Technology - Importance,
Hon. J. Muir 8569
Vote - Affirmative 8569
Res. 4685, Webb, Rev. John: Death of - Tribute,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8569
Vote - Affirmative 8570
Res. 4686, Meek, Eric: Atl. Agric. Hall of Fame - Induction,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 8570
Vote - Affirmative 8571
Res. 4687, Econ. Dev. - Small Enterprises Operators - Work:
Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 8571
Vote - Affirmative 8572
Res. 4688, Goldbloom, Dr. Richard: IWK Pavilion - Dedication,
The Premier (By Hon. J. Muir) 8572
Vote - Affirmative 8573
Res. 4689, Breast Cancer Awareness Mo. (10/05) - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac (By Hon. E. Fage) 8573
Vote - Affirmative 8573
Res. 4690, Waste Reduction Wk. (10/17-10/23/05) - Celebrate,
Hon. K. Morash 8574
Vote - Affirmative 8574
Res. 4691, TCH - Acadia Deportation: Significance - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8575
Vote - Affirmative 8575
Res. 4692, Crosby, Sidney/Penguins: Success - Wish,
The Premier 8575
Vote - Affirmative 8576
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 253, Unsafe Products Act
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8576
No. 254, Motor Vehicle Act
Hon. R. Russell 8576
No. 255, Train Station Inn Cabooses Act
Mr. W. Langille 8576
No. 256, Municipal Government Act
Hon. B. Barnet 8576
No. 257, Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act
Hon. C. d'Entremont 8576
No. 258, Building Code Act
Hon. K. Morash 8577
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4693, Hamilton College: Innovative Progs. - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter (By Mr. K. Deveaux) 8577
Vote - Affirmative 8578
Res. 4694, Nat. Res. - Action Plan: Min. - Peruse,
Mr. L. Glavine 8578
Res. 4695, Beaver Bank - Kinsac - Lions Club: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Hines 8579
Vote - Affirmative 8579
Res. 4696, Leahey, Dr. Shelagh: S.W. Nova Dist. Health - Physician
Recruitment, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8580
Vote - Affirmative 8580
Res. 4697, Vol. FDs - Recognize/Applaud,
Mr. H. Theriault 8580
Vote - Affirmative 8581
Res. 4698, Port Morien: Hist. Preservation - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8581
Vote - Affirmative 8582
Res. 4699, Stewart, Doug: Entrepreneurial Spirit - Commend,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 8582
Vote - Affirmative 8583
Res. 4700, Hamilton, Jim: N.S. Country Music Hall of Fame - Induction,
Mr. J. MacDonell 8583
Vote - Affirmative 8583
Res. 4701, Health: Autism - Awareness, Mr. S. McNeil 8584
Vote - Affirmative 8584
Res. 4702, Keiran Pathways Soc.: Efforts - Recognize,
Mr. M. Parent 8584
Vote - Affirmative 8585
Res. 4703, Environ. & Lbr.: Dart. Crossing Proj. - Environmental
Assessment, Ms. J. Massey 8585
Res. 4704, Nat'l. Public Libraries Wk. (10/17 - 10/23/05) - Recognize,
Ms. D. Whalen 8586
Vote - Affirmative 8587
Res. 4705, 4-H Show: Guysborough Co. Club - Award,
Mr. R. Chisholm 8587
Vote - Affirmative 8587
Res. 4706, Moore, Justin - Athletic Performance,
Mr. J. Pye 8588
Vote - Affirmative 8588
Res. 4707, TPW - Hwy. No. 101 (Digby-Weymouth): Environ.
Assessment - Finalize, Mr. H. Theriault 8588
Res. 4708, Year of the Veteran: Veterans - Acknowledge,
Mr. G. Gosse 8589
Vote - Affirmative 8590
Res. 4709, TPW: Prospect Bay Rd. - Upgrade,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8590
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 996, Health - Mental Health Services: Wait Times - Tracking,
Mr. D. Dexter 8592
No. 997, Justice: Policing Plan - Details, Mr. Manning MacDonald 8593
No. 998, Health: Mental Health Beds - Commun. Placement,
Mr. D. Dexter 8594
No. 999, Environ. & Lbr.: Needle Stick Injuries - Cost,
Mr. S. McNeil 8596
No. 1000, Environ. & Lbr.: Enfield Big Stop - Sewage Treatment,
Mr. J. MacDonell 8597
No. 1001, Health Prom.: Internet Gambling - Issues,
Mr. J. Pye 8598
No. 1002, Environ. & Lbr. - Environ. Contamination: TPW/Nat.Res. -
Policies Discuss, Mr. L. Glavine 8600
No. 1003, Health: Flu Pandemic - Preparedness,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 8601
No. 1004, Econ. Dev. - Fuel Costs: Sm. Bus. - Effects,
Mr. H. Epstein 8602
No. 1005, Educ. - Univ. Educ.: Single Mothers - Assist
Ms. D. Whalen 8604
No. 1006, Immigration - Kamara Case: Min. Advocacy - Refusal Explain,
Mr. K. Deveaux 8605
No. 1007, Health: North of Smokey - Ambulance Service,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 8607
No. 1008, Health Cobequid Commun. Health Ctr. - Operational Status,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 8608
No. 1009, Educ. - Standardized Tests: Results - Release,
Ms. D. Whalen 8610
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 230, Housing Development Corporation Act^ ^ 8612
Mr. G. Gosse 8612
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8613
Mr. G. Steele 8618
Ms. M. Raymond 8625
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 8626
Mr. L. Glavine 8643
Mr. J. Pye 8645
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 8651
Ms. Joan Massey 8655
Mr. R. Russell 8658
Vote - Affirmative 8659
No. 232, The Optometry Act 8659
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8659
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 8659
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 8661
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8662
Vote - Affirmative 8662
No. 235, Dispensing Opticians Act 8662
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8662
Mr. H. Epstein 8663
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 8665
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8666
Vote - Affirmative 8666
No. 236, Small Claims Court Act 8666
Hon. R. Russell 8666
Mr. K. Deveaux 8666
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8668
Mr. G. Steele 8669
Hon. R. Russell 8673
Vote - Affirmative 8674
No. 241 - Commercial Mediation Act 8674
Hon. R. Russell 8674
Mr. K. Deveaux 8674
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8675
Hon. R. Russell 8676
Vote - Affirmative 8676
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
TPW: Hwy. 113 - Plans/Timelines:
Mr. G. Steele 8677
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8678
Ms. D. Whalen 8680
Hon. B. Barnet 8683
Hon. R. Russell 8684
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 21st at 9:00 a.m. 8686
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 4710, Hawkins, George: Death of - Tribute,
Ms. D. Whalen 8687
Res. 4711, TPW - Dist. 13 Councillor: Concerns - Investigate,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8687
Res. 4712, McLellan, Julie - Miss Cumberland Pageant,
The Speaker 8688
Res. 4713, Bradbury, Jenna - Parrsboro Lady Warriors Slo-Pitch Title,
The Speaker 8688
Res. 4714, Nick Nameless Group - Musical Achievement,
The Speaker 8689
Res. 4715, Mitchell - Smith, Carla: Springhill HS Principal - Appt.,
The Speaker 8689
Res. 4716, MacLeod, Lawson - Basketball Award,
The Speaker 8690
Res. 4717, MacLean, Kathy - Excellence in Teaching Award,
The Speaker 8690
Res. 4718, Chute, Esther: Commun. Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Glavine 8691

[Page 8567]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2005

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. J. DeWolfe, Mr. Charles Parker, Ms. Diana Whalen

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine we have an introduction.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, to you and to the House, I am very pleased to introduce some very special people today. We have 34 students from the Eastern Shore District High School. They are here to watch the proceedings of the House and to enjoy our wonderful city. Also, I would like to introduce their teacher, Jennifer Lilly - if you would please stand - Annette Newton, my assistant in the caucus office, and her son, Adam, Ms. Brinkhurst and Ms. Lorette; also, there is a young gentleman aspiring to be a politician who said he is going to take my job someday.

We welcome you all and hope you enjoy the proceedings of the House. Have a wonderful time in Halifax, and I just want to let you know I appreciate you all. Thank you. (Applause)

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

8567

[Page 8568]

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's on an introduction.

MS. JUDY STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, I would ask all members of the House to please recognize a very special guest we have with us today in the Speaker's Gallery, Mr. Peter Van Loan, Member of Parliament for York-Simcoe. Peter is the Conservative Critic for Human Resources and Skills Development, a former president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and a former president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

I would ask all members of the House to give a warm welcome to our honourable federal counterpart. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth North:

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Transportation and Public Works clearly inform the public of its future plans, including timelines, for Highway 113.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Health, I beg leave to table four reports. The first is the 2004-2005 Annual Report for the Cumberland Health Authority; the 2004-05 Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Collaboration and Partnership; the 2005 Annual Report of the Pictou County Health Authority; and the 2004-2005 IWK Health Centre Report to the Community, Building Better Care.

MR. SPEAKER: The reports are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 8569]

RESOLUTION NO. 4684

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

Whereas students are celebrating Science and Technology Week this week; and

Whereas the study of science and technology in our schools will open doors to exciting and rewarding careers for many of our students; and

Whereas the province and school boards are taking steps to promote science and technology in the classroom, including increasing professional development for science teachers and developing new computer programming, advanced chemistry and physics courses, as well as a variety of other science and technology initiatives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the importance of science and technology in our world and in our classrooms.

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.

[12:15 p.m.]

The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

RESOLUTION NO. 4685

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

Whereas Order of Canada recipient Rev. John Webb passed away on Saturday; and

[Page 8570]

Whereas this humble priest spent his life in service to God and his community, finding a calling - following work with inmates of a Sydney jail - to assist those with alcohol addictions; and

Whereas in 1959, he founded Talbot House, a halfway house for men in Frenchvale, and in 1976, he founded a second house in Boisdale known as Gillis House;

Therefore be it resolved that all members salute the life and work of Rev. John Webb who, while his life on Earth has ended, has ensured that through his work that his legacy of helping others will endure.

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. 4686

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 Mr. Eric Meek of Canning has been involved in bettering the agriculture industry and his community for many years while operating L.B. Meek and Son; and

Whereas Eric has held many leadership positions, including President of the Kings County Federation of Agriculture, Chairman of the Nova Scotia Chicken Marketing Board, Chairman of the Canadian Broiler Council, and President of ACA Co-operative Board of Directors; and

Whereas in 2004, Eric was recognized as one of the top 50 most influential people in the Canadian poultry industry by the Canadian Poultry Magazine;

[Page 8571]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Mr. Meek, and congratulate him on his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 4687

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

Whereas national Small Business Week and National Co-operatives Week, October 16th to 22nd, pays tribute to entrepreneurs who own and operate small- and medium-sized businesses; and

Whereas numerous business events are being hosted across the province this week by regional development authorities, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, co-operatives, and many other private and public organizations; and

Whereas the province supports the work of these organizations so they, in turn, can provide Nova Scotia's entrepreneurs with programs and services that help entrepreneurs and businesses prosper in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the hard work, productivity and success of the thousands of Nova Scotians who operate small enterprises, and applaud the organizations that work to support them.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 8572]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 4688

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

Whereas on October 19th the IWK Health Centre honoured one of Nova Scotia's most esteemed paediatricians and volunteers, Dr. Richard B. Goldbloom, by dedicating its Research and Clinical Care Pavilion in his name; and

Whereas it is such an appropriate way to honour his enduring contributions to this beloved regional institution which serves women and children, as he has contributed so much as a paediatrician and championed clinical care and research excellence; and

Whereas Dr. Goldbloom was there in the 1960s as the new IWK Children's Hospital was created and has even passed along to both his son and granddaughter a desire to care for children and families as physicians in the field of paediatrics;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate Dr. Richard Goldbloom on this tremendous honour to his lifelong commitment to serving others and thank him for, as the IWK so rightly noted, a legacy of leadership individual researchers continue to build upon.

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 8573]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 4689

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

Whereas breast cancer is a serious disease that affects the lives of thousands of women across Nova Scotia and Canada; and

Whereas almost 700 Nova Scotians are diagnosed each year; and

Whereas regular screening leads to early detection which in turn leads to significant improvements in survival and outcome;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House take the opportunity to recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and thank those individuals who are committed to creating a future without breast cancer.

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.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make an introduction if I may. The honourable members here today all received reusable Halloween treat bags this afternoon and I'd like to introduce the people who are responsible for bringing them in to us. This is the second year that Clean Nova Scotia is running a reusable Halloween treat bag campaign through Nova Scotia elementary schools and it's designed to reach out to students with a practical message about reducing waste. Clean Nova Scotia is distributing 1,500 bags to students across the province, bags with the theme of Magically Waste Free. Students are

[Page 8574]

encouraged to think of ways to use the bag throughout the year, such as for carrying books and lunches and toys and so on.

Joining us in the gallery today are Donald Dodge, Clean Nova Scotia Acting Executive Director and Kari Riddell, the Community and Special Events Officer. They've moved on me, they're in the Speaker's Gallery. So I would ask the House to give them a warm round of applause and thank them for their contributions. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 4690

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

Whereas since we launched our Solid Waste Resource Management Strategy in 1995, Nova Scotia has earned an international reputation as a leader in reducing, reusing, recycling and composting; and

Whereas indicators of this success include more than 1.7 billion beverage containers, six million tires, and 605,000 litres of paint recycled since this strategy began; and

Whereas this success was achieved through the partnership of government, industry, associations and individual Nova Scotians who each have a role to play in a clean and healthy environment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join Nova Scotians in celebrating this success during Waste Reduction Week from October 17th to October 23rd and renew their commitment to the environment, because Nova Scotia is too good to waste.

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 Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

[Page 8575]

RESOLUTION NO. 4691

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

Whereas October 8th is a significant date in the story of the Acadian deportation, marking the day in 1755 when British vessels sailed from Grand Pré carrying into exile the community of Acadian French who had lived there for three generations; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Archives has marked this anniversary with the launch of a new Internet resource - Acadian Heartland: Records of the Deportation, 1714-1768; and

Whereas this new resource provides Acadian descendants everywhere with access to a defining event in their history and emphasizes the rich diversity which Acadians bring to the Province of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the Acadian deportation as a significant event in the history of our province and support the work of the Nova Scotia Archives in preserving and promoting our Acadian heritage and culture.

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 4692

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 Cole Harbour's Sidney Crosby currently leads the Pittsburgh Penguins in scoring after six regular season games, having totalled nine points on two goals and seven assists despite the fact the Penguins have yet to win a game, losing two in regulation time and four others in overtime; and

[Page 8576]

Whereas as reported in Sports Illustrated by esteemed Canadian hockey writer Michael Farber, there were 11 television stations, 11 newspapers and even more radio stations and networks in attendance when the Penguins opened training camp, not to see Mario Lemieux, but to interview Sidney Crosby; and

Whereas Crosby is leading the National Hockey League to new heights with such appearances as the one in early August on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House recognize what Sidney Crosby is contributing to Nova Scotia and wish him and the Penguins great success in 2005-06.

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. 253 - Entitled an Act to Regulate the Use of Unsafe Products in Public Places in Nova Scotia. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

Bill No. 254 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Hon. Ronald Russell)

Bill No. 255 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 14 of the Acts of 1995. The Train Station Inn Cabooses Act. (Mr. William Langille)

Bill No. 256 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998. The Municipal Government Act. (Hon. Barry Barnet)

Bill No. 257 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 25 of the Acts of 1996. The Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act. (Hon. Christopher d'Entremont)

[Page 8577]

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

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make an introduction along with this bill. Up in the Speaker's Gallery today, we have with us Mr. Ted Ross, who is the Building Code Coordinator for the Public Safety Division, and along with him are Mr. Rob McLaren, member of the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee. Mr. McLaren is a vice-president and principal architect of WHW Architects, and along with him is Jack Leedham and he is the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Building Officials Association. I would ask if they would stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause) They have been instrumental in the preparation of this.

Bill No. 258 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 46 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Building Code Act. (Hon. Kerry Morash)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 4693

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

Whereas Lambton College of Applied Arts and Technology in Sarnia, Ontario, has introduced a three-year program in Alternative Energy Engineering Technology; and

Whereas this program will provide students with skills in current and emerging energy technologies; and

Whereas a key objective of the Province of Nova Scotia's energy plan is to promote the development of innovative technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gases;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lambton College on its innovative approach to education in new technologies, and encourage this government to explore options to introduce a similar program in the Nova Scotia post-secondary education system.

[Page 8578]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4694

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

Whereas PowerPoint presentations are often used as a very efficient tool to convey a message and are successful because of all the special features included, such as pretty pictures and colourful backgrounds; and

Whereas when a PowerPoint presentation is successful, the audience may in fact become distracted and not notice glaring gaps in the information because they can't see past the pretty pictures; and

Whereas during yesterday's Question Period the Minister of Natural Resources, when asked about his government's plan on ATVs, stated that the members of the Opposition Parties should come to see a PowerPoint on the action plan for ATVs, as though that would be the key to understanding his plan;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly urge the Minister of Natural Resources to take a look at his department's actual action plan, and not just the PowerPoint slide show, so that he, too, may finally be able to understand his plan, and perhaps then he will see the same timid response and gaping holes as the rest of Nova Scotia sees.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 8579]

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4695

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

Whereas the founding meeting of the Beaver Bank-Kinsac Lions Club took place on March 16th of this year; and

Whereas the founding meeting came about after David Merrigan, a long-time Lions Club member in Sackville, asked Laurie Campbell and Wade Aalders if they believed a new Lions Club for Beaver Bank-Kinsac would be beneficial; and

Whereas both Laurie and Wade agreed and, as a result, the new club's official charter night is taking place this Saturday evening at 40 Sandy Lake Road in Beaver Bank at their new clubhouse, which has undergone extensive renovations this Spring;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in the House of Assembly applaud the tremendous community spirit shown by Laurie, David, Wade and other club members in getting the new Beaver Bank-Kinsac Lions Club up and running, and for wanting to assist their community in any way they can.

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 Needham.

[Page 8580]

RESOLUTION NO. 4696

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

Whereas the Ocean View Family Practice in Yarmouth will open in February to assist international medical school graduates obtain their licence to practise medicine in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Dr. Shelagh Leahey has agreed to be a mentor to three family physicians, with plans to expand the clinic with a nurse practitioner, and create a link with the Dalhousie University Residency Program; and

Whereas the community of Yarmouth has been a leader and innovator in attempting to overcome physician recruitment and retention issues;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank Dr. Leahey, and congratulate the South West Nova District Health Authority on their creative approach to physician recruitment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4697

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

Whereas Fire Prevention Week, October 8th to 15th, in Nova Scotia was a reminder to all of us of the dangers associated with unsafe practices in our homes and communities that can lead to devastation by fire; and

[Page 8581]

Whereas our communities are blessed with a number of dedicated and committed individuals who selflessly give of their time and energy to actively participate in our volunteer fire departments; and

Whereas we all owe a great deal to our volunteer fire departments who, through their hard work, bravery and dedication, are making our communities a safer place to live;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and applaud our volunteer fire departments and the tireless efforts of these community-minded individuals who make this vital service possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4698

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

Whereas on July 28, 2005, Morien Memories celebrations were held in the fishing Village of Port Morien, Cape Breton Island, followed by an annual fair on September 17, 2005; and

Whereas dozens of Morienites returned from away to gather with many people who have worked effortlessly to maintain awareness of the community's history and culture, reflected in numerous books on the area, and by honouring its older citizens through special events; and

Whereas the Village of Port Morien is best depicted in a book of poems by Leah Matheson entitled Memories of Morien;

[Page 8582]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the community in its efforts to preserve the history of the Village of Port Morien, for honouring its citizens, and for coming together when the spirit moves them.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 4699

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

Whereas it certainly wasn't easy, but Doug Stewart from Cape Sable Island recently opened a new business, South Shore Guns and Gear; and

Whereas the 28-year-old man decided upon opening such a business based on his love of hunting and gun repair; and

Whereas Mr. Stewart, who also is employed as a lobster fisherman, says he is going to grow his business slowly;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in the House of Assembly commend Doug Stewart from Cape Sable Island, Shelburne County on his entrepreneurial spirit and wish him every success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8583]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4700

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

Whereas music is universally central to our entertainment; and

Whereas presenting music for the public's enjoyment is often done by dedicated music fans who labour in relative obscurity compared to the acts onstage; and

Whereas Mr. Jim Hamilton of Nine Mile River was inducted into the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame on August 18, 2005, at the Hank Snow Tribute, for his work building and promoting country music in this province over the last 40 years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Jim Hamilton on his induction into the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame and wish him well at all future jamborees.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 8584]

RESOLUTION NO. 4701

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

Whereas October is National Autism Awareness Month, a time designated to help familiarize all of us with autism, and how we can help; and

Whereas children with autism have proven that they can far exceed expectations with the proper support and guidance; and

Whereas the Cape Breton University is holding an all-year-long promotion about awareness of autism, which is called The Best Buddy's Program, as it pairs students and people with special needs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly take this opportunity to learn more about autism and help promote the facts and details about this disorder, and commend the efforts made by the students of the Cape Breton University.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4702

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

Whereas Keiran Pathways Society of Kings County is looking to build a cycling train across Kings County using old CP railbeds; and

[Page 8585]

Whereas the first step not only for trail purposes but also for safety purposes, which I support wholeheartedly, is the construction of a bike path along Highway No. 358 between Greenwich and Port Williams; and

Whereas the Keiran Pathways Society was formed in the past year following the death of a well-known Kings County cyclist, Keiran O'Malley, a staunch advocate of active lifestyles, who used his bicycle as his primary means of transportation;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the House recognize the significant efforts being made by so many Nova Scotians such as the Keiran Pathways Society in wanting to create a healthier population.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4703

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

Whereas from the very beginning residents of Dartmouth warned that the Dartmouth Crossing Project would have a negative effect on Shubie Park, the canal and the two lakes which the canal connects; and

Whereas a request for a proper environmental assessment of the area was ignored; and

Whereas we now have witnessed with our own eyes the ongoing crisis facing our park, our canal and our lakes due to this government's inability to listen to their own citizens;

[Page 8586]

Therefore be it resolved that since all preventive measures which have been put in place to deal with siltation of our canals and lakes have failed, the Minister of Environment and Labour admit that he should have ordered a Class II environmental assessment in the first place.

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 Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 4704

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

Whereas a strong public library is one of the cornerstones of a vibrant community; and

Whereas October 17th to 23rd is National Public Libraries Week in Canada which recognizes the important contribution public libraries make to education and literacy; and

Whereas librarians and devoted volunteers work hard to promote literacy and learning here in Nova Scotia so that children as well as adults have access to numerous forms of information;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly recognize this week and acknowledge the librarians, staff and volunteers who operate our public libraries and applaud their efforts in supporting literacy here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8587]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 4705

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 Nova Scotia 4-H Show was held September 30th to October 2nd in Truro, showcasing 4-H members and their projects from across the province by competing for top honours in livestock, homemaking, horticulture and tug-of-war competitions, just to name a few; and

Whereas the three-day event was hosted and organized by the Eastern 4-H Region, including Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties under the capable leadership of show chair and Guysborough 4-H leader Ralph MacDonald; and

Whereas 4-H members from Guysborough County had a great weekend and earned the distinction of achieving top county honours during the show's closing ceremonies, the first time in the 28-year history of the show;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 4-H members from Guysborough County for their success, thank Ralph MacDonald and his committee for their tireless volunteer efforts, and salute all 4-H members in Nova Scotia for showcasing the 4-H experience and proving that they will be our agricultural leaders of tomorrow.

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 8588]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4706

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

Whereas the Canada Games provide a positive environment that offers fulfilment, cultivates new friendships and fosters leadership through development in sports; and

Whereas competitive sports bring out the best in athletic achievement, both individually or as a team; and

Whereas in this competitive environment of athletics, success is achieved through passion and commitment to the sport and Justin Moore proved this by winning the bronze as a member of the men's rugby team;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly show their appreciation for Justin Moore's outstanding athletic performance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4707

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

Whereas the portion of Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth has been ongoing for 30 years and has yet to be upgraded to a 100-Series controlled access standard; and

[Page 8589]

Whereas current traffic volumes on this section of highway range from 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles per day; and

Whereas the Canadian Automobile Association says the fatality rate on Highway No. 101 is eight times the national average, and 120 people have been killed on this highway in the last 15 years, including the stretch between Weymouth and Digby;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly demand that government finalize the environmental assessment on Highway No. 101 and start to build a single Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber, I would ask the members to take their conversation outside. The Clerks can't hear when resolutions are being read.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 4708

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

Whereas on September 16, 2003, at the Whitney Pier Branch 128 Royal Canadian Legion, a candlelight service commemorating the Year of the Veteran was held; and

Whereas in 2005, the Year of the Veteran is of special significance, as it marks the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War; and

Whereas in this year, the Year of the Veteran, we ask all Canadians to surrender their time and volunteer their hearts throughout this year, to fully remember the years of sacrifice;

[Page 8590]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly acknowledge, in this, the Year of the Veteran, our war service veterans and veterans of the Canadian Forces for their service and dedication beyond the call of duty.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 4709

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

Whereas the Village of Prospect continues to attract visitors to this historic community; and

Whereas the residents along the Prospect Bay Road have repeatedly brought the condition of this road to government's attention; and

Whereas the Prospect Bay Road from Brennan's Road to the Village of Prospect requires an immediate upgrade;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Transportation commit to ensure that the Prospect Bay Road receives an upgrade and new pavement.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I stand on a point of privilege. There's a custom in this House, and as far as I understand, customs do have some weight. The custom is that we are notified in advance of the absence of ministers so that at Question Period - there's a right of the Opposition to hold the government accountable. It's one of the

[Page 8591]

fundamental democratic rights in our country, in our Westminster system, and it's one that can only work if we can ensure that when we have questions, when we want to hold those ministers accountable, that the minister is here, or as a courtesy for custom purposes, that we're notified in advance so that we can all plan ahead.

Mr. Speaker, that hasn't occurred today. It's a concern I have. The government in the past has been good in some ways at this, but today it's of particular concern and it's one that I bring as a point of privilege, that the rights of the members in our caucus, and I would argue and all the Opposition, have been infringed. I would ask that you, as the Speaker, look into this as a means of ensuring that this custom is being adhered to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as House Leader on the government side, I wish to apologize for the fact that the honourable Opposition House Leader and the House Leader for the Liberal Party did not receive a notification today of the absence of a certain minister. This should not have happened but, unfortunately, in the course of events, unforeseen circumstances arise that do cause these things to sometimes go astray. However, I will impress upon all ministers that they should provide to the Opposition House Leaders as well as their Critics, notice of their absences, and certainly it should be done with adequate notice so that they can make whatever adjustments they have to make to their questions. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If there are no further interventions, members will recall that this has been brought before the House on a couple of occasions in the past, and at the time there was an agreement that it may not be in the Rules and it may not be a point of privilege at this point, but certainly there was an agreement that all members, particularly ministers, I guess, would notify the House, particularly on Question Period day. There is a section in our Rules that talks about members, not ministers, but members being absent from the House and the Speaker being notified. So I would appreciate as well that all members, not just ministers, all members who are going to be absent from the House on a particular day notify the Speaker's Office, because the Rules do talk about members being absent from the House.

Is it agreed?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: It is agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

[Page 8592]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:50 p.m. and end at 1:50 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES: WAIT TIMES - TRACKING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Premier. In May, we reported that over 500 people were waiting for mental health assessment at the Abbie Lane. Since then, Capital Health has changed the way that mental health wait times are tracked, to artificially lower the numbers. What they do is give patients an appointment months down the road and then they remove them from the wait list. It would be clever if it wasn't deplorable. So my question to the Premier is this, did the government pressure the department to sugarcoat wait times for mental health services?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the issue of wait times is indeed timely. Indeed, the Minister of Health is off at a federal-provincial conference to talk about that very thing in five areas. I want to tell the honourable member that I am informed that Commissioner Romanow, former Commissioner Romanow, is in town today and he was talking about wait lists. He had very strong words of praise for the Department of Health and their initiative of posting wait times on the Web.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the issue here is the government's attempt to try to change the way that wait times are measured rather than actually doing anything about the wait times. I am going to table an e-mail obtained through freedom of information and from a mental health staff member who describes the feelings of the wait list management committee: We think that booking patients in advance tends to create problems without reducing the wait lists although it may give others the appearance of reduced wait lists, it often means rebooking patients due to unexpected urgent patients or due to unexpected changes in staff availability. So my question again to the Premier is, what is he so afraid of that he had the wait list management system changed?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we do know that wait times are a concern for all Canadians, and his colleague raised the issue of the Fraser Institute wait time benchmarks that were published here a little while ago. As the minister explained during that period of time, exactly how you benchmark wait times is of concern and, indeed, to try to get a pan-

[Page 8593]

Canadian perspective on benchmarks for wait times, the minister currently is some place in this country meeting with his federal-provincial colleagues to try to deal with that issue.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the acting minister doesn't seem to get it. This is what amounts to subterfuge. The total patients on the wait list at the Abbie Lane outpatient clinic in August was still 448 people. More than half of them were not expected to receive an appointment within the standard of 90 days. The rest already had an appointment, but they still wait months before actually coming face to face with a health professional. So my question for the Premier is, when will his government stop trying to cover up the wait times and actually put the resources in to address them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has been proactive. We now have certain wait times posted on-line which will be of interest to Nova Scotians and will help them in their selection of a treatment path.

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

JUSTICE: POLICING PLAN - DETAILS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today my question will be to the Minister of Justice. In the last Spring session, the Minister of Justice told this House, "The most effective means of monitoring house arrest, in many ways, is the people in the neighbourhood, because no monitoring program can be there 24 hours a day. What is most effective most time is neighbours." I will table that quote.

Mr. Speaker, that's how out of touch the minister is regarding rising crime and the lack of enforcement resources. Back in August, the Halifax Police Department instituted a program called Operation Breach to stem the rise of robberies, break-ins and muggings. We've talked to individual police officers across this province, and the bottom line is we don't have enough resources to enforce the laws. My question to the minister is, is there a plan to create and implement a policing plan and provide additional resources for police in Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the honourable member's reference to my earlier remarks in the House, because I stand by them. House arrest, or conditional sentences as they are known, are sentences that are passed out by the courts under the laws as passed by the Parliament of Canada. We cannot do anything about the fact that conditional sentences exist. What we can do is provide the most effective means we are able to ensure compliance with those orders. That is why, yesterday, the government indicated that we were going to be bringing in the GPS-monitored bracelets, we are working with police agencies to coordinate the surveillance of people on house arrest, and the people who live in a community have a responsibility to assist the police in the enforcement of their duties.

[Page 8594]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's going to take a real effort to fight crime, not a series of pilot projects that go nowhere, like Operation Shadow that was cancelled two years ago. People do not feel safe walking after dark. Seniors do not feel safe in their homes. Citizens of this province want more visible policing. You have a provincial responsibility, Mr. Minister, to provide that. According to Statistics Canada, Halifax's crime rate is up 5 per cent with the fourth-highest murder rate in the country at 2.4 per cent per 100,000 of population, and the third-highest robbery rate. It's not just metro. Provincially, property crimes are up 6.5 per cent, and a recent example of that is the situation in Ingonish, Cape Breton. My first supplementary to the minister is, when can we expect a real strategy to fight crime in this province?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased that the honourable member gives me another opportunity to talk about what our government has done to fight crime. Our government has made a huge investment in Criminal Intelligence Nova Scotia, which is designed to do just that, it is to provide intelligence to police officers on the street, so they can catch the criminals, put them away, and protect communities.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, police in this province still do not have adequate resources to do the job that needs to be done, quoting the statistics that I just left with you. The minister produces information videos, he blames Ottawa for everything, and he's instituted a couple of pilot projects that have gone nowhere. In 1999 the Tories campaigned on crime. They promised to get tough on crime. Back in 1999, swarmings were not even part of the vocabulary in Nova Scotia. So my final supplementary to the minister is, when are you going to produce a concrete policing plan and crime prevention strategy for the province, a real one?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, I don't believe he understands the number of initiatives this government has brought forward, but I'll remind him of another initiative. We passed a Police Act that is going to be in force on January 1st, and is going to bring the most modern policing standards in Canada to Nova Scotia's municipal police and RCMP agencies.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: MENTAL HEALTH BEDS - COMMUN. PLACEMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Premier. A psychiatrist appearing before the Law Amendments Committee this week estimates that 75 per cent of the patients in mental health beds do not need to be in hospital. They are simply waiting for community placement. While those patients wait to leave the hospitals, others cannot be admitted to receive the care they need. So my question to the Premier is, why is his government using so many much-needed hospital beds for patients who should be placed in the community?

[Page 8595]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the initiatives of the government and the Minister of Health was to bring forward the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment bill. Actually, many of those patients who are now confined to an institution, once we have community treatment orders in place, in fact, can be released from the institution and their friends and neighbours and relatives will be assured that they will be following an approved treatment plan. I think it's a travesty that that piece of legislation has been held up as long as it has.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that bill is not going to build community options, small options homes, the bill is not going to do that and that's the simple fact - the government has not committed the resources to support what it is the Premier has just said. We have learned that this year the average wait time for patients at the Nova Scotia Hospital, to be released into the community-living situations, reached as high as 875 days. That's 875 days between the time when release from a hospital is a person's best step toward better health and the time that it actually happens; it is 875 days waiting to leave because the government put a freeze on community-living spaces and there is simply nowhere to go. My question to the Premier is, will he tell Nova Scotians why he has chosen to keep so many patients in costly hospital beds and put their health further at risk?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer is that there are many solutions out there, but one of the solutions, the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act, has been slowed up because of the inability of this House to pass that piece of legislation. That is something that is doable and it's doable tomorrow if, in fact, we can get the legislation through.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this treatment of mental health consumers in this fashion, by the members of the government caucus, I think is unwarranted and uncalled for. Anyone's health would deteriorate if they were kept in hospital long after they needed to be there. One patient at the Nova Scotia Hospital has been waiting nearly four years because the freeze on group home and small option beds means there's no community placement available. There is a human cost and a financial cost to this policy of needlessly keeping people locked in the hospital. My question to the government is, how much longer will his government keep these patients locked up in the hospital because he refuses to open the much-needed community-living placements?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would be the last to try to suggest to the members of the House that we have solved all the problems here in Nova Scotia - I'm leaving quite a number for my successor. This is not a new problem. Since 1963, that was the date on which I became involved in providing medical services to the people of Nova Scotia, we have never in that period of time, since 1963, ever solved, satisfactorily, the provision of treatment of mental disease in this province. But we have made advances and we will continue to make advances, and the government is committed to solving the riddles surrounding the provision of mental health services in this province. One of the challenges

[Page 8596]

is a lack of human resources, not necessarily a funding challenge, but a human resource challenge.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: NEEDLE STICK INJURIES - COST

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Yesterday, during debate in this House, the Minister of Environment and Labour revealed that statistics from his department indicate that about 500 Nova Scotia health care workers are stuck with needles each year; in our opinion, that's 500 too many. Obviously there is a cost associated with each and every one of these injuries. There is the cost of stress that the employee and fellow co-workers experience, there are the costs associated with overtime when workers are off the job being tested, and there are the obvious costs associated with testing and treatment.

Given that the minister had the information within the department as to the number of people affected, could the minister please provide a dollar amount associated to the number he presented in this House yesterday?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will endeavour to do that. I also mentioned yesterday that we have 37,000 injuries in this province each year and of that, we have 9,000 people who can't return to work. It's a staggering number, and we certainly are working with the Workers' Compensation Board to reduce that but, to the best of my ability, we will try to get a number that corresponds with the number of needle sticks.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, 3,700 employees not able to return to work, all the more reason why we should be passing legislation that will ensure that Nova Scotia health care workers can stay on the job. Statistics provided by the Service Employees International Union show that 60 per cent of the needle injuries go unreported. In other words, the minister's numbers presented in this House yesterday were far underestimated.

Mr. Speaker, it's important for the occupational health and well-being of health care workers and, indeed, the patients that they treat that there is an open and accountable process in place. So my question to the minister is, could the minister outline what specific processes are in place to ensure the mandatory reporting requirements for needle stick injuries in this province?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act there are reporting requirements and, certainly, through the joint occupational health and safety committees that would represent the employees in the medical institutions and beyond in this province, there would be requirements there as well. As well, there would be requirements

[Page 8597]

in most of the institutions with regard to workers' compensation forms. We have laws in place that require that you report accidents, and those laws are enforced.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier. Yesterday, the Minister of Health indicated that he is in a process of preparing his department to come forward with policies with respect to safety-engineered devices, whether or not there is legislation. So my question is, why is your government creating policies when it is more effective to pass legislation that will protect health care workers in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to be quite frank, I think we have seen an example with the Mental Health Act about why legislation sometimes takes longer than putting a policy in place. It can be implemented, generally, in a very short period of time. As we know in this House, and like the other jurisdictions, legislation can be a slow process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: ENFIELD BIG STOP - SEWAGE TREATMENT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Currently the Irving Big Stop in Enfield is undergoing renovations and upgrades that will allow them to expand their operations to include a Tim Hortons. The Big Stop's sewage treatment plant has been a bone of contention for residents since the Big Stop opened some years ago. Residents have since complained about odours, and have raised concerns over what is actually being pumped into Bennery Brook, which runs into the Shubenacadie River. This river is a major recreational waterway that is part of the Shubie Canal system, with three river rafting companies, campground operations, a number of favourite swimming holes that have been used for generations, not to mention some people still may draw water from the river. So can the minister tell this House what exactly Irving has been pumping into the Shubenacadie River?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'm not directly involved in that particular file, but I am sure if the member would like to give me any additional information, we will look into that and I can get him the details of the question that he's asking.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to do just that through these questions, I hope. It appears that the present system, which was supposed to be state of the art and handle expansion, never did work correctly, and the minister's department staff indicated that there have been problems with that system. Even with its poor history, it appears that the Irving Big Stop was allowed to operate in that manner. So I want to ask the minister, how is the planned expansion supposed to address the current concerns of residents, and what is it exactly that will be pumped into the river when it's completed?

[Page 8598]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, these sewage and septic systems are expanded along with other development and, as I said, I'm not directly aware of the system that is there now, but it either has the capacity to handle the expansion or it doesn't. If it does, then there may need to be some small upgrades; if it doesn't, then it will need to be expanded itself. The intent is to make sure that there is no dangerous discharge to the environment.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want the minister to be aware that presently they're digging along the No. 2 Highway to go direct to the Shubenacadie River and bypass Bennery Brook. So, they're going to be pumping directly into the river - that's going on as we speak. I want the minister to know that probably by this time tomorrow, they're going to be at the river and he can't answer any questions about exactly how that system is working.

It's the 21st century, and the HRM is trying to grapple with its polluted harbour, yet we have a company that can still pump effluent into a major fresh water river. I understand this project has approval from three provincial departments - Environment and Labour, DNR and Transportation and Public Works - as well as the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. With all of this government approval, who is going to be accountable if this system doesn't work?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, if those approvals have been given by the various departments, then we are assured that the process that's being installed will work.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH PROM.: INTERNET GAMBLING - ISSUES

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health Promotion. There are over 1,800 gambling sites on the Internet at the moment. The number of sites have doubled in the last five years. The industry is huge, it's worth about $12 billion annually. When PartyPoker.com floated on the London Stock Exchange recently its valuation was $8 billion. That's bigger than the provincial budget.

Recent figures estimate that over $150 million are bet on on-line poker games every day - $150 million a day. My question for the minister is, what has he done to raise the issue of Internet gambling with his fellow ministers at the provincial government level?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed the member raises a very good issue and one that I know certainly through addictions that they are carefully monitoring. Indeed, the strategy that we put forward in the Spring addresses many issues, and one of the issues that we have to monitor very closely is the issue raised by the member.

[Page 8599]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable minister it's not just simply a matter of monitoring, it's a matter of drafting legislation to close or to protect. The Internet gambling sites offer free trials and games to lure adults and children onto their sites. I am tabling some examples of what I am talking about.

Because the industry is unregulated, nobody knows whether the software is fixed or not. There are trial sites totally unregulated. Every betting site has them, even the sports betting Web site advertised them on television every night of the week. These free trials and games are gateways to credit card gambling. My question for the minister is, when is he going to ban the advertising of Internet gambling sites here in Nova Scotia?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in light it is a gaming question, I will refer that to the Minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does bring a serious problem to the House. That's something that the Gaming Corporation has been looking at and as he indicated, the growth has been quite phenomenal. It's something the Gaming Corporation is looking at how they can do it - at their conference on responsible gambling just a few weeks ago, that was a major topic they were talking about with a lot of participants. We are taking that seriously, we are looking at what we can do and indeed it might lead to legislation in the future. At this point in time, we're finding out all of the issues and how we're going to proceed.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that is a small assurance from the government that it might lead to legislation in the future. I would hope that future is six months down the road and not 10 years.

The statistics on teenagers and Internet gambling are very worrying - 99 percent of Canadian teenagers, 99 percent, have used the Internet, 40 percent of them use the Internet to play games. Over 6 percent of Canadian young people under 17 gambled online last year. Among teenagers with gambling addictions, that figure was much higher, over one in three. To the Minister of Health Promotion, my final supplementary is, when is he going to fund an educational program to warn young people and their parents about the dangers of gambling on the Internet?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed social marketing is a big aspect, not only of the gaming strategy which was put forward but indeed for the Office of Health Promotion and I can assure the member that indeed a social marketing campaign, which is all inclusive, will include such aspects.

[Page 8600]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - ENVIRON. CONTAMINATION:

TPW/NAT. RES. - POLICIES DISCUSS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. This past June the province's Auditor General released his report to the Public Accounts Committee. Along with the information released, there was an audit of the Departments of Natural Resources, and Transportation and Public Works. At that time the Auditor General identified instances of non-compliance with provincial regulations and when Transportation and Public Works conducted assessments of its 80 base locations, it was found that two-thirds had been identified as having environmental contaminations. At that time the Auditor General was quoted as having said, inadequate information, inadequate policies, inadequate processes.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, have you discussed with the Ministers of Natural Resources and Transportation and Public Works how to ensure that their departments will now follow provincial regulations to ensure that these careless acts of contamination never occur again?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, yes, we certainly have had discussions on that point.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, at the time the Auditor General's Report was released, there was no action plan to tackle the issue. The cost of the cleanup was estimated at $500,000 for the remediation of just three sites. No figure was given for the complete cleanup of all the contaminated sites across the province. My question to the minister is, is there an action plan to remediate the environmental contaminations caused by non-compliance of the Departments of Natural Resources and Transportation and Public Works, and how much will this plan cost Nova Scotians?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, a great deal of work has been done. A great deal of remediation has been done and there certainly is a plan in place to ensure that the remaining sites are remediated.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, well, I was hoping for a cost figure there, Mr. Minister. Anyway, under current legislation, government departments are not required to report environmental contaminations to the Department of the Environment and Labour, unlike homeowners, who are required to report any leaks or possible contaminations and suffer the consequences for the cleanup immediately. It doesn't seem fair to me that there's

[Page 8601]

one set of rules for Nova Scotians and another set of rules for the government, which allow them to continue to contaminate our lands without any real repercussions.

My final question to the minister is, will you introduce legislation during this sitting that will remedy this problem and prevent any further contamination by government departments?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, that's kind of a two-part question. The first one would be that certainly departments are taking every measure they possibly can to make sure that there is no longer any contamination. However, we do have some sites that have been around for a long period of time and they've been identified and we are tracking those and monitoring those. With regard to the legislation, there won't be any legislation introduced in this sitting of the House to address those issues.

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

HEALTH: FLU PANDEMIC - PREPAREDNESS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Acting Minister of Health. I'll table a media report on pandemic flu in which the Minister of Health said that we will be in a very good position with respect to being able to respond appropriately. Maybe the minister needs to consult with his district health authorities. In many districts the story is all too familiar, expectations to implement policies with no funding to do it. So I ask the Acting Minister of Health, why were the district health authorities left to deal with the emergency preparedness for possible disease outbreaks, without the additional resources to do it?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member that this emergency preparedness is something that's been going on in Nova Scotia for years. This is not something that's starting because of the threat of the pandemic flu, but with the expectation, or the unfortunate possibility of a pandemic flu, not only in Nova Scotia but worldwide, they are taking a look at the specific actions that would be needed in case that particular disease did strike.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'll table part of the business plan for the Annapolis Valley District Health Authority, in which they state, "Public Health is seriously challenged. The immediate addition of CDC positions is a top priority, given the heightened risk of communicable disease threats and demands on public health to address these risks . . ."

That DHA indicates that dealing with one case of a communicable disease last year taxed the public health far beyond its resources." So I ask the Acting Minister of Health, where are the resources to back this government's forthcoming flu plan?

[Page 8602]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the resources come from two areas, first of all, the resources that are coordinated through the Emergency Measures Organization and, secondly, the resources - I guess it would be three ways - of the individual health authorities and the resources of the Department of Health.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'll table another document from the South Shore District Health Authority in which they state, "The capacity of public health to respond to day-to-day issues is challenging and there is limited surge capacity to respond to an emergency." My final question to the Acting Minister of Health is, how can this government possibly say that this province is ready for an outbreak of a highly-contagious disease, like the pandemic flu, when the district health authorities have cited so many serious problems in dealing with these problems?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can assure Nova Scotians that the Department of Health and the district health authorities, the Emergency Measures Organization, the World Health Organization . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. I can't hear from up here, maybe the rest of you can but I can't. I would ask the members that if you have to talk, will you please go outside.

The honourable Acting Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: All of those organizations, Mr. Speaker, are working together to see that our province is as well prepared as any jurisdiction in the event that we do have a medical emergency like a pandemic flu.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ECON. DEV. - FUEL COSTS: SM. BUS. - EFFECTS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this will be for the Minister of Economic Development. The energy situation facing Nova Scotians is proving to be a particular challenge for small businesses in the province. The CFIB's quarterly survey of its members shows that confidence levels of these business owners are at a 15-year low, and I have the results. I'd like to table it. The business owners cited rising fuel costs as the main factor behind this major drop in their optimism, with specific reference to recent hurricanes' impact on the economy. Now with a new and record-breaking hurricane spinning towards Florida and Winter fast coming up, when fuel costs are already 30 per cent higher than last year, it's very understandable that these businesses are skeptical as to their future viability. I would like to ask the minister, his government's so-called energy plan does nothing to address the concerns of small businesses, so can he tell us just how does he expect the small businesses to make a go of it?

[Page 8603]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, any input costs and especially energy in this time of global increases in the cost of all forms of energy are a concern to businesses throughout Nova Scotia, small business, every business. What the debate was about yesterday, on the URB, and the thoughts that I put forward to the House, is that our job and the URB's job is to ensure that fuel costs are fair here in Nova Scotia. There isn't any situation around the globe where we can influence those types of prices, from the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, the answer seems to be you'll just have to absorb the cost. Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of types of small businesses in Nova Scotia. One form is co-operatives. One of the advantages of co-operatives is they at least keep the surpluses here at home, and the contribution of the co-op movement to Nova Scotia's economic history and development is well known, and their potential is very great. But encouraging co-ops, for example, in the fishery, is a role government must play. Will the minister tell this House why his department has such a very limited focus on the development of co-operatives within the framework of the province's overall economic strategy?

HON. FAGE: The honourable member obviously hasn't been involved in working with co-ops and conversing with them for he would realize that the co-operative movement and the credit union movement, which are one in the same, are very closely linked. This government has the kind of confidence that we signed a deal this Summer to support small business loans, a $25 million 10-year revolving account. The credit union cooperative movement totally endorses this government in their support of their activities in their economy.

MR. EPSTEIN: I'm very familiar with co-ops and credit unions and I know that the sector in Nova Scotia is very small compared with what it is in other provinces. I'd like to turn now to the question of regional economic development. Many of us would be aware of the situation in the Annapolis Valley where the municipalities in the region decided to withdraw funding from the Western Valley Development Authority leading to its closure. Now that region is left without an on-the-ground presence to encourage and support community economic development. Will the minister tell this House how his government plans to use the money that it is going to be saving as a result of the downfall of the WVDA? Will they target local initiatives or simply claw back into general revenues?

MR. FAGE: Certainly the Province of Nova Scotia and the Department of Economic Development are there, under the Regional Development Community Act, to support those activities and organizations in any area of Nova Scotia - that support and those dollars and commitment are there. I understand the local municipalities for reasons of their own chose to withdraw their support. We are actively continuing discussions with them to find a solution for another regional development authority under our Act and legislation. Certainly in the meantime the resources of the Department of Economic Development and staff are

[Page 8604]

there to support economic efforts within all those communities affected by this unfortunate circumstance.

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

EDUC. - UNIV. EDUC.: SINGLE MOTHERS - ASSIST

MS. DIANA WHALEN: My question is to the Minister of Education. We heard from the Minister of Community Services just two days ago during question period refusing to support single parents and specifically single mothers within the necessary funding to be able to access a better future through university education. The current agreement allows students on social assistance to get support for studies of two years or less. Under this rule, university degree programs are off limits to capable and qualified single parents. My question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, is, since your colleague refuses to help single mothers access university education, will you pick up the slack and help them with the necessary funding so that they too have a opportunity for a better future?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The Nova Scotia Student Loan program helps all students in need and indeed if they are single moms, or we shouldn't say polygamous moms but, the student aid resources are open to all.

MS. WHALEN: I'm not quite sure where the minister was going with that referring to some categories of people that I'm unfamiliar with in this situation. Student loans are geared primarily, in fact, exclusively for single people, for young people coming out of high school and still within their parents . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. WHALEN: It's important to point out that this government has two ways to limit access for university education for single parents on social assistance. Many single parents are only able to attend school on a part-time basis. To compound the obstacles that face parents trying to return to school, the student loan program allows part-time students a lifetime limit of only $4,000 in loans - a lifetime limit. This is in stark contrast to full-time students who can access up to $12, 240 for a normal year of study. The system discriminates against part-time students and puts an impossible obstacle in front of single parents on social assistance. My question to the minister is, will you open up the student loan program for these single mothers who are trying to study part time so they can at least access student loans and have a chance for a better future?

[Page 8605]

MR. MUIR: The student loan program is for all people who are in need. The student loan program - I'm told by my officials that people like single moms who have particular needs actually are given some sort of special consideration. I can't give the detail on that but I am told when I asked the question, yes that there is resource available to them. In terms of the guidelines for how student loans are given out, as the honourable member knows, we follow the federal government guidelines. If the federal government does change its parameters for the criteria that a person must meet to be eligible for a student loan, then we'll certainly consider changing ours.

[1:30 p.m.]

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to note for the Minister of Education that you have the power to change those rules as they apply to the Nova Scotia student loans.

Mr. Speaker, my final question is for the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act. I'm disappointed that this minister has stayed quiet on an issue that's so important to women in this province. It is her responsibility to advocate for women's issues and rights in the government. My question to the minister is, will you, on behalf of single mothers throughout this province, step in and lobby your colleagues in Community Services and in Education to provide and find answers now that will help these parents?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act, I definitely have sat down with individuals on this topic matter. I do know that there are criteria in place for these student loan applications and that people are eligible for them.

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

IMMIGRATION - KAMARA CASE: MIN. ADVOCACY - REFUSAL EXPLAIN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Immigration in Nova Scotia. I want to ask the minister about Amadu Kamara who is from Liberia and is a refugee living in Halifax. When he was in a refugee camp in West Africa and was leaving, he was informed, unfortunately wrongly, by a UN official that he can only bring five children, maximum, with him to Canada. He had to leave behind two daughters and one grandchild in Guinea, in West Africa.

Now, my understanding is that he requires a federal Minister of Immigration permit in order to fix the problem that unfortunately was created by this UN official. It's also my understanding that the Metro Immigrant Settlement Association has asked this Minister of Immigration to intervene, to advocate, to try to ensure that the federal minister does issue this

[Page 8606]

permit so Mr. Kamara does have the opportunity to bring his entire family here and I want to ask this minister why he has refused to advocate on behalf of Mr. Kamara?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, although I appreciate the member's question, I'm unable to speak on a specific individual on the floor of the House, it would be inappropriate, but what I can assure the member is that when cases are brought forward through the Office of Immigration, we take each one very seriously and we deal as best we can with officials at the federal level to do what we can within the parameters of our jurisdiction.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the minister is willing to say that each case is looked at. So let's look at a couple of them - let's look at the Bondarenkos, let's look at Martha Stewart. These are cases that his office was willing to advocate on behalf of to make sure that these people could get into the country, but he's unwilling to advocate on behalf of three girls in a refugee camp in West Africa. This is a potent symbol of this government's inability to recognize that refugees can play an important role in Nova Scotia. Indeed, his own strategy, this government's own strategy, does not even mention refugee as part of the immigration strategy. So my question to this minister is, his government is willing to advocate on behalf of the rich and successful, but not the poor or oppressed, why the double standard?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that is completely false and shame on that member for suggesting such a thing on the floor of this House.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, Mr. Speaker, let's go to some other facts. The Office of Immigration spends $1.1 million a year on administration. It spends $1.5 million a year giving grants to groups like Metro Immigrant Settlement Association to help them advocate on behalf of refugees and immigrants. That means for every dollar this government spends on grants for organizations that are on the ground helping immigrants and refugees, they spend $0.73 administering their own office. I want to ask this minister, why does administration cost so much, and why is he putting so little into those advocate groups advocating for refugees and immigrants?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what the member is suggesting is that we don't have the people in place that deal with new immigrants coming to our province to ensure they have the appropriate assistance, which they need, to take the appropriate measurements in place to the Provincial Nominee Program. That, in itself, I believe, will be a lack of understanding of the system that is in place. We have a responsibility to those individuals to help them through the system. We also have a responsibility to work with groups such as MISA and others, which we are doing. This government is showing leadership on that issue. This government is making a huge difference for our province with respect to immigration. (Applause)

[Page 8607]

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

HEALTH: NORTH OF SMOKEY - AMBULANCE SERVICE

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Acting Minister of Health. Recent concerns have been expressed in my constituency with respect to acceptable response times for ambulances North of Smokey. A recent car crash left a victim waiting several hours for an ambulance to arrive. At that point, there was no snow or ice on the ground, it was Summer conditions. A second accident with three victims required more ambulance service. At Cheticamp and Baddeck there's mountainous terrain, hazardous and unpredictable road conditions. It makes it almost impossible for an ambulance to arrive in an emergency, especially from the Cheticamp area - not only in the Winter but in the Summer because the Summer has tourists and the Winter has bad road conditions and for those unaware of it, Winter begins North of Smokey in October and doesn't end until May.

My question to the minister is, do you feel the residents North of Smokey deserve to be assured that ambulances will arrive in a timely manner?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House know that the ambulance service in Nova Scotia is one of the finest on the continent. It is also a performance-based system, which means there are specified and effectively guaranteed delivery times for service in every section of the province. If the delivery time is not met, the expected time, then there is a very thorough investigation to see what the difficulty is and also, as you know, that's a mobile system and it's in a constant state of flux because the ambulances move where they are needed.

The honourable member spoke of two individual cases. I can't comment on them, I have no knowledge of them. I do know if he wants to put the details in, I'd be happy to have the department look at them. I know if they had been abnormal, I can tell him right now that they have been looked at by both EMC and department staff.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I honestly believe that a case can be made for an additional ambulance North of Smokey - based on the unique geography, extreme and unpredictable weather conditions and the fact I already stated that Cheticamp, one of the access routes by EHS, can be ruled out during the Winter months. My question to the minister is, will this minister recommend a second ambulance North of Smokey so the residents can be assured of ambulance coverage when they need it?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, response times by ambulances North of Smokey continue to be better than the contractual requirement. There were 108 emergency calls between October 1, 2004 and September 22, 2005. Of these 108 calls, 40 were responded to in seven minutes or less; 37 in 20 minutes or less; 29 in 30 minutes or less; and, there were but two that exceeded 45 minutes.

[Page 8608]

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable minister to table that document, please.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I for one do not place much emphasis on statistics. I made this statement here a long time ago that my sociology teacher told me that statistics don't lie, only the people that make them do, and that's not the case here, but what I'm saying is that statistics can be misinterpreted.

Mr. Speaker, everybody North of Smokey deserves to have an ambulance service second to none, but North of Smokey they pay multiple bills. What I am going to table here today is the bills from Cole MacKinnon, who was a victim in the second accident, who received a $600 bill from the scene to Buchanan Memorial. From Buchanan Memorial to the Sydney Regional Hospital. From the Regional Hospital to the airport in Sydney, from the airport in Halifax to the VG here. There's four, $600 bills, I'm going to table that. It has become a cartoon.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Will the honourable member put the question, please.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will the minister reassure the residents North of Smokey that there will be a second ambulance based in the area?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health is very much aware that there has been a call for a second ambulance in North of Smokey, and the department and EMC have looked at all of the relevant information, including the number of emergency calls and the ambulance response times and unfortunately that particular data at this time doesn't support a second ambulance.

I want to tell the honourable member and all members of this House that response times are analyzed by EMC and the department on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, and if it appears that there is not an adequate response time, I know that EMC will respond in an appropriate fashion.

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

HEALTH: COBEQUID COMMUN. HEALTH CTR. - OPERATIONAL STATUS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question this afternoon will be for the Premier. An investment of $34 million had been made to address the health care needs of those residents of the Cobequid Community Health Centre. (Applause) I wouldn't clap too long.

 

[Page 8609]

That facility has a catchment area of 100,000 Nova Scotians. During the Committee of the Whole House on Supply, the Minister of Health stated, during the Estimates for the Department of Health, ". . . when the doors open, all the beds will be available to be used . . . it will be fully operational." So my question to the Premier is, do you stand behind those words of the Minister of Health that when the Cobequid Community Health Centre opens its doors, it will be fully operational and all the beds will be available to use?

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted the honourable member raised the issue of the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre and its replacement facility. Certainly the government took action in replacing a facility that was a bit dated and needed to be replaced. This new facility will be state of the art and it will well service the needs of the residents and those who travel in, perhaps from the corridor and a little bit from down in Windsor, who use that facility. I thank the honourable member very much for his support of that facility and the efforts of the Department of Health in that regard.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I guess I can't thank the minister for answering my question. The growth in the catchment area of the centre has increased immensely over the years. On Thursday, April 21, 2005, you stated, the Premier, that the new centre, and I quote, ". . . be adequately staffed and fulfill all the medical health requirements that it was designed to do for the community." I've learned from the staff at the Cobequid Community Health Centre that when the new facility opens that only 19 of the 29 beds in the emergency room will be used and staffed. So I ask the Premier, why would this government build a new facility and not take full advantage of the usage of beds to address the growing crisis in wait times in the emergency room at the Cobequid Community Health Centre?

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the services that are intended for the new Cobequid Community Health Centre will be delivered, unfortunately the honourable member would have a choice, that we not open that facility until it can be 100 per cent functioning, or we can open it in January when it's scheduled to be open and phase that in and have that new facility (Interruptions)

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, this government is closing beds before it even opens and that's shameful and you guys will be accountable when that facility opens and the residents who are served there realize the true commitment from this government for that facility.

[Page 8610]

[1:45 p.m.]

The government has continued to say one thing and do another. They like to give the impression to all Nova Scotians that they care about their well-being. The services offered and the number of residents who use that facility grows immensely. Thousands of residents use the emergency department to gain access to physicians. My question for the Premier is, how can this Premier justify spending $34 million for a new facility only to have a few more beds open and no new physicians when the new facility opens?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: I just want to say that I'm astonished that this member who lives out in that area . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: No, he doesn't . . .

MR. MUIR: Whatever. He would criticize the government for spending $34 million to put a new health care facility out in that area.

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

Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

EDUC. - STANDARDIZED TESTS: RESULTS - RELEASE

MS. DIANA WHALEN: My question is for the Minister of Education. Earlier this week the minister made excuses in the media with respect to the delays in making public the results of standardized tests in this province. In contrast, yesterday the Canadian Press reported that in Ontario, broken down by grade level for 3 years, new results were given out and they include 2004 and 2005. This data was made public by the Education Quality and Accountability Office - and I'd like to table that, if I could. My question to the minister is, if Ontario is able to publicly report 2004-05 results, why can't Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I did, too, see that release from Ontario and I want to say Ontario chose to release results that, quite frankly, were not as fully analyzed as what we intend to do here in Nova Scotia.

MS. WHALEN: There's no question that we need results and accountability in the public school system in a timely manner; reporting on last year's results next year is far from being accountable. On Tuesday of this week, the Deputy Minister of Education released some information on standardized results for 13 and 16 year olds that the Human Resources

[Page 8611]

Committee had asked for five months ago. One of the charts shows that, in both the 13- and the 16-year-old categories, science results from 1999 to 2004 have declined so that now both of these age groups are below the Canadian mean. This was not the case in 1999 - and I'd like to table those charts as well - I think it's also notable that there is nothing in this in terms of detail except whether they were on the mean or below the mean or above the mean - no detail. So much for extra time providing more detailed results.

My question to the minister is, given that you boast about investments in math and literacy, what has your department put in place to ensure that this year's science results will be better?

MR. MUIR: I want to go back and talk, just for a very brief moment, about the standardized tests that she says are delayed here in mathematics. As I explained to her and to all members of the House a couple of days ago, we had about 50 teachers from across the province actually re-mark - when I say re-mark, to a standard on those mathematics tests, about 50 per cent and that's obviously part of the reason for that. In terms of our science results, one of the things I will be doing in this House either tomorrow, or the first of the week, is reading a congratulatory resolution for our students who won awards in the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park, you have about five seconds.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'll table this as well, but I want to know if . . .

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

Before we go to Government Business, the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise for a moment on a point of personal privilege, to ask if the Minister of Education would please clarify his earlier remarks when I asked him questions about single mothers and their need for assistance to pursue post-secondary university education. He referred to polygamist mothers, and I think that requires a clarification for the House. I think it shows a belittling of a very important issue. I would like the minister to please clarify his position.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's not a point of personal privilege.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 8612]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 230.

Bill No. 230 - Housing Development Corporation Act.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I'll continue with Bill No. 230, the Housing Development Corporation Act. I talked about this the other day, about an outside agency being able to do an audit on the finances of the Housing Development Corporation rather than it being left to the Auditor General. I think it's important that we do have somebody come in, somebody who will have a look at it. It will be nice to know that at least in the future we'll know how the Housing budget is being spent; they'll be accountable to the public for the taxpayers' dollars which they're spending.

I have a real issue with the RRAP grant, the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program. I've had many constituents come into my office looking for that program. There is a cutoff for a low-income family of $20,000. I've had so many people from the Ashby area, Lingan Road and other people looking for financial help for that. I just wish that there would have been more in this Housing Development Corporation bill than we have in it right now. I think it would benefit people. I think we have to look at where they're spending their money. They've had an agreement signed, and I think it's around $57 million in the Federal-Provincial Affordable Housing Program. I think it's important we know where that money is going.

Mr. Speaker, the one thing I can say is that when I looked at that I thought of a quote from the Minister of Community Services from last year, that Cape Breton will get its fair share of the Affordable Housing Program. That program was signed federally and provincially in September 2002, and yet Cape Breton hasn't gotten its fair share from this government - zero affordable housing built. So with this new bill, maybe we'll know where they're spending their money, and where they're not spending their money.

I would like to conclude by saying, as an MLA you get many people coming into your office looking for help or support for emergency grants for furnaces, windows and doors. It consumes a lot of your constituency assistant's time and a lot of your time, writing letters and looking for and pleading cases for people who are in desperate need. Bill No. 230 will be

[Page 8613]

important in helping us know where they're spending their money. It's important for us. I think I will conclude on that aspect.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm just going to speak for a few moments on Bill No. 230, to suggest to you and to members of the House and, indeed, to all Nova Scotians that this bill consists of one line, really. It authorizes the Nova Scotia Housing Development Corporation to have an auditor, other than the Auditor General. Well, I'm not so sure what that means, except that I would like to be assured that the Auditor General will certainly still have a role to play, because he is the public auditor of the Province of Nova Scotia. If this bill means that perhaps that particular auditor could be sidestepped in favour of private auditing firms to do the audit of the Housing Development Corporation, then I would hope that there's sufficient checks and balances put in place so that the public interest will be protected here.

Any time you bring a bill to the House that opens up the whole question of housing in this province and the whole question of accountability, I think it's safe to say, Mr. Speaker, that the current government doesn't consider housing to be a priority in this province, and as the previous speaker has eloquently alluded to, this is just not on their radar screen. A good example of that would be the close-to-$40,000 deal that was struck with the federal government some three, four years ago now, and subsequent deals. Meaning, if those deals were consummated with the province, today we should be looking at 1,500 new units in the Province of Nova Scotia, instead we're looking at less than 200. The agreements are scheduled to run out over the next year and a half to two years.

It's obvious that this provincial government, and through its Minister of Community Services, who also has Housing under his jurisdiction as minister, couldn't care less about the provision of adequate housing in this province for the people who need it. As a matter of fact, time and time again he's demonstrated that in this House, that it's just not on the radar screen of the government, more particularly, not even on any radar screen in the Department of Community Services, in housing. It seems to me that what we don't need here is more attention to the audit services of that department, rather more attention to the social delivery services of that particular department, as it respects those in our province in need and those in our province who are in need of adequate housing.

We all remember what happened in Halifax recently, and this is a good case in point that the auditor should be looking at, a grand statement was made regarding affordable housing in downtown Halifax. Lo and behold, the first recipient of one of those units was a Halifax Regional Municipality councillor who availed herself of the ability to take a unit, I believe it was a two- or three-bedroom family unit. She said herself, I only have a cat, but - I believe that was attributed to her - she said, I'm in need of housing. Maybe so. I look at the people in this province who are also in need of housing who make a lot less money than that

[Page 8614]

Halifax Regional Municipality councillor and who also have families desperately in need of adequate housing in this province.

As the member for Cape Breton Nova outlined, and I certainly give him credit for that, he realizes that in the Cape Breton area, where I live and where he lives, there are hundreds on the waiting lists to get into public housing units in our area. The excuse is they don't have enough money to repair them, or they don't have any money to build new ones, or the priorities of government are changing, therefore the housing authorities don't have the resources to work with.

That's a shame and you know instead of the minister coming to this House with some meaningful housing legislation he comes with Bill No. 230, which says that there should be better auditing services - should open up the auditing services of the department. I said in this House the other day what's not needed in the Department of Community Services and housing is more auditing services. What's needed in that department are more social workers and more people who care about putting people in adequate housing in this province. That's what's needed in that department. For that minister to come with a one-line bill which will be approved by this House - because it says nothing- all it says is that we're going to change the auditing system.

Now I would have hoped that the minister would have come with a bill making it mandatory for the Province of Nova Scotia to fulfill its obligations under provincial-federal agreements on providing housing in this province. That's the kind of bill that I would welcome coming before this House. The 1,500 units that the federal and provincial agreement call for should have been all built by now, if housing was a priority of this government, which it is not. That's a shame because there are people desperately in need of adequate housing in this province to the point where they've been driven back to slum landlords paying exorbitant rates for rent - rates, by the way, that that same minister and that same department will not acknowledge by raising their rates for rent in community services. He will not acknowledge that, instead, he states well if the rent is too high they should go to a cheaper place. Where are the cheaper places? Slum landlords - and as soon as they get in there they charge them more.

[2:00 p.m.]

I know that I'm wandering a little bit but I think it all comes back to the auditing practices of this department that should be taking a look at ways to improve the delivery system of this department. Improve the delivery system to those in Nova Scotia who are desperately in need of housing and who don't need to be assured or convinced or reassured, I should say, that we're going to have adequate audit services in this province. That doesn't do very much for the people in need of adequate housing from this same department. Again I say to you, that it's not on the radar screen.

[Page 8615]

This minister has proven time and time again that he simply doesn't get it when it comes to the problems people are facing to the point that all he can talk about is the need to balance the bottom line of his department. In other words, he told the media in a scrum I was listening to, that at the end of the year the people, the bean counters in this province, want to know if he's balancing his budget or not and that's all he's concerned about, that he balances his budget at the end of the year. It doesn't make any difference whether there are people still in inadequate housing, or with inadequate rates of assistance.

All of that is secondary to that minister, and I've said it publicly and I'll say it here again, compared to that minister, Attila the Hun looks like Bambi and I'm going to tell you if the government wanted to stop the progressive nature of the Department of Community Services to what it used to be, they could do couple of things. They could start replacing bean counters with social workers in that department, number one, so the people who should be getting the service delivered to them will actually get it at rates that are appropriate to today's cost of living and in housing that's appropriate for today's living standards.

That's one thing they could do but, more importantly and immediately, what I suggested the other day publicly and I'll say it again today, the Premier could replace that minister with somebody who actually cared about people in Nova Scotia, who actually cared about those who are living in substandard conditions in this province and are trying to live on substandard incomes in this province. That's what the Premier could do - sending a signal that his government actually does care about more than putting audit services in place for the department of housing, but I doubt either one of those things are going to happen. I sincerely doubt that because this government does not care about those in need in this province.

It's demonstrated time and time again by our Party and the Official Opposition, in this House we reminded the government of their failings when it comes to dealing with people in this province who are in need - absolute failure in dealing with those problems. The audit services that he's talking about in Bill No. 230 are going to shift one audit firm to another. Probably somebody will get in on this action before too long when they find out they're going to go far afield for auditors. The audit firms in this province will love this because it will open it up perhaps to some competition and they'll make some money.

I would have hoped that along with that the audit services would also be given a mandate to investigate why this government is not spending the money that was made available through the 50 cent dollars in the federal-provincial agreements on housing in this province. It's a poor record of this government that they can come up with less than 200 and, by the way, those 200 are not built. Those are the ones that are built and on the drawing board. By the way, as the member for Cape Breton Nova stated earlier, none of them are in Cape Breton, none of them, at least in what's known as industrial Cape Breton, we can't point to any that are being built under this agreement. I don't know whether that's political retribution for not voting for the Tory Party down there, I don't know, but maybe the member for Cape Breton North might take exception to that because he's a member of the

[Page 8616]

government, but apparently they've forgotten about him as well down there in terms of housing.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you the housing situation in this province is desperate. The people who need housing in this province are not getting it. The people who need adequate community services in this province are not getting it and I know there are backbenchers in that Party who know that what I'm saying is true, but they have to toe the Party line. I've heard them speak as MLAs in their own areas and what they've been saying is that the Opposition Parties are absolutely correct when they talk about the need for better housing, the need for better services, the need for a better deal for single moms in this province, the need for this government to pay attention to groups in this province that are less fortunate than you or I, Mr. Speaker, or members on that side or on this side. I believe it's high time this government took a look at its priorities. One of its priorities is not Bill No. 230.

A bill that will authorize the Nova Scotia Housing Development Corporation to have an auditor, other than the Auditor General. What kind of a bill is that to come before this House that will only - some auditor must have gave them that idea. Why don't you open it up to us and we'll make a few dollars on it. I can't see any other reason why the bill would be here - can you?

Accompanied with that bill should have been a second line saying any auditor be given the responsibility of trying to find out why this government is not living up to federal-provincial agreements in housing and providing housing for those in this province who need it.

I could go on and on for hours on this particular subject, as a matter of fact, if this minister ever comes to this House with something meaningful to help those in need in this province, those in need of assistance, those in need of housing, those in need of educational opportunities such as single moms attending university so they can go on to a better standard of living for them and their children. If the minister ever came to this House with legislation that would do that, I would gladly compliment him and I would speak on it and I would praise the government for their progressive ideas.

But, that's not going to happen. You and I both know that, Mr. Speaker. What's going to happen is that we will get a new auditor for the department of housing. We're not getting any new housing, but we're getting a new auditor. People who need housing units are not going to get any, but we're going to get an audit.

Just today I spoke with a lady in my constituency who told me she's in a rat-infested unit paying over $600 a month and Community Services won't pay all of it so she has to take it from her food money in order to pay the additional rent. She's been told she's 90th on the list to get into a home. She has three children.

[Page 8617]

Another lady - nine people living in a substandard apartment in my area - looking desperately to get a public housing unit and the people at the housing authority can't do anything for her because the units that are empty are in disrepair and can't be fixed up adequately and there's not enough units to begin with.

The demand is there. The minister is not recognizing it. In the housing department he comes looking for an auditor, a different audit firm, somebody to take the place of the public Auditor General, which I don't think is a good idea to begin with because the public auditor is the auditor of this place, the auditor of the public purse in Nova Scotia.

But shame on that minister coming to this House with a bill like that one with all the problems in the department of housing out there, with all the problems of those who have to rely on Community Services out there. When all those problems are there, he's looking for an auditor. The same minister who told me in the last session of the House that if people can't live on the rates they're getting from Community Services, perhaps they should eat more pasta. That minister said that in this House.

The reason people are on Community Services he said is because they don't have enough money. Now there's a piercing glance at the obvious. The reason they're on Community Services is they don't have any money. And if the rates are too low, let them eat more pasta. That's what the minister said. The minister can't understand why people can't live on the meagre amounts that are doled out by his department, yet we get a bill looking for more audit services.

The minister told the press the other day that he was concerned about the bottom line of his department. He said, I have to answer to the Public Accounts Committee. That's what he said, at the end of the year. We used to have a saying in Community Services back in the 1970s - when in doubt, give. That was the creed that Community Services workers operated on. If there was any latitude to make the lives of those in need in this province better, they were able to do it. They're not able to do it anymore. The social workers who are working in this department and in housing don't have any latitude to do anything except to toe the government line.

Any time you have people that are operating a social service operation - Community Services as it's called now, a rose by any other name, I guess - any time you have accountants and lawyers operating those departments instead of social workers, the loser is going to be the people who access those services. Because, apparently, the bottom line in the Department of Community Services is to balance the books and save money. Well, I put that to you, Mr. Speaker, save money. How is it going to save money? It's going to take money from the very clients that this department deals with. The very clients that are in need in Nova Scotia.

[Page 8618]

As I said, this topic deserves much repeating in terms of what's not happening in the Department of Community Services and housing, because it is the same department. So you have to couple the two. Bill No. 230 does nothing for anybody except maybe make some more money for auditors. Somebody decided to send this great bill to the House for debate. I suggest that the bill itself doesn't deserve any debate, but the circumstances surrounding what's not going on in the Department of Community Services, deserve much debate. I'm sure over the coming days and weeks, Mr. Speaker, I'll have an opportunity to speak some more about what I think this minister is not doing in this province and what I think the Premier should do about that, and what I think this government should do collectively about putting somebody as minister in that department who actually cares about people in this province. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, like the House Leader for the Liberal Party, we were hopeful when we heard that there was going to be a bill this session on the Housing Development Corporation because every one of us is aware of the great need for safe, clean affordable housing in the constituencies that we represent. So we were hopeful, and then the bill hit the table and we had the same reaction that the House Leader of the Liberal Party had which was, is this all there is? Is this the thing that is most on the mind of the Department of Community Services when it comes to housing? Of all the full range of legislative initiatives it could have undertaken on the housing front, it's about changing the auditors? It is disappointing that that is all the department could bring forward on this subject, because there is a great deal to say about it and some of that I'm going to say this afternoon.

I did want to note also that in the minister's introduction of the bill on Second Reading, perhaps some new record was set, I don't know because there's nobody who keeps track of these things, but the minister's opening statement was 10 lines and there are two things in it that are not true. Usually it takes several pages for them to say that many things that are not true, but in this case, I counted 10 lines, two things that aren't true. Now I don't blame the minister who was saying it because the minister who was responsible for this department and corporation wasn't actually giving the speech, so I'm sure that the minister who was subbing for that minister was simply reading something that had been prepared for him.

As has been indicated by previous speakers, what this bill does, the one thing that it does do is it says that instead of the Auditor General auditing the books of the Housing Development Corporation, it can be the Auditor General or another licensed accountant.

Now in his Second Reading remarks, the minister said, "One of the recommendations that was made by the Auditor General with respect to the operation of the Housing Development Corporation is that the Act be amended to allow the Housing Development Corporation to have an auditor other than the Auditor General." I thought I should go to the

[Page 8619]

source, so I spoke to the Auditor General and he says, that's not the way it happened. This is not a recommendation of the Auditor General of Nova Scotia. This is a recommendation of the staff of the Department of Community Services and they did ask the Auditor General whether he minded if they did this, but in no sense of the word is this a recommendation of the Auditor General. The Auditor General can live with this. He understands the reason for it but it's not like something where he said to the department, you know, you really ought to do this. That's not the way it worked at all.

Then the minister a couple lines below that repeats that thought, he says, ". . . the Auditor General the last time he reviewed this did suggest that the Act be amended so that an external auditor would be permitted." Well that's not what happened. That's all. That's the sum total of what the government said on Second Reading. Ten lines, two things that weren't true.

So where's this coming from, because you know there's an unfortunate history in Nova Scotia of - what can we call them - bad books. A long, long history. They were still feeling the effects of the books, kept by the Government of Nova Scotia, did not tell the truth to this House or to the people of Nova Scotia about what was really going on in government. This House did not have the information that it needed to decide how much money to vote to the government or to hold the government to account for the money that was voted to it. That went on for years and years, decades and decades.

[2:15 p.m.]

It was only in the late 1990s when that became politically untenable to continue in that way that finally steps were taken to change that sad state of affairs. As I've always said give credit where credit is due - that shift was started by the Liberals in the late 1990s. This was after they had been in government for a number of years and it was only towards the end of their tenure, what you might call the death bed conversion to good books. They decided that they really needed to start this so they did and it was the Liberals who started the move. It was the Progressive Conservatives who completed it and a lot of work was done. I've said this before it's not new, give credit where credit is due and that way, when I criticize the government people will know that I mean that too because when they've done a good thing I'll say so. To their credit - the Liberals' credit - they started it and to the Progressive Conservatives' credit they've finished it.

[Page 8620]

It became the first province in Canada, if not the first, the second, to have books that were written according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Just think about that. How is it that we came to accept a state of affairs that over 130 years after Confederation, 130 years after we became a province of the great Country of Canada, that we finally decided that we should have books that made sense? There's a temptation I think for the government to pat itself on the back and say, look how good we are, but all they did was restate the books honestly which doesn't say much for what Progressive Conservatives and Liberals were doing for 130-plus years before that.

I hope they don't hurt themselves patting themselves on the back too much simply for telling the truth so that this House can finally get around to what we really ought to be doing and should have been doing all the time, which is debating what to do about the government's revenue expenditures rather than that false debate about what are the real revenue numbers and what are the real expenditure numbers. At least now, once a year but only once, we get the real story in the Public Accounts because they are fully audited and they are fully audited by the Auditor General.

Of course that brings me back to the bill because we have this long history of bad books. Part of the change came about because we wanted the Auditor General to be the one who had the last word. Auditors General have become what you might call the rock stars of public accountability. You see somebody like Sheila Fraser up in Ottawa who if nobody else can hold the government to account, Sheila Fraser and her office can. People trust what Auditor Generals say because they have shown that through their work- it's very careful, very, if you'll excuse the expression, conservative auditing practices, that they have a lot of credibility - small "c" conservative. Auditors General now have a lot of credibility, when they speak everybody listens because we know they don't have any particular axes to grind. We know that they're working according to nationally recognized standards, we know they are telling things the way they are.

What this bill does, unfortunately, is it takes a step back from that, well does it really matter anymore if it's the Auditor General who passes on these books? It could be the Auditor General or anybody else. As I said earlier, I did speak to the Auditor General and he's not opposed to this but really it is simply a bureaucratic manoeuvre where all of the other housing corporations have their books audited by a particular firm. The department - not the Auditor General - finds it convenient to permit that same very large auditing firm to do the books of the Housing Development Corporation. That's really all this is about. Of all the vast universe of things that that minister, that department, and this government could have done on housing, they brought forward a bureaucratic manoeuvre that allows them to have the books of all the province's housing corporations audited by one private company.

[Page 8621]

The reason the Auditor General is not opposed to this (Interruption). A suggestion has been made which I won't pick up, Mr. Speaker, but that's what they have done. In the entire universe, one thing, a bureaucratic consolidation of auditing of housing corporations in Nova Scotia.

The funny thing about these financial statements is that the people who are involved in public accountability work know that this is only a small part of the picture. Where governments are going, where auditors are going is what's called Public Performance Reporting, where you go beyond the dollars and cents of financial statements because they don't actually, at the end of the day, tell you very much. They tell you something and when they're audited they tell you something important, but they still don't tell you very much because the big question - and one that the House Leader of the Liberal Party was referring to earlier and other speakers have referred to - is what are they actually doing with the money? What are they doing with the money?

In any given fiscal year, is the housing stock in Nova Scotia better or worse at the end of the year than it was at the beginning of the year? You know what, Mr. Speaker? These financial statements don't tell us that. They tell us how much money flowed in, they tell us how much money flowed out; they tell us the corporation's assets, they tell us the corporation's liabilities, and it doesn't tell us anything else.

Are we better off because we have a Housing Development Corporation or not? Are we better off with this minister than we were with the last one? We simply don't know. What we really need in this corporation, Mr. Speaker, is not somebody else auditing the financial statement, which at the end of the day makes not a whit of difference to Nova Scotia's housing, what we need are Public Performance Reporting measures so that we know, this House knows, and through us the people of the province know, is the Housing Development Corporation doing a good job?

It's almost unbelievable, Mr. Speaker, that there is no document, that with the vast mountains of paper produced by the Government of Nova Scotia every year, there is not one piece of paper that comes before us as members of the House to tell us whether housing is getting better or getting worse.

Oh, sure, there are announcements, there are photo-ops when something new goes up, but is Nova Scotia's housing stock getting better? We don't know because there is no requirement of good, solid, reliable, audited performance standards. That is what this House should be asking for; that is what that minister should be asking for. That is what that minister should be coming forward to ask to legislate so that we know - the next budget cycle - is he doing a good job or not? (Interruptions) But, Mr. Speaker, that is not what he is coming to the House with.

[Page 8622]

Let me tell you a couple of things about what is actually happening with housing in my own constituency. The member for Cape Breton Nova talked very eloquently about the difficulties with housing in his riding; I know the member for Cape Breton South said that he could do the same - and I'm sure every one of us could.

I recently bumped up against the Housing Division of the Department of Community Services in my own riding. There is a vacant lot on Main Avenue in Fairview, where the department intends to fund a private development, affordable housing units in Fairview. That's a good thing. I met with the very capable staff who are dealing with this file in the Department of Community Services because they wanted to know whether the community supported it, so they asked me - as if a letter from the MLA could say yes or no to the project. I said if you want to know if the community supports it, why don't you go out and ask the community. Well, no, can't do that, can't have a community meeting.

Nobody took responsibility for actually asking the people around this vacant lot what they wanted, what they needed. What would not only be a good housing project, but what would add to the community where this building was going to be placed. The developers certainly didn't take it as their responsibility because there's no law requiring it. The City of Halifax doesn't take any responsibility for notifying people about projects because it was an as-of-right project and, as far as the city's concerned, nobody living around the project has any right to know and so they say to developers just go ahead and build.

The city councillor didn't think it was his responsibility because he's afraid that when you're dealing with as-of-right developments, that if you tell people around what's about to happen, it gives them a false idea that they can actually do something about it and that's not what it's supposed to be all about. It's supposed to be building something that adds to the housing stock and adds to the community.

Now, this is a community with some difficulties, Mr. Speaker, because there are some very bad buildings just down the hill from it. There are some very bad landlords in my constituency who let their buildings run down. It's clear that they don't consider an investment in the actual building itself to be worth their while. So the rents go down - people come into those buildings who have few options. As the member for Cape Breton South referred to earlier today, people get driven into the arms of these slum landlords. They don't do it because they want to be there. They don't do it because they like the building. It's because they have very few options and the principal problem is that the shelter allowance given by that same Department of Community Services is utterly inadequate to house people properly in the City of Halifax. People get driven by that department into the arms of slum landlords.

[Page 8623]

Nobody took it upon themselves to ask the community around the building whether they thought it was a good idea or not so I did. So I went knocking on doors, I dropped off a letter with information about what was going to be built. It hasn't been easy, Mr. Speaker, because this is a community in some difficulty. Because of those buildings which I can only describe as slums, further down the hill on the same street, the whole neighbourhood is getting dragged down. Here's the irony of the situation. There is one public housing building on that street and it's the best building on the street. It is the seniors' housing complex at 3 Ford Street, owned and run, very well I might add, by the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority. So that's the public housing project on the street and it's excellent. Everybody loves it. It's a well-maintained building and they're great neighbours.

Down the street are the buildings owned by the private landlords. They're not all bad. There's a whole row, there are seven or eight in a row, and there's only really, in my opinion, one that's disgraceful and there are two that could use a lot of work. The rest of them, frankly, are fine. The problem in that neighbourhood is that these bad buildings have caused so many problems for the neighbours that they're opposed to any expansion of anything in their neighbourhood. They don't want anything to be built because their experience with the existing buildings is so poor, they say if that's bad, then another building must be worse.

Well, I'm not going to say those people are wrong, Mr. Speaker. I think the project is set up in such a way that it is going to be different, but try to talk to people who have got years and years of experience with bad buildings; try to convince them that another building funded by their tax dollars is actually going to make things better.

What I would like to see is a Department of Community Services that is able to look at the global picture of housing, not just what's going to go on that vacant lot, but the impact it is going to have on the people living around it, What are they going to do about slum landlords who are dragging everybody down in the neighbourhood with them, and that's not the only street in my constituency where slum landlords are dragging the neighbourhood down. There's another one, which almost unbelievably is worse. The absolute dirtiest, slummiest building in my entire constituency is on a completely different street.

[2:30 p.m.]

These are people who are known for running slum buildings. This is their thing. This is what they do. It's their market niche. They run a slum and they take desperate people, who don't have a lot of options, who don't have anywhere else they can go. Those buildings drag entire neighbourhoods down. So what is that minister and this department going to do about that? Their housing strategy has to go beyond the occasional news release of so many units built here, it's got to go beyond photo ops where the minister pats himself on the back and says, look how great we are and look at housing in the context of communities.

[Page 8624]

That is why when we heard that there was going to be a Housing Development Corporation Act in this House we were so hopeful. We thought finally the minister is going to do something, and instead the minister changes the auditor. The other issue that's been referred to by other members, which I also hear a lot about in my constituency, are the waiting lists to get into public housing. The most common call that I get in my constituency office - I know it's different for other members because every constituency is different, the demographics are different, the geography is different but in my office the number one call by far are people who need assistance with social assistance. They need someone to help them navigate the bureaucracy of the Department of Community Services. I spend most of my time as a member of the Legislature as kind of an advocacy field officer for the Department of Community Services.

The second call is about affordable housing. That's the number one call and the second is housing. The point being, of course, that they both fall under the Department of Community Services. This is all connected, so at the same time that we were hoping that the minister would be able to do something about these long waiting lists for public housing we get a bill that changes the auditors. What I'm saying is that what we could have had and should have had and might still have if the minister comes to his senses is some way of measuring how well we're doing - not just the inflow of dollars and cents but is housing actually getting better. There are so very many people who need good, safe, clean affordable housing who do not have it. They can wait on that Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority waiting list literally for years.

It so happens that the public housing in my constituency is among the most popular places in the city. If people don't care where in all of HRM they go, they can be placed a little more quickly but if they do care, if they want to, for example, stay in the neighbourhood where they may have lived their whole lives, they can wait literally for years. It's even tougher for people with disabilities. Where is a Housing Development Corporation Act dealing with people with disabilities, because the number of units that are available are so very few and the demand is so very great that these people have to wait a very long time in absolutely substandard housing.

That's what's on my mind when people talk about housing. That's what's happening in my constituency. That's what I need that minister to understand. It goes beyond occasional news releases and photo ops. It goes beyond auditing financial statements to actual performance reporting. How we are doing? Are things getting better? In my constituency the answer is no, things are not getting better. What I want to see is some real action from that minister not a bureaucratic consolidation of auditing. I want to see some real action. I want to see a plan. I want to see some commitment, some sense that housing is the priority that it needs to be. From this minister, this government, we simply don't see that. We see a change in auditors.

[Page 8625]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: I won't speak for very long on this because it is a brief bill and it's actually a bill of fairly minimal significance. It's unfortunate that such a slim piece of legislation is coming through when there is such an enormous administration and such slim benefits being realized from it. What this bill does is it gives the authority to appoint an alternative auditor to the Auditor General for the Housing Development Corporation.

Looking at the last Auditor General's Report on Housing Services and the Housing Development Corporation, one is not surprised that there would be some interest in seeing an alternative auditor appointed. The fact of the matter is that this report is little short of scathing. The language is as diplomatic as can be, but it is full of words about, could be strengthened, should be strengthened. Reviews are not taking place. Rents are not being monitored. Information is not being filed.

What does this mean for the people who are in fact dependent on the Housing Development Corporation and the housing division of the Department of Community Services? It means an awful lot. It means that housing, owned by the Housing Authorities may well be very much substandard. It may well be, as I have been shown photographs, housing whose walls are mouldy; housing which at certain seasons of the year, has up to two inches of water on the bottom of the floors; housing with leaky slider windows, meaning that the tenants are pouring their scarce dollars essentially out the window in making an attempt to heat these units. Or it may mean housing with poor wiring, at the very least.

That's in what may be owned by the development corporations. Then there's also the fact that there is a whole list of performance measurements, which are supposed to be undertaken of housing sponsors, which is to say, group homes, co-operatives and so on. There are also some reviews which ought to be undertaken of market rents for private landlords. The fact of the matter is that these cannot be taking place when one finds that people are living in buildings, literally without roofs. This is what comes to one's attention, often after the fact.

These accommodations are not being reviewed. They are not being inspected. They are not being taken account of and that, Mr. Speaker, I would say is the responsibility of an auditor and perhaps even of an Auditor General. What is going to be achieved by moving the auditing of the Housing Development Corporation away from the scrutiny of the Auditor General? I would suggest it will serve to bring the inhabitants of this housing even further below the radar, and I think that is a very dangerous thing, because I can tell you that the conditions in which people are living in government sponsored or subsidized housing, are dangerous. Somebody needs to be taking an account of those things. When the government continues to pour rent subsidies into uncontrolled and non-rent controlled landlords'

[Page 8626]

premises, then the government has a financial problem as well as a moral problem, and the people depending on this also have a financial and a moral problem.

An auditor is not only a bookkeeper, an auditor is also a scrutineer. It's the public conscience. Mr. Speaker, we need a public conscience. Thank you very much.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a few brief comments on Bill No. 230. I know the intent of the bill is very small information about dealing with auditing when it comes to the Housing Development Corporation.

I wanted to bring some awareness and some concerns around what we see as the lack of commitment from this government around the housing initiatives in this province. They're bringing forth bills like Bill No. 230 to audit the Housing Development Corporation. What we want to see from this government and what we need to see from this government is their commitment to the housing needs of Nova Scotians. They're being ignored, Mr. Speaker. They've been ignored for many years by not only this government, but the previous Liberal Government, they've been ignored by the federal government, both Liberal and Conservative Governments over the years where they have cut and cut when it comes to housing initiatives in the country and in this province.

People are crying out for the government's assistance, Mr. Speaker. I believe they are having a failed attempt at addressing those needs. Here is a prime example of Bill No. 230 coming forward, talking about auditing, when we should be seeing from this government, bills that pertain to addressing those needs of affordable housing in our province.

This province signed an Affordable Housing Agreement with the federal government a couple of years ago, millions of dollars. Yet today in this province, if we were to walk out of this Legislature, we could only go to 21 built units in this province.

They've had many announcements about affordable housing. Many announcements on proposals that we're going to see in the future, about rent subsidies that are going to be there for a few years. What happens when these agreements mature, when these private developers who are entering into agreements with this government to provide affordable housing in this province expire? What's going to happen then? We're going to be back to square one. We're going to be back to having to address the needs of those individuals in as short as 10 years from now, the people who are in need of affordable housing in this province and in need of this government to address their needs in every little community in this province. This isn't an issue that is just the concern of people who live in the HRM or the CBRM, it's people who live in Guysborough, in Shelburne, in Yarmouth - all over the place. They need this government to stand up and show leadership when it comes to addressing their needs for affordable housing.

[Page 8627]

So we see from this government this bill, Mr. Speaker, There are two lines in it, I believe, maybe two and a half, dealing with auditing. When truly we should be auditing the record of this government when it comes to addressing the needs of affordable housing and the needs of Nova Scotians who can hardly make ends meet because they're paying so much of their monthly income for rent, for living under a roof, and sometimes those roofs aren't even adequate enough to provide a safe environment for their families, for their children.

I've been in many residences across HRM and, for that matter, across Nova Scotia, as a paramedic. I have seen first-hand how some of these people live. It's not because they choose to live this way, it's because they have to live this way because they don't have the funds and the resources, or the help from this government, to live in an environment that would be more productive for their kids to learn, a safe family environment, a safe community, because this government and the federal government continue to refuse to address the problems seen.

Governments like to announce all these nice announcements year after year. This government, for instance, is quite good at re-announcing announcements, they do it quite well to get the maximum media and attention they can when it comes to announcing affordable housing initiatives.

These are some of the concerns we have. Why are we seeing Bill No. 230 before us today, talking about auditing, when we should be seeing bills that will affect Nova Scotians and the way they live, the way the children of our province live, because they need our help. They need help from this government, they need the commitment from this government to seriously address the deficiencies in our communities and the lack of resources, the lack of funds that are available for individuals to go and seek help, and to hopefully get that next step to go on and be better community members, be more productive in their communities. But most of them can't do that because they don't have that avenue, that ability to go to a department, or Community Services, and get the assistance they really need.

This government barely gives them enough to make it by, Mr. Speaker, those unfortunate individuals who have to go to this government for social assistance. It's a hard thing for an individual to say, I can't take care of my family, I can't take care of my spouse in this province, and go and ask for that help. The problem is, those individuals who do go - and it's because of need - and ask for this assistance from this government and from governments across-this-country, they don't get the amount of funds, resources and the programs that they need to hopefully get over that period in their life, that they can go on and either go back to school, educate themselves to hopefully get a better job, in order to provide a better home environment for themselves, for their families, for their kids.

[Page 8628]

As I said before, I've been in many residences throughout HRM in my former career, Mr. Speaker, and some of the conditions that these individuals live in are truly deplorable. That's why I think it's important that we see other pieces of legislation other than Bill 230 that just talks about auditing. That's what we need from this government. We don't need to see these type of bills that have two lines in them talking about auditing when there are so many other problems out there and so many issues that this government should be bringing forward to address in legislation that we see on the floor of this Legislature.

It's been a grave concern of mine, as the former Housing Critic for our Party, and I know the member for Cape Breton Nova has taken over that role in our caucus, to hopefully bring awareness around the lack of commitment from this government when it comes to affordable housing, especially from the member for Cape Breton Nova, because we all know, Mr. Speaker, that in this province, when we're dealing and talking about affordable housing, and the units I mentioned, the 21 units, that you can walk out of here and go and visit and see. I know the people who are living in them appreciate that.

I can tell you, we can't leave this Legislature, get in our cars or take a plane ride to Cape Breton and go in and visit how those families are living in new units because there are no units, Mr. Speaker. Cape Breton is getting shafted, to be quite honest, when it comes to affordable housing. They don't have any projects, any current buildings that are occupied by Nova Scotians that came about because of this affordable housing agreement with the federal government - zero, Mr. Speaker. That's shameful.

I know that there are hundreds, if not even more, residents in Cape Breton who are waiting to get into public housing. For me to stand here and talk about Bill 230, about auditing, wouldn't be proper if I didn't mention the lack of other initiatives from this government when it comes to housing, especially when it pertains to Cape Breton. They are in need. They have been crying out for years for this government to address the needs of those individuals in Cape Breton who need assistance when it comes to housing.

I know the member for Cape Breton Nova will definitely continue to bring up the concerns of not only the Cape Breton families who need assistance and commitment from this government, but he'll continue to bring up the concerns of all Nova Scotians throughout the province, in Yarmouth, in Shelburne, in Guysborough, Antigonish, New Glasgow and Pictou, Mr. Speaker, because that's the role that we feel we need to take as critics in Opposition.

As I said, Bill 230 might be a little bit of a housekeeping piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, but we really need to see other things from this government, not just the nice big media advisements that - oh, we're going to put millions of dollars of rent subsidies - we're going to assign contracts for private developers to deliver affordable housing to Nova Scotians, but yet, we haven't seen these units built.

[Page 8629]

It's great on paperwork, great for this government to point at their initiatives and what they have announced, but what the heck does that do for the people who are waiting on the wait list here in Halifax, in Yarmouth, and in Cape Breton, when they're waiting to get somewhere to live? Something that we take for granted - I know I probably take it for granted.

Every now and then you see the market out there, especially in my area, the new houses and you think maybe you should buy a bigger house - but do you know what? - all I have to do is remember some of the residences I've been in over the years and the conditions I've seen that these people are living in, not only in my community but throughout the province. I do take it for granted, the fortunate advantages that I have had over my life - a safe environment for my family, for my kids to go to school to get an education.

You can't understand how important it is, especially for our kids to come from a safe environment when they're attending school, to come from a residence that is appropriate and safe for their families to learn in, Mr. Speaker. It really affects those kids. I know we talk a lot about these initiatives when it comes down to parents applying for assistance or help from this government when it comes to affordable housing, but we've got to remember the kids who are involved in these families. Those are the ones who are going to suffer. Those are the ones who are put at a disadvantage because they're living in inappropriate, unsafe housing environments in this province. What's that going to do in another 10, 15, 20 years?

These kids are put at a disadvantage and that's unfortunate and that's why I think this government needs to show a stronger leadership role when it comes to pieces of legislation, not only to bring forward Bill No. 230 that deals with auditing the Housing Development Corporation, Mr. Speaker, but the Minister of Community Services, who's in charge of housing, should go back and audit the facts, and the facts are that the people out there in Nova Scotia who are on the waiting lists for affordable housing are still there. They were there last year, they were there the year before, and I bet that they'll be there next year, because we haven't seen any huge initiatives from this government to address those needs. Thousands - I say that thousands - of Nova Scotians are living in deplorable conditions, living in an environment that is unsafe for their kids, and they need our help. They need this government to take that leadership role and to start tackling an issue that has been ignored by this government, as I said, and the former Liberal Government not only here in the province, but federally.

Mr. Speaker, governments don't want to address those needs maybe because these are the less fortunate people in our province and maybe they can't contribute to political campaigns, they can't help us get elected, but that's not why we're here. That shouldn't be why we're here. We should be taking care of those individuals to ensure at least at a minimum they have safe environments to live in, for their kids to live in. That's a simple statement, and we should be doing that as a government, as a province, and as a country to

[Page 8630]

take care of these less fortunate people who find themselves, for one reason or another in this time in their life, in need.

As I said, it's very hard for these families to come forward and ask for help, Mr. Speaker, and many of them have done that and are having to gain funds from government through social services for housing and other basic needs. We're not talking about giving enough funds for someone to live in the South End, in some of these large homes, or in the nice condos down on the waterfront, or in Bedford along Shore Drive. They're not asking for funds to allow them to do this, they're asking for enough funds just to maintain a safe environment, a safe home for them and their kids to live in.

We could break that cycle and I think that's one of the messages I want to get across, to break that cycle, especially for those kids who have no choice as to where they live - you know you can't choose your parents, you can't chose their employment, and there are many people who find themselves in need who have to apply for social services, who have had good jobs in the past, who have had money to provide a safe environment for their kids, but yet find themselves, either because of an industry that closed down . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the member allow a few moments for an introduction?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Yes.

MR. SPEAKER. Thank you. The honourable Minister of Energy on an introduction.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and I want to thank my honourable colleague for taking a moment and providing me with this opportunity to stand in the House to do an introduction of two special guests. Mr. Speaker, in your west gallery we have two women who are joining us today from the YMCA of Cape Breton. I would like to introduce Charlene Giovannetti-King, the CEO of the YMCA of Cape Breton, as well as Robin Gogan on the board. They are here for a meeting today. As you would also know the honourable member for Cape Breton South has brought forward legislation with regards to a name change for the YMCA so to just further the positive things that are happening in the community. I would ask the ladies to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our visitors to the House today.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville): I too welcome those guests to our gallery. They've come a long way to watch the proceedings and I hope they enjoy it.

[Page 8631]

As I was saying, the people of Nova Scotia look to government for a good public policy. They look for government to be there in time of need, not only when it pertains to public housing or social assistance but in emergencies, flu outbreaks, disasters, and they look at government to be there for them. That's the role of government but over the years I think one thing that I can say is that government has forgotten some of the roles and some of the important initiatives that they need to deal with. We find ourselves debating Bill No. 230 about auditing when, as I've said before, we need for them to acknowledge that this housing in Nova Scotia has been neglected, not only by provincial but federal government. They need to recognize that it's an area that we need to start addressing not only on paper, not only in announcements and potential money down the road but in actual bricks and mortars if you want to say.

I've heard that terminology many times on this floor of this Legislature - bricks and mortar. That resonates right back to the people that are on those waiting lists who are waiting for decent housing in this province. That's what's going to give them the next step. That's what's going to give them and their kids, hopefully, an advantage to break that cycle I was talking about, the poverty they find themselves in.

It's not just people who don't want to work and just want to get a free ride from the government. I'll admit there are those people in the system, but also in all walks of life. You don't have to look at people on social assistance who like to get a free ride from taxpayers. I think it's important that the message gets brought up over and over again when it comes to housing developments, public housing, initiatives around affordable housing on the floor of this Legislature and that we should be talking more than just about Bill No. 230, dealing with auditing. If I did my own audit of the housing department or Community Services they wouldn't be getting a great recommendation from me. I know from the thousands of people who are waiting to get assistance from this government, they wouldn't get a passing grade from them neither.

It's the role of government to take a leadership role when we're talking about housing - affordable housing, not just housing, affordable housing. When we give assistance to those people, we give them adequate funds that they can break that cycle, that they can get a safe environment for their kids and families to live in. To be totally honest, if we put so much as a provincial government down onto the municipalities in this province and when you look at HRM for example and I use HRM a lot just because this is the area that I represent but it's an area where I've seen need and have worked in over my career. I apologize for other areas but I know it's in other areas of this province.

What we see here in HRM, and what I've seen over the years, is that the municipalities, if they executed their full powers when it comes to enforcement of bylaws, and safety concerns, the Fire Marshal's Office for one - and I know the fire marshal of Nova Scotia. Mr. Bob Cormier, was a good firefighter from my community of Lower Sackville,

[Page 8632]

a great representative of the fire service and really brings forward knowledge in that capacity to the Fire Marshal's Office of Nova Scotia.

[3:00 p.m.]

If his department and the departments in HRM that deal with enforcement in this province, did their job to their full capacity, to the full extent that they could when it comes to building codes, when it comes to dangerous environments for our apartments and our so-called rooming houses, Mr. Speaker, we'd be in serious trouble. There would be thousands and thousands of people living on the streets. But they turn a blind eye, and you can't blame them, they try their best. They do and I want to commend the fire marshal and the municipality for trying to do their best to ensure that the building codes and the different bylaws that are in place, not only the Municipality of Halifax, but throughout the province, are enforced.

If they did their job to the fullest extent they could, as I say, we'd have thousands of individuals living on the streets. They would probably be walking around the grounds of this Legislature right now because they would have nowhere to go. It's shameful to say that, potentially, these enforcement officers and departments in our province, don't do their job to the fullest extent they are mandated to by legislation from this province, but we couldn't handle it if they did. I'm sure the Minister of Community Services would be pulling out his hair if he knew or had to deal with that many people living on the streets.

So it's kind of shameful to see that happening in our communities, but on the one hand you almost have to thank those individuals in those positions because if they did proceed with executing their job to the fullest, we'd be in crisis in this province. Even more crisis than we are right now. I think that's why we need to see a leadership role from this government and the federal government, not just on paper, not just in front of the cameras when they sign a nice $1 million deal that they're going to address the problems of this province over the next five years or so.

They need to take a leadership role and show the people who are in need, not just me, Mr. Speaker, as the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid. There are probably 100, 200, 300, 400 people in my community who are waiting for public housing. Government needs to show them that they are taking a leadership role and that they are there to hopefully get them the help they need, the assistance they need, and not just say, well, Community Services can take care of that.You can go there and apply, we'll take care of you, but you're not taking care of them. You just have to look at the papers today and look at what it costs to live in an apartment here in Halifax.

[Page 8633]

I know we raised questions several times about the cost of housing in different parts of the province where Community Services should have the ability to look at what the market price is for housing, appropriate market price. I'm not talking about these environments or these buildings that shouldn't even really be in existence in the province that should really be condemned, but a safe, affordable environment or apartment or a house, that families can live in and be able to have that flexibility to enable these people in all areas of this province to afford proper housing in their communities.

It can't be a blanket number for everybody in this province. There are different costs wherever you go in this province. I'm sure it's different in Barrington Passage than it is in Bedford and Halifax and Sackville and Mount Uniacke, Mr. Speaker. There are different costs involved and you have to have that flexibility to allow these people to find adequate housing in their communities.

There's always this thing, Mr. Speaker, about the out-migration of individuals and we always just concern ourselves with the young people of our communities because hopefully they will be the next generation who will bring revenue and generate healthy communities, towns and villages, but there's always the issue about those less fortunate. Those people who don't have the jobs who are living on the streets, and they come to the city because there are more people here for them to try to either ask for a few dollars, or try to get an opportunity to maybe get a job that will pay a little bit more so that they can get that housing that they need and they deserve as a resident of our province.

Everybody deserves to live in appropriate housing in this province. I don't think anybody here would dare to say differently. They deserve this and as a government official I think it's my role to ensure that the message of those who are less fortunate, who find themselves in difficulty asking for help get the message across to that side of the Legislature and penetrate into their minds that we need to address the root of the problem. We need to address more than just bringing bills in like Bill No. 230 about auditing. They need to take a look at their initiatives, their priorities and I think the genuine difference between Parties is the priorities and how we set them.

We know, the Party I represent has been a strong advocate for those less fortunate. It's a very high priority for us. We need to take care of those individuals who can't take care of themselves, for one, or who need that little bit of assistance. That's a difference between our Party, the Government Party and the Third Party. It's one of the differences. It's high on our priority list to ensure that we take care of these vulnerable individuals, those residents in our province who need our assistance and it's not very high on the priority list for the government. We know that. We're witness to that. Every time they announce affordable housing in this province, we realize, well, it's not a big deal. If it wasn't for the federal government - and I'll give one plug for the Liberal Government, I guess, but if it wasn't for the Liberal Government - getting back into the affordable housing crisis in this country, this government wouldn't have any initiatives when it comes to affordable housing. They

[Page 8634]

wouldn't have stepped forward with their own money to address the problems, it was all initiated by the federal government and I think that's shameful.

As a province we need to ensure that government comes forward with initiatives that promote a healthier province, promotes a healthier environment for our kids, and that's where I see this government lacking, Mr. Speaker. This government does not put a high priority on the affordable housing crisis in our province. They will all stand up and say I agree with it, yes, we need to do something. As I said, if it wasn't for the federal government, they would not have any real policies or prioritize affordable housing in this province because the federal government is there with money. They made a definite clause in there that this provincial government needs to be at the table when it comes to affordable housing.

I know that the federal government, years ago, got out of the housing initiatives, downloaded onto the province, which was an unfair thing to do, it really was. But we can't just say, well, they downloaded on the provincial government, we'll just leave it fester for a few years and see what happens, maybe the problem will go away. But it's not going away, it's still there. It's here today, it's going to be here tomorrow, the next year, and the year after. It's going to be here long after the initiatives brought forward by this government about rent subsidies and the agreements that they're getting involved with right now, with private developers to bring affordable housing to Nova Scotians. It's not going to be there afterward, Mr. Speaker. What's going to happen to these individuals? We're going to be in the same boat 5, 10 years from now. I think that's why we have to emphasize that fact . . .

I read a study from the University of Toronto about rent subsidies and that it's a quick fix for government. It gets you the biggest exposure quickly without much effort. It allows for private industry to benefit from those decisions by government. I've said it before about health care - there shouldn't be any profit made from health care and I think everyone would agree - many Nova Scotians would agree, and many Canadians would agree - that in health care you shouldn't be making a profit. I know we're treading around that area right now with some of the private clinics that we see popping up across the country - right across the harbour here - and in Nova Scotia.

We can't allow profit to be made from addressing the needs of those vulnerable like the affordable housing initiatives. That's what this government is doing. By not investing in public stock and increasing public stock, we're going to be in this same position years down the road. When we talk about public stock, it's not the new ones - they will be great, new paint, new drywall, new trim in these apartments that might be built. But, what about the current public stock? I've been in it as the member for Sackville-Cobequid, but I've been in the public stock the province owns throughout my career as a paramedic. There has been such a lack of commitment and funds put into the public stock that we have in this province. They're in sad shape.

[Page 8635]

I've been in residences here in Halifax that you could actually see out through the corner of the window. I said, do you own this home? No, no, the government owns this home. I couldn't believe it, I could almost put two of my fingers right through the wall. This was a couple of years ago and I know the situation hasn't changed because we hear it in our caucus about the deplorable conditions, not only of housing stock, but especially public housing stock. That's just disgraceful. Government should be ashamed.

They need to renovate these buildings, not only the public stock, but you look at some of our senior complexes in this province, Mr. Speaker, some of them were built - the ones that are in my community in Sackville, we have three of them that were built in the 1970s. It was a great initiative then. We need to have an area for our seniors to live in, especially in the communities where many of them have lived their whole lives, who have brought their families up, their kids up.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, would you allow some time for an introduction?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Sure, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to you and to all members in the House, I would turn the attention of the members to the west gallery where we're joined by Mr. Bill Black, who is the recently nominated candidate in Halifax Citadel. I would ask Mr. Black to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Well, I also welcome the visitor to the gallery, Mr. Speaker. Hopefully, he will take away from some of my debate some of the problems not only in the riding he hopes to represent, but throughout the province.

Mr. Speaker, I was talking a little bit about public stock and the ownership of the province with the facilities and the buildings they have. As I was saying, in my community we have three seniors' complexes that we need in our communities. It's ironic how often I have been called in the last two, two and a half years about placements into these residences. The seniors in my community want to live and stay in the community, and they want to try to gain access. Most of them, if not all of them, are on fixed incomes now, they have limited incomes, and the rising cost of housing, especially in my area, in the HRM, and I know it's across the province, is going up daily. It's amazing to see the cost of owning a home now, in the area I represent.

[Page 8636]

All these seniors who have been living in the community, like my parents, Mr. Speaker, for 35 years, want to stay there. They weren't originally residents of the community back in the 1940s or anything, but with the growth in my community that kind of started in the early 1970s, many of these families now have been there for 35, 40 years. They have kids, they have grandkids who are in the community and they want to stay there. Now in their senior years they call me trying to gain access to these senior complexes, yet there is such a huge waiting list for them; up to three years for the three units I'm talking about in Sackville.

The message I wanted to get, the ironic thing, as much as I am getting the calls and the hundreds of people who want to get into these facilities, I get calls from residents who actually live in these facilities, Mr. Speaker, because of the environment, the air quality in their buildings, the lack of elevators, for one. These seniors go into these places, people are trying to get into them, but it's ironic, once you're in there, there is a whole new area, or problems that you have when you're in them - about the carpet conditions. It might sound frivolous talking about the carpets but some of these carpets, not only in Sackville but down the Valley way and towards Cape Breton, have been there since they built the place 30 years ago. You can't tell me that's healthy especially for seniors. It's so easy for them to get ill and be affected by poor quality of air or mould. Mould's been a hot topic in this province in buildings, in government buildings, and in private dwellings.

[3:15 p.m.]

There are so many problems in these community facilities for seniors because they were built in the 1970s and that's it. They were built in the 1970s and there hasn't been a whole lot of upgrading - a few here and there. Like I say, the government will stand up and say, well, we put new carpets in this facility in Windsor. Well, okay that's great but they probably needed it 15 or 20 years ago. That's where it shows the lack of leadership, I feel, on government's part about addressing the needs not only for those trying to enter into affordable housing for seniors but once they're in them we have to make sure that they're renovated, they're upgraded, they're a safe, healthy environment for our seniors to live in. We can't forget about them because they're seniors and they're at the end stage of their life. You can't do that. That brings it back to the priorities of government and the lack of putting this initiative of affordable housing on their radar, on their priority list compared to ours.

I know Bill No. 230 will probably leave this Chamber, go to the Law Amendments Committee - I don't assume there will be any speakers coming forward on it, it's a pretty simple bill - come back for third reading and then pass. That's the thing, it's a simple little bill. The topic of it, housing, isn't a simple problem, it's a serious problem and we need government to be serious about fixing it and helping those who need affordable housing in this province and hopefully support the people in affordable housing, in the public stock housing, in publicly-owned buildings like our seniors' complexes and all the other buildings the province owns.

[Page 8637]

As I've said initially, there is no leadership in this government about addressing these needs. We haven't seen an increase of public stock from this government. That's the shameful part about it, we need to do that, we need to get into addressing that. I've mentioned the study from the University of Toronto about it's so easy for politicians to dish out rent subsidies because you know, here's $10 million, here we go, we're going to address the problem right on paper, the Minister of Finance can write a cheque. Usually they don't write a cheque overnight because these deals usually stretch over several if not many years, if not a decade.

What we need is for this government to actually increase the amount of stock that they have. The report that I've read stated that rent subsidies alone do not work, they do not work. It's just a quick fix for government to get the media to try to show to people, their voters, that they're concerned about affordable housing, that they're going to try to tackle the problems and the crisis we see in affordable housing. What you need with rent subsidies is the public stock which in turn means that they need to build the buildings, own them themselves, allow people to move into them that are on wait lists for affordable housing. It's an investment, just like my home is an investment for me. I still owe a heck of a lot of money on it, I don't own it really, the bank does or the Credit Union does, but eventually you know, down the road when I continue paying on it, it's an investment for me because it's going to be mine, it's an asset of mine. I can use that down the road to probably borrow for my kids' education because it's going to be expensive I believe.

This government needs to listen to those people who have studied affordable housing. There's experts out there - the government aren't experts in it and neither are we. We have to take the advice of those people who are educated in it, who are working in it, who deal with it every day, and we have to look at the recommendations.

As I already mentioned, one of the recommendations was rent subsidies, on its own doesn't change the problems we see. They need to be associated with increasing the public stock. If you look at the announcements that the Minister of Community Services made last year about the apartments that are going to be built here in HRM and to offer the rent subsidies for people, you know, people will be happy to get into them, Mr. Speaker. Why did we have to go to the private developers to do this? Why didn't we invest? We have to invest in this sector and we can associate that with rent subsidies. Then, in the long run, this government has more assets.

The value of real estate, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you're aware of it, hasn't gone down in this province. It has gone up and skyrocketed immensely over the last several years especially. So it's an investment. That's what we need from this government. We need to have a piece of legislation other than Bill No. 230 come forward stating we're going to buy apartments throughout this province. We can address the needs of those less fortunate in our province by hopefully giving them, as I was saying earlier, a safe affordable environment for their families, for their kids. We need to invest in that. It would pay off in the long run.

[Page 8638]

Maybe the government doesn't think they're going to be here in 10 years when some of these agreements mature and I hope they're not there myself, Mr. Speaker. I hope we're over there so that we can put our priorities in place, so that we can address the needs of those less fortunate, and we can show the people of Nova Scotia that we care about them. We care about those who need to get into these facilities, need to get into affordable housing units. It's an investment. Maybe that's what it is, maybe they don't think they'll be around to reap the benefits of those investments down the road because, obviously, it will be an up front cost if we go and build apartments in this province, no question. I don't think the public will be outraged, or would be calling for the resignation of the Minister of Community Services, or the resignation of the Minister of Finance for writing the cheque to build these buildings. That wouldn't happen.

They would maybe look upon the government and say, gee, you know, they're actually willing to help those less fortunate in our province, they're doing a good job. Mr. Speaker, they're not doing a good job. They're not addressing those needs. They're going for the quick fixes, like rent subsidies. As I said, they're important, but without going all the way with them by increasing that public stock, they're not going to be effective. In a few years we're going to be back to square one when it comes to this. Maybe I won't be here, maybe I'll walk out of here after I feel my time is done, but there will be other politicians up here, other elected officials, standing in my place, probably standing on the government side, having to address the same thing I'm talking about today.

Mr. Speaker, it might be in five years, it might be in 10 years from now. I might stay as long as John Holm and stay 19 years, I don't know. You never know what's going to happen in this job, but I'll stay here as long as I feel that I can do good for the people of Sackville-Cobequid. For one, because that's what we're all here for, is to hopefully help our communities. I'll also stand here and hopefully help other people in Nova Scotia because, you know, we all know people from all over the province and we have to address their needs, too. It's important that we do that and by this government not taking that leadership role, as I was saying - when it comes to affordable housing and allowing the federal government to dictate to us what we're going to be doing - it's really dictating to the government that, well, here's some money, but you've got to put up your own money to hopefully garner some of that support from the federal government.

There's been a lot of issues brought up, not only by me but my colleagues here in the House, Mr. Speaker, about concerns about Bill No. 230, that it's just a simple little bill talking about auditing and that it lacks the advice, it lacks the information. That is truly what we need to be talking about, and that's the need of affordable housing. We need it in all areas of this province.

[Page 8639]

One of the things that amazed me not too long ago, it kind of affected the area I represent, was an announcement by the Minister of Community Services about bringing affordable housing to the area of the province of Upper Sackville-Hammonds Plains, and it was amazing to me to see, within a day or two, that announcement being retracted. It was taken off the books.

The Minister of Community Services made the announcement, but in the media the next day the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, who represents the area, said he didn't really know about it and then, within one week I believe, it was cancelled. Some of the concerns, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations stated that there was no public input - the public didn't know anything about it. My God, Mr. Speaker, he sits at the same Cabinet Table as the Minister of Community Services - and he should have known about it. He should have known about it and he should have known about it before it got to the papers, before it was announced by the minister. He should have gone to the people he represents and informed them, educated them about what this proposal was going to do.

What is frustrating for some of the residents of this province is that usually they don't find out about anything until it's already announced or they're building it. That's where government needs to inform the public, so they don't have that NIMBY effect in a community, not in my backyard. You can't blame residents, I guess, for not knowing the facts, being unclear of what's actually going there, and that's what happened in this case. The minister who represents that area should have known - he sits at the same Cabinet Table as the Minister of Community Services - about this project and he should have informed the people he represented.

I think it's important that government gets out into the communities and educates them, informs them, about what they want to do. There was supposed to be another seniors' complex in that area and because of rumours - plain and simple - about what was going there and what wasn't going there, now that area doesn't have a project on the books, adding to the seniors' complexes in my community. I say "my community" but that area, I'm not saying just Sackville - more than just people from Sackville would have benefited from that, people from Fall River, Beaver Bank, and the MLA from there probably would have enjoyed being able to go back and tell people that they didn't have to go away to live in another community if it had been built in that area, you don't have to move to another part of the province. We could have had a facility built close to home. I'm sure he would rather it have been right in his riding, but we can't have so many of those opportunities to put them exactly in our ridings.

Just like the long-term care facility announced by this government that was supposed to be built in the Bedford-Sackville area to address the needs there. I'm sure the Minister of Finance would love for it to be in Bedford. I would say I would love for it to be in Sackville, but as long as it's built in that area so the people in that area can take advantage of it, that's

[Page 8640]

what's important. I don't care if it's in Sackville, as long as it's built in that area so that the people that are in need of those facilities - long-term care, seniors' residences, like affordable housing - gain access to them so they don't have to move 100, 200, 300 kilometres away to find affordable housing.

Many seniors in our area - I know the minister for Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville knows this, I believe he was in real estate before - would love to downgrade their homes. They would love to downgrade their homes and move into something that doesn't take as much energy to keep up, but you can't do that in our community because they can't afford to stay in the community. There are no facilities that would accommodate them.

That's a lack of priority from this government. They don't prioritize the need for affordable housing in our communities, not only in Sackville, but in Yarmouth and all over this province. They like to go to that quick fix. Those announcements made that we're going to spend millions of dollars on affordable housing, let me see them. As I said before, you walk out of this Legislature, we could take a drive and go see 21 units. I can't remember the date - I think it was 2002 - when the Affordable Housing Agreement was signed. There's 21 units and that's on mainland Nova Scotia - zero units in Cape Breton, none. So there's no one in Cape Breton who could actually go to a unit built in Cape Breton and see how this government has addressed their needs.

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite spoke about the community particularly that he lives in, Millwood, my constituency and the issues that they had with respect to the Community Services announcement that was made a number of months ago. The member would know and should know that it was a preliminary announcement, that it had to go through a process that considered things like environmental issues, school capacity, compatibility in the size and scope. Those things were taken into consideration and the Minister of Community Services made an appropriate decision. At the same time, I made sure that the people who I represented, their issues and concerns were brought to the minister's attention. If I recall correctly, the member opposite also agreed with me in a private conversation that it wasn't the right place to put that facility. I would like to know if he was for it or against it and maybe he needs to explain to his neighbours what his position is.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. It wasn't a point of order but it was very informative.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): I want to say again, that the lack of leadership from this government when it comes to affordable housing is prominent. It's prominent not only to our caucus but to the people of the province and especially to the

[Page 8641]

people who are on the wait list to get into affordable housing, to the units they hope this government will build eventually and not just cancel announcements. They want to gain access to them. As I've said, without that leadership, without going to the community and educating themselves, educating their neighbours and all MLAs should be responsible for educating their neighbours and the people they represent about the needs of certain facilities in our communities.

I can say that I'm fully supportive of hopefully increasing the number of affordable housing units not only in Sackville, and in my community where I live, but across this province. I support those initiatives from groups that are pushing this government to address those needs, to stop ignoring them and to ensure that they put these needs on the priority list of this government. They don't do that and they will continue not to do that. I'm sure of it. Yes, they'll spend millions of dollars just because the federal government has come down and said we'll give you a bag of money if you add a little bit to it. You can take some of the glory about us addressing affordable housing needs in this province but that's not going to do it.

As I've said, we need to address and ensure that these people have units that they can actually live in right now, tomorrow, the next day. My Lord, you see developments going up here in no time. Habitat for Humanity can build homes in weeks and they're volunteers. Why can't government be involved in initiatives that build affordable housing units in weeks? My God, the resources that they could use that they have available to them. Go to some of the businesses that they get funds or donations from and say listen, do this for us. But they won't. It's such a drawn out process and there's no real reason in my mind, and in our minds as a caucus, why these units aren't being built now. We could just look around outside about buildings going up in no time - the Cobequid Community Health Centre in my community, the new hospital that's being built. It has been delayed and delayed by government, but it's finally being built.

Why can't we have these same initiatives? Why can't this government use their ability to address these needs of those in need of affordable housing and build the buildings? Increase the public stock. As I said, it's an investment for government down the road. Think about these buildings that we'll own in the future once they're paid off. They can give themselves an interest-free loan. Go to NSBI and maybe they'll give the government the money to build these buildings. Really, if that's what it takes, do it so that we can show the rest of Canada for one and the federal government that we're serious about addressing the needs of those less fortunate and the needs of people who need affordable housing in our province. Let's not just wait until they come to us with another agreement and a bit of money to try to get the support, I believe, of the voters. We can't think that way. Government can't think that way.

[Page 8642]

If they did the proper thing and they took care of those less fortunate in our communities, that's going to radiate throughout the communities as saying there's a good member, there's a good government, you know, they're taking care of everybody, the whole community, Mr. Speaker, the whole province. That's why I think our priorities are different from theirs in that if we have to stand up on occasions like this Bill No. 230 and not only talk and emphasize the fact that we do need to see other pieces of legislation that deal with these problems, that's our job. We'll continue to do that, we'll continue to express the concerns of those in our province who are in need and, hopefully, get the message out to them that government's priorities are out of line.

They need to address this problem. It would radiate into so many aspects of government when it comes to saving money, Mr. Speaker. As I said, a healthy environment for kids to live in, to learn in. What would that do to the health care costs if our seniors live in healthy seniors' complexes with good air quality. Many of the buildings now have to be built to code and have simple things like air exchangers. In the 1970s they didn't have that. We didn't have air exchangers in the first house I lived in that I remember. Your air exchanger was to open the window, but now there are rules, regulations and laws that state we need to have healthier environments in our houses, healthier air. So why doesn't that pertain to our seniors' complexes throughout this province?

Mr. Speaker, I was in one that actually had a fan at the end of the long hallway, but it was turned around so the fan was blowing down the hallway with the open window behind it to try to bring in fresh air. Think about the health problems, especially respiratory in this province, especially with our seniors. If they had even a little bit more clean air to breathe in their homes, in these senior complexes that the province owns, imagine the costs we could save in health care. We would save some money, no doubt, but we need to have that investment, that upfront investment, that commitment from government to take a leadership role to address the needs.

Investment, Mr. Speaker, what would it save in health care for these seniors? The same as our kids if they were brought up in a safer environment, a safer home, so that they can get to school and educate themselves and maybe break that rut that they're in as a family unit. What would that save if that kid went on to go to university to educate themselves, to get a good education, get a good job, start paying taxes? What would that save if that child doesn't follow the same trends that a lot of these kids do when it comes to their family needing the assistance of social services in this province.

Think about the savings in Community Services, Mr. Speaker, the savings in Health. That's why you need to have that upfront investment so that we can change things. The Minister of Health Promotion should know this, prevention, we need to invest now to change things in the future. Just like affordable housing, we have to invest now so that down the road we're in a better position and maybe some day we won't have the waits that we have for people to get into affordable housing or the crisis seen in some of the areas of our

[Page 8643]

province when it comes to poverty, crime, and the cost of health on the budget of government.

We need that investment and that's why I think we need to see more bills with the title housing in it, Mr. Speaker, other than Bill No. 230 that talks about auditing. We need to see bills that will directly affect the lives of Nova Scotians to ensure that they can be prosperous, that their kids can grow up in a safe and healthy environment and be productive Nova Scotians. It's an investment that this government, I think, refuses to make and we'll continue to stand here and make those requests on behalf of those who contact us about their needs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, certainly I wanted to have the opportunity to say a few words on this bill, or as it's now being a called, a bit of a non-bill. I guess we would say, since it's just dealing with an auditing mechanism, the member opposite went on at great length, explored a lot of detail, and also thinks that his Party has total ownership on this issue, but I don't think we could be an MLA without dealing with this particular issue of housing. It's one that affects us all.

I want to say from the outset that I know there are members truly opposite, on the other side of the House here, and I certainly know the member for Kings North, a former minister of the cloth, would love, would absolutely love to get to his feet and speak about the need for affordable housing in his riding in the Annapolis Valley, and indeed in this province. There is absolutely no question. In my area, despite having the benefit of a long-time base at Greenwood, and it does provide a good income for many people, military and civilian, but as soon as we move out to the edges of our communities of Kingston, Greenwood, Berwick, Aylesford, Waterville, and to the North and South Mountains, we have tremendous housing needs. At the present time there are over 500 families - in a recent report on homelessness - in our area and the need for affordable housing, a documented fact, over 500 families are in need. Of that group, we have 80 seniors who need housing. So it is, indeed, a very big issue, a very serious issue, a tremendous need.

It was one I was a bit optimistic about when I saw that a member from the Valley, the member for Kings South, becoming the Minister of Community Services, that he would take a very honest and vital interest in restoring some of the current affordable housing, and also increase the housing stock in our area. So it has been a true disappointment over the last two years to see that it's really non-existent. There's been one little announcement in Wolfville, his own riding, when, of course, we were looking at a Fall election. Whether that will ever be built, who knows. It's been a dismal record for this government in this particular area.

One of the real needs that we have in the Annapolis Valley is that there is an enormous amount of old housing stock, many farm homes in that are 100-plus years of age.

[Page 8644]

It's the restoration of these homes that could make wonderful homes for new young families that are moving to our area. Many are moving to the Valley now because of the large farms that really have that migrant farm labour requirement. Many, of course, are wanting to stay in the Valley. They do see some possibilities, some future opportunities, and many of them in that minimum-wage or low-wage category cannot really afford housing, therefore, it's an area where there is a great need, and it's one that I feel government should play a role in, not entirely perhaps. I have a little bit of a different view, perhaps, on this, as to how we could increase the amount of housing, certainly all over the province but particularly in this area of the Annapolis Valley.

There's no question, from my past experience with taking children home from school and from sports teams' practices, that in fact many children don't want you to see their homes, their home is decrepit, it's rundown, it's in a very sad state. I've had that occasion where children would tell me they live here, and it wouldn't be their actual home. These are the people who I feel government should be providing more opportunity in the area of housing, because it does affect. It is part of the whole requirement for decent living, healthy living, and certainly an area where all of us would like to see a stronger role.

[3:45 p.m.]

It's very interesting to go out to a gathering of people who are very concerned about housing in this province. Last evening I attended a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. It's interesting, over the past five years of this government, Habitat for Humanity has almost built as many homes or assisted in the building with the federal government program as this government has provided. It's a pretty sad commentary, a pretty sad reality of what Nova Scotians have had to contend with.

I think we have to try to find some new mechanisms, some new means in which we can indeed put up affordable housing in this province. We have many wage earners who are in that $25,000 to $40,000 category, and building a new home today is indeed unaffordable. If we came up with some other mechanisms and a cost-shared kind of arrangement perhaps even a little bit like the Habitat model, where the home is built and then the person has ownership of that home over a 25- or 30-year period by them paying a certain portion of that house as an ongoing interest-free mortgage - it's one of those things I think that we honestly have to look at in this province. We are simply now in an enormous deficit when it comes to housing and housing stock. As I said earlier, a renewal and renovation project where even the insertion of $15,000 to $25,000 on some of the old farming homes stock through the Valley could in fact renew these homes and make them available to young families who are moving to our area.

One of the realities at this time of the year, for example, I had visited a couple of homes in recent weeks where in these big old rambling homes, they're in such poor condition, uninsulated, they're starting to partition off a couple for rooms for the Winter that

[Page 8645]

they will heat. So this is the kind of opportunity that I think government could provide with affordable housing that the older couple could move out and move into something that is decent, affordable and would improve their quality of living.

Those are a few of the areas that I've had to deal with in recent weeks, recent months. One of the organizations that I count on pretty heavily in my area - there are always at least two or three a month that I'm calling the Cobequid Housing Authority and getting them to find housing for people in our area. Certainly in terms of keeping up their homes, reinvesting, I see a very strong trend to do that. As the member opposite mentioned as well, that much of the affordable housing that we are using in this province is now in very poor condition because reinvestment in it simply has not occurred.

So with those remarks, I want to point out the challenges that perhaps all of us as MLAs are constantly dealing with, and that is the lack of housing to direct families toward, especially families with young children who need good housing as one of the basic requirements. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I take pleasure to get up and to speak on Bill No. 230, an Act to Amend Chapter 213 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Housing Development Corporation Act.

I do know this is designed specifically to hire an auditor over and above that of the Auditor General, an auditor who will do the auditing of the housing within the Housing Development Corporation's purview. Hopefully, that audit will look at an auditing of the housing stock that exists throughout the entire province and where it can be best utilized.

I rise in this House because I want to thank the minister responsible for housing who decided to take a tour of the constituency of Dartmouth North. The minister actually had taken that tour with me, the MLA representing the constituency, along with the chairperson of Neighbourhood Watch. We had toured the constituency of Dartmouth North because if any Member of the Legislative Assembly looks at their statistical profiles of their electoral districts that is provided to them by the Department of Finance, they will see the type of community they have. If you look at the statistical profile of Dartmouth North, you will recognize that 61 percent of the housing stock that exists in Dartmouth North is of multi-unit residential development.

When I look out this window, I can see the apartment buildings that rise above the trees. When you reach the pinnacle of the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge or the A. Murray MacKay as far as the eye can see is the pinnacle of multi-unit apartment complexes. The reason why I bring that to the attention of this government and the minister is because there is another proposal in Dartmouth North for some more multi-unit residential developments.

[Page 8646]

Before I go there, I just want to say that the minister of housing, on our tour, was extremely receptive to the issues and concerns of the residents of Dartmouth North. I had taken him on a tour of a now vacant property, Shannon Park and a community that was called Shannon Heights, which included Shannon Park and Wallace Heights. At one time, that community had approximately 3,000 citizens living there. Today, 80 percent of the Shannon Heights community is vacant.

I also took the minister on a tour to an area called the Pinecrest, Brule Street, Jackson Road area. That area is an area that was allowed to slip into decline. Despite our objections to multi-unit residential developments going into an area adjacent to that called Highfield Park, the city government and the Planning Department of the day decided to continue on with that development. As a result of that development, a filtering effect had taken place. The filtering effect caused those individuals who could afford to move onward to move on to the new developments allowing the existing housing stock to become vacant and generally deteriorate.

I had shown the minister the number of boarded up units in that part of the constituency and the number of units that could be revitalized into housing stock instead of giving it to a private developer for some $25,000 per unit. Much the same as the honourable member who had previously spoken about that $25,000 being spun over into rural Nova Scotia into farm housing stock so that the seniors can move out and younger people can move in and revitalize that part of the community.

This is the kind of thing that is happening. It's the kind of thing that you need to know. The minister recognized, I must say in fairness to the minister - he certainly said he would take it back and have a look at what the government could do with respect to dispensing dollars into this neighbourhood. I have to tell you that I was absolutely amazed that someone from the minister's office called the next day and actually asked for a listing of the vacant units that existed in that community to see what they could possibly do.

As a matter of fact, there might be some conversation with agencies and organizations that can bring up that stock because in this particular community exists an elementary school that's underutilized, a junior high school that's underutilized, it has a central transit transfer point, it has a shopping centre and actually the Dartmouth North Community Centre is located there - beautiful opportunity for the government to develop housing stock, revitalize the existing housing stock there and develop a good community. A great opportunity for this government to meet some of the housing needs in this community, and that's why I want to say to those who support affordable housing projects, here's an opportunity for us to welcome some of the affordable housing programs.

[Page 8647]

I also want to say that I had taken the minister on a trip to a developer who made a request for a grant from the department of housing to develop housing stock within the Dartmouth North constituency. This developer is trading on the stock market, this developer acquired this property a year and a half ago, and the property is approximately 50 years old or more. The developer has, on this existing land, 196 units. The developer is "piecemealing" this property and wants to put in another 60 units of affordable housing through the affordable housing grant and, further down the road, to make application again for another 68 units plus a number of townhouses on the property. This, in my opinion, adds nothing to healthy communities but allows the investment property owner to speculate the maximum use of that property.

Believe it or not, there is also a public housing unit directly across from it. This issue is now before the planning department of the Halifax Regional Municipality. As my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, had indicated, public participation means nothing because the developer is allowed to build this, the only thing the developer has to meet is the requirement of having a public information meeting and to turn around and give notification of that and come before a council. It all depends upon the recommendation of the planning department. I can assure you that many councillors keep their mouths shut when it comes to that kind of development. They don't want to speak out because they say they are in a quasi-judicial role and they can't say anything in fear that they may be taken to court - that is something that I often challenge and I often challenge it for the betterment of the community.

I want you to know that in order to entice some support this developer, according to some of the tenants I've been speaking with, they told me that they were given a $10 Tim Horton's voucher to complete a survey that would support the development proposal. I want the minister to know that - a $10 Tim Horton's voucher to support and fill out the questionnaire they crafted in order to support the development of their proposal. That developer even quoted it three times at a public information meeting. The developer also indicated that in fact, although the tenants didn't have to be notified of the public information meeting, he notified the tenants himself and that the tenants were in support of this proposal.

I want you to know that this to me is absolutely shocking, because what was stated was the tenants actually had no rights. They were not homeowners and, as a result of not being homeowners, they had no say and they didn't have to be informed. Let me tell you, the tenants are in fact individual homeowners in those units, the tenants do in fact pay the property taxes, the water bill, the heating costs, because that's a cumulative cost that is added into their unit cost - when they rent that unit, that cost is put in there. Don't ever think that it is borne by the developer, because it is not. It is a fallacy which I didn't recognize existed within the HRM, and I don't know if it exists within all 55 units within this municipal units within this province, but if it does, I recommend to the minister of municipal affairs and housing or my colleague, who in fact is the Critic for Community Services, that in fact he craft a piece of legislation that enshrines those rights to all citizens with respect to having

[Page 8648]

public participation in the development of their community. Because if they don't, Mr. Speaker, what happens?

People who live in apartment buildings have no say, yet when the planning department develops the land they say it's consistent with adjacent units, so their windows can be blocked off, their scenery, their view, their vista, all of that can be blocked off by a development in which they actually have no say. I say, shame on HRM planning department because they are ones who I know in fact carry this practice out and have the gall to say, in this day and age, because of technology there is no way of providing that information to people. I say there is a way of providing that information to people because there are such things as postal walks and the postal walks can do that.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have sent a letter off to the minister responsible for housing and the minister responsible for housing is very much aware of my position. I have stated, 61 per cent of the housing stock that exits in Dartmouth North, exists as multi-unit residential developments. Another shocking example to this Legislative Assembly will be that the population, the senior population of Dartmouth North is 8 per cent, now you tell me how that develops healthy communities. That's a direct result of the former Minister of Community Services by the name of Rollie Thornhill, developing all the housing stock in Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, excuse me for saying so, when he was a minister. Now there is only one 15-unit senior citizens housing unit in all of Dartmouth. The minister had an opportunity to allow a 15-unit housing stock going on the property which was owned by the Province of Nova Scotia in Lancaster Ridge. They chose to take that off the market, allow the municipality to re-zone that into single family residential development, even though I served on the council and that development agreement was to allow that stock to continue there.

It's this kind of thing that causes unhealthy communities. It's this kind of planning - maybe I'll get a day to talk on this very issue some day about healthy communities and neighbourhoods or whatever when legislation comes to this office, this Legislative Assembly, if it's not before I retire - I'll speak about it. You know, the significant role of the planning department with respect to developing healthy communities and why at the end of the day it ends up having to be policed by policing services, simply because it has not planned appropriately healthy communities. I do know that when I look at this brochure that was passed before us, Mr. Speaker, and I know there are no props allowed but it talked about healthy communities for a healthy future by the Cumberland Health Authority. I can only wish in the constituency of Dartmouth North that that day will come and it will happen.

Mr. Speaker, the minister and every Member of the Legislative Assembly need to know that I am not against affordable housing. I am in support of affordable housing, even though I know that that affordable housing will probably get developed by developers who are trading on the stock market and who, in fact, are getting $25,000 per unit from that grant

[Page 8649]

and only have to keep it for 15 years and then chuck the people out or put in rental increases. I also know that the maximum for those two-bedroom units that's allowable under the Social Services Program is $650, yet those units are going for $795. Now, you tell me who we are trying to help and assist through the housing programs in this province?

I want to say that I acknowledge the kind of statistical information that my new colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, had brought forward with respect to the new statistical numbers on the housing stock that's available and that the minister has developed in this province. I want to say that the developer argued about the vacancy rate in the metro area being 2.9 per cent. Well, I have to tell you that he might be correct, but I had already identified areas that had an 80 per cent vacancy rate. I have identified an area which has at least a 20 per cent or 30 per cent vacancy rate. There's ample opportunity to develop decent affordable housing, housing that people can have equity in. We talked about equity in co-op housing. I talked to the minister about this. I've talked to the minister about equity in modest housing programs, bringing about additional dollars and giving that to someone who is going to build a modest housing programs, that $25,000.

Mr. Speaker, it's important to recognize that there are a tremendous number of housing needs. Every one of us who represents constituencies across this province knows full well by the phone calls that come through our office the number of seniors who want seniors' housing, who are on a waiting list for seniors' housing; the number of people who are on a waiting list to get into public housing, simply because the in-migration of the population coming to Halifax has caused rental rates to skyrocket, and has skyrocketed to such a point whereby people can't afford it.

I do know that my honourable Leader, the member for Cole Harbour, had talked about people spending their food allotment to offset the cost of their shelter component. That happens far too frequently. It has happened even when the rates of heating and fuel costs had not climbed. Many of those individuals have had to supplement their incomes, yet they have to walk down the street in total embarrassment, not only are they in poverty, but total embarrassment to food banks and carry the bags back. We live in a society, a country that has only 34 million people. We live in a province with less than one million people. That's what we live in, yet we can't provide decent affordable, healthy living, be that community's health or whatever, less than a million people. We have amassed debt of some $11 billion-plus, yet we expect those people, the most vulnerable, to carry the burden.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I've been here for approximately seven and a half years. I don't see a future of that changing unless somebody decides to take an investment in communities and in people of this province. We can talk the talk, and we can say we're doing these things, and we have to do them within the resources that we have. We can talk that talk, I have listened to it every day as I sat in this Legislative Assembly, as I look out the window to watch the constituency that I represent and the needs of those people.

[Page 8650]

I have watched government in action. I have watched it at the municipal level and the provincial level for approximately 18 years. I have watched what they do. The path of least resistance seems to be the way in which to go. That is exactly the reason why we have what we have today. That's the reason why we have communities that are stigmatized, like North Dartmouth, like Uniacke Square, like Caledonia to Kennedy Drive, like Greystone. You name those areas, it has to do with the way they were developed and the housing stock that was placed in them. It seems as though it's okay to build housing for people as long as they're concentrated in a particular area - out of mind, out of sight.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that there comes a day in the utilization of the taxpayers' purse is at the most advantageous. The utilization of how you spend those dollars to get the maximum return, how you reduce the costs to health care services, how you reduce the cost of penal institutions, how you reduce the cost of education, how you reduce the cost of community services, it's all about how, and the component of shelter is one of those components that reflects and helps that reduce, because if people have healthy shelters and they have a healthy place to live, then in fact those costs will be significantly reduced.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that I was honoured to have the minister with me that day, and I want to say that the minister spent approximately 45 minutes to an hour driving with me and the chairperson of Neighbourhood Watch. I want to say that I was amazed at how receptive the minister was to our concerns. I want to tell you that I told the minister that the constituency of Dartmouth North can no longer be the parking lot for all the social entities that municipal, provincial and federal governments try to address.

I just want to tell you about the kind of housing stock we have in the constituency of Dartmouth North, just to show you that we carry our burden and our share of the need for social development. We have public housing units, we have supervised apartments, we have small options homes, we have not-for-profit organizations, we have co-op housing, we have addiction centres, we have rehab correction facilities. We have associations for women's residential facilities and, as a matter of fact, most recently a blanket was lifted on a protected area to allow that to expand.

I don't know how much farther anyone in government, at all levels, can expect us to go. I can tell you, as I've told the minister, we're open and receptive, and that money for affordable housing can be put into revitalization of those boarded-up buildings that presently exist in my community, and in fact they do have the opportunity to utilize the existing facilities which are now underutilized.

Mr. Speaker, as I stand here, it gave me the great opportunity to speak to the Housing Development Corporation Act, and the reason why it gave me that great opportunity to speak to this Bill No. 230, is because hopefully that auditor will do an audit on the existing housing stock throughout the entire Province of Nova Scotia, and address the housing needs appropriately, and maybe work closely with the municipal units and their planning

[Page 8651]

departments on how to develop healthy communities. Maybe that will be part of an audit that exists within this audit development.

I think that it is an unfair approach of government with its dollars and its bags of money. Since I came here in 1998, it has had revenue passed down to it from the federal Government of Canada, and this government is still trying to tax itself on how to spend those monies. The reason why it's taxing itself on how to spend that money is because it's all political. All that money is political. It means that when election time comes we can make these announcements, or if there's a by-election, or if there happens to be an area that is covered by a member of that House on that side of the government. Just look at the dollars and where they flow.

Hopefully, there will be not only the financial audit, but there will be an audit on where that money has gone and how that money has been spent. That doesn't happen to be an idea of mine, it happens to be something that was stated when the honourable member for Halifax Fairview spoke. He indicated not only a financial audit but that there ought to be an audit of the housing stock as well, and I think that's quite appropriate.

If I have become concerned about housing, it's because I've represented a constituency where I have not only lived it, my residents have. To me, there needs to be a complete review of what's happening. With that - I could stand here for another 45 minutes and I don't know if I should actually sit down or not but I think that I might reserve some of my conservation on this very issue for another day. I want to thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I won't take up too much time but I felt compelled to get up because of the situation in my own riding involving housing. I've listened to the speakers here with great interest today and I guess it would be fairly easy to come to the conclusion - when the best that this government can bring forward is a couple of lines in a bill to do an audit. Have you run out of ideas entirely that you have to take up the time of this House? Do you understand the situation that exists in our province in terms of housing? Do you understand that we are getting dozens and dozens of requests as MLAs at our offices from people who are willing to give up their homes that they own because they can't afford to heat them this winter? Do you realize what's going on? Does that minister have any idea of what's happening in this province? The strangest thing happens when you get a request from a person looking for affordable housing, for decent housing - there's nothing wrong with the idea of decent affordable housing. It's not too much to ask for in Nova Scotia today.

[Page 8652]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member would allow for an introduction.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I'm just getting rolling, Mr. Speaker, but I will, sure.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: It gives me tremendous delight to arise in this Legislature today to introduce some special guests in the Speaker's Gallery. Joining us today is his excellency David Reddaway who is the British High Commissioner to Canada. He is joined by Mr. Fred Smithers who is the British Honorary Consul in Halifax. A guest of a particular interest to me, not that the council isn't, is Dainis Nams who is a Grade 12 high school student of CEC, I might add a constituent of my good friend from Colchester North, who is the winner of the Trafalgar 200 Essay Competition organized by the British Council. He is accompanied by teacher Beth MacMichael and I believe the Social Studies consultant, Bruce Fisher, is also there with them. I'd like them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House and congratulations. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed a warm welcome to our special guests in Province House today.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, we probably seem mild compared to the British House of Commons but we'll take it from there. As I was saying, there is nothing wrong with the idea of decent affordable housing in this province, it's not too much to ask. As I was saying, the strange thing that happens is when a person comes into your office as an MLA and they have a complaint about housing - and I've run into this in a number of instances - they'll say, you know, the housing people told me I make too much money and I didn't qualify for the program. But insert the name of your MLA, whoever it may be, and they'll say, how do I make too much money when I'm at the poverty line and I don't qualify for one of these programs?

There are huge waiting lists for these programs that people involved with the housing will tell you, we've waited a year, a year and a half, whatever the case may be. The person that comes with the request says I've been on a list for over a year and all I'm looking for is decent housing, I need housing now, Dave, in my case, I've driven by this street and I've seen vacant units, vacant family units, vacant duplexes that are boarded up. People could be living there, I could be living there, please you're my MLA, do something to help me. Here we are, in this tremendous Legislative Chamber that we sit in to deal with very important items, and the best that this government can put forward is an audit. Tell me how that helps the senior who walked into my office last week and said, I'm thinking about selling my

[Page 8653]

home, can you help me get a senior citizen's unit somewhere in Glace Bay, please? Tell me how that audit is going to help that senior.

The existing housing stock that is there now is in disrepair, but yet the first thing this government, and here's a reminder for those who don't know, did when they first came to power in 1999 was cancel the Winter Works Program, a program that was used to repair existing housing stock, to bring it up to date and to put people back into their homes. Out the window went the Winter Works Programs right away.

So what you have left now is a deteriorating housing stock, which, by the way, nobody is going to do an audit on. If I read this bill correctly, it's not an audit of housing stock; it's just a money audit. That would actually make sense, if you were going to do an audit of the housing stock, because then you could - no pun intended - take stock of what you have in housing and look at it, and put some money. That's what's needed here, Mr. Speaker, to put some funds forward, if you're serious, to help people in this province who are losing their homes now on a daily basis, because that government won't do anything about rising oil prices, which are going to just devastate some people this Winter. That's what's happening here.

As I mentioned, when those citizens walk into your office, you feel entirely helpless because you know this issue has been brought up by both Opposition Parties every session of this Legislature since that government came to power. Not one session has gone by that the subject of housing has not been brought up on the floor of this Chamber, and not once has the government paid any attention to what either Party, regardless of Party - tear down the political stripes - you know as backbench MLAs and you know as Cabinet Ministers that the same situation that exists in our ridings exists in your ridings. It's no different in Glace Bay than it is in Kings or it is in Queens or it is in Lunenburg or it is in Yarmouth or it is in Inverness. It's no different because it's the same department that handles the same housing right across this province, Mr. Speaker.

These seniors, these people who are looking for that help, are crying out to this government to do something now, and because of the situation we've found ourselves in with the energy crisis, they are crying even more. Their cry can be heard even more now, Mr. Speaker. As I mentioned at first, the income levels alone - deal with them. Somebody who makes $19,000 - or I should say, in some cases, in some of the programs, somebody who makes $21,000 a year doesn't qualify, is not eligible to get their home fixed up. The wind is blowing through the door, the chimney is falling down, the furnace is ready to blow up and the windows are leaking, and they're supposed to repair that on $21,000 a year, fixed incomes.

[Page 8654]

This government says, well, let's do an audit of the finances. That might help everybody. Let's take a look at that. It's not enough. As a matter of fact my first reaction when I came into the House today was, this is the bill that we're dealing with? What a joke. Have you run out of ideas entirely, that you wouldn't put something forward with more teeth in it than this when you know the situation in this province and what exists today?

Of course, you have to take care and look after the finances. One would suggest that minister should have been looking after the finances all along, in his job, as the minister responsible for housing in this province, Mr. Speaker. That's his job. He's been there long enough to know what's going on, and if he didn't then there might be something wrong in the first place.

But this is it? An audit? I'm to go back home - and if the minister wanted to come to Glace Bay, as the member for Dartmouth North indicated, I'll be glad to take him on a tour and show him how many units are boarded up. I'll let him meet the families. I'll call some into my office, who are on the waiting list, who they say make too much money or you have to wait a year. He can meet with those families and say, look, let's go up to such and such a street and look at that boarded-up home. Maybe the minister will take the boards off the windows and go in and fix up what should be fixed up and the excuse - it's not, it is not the staff at the department of housing, it is not the staff there. They do the best they possibly can under circumstances that are beyond their control. They don't have the budget, the manpower to do the job that should be done on the existing housing stock in this province.

You know you have - I don't think the term is too harsh - a crisis in this province right now in terms of affordable public housing. We know that. We know that as Opposition on this side and the government - this is the ironic part of it - the government knows it too. Every Cabinet Minister on that side of the House, every backbencher on that side of the House knows what's happening in this province with housing. They know people who are affected by this, they know how serious it is and they know, I dare say, people who are coming to them and saying I can't afford to heat my home this Winter. I can't afford to put oil in the tank and because of that, I think I'm going to have to move into a senior citizens' complex. But they're not going to, more than likely, because there's nothing there. There are no units available. They would be extremely lucky if there were any available for them in Glace Bay or in Dartmouth or anywhere else across this province.

While the roofs are leaking and the windows are drafty and the wind continues to blow through the walls and the doors and people are looking for insulation, we tell people you have to be more energy efficient. Mr. Speaker, you go out there and try to be energy efficient on $21,000 a year, see how far you get to try to be energy efficient on that much money a year.

It would make sense if this government, and it would have pleased me and it would have pleased other Opposition members on this side of the House, had come forward with

[Page 8655]

a progressive bill that said, here's what we're going to do to fix up the existing stock. Here's what we're going to do to build new units and here's what we're going to do with all that cash that Ottawa gave us in the first place to go towards affordable housing that we're not using for that purpose. That's the problem. This government, time after time after time, has said we need more money from Ottawa. You have the money from Ottawa for this. You have it.

Keeping this in mind, I'm going to take my seat right now and conclude my remarks. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East. Before you commence, would you allow for an introduction?

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Certainly.

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

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you to the member for relinquishing some time. I'd like to bring the members' attention to the east gallery. In the east gallery there is a former member of this House of Assembly as well as the current mayor of Port Hawkesbury and a long-time politician and a friend to many.

AN HON. MEMBER: An old-time politician.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Old-time politician, my colleague says to me. I'd like to welcome His Worship Mayor Billy Joe MacLean and ask that we all give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I will now recognize the honourable member and thank you for your time.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill No. 230. What I would like to say is, number one, I'm sure when people opened that bill and saw the one sentence describing what that bill would actually accomplish, many people were probably standing there with their jaws dropping to the floor.

I don't really know what they're going to be auditing because they haven't really spent any money to audit. We'll have to wait and see, maybe we can be hopeful and there will be something coming down the tubes that they will be auditing.

Today I would like to speak about something that I was recently involved in and that was a march through some of the streets of Halifax with a group called HCAP and they

[Page 8656]

represent the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty. They were out in great numbers that day and I was among them as was one of my sons and his girlfriend. They put on a free breakfast that morning, they marched through the streets and they were out to remind people that housing is a right.

I would like to table a news clipping from the paper, a picture that was taken that day so that perhaps our minister might want to put that on his refrigerator with a magnet to remind him that housing certainly is a right in Nova Scotia, in Canada and of course in the whole world.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we marched to remind people that housing is a right. We marched through the streets, unfortunately the march did have one turn for the worst in that one of the organizers was arrested. She was arrested, coincidently, right in front of the Community Services building on Spring Garden Road, actually just before we were going to finish up the march. That was unfortunate and certainly it's not going to stop that group from pursuing what they're trying to do for the homeless people and other people who are near to being homeless in HRM, in Nova Scotia. These people are made up of people of all age groups and they're out to remind this government that what we need here in Nova Scotia, in fact, is non-profit public affordable housing. We want this housing in our own communities. We want it for our seniors. We want it for our young people. We want it for anybody who certainly should have access to that.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have a lot of time unfortunately today to speak on this because I know we're running short of time. I would like to talk about some of the concerns my constituents have brought forward in regard to this issue, and what's happened in Dartmouth East is that some people that in fact do have housing but unfortunately they will come to me and they will let me know about issues that are of concern to them, unfortunately they can't really complain to the superintendents or the landlords of these buildings for fear of being evicted. Which is very unfortunate. I've had people come with concerns of mould in their apartment buildings, heating issue, noise issues. Very recently I've had someone come in who has actually witnessed beatings in the building.

They've put security there, it lasted a couple of days, that was gone - drug dealers in the outer area of the apartment building, they've actually gone to Community Services to see if they could actually get, I believe it was $50 a month more so that they could move out of that apartment building into one that they deemed would be safer, still in Dartmouth, but they just feel that building is unsafe for them right now and the dad is in a wheelchair.

I get people coming and talking to me about the lack of smoke detectors in their apartment buildings, the lack of lighting and I'm sure all the MLAs here have seen that for themselves because when you're out canvassing and sometimes you're out in the evenings,

[Page 8657]

some of these hallways are very dark. You have to wonder how people make it up and down the stairways which brings up another issue of the lack of elevators. I've had people come to me and complain about no elevators in their apartment buildings, and we do have a fair amount of seniors in Dartmouth East and it doesn't matter how many there are if there's two or three or two or three hundred, two or three thousand. They all have a lot of the same issues that they bring forward.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to try this afternoon to talk about things I have actually experienced myself recently. Another one is that I just lucked into finding - you would have read about it in the newspaper, but I had been at a function on a Friday evening involving the Nova Scotia Engineers Association. One of them is involved with Habitat for Humanity and he and his wife were going to be going to the, I guess they call it, handing over the key celebration the next day and they kindly invited me along to participate. I did go to that even though it wasn't in my riding, it was in one of the ridings attached to mine. I have to say is was quite an emotional experience for me, I had never been to one of those before and I was quite amazed. When waiting for the whole ceremony to begin I talked to various people who were involved in organizing, people who were involved in actually assessing the people who had applied to become one of the people who would end up with one of these interest-free homes, and they do put a lot of work equity into these.

While speaking with these people, I could not believe, I really didn't at the beginning believe, that in six short weeks through the help of various businesses and sponsors, volunteers built that house. I had a chance to actually go through that house when it was over, and it's a lovely house. It's in a nice neighbourhood, access to schools, what have you, and the lovely family that's taking that over. I was standing there and I was thinking to myself and I actually mentioned it to one of the ladies next to me, I said I feel a resolution coming on. I just thought if these volunteers can do this in six weeks then why the heck are we not doing this when we have something in the ballpark of $57 million just sitting there begging to be spent. I can hope that this Bill No. 230 will have some of that money to audit in the near future.

For me to stand there and just see that house - and there was one right next door to it actually that the keys had been passed over the week before to another family. So now, the two moms are in these homes, they have children, and the children will be going to the school and being part of that whole community there. I think it's so important for society, and we're supposedly the lawmakers, the leaders of this province, and it's so important for us to not forget that we are very fortunate in that we have been given this position. We're very fortunate, I think most of us are, that we have a warm home to go to at the end of the day when we leave here, that we have food, we have shelter. All these things that are so important, that it is so important for us to really make sure that those less fortunate than us who perhaps are down on their luck through no fault of their own, can still access safe, affordable housing in their communities so that they can be near their sons, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts. These are the people who make a community

[Page 8658]

a community. These are the people who help you in a time of need, which takes the burden off of the government in the end, when we're all helping each other and being a community together.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to just mention that while going out in my constituency this Summer, I did have a chance to speak to some seniors who are having a hard time staying in their homes because they don't have the proper insulation in their homes, they can't access the grants, they'd like to maybe shut off part of their homes to save on energy, and they're really looking for some help from this government so that they can stay in their homes, stay in the communities where they've worked so hard. They lived in those communities for their adult life, they're the people who volunteered in our school system, who put their children through the school system and put the money back into this province through whatever means they could. When I have seniors tell me they are on a two-year wait list to get into an apartment so that they can afford to live just in a fair way that we want our seniors to live, it's a bit upsetting to me to stand there on the doorsteps and listen to those stories.

I did want them to know that I would bring that issue forward here at some point. You never know, you are on the doorsteps and hear different issues and wonder how am I ever going to get a chance to even talk about that, because it's not a free-for-all here, we're working on a schedule and what have you.

Mr. Speaker, in the end, I will just say again, housing is a right. I do hope that the minister takes that little piece of clipping out of the newspaper and sticks it on his fridge. Something to remind him every day that we're here to work for the people of Nova Scotia and, hopefully, he can do that in the future. I will sit down with that comment, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I've been following the debate this afternoon with great interest. This, as everybody has said, is a very simple bill but nobody has spoken about the principle of the bill, I don't think, on the other side. (Interruptions)

Well, I'm sorry, at least somebody understood what the bill was about. This bill is a consequence of an observation of the Auditor General, and was simply accommodating what is a good accounting practice. Nobody said thank you very much, government, for doing a good job but, however, I am pleased to commend the government for coming (Interruption) Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 230.

[Page 8659]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 230. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 232.

Bill No. 232 - The Optometry Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand in my place to offer a few comments on behalf of my colleague, the honourable Minister of Health. Optometrists, as we all know, provide high quality eye health care here in our province and there are more than 80 doctors of optometry widely distributed in communities throughout our province, examining, diagnosing, measuring and treating eye conditions through methods other than surgery. Optometrists are now supporting amendments to the Optometry Act that will reflect the evolution of the profession since the legislation was first developed in the 1960s.

Mr. Speaker, amendments to the Optometry Act will update the scope of practice definition and composition to the board, establish a college and provide the delegation of authority. Amendments to the Optometry Act will increase accountability to the public by moving the regulatory process from the Nova Scotia Association of Optometrists to a professional college. It will also improve self-regulation and streamline the governance process making it easier for the governing body to hold its members to standards set out by the Nova Scotia College of Optometrists.

Mr. Speaker, the amended Optometry Act, the bill put before us will better serve the people of our province through public accountability and also, in addition, with more flexibility and provision of outstanding eye health care to Nova Scotians and with that, I look forward to the comments from my colleagues on the other side of the House.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I do have a few comments about Bill No. 232. I think it's important that our government recognize the different areas of health care in our province and definitely I think this bill, one pertaining to optometry, is a division of health care in our province because, you know, we're all aware

[Page 8660]

of complications when it comes to our vision. Many of us take it for granted, but it's important to have those standards and accountability in place when we go to seek the services of those interest groups that this bill will affect.

Mr. Speaker, it's good to see that we recognize the importance of identifying the different areas of health care in this province, especially optometry, and respecting the evolution of that service that they provide Nova Scotians. Because, it does affect the amount of money that's spent in health care if we can ensure, you know, that everyone has healthy vision and proper care and the guidance that the professionals in this field give the consumer, and, for that matter, the patients they see on a regular basis throughout our province, there are definite benefits for Nova Scotians.

This bill pertains to the Nova Scotia College of Optometrists, Mr. Speaker. It's important that government recognizes the organizations and the push to have, especially health-care related organizations in this province, accountable to the people they serve and by this bill coming forward and going on to the Law Amendments Committee and, hopefully, coming back and passing, we will do that.

[4:45 p.m.]

We will do that, Mr. Speaker. We will take the steps to ensure that the people who use the services of an optometrist are protected, and that they are accountable, for one, which is what they need. They've called for an improved accountability, improved standards and practices that they use. By enabling them to govern over themselves per se, by creating a college, that has the standards in place and that accountability, for the public to go to and for them to not only account for the services and the procedures, but to look at future developments in the field of optometry. There's always new pieces, new devices, new instruments and new ways of preventing illnesses.

By allowing them to have the opportunity to look at that in the future, I think under this piece of legislation, I'd have to commend the government for having it in there. There's ability to change those standards and policies by approval through council, instead of legislating those standards and regulations in the piece of legislation, in the creation of a college. What that does is it limits the ability for this organization, this facet of health care to change and evolve when new procedures come into effect. There's a lot of research in all aspects of health care, including this one, Mr. Speaker. It's important that we enable these colleges, as this one once it's formed, to change and evolve the practices and procedures and standards they use without having to come back to the Legislature for changes and amendments to a piece of legislation.

[Page 8661]

It was important in my profession as a paramedic. Everybody knows that recently there was a piece of legislation passed to create a college for that, the College of Paramedics. It was important for us at the time when we were crafting that, and I was involved in that in the early days, many years ago. It took many years for this government to finally recognize the need to put in place and recognize the importance of the profession of paramedics in this province. Many people pushed for that.

It was important for us as a profession to evolve, to ensure that those standards of practice, those policies that are in the creation of a college aren't legislated, so that we can change and we can adapt. It's important that different organizations can do that under blanket legislation about creating a college, Mr. Speaker. It's in the Paramedics Act, which is good to have there, and it's in this bill. I know that the individuals, the Nova Scotians who work in this field, appreciate the ability, down the road, to change the way they deliver their service to Nova Scotians, without having to come back to the Legislature and have amendments made to a piece of legislation. In total honesty, we're not here that often. It's a long procedure to get amendments to a piece of legislation that may not have been on the radar when it was first enacted. It's important we recognize that. It's important, and I'm glad to see it in this piece of legislation.

I know that many people over the years have worked in this field to get to this point. I think they'll appreciate this piece of legislation going on through the process in the Legislature. I hope that with any concerns they have that they enable themselves to make input when they can to see if there's any changes. It's my understanding, as of today, that they do agree with this piece of legislation. That's why our caucus will support this process to send this piece of legislation on to the Law Amendments Committee. We look forward to it coming back, and look forward to the future development of optometry in this province to do the prevention side of health care. With that, I encourage other members to take a brief moment and make some comments on this. I look forward to this progressing, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak just briefly in support of Bill No. 232, the Optometry Act. It's a bill that has been a while in the making. Yes, everyone agrees with that. It required diligence and a lot of hard work on behalf of optometrists and dispensing opticians to come to the point where we are today. I commend both professional organizations for their dedication and their hard work. Now optometrists are joining other health professional bodies in establishing their own college and self-regulating their profession.

[Page 8662]

Included in this change will be both a complaints process and disciplinary procedures - if and when they're required - and that will ensure accountability for the profession, one that needs to be, as we all should be, open and transparent. The scope of practice is also an important aspect of this piece of legislation, it's an area where public accountability is required.

This piece of legislation is a positive one. One which we support to move to second reading and hopefully, should there be anyone from the general public who will appear and speak, in conclusion, we will be keeping an eye on this one. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Health Promotion, it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members for their comments, I'll be sure to pass them on to the Minister of Health. Given, as the member said, we're all seeing eye to eye now, I move that second reading of Bill No. 232, an Act Respecting the Practice of Optometry be so moved.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 232. Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 235.

Bill No. 235 - Dispensing Opticians Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this was actually mentioned during the previous debate. Obviously there are similarities between both, but it is my pleasure to say a few comments on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Health on an Act Respecting Dispensing Opticians.

Again, opticians in our province are committed to providing Nova Scotians with high quality optical dispensing and health care. They're professionals and certainly the changes being put forward are as a result of a great deal of work on their part upon the Board of

[Page 8663]

Dispensing Opticians who have worked very hard with the Department of Health and many others to develop the amendments being put forward to what really is outdated legislation. At the end of the day that will enhance the accountability to the public, it will improve the disciplinary process and allow more flexibility in the practice of their profession which I think will better serve all Nova Scotians.

With that, I look forward to the comments of my colleagues.

MR. SPEAKER: I recognize the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in general, of course, we're supportive of this bill and of others that have come forward that have set up comprehensive regimes for self-regulating professions.

I speak to this bill for two reasons. One is because, in general, I think we have to remind ourselves and, more importantly, remind those who are being given the power to self-regulate that this is not something that they are automatically entitled to. We have to remind them that they are given these powers ultimately in the public interest. Indeed, there's language in this bill that talks about that - in order that the public interest may be served and protected, it says, in one of the clauses. That's the key phrase.

The reason I think we have to remind these groups that is the case is because of the proliferation of these organizations that we now see in our province and elsewhere in the country. It's especially true amongst health care professions. We have traditionally, of course, had doctors as a self-regulating profession, to some extent nurses and now we're dealing here with opticians and also dispensing opticians. There are psychologists who have their own board and college, and are able to be gatekeepers for admission to the profession, and disciplinarians for the profession. I'm sure there are others out there, and I know as well that there is constant pressure from other groups inside the whole health care system to hive off their activities as separate groups that have these powers. This, of course, is just within the health care system, because in other professions, architects, engineers and lawyers of course have the same kinds of powers.

Now, the difficulty is that these groups are being given powers that in some instances are highly technical legal powers. Just think, for example, about the problem of being able to determine what are the appropriate qualifications for admission to practice, think about what are the complexities involved in determining whether someone should be suspended from the practice of their profession. Of course the consequences are enormous for the individual, and we want fairness to be of the essence of what goes on at every turn.

[Page 8664]

So I think we have to publicly remind ourselves and these bodies as we set them up, and as we revise the parameters under which they operate, that it is only because it is appropriate and we hope convenient, that they will look out for the public interest and serve and protect as they carry out their duties, that we enact such bills.

But now, in addition to reminding ourselves formally that this is a serious undertaking by such organizations, I want to take this opportunity to just put on record a small experience we had in my constituency association with the pre-existing dispensing opticians' organization. We were approached by a candidate for admission to the profession - this candidate was having some difficulty dealing with the board over the criteria that the board had established. I have to say that when I heard something of the circumstances and attempted to relay the concerns to the board, I encountered some difficulties.

The first difficulty I encountered was that the contact information for the board on the Department of Health Web site was not accurate; the second difficulty I encountered was that in trying to actually get hold of the people who were supposed to be in charge of the organization, when I finally did find out where they were, mostly what I got was answering machines, and nor did I get a quick response.

When the board turned its mind to the particular circumstance, I have to say it was not what I thought flexible in thinking about the problem that had been presented to them. I'm happy to report that in the end, and just last week, I think, the board resolved the problem, I think to the satisfaction of the candidate and, presumably, to their own satisfaction. I've no idea whether this occurred because they had Bill No. 235 coming up in front of the House - I hope that isn't the case.

But what I'm saying is that in the one encounter that I actually did have with this particular organization, I didn't find that it was entirely satisfactory. I didn't find that affairs were conducted with the ease, openness, transparency, sense of fundamental fairness, sense of, I should say, an appropriate understanding of the duties that had been entrusted to their care.

So, although of course we're going to support this bill because it does, as the honourable minister said, expand and strengthen some of the regulatory regime, appropriately. I want to say that I hope this organization and other similarly placed organizations will think long and hard about the powers with which they've been entrusted.

I want them to consider the fact that when this Legislature decides to recognize them as the gatekeeping authority for their profession, it does so with a serious intent, and our serious intent is that they should pay close attention to the powers that they have to exercise. It may even be that it's time the Department of Health - which, for the most part, is the department that has some kind of nominal supervision over these bodies - should think about whether they might want to offer training for the people who are on the boards. Part of what's done is that the Governor-in-Council can appoint people to the boards and the idea is that they will

[Page 8665]

represent the public interest. But they don't always come with the kind of training that's necessary to think carefully about the rights and reputation and process that should apply when dealing with the issues that come in front of them.

[5:00 p.m.]

Anyway, it's a suggestion for the minister. With those comments, I do say that, indeed, we will be supporting this bill, and we look forward to it's appropriate implementation by the bodies that are created through this legislation. Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): My previous comments, on the previous bill, I was already addressing both of these bills in advance of good legislation put forward by the government. Did my eyes roll there Mr. Speaker? I'm not sure, but anyway. The previous speaker made a good point. We have to be very careful in the self-regulating powers that we give to groups, be very careful, because we've had legislation come before this House - the cosmetology legislation comes to mind, if I'm not mistaken - where there were some problems with that afterwards, let's say, after it was first introduced. While it was introduced those problems were brought forward, I think eventually they were ironed out, but that's part of the parliamentary process of debate that takes place in this House, and that's why we're here.

Again, I think someone made the point that there are many, many groups out there within the health care sector itself. I think of dental hygienists, one group I know I've spoken with recently, that are looking for the same sort of powers that we're - I was going to use the phrase, handing out, but that's not the proper phrase that we're taking a look at here, and in being very careful and scrutinizing that, indeed, self-regulatory powers are there. In this case, the Dispensing Opticians Bill is going to improve the process of complaints and discipline for opticians, and create a college of dispensing opticians responsible for governing the industry.

Mr. Speaker, unlike the current regulatory board, as I understand it, members are appointed by government, the majority of this college's board is going to be elected. That's a positive thing.

Having said that, again, this piece of legislation we see as a positive one and we look forward to moving it ahead. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

[Page 8666]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you to my colleagues for their comments, I'll be sure to pass them onto the Minister of Health as well. Certainly, I think this is a good piece of legislation, but I do agree with the members opposite that in giving and providing the opportunity to self-regulate, in many cases, we have to be mindful of what that means at the end of the day. We do see many bills such as this coming forward. That being said, I know there will be time for further comment as the bill progresses.

I move that this bill be read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 235. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, would you please call second reading for Bill No. 236, the Small Claims Court Act. If I remember correctly, this simply increases the cap on cases that come before the Small Claims Court.

Bill No. 236 - Small Claims Court Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to stand as the Justice Critic for my caucus and talk a few moments with regard to this bill. Small Claims Court was originally set up as a court that was meant for smaller claims so that people wouldn't have to worry about all the legal aspects of it, maybe you didn't have to hire a lawyer, it was a simpler process. They could file a fee in order to apply for smaller debts that arose, or smaller contractual disputes, they could go to Small Claims Court to have them dealt with.

It is a very good idea, an idea that I think has had a large impact in Nova Scotia, as it has across Canada. Ensuring that what would be considered nominal amounts, or smaller amounts, could be dealt with in a more efficient manner and one in which the rules are slightly more relaxed where people are getting a fair hearing, but at the same time can ensure that we're not going to have to go out and hire a lawyer for what originally was probably a $500 or $1,000 claim and in many cases that was effective.

[Page 8667]

The problem is now, and I want to start by saying my caucus doesn't have a problem necessarily with increasing this but, Mr. Speaker, the concern is that by raising it even to $15,000 where it is now, we're now with this bill to $25,000, the lawyers get involved. People are going to be hiring lawyers with regard to these matters, they are now. You're going to have situations where what was meant originally to be a court that could be used by the average citizen, as one in which they didn't have to follow all the trappings of the Supreme Court with regard to a matter that's a tort or a contract dispute, now a $25,000 maximum, you're going to have these things still.

What was meant, the intent of the court to make things simpler, I would suggest is gone. The rules may be slightly relaxed, but you're still going to be hiring a lawyer. Maybe the process will be a little quicker, but that lawyer is still going to be charging fees on an hourly rate or a contingency.

Mr. Speaker, as a result we're going to have, and we do have, and with this we're only going to continue to have a Small Claims Court that, frankly, has lost much of the vision that it was originally set for. You know it wouldn't be such a bad idea maybe if we actually created a small Small Claims Court, one in which for $1,000 or $2,000 we could go back to the system we had. (Interruption) That's right, where people then could have the ability to actually go out and do this.

Now, originally Small Claims Court, I think it was envisioned that if you had a dispute with someone and you were two private citizens, but at $25,000 I would suggest to you, and I don't have any anecdotal or statistical information on this, you're going to see it used predominantly by corporations. There are going to be disputes between those corporations and in many ways those are ones that, you know, I understand $25,000, it's probably still not enough to go out and go to Supreme Court and hire a lawyer and pay the fees that you're going to pay because it's going to probably cost as much to do that as it would be to actually, you know, to bring back the money that you were suing for. I would suggest that the intent of the court as it originally was for average citizens to be able to have access to the legal system, to have access to civil justice, to have access to a problem when there's a tort or a negligence, or a contract dispute, is gone. This court now has become, it may be slightly less complicated than the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, yet because of the fees, we're going to have lawyers involved. Lawyers are going to be more involved now that we're increasing it to $25,000 and, as a result, we're going to have a situation where . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: More lawyers involved.

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, more lawyers involved, that's right. I guess the Barristers' Society may have something to say to me after this speech, but as it stands, I always envisioned Small Claims Court when it was originally created, how long ago was that - 30 years ago I'm presuming, you would have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where this was meant to be a court that could be used by the people without having to be hiring lawyers at $200,

[Page 8668]

$300, $400, God knows how many dollars an hour. Now with this, it's only creating a court that I think is going to result in more lawyers being involved.

It's going to create a longer process. It's going to create a more cumbersome process and we've lost the vision that was originally for the Small Claims Court. That's unfortunate and I would hope that it's still something that could be looked at and something that this government may want to consider. Whether there's a way in which the rules could still be adjusted in some way to make it easier for even smaller claims, claims under $5,000, some way that we could have rules that would allow again for people to be able to access that without necessarily having to pay the lawyers fees that can be so exorbitant in some cases.

Having said that, obviously moving this from $15,000 to $25,000 is something that the government feels is necessary in order to continue the process. I would expect the Minister of Justice at Third Reading to be able to put something on the record as to the specific rationale as to why we were raising this from $15,000 to $25,000. I know since I've been here I think it's gone from $5,000 to $10,000 to $15,000 and now $25,000. In seven and a half years we've seen a fivefold increase in the amount that we are now allowing people to sue for in Small-Claims Court. That's a lot and a good rationale might be useful.

If it's a matter of saying that small businesses find this more convenient then having to spend the full amount on lawyers fees in the Supreme Court, that's an acceptable answer. I only ask that at some point while this bill is still in the House that the Minister of Justice put something on the record as to why we've had this fivefold increase in the limit, with regard to suing in Small Claims Court. This has been happening on a regular basis. It's every year or every other year we've had an increase.

I think there needs to be some rationale provided. Even if the rationale is that every other province is at $25,000, I can accept that. I think it's important that Nova Scotians have some record as to why there's a rationale for this and I would hope that the Minister of Justice at Third Reading would be prepared to do that. So we'll see this bill go to the Committee on Law Amendments. I'm sure there will be a long line of people ready to speak on it, but after we hear from them we will decide whether there are any amendments and we'll see the bill back here afterward.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise as the Acting Justice Critic this week on behalf of our Party to have a few remarks regarding Bill No. 236. I want to say to my learned friend to my right here, not philosophically but literally to my right, the NDP House Leader who is making a plea for less work for lawyers - that's a good thing. I think what this bill does, is make it easier for citizens to have their matters dealt with in a timely and appropriate fashion rather than going to the expense of court proceedings with the same lawyers that my friend in the NDP was talking about here.

[Page 8669]

At first blush it appears to me to be a good bill and that more people be able to access the Small Claims Court for the amount of money we're talking about here, which is not a lot of money by today's standards. It gives a wider range for more people to be able to access that particular service. If you will, it takes more people under the umbrella of the Small Claims Court operation, I think that's a good thing. Normally what has happened in the Small Claims Court is that they're able to adjudicate matters and to settle matters quite quickly. I believe for that reason, we'd certainly like to move this bill onto the Committee on Law Amendments. As the NDP House Leader has said, wait for the hordes of people who will come in on that particular bill and then we'll make a determination as to whether or not the bill will go any further, but I suggest that perhaps it might. So, for now, I'm sure that our Justice Critic next week may have something else to say on it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, there was point that I remember baring my soul in the House and confessing that I used to be a Liberal. I've said that before and that's in my past. It's well in my past.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to stand up and say, I'm a lawyer, okay and my experience as a lawyer has given me some experience in Small Claims Court. In fact, I think I might well be the only practising lawyer in the House because I know there are other lawyers but they don't have their practising status anymore. (Interruptions) In any event, even during the time that I've been a MLA I've kept up my practising which costs me several thousand dollars every year because every so often somebody will come through my constituency office door where essentially what they need is legal help. They don't need a politician's help they need legal help. The fact that I can put on my lawyer hat once in a while means that occasionally I'm able to help them in ways that perhaps I couldn't otherwise, and this has taken me, even quite recently, into Small Claims Court.

[5:15 p.m.]

That's why I want to stand here today, because, like so many things that this government does, what appears to be one thing on the surface is quite another thing when you understand how the system actually works. As is typical with this government, the news release that accompanied this bill was, this is great news, it's good for the people, it's going to advance the cause of informal justice, but anybody who has been to Small Claims Court, Mr. Speaker, knows that it's not necessarily so.

What this bill does is it increases the limit of the Small Claims Court from $15,000 to $25,000 and, as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, has pointed out, that's a big increase just in the last few years. It was a few years ago that it went from $10,000 to $15,000. It was only a year or two before that that it went from $5,000 to $10,000.

[Page 8670]

When I was a young lawyer, which is getting to be longer and longer ago, the limit was $5,000. When I started out in practice, $5,000 was the Small Claims Court limit, and there were hardly any lawyers in the room, because $5,000 claims typically did not make it worth a client's while to actually have a lawyer in the room. If it was any kind of a serious case, they were going to spend $1,000 to $2,000 simply paying the lawyer before they knew whether they were going to win or lose.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you one thing that I know, because I've been in Small Claims Court and I've been in there recently, now, today, the room is full of lawyers, because even with a limit of $15,000, it is now worth a client's while, if they can afford it, to have a lawyer in the room. So I was there. It would only be about a month ago, the last time I was in Small Claims Court on behalf of a constituent. I walked into the room, and the room was full of lawyers, lawyer I hadn't seen for a while. It was a great sort of old home week. I got to say hi to people I hadn't seen for a number of years because I hadn't seen them since I was last actively engaged in practice. There they are in the so-called informal quick justice system of Small Claims Court. That's the reality of Small Claims Court.

It is very legalized, and now what are we going to do about it? Well, we're going to up the limit again, to $25,000. Now think about this, Mr. Speaker, the biggest single investment that people make in their lives, usually, is their home. The second-biggest investment they make in their lives is their car. Now we're getting a Small Claims Court level that is going to be high enough to cover the second-biggest investment that most people make in their lives. Never mind every other transaction that they make, every other business dealing they have, every other commercial dealing, every retail dealing that they have in their lives is now going to be under the Small Claims Court limit.

In fact, for most people, there are going to be very few things they ever do in their lives that are going to qualify for the Supreme Court and not for the Small Claims Court. That's a pretty sobering thing, Mr. Speaker. Most things most people are going to do for the rest of their lives, can be taken to Small Claims Court. Here's the other dirty little secret of Small Claims Court, besides the fact that it's full of lawyers, and that is, who do you think the plaintiffs are? They're big companies who can afford a lawyer, who on a docket of eight or 10 items will have five or six of them, so they can afford to send a lawyer, and they're picking off the little guy in Small Claims Court. That's what's happening. That's what it's for. That's who's there. It's not you, it's not me, who is in Small Claims Court. It's the big companies that are using it to collect their debts.

So what we're doing is we're making the collection system for Nova Scotia companies quicker and easier. Good for us. Let's give ourselves a pat on the back. I don't remember reading that in the Minister of Justice's news release. And if any of you doubt what I say, go down to Small Claims Court tonight at the old Provincial Courthouse on Spring Garden Road. Go down tonight and look at the list that's posted on the wall. It starts at 6:00 o'clock. Go down there and see who's there. Not who the defendants are, it's not the

[Page 8671]

little guy taking the big guy to court. I'm not talking about who the defendants are. Who are the plaintiffs? Who are the people using this system? This bill makes it easier for big, commercial interests to put it to the little guy. That's what it does. I don't remember reading that in the minister's news release.

The truth of the matter is, if somebody is a defendant who doesn't have a leg to stand on, who doesn't have a case to make, there is already a process in the Supreme Court. Strangely enough - and lawyers know this - the Supreme Court is actually faster than Small Claims Court if the defendant doesn't file a defence. There's a procedure in the Supreme Court called default judgment where if a defence isn't filed after 10 days, you get an automatic judgment. You don't even have to go to court. It's only if the defendant files a defence that you have to go through the whole rigamarole.

What is it exactly that costs so much money in your regular legal proceeding? Well, sure, it's the lawyer, but if you go down to the Supreme Court - before you get to court you have this whole process called production of documents and discovery; discovery of documents, discovery of people. That's what takes the time and that's what costs all the money. If you haven't been involved in the system, I find most people don't realize this, is that the lawyers get to question all the witnesses before they ever get to court. They do it on the record because the idea is once it gets to court, there should be no surprises. Every lawyer should know what every witness is going to say.

That's what costs all the money. If you've ever been involved in a lawsuit you know you have to go to a lawyer's office and they have the transcription service and you sit down and you're questioned in a private office by a lawyer - that's called discovery. The discoveries can go on for days, in big cases they can go on for weeks. That costs a heck of a lot of money in lawyer's fees, transcription fees, all that kind of stuff and that's before you set foot in a courtroom. But, that allows the two parties to see the relative weight of the evidence so they know whether to settle or not.

Okay, so you don't have to do that in Small Claims Court. But what does that really mean in practice? What it really means is that Small Claims Court is trial by ambush. That means you walk up those courthouse steps at the courthouse on Spring Garden Road here in Halifax, if that is your local jurisdictional courthouse, it's the only one I've ever been to. You walk up those courthouse steps and you have no idea what the other side is bringing with them. You go up there having no idea what witnesses they have, what documents they have. You don't know who's going to be there and what they're going to say. It's trial by ambush. It's very, very rough justice, believe me. It is very rough justice.

This bill puts the limit to $25,000, which is more than most people will spend on anything other than their house and their car in their entire lives. Is that a good thing? Back when I was a young lawyer and the limit was $5,000, it was different. I'm still young - I should say, a younger lawyer - $5,000 kept it informal; mostly, not entirely, mostly kept the

[Page 8672]

lawyers out. It was still very rough justice, but it was informal and it was quick. With $25,000 it's mostly big commercial companies, they're mostly having lawyers and they can crush any plaintiff because they have all the power and the knowledge on their side because who do you think is on the defendant's side?

I'll tell you about the last case I was in Small Claims Court on. It was a fairly complicated case involving the purchase of a vehicle. The member for Cape Breton South asked, did I charge for it - I never charge for any legal work I do for a constituent, ever. Never have, never will. This was all entirely pro bono. I'm doing it because that was the best way I could help that particular constituent. So they got themselves into a spot of trouble over the purchase of a vehicle. They got into a lease that they really couldn't handle - that was the problem. This couple weren't what you would call really highly educated. They certainly didn't understand the documents they had signed and they didn't really understand the numbers that were in the documents. When I actually put it to them and asked, did you realize that you signed for this? Did you realize that you signed for that? They said, no, we needed a vehicle, we were desperate, we asked for a payment of $500 a month and we got a vehicle for $500 a month. They didn't stop to think about all the other questions that they might have asked, which to cut a long story short, did they get a good deal or not never mind what was their monthly payment. They got into a spot of trouble and there were some real difficulties with the car dealership.

Now the car dealership had a legitimate case. They got these people to sign the deal, they had a contract and these people did sign it. The question was, was it fair? Was it unconscionable or was there something about it that meant that maybe they should have reached some kind of accommodation with each other rather than having the plaintiff sue them for the full amount? These are people, frankly, who I met at the local food bank. These are not people who had a lot of money anyway. These are people who, by anybody's measure, are the working poor here in Nova Scotia.

Here they were with a notice to go to Small Claims Court and they had against them, this very experienced, very knowledgeable car dealership. I've got nothing against the car dealership, I bought my first car from the same dealership, they are simply in the car business. They know their business, they know it well and they know how to put things to people in such a way that they come out on the winning end. That's business. They sure as heck came out in the winning end of this particular deal.

That's the kind of thing that is happening in Small Claims Court, you have relatively uneducated people with a relative lack of knowledge about law up against quite sophisticated business people who often bring lawyers with them. You know what? That night in Small Claims Court this same car dealership had four cases and that is absolutely typical of what goes on in Small Claims Court. It is a dealership, a big company and they've got a whole list on the same night and they, as often as not, have a lawyer.

[Page 8673]

In this particular case, this car dealership did not send a lawyer and as soon as they saw that I was there, they said we're not going ahead tonight. My friend from Cape Breton Centre jokes as soon as they saw me, they said, great we're going to win now. That's not what they said but what they did say - now we had our witnesses, our documents, we were ready to roll and as soon as they saw that I was in the room to try to level the playing field a little bit, to try to help these people operate on the same playing field as this very experienced savvy car dealership - they said we're not going to go ahead tonight, we're adjourning it and we're going another night so that we can get our own lawyer. The owner himself was there, this big city car dealership that I won't name because I don't think that's fair, the owner said because you're here I want a level playing field - those were his words - I want a level playing field so I'm going to go out and get my own lawyer.

I found it hard to believe that this very experienced, very savvy businessman who had been in Small Claims Court hundreds of times - no exaggeration - was against this relatively uneducated, poor couple who were scared to death because this was the first time they'd ever been before a court of any kind, that he considered that to be a level playing field. It was only because they had somebody who could advocate on their behalf that he said no, I'm not going to go ahead. So it didn't go ahead that night and in fact the parties have reached a settlement outside of court which I think is better for everybody.

My point is not, did that couple win or did they lose, not did I win or lose, it is that is the typical case that is in Small Claims Court, it's experience and money against the little guy. Anybody who thinks that it's two of the little guys against each other are kidding themselves and like I said earlier, if you don't believe me, go down to the Spring Garden Road courthouse tonight and go see who's on the docket and see how many lawyers are in that room. There we go, that's the bill we have before us, the minister announces it as a great good news story and my message tonight I guess is when you really understand how a Small Claims Court works, this is not a good news story. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: In moving second reading of the bill I would like to respond to both speakers from the New Democratic Party with regard to the fact that we're doing something that's going to take away from the Small Claims Court, something that people had before but will not have in the future. We're not changing that at all, all we're doing is changing the cap. The person who has a claim of $100 against a plumber, or a plumber who has a $100 claim against a household, those types of claims are not in any way affected by this bill.

[Page 8674]

[5:30 p.m.]

All that we're simply doing, Mr. Speaker, is accommodating the fact that the amount of the typical case has increased and it has increased quite rapidly. To be quite honest, as I understand it, the objective of this court is to provide low-cost resolution. So I welcome the remarks from the Opposition and I know that when the Minister of Justice closes this bill on third reading, he will certainly allay the fears of the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, the next bill is also a Minister of Justice bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me, we'll have to deal with that one first.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, I should do that first I guess. Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 236.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 236. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 241.

Bill No. 241 - Commercial Mediation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: This I understand is a lawyer's delight and will enable the lawyers on the Opposition benches to speak to us about an Act " . . . based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation (2002), and in interpreting this Act, consideration must be given to its international origin, the need to promote uniformity in its application and the observance of good faith." I'm sure we all look forward to the debate on this particular bill.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my caucus, as the Justice Critic, I have been asked to say a few words on this bill. Actually it's funny because the Government House Leader said this is a lawyer's delight. I don't know if he meant the debate or the bill itself because I want to say that this bill actually would probably cut down on a lot

[Page 8675]

of lawyers' fees, I want to make that point, because it's about mediation instead of arbitration or going to court. This would be a bill that recognizes international - I was reading this in this bill and it's always interesting to see. I swear the UN spends more time making up the names of their - you know, UNCITRAL, I think this one's called, or something like that. I swear they spend more time making up the names of their organizations than they actually do on the content sometimes but, anyway, I digress.

This bill basically creates a model of where corporations, businesses that have contractual disputes that want to mediate, have the right to voluntarily accept mediation. If they do, it will come under this protocol, one that has been recognized, I'm not sure how far or how wide it's recognized in the industrial world. The UN has adopted this. I presume we're doing this across Canada. I assume this is a harmonized process that all provinces are adopting. We're doing it on our behalf, I assume the federal government, and there are a lot of assumptions here. Again, it would be nice if at some point, at third reading, the Minister of Justice could put some of this on the record so that we have a better understanding of exactly why, but I'm assuming that we have the federal government having signed this convention.

Now we have the provinces implementing this en masse so that we do have consistent rules, rules not only for Canadians but when Canadians are doing commercial transactions in the rest of the world; it's an opportunity for them to be able to know that there's a mediation process available to them and the people they're working with, maybe in the Netherlands or China or Tuvalu, will actually know the mediation process and they'll have an opportunity to access it. It's a fairly straightforward bill just recognizing that mediation is available. Mediation doesn't necessarily end if someone goes into arbitration if the two parties agree. Where a mediated settlement is made through mediation, that can actually be put into a judgment of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and it's equivalent to a court order, Mr. Speaker.

All this stuff is good. None of it's mandatory, it's voluntary, Mr. Speaker. I don't think there's anything in this bill that is too threatening to how we operate business in this province. It may make it a little easier in some circumstances when they're dealing with others in other countries through contracts so that we have a consistent system. That's all good. I don't think we have any problems with passing this on to the Committee on Law Amendments, then again, maybe there'll be a large lineup of people commenting.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yes, Bill No. 241, the Commercial Mediation Act. That is the one you called? There are three Justice bills here and I think they're very similar to one another. Anyway, as a non-practising non-lawyer over here, I just want to say that on behalf of our Justice Critic, we're prepared to agree to send this bill on to the Committee on Law Amendments. I am sure that our Justice Critic will have some

[Page 8676]

more comment to make on that, as well as when it comes back for debate in the Committee of the Whole House. So we'll agree to move this bill on.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 241.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 241. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think that in fairness we will not discuss any more bills for second reading today; therefore, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading. We'll go in the order that they are on the paper. If we finish all those bills on the order paper and we have some bills back for Committee of the Whole House, we'll do Committee of the Whole House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the House until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth North:

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Transportation and Public Works clearly inform the public of its future plans, including timelines, for Highway 113.

[Page 8677]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

TPW: HWY.113 - PLANS/TIMELINES

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to make clear that I am going to be sharing my time today with the member for Timberlea-Prospect; in fact, the majority of the time will be his. There are a couple of things that I wanted to be on the record about on this. Let me be very clear that I personally am opposed to this particular highway project, Highway 113. This is a beautiful, natural, wilderness area that needs to be preserved for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, and I know that that is a bit of a cliché, but once this area is gone, once it's bisected by the proposed highway, it's gone forever, it's gone for good. At the very least there ought to be an environmental assessment on this project, and there would be an environmental assessment if it was 100 metres longer, about the length of one end of this building to the other end, because there's an environmental assessment for a 10-kilometre road. Guess what this one clocks in at - 9.9 kilometres. I don't think that's an accident.

Here is the other thing about this, and that is this secrecy that this government loves so much, this is Crown land. It's Crown land that's under the control of the Province of Nova Scotia, and in order to get this project going they don't even need to get the approval of this House. They can do it in the back rooms. They can do it by Order in Council. They can transfer this Crown land, and the people who are about this wilderness area are keeping an eye every day on the Orders in Council that are published just in case the government tries to sneak one through.

What I would like to hear the Minister of Natural Resources say in the debate today is that he promises this House and the people of the Halifax Regional Municipality that he personally guarantees that there will be no transfer of Crown land without adequate notice to this House and to the people, because we are all afraid that this is going to end up being a done deal in the back rooms, and that is wrong. On behalf of the people I represent, the people of Halifax Fairview, let me say that this project is not supported. I congratulate the member for Halifax Clayton Park, who's done a great deal to raise the profile of this issue to make sure the minister knows that he is being watched, and he will not get away with it if he, so to speak, paves the way for the construction of this road in the back rooms of government. With that, I would like to turn the floor over to my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect.

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

[Page 8678]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, can I ask how much time I have before we begin so that I can keep an eye on the clock.

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately seven minutes.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, it will be seven valuable minutes, let me assure you. This Summer I took the opportunity to knock on the doors surrounding the community I am fortunate enough to represent, where we had this wonderful piece of information that had been put together by Chris Miller and Raymond Plourde and other people involved, it's the Proposed Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. It clearly outlines the reasons why there should be no such thing as this Highway 113. In my community we call it the unlucky Highway 113, and be appropriate, I think I should table that document for members opposite so they can see what an important piece of wonderful information that is.

The doors I knocked on, one week in the middle of Summer on this issue, to a person they said, what are we doing building another road in the HRM? We can't take care of the roads we have now, but now we're going to have another road winding through this pristine wilderness area. That road, and the purpose for that road has never been clearly identified. It's a controversial proposal. It has caused some dissension. In fact, both HRM councillors who I work with have come out in favour of this road. They came out in favour of it.

Meanwhile Austin French, who along with Dave McCusker, held a number of very informative meetings with the regional plan in the western Halifax County area, and they held them at Halifax West High School, they held them at the St. Margarets Centre. Austin French has said Highway 113 is not even on the horizon, but the local HRM councillors are saying, that's a road we should go ahead and build. Now, those two conflicting interpretations have people scratching their heads and saying, what is exactly the priority here?

Well, let me tell you what the priority is, growing community, moving people around safely, growing community that needs a better transit service. I know the minister opposite, when he has time, will understand the fact that transit service is what we need. We don't need more roads with more people driving one to a car, one to a vehicle, one to an SUV, as they make their way into peninsular Halifax. That's not what we need.

The regional plan has identified throughout the HRM a number of places for growth, and those places tend to be concentrated in the area of Halifax Clayton Park, Timberlea-Prospect, and those are the concerns that citizens have brought forward. They've brought this forward, and therefore we introduced this resolution so that the minister could clarify the time frame, and finally, of course, that important transfer of Crown land that just must not take place.

[Page 8679]

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, as a young teacher we had an outdoor education course at the high school I taught at at the time. One of the most pristine areas that we had, where we took these young people on outdoor education adventures was that very piece of land that we're talking about now, that very piece of land that we have come to treasure and value. Our concern is very simply this - I've already seen it in the community of Timberlea - there is a connector road that swings off the old St. Margarets Bay Road. That connector road is not a road into a subdivision. That connector road is off the Dunbrack Street construction. It is a big entrance road that's going to be moving traffic around.

[5:45 p.m.]

Yet do we have a clear identification why that road suddenly swings off the St. Margarets Bay Road into the woods that so conveniently would be meeting where Highway 113 is? Somebody has to come clean with the communities that we represent. Our communities are concerned with the fact that we are going to lose a pristine part of wilderness so close to the HRM, but in return we are going to have resulting traffic patterns in a growth community that are going to be unable to handle them.

I think the members opposite who have been on the HRM council, and the minister, should know the people in the community that I represent look at Highway 113 as one reason - it's the way to get the garbage trucks to the landfill site over in Lakeside. That's the reason for that road. That's the reason it's there, that's the reason they're going to move those trucks through there. It's going to be a non-access road, there's going to be no access to it. The people are just clinging to the fact of how many subdivisions are suddenly going to spring off that road. The argument is, it'll save you six or eight minutes coming across the Hammonds Plains Road.

The member for Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville knows and I know that has a problem of road congestion. Let's improve the Hammonds Plains Road. Let's enforce the fact it's local truck traffic only. We do not need another road, another road that will swing through the spider-like area, that we are so concerned about.

The community of Sheldrake Heights is frustrated with this process. I, having knocked on every one of those doors that hot week in the Summer, was received with the fact, finally we're getting some information on this. Finally we're getting the facts. Finally we're seeing with this proposed road that it seems some people want it and some don't. I hope the minister understands the frustrations of the people in the communities that we represent. We would like to know exactly what the future is of Highway 113. Will there be any transfer of Crown land? If such things take place, the community must be fully involved from the first, to understand they want to be listened to because of the long-term effects it will have on our wonderful community. Thank you.

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

[Page 8680]

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, yes, I wasn't sure if the government was going to reply next or not, but I'd rather put my questions on the table and hopefully we'll hear from the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about a number of the concerns that we have around Highway 113.

I'm very pleased that a number of the key points have already been raised by members of the Official Opposition, particularly the length of the highway which I think is in dispute, undeniably. There are questions about how it is calculated, whether or not it is a convenience to have it arrive at 9.9 kilometres, rather than a longer distance. There are very knowledgeable people who have examined it and think it's longer.

As we know, the highway is proposed to cut off seven or eight minutes of travel time. It cuts 13 kilometres off driving distance, but what does it do? What's the cost of that? It's been mentioned that the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes area which it will bisect completely, is largely Crown land. It's 1,750 hectares of Crown land.

It's important to note that on the positive side this is the largest piece of Crown land undisturbed with no mining, no logging rights - an unusual state really for Crown land in this province as the Minister of Natural Resources knows. This is a pristine wilderness and it is the largest piece of wilderness in the HRM urban core - I'd ask for a map to confirm that - and there is no other large piece that falls within the urban core that HRM uses, so this is very important.

Not only is it very large and very beautiful - and I have a couple of pictures that I'd like to table today just to go on the record about how nice looking the area is and how fine it is - we've done a number of walks into the area over the last two years to help show people what is actually there, how beautiful it is, how easy it is to access and how close to home it is for thousands and thousands of people who live in the HRM. For many people who live in my riding in Clayton Park you can easily walk to that area. You can go to Kent Building Supplies and just a few steps behind what I would have to say is a very unpleasant urban landscape you can step into a beautiful forest and wilderness, and within about 15 minutes you come to the shores of Susies Lake, which is one of the pictures that I have submitted today.

Having that sort of an asset, that sort of a beautiful area close to so many people who live in HRM is tremendously important. I think what we're looking for here is a balance so that we don't put unnecessary transportation wishes ahead of a vision for our city. I know that HRM has been looking themselves at their Regional Plan and how we can proceed with this area, but it's very important to recognize that we need to have some foresight and some vision. This requires imagining what Halifax would have been like if years and years ago people didn't decide that they would preserve Point Pleasant Park, when there was lots of open space on the peninsula. Somebody made that decision more than 100 years ago that that would become a park, and that has become a treasure for this city.

[Page 8681]

The same can be said for the Mainland North area. You may think this is a wilderness that is out of sight, out of mind - well it isn't. It is well-known to the people of Mainland North now and to the people in Hammonds Plains, and I think it offers tremendous future value. We can talk about it recreationally, for health and fitness, environmental values, the quality of life for this city for many years to come. Imagine 50 years to come when all of the private land in that area - and it is interspersed with private land - imagine that fully developed and filled out but you'll still have 1750 hectares that are preserved, that is a habitat for wildlife and is a place for the people of this city to enjoy, and I mean from all over the city.

The first step is to oppose this highway, because the highway will cut right through the middle of these Crown lands. To carry on the idea of how you're going to secure this corridor, which I understand from a letter that was written by the minister on October 13th, it says that Highway 113 is a corridor preservation project only at this time. Well that's wonderful, it's going to cost us dearly in land for you to preserve this corridor. In order for you to purchase the corridor you're looking for you can be sure that in the backrooms of Cabinet you'll be looking at trade-offs that are a lot more than one acre for one acre. We know how those kind of trade-offs go. So for you to get the corridor that you require to put a four-lane ,100-Series Highway through that land, there will be the loss of significant Crown lands - lands that are really held in trust for the people of Nova Scotia.

In the Bedford West subdivision alone I was told by their developer that it will take 100 acres of their land in that subdivision to hold the corridor for Highway 113 and they're developing right now, planning their streets, laying them out and just in that corner of the highway corridor they need to reserve 100 acres of land. So we're talking about a significant amount of the land, and I believe any of the Crown lands north of that highway corridor will be sold off in order to preserve your corridor.

Somebody should tell the HRM councillors that this is, right now, a corridor preservation project only, because they are selling it to the people of Hammonds Plains, probably along with the minister from the Hammonds Plains area, that this is the solution to their problems on the Hammonds Plains Road, that this is going to be the saving grace for all of their commuting problems and their traffic congestion and, frankly, the safety issues that they face daily and this is not. If this plan is really 20 or 25 years out, as Austin French of the HRM regional planning team says, how is this going to help the people of Hammonds Plains? They need help now, they need another alternative, they need somebody to plan this right away so that this doesn't continue to be a charade, which it really is.

Obviously, if I lived there I'd be looking for an immediate solution too. I sat down one-on-one with the councillor for the Hammonds Plains area and he told me that he thinks you'll move faster and that this is the answer. Well he's selling the people out there a bill of goods and I told him that. He would love to sell them on the idea that this will be taken care

[Page 8682]

of by the province. That number one, it won't cost the city anything, will it, if the province wants to spend that money.

Now, I've suggested it would cost up to $50 million to build this highway. I think the last estimate was $30 million, done in 1997, and that estimate has been confirmed in correspondence with the department. The cost of building roads has increased greatly. So I think we're talking about a $50 million to $60 million highway that's going to do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life here in HRM. It's not designed to take the commuter traffic off the Hammonds Plains Road. It's designed to move the trucks from the South Shore to Truro and points beyond. It's a transportation corridor for trucks and moving goods as far as I can see and already trucks are not allowed on the Hammonds Plains Road. So how is this going to help?

Now, I have to give you a little history if time allows. Can you tell me how much time I have left, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Member, you have approximately three minutes.

MS. WHALEN: Very good, then there's time to explain this. This project has been on the go, I know, for many, many years. You'll undoubtedly tell me it was on the go when there was a Liberal Government. The original plan for this highway was to provide a shortcut, which it is, that would turn off Highway No. 103 much sooner than the Hammonds Plains Road, not after it. It would have gone behind where the Sobey's and Tantallon Centre is today. It would have cut across those lands over towards Sackville. It would have joined up with Highway No. 101 near Sackville, in that area.

As time went by, that corridor was lost. It's true that the government of the day didn't reserve the corridor. Development took place and you lost the opportunity. Well, I'm sorry. I don't think that moving it many kilometres closer to the city, making it only a 13 kilometre shortcut, saving seven or eight minutes of travel time, is the answer now. I think that the opportunity was lost years ago and this project should be shelved completely; as I say, the cost to the public in terms of environmental degradation in that area, increased congestion, more development.

I have to say in the environmental assessment that has been done up to this point, there was actually the suggestion that this major highway was going to create a buffer for future development, that that would preserve the Crown lands in some way. Everybody knows that when you build a highway, you increase the value of the lands on either side of that road immeasurably and as the value goes up, the temptation to sell it to provide money for other projects becomes greater. This land will be eaten up if that highway goes through and the Crown land, as I say, in its entirety is valuable. As you start to chew it up, as you put it into little tiny ecosystems, it's going to be an absolute waste.

[Page 8683]

What we're calling on here is for the government to show the vision and the foresight to look beyond this immediate idea that you're fixing something. You're not fixing anything. It should be mentioned that by building this highway, you'll create the same problem on the St. Margarets Bay Road that you currently have on the Hammonds Plains Road. The department's own traffic analysis shows a 200 per cent increase in traffic on the St. Margarets Bay Road if this highway goes through. Now, how can that be justified within the corridors of the HRM or here in the Legislature? I say that is not planning at all.

We have a golden opportunity to preserve this land and look to the future. I am calling on the government to look at this with new eyes and to look at it as the opportunity that it is - a chance to preserve something very valuable for the health and well-being of the citizens of the HRM and, in fact, as a jewel for the entire province. These lands should be protected under the Wilderness Protection Act.

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

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I want to start out by referring back to what the last member had just said, the member for Halifax Clayton Park. Imagine what our city would look like without Point Pleasant Park and without McNabs Island. What I would say, imagine what our city would be like without Bicentennial Highway and the Burnside Bypass and Dunbrack Street? It's exactly the same thing. Our city would be in chaos. We wouldn't be able to get people to their jobs and I think the kind of planning that went into allowing for the development of those major thoroughfares was foresight. What the member opposite said in her very last remarks about the fact that the previous government wasn't in a position or didn't take the position to think ahead and use some foresight and plan for that particular highway. They lost the opportunity. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works is simply allowing for an opportunity to happen in the future if one is necessary.

[6:00 p.m.]

I must say though, depending on where you sit, or in this case, where you live, it depends on how you look at something. I think it's absolutely disrespectful that members would dismiss the concerns of the people that I represent, around traffic and safety. The people that I represent talk to me every single day about traffic and safety, not just in Hammonds Plains but in Sackville as well.

We've lost many great opportunities to help alleviate some of those traffic and safety concerns by securing these rights of way. The member opposite talks about simple solutions like widening the Hammonds Plains Road. She obviously hasn't driven down the Hammonds Plains Road or doesn't know it very well because if she did she would know the Hammonds Plains Road is flanked side by side with houses and churches and businesses and graveyards.

[Page 8684]

In fact there are areas on the Hammonds Plains Road where the road right of way is no wider than the actual asphalt surface. If she represented that area, she would know that. The people who live in that area know that and they talk to me each and every day.

On Wednesday night I attended a meeting in my community with the RCMP about traffic and RCMP issues in our community. The number one issue raised at that meeting was traffic and transportation. The people in my community have expressed to me on both sides of this issue. Some have said they think the road is unnecessary, but many, many more have said this road is absolutely necessary. They look forward to the government preserving that right of way. The minister has said in the past it's about preserving that right of way in the event the road is necessary in the future.

I commend that minister and his department for doing that. Imagine again, if we didn't have the Bicentennial Highway, imagine again if we didn't have the Magazine Hill or the Magazine bypass as we call it. How would the people of Hammonds Plains, Sackville, St. Margarets Bay, west of the city find their way to the city for work? They wouldn't. They wouldn't be able to do it because there would be no roads to get them there.

I can tell you that the roads and traffic and transportation are the single biggest issue that I face as an MLA. Others would throw out the idea of enhancing Metro Transit as a way of resolving the issue. It sounds good, it sounds really good, but when you represent an area where the lots are an acre to an acre and a half, what you find is that it's unworkable. People don't want to walk five kilometres to get a bus. In fact, what they'll do is they'll drive. That creates traffic and traffic needs roads and this is what we're talking about.

AN HON. MEMBER: Park and Ride.

MR. BARNET: Park and Ride? It's a great idea, but to get to the Park and Ride parking lot you have to drive on roads and this is what we're talking about. We don't live in a perfect world. There are no perfect solutions but I think the idea of protecting and preserving the right of way in the event it's necessary is the right approach. I commend the Minister of Transportation for at least having the foresight that the Liberals didn't have when they were in government because they could have built this road in a more appropriate place, but they chose not to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the opportunity this evening to talk about Highway 113 because there's been a considerable amount of talk about Highway 113 which has no semblance to the facts as to why we are preserving a corridor that connects Highway No. 103 with Highway No. 102.

[Page 8685]

Good transit, good movement of traffic whether it be commercial or passenger traffic is dependent on good planning. I think it's very evident that unless we have good traffic planning years ahead of when the traffic actually comes into being, we're going to have chaos.

Last evening, I left the House early, I left around 4:00 p.m. because I had to attend a meeting in my riding at about 5:10 p.m. for a 5:15 p.m. meeting. (Interruptions) No, that would be right within the speed limits on the highway and out of the city. But anyway, when I came off the Macdonald Bridge, it was 4:15 p.m., by the time I got to the foot of Magazine Hill it was 5:15 p.m. That happened because when we put in Burnside Park we didn't do the planning for the traffic that was going to be generated there. All traffic today moves primarily by road, particularly in Nova Scotia, most of our commercial traffic moves by road. We must have adequate highways, that is why our 100-Series system is so important and why we spend so much of our Transportation budget on the 100-Series Highways. People say, why don't you look after secondary roads? Well, we will look after secondary roads but we have to protect the 100-Series Highways because they are the backbone of our export and import trade in and out of this province.

Highway 113 is not a highway, it may never be a highway but we would be remiss, the department would be remiss, the minister would be remiss, Halifax Regional Municipality would be remiss if they didn't say some day perhaps we are going to require a tie-in between the Highway Nos. 103 and 102 that is direct to get the traffic off the Hammonds Plains Road or else proceeding down through the city itself. That is what we're doing, we are protecting a corridor. Maybe the corridor is being protected for joggers, maybe it's being protected as a long but narrow park, it doesn't matter, we would be remiss if we didn't reserve that piece of land.

If you think we're going to build that highway, I can tell you it's so far down on any priority list that I've ever seen as to be completely non-existent because we don't have the money. The honourable member said that it was a $30 million highway that has escalated to $50 million - by the time we get to build that highway it's probably going to be a $100 million highway. We don't have the money, but however we have to protect that corridor because perhaps sometime in the future either the province or HRM will want that as a transit route or perhaps the people will want to retain that area in the middle of what is rapidly becoming a huge subdivision to have a corridor through there that is green space.

I think we're doing the right thing, I can tell both honourable members opposite who are much younger than I am, when they get to be my age that highway will still be just a dream off in the future. Thank you.

[Page 8686]

MR. SPEAKER: The time for debate has expired. Thank you to all the members who have participated.

The House will meet again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 6:08 p.m.]

[Page 8687]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 4710

By: Ms. Diana Whalen (Halifax Clayton Park)

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

Whereas George Hawkins was a lawyer, businessman and political activist; and

Whereas George Hawkins could be described as larger than life, a man of strong beliefs, a supporter of the arts, and a natty dresser; and

Whereas at the age of 81, George Hawkins died on September 24, 2005 in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend sincere sympathy to Mr. Hawkins' family on the loss of their father, grandfather and brother.

RESOLUTION NO. 4711

By: Mr. Russell MacKinnon (Cape Breton West)

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

Whereas during the Winter months, school children from Eskasoni travel daily, by bus, on very dangerous roads; and

Whereas the Mountain Road, Coxheath, becomes very slippery and a guardrail is imperative before Winter approaches to ensure safe travelling for the students; and

Whereas the shoulders of the Eskasoni Road, North Side East Bay, are deteriorating and in a desperate state of repair;

Therefore be it resolved that the Honourable Ronald Russell, Minister of Transportation and Public Works, investigate the concerns of Councillor Esmond Marshall, District 13, CBRM, and direct departmental staff to undertake the appropriate, corrective action.

[Page 8688]

RESOLUTION NO. 4712

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Julie McLellan was crowned Miss Congeniality in the Miss Cumberland 2005 pageant at the 2005 Cumberland County Exhibition; and

Whereas Julie is the 16-year-old daughter of Kim and Adair McLellan of River Philip and is a Grade 11 student at Oxford Regional High School; and

Whereas Julie enjoys basketball, soccer and music, and her future plans include attending Dalhousie University to become a pharmacist;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Julie McLellan on this achievement, and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 4713

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Parrsboro Lady Warriors used solid defence and timely offence to secure the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Division III Slo-Pitch title in May 2005; and

Whereas Jenna Bradbury launched a home run and a double to pace Parrsboro to a 10-0 victory over the Springhill Lady Golden Eagles in the championship game; and

Whereas Parrsboro will now advance to the provincial tournament set for Cape Breton in June;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the Parrsboro Lady Warriors, and wish them continued success in all future endeavours.

[Page 8689]

RESOLUTION NO. 4714

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Nick Nameless, a musical group from Springhill, took the City of Moncton by surprise by entering the Moosehead Extreme Music Services Battle of the Bands; and

Whereas the band competed against many other bands and took home a second-place win; and

Whereas Nick Nameless will be doing gigs in Halifax with Jimmy Swift, and is also slotted to be C103's featured artist during the scheduled program Action Atlantic;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nick Nameless for this achievement, and wish them continued success and enjoyment with their music in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 4715

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Carla Mitchell-Smith is Springhill High School's newest principal and a welcome addition; and

Whereas Carla, a Springhill High School graduate, started her teaching career in Springhill in 1994 after completing her Bachelor of Education at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, and completed her Masters in Education Administration in 1997; and

Whereas Carla has been instrumental in the addition of new programs at SHS, including the occupation preparatory program which will guide students through the ins and outs of the food industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Carla Mitchell-Smith on her new position as principal of the Springhill High School, and wish her all the best in the future.

[Page 8690]

RESOLUTION NO. 4716

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Lawson MacLeod from River Hebert was awarded the Junior High Athlete of the year award; and

Whereas Lawson was co-MVP of the basketball team, the track and field award winner, and a recipient of the Timmy O'Brien Memorial Award; and

Whereas Lawson's family, friends and fellow students are very proud of his accomplishments;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lawson MacLeod on these outstanding achievements, and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 4717

By: Hon. Murray Scott ( Speaker)

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

Whereas Kathy MacLean, an elementary school teacher at West End Elementary School has been honoured by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board; and

Whereas Kathy MacLean received the Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2004-05 school year; and

Whereas this award was presented to Ms. MacLean for her outstanding contribution to the education system and innovative teaching;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kathy MacLean on receiving this prestigious award, and wish her continued success in the future.

[Page 8691]

RESOLUTION NO. 4718

By: Mr. Leo Glavine (Kings West)

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

Whereas on October 22, 2005, the Berwick Lions Club will host a Guest of Honour dinner recognizing Esther Chute for her contributions to her community, church and service groups; and

Whereas a lifetime of activity and hard work have kept Mrs. Chute active both physically and mentally, and at 92 she continues to bake for church functions, square dance with the Belles n' Beaus, and attend political functions; and

Whereas Mrs. Chute has led an exemplary life and continues to lead her community and family;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the contributions Esther Chute has made to her community, and congratulate her for the Berwick Lions Club Guest of Honour dinner being held in her honour.