Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Apr. 13, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1260, Health - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Unpromised,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3880
Res. 1261, Health - Pharmacare: User Fees - Remove, Mr. K. MacAskill 3880
Res. 1262, Educ. - Funding Formula Review: Cancellation - Background,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3881
Res. 1263, Health - Med. Coverage: Universality - Recognize,
Dr. J. Smith 3881
Res. 1264, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Reality - Face, Mr. J. Holm 3882
Res. 1265, Educ. - Strait Reg. Sc. Bd.-Knowledge House:
Conf. Bd. (Can.) Award - Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 3883
Vote - Affirmative 3891
Res. 1266, Wars (20th Century): Valour & Sacrifice - Remember,
The Premier 3884
Vote - Affirmative 3884
Res. 1267, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty: Deficit (17/08/99 on) -
Address, Mr. F. Corbett 3884
Res. 1268, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Muns.: Fin. Accountability -
Action, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3885
Res. 1269, Econ. Dev. - Guys. Waterfront Dev. Soc.: Pty. Donation -
Ben Barthe Applaud, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 3886
Vote - Affirmative 3886
Res. 1270, Educ. - Teachers: Cut - Apologize, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3887
Res. 1271, Fish. - Clare: Salmon R. Salmon Assoc. -
Restoration Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 3887
Vote - Affirmative 3888
Res. 1272, Health: Med. Lab. Week (Can.-10-15/04/00) - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir 3888
Vote - Affirmative 3889
Res. 1273, PC Party (N.S.) - Queens MLA: Phone No. - Release (CBC),
Mr. D. Dexter 3889
Res. 1274, SCS - Seniors: Targetting - Stop, Dr. J. Smith 3889
Res. 1275, Culture - Pictou Co.: Enhancement - John Ashton
Work Acknowledge, Mr. J. DeWolfe 3890
Vote - Affirmative 3891
Res. 1276, Premier - Sackville-Cobequid MLA: QP (12/04/00)
Answer Refusal - Apologize, Mr. K. Deveaux 3891
Res. 1277, Justice - Jails Closure: Disrespect - Apologize, Mr. M. Samson 3892
Res. 1278, Econ. Dev. - West Dover: Shaw's Landing - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3892
Vote - Affirmative 3893
Res. 1279, Volunteerism: Volunteers - Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 3893
Vote - Affirmative 3894
Res. 1280, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Priorities Cut - Action,
Mr. H. Epstein 3894
Res. 1281, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Focus, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3895
Res. 1282, Volunteerism - Cumb. Mun. Dist. 2 Vol. of Year:
Rick Goodwin - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 3895
Vote - Affirmative 3896
Res. 1283, Educ. - Mt. Uniacke DS Citizenship Court -
Host Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 3896
Vote - Affirmative 3896
Res. 1284, Sports - Power Lifting (Cdn.) Champs.: Clyde Deveau
(Mayflower) Gold Medals - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 3897
Vote - Affirmative 3897
Res. 1285, Scouts (Can.) - Scouters (Dart.): Dedication - Recognize,
Mr. J. Pye 3897
Vote - Affirmative 3898
Res. 1286, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Ranting (Min.):
Alexa McDonough MP - Attention Pay, Mr. John MacDonell 3898
Res. 1287, Human Res. - Civil Serv.: Lament - Change, Mr. J. Holm 3899
Res. 1288, Econ. Dev. - Lent House (Freeport): Saviours - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3899
Vote - Affirmative 3900
Res. 1289, Educ. - Teachers: Lay-Offs - Admit, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3900
Res. 1290, Sports - Chess (N.S. Grade 6 Champ): Mark Penny
(Joseph Giles ES) - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 3901
Vote - Affirmative 3901
Res. 1291, Environ. - Goodwood Compost Facilities Odours: Address -
Follow Up [Res. 763], Mr. W. Estabrooks 3902
Res. 1292, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Truth or Consequences - Playing,
Mr. H. Epstein 3902
Res. 1293, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Income Tax Revenue - Change,
Mr. J. Pye 3903
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
EMO - Disaster Financial Assistance Policy, Hon. J. Muir 3904
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 479, Educ. - Teachers: Lay-Offs - Clarify, Mr. Robert Chisholm 3909
No. 480, Educ. - Funding Formula Review Work Group: Min. -
Meet, Mr. R. MacLellan 3910
No. 481, Educ.: Active Young Reader Prog. - Funding,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3911
No. 482, Educ.: Curriculum - Cuts, Mr. W. Gaudet 3912
No. 483, Educ. - Sir John A. Macdonald HS: Math Class - Size,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3914
No. 484, Educ. - Class Size: Increase - Safety, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3914
No. 485, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Impact - Consultation,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3915
No. 486, Educ. - French Language: Grants - Reduction, Mr. M. Samson 3917
No. 487, Commun. Serv. - Budget (2000-01): Family Violence
Prevention Initiative - Exclusion, Ms. E. O'Connell 3918
No. 488, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Co-Pay - Increase, Dr. J. Smith 3919
No. 489, Commun. Serv. - Child Benefit Prog. (Natl.): Clawback -
Continuance, Mr. K. Deveaux 3920
No. 490, Justice - Guysborough: Jail - Closure, Mr. M. Samson 3921
No. 491, Commun. Serv. - Budget (2000-01): Disabled - Cuts,
Mr. K. Deveaux 3922
No. 492, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101 Twinning: Study -
Completion, Mr. P. MacEwan 3924
No. 493, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Job Cuts (Depts.) - Detail,
Mr. John MacDonell 3925
No. 494, Econ. Dev. - Cape Smokey: Funding - Commitment,
Mr. K. MacAskill 3926
No. 495, Gov't. (N.S.) - Openness: Promise - Unfulfilled,
Mr. D. Dexter 3927
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1086, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3928
Mr. J. Holm 3929
Mr. D. Downe 3939
Referred to CWH on Supply 3954
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Justice - Crown Land (Harvesting [N.B. Case]): Policy (N.S.) -
Unchanged, Hon. M. Baker 3954
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 37, Preston Area Housing Act 3956
Mr. M. Samson 3956
Mr. J. Pye 3961
Mr. W. Dooks 3965
Adjourned debate 3965
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 42, Municipal Law Amendment (2000) Act 3966
Hon. A. MacIsaac 3966
Mr. J. Pye 3968
Mr. W. Gaudet 3974
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3980
Adjourned debate 3987
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Justice - Family Violence: Prevention - View:
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3988
Hon. P. Christie 3990
Hon. M. Baker 3992
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3993
ADJOURNMENT, there being no quorum present Mr. Speaker adjourned
the House to meet again on Fri., Apr. 14th at 9:00 a.m. 3997

[Page 3879]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 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, the winner of the late debate show this evening is the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid and the resolution is:

Therefore be it resolved that this government tell Nova Scotia women and children why the Conservatives do not think family violence prevention is important or necessary.

This will be heard this evening at 6:00 o'clock.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

3879

[Page 3880]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1260

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

Whereas the Premier and his colleagues spent six years attacking Liberal health reform because big hospital cuts were made before new community care, home care and long-term care were available; and

Whereas this Premier's one clear commitment to Nova Scotians was that he would end the Liberal version of health reform; and

Whereas this Premier's government just cut $70 million from hospitals but put only $3 million back into long-term, community and home care;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should tell Nova Scotians why he has broken faith with them and why he can't tell them the truth about what he is doing to the already devastated health care services.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1261

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

Whereas a tax by any other name is still a tax; and

Whereas the budget brought down Tuesday by the Minister of Finance is full of new taxes; and

Whereas senior citizens seem to be the target of these new taxes;

[Page 3881]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance, along with the Minister of Health, immediately remove the new user fees on Pharmacare and ambulances and find another way to generate revenue other than on the backs of our seniors.

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1262

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

Whereas this Progressive Conservative Government cancelled for the first time in more than a generation, the Education Funding Formula Review that analyses how each dollar is spent in Nova Scotia's schools; and

Whereas this Conservative Government appointed a part-time Deputy Minister of Education, who spent much of the budget preparation period in New Brunswick; and

Whereas this Conservative Government now admits that it has no idea on Earth how many teachers and teaching support staff will be lost because of this budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should explain why he and his colleagues decided that the next generation of Nova Scotians can drop out of the knowledge economy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1263

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

[Page 3882]

Whereas the Minister of Health mused in the House yesterday that Seniors' Pharmacare will cost seniors more because they use more drugs; and

Whereas Pharmacare was designed to protect seniors from rising drug costs because private coverage is unavailable in most cases; and

Whereas given the minister's logic, it would follow that because seniors use more MSI, they should be charged a user fee;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health be admonished for his statement and recognize that medical coverage is universal in Nova Scotia and that people should not be punished because they need the system more than others.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1264

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

Whereas from their ivory tower, the Minister of Education sees nothing wrong with class sizes of 50 students for junior and senior high schools and the Minister of Finance thinks it is good training for university; and

Whereas the Premier also sees few problems with large classes because when he attended high school, in the days before Elvis was King, he was in a class with 35 students; and

Whereas the Premier and the Ministers of Education and Finance appear to be competing to see who can make the most asinine comments;

[Page 3883]

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government should get a touch of reality by starting to talk to and with real people living in the real world, instead of relying on the advice of people like the $180,000 man, Murray Coolican, the Past President of the Metro Chamber of Commerce.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1265

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 Strait Regional School Board, in partnership with Knowledge House, is this year's recipient of the Conference Board of Canada National Partners in Education Award; and

Whereas the Strait Regional School Board-Knowledge House partnership involves the creation, testing, and demonstration of curriculums for distributed learning environments; and

Whereas its objective is to enhance educational experiences for students, boost community economic development through education and training, and to develop export markets;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Strait Regional School Board and Knowledge House for their ongoing commitment to the education of our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

[Page 3884]

RESOLUTION NO. 1266

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

Whereas at a ceremony today the people of Nova Scotia provided a vase containing small amounts of soil collected by 15 zone commanders of the Royal Canadian Legion's Nova Scotia Command to the Legion's provincial president; and

Whereas this symbolic gesture is part of a nationwide millennium project with the soil of our province to be buried with an unidentified casualty of the First World War's pivotal Battle of Vimy Ridge; and

Whereas the provincial president of the Legion's Nova Scotia Command will convey the soil to Ottawa on May 28th to be part of a committal service of the unknown soldier in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House pause to remember acts of valour, and the memory of thousands lost in the wars of the 20th Century, many of whom are known only to God.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver and a moment of silence in respect of those lives honoured at today's service.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver and a moment of silence.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1267

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

[Page 3885]

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, 1,440 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 1,440 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1268

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

Whereas residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality have publicly complained about financial accountability; and

Whereas to date the provincial government has been reticent to provide financial aid to this cash-strapped municipality; and

Whereas the cost of administration in this cash-strapped municipality is 250 per cent higher than the efficiently run Cape Breton Victoria District School Board, which has a significantly higher budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs take a more proactive role on municipal financial accountability which directly impacts on the provincial taxpayers.

[Page 3886]

Mr. Speaker, I would 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. 1269

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

Whereas local residents have established the Guysborough Waterfront Development Society; and

Whereas the society was formed to help revitalize the Jost wharf site, part of the seafaring heritage in Guysborough for many years; and

Whereas the society will assume control of segments of property and land along the Guysborough waterfront;

Therefore be it resolved that members applaud businessman, Ben Barthe, for donating property and land to the new Guysborough Waterfront Development Society and wish the society all the best with their future plans.

[12:15 p.m.]

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.

[Page 3887]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1270

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

Whereas the Minister of Education chooses to talk about teaching positions, but not actual teachers; and

Whereas the position she so callously refers to are in reality real teachers, women and men committed to quality education; and

Whereas the minister's choice of words signifies how cold and savage this Minister of Education really is when she repeatedly equates real people and real teachers with positions;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education rise today and apologize to those people who fill the 800 teaching positions that she is about to cut.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1271

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

Whereas Salmon River Salmon Association is the recipient of the International Gulf of Maine Council Visionary Award; and

Whereas the association was recognized for its development of an environmental education program for elementary school students on the life cycles of the Atlantic salmon; and

[Page 3888]

Whereas the Visionary Award's purpose is to recognize people for their contributions to the Gulf of Maine in the fields of education, science, conservation or environmental policy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the Salmon River Salmon Association for their extensive work which has led to the restoration of the salmon populations in rivers in the Municipality of Clare.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1272

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

Whereas this week is National Medical Laboratory Week; and

Whereas medical laboratory technologists provide a vital service to all Nova Scotians and represent the third largest group of health care professionals after nurses and physicians; and

Whereas the department recently introduced legislation to establish medical lab technologists as a self-regulating body, providing for disciplinary measures and the setting of standards and continuing education requirements for members;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to recognize April 10th to 15th as Medical Laboratory Week and thank the medical laboratory technologists for their commitment to our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 3889]

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-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1273

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

Whereas the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation generously sets aside five minutes in prime time to allow representatives of political Parties in the Legislature to comment on issues of provincial importance; and

Whereas yesterday an opportunity was extended to the Progressive Conservative Party to comment on public affairs; and

Whereas the CBC was advised that no representative of the Progressive Conservative Party was available to use the time allocated;

Therefore be it resolved that the Progressive Conservative Party make the telephone number of the CBC available to the member for Queens so he can tell his residents where he stands.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1274

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

Whereas the $20 million worth of user fees is sadly only going to be the tip of the iceberg from this government; and

[Page 3890]

Whereas the initial user fees announced in this budget target Nova Scotia's senior citizens; and

Whereas senior citizens in Nova Scotia have worked hard enough throughout their lives so that they should not have to worry about trying to make ends meet;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately stop targeting senior citizens and instead start looking for ways to make their lives easier instead of much harder.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1275

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

Whereas a county arts and culture museum for the Town of Westville is presently in the discussion stage; and

Whereas graphic designer John Ashton has brought forward the idea of the museum and has received support from both the local community and the Westville Town Council; and

Whereas Mr. Ashton believes the museum will be a tourism generator for the Westville area;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature acknowledge the hard work being put forth by Mr. Ashton, who has interested the Pictou County Genealogy and Heritage Society, and the manager of the Hector Exhibit Centre, as he strives for enhancement of the arts and cultural community in Pictou County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3891]

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.

Honourable members, I have been requested, on behalf of the Government House Leader and the honourable member for Richmond, to recall, if you will, a request of waiver of notice for a resolution that was previously introduced today. The resolved was, "Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Strait Regional School Board and Knowledge House for their ongoing commitment to the education of our youth."

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1276

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

Whereas the Premier, yesterday, in this House, accused the member for Sackville-Cobequid of being theatrical and, in the end, refused to answer a question posed by that member about job losses; and

Whereas it is actually the Premier who has performed the most theatrical feat of all by first portraying himself to Nova Scotians as the caring country doctor during the election and then turning into the reincarnation of the savage beast; and

Whereas one can only assume that the Premier was unprepared and unable to answer the hard questions put to him by the member for Sackville-Cobequid;

[Page 3892]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier apologize to the member for Sackville-Cobequid for his refusal to answer his questions and for showing his true nature, that of the savage beast.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1277

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 Department of Justice announced, on Budget Day, to the employees of five community jails that their jails were being closed; and

Whereas the Department of Justice had been working in conjunction with the NSGEU to make sure that when this day came the interests of the workers were represented; and

Whereas the department officials who went to these facilities did not bother to inform the union representatives who had been working with the department on this issue;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice apologize to the workers in these facilities for not treating them with the respect and common decency they deserve.

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. 1278

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

[Page 3893]

Whereas Shaw's Landing is a newly revitalized business in the community of West Dover; and

Whereas Shaw's Landing is a welcome addition to the expanding tourism destinations in West Dover; and

Whereas the Shaw family has committed themselves to West Dover and surrounding communities because of the hospitality and kindness extended to them during the loss of their beloved daughter on Swissair Flight No. 111;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the Shaw family and Shaw's Landing, with best wishes of a bright future for many years in the community of West Dover.

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. 1279

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

Whereas this week marks National Volunteer Week; and

Whereas thousands of volunteers across this province dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and energy into various health-related organizations; and

Whereas this government recognizes the valuable contribution these individuals and the organizations in which they volunteer make to our health care system;

[Page 3894]

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to recognize and thank the thousands of Nova Scotians who are selflessly committed to volunteering their time to help others across the province.

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 Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1280

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

Whereas the Premier has gone from Dr. Know to Dr. I Don't Know; and

Whereas I don't know how the savings will be achieved, and I don't know how many civil servants will be cut, and I don't know how many teachers will be cut and I just don't know is all the Premier and his disciples can say; and

Whereas you would think that they would know the answers to these questions before they released the budget;

Therefore be it resolved that once again it is time for the people of Nova Scotia to slay the savage beast that has been unknowingly unleashed upon the education, health and community services needs of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 3895]

RESOLUTION NO. 1281

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 Minister of Education wants everybody to chill out and not to worry about cuts in education; and

Whereas the number of teachers expected to retire in Cape Breton is woefully inadequate to make up for the loss of funding; and

Whereas the 400 teacher layoff, announced by the Minister of Finance in his budget, is not even going to be close to the actual number of job losses;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education worry less about people chilling out and worry more about teachers' jobs and the education which is going to remain for our children, thanks to this Minister of Education's cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 1282

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

Whereas Rick Goodwin has been recognized by the Cumberland Municipal Council as the District 2 Volunteer of the Year; and

Whereas Mr. Goodwin's countless efforts in support of amateur sports and other community activities have added so much to the quality of life for so many people in Cumberland County; and

Whereas Mr. Goodwin's kindness, selflessness and generosity sets an example for his neighbours and community;

Therefore be it resolved that the province congratulate Rick Goodwin upon receipt of this award and acknowledge his charitable contributions to the benefit of his community.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

[Page 3896]

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1283

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

Whereas all Canadians recognize, as does the United Nations, that Canada is the best country in which to live; and

Whereas Tuesday, April 11th, the staff and students of Mount Uniacke District School under Principal Rodger Field, hosted a Citizenship Court in which 43 new citizens affirmed their Canadian citizenship; and

Whereas immigration to Canada has resulted in individuals such as Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and Canada's present Governor General, Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Rodger Field and staff and students at Mount Uniacke District School for hosting the Citizenship Court and offer best wishes to those new Canadians who affirmed allegiance to Canada on April 11th.

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.

[Page 3897]

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1284

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

Whereas 17 year old Clyde Deveau is the recipient of two gold medals at the power lifting nationals in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; and

Whereas the Mayflower native captured one gold for his performance in three lifts events: squat, bench press and dead lift, and won another for his first place finish in the bench press; and

Whereas Clyde will represent Canada at the power lifting world championships to be held in September in Taiwan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Clyde Deveau on his accomplishments and wish him the best of luck at the world championships.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

[12:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed.

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1285

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

Whereas Scouts Canada has been helping to develop good citizens of the youth in Canada for more than 90 years; and

[Page 3898]

Whereas this youth movement is run almost entirely by volunteers who devote many hours to the youth they assist, with little or no recognition; and

Whereas the following Scouters have devoted 20 or more years of volunteer services to the youth of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate: Priscilla Cross, 25 years; John Cross, 35 years; Norma Lloyd, 35 years; Rev. Sandy MacDonald and Bernadette Wallworth, 25 years; Anne Snell, 20 years; Rev. Dennis Walsh, 25 years; and Mary Edwards, 35 years; for the dedication they have shown to the youth of Nova Scotia.

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1286

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

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works stated in this House that during his years sitting opposite the former provincial Leader of the NDP, Alexa McDonough, he learned to rant; and

Whereas when the federal Liberals brought down their budget earlier this year, the present federal NDP Leader, Alexa McDonough, was the only Opposition Leader to question the lack of additional health care funding in the federal budget during Question Period; and

Whereas this Tory Budget brought down by this savage Tory Government not only showed a lack of additional health care funding but other cuts as well;

[Page 3899]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government and in particular the Minister of Transportation and Public Works pay more attention to the honourable Alexa McDonough as the past Tory platform compared to the recent Tory Budget truly indicates who has the best ability to rant.

I request waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1287

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

Whereas this savage Tory Government is leaving many civil servants to wait and see about their fate; and

Whereas health care workers, prisoner guards, teachers and many other hard-working public servants have been told that "in the fullness of time" they will know their future; and

Whereas this type of treatment by this Tory Government brings to mind the Savage Government from the early 1990's;

Therefore be it resolved that the lament of the Civil Service will not be Ravaged by Savage this time but Hammered by Hamm.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1288

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

[Page 3900]

Whereas the Lent House in Freeport was slated for demolition last fall; and

Whereas Andy Moir, Chair of the Islands Economic Development Association and his wife, Christine Callaghan, successfully halted the demolition; and

Whereas the Heritage Trust donated funds for the removal of the house to a new site;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Christine Callaghan and Andy Moir and John Lazier and Heritage Trust and wish the Islands Economic Development Association well in its attempts to convert the beautiful, historic Lent House into a centre for community activities.

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.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1289

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

Whereas a well-known children's reader begins with, "See Jane, See Jane run"; and

Whereas the reader can now be amended to include "See Jane drop the education ball"; and

Whereas Nova Scotians can now see just how little regard this savage Hamm Government has for the educational needs of their children;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education stop running and trying to hide and admit that she misled the parents of Nova Scotia on teacher layoffs.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

[Page 3901]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1290

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

Whereas Mark Penny, a Grade 6 student at Joseph Giles Elementary School, recently won the Chess Federation of Canada Provincial Championship; and

Whereas Mark Penny will represent Nova Scotia at the National Championship; and

Whereas the National Championship will be held in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 5th to July 7th;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Mark Penny and wish him good luck as he represents Nova Scotia in the National Chess Championship.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 3902]

RESOLUTION NO. 1291

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

Whereas during the last session of this House, members present unanimously agreed to a resolution asking the Minister of the Environment to address complaints from area residents about the Goodwood compost facility on the Prospect Road; and

Whereas numerous concerned citizens have not heard from the minister or his staff; and

Whereas the unacceptable odours from this so-called state-of-the-art facility have had an adverse effect on businesses and residences in that area;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment immediately follow up on this unanimously agreed resolution with some action involving meaningful contact with those residents on the Prospect Road.

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 Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1292

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

Whereas in that popular game show of old, Truth or Consequences, contestants tried to discern between fact and fiction; and

Whereas since the budget was released Nova Scotians have been left to deal with the consequences of this savage Tory budget; and

Whereas the truth was not delivered to Nova Scotians in the Budget Address;

[Page 3903]

Therefore be it resolved that this savage Tory Government may be playing Truth or Consequences with the finances of the province, but it is not a game to the rest of us.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1293

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

Whereas it was noted in The Daily News today that the Minister of Finance was surprised and at a loss to explain why personal income tax revenue is only pegged for a $54,000 increase in his budget; and

Whereas it appears the Minister of Finance is blissfully unaware of what is in his own budget; and

Whereas we can only wonder how many other little gems like this await the Minister of Finance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance commit today to change this number to reflect reality opposed to fiction.

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.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I can have the concurrence of the House to return to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed by the House that we would move to Statements by Ministers?

[Page 3904]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. I am pleased to rise in the House today to announce a disaster financial assistance policy for the Province of Nova Scotia. This is the first time in history that Nova Scotia has had such a policy.

The policy will define the government aid to be provided to Nova Scotians when a natural disaster inflicts very severe, but uninsurable damages to the province. We will provide assistance to individual Nova Scotians to help them restore their primary residences to a basic level of habitability. We will provide assistance to small businesses to help them get back on their feet. We will provide assistance to municipalities to help them restore essential public services to a pre-disaster condition.

Any time a severe weather event or other disaster results in at least $1.00 per capita of eligible costs - right now for Nova Scotia, it would be around $935,000, based on $1.00 for each resident - a disaster financial assistance program will be triggered.

Eligible costs are defined under the federal government's Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, or the DFAA, a federal-provincial cost-sharing arrangement for disaster assistance. For example, if a home basement is damaged due to flooding, and the province's total eligible costs exceed the $935,000 threshold, disaster financial assistance could cover part of the cost of removing the damaged goods, drying out the basement, applying anti-fungal treatment, and essential furnace repairs. Assistance would not be provided to replace non-essential items, such as a pool table or an in-home bar.

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing I would like to make clear. Government is not in the insurance business, nor will we be. It is still an individual responsibility to insure property. Under this policy, assistance will be provided to offset the cost of repairing or replacing uninsurable losses only. In Nova Scotia, a good example of an uninsurable loss would be caused by overland flooding. Since even the best insurance policy does not cover this type of flooding, we would provide assistance if the total eligible costs exceed the $1.00 per capita threshold.

[Page 3905]

On the other hand, flooding related to sewer backup is insurable. So people who do not have insurance or people whose policies do not cover sewer-backup flooding will not be eligible to receive assistance under this policy.

For individuals and small businesses, assistance will be provided to cover eligible costs to a maximum of $50,000. A $1,000 deductible will apply. After each disaster, we will assess if assistance is warranted, in accordance with this policy. Subsequent applications will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Speaker, I started off by saying that this policy does two things, it provides for aid to Nova Scotians when a natural disaster inflicts uninsurable damage to the province, and it defines the level at which government becomes involved in disaster recovery.

I have just discussed the former in detail, now I would like to focus on the latter. Since we have taken office, this government has devoted considerable effort to assessing what business we should be in and what businesses we should not be in. Insurance is definitely a business we should not be in. Nova Scotians have always been able to rely on their neighbours and communities to help them out in tough times. In fact, the people of this province are known far and wide for their generosity and their response to human need. These characteristics are part of who we are, and I hope nothing ever changes that.

The concept behind this policy is that government will step in once the degree of assistance required is too large for the people of the community to respond on their own. We have based our criteria on when the federal government comes to share the cost of disaster financial assistance. In other words, we are taking a balanced approach to this issue. We are balancing the responsibility of the provincial government with that of municipalities, business owners and individual Nova Scotians. We believe this approach is not only balanced but also fair. Most provinces use a similar approach to providing disaster financial assistance. The deductibles and maximum payable are consistent with similar jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, there has never been an official disaster financial assistance policy in place in this province. Each time a disaster occurred, the government of the day was put on the spot about how it would respond. We have been put in that position at least twice in the short period we have been in office. We believe that an ad hoc response is not appropriate for disaster financial assistance. Nova Scotians deserve better. We now have a yardstick in place against which we will measure disasters to determine if financial assistance is warranted.

Officials at the Emergency Measures Organization will use this same yardstick to determine if an assistance program is warranted in any or all of the three weather-related disasters which struck this province in this past year.

[Page 3906]

[12:45 p.m.]

In short, Mr. Speaker, this policy will allow government to be more responsive to requests for disaster following a storm, flood or other disaster. Thank you very much.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to have an opportunity to respond to this announcement by the minister with respect to the Disaster Financial Assistance Policy. I was pleased to receive it in advance so I had an opportunity to review its contents.

I do think it is ironic that it comes out in the middle of the budget, although I notice the school boards don't qualify. I would say this about this announcement today, in fact, it is a good thing to have these provisions set out for people in advance so that when there is a disaster, when there is a natural calamity people have an opportunity in advance to have a look at what provisions are going to govern any kind of assistance they are going to receive. That goes a long way towards removing uncertainty from peoples' lives at a time when things are very uncertain. In that regard, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a positive announcement today.

I would say I think, and the minister would know this, yesterday I tabled in this House a petition with respect to the residents of Range Road in Grand Desert with respect to an emergency measures matter. The reason I mention that is because it is not enough just to assist people after a disaster occurs. We have to be looking towards some kind of a disaster protection fund and we have to look at putting in place, I know the department talks about a culture of preparedness and we have to look at a way to prepare in advance, to see that disasters don't happen. That means keeping the infrastructure in place and putting in place the money that is required in order to do the things that will see to it that not only can we assist people after a disaster, but that we can see to it that they don't occur in the first place, if they are at all preventable.

The other thing I would point out is that the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the minister may know, has circulated to all the parties a model for the disaster protection fund that they have been pushing and part of it includes that after a disaster occurs and there is disaster assistance rendered, that a certain portion of money will also be allocated to go toward trying to prevent it from ever happening again. That, I think, makes a good deal of sense to people, that once you know a particular calamity can occur, if there is a way to see to it that it doesn't occur again that you make the changes at the time, so that people can be reassured.

With those comments, Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the announcement today. Thank you.

[Page 3907]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to rise today and respond to the statement by the minister.

First, I want to thank the minister for providing us not only with the statement, but with the release, the fact sheet and everything else. I commend him and staff of EMO for making this information available to us as soon as possible. I also want to thank my colleague, the MLA for Victoria who is our usual Critic for the Emergency Measures Organization, but because this issue touches directly home for me, I wanted to respond to it. As many members of the House will know, in late January of this year a severe storm hit the southern part of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable members could just turn down their personal volumes a little bit.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: In late January of this year, a severe storm hit the southern coast of Cape Breton and the Guysborough area whereby there was a combination of extremely high tides with gale force winds which caused serious damage throughout our coastline. As a result of that, I met with my municipal councillors two nights later and we immediately declared that there had been a disaster in our area. We immediately called upon the provincial government to respond to this. Shortly after that we met with the minister himself, staff from EMO to discuss this very issue, and I want to thank the minister and his staff for having met with us, especially Mike Lester, Mike Myette and John Perkins, who have worked very diligently on this. Certainly I believe it is our efforts which have encouraged the government to come forward with this plan and I am pleased to see a plan that has been put in place.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the first part of this plan which jumps out as not having been covered is that fishermen in our communities, who are the ones most devastated by the storm, have been completely forgotten in this plan. This plan specifically says that it will not compensate damage for loss of fishing wharves, structures on wharves, or any of the contents in those structures. I have fishermen who woke up the morning after the storm to see that they no longer had a wharf. I had fishermen who had fishing wharves along the shore which they haven't found yet; they are still looking for them.

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the lobster season is going to be opening on May 15th, possibly earlier, for our region. Fishermen have waited patiently to see what this government would do to assist them to prepare for the lost gear, loss of wharves, loss of sheds, and this plan, unfortunately it specifically excludes any compensation to fishermen. I would ask the minister to reconsider that, because while I have heard the argument that wharves fall under the feds, a private wharf, by a private fisherman, does not fall under federal jurisdiction, so that is not an excuse.

[Page 3908]

Another thing is the policy specifically says it will assist small businesses, which I applaud. But, my God, in this day and age, if this government has not come to realize that fishermen are small businessmen, they own boats, they have wharves, they have sheds, they are small, independent businesses, yet they are not being recognized under this policy.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister will seriously reconsider this. We had serious damage at Chapel Cove wharf, L'Archeveque Harbour wharf, Little Anse Harbour wharf, all used by communities of fishermen. Mr. George Martell and Mr. Clarence Goyetche, long-time wharves which had been in their families have completely disappeared, along with the structures on them.

The other issue, Mr. Speaker, which I hope the minister and his staff will be able to clarify, is the issue of property erosion. While I certainly do not expect that the minister will be able to cover all erosion that has occurred because of the storm, we have specific cases where people's homes are now in trouble because of this last storm. They have lost what little protection they had. I think of: Mrs. Edith Hearn, a senior, the night of the storm the water was hitting against her house; Mr. Bernie Poirier, who had actually spent money - he is retired now - to fix a bank along his property had the same incident, where water was going against his windows. I visited him, and his windows were white, you could not see through them for the salt that was on them; Mr. Mark Samson, Little Anse, with this family, the same thing, their home is in danger; and Mr. Briand, L'Ardoise, was forced out of his home the night of the storm.

I certainly hope that when the minister and his officials meet with the municipal officials they will use compassion with this policy, and they are willing to see this policy as a living document and a document that can be expanded upon and it will grow in areas where they see they haven't really addressed, and that they will use compassion for the people most seriously hit by this. Guysborough, Little Dover, is another area. With the MLA for Guysborough, I hope they will give consideration to that.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the municipal officials in Richmond for their cooperation on this. I thank the minister again, and hope EMO will move forward with this to the benefit of those most affected by these disasters.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will expire at 1:54 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 3909]

EDUC. - TEACHERS: LAY-OFFS - CLARIFY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. This government's disastrous budget claims that only 400 teaching positions will be lost. We now know that two bodies that actually know what the situation is - school boards and the Teachers Union - vehemently disagree with that figure. Now at the same time, you have the minister who, inside and outside of this House, has guaranteed that no teacher lay-offs will be necessary because, she says, the 400 job losses will be achieved simply by not replacing teachers who are retiring.

What I want to ask the Premier, will he stand in his place today and ensure that the guarantee of the minister is in fact the guarantee of the government, that there will be no teacher lay-offs as a result of this budget?

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

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, in reply to the member opposite, I would like to say today that there is obviously such a discrepancy between the numbers supplied by my department and the numbers supplied by the board that our meeting on Monday is going to be a lot more interesting than what I had thought. These numbers do have to be reconciled, I admit that, but I do say that the numbers being touted by the school boards would result in a far bigger loss of teaching positions than we anticipate, plan for, want, or will tolerate.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am going to stay with the Premier for this one, anyway, and see where we go. Mr. Speaker, I have a letter here from David Reid, Superintendent of the Halifax Regional School Board, to principals and school council chairs, dated April 12th. The letter says, "It is no exaggeration to say that the indicated funding would devastate our system . . .". It goes on and says, "The Department's calculations and assumptions are quite incorrect and suggest a truly questionable grasp of the data and the implications for students should the proposals be implemented."

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, will he take steps, immediately, to discover and report what went wrong with the preparation of the Education budget, and to immediately correct what has been a miscalculation of historic proportions?

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

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the department made certain assumptions when making its budget numbers. The school boards are working from other assumptions. We are meeting on Monday to put those figures together, to come to a reconciliation.

[Page 3910]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this government tabled a budget that says that 400 teaching positions are going to be lost. Now, throughout the education system in this province, people are talking about 800, 1,200 teaching positions being lost, and this Minister of Education doesn't have a clue.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that is shocking, absolutely shocking.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Minister of Education, given this unbelievable admission today, that she doesn't have a clue what is going on, and the devastation that is being caused in the education system, will she agree to withdraw her budget . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our budget calls for a 3 per cent reduction in the boards, not 1,000 teachers, not 800 teachers. That is absurd. When we were making the budget, we were talking a 3 per cent reduction in boards, and we are seeking that. We will be talking with the boards on Monday about that.

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

EDUC. - FUNDING FORMULA REVIEW WORK GROUP:

MIN. - MEET

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. In a press release on October 27th, the minister extolled the virtues of the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group. This group consisted of members of each of the seven school boards; the Nova Scotia School Boards Association; and the Departments of Education, Finance, Housing, and Municipal Affairs. She said the group's advice would be considered as early as possible in the government's budget planning process. I want to ask this minister, can the minister tell us the last time she met and discussed school board funding issues with this group?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this group has not met since early winter. The groups' meetings were postponed until after the budget when they could deal with real numbers.

[Page 3911]

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this group wasn't allowed to meet at all. She wonders why she has a difference of opinion with the school boards. Margaret Forbes, the head of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association said that usually school boards are in on the budget planning process but they weren't allowed to be this time. Why weren't the school boards allowed to be in on the budget planning process? I want the Minister of Education to tell this Legislature today.

MISS PURVES: I have no knowledge about what was done in previous budgets. The school boards were not involved in the detailed planning of the budget this year. This year's budget, Mr. Speaker, was a very tough budget, a very difficult budget. There was less involvement by groups because tougher decisions had to be made.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Education has told the press that there wasn't consultation because the budget planning process is secret. There has always been consultation with the school boards and with people who can help. The result may be secret until the budget is given, but consultations take place. This government brought forward this disastrous budget, particularly the education provisions in a vacuum with this minister and a few people who had little to contribute . . .

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

MR. MACLELLAN: Why wasn't there consultation with groups who could add something when this budget process was being developed?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, many of the concerns of the school boards that were discussed before the budget came out were, in fact, incorporated in the education plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC.: ACTIVE YOUNG READER PROG. - FUNDING

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. There is at least one thing that this budget is full of and that is hidden costs, hidden agendas and hidden half truths. A perfect example is the new child literacy initiative called, The Active Young Reader Program. According to the budget documents, $1.5 million has been set aside for this new program, but according to department officials, this is not new money but a reallocation from the existing budget of $7.6 million for textbooks and resources. My question to the minister, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth that more books for some, mean fewer books for others?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the money devoted to childhood programs and young adult literacy programs is all redirected from within the budget. There is no new money here. It is redirected to the priorities that we care about.

[Page 3912]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, this is a budget about betrayal: betrayal of hope and betrayal of promises. The Conservatives in their cynical election platform promised they would, address the need for additional resources for students with special needs. Now, school boards are saying, this disastrous budget will result in cuts to special education not increases. That wasn't mentioned anywhere in the blue book or in the budget. My question to the minister is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth that this budget means cuts to students with special needs?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are telling Nova Scotians the truth. We are saying that everyone has to make sacrifices. This is not an ideal world. We cannot have one teacher per child throughout the system as much as we would like to do so.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this minister suspended the Funding Formula Review Work Group, she hired a deputy minister and then loaned him out to New Brunswick for a while. This minister said yesterday, larger class sizes are okay and if the kids don't fit, then we will just build larger classrooms. This minister said there would be no cuts to education.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I guess she fooled us all, didn't she? My final question to the minister, what do students, parents and teachers have to hope for from this minister who does not seem to know her job?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, a good education.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC.: CURRICULUM - CUTS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. In order that Nova Scotian students keep up-to-date and current with our changing world and become effective contributors to our ever-shrinking global society, it is important for them to be taught the latest and most up-to-date curriculum in all subject areas. In answering questions yesterday, the Minister of Education stated that despite the funding cutbacks, there would be no program cuts.

Speaking of telling the truth, my question is, school board superintendents throughout Nova Scotia have been informed that there will be significant cuts in curriculum development and implementation in the coming year. Will this minister please explain to the House why superintendents are receiving this news when the minister said there would be no cuts to programs?

[Page 3913]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, a slowing down of the curriculum implementation is one of the requests that I received from all school boards when I was visiting them all fall and this winter. The pace of change has been too fast and they can't keep up with some of the demands the department has been making on them.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the minister has stated that the emphasis in programs for the coming school year would be at the Primary to Grade 6 level, yet her department has cancelled the following Primary to Grade 6 curriculum development initiatives: Primary to Grade 6, science; Primary to Grade 8, social studies; and Primary to Grade 6, music. Can the minister tell this House why these initiatives are being cancelled?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, many initiatives are being delayed, others are being implemented. That is all part of a strategy and it is part of what has been requested by the school administrators.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, not only is this department cancelling curriculum development initiatives, they are also cancelling the implementation of 22 new curricula including Primary to Grade 8, science; Primary to Grade 6, health; Grade 10 to Grade 12, business education; Grade 11, agricultural agrifood; Grade 11, Gaelic culture; Grade 10 to Grade 12, economics; Grade 12, African heritage literature; and Grade 12, geology.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to table the list of these new programs and these 22 curricula that have been cancelled because I am sure that parents, students and staff have not been told. So they can certainly get a copy of this. My question to the minister, could she please explain with all these cancellations how Nova Scotians will keep up with their counterparts in schools all over the world who every day are being exposed to new curriculum and learning techniques?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would be quite happy to supply the House with a list of curricula that is still being implemented and I would suggest that someone take a look at that list and then ask themselves how children can possibly cope with all that new curriculum and is all that old curricula (Interruptions) We prefer to concentrate on literacy, math and science.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before I recognize the honourable member who is about to place the next question, I wonder if all honourable members who are placing questions could try to shorten up the preamble leading into their final supplementaries, a little bit, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 3914]

EDUC. - SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD HS: MATH CLASS - SIZE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. As you might expect, recent comments on the topic of class size by yourself and the Finance Minister have attracted the interest of students, teachers and parents. Last evening, I had the occasion to meet with three of my students. Laura Boutilier, a student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School has a question for you, Madam Minister. She is concerned about her math mark. How is Laura Boutilier of Sir John A. Macdonald High School to receive one-on-one help with her math concern in a class of more than 40?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are very few classes in Nova Scotia with more than 40 students in them. I am sure that Laura can receive one-on-one help with her math from one of the teachers in the school.

MR. ESTABROOKS: You know, Mr. Speaker, teachers are angry. They are not just mad, they are angry. They are frustrated. I had a teacher call me last night who said this minister is unaware. This minister is "stupid". Mark Cuming, Brookside Junior High School; Mr. Cuming wants to know, Madam Minister, do you understand the connection between drop-out rates and huge class sizes?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the drop-out rates in Nova Scotia are a real concern, so are literacy rates and numerous other problems that have plagued our province and our school system for a number of years and we are trying to do something about those problems.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter that was addressed to the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank from Pam Streeter, a resident of Hammonds Plains. Ms. Streeter, in her letter, says, "To hear that further cuts are going to be made at the provincial level to education is unbelievable." Madam Minister, what are you going to tell the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank to respond to that concerned parent, Pam Streeter of Hammonds Plains?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I say to that concerned parent is what I say to other people and what I say to myself. The status quo is not an option. We cannot let these children grow up with the debt growing and growing. What will happen to their children? How will we pay for their education? How will we pay for their health care? Something has to be done and we are doing it.

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

EDUC. - CLASS SIZE: INCREASE - SAFETY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question, as well, is to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education has decided that class sizes of 40 and 50 students

[Page 3915]

wouldn't significantly impact on the quality of education. My question to the minister directly is, when the minister decided that class size was not an issue, did she take into consideration that under her proposed plan, all existing classrooms in the Province of Nova Scotia would be in violation of the fire marshal's safety rules and would be putting students at risk?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I was not advocating, nor do I advocate large class sizes. I was answering a hypothetical question. I gave a hypothetical answer. I should have learned by now not to do that, but I did. If anyone is asking me if children can still learn in a class of 50, I would say they can. I am not advocating it.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that the average class size is 25, I fear not go there. I would have expected the Minister of Education would either be unwilling or incapable of answering that question, given the performance to date, so I would again ask the minister if she has, in fact, checked the regulations that dictate the size of a class, on the square footage per student basis, and, if she has, what discussions has she had with the Fire Marshal's Office to ensure that Nova Scotia's classrooms are providing a safe learning environment?

[1:15 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, since I am not advocating classes of 50 students, I have not discussed the issue with the fire marshal.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the minister isn't able to answer these questions, so I would ask the minister responsible for the Fire Marshal's Office if the minister would ensure that the Minister of Education in no way compromises the safety of students by increasing class sizes and violating the fire marshal's regulations?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, we are witnessing, from this honourable member, fear-mongering of the worst kind and he is using fear-mongering to deal with educational issues. (Interruptions) The regulations are there, and the regulations will be complied with.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): IMPACT - CONSULTATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education, through the Minister of Finance, has tabled a budget where they talked about eliminating 400 teaching positions in the education system. But as people in the education system began to see what was happening, what they have come back with are figures that are different - much higher - to the tune of 1,200, in

[Page 3916]

some cases. The Minister of Education said here today that she doesn't understand why there is a discrepancy in those figures.

I want to ask the Minister of Education, who did she or her officials consult with when they decided what their budget was going to look like in the Department of Education? Did she not understand the impact that her budget was going to have on education in this province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our department was looking, as I said, for a 3 per cent reduction from the public education system, and that is what we asked for. The discrepancy between other numbers is something that is going to be discussed on Monday.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am getting a real clear sense here that the minister, with help from the Minister of Finance, maybe, and his officials, sat down and said, all right, we are just going to cut the Education budget by 3 per cent. They didn't ask anybody, they didn't say, what impact is that going to have; they didn't say, this is what we want to accomplish; they just said 3 per cent. This minister can't seem to explain why the stakeholders in Education are now telling her that her budget is going to devastate school boards and education in the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister to either tell us that that is, in fact, what happened, that she cut 3 per cent out without asking anybody, or tell us what her plan was, and where the 400 positions are going to come from?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the 400 positions are to come from retirement and attrition. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, there were assumptions made in putting together that budget, there were assumptions made that we will be explaining to the school boards on Monday.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am truly baffled by what is going on here. (Interruption) The Minister of Finance, who is shooting his face off over there, is the one that is responsible for tabling a budget that is devastating the education system with an Education Minister who doesn't have a clue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Education, who doesn't seem to be able to answer any questions, will she table in this House, today, the basis upon which she made these cuts to the Department of Education, including her plan for allowing class sizes to grow to 50, for cutting out curriculum options, and making the other changes that she is making in the Department of Education? Where is the plan? Table it here today.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what is devastating to the education system is all this rhetoric. Thank you very much.

[Page 3917]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - FRENCH LANGUAGE: GRANTS - REDUCTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House the Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond is trying to place a question. Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Yesterday in this House, the Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs took offence when I said that this government had abandoned the Acadians of Nova Scotia. I want the minister to know that I stand behind what I said yesterday and the facts speak for themselves. My question to the Minister of Education today will further substantiate what I said yesterday. Can the minister explain why, if this government is so committed to Acadian culture, there has been a $1 million reduction in grants to French language education?

HON. JANE PURVES: All areas of the Department of Education have had to cut back on administration and that includes the French-Acadian areas, as well as English areas and other areas. We are cutting administration.

MR. SAMSON: There is a big difference between administration and cutting from the classroom to these Acadian programs. My next question to the Minister of Education is will the minister explain why there has been an increase of $2 million in the grant to the Nova Scotia Community College, the English language system, while at the same time the grant to the Collège L'Acadie, the French language college, has been reduced by this government by $500,000?

MISS PURVES: I would like to tell the member opposite that we are strongly committed to the Acadian culture. We continue to be committed to it. I would like to say that in spite of cuts to administration, this government continues to spend far more per student on French and Acadians in this province than they do on English.

MR. SAMSON: It is becoming more and more absurd listening to this minister. My final supplementary, if this government and this minister is so committed to French and Acadian education, will the minister explain to this House, and to Acadians throughout the province, why she has blatantly and continually refused to meet and speak to Acadian parents' groups throughout this province?

[Page 3918]

MISS PURVES: I don't feel I have to explain something I haven't done. There is one group that I have not met with yet that I plan to meet with. I have met with Acadian parents, I have met with the Collège de L'Acadie board, and I have met with members of the CSAP school board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

COMMUN. SERV. - BUDGET (2000-01):

FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION INITIATIVE - EXCLUSION

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. Another hidden casualty in the budget was the Family Violence Prevention Initiative. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative distributed over 150,000 fact sheets a year to women, children, men, communities, and professionals, teaching them about the impact of family violence on the home, on kids, and on society. This is information that the public wanted. I want to ask the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, why didn't you tell women, who are the main victims of family violence, that you don't think family violence prevention is important?

HON. JANE PURVES: I do think the prevention of family violence is important, but I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Your question is a good one because the initiatives that you referred to were the initiatives that were housed in the Department of Community Services that started some years ago. That was the coordination issue for all the departments who brought it together. The honourable member will be very aware that funding in our transition houses and our women's centres has been increased over the last two years. The direct reason for that is so they can direct those programs and provide those programs to families all across the province.

MS. O'CONNELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, they certainly don't seem to know that at the transition houses and at the women's centres. My question this time is to the Minister of Community Services. Will the Minister of Community Services commit today that the same level and quality of services provided by the Family Violence Prevention Initiative will continue to be provided to the public and that those agencies and services, which will be delivering the services, will be adequately funded to do the work?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will know that recently the Department of Health announced that they are going to do training for people on the front lines. You will notice, and remember, that the Department of Justice has been doing training for people on the front lines. We are not prepared to stay with the status quo. We are going to make it better. We have talked with the transition houses and the women's centres to deliver those programs and they are going to do it as part of their mandate.

[Page 3919]

MS. O'CONNELL: I say again, Mr. Speaker, that the ones we spoke to don't seem to know that they are supposed to be doing this. My final question is for the Premier. Eight weeks ago the Premier and this same Minister of Community Services stood side by side with community workers and staff of the initiative, who are now all gone, and proclaimed Family Violence Prevention Week. It is all gone. So my question to the Premier is, why didn't you tell the truth that day? Why won't you tell Nova Scotians the truth today, that you never intended to fulfil that commitment and that your promises are empty?

THE PREMIER: I would like to respond that this government is committed to programs that will deter family violence. We are going to deliver them a different way because the status quo is not an option for this government. It is not an option for this province. The only ones who think so are the people opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PROG.: CO-PAY - INCREASE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Finance in his Budget Address said in future years that Pharmacare premiums and the co-pay will be tied to two things: the rising costs of drugs and utilization increases. Based on the rate of growth of Pharmacare over the past three years, by the year 2003-04, the last year of this government's mandate, and hopefully the last ever, the Pharmacare premium at that time will be $430 and the maximum co-pay would be up to $700, a total of $1,130. My question to the minister is very simply, how does the minister expect the average senior citizen to cover this kind of a cost?

HON. JAMES MUIR: It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, to know that the honourable members can do arithmetic now because they certainly couldn't do it when they were in power. (Interruptions) Projections were not very good then.

That is a hypothetical thing, a hypothetical question, and there are pressures, there is no question, in the cost of pharmaceuticals. We will be working this out, Mr. Speaker, as we said, on a number of occasions in conjunction with seniors and we will take it from there.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is the group over there that was going to do away with the premium on Pharmacare.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Right on.

DR. SMITH: The reason that Pharmacare was brought in, Mr. Speaker, as we all know, was to protect seniors from rising costs and also because seniors themselves, like a lot of other people with employment, cannot get private plans. My question to the minister is, how

[Page 3920]

does the minister justify punishing seniors by raising Pharmacare premiums and co-pay without any protection for drug inflation?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. When the Pharmacare Program was introduced, it was on a 50/50 basis. The current contribution, as it will be in this fiscal year, will be an 80 per cent contribution from the government. We are concerned about the sustainability of all aspects of the health care system, including the Seniors' Pharmacare Program, and we hope that we can protect it. The seniors understand that if the program is to be sustainable, some participation is necessary and we will work with the seniors to find a level of participation which is fair and one that can be afforded.

[1:30 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the seniors must be protected from the rising cost of drugs. It is not their fault that they have to take this medication. Will the minister commit today to protecting seniors from drug inflation instead of punishing them for it?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I wish I could protect everybody from drug inflation, to be quite frank. One of the things that this government has done is committed a significant amount of money for lifestyle education and one of the ways we would help to control these costs, not only for seniors but for all Nova Scotians who are in our health care system, is to do a little bit better on the lifestyle practices and the things that we can do to help us ensure that we are not a great burden on the health care system.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - CHILD BENEFIT PROG. (NATL.):

CLAWBACK - CONTINUANCE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. You know the more I look at this budget, and the more I talk to people in communities, the more I realize that this budget is an attack on the poor. Let me take the Premier back to the summer and in the blue book where he specifically mentioned that if they got into government, they were going to eliminate the clawback on the National Child Tax Benefit. It was only a few months ago. Now, in this budget, they have decided that they will not eliminate the clawback on the National Child Tax Benefit. My question to the Premier is, why couldn't the Premier tell the truth last summer, that he never intended to remove the National Child Tax Benefit clawback?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that it is going to take us four years to deliver all of our commitments. (Interruptions) In answering the question, it does give me an opportunity that the members of the New Democratic Party, who joined with this government in defeating the previous Liberal Government because of their

[Page 3921]

uncontrolled spending practices, are now encouraging us to do the very same thing that we defeated the Liberal Government for doing.

MR. DEVEAUX: You know, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that I am going to take lessons in math from a Premier who puts out a budget like this and I will give him one very specific example. The clawback is taking from the poorest people in this province $15 million and yet the government is only giving $11 million back in programs to those same people. Now, here is a math lesson, that is $4 million the government is taking away from the poor and not giving back to them. (Interruptions)

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest there are two reasons for this. One is that this government enjoys stealing money from the poor and keeping it for government programs and the second is that he knows and believes that he can spend that money better than those families. My question to this Premier is, when will this government tell the truth, that it is not about caring for helping the poor of Nova Scotia but it is more concerned about taking money from them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite (Interruptions) fails to understand that if the government does not take strong action, if we do not get our expenditures under control, that we will sink in a sea of red ink and no Nova Scotian will benefit for that, no Nova Scotian.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this is about telling the truth and if this is really about red ink and trying to get rid of it, then maybe the Premier can answer this for me. Why is he taking $4 million from the poorest people in this province while at the same time spending more money on the minister's office and perks for minister's staff?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can show the member, if he would take a careful look, we were very selective as to where we looked for savings in government. (Interruptions) What we have done is we have protected the three main areas of government interests: health, education and community services; but we could not avoid coming to grips with the fiscal reality that we owe $11 billion (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER Order, please. Order.

THE PREMIER: We have a $767 million deficit.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - GUYSBOROUGH: JAIL - CLOSURE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General. Yesterday, the Daily News quoted the Justice Minister in regard to jail

[Page 3922]

closures across the province. The minister called Guysborough, "a bed and breakfast jail". The Guysborough jail was built and operated to provincial specifications. The suitability of this jail has never been in question. The minister himself visited the municipal building last year and knows for a fact that his statements about the jail were wrong. My question today, Mr. Speaker, will the minister admit he was either wrong or misinformed about the conditions of the Guysborough jail?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, would be, no. The long answer would be that we have a facility in Guysborough that houses very few inmates. On many occasions we have more people working there than are housed there. That isn't a very effective use of taxpayers' dollars.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the minister went on to say that they couldn't even lock in the prisoners because they couldn't close the door because it led to the Municipal Chamber; again, something which is incorrect. Guysborough Municipal Council met last night, they called the minister's rude comments, "inaccurate, insensitive and insulting". They decided to invite the minister to apologize for his misinformed remarks. My question is, will the minister apologize to the Corrections officers and to the community of Guysborough for his insulting comments?

MR. BAKER: The short answer is, no.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, the good people of Guysborough will judge the minister's arrogance for themselves. My final supplementary, the Municipal Government Act states our province must give municipalities a one year notice before any changes to funding agreements signed with the municipal units. The provincial government is committed to outstanding payments on the lease on justice facilities in Guysborough. My question, is the Department of Justice going to honour its remaining funding commitment to the Municipality of Guysborough?

MR. BAKER: The difficulty with this, Mr. Speaker, is that the honourable member fails to look at the picture. The picture in this province is that we have a correctional system with far more capacity and far outdated institutions. We have to do the right thing by Nova Scotians. With respect to legal commitments, the Province of Nova Scotia will honour all of its legal commitments.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - BUDGET (2000-01): DISABLED - CUTS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. This budget really shows the cruelty of the Minister of Community Services. It was only a few months ago he offered a fuel rebate where he said everyone who is poor or who

[Page 3923]

was a senior in this province would have an opportunity to receive a rebate in fuel costs, when, in fact, he knew that program was destined to fail. Now, we have the same minister, in his budget, promoting a $900 cut in the benefits to those who are disabled in this province and cannot work. My question to this minister is, why is he picking on the sickest and poorest in Nova Scotia?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member is incorrect. When the new rates start, May 1st, people on those rates will not decrease, and the member knows that. The member also knows that when the new rates come in for people coming on, they will be more eligible for special needs and for all those things they have wanted. That is what people have told us. The disabled have said they want to be treated the same as others but we have to recognize their special needs and that is what we have done.

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is funny, I guess the minister is hearing from the disabled and the poor who all want to be treated more poorly than they are now. This is the same government that last year said it was an accident that they were cutting the Disability Access Program. Now we really see what their plan is for the people with disabilities in this province. The people who are going to be going on assistance this year, who have a disability and cannot work, are going to be going from $8,500 a year to $7,600 a year. So my question to this minister is, what does he say to the disabled people who cannot afford food and shelter with $900 less a year?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raised two questions. If the honourable member reads a little further in his budget, he will find that the access program has been restored this year. That was the program that we had talked about with the LEO group. We had made a commitment with them. We had discussed that last year and the honourable member will see that that is in there. (Applause)

MR. DEVEAUX: Do you know what else I found in this budget? While he is taking money away from the disabled, the minister has time to find money to hire himself a new assistant deputy minister to make his job easier. So my question to the minister is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth? You found money to help yourself, but you didn't find money to help the disabled.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has not gone through the budget far enough yet. If the honourable member goes through the budget, he will find that two people came into the department and two people went off to Economic Development. His indication that our department has gone up with an extra person is incorrect.

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

[Page 3924]

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 101 TWINNING:

STUDY - COMPLETION

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: A question, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. There has been much discussion recently over the twinning of Highway No. 101. As a result, the government put out a tender to have a study done on ways to improve safety on Highway No. 101; the approximate value of the tender being $30,000. The minister said at the time that Highway No. 101 was his top priority, bids were due by March 31st. My question to the minister is, when is this study scheduled to be completed?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe that that study is either completed or almost completed. When the study becomes available to the department, it will become available to the public.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, despite Highway No. 101 being the minister's top priority, the minister also awarded, without going to tender, a $40,000 contract to an Ontario consultant to do a study on the safety of the Antigonish bypass on Highway No. 104. The reason given by the minister for the lack of a tender call was that the Antigonish bypass was the top priority. Could the minister tell the House which project is actually the top priority - the twinning of Highway No. 101 or the Highway No. 104, Antigonish bypass?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, all roads are equally important. However, the Antigonish bypass is a 10 year program. As the honourable member I am sure is aware, the department must obtain right-of-way for future projects and the earlier you do that, the cheaper you can get the particular property. The report from the group that is doing the peer review of the bypass, I believe, has reported to the department. I have not as yet seen the report myself but, however, I expect that I will be seeing that within the next week to 10 days or so and, once again, that report will be made available to the public.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, we look forward to those reports being made public and certainly at that time we will learn the names and particulars of the consultants from Ontario that have prepared this particular document. I take it that the minister then is not yet in the position to advise the House which route has been recommended by the consultant, the red route, the blue route, the brown route, or maybe some other colour of route, but would the minister apprise the House as to when it is anticipated that we might learn which colour of the rainbow will be selected by the consultant from Ontario?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, obviously, that peer review will be available and will be . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Reviewing the review.

[Page 3925]

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: No, it will not be reviewing the review. It will be deciding on which route we are going to proceed on. When that report becomes available, as I said it will be available to the public. I would also advise the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova that there has been no secret as to the various consultants were. They were in the press release. I don't have that information in front of me, but if he wants to find out who was doing the review, give me a call.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): JOB CUTS (DEPTS.) - DETAIL

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. When this government ran for office, it never mentioned that it would be relocating jobs from rural Nova Scotia to metro. The Premier never mentioned, for example, that Corrections jobs in Kentville and Truro would be lost because he was closing those jails and moving inmates to Halifax. Will the Premier tell the truth about the jobs he is cutting by tabling, in the House today, a complete breakdown of job cuts by county, and how many jobs are you cutting in rural Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that the budget and the Budget Address contained a number of initiatives that result in jobs being made available in parts of rural Nova Scotia. What the member opposite is referring to is the fact that, yes, there will be fewer jobs in the public sector, but we will make the employees themselves aware of that before we will give the member opposite any list.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Premier could table a list of the jobs he is creating in rural Nova Scotia.

The Premier has tried to claim the farmers of Nova Scotia are behind his budget, but now that they are finding out what is really in it, that support no longer seems so strong, and the member for Inverness has some explaining to do at home. The Agricultural College is cut by $1 million; seven agricultural centres are closing; and the Federation of Agriculture was caught off-guard by a 20 per cent budget cut that targets services to farmers. Why did you mislead farmers to enlist their support when your intention was to cut services to farming in rural Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a question for the Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to note, when you look in the budget, that the Department of Agriculture's budget is practically the same as it was last year, only there is additional funding going to new programs to allow new entrants to the

[Page 3926]

industry, and service delivery empowers the industry to choose their priorities and establish the path that they will follow. As far as the issue of consultation with the Federation of Agriculture, they were consulted through the entire process, and certainly approve.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I know the council of leaders didn't approve cutting jobs, cutting services; this government even chopped the Community Economic Development budget in half. That is not what rural Nova Scotians are expecting. I ask the Premier, why didn't you tell rural Nova Scotians during the election that your real goal was to move jobs to the city and cut agriculture?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reason I didn't say that is because that is not our intention, and that is not what we are doing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

ECON. DEV. - CAPE SMOKEY: FUNDING - COMMITMENT

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development has not had a question yet today, so I am sure he is waiting for my question. The minister knows that Cape Smokey makes a major contribution to the economy of Ingonish and the area. The minister knows that the previous government committed funding of $100,000 over two years, so that Cape Smokey could lever $640 million from the federal government for modern snow-making equipment. Why won't the minister honour this commitment to Cape Smokey and the people of northern Cape Breton?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my department did, after a great deal of deliberation, agree to forward $50,000 in funding for one year, so that organization could clearly undertake a review of a business plan that would be viable. One only has to look at the weather patterns over the last few years to realize that there is not a whole lot of future in investing in a ski hill in Atlantic Canada.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable minister for his answer, but I am not very happy with it. The minister has committed to the theme park in his own backyard, $300,000 annually. Does the minister feel it is fair to honour that commitment and not honour a commitment to the people of northern Cape Breton?

MR. BALSER: The arrangement with Upper Clements park is 10 years old, it is actually in its seventh year now and certainly it is one of the many programs that is under review. Each year for the last number of years, for the last seven, the province has contributed $300,000 in an operating grant. We simply honoured an existing contract.

[Page 3927]

MR. MACASKILL: Commitments were made to Cape Smokey for longer than 10 years. I want to ask the minister, what plans does the minister have to assist the area of Cape Smokey and northern Cape Breton if this facility is allowed to close?

MR. BALSER: What we have agreed to, in consultation with the group responsible for Cape Smokey, is to work with them to develop a viable business plan, one that creates sustainable employment, one that is not dependent solely on seasonal activities with very little opportunity for success. The department will work with groups that have real, viable business plans. We will no longer sustain endless funding to projects that cannot even recover the costs of operation.

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

GOV'T. (N.S.) - OPENNESS: PROMISE - UNFULFILLED

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this Premier campaigned on a platform of open and accountable government. Yesterday he was singing a different tune. Yesterday he told Nova Scotians that he won't release the list of job cuts, he won't release the list of program cuts, he won't release the list of user fees; our open and accountable Premier said that the Opposition could ferret out these details over the next few weeks. My question to the Premier is, why are you treating Nova Scotians with such contempt?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that the Minister of Finance talked about the user fees that this government will be adjusting during the course of the upcoming year. This government has prepared and provided the people of Nova Scotia with the most complete platform in living memory and this government is committed to providing that kind of government. We are going to do exactly what it is we said we are going to do: we are going to balance the budget and we are going to give Nova Scotians a future.

MR. DEXTER: We discovered yesterday that there was $5 million in new hospital user fees built into the acute care budget. That wasn't in the blue book, wasn't even in the budget detail. My question to the Premier, why won't you table in this House a complete list of user fees? Why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth?

THE PREMIER: This government has provided more information to the people of Nova Scotia, both at election time and thereafter, than any government in living memory. The difficulty with the members opposite is, in the environment in which they operate, it has been so long since they have heard the truth, they wouldn't recognize it when they see it.

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

[Page 3928]

On an introduction, the honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to the attention of members of the House, seated in the west gallery a friend of mine from the great County of Victoria, Ross Amey. His wife has undergone major surgery and is now in the rehab centre, so I want the House to welcome Ross Amey in our midst this afternoon. Give him a warm welcome and wish his wife well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to draw to the attention of members of the House to the east gallery, where we are joined today by some employees of the Department of Education. These workers work here in metro on Kempt Road in the Learning Resource and Technology Division and with the Nova Scotia Provincial Library. They are here on their lunch break to observe the important debate that we are having. I would like people to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the House and acknowledge the presence of the Chairperson of the Halifax Regional School Board, Stella Campbell, in the west gallery. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to all our visitors in the gallery.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1086.

Res. No. 1086, Estimates - Comm. of the Whole House on Supply - notice given April 6/2000 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid who has approximately 45 minutes.

[Page 3929]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I also would like to extend my words of welcome to the visitors in the gallery.

When I finished my remarks on Tuesday afternoon, I did so by asking this question, ". . . when did the Tories tear up their blue book and the commitments they made to Nova Scotians during last summer's election?" Smaller government, Mr. Speaker, was not mentioned in the 243 promises. The Premier made 243 promises in his blue book to get elected. Those aren't his only promises but that is a lot. The words smaller government do not appear once in the text of those 243 promises, not once. The words smaller government aren't in the Premier's letter to Nova Scotians. They aren't on Page 1, Page 3 or any other of the 29 pages of promises that were packed like sardines into that blue book.

There was one promise to reduce government by reducing the size of Cabinet. The words smaller government did appear, Mr. Speaker. They appeared once. They aren't in the pages of promises. They show up . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I apologize, honourable member. I thought another member was standing on a point of order or something.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that that honourable member would be willing to add on extra time, should I need it, at the end.

They appear once. They aren't in the pages of promises. They show up in the checklist of highlights at the back where smaller government is explained as, "Reduce Cabinet" and "Eliminate needless government". That is a checklist that Nova Scotians were told to keep handy. The checklist has 28 health care items plucked from the 50 health care promises in the blue book. There are plenty of items under jobs, education and highways but the checklist contains only one item under the title Fiscal Responsibility. Is this government suffering from selective memory, selective amnesia, or is it the Savage syndrome all over again? Nova Scotians are going to have to make that diagnosis themselves because there won't be enough access to medical services for a professional to make the diagnosis.

The reality is, the checklist focuses on health care.

THE PREMIER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know the member opposite would not want to mislead the House inadvertently so I will point out to him that on Page 3 of "Strong Leadership. . . .a clear course," which is the first page of text, there occurs the following sentence, "Immediately reduce the size of government, starting with the Cabinet;" So I would hate the member to go on with his speech, based on an incorrect premise, that the government has not indicated to the people of Nova Scotia that we would not be reducing the size of government, including the Cabinet.

[Page 3930]

MR. SPEAKER: I would rule that the honourable Premier certainly raises a very good point.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your unbiased intervention because I would very much suggest that the Premier does not raise a very good point.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Premier that nowhere in his 243 promises, nor in the letter that he sent to Nova Scotians, as I said, did he, in fact, make that commitment or promise. In fact, I did point out to the Premier, had he been listening, that yes, indeed, the one thing that he did say, was that he would have a smaller Cabinet. I will have more to say about that. Again, I thank you for your helpful, unbiased intervention.

[2:00 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, the checklist was going to be a new course that this Premier would chart for Nova Scotia. What change of direction did John Hamm promise to get elected and what was the old course? What direction was going to be abandoned? Let's listen to the Premier's own words from the speech he made on June 25, 1999 to launch his platform, that is, unless he is now revising that, as well. At that time he said, and I will quote, "We sacrificed time with our families as we worked harder and longer every day and got no farther ahead. We sacrificed educational opportunities for our children, and health care services for our parents."

All that misery was supposed to end when the Conservative Government came into office, yet this week, the Conservative Government delivered a savage budget. Thanks to fee hikes, many of them hidden, people will work harder and longer, yet get no further ahead. Thousands will be out of work, educational opportunities for our children are being sacrificed. The cuts to student assistance on a full year basis equals nearly $20 million. That is three times as much as the $6.8 million increase in university and college funding. For every dollar they gave, Mr. Speaker, they have taken $3.00 back.

The Minister of Health said yesterday that the former Liberal Government set out on a pretty good path. Well I would like to read a description of that Liberal path. I ask the Minister of Health, and all members, to listen to the words of another who had this to say about the Liberal record. "For five years, the Liberals have governed solely for the sake of the 'bottom line', treating the serious concerns of ordinary people as a mere afterthought. The Liberal Government has lost touch with us. In their zeal to increase government revenues, the Liberals have imposed undue tax burdens on working Nova Scotians. In their haste to cut spending, the Liberals have forsaken hospitals, schools and highways. Making one bad deal after another, the Liberals have wasted our hard-earned tax dollars."

[Page 3931]

Mr. Speaker, that is someone's description of what the Health Minister now describes as a pretty good path. The author of those words I referred to a moment ago also used these words when he was talking about what should be done instead. What that person said is, "I am convinced that there is a better way to govern Nova Scotia. It starts with setting priorities and making choices that put people first. It means consulting with people, and considering the human impact of every move government makes; rebuilding our devastated health care system, always putting the patient first; strengthening our schools, colleges and universities, always putting the student first; growing our economy, with jobs today and for the future, always putting Nova Scotia first.

AN HON. MEMBER: Pretty words.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, those are the words of one John Hamm. He addressed those words to the people of Nova Scotia when he sought their support to elect a Conservative Government. He said those words at the end of the majority Liberal Government. Yet now, in a desperate attempt to justify this treacherous budget, the Conservatives want to rewrite history. History books used to look at photographs of Soviet officials, over time, to see who had been cut out of the pictures, because those officials had fallen into disfavour with the regime. This budget and the government's defence of the budget have the same feel. The Conservatives are trying to cut out and destroy all memories and records of what they actually said to get elected. The Liberals' descriptions of their platform and the Liberals' record are almost delusional. So, the fundamental issue this budget raises is, why can't this Conservative Government tell Nova Scotians the truth?

What happened to the promise of more money for public school education? Let's look at some of the examples of the government's inability to tell the truth. That famous blue book says, on Page 15, "The Liberal Government has failed to give education the priority it deserves . . . Too many teachers are faced with overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources . . . We must refocus our education system on its most important priority - - what it delivers in learning for students in the classroom at all levels."

The Conservatives knew then, as they know now, that school budgets are so tight that any improvement requires a budget increase. Why else did they promise an extra $2 million for five-day Primary in the Halifax Regional School Board? Yet, the budget that came down this week makes its biggest educational cuts from those classrooms. The Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance have now launched a holy crusade in favour of larger school classes. They have frozen the budget for texts and resource materials. Those ministers have actually suggested that much larger junior and senior high school classes are okay, as long as the classroom sizes themselves get larger to accommodate them.

Mr. Speaker, this attitude towards public school education is, quite simply, disgusting. The Premier and the other Conservatives who sat through the turmoil created by the Cameron and Savage cuts in education know how damaging that was to our school system. They know

[Page 3932]

that the changes that were made will totally undermine their campaign commitment to reduce drop-out rates and help more students finish Grade 12. I would suggest that there was not a single PC candidate, and if I am wrong in this I invite them to stand on a point of order to identify themselves, but I would suggest that there wasn't one PC candidate, including the Premier and the Minister of Education, who thought their blue book was promising hundreds of fewer teachers and bigger classes. I bet if you looked at the campaign literature of the Minister of Education, the Premier, or any backbencher over there, you won't find any talk about fewer teachers, a higher student-teacher ratio, much bigger high school and junior high school classes.

Mr. Speaker, I have to ask, why can't Conservatives tell Nova Scotians the truth about what they really intended to do with our schools versus what they promised? Each and every one of us have constituents with young families, or with grandchildren. Each and every one of us knows that those children's futures and the future of this province is going to depend to a very large extent upon the quality of education they are going to receive now. Having come out of the classroom myself, in the real world before I got into politics, if this Premier and this Minister of Education think that you can have a constructive learning environment with 35 and more students, they are dreaming in Technicolor, and if you think that you can do that with 40 and 50 students and give anything more than a lecture at the front of the classroom, if you are able to maintain all of the control and order that is needed, they are so totally out of touch with reality that there is no hope for them.

Mr. Speaker, what happened to the promise of improved patient care? On Page 6, that blue book again, when he was seeking votes, the Premier's blue book said this, "During the six years the Liberals were in office, Nova Scotians watched health services steadily decline as costs increased sharply. Doctors left, nurses were let go, the number of hospital beds cut by 30 per cent, the number of ambulances cut, insured services cut and a freeze was put on new long-term care beds."

The blue book summary, Page 32, Mr. Speaker, for those who want to follow along - and I know the Premier, I am sure, still keeps his blue book. Most people would like to say that they never saw it before, but he proudly keeps it on his desk - it says that health care needs money - that is the Premier saying that - health care needs money, just like education did, and that there are tremendous opportunities for improved patient care.

Mr. Speaker, the Tory talk about health care in the election campaign and the Tory talk now, it is like night and day. Before the election, they saw critical underfunding. After the election, they see runaway spending. Before the election, they could clearly identify savings from the elimination of regional health boards. Those boards were an, "ill-conceived drain on the system". After the election, they can only identify costs from the elimination of regional health boards. Before the election, they were going to immediately increase the number of long-term beds. After the election, they are extending the inhumane Liberal freeze on long-term care and suggesting those beds may not be necessary. Try telling that to the Sisters of

[Page 3933]

Charity. Tell that to the individuals and to the families of those who need such care and who are on long waiting lists.

Before the election, they saw a critical shortage of hospital and nursing home beds. After the election, they suggested that we have way too many beds, despite the huge Savage cuts. Before the election, they knew that nurses need a rewarding and positive work experience. After the election, nurses can kiss a positive work experience goodbye. They face uploading, downloading, and cuts in acute care. Just imagine, Mr. Speaker, what this budget will do as our province struggles to retain and attract nurses in the midst of a critical nation-wide shortage.

[2:15 p.m.]

Before the election, they were going to identify the need for additional nursing staff and provide the resources that will fill that need. After the election, they are taking a big bite out of acute care, without corresponding increases in long-term and community care, and without even acknowledging that there is a need for additional nursing staff.

Before the election, they wanted community-driven, as opposed to bureaucratically-driven, boards. After the election, they are railroading through a system of bureaucratically-driven boards that are stripped of all community-accountable decision-making power. All of those community-based accountability decision-making powers are being stripped away.

Before the election, they promised to increase funding for health, wellness promotion, disease prevention and remediation initiatives by at least $1 million in each year of the mandate. After the election, they have virtually frozen the public health budget that pays for those initiatives. There is no million dollar increase in funding for public health programs.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the Premier compared himself to Paul Newman not so long ago, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Cool Hand Luke.

MR. HOLM: . . . suggesting that he was like the chain gang member played by Paul Newman in - yes - Cool Hand Luke. Now, we know that the Premier does not share Paul Newman's political views, but we also know that one of the famous lines from that movie is, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a government that failed to communicate the truth about its health care plans. They didn't tell Nova Scotians the truth in the election campaign. They didn't admit in this budget the effects that their decisions would have immediately on patient care. Nova Scotians, I am sure, can be excused if they want an answer to a very simple question and that is, why can't the Tory Government tell them the truth?

[Page 3934]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has acted more like another movie character, the tin-pot colonel played by Jack Nicholson who said, "You can't handle the truth." That attitude towards ordinary Nova Scotians runs through every evasive statement, false assertion and vague commitment that this Premier and this government have issued in defence of their budget. They seem to think that Nova Scotians can't handle the truth. But of course we will never know if Nova Scotians can handle the truth or not, because the Premier and this government are unprepared to give them the truth.

Hidden user fees and phoney facts. Mr. Speaker, they have fuelled the old propaganda machine - they certainly have - with phoney facts. The most blatant attempt to defend this budget with false alarms is the claim, made right in the Budget Address, that Nova Scotians spent more than any other government on health care last year.

We went to the source that is used by all 11 governments, the Canadian Institute of Health Information. The institute updated its figures in December, when they had the latest revisions from this government. The institute reports that health spending by this government, per capita, was the fifth highest, Mr. Speaker. Middle of the pack. It is not the picture the Tories want, so they simply made up a different number. I say, shame on a government that would do that.

They hid their own poll results, defying and breaking the Freedom of Information Act to do so, which shows that Nova Scotians know exactly why they elected this government. Those poll results show that Nova Scotians elected them to put more money into health care, to go cautiously and, surprisingly, to be honest, no wonder they hid the poll, Mr. Speaker. Its author, Tory Dr. Peter Butler, is the man whose poll results were used to keep Dr. Hamm in the Tory leadership during that dramatic February 1999 convention. They have told everyone that Dr. Butler holds the key to understanding public opinion in this province. Dr. Butler told them, as they launched the program review, that they were elected to fix health care and to invest more money to meet health care needs.

They have been busy hiding those user fees, too. How embarrassed they must be, Mr. Speaker. Not only have they decided to keep income taxes higher, they are piling on the direct and indirect user fees. They didn't tell the truth about Pharmacare fee increases. It will grab another $8.4 million in revenue, not the $4.4 million listed in the budget documents. It is $8.4 million more that seniors will be paying for those Pharmacare fees.

They kept the $5 million hike in hospital user fees out of their list of new user fees. They are adding another $4 million to auto insurance costs in Nova Scotia; another indirect user fee that is not acknowledged. There is another $10 million piled on property taxpayers through downloading of assessment costs, and that is just what we have discovered so far, Mr. Speaker. I guess we have to ferret more out. We have to ferret it out according to the Premier, because the Premier who believes in open, accountable and transparency in

[Page 3935]

government, his definition of open, accountable and transparency is to tell the Opposition it is your job to ferret out all the information because we are not going to tell you anything.

AN HON. MEMBER: He doesn't believe in the Freedom of Information . . .

MR. HOLM: He doesn't believe in the Freedom of Information Act obviously, either. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, as I said, the government would rather act like ferrets than come out with an honest accounting of all of the fee increases they have imposed. Once more I ask, why is it that this government can't tell Nova Scotians the truth?

Services of significant benefits are being cut. Mr. Speaker, what did the Tories promise to cut? It is there clearly on Page 19, in the shortest section of the long list of promises. They specifically promise to cut the size of Cabinet, the costs of office space and energy usage by government buildings. How have they done on those three? Cabinet shrank a bit and then it grew a bit. Office space costs are actually going up despite the ruthless shutdown of rural offices. So far, at least, energy use doesn't seem to be on the Tory radar.

What about other promises to restrain and reduce spending? They talked about privatization but only within the standards and the process outlined in the NSGEU five point plan, and the blue book commitment to that five point plan was not conditional on anything. It certainly wasn't conditional on civil servants being kissy-kissy or making nice to the Premier. The book emphasized that privatization would be based on increases in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, two goals of the five point plan. The blue book said that government programs would be eliminated if they did not benefit Nova Scotians or if those programs were unnecessary and inefficient and costly. Today, the Premier and his budget don't use those promised standards for program elimination. They won't even say which programs are going to be eliminated.

Of course outside, he will tempt the media by saying there are going to be 70, we have already decided on that, and 300 more are being modified, but it is a game of hide and seek. Look under the shells, see if you can find it, and I suggest, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier and to the members of his Tory caucus, this isn't a game. Every decision that you make, behind them are real human beings, their lives, their livelihood, and that of their children and their families. It isn't a game. It is about time that this government stopped treating it as a game, and started to recognize that people aren't simply numbers on a ledger.

The government has already broken the NSGEU's five point plan by deciding to rapidly privatize or wipe out many agricultural services, without consulting the employees affected, without a cost-benefit analysis, without providing any independent assessment of the increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It looks like nothing more than a 20 per cent cutback of such severity that even the so-called consultations with the Federation of Agriculture have provoked surprise and concern.

[Page 3936]

The Family Violence Prevention Initiative is being arbitrarily ended. Its staff got their lay-off notice on Budget Day. The office is being shut down. The women and men who strive to eliminate family violence weren't consulted as to the necessity of that program. Transition homes weren't consulted. Since when did the prevention of family violence stop being necessary? Since when did it cease to be of benefit to the many thousands of families in this province where women and children are battered? Is this the lesson that this government takes from recent murder-suicides in families whose problems were well known to the police?

A government which made that cut is a government that targeted the weakest and most voiceless, the most vulnerable and afraid, in our society. They can't find the moral backbone to say no to Scotiabank. They needed a poll to say no to Sobeys. But battered women and children are losing the one province-wide awareness and training program dedicated to their needs, without so much as a public acknowledgement of the loss. Some priorities, Mr. Speaker, some priorities.

Do hospital beds benefit Nova Scotians? What about teachers and teaching assistants? Does it benefit our young people to have an up-to-date curriculum, or does this government think it can slow down the world until Nova Scotia Tories have time to catch up? Do single-parent families benefit from monthly food budgets? Since when did the money they receive for food, clothing, and shelter become less necessary, less efficient, or even more costly?

The government is willing to entertain grant applications from three-time losers who are under police investigation for misappropriation of funds. Do you remember that, Mr. Speaker? In the election, they promised an increase, not a cut, in social assistance for families. Yet they have the nerve to issue a Budget Bulletin, crowing about how they are going to hand out $100 every August for school supplies, overlooking the fact that they intend to steal as much as $100 from poor families in each of the other 11 months; $100 up for school supplies; $1,200 down for food and clothing and all of the other essential needs for the rest of the year. Compassionate government, Mr. Speaker. Behind these broken promises, behind these cuts and services that provide very significant benefits is a bias that runs far deeper than the need to balance a budget.

[2:30 p.m.]

If this government had one ounce of compassion for the many Nova Scotians living in poverty, they would be increasing the minimum wage in this province beyond the shabby level set by the former Liberal Government. If this government had a vision, they would realize that poverty, big classrooms, overcrowded hospitals, overburdened families and a low wage economy are building blocks of the 19th Century, not a building block for the 21st Century.

Budgets hit hard at seniors and rural communities, there is no question about that in this case. The Premier built his election success on the basis of strong support from two elements of the population. He had great support from the seniors who felt that his age and profession

[Page 3937]

meant that he would be a competent manager. How wrong they were. He built strong support in rural communities who heeded his promise and his urging that this was not a time to experiment. Now with this budget, seniors and rural communities are beginning to understand that they are victims of Dr. Hamm and Dr. Hyde.

A kind doctor during the election campaign, a mad scientist who kills rural and seniors' programs once the election is over and done with. Poverty is highest in rural areas. Every blow aimed by these Tories at the poor is a blow which hits rural areas the most. I hope those rural Tories on the backbenches who have to go out and defend what their frontbenches are doing, bear that in mind when they go home. (Interruption) Some suggest they hope they travel in pairs. Seniors depend most on the health care system which is being put through the Liberal's reform health grinder once again. The blue book says that seniors, ". . . have a right to live their remaining years in comfort, security and with the best possible health and quality of life." That is out of the Tory blue book. Only now, they had better count their pennies and hope that they don't have to go to the hospital. That is not in the blue book. That is a reality of this Tory budget.

Seniors who were lured into the Premier's parlour by Tory campaign ads promising to eliminate Pharmacare premiums are now recognizing that the combined effect of higher co-pays and premiums is forcing them to pay for more than half of their total prescription needs. Seniors who need home care are finding that the promised new programs are largely shelved, but fees have gone up 25 per cent. Think about it; a 25 per cent fee increase for home care services. Where was that in the Tory blue book? What did the Premier say, that, in hindsight, can be extrapolated into higher fees and higher taxes for seniors at the very same time that the health care system is under severe attack.

What about rural jobs? The budget says that the provincial government jobs in town should all be in one building. What if there aren't any provincial government jobs in town any more? Since when were Kentville and Truro part of metro Halifax? The first consolidation of jobs to be announced was a move from Mabou, Ingonish and St. Peters into Sydney. Then came the move from Kentville and Truro to metro. When rural residents look for the jobs they were promised, they will find that the cupboard is bare and that the office has a "For Rent" sign on it.

The single biggest dollar promise the Premier made was a promise that had enormous support in rural areas; his pledge that every cent raised from motor vehicle and motive fuel taxes would go into highways and highway construction. Well, whoops, there goes another one, Mr. Speaker. It looks to us like new highway construction is actually being cut this year. There is some more for resurfacing, yes, but you can't keep filling those same potholes forever. The gap between those highway taxes and the total transportation spending is going to be $100 million this year. In the blue book the Premier, Dr. Hamm, said that in year two - which is what we are now in, this is their second budget - he was going to spend all of that

[Page 3938]

money on highways and, if necessary, he would even spend more than that to fix the highways in this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much was it?

MR. HOLM: It would be over $100 million right now.

AN HON. MEMBER: I remember that announcement.

MR. HOLM: I do, too.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was down in Yarmouth when he made that announcement.

MR. HOLM: He probably had a few cameras flashing around him at the time and he was very popular; in fact, Mr. Speaker, a few of his members from rural areas are probably sitting here, today, because of that promise alone. They might even want to be able to take that vote back. Since the Premier has taken back his handshake to the people of this province, I am sure a lot of voters would like to take their votes back as well.

Mr. Speaker, this is a classic. It is a promise that the Premier knew he could not keep. He tried back-pedalling on it during the election campaign, but he could not take back all those blue book promises. He could not rip Page 26 out of all the copies of the blue book. I want him to look those rural voters in the eye and explain, today, why he can't tell them the truth.

Mr. Speaker, if I was going to go into detail of all of the promises that this budget has broken and all of the examples of how this Progressive Conservative Government can't tell the truth, I would need the unanimous consent of this House to spend the rest of the day talking in my reply to this budget. (Interruption) I understand the member for Preston, I think he said yes - oh, he said no - I am being kind because, quite truthfully, the way I feel about this budget and what this government is doing to the people of this province, my words are as kind as I can be.

Mr. Speaker, I will be concluding and you told me I have no choice anyway because my time is just about up. The Premier suggests that the truth about this budget must be ferreted out. I say that he has a duty and an obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Tell Nova Scotians what jobs you are cutting and where those jobs are; tell Nova Scotians what programs you are cutting and why; tell Nova Scotians what is going to be left after your wrecking crew has done its work; and tell Nova Scotians why your platform was so dishonest and why you cannot or will not tell them the truth now.

[Page 3939]

Mr. Speaker, my final comment as I take my seat, I say through you to the Premier, to the members on the front benches and, particularly, to those on the backbenches because the backbenchers, whether you come from Sackville-Beaver Bank, whether you come from Queens, whether you come from Truro, whether you come from Yarmouth or Shelburne, it matters not, each and every one of you are going to be held equally responsible for this budget, and it will not cut the mustard for you to go back to your riding and go back to your constituents and say, well, I agree with you, the cuts in education are devastating, but it is not my fault, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance did it and I have no input. Stand on your own two feet and represent your constituents. It is time. It is time to stand up and demand that the commitments that you made during the election campaign are honoured. It is time to demand that your Premier and your Cabinet members tell the truth to Nova Scotians. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West. (Applause)

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is great that I have some buddies here with me. I am pleased to rise today, to talk and give my response, our Liberal Caucus response, to the budget that was delivered not that long ago.

Recently I had the pleasure of talking to an elder of the First Nations, an individual who talked about honesty and integrity, an individual who talked about the desire and the need for society to speak the truth. The elder said, if you are not ashamed of what you are going to do, speak out now. If you are not ashamed of what you are going to do, then speak out now. Don't wait for later, but do it today. This budget is only the beginning of what this government's agenda is with regard to people, with regard to their so-called rural plan, with their so-called plan of health care and meeting the needs of the sick and the less fortunate in society today. I say to them, as I start, if you are not ashamed of the truth, then tell us all now. Speak out now and not later.

Mr. Speaker, I realize all too well that governing is tough. I realize that the government of the day have some very tough decisions to make. The Premier, the Minister of Finance, his Cabinet colleagues, the backbenchers, and other members of the government, have some tough decisions to make, not unlike us, when we had the honour to be the government of the Province of Nova Scotia, and had a lot of tough decisions to make as well. But what bothers me so much is that this particular government sold a bill of goods to Nova Scotians during the 1999 election. I remember in 1993, in the election, when we said, we are going to be doing a number of things in Nova Scotia to straighten up the mess.

This morning I was at a prayer breakfast - it was an excellent prayer breakfast - and the Premier read a excellent opening statement. I complimented him for it this morning. It was a very good prayer breakfast, and I appreciated being there. One chap said to me, as he sat beside me, an elderly chap, he said, it must be the prerequisite of every Minister of Finance to beat up on the previous Ministers of Finance, no matter what. He said, I have been around

[Page 3940]

Nova Scotia for many generations and that seems to be the tack of the day. I said, well, it could very well be, everybody is trying to make the score. But what he is saying is that he doesn't believe that all the things that have gone on are as bad as they are.

We know this government has trumped up the numbers as much as they possibly can, so that they can do whatever devious plot they have in regard to tearing the heart and soul out of government in the Province of Nova Scotia to meet the obligations and the responsibilities and commitments they have made to the board of trade in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not the board of trade alone that makes this province what it is today, it is the people throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. It is the poor, it is the people who are less fortunate, it is the farm community, it is rural Nova Scotia, it is everybody that they have social and economic responsibility to meet.

This government has a responsibility to meet the challenges of today in a balanced approach. I find in this budget so far lots of areas to pick on with regard to the lack of balance; as I said before about the elder who spoke to me, the lack of things they should be ashamed about which were promised during the election campaign. I remember the election campaign, because it wasn't very long ago and I know members in the backbenches remember, as you knocked on doors and you said, hah, health, health is going to be an easy game to deal with, in fact, our Leader of the day said we could fix health for $46 million and that doesn't mean new money, that is administrative changes, and we will resolve the health dilemma.

We know that in fact they have spent $208 million over that budget and now they realize they are going after a health problem that they do not have a plan to fix it. The $46 million was not the truth to Nova Scotians, it was not a plan for Nova Scotians, it was a 30 second sound bite so they could get elected, a 30 second sound bite, because it sounded slick. In fact, many of the challenges that they now face, they said could be easily resolved - we are the body to make these problems go away and we will not cause a problem. It is interesting, this government of the day, probably never thought 8 months ago, 10 months ago, 12 months ago, that they would ever be the government and so they made a lot of comments. They made a lot of negative comments in this Legislature. A lot of criticisms of the government that was trying to manage the affairs of state.

I remember, when we were in a minority government situation, in which every day the sabres were coming across the floor under our noses, and those sabres would be out there saying, we want you to spend more money for seniors. Shame on the government for not spending more money on seniors. Then the next day they would sabre-rattle us and say, more money should be given to health. Then they would sabre-rattle and say, more money for nurses, more money for education, more money for teachers, more money for farmers and more money for every single organization in the government in the Province of Nova Scotia. Then they would sabre-rattle further by saying to us, by the way, we expect a balanced budget and if you do not deliver, we will go to bed with the NDP and force an election at a time

[Page 3941]

when this government of this province should have been making final, firm, fiscal decisions about the future of this province, and they let it go. They wasted a year. (Interruption) I shall take away the term going to bed, it was not meant to be in the literal translation, Mr. Speaker, but it was meant to be that they were prepared to partner with the devil, himself, to take over power. (Interruption) In fact, I think they might have done that, to create the last election, because they, too, this body too, is the only body that I know, a political machine in this province, that has done nothing but criticize since day one.

In fact, their mandate is not to ever govern, it is to criticize. Their mandate is not to find solutions, but to criticize. If they found solutions to the problems, they would be out of business because they have nowhere else to go. I think this term will be an interesting term and I hope that all of us, including the New Democratic Party, will be able to come forward with good solutions to the dilemmas that we face, because I know that together we might be able to come up with some good solutions because that body over there sold a bill of goods to Nova Scotians and they do not have the answers or the plan to rebuild, reshape and hold Nova Scotia so it can go forward into the 21st Century. (Interruptions)

Another point, before I get into the detail of the budget. I remember, in this House, and I remember during the election campaign - I am a rural individual - the Tory strategy of how, we are the government of rural Nova Scotia. We support farmers in their rural way of life. We are the wholesome rural people and we care more than any other government and we will look after you. In fact, they ran a campaign of that plus they ran a campaign of anti areas of this province, mainland versus Cape Breton. I remember the postcard. Do you remember the postcard? There it is there. (Interruption) Yes, shut her down for a bed. Another indication of just how desperate they were to regain power in the Province of Nova Scotia. Power at any cost.

What really bothered me is that this rural vote that they wanted was built on the backs of shutting down one end of this province and another, creating a split in Nova Scotians' attitude toward each other. We are one province, whether you like it or not, and I am one proud Nova Scotian to say I am proud to be a Nova Scotian, whether I am from Cape Breton or whether I am from Yarmouth or whether I am from Halifax or Lunenburg County or Cumberland County; I am one proud Nova Scotian. I never, ever want this government, or any government, to start pitting one end of this province against another. Gosh only knows we have enough challenges as it is. We do not need the racism that is brought forward by the right-wing agenda to create a vote against people who need help in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. I spent a few years growing up in Ottawa, Ontario and later moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia, outside Vancouver, where I grew up. I got married - my wife is from Winnipeg - and moved to Nova Scotia. I am a proud Canadian and I love this country, but in all the years that I travelled across this country - and I have family all over this great country, and family and friends in every province in this country and I have been into some of the territories - I have never, with

[Page 3942]

all the regional disparities and regional approaches and regional differences that we have in this country, seen a province pit one end against another, or people of their own against each other, like I saw in that last election. That is why I stand here very frustrated and very mad, very disappointed, about the type of leadership that I have seen so far, to do anything for the sake of a vote.

I go back to the elder's comment, if you are not ashamed of what you are going to do, speak out now, not later. I think this government needs to speak out now on exactly where they are going to go. I know that the Premier of this province - who this morning, I listened to at the prayer breakfast - is a man who believes very fervently in his beliefs. I think a lot of Nova Scotians felt that and I would like to think that everybody in this room, whoever they believe in, whatever their personal beliefs, is able to stand by those convictions, not just six days a week but seven days a week, and not just so long and then forget them.

This last election campaign bothered me when we were not able to come forward with the absolute truth about what was going on. It bothered me when they said to people in my riding, we can fix health for $46 million. They said to people in my riding that they would be able to help build and help represent rural Nova Scotia better. They said to people in my riding that they were a government that was going to do everything right because these other guys were so tough and they made cuts, we are not going to have to do all that kind of stuff.

They said it would be a smaller government, but it would be a gentler government. Gentler and kinder. Here we go, gentler and kinder. I think it is now time to go through some of the aspects of this budget and this is only a very cursory review. We are still at 20,000 feet looking at this budget, because it won't be until we get to budget estimates to really understand exactly what is going on.

A prime example of that is the fact that the Minister of Education has repeatedly told a different story to everybody every day of the week. No cuts to teachers, well, maybe 400, well, maybe more than 400. Well, what is it? That is the type of thing that I find absolutely frustrating for a Minister of the Crown to not only mislead this place, but to mislead people.

I want to talk about the issue of rural Nova Scotia. I appreciate the fact that the caucus Whip is keeping a count, keeping his 15 bodies in here whether they breathe or whether they think or whether they care, or whatever. They know they have to keep 15 bodies over there. That Whip is doing a great job. He is doing a great job. I know one thing - most of them are backbenchers and they are probably loving to be here because they are scared to death to go home, to meet the wrath of their electorate when they go back and say, hey, I don't remember all this. I don't remember the slash and burn in education. I don't remember the slash and burn in health care. I don't remember courts closing down and jails closing down and this closing down and that shutting down. I don't remember you telling me that during the last election.

[Page 3943]

I am sure that they are somewhat nervous, somewhat scared. I think that probably this morning a few of them went to the prayer breakfast and were probably saying a few prayers that when they get back home, they can handle this. I can assure you over the next period of time, when the Civil Service and the people who you have been led to believe that there was not going to be any problems, wait and see exactly the hits that they are going to take. You are going to have to be accountable and you are going to be accountable to your people and accountable to this province. As I said before, you have tough decisions and I respect that and I know you are going to have to make some of those tough decisions as we had to make them. I am not going to criticize every decision you make. Decisions that you have to make, I can understand, but I cannot accept not telling me the whole truth. Not telling me everything that is really going on, that is what I can't take, and neither can Nova Scotians.

Besides that, other things bother me. A balanced approach of realizing that you have to grow the economy, you have a fiscal responsibility and you have a social responsibility and self-reliance is not for the right-wing agenda, that the only people who can stand tall are self-reliant. Only the rich are self-reliant. I think we have a responsibility to make sure we help all people in this province to be able to go forward with dignity and pride.

I want to start off with the first area of the budget alphabetically and that is agriculture and marketing. I know the Minister of Agriculture doesn't think chicken farmers have any rights to any good ideas or plans or that chicken farmers can actually give any suggestions. I know he doesn't think that, but I do think that chicken farmers and all farmers are very productive, bright, articulate, good, solid people. People I have a lot of respect for.

This minister has said in this House, and I am paraphrasing and I will try to get it exactly right, but he said, I have consulted with the Federation of Agriculture on all these changes and I have the blessing, as it were, of these issues.

I have checked and I don't remember, in my discussions with the Federation of Agriculture, that all these things that he has talked about have been out there. For example, I think there is probably some agreement that said that the cuts to 99 jobs that will go to the people, to services, will not affect programs. There will be no cuts to programs as I understand the minister said to the Federation of Agriculture. Well, I don't know if that is quite true. I think we have some cuts to programs. The Crop and Livestock Insurance Commission has dropped $30,000-some and we have losses in the Beef Commission by $17,000. They said no more user fees. I have a question for the minister in regard to this which I will ask sometime during Question Period.

[3:00 p.m.]

The bull bonus program is now gone. The limestone subsidy, which equalized limestone distribution to all areas of this province, no matter where you are - it was not pitting one area against the other, it did not mean that you had a location that was better, a comparative

[Page 3944]

advantage to you, the farmers outside that were going to pay a higher price to be less competitive, that is now gone. The beef performance program is gone, even transportation to the Royal Winter Fair which many farmers got. Those happen to be areas that affect a lot of smaller farms, poorer farms. There are a lot of small sheep farms, beef farms and small horticultural farms near the Premier's riding. They are not all big. There are a lot of smaller farms which are very important to us. What is going to happen to those people? They are going to pay more. Is that an increased taxation on them? Is that a form of an additional user fee cost? To some degree it is and I think those people will feel the pain.

Cuts to Community and Cooperative Pastures by $96,000 and the cuts go on; $1 million to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College; a $200,000 cut for the meat inspection program. Meat Inspection, that is basically for a freezer beef trade. That is another beef sector. A small farm operation, they have a freezer beef industry, and they need a government inspector to be able to sell their product. There is $200,000 taken out of that. So if there is $200,000 taken out of that program, who is going to pay for it? Who is going to pick it up? Is the Department of Education going to pay for it? Is the Department of Community Services going to pay for it? Is the Department of Health going to pay for it? I think it is going to be the rural farmer who is going to be paying for it and paying for it right through the nose. To me, that is an increased user fee whether you like it or not. We are even cutting programs, $90,000 to the provincial laboratory and I think that probably is another way of saying your soil samples are going to cost you more, Mr. Farmer or Mrs. Farmer.

I see this agenda, the minister brought forward, and the restructuring of the department, now, some of that restructuring is good, some of the restructuring in the department is good. What they have done all the way through this thing is taken an attitude about this restructuring that says one thing to me about this minister, again, the right-wing agenda. If you are a big farm; if you are a commercialized farm; if you are a big, prosperous farm, you are all right. If you are a small farm; if you are a small mixed farm; if you have a problem in a small mixed farm, then you are going to pay big time. I will say to this House - and the minister might not want to accept it because it is coming from a chicken farmer who he doesn't respect too much - I will say there are a lot more smaller farmers than there are bigger farmers in this province and government has the responsibility to look after those farmers as well, and that is rural Nova Scotia.

We have the Department of Community Services. I think most people felt that this government was going to do one thing in Community Services and they were going to cut the benefits to those needing assistance. When I was knocking door to door, the question was, what are you going to do about family benefits and social assistance, I understand they are going to cut that? Single-parent families will start seeing $100 less assistance in their cheque.

Now, listen, there is nothing I would like better than having everybody in society working, everybody having a job and getting up and making things happen. I have been brought up that way, I happen to believe that, but I also realize that not everybody can have

[Page 3945]

that opportunity and we need to build whatever system we can to make that happen for them. You are a single person, you are a mother with two children, you are going to be slashed by roughly $100 a month in your income. I hear the comments coming from some of that right-wing agenda, oh, the lazy people who go out and have these babies so they can stay home and get the big pay cheque. I hear that, and I say, shame, shame to whoever says that, shame.

The reality is that those people are in circumstances, sometimes, beyond their control, and there is a responsibility for us to do it. I ask the question, how does taking $100 out of their pockets make them self-reliant in the future? I think if they want to build self-reliance, then they need to build programs to leverage them out of the system and not just simply starve them to death to take them out of the system.

The Office of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Community Services has $124,000 more. I am sure that the minister is not going to take a raise, because they already said they weren't going to take a raise, but I don't know where $124,000 is going to go in the minister's office. I don't know. It seems to be me, every department, they have padded extra money in there. It could be the fact that the Minister of Health hired a $180,000 person to be deputy minister, and all the other deputy ministers said, hey, I am making $90,000, how can you pay this guy twice as much? Maybe we are paying the deputies more money and maybe they deserve it, but I think the minister should tell us why they are increasing the budget by $124,000, in his ministerial office. I am sure the minister will do that at a later time.

The home heating fuel rebate is gone. No more home heating fuel rebate for the Community Services people who really need it. Field office administration has $164,000 less. Two million dollars cut from maintenance of children. This budget, I remember the minister saying very clearly, is about youth and about building for the future. It is about investing in our youth, it is about all that. (Interruptions) Well, I just heard that we are losing $2 million, minister, from cuts to the maintenance of children. That is foster families, things of that nature, a $2 million cut. Maybe in the estimates you will explain that. To me, those are going to be people in rural Nova Scotia who are going to need help. I know foster parents and what they do, and that they are trained, skilled, loving, caring people.

Two million dollars is gone from that program for youth; $250,000 cut to the Healthy Child Development Initiative. Can you imagine, another child program cut and $464,000 from small options homes. It is better to put the kids on the street, I guess, it is better to let them run on the street. (Interruptions) They have gone where? (Interruptions) Oh, I thought you said something else, minister. (Interruptions) I thought he said they went to Halifax, but he said they have gone to the Department of Health. Well, if they have gone to the Department of Health, I hope they are going to be looked after in Health, because the Small Options Program is important. (Interruptions) So they are going to add that and cut the money.

[Page 3946]

Family Violence Prevention programs have been eliminated. No increase in technical aid supports and Adult Protection Services are eliminated, which provides protection for seniors who are being neglected. Another area. They sold seniors, they were going to be the friends of seniors. Do you remember that? They promised almost everything, for seniors. I remember. We will give you free licensing for fishing, we will do everything for you. Little did they know they are going to pay more for Pharmacare; for ambulance drives; for homecare. Little did they know that they are going to have the Adult Protection Services program eliminated and little did they know that the little money they have is going to be clawed out of their pockets, only for this carrot that was waved before them in fishing licences.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. DOWNE: Shame. Shame on rural Nova Scotia, shame on the people that you have misled. Education, education, education. The foundation of economic activity and opportunity for this province is education. I agree with that statement. The minister has made it, the Premier has made it, the Minister of Education. I agree with that statement. We increased the educational budget by 10 per cent in the last two years and that is true. (Interruption) The member in the back doesn't understand it because I am sure he hasn't looked at the numbers to know that that is true.

This government turned around and said, we are going to invest in our youth, we are going to invest in education, we are going to make education the cornerstone of opportunity to build a society that will be able to meet the 21st Century's challenges head on. We are going to build a society that by training and educating our youth will help build that self-reliant entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that will drive the economy forward and create opportunities for all.

Well, I was excited about that. I thought that sounded very good and the member over there on the government side is now laughing at me. I want the member for Colchester North to know that maybe the parents in his riding aren't going to be laughing at him when they realize that over 100 teachers are going to be shut down, fired and let go in his riding. He will see how many laughs he gets at that point in time.

They talk about a $20 million reduction, 400 teaching positions; they have said 400 teaching positions. Well, we ran the numbers and maybe what they are really talking about, they said $20 million is going to be cut. The Premier is listening and I respect that very much, that he is listening. They said that that would equate to, on average, $50,000 a job, 400 jobs, on a current year basis. Well, we aren't on a current year basis to get this thing done, we are on nine-twelfths of a year. So to make the $20 million cut, to meet their budget targets, they will have to let go not 400, not 450, not 500 but 533 teachers, full teacher equivalents, next year to meet that $20 million target that they have been given. Why did they not tell Nova Scotians that it was 533 teachers? They said there were going to be no teachers let go. Do

[Page 3947]

you remember that? (Interruptions) No lay-offs, I heard that, didn't I, that in Nova Scotia there were going to be no lay-offs. Well, we are up to 533 and counting.

On top of that $20 million, they also have in their estimates, another some $6 million to find; $2.390 million for school board administrative costs to be cut. They have to find $2.390 million. On top of that, they have to find $3.6 million for unspecified amount of cuts. They didn't specify what it is going to be. It is like, just cut it somewhere. We don't know where you are going to find it, we don't know what you are going to do, but do it. Well, if you rolled those two numbers together, you are talking $6 million and if they cut administration, you are talking maybe 100 administration people, but you are going to be talking about more teachers. You are talking about increased classroom sizes, what they campaigned against.

I remember in this House, I remember when the good Minister of Education, who used to sit on the government benches stood up there and fought about what we are trying to do for education in this province and they criticized day in and day out about the classroom sizes. Now, we are going to have classroom sizes, I can tell you. I don't think the Minister of Finance meant that we are going to have classroom sizes in high school of 800 but I can tell you, I would like to know what this magic number they consider as being reasonable because when I was in government, their reasonable number was somewhere around 20. It wasn't 40 or 60 or 800 but it was around 20. We will soon see what the effect will be.

[3:15 p.m.]

If I may be so parochial as to look in my own riding. The cuts in my own riding are not 2.5 per cent for P to 12, they are 4.68 per cent. That is the Southwest School Board. I look at the member for Shelburne, and I look at the member for Yarmouth, and I look - actually I was looking at the wrong guy, he's from Guysborough County - but I look at the member for Yarmouth, the member for Shelburne, the member for Queens, and the two members for Lunenburg County, they know, 4.68 per cent. That is over 100 teachers, and in Lunenburg County alone, it is over 50 teachers out of the system. Shame.

I can tell you it is shameful for the teachers that they have to put up with this kind of stuff because they have been led to believe they were going to have an infusion of dollars in education, and instead they had the carpet pulled right out from underneath them. Yet, this government says the future of this province is our youth. The future will be in education. The future will be that we will build a society that can compete. I don't know how they are going to do it. I believe what you are going to see is schools closing in this province. I say to you backbenchers over there, be aware. You might see school closures in your riding. I think you are going to see larger class sizes in your riding when you go talk to the parents and the teachers about that. You are going to see, I think, things cut as far as supplies and other aspects for the kids.

[Page 3948]

The province says cut $20 million. In reality, I believe the cuts are closer to $27 million and not $20 million. Again, I go back to the elder that said to me not that long ago, if you are not ashamed of what you are going to do, speak out and tell the truth now. Don't wait until later. In reality, I believe we are seeing some 700 teaching positions gone, and maybe more.

Universities. Everybody seemed to be happy about universities. I understood universities were going to get $8 million this year. They got $4 million, 5 per cent. I believe you are going to see a tuition increase for universities this year, because tuitions could very well go up between 3 per cent and 5 per cent. We will wait and see. Yet, this government was painfully critical of anything we ever did in education. They scrapped the student loan remission program. Can you imagine? Do you colleagues remember the demonstrations in here with the students about the student programs? It seems to me, I remember some of those elected people over there were stirring the pot. Vote for us boys and girls. We will protect you. We will save you from changes. It is not that they are tinkering with it. They shut the whole program down. Kiss it goodbye. So that is the way they want to tinker.

Just think, spending in Primary to Grade 12, 2.6 per cent in the good old Southwest School Board which goes Digby, Yarmouth all the way up to Lunenburg County and right up to the Halifax line, 4.67 per cent, and that is going to cause pain. Pain to the students. It is going to cause pain to the teachers. It is going cause frustration to the parents, and it is going to cause an inability of this government to meet the blue book commitment of enhancing the educational capabilities of our people. Somebody said just a minute ago, it is double talk. Well, I don't know what you want to call it, but it is certainly painful to the educational system.

Annapolis Valley School Board, the Valley boys. Where are the Valley boys? Over 100 teaching jobs gone. It just goes on and on and on. The training funding for UCCB, another hit toward Cape Breton. First it is shutting down the mills causing one area to fight against people in another area, and now they go after UCCB on a training program in an area that has the highest unemployment in the Province of Nova Scotia, and one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Canada. What do they do? They take over $2 million away from training programs. (Interruptions) The list goes on.

I better move on, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to lose my time here. Another area, Fisheries and Aquaculture are very small portfolios. I think Fisheries and Aquaculture had the largest cut of any department in government. I think they had somewhere around 37 per cent, I could be wrong. Maybe they have shuffled the deck again to make that, but again there are some major changes in that particular area of that portfolio that should concern rural members. This doesn't happen in Halifax, you don't see too many aquaculture activities in downtown Halifax. Certainly couldn't see it out here in the harbour. You see it in rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 3949]

This is a government that said they were going to fight for rural Nova Scotia, they were going to stand up for rural Nova Scotia, they were going to add benefits to rural Nova Scotia, they were going to make rural Nova Scotia stand proud, stand tall and stand successful. Do you know what they have done? They have torn it apart because they have misled the people of rural Nova Scotia by slashing and burning their way through this process.

One key issue in this government was health. They fought the campaign very strongly on this one issue, besides supporting rural Nova Scotia and a few other things, was health. I remember well. I remember the good doctor, the family doctor, you can just visualize the glass of milk in one hand and the medical kit in the other as he is waltzing down the street, smelling the roses and looking at the birds and bees fly by. We are going to be able to do this for $46 million? That image of safety and protection was there. Well, that image is not there anymore, ladies and gentlemen and for the backbenchers or for the public of Nova Scotia.

Cuts of 4.7 per cent in health care. Where did they cut? The largest cost driver in health care today is acute care. Acute care is where people are very sick - cancer, whatever the very serious problems - and I am not a doctor so I don't want to get into that kind of thing. The good Minister of Health maybe has the definitions for all those things, but I don't. I can say that is one of the most expensive drivers of the health care system. What they have said is that they are going to cut it by $70-some million without providing the facilities to look after the people in a continuum of care program.

That is like somebody saying, yes, I am going to operate on your leg, I am going to amputate your leg, but I am not going to give you any anaesthetic and I am not going to do anything - you would probably die of a heart attack during that operation. Well, that is maybe what is going to happen here because they have not addressed the fundamental issues of health care. In my view, this is a government that thinks it is doing the right thing, but in all reality does not have a plan, does not have a focus, does not have an understanding except one thing and that is the right-wing agenda of slashing and burning without the clearest understanding of the implications of doing it. There is no point slashing away if you don't know if what you are doing is going to make it better in the end.

I think the Minister of Health tries to do what is right, but he is wrong by the way he is approaching this health system, $31 million out of the QE II and what impact will that have. We are talking about the QE II being cut. They are going to make major staff cuts; $31 million out of the QE II is 70 per cent of the cost in salaries, amounting to 525 staff at a salary of $40,000 a year. How in the name of heavens can this government make the $31 million cut in light of the fact that they have just gone through salary adjustments and the people that are there - unless they are going to fire staff; close beds and let go staff. How is that going to fix health care? They are the ones that were saying we need more nurses, specialists and doctors. Every day we were in here, they said that.

[Page 3950]

What about the cost of new nurses to be hired under the Hamm promises? Is that built into the $77 million cut? What effect will that have in health care delivery? What about the cost of salary increases that undoubtedly will happen by the changes they are making across the board with regionalization? Where do you find that kind of money, $71 million in administration alone? In fact, administrative costs in downtown Halifax, it hasn't gone down as an example, it has gone up, and it will continue to go up for one reason, because they don't know how they are going to deal with the health care problem.

Funded staff has decreased by 24, excluding the Home Care Program which increased by 54. I am happy to see that, a positive thing. It is a move over. You see, they are sliding the deck back and forth here. It will take a while to figure out who has what. The only question I really have, have they got 52 cards in their deck? Sometimes I begin to wonder if they really do.

I have a number of questions here on health care that we are going to be asking over a period of time. A $10 million cut with 70 per cent of the salaries, that is 175 staff at $40,000 per year. I think what we are going to see in the acute care system is not only beds shutting down, you are going to see staff let go, and you are going to see service delivery depleted in the Province of Nova Scotia at a time when these guys said for $46 million, health care will be fixed. It will be on the road to recovery. The biggest lie in public history about what they really are going to be doing. (Interruption) I will take back the issue of lying. There was a story about $46 million fixing the problem; in reality, that story is false. That story was false, and they got elected on that falsehood to Nova Scotians.

Somebody to my left said he got away with murder. I don't know. I have so many questions on health, I could go on in health for five days, and not have the answers obviously here. The reality is we are seeing the health care budget overall cut by $83 million. User fees are on the increase, whether it is $20 million that the book says or $27 million or $28 million or $29 million or $30 million or $40 million or $50 million, whatever the number will be. User fees in this province (Interruption) $30 million? They are going to be a lot higher than what that budget said just recently.

User fees are going to be there to take hold of people who voted for them in rural Nova Scotia, and they are going to start charging seniors. This is a group that said they are going to look after seniors. Pharmacare payments will increase from 20 per cent to 33 per cent, and the co-pay levels will go from $200 to $350. It doesn't matter if you live in Guysborough County and you are dirt poor or if you live in Guysborough County and you are rich, but you are physically very sick, and you are going to have to pay that increased fee. It is one thing if you have lots of money, but what about the people who are poor?

I note the member from across the way, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley making fun of chicken farmers again. Can you imagine someone from the rural part of the community picking on chicken farmers?

[Page 3951]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I overheard very clearly the honourable member who had the floor, the member for Lunenburg West say that I was saying something derogatory about chicken farmers. I completely and categorically refute such garbage.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think that's a point of order.

MR. DOWNE: He was making clucking sounds, that type of mentality. That is the kind of mentality they have in their backbenches, and that type of person will never make it to the front benches because he doesn't even understand what this thing is all about, the little clucker we have got over there who thinks he is a truck driver. Let him cluck all he wants, but the bottom line is, that clucker over there will know one thing, this budget is going to give him a hard time in the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley area. (Interruptions)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, over the course of time I have been in the House, which is nearly as long as the honourable member for Lunenburg West, many times we have heard him make sarcastic remarks about the truck driving profession and he continues to do this to this day. He doesn't have to answer this, but perhaps he could tell this House why the chicken crossed the road then?

MR. SPEAKER: Before the member for Lunenburg West gets back on, I just want to make it clear that you are replying to the Budget Speech. So if you can focus on the budget and not on the other members, that would be appreciated.

MR. DOWNE: I don't know why he came in here and got me all worked up, but he did. (Interruption) That is right. It was not you. I am worked up over this budget as every Nova Scotian is going to be worked up over this one thing, this budget, and how they misled Nova Scotians and how they have misled rural Nova Scotia and how they misled the seniors of the Province of Nova Scotia. Those are the people who are going to get to them over the weekend and the days ahead.

The Cape Breton Health Care Complex will be cut by $8 million - 200 more jobs out of Cape Breton. Do you remember the post card - shut her down for extra beds? Do you remember that government across the way that said we will put one part of Nova Scotia against another? Again they carried forward with their attitude toward Cape Breton and another 200 jobs slashed, burned, gone, because they have an attitude against Cape Breton in my view.

What does that mean? Could it mean that the Glace Bay and New Waterford hospitals could be affected? I think it could very well mean that. The $8 million in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital complex could have effects right across the island and whether it is in the

[Page 3952]

Glace Bay hospital, or New Waterford, I think people are going to be losing jobs in an area that doesn't need to lose jobs.

The Health Department staff, as I understand it, in all these cuts, these millions of dollars that they have taken out, these user fees in Pharmacare, I never talked about the user fees. They are going to increase the ambulance service costs from $60 million to $85 million - pardon me, $60 to $85 - an $85 million ambulance ride would be an awful long trip I am sure, but it is going to go from $60 to $85. They are going to increase the costs for home care and I think prescription drugs in Pharmacare are even going to go higher next year when they bring in this indexation into the program. But they talk about health care as if they are not going to have any problem. We are going to see, ladies and gentlemen, bed closures from one end of this province to the other. In the southwest region $9 million has been taken out of the budget of health care.

The good members who are from Lunenburg County will know that some of those hospitals are going to be affected in our local areas and the good members know, who are from Lunenburg County, that health care is a big priority of the people of our community. They expect and demand quality service delivery of health care. When you take $70 million out of the acute care system and $31 million of that is in the QE II, you are going to have a negative impact in every rural regional hospital across this province and yet they do not have a plan and they do not have a strategy of how they are going to deal with health care, all this at a time when the Department of Health staff here is increasing by 30 jobs. Head office is going up 30 jobs, as I understand it, I could be wrong, but my information says it is going up, and yet other programs are going down.

We have talked so far about the big game here. This government has done one thing. They have hurt Nova Scotians where they never expected it. They gutted their word on programs that he said were going to be protected. We have already seen the slash and burn in education, the cuts in education. We have already seen health care problems without a plan. We have seen agriculture and some of the others.

Let's go on to Justice. They said we are going to be the Party to develop a rural strategy of economic growth. Let's see what the Department of Justice is doing to help sustain rural economic growth? Four jails and eleven courthouses throughout rural Nova Scotia, what do you thing is going to happen to them? What do you think is going to happen to them? They are going to be gone. Jails closed in Guysborough County. Now what is in Guysborough County? They are going to close the jail in Guysborough County.

I pity the poor member from Guysborough County. He is just hanging on by a thread now. He was out campaigning, and he did a great job in Cape Breton. He brought the popular vote up for the Tories to 17 per cent, and I think he did a great job because I don't think they were anywhere near that until the good member from Guysborough County went up there and knocked on the door. He said the one thing he was carrying with him was his nitroglycerine

[Page 3953]

in his pocket, just in case he got in trouble. I am glad that he did and he is a good guy, I like the guy very much but I don't know how he is going to go back to Guysborough County. Nice guys finish last, too, and I am sure that is what is going to happen in the next election, just like the Tories did in Cape Breton. I don't know what that member is going to do when he goes to Guysborough County when they tell them the jail is gone, the jobs are gone in Guysborough County. I can tell you, those people in Guysborough County need work.

What about the people in Kings County? Where are our Kings County people? Oh well, there go some more jobs in Kings County. Not a problem, they say. Colchester County, their jail is gone. In Lunenburg County, the Minister of Justice's own riding, that jail is now gone. I understand that the Minister of Justice said, don't worry, those jobs are going to go to Halifax. Well, I checked that out and I understand they are going to only need 85 people and they have 115 currently employed, they have a surplus of employees there now. What are they going to do? Maybe the good minister has a plan to build a big jail in Yarmouth to help the fortunes of his representative in Yarmouth.

All this at a time when the NSGEU, that was concerned about rural Nova Scotia and the employees of those facilities, was working in good faith with the Minister of Justice, negotiating in good faith for the good employees only to find out that budget day, all those people were informed and they weren't; 90 jobs will be affected across this province. The courthouses that are going to be closed: Middleton, Comeauville, Tatamagouche, Glace Bay, Sheet Harbour, Berwick, Springhill, Barrington, St. Peters and Sherbrooke. They are going to be gone; the courthouses are going to be gone.

The good minister, the Minister of Justice over there (Interruption) Peace to you, brother, as well. The list goes on. I am going to say, I talked to a member today who is in the Christmas tree business - and the honourable Minister of Justice probably knows this individual - I said, well, what do you think? He said, can you imagine, the Christmas tree specialist in Lunenburg County is gone. Lunenburg County is the balsam fir Christmas tree capital of the world and that minister, he has been at those meetings, I have seen him there, and he has talked about the importance of the Christmas tree industry, and what happened? The Christmas tree specialist is now gone, axed, out the door, gone. Another hit to rural Nova Scotia.

My gosh, I don't know. I guess the issue of natural resources is yet to be determined. We have yet to find out. Tourism and Culture, I know the minister was speaking last night to the South Shore Tourism Association. I was there today at lunch and $700,000 has been cut from that budget in tourism. This is what this Premier and his government said was going to be the basis of helping to rebuild rural Nova Scotia. They are going to have one Minister of Tourism and Culture.

[Page 3954]

These other guys are packed. They are walking around with their shoulders bent over because they are carrying four and five departments at one time. We have one Minister of Tourism and Culture. He could not even stand up for a benefit for that industry that they say will be a future benefit to the Province of Nova Scotia. A $1.27 billion industry, and they cut it $700,000. Well, I am saying shame on the minister for allowing that to happen. If this government said that will be a rural economic driver and a rural benefit, they shut her down again.

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

The Estimates are referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could have the concurrence of the House to return to the order of business, Statements by Ministers?

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a brief announcement to inform the House about a development in New Brunswick this afternoon. The Provincial Court of New Brunswick has just issued a verdict in the case of Joshua Bernard, a Mi'kmaq who was charged with possession of timber, taking it illegally from Crown land in that province. The court has ruled this afternoon that Mr. Bernard is guilty of the charges.

Mr. Speaker, we have our own case before the courts of Nova Scotia which we cannot comment on, but I want to advise members that we will have our legal staff take the necessary time to review the written decision from New Brunswick. I remind the House that the policy of the Government of Nova Scotia remains the same. Illegal harvesting, whether done by an aboriginal harvester or non-aboriginal, will not be tolerated. I, along with my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, invited Mi'kmaq representatives to resume discussion over forestry issues. I apologize for not giving more notice to my colleagues in the Opposition, but they will appreciate that we just received the notice. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a couple of comments. First of all, I want to say that I wish the government would stop waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on these things or for cases to get to the Supreme Court to rule on these things,

[Page 3955]

because we have had a lot of decisions around the whole question of aboriginal rights and aboriginal title. I wish the government would get on with the fact that we have a tripartite forum in the Province of Nova Scotia with rules and processes set up in order to try to deal with these questions.

If only this government wouldn't try to change the rules in midstream by insisting that any discussions are held in that tripartite forum on a with-prejudice basis, we might be able to get further down the road at trying to get some sort of resolution to this issue. That, plus the idea that we have a problem in terms of forest management or timber supply because of the cutting by natives, is simply not true. I urge the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, or whatever that department is now called, to get his officials back to the tripartite forum and start working on this issue in a respectful and constructive manner.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: I do appreciate the minister presenting this information to us here today. I certainly understand why the information couldn't have been here any earlier, but I certainly respect the fact that he brought it to our attention right now.

This has been an ongoing issue for quite some time with this administration and with our administration when we were in government. I think it is important that we do have rules. We have yet to determine the issue of title in this province, and that is going to be a very profound issue, one that is going to take some time, and one that is going to take a lot of work, and a lot of legal work to determine what will be the outcome.

The tripartite forum, as the Leader of the New Democratic Party indicated, has been a vehicle that has been an example that is sometimes used in every other jurisdiction in this country as an opportunity to work together. Under the 12 or 13 different projects we are working on together, hopefully we can find solutions here by partnering together for economic growth.

[3:45 p.m.]

What the First Nations people are looking for is the ability to find work, economic activity and a future for their people, and I respect that. The highest rate of suicide is in the reserves and the First Nations people. Some of the poorest people around are in those areas. We have a responsibility to try to work with them whenever we can, to find solutions to building economic opportunities, as they have in some other jurisdictions in this country.

I support the position taken by the minister and by this government in regard to holding the position firm on illegal harvesting. I also highly recommend to the minister and to the government and to Premier to do all we can to build opportunities without conflict and without injury. We can find a way to co-exist and find solutions when we have an attitude that

[Page 3956]

wants to find those. I trust that the minister and the government of the day will work on that basis. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37, the Preston Area Housing Act. Debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Richmond.

Bill No. 37 - Preston Area Housing Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond has 30 minutes left.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in resuming the debate, comments I first raised the other evening on this bill, unfortunately in the time that has passed since the last time I rose to speak on this bill, I have not received any information or any sort of assurances to alleviate any of the concerns which I raised or even to indicate the reasoning behind these very amendments which I have indicated are posing serious concern to me. It is my understanding that it is causing concern for several other members of the House.

Mr. Speaker, having the opportunity to reflect upon this bill again, it was interesting in noting that the whole idea of the bill and the structure of the commission which is being put together, ironically, the people who are to be chosen in the communities - mainly two from North Preston; two from East Preston; one from Cherry Brook; one from Lake Loon - the method by which they are to be selected is, it says, they are to be elected to these positions. So one asks, who would be carrying out this election?

Mr. Speaker, it ends up that the other composition of this board is through appointees: one through the Halifax Regional Municipality; two from the Minister of Community Services; and two from the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. So that would be four provincial appointees and one Halifax Regional Municipality appointee. It is these very people who will then elect the remaining members of this board.

[Page 3957]

Mr. Speaker, without being too suspicious, one has to ask why this has been put into this bill and why should we give such authority to the Ministers of the Crown, through their departments, to make appointees who will then, in essence, appoint themselves the remainder of this board. One has to ask, what community input is coming into this? Certainly this is a matter which affects the entire community. Housing is a serious social concern which affects everyone. One is left to wonder, why have they been shut out of this process and has been basically left in the hands of this Tory Government to determine who will sit on this housing commission, on this board. Where is the community in this? Why are the people of Preston and area not being permitted to have a voice in this matter? In fact, not only are they not being given a voice, certain members are actually excluded from being able to be on the board. So not only is the community not involved in the selection process, certain members of the community, for no reason of their own, are being specifically excluded from membership on this board, based on this very regressive legislation, I would add.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues which I raised again is the issue of this onerous clause of saying that once one has been appointed, one can be reappointed to the board, but then that is it. You cannot go any further. You can no longer serve for a further time on that board. One is left to ask why and what is the logic that is behind the reason to include this which was clearly not included in the original bill that was passed by this Legislature? So why would we now bring in this clause saying, two kicks and then you are gone; two kicks and then you get a kick because you are booted out.

Really, Mr. Speaker, one is left to wonder why the member for Preston, who brought forward this bill, would say people who served on two occasions on this board should then have their services terminated. One would think, using logic, that someone who has been on this board for two terms has gained vast experience, vast knowledge on the operations, and has become quite an efficient member of this board. Why has the member for Preston decided that now we should get rid of them after two terms, they have served their usefulness, and they should be discarded at that point?

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not believe that that is appropriate. I fail to see the logic behind it and it is clear that in Nova Scotia under our democracy we certainly have not adopted this kind of regressive measure in many cases and I fail to see the reason why this House, the members on this side, should accept and support such a clause. Again, this is something that the member for Preston has completely failed to address with members on this side of the House as to why we should be supporting this very legislation.

Again one is left to ask, when one looks at the other provisions of the bill dealing with the composition of the board in the specific area, how did he choose the specific communities that are listed in here and why are these listed, other communities not listed? How is it decided there should be two from North Preston yet only one from Lake Loon; two from East Preston, but only one from Cherry Brook? Again, why was this put in there? Is this just something that the member himself came up with? Where is this coming from?

[Page 3958]

At the same time it also raises the issue of whether we are we getting the best possible members put on this board? Are the people of Preston going to be served by the best possible membership on this board if we allow this bill to go through with these restrictions that people must be from a specific residential area in order to be permitted to serve on this board? Really, are there three people in North Preston who would be excellent members of this board, but then we are only allowed to see that two of them serve on it because of the regressive restrictions put on this? Does the member feel, as the MLA for Preston, that the people in his own constituency are not capable of seeing to it that there is fair and adequate representation throughout his constituency? I certainly hope that that is not the message that the member for Preston wishes to send to his constituents. At the same time he has certainly not given us any indication as to why this was put in there.

Mr. Speaker, the other new clause of this bill deals with the exclusion clause; again, something which was not put in the original Act. One is left to ask if it wasn't in the original Act and the fact that there is a certain amount of people listed, are there certain people that the member for Preston is looking to exclude? Is there someone on the village commission who he does not want to see on the housing commission; therefore, he has put that anyone elected under the Village Services Act will not be on the board? Why has this been put in there? I would hate to think that there is someone who is serving the good communities inside Preston, who is on a village commission, that the member, personally, does not want to see sit on a board for whatever reason, but one is left to ask (Interruption) I must say in my short time here in this House, going on two years, I believe this is the first time I have ever seen such an exclusion, to say that someone who is on a village commission cannot serve on a particular government board.

Mr. Speaker, I find this very strange, I fail to see any logic in this decision. It leaves the impression that by bringing this in now, there are specific people being targeted for exclusion by the member for Preston. Certainly, that is not a measure which is acceptable to me, and I don't believe it is a measure which is acceptable to most members of this House. Certainly in a democracy, it is not our place to allow certain private members to put in regressive legislation to settle some personal vendettas or some personal biases against specific people and to see to it that they are punished by the member, through this Private Members' Bill, which I would say is very powerful legislation. It is a very powerful tool, and one which must be exercised with great care and great caution.

That is why, in this House, we want to let the Government House Leader know, and his entire government, that they will not throw Private Members' Bills onto the floor of this House and expect easy passage at least from this caucus, unless they are good bills, and they have been properly vetted, that we have been properly informed as to the reasons behind them and the logic behind them. That has certainly not been done in the this case. I would say the member for Preston certainly has not done his homework, as far as communicating with the Opposition to explain to them why this is here. I see him waving something, and he has

[Page 3959]

indicated to me that he would make some comments at the end of second reading. (Interruptions) Exactly, when will that ever be.

Mr. Speaker, at this stage, and the way this is going, I think it is going to be quite some time before we finally get to see those comments. I would put it to the member for Preston that he is a little too late on this. It is certainly not at the second reading that one, who is putting forward such legislation, should say, okay, now I am going to explain everything to you, at second reading, now I am going to answer everything, hold on, let the bill go through, and I will explain it to you in the end. That is not good enough. (Interruptions) That is not good enough, and I would say it is not an efficient use of the House, for a private member to throw such legislation in front of us and simply expect us to support it without any further explanation. How much time is left Mr. Speaker? (Interruptions)

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Nineteen minutes.

MR. SAMSON: M. le Président, comme je l'ai dit la dernière fois que j'ai parlé sur cette loi No. 37, le problème que ça cause pour moi comme membre de Richmond - comme vous le savez, moi-même, je viens d'une région acadienne, une région où une grande partie de la population parle la deuxième langue officielle du Canada. Ils se prononcent en cette langue et ça me fait plaisir de me prononcer dans cette langue aussi dans cette Chambre. Le membre lui-même est le député de la région de Preston et comme on connait bien, cette région a été établie par le gouvernement Libérale pour faire certain que les gens de cette région avaient l'occasion d'élire un membre de leur communauté, une communauté minoritaire.

Là on a vu durant l'histoire de cette communauté que l'honorable Wayne Adams était le premier membre élu de cette circonscription et il a devenu membre de la couronne comme Ministre de l'Environment. Après ça on avait une autre représentant de la communauté, Madame Yvonne Atwell, qui a aussi servi cette région et maintenant, on a M. Hendsbee. C'est une région qui est une très belle région dans notre province, une région très importante. Il faut faire certain de protèger les droits des minorités dans cette province et certainement les droits des membres de cette communauté qui étaitent pour plusieurs années sans la représentation qu'ils pensaient qu'ils devraient avoir et que - je suis d'accord qu'ils n'ont pas eu.

M. le Président, pour permettre le membre aujourd'hui - de ce que je comprends il ne demeure pas dans la circonscription de Preston, il n'est pas résident là - je comprends qu'il reste - ce n'est pas Chezzetcook, mais juste hors de la communautée de Chezzetcook, alors il ne demeure même pas dans la circonscription de Preston - mais il vient devant nous aujourd'hui avec la loi No. 37 et il dit qu'il n'a pas confiance, que les gens dans sa région sont capables de mettre des représentants sur le "housing board" qui sont des représentants qui

[Page 3960]

représentent chaque région de la communauté de Preston. Pour le représentant de Preston de nous dire je n'ai pas confiance, alors je vais vous proposer dans la loi no. 37, des changes à la loi ancienne, d'originale, de la première loi qui est venue devant nous, qui a passé à travers de la Maison; il n'y avait pas de section qu'ils disent quand on est entrain de mettre ensemble les membres du housing board pour faire certain qu'on a deux de la communautée de East Preston, deux de la communautée de North Preston, un de Cherrybrook, un de Lake Loon, et en y a comme ça. On disait que ça doit être des membres qui représentaient le tous de la communautée de Preston. Mais ça se faut, d'après le membre de Preston, que lui dit maintenant, non - ça ne va pas travailler. On se demande s'il dit peut-être que c'était seulement les gens de North Preston qui contrôlaient tous, ou c'était seulement les gens de East Preston qui contrôlaient tous, ou bien il n'y avait pas de représentant de Lake Loon, il n'y avait pas de représentant de Cherrybrook, on ne sait pas. Parce-que quand qu'il a présenté cette loi - qu'il a parlé sur cette loi - il n'a donné aucune indication pour nous dire pourquoi il voulait permettre ces sections dans la loi. Pour faire certain, pour prendre avec un point de fer, et de dire il faut faire absolument certain qu'il y a des représentants appointés de chacune de ces régions, un spécifique montant de personnes de des communautées spécifiques.

M. le Président, je ne comprends pas pourquoi il veut faire ça. Peut-être qu'il pense que c'est la meilleure façon d'être égale, mais à ce point ici pour moi, je ne pense pas que c'est quelque chose que moi je dois supporter ou autrement de la Chambre dois supporter a établir ces barriers dans la communautée de Preston. Là le grand problème, comme je l'ai dit, c'est que dans la première loi qui a était passé par cette Maison n'y avait aucune section qu'il disait qui ne pouvait pas être membre de la commission. Aujourd'hui le membre vient et nous dit il faut faire certain que si une personne est membre du sénat, du Chambre des communes, de l'Assemblée provinciale, qui est élu comme conseiller municipale ou élu sur commission de village; il ne peut pas être sur le housing board. Il faut se demander pourquoi, pourquoi ces personnes spécifiques ont-étés exclus? Est-ce qu'il y a quelqu'un que le membre lui-même ne veut pas qu'ils soient membres sur cette board? Qu'il dit, non, il faut faire certain que ces gens sont exclus. Je ne vois pas pourquoi qu'on doit accepter ça maintenant, ça n'a pas était accepter de la première loi qui est venu ici à cette Chambre et je ne vois pas pourquoi les membres doivent etre attendu de faire - de l'accepter aujourd'hui.

L'autre problème comme je l'ai dit, c'est l'autre section - qui n'était pas dans la première loi - où il dit si on a servie un terme, on ne s'est pas réappointé pour un deuxième terme, après ça, c'est fini. On n'est plus permis de servir sur le Preston area housing board apres qu'on a servie deux termes - on est exclus. Encore, il faut qu'on se demande pourquoi le membre voudrait permettre ceci - je ne sais pas, il ne la pas expliqué et je ne vois pas pourquoi on doit accepter ceci parce-que ici dans la province. Comme vous savez bien, M. le Président, notre système n'est pas comme le système aux États-Unis. On sait bien aux États-Unis, le Président est seulement permis de servir deux termes; après ça sous la loi des États-Unis, il n'est pas permis de continuer plus longtemps. On sait bien qu'ici au Canada à la Nouvelle-Écosse, nos premiers ministres - fédérales et provinciales - sont permis de servir les gens qu'ils représentent aussi longtemps qu'ils ont la confiance de la population dans leurs

[Page 3961]

coins. M. le Président, je ne pense pas qu'a ce point ici ils ne sont plus d'explication que je pourrait supporter cette section de la loi.

En terminant, M. le Président, je pense que ce type de loi qui vient de membre privé pour faire des changes à une loi qui existe - des changes très régressives - je ne pense pas que la manière qu'il l'a fait justement ici à la Maison, et attende qu'on ne l'a pas lui faire attention comme opposition et qu'on a le supporter. Ce n'est pas acceptable, ce n'est pas la manière d'avoir la Maison fonctionner comme qu'il faut fonctionner. Je veux dire aux membres que les objections que nous avons sont des objections sincères. On ne fait pas ceci intentionelle pour faire tort à le membre ou à sa région. Nos concerns sont sincères, c'est pour faire certain que les decisions qu'on fait et les lois qui sortent de cette Maison ne vont pas faire tort aux gens de la belle région de Preston.

Alors, ça se termine les commentaires que je veux faire à ce point ici. J'espère que j'aurai l'occasion de me présenter encore sur cette loi à une occasion plus tard. Je veux vous remercier, M. le Président, de l'occasion de me présenter et de m'exprimer sur cette loi, et j'attends que mon collègue, le membre de Preston, a bien écouté à toute cela que j'ai dit et qu'il va commencer à communiquer avec nous ici en l'opposition pour pouvoir parler à nos concerns et peut-être, à la fin de la journée, qu'on pourrait travailler ensemble à faire certain que la loi No. 37 est la meilleure loi pour les gens de Preston et la meilleure loi pour protèger le Preston Area Housing Act. Merci, M. le President.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise to speak on the Preston Area Housing Bill. First of all, I want to say that my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, Bill Estabrooks, in my absence on April 11th, when in fact this bill was first introduced, made some comments with respect to me implying that they were friends of David, and I had some concerns with respect to that and he implied that they may be disparaging remarks. I want the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Preston to recognize that they weren't disparaging remarks, but they were factual remarks, because I remember this very member as a CA for the former Minister of Transportation, Tom McInnis, and a member of this Legislative Assembly, with some acts, I believe something to do with lists of names or something that this member was actively involved in. That is the reason why I have a specific concern with this bill when it comes before the Legislative Assembly.

I have no difficulty with the bill; in fact, having a representative from the Halifax Regional Municipality. I have no difficulty with two persons being appointed to the Department of Community Services and certainly no difficulty with two representatives being appointed from Housing and Municipal Affairs. After all, this is a housing bill and a board that represents the housing situation in the Preston area.

[Page 3962]

What I do have difficulty with is recognizing that people will put their names forward and then they will be selected by the upper pyramid of this particular board. That I do have concerns with because I, as a member representing Dartmouth North, know the distinction of many different communities that exist within the boundaries of the Dartmouth North constituency, and I do know that the member for Preston also recognizes the differences of communities that exist within the Halifax Regional Municipality and within his electoral boundary of the Legislative Assembly. We know that each and every community prides itself on being distinctive, being unique, and having its own way of life and its own particular lifestyle. Also, the communities recognize that they have different needs and I find it inappropriate even though my colleague - and I want to take a step back - about a year ago, in this Legislative Assembly, representing the Preston area, Yvonne Atwell, brought a similar bill forward and the honourable member might say it was complete in its content, similar to his bill.

I would say that I had some concerns then and I have some concerns now. The single most important concern that anyone can recognize is community distinction and the right of a community itself to elect its representative to a board, a committee, or a commission. Those are singly most important in the minds of communities. Communities want to know that when they appoint someone to a board, that they actually have a say and not the board. As we all know, from time to time boards have been cited by communities as being somewhat insensitive to their particular needs. They carry on their own particular agendas, and they really don't carry the concerns of the community. Now I know we are talking about communities like Cherry Brook, Lake Loon, and we are talking about communities like East Preston. Each of those communities with their own different distinction, their own different needs, and what they view as their housing needs as well, are singularly important to them.

With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the honourable member who has brought this Private Member's Bill in will in fact give some serious consideration to the effect of making amendments to this bill that will allow those communities to select the representative that they appoint to the board. The board has a long history. I don't profess to know a great deal about the history of the board, but I do know there are major housing concerns in the Preston area. I would wonder if that is not a responsibility of the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

We have the budget before us, and I want to tell you that I just briefly glanced at the budget of the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, and I see some numbers in that budget that don't reflect very positively with respect to the approach of this government's intervention into the needs of housing. So, you can set up a board, and you can have all the members you want, Mr. Speaker, and the honourable member whose Private Member's Bill is coming forward knows that as well. You can set up all the boards you want, and all the committees you want. But if you don't have dollars and you don't have commitments by the levels of government that are prepared to address the issue, and a very serious issue in Preston, Lake Loon and Cherry Brook, these are very serious housing issues, what is the

[Page 3963]

good of the board? The board only has the power to administer and to deliver on programs it can afford to deliver on.

Mr. Speaker, when I look once again at the budget that is brought forward by the Housing and Municipal Affairs Department, it would be a good time for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs to tell this Party, and I am sure the other Party opposite, where the direction is going with his provincial government on the affordability of housing for those people who need it. I looked just briefly at the RRAP program. I simply glanced at it, and I don't want these to be taken as detailed comments, simply because I have not gone through the fine details of it. But, the RRAP program has dropped some $215,000 I think and some cents. There is also the whole picture of some $2 million that is actually coming out of the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs. We have to look at that overall budget to see where it is going.

Mr. Speaker, what I would say to you is that when we bring Private Members' Bills into this House, we want to make sure they are effective bills. We want to make sure they are bills with teeth. We want to make sure they are bills that will stand the test of time. We want to make sure the bills allow the kind of administrative policies that the bill intends to allow to take place. Singularly and most importantly, we want to make sure that the bill allows for the Conservatives' position of good, transparent government and a government of consultation, a government that will listen to the individuals; that is the single, most important thing here.

[4:15 p.m.]

I have visited the area of East Preston, I have travelled through Cherry Brook, and I have travelled in the Lake Loon communities. I have been in each one of those communities. Each one of those communities appears to me to have their own distinctive particular needs and probably, in all fairness, have their very own community groups; community groups that will, in fact, each have a member appointed to a committee. They probably do go through some kind of public election. If there is not a special election set aside to appoint the people to the board under this bill, then maybe the committees themselves, who are already in existence, if they are in existence, can make the appointment to the Preston Area Housing Board, and consistent with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that it concerns me when legislation is drafted in such a manner that it allows the governmental bodies to determine what kind of representation will best serve their interest. That to me is a concern, and it is a very real concern. That is the reason why I stand here before this bill. I want to make it clear, as a member of this Party and as member of the Opposition presently, that we make sure the citizens in each of those three areas are represented. There is also the concern with the term in office. I know there has often been talk about the kinds of terms in office that individuals should have while serving on committees. There has been talk about this one year term of office, but there has also been

[Page 3964]

talk of a two year term of office, and alternating years in office, to maintain a core of experienced individuals. We all know that was part of a legal process that was drafted many years ago when communities didn't have that kind of experience, and they drafted that into the community association's by-laws.

Mr. Speaker, what I will say is that when you draft that into the by-laws, you have to recognize that, again, it has to be what is in the best interests of the community. The community usually tells you that. The community usually tells you if they are open and receptive to the kind of structure they want. I would say this community is probably entrenched, and I would say that the member for Preston - who served, as well, I do believe, as a regional councillor of that area, and served on the regional municipality for a period of at least three years - has more knowledge and a better understanding of that community than I. I don't doubt that, I don't doubt that one bit. I think that is a fair assumption. But what I will say is that that member knows very well how politics can be manipulated, and how boards can be manipulated, and how it is the right of us, as legislators, to introduce legislation that will prevent that from happening. That, again, is the single most important thing that we have to have here.

We may not like the end process, and we may not like what comes out of some of the appointments of the communities, and who the community appoints to a board, but the single most important thing is that we recognize that by the very fact that we are here through an electoral process as well. We may not all like it that, in fact, we can't be the government of the day, but that is a fact. We may not like the fact of who the community decides to appoint to represent them, but that too is a fact. That is a fact that we have to come to grips with and we have to live with, because that is the kind of representation you are going to get on a true board and a board that represents the community.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that I am not going to spend a whole lot of time on this, I never intended to spend a lot of time, because my colleague, on April 11th, as a matter of fact, indicated my position and I think he indicated reasonably well the position of my Party. But what I want you to know is that when this goes through the Private and Local Bills Committee, we hope there are amendments with respect to the way appointments take place (Interruption) that it is taken into consideration the single most important thing we can do as legislators here is to make sure that public consultation, public participation and public involvement is the singular most important thing that happens here.

If the member who introduced this bill can find the flexibility to move within the bill, some amendments that I find are acceptable, so that we cannot say that they are friends of David, and nobody else in the Opposition can say that they are friends of David, then we will make that kind of an amendment to this Legislative Assembly. I want to thank you very much for having the opportunity and I thank the member.

[Page 3965]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to adjourn debate on Bill No. 37.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 37. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I have seen a lot of things. This gentleman, the member here, stood up when nobody else was standing up to speak on this bill, and you turned your back and you were looking to see if one of those guys had enough time to stand up when we were there, ready to speak. Now I think that is shameful in regard to the fact that this is a democratic process. We had a member who was prepared to speak and you wouldn't even - he was even hollering at you to speak and you didn't even want to look over here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. The Speaker recognized a member from the Liberal Party, a member from the NDP and a member from the Progressive Conservative Government caucus, the Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. JERRY PYE: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I have stood in this House and I have been very patient and watched a number of thing occur, some of which I have not been very pleased about. The honourable member, although he is not a member of my political Party, stood on the floor first to speak to this bill and that honourable member has the right to have this floor. It is up to you to make the determination.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe that the Speaker of the House, at any given time, is to treat all Parties accordingly. I recognized the member from the Liberals, the NDP and now I am recognizing the Deputy Government House Leader because he was on his feet when I looked at the government benches. (Interruptions)

Order, please. It is not a point of order.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I call the order of business . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order. I am seeking some clarification, if I may, from you first, Mr. Speaker. The person who is rising to speak, the honourable member for Eastern Shore, am I correct that he is rising to close the debate on this bill? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: To adjourn debate, honourable member.

[Page 3966]

MR. HOLM: He is wishing to adjourn the debate?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, he is.

MR. HOLM: Okay, thank you.

[GOVERNMENT BUSINESS]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 42.

Bill No. 42 - Municipal Law Amendment (2000) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for the second time. The bill proposes amendments to the Municipal Government Act, the Municipal Elections Act and the Assessment Act. These amendments would benefit municipalities, municipal workers and taxpayers. We hope that the amendments will reduce red tape, make vote counting in municipal elections easier and provide an avenue to protect the interests of residents of Nova Scotia who own or would like to own property within the province. A lot of the proposed amendments are housekeeping changes that would correct or clarify existing clauses and standardized wording. We are proposing one major change to the Municipal Government Act. Municipalities would gain the option - and I want to emphasize the word option - of charging higher taxes to property owners who live outside the province. The amendment would empower municipalities to establish a by-law to charge non-residents, non-commercial property owners, an additional levy. The amount of this levy and the number of non-resident property owners who would be affected would be determined at the municipal level by the by-laws that the municipal government would adopt.

Mr. Speaker, we expect Nova Scotia's municipalities would take a fair and reasoned approach if they develop by-laws to impose additional taxes on non-resident landowners. Property owners and municipalities have told us they are concerned about large areas of land being bought up by people from outside the province. They are concerned that it is driving up prices and property assessment. We committed that we would address this issue, and we

[Page 3967]

are doing so, sir, with this bill. All other Municipal Government Act amendments are of a housekeeping nature.

Our proposed changes to the Municipal Elections Act would permit municipal employees to run for council if they take a leave of absence. Under existing legislation a municipal employee would, in essence, be compelled to quit his or her job if they were elected to council. We think this is a disincentive for municipal workers who want to take a more active role in the running of their community. Our proposed changes give municipal workers the same political activity rights enjoyed by provincial government employees.

Another proposed change would make it easier and less expensive for municipal governments to use the federal voters list. All other Municipal Elections Act amendments are of a housekeeping nature.

Mr. Speaker, finally, we are proposing some changes to the Assessment Act. We would assess aquaculture operations as a resource property. This would mean lower taxes for aquaculture operators and would put aquaculture on a level playing field with other resource properties like farming and forestry. (Applause) Glad to see some people are awake.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 42 would set the groundwork for assessing pipelines which, of course, is a new industry for Nova Scotia. Pipeline owners would be assessed, not the owner of the property over which the pipeline runs. Pipelines would be assessable and taxable even when they run over tax-exempt lands such as Crown lands. Our amendments would introduce more flexibility for regional assessment court sittings. If all the concerned parties agree, they would now be able to meet in a municipality other than the one in which the appeal was filed. Currently, hearings must take place in the municipality where the assessed land is located. That means it is possible to have one sitting deal with one appeal. Then the court would have to move to an adjacent community to hear another appeal, and the process would go on and on. Our proposed amendment, (Interruption) We might even have more sittings in Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, but the intention of this amendment is to provide flexibility for all parties concerned. I can assure honourable members that is the intention, and that is the way we would see it work.

Our proposed amendments open the door to holding several regional hearings in one sitting, which would be more efficient. Under these amendments, the minister would have the authority to establish an alternate dispute resolution process for appeal hearings. The bill would also reduce red tape by allowing the Director of Assessment to refer a residential property with four or more units, or a commercial property appeal, directly to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. The proposed changes would make it easier to correct assessment errors as they come to light. Assessors, municipalities and taxpayers have been asking for this.

[Page 3968]

[4:30 p.m.]

It would become easier to appeal an assessment because an appellant only needs to file an appeal with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. In turn, the board would notify the relevant parties rather than requiring the appellant to contact the parties involved. At present under the Assessment Act, farm and forest lands are exempt from regular taxes. The province pays a grant in lieu of taxes for a farm property and the owners of forest property pay taxes at a special rate of 25 cents per acre. These benefits would now be limited to farm and forest lands owned by residents of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that these amendments will go a long way towards protecting the interests of resident Nova Scotians who want to own land in their own province, toward promoting vibrant municipal governments, and making the administration of Nova Scotia's Municipal Elections Act simpler. We committed to these changes and I am very pleased to bring them forward today. I want to thank honourable members for their attention. I look forward to hearing comments from other members with respect to the legislation and will certainly take note of all concerns raised.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that I hope debate on bills are not stifled as they were previously. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. For greater clarification, would the honourable member please repeat that comment for the benefit of the Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: He said he hoped the debate is not shut down again.

MR. PYE: I just said, Mr. Speaker, I hope the debate is allowed to continue on for some length.

MR. SPEAKER: You have the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on this bill and, first of all, I want to start with respect to non-resident ownership. I want to say that we have our colleague here from the New Democratic Party, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, to thank with respect to non-resident ownership and the kind of dilemmas that individuals, particularly longstanding property owners have faced as a result of non-resident ownership. Time and time again he has brought this issue before this Legislative Assembly to address. I do know that this is not welcomed by all municipalities. I do want to say to the minister that he is correct. Under the order of good government, which is in the new Municipal Act, it will allow the municipalities to draft a by-law to place a levy on properties that are owned by non-resident ownership.

[Page 3969]

There are some particular concerns that I have with respect to this particular area though, Mr. Speaker. What happens when a native Nova Scotian who, in fact, has lived here all his or her life, whose parents have left properties, and the properties are here now and they happen to live within another province or another country? Those are native Nova Scotians whose parents have acquired the land, who have maintained the properties, and now have deeded those properties over to them, and they are proud to own that property in the Province of Nova Scotia, yet six months after they have left this province, the municipality has the right to draft a by-law to levy a special tax increase. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, there is just a slight interruption and we know possibly from whom. So I want to say this, and it may have been something that has not been given some thought to but something that is very dear to my heart because I know many people in small communities who, for reasons of their own, had to go job searching and had to leave the Province of Nova Scotia simply because there were no jobs available to them and now are native Nova Scotians who live in every single province across this country and as a matter of fact live in other countries of this world.

All of those individuals, Mr. Speaker, in many cases I should say, not in all of those, but in many cases those individuals own property in their native Province of Nova Scotia. Those individuals now will have the right to be taxed as non-resident owners of that property as a result of this municipality being able to draft a by-law that levies an additional tax on non-resident ownership of the land.

I want to say to the minister that I do think that this has another effect, an effect in a positive way. Many people who have accumulated a tremendous amount of wealth come to Nova Scotia to where land is plentiful and that in fact they can purchase the land at a very reasonable rate as opposed to their own native country. They can then turn around and build huge resorts and usually assessed values of mansions in the States and businesses to the extent whereby they have an impact of raising the assessed values of property owners and native Nova Scotians who have lived there for a long period of time. Many of those Nova Scotians are seniors who have been here, who are now on fixed incomes, who have pensions, who are proud to own their property and continue to own their property, but because of non-resident ownership and the lifestyles and the estates that they have built, are penalized and therefore the assessed values of their properties go up to the point whereby they can no longer live in them.

I want to tell you that, in that sense, the bill is good, and it does at least place the pressure upon the municipality to do either one of two things. Either to do a re-evaluation of how it is going to deal with non-resident ownership in a fair and equitable way, yet protect the native Nova Scotians who are on fixed incomes, who are homeowners and who own those properties there. I would say to the minister - he and his department may have taken this into consideration, but should the minister and his department not have taken this into

[Page 3970]

consideration - I think it is something that the minister should look at and I think it is something that requires an amendment.

I would also say that there are probably going to be other speakers who will speak on this contentious part of the bill. I am sure that there are Members of this Legislative Assembly who have family members who own property in their counties and in their communities, who own properties and in fact no longer live in Nova Scotia. Are they going to be penalized because they are no longer residents of Nova Scotia? I should think not and I should think that maybe this is an area that we have to look at but, on the surface, I will commend the minister for at least attempting to address this issue of non-resident ownership.

I think what happens here is that the provincial government decided that it didn't want any responsibility here, although it has the right under law to draft legislation that will deal with non-resident ownership, particularly on Crown land. I think today - and I am not sure, I can be corrected - but you can purchase an acre or two of Crown land and build a home on it and it has assessed value, so there is some concern that the provincial government could have taken this responsibility on themselves instead of downloading it on to the municipality, and I want to use the word "downloading" because I think that this is where it is.

It is great to introduce a bill, but when in fact you have no onus or responsibility on what is going to happen after the fact, then you can do that very readily. What I am saying is that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs ought to give some careful consideration to non-resident ownership, particularly in the areas in which I have already made statements. I would certainly hope that we, as legislators, are not here to penalize our sons and daughters simply because they no longer live in this province and yet they own property. So I want to say that is something we ought to look at, how we address that particular part of it as well.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move on to the other section of Bill No. 42 which amends the Municipal Elections Act. This is something that again I want to say our Party steadfastly approved and supported and recommended in 1998, when I sat in this Legislative Assembly. We said that municipal employees should have the right to run for public office. I am pleased to see that the only municipal employee that I think is exempt from running for municipal elections are those who are CAOs - the acronym, of course, for Chief Administrative Officers.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that there is some validity in that particular area. Singularly most important, there are many fine citizens of municipalities who will now have the opportunity to partake in a democratic process. They will have the opportunity now to run for public office, for elected schools boards. They will have the opportunity to run for municipalities, some of which they know very well and, as employees of that municipality, have a greater knowledge than most of the citizenry, so therefore they will be well experienced when they offer themselves up as candidates in the municipal elections.

[Page 3971]

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to you that it is great timing because, of course, the municipal election is coming up, I believe it will be the second Saturday in October, as it has been historically, with the exception since the amalgamated municipalities came into effect, which gave them the five year term in office.

I stood here with concern about the number of years of the term in office - a four year term in office. I still have my reservations on that. I still believe that the democratic process should prevail and individuals should have the right to have at least a three year term in office, so that the voters can have the opportunity, at the earliest possible time, to elect new members to the district school boards and to municipal governments if, in fact, they are not being served well by those who are already there.

Mr. Speaker, I just want you to know, for instance, let's assume the district school boards are on the same basis as municipal councils, they are elected for a four year term in office. In a lifetime of a parent's child, from P to 12 in school, the chances are that they get the chance to elect their representative to the school board only twice. If, in fact, they have an incompetent member of the school board, it makes it extremely difficult to dispose of them, unless you have recall. There is nothing in this legislation that suggests recall.

I think what you have to recognize is what we, as a political Party recognized a long time ago, everyone should have the right to partake in the democratic process. Simply because they were an employee of the government ought not to exempt them.

Now I do know, and I am going off the track a little now, but I do believe, getting into the provincial employees realm, I believe that assessors still are not given the right to run for office. Now I believe there are some people whose professional backgrounds are as assessors, who serve on regional municipalities now. I think that is all well, fair and good. I have no problem with that and I don't think that our Party has a problem with having assessors being able to run for public office as well. I believe, and the minister can correct me if I am wrong, but I had just a brief look but I don't believe that assessors are covered under this particular legislation.

[4:45 p.m.]

The other area of concern I have, Mr. Speaker, is one whereby we have talked about being able to use the Canada Elections Act. I know, under the new revisions of the Canada Elections Act, that people now, on their income tax roll, can say if they want to be on the electors list. They can say that by checking it off on their income tax form whether they want to be on that electors list or not. That, in itself, will cover the bases of a lot of people who are going to vote in municipal, provincial and federal elections. There are always areas of concern where there are high transient volumes of individuals who live in multi-unit residential developments that exist within municipalities, where there is constant moving and flowing on an annual basis of individuals. Many of these individuals won't be picked up on that, and I

[Page 3972]

think the municipality will just simply, not only adhere to the Municipal Elections Act and use that as its basis for having those individuals on the electors list, but it will make sure everyone gets involved in the democratic process by going out in those particular areas where there needs to be an enumeration done and, in fact, carry out that enumeration process so that everyone can be involved.

Mr. Speaker, this is something I have had some real experience with, and an area in which - thanks to the former Dartmouth City Council at that particular time agreed that the constituency that I represented - they would send out enumerators. I don't know if you recall the former referendum vote held in P.E.I. and everyone in Canada had the right to vote yes or no on that referendum. Well, that referendum list was used once in a municipal election campaign, and as a result of that, a referendum not being complete, many people were left off the list. This can happen under the Canada electors list as well. Even though people sign their names on their income tax forms when they send it in, there can be people who are missed. I would certainly hope this is not the be all and the end all for municipal government and that municipal government does, at least, address those areas where high transient populations tend to exist within municipalities and will cause in effect an enumeration process that will allow individuals to be participants in the democratic process by casting their ballot to vote.

Mr. Speaker, I want to now speak on aqua-farming. I have to say to the minister, I am very pleased - coming from a small fishing village on the Eastern Shore, Ecum Secum, and knowing quite a little bit about fishing in that particular area, and knowing the importance of aqua-farming to the Nova Scotia economy. As a matter of fact, I know an individual who is involved in aqua-farming who lives in my constituency, and he was quite concerned that government wasn't doing enough to help out individuals in aqua-farming. I want to tell the minister this is a good move. In my opinion, it is a move in the right direction, because it does take it out of the commercial base tax rating system and puts it into the resource, and aligns it with agriculture as well.

I want to note that the minister made comment with respect to providing municipalities a grant based on the premise of land used for agriculture. Now, I didn't hear the minister say the municipalities would be provided with a grant to offset that commercial base with respect to now putting it into a resource-based industry. After all, you know the assessed tax value will be somewhat lower, and the municipalities might be reluctant to do that. This is done, once again, Mr. Speaker, by way of the municipality. The municipality then enacts the by-law that will make this a resource-based industry, and therefore, tax it accordingly. So there is a potential loss, and I haven't had the results of what that loss will be in generated tax revenue to municipal units. As you know, there are some municipal units in this province, with a base of aqua-farming. I would assume that in the Inverness area and around the Bras d'Or Lakes, in that particular area, there is probably extensive aqua-farming going on. There are probably aqua-farming processes going on in particular areas of the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3973]

I would tell you, Mr. Speaker, this is a growing industry, and it is going to be an extensive growing industry. The minister is quite right, we want our economy to grow, and we do want to be able to give them a hand up and help them out at this time. I would say on the surface of this move, it is important to recognize the importance of aqua-farming, as the minister has done, by taking it out of the commercial taxing system, placing it into the resource base, and providing it with a lower tax payment. It is appropriate. It is a move in the right direction.

There are some concerns, though, with certain aspects of aqua-farming. As we know, and I am not an expert in this field either, and I just come with some knowledge that is often passed down to me. We do know that shellfish aqua-farming is very good. As a matter fact, it recycles the water, it acts as a filtration source. There is no sediment build-up on the basin floors in comparison to finfish farming. Finfish farming then has to go to a land base in order to make sure there are no pollutants going into the harbours or bays where people continue to fish. So that particular basis, of course, is of concern to some local residents because of its impact upon the native fishing industry.

But in the whole process, let's face it, this is a new way of providing a product to the consuming public. Hopefully with this introduction, providing the municipalities are prepared to be supportive of this, and if in fact the provincial government is prepared to provide some sort of incentive grant to municipalities, as well, aqua-farming can be a very good thing for the Province of Nova Scotia. It can certainly enhance the growth of fishery products in the Province of Nova Scotia and certainly enhance the exporting industry of the Province of Nova Scotia as well. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister on the potential incentive for that.

I want to go now to the assessment process. We have been involved in assessments for some time with municipalities, of course. We all know that the onus of assessing properties is done by the province, and the municipality then sets the tax rate on the assessed value of the property as per the province. The province usually does these assessments by way of doing a market assessment, of what has sold in that given year into a defined geographic area. When they pinpoint that defined geographic area and the assessed values of those properties have risen and sold, then the assessed values of properties tend to climb. They go up. Then the municipality sets their tax rate on that.

As a result of that, we often get a lot of calls, and I certainly have over my period of time, and most recently as a Member of this Legislative Assembly. I had to call the Assessment Office and ask for the assessor who made the assessment on a particular property and also had comments with respect to how you appeal this process, what way and how long the process takes, and in fact, if there can be amicable solutions that will prevent us from having to go to court to make the assessment appeal and I have to say to the minister, my association with the Assessment Department has always been a good one. Usually, they are open and receptive and if they have erred, they will go back and will make a readjustment and they will make a reassessment of that. It is a time-consuming process. I am open and receptive

[Page 3974]

to what is called the dispute resolution process. I think that is a good point and a point that can save people from going to court, spending enormous time in court and tremendous amounts of dollars and I see that as a workable entity and I want to say that that in itself is a good process.

I also like the fact that there is no restriction of time limitations, if individuals want to make an appeal then they can go through that process, unless I have misread the legislation and I don't think I have. The other thing is with respect to four more units of residential and commercial properties, good point Mr. Minister. I think that having spoken on Bill No. 42, I would hope that the minister would take my concerns to heart. The minister is quite right, it is, in effect, good legislation. It is, in effect, downloading some onto the municipalities and causing some concern for the municipalities with respect to one, the loss of commercial tax base with respect to aqua-farming; also the non-resident ownership that is levied to the municipality to draft a by-law which levies a tax rate so the municipality may or may not lose on that. Hopefully, they will make it revenue neutral and they will look at that kind of a process that allows him to levy a tax to that affect.

Overall, I think I will have to say that Bill No. 42, from my perspective and from the short period of time that I have had to look at this bill and to make the assessments that I have, I think I can say that with a few changes at the Law Amendments Committee, that the minister will recognize some of the concerns that I have brought forward in this bill and that the minister will indeed make a point to note those and that in the Law Amendments Committee, hopefully some changes will come forward and we will be able to support a bill that is in the best interests of all of us here in the Legislative Assembly when it comes back for approval.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you and thank you, Mr. Minister.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill No. 42, An Act to amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Assessment Act, Chapter 300 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Municipal Elections Act, and Chapter 18 of the Act of 1998, the Municipal Government Act.

What is this legislation about? Is it about the ability of municipalities to raise more tax revenue from non-residents, or is it about stopping non-residents from buying land? Where is the proof that this bill is supposed to stop non-residents from buying land in Nova Scotia?

The issue of non-resident landownership has been a concern of many Nova Scotians for some time. Prince Edward Island has dealt with this issue with similar legislation, however Prince Edward Island is a much smaller province than Nova Scotia. The demands on land is vastly different on Prince Edward Island; made-in-P.E.I. solutions won't work in Nova Scotia

[Page 3975]

and hopefully this Tory Government will learn that made-in-Ontario solutions won't work in Nova Scotia either.

Nova Scotians do not want to lose control of their land. We have cases of foreign buyers coming to our province to buy land. This land may be developed or yet it may not be. The fear is that non-resident ownership will drive up the price of land. This activity may also drive up property tax assessments.

[5:00 p.m.]

This is a strange piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, from a Tory Government that promised no new taxes. The Tories also promised less government and less intrusive government. The Tories said many times that government should not try to direct or control the natural economic growth of this province. They also said during the election, and they said it again in the Speech from the Throne, government must also know its place. They also said that government must recognize the right of legitimate enterprise to go about its business.

The Tories campaigned on a hands-off approach to running the province, but since being elected, Mr. Speaker, we see the Tories trying to stick their fingers in every pot. What this boils down to is the Tories are interfering in the private sale of private land. This piece of legislation is just another move to allow the Tories to put another check mark in their big blue book of 243 promises. After Tuesday's Budget Speech, I am sure many Nova Scotians are now wondering if there is another big blue book of promises.

Mr. Speaker, when you go back to the Tory promises, they said, we will, "Introduce legislation to municipalities to tax non-residential property owners at a higher rate than residential landowners." This allows areas, ". . . where large segments of land are being bought up by non-residents to take steps to protect Nova Scotia taxpayers;" This promise does not outline what consultations will take place on the local level. There is no question that this is a hot issue in many municipalities, but the Tories do not offer any statistics or numbers to indicate the extent of this problem.

We already know that the Tories are making public policy based on public opinion polls. When it comes to the hard decisions, the Tories don't consult. They are telling us differently though, but we don't believe them. Every time they tell us they are consulting, we ask them for the information and we are still waiting for that information. The Tories don't consult, they commission a telephone survey, Mr. Speaker. This does not show very much respect for Nova Scotians. When it comes to our province and land being sold, Nova Scotians deserve to have the facts. The Tories need to make the evidence available so Nova Scotians can judge for themselves.

[Page 3976]

This legislation is also about people paying higher taxes. It could result in more tax revenue for municipalities. This is good since the Tories have already broken their promise not to download costs on municipal units. Now we have the johns bill that is before this House, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure we will have a chance to debate that later this afternoon, but municipalities may see this legislation as a way to gain back some of their losses from provincial downloading. Since downloading from the Tories will be large and expensive for municipalities, we can expect the municipal units to try to recoup those losses by charging higher taxes to non-residents. This legislation does not set any limits on what the tax rate could be. The sky could be the limit, especially if municipal units use their powers to offset provincial downloading.

On the flip side of that coin, the province can use this as an excuse to cut back on funding for municipalities. Since the municipalities are making more in tax revenue, they won't need as much provincial funding.

Mr. Speaker, during the bill briefing, the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs said he hopes municipalities won't use this legislation as a tax grab. How can he stop them? There are no controls over the level of taxation a municipality can charge. Municipalities could use this legislation to stage a foreigner witch-hunt for tax purposes.

There are some major difficulties with this piece of legislation. Non-resident landownership is not evenly distributed among municipalities. Some areas, like Chester, have a much higher percentage of non-Nova Scotian owned property, so an area like Chester would benefit more from increased tax revenue than other areas. So this legislation will create new issues of winners and losers among municipal units, so we should take notice when an area like Chester has problems with this legislation.

Allan Webber, the Warden of the Municipality of Chester, is against making non-residents pay more. Warden Webber was quoted in the paper as saying that, from a municipal point of view, non-residents are not a burden on the tax base. Warden Webber also said that this legislation will not effectively control foreign ownership of land, but it is difficult to see that the purpose of this bill is to control foreign ownership.

This bill punishes people for not being Nova Scotian. This bill could send the message that Nova Scotia is closed for business. Is this the message we want to send the people who want to live here? Do we want to send the message to people who want to spend money in Nova Scotia? Is this government trying to discourage people from moving to Nova Scotia? I hope not. The Voluntary Planning Fiscal Management Task Force said we need more people to move to Nova Scotia. This Tory Government paid a whopping $158,000 for the Shaw report. Maybe they should listen to some of those recommendations. Recommendation No. 23 of the Shaw report says, "The Government should immediately develop an immigration policy and action plan and work with Ottawa to attract our proportionate share of newcomers." This legislation will have a negative impact on immigration.

[Page 3977]

Another question we need to ask is, is this bill fair? Is it fair to charge one group of people higher taxes than another group? We are also concerned about the black-and-white way this bill describes a resident. In order for this bill to stand up, we need to effectively outline who is a resident and who is a non-resident. What about someone who was born in Nova Scotia, raised in Nova Scotia, but left 20 years ago when John Buchanan took power. (Interruption) My colleagues here are telling me you probably can't blame those folks for doing so. What if that person wants to come back to the land of their birth to retire? They may want to purchase land and begin building a retirement home before they take up permanent residence. Would this Tory Government deny that they are Nova Scotians? Again, it comes back to fairness. Is it fair?

This piece of legislation says that municipal council can designate one person who will decide who is or who is not a resident of Nova Scotia. So it will rest in the hands of one individual that municipal council will designate, who is and who is not a resident of Nova Scotia. The assessment notice mailing list addresses is currently the only way available to identify non-resident landowners. I wonder how acceptable it is to use an individual's income tax return for the purpose of identifying their citizenship. There are many issues that could lead to problems with this legislation, Mr. Speaker. This legislation does not answer the fundamental question. Will this bill control foreign ownership of Nova Scotia land?

Mr. Speaker, this bill also talks about the federal voters list. This amendment to the legislation will allow municipalities to use the permanent federal voters list as supplied by the chief electoral officer. Adapting a federal voters list for municipal purposes takes some time and will take more time. At least with the enumeration process, dozens of people were temporarily employed. Using the federal voters list may employ one computer programmer to convert the list and create a database for municipal purposes. This will be a technically complicated job, but I am sure this can be done. With any new systems there will be wrinkles and bugs to iron out, but there is not much time to do this. The next round of municipal elections is coming up this October. Municipalities need time to adjust to the changes as outlined in this bill. They need time to adjust their budgets to pay for this process. This bill is probably a positive step, but the Tory Government needs to detail what costs are involved. The cost involved can be considered another form of downloading. It is not a surprise.

The move to consolidate voters lists to create one list to be used for federal, provincial, and municipal elections, has been discussed for some time. The benefit is saving cost associated with enumeration. This could help municipal units save money on enumeration in the future and the province. Another benefit is saving the hassle, the trouble associated with sending out an army of enumerators each time there is an election. Homeowners have expressed concern about this, especially in the past few years, in the Halifax Regional Municipality, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, with a federal election, provincial by-elections, and two provincial general elections since 1997. During the last federal election Ottawa announced with great fanfare that the enumeration of 1997 would be the last. The voters' list would then be updated using income tax information. However, it was never

[Page 3978]

explained that this was a federal initiative and would have no impact on provincial voters' lists.

According to the Elections Act, information gathered for use in a federal election can't be used for any other purpose, including a provincial election. So provincial and federal boundaries are different from municipal boundaries. It will require much tinkering with a computer database to adapt a different voters' list for municipal purposes. One question that arises is, who will pay for the use of converting federal lists for municipal use? Who will pay? Is this a cost the municipalities will have to incur? Is it downloading again? Is there software available that will perform this task and, if so, how much will it cost?

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government has already proved that it has no respect for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. What guarantee does this government give that this voter information will be protected when it is adapted for municipal use? We don't know. Maybe when the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs wraps up second reading on this bill, he may be able to share that information with members of the House.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 42 will allow municipal employees to run for municipal office. This was discussed in this House last fall, and at that time we learned that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities had not been fully consulted about this amendment. Again, when the minister closes the debate on this bill, maybe he can indicate to the House if the UNSM has been consulted on this amendment. It has been discussed in the past, but no final conclusion was reached on this issue. At that time the Liberal caucus raised concerns about the possibility of a municipal employee, for example, an assessment officer, being in a conflict of interest position.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the former MLA for Kings North, Mr. George Archibald, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I remember him.

MR. GAUDET: Yes, I remember him as well. He brought this concern to the House a few years ago. So it seems the Tories were concerned about this conflict of interest several years ago, but were not concerned about it during the fall session.

Each municipality has a unique set of circumstances that would influence how they feel about this issue, plus the issue about a municipal employee being granted a leave of absence in order to run, and that concerns me. The legislation says that a leave of absence will only be granted for one term of office. So if a councillor is re-elected, he or she will be fired from his job at the municipality. That doesn't sound right to me, Mr. Speaker. So I would question if it is constitutional for a person to lose their job because they were elected to office. I certainly will leave that constitutional debate to other members of this House who are certainly much more qualified in that area of expertise.

[Page 3979]

So restricting a law-abiding citizen from running for office is not good for the democratic process. The issue of municipal candidates who may or may not be in a position of conflict of interest has been raised on the floor of this House before, Mr. Speaker. I understand that former Ministers of Housing and Municipal Affairs have looked into this issue, as well. The clause in the bill is designed to protect municipal ratepayers from those who may be in a position of conflict. Surely, a municipal councillor who runs a construction business that bids on municipal contracts would be in conflict. We have many former municipal representatives in this House. I would be interested in hearing their thoughts on this matter. Again, would these individuals be in a conflict of interest?

Mr. Speaker, the issue is one of democracy. (Interruption) In a democracy, there should be a limited number of restrictions on who should run for office. Good question to ask. The previous Liberal Government was very supportive of the aquaculture industry, and we will continue to support initiatives that will help this industry grow. Aquaculture has been a growth industry for more than 10 years. Aquaculture continues the Nova Scotia tradition of making a living from the sea. Nova Scotia has the expertise and the environment to be a top-quality producer of farm seafood. It is important that this industry is encouraged and supported.

Aquaculture has grown to a $13-plus million a year industry in this province. When we compare the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia to our neighbouring province, New Brunswick, we see that we are way behind. There is certainly a lot of potential to grow. But this means Nova Scotia must work harder to regain ground in the market share. Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that the massive cuts in Tuesday's Budget Speech of 38.6 per cent to the Department of Fisheries and of 20.6 per cent to the Department of Agriculture are an indication that this Tory Government does not think very highly of industries like aquaculture. Any gains made in property tax assessments will be lost through huge government cuts. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, under the Liberals, the aquaculture industry, right across Nova Scotia, attracted experts from all over the world. We are exchanging advice and experience with Iceland and with the United Kingdom. Nova Scotia may never be the largest farm seafood producer in the world. But, we should be committed to quality products and service. With these few brief comments, I certainly would encourage all the municipalities that are out there, en francais.

Mr. Speaker, again to all the municipalities of this province, I would encourage them to come to appear before the Law Amendments Committee and share with us their concerns on Bill No. 42 (Interruption) or their support, I might add. So I am certainly in favour of this bill going to Law Amendments Committee and I certainly would welcome (Interruptions) I will stay away from the rabbit tracks.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I will take my chair. Thank you.

[Page 3980]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: En français? En anglais, s'il vous plait. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the time of the House for a few moments concerning Bill No. 42. It seems to me that we should carefully look at these pieces of legislation, as in many ways they seem to be sort of catch-all legislation that involve numerous topics, of various interest to us as members, for a number of reasons.

First of all, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth North, who spoke about parts of the bill, based upon his municipal experience. On that topic, I think it is the sort of legislation that would be an ideal opportunity, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, for members of this esteemed Chamber who perhaps, in an earlier life, were municipal politicians. It would seem to me this would be the opportunity, based upon the valuable experience they learned in municipal council, in various areas of this province, that they have the opportunity in this debate to speak up, particularly when they think of one particular piece of the legislation or not.

Many times we have heard - and I know that I ran into it on the doorstep - that there will be allowed more free votes if a John Hamm Government gets elected. Mr. Speaker, there are times in this Legislature when I believe we should hear from all members, so that based upon their personal experience and their political experience, they can tell us, based upon their municipal experience, what they think of proposed legislation, assuming, of course, that they were consulted by the minister responsible, for some of these suggestions.

I look at some members opposite and I know that they have strong feelings on certain municipal issues, and there is a particular section of the proposed bill which deals with a great many municipal issues.

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

MR. ESTABROOKS: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I would like to thank the member for yielding the floor. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce a former member of this House, a member for Lunenburg, Mr. Al Mosher. I ask him to rise and receive the approbation of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, and welcome to the former member.

[Page 3981]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome Mr. Mosher to our House. I am sure that during the times that that particular member for Lunenburg was in this House, that on occasion he would to have had some of the insightful comments which I am looking forward to hearing from such members as the member for Preston.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the member for Preston, in an earlier life, and I have seen him in action; I have heard him speak at length. I have heard the member for Eastern Shore in a previous life when he, at the Chamber across the Parade Square here, spoke at length repetitively on various issues. I know the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, a municipal councillor who has a reputation, or maybe I should say, had a reputation for speaking out for his constituents, and it seems to me that that member for Sackville-Beaver Bank would benefit from speaking up on the particular sections of this bill that apply to the municipal revisions, particularly when you look at some of the things with regard to elections and voters' list and who is eligible and who is not eligible.

I refer to the members that I have heard and read in the press here in metro who have been members of municipal council, and my apologies to other members opposite if I am not aware of your municipal background. I know that it is an important part of serving your community and these people, on many occasions I have been told, are after all at the grass-roots level dealing with issues that are important to their constituents. Based upon their expertise, I look forward to hearing their comments, particularly on the sections in this legislation where they can share their expertise with us.

I want to, in particular, point out the role of the UNSM, and whether the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has been consulted on some of this proposed legislation. It seems to me that I recall the member for Clare was pointing out that in an earlier session of this House we dealt with this sort of legislation and it is with a bit of regret that I remind the government that it seemed at times that the UNSM was not consulted on such matters. It would seem to me that would be a logical step before this legislation is brought forward.

In particular, I would like to look at the fact that there could be certain conflicts of interest. The last thing that an elected official wants, when he or she is running for office, is to be accused of a conflict of interest. I point out that this idea of a leave of absence, according to one particular part of the bill - and I know that I am not to go through clause by clause - but I think that should be looked at very carefully. Hopefully, the minister responsible, when we get representations in front of the Law Amendments Committee, they will be able to say it seems to me that should be part of this legislation that can be revisited. I know that there will be municipal political people who will make an appearance in front of the Law Amendments Committee to make sure that there are some sections of the legislation that are clarified to a greater degree.

[Page 3982]

However, I think it is of real consequence that those members of this House who have municipal experience be allowed to express, in this House, their particular views on parts of this legislation that deal with the background that they came from. Hopefully an opportunity - where we will see in this House another one of those blue book promises that there would be more free votes in this House - there could be an opportunity for members opposite to stand in their place and express their opinions based upon their expertise at the level of municipal politics.

I want to turn to the topic of aquaculture. I know that aquaculture is in some ways, in some communities, a very controversial business operation, commercial operation. It is very important we understand that aquaculture and aquacultural farms, put in certain parts of our province, cause major problems. Problems of pollution, problems in certain areas of our province, Mr. Speaker, where the tidal flow or when the bay is coming and going, there isn't that flushing motion necessary to make sure we don't have resulting pollution. I can tell you that in the area I represent, there are some very strong feelings about aquaculture. Strong feelings to the extent as voiced by fishers - and I hope the member for Richmond notes that term - fishers who have expressed their opinion that aquaculture is going to be the death knell of their particular industry.

Aquaculture has caused some problems in this community, Mr. Speaker. I can point to an active young woman in my community named Wendy Crocker who has e-mailed and faxed and spoken to, I am sure, various members on that side. She provides me with copies and hopefully when the time comes, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's will be able to step up in this House and speak on behalf of Wendy Crocker and the concerns she has about aquaculture development in St. Margarets Bay. That is a piece of this particular legislation I think we have to have a serious second look at, because aquaculture, in my opinion, is not the be all and the end all when it comes to the great, let's get rich quick and go out there and raise whatever in the way of fish products.

Mr. Speaker, aquaculture dealing with shellfish, aquaculture dealing with finfish; there is a big difference, and I believe that difference should be noted when we deal with that particular industry. It is a commercial venture that, at times, can be placed in the wrong area and can be in conflict with residents and the traditional use of waterways in our province. I think the member opposite for Colchester North perhaps should speak to this issue. I believe it was in Tatamagouche, during the recent summer months - my time line might be off, but the member for Colchester North should make his views known on this particular section of this legislation - there was a grave concern about a proposed aquaculture setup that was going to move into that portion of the Northumberland Strait.

Mr. Speaker, I realize I have a limited amount of time, and there are some sections of this proposed legislation that I would like to speak to at length. I listened to, of course, my friend for Dartmouth North, and his municipal concerns, because I know based upon his record when he was an active member of the Dartmouth City Council, he at times knew the

[Page 3983]

issues of the people he represented in that area. (Interruption) All the time, I should say to correct that. I know Hansard will immediately scratch out at times and put in all times. That member has expressed many of the concerns of our caucus.

My duty, and I take it heavily, is to speak on behalf of this caucus about the issue that has been brought to this House on many occasions by myself and by other members since my election in March 1998, and that, Mr. Speaker, is the issue of non-resident ownership. Now, I am pleased that members opposite who have returned to this House, and I think of the member for Digby-Annapolis - I believe that member, when he sat on this side, as he sits there now as the Minister of Economic Development and no longer the part-time Minister of Transportation - when we introduced on Opposition Day, a piece of legislation to look into non-residents and to review the issue and to make sure we knew where we were going on this controversial issue. I want to hear that member, now that he is over there. I know that when that member sat here, he must have been listening because there are some new members over there and it is important that those new members know that this issue, at one time, was treated quite frivolously.

The members of Liberal Party basically told us when we sat in Opposition, we did not know what we were talking about. A certain member, who is no longer a member, basically said to us non-residency is not something we should be concerned about, it is shutting down business, it is fear-mongering, it is after all putting down the thorn element. Those members now who have returned after the March 1998 election and the July 1999 election, I congratulate them for addressing the issue of non-residency.

Mr. Speaker, let's look carefully at this issue because this is a controversial one and it is one that I think we have to look at with a degree of perspective, let's put it that way. I want to turn to Prince Edward Island's example. Prince Edward Island, as you well know, has grave concerns about their continuing accessibility to farmland and Prince Edward Island has a grave concern about the continuing accessibility to coastal properties. I am aware of the fact that there are members of this Party and the returning members, who are now the government, who at times have pointed out to me that there are other tracts of land in this province that we should be concerned about. There is lakefront property. There are tracts of land in the interior that we have to make sure, as Nova Scotians, we continue to have access to.

Mr. Speaker, I share that concern, but I make no apologies for speaking up for my constituents on the issue that was brought to my attention when I ran in 1993 unsuccessfully, but when I had the opportunity to come to this House in 1998, the people of Terence Bay, the people of Prospect, the people of St. Margarets Bay, knew that this would be an issue that would be spoken about by the member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 3984]

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that before the July 1999 election, when we went out there and knocked on those doors, there were people throughout the coastal communities in my area who said we know you are speaking about the issue. This is an issue that is not going to go away. It has to be addressed in a proper manner. Without a motion it cannot be addressed with all kinds of get those foreigners off the coastline comments and I am aware of the fact that there is, without doubt, a value to having non-residents come into our communities. I want to review for new members opposite and for members of the other Opposition Party, some of the concerns of the people of the coastal communities that I represent.

You see, Mr. Speaker, the issue in this country is being a good neighbour. Being a good neighbour in this province and being a good neighbour in this country is based upon the fact that we allow people on occasion and on a regular basis to cross our land. The last thing that Nova Scotians want are gated communities on our coastal properties. The last thing that Nova Scotians want are locked gates that say no trespassing, private property. (Interruption)

I know the member for Eastern Shore shares this concern because there are parts of his extensive coastline - and you have got to take it personally - Mr. Speaker, there are communities along the Eastern Shore, they have expressed their concern to me. I can share with members opposite, whether they are from Antigonish, whether they are from Sheet Harbour, I have received faxes and e-mails from Nova Scotians throughout this province, from Lunenburg. I have heard from people on the Northumberland Strait, where there is a concern about the fact that they do not have access to coastal properties.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, access is the issue, access based upon the fact that whether it is the high water mark or whether it is access to traditional beachfront property, that Nova Scotians have the privilege and the right to be able to go to that piece of property when they want to, and they do not have to explain whether they are boating, whether they are out for an afternoon of hiking, they don't have to explain that this is private property, you are not permitted on it. It seems to me that this is an issue that has to be addressed by many people in our province, because of the fact that there are certain sections of our province where non-residents are not aware of how traditionally we do things in Nova Scotia.

I want to address the issue of non-resident. Mr. Speaker, probably you heard me speak of my wonderful wife, the saint that she is, (Interruptions) as she has to be, I walked into that one. My wife owns a piece of wonderful property at Brackley Beach on Prince Edward Island. My wife, Carolyn Jane Cameron, grew up at Brackley Beach, a mere stone's throw from the wonderful little place, the piece of Heaven that we own, or I should point out that she owns. However, that piece of property overlooks Brackley National Park in the distance, because we are non-residents, is taxed exactly twice what a suitable piece of property next door, of the same size and the same value at assessment, that piece of property is double taxed.

[Page 3985]

Now, Mr. Speaker, non-residency is an issue. I know there are members of the Liberal Party who are going to talk about the fact of the relative who lives in Toronto or the relative who perhaps lives across the border in Sackville, New Brunswick, and owns a beautiful piece of property in Musquodoboit Valley, so we don't have to talk about the shoreline here necessarily.

The concern I have is that the public has not had the opportunity to define what is non-resident. Now I have my opinion what non-resident is, Mr. Speaker. I believe honestly and fairly, that if you are a citizen of this country and you live in whatever part of this wonderful country, I am also allowed to have property on Prince Edward Island and not be taxed as a non-resident. That is, after all, it seems to me, the fair way for the non-residency issue to be addressed in this province.

That is my opinion. I don't see this opinion here in this piece of legislation and I am looking forward to seeing what Nova Scotians are going to say about that particular issue. Let's face it, for a lot of reasons, Mr. Speaker, and the day might come when your young son gets whatever education he wants, is going to have to move away. I hope it doesn't happen but it could happen. When that young man moves away and he has a beautiful piece of property over in Eastern Passage-Cow Bay, and it is, after all, going to be taxed differently, we have to make sure that that young man, much like my children, will have fair and equal access to property that perhaps for one reason or another, means a great deal to them as young people. I point that out as an example because I know, Mr. Speaker, there are going to be Nova Scotians who will want to express their opinion on the issue of non-residency, that at times can be very heated, very emotional and very controversial.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention and to the attention of the House a couple of comments from municipal councillors about the proposal that is included in this bill that will allow municipalities to determine whether they will follow up with appropriate legislation on the issue of non-residents.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out - if I may, and I can table this, if it is necessary, after I finish - that the Warden of the Municipality of Chester, Allan Webber, is quoted in the Chronicle-Herald on Tuesday, April 11th on this issue, and he says that he opposes making non-residents pay more. Now that says to me that Mr. Webber, or members of that particular municipality, are going to have concerns about this legislation. I look forward to hearing from Mr. Webber and other municipal people who are going to express their opinion.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity over the past number of years to work closely with Councillor Jack Mitchell from the Prospect-St. Margaret's Bay area, who sits on the HRM. Councillor Mitchell has been quoted to members of the media that this is an issue which he believes must be addressed immediately because of the concerns that are brought to his attention all the time, as he said, an increasing number of calls that he receives on this emotional issue.

[Page 3986]

So we have an HRM councillor who has shorefront in his responsibility, which goes from Terence Bay all around the Prospect loop, as far as Hubbards, Mr. Speaker. We have a municipal councillor who is expressing concerns, yet we have the warden of this municipality in Chester who, on the other hand, says his municipality is not going to want anything to do with this.

Mr. Speaker, that, to me, is the root of the problem, because the last thing that we need is one municipality versus another when it comes to a follow-up piece of legislation. What it says to me is that there must be more leadership from the provincial government, there must be more leadership from this particular minister in stepping up and not downloading this particular power on the municipality. What we could have is these municipalities almost into a bidding war. You could have, well, we don't want a non-resident issue in Chester, but it is an issue in, perhaps, Antigonish. It seems to me that there has to be much more consistency and that I do not see in this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to just take you quickly, if I could, through a number of areas that have coastal problems in the communities of Timberlea-Prospect. I know that I have spoken in this House before about some of unique areas which I am privileged enough to represent. But I can tell you that it is a concern for people who live from West Dover, through McGrath's Cove, over into Prospect and down into Terence Bay, that in certain areas of that coastal community, there are signs - and I mean signs that we read along the road - that are in German. Now let's deal with this issue and let's look at with the idea being of why do we have non-Canadians coming to our wonderful coastline?

Let's look at the issue. It is a beautiful coast and a unique part of the world. There is privacy galore, land available. Mr. Speaker, there are developers, there are real estate people who are there, who are on the net, who are actively asking to sell pieces of land on our coast, particularly the coast I just mentioned, to non-Canadians. So the issue comes, if they have the cash and they arrive, how can we say no. I take the example of a particular gentleman who lives in the Back Bay, Terence Bay. He has this wonderful piece of property. He has an opportunity to sell this piece of property for over $1 million and he can get what he asks for it. That says to me that we must allow that gentleman to sell that property at the right price because it seems to me, there are not a lot of locals who are going to be able to afford the price he is asking. The issue comes down to, once the land is in the hands of that non-Canadian - I am using this as an example - we have the problem of accessibility.

I know the arguments would be that that non-Canadian, and I note the distinction, non-resident, non-Canadian, that non-resident, that person who is not a native of Terence Bay or Prospect, is going to come in and he or she is going to employ people to build their home and employ people to build their dock, to take care of whatever the particular residence they have when they are not there during the harsh winter of the Nova Scotia coast. There are local people in our coastal communities who are going to be able to have the opportunity to be

[Page 3987]

employed, and that the time these people are in our country, they are going to buy things in our stores, and they are going to add to our economy.

The concern I have, Mr. Speaker, and the concern residents have, is that aside from the wonderful benefits of having the opportunity for this wonderful piece of property in Nova Scotia, in return they must pay an additional tax. I believe that additional tax should be a fair one, determined across this province. It should not be a hodgepodge in terms of a quilt, you know where you have an amount that will be in one particular municipality that would be a per cent, and then in another municipality it could be a much lower per cent. There has to be more consistency, and that consistency I know has to come from the provincial government. To merely say we will give it to the municipality and they can decide is going to result in a great deal of inconsistencies across this province.

Mr. Speaker, we have these non-residents who live in our communities for various lengths of time. During that time, in many ways they have become involved in our communities, and I congratulate them for that. They become involved in our community events, you see them out at events, and they want to be part of the community. Then, Mr. Speaker, for one reason or another, they go "home." This piece of property, which they have in our province, is their second home. These second homes must be, in my opinion, taxed properly. As I can well tell you, these homes on coastal properties or on lakes, or down in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, they are not modest little bungalows, they are extensive, well-built homes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn to an issue that is of some concern to the residents of Prospect.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I am just wondering, we are coming to the hour of adjournment for late debate, if the member would adjourn debate until 6:30 p.m.?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I hear the member from Digby who is obviously going to make some comments later. Could you tell me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You will have 28 minutes.

MR. ESTABROOKS: That is fine. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move that we adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate until 6:30 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3988]

[6:00 p.m.]

We have reached the moment of interruption. The resolution submitted for debate by the member for Sackville-Cobequid is:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government tell Nova Scotia women and children why the Conservatives do not think family violence prevention is important or necessary."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

JUSTICE - FAMILY VIOLENCE: PREVENTION - VIEW

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure this evening to stand in my place and talk about this particular resolution. The loss of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative, I believe, is one of the more short-sighted measures that this government has taken with its budget and, believe me, there are a lot of short-sighted measures in that budget to be concerned about.

Mr. Speaker, family violence is no laughing matter, it is a matter to be taken quite seriously. The loss of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative essentially means the loss of this province's capacity to do very important policy development work, prevention and education and training. So that is what I would like to speak to this evening.

I would like to start, first of all, by saying what family violence is, so it is clear what we are talking about. Family violence is abuse or neglect. It occurs between individuals who are related, by kinship, affection, dependency or trust. Essentially family violence, when you break it down in terms of various groups that are affected, women and children are affected by family violence, persons with disabilities are quite often particularly vulnerable, children, child abuse, senior abuse, abuse between gay and lesbian partners, and of course we do know that there also incidents of abuse against men. Family violence occurs in all contexts, in all classes, in all ethnicities, it crosses all those bounds.

Now the Family Violence Prevention Initiative in this province has a history dating back to 1992. We will all remember the tragic Montreal massacre that occurred. We will remember that in the federal Parliament, women Members of Parliament, across all the Political Parties, came together, across Party lines, and went out across the country, wrote a very interesting report called The War Against Women. Then there was a National Panel on Violence Against Women that issued a fairly substantial report. At the end of all that, the federal government of the day, under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who were, in many respects, cutting quite

[Page 3989]

a few social programs, decided they would show some leadership at the federal level and come up with federal dollars to put transition houses in northern and rural communities; they would invest in preventive programs across the country and the outcome of that new federal spending, to a certain extent in this province, was the Family Violence Prevention Initiative. That initiative has done very outstanding work around this issue since its inception.

Now before I talk further about the work of the initiative, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say something about what is a transition house. I know that this government thinks they have taken care of the issues with respect to the Family Violence Prevention Initiative by saying that they will invest in transition houses and women's centres. Any investment in transition houses and women's centres is welcome, but shifting money and shifting responsibility into areas where there will be no capacity to carry out all of the duties of those responsibilities is highly problematic.

Let me tell you what a transition house is. In Nova Scotia we have nine transition houses. The largest one is here in Halifax. It has a bed capacity of 24 beds. It has a staff of approximately 12 or 13 full-time workers and they are augmented by a number of part-time and casual employees. The smallest transition house, I believe, is in Amherst. It has a bed capacity of about six and a very small staff. All of these shelters have crisis lines. They have an outreach worker who does group work and individual counselling with women, either who have never come into the transition house or are looking for alternatives to having to leave their homes. They also have, most recently, in the past few years, a court worker program. What transition house workers do is they work in the area of women abuse. They have one little piece of the work of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative. So I think that is the first thing we have to say.

The second thing we have to say about transition houses is that they offer crisis services. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, I know what I am talking about here. I have spent many hours in transition houses, both as a person working in the community with battered women, as a volunteer member of a board and, eventually, I ended up doing a Ph.D. on transition houses in Nova Scotia, studying the work there. So I know what that work is all about.

I can tell you right now that the workers in those shelters would be delighted to have more resources for unmet need, but if we are going to ask them to do the work of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative, then I am sorry, there are going to be things that are going to go missing. That is because this is what the Family Violence Prevention Initiative does. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative functions at a social policy level. It coordinates the important role of five departments dealing with family violence. It coordinates Community Services, Health, Education, Justice, and Housing and Municipal Affairs. It provides education and training to all kinds of workers who come into contact with seniors who are abused, children who are abused, women who are abused, all of those groups I named, Crown Prosecutors, social assistance workers, health care providers, medical doctors, judges, lawyers, you name it.

[Page 3990]

Transition house workers, I can tell you, don't have time to do that. The skeleton staffs that are in those organizations can barely deal with the demand that they have to deal with daily. So I am not sure what the minister or what this government are thinking about when they think they can offload these important functions onto shelters that are spread out around the province. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative, in my experience, has one of the finest libraries and resource libraries in the province on this issue. They provide a monitoring of research. They understand innovative programs that are happening across the province and they can get that information out to people. They also have a role in terms of evaluation and looking at the ongoing impact of policy changes.

So I think, Mr. Speaker, that we need to say to this government, keep the commitment and keep the faith with people in this province who want to break the cycle of violence. That requires a policy component inside government, prepared to focus solely on this important issue and ensure that government departments coordinate their approach. Please don't put this in the community. Many years of work will be lost if you do this. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased tonight to have the opportunity to join this debate on this very important topic. I just want to say to the House and to you, at the outset, that the resolution that indicates the government is abandoning its awareness and commitment to the prevention of family violence is not the case. What the government has done over the last number of months, as I will take you back to not so long ago when the Department of Health announced its initiative and to continue those initiatives. What they have done is they have suggested that health care providers in hospitals, emergency health clinics, community settings will receive training to help them to identify individuals who are in abusive situations, lending to more effective prevention, early identification and improved intervention.

The Family Violence Prevention Initiative, as the member opposite had mentioned, was the coordination of five government departments. Now each department has its own internal Family Violence Committee. These committees will continue working on family violence prevention. Each of the departments have developed a plan to integrate family violence prevention into their day to day operations, so there will be continual awareness of how family violence affects our clients.

In Community Services we have developed training for staff related to all family violence issues and we have developed protocols for reporting child abuse. We have also developed standards for transition houses and men's treatment programs for reporting abuse. As another example, in the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, staff and employees of the regional housing authorities are receiving training on family violence and elder abuse. The operating manuals for the housing authorities contain a special section on family violence.

[Page 3991]

There are also a number of groups and individuals in Nova Scotia with an active interest in the prevention of family violence. These include the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Dartmouth Seniors' Service Centre, the Nova Scotia Council for the Family, the Mi'Kmaq Family Treatment Centre, the Metro Immigration Settlement Association, the African-Canadian Community, the Seniors' Secretariat and the Disabled Persons Commission.

Community Services also funds two counsellor services for women and victims and their children. The agencies are the Naomi Society in Antigonish and the Citizens Against Spousal Abuse in Digby County. These agencies provide counselling and crisis intervention to women and children. There are also 17 community-based inter-agency committees of family violence around the province.

The Family Violence Prevention Initiative was established in 1992; the program has been funded by the four departments that we have already mentioned. This initiative as the member indicated has accomplished excellent work with the local community groups. We believe this has been a very successful public education program to create the awareness of violence in the home and for that we should all be thankful. The initiative has been at the forefront in providing excellent resource material to groups and individuals on the issue of family violence. Community Services will continue, through its library which is open to the public, to make available those resources.

The government's program review process was put in place to help address the need to get our finances under control. We reviewed every program and service of government before we made any decisions. This process demanded tough decisions and that is what we are doing.

The government continues to put considerable resources into family violence prevention and intervention, support and other family violence prevention programs. Community Services continues to provide $3.7 million for nine transition houses, $600,000 for six women's centres and $519,000 for six men's intervention programs. The transition houses provide shelter for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. This network of support across the province will continue. The women's centres provide information, referral, advocacy and support to men and women. The men's intervention program provides an initial assessment and counselling for men who are seeking help. This can be court ordered or self-referrals. In addition, all of these programs have women's components to address safety issues and counselling needs of women.

I would like to share my time with the Minister of Justice who has some information on this topic.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice, five minutes.

[Page 3992]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Nova Scotia doesn't take a backseat to any jurisdiction when it comes to reporting cases of child abuse. Every person in Nova Scotia is required under the Children and Family Services Act to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect of children. We were one of the first jurisdictions in the country to recognize the impact of domestic violence to children. In fact, our Act specifically states that repeated exposure to domestic violence is deemed in this province to be a reason for a child requiring protective services. As well, everyone is required to report adults in need of protective services under the Adult Protection Act.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we know that public awareness and strong legislation are having an effect. In 1998-99, child protection received nearly 7,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. As of March 1999, there were more than 2,500 child protection cases open. So certainly cases are being reported.

This government continues to add support for the prevention of family violence and the protection of children. We are hiring new social workers who will be involved in the protection of children. Under the recently announced health sector initiative, if abuse is suspected, staff will provide an opportunity, an atmosphere and the environment in which an individual will feel comfortable to share their situation and learn of the options and resources available to them.

The Department of Health in partnership with health organizations from across Nova Scotia have undertaken a major initiative to address family violence. Health care providers working in hospitals, emergency health clinics and community settings will receive training to help them identify individuals who are in abusive situations, leading to more effective prevention, early identification and improved intervention. Every day in Nova Scotia countless victims of family violence seek treatment. This means that those working in the health care field are frequently in a position to identify those who may be in abusive situations and to provide appropriate intervention to help stop the cycle of violence. Health care staff already spend large amounts of time treating individuals who are in abusive relationships. In Nova Scotia, 32 per cent of all married women have experienced violence. Nationally, one out of five incidents of violence is serious enough to cause injury; 63 per cent of women assaulted by a past or current partner were victimized more than once.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to indicate that this government feels very seriously about this matter. The framework for Action Against Family Violence is being continued for a reason. Two separate reviews were conducted on the project; one by an independent firm, Gardner Pinfold Consulting Economists Limited conducted their review in 1997. The first review raised concerns regarding the duplication of services being provided in the community. Duplication was causing confusion for clients. That review suggested that the project should operate in partnership with police to facilitate referrals.

[Page 3993]

Mr. Speaker, another review was conducted in 1999. This review was conducted by staff at the Department of Justice. The review raised concerns regarding a high administrative cost associated with the project. The review also raised concerns about the duplication of services being provided by the project. The report went on to suggest that a better balance could be met if the projects were attached to existing services so that a greater number of clients could be served in a more effective manner.

Mr. Speaker, this is the approach that we feel makes sense. Transition houses already provide outreach services to victims. That service will continue. There are several police-based services for victims. They are very successful. We will continue to work with the police to ensure the needs of victims are met.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that we cannot afford to fund projects that duplicate a service that is already provided. We will work with the community and with the agencies involved to ensure victims of violence receive the support they need and by way of information to honourable members, both of the reports that were conducted were conducted before we came to office. Both of those reports indicated (Interruption)

No, Mr. Speaker, by all means, we accept the findings of those reports, but I just wanted to point out for members of the House that this is not a situation where there has been any politically motivated desire to create this decision. This decision is based on information that was in the hands of the government before this government came to office and that is not because we disagree with the reports, it is simply to indicate that there is no political motivation in this regard.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue that requires that there be coordination, but not duplication. On that note, I believe it is time to allow my honourable colleague from the Liberal Party.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing this resolution forward. It is a very important resolution and I thank the honourable ministers for their interventions as well. At the outset I have to agree with the concept of moving towards a more integrated approach towards dealing with such complex and serious issues, but the bottom line is the government is putting less money into this entire issue. I am not so sure this integrated approach is going to be the end-all for what we have before us.

Mr. Speaker, the cost of this Family Violence Prevention Initiative was certainly small in the overall budget, and I believe that cutting this vital program would have had little impact on the budget. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative, quite frankly, only employed four people, and there was no fiscally valid reason why this initiative should have been cut the way it was. The staff trained others to identify and prevent family violence, and the staff trained

[Page 3994]

nurses to spot signs of abuse. This staff trained teachers to prevent child abuse. They trained paramedics, police officers, health professionals, case workers and others. They also sponsored Family Violence Prevention Week; they educated the public about this terrible social problem. Certainly, that is not the case any longer. This Family Violence Prevention Initiative trained over 6,000 professionals in the past few years. You certainly can't put a price tag on that. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative focused on preventing violence. It was an ounce of prevention.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable Minister of Justice made reference to certain transition homes, but those transition homes deal with the symptom not the cause. We have seen where the Minister of Health was wrong with the facts on the cost of the budget. We saw where the Minister of Finance was confused about how much the province will make in tax revenue, and certainly, if they continue to miscalculate, it is little wonder that one would be suspicious about the miscalculation on this particular and vital program.

The Minister of Community Services says that money cut from this program will go to transition houses and women's shelters. As I have stated, this deals with after the fact, Mr. Speaker, it deals with the symptom, not the cause. This entire issue is about helping people before they are attacked, and in many cases attacked in their own homes. What is the province doing to stop this violence? Family violence cannot be ignored. It is simply not going to go away, and the numbers are sobering.

Mr. Speaker, as has been stated, one in four women have been abused by their partner at least once in their lifetime, and the statistics go on and on. In 1996, the majority of assaults against very young children were committed by family members, and 4 per cent of the elderly living in their own homes have suffered one or more forms of abuse. Certainly this is not something our seniors deserve. What is more shocking is the Department of Community Services has eliminated Adult Protection Services in their budget. Perhaps some integration to other government departments may partially address that, but again, emphasized to reduce budgetary measures.

Mr. Speaker, Adult Protection Services helps intervene in cases of elder abuse or where seniors were being neglected, and this is certainly something the Department of Community Services would be concerned with and should be concerned with. Again, in 1996-97, 30 per cent of the overall adult protection caseload was comprised of abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. Again, this Tory Government, in balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable in society: seniors, disabled, children, the poor and the abused, have been reflected in this budget. The degree of risk of sexual abuse of persons with disabilities is at least 150 per cent higher than normal. It is important to be able to identify and spot these signs of abuse very early, particularly when it comes to persons with disabilities. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative trained people to spot this abuse, and prevent it.

[Page 3995]

Mr. Speaker, in 1998, a study of some 245 women with disabilities found that 40 per cent had been raped, abused or assaulted. Only 10 per cent of women who had been abused had sought help from transition houses. So, the Minister of Community Services is mistaken, misinformed or missing a heart if he thinks cancelling the Family Violence Prevention Initiative to fund transition houses will solve the problem of abuse. Transition houses are needed, they need adequate funding but transition houses help only after the fact, I re-emphasize, after the abuse has happened. Every year 1,000 women enter into the province's transition houses; 850 children enter into transition houses each year and each year transition houses receive 18,000 distress calls. With the elimination of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative, transition houses will quickly become over-burdened and how will this government coordinate the prevention of family violence? The extra funding to transition houses and women's centres will not do the job.

The previous Liberal Government was proud of the support we gave women's centres across this province. In the last budget we brought in, the Liberal Government added $276,000 in funding for six women's centres across Nova Scotia. The Tories obviously didn't think this was important and voted against this measure. We believe that funding recognized their efforts to deliver the quality, community-based services to women. Mr. Speaker, the grant for each centre was increased to $100,000 from $54,000. We were proud to bring all Nova Scotia women's centres grants up.

Mr. Speaker, there are women's centres right across this province; the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre; L.E.A. Place in Sheet Harbour; Every Woman's Centre of Sydney; Every Woman's Centre in New Glasgow; Second Story Women's Centre in Bridgewater; the Women's Place in Lawrencetown. Women's centres offer a wide range of community-based services to women. These services include crisis intervention and problem-solving support. The centres offer referrals to other agencies and services and they also offer advocacy and accompany women through the legal, medical and social service appointments that they so vitally need. Other services include self help and support groups and development programs, such as literacy, skills upgrading and women's health.

I know the issue of women's centres is important to many Tory MLAs, in fact certainly the MLA for Yarmouth campaigned in the last election on a promise to fight for a women's centre in his constituency. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly wish that honourable member well on his initiative because it certainly doesn't seem to be coming to fruition through this budgetary process.

Another initiative to help women in abusive situations was announced by our government back in June 1998. Women in a relationship with a high risk of violence were provided with free cellular phones. This program was designed to help women get 911 services during an emergency, certainly not what was done in British Columbia where they gave cell phones to prostitutes and took it out of the budget of the Department of Community Services.

[Page 3996]

The pilot program was a partnership between MTT, Bryony House and the Department of Justice. Bryony House assessed high risk female victims to deal with eligibility and acted as the distributor of the free cell phones. So in effect, there were certainly lots of integrated and coordinated approaches between all various departments, under our administration, similar to what the Minister of Justice has been stating and the Minister of Community Services has stated as an integrated approach here. So in essence, Mr. Speaker, that integrated and coordinated approach was there, certainly some adjustments and fine-tuning but not to justify cutting and slashing the budget to the extent that the various ministries have done.

I realize, Mr. Speaker, that my time has expired. I thank the honourable member for bringing this resolution forth.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: That ends the late debate. This being the hour of resumption, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has 28 minutes left.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Twenty-eight minutes, that is not a problem. I expect this to be a well-attended debate. (Interruption) Yes, excuse me.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Yes, I would like to call for a quorum.

MR. SPEAKER: Call for a quorum: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. I have counted 9, we don't have a quorum. It is 6:30 p.m. I will look at the Clerk, is that accurate?

THE CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: We are adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, is it the ordinary hour? I am looking for advice.

Is it agreed for 9:00 a.m. tomorrow?

It is agreed.

We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. on Friday.

[Page 3997]

Order, do we record the names of members present? Yes, thank you. We should bring in the Sergeant-at-Arms as well.

[The House rose at 6:32 p.m.]