Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

La Chambre s'est ajournée le
26 octobre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 12, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 3785
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Grand Desert: Range Road - Maintain,
Mr. D. Dexter 3786
HRM: Fire Service Policy - Oppose, Mr. B. Taylor (by Mr. W. Dooks) 3786
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Supplement to the Public Accounts, Hon. N. LeBlanc 3786
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1219, Nat. Res. - Wildlife Species: Importance - Recognize,
Hon. E. Fage 3787
Vote - Affirmative 3787
Res. 1220, Tourism - South Shore Assoc.: Dedication - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3787
Vote - Affirmative 3788
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1221, Health - Budget (2000-01): Seniors - Choices Table,
Dr. J. Smith 3789
Res. 1222, Health - Care: Expenditure (N.S.) - Statistics (Provs.)
Inaccurate, Mr. Robert Chisholm 3789
Res. 1223, Petroleum Directorate - Royalty Regime: Strength -
Acknowledge, Hon. G. Balser 3790
Res. 1224, Exco - Members: Responsibility - Accept, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3791
Res. 1225, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Detail, Ms. E. O'Connell 3791
Res. 1226, PM (Can.) - Politics: Style - Admonish, Mr. F. Chipman 3792
Res. 1227, Educ. - Ecole Petit-de-Grat: Construction - Begin,
Mr. M. Samson 3793
Res. 1228, Educ. - Univ.: Students - Loan Forgiveness Prog. Restore,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3793
Res. 1229, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): HST Rebate (Mun. Etc.) -
Comments (HRM Dep. CAO) Recognize, Mr. D. Hendsbee 3794
Res. 1230, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty: Deficit (17/08/99 on) -
Address, Mr. John MacDonell 3795
Res. 1231, MLA - Absence (Budget Week): "Invisible Man" Sequel -
Set Prov. House, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3795
Res. 1232, Educ. - Strait Reg. Sc. Bd.-Knowledge House:
Conf. Bd. (Can.) Award - Congrats., Mr. Ronald Chisholm 3796
Vote - Affirmative 3797
Res. 1233, Health - VON (Anna. Co., Kings Co. & Hants Co.): Merger -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 3797
Vote - Affirmative 3797
Res. 1234, RC Archdiocese (Hfx.) - Youth: Rome Visit -
Fund-raising Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 3798
Vote - Affirmative 3798
Res. 1235, Windsor FD - Cyril Woodman: Long Service - Commend,
Hon. R. Russell 3798
Vote - Affirmative 3799
Res. 1236, Health - Marathon of Hope (Terry Fox Run): Anniv. 20th -
Recognize, Mr. D. Hendsbee 3799
Vote - Affirmative 3800
Res. 1237, Commun. Serv. - Dart. Work Activity Soc.: Serv. -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 3800
Vote - Affirmative 3800
Res. 1238, Econ. Dev. - Pictou Co. C of C: Award Winners - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 3801
Vote - Affirmative 3801
Res. 1239, C.B. Nova MLA - Train Times Punctual (Italy):
Mussolini - Remember, Hon. G. Balser 3801
Res. 1240, RCL River John (Branch 108) - Remembrance Garden:
Initiative - Recognize, Mrs. M. Baillie 3802
Vote - Affirmative 3803
^Res. 1241, Edward Lorraine (MLA Col. N. [1981-84; 1988-99]:
Birthday - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor (by Mr. W. Langille) 3803
Vote - Affirmative 3804
Res. 1242, Commun. Serv. - Shel. Co. Big Bros. & Sisters:
Masonic Fdn. Fund-raising Appreciate, Mr. C. O'Donnell 3804
Vote - Affirmative 3805
Res. 1243, Econ. Dev. - Bowater Mersey: Mill Expansion - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 3805
Vote - Affirmative 3805
Res. 1244, Nictaux Vol. FD - Chief Chet Balcom & Mrs. Olga Balcom:
Golden Wedding Anniv. - Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 3806
Vote - Affirmative 3806
Res. 1245, Sports - Curling: MD Hydrant Champs (2000) - S Ont. Rink
(Neil Harrison) Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 3806
Vote - Affirmative 3807
Res. 1246, Sports - Hockey (NSSAF Boys A Champs): Cheticamp
NDA Acadiens - Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3807
Vote - Affirmative 3808
Res. 1247, Kings Co. & Western N.S. Fire Depts.: Mutual-Aid
Response System - Commend, Mr. D. Morse 3808
Vote - Affirmative 3809
Res. 1248, Sports - Sackville Stadium: Expansion 2000 - Fund-raising
Recognize, Mr. B. Barnet 3809
Vote - Affirmative 3809
Res. 1249, Lions Club Internat. (Dist. 41-N2 [N.S.] Gov.):
Peter Pilkington (Yar.) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 3809
Vote - Affirmative 3810
Res. 1250, Econ. Dev. - Dart. Downtown: Potential - HRM Mayor
(Walter Fitzgerald) Commend, Mr. T. Olive 3810
Res. 1251, Culture - Art: Horst Guilhauman (Harbourville) -
Initiative Acknowledge, Mr. J. Carey 3811
Vote - Affirmative 3811
Res. 1252, Town Criers Champs. (Belgium) - Gary Long
(Middleton & Berwick): Success - Wish, Mr. M. Parent 3812
Vote - Affirmative 3812
Res. 1253, Educ. - W Northfield Elem. Sc. PTA: Fund Raising Efforts -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 3812
Vote - Affirmative 3813
Res. 1254, Linacy FD - Ladies Aux.: Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 3813
Vote - Affirmative 3814
Res. 1255, Nat. Res. - Lun. Co. Wildlife Assoc.: Fishery Efforts -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 3814
Vote - Affirmative 3815
Res. 1256, Culture - Atl. Writing Comp.: Chad Lucas (Sackville) -
Winner Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 3815
Vote - Affirmative 3815
Res. 1257, Agric. - Luchtenberg Farm (River John): Dairy Barn -
Enterprise Recognize, Mrs. M. Baillie 3816
Vote - Affirmative 3816
Res. 1258, Sports - Judo (Jr. Natl. Tournament): Cassaundra Hawley
(Port Hood) - Success Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3816
Vote - Affirmative 3817
Res. 1259, Commun. Serv. - Cumb. Early Intervention Prog.:
Staff - Acknowledge, Hon. E. Fage 3817
Vote - Affirmative 3818
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 453, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Response, Mr. R. MacLellan 3818
No. 454, Health - Cuts: QE II - Impact, Mr. Robert Chisholm 3819
No. 455, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Response (QP 29/03/00),
Mr. R. MacLellan 3820
No. 456, Health - Hospitals: Cuts - Reveal, Mr. D. Dexter 3821
No. 457, Health - Facilities Review: Beds - Closure, Dr. J. Smith 3822
No. 458, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Job Cuts - Civil Servants Inform,
Mr. J. Holm 3823
No. 459, Health - Efficiencies: Jobs - Guarantees, Dr. J. Smith 3824
No. 460, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Reveal, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3825
No. 461, Justice - Correctional Facilities: Lay-offs - Negotiations,
Mr. M. Samson 3827
No. 462, Educ.: Policy (Comments [Fin. Min.]) - View,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3828
No. 463, Educ. - Univ.: Students - Loan Remission Prog.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 3829
No. 464, Exco - Poll (Priorities): Existence - Concealment,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3830
No. 465, Human Res. - Pub. Serv.: Admin. (Senior) - Reduction Plans,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3831
No. 466, Health - Care: User Fees - Increase, Mr. D. Dexter 3832
No. 467, Health - Pharmacare Premiums: Drug Inflation Index -
Construction, Mr. D. Downe 3833
No. 468, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Co-Pay - Increase, Mr. J. Pye 3835
No. 469, Health - Care System: IT - Fund, Dr. J. Smith 3835
No. 470, Econ. Dev. - Budget (2000-01): C.B. - Neglected,
Mr. F. Corbett 3837
No. 471, Educ. - Collège de l'Acadie/Université Ste.-Anne: Admin. -
Merge, Mr. M. Samson 3838
No. 472, Agric.: County Offices - Reduction, Mr. John MacDonell 3839
No. 473, Educ. - Cape Breton: Progs. - Initiation (2000-01),
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3840
No. 474, Justice - Jails: Closures - Secrecy, Mr. H. Epstein 3841
No. 475, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Englishtown Ferry: Fares - Increase,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3842
No. 476, Environ. - Twin Mountain Const. (Anna. Valley):
Dump Site - Action, Mr. Robert Chisholm 3843
No. 477, Educ. - Schools: Violence - Concern, Mr. W. Gaudet 3845
No. 478, Educ.: Class Size - Limit, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3845
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 40, Moratorium on Medicare User Fees Act 3846
Dr. J. Smith 3846
Hon. J. Muir 3849
Mr. D. Dexter 3853
Mr. R. MacLellan 3856
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 805, Educ. - P3 Schools: Construction Moratorium - Lift,
Mr. W. Gaudet 3859
Mr. W. Gaudet 3859
Hon. J. Purves 3862
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3864
Mr. John MacDonell 3866
Mr. M. Samson 3867
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3870
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Registry 2000: Benefits - Recognize:
Ms. M. McGrath 3871
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3874
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 13th at 12:00 p.m. 3877

[Page 3785]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Kevin Deveaux

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, I would advise honourable members that the winner of the late debate submission is the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin. The resolution reads:

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the benefits to both the commercial and legal communities as well as the general public with the introduction of Registry 2000.

The late debate will be held, of course, at 6:00 o'clock this evening.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure today to have a world-renowned artist from my constituency, who has a display on at the World Trade and Convention Centre until April 13th, Mr. Horst Guilhauman. He is a resident of Harbourville and those of you who have been watching the news know that he is supporting the Restoration Society of Harbourville by donating a portion of his income from the paintings to that area. We would encourage you to visit that area and I would ask you to give a nice warm welcome to Horst. (Applause)

3785

[Page 3786]

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Range Road in Grand Desert, the operative clause of which reads, "The government of Nova Scotia immediately take reasonable steps to ensure Range Road is maintained and that emergency services are available to the residents there." There are 16 signatures and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and present this petition. (Interruptions) "We, the undersigned residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality are opposed to Halifax Regional Municipality Fire Service policy that would diminish the role or possibly disqualify volunteer fire fighters age 60 and over." I have affixed my name to this petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in addition to yesterday, I beg leave to table the Supplement to the Public Accounts for the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

[Page 3787]

RESOLUTION NO. 1219

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

Whereas April 9th to 15th is National Wildlife Week, and it is an opportunity for us to celebrate our wildlife heritage; and

Whereas it takes place in recognition of the birth date of April 10th of the late Jack Miner, who was one of the founders of Canada's conservation movement; and

Whereas this year's theme, Migration . . . . An Incredible Journey, reminds us that migratory species need adequate food, water, shelter and space to survive as they journey between breeding and wintering areas;

Therefore be it resolved that all Nova Scotians recognize the importance of our wildlife species and their habitat, and take time to participate in activities in your community this week in celebration of National Wildlife Week.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 1220

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

Whereas the South Shore Tourism Association is hosting its annual general meeting and conference today and tomorrow; and

Whereas the association brings operators together and has helped to make tourism what it is today - a significant part of our economy and an industry that is poised to grow; and

[Page 3788]

Whereas Tourism revenues along the South Shore have jumped 15 per cent between 1998 and 1999, climbing to $95 million;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing the South Shore Tourism Association for their ongoing dedication and support, and wishing them continued success in their efforts to grow tourism.

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 Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to draw the attention of members of the House to the presence in the west gallery of a young man, Mr. Jesse Mandell, who is a Grade 11 student who is job shadowing me today. I would ask him to rise, and I would ask the members of the House to give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, welcome to Jessie and all our guests in the gallery today.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you, and through you, to all members of the House, a large contingency of residents who have come to the House today on a matter they believe is very serious and important to them, the policing issue in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I see many of the residents who are here making their plea to government on this particular issue in the gallery and some are in the corridor. I would ask if all members would appropriately extend the warm welcome and approbation of the House to all these residents. (Applause)

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 3789]

RESOLUTION NO. 1221

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

Whereas yesterday the Health Minister tried to claim that seniors approved of high Pharmacare costs; and

Whereas the minister said that seniors were given several options, and apparently forced to pick the lesser of the evils; and

Whereas the only choice many seniors now have is to do without their much needed medication or face financial hardships in order to buy prescriptions;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health immediately table the choices presented to seniors and include them in the consultation process so that all Nova Scotia seniors can decide for themselves if financial hardship is really the best option.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1222

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

Whereas yesterday's Budget Address tried to justify new, deep health care cuts by claiming that per capita, health spending in Nova Scotia is Canada's highest; and

Whereas the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which reports this data for all provinces, paints a very different picture; and

Whereas based on last October's budget, this government's per capita health spending is lower than Newfoundland, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia;

[Page 3790]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and government should have told the truth instead of inventing claims of high spending to justify abandonment of their commitment to make health care their first and foremost priority.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1223

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

Whereas Brian Tobin, the Premier of Newfoundland, has suggested that Hibernia's royalty agreement is the worst thing to happen to Newfoundland since the Churchill Falls hydroelectric deal; and

Whereas the member for Sackville-Cobequid, in his capacity as Critic for the Petroleum Directorate, has often referenced the Newfoundland royalty regime as a shining example of what Nova Scotia's royalty agreement should have been; and

Whereas the Newfoundland royalty regime is time sensitive and not production related, allowing oil companies to increase production with no corresponding obligation to increase royalties to the Province of Newfoundland;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in acknowledging the strength of the Nova Scotia royalty regime and the lack of foresight of the member for Sackville-Cobequid.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 3791]

RESOLUTION NO. 1224

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

Whereas the Progressive Conservative Government is now using backbenchers to communicate pronouncements on public policy and financial issues that are strictly the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown; and

Whereas this most recent tactic on disseminating bad news is also designed to co-opt Tory backbenchers and make them take responsibility for Cabinet decisions for which they have no control; and

Whereas this Draconian style of leadership ensures the wolves hide among the lambs;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm Cabinet Ministers accept responsibility of the members of the Executive Council and show the appropriate leadership and take responsibility for their departments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1225

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Finance attempted to mislead the people of Nova Scotia about how many teachers are being cut in this heartless provincial budget; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance says 400 teachers are being cut, yet school board and union officials say the actual number is in the range of 600 to 800 teacher layoffs; and

[Page 3792]

Whereas these cuts are a betrayal of the trust Nova Scotia parents placed in the Tory Party in the last election;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance admit today that he misled parents, and tell them actual numbers of teachers being cut.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1226

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

Whereas the federal government's financial commitment to our health care system by the federal government has decreased by 75 per cent since Medicare was introduced; and

Whereas Maclean's Magazine recently revealed that the Prime Minister poured $8.5 million of federal money into his own riding of St. Maurice last year, more than twice what he did for the entire Province of Alberta; and

Whereas the Prime Minister ensures riches for his riding, yet refuses to have his government provide the necessary health care funding which Canadian provinces are all demanding;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly admonish the Prime Minister for his pork-barrelling style of politics and demand he begin paying attention to issues that matter, such as health care spending.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 3793]

RESOLUTION NO. 1227

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

Whereas the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial has asked the province to construct a new French school in Petit-de-Grat in respect of the Constitution which guarantees minority rights in education; and

Whereas the Hamm Government put the construction of Ecole Petit-de-Grat along with 16 other schools on hold pending completion of the KPMG Review; and

Whereas the $90,000 KPMG Review was simply another stunt that allowed the Minister of Education to drag her feet on the building of the much-needed 17 schools;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education quit stalling on the construction of the Ecole Petit-de-Gras and make an immediate commitment to the students, teachers, and parents of Richmond County as to when construction will begin.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1228

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

Whereas university students in this province already pay the highest tuition in the country; and

Whereas this Tory Government is now scrapping the loan forgiveness program that was about to provide $20 million per year for needy university and college students; and

Whereas the end result of this cost-cutting will be that more young people will leave this province for lower tuition and education elsewhere and the likelihood that they will not return here after their schooling;

Therefore be it resolved that this savage Tory Government do the right thing for students and drop this cut from their heartless budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 3794]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1229

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

Whereas the Progressive Conservative Government continues to keep the commitments made to Nova Scotians during the last election; and

Whereas the latest example is Budget 2000's maintenance of the HST rebate for municipal governments, schools, hospitals and charities; and

Whereas this positive decision drew support from Mr. George McLellan, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and thank Mr. McLellan for his constructive comments which are such a refreshing contrast to the rhetoric of members opposite which, to this point, have been void of either constructive criticisms or solutions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 3795]

RESOLUTION NO. 1230

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

Whereas every day in the Province of Nova Scotia, six more children are born into poverty; and

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,434 children have been born into poverty; and

Whereas this heartless Tory Government would prefer to talk about only one kind of deficit, a budget deficit;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education, and social deficits faced by the 1,434 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1231

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

Whereas it is imperative that during this important week of budgetary deliberations, that all members of the Legislature dutifully maintain a visible presence in this Legislature; and

Whereas this visibility must include availability to constituents, with their concerns about this budget; and

Whereas 49 members of this Legislature have set aside personal commitments to maintain this visibility;

[Page 3796]

Therefore be it resolved that a sequel to H. G. Wells' classic "The Invisible Man" be filmed on location in these historic Chambers and that the remake of this classic be named "The Invisible Manning".

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1232

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 Strait Regional School Board, in partnership with Knowledge House, is one of the three national winners in the Industry Canada-CanConnect Award category of the Conference Board of Canada's 1999-2000 National Partners in Education Awards; and

Whereas the Strait Regional School Board-Knowledge House entry was one of over 160 submitted from every province and territory across Canada; and

Whereas this partnership involves creating, testing, and demonstrating a curriculum designed for distribution in learning environments, with the objective of enhancing educational experiences for students, enhancing community economic development through education and training, and developing export markets;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Strait Regional School Board and Knowledge House for winning this prestigious award honouring the best in Canadian business-education initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3797]

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. 1233

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses branches in Annapolis County, Kings County and Hants County recently merged their administrative structures on March 31st; and

Whereas this merger was successfully managed and prompted by both a desire for greater efficiency of operation as well as a desire to see more health care dollars go to primary health needs; and

Whereas this merger has been hailed as a win-win for both clients and staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the three VON branches, their boards and staff for their initiative and vision, as well as congratulating the new Director of the VON Annapolis Valley Branch, Ms. Gail Archibald, for her appointment.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.

[Page 3798]

RESOLUTION NO. 1234

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

Whereas the Archdiocese of Halifax is sending 90 young people and chaperones representing 31 parishes and missions in the diocese to Rome to celebrate World Youth Day this August 15th to 20th; and

Whereas 16 young people from St. Ignatius Church in Bedford and St. James Church in Hammonds Plains will be part of this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage where up to one million people from around the world will attend; and

Whereas considerable hard work went into activities such as bottle drives, pin sales and craft fairs to raise the more than $2,500 per person necessary for the trip;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the hard work and dedication that went into creating this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the youth of the Archdiocese of Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1235

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

Whereas the Windsor Fire Department Veterans' Association annually recognizes a member of the Windsor Fire Department for their outstanding contribution; and

[Page 3799]

Whereas the award has been presented at every annual banquet of the department since March 1989; and

Whereas firefighter Cyril Woodman, who remains an active member after 42 years, was honoured recently for his outstanding work as a department driver, his fire-police work and for his many contributions as Chairman of the department's Benevolent and Donations Committee;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Windsor firefighter Cyril Woodman for his 42 years of service as well as his continuing devoted and committed service to fire protection in Windsor-West Hants.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1236

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

Whereas April is recognized annually as Cancer Month, highlighted with its Daffodil Campaign; and

Whereas 20 years ago today, Terry Fox started his Marathon of Hope cross-country trek starting in St. John's, Newfoundland; and

Whereas thanks to the Terry Fox Foundation, millions of dollars for cancer research has been raised;

Therefore be it resolved that all member of this House acknowledge and recognize the 20th Anniversary of the enormous achievement by this great Canadian hero and that we all collectively keep Terry's Dream Alive as strides in the battle against cancer continue.

[Page 3800]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1237

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

Whereas the Dartmouth Work Activity Society helps clients prepare for employment with literacy and work preparation courses; and

Whereas graduates from the program are very successful in finding employment; and

Whereas staff at the Dartmouth Work Activity Society fill a need in the community and are successful in changing people's lives for the better;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the staff and participants in the Dartmouth Work Activity Society for their valuable service to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 3801]

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1238

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

Whereas two New Glasgow companies, The Evening News and D.B. Eddy and Associates Ltd. were recently chosen as co-winners of the Volunteer of the Year Award presented by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas the Advocate Printing & Publishing Company Limited of Pictou was chosen as winner for a second time as Business of the Year; and

Whereas the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce has also recently selected their 2000-01 executive consisting of President Doug Eddy, Vice-President Lee Langille, Vice-President Glenn Hynes, Secretary Richard Russel and Treasurer Kent MacDougall;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the winners of the Chamber's Community Awards and recognize the important efforts of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce while wishing their executive for 2000-01 every success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1239

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

[Page 3802]

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova has focused on trains, complete with toy whistle sound effects, as material for resolutions - perhaps an indication that as you grow older you do run the risk of regressing to a second childhood; and

Whereas the huffing and puffing of the member for Cape Breton Nova, as it relates to train schedules, more closely resembles the posturing of a fairy tale villain, the big bad wolf than an elderly statesman of this provincial House of Assembly; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova often relies on literary and historical references in the crafting of speeches and resolutions;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton Nova, in light of his historical willingness to associate with a variety of political ideologies, be mindful of the fact that it was the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, who made the trains of Italy run on time.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver. (Laughter) (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Was there a request for waiver?

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed? (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is no unanimity of agreement, let me say that first, Mr. Speaker, and I take exception to the content of the resolution just presented (Interruptions) But I would say, through you to that honourable member, sir, no one ever kicks a dead horse.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would say that having listened to the resolution, I didn't detect anything unparliamentary. (Interruptions) Order, please.

I would just clearly state that the notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1240

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

[Page 3803]

Whereas the River John Remembrance Garden has been a dream of the River John Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion for the past five years; and

Whereas the Remembrance Garden is a professionally designed arboretum containing a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers, providing a place where people may spend a few pleasant hours, a habitat for birds and other wildlife, and a nature teaching aid for the school; and

Whereas in keeping with the Legion's motto, We Will Remember, friends and families of any member of the community may pledge a tree within the garden in memory of a loved one;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize this unique initiative and offer our support to the community of River John and Branch 108 of the Royal Canadian Legion as they continue to make this one-time dream a beautiful reality.

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 Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1241

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas former member for Colchester North, Ed Lorraine, will soon be celebrating a birthday; and

Whereas Mr. Lorraine is a veteran of many days and nights in this Legislature, as he did a commendable job representing the folks of northern Colchester County, while also serving as Minister of Agriculture and Marketing for a two year period; and

[Page 3804]

Whereas no one has been able to determine the exact age of Mr. Lorraine, but judging by his level of activity, it is possibly 29;

Therefore be it resolved that since birthday celebrations are planned for Thursday evening in Colchester County, for Mr. Lorraine's 29th birthday, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at Mr. Lorraine's home in North River, to which all members are invited, this House wish our former colleague, Ed Lorraine, all the best now and in the many happy years before him.

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. 1242

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 Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Shelburne County have an active placement program that has resulted in 32 young children being teamed up with a big brother or sister so far this year; and

Whereas Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Shelburne County was recently provided with $1,760 in funding by the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature appreciate the initiative launched by the Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Shelburne County who are bringing smiles to many young faces this year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3805]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1243

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

Whereas the Bowater Mersey newsprint mill has been in operation for 70 years, and currently employs approximately 500 people, serving customers around the globe; and

Whereas in 1998, the mill was a co-winner of the Safest Mill in Canada competition within the pulp and paper industry, marking the fourth time the company achieved that level of safety performance; and

Whereas Bowater Mersey recently completed a successful upgrade of one of its two paper machines, to enhance the quality of newsprint made on the machine, a project which at its peak employed 250 construction tradespeople, completed on time without any lost-time injuries;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the mill for its expansion, which will mean a superior product leaving the province, and commend Bowater, its employees and the tradespeople involved for their safety record while performing the upgrade.

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 3806]

RESOLUTION NO. 1244

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

Whereas Nictaux Fire Chief Chet Balcom has devoted a number of years of service to his community; and

Whereas Mr. Balcom, despite his many volunteer hours at both the fire station and in the surrounding Annapolis County area, has also spent 50 happy years of marital bliss with his wife, Olga; and

Whereas his family and friends celebrated Chet and Olga's Golden Wedding Anniversary at - where else - the Nictaux Fire Hall on Sunday, March 26th;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs today extend congratulations to this fine Nova Scotian volunteer firefighter and his wife, Olga, as they mark their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1245

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

Whereas in April 2000, 48 firefighters and friends from all parts of Canada came to Truro; and

Whereas they joined four Nova Scotian firefighters and friends at the Canadian Firefighters Curling Association's 2000 Muscular Dystrophy Hydrant Championship; and

[Page 3807]

Whereas at the end of seven days of outstanding competition and wonderful fellowship, the southern Ontario rink, skipped by Neil Harrison, with mate Frank MacCourt, second Barry Acton, and lead Chris Davis emerged victorious;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the Neil Harrison rink from southern Ontario in winning the 2000 Muscular Dystrophy Hydrant Championship and also commend the volunteers whose outstanding effort made this event such a great success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1246

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Boys A Provincial Hockey Tournament took place in Cheticamp on March 23 to March 26, 2000; and

Whereas the Cheticamp NDA Acadiens won gold for their second consecutive year for the title of provincial high school hockey champs; and

Whereas competing for the title were teams from Cornwallis, Trenton, Pictou, Baddeck and Inverness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Cheticamp NDA Acadiens team for winning the 2000 Provincial High School Hockey Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[Page 3808]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1247

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

Whereas former Windsor Fire Chief Walter Stephens and the late Bev Wade, former chief of the New Minas Fire Department, were the fathers of a mutual-aid response system for fire departments across the Annapolis Valley and all western Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Nova Scotia fire officials will tell anyone that the mutual-aid response offered by fire departments in the Annapolis Valley and western Nova Scotia is second to none; and

Whereas recently all Kings County fire departments, along with Hantsport, New Ross, and Springfield in Annapolis County, recently signed a formal mutual-aid agreement as a result of changes to the Municipal Government Act last fall;

Therefore be it resolved that legislative members commend the fire departments that have joined together and signed this agreement that, without question, will mean an exceptional level of fire service continuing for residents of Kings County and all of western Nova Scotia for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 3809]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1248

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

Whereas the Sackville Sports Stadium Expansion 2000 fund-raising campaign is off to a great start, already hitting the halfway mark of raising $1.5 million; and

Whereas thanks to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved, in addition to their generous support of the Sackville community, the capital campaign is currently eight weeks ahead of schedule; and

Whereas this Expansion 2000 will add 44,000 square feet to the existing facility, including an enlarged fitness centre, a new lifestyle centre and a six sheet curling rink, and help raise awareness that Sackville is a great place to live;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank everyone involved with this special project, including service clubs, community groups, volunteers, small business and large corporations for their many generous contributions.

I seek waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 1249

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

[Page 3810]

Whereas on July 1st, Peter Pilkington of Yarmouth will take over as District Governor for Lions Clubs International for District 41-N2 in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Pilkington will become the youngest person ever to hold this position; and

Whereas Mr. Pilkington will become the 4th District Governor chosen from Yarmouth, a claim that no other Lions Club in Nova Scotia can make;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Peter Pilkington on being named District Governor and wish him every success as he carries out his duties and responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1250

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

Whereas downtown Dartmouth has a storied and significant history, complete with unique archeology and buildings; and

Whereas Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor, Walter Fitzgerald, was recently quoted as saying a special development district in downtown Dartmouth could redeem the area; and

Whereas a similar heritage district in Halifax revitalized the waterfront area in the 1970's;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Mayor Fitzgerald for seeing the potential of downtown Dartmouth and support him in his efforts to give new life to this part of our history.

[Page 3811]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings South on an introduction.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, we have the great privilege today to have Mr. Ed Moore from Spryfield, who happens to be the father-in-law of our own Minister of Economic Development. I would ask the House to give him warm greetings. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Good afternoon. Mr. Moore is actually in the Speaker's Gallery.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1251

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

Whereas the internationally acclaimed artist, Horst Maria Guilhauman, residing in Harbourville has captured this historic Bay of Fundy fishing village with oil on canvas; and

Whereas the artist has created 495 prints of which a portion of the sale of each will be contributed to the Harbourville Restoration Society to assist with wharf repair; and

Whereas this artist is holding a show of over 20 of his works from the past two years at the World Trade Centre from March 31st to April 13th;

Therefore be it resolved that the province acknowledge the spirit and initiative of this artist, show their appreciation for his efforts to give something back to his community and province, and wish him continued success with his show and his work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 3812]

RESOLUTION NO. 1252

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

Whereas Canning resident, Gary Long, has served as the Town Crier for Middleton and Berwick; and

Whereas Gary will be travelling to Gent, Belgium, in June of this year in order to take part in the Millennium Town Criers Championship; and

Whereas Mr. Long, in this competition, will be presenting information about the Annapolis Valley and the Province of Nova Scotia and acting as an unofficial, but important ambassador for our province and area;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in wishing Gary Long success in the Millennium competition and our thanks to him for willing to be part of this important event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1253

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

Whereas the West Northfield Family Fair continues to be an amazing success story; and

[Page 3813]

Whereas the fair is sponsored by the West Northfield Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and has raised more than $10,000 for classroom and teaching supplies, library books, computer upgrades, sporting equipment, playground equipment, class trips, and student entertainment; and

Whereas this year marks the 7th annual Family Fair which promises to be just as successful;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the West Northfield Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association for their past effort on behalf of the students and wish them every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[2:45 p.m.]

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1254

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

Whereas the Linacy Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary is continuing to work hand in hand with members of the Linacy Fire Department toward the purchase of a new departmental pumper; and

Whereas the ladies auxiliary recently presented a $20,000 cheque to the department to assist with the purchase, and are presently working on another major fund-raiser for this Saturday evening; and

Whereas the Linacy Fire Department has now, with the $20,000 donation, reached its halfway mark in the fund-raising drive;

[Page 3814]

Therefore be it resolved that the Linacy Fire Department members and their ladies auxiliary be given a 100 per cent endorsement by members of this Legislature for work already completed and for their ongoing efforts to raise funds to purchase a new fire engine.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1255

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

Whereas the Lunenburg County Wildlife Association has assisted in stocking Sucker Lake in Upper Northfield, Lunenburg County, with approximately 2,000 rainbow trout; and

Whereas further shipments of rainbow trout, which are prized by many anglers, are expected in approximately May and July; and

Whereas 35 to 40 boats per day have been drawn to fish the stocked lake in previous years;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Lunenburg County Wildlife Association for their efforts to sustain the recreational fishery in Lunenburg County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3815]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1256

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

Whereas Chad Lucas of Sackville was recently awarded first prize in the short story category in the Atlantic Writing Competition for his story, The Seventh, beating out 72 other entries; and

Whereas The Seventh tells a story about the relationship between a father and his young son; and

Whereas Chad, who has already looked into having his story published, sits in good company with past winners of the Atlantic Writing Competition, including well-known writers Lesley Choyce, Joyce Parkhouse, and Budge Wilson;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Chad Lucas for winning first prize in the Atlantic Writing Competition for his deeply moving short story, The Seventh, and wish him every success as an author and journalist, and with all of his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 3816]

RESOLUTION NO. 1257

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

Whereas Rik and Loekie Roeterdink, owners of Luchtenberg Farm near River John, recently held an open house to show the public its state-of-the-art dairy barn; and

Whereas this facility was designed locally by David Browning, President of D.A. Browning & Associates Inc., Engineering Services of Truro; and

Whereas this high-tech dairy barn complex was designed to create a modern facility capable of meeting the farm's current needs, as well as accommodate for the future growth of the herd as the farm expands, and allows for changes in technology;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the example being shown by Luchtenberg Farm by using leading-edge design and technology in the development of the new dairy barn that provides the foundation for the future growth and expansion of this enterprise.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1258

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

Whereas 12 year old Cassaundra Hawley of Port Hood, Cape Breton, competed at the Canadian Junior National Judo Tournament in Lethbridge, Alberta, on March 23 to 27, 2000; and

[Page 3817]

Whereas Cassaundra, competing in her first national competition, won the bronze medal in the minus-42 kilogram division; and

Whereas this young and talented athlete received one of two medals for the Nova Scotia team;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cassaundra Hawley for her achievement at the Canadian Junior National Judo Tournament and wish her well in future competitions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister for Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 1259

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

Whereas the Cumberland Early Intervention Program is approaching its 10th Anniversary of serving the needs of developmentally delayed children in Cumberland County; and

Whereas the staff of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program have served over 149 children and their families directly since 1990 and last year alone provided 388 home visits, 82 clinical visits and 107 day care/pre-school visits; and

Whereas the efforts of staff and volunteers of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program have improved the lives of families within their communities, improved the skills and abilities of parents and siblings in understanding and addressing the challenges of developmentally delayed youth and created genuine opportunities for these children;

[Page 3818]

Therefore be it resolved that the province acknowledge the staff members, Barb Bodiuk, Lisa Gower and Robin Fage, and their continued efforts to improve the quality of life for those developmentally challenged youngsters and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 2:51 p.m., Oral Question Period will expire at 4:21 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

EDUC. - TEACHERS: CUTS - RESPONSE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. On March 29th the minister said, "We don't anticipate there will be any need to lay off teachers." She also said at that time, in that same scrum, that she knew that her budget would not be reduced. So she had knowledge of the Department of Education budget provisions. I want to ask the minister, what did she mean when she said that there would not be any need for laying off of teachers?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I meant, in case I wasn't clear, is what I said, that I do not anticipate any need for teacher layoffs. (Interruptions)

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, by the government's own admission, there are going to be 400 full-time teacher equivalents lost in this province. The school boards that the minister said last week that she pretended not to know how they operate, said that the layoffs are going to be even greater. I want to ask this minister why she gave misleading information to a very important question, the answer to which she knew differently?

[Page 3819]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is that we do not anticipate the need for teacher layoffs.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, what she is saying, that there is not going to be the need for teacher layoffs, whether or not all of these 400 are going to be layoffs or cuts through retirements, there are going to be at least 400 full-time teacher equivalents in Nova Scotia that will not be there in the future because of the policies of this minister and this government. I want to know, again, I ask the question, why has she been misleading the people of Nova Scotia when she knew differently?

MR. SPEAKER: That question rings very familiar with the one previous.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will answer this in two parts. The first part is, we do not anticipate the need for teacher layoffs. The second part to my answer is, the previous government was responsible for removing more than 1,200 teachers from the system at a cost to the Nova Scotia taxpayers of $194 million. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

HEALTH - CUTS: QE II - IMPACT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, Nova Scotians are realizing very quickly that this budget is turning out to be a slow-moving train wreck. This morning we heard from the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the Maritimes' premier health care facility, where it has been announced that they will be forced to cut between 150 and 200 hospital beds. This is the government and this is the Premier that said that fixing health care would be the number one priority.

I want to ask the Premier, why did he not tell Nova Scotians the truth about how his plans would devastate our hospitals?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I don't know exactly the information that he is referring to and he always has information that I don't have, but I would tend to say that probably the information that he has may not be entirely accurate.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Again to the Premier, part of the budget hoax is that all of the cuts can come from administration, but the QE II is saying that cannot be done, that they have cut already and it is now directly affecting patient care.

[Page 3820]

I want to ask the Premier, given the fact that there has not been commensurate allocation of funding into long-term care or community care, will the Premier tell us today how many more hospital beds are going to be closed because of this budget? How many?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Our belief is that with this budget certain efficiencies can be made as we proceed with the reorganization. We do not anticipate that needed beds will be closed.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to go to the Premier. Last summer, the now Minister of Education went around during the election campaign with a card showing that Sysco would be closed and hospital beds would be opened; how cynical, Mr. Speaker. Now up to 200 beds will be closed in that member's own riding; how ironic. I want to ask the Premier, why can he not tell Nova Scotians the truth about what his budget is going to do to their health care?

THE PREMIER: The question on the minds of Nova Scotians is not what this budget is going to do to health care, but what would happen, if we didn't bring in this budget, to the health care of Nova Scotia in the future?

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

EDUC. - TEACHERS: CUTS - RESPONSE (QP 29/03/00)

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: I frankly am appalled and I am very saddened that a Minister of the Crown would mislead the people of this province when she knew that the information she was giving was not correct. She gave the impression that there were not going to be any reductions in the number of teachers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Whether she calls them lay-offs or cuts or whatever, Mr. Speaker, this is just abominable and I want to ask what right she feels she has to mislead the people of Nova Scotia about something as important as education?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right, I have no right to mislead the people of Nova Scotia and I did not mislead the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACLELLAN: I don't care if the minister sits there for half an hour before she answers the question. I want to know what right she feels she has to mislead the people of Nova Scotia who want a decent education for their children, who supported this government because they said they were going to give a decent education to their children. Now, the level of education is reduced, and this government is misleading the people of this province. What right does she feel she has to do that?

[Page 3821]

[3:00 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia will receive and get good education for their children.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this government has said that they would protect the level of education in this province. I ask my final supplementary to the Premier. The Premier has a choice, is he going to protect the level of education in this province, or is he going to protect the minister, who misleads the people of this province? Which is it going to be? It can't be both.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can report to the member opposite that this government is making a significant investment in community colleges, it is making an investment in universities, it is providing a level of funding for the public school system that is commensurate with declining enrolment. We are providing programs that were not made available by the previous government. This government has committed to an increasing level of support for education year after year after year.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - HOSPITALS: CUTS - REVEAL

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we have learned today that the QE II will close 200 beds as a result of yesterday's disastrous budget. And there is more: the Cape Breton Regional Health Care Complex has taken a hit of $8.2 million; the IWK-Grace, the Maritime's premium health care facility for children will have a $16 million shortfall. None of this was in the blue book. My question to the Premier is, why didn't you tell Nova Scotians the truth?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government has told Nova Scotians the truth. This government provided a very comprehensive electoral document, unlike the Party opposite, which told the people of Nova Scotia nothing.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, when beds close at the QE II, there is an immediate ripple effect on hospitals around the province, which depend on the provincial health centres, like the QE II and the IWK-Grace to back them up. This budget means longer line-ups in the emergency wards, it means longer waiting lists, it means sooner or later hospitals will close, if not this year, then next year. None of this was in the blue book. My question to the Minister of Health is, when will you finally tell Nova Scotians about the real impact of this disastrous budget?

[Page 3822]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have told the truth all along. (Interruptions) At the rate health care spending was proceeding, it would not have been sustainable for the future. The budget that we have presented is part of our plan for a stable and sustainable health care service.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before I recognize the honourable member, I wonder if I could ask all honourable members to try and provide a greater degree of civility and decorum and gentility in this Legislature, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult when you get that kind of a reply to be civil. I sure wouldn't want to be a Tory backbencher, going back to my community and telling them what I did. I wouldn't want to be telling them I broke every promise I made. That is what I wouldn't want to be doing. My final question to the minister is this, when will you admit that your government has abandoned health care and wrecked our hospitals?

MR. MUIR: Never.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - FACILITIES REVIEW: BEDS - CLOSURE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday we learned of the $70 million slashed from acute care, and yesterday the Minister of Health said he was acting on the advice presented in a long overdue Health Facilities Review, which was finally released last week. We hear of up to 200 beds being closed, impacted on at the QE II. Can the minister explain if his $70 million cut will lead to a 25 per cent closure of acute care beds as outlined in the minister's own Health Facilities Review report?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. It is a rather awkward question for me to answer because I am not sure whether he is talking about the beds that are occupied by people who perhaps could be just as well served in another setting or whether he is actually talking about beds that are being used for acute care. Maybe he could clarify that for me.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this Health Facilities Review indicated that long-term beds are 99 per cent full. I am not going to go that way because I intend to ask the next step and I knew where he was going to go. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, long-term beds, as indicated by the report, are 99 per cent full. The minister plans to cut 1 in 4 acute care beds if he follows that report. Why has the minister not allocated funds for the long-term care beds to meet the demand that will certainly be created by the impact on acute care? He can talk all he wants to about what the beds mean by

[Page 3823]

definition but the long-term care beds are 99 per cent filled. He is going to close acute care. Where are the people going?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have learned over the past number of years, that just dumping more money into the health care system hasn't solved the problems. We are taking a methodical and I think an evidence-based approach to it. He has mentioned the facilities review. We have a psychiatric facilities review that is ongoing. We are going to implement a single access system which is supposed to take pressure off that. On top of that, the budget does allocate - perhaps not as much as we would have liked to have been able to put in - more money for long-term care.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think what in my opinion is being done is systemically - thoughtfully - as he mentioned - dismantling the health care system. If the minister has a plan for health, can he explain why he is, in fact, dismantling acute care without first making sure that Nova Scotians have access to the long-term care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our plan for health care involves making it sustainable and one that we will have today and tomorrow and a quality health care system on top of that. We don't propose to have a plan like that bunch did that would ruin the credit rating of the province.

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

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): JOB CUTS - CIVIL SERVANTS INFORM

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. Yesterday, as the Minister of Finance was delivering his Budget Address, some civil servants across this province were being given their pink slips. The government didn't admit that. Today, we learned that more public servants are being told that their services are no longer needed and the government hasn't admitted that. So it is very obvious that the government has a list of jobs that they intend to cut.

My question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, is quite simply, why haven't you told Nova Scotians and civil servants the truth about what jobs you intend to cut?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. First of all, the question seemed to indicate that we should tell Nova Scotians what we were going to do. Page 3 of the blue book, "I immediately reduce the size of government, starting with the Cabinet;". The answer to the second question, before we will be telling the members opposite which members of the public sector will no longer be working for government, we would like to have the opportunity to inform them.

[Page 3824]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I believe that this is the same gentleman who promised that his government was going to be open and transparent. I wonder what part of that commitment the Premier doesn't understand. Yesterday, the Premier said that there were going to be 70 programs eliminated and that 300 more are being modified. Outside, he told the media it is going to be up to the Opposition to ferret that information out of the government. The government obviously has a list, they know what is on the chopping block. So my question is very simply this, will the Premier agree to have tabled on the floor of the Legislature today, before the House rises, a full list of those programs your government is going to chop and the list of those that are to be modified?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, could you repeat the question? It got lost in the din.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid will repeat the question.

MR. HOLM: The part is very simple, will you agree to table on the floor of the House this afternoon, before the House rises, the full list of the programs that you are going to eliminate and those that you are going to be modifying?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is asking about some programs. We started that process yesterday. For example, yesterday the Minister of Finance said the ISO 9000 tax credit will expire. That is one that is gone. He also said the research and development tax credit will be changed to close a loophole. That is one that is changed. There are any number of programs that we have looked at and they will be changed and modified, and as time goes on you will know all of those programs.

MR. HOLM: The short answer to my question was no; the Premier refuses to do that. As one public servant was quoted in the press this morning as saying that behind every one of your decisions there are real people. I want to ask, you know, this government is treating Nova Scotians and civil servants with arrogant contempt. My question is, why won't you tell Nova Scotians and hard-working civil servants the truth? Come clean. Tell them the truth.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the only thing that is not real around here is that member and his theatrics.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - EFFICIENCIES: JOBS - GUARANTEES

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday the minister said he believed savings and efficiencies could be found after the QE II is absorbed into the Capital Health District, so when the minister says efficiencies, essentially what he really means is cuts. There has been talk about 600 lay-offs in health, but we have

[Page 3825]

heard that job losses could reach as high as 1,000, and perhaps more. What guarantees can the minister give that his efficiencies won't mean 1,000-plus job losses within the health care sector?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is asking for some specific details that I really cannot give an accurate answer to, and one of the reasons is that these institutions - and certainly there are more coming to the table than just the QE II - and the capital health authority have not gotten to the table yet and determined the course of action they are going to take to achieve their targets.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the health care system could lose up to 1,000 people while at the same time the minister is making huge cuts and undertaking a massive transitional process moving towards nine health authorities. My question to the minister, how can the minister maintain the existing services in the face of massive lay-offs and while paying enormous transition costs as we move to a misguided nine health authorities?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether I should answer, or attempt to answer that question or not, because to answer it would imply that it had some credibility.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there are probably no answers to some of this because it certainly is not evident in the budget where these transition costs are built in. Anyway, to the minister, the Premier said yesterday that Nova Scotians would be getting full value for their health care dollar. We have heard that today. I would simply ask the minister how, in all righteousness, can full value for the health care dollar be achieved when there will be 1,000 less people in the system to provide services, to address the waiting times, to address the nursing care needs of Nova Scotians? How can there possibly be 1,000 people or more taken out of the health care system and talk about full value for that health care dollar?

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, he talks about 1,000 people. I am not exactly sure where he got that number, so let's forget about the number he is throwing out there, because I am not going to talk about that. (Interruption) We are interested in building a health care system that will look after the health care needs of Nova Scotians and promote the health and wellness of Nova Scotians. We are interested in developing a system that will be stable and sustainable, and also one that Nova Scotians can afford.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - TEACHERS: CUTS - REVEAL

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday this government tried to claim that it will cut, in their own callous

[Page 3826]

words, only 400 teachers, but the Premier and the minister knew that was not true. Before the Minister of Finance finished his speech, the Minister of Education was meeting with school board officials to give them the real figures. School boards say this budget means the actual loss of 800 teachers from real classrooms. My question to the Minister of Education is, why were you giving one figure in public yesterday and another in private?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to correct an impression left by the member. I was here all day yesterday. I was not meeting in private with school board officials. Second of all, I would like to say that we have been looking at these figures and all figures in the Department of Education since before Christmas. The figures given to the school boards yesterday by officials in my department, that was the first time they had seen those figures. I remain convinced that 400 is the maximum number of positions - positions, not teachers - that will have to leave the system.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board says the minister's figures are out of whack with the reality. The Halifax board was told yesterday to cut $7.4 million from classroom teaching salaries. The board says a minimum of 264 teachers must be cut, but only 39 teachers are retiring. That means over 220 classroom teachers will lose their jobs at the Halifax board alone. Clearly the minister is either misinformed or incompetent. Now, my question to the Minister of Education is, why is this minister so blissfully unaware of just how devastating this budget will be on our education system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government has made a strong commitment to education, and this budget will not be devastating.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't want to be a Tory on those backbenches going home this weekend to explain to my constituents why teachers are being cut. I wouldn't want to have to explain why I broke my promises to Nova Scotians, but they are going to have to do that. My final question to the minister is quite simple. In the last election, when your government said they would invest in education, why didn't you tell Nova Scotians the truth?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have told Nova Scotians the truth. We have invested in education. We have maintained the education budget in spite of very difficult circumstances.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 3827]

JUSTICE - CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES:

LAY-OFFS - NEGOTIATIONS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. During the budget yesterday, senior members of the Department of Justice told employees of five correctional facilities throughout Nova Scotia that their facilities will be closed. Will the minister admit today that he was not even aware of the fact that his staff had promised the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union that he would negotiate with them before announcing any closures?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that I have checked with departmental staff and departmental staff advise me that, in fact, no such commitment was made.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Justice. Mr. Minister, you had your staff send out a cold-hearted statement to the employees of these facilities while the Minister of Finance brought down that sad excuse for a budget. The statement ended by telling employees to call the provincial Employee Assistance Program. Will the minister explain why he and his staff would not give any details to the workers of these facilities about their future and treat them with the respect that they deserve?

MR. BAKER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think with all due respect to the honourable member that we have treated the employees with the utmost respect. In point of fact, what I have heard from correctional workers is that correctional workers wanted to be informed as soon as a decision had been made about what was going to happen. What we did in this case is exactly that. We told the correctional workers the institutions that were going to be affected. We have indicated that we are more than willing to work with the NSGEU in transitioning these employees to a new institution, if that is what is going to be happening in their particular case. We are interested in working with the employees. We are very committed to our correctional workers in this province. They are fine workers (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice and his department are putting hundreds of people out of work and denying rural communities the court services they deserve. Will the minister tell these workers what protection his department is willing to offer them, be it retraining, new positions or early retirement packages?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am not able to negotiate a collective agreement with the NSGEU on the floor of the House. But what I can do is indicate to the honourable member that this government is absolutely committed to being fair to those workers. Many of those workers will, in fact, be eligible to transfer into the new Burnside correctional facility. In fact, I indicated to the union leadership today that we wanted to sit down with them to have their suggestions on how we can best deal with this issue.

[Page 3828]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC.: POLICY (COMMENTS [FIN. MIN.]) - VIEW

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, again, is for the Minister of Education. Today on CBC Radio, the Minister of Finance tried to justify why the education system is being cut by at least $20 million and at least 800 teachers. He made the astonishing statement that kids are pretty much set in their ways after Grade 6 and Grade 7, so junior and senior high school doesn't need much money. My question to the Minister of Education is, what assurances will the minister give that she rejects the education policy espoused by her colleague, the Minister of Finance?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I heard that interview with the Minister of Finance this morning and that is not what he said. I support the Minister of Finance's view of education.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, if the minister heard the interview, she will also know that the Minister of Finance said that it is okay for high school classes to be large, after all, he said, some university courses have 800 students in them. Outside this House, the Minister of Education said she saw nothing wrong with high school classes of 40 or 50. My question to the Minister of Education is, when did this government abandon the cap on class sizes, and when did it abandon an education policy that made any sense?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I was saying outside is that it depends on the grade level and the situation of the students. I happen to agree with the Minister of Finance that larger classes in high schools are not necessarily a bad thing, because sooner or later, usually the next year (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. Would all honourable members, order, order, please. Would honourable members please, order, order, please. Would all honourable members please extend the same level of respect to the member who has the floor as they would expect when they have the floor; the honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, larger classes in high school are not necessarily a bad thing.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education knows, or she should know, that yesterday's budget makes it impossible to maintain class sizes at their current levels, but we don't find that anywhere in this budget. Everyone who knows anything about education is saying today that there will be cuts to the classroom as a result of this budget, and we don't find that anywhere in the Tory platform. My question to the Minister

[Page 3829]

of Education is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth about the devastating effect that this budget will have on education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the truth is that in an education system with more than 10,000 teachers, the loss of 400 or so positions is not going to damage the education system.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - UNIV.: STUDENTS - LOAN REMISSION PROG.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Province of Nova Scotia presently has a loan remission program to assist needy university and college students. This program is one that has been most beneficial to those students who have to seek loan remission. My question to the minister is, will the minister inform this House how many students have used this program since its inception?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this program has provided relief to the tune of about $6 million to $7 million a year, to many students across Nova Scotia and from outside Nova Scotia.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, we still don't know how many students.

My next question to the minister is, now that this program has been cut - a $10 million cut - can the minister explain to the House how the students who use this program will be able to afford to continue their post-secondary education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I do not pretend that this is not going to be difficult for some students. I do not pretend that; there are however other programs that students can take advantage of . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Like what?

MISS PURVES: Interest relief, and the first full year of millennium scholarships. These programs are available for students; as well the loan remission program, promised to students who applied for loans this year, will be available next year. The program is available to those who were aware that they had it. We are looking at other programs, possibly interest relief that we may be able to implement in the year following.

[Page 3830]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, a final question to the minister. Your government made a commitment not to reduce assistance to students. Could the minister please explain to the members of this House how the cutting of the loan remission program is fulfilling your commitment not to reduce assistance to students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are not reducing assistance to students in terms of student loans. (Interruptions) Loan remission is a discretionary program, not a contractual obligation. We are fulfilling all our contractual obligations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO - POLL (PRIORITIES): EXISTENCE - CONCEALMENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, the Premier has been telling us for months now what Nova Scotians knew and what they wanted. Yesterday, at 1:00 o'clock, the Premier's deputy delivered to our office a poll called The Government Priority Study. This poll found, among other things, that the main reason the Hamm Government was elected was to fix problems with health care. Balancing the provincial budget is much less of a priority for the electorate. It found that Nova Scotians believe the most important action for the government to take is to put more money into health care and it found that the government is expected to move cautiously in setting its agenda.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, if he would explain why he and his staff concealed the existence of this poll until the budget lock-up began yesterday?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite continues to want to bury his head in the sand. He doesn't want to face reality. The government didn't hide the poll. The member opposite has the poll.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are going to get down to a little reality right here. The Premier's staff did two polls for him as they prepared this budget. Nova Scotians are now being asked to believe that one of the two was somehow mistakenly overlooked by the very same people who cooked up yesterday's budget that trashed those government priorities. I want to ask the Premier, when did he learn that his staff had broken the law by withholding this information and what is he going to do about it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member opposite as to what law he feels that government employees have broken.

[Page 3831]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is alarming how little this Premier seems to know about what is going on when he is the man responsible. He is at the top and he is the one who is going to carry the can for all the damage that is being done by his government. This is about the Freedom of Information Act, it is about a request on polls that were to be released back in September. I want to ask the Premier, he spent public money on the poll and he and his government broke the law to keep the results secret. I want to ask him to explain to Nova Scotians, why is it he can't tell them the truth?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite, this government is truthful with Nova Scotians. I will refer the question to the Chair of the Priorities and Planning Committee.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure what particular poll the honourable member is speaking about. (Interruptions) No, please. There was a poll done about two days after we assumed government on August 17th and that poll was reported back around about September 17th because we wished to get information preparatory to our Throne Speech. If that is the poll the honourable member is talking about, that poll is available.

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

HUMAN RES. - PUB. SERV.:

ADMIN. (SENIOR) - REDUCTION PLANS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, over the last couple of days we have learned what direction this government is taking with respect to health care, education and new user fees for Nova Scotia. Now I want to ask the Premier what plans he has to reduce administration in senior levels of government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. Much of the savings that we have identified in the way government operates has been to look at what has been a growing administration relative to the size of the province. Part of what we are reporting and the Minister of Finance reported, will be savings as the result of streamlining as we reshape government, streamlining administrative costs of this government.

MR. MACLELLAN: I don't know if the Premier would know - but he should - that while this government is slashing students' benefits, health care, education, at the same time this government is increasing the budgets in the offices of ministers and deputy ministers in many of these departments and increasing the budgets in the offices of Priorities and Planning and Communications Nova Scotia. Why? Why, when he is slashing these other things so important to Nova Scotians, like health care and education, is he feathering the nests of his ministers and deputy ministers?

[Page 3832]

THE PREMIER: I can assure the member opposite that the one government department that we are going to be increasing the budget for, and that information is available, is Intergovernmental Affairs because the previous government had been very ineffective in dealing with Ottawa and not getting our fair share of programs that were available in Ottawa. We are going to increase the funding for that department because it will lever more money for the people of Nova Scotia. It is rather unfortunate that the previous government hadn't thought of it.

MR. MACLELLAN: Administration cost increases: Justice, $640,000; Tourism and Culture, $550,000; Priorities and Planning, $320,000; Communications Nova Scotia, $270,000 and that is just some of them. This government and this Premier have made an exception for the people in government to fortify them with all sorts of buffer so the public can't get at them, to perhaps bang some information into their heads while at the same time, he is cutting health care . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member please place his final supplementary question.

MR. MACLELLAN: Why has he done this to the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: What we are doing for the people of Nova Scotia is saying to them we are going to be an efficient government, we are going to get the most out of their tax dollars and we are going to balance the budget. That is what we are saying to Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - CARE: USER FEES - INCREASE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: What we are witnessing with this budget is a shift to a user pay system in health care. A user pay system is a tax on the sick and the poor and we know that it is the sick and the poor that use the health care system most. My question is for the Minister of Health. Why didn't you trust Nova Scotians enough to tell them during the election that you planned to jack up the fees that they would pay for health care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: We told Nova Scotians during the election campaign that health was our number one priority and we would turn our health care system into one which is both stable and sustainable.

MR. DEXTER: The reality is this Minister of Health doesn't trust Nova Scotians enough to tell them the truth even now. The fact is that the health budget doesn't whisper a word about the fact that he is jacking up user fees for acute care beds. Will the Minister of Health explain why he hasn't told Nova Scotians that this budget will raise user fees for acute care bed services by $5 million?

[Page 3833]

MR. MUIR: I would expect that question is one which would be more appropriately directed during the estimate process, but to refresh his memory, under the Canada Health Act, we really can't charge for basic hospital services.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would inform all honourable members that I have been advised by counsel that questions and answers relative to the budget are permissible during Question Period.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on his final supplementary.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that is $5 million more in user fees than the $20 million detailed in the budget. Will the Minister of Health commit to tabling in this House today, the list of all of the acute care services that will face increased user fees under his government? Will he table the user fee list he has tried to keep hidden?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, what happens, I guess I really can't table a list. Just let me explain a little bit more. For example, if you go into a hospital and you opt to get a semi-private room or above the basic service, you pay a premium for that. If you opt to get a television set, you pay for that. If you opt to have a hairdresser come in, you pay for that. If you opt to do all of these things, the fees to which the honourable member refers are those which are supplemental to the basic hospital services that are to be provided. They are at the choice or the decision of the individual.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PREMIUMS:

DRUG INFLATION INDEX - CONSTRUCTION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is, too, to the Minister of Health. This government has announced that in future years the cost of Pharmacare premiums and co-pay amounts will be tied directly to what we call the drug inflation index. Can the minister tell this House how the index will be constructed?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member this, that the projection for next year is that the increase in costs of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program will go up $12 million. The projected increase in the co-pay will result in an additional $8 million. The government is still picking up an additional $4 million because of that. We will be meeting, as I indicated the other day, with representatives of seniors' groups to try to determine a formula that will go in effect so that we don't have to go through this process each year at budget time.

[Page 3834]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I understood from the questions yesterday, allegedly they had consultation on Pharmacare issues prior to this budget, and I can see that consultation has yet to happen on the issue of a drug inflation index. The cost of prescription drugs will increase 12 per cent this year alone, as the minister had indicated. My question to the minister is, how can he expect seniors in Nova Scotia to pay more each year for Pharmacare premiums when their ability to pay cannot possibly keep pace with the high cost of inflation in the cost of drugs? My question to the minister is simply. How are they going to do it?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that costs for seniors in the Pharmacare Program are capped. He also knows very well that the Seniors' Pharmacare Program that is offered in Nova Scotia is still among the very best in Canada for seniors, and there is no question about that. In terms of his question about the indexing of the Pharmacare costs that will be passed on to the seniors population, we will be meeting with seniors to discuss those things, and he can be assured that we will get full input from seniors' groups as these decisions are made.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, he is right, it is capped. The cap was $200, now with co-pay, it has gone up to $350 this year. The program was a good program. The Liberals brought it in. The Tories are going to undermine the program for seniors in this province. This government is hitting at the same Nova Scotians and at different angles. More Pharmacare costs, more fees for home care and more ambulance costs. The question I have for the minister, why is his government heaping costs after costs on those Nova Scotians with the least ability to pay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, like the honourable member, I would like to be able to give everything away. These are the practices the government that preceded us did. They started off on a pretty good course and then they backtracked. Unfortunately, as he well knows, the seniors' population uses more drugs than others, simply because of ageing, and we will all be into that category some day. (Interruptions)

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . they are going to pay more next year.

MR. MUIR: I would expect, Mr. Speaker, yes, there will be an additional cost next year, but I would prefer to deal with that when we actually get the numbers. I cannot predict that a year in the future and we will do it in consultation with those groups. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 3835]

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PROG.: CO-PAY - INCREASE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health as well. Many seniors are going to be in for a big surprise today when they have to cough up another $5.00. The government knows that the poorest of seniors are widowed women barely surviving on a small amount of Old Age Security. Where does the Minister of Health expect these seniors to find the extra $5.00 they will need this morning to pay for their medication?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows very well that the most needy of our seniors' population do not pay a Pharmacare premium.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister knows very well that many of the seniors are very proud seniors who do not come to the government for help and many times end up having to eat out of cans and so on. That minister knows very well. My question is to the minister. I want the minister to tell seniors why he cannot tell the truth about the Seniors' Pharmacare Program?

MR. MUIR: The truth about the Seniors' Pharmacare Program, Mr. Speaker, is that the cost to the Department of Health over the last number of years has gone up over 100 per cent. The provincial Department of Health picks up about 70 per cent right now of those costs. The program, when it was implemented, was a 50/50 cost arrangement. The government is picking that up now. I will be quite frank, it is like other portions of the health care budget. The technology in medicine increased. The price of pharmaceuticals is tough. The costs keep going up. If we don't manage this system, then there will not be any Seniors' Pharmacare Program in the future.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, it is politicians like the Minister of Health who give politicians a bad name. They go on an election campaign saying one thing and then after getting elected saying another. My question to the minister, once again, is when will you tell the truth to the seniors? You did not do it during the election campaign.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we told the truth as a Party and we were rewarded on election day. The truth is contained in the blue book and if there is one person in this House who knows the blue book probably better than our Premier, it is the member for Dartmouth North. We said and we talked about sustainability in health care and sustainability is what we are interested in and what our plan is going to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CARE SYSTEM: IT - FUND

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it has become clear here today that this government and this minister have no plan for health. There are many issues facing government and facing

[Page 3836]

the people of Nova Scotia. We hear of Pharmacare, the ambulance services, the home support, and those are not going to individual people, they are going to the same person. They are not going to different people, it is the same person being hit three and four times but there is another area of health care that is very important; it has to do with information technology. Can the minister explain to the House today how he hopes to achieve efficiencies in the system and how he hopes to coordinate health care delivery without a significant investment in information technology within the health care system?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have said a number of times in the House that one of the things that Nova Scotia lacks is an adequate health information system. We have allocated money in the budget to improve the health information system in this province.

Just while I am up, it is interesting this member was talking about a plan, and I would like to give this quote which is by Jim Smith the former Liberal Minister of Health, in The Cape Breton Post, June 3, 1999, "I didn't come here this morning with a full plan, we're creating it as we go!"

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister will be asked to table that document whereas he read from it.

DR. SMITH: It was a paraphrasing of comments as I remember. I would like to see if quotation marks are around that.

Mr. Speaker, information technology is really important and sometimes poorly understood by people and by patients, but it is important. This Tory Government ignored the Goldbloom report and went on and created, or is in the process of creating, nine regional health authorities from four regional health boards. My question to the minister, how does the minister propose that these nine district health authorities communicate efficiently with each other without a significant investment in information technology?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the various parts of the system have been communicating with each other for the past number of years since this government introduced the regional health boards. I go along with him in saying the communication is not as good as it should be. Indeed, we are actively working on the installation of a system which I hope will remediate the concerns expressed; and legitimate concerns, too, expressed by the member for Dartmouth East.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we did have a plan, and we had a Health Investment Fund. It was very detailed in information technology. I wouldn't say the member misled the House, but we were consulting with the people, not like the seniors who had this Pharmacare rammed down their throats at midnight last evening or whenever it was, without any consultation. My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, the QE II has made a major investment in information technology, we realize that. My question is, under the new district health authorities, will

[Page 3837]

other hospitals in Nova Scotia be ordered to make their systems compliant with QE II but be denied sufficient funding, because it is not in the budget?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the health information system. As I indicated earlier, we are embarking on a plan which will see the province unified, in terms of the exchange of health information, and in a way that will allow for this health system be sustainable.

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

ECON. DEV. - BUDGET (2000-01): C.B. - NEGLECTED

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier has repeated, ad nauseam I may add, though without a hint of sincerity, that his government will not neglect Cape Breton. Yet that is exactly what this budget does. Programs that may have helped are being slashed. I ask the Premier, why have you broken your word to Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have not done anything of the sort, but I would ask the member if he has a specific question to ask, would he ask it?

MR. CORBETT: He is amazing. He has done nada for Cape Breton since he took that side of the floor and yet flaps his gums and what does he do, he takes economic development money away from his junior minister over here, Mr. Speaker. So let's ask him, why does your budget slash economic development programs without replacing them with any new programs or any kind of plan for Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think it is only fair to remind the member opposite that the single biggest announcement relative to job creation that this government has made since it came into office is relative to the Cape Breton area when we partnered with the federal government to create 900 new jobs in the area that number represents.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it is a long way from being a full partner. These guys are truly junior partners when it comes to economic development, and the disgrace they are doing on that Island with the likes of Devco and Sysco. It is interesting to note the budget line for senior management actually increased in this budget, while community economic development was cut in half. The Provincial Employment Program was chopped, and there is no plan in the future. My question to the Premier again is, will you admit that once and for all your government has abandoned the people of Cape Breton, and you left them with no hope and no plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Economic Development.

[Page 3838]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that one of the commitments we made is to put $3 million of additional funding directly into the Cape Breton economy to address that problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - COLLÈGE DE L'ACADIE/UNIVERSITÉ STE-ANNE:

ADMIN. - MERGE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Acadians in Nova Scotia have a unique culture and heritage which, despite many obstacles, has persevered. Successive governments have, over the years, worked in collaboration with the Acadian community to help preserve this culture through the establishment of education programs especially for Acadians. My question is to the Minister of Education. How will the merging of administration services of the Collège de l'Acadie and Université Sainte-Anne affect the services at the college's campuses throughout Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we believe that administrative savings can be achieved between the Collège de l'Acadie and Université Sainte-Anne. We believe that this sharing of services will be able to direct more funding toward students and that it will help the survival of the two institutions.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provinciale and Acadians throughout Nova Scotia have been extremely patient with this minister and government. Is the minister's failure to announce the construction of Acadian schools in Nova Scotia's Acadian communities confirmation that this government has turned its back on this province's Acadian community?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite well knows, we have had a moratorium on school construction while we review the financing. It is not directed at Acadian schools whatsoever, and I resent the implication.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, she can resent the implication all she wants, but the facts speak for themselves, and her arrogance as Minister of Education toward the Acadian community and toward parents throughout this entire province speaks for itself.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is for the Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs. As Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs and as an Acadian himself, will you explain to this House how you can sit idly by without saying a word while your government abandons the Acadians of Nova Scotia?

[Page 3839]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be a Conservative because in my riding, which is predominantly French speaking, we were the Party that brought about educational schools. That Party across the floor represented Acadian ridings for many years and never were prepared to bring about items such as Acadian schools. This Party, when I was a member of it in the past and will continue to do today, is progressive toward Acadians and is supporting them. That member and that Party has no right to question our dedication to Acadians in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC.: COUNTY OFFICES - REDUCTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, across this province, this very hour, civil servants are being told they are not part of this government's plan. They are being thrown out of work by those members opposite. In Agriculture, we know the 12 county offices are being reduced to 5. Those Agriculture offices being shut down are Mabou, New Glasgow, Nappan, Windsor, Lawrencetown, Yarmouth and Bridgewater. I want to ask the Premier, why didn't he trust Nova Scotians enough to tell them during the election that he planned to shut down agricultural offices in those rural communities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might inquire why the member opposite didn't preface his question by saying that our changes in Agriculture were in fact the result of consultations with the Federation of Agriculture. Farmers are entrepreneurs. Farmers want an efficient government that looks after the affairs of the province the same way they look after their affairs on the farm. They have a government that is going to do that, and they are prepared to support the changes we have made.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: There is a difference between consulted and being told. The Premier and the Minister of Agriculture just ripped 29 jobs out of the agricultural sector, at least 16 of those jobs will disappear in rural Nova Scotia. I want to ask the Premier how this fulfils his election promise to ensure the sustainability of the agricultural sector in Nova Scotia?

[4:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: I would ask the Minister of Agriculture to comment on the sustainability of the agriculture . . .

HON. ERNEST FAGE: The agricultural community has made many recommendations to us over the last six months in close consultation with our department and with myself and have come up with this design to ensure that more money goes into the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia than did under the previous budget.

[Page 3840]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, dollars are cut out of that budget and I think all the minister knows about sustainability is the stainability of it. This government slashed support to agriculture in Nova Scotia yesterday and yet it tried to tell Nova Scotians it was helping farmers. My question to the Minister of Agriculture: why couldn't you tell Nova Scotians the truth?

MR. FAGE: The fact of the matter is, we are telling Nova Scotians the truth. We have consulted with the agricultural community, farmers in Nova Scotia and they have told us they want more programs involved on the ground. They don't want idle blubbering, they want programs and that is what we have given them.

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

EDUC. - CAPE BRETON: PROGS. - INITIATION (2000-01)

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The ministers in this particular government have indicated that education is the cornerstone to having a successful community for tomorrow and nowhere is that more true than in Cape Breton where there is extremely high unemployment. I would ask the honourable minister if she could outline what specific educational programs has she initiated through her department for Cape Breton in the upcoming year?

HON. JANE PURVES: I think the member opposite is quite aware that the programs in the Department of Education, the core programs for the province, are the same across the province and are not special to any area unless they are initiated by a local school board and that is up to the board itself.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her response, however, in her own estimates, in her own budget, it is quite clear that the minister is cutting funding for the trades program at UCCB which was initiated as a matter of fact by our administration when we were on that side of the House. I would ask the minister, why is she cutting the funding to this particular program?

MISS PURVES: The program to which the member opposite refers is a trades training grant to the University College of Cape Breton which was funded by the previous government at about $4.5 million, $3 million of which has been given to UCCB.

I would like to point out that the Party that used to question the honourable former part-time Minister of Transportation about the red route and the blue route and the discussion of ignoring the advice of a department. I would just like to point out that this grant was given to UCCB over the objections of the Department of Education and the remainder of the grant is being withheld because we cannot afford it. (Interruptions)

[Page 3841]

MR. MACKINNON: The fact of the matter is, that this particular cut will mean a reduction of some $2 million for the programs on the trades program at UCCB. How does the Minister of Education expect a university such as UCCB to continue to survive, given the circumstances both economically in the community at large and at the university with a cut such as $2 million?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, UCCB is going to survive. UCCB's funding went up this year. Grants to universities went up by $4 million and UCCB will get its share of that grant.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - JAILS: CLOSURES - SECRECY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A question for the Minister of Justice. Mr. Speaker, it would seem that like a murder mystery, and a very unpleasant one at that, we are slowly uncovering clues as to what this government has perpetrated in the budget. It came as a shock both to the public and to employees to discover a secret memo dated yesterday that indicated the Minister of Justice is closing four jails as a result of this budget. I would like to ask the minister, since you clearly knew you would close these jails, why did you keep it a secret? Why was it not mentioned in the budget?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. If we had been trying to keep this a secret, we picked a darn poor way of doing it by going to each one of those correctional centres and telling the workers at the institutions that their jobs were going to be affected. We did the right thing. We told the people who worked there directly that their jobs were affected.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, not only were the closures not in the budget, the decision to close them was taken contrary to an ongoing joint mediated process with the union. The government broke the terms of the agreement by failing to disclose the information and they violated the good faith of the Public Service. I ask the minister, why did you betray the terms of the mutual restructuring planning committee?

MR. BAKER: There is one unfortunate problem with the member's question, the premise on which it is based is wrong. In point of fact, we never broke any commitment given to the NSGEU. In fact, we have indicated to the NSGEU, as I understand from department officials, throughout this process that there were going to be jobs affected as a result of the construction of the Burnside correctional facility. We indicated this to the committee and we have also indicated that we want to sit down with the workers' representatives to negotiate the ongoing changes in that workplace.

[Page 3842]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this particular committee was created pursuant to a proposal from the Deputy Minister of Justice, from February 22nd. Part of the agreement was that announcements were to be joint. This government is not being up front with Nova Scotians about the content and consequences of this budget. They are trying to hide the evidence. I ask the minister, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth?

MR. BAKER: The difficulty that the honourable member has is that we told those people involved in those facilities the truth, face to face. With all due respect, it is the Government of Nova Scotia that is the employer and the Government of Nova Scotia has the duty to tell the employees in that workplace that they are affected. It is the duty of the NSGEU to represent those workers in negotiating the changes in that workplace.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. -

ENGLISHTOWN FERRY: FARES - INCREASE

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question on the topic of transportation. I want to raise with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works the matter, not of train service today, but rather ferry service. The Englishtown ferry across St. Anns Gut has been out of service for several weeks now with the ferry laid up for repairs and yet I am told that there is a spare boat sitting at Digby Neck available for service. In view of that background, I was somewhat surprised to receive a memo from the Department of Finance stating, for example, this is with reference to the budget, "The increased tolls on provincial ferries will affect only cash-paying customers." That is an obvious statement. "Local and frequent users will have the option of purchasing books of tickets."

I wonder if the honourable Minister of Transportation could advise the House as to what the increased fares on the provincial ferries are to be, especially considering the abominable service and the problems with the Englishtown Ferry, out of service now, I think, for four weeks?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there was an abomination of questions there. First of all, the Englishtown ferry has been out of service because it is being repainted. It is getting a new engine. I believe the windows are being replaced on the ferry, plus a number of other components and it will be back in service very shortly.

With regard to the fourth or fifth question, the cost for passengers on the ferry, Mr. Speaker, will be increased from $1.75 to $3.00 (Interruption) If they are one-time users. Those who buy books of tickets or buy an annual pass will have no increase whatsoever.

[Page 3843]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the outcry at that announcement was so loud that I could scarcely hear what the minister said. But I take it that he indicated that the fares on those ferries are to increase by approximately doubling. Will this increased toll on the ferries result in any improved service?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the ferry service in this province is an excellent one. I would point out to the member for Cape Breton Nova that the ferry service in Nova Scotia, the subsidy, costs the taxpayers of this province $4.25 million annually. The reason for the fare increase is to partially hold that cost in check. It will not eradicate it, it will just hold it in check.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable Minister of Tourism is not with us right no, so I will direct my final question to the Minister of Transportation, as well. Perhaps he might want to ask this of the Minister of Tourism when he comes back. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain how this hike in ferry fees is likely to impact on tourism, especially considering the great efforts made by a previous Conservative Government to construct a bridge from Iona to Grand Narrows and, if one is to take that route from Whycocomagh up to the Sydney area, there is a ferry crossing at Little Narrows that one has to go across, so how is this hike in ferry fees likely to impact on tourism?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the ferry fare is a bargain for tourists. The impact will be primarily on those who are, indeed, tourists in this province because people who use the ferry daily or on a weekly basis, will not face an increase in fares because they buy tickets or buy an annual pass. I have no doubt at all that there will be no impact on the number of tourists who use the ferry.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

ENVIRON. - TWIN MOUNTAIN CONST. (ANNA. VALLEY):

DUMP SITE - ACTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, a question through you to the Acting Minister of the Environment. There is a serious environmental problem developing in the Valley and it needs to be dealt with now before it gets even worse. I am talking, of course, about the illegal dump on the property of Twin Mountain Construction. Tons of sewage waste has been dumped on the property since 1997. Residents say the groundwater is already contaminated and the contamination will spread if decisive action is not taken.

I want to ask the acting minister, he knows about the problem, will he tell us here today what steps his department is taking to act on this hazard to human health?

[Page 3844]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I do appreciate the honourable member's question with respect to the Twin Mountain facility. My understanding is that, as a result of departmental action, this site has been closed down. It is a site that is not operating within the terms of an approval. It has been closed down and that is the action that the department has taken to deal with this problem.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that doesn't deal with the problem. There is a very serious leaching problem there into the groundwater and into the local river. That is the question that I asked the minister, but I am going to move on and, hopefully, he will give me that additional information. Yesterday's disastrous budget slashed the Department of the Environment worse than any other department: Resource Management, cut; Environmental Protection, cut; Environmental Support Services, cut; Environmental Regional Offices, cut. None of this was promised in the blue book. I want to ask the Acting Minister of the Environment, why didn't he and his colleagues tell Nova Scotians the truth, that environmental protection was near the bottom of this government's list?

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member obviously does not understand the nature of the cuts, the reductions in the budget of the Department of the Environment. In fact, the Department of the Environment reductions have been carefully targetted so as not to undermine the core ability of the department to protect Nova Scotians.

MR. CHISHOLM: Unbelievable, Mr. Speaker. You know, residents are concerned because not only have they not been able to get any action from this government and this department, they have not been able to get any information that is available about the possible contamination of groundwater. A freedom-of-information request has been denied; once again, this government has chosen secrecy over openness. I want to ask the acting minister today, what steps will he take to assure residents that they will have complete and immediate access to all the information the department has on the Twin Mountain dump site?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I have two thoughts on the request. First of all, I intend to take an opportunity to review with the department what the situation is, but I find it a little ironic that the honourable member is criticizing me because I do not become involved in a freedom of information and protection of privacy request, when the honourable member and the members opposite stood in this House not very long ago and hammered the government because ministers were getting involved in freedom of information and privacy requests. You can't have it both ways.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

[Page 3845]

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: VIOLENCE - CONCERN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Last Wednesday at Hebbville Academy, a young 13 year old boy from Bridgewater was severely beaten. The young boy is now recovering at home, and I am sure all members of this House join me in wishing him a speedy and full recovery. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, part of the Tory election platform was to ensure that our schools are safe places to learn through the establishment of a zero-tolerance policy for violent behaviour. My question to the Minister of Education. Is the minister concerned about the increasing incidence of violence in our schools?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly I am concerned about acts of violence in the schools. The department is developing a policy that will hopefully help the situation; however, I must say that many of the same people who talk about needing policies against school violence are the same people who talk about schools having ridiculous rules against playing in the snow, and it is very difficult for schools and principals to walk the fine line in these situations.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary to the minister. Can the minister tell the House and all Nova Scotians what programs the Department of Education has put in place to stem the tide of violence in our schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member, as the former Minister of Education, should know there are many programs in the schools to target school violence. What we are looking to do is to put a lot of these different plans together into a standard plan for schools across the province, and that should be ready by September.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister. Will this minister tell the House when she will introduce legislation to fulfil her government's election promise to establish a zero-tolerance policy for violent behaviour in our schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am not at all sure that our anti-violence policies will require legislation. As soon as I know if it requires legislation, I will inform the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC.: CLASS SIZE - LIMIT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education, who said earlier that 40 to 50 students in the classroom would be okay, and maybe even more than that in high school. What exactly is the upper limit that this government is going to set for classroom size in Nova Scotia?

[Page 3846]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the department is not going to set an upper or lower limit for classroom size. I would like to point out . . .

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Liberal House Leader.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Thank you very much, acting Speaker. (Laughter) Would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Liberal House Leader.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 40.

Bill No. 40 - Moratorium on Medicare User Fees Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 40, An Act to Impose a Moratorium on User Fees in Medicare for Nova Scotia. When this bill was introduced by myself, earlier in the session, I had no realization, at that time, although I had my suspicions, of the impact of user fees on this province, not only in health care but in other areas of jurisdiction, within the justice, and probably within the education system. So, it is for this reason that we call this bill today, that we have a debate on such an important issue as user fees in Medicare.

For purposes of definition, the bill does have definitions for extra billing and user fees. Sometimes these terms are used fairly interchangeably or alternatively, and there are definitions within the Canada Health Act. Generally speaking, user fees are fees that are charged in the health care system that are in addition to a service fee that is covered under the Medicare program, MSI if you will, and this is an addition to it. Or it could also be a fee that would cover a service that was in fact needed but not covered within MSI.

Mr. Speaker, whichever way you look at it, a tax is a tax is a tax. Those are the words that this government sent toward us when we were in government, just a short period ago. A user fee is a tax, and this government has increased taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia. They have increased the amount of money that Nova Scotians will pay in income taxes over the long run by decoupling the federal and the provincial taxes. We have seen this. The other

[Page 3847]

year, we reduced personal income tax in Nova Scotia, a proportion of 3.4 per cent. Now, down the road, we are hearing that within two or three years, three years or more, they are promising 10 per cent. At the same time, that is not giving Nova Scotians the benefit of the federal tax relief for Nova Scotians, and they are not able to get it from the provincial side.

Mr. Speaker, now they have increased what they say are $20 million worth of user fees. I would suggest that is a very modest projection. If they are admitting to $20 million in user fees in the health care system, or whatever system it applies to, I am sure that we can count on doubling and tripling that amount. I would bet the farm that this number will increase exponentially before this year is out.

Mr. Speaker, I am not here today to speak about taxes per se. I want to speak to the bill and the moratorium that is proposed within that on user fees in Medicare in Nova Scotia. For instance, the co-pay premium increased in the Seniors' Pharmacare Program from $200 to $350 is a major, unprecedented increase, almost doubling the amounts that seniors will have to pay. Seniors are having Pharmacare reforms rammed down their throats. The government has not consulted with seniors. Not enough thought has been put on the impact, both in monetary as well as the psychological and the health impact of these changes.

It was mentioned by Heather Henderson from the Nurses' Union, seniors will not be taking their prescriptions because of the actions of this government. That is going to put more stress and strain, not only on the seniors themselves, but on the health care system itself. Seniors are living for the most part on a fixed income, that is generally accepted. Many of them are living day to day as it is. Why is this government so determined on targeting those in society who are less able to cope? Seniors are going to have to pay an additional $5.00 for every prescription they have filled. These individuals have spent their entire lives working in Nova Scotia and paying taxes. Why now do they have to take a large hit in the name of debt reduction, Mr. Speaker? I submit that these individuals have paid their dues and deserve our admiration and respect. They do not deserve to be downloaded by this government to keep its many election promises that have really gone into the area of foolishness.

Ambulance fees, Mr. Speaker, and I want to point out - speaking of health care user fees as I mentioned, trying to address the issue in Question Period - that this is not individual A paying a prescription fee co-pay after the premium or someone else, person B, paying ambulance fees or someone else paying home support. This is often the same person and this is why it is so tragic. It is not only single user fee downloading, but it is double and triple onto that same person, often a senior, often a person with a fixed income or on social assistance or a disabled person.

This government has increased ambulance fees across the board, directly across the board. First of all, I find it ironic that this government had to be forced to pay paramedics a fair wage in this province, but they have absolutely no problem taxing the extraordinary work that these paramedics do at an outrageous rate. I find that ironic. Let's look at the increase.

[Page 3848]

Most people who use an ambulance are travelling less than 100 kilometres. These individuals would pay $60 for that ambulance. If a person travels more than 100 kilometres they would pay $85. Now there is a flat fee, or should I say a tax on ambulance service, of $85. Is this fair? Is this how the government plans to fix the health care system, by making people think twice about ambulances, that same person that has to pay an extra $100 or so on their co-pay on their prescriptions?

Let's again talk about the senior living at home on a fixed income. This new increased ambulance tax will make that senior think twice about calling an ambulance if they are not feeling well. Is this the intention of this tax, to discourage the use of a necessary service? Does this government want people checking the balance of their bank accounts before they call an ambulance? Is that fair? Is that what this government wants for the people, in particular the seniors, of this province? This is nothing more than a tax grab. This goes well beyond the intention of merely paying for the cost of the ambulance. This is meant to be a revenue generator.

Mr. Speaker, we have to pass this legislation, this moratorium on user fees, to ensure that our seniors and all members of our society are protected from the unprecedented taxation this government is proposing. We have to stop user fees from becoming the way that government raises cash when it is all a little short. This legislation will put an end to taxing essential services to the point where people cannot afford to use them any more. Nova Scotians will not tolerate more or higher user fees.

Premier Hamm has been floating the user fee trial balloon for weeks. As we mentioned, this is one that is not going to be successful because he will hear from the people. The consultation process, in effect, has not taken place. The group of eight, nine now, I believe, that meeting, I am sure, didn't come to unanimity on co-pay changes. If so, did they represent the seniors of Nova Scotia? Does this government really believe that that is a consultation process? I don't think so. I don't believe that. We are scaring people away from the health care system with these pay options or paid necessary user fees.

[4:30 p.m.]

Is this government trying to see, Mr. Speaker, how far they can push Nova Scotians into believing our health care system is in worse shape than it actually is? The Premier has finally realized that he can't cure the health care system on that $45 million that he was going to take out of administration. I wonder when that light came on? Of course, I have said before in this House, I believe the light was on earlier, because the Premier knew full well what he was saying when he stood in front of Nova Scotians during the election and said, there is no new money needed in Nova Scotia for the health care system, that he would save it out of administration. Yet, we heard the figures today on administration. It is administration that is increasing, particularly with spin doctors and information officers and all the other support

[Page 3849]

services to protect this government from the seniors and from the other people that bring their concerns to government.

There has been no consultation of any note, Mr. Speaker, on the co-pay, particularly on Pharmacare, on ambulances and support services and home care. (Interruption) They should be spelling out, in the times ahead. They have a time window now, after they have dropped this bombshell, to tell Nova Scotians what services, in fact, they will be forced to pay for, where the increases will come from.

The issue of ambulance fees was being looked at, Mr. Speaker. I will compliment that the intra-hospital transfer will not be charged. That is important and that is something that should be done within the system. That is something that we were looking at doing. So I compliment the government for copying our initiative on that.

The newspapers recorded the major health care providers and they say they have not been consulted, Mr. Speaker. The Medical Society was one particular group that even though the indications were that they had been consulted, they had not. So we are going to make health care more expensive so Nova Scotians cannot afford to use the health care system. This user fee is an option of last resort and the Tories ran out of ideas and that is what they are implementing. This is a tax, pure and simple. User fee is another name for a two-tiered health care system. The idea is something straight out of Alberta.

I was reading in the National Post on April 8th, the Honourable Allan Rock, the federal Minister of Health, is looking at changes within the legislation. He speaks about the things we speak of there, the user fees, the addition and the add-on to the system that is already expensive, the direct transfer to those people on fixed incomes that can less afford it. The Alberta report, looking at the two-tiered system, says that for profit health care is not more cost-efficient. There are reports out there. So as we move to this two-tiered system, which user fees are, Mr. Speaker, and that is the nerve of this government to bring this in after saying there was no new money needed in the health care system. The new money is coming from the seniors and from those Old Age Pension cheques and the social assistance cheques. That is where the user fees are coming from.

This government is heading down a dangerous road if they want to make health care pay for itself. It is quite possible that what is proposed is really infringing on the Canada Health Act, and I have said that before. The Canada Health Act requires universal access. That is my comment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to respond to Bill No. 40, entitled An Act to Impose a Moratorium on User Fees in Medicare for Nova Scotia. I am not so sure what the purpose of introducing the bill was, because under the

[Page 3850]

Canada Health Act there are great restrictions in that you can't have extra billing on essential services. I am not sure what the point of this bill was. I think it was more theatrics and posturing than something intended to make a positive contribution to the debate on health care in this House.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member mentioned Alberta, and there is a Bill No. 11 in Alberta that is being debated; maybe that is what triggered it. I know it focused on the concept of applying user fees in health care delivery and it has gained a lot of attention in the past few weeks. I don't know if the former minister was talking about basic services or exactly what the point was.

Now, I will be the first to admit that it would be great if all services that were delivered to all people by the government could be totally free, but the fact is, Mr. Speaker, in health care, like any other field the government is responsible for, we have to be concerned about sustainability. Participation by users in some spheres of health care is done right across Canada; Nova Scotia is not unique. The fact is that Nova Scotia has been living beyond its means for about 25 years. Borrowing at the expense of future Nova Scotians is very, very costly. The hard reality, is that this province is just about $11 billion in debt. For every minute we stand here, or I stand here, or the member opposite stands here, and the member for Cole Harbour will be standing up in a minute to talk about this, the burden on our debt is rising somewhere around $1,400 per minute, and we have to stem that tide.

It is great to have abstract and idealism, but right now we are down into practicalities. We have a problem and it is our job as a government to try to solve it and, rather than being obstructionist and confrontational, it would be far better if these Opposition Parties would work with us to solve these problems.

We have to deal with these financial problems while protecting the priorities of Nova Scotians. Charging supplemental fees, for some services that are not covered under the Canada Health Act, unfortunately may be one way we have to go to try to promote sustainability in the system. We have all heard the debates about Canada's great Medicare system, and we have seen the resistance to any changes in the ways that services are delivered or funded. Let's be honest, Mr. Speaker, and let's, everybody, recognize the world is changing and health care has to change to accommodate the changes in this world.

When Medicare was introduced, Mr. Speaker, health care was much simpler. There weren't dozens of new medications on the market every year; Pharmacare costs weren't increasing at the rate of $12 million per year; and we didn't have all the high-tech equipment and diagnostic options we have today. Back then, many of the excellent procedures that are carried on in this province by skilled practitioners were but dreams, such as organ transplants, and a lot of medicine in those days was basically between the family practitioner and the patient.

[Page 3851]

Today, Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia about 52 per cent, or more than 50 per cent of the physicians in Nova Scotia are specialists. They provide more secondary and tertiary services than primary care services. We are trying to move back to a more primary-care-centred health care system. We have come a long way in medicine, but with this progress comes challenges and one of the great challenges that comes with it is how to deal with rising expectations and how to deal with rising costs, particularly in light of the federal government's reluctance to step up to the table and be the full partner in Medicare and in health care that we think that they should be.

This is a feeling, Mr. Speaker, that is not only that of Nova Scotians, it is that of all Canadians. When Medicare began the federal government was a full partner. Right now in Nova Scotia the federal government is about a 12.5 per cent partner and what that effectively represents is about a 75 per cent decrease in federal participation. Nova Scotia now pays about 87.5 cents of every health care dollar that is spent.

I would be interested to know, Mr. Speaker, where the honourable member and his colleagues were in the six years they were in government and failed to negotiate adequate agreements with the federal government which would see the federal government as a fuller partner in health care in this province.

Over the past several months, Mr. Speaker, this government has had intensive discussions with the federal government on issues related to the Canada Health Act and Medicare. Indeed, I will tell you that later on tonight, or tomorrow, we will be furthering these discussions with Canadian colleagues, through the Premier's office. This government has never swayed in its commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act and we continue to fully support the principles of this Act.

As I am sure the honourable member opposite has noted, the government introduced no new user fees for health care in the budget tabled yesterday by my colleague, the honourable Minister of Finance. There were no new user fees. Unfortunately, because of the mismanagement of the finances of the government that took place in the last six years, and our interest in sustaining the health care system and protecting it for our children and our grandchildren, we had to make some adjustments to try and help us meet the financial challenges we found when we assumed office. We had to, as a consequence, re-evaluate the fees that were in place - fees that were charged under the previous government, some of them were introduced by the previous government, they are not ones that we created - and to introduce modest and fair increases that will allow us to meet the priorities of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I can remember last year, when that member was on the opposite side of the House, standing up and saying that the Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia was the best in Canada. I commented and I said it in public, that I did not believe him last year when he was on this side of the House, but when I assumed this office and had a chance to look at the

[Page 3852]

numbers objectively, I realized that what he was saying was the best. I want to make it perfectly clear that our Seniors' Pharmacare Program remains among the very best in the country despite the modest increase that we had to impose on it.

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the Seniors' Pharmacare Programs in a good many other provinces, we will find that our seniors are protected far better, and I am proud to say that after this budget that was delivered by this honourable minister, yesterday, that still remains the case. I will remind you, Mr. Speaker, and the other members of this House, that Nova Scotia is not the only province with health user fees. Most provincial budgets include fees for such services as ambulance transport, drug programs and home care. Most of them have been in place for many years. Nova Scotia wasn't the first province to introduce user fees and certainly we won't be the last province that has had to adjust them to meet the needs of the citizens.

[4:45 p.m.]

We have, as a government, in our platform said that we will be fair and reasonable, we will try and promote sustainability. We will always try to be fair and reasonable and we believe that we are, despite the increases that unfortunately had to be made to protect the health care system. If the honourable members would like to examine charges in other provinces in the country, you will find that our fees are very moderate in relation to them.

For example, it was raised earlier in debate or in Question Period, why some Nova Scotians will pay about $8.00 an hour for chronic home care services, not nursing services, if they can afford it. In a good many other provinces, that fee would be $10, not $8.00.

Mr. Speaker, as new options emerge within the health system and the cost rapidly escalates, we have no choice but to be open to new ways of doing business. This government supports the principles of the Canada Health Act. At the same time we are committed to health care that is accessible to all and affordable today and tomorrow. To realize these goals, we must have flexibility in the system.

My closing comment on this issue will be a statement of fact. The Canada Health Act already provides protection from extra billing and user fees for insured, medically necessary services provided by hospitals and medical practitioners in this province and right across Canada. It is not this government's intention to do otherwise, to do anything except to continue to support the principles of the Canada Health Act. Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 40 is unnecessary, it adds nothing to the future of health care in this province and this government will not be supporting it.

[Page 3853]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity this afternoon to address this bill, Bill No. 40, entitled An Act to Impose a Moratorium on User Fees in Medicare in Nova Scotia.

The fundamental principle of this bill is to provide for a moratorium on both user fees and extra billing fees. In that regard, I feel that this bill is grossly inadequate. A moratorium, of course, is a suspension or a delay. That is inadequate. What should be done is that they should be banned, pure and simple. They should be banned.

That is the first thing I wanted to say about it. I also wanted to say I find it really difficult to swallow this kind of legislation coming from the Liberal Party. I find it difficult to see this kind of legislation coming from a group of members who show so little remorse for causing so many of the difficulties that exist in health care today. It is in fact through their wanton disregard for the basic tenets of health care planning that we find ourselves in the difficulties that we are in today. It was purely through their lack of vision, through their negligence, their wanton disregard that the government opposite can now justify bringing in and mounting every manner of attack on the health care system. They have to take responsibility for that. I don't want to hear applause from that side of the House because there is lots of blame for those folks over there as well, lots of blame for them too.

The reality is the treatment of health care by the Liberal Party ran the whole gamut of negligence from ordinary negligence through gross negligence, to wanton and reckless disregard for the health care of the people of this province. That is the legacy that has been left to us by the members who sit to my right.

Mr. Speaker, they still are not over it. They still talk about this ridiculous Health Investment Fund. Every five minutes they haul this out. It was so laughable, it was so completely inane, it was so completely without foundation that it barely warrants comment; certainly not serious comment, that is for sure. (Interruption) My friend says move onto something else, and I have perhaps spent too much time on the drafters of the legislation and not enough on the legislation, but I couldn't help myself because I find it so insincere and so completely unbecoming of these members to bring forward this kind of legislation in light of their actions. I don't know how they can do it because you see, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I did one thing one day and then got up the next and did exactly the opposite. I couldn't do it and I think that is why I find it so unbecoming. I guess it is because I have a conscience. I am sure that if they rummage around in their souls, blow the cobwebs out and have a look, maybe they will find one, too.

[Page 3854]

Apparently this loss of a good conscience has spread to the government benches or perhaps the Liberals left it there when they left, because it is pretty clear they don't mind saying one thing at least during an election and then saying something completely different when they get their opportunity to stand in the House on the government side.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, what we are left here with this bill is a fundamental principle in which, in some regard, is important. User fees and extra billing in health care services stand for the erosion of our health care system. So getting rid of them, even on a temporary basis, I suppose, would be a worthwhile thing. I think probably the best illustration of the insidious nature of user fees is through an examination of something like Pharmacare which, of course, this bill wouldn't cover. It was brought to my attention an editorial that was done by the Montreal Gazette, and I am going to table this, Mr. Speaker, after the Government of Quebec introduced their user fees in their drug plan. I just want to read a couple of paragraphs of it because I think it is something this government should take note of. The editorial says:

The term hard hearted does not do justice to Quebec Health Minister Jean Rochon's drug insurance plan. Far from causing hospitalizations and deaths on an isolated or occasional basis which would be outrageous enough, it is causing this sort of suffering systematically. Mr. Rochon claims there was not proof that his plan caused thousands of poor, elderly and mentally ill patients real harm, but a report commissioned by his own department and given to him in July, clearly makes the link.

The report by researchers at three universities studies the effects of the drug plan in the first ten months after the 1996 launch, by causing a reduction in the consumption of prescription drugs by elderly people and welfare recipients. The report concludes that the plan had a consequence 4,046 hospitalizations and admissions to nursing homes and additional deaths during those ten months.

Mr. Speaker, that is a dramatic demonstration of the effect that user fees have. Yet, we are embarking on this road apparently without having done any kind of background study on the effect it is going to have on the population who are going to be most impacted by the decision. I don't understand it.

The Minister of Health talks about practicality. Well, how much more practical can you get, when the decision you are going to make is going to allow the cost of your drug plan to come down, but the cost in acute care, the cost in your emergency services, your cost potentially in home care to go up. You haven't saved anything. You haven't done anything. In fact, it is best summed up, I think, Mr. Speaker, as long-term paying for long-term pain.

[Page 3855]

Mr. Speaker, why would a government embark on a course that won't save them any money in the end, will cause harm to the people who have already done so much for our society, who have already paid taxes over their lifetime, who are, in many cases, the backbone of their community? Why would a government so recklessly engage in that kind of a program? That is the effect of user fees.

We know from the experience in Quebec that that is the result of user fees in the Pharmacare Program. It is an undisputable and undeniable fact that user fees are a tax on the sick and the poor. Who among the government members is speaking up for these people? Have we heard one word from the backbenches of the Conservative Party on behalf of the poor and the sick, on behalf of the elderly? No, Mr. Speaker, not a word. What they could do today is take a good, hard look at this kind of legislation and then take a good hard look at their budget, and they could make the appropriate adjustments to do away with the premiums on Pharmacare, because, after all, it is what they campaigned on.

In 1998, when I went to seniors' residence, I heard seniors tell me that the Tories are going to do away with Pharmacare premiums. I heard it all over the place, and it was one of the things that they liked about the Conservatives at that time. (Interruption) Well, I told them the truth. That is how I got elected. I told them if the Tories get elected, that plan will be out the window and you will be paying more. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, and it is sad to say, I was right. I told them the truth then and it turned out that I was absolutely right.

User fees in health care, Mr. Speaker, are not about choice; people do not choose to be sick. They do not choose to have a heart attack. If you had gone to an emergency room over this last winter, or the spring when they were jammed full of people with influenza and suggested that those people chose to be there, I suspect you would get a real lesson in the need for emergency medicine in this province, because there are an awful lot of people who realized then just how overburdened the system was.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much time I have left here, but I wanted to say this. Two minutes?

The Minister of Health said one thing that is correct, and that is that part of the responsibility here does lie with the federal Liberal Government. The reality is that when you withdraw funding from the health care system in the province, what happens is you create a shortfall in the funding for that program. A shortfall is a deficit; and a deficit, year over year, becomes a debt. You create the debt in the province. That is, in fact, the responsibility of the federal government. They have downloaded debt to the province; there is no question about that.

So they deserve to be just as chastised as this government is for the undertakings that they are making in this budget. I don't let the federal government off the hook. They have been derelict in their duty; there is no question about it. They deserve and I hope, in the next

[Page 3856]

federal election, bills like this can be brought forward and shown to the federal Liberal candidates and they be asked, you know why something like this is necessary? It is necessary because the federal Liberal Government withdrew from the provision of proper funding to health care services in the province. That is the case.

How much is it going to cost Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker? Five million dollars in ambulance services in increased user fees; $4.4 million from Pharmacare; $2.2 million from home support services; $700,000 from social assistance prescription drugs, the very poorest in our society; $745,000 from 911 services. When you need to call for an emergency service, they are going to reach into your pocket, they are going to reach into your wallet and take from you when you are at your most vulnerable and ill.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is what this government is going to do. All in all, the fees that are going to be charged by this government under this budget for health care services are going to be somewhere in the vicinity of $17 million, Mr. Speaker. In conclusion, this is not just the blame of this government, there is plenty for both the Progressive Conservatives and for the Liberals.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I am so glad you asked me to speak. I could not have stood another moment of the ecstasy of listening to the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. It was like listening to the X-Files. I could not believe it, but I had to sort of muse about the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour's dislike for the Health Investment Fund because it is so typical of the NDP. As soon as they see a plan that may solve something, they hightail it in the other direction. They are scared to death there may be a solution. If there is a solution, you see, then they lose the victims and without the victims around to point to, their whole case is lost. So help me, if there ever is a time when people's problems are solved, the NDP will melt away.

AN HON. MEMBER: Like snow.

MR. MACLELLAN: Like snow and it is unbelievable. (Interruptions) I know, I am sorry to wake up all those people up in the NDP caucus, but I just felt I had to say it. The devil made me do it.

I want to go on to the bill at hand. I think there may be something I would agree with the honourable member of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on and that is that this would help, even if he says it would not be the final answer, it is a step in the right direction. The Minister of Health talks about working together to help. We have no objection to working with the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, to try to solve problems in health care. We really don't. In

[Page 3857]

fact, we worked with the Premier and the Minister of Health when they were in Opposition. They asked for a committee to look into regional health boards. We gave them the committee that they asked for. We even agreed to certain people who they would want on the committee. We launched it. We thought this was good fellowship and good results and we were being cooperative with the Tory Party.

Well, lo and behold, they did not even wait for the committee to report before they condemned regional health boards, regional health boards which had frankly been, now acclaimed as having worked, and the Goldbloom Task Force agreed that the regional health boards (Interruption) No, no, no, the tears were over there because they knew that their prayers were answered in a way, but also, too, I want to talk to the Minister of Health as well when he talks about cooperation. I want to talk about the Health Authorities Bill.

We don't mind saying if they want to replace the regional health boards, then we are prepared to talk to them about how this best can be done, but we sort of object to four regional health boards being replaced by nine district authorities and when the district authorities really don't have any power; the power is left to the minister and the deputy minister and where people who may be moved from one district authority to another can lose their benefits. We voted for this bill to go to the Law Amendments Committee because we wanted people to come in and tell the government exactly what they feel about this Health Authorities Bill.

Getting on to user fees, and the whole idea of user fees is unfortunate, this government is talking about raising $20 million in user fees, and we think on this side of the House in the Liberal Party that it is going to be considerably more than $20 million. They have upped the fees on ambulance services to $85 across the board, they have increased the fees for home care to $8.00 an hour. The problem is, we just don't know who is going to have to pay this. Is there going to be any provision for low income people to be exempt from this? I would ask the minister to clarify this, because he hasn't said - get his ear piece on so he can hear this. Regarding this increase from $6 million to $8 million, I want to know how low income Nova Scotians are going to be exempt from that increase. I would hope that that would be the case.

We have the 911 service now going to be paid for by a charge to the telephone fee. We know this government is planning amalgamation of hospital services in the Halifax Regional Municipality, in labs and other services that are perhaps available in the different health organizations in the Halifax Regional Municipality. We want to know how this is going to be done and how this is going to be paid for. Now we are talking about what the saving is, the saving is going to be, supposedly, they say in acute care, and the reduction is $73 million. What we want to know, on this side is, how is this transition going to take place, because if you look at the budget, the amount allotted for transition is slightly over $1 million. If you are going to change the way health care is delivered, whether we agree with it or not, the fact of the matter is, there is going to be a cost associated with this change. If you are going to have one laboratory, for instance, you are going to have to have a larger laboratory. Where is it

[Page 3858]

going to be? How is it going to be staffed? How are the modifications to that laboratory going to take place? We don't know where that money is going to come from.

The member for Dartmouth East today asked, I thought, a very important question, and that is about the information technology that is available in Nova Scotia that can help us and reduce health care costs, but we have to make that investment in it. We have to make that investment so that information and health care are available throughout the province; and how we can tie together one hospital and one health organization with another here in the Halifax Regional Municipality. In order to do that there is going to have to be an investment made. I would hope that the Minister of Health and the government would look into this because we have these technologies, why aren't we, as soon as possible, using these technologies? I am not saying this as a partisan comment, I truly believe we are not using the technologies we have available, to the benefit of health care and, quite frankly, to the reduction of health care costs in Nova Scotia, ultimately.

I also want to know, is there more than the $1.7 million for home care allocated in the budget? When we looked at the estimates and the supplementary estimates it comes down to an additional $1.7 million for home care. When we look at the additional amounts for long-term care it comes down to $1.1 million additional for long-term care. The honourable Minister of Health knows that that has been stated in his own health report, that 40 per cent of the people in acute care would be just as well served, if not better served (Interruptions) 25 per cent is it? (Interruption) Up to 30 per cent, all right. I heard 40 per cent and I must have gotten that from another source. But I will deal with his own health care report, 25 per cent to 30 per cent.

If we can get these people out of acute care beds that cost over $1,000 per day into long-term care beds which may cost as little as one-tenth of that amount, then we reduce the cost. But, I would say to the honourable Minister of Health, where are these people going to go, because long-term care is booked? I am more familiar with the situation in Cape Breton, and I know the waiting list that exists there.

I say to the honourable Minister of Health, I am very much in support of the single-entry system. I think that is a great idea. We were looking at that and we support that completely. That will help us put the people in the right place. You may have people in long-term care who could be better served in home care. We acknowledge that and say, let's identify those people and see where we can get those people out of long-term care into home care. But you are not going to be able to move the equivalent number from acute care into long-term care from long-term care into home care. So, there is going to have to be an investment.

No matter how the Minister of Health talks about utilizing funding for health care and the best way possible, there is going to have to be, and I would say that the honourable Minister of Health would agree with me if he was to be frank on this thing, there is going to

[Page 3859]

have to be a further investment in long-term care in Nova Scotia to meet even the minimum needs of the people we take out of acute care and put into long-term care. The sooner that is done, the better. I hope that was a friendly sign.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is actually agreeing with you over there.

MR. MACLELLAN: I just caught it out of the corner of my eye. Thank you very much for the prompting of that, and I thank the Speaker as well. But, these are just some of the points I want to make. I would say that we are very anxious to see good health care in Nova Scotia. We honestly don't believe, as the minister knows, that this government is focused and has a plan as to what it wants to do. That is a very big concern of ours. We don't see in the budget that there is any plan apparent. This is, I think, going to be devastating if we are going to have better health care. If we are going to have better health care, the government and particularly the Department of Health have to know where it is going in achieving this better health care. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Liberal House Leader.

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

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Liberal House Leader.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 805.

Res. No. 805, Educ. - P3 Schools: Construction Moratorium - Lift - notice given March 27/2000 - (Mr. W. Gaudet)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Resolution No. 805. One of my greatest disappointments with the budget presented yesterday is definitely the fact that this government did not announce the date of the construction of much-needed school buildings in this province. I raise this question for all those Nova Scotia students who are desperate, who have been waiting a long time and who have been patiently going to schools that are not adequate. There are 17 schools scheduled to be built in communities throughout Nova Scotia. These are the communities, Mr. Speaker: Elmsdale, Petit-de-Grat, Guysborough, Clare, Argyle, Whycocomagh, Sydney, South Colchester High in the Brookfield area, East Pictou High, Pomquet, Sydney Elementary, West Pictou High, Iona, Shelburne, Amherst, and Cumberland Elementary to serve students in the Warren, Brookdale and Nappan area.

[Page 3860]

The residents of these communities have been waiting Mr. Speaker, a long time for these new facilities. The young people in these communities deserve a quality education and a safe environment for learning.

[5:15 p.m.]

I have personally visited some of these school buildings that have to be replaced. Some of these buildings are old, the roof and windows are leaking, the air quality does not meet standards; some students and staff are feeling the negative effects of this poor quality environment which causes health problems. I have seen mildew on walls, poor lighting, close quarters, small spaces used for classrooms and regular classroom overcrowding. I anticipate there will be more of that according to what the minister indicated to the House this afternoon. The list goes on.

Right now, in Elmsdale for example, the children have no gym. The students have to use the corridors for their gymnasium. Last March when I visited that school, the recreational and sport activities were conducted in the main corridor. It was raining outside so the gym class was held in the school corridor. The corridor was used as a bowling alley, of course with plastic balls and pins; you can imagine the commotion, the traffic from one classroom to another. However, much to their credit, the volunteers and the school staff managed the situation quite well. As a teacher myself I feel for school staff that has to work in such an environment. Furthermore, in Elmsdale because of an oil spill at that school, parts of that school had to be torn down, the library was turned into a classroom and now their library books are being stored in a closet. For those teachers, I ask the Minister of Education and her government why they did not mention in their budget a specific date when these much-needed schools are going to be built.

Not only do I speak for students and teachers when I ask this question to the Minister of Education, I also ask the question for parents. Parents of students who are in these schools that need to be replaced are also impatient and frustrated. They cannot understand the delay, they do not accept the delays and the excuses that we have to do reviews and more reviews. The delaying tactics are an insult to their intelligence. These communities want these schools, they want to be involved in the design process. What is the minister waiting for? Why doesn't she announce the construction date to start on these schools?

Parents are becoming frustrated. They are even more confused now. Does the new budget mean that these new schools won't be built? The conditions of these schools are not better now, I daresay these schools are in worse shape than they were a year ago.

The provincial government announced the construction of 16 new schools a year ago, last May. The minister herself added one more school to this list just recently, last fall, and yet no mention of school construction in this budget. Not a week goes by without having students, parents, teachers, school administrators and school board members asking me if I

[Page 3861]

have any idea when the expected schools are going to be built. All I can report to these Nova Scotians is what the minister has said in this House. The Minister of Education does not know. All those who have been waiting for a long time for these much-needed schools are very disappointed by her response.

I was hoping that her government would know the real need for these new schools in some of these communities throughout this province. If the present government knew of the need to replace some of the school buildings I have seen, I am sure that this pressing need would have been a priority mentioned in this budget, Mr. Speaker. But lo and behold, there was not even a word mentioned on these new constructions.

Mr. Speaker, must we remind the government of the necessity of education? I am convinced that the people of Nova Scotia who elected the present government, never suspected the neglect of a fundamental responsibility by this provincial government. This responsibility calls for the adequate financing of the public school system, and not what we heard in yesterday's budget. The public school system is not only required to provide education from P to 12, it is the duty of the provincial government and the Department of Education to provide a safe environment for learning and that is, I believe, safe and adequate school buildings.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Education that very same question that is also raised by school board members across this province. When are the promised school buildings going to begin? Maybe the minister could tell us or tell the students or tell the parents or tell the teachers, or yet, tell the school board members. I am sure that students and parents are waiting for the construction of their schools. They were anticipating, I am sure, the Minister of Finance to inform them with this budget when the construction would start.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: No way.

MR. GAUDET: You are right. My colleague here, the member for Cape Breton West, says no way, and he is absolutely right. There was not even a word mentioned in yesterday's Budget Speech.

Mr. Speaker, I guess they are as disappointed as I am. They cannot understand why some of their fellow Nova Scotians living in the same province, paying the same tax, can have a school with excellent air quality. All students in Nova Scotia are entitled to good schools, schools that will meet today's program demands, enabling them to keep pace with the rest of the country at the beginning of this new century.

As I take my place, Mr. Speaker, I promise to bring this to the attention of the minister on a continuous basis, this very same question, when are you going to decide to deliver a promise made to Nova Scotians a year ago? When are these much-needed schools going to be built? Thank you.

[Page 3862]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I rise on this occasion to respond to the honourable member's Resolution No. 805. First, I would like to tell the House and the honourable member opposite that we are on the same side on this issue. I am very well aware of the need for new schools in the Province of Nova Scotia. I have visited some 30 decrepit schools myself with mould in the walls or in the ceilings, schools that need to be torn apart, renovated or actually built anew.

The honourable member, being a former Minister of Education, knows though that the demand for these new schools is much greater than we can afford to supply all at once. Even if the rate at which the schools went up under the former government continued to go up, they are not nearly meeting the demand.

Mr. Speaker, the 17 announced schools will be built. They will be built as close to completion date as possible. Right now, one of the things that I would like to talk about is not the need for the schools, which we acknowledge, but the financing method of schools that was used by the previous government. I know the member would agree that it is not simple to come to a complete understanding of the P3 method. It is a complex process. There are many aspects to it and, in school construction, it was a new process. That is why when this government took office, we commissioned a review of the public-private partnership process. We wanted some expert advice on whether we should continue down this road, or we should build schools some other way.

It must be said again, Mr. Speaker, that this is out of fairness to taxpayers. The P3 process aroused a lot of controversy. Parents are taxpayers. School board members are taxpayers. Members of this House of Assembly are taxpayers. The children of these people will be taxpayers and we had to examine the process of financing before we proceeded with it. Our consultant told us that they couldn't answer the question about whether P3 financing was good value for money, because the proper analysis had not been done before the projects began. But since no other government had ever attempted such a construction program, we lacked a public sector comparator. What the consultant could do was give us the tools to do up-front analysis, using the proper comparators, before we go forward with any more public-private partnership projects.

Mr. Speaker, our government has not decided yet, we will be deciding in the next month, if we are going to continue with P3 schools, if we will have P2 schools, P1 schools or no P schools. We don't yet know how much private sector involvement we really want in these schools. But I would like to say that, in many cases, the controversies aroused by these schools were not to fall to the private developer. The P3 process got mixed up with amalgamation, as we all know. Some of the controversies had nothing to do with the financing of school buildings. It was site selection. It was consolidation of schools. That, unfortunately, has been reflected on the private builders.

[Page 3863]

Mr. Speaker, site selection did cause turmoil. Because sites were selected, in most cases, after the school projects were awarded to builders, land and development costs became issues. Some sites were ready for development, others required extensive work. Communities and builders went sometimes at odds over sites which exceeded builders' budgets. If you were to hire a contractor or an architect to build you a house tomorrow and asked him for a price, but you didn't tell him where it was going to be built, if it was going to be on bedrock in the middle of the city, at the end of the peninsula, whatever, you could expect the builder, the contractor, the architect, not to be able to give you the right estimate.

Mr. Speaker, under new site selection rules, sites will be chosen before projects are awarded and bidders will know exactly how much to budget for site costs. Community participation can now take place with less concern about private sector influence over site selection. If we do proceed with a P3 process with a private builder, that is how it will work.

[5:30 p.m.]

The honourable member mentioned budgets and the lack of mention in the budget of new schools; 17 schools awaiting construction are not mentioned in this year's budget, Mr. Speaker. We know that. The reason the budget tabled yesterday by the Minister of Finance does not reference these schools is because payments would not be scheduled to begin until the next budget year. Any school we start building during this fiscal year will not be complete until the next fiscal year and, therefore, under tangible capital assets accounting, it would not be recorded until the next budget year.

Principles outlined in the KPMG review tell us very clearly if a project should be considered for P3, the litmus test will be to apply those principles to each and every one of the 17 new schools now awaiting construction and, as I said, Mr. Speaker, in the very near future, within the month, we will know whether we are involving the private sector in the construction of these 17 much-needed schools or if we will proceed via public sector financing. Making this determination as soon as possible will allow us to stay on schedule with the first of the 17 schools opening its doors in September 2001. The Department of Finance has to examine our new government policy on tangible capital assets and accounting policies as well as financial considerations.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member calls on us to lift the moratorium on new schools. It is true there has been a construction moratorium but, in fact, work on these schools has never stopped. The school boards have struck site selection committees tasked with finding suitable places to build the schools. These committees have a daunting task. Of all available land in their community, they must now narrow their choice to just three sites and all three sites must be suitable for the construction of the school.

[Page 3864]

Mr. Speaker, they have help from engineers of the Department of Transportation and Public Works who can advise on the suitability of a given site. These experts tell us if a site can be developed at reasonable cost. They will advise on whether a site can be serviced with water and sewer and so on. In other words, the engineers tell the site selection committee whether or not certain sites should be considered at all.

The committees must also consider, Mr. Speaker, where to place the school with respect to the student population. They have to consider access to the school from roadways, safety issues, sidewalks, crosswalks, intersection controls. The honourable member says it has all been done. In all cases, it has not been done. They must consider the impact of the school on the neighbourhood in which it is built.

At the same time, the Department of Education has to take into account that we are not municipal builders and that every dollar we put into paving is a dollar we cannot put into the classroom. The process is ongoing. Committees have submitted three sites for several of the schools in this group of 17 and the process continues for the remaining schools. These 17 schools will be built. We have only to determine how they will be financed and that information will be forthcoming shortly. We will attempt to deliver all these schools on or near schedule.

Mr. Speaker, we do not question the need for new schools or for school renovations. We are simply taking the advice from our independent review of the P3 process and seeing if private sector involvement is right for these 17 much-needed schools. I would like to state again that I share the member's concern about the old schools. Over one-half of the 475 schools in our province are more than 30 years old. There are too many portables, too many schools in need of major repairs and upgrades. We do owe it to our students to ensure we keep as closely as possible to the current construction schedule.

Mr. Speaker, this coming September we will see 23 new schools open their doors, mostly started by the Liberals and I give them credit for that. We will continue with the school construction program.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think that it is ironic that we are having debate on this resolution, given the budget that was introduced yesterday and the insight we were given today during Question Period on where education is headed in this province. I can't help but wonder what the point is in having state-of-the-art education facilities if we don't have enough teachers in those facilities to provide the kind of education that our students in this province need, or class sizes that are beyond the capability of the best of teachers to be able to manage.

[Page 3865]

I want to say that our Party unequivocally supports the construction of schools where they are needed. When the Minister of Finance announced the P3 review, I watched, as my colleagues watched, with interest when the Minister of Education gave her commitment that these schools would go ahead and they would be on schedule. I have listened very carefully to the statement that the minister just made in this debate and there were a number of things that caused me some concern in what her response is today compared to what her response was at the time that the review was announced.

One thing she said, she raised concerns about whether or not the number of schools, the 16, 17 schools that were put on hold, she raised questions about affordability, whether they could be afforded now to be brought in on schedule; and she talked about, she wasn't so equivocal in saying they would be on schedule, she is now saying as close as possible.

I think when you start to read between the lines, from what the minister had to say, it would indicate that the P3 method in fact may not be a thing of the past. It may very much be part of this current government's agenda in terms of school construction. I am very concerned about what I am hearing from this minister and from this government.

This morning the Public Accounts Committee met and we reviewed this very report from KPMG, the P3 audit, and I have to tell you, and the record is there from that committee meeting this morning, that the consultants indicated that they could not substantiate in fact whether or not there was a benefit in building schools in this manner. They indicated that there is potential for benefit, but in looking at what had actually occurred, they couldn't substantiate that there was any benefit at all.

The honourable member for Clare, who was here this morning at the Public Accounts Committee process, knows full well that this notion that there were specific benefits from this P3 method has never been established at all. I think it is unfortunate that there was no one here today from the Department of Education to hear the information that was being brought forward with respect to the consultant's report and what their actual findings were.

One of the things the consultant said this morning was that the conditions they laid out that need to be met in terms of the potential for P3 providing a benefit to the public are six criteria, and they said that all of these criteria have to be met. Not some of them, not some combination, but all of them. So that there have to be financial terms that are acceptable and provide value, that there has to be a technical merit in doing projects in this way, that they have to be accepted as a form of procurement and a form of building schools.

Mr. Speaker, we know that that has not been the case whatsoever. The consultants indicated that there were a lot of unknowns about this method of school construction. I think that is a damning statement with respect to a process that has failed miserably, and the P3 method of constructing schools under the former Liberal Government was, in fact, an unmitigated disaster. I think this report basically demonstrates that. (Interruption) The

[Page 3866]

member for Cape Breton West who indicates that citing the findings of this report are misleading the House, should take some time and read the report. I think if he did that he would see (Interruption)

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Quite clearly and the public record will show the honourable member is deliberately misleading the House because the consultants before the Public Accounts Committee this morning indicated that that was not the terms of reference for their commission. The honourable member sat at Public Accounts and knows full well.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. That is not a point of order. That is a dispute between two members. The honourable member for Halifax Needham still has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what the report does demonstrate quite clearly is that the kinds of procedures and the kinds of standards that one would have in place before they ever began this kind of an expensive undertaking with important dollars belonging to Nova Scotians would never have gone forward, should not have gone forward without the proper mechanisms in place to establish that we were getting value for dollar. The consultants, I think, indicated very clearly this morning that there was no rigorous monitoring of the P3 process and that it was basically made up as it went along. That is how I understood what we were being told this morning.

Mr. Speaker, there is a record so that people certainly can go and consult that record. Far be it for me to say that there is only one way to look at what the consultant said this morning, but it certainly was clear to me that there were a lot of things that needed to be put in place. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much chit-chat in the Chamber and I am having trouble hearing the member. If people want to carry on some conversations, they can carry them on outside. Thank you.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: At any rate, Mr. Speaker, I think that we will have a lot of opportunity to discuss education, the construction of these schools and how we are going to adequately provide for what goes on in the schools. I would like to pass my time over to my colleague, the member for Hants East.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East has two minutes.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am really glad for an opportunity to speak to this resolution. The minister is well aware of the school situation in my riding, specifically the Elmsdale School as the honourable former Liberal Minister of Education had raised.

[Page 3867]

I would like the minister to be aware that I think the people in the community of Elmsdale have been very patient. I want to tell the minister that they appreciated her letter of intent to indicate that the department still intended to build that school by September 2001. But I think the community there would like to have some greater indication that the wheels are in motion.

[5:45 p.m.]

Originally, when I questioned the minister in the fall on this issue, she said they were not reviewing the need, only the funding program, and that they would have their review completed in January. When January came and went, the report we had is now being studied and that analysis will be complete as of the end of the April. I think for my constituents, they would like to know a little more quickly. So we certainly intend to hold the minister to her commitment, and as soon it is possible to indicate something to this community, we would appreciate it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak on Resolution No. 805, dealing with much-needed schools for students throughout our entire province. We are all very familiar with the list of 17 schools, the commitment that was made by our government to the parents and staff and school boards in the different areas throughout Nova Scotia. We have all become very familiar with that and we have all known the history of what this government has done since it came to office.

Mr. Speaker, today, during Question Period, I questioned the minister and the Minister of Acadian Affairs whether it was true that they had abandoned the Acadian community in Nova Scotia. It was with interest that the minister took offense at that statement. If we look back through history, and I said in my reply, that the facts spoke for themselves. Last year, during the estimates for the Department of Education Budget, we were all here and the Minister of Education was clearly told of the problems in the communities where schools had been committed, especially in the Acadian communities. We asked her some questions about CPRP, that was one of the issues we raised, among other issues. Every reply was, I don't know the answer. I don't know what the member is talking about. I will get back to him with information.

Well, lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, one year later, not once, to any member of our caucus, has that Minister of Education replied to any of the concerns here in the House during the debate on the estimates. She tells us we should not read in or say she is against the Acadian community or anything like that and we should take her word for it. Well, we took her word for it one year ago and we have come to learn how much weight or how much value should have been put in her word, in her commitment to fellow members of this Chamber.

[Page 3868]

Mr. Speaker, the fact is, and what I want to focus on is the impact that this is having on Acadian communities. It is unfortunate the minister (Interruption) I won't go there, but anyway, it shows how important she feels this debate is. In Acadian communities, especially in the areas I am most familiar with, Richmond and Pomquet, our government said there was a need for a new English high school and that there was also a need for a new P-12 Acadian school. The same thing for Pomquet. The French schools in Pomquet and in Petit-de-Grat are in terrible shape, plus they cannot meet what the CSAP is required to do to provide proper French education.

So what was said at that time, and what was clearly said by the CSAP is, look, if you are going to build a new English high school, you have to build a new French school at the same time, because how can we expect parents to keep sending their kids to an Acadian school, which is old and falling apart, when there is a brand new school they could be sending their kids to. That is the logistics of the situation in the Acadian communities. We told that to the minister last year. We told her it was essential she treat these Acadian schools in a special way because of the problems it was creating in those communities. Again, she had no idea what I was talking about. She said she would look into it. She said she would get back to us. We never heard a word from her. Yet, today, she took offence when I drew the conclusion that she has abandoned Acadian communities, and she wonders why I say that.

The member for Argyle, the Minister of Finance, knows full well what a sensitive issue education is in Acadian regions. Yes, I will give credit where credit is due, his government did take steps towards recognizing the rights of Acadians in education. But, he must remember, the last time they did anything for Acadians was back in the late 1980's. So for him to refer to what they have done, and say we should be happy with what was done by Buchanan when he was there, well, that is not good enough and that is not realistic.

Mr. Speaker, the fact we should be happy with what was done by Buchanan when he was there - well, that is not good enough and that is not realistic.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we need to have these schools built in these Acadian regions as soon as possible. The minister herself, if she looks into the CSAP at all will know that this year, as schools are starting to prepare for their enrolment numbers for September, both École Petit-de-Grat and École Pomquet have seen a 75 to 90 percent reduction in their enrolments for the coming year because of the fact that parents have said, enough is enough. We will no longer send our children to these schools when we can send them to an English school; we do want them to be bilingual but if it is for their health and for their safety and for their well-being we will not send them to these schools because of the squalid situation that they are in. The minister knows this, and for her to say that she is not aware of this, with all the other things she told us she doesn't know about her department, is no longer good enough. It is not good enough for the members of this House, it is not good enough for the communities she is in.

[Page 3869]

In our budget yesterday what to do we see? We see $2 million extra funding for the Nova Scotia Community College system. We applaud that. We put a lot of money into the Nova Scotia Community College system also. On the flip side, she says, Université Sainte-Anne and the Collège de l'Acadie will put their combined administration services together because they are being cut $500,000. So for the English college system, you get $2 million, for the French college system, the Collège de l'Acadie, you get cut $500,000. So what message does that send to the Acadian community?

She has already said, we made a commitment to build École Petit-de-Grat and École Pomquet as soon as possible, at the same time as the English schools. The minister came in, she said, I am committed to building them by September 2001. We said that is not the commitment that was made to this community. She was not about to change, as this Tory Government has shown, then after the KPMG review gets in we asked her, okay, are you still committed to building it by September 2001? She said, they will be built as soon as possible and they will be built as quickly as we can. Even that commitment went out the window; another slap in the face for these communities, for the Acadians throughout this province.

What other conclusion are Acadians throughout Nova Scotia to deduce than to say that this government has abandoned Acadians - and in the face of what has been happening in Acadian communities - because of their decision on school construction that they still remain silent? Last year I told the minister about the problem, I asked her to get involved and still she has refused to do so, she has shown absolutely no leadership. The CSAP continues to tell us that the minister will not even meet with them, or even talk to them, and yet she gets upset when I say that they have abandoned the Acadian communities.

M. le Président, les parents, les enfants, les communautées acadiennes ont eu de la patience avec ce gouvernement, avec le ministre de l'éducation, le ministre des affaires acadiens, avec le premier ministre. Ils ont entendus, ils ont dit, okay, vous allez faire une revue du programme de financement des écoles. Les parents disent, ça nous ne gêne pas, comment vous allez financer ces écoles, mais bâtis-là. Le gouvernement dit, oui, on va faire ça, on a passé six ans en opposition, on va les bâtir pour vous.

Aujourd'hui on ne peut pas même faire dire le ministre quand les écoles vont êtres construites. Ce sont les communautées acadiennes qui vont décider si que ce gouvernement ici est vraiment interessé dans leur futur ou s'il n'est pas interessé dans leur futur. C'est eux qui vont les juger et aujourd'hui pour moi c'est clair que ce gouvernment, dans sa méthode de couper les finances, à dit aux communautées acadiennes, on vous passe au côté, vous êtes une des victimes du budget et on va vous oublier. Malheureusement, on va vous oublier. C'est ça que le budget a dit, c'est ça que le ministre des finances - comme s'il est le ministre responsable des affaires acadiennes nous a dit hier dans son budget. Ce sont les communautées acadiennes qu'il vont le juger sur ses actions. Merci, M. le Président.

[Page 3870]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance, you have 25 seconds left.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Thirty seconds I couldn't even start to express my opinions, Mr. Speaker, but when I hear the member say that this government has abandoned Acadians, I take offence at that. I think that the member across the floor really has no idea, I guess, in a sense of the things that we brought about as a Party. I realize that there are circumstances that are difficult and for that member to say that we do not have the interests of Acadians at heart, is a great distortion of facts, Mr. Speaker.

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

The honourable Acting Liberal House Leader.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Opposition Members' Business and I allow the Government House Leader to conclude tomorrow's business.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow will be from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and the order of business tomorrow will be daily routine followed by Question Period, followed by the response to the Budget Address, and then we will be going into Public Bills for Second Reading, Private Members' Public Bills. Then following that, we will be going into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, before I ask for adjournment I would like to remind members that tomorrow we will be having people in the Chamber. There will be guests and they have been assigned to each desk in the Chamber. This is for the Legion presentation of soil for the unknown soldier. So I would ask members if they would clean off the top of their desks; if they have anything personal lying around, perhaps they would like to take it with them.

Friday's hours will be from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., if I can get the agreement of the two Opposition House Leaders. It may be possible, Mr. Speaker, that we could finish before 5:00 p.m. providing we started early enough.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a motion to adjourn?

MR. RUSSELL: I move to adjourn.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 3871]

Noting the hour of adjournment, it is now late debate. Tonight's resolution is:

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the benefits to both the commercial and legal communities as well as the general public with the introduction of Registry 2000."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - REGISTRY 2000:

BENEFITS - RECOGNIZE

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I would first like to take a minute and introduce in the gallery Gretchen Pohlkamp from the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs and Mark Coffin who is the project solicitor for Registry 2000. They are here I think to make sure that I get my facts straight, so no pressure on me. (Applause)

The House may feel that this is an odd subject for late debate the day after we have introduced the budget, but while we work towards improving the financial future of Nova Scotia, we must also do everything we can do to protect our economic security. A major part of that responsibility, Mr. Speaker, revolves around the land that this province is built on. That land represents a $40 billion asset in Nova Scotia. The real property system that registers and cares after the title of that land affects all businesses, governments and citizens in the province. It provides the collateral to secure our entire financial and economic base. Currently that system is over 250 years old by our measurements and since it was borrowed from Britain, it appears to be much older than that.

A great deal of economic activity in our province is generated by the buying, selling and financing of real property in addition to the value of the security that that property provides to drive our economic engine. This requires accurate and timely information, but it is built on a paper dinosaur and has many drawbacks. A paper record search of the records is necessary to secure title in this province. A search has to go back 40 years minimum; 60 years, maybe more, depending on what you discover when you try to do that search. In the Halifax Registry alone that means looking in 6,500 books. Each book weighs approximately 20 pounds. In those books across the province there are 19 million pages of records, growing at the rate of 2,500 pages every day.

[Page 3872]

In every registry across the province there are different systems involving the storage and indexing of those records. In Cape Breton County, if you want to look up Mac, you have to look in the Is, the Ms, the Ns, depending on whether it is a MacIntosh, a MacNeil, a MacDonald. In another county of the province you might have to look under 17 different spellings of Slaunwhite to find what you are looking for. The spellings change by year, by county and by the whim of the registrar in charge at the time the record was indexed in the system. It is, by all accounts, an extremely cumbersome system, but by some miracle, we manage to certify title in this province.

Add to that, due to the growing volume of paper we have, the storage costs are rising exponentially as we speak, and the paper is deteriorating at a faster and faster rate. The system of searching titles and maintaining these records is dictated in current legislation by a very complex system of Statutes and is certainly completely uncompetitive with other jurisdictions in this day and age.

[6:00 p.m.]

Besides searching the in the registry of deeds, we have to check records at assessment, Environment, Transportation and Public Works, municipal tax offices, planning offices, probate, prothonotaries, Natural Resources, the list is almost as long as you could find government departments. Some records are registered against names, some against properties, some against civic addresses, and some you will never ever find.

The legal, the surveying and the financial communities in this province have been clamouring for years. Consumers continue to question the cost. Lately, we have had something called title insurance arrive on the scene, which raises many issues. Consumer protection - we don't have consumer protection legislation in this province that would protect a person using the title insurance system against whether or not their interests were fully protected by the product that is offered by those companies. Title insurance providers are not required to register the same number of documents that a lawyer would be required to register in doing a property transaction, which raises the question of whether or not the public registration system will be compromised by the use of this system.

The entire process has been further complicated by the fairly recent demands of technology. Trying to impose technology on a 250-plus year old system is extremely cumbersome. Many things were done. The registrars of the day attempted to create a mechanism that would first microfilm records, then when that didn't prove too satisfactory, they went to scanning. But we are talking about scanning records that have been handwritten on different coloured paper with different qualities of inks. Some are very old. We are talking about scanning records that have been typed over black paper. We are talking about records that have been photocopied with varying degrees of quality. Some of the records that have been scanned into the current system are virtually unreadable, which makes it even more difficult to secure title that you are trying to certify.

[Page 3873]

Then there was the system of the indexing records. Currently to access title to property, you have to look up the name of the owner of the property by year in a book for every year that person has owned title. To change those indexed books to a computerized record involves manually reading and entering that record into a computer-based data system which is fraught with the possibility of human error. All of that stuff has to be checked against known records to determine if anything was left out. It is an extremely time-consuming and risky method to transfer this data, although it is being done with relative success, trying to drag this system forward into something that can actually be consumer friendly and usable.

The professionals in the system, the lawyers, the surveyors, the title searchers, the bankers, have all been screaming for change. Finally, in the fall of 1997, there was a joint committee established by the Barristers' Society and Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, and they began to discuss modernization. Many methods were talked about. There was the possibility of going to a Torrens system which is an outright government guarantee. That has been tossed around for years, but it is extremely expensive for government to entertain that system. We would be completely liable for anything that happened. There was talk about leaving it the way it is. There was talk about some hybrid in between. The final solution that they came up with was Registry 2000.

This system has probably had the most widespread consultation of any attempt to modernize property law in North America. In Nova Scotia, besides the Barristers' Society and the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs. We have consulted with the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors, the title searchers, the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission, the Canadian Bankers' Association, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the Halifax Regional Municipality, many of its departments, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Environment, Natural Resources, the Centre for Geographic Sciences, the Law Reform Commission, the Land Registration Information Service, and other, which I couldn't possibly name.

After two and one-half years of consultation and discussion and all the options being covered, we have come up with the present proposal. This would provide Nova Scotia with a modernized, streamlined, simplified initiative, sharing responsibility between the Barristers' Society and the government. It would be simple, based on a property identification number typed into the system, rather than trying to figure out how you spelled somebody's name in 1972. It would be secure, providing guaranteed title, certified with a certificate - drawing a curtain down over the historical data which would no longer have to be searched again - and shared between the Barristers' Society and the government, both of them guaranteeing, in a proportionate share, the security and compensation against error in the system.

What is different about it? The parcel identification number provides owner identification within minutes. Sometimes it can take hours for title searchers to establish who actually owns a piece of property. We would have this information in minutes. We would no longer have to perform these historical searches that go back 40, 60 or 100 years. All interests

[Page 3874]

in the property would be registered against that number, find out who owns the property, you put the number in the system and you know if it has a mortgage, if it has a lien, how much property is involved, what is the civic address, what is the description, who holds the mortgage. All this information would be readily available. It will all be provided in an extremely short time-frame. It could take hours to search a title. It could take days to search a title. It has taken weeks to search some titles.

There will be links to related data. As the system progresses and matures, you will be able to access the assessment information, probate information. The list goes on. The title will be provided by the lawyers, initially. There will be a prescribed method of entering the title or entering the certificate into the system. It will be done over a phased-in period of years.

The benefits to Nova Scotians, aside from the security provided in having a title system that is guaranteed, will also be the reduced cost to the consumer and the speed with which property transactions can be secured in the province. Mr. Speaker, I submit to the House that this will be one of the most far reaching and improved, but probably invisible, improvements that government can make for this province in many years. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for introducing this particular resolution today. It is a very timely resolution and it is certainly an issue for which I have, I suppose some would argue, limited knowledge. Having run my own land survey business for the last 22 years, and prior to that, receiving my initial training with the Department of Lands and Forests, Special Projects Division, that was before a lot of changes took place.

I can certainly attest to some of the experiences and the changes that have taken place over recent years. So, yes, indeed, this particular issue is one that has been contemplated and dealt with by a large number of stakeholders over the last number of years, in particular myself serving on a number of committees within my association, that this was an issue that we have been pushing for quite some time. There are a number of things perhaps for those who aren't familiar, essentially we are dealing with two systems of registry in Canada. In particular, I think we will be shifting gears and eventually dealing with both systems here in Nova Scotia because that is ultimately the intent - to move from one to the other.

We have our land registry system which is essentially a registry, a publication of all documentation on any land-related issues, but there is no requirement under the Registry Act to register any of these particular documents. So, I could have the deed for 20 different properties and no one would ever know because that is my information. There is no requirement to record wills. There is no requirement to record land surveys of a particular piece of property because many would argue under contract law, that is a personal and private

[Page 3875]

document and if that is what a particular landowner pays for, then that is his or her right to maintain the confidentiality of the findings of that particular survey.

We then fast forward to the second issue which is essentially the thrust of where we are going with this proposed initiative, a land title system. We are moving towards a guaranteed land titles whereby, as has been mentioned, the deed would be recorded, the supporting abstracts of title attached and all the historical data provided and then if somebody wanted to acquire that particular property, they would only have to go back to the date of the last registration because the guarantees would be put in place.

There are a number of pitfalls that I would suggest that the honourable member, and indeed all members of the Legislature take notice, and that is in her dissertation she made reference to the government and the legal system. Therein lies part of the problem because if we were to examine history we will find that for the most part, lawyers sat in their offices and drafted deed descriptions on pieces of property that either didn't exist or they were drafted in such an obscure and inaccurate form that they created problems. Perhaps that is why people like myself did very well in private practice because we were constantly going out and correcting the errors and omissions. Under Statute law, if a layperson or someone who is not commissioned professionally to perform such a practice, they are not held legally responsible for the quality of that description whereas a surveyor is. There is somewhat part of the paradox that we are dealing with because we are getting into the principle of the land titles system which is guaranteed title.

If there is a defect in that process, one has to be very cautious as to the insurance mechanism that is in place, much similar to what exists in western Canada and it was easy for western Canada to adopt a land titles system because the land is relatively flat, whereas here in Nova Scotia it is very hilly and rough terrain and so on. That is why we have the two different systems for the most part.

That issue of professional liability insurance and to have that extended, particularly between these two parties is something that really has to be clarified. At one time, it was a given. I can't speak for all jurisdictions, there are some 18 registry offices across the province, but at one time it was a given, if not a requirement, that any time a lawyer certified title, that abstract of title was automatically registered in the Registry of Deeds for public notice, so the premise upon which this legislation is based, that practice was in place, but in fact the legal community changed that for a variety of reasons. There wasn't a financial advantage to going into the registry and picking up an abstract of title that was perhaps certified three to five years ago, and a lawyer making a case that, I can't accept that or I don't have access to that, I have to search back to the time the Crown issued the original grant of land, so there is a cautionary note there that one has to be very careful of.

[Page 3876]

[6:15 p.m.]

The other issue is the issue of privatization. This is something that through the evolution of this Land Registry Information Services process, there was a devolution of different responsibilities, some of which were privatized which, you put this type of information in the hands of private interest, then they do become subject to some possible manipulation. I don't want to get into long examples of that because time doesn't provide it, but there is certainly ample opportunity and reason for that particular comment to prevail.

I am also concerned about the fact that the government will use this process to reduce the total number of our registry systems in the Province of Nova Scotia by inserting them into the access centres that we have, and thereby will certainly have a reduction in staff. What processes will be put in place to ensure those years of expertise that have been built up by people who work on the front lines - the staff within the registry, the paralegals, all those who are associated with that - will not be foregone, because the information you take out of the computer is only as good as you put in.

The suggestion that we won't have to worry about a certain name or this or that, that was done in 1972, well that is very honourable, but the fact of the matter is there are clearly lots of examples of that type of human error, even in the land titles system that they have in other jurisdictions, and we don't have to go too far away; we can go to the City of St. John's. These are the types of things, without proper checks and balances, I would suggest would create a bigger problem than initially thought.

Here in Nova Scotia, it is unique in many fashions because of the dynamics of the registry of land documents in various jurisdictions across this province, and the relationship to the Land Registry Information Services. It is absolutely critical because I can demonstrate numerous examples where lawyers - and I hate to feel like I am a surveyor picking on a lawyer - I can cite numerous examples or at least one clear example just recently where a lawyer went into the LRIS office and said that this person owns that land. It was registered in another name, but well I have some documentation here. It was rather obscure, so the poor technician who is not a lawyer, not a surveyor, doesn't have a professional credential other than the fact that he or she is as a mapper, takes direction, and that is a rather powerful imposition. That created a significant amount of difficulty and financial stress on a number of parties. So, these are the types of things what we have to be very careful.

But in general the thrust of the effort, it is one I have been involved with and I certainly support. I congratulate the honourable member. She has brought a very important issue to the floor of the House, and certainly I am sure if she is not involved in the process directly on a day-to-day basis, she will certainly learn a lot of technical nuances and legal jargons and the implications of this in very short order. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3877]

MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank all the honourable members for taking part in tonight's late debate. The motion for adjournment has been made.

The House will now rise to sit again tomorrow at 12:00 noon.

[The House rose at 6:19 p.m.]