Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., Apr. 17, 2000

First Session

MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hants East: Fraser Rd. - Gates Remove,
Mr. John MacDonell 4047
HRM: Fire Service Policy - Oppose, Mr. B. Taylor 4048
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1331, Educ. - Week: Ethics - Students High Standard Follow,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4048
Res. 1332, Educ. - Sackville HS: Class Size (50) Demo. - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4049
Res. 1333, Fin. - Debt: Responsible Approach - Support, The Premier 4050
Res. 1334, Educ. - System: Attack - Condemn, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4050
Res. 1335, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Recession Drive - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4051
Res. 1336, Volunteerism - Queens Mun. Vol. Rep.:
Karla Marie Swansburg (Liverpool) - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 4052
Vote - Affirmative 4052
Res. 1337, Educ. - Sackville HS: Class Size (50) Demo. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm 4052
Res. 1338, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA - Agric. Cuts: Comments -
Re-Examine, Mr. D. Downe 4053
Res. 1339, Sports - Basketball (N.S. BB Mini Champs.): Sports Experts
Truro Tigers - Silver Medal Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 4054
Vote - Affirmative 4054
Res. 1340, Status of Women - Family Violence: Concern - Remind,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4055
Res. 1341, Sports - Hall of Fame (Yar.) Inductee: Richard Hubbard
(MLA 1993-98) - Congrats., Mr. R. MacLellan 4055
Vote - Affirmative 4056
Res. 1342, Agric. - Scotsburn Dairy: Anniv. 100th - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4056
Vote - Affirmative 4056
Res. 1343, MLAs - NDP Web Page: Ferret Icon - Use, Mr. F. Corbett 4057
Res. 1344, Health: Approach - Rethink, Dr. J. Smith 4057
Res. 1345, Educ. - Responsibility: Assignees - Experience Beware,
Mr. D. Dexter 4058
Res. 1346, Nat. Res. - Budget (2000-01): Forestry Cuts - Reconsider,
Mr. K. MacAskill 4058
Res. 1347, Brookfield Fire Brigade - Owen Ross & Herb McFarlane:
Contributions - Recognize, Mr. B. Taylor 4060
Vote - Affirmative 4060
Res. 1348, Dart. S MLA - Educ. Week: Concerns - Min. Meet,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4060
Res. 1349, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): School Bds. Resistance -
Commend, Mr. W. Gaudet 4061
Res. 1350, Culture - TV Ad.: Jeff Douglas (Truro) -
Performance Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 4061
Vote - Affirmative 4062
Res. 1351, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Royal Bank: Banking Machine
(Prospect Rd. [Holt's]) - Removal Condemn, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4062
Res. 1352, Educ. - Margaret MacVicar Elem. Sc. (Catalone):
Earth Sc. - Designation Congrats., Mr. R. MacKinnon 4063
Vote - Affirmative 4063
Res. 1353, Health - Care: Fix Absence - Admit, Mr. H. Epstein 4064
Res. 1354, Educ. - Le Collège de l'Acadie: Funding - Restore,
Mr. M. Samson 4064
Res. 1355, Educ. - Student Voices on Learning Conf. 2000:
Erin Tomlinson (Minasville) & Ilona Corbin (Upper Rawdon) -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 4065
Vote - Affirmative 4066
Res. 1356, Fin. - Econ. Policy: Vision Absence - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4066
Res. 1357, Commun. Serv. - Income Support: Reduction -
Poorest Attack, Mr. J. Pye 4066
Res. 1358, Health - Pharmacare: Promises Unfulfilled - Apologize,
Dr. J. Smith 4067
Res. 1359, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Consequences -
Knowledge Reveal, Mr. J. Holm 4068
Res. 1360, Nat. Res. - Budget (2000-01): Decisions - Reverse,
Mr. K. MacAskill 4068
Res. 1361, Educ. - NSAC: Cuts - Review, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4069
Res. 1362, Fin. - Multi-Media: Support - Need Recognize,
Mr. D Downe 4070
Res. 1363, Educ. - Hfx. WHS: Model Parliament - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4070
Vote - Affirmative 4071
Res. 1364, Environ. - Funding: Proper - Urge, Mr. M. Samson 4071
Res. 1365, Educ. - Cuts: Decimation - Review, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4072
Res. 1366, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Schools - Funding Restore,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4073
Res. 1367, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Civil Servants Chant Echoes,
Mr. F. Corbett 4073
Res. 1368, NDP (N.S.) - Budget (2000-01): Ferreting - Continuance,
Mr. D. Dexter 4074
Res. 1369, Commun. Serv. - Soc. Assist.: Cuts - Unpromised,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4074
Res. 1370, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - HRM: Paving Subdivisions -
Assist, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4075
Res. 1371, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Kings Co. Decimation -
Voters (PC) Value, Mr. H. Epstein 4076
Res. 1372, Volunteerism - N.S. Vol. Award: Eldon Hebb
(Nine Mile River) - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 4077
Res. 1373, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. J. Pye 4077
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 44, Acadia University Act, Mr. M. Parent 4079
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. H. Epstein 4079
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4083
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4087
Mr. J. Holm 4091
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 3:36 P.M. 4091
HOUSE RESUMED AT 7:36 P.M. 4091
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 42, Municipal Law Amendment (2000) Act 4092
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4092
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4098
Mr. John MacDonell 4111
Mr. P. MacEwan 4114
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4120
Vote - Affirmative 4122
No. 43, Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act,
Petroleum Resources Act and Pipeline Act 4122
Hon. G. Balser 4122
Mr. J. Holm 4126
Adjourned debate 4128
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Apr. 18th at 12:00 p.m. 4128

[Page 4047]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the property owners and people in the general area of the Fraser Road in Hants East. The operative clause reads, "I verify that I am opposed to the Fraser Road being blocked by locked gates erected by Scotia Slate Products Ltd. in conjunction with the Department of Transportation. This being done without consultation of the property owners on the road or residents of the surrounding communities causes me great concern. The Fraser Road has been a public right of way for well over one hundred years and should remain so; whether it is being used for recreational purposes, an access road, a fireroad, or whatever reason the general public may wish to use it for. My request is that the gates be removed immediately." I have affixed my signature. There are 90 signatures.

4047

[Page 4048]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the undersigned residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality who are, ". . . opposed to the Halifax Regional Municipality Fire Service policy that would diminish the role or possibly disqualify volunteer fire fighters age 60 and over." I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1331

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 is Education Week in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Premier and his government were elected by promising that, "A PC Government will dedicate itself to an education system which is adequately funded . . .", Page 15 of the platform; and

Whereas the Premier said further that, "The Liberal Government has failed to give education the priority it deserves . . . Too many teachers are faced with overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources.";

Therefore be it resolved that on the occasion of Education Week, this House urge all students to ignore the example set by the Premier and his ministers and to instead follow a high standard of truth and ethics for themselves and for their pursuits in life.

[Page 4049]

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1332

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome you back from your travels.

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 stated recently that positive learning could take place in classes of 50 students at junior high and senior high levels; and

Whereas students and teachers at Sackville High School demonstrated last week that positive learning was impossible when you cram 50 students into one classroom; and

Whereas, as the result of the demonstration at Sackville High School, the Minister of Education was forced to apologize for her stupid and senseless remark that positive learning could take place in a class of 50 students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Principal of Sackville High School, Ms. Judy White, her staff, and students, for demonstrating to all Nova Scotians the folly of the Minister of Education's remarks and her total lack of understanding of the public education system.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 4050]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 1333

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 every day Nova Scotia's debt increases by over $700,000; and

Whereas all of our debt will be the responsibility of the young people of Nova Scotia and seriously impair their future; and

Whereas the very worst thing this government can do to destroy the future of our young people is to continue deficit financing;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House truly work for a healthy and prosperous future for our young people by supporting the government's responsible approach and stop encouraging a larger deficit and more borrowing.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1334

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

Whereas Education Week in Nova Scotia usually includes an awards ceremony where educators and others who contribute to public education are recognized; and

Whereas due to the deep cuts proposed in this savage Tory Government's budget, many who were to be recognized have decided not to attend; and

Whereas according to Sandra Himmelman, Chairperson of the Education Week program, "To our knowledge, this has been the only time in the history of the awards ceremony that such a drastic action has been taken . . .";

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government be roundly condemned for its attack on education, educators, parents, students, and all who understand that education is the key to a prosperous future.

[Page 4051]

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1335

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

Whereas the government of the infamous Donald Cameron helped drive the Nova Scotia economy into recession by implementing a Draconian agenda with no policy to stimulate economic growth; and

Whereas the Finance Minister belonged to the Cameron Government, which is evident by the complete lack of any vision for the economic direction of the province; and

Whereas the lack of any economic initiatives such as enterprise zones will negatively impact on the economy, as will the lay-offs of at least 3,000 education workers, hospital workers and public servants;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House condemn the government for trying to drive the Nova Scotia economy into a recession, as the regressive Conservative Government stumbles backward to the 20th Century.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Queens.

[Page 4052]

RESOLUTION NO. 1336

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

Whereas Karla Marie Swansburg of Liverpool was recognized, at a ceremony in Halifax last week, with the award for the Volunteer Representative for the Region of Queens Municipality; and

Whereas Ms. Swansburg, while attending the Liverpool Regional High School, is serving as vice president of her student council, and contributes to the many social activities at her school; and

Whereas she also volunteers as the co-ordinator of Liverpool Regional High School Cares, a group which organizes food drives, co-ordinates Fun Day activities for students, founded the Students for Seniors Book Project, and many other initiatives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House applaud this young volunteer who is a key contributor to her community and a very appropriate recipient of this significant annual volunteer award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1337

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

Whereas students and staff of Sackville High School visually demonstrated the insanity of trying to put 50 students in a classroom; and

[Page 4053]

Whereas the students discovered it was extremely uncomfortable for them in a class of this size and that they did not and could not learn anything; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas on the eve of Education Week, the students showed this Progressive Conservative Government that a class size of 50 students is a stupid idea;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the students of Sackville High School for their initiative and give the Premier and Finance Minister the F for failing the education system that the Minister of Education tried to take for herself alone.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1338

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

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley stated that we recognize the important contributions the agricultural sector makes to Nova Scotia's economy; and

Whereas in recognition of the member's statement, the government has eliminated the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture and Marketing; and

Whereas this policy has eliminated over 168 services to farmers with no notice of replacement;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley look at government cuts to agriculture and re-examine his commitments in light of the fact that the government has abandoned many small farmers to fight over what was left of the Department of Agriculture's budget to supply their industry.

[Page 4054]

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1339

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

Whereas the Sports Experts Truro Tigers won silver at the 2000 Nova Scotia BB Mini Basketball Championship; and

Whereas the team demonstrated both sportsmanship and determination in the tournament; and

Whereas the basketball skills of these elementary school girls improved tremendously throughout the season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the Sports Experts Truro Tigers and their coach, Karen McNeil, on winning silver at the 2000 Nova Scotia BB Mini Basketball Championship and wish them all continued success in the future.

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 Halifax Fairview.

[Page 4055]

RESOLUTION NO. 1340

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

Whereas the Family Violence Prevention Initiative was axed in this savage Tory Budget; and

Whereas women and children in violent relationships have been left with nowhere to turn; and

Whereas the Minister of Education and Minister responsible for the administration of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act has proven once and for all how completely inept she is by not standing up for victims in our society;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the administration of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act be reminded that, "Family violence is everyone's concern."

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1341

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

Whereas Richie Hubbard ably and faithfully served the constituents of Yarmouth as a Member of this Legislative Assembly from 1993 to 1998; and

Whereas Richie is also a strong promoter of fitness and athletics in his community, having served as Recreation Director for the Town of Yarmouth for many years; and

Whereas on May 6th, Richie Hubbard will be inducted into the Yarmouth Town and County Sports Heritage Association Hall of Fame for his lifetime of work as a sports official and referee;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate former MLA Richie Hubbard and join with his wife, Barbara, family and friends in recognizing his outstanding contribution to his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4056]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1342

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

Whereas James MacConnell began his career at Scotsburn Dairy in 1964 and has played a key role in the company's growth over the past 36 years; and

Whereas Mr. MacConnell's leadership has resulted in him being named by Atlantic Business Magazine as one of the top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Scotsburn last year recorded $193 million in total sales;

Therefore be it resolved that on the occasion of Scotsburn Dairy also celebrating their 100th Anniversary over the weekend, MLAs commend Scotsburn President James MacConnell for his foresight and wish him and the company continued years of success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 4057]

RESOLUTION NO. 1343

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

Whereas to aid concerned Tory backbenchers who have no idea what programs their own government has cut; and

Whereas in the fine tradition of ferreting out the truth, our caucus website has been changed to reflect this urgent need; and

Whereas the government won't tell Nova Scotians what programs, user fees and jobs they have cut, but have left it up to us to ferret out;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House sign on to the NDP web page at http://www.ndpcaucus.ns.ca and click on the ferret icon for the latest information, and remember, "The truth is out there".

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1344

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

Whereas information ferreted out of the budget proves the number of health care workers to lose their jobs is far greater than the Tories dare to admit; and

Whereas based on the Finance Minister's own projections, over 1,000 health care workers will lose their jobs as a result of Tory cuts to the acute care sector; and

Whereas it is impossible to slash 1,000 workers from the health care system without causing a serious and negative impact on services;

[Page 4058]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government rethink its wrong-headed approach to health care since wholesale cuts are a symptom of a government with no plan.

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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1345

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 Education Minister has assured parents, teachers and students that it is her newspaper experience which enables her to understand the Hamm budget's effect on public schools; and

Whereas a noteworthy part of her experience was the Halifax Chronicle-Herald's screaming headline of June 10, 1998, "Pharmacare fees to rise"; and

Whereas the minister was forced to make an immediate, total and abject front page apology and the reporter ceased to cover provincial news with both getting an F for accuracy and an F for English comprehension;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians are warned that this is Education Week when the Premier has given responsibility for government priorities and for the education of youth to the reporter and the managing editor responsible for such an astounding blunder.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1346

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

[Page 4059]

Whereas on Thursday in this House, the Economic Development Minister said ski operations are not worthy of funding because of changes to weather patterns; and

Whereas by the same logic, the last few years of warm, dry weather should demand that the provincial government invest in forest fire protection; and

Whereas between 1998-99 the number of forest fires in Nova Scotia increased by 125, with 1,425 more hectares of forest burned during the same period;

Therefore be it resolved that the Natural Resources Minister stand up for Nova Scotia forests and reconsider the dramatic cutting and slashing in the budget for forest protection.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1347

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

Whereas the Brookfield Fire Brigade has been offering the citizens of Brookfield, and area, fire protection for a number of decades now; and

Whereas the Brookfield Fire Brigade recently held its annual banquet and awards ceremony where two members, each having served for 25, years were honoured; and

Whereas those members honoured, Mr. Owen Ross and Mr. Herb McFarlane, like other Brookfield firefighters demonstrate a true sense of loyalty to their community as they volunteer to do such dangerous work;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly recognize the significant contributions that have and are still being made by Brookfield firefighters Owen Ross and Herb McFarlane and wish them and all Brookfield firefighters continued success.

[Page 4060]

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1348

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 member for Dartmouth South was recently confronted by a parent from his own riding; and

Whereas when this parent expressed her displeasure with the cuts to education, the member for Dartmouth South replied, "I am glad my kids are out of the school system."; and

Whereas from those remarks, we can conclude that even Tory backbenchers are unhappy and fearful for the education system;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Dartmouth South seize the opportunity provided by Education Week to sit down with the Minister of Education and tell her his concerns for the education system.

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 Clare.

[Page 4061]

RESOLUTION NO. 1349

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: 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 and her staff met with school board officials from across the province today; and

Whereas the meeting, which was called to help reach an agreement on school board funding, was abruptly ended after only one hour; and

Whereas, to their credit, Nova Scotia school boards and their officials did not allow themselves to be bullied by the minister and her officials who merely wanted to discuss their own limited agenda rather than the state of educational funding across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Nova Scotia school boards and their officials for standing up for the students and parents of Nova Scotia and their right to a quality education.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1350

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

Whereas Jeff Douglas has earned international acclaim for his performance in the Molson Breweries 'I am Canadian' television ad; and

Whereas Jeff is a native of Truro and a graduate of the Cobequid Educational Centre; and

[Page 4062]

Whereas Jeff had his acting career whetted through his roles in three CEC musical productions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Jeff Douglas for his excellent performance in the 'I am Canadian' television ad and wish him continuing success in the future.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1351

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

Whereas the Royal Bank has unwisely decided to remove its banking machine from Holt's on the Prospect Road despite heavy usage; and

Whereas area residents have expressed their disapproval of the removal of this service from this community-oriented, family-run business; and

Whereas the Royal Bank has instead decided to operate the banking machine at the Mainway Irving;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Royal Bank for this poor decision and its lack of support for small businesses such as Holt's while supporting the Irving business empire.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4063]

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. 1352

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

Whereas Margaret MacVicar Elementary School in Catalone, Cape Breton has been designated as Earth School, having completed 1,000 environmental projects; and

Whereas Margaret MacVicar Elementary School is one of only 157 schools in Canada to be so designated in the SEEDS program; and

Whereas Margaret MacVicar Elementary School is having an open house this Thursday, April 20th, in celebration of this accomplishment;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes to the students and staff of Margaret MacVicar Elementary School on this outstanding environmental accomplishment.

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 Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 4064]

RESOLUTION NO. 1353

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

Whereas today in the Herald a nurse is quoted as saying, "We're so busy it's just crazy. I'd even be petrified to end up a patient in here myself;" and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says the province is short 650 nurses; and

Whereas more nurses was a central promise of the Tory blue book which is still unfulfilled;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this savage Tory Government admit today that it has no fixes for the health care system and that they don't have now, nor at any time had, a plan to fix the nursing shortage problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1354

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

Whereas le Collège de l'Acadie has provided training in the French language and an opportunity for French post-secondary education throughout Nova Scotia, allowing Acadians a college education in their own language; and

Whereas while English language community colleges are having a much needed shot in the arm, le Collège de l'Acadie is getting its budget cut by $500,000 and having its administration merged with the Université Sainte-Anne; and

Whereas instead of increasing funding or redirecting savings into programs, the $500,000 in cuts is gone forever, leaving the French language community college education at a disadvantage when compared with the English system;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House demand that the government immediately restore funding for le Collège de l'Acadie and increase funding to equal the increase in the English language community college system.

[Page 4065]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1355

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

Whereas academic achievement is not only about lessons taught in the classroom, and travel on the national stage is an honour and experience awarded to only a few gifted and lucky students;

Whereas Hants North student Erin Tomlinson, of Minasville, will be representing the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board in Ottawa this month at the Student Voices on Learning in the New Millennium Conference; and

Whereas Hants North student Ilona Corbin, of Upper Rawdon, will be representing the board as part of a cultural exchange involving a student from Saskatchewan, sponsored by the Heritage Fair, and who will be teaching others in that province about local pirates from our history;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate these two students for their good work which has led to their selection as ambassadors for our province, their school board and their home communities.

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. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 4066]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1356

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

Whereas the regressive Conservative Government projects unemployment will rise to 10.4 per cent next year, from 9.6 per cent last year; and

Whereas by its own admission the government is projecting that its economic policy, or a lack of a policy will be a failure, leaving high unemployment regions of the province high and dry; and

Whereas the government's economic vision is rooted in the 20th Century and not the 21st Century;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the government for its failure to provide a vision for the future that will mean economic hardship for all Nova Scotians over the next four years.

Mr. Speaker, we will try waiver on that one.

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1357

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

Whereas people who receive income support in this province will find their benefits reduced by this time next year; and

[Page 4067]

Whereas in the past rates have always been higher for family benefits and the government is reducing those benefits by $1,200 a year; and

Whereas an increase of an extra 100 subsidized day-care spaces to fill the need of 8,000 single mothers in the province, who this savage Tory Government proposes to force back to work, does not work out arithmetically;

Therefore be it resolved that this savage Tory Government is once again attacking the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society and allowing corporate Nova Scotia to call the shots.

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 member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1358

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

Whereas on Wednesday, June 10, 1998, in this House, the Leader of the Tory Party said, ". . . the Pharmacare initiatives proposed by the Progressive Conservative caucus will relieve seniors of the $215 annual premium"; and

Whereas according to the Finance Minister's own numbers, seniors will be paying a Pharmacare premium of $427, annually, by the years 2003-04; and

Whereas in that same year, the last year of this Tory Government, seniors will face a maximum co-pay of at least $702;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government apologize to all seniors for breaking its Pharmacare promises it never could, and never intended to keep.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4068]

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. 1359

MR. JOHN HOLM: 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 said in the House last week that she had no knowledge of what has been done in the past over budget consultations and specifically in her own department; and

Whereas perhaps that is the problem with the current Education budget; and

Whereas if the Minister of Education has any second thoughts now that she realizes she has completely blown it in her budget projections, she would go back and check past practices;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education use Education Week to show that she has learned that the Hamm budget is a let-down for teachers, students, parents and her own colleagues in part, at least, because the minister never learned how education funding was prepared.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1360

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

Whereas the fields, forests, lakes and rivers of Nova Scotia face an increasing array of pressures; and

[Page 4069]

Whereas this Tory Government has shown its commitment to our resources by effectively gutting the Department of Natural Resources; and

Whereas cuts to the department include numerous job losses and budget cuts to the reforestation program and silviculture;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately revert its bad budget decisions and keep its election promises by adequately funding silviculture and committing to protect our natural resources.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1361

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

Whereas education has kept Nova Scotia farming an important part of Nova Scotia's economy and way of life; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, production specialists and agricultural representatives are part of the lifelong learning that is at the core of Nova Scotia farming; and

Whereas although the Progressive Conservative platform promised to protect the farming way of life, the Hamm team has taken a sledgehammer to the Agricultural College, wiped out the production branch and virtually eliminated the extension work of the department;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should use Education Week to explain when he decided to throw away more than 1,000 years of experience and lifelong learning about Nova Scotia agriculture without ever consulting the producers who are directly affected.

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.

[Page 4070]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1362

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

Whereas the new economy requires that government must understand, nurture and support the new economy initiatives; and

Whereas the regressive Conservative Government has implemented no tax measures to support the emerging multimedia sector; and

Whereas Liberal policy recognized this need by the proposed implementation of a 15 per cent new media tax credit that would help foster this growing industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the need for support of multimedia so that Nova Scotia companies can compete with the rest of Canada and the world.

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 Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1363

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

Whereas the Halifax West High School's 10th Annual Model Parliament took place from Thursday, April 13 to Saturday, April 15, 2000; and

Whereas the Bloc Quebecois Party formed a minority government; and

[Page 4071]

Whereas a lively Question Period on Thursday night indicated the students were rapidly mastering the political arts;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate teacher Dave Williamson and all the students who participated in the 10th Annual Halifax West High School Model Parliament.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1364

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 previous Tory Administration, to which the Minister of Finance belonged, took money destined for road improvements and put it into general revenue; and

Whereas the then unprecedented step led to government dependence on these revenues for services other than roads and road maintenance; and

Whereas the current government has taken a similar approach by taking money from the Resource Recovery Fund to provide cash for the Department of the Environment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the government to properly fund the Environment Department and immediately reverse the unprecedented step of taking money from programs to fund day-to-day operations.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 4072]

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 Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1365

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

Whereas school boards now say that 744 teachers will lose their jobs along with 1,100 others, such as janitors and teachers' aids; and

Whereas the dismantling of programs such as music and French immersion will also result; and

Whereas the Minister of Education is now suggesting that the school boards are exaggerating numbers and that only she is correct;

Therefore be it resolved that Education Week is the time for the Premier to ask himself if the decimation of the education system in this province is what he hopes to leave as his legacy with proposed funding cuts that would mean Nova Scotia will spend less on education per student than any other province in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 4073]

RESOLUTION NO. 1366

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 government has stated that one of its priorities in education is the promotion of lifelong learning; and

Whereas despite its stated priority, this government has caused nothing but grief to those who want to continue learning by cutting and slashing public education; and

Whereas as a result of its cut and slash policy, lifelong learning now means that a person will be 65 years old when they receive their high school diploma;

Therefore be it resolved that this government come to its senses and restore appropriate funding to the education system so that Nova Scotians can complete their primary and secondary schooling within a reasonable time-frame.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1367

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

Whereas the frustration of civil servants in this province is continuing to mount as their presence in this House should indicate; and

Whereas the Premier has callously stated that they will have to wait as the Tories continue to do their grand roll-out of service cuts; and

Whereas the hacking, slashing and callous treatment of civil servants by this Tory Government invokes a savage ghost from times long past and, unfortunately, not forgotten;

Therefore be it resolved that the haunting chant of hammered by Hamm is beginning to echo through the civil servant ranks of Nova Scotia as the chill from the savage Tory budget sets in.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 4074]

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. 1368

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 Minister of Health admitted last week that user fees in the Health budget were inaccurate; and

Whereas it is now clear that seniors will pay $8.4 million more for Pharmacare than was reported in the budget; and

Whereas it was due to the excellent ferreting out skills of the NDP that this discrepancy was found;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP will keep on ferreting out the vermin hidden in this Tory savage budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1369

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

Whereas more hunger, longer lines at food banks and soup kitchens, and homelessness await Nova Scotia's poor as a result of Tory cuts to welfare; and

Whereas the province's neediest will lose out because of $5.6 million in social cuts; and

[Page 4075]

Whereas hurtful changes include a $100 per month cut in social assistance, an increase in Pharmacare premiums for the elderly, and a clawback of the national child benefit increases;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Party be reminded that these cuts and increases were not part of the Tory blue bible and not what Nova Scotians voted for.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1370

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

Whereas the residents of numerous subdivisions in the Halifax Regional Municipality are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Department of Transportation's process of determining paving priorities; and

Whereas residents have collected petitions requesting paving that apparently go nowhere; and

Whereas these residents would appreciate clarity on the method of determining these priority projects;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation instruct his staff to assist residents in these communities with this concern about paving priorities in growing subdivisions.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 4076]

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1371

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

Whereas this Education Week, the parents of Kings County have discovered that having Tory MLAs as their representatives has not protected their school board from deep cuts; and

Whereas school board figures show that 10 per cent of the 18,000 students in that region need extra help ranging from a few hours a week to full-time, one-on-one attention; and

Whereas like industrial Cape Breton, Kings County has no voice in Cabinet;

Therefore be it resolved that the decimation of Kings County education tells all Nova Scotians just how worthwhile it is to elect Progressive Conservatives, particularly with a Premier who shows such little regard for the services he promised to protect, but great concern for the Scotiabanks and Sobeys of the world.

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 Hants East.

[Page 4077]

RESOLUTION NO. 1372

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

Whereas unselfishness and concern for one's community are the backbone of volunteerism; and

Whereas Friday, April 7th, provincial volunteer awards were given, recognizing the contributions of many Nova Scotians to their community; and

Whereas Mr. Eldon Hebb of Nine Mile River, Hants East, was recognized at the awards ceremony for his contribution to his community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate Mr. Eldon Hebb for his contributions to Nine Mile River specifically, and Hants East generally.

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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1373

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

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

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,464 children have been born into poverty; and

[Page 4078]

Whereas this heartless Tory Government would prefer to talk about only one kind of a 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 1,464 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

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.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. I was not present in the House; I was attending a funeral of an outstanding Dartmouthian, Frank MacDonald, who passed away last week. I have a copy of a notice of motion that was put forward by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, and I believe it violates my personal privilege because it is an untruth where he states that the member for Dartmouth South replied, "I am glad my kids are out of the school system."

Mr. Speaker, that comment was never made by me and I would challenge the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage to produce the information or apologize to me in the House, because I believe my personal privilege has been violated. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on the point. I see this as a dispute between two members, this is not a point of privilege, and I don't (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will take the matter under advisement and report back to the House.

The honourable member for Pictou West on an introduction.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to introduce some members from my family in the east gallery. My 90 year old mother, Myrtle Langille from River John, my sisters, Lee MacDonald from New Glasgow, Gaye Hillier from St. John's Newfoundland, and Darrell Sutherland from Caribou River, Nova Scotia. Would you stand and receive the welcome from the House, please. (Applause)

[Page 4079]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I can have the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 44 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 134 of the Acts of 1891. An Act respecting Acadia University. (Mr. Mark Parent)

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

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, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a few observations I would like to make before we depart and take up the business of looking at detailed estimates. Today, I would like to start by observing with respect to the budget some important matters that have to do with the plans the government is preparing with respect to the possible privatization of government services and assets.

All members will have observed that there are fairly extensive proposals that have been put in front of us that have to do with privatization of certain centres of enterprise that are now part of government administration. A couple of these are major undertakings if, indeed, they were to be privatized. One is Nova Scotia Resources Limited which manages the

[Page 4080]

interests of the province in offshore oil and gas. The other is the possibility of the privatization of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. Other moves toward privatization of administration, for example, having to do with our parks and recreation facilities and resorts are not quite so central to my concerns.

What I want to do is to draw the attention of members to the major precedent for the government having undertaken this kind of privatization in the past. My concern is that when this did take place on one very important previous occasion, serious mistakes were made. There were serious downsides, and it is not obvious to me that the lessons of this previous privatization have been learned. The predecessor example I have in mind, of course, is the 1992 privatization of Nova Scotia Power by the then Progressive Conservative Government.

There are three aspects of what occurred at the time I think we have to remember. The first is that the policy initiative to privatize Nova Scotia Power took place without any kind of policy analysis. There was no policy context. I cannot emphasize too strongly what a major mistake that was. The second point is that the privatization of Nova Scotia Power was not at the time or in the long term for the financial advantage of the citizens of Nova Scotia. The third point is that we moved from a position in which every citizen of Nova Scotia was an owner of the enterprise to a point where only those who were particularly well-heeled were able to participate, and ended up participating. Now these three facts at this point, provide us with lessons we have to learn if there are ever going to be any privatizations in the future.

Since we are faced with solid proposals now from the government to move ahead with privatization, I want to make sure that those facts are put on record here today with all members of this House and with the public so that they can turn their minds to what occurred in the past. It is important that we think about these facts from the past so that we can learn the lessons and apply them if any privatizations go ahead this year or in any future years under this government, under this administration.

To turn back to the first point, the problem with making a decision of this magnitude in the absence of a firm, well thought out, well-articulated, and publicly debated policy context. In and of itself I would have thought it would have been sufficient to simply state the absence of a policy context and it should become apparent to everyone that this is not the way to go.

In the instance of the privatization of Nova Scotia Power it was a particularly dramatic set of circumstances having to do with the absence of a policy context. The privatization was announced in January 1992, however, just a few months prior to that in November 1991, the Department of Natural Resources in its energy branch, had released for public discussion a draft energy policy for Nova Scotia. That energy policy was the result of wide public consultation and it was also not a final energy policy, it was intended to form the basis for further public discussion. When in that document they discussed the electricity sector as part

[Page 4081]

of energy, what the document said was that the government, as the owner of Nova Scotia Power, maintained a high degree of control over NSP. That being the case, the document said, the mere fact of ownership of Nova Scotia Power gave the government a strong instrument that would allow it to set policy direction inside the electricity generation field. The department therefore said that it was not necessary to extensively consider what kind of regulation was necessary for Nova Scotia Power.

I don't know that that conclusion was exactly the right one but the point was that energy policy was being debated; the point was that there was a document out there; the point was that there was a policy context that was being developed. What the government did in January 1992, by announcing the privatization, was to ignore that policy context. Now I don't recommend that, I think that is a mistake and it certainly ignored the policy context that had been developed publicly to that date. But we see no such policy context today when it comes to either the privatization of the Liquor Commission or the privatization of Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

What public debate has taken place about the whole idea of privatization? The answer is, none. Has there been a White Paper? There has not. Has there been an economic analysis of the pros and cons? There has not. Has there been an attempt on the part of this government to lead a policy discussion with respect to either of these two major potential privatizations? There has not. Has there been a White Paper about the Liquor Commission? No? Has there been a White Paper about Nova Scotia Resources Limited? There has not. All we get are dribs and drabs of information. This is not adequate and, quite clearly, what we are doing is following down the path of what happened in 1992 with the privatization of Nova Scotia Power. That is the first error of having entered upon a major decision of this sort in the absence of a solid, worked-out, publicly-debated policy context. This is not the way to make these kinds of major decisions.

[3:00 p.m]

With respect to Nova Scotia Resources Limited, in particular, I would say we are in an extremely difficult position. This is because, if you will recall, the Speech from the Throne that we saw back in the fall talked about setting up an energy council to work on energy policy for Nova Scotia. There is no such energy council that has been created. No legislation has been brought in to establish it. There are no guidelines for what the energy council might debate. Certainly there are no policies that have been worked out or articulated by the energy council.

How can we make a decision about Nova Scotia Resources Limited and its privatization unless that kind of context has been debated and discussed? We see the government announcing an intention to set up a mechanism to deal with energy policy in detail, but it has not done so yet. So that is the first point. The first point is that the policy

[Page 4082]

context has not yet been established. It was a mistake to privatize back in 1992 without a policy context and it is a mistake to do it now.

I want to turn now to the second problem from the 1992 privatization. Our caucus recently released our calculation that showed that at the time, Nova Scotia Power was sold off at a cost of about $140 million less than its value. That means, that at the very least, the people of Nova Scotia were done out of $140 million in revenue in 1992 that ought to have gone to the public coffers. What we need are safeguards to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. Indeed, I have to emphasize that the figure of $140 million, is a very low, very cautious, figure.

I believe the figure may actually be much higher. Indeed, I remember from the debates in 1992 when Bill No. 204, the privatization bill, was being debated, the then Opposition member for Antigonish, Mr. Gillis - who later became Minister of Finance in a subsequent government - pointed out that in his view, the true value of Nova Scotia Power on the open market was probably about $2.5 billion and perhaps upwards of that. Let's remember that it was sold off for about $800 million. So it may be that the measure of the worth of Nova Scotia Power is greater than we have put out by taking the lowest possible figure of $140 million.

I know this government has hired a company to begin to think about what the market value of Nova Scotia Resources might be, but I don't believe that they have made public details of the instructions that have been given to that company. I don't believe they have made public details of how it is they are asking the valuation be done. I don't believe there is an adequate amount of time that will likely be allowed for public debate of that. I am very worried, and I am very worried by the precedent that occurred in 1992. Several members of this government were members of the government then and agreed at that time, with the privatization under value. That is the key concept; the public asset was sold off under value. That should not be allowed to occur and I have to say that I, for one, will not allow any sale of assets to take place under value. I will stand vigilant with my colleagues to make sure that does not take place.

The third point I want to make about the privatization is that, of course, when an asset is publicly owned, all of us as citizens own the asset. When it is sold off, only those who can afford to buy it end up as owners. We know from looking at the pattern of share ownership of Nova Scotia Power post-privatization that it has fallen into the hands of the largest institutional investors in the country. It is not a Nova Scotia-owned entity.

I see Mr. Speaker, that my time is drawing near. Let me just emphasize that I hope all members will contemplate the lessons to be learned from that privatization. Thank you very much.

[Page 4083]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a number of interventions on this very important resolution. This opportunity of debating a number of issues going into Supply is very timely because it affects all members of the House. That is no more true than it is for members who live in rural Nova Scotia; in particular many of the MLAs who represent government-controlled constituencies. I was somewhat surprised to see the rather strange dichotomy of positions of honourable members during the provincial election and, indeed, with their blue book, advocating all the things they were going to do for the people of Nova Scotia and how important it was to have members on the government side, as a member of the John Hamm team, in order to realize many of their aspirations and success stories for tomorrow to become the reality of that day coming.

Mr. Speaker, strangely enough, if you were to look at line-by-line items in the various government departments, all we see is a complete decimation of rural Nova Scotia. If we were to look at the Department of Justice budget alone, I couldn't help but take notice of a number of the various issues, anything from courthouses to jails to agricultural offices, right through to the Department of Education, where we saw a slash and burn approach in rural Nova Scotia. Slated to be closed, surprisingly in a large number of Conservative-held constituencies in rural Nova Scotia, are many of these courthouses. Yet, I don't hear one member of the government team standing up and suggesting that these decisions are wrong.

I notice in Middleton, which is in the constituency of Annapolis, the courthouse is going to be closed there. In Tatamagouche, Colchester North, not a boo out of there. Glace Bay, well, that is a Liberal-held riding, so I guess they really don't want to do too much there anyway. St. Peters, Richmond, well they are certainly not going to do anything there. Sheet Harbour, well, that is Eastern Shore. The honourable member for Eastern Shore was a champion for standing up for his constituents, particularly when he was on municipal council and he said despite what the government says, when he came to this House, he was going to put his constituents first. I dare say Joseph Howe, whose picture is just to the left of him - perhaps not far enough left - would roll over in his grave if he saw the way this honourable member was conducting himself on behalf of his constituents.

Then we go down to Berwick which is Kings West. Well, what has the honourable member for Kings West done for his constituency? It doesn't look like there is much of a voice there. Springhill, that's Cumberland North. Who is Cumberland North? Well, I have to be careful here because I could be ruled out of order very easily if I crossed the line, so I will just leave that one for now. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, with your somewhat legal background, we will let you fight for your constituents. We will move on to the next one.

Barrington, that's down in the constituency of Shelburne. Where is the member for Shelburne? What is he doing for his constituents as they close his courthouse? I dare say, the people who are losing their jobs, the people who will have to travel many miles to receive a

[Page 4084]

fair hearing or for any type of judicial assistance and justice, Mr. Speaker, will be sadly disappointed with the support and representation they are receiving from these honourable members. Bedford-Fall River; Bedford has a full-time courthouse out there. Well, I wonder who the honourable member is for that constituency. It goes on and on. So perhaps there are a number of things that are taking place here.

Mr. Speaker, even with the jail closures, I was surprised to read in line items, we are looking at correctional centres in Colchester. I am sure that affects several members from Colchester County, including the Minister of Health, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, the member for Colchester North, the member for Colchester South and the honourable member for . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. MACKINNON: Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. He is not exactly what you call a shy person, Mr. Speaker. Sometimes he comes out of his shell and he says, I am fighting for my constituents. I don't know. Somebody has him barred-up here. He seems to be latched up pretty good. He is not making many overtures on behalf of his constituents.

Let's go down to Lunenburg. My golly, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice. He is even closing down the jail in his own constituency. He wants his constituents to travel far. Now I am not sure what message he is sending there.

Let's go to Kings County, the Kings Adult Correctional Facility. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have several members here from Kings County. The honourable member who sits on the Public Accounts Committee, he wants value for dollar. This is an excellent opportunity for that honourable member to bring that right before the Public Accounts Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: He won't speak on that.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, maybe he is shy. Maybe he has received a lining from the honourable Minister of Justice telling him to toe the line. To take it easy. I would daresay, Mr. Speaker, if I were a constituent in his constituency, I would want him to stand up and say why are you shutting this facility down in my constituency and forcing all these people to travel many miles to support this centralistic view on government policy.

Mr. Speaker, let's go down to Guysborough. I believe there is a member on the government team who would have some concern about this lockup in the municipal building. I don't hear that honourable member who was so very vociferous during the provincial election on supporting this blue Hamm book policy. All of a sudden they have gone from being very vocal to being very mum on a lot of issues.

[Page 4085]

Let's go down to the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Speaker. Let's find out where these honourable members stand on a number of issues that affect their particular constituency. Let's go down into the community of Lawrencetown, which is in the beautiful community of Annapolis. In fact, I attended an educational facility there for several years and I realize how important that agricultural office was to the agricultural community in Nova Scotia, particularly since Annapolis and Kings, for the most part, are the richest agricultural communities that we have in the province because of the high quality of yield for a variety of reasons. But where is the honourable member for Annapolis on this particular issue? What is he doing to fight to make sure that his community is not decimated?

Let's go down to Nappan. That is up near Amherst. That is Cumberland South, I believe. So we are going to move away from you, is it Cumberland North?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. MACKINNON: Cumberland North. Oh, that is a double-hitter for you, Mr. Speaker, so we will have to move on to the next subject.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just on a point of order. The honourable member has his constituencies mixed up. The honourable Minister of Natural Resources is Cumberland North, thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that you brought that to my attention because what it demonstrates quite clearly is that both ministers from Cumberland County are prepared to share the pain. They want all their constituents in Cumberland County to share the pain, not just the ones in your particular constituency. So I think that is quite an honourable trait that you would both want that type of equal pain.

[3:15 p.m.]

Let us move on to some other constituencies because I don't want to get on your bad side, Mr. Speaker. You have just come back, you are new on the job after being away for a week and we don't want to get off on the wrong foot. Let's go down to Pictou County. In New Glasgow they are going to close another agricultural facility there. What is the good Premier going to do about that? He was talking about creating opportunity and jobs and expansion. He was the very individual, when he was Leader of the Conservative caucus in Opposition, fighting for more jobs in rural Nova Scotia. What does he do as soon as he gets in the saddle? He starts taking advice from these faceless political advisors that say, no, this is what you have to do to meet the bottom line.

I think there has been some type of a strange development through a form of osmosis that has transpired in his thinking on public policy. Let's go down to Windsor, Hants West, the riding I believe, of the good Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Well, he was

[Page 4086]

the honourable member who proclaimed at an all-candidates debate that upon the election of a John Hamm Government, the twinning of Highway No. 101 would begin no later than September 1999.

AN HON. MEMBER: He said that?

MR. MACKINNON: He said that and anyone who wishes to receive a copy of that wonderful proclamation by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, when he was a candidate back then, just call the local cable station and it is there in colour and in stereo. I would say, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member who is now Minister of Transportation and Public Works made a wonderful, resounding, forceful, definitive proclamation of what he was going to do for the people in Hants County on Highway No. 101. I don't think we have even seen a feather duster go through there yet.

Let us move down to Mabou. I think that may resonate a bit with the good Minister of Tourism.

AN HON. MEMBER: He told his residents it is not going to close.

MR. MACKINNON: I am given to understand that he has told his residents that the Mabou Agricultural Office is not going to close. If that is the case, perhaps he will afford the same voice in government to all the backbenchers who don't have the good fortune of sitting at the Cabinet Table. I hope this is not divvying up the goods down in the bunker because I think that this is the pyramid effect, that if you are at the top of the heap you will do well if you are a Tory, and as you get further down and are least able to fend for yourself, then you are going to suffer. I guess that is consistent with the general philosophy that seems to prevail throughout this government.

I couldn't help shifting over to another particular department. The Minister of Education several weeks ago proclaimed that the quality of education wouldn't be affected by larger classes. (Interruption) She's taking a refresher course in math, Mr. Speaker. That is the only thing I could conjecture because even if she had checked with her colleagues in Cabinet, she would have found out that was illegal. That was illegal by government policy, by public law such a pronouncement was illegal because the Fire Marshal's Office makes it quite clear. You have to have 20 square feet for every child in the classroom. If you have a classroom with an average size of 24 feet by 26 feet or about 725 square feet - you put 40 or 50 students into that - and you're almost twice the violation limit. You are exceeding the limit almost twice the allowable number.

Mr. Speaker, what type of math has gone into this equation? It is little wonder that the minister herself would proclaim, and I am not using any other words, Mr. Speaker, but her own quote when she says, "Sorry for the stupid answer." If that is what the minister, the chief CEO for all educational responsibilities in the province will proclaim, it is little wonder

[Page 4087]

that the teachers, the students, the parents, all the interested parties to education in this province, would have concern. I realize my time has expired, and I know you will want to hear more, Mr. Speaker, but I will be back.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to remind the honourable member to table the documents he referred to in his speech. Thank you.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak today. I welcome the chance offered through this debate to offer a somewhat differing opinion on the budget than has been put forward by the Opposition and the honourable member for Cape Breton West.

As is their role, Opposition presents their opposing comments to the people of the province on the budget and, quite frankly, anything else which comes before this House. Unfortunately, there are many issues which in their comment thus far ignore the stark financial realities faced by the province and this government. The Liberals should know exactly where the province stands financially, although they wanted the people of Nova Scotia to believe that in their final years of government, there was a surplus of money there. Not only did they mislead the people on such a major issue, they also promised to spend another $600 million on health alone, a system that has increased by almost 38 per cent in just three years, and which now accounts for approximately 40 per cent of this province's budget.

Someone has to say "when." That is why we needed a balanced approach to this year's budget. Our government wanted to protect its priorities, the priorities of Nova Scotians by putting the province's fiscal house in order. Just this year, the budget sets out a plan to reduce the deficit to $268.1 million in this coming year, a balanced budget in 2002 and provide Nova Scotians with a welcome tax relief in 2003.

Some argue that it is okay to borrow from the future to pay for today, but the more than $1,000 spent by taxpayers each and every minute to finance this borrowing are dollars we could spend to educate our children and help our seniors reduce their taxes.

The Opposition so far has come up with numerous ways of spending more of the province's money. They have argued that we should provide - now listen to this, members in Opposition, - the flow-through of the federal income tax reduction, $24 million; expand the Fuel Tax Assistance Program; restore the Winter Works program, $1.6 million; to not have opted out of its half share of PanCanadian Petroleum exploration of the gas find under the Panuke oilfield, millions involved; not to mention restoration of everything taken away by our budget as so far there has been no obvious support for any measures within Budget 2000.

[Page 4088]

Those are millions and millions of dollars that the Parties opposite would like government to spend. Where, then, would they produce spending reductions?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I am just wondering if the member would entertain a brief question.

MR. DEWOLFE: My colleagues are backing me up. I will say no. I have my time. This is my time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEWOLFE: Both Parties have been asked by . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is quite obvious that the answer to the question since I hadn't posed it before, hadn't been written down for the member in his script that he is giving us.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

MR. DEWOLFE: As I ask the honourable members across from me, where would they produce such spending reductions? Both Parties have been asked by the media. You have been asked by the media that very question.

Where then would you reduce the province's spiralling spending costs? The response, Mr. Speaker, is usually a question within a question. The former Minister of Finance, himself, masterfully ducked the "what would you cut" question when CBC broadcast Budget Day live last week for all to see. Did he answer the question? Not at all. How would an individual formerly tasked with reporting the province's financial position suggest we had a surplus when, in fact, we were hundreds of millions of dollars in debt possibly. How could he answer that question? (Interruption)

It is shameful. He offered no solutions and no constructive criticism, which is the norm, Mr. Speaker. This is unfortunate because the members opposite most definitely would have a good base of knowledge either in their experience as former ministers of government, or from their experience in the private sector, to have the solutions. Unfortunately we will not hear those ideas from the honourable member, merely more comment on what to spend money on. The former Liberal Leader said that his last budget contained $60 million in cuts, but he refuses to say where those cuts were. He said the electorate made their decision and it is now no longer his problem; however the red ink of the budget is everyone's problem. It is your problem and it is my problem and it is the problem of all who live in this province.

[Page 4089]

Pharmacare, for example, is one area where it is not financially possible to keep it as it is. Pharmacare is a critical part of the health care system and must be sustainable, to protect seniors. Seniors must be protected from the high cost of drugs now and in the future; however the premium and the co-pay have not increased since 1995. Five years, Mr. Speaker, since there has been an increase and everything has gone up. Changes are needed to ensure programs can continue, and it is important to note that government will still continue to pay the majority of the program costs, which amounts to approximately 70 per cent of the cost of this program.

This program is not unlike the health budget. While front-line workers and the facilities in which they provide care have always been and will continue to be, the priorities of this government, the costs associated to continue will rise. That is why our government has asked for fundamental changes now so that we are left with a system that is providing the best value for the dollars spent.

AN HON. MEMBER: The best value for dollars spent. (Applause)

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, wouldn't that be a great change for the people who live in Nova Scotia.

As I said, if money were the answer, this province would have the best health care in the country, because their Finance Minister pointed that out. Last year Nova Scotians spent more per capita on health care than any other province in the country, and the federal government has so far not acted as a true partner in funding health. As costs have escalated, federal contributions have dropped dramatically. (Interruptions) I am sure that everyone in this House wish our Health Minister the best as he and his fellow Health Ministers continue to urge the federal government to rethink its position.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable members kindly give the honourable member his due. He has the floor and it is very hard to hear with all the noise in the room. Thank you.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, for now the fact remains - and the Finance Minister pointed this out last week - unless we begin to rein-in the spiralling costs of health care, it will not be long before we have no money left for anything else, for schools, for roads, or for assistance to families in need. We have said this budget is not painless.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member accept a short question?

MR. DEWOLFE: I will. (Interruptions)

[Page 4090]

MR. MACKINNON: No, I respect the honourable member, and I appreciate him taking the question. I guess, quite simply, if the budget is as good as the honourable member states, why is his seat mate attacking the budget in the public papers? I will table this, Mr. Speaker, "Taylor attacks Government stand." (Interruptions)

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

AN HON. MEMBER: That is the Town of Stewiacke, a different thing altogether.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, this budget says that this government cares about children and their future; cares about health care, not just today, but tomorrow; cares about Nova Scotians who need a helping hand. To stay on the road suggested by the Opposition, no losses, no cuts, is completely unrealistic. It would be a pie in the sky to put forward a budget full of spending and program additions. It is a shame the Official Opposition couldn't admit to at least that much.

There is no more time to waste. If we did nothing this year, the deficit and the debt charges would continue on an upward swing. The debt charge alone is a figure that has risen to nearly the equivalent of our education budget. That is just not right. Can you imagine what we would do with the money in our classrooms . . .

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the honourable member would entertain a question from the member for Dartmouth North?

MR. DEWOLFE: I am sorry, I am afraid my time will be running out if I do so, and I would very much like to finish.

Mr. Speaker, can you imagine what we could do with the money in our classrooms that we cannot do now? It is like taking a match to $900 million. The Opposition and the honourable member across from me likes to quote from our platform document of 1999. He waves it as he does every day. Well, I would like to quote from the blue book, a little preamble from 1999. I quote, from the Premier:

"I believe leadership is about setting a clear course. It is about offering hope and optimism. Leadership is having faith in Nova Scotians and a plan to lead our province into the next century.

Leadership is about building on history, the people and the strengths of our province, about providing a better tomorrow for young Nova Scotians, security and respect for our seniors. It's about all Nova Scotians having opportunities, if they are prepared to take advantage of them.

[Page 4091]

I am absolutely committed to the principle that the Government of Nova Scotia must live within its means. Borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars and mortgaging our children's future without so much as a plan is simply wrong."

That, of course, is not one of the quotes that the Opposition bother to bring to the House, or the honourable member that so freely waves and supports our blue book. If they continue to turn a blind eye to the fiscal challenges before us, the best we can hope for from them is the suggestion of another quarter century of more of the same. The same old ways brought us to where we are now; $11 billion in debt. A crisis of confidence in our health care system (Interruptions), chronic unemployment in parts of our province, sick schools, pot-marked highways. Do we need to make changes in the way things are done in Nova Scotia? I think the answer is quite obvious, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

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

MR. DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to have a few words here this afternoon. I thank the honourable members for their indulgence.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the 15 seconds that I have to speak, I would like to say to the government members opposite, all it takes are four members to know how unjust this budget is. Four members on the government side to say that they will vote against it and this budget will end up being changed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion is carried.

[3:36 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[7:36 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and asks leave to sit again.

[Page 4092]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 42, the Municipal Law Amendment (2000) Act. The debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. (Applause) You have 28 minutes.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Twenty-eight minutes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. It just seems like the other day I rose in this place and there were so few people over there, they decided to adjourn for the evening. I am pleased to see the many members who are present this evening because this is an important topic, Bill No. 42, particularly the section which I have been speaking to. Just to recap, we have talked about the assessments part of this bill, we have talked also about the availability of more people being able to run for an elected office at the municipal level. I have heard from my learned friend, the honourable member for Dartmouth North who has spoken from his perspective, about Dartmouth North and municipal government. I have been addressing this issue of non-resident ownership.

I would like to highlight a few things for you on this issue and it seems almost ironic that a Mr. Ian MacQuarrie was interviewed on CBC the very next morning. Mr. MacQuarrie, who has a very strong background on this issue, the control of non-resident properties within provincial jurisdictions. He is the former chairman of the Raymond Commission of Prince Edward Island, it goes back almost 40 years when it deals with this important issue and the legislation that has come forward on P.E.I. Mr. MacQuarrie said a number of things, but the one very interesting thing he said during that Information Morning interview on CBC last week was on this emotional issue - and that is the way it was expressed - on this emotional issue, you must consult with the public. You must have endless public meetings, Mr. MacQuarrie said. That is an important part of this legislation in which there are absolutely no public meetings to discuss this emotional issue.

[Page 4093]

I have received an e-mail in the interim, because of our interruption of the weekend and other events, from a well-known activist on this topic, Mr. Kell Antoft, who has spoken at length on the non-resident taxation issue. Mr. Antoft says in his e-mail that he had initially been asked by the government, he says, I note that the government has indicated it is ready to move on some approach to taxation of non-residents. I will table this.

Some months ago I was asked if I would be prepared to meet with the inter-departmental committee looking at this matter. Since I have been heavily involved with the P.E.I. legislation, Mr. Antoft goes on in this e-mail and he says that he has been waiting for the call, but no one has consulted him.

Mr. Speaker, I invite you out to my constituency office someday. My constituency office in Timberlea-Prospect has one huge wall and on that wall is a map. That map is 8 feet by 3 feet of the coastal properties from Terence Bay to Peggy's Cove. That map has been provided to me, and on it - and I am taking this personally, Mr. Speaker, as you well know - it highlights the coastal properties from Terence Bay to the Peggys Cove Light that is owned by non-residents.

Mr. Speaker, that map is a magnet in my constituency office. Constituents come into my office for various reasons, to meet with me and to talk to me, and the very first thing they want to know is, Bill, what does the colour on that map signify? I take the time to point out to them that there are prominent locations in the coastal communities, that I have just mentioned, that are owned by non-residents. I can take you on a quick tour, if I may, of the wonderful community of Prospect. Prospect has a portion of that wonderful village, which is basically a peninsula, right down on the coast, and if you turn and go up into the high head, as it is called, it is a wonderful area for walking, it is a naturalist's dream. The concern that the people of this historic village of Prospect have is will that piece of property continue to be available and accessible to those people in Prospect, to their children, and to their grandchildren, or will that piece of property, on the Prospect high head, go the way of Niceview Drive.

Mr. Speaker, I would love to take you to Niceview Drive - if I could get in the gate. We have coastal communities in my constituency where there are gated communities. You must have the right combination, or the key to the lock to get through that gate, which will allow you to get down onto the coast, where you will see some of these exclusive properties. There is no way we should have gated communities to access any kind of coastal property in this province. That is not well received in the community of Terence Bay. It is not well received in the communities of East and West Dover and McGraths Cove. I can assure the minister responsible if a public meeting was held at the Whites Lake Legion on this issue, the Whites Lake Legion would not be big enough. It seems to me that that is an important part of this piece of legislation that is missing.

[Page 4094]

Let's talk about beaches. I would like to refer to the member for Inverness. The member for Inverness was recently involved in a controversial issue about a golf course. The key element for those people in Mabou was West Mabou Beach. Beach, that is the key word, beach. It is not that the people in that community were opposed to a golf course, because there are good reasons to have golf courses in that particular section of Cape Breton. There are good reasons to have golf courses in other parts of this province, but when you infringe upon a beach, and you infringe upon access to a beach as exclusive as the West Mabou Beach, you are talking an emotional issue.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources made the right decision. He took the tough stand, and he didn't listen to the Minister of Tourism on this issue. He listened to the people of West Mabou, who said protect our beach. Incidentally, that particular gentleman who was developing that golf course, would he be a non-resident? Where does he have his tax bills sent? That particular gentleman, if he is a non-resident, then he is a non-resident of Nova Scotia, not just as a Canadian, but he is a non-resident of Nova Scotia. I think the MLA for Inverness should speak on this issue later. Instead of having government that is going to be policy by the seat of their pants, I think this government should take the opportunity, particularly on an emotional issue like this, to allow people in communities, such as Mabou, such as Inverness, and such as Prospect, to have their say in their own communities about this very emotional issue.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of very active coastal community network groups, and I want to draw your attention to them. There is, of course, the Coastal Community News, which I hope members subscribe to. The Coastal Community News . . .

[7:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will remind the honourable member that he is speaking to second reading of Bill No. 42. I am hoping that some of his conversation is going to at least allude to the bill.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . and whether the municipalities are going to be allowed the power to decide whether they want to have non-resident taxation placed. As I expressed in my earlier comments, I said that our point was that, as far as we are concerned, the provincial government is downloading, so we are talking non-resident tax issue. A non-resident tax issue is an important section of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, the honourable member referred to a newspaper article there. I don't know what that would have to do with Bill No. 42, but, again, I would appreciate the member sticking to the principle of the bill. (Interruption)

Order, please. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

[Page 4095]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Then let's look at the importance of having access to coastal properties. The fact is, of course, that we have to encourage development, in the right manner, Mr. Speaker, so that we will have access for your children and for your grandchildren. Because, after all, we are concerned about this growing trend of having non-residents buy up certain portions of our forest lands, certain portions of the Musquodoboit Valley, but, in particular, we are buying up certain portions of coastal properties.

The issue, Mr. Speaker, that I have been speaking about, is the importance of having that access. Now, let's have a look at the municipalities and the reaction of municipalities. A particular councillor, that I mentioned earlier, by the name of Jack Mitchell, who represents Prospect-Hubbards and then the other councillor involved, who represents Hammond Plains-Timberlea, have expressed their feelings about the fact of whether the municipality should have this discretionary power to put taxes on non-residents. Yet, in turn, the Warden of the Municipality of Chester, Mr. Webber, has strongly expressed his view that his particular municipality, from his chair as the Warden, wants nothing to do with it.

My question is, were the municipalities consulted? Did they have their say on something as particular as this? Because the result, Mr. Speaker, is going to be that the provincial government is going to turn this over to the municipalities and say, here, you handle it. This is too important an issue, in my opinion, to allow it to be that directionalist. It seems to me that if we have one municipality that decides, in its wisdom, that they are going to impose whatever the tax rate is and another who wants nothing to with it, then we can have those sort of differences which will cause, in the communities that I represent, some dissension and some division.

The concern that we have, and we bring it up again, is the effect on assessments. Mr. Speaker, if you own a coastal piece of property or a piece of property in the wonderful, beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, that is adjoined next door, similar property, similar assessment, but, because your neighbour is a non-resident, what does it do to your assessment? What does it do to your value of your property? When a piece of property comes up for sale in Terence Bay, the locals, if I may call them that, under no circumstances can afford the cost of these million dollar lots that are becoming available. The municipalities have a problem on their hands. I believe the municipalities want some leadership from the provincial government on this issue.

I want to return to an issue that is of real importance and that is the definition of the non-resident. Because I know, at the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, we are going to hear from people on this issue. This is an emotional issue and I know that there will be other members who will speak in their place about their sons or daughters, their uncles, their aunts, who have moved away, who, for one reason or another, no longer can live in our wonderful province. Are they no longer Nova Scotians? I think it is of crucial importance that we understand that a non-resident, according to the definition and if in 183 days - dividing

[Page 4096]

365 by 2 and rounding it up, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, is 183 days - you don't live in this province, you are a non-resident.

So if my daughter, or your son, moves away - not together - live in Toronto let's say, Mr. Speaker, and they have a beautiful part of, maybe the Joggins Shore, and they decide that that piece of coastal property, and you would like to have it in your family, would you not, and pass it on to them. However, if they do not live in this province 183 days, they are a non-resident. Don't give me that great old song, they come from Anne Murray's Snowbird land; they live in Toronto. They are non-residents and it is very important that is clarified because I believe we are looking at the fact that we have a difference between Canadians and someone from Texas or, more importantly, someone from Germany.

Let's call it what it is, Mr. Speaker. I know there are members over there who are very nervous when we bring this topic up regarding the concern that if I did take you through that gated community in Terence Bay and you came down through Niceview Drive, you would run into signs that are in German. It seems to me there has to be quite a difference in opinion between a foreigner and someone who happens to be from Toronto. Springhill and Toronto are a long way apart, we will agree on that, but Springhill and Berlin are even further apart. I think it is of vital importance that this government, not just casually turn the issue over to the municipalities, to say, turn it over to the municipalities, they will decide; that is what I call a lack of leadership. That is a lack of leadership for your son, for my daughter. That is a lack of leadership because they are not actually dealing with the issue.

What is a non-resident? A non-resident according to the definition we see in this bill is not, in my opinion, the definition of non-resident that Nova Scotians and Canadians want to have. It is important we hear from Canadians and Nova Scotians on that particular view at the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point to my native province, New Brunswick. (Interruption) Born and raised, yes, right, tell me about it some time. In New Brunswick the coastal management work that has been done in that province is a reflection of some leadership, and that coastal management that went through two governments, incidentally, one Liberal, one Tory, shows - and I hope that it has not been cut - some leadership on the issue, consultation, meeting with the people throughout the province, dealing with the issues of what they want done with particular sections of coastal properties through New Brunswick. Surely, we have something to learn from New Brunswick. I know the members opposite are talking about New Brunswick's example all the time. I just hope the tractors don't encircle the building like they might have done in Sussex, but we will not go there.

Mr. Speaker, can't we also learn from the P.E.I. example on this issue and the fact that the province took the leadership? The province did not say to Kings County, Queens County, Prince County, Summerside or Charlottetown, you take care of it. They supplied the leadership. They dealt with the issue and the result is, in a province such as Prince Edward

[Page 4097]

Island, they have legislation in place across the province. That is the concern that I have. That is the concern that I have been asked to express on behalf of this caucus.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am, and I am sure all the members are really enjoying the tour of the Maritimes, but if the honourable member could get back to the homeland of Nova Scotia and Bill No. 42.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Do you know what I should do, Mr. Speaker? I should give you the first part of this 52 minutes because I had their rapt attention. I had their rapt attention, then the hour of interruption came and I was competing with another show, but I can assure you I will deal with this issue. The people of Nova Scotia will deal with this issue because this is an emotional issue and that is part of the bill that I am addressing, in particular.

Mr. Speaker, during my earlier comments, I referred, with the expertise of my good friend for Dartmouth North, I talked about the advantages of the expanded opportunity for other people to run for elected office. But the particular clause I am discussing is a flawed piece of this bill, and that is why I have been asked to address it.

I want, in particular, to point out to members opposite, I mention the MLA for Inverness - I would like to know, because I am dying to hear someone speak - I would like to know what members think, on that side, who have heard me speak about coastal properties. Members from Lunenburg, it seems to me that is a concern, Mr. Speaker, and I have heard from people from Inverness; I have heard from people from Lunenburg, from the Bras d'Or Lakes on this issue of non-residency. I have heard them speak out about it. The municipalities involved are asking, they are probably saying to their MLAs, give them a call. This particular piece of legislation is being debated in the House. It would be something worthy for them to stand in their place and speak about.

Mr. Speaker, this is not just an issue for Timberlea-Prospect; I am sure the members for Cape Breton who border upon the Bras d'Or Lakes will have their say, and the member for Eastern Shore, because I have heard from people from Jeddore, and I have heard from people down along that coast who have expressed some of these feelings.

It seems to me that based upon the idea of allowing the people of Nova Scotia to have their say on this piece of legislation, there has to be an opportunity for much more community input. If we look, in particular, at someone like Ian MacQuarrie, or at someone like Kell Antoft. Were they consulted? Were they asked, or is this just the same idea we had before: download on the municipalities. Let them decide; the municipalities will decide. Already we have heard or read in the press, Mr. Speaker, the reaction of Councillor Mitchell that I referred to earlier, and we have also heard from the Warden of the Municipality of Chester, who have very different responses to this issue. So what will we have? We will have one municipality pulling this way and one pulling that way.

[Page 4098]

The provincial government has a responsibility to show some leadership on this particular part of the bill, and not just say here municipalities, you handle it. Mr. Speaker, I know it is in that legendary blue book. I know it is in there, but that shows to me they are not taking the leadership necessary on this issue. We cannot have one municipality doing one thing, and another doing the other; that is not the way this particular bill should go. I am sure people at the Law Amendments Committee will express that. I am sure it will be divisive, and there will be opportunities for people to express that disappointment in the lack of leadership at the provincial level when it comes to directing the municipalities how to respond to this very emotional and very crucial issue.

Mr. Speaker, I know you think I am off the topic, but I want you to know that there are people who have asked, time and time again, for this issue to be addressed. This issue is not being addressed by this piece of legislation; it is, in my opinion, downloading on the municipality, showing a lack of leadership, and that bunch over there - especially some of those backbenchers - you explain why in one municipality it is this way, and why it is not that way in the other municipality. That happens because the province has not shown the appropriate leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time; I thank you for putting me back on the topic; and I thank the members for staying. It was really nice so many of you attended for a change. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you to the member for Timberlea-Prospect. I will mention the offer to my son.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a number of interventions on this particular piece of legislation that covers some three different issues: the Assessment Act; the Municipal Elections Act; and the Municipal Government Act.

[8:00 p.m.]

First, Mr. Speaker, I will focus my comments with regard to the changes of the Assessment Act. There are a number of aspects to that, as the minister indicated at the outset of his introductory remarks on second reading, and I guess one of the things that comes to mind when we are dealing with the Assessment Act is the fact that one clause of the bill does make provision for some assessment on railway rights of way in the province. It draws to mind a very important issue that certainly affects all the coastal properties in Cape Breton Island that have a railway near or travelling through those respective properties, if not through the eastern part of Nova Scotia, and in particular with regard to the Cape Breton Central Railway right of way that was transferred from public hands, i.e., CN, to this

[Page 4099]

privately-owned railway company that was based out of Louisiana, I believe, or somewhere down in the southern United States, Texas.

That particular issue, Mr. Speaker, created kind of a compound problem. I bring to the attention of the minister, this particular issue, because the issue of taxation on the main lines of any particular railway right of way draws to the attention of anyone who owns property on either side of that railway right of way, a very important issue that is in conflict with the Municipal Planning Act, particularly with regard to the subdivision regulations in the various municipal units that are affected.

Mr. Speaker, up until recently, any landowner who owns land, for example, on the Bras d'Or Lakes, between the railway right of way and the Bras d'Or Lakes, with the highway being on the higher side and, ultimately, not providing any direct highway access for these individual landowners, would put the landowners in a position where they could not subdivide their property because they are not on a direct public access highway.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister if he would perhaps make note of this particular issue because it is a major issue. It has, for all intentional purposes, handcuffed many landowners who would like to pass on their property in a divided estate to their children or their grandchildren or someone that they care for.

This issue has remained unresolved for some time, simply because this particular American-based rail company has decided, in its wisdom, or lack thereof - I am not sure which - to refuse to respond to many of the pieces of correspondence and requests not only from the landowners, but, indeed, the local regional municipality, the issue being that in order for the land to be developed between the right of way and the Bras d'Or Lakes, that the landowner would have to receive permission from the railway company that, in fact, permission would be granted to cross the railway right of way. That has created considerable difficulty. One can only imagine that if you are travelling over 100 kilometres along a particular piece of real estate, the total number of landowners that are affected by that particular company decision.

That is something, Mr. Speaker, obviously, that was overlooked at the transfer of title when the federal government, under Brian Mulroney and, indeed, I believe, Premier Donald Cameron here in the province at the time, when considerable intervention and concern was raised on a number of issues, but I guess that was one of the ones that just seemed to slip through the cracks. It is a real issue and if we are talking assessment, one can also imagine the impact that it has on the assessed value of each and every one of those particular pieces of property, because there are cases where, in fact, some of the owners of these particular pieces of real estate are non-Nova Scotia residents. They would be finding themselves in a very difficult situation. I can certainly relate to one particular instance where a couple native to Nova Scotia now living in the Boston area wanted to divide their property among a number of their children, some six or seven children as my memory may recall, several of whom live

[Page 4100]

in Nova Scotia and some in other provinces in Canada. You would certainly understand some of the complexities that would arise from treating these various individuals differently from one another.

I also noticed in this particular piece of legislation that the definition of a resident, and I don't want to get into particulars, but I have to focus on the fact that the reference in the definition also makes reference to a particular entity or corporation that, indeed, does not have its head office in Nova Scotia. One can only speculate on the implications of this particular piece of legislation on large companies such as Stora Enso in Port Hawkesbury whereby their head office is in Sweden. Are these particular individual companies that have a long-standing relationship with the Province of Nova Scotia corporate, in terms of some of its own land holdings, are they going to be put in a different position taxation-wise because of this particular legislation? Perhaps that is something that the minister may want to address on his closing remarks.

Something else about this entire issue of assessment, Mr. Speaker. In giving some extended powers to the director of assessment draws, my own personal experience, several months ago, less than two months ago, I received a number of tax bills and of course I go through (Interruptions) I don't mind telling you I have, well, whatever is recorded down in the conflict of interest forms there - 12 or 13, maybe 14 properties - the fact of the matter is, I received all these notices of assessment and lo and behold, one of them - actually two of them, related to two bungalows that I am reported to own.

Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, I only have one summer cottage, not two. So I took it to the assessment office and I brought both pieces of documentation to the assessment office and I found myself arguing with the assessor that in fact I only had one summer cottage and not two. At the end of it I just gave up and I indicated to the assessor that if he could find the second bungalow, I would give it to him for nothing. These are types of things that one has to be cautious of when you start to extend powers and authorities and responsibilities to different levels of bureaucracy. That could be a very isolated case but, in fact (Interruptions) I am not going to touch the Premier's bungalow on this one, I am going to focus strictly on my own.

The fact of the matter is, giving the director - or for that matter, any one or any number of his agents - that authority, to do a reassessment or to move somebody's name on or off the assessment roll, raises a number of concerns that perhaps really haven't been foreseen in the drafting of this particular piece of legislation. I will give you a number of examples: what does the director do in the case of an undivided estate where perhaps someone who, as tradition would dictate, generally - and in many of the rural properties in Nova Scotia there will always be one or two members of the family who would stay back on the family farm and kind of take control of the affairs on that particular piece of real estate. Then that would be assessed in that individual's name, but assessment doesn't necessarily guarantee ownership. Anyone who is involved in the process would certainly understand that.

[Page 4101]

Now, if another family member, under this new process, were to make an application to the director and make the argument that perhaps, Mr. Director or Mrs. Director, I have three-fifths of that estate, and Joe farmer, my brother, living on the farm, only has one-fifth, then that should be assessed in my name. The director could very easily, under that process, make that change, and that has been done over the years. Those types of arguments have evolved into some rather complex and unnecessary arguments, costing considerable expense to all stakeholders involved, and in particular to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

What happens is invariably one of a number of the parties attached to this particular piece of real estate would appeal, and certainly if the director had that arbitrary power to be able to resolve that without going through a lengthy appeal process, that is fine, there is a saving there, but if, in fact, you have a number of competing interests, and then you start dealing with the issues of confidentiality and freedom of information, as has been referenced in this particular piece of legislation, that could certainly create a conflict of interest in itself. The director is in a position where he or she has to arbitrate as to what information can or may be supplied to one or more of the parties who are attached to this particular situation; that in itself is a problem.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly submit that the assessment process and the assessors that we have employed in public service today are certainly far more qualified than they were 25 or 30 years ago. As many would recall, if you were a friend of the government, it wouldn't matter whether you were Liberal, Tory or whatever, but generally speaking, you had a better chance of being appointed as an assessor if you were a friend of the government and you had some background, whether you sold some real estate or whatever. The degree and the magnitude of the requirement for the job description isn't quite what it is today.

However, there is considerable misunderstanding about the relationship between the assessor, the assessment office, the Land Registration and Information Services division within the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs and, indeed, the registration process within the Registry of Deeds. I could give a deed to, for example, the Premier for the Empire State Building, I could give him a deed for the Empire State Building, if it is a Quit Claim Deed. All it simply states is I am giving up my interest to that particular piece of property. I may have zero interest, so that is what he gets, zero.

That is compounded by the fact that someone may have a partial interest in a particular piece of real estate, whether it be just a piece of land, a summer cottage, a home, and convey that to a third party. What happens is, they may have a partial interest, and that is compounding the process, the problem, by virtue of the fact that that may be a minority interest in the entire process, but because that is a documented piece of evidence, going through on a paper trail through the registry process, that creates a problem for the assessor.

[Page 4102]

The assessor, I would submit, could perhaps be found in a conflict, unless there is some process to ensure that the proper expertise is there, available to the assessor or the arbitrator, or whoever will be making these decisions before the complete year-end process takes full form. What is happening under this new process is that the assessor, or the director, can make these decisions so as to expedite some of the backlog that occurs at the end of the fiscal year. That helps to streamline the process and keep things more contemporary, more reflective of market conditions and so on and so forth.

[8:15 p.m.]

By doing that, we could create a number of serious legal problems, so I draw that to the minister's attention because I do see lots of opportunity for some genuine, well-intended decision making but that will be flawed. That would be my concern. I will give you an example. I can understand where the minister and the department would be coming from on this assessment issue, because the number of appeals in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality were so great this year that the department could not handle it. They had to contract out the issue of appeals to a private consulting firm in Dartmouth.

I am sure 90 per cent of the residents in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality weren't aware of that, but I became aware of it because I appealed a number of my assessments and I was wondering why I was having some difficulty - no great difficulty, any more than the next person down the street - but such issues that I felt it was important to go to the assessment office. My experience in having sold real estate and being in the survey profession for the last 20-some years, and a generally good working knowledge of real estate, I thought it would be best to go in and sit down, point for point and outline the reasons why I thought I should have lower assessments.

In one case, I had no qualms about the value of the assessment and would have, not anxiously, but would have not taken issue with one assessment had it been a little bit higher because I did my own analysis and I outlined all that to the respective officer that I dealt with, but lo and behold, that particular officer was so jammed with the number of appeals that it is very difficult to give a fair and, in some cases, a thorough examination of all the facts.

How many of the assessors that we have within the process are professionally trained on how to do fair market analysis, a fair market evaluation? I would suggest, based on my limited working knowledge with some of them, that the majority do not; the majority do not have front-line experience on doing fair market analysis. I am not sure if everyone knows what fair market analysis is, but what you do is you go into a particular zone or community and if you wanted to do an evaluation on a particular piece of real estate, you have to have comparables; not just the same home on the same street, that sort of thing. You go into a general community and there are a whole myriad of variables that are entered into the equation. There is the size of the home, the infrastructures that are available, water, sewer, is the street paved, what amenities are available to the respective homes and communities,

[Page 4103]

hospitals, schools, churches, a whole number of issues; a number of calculations that I would submit that even perhaps myself, it extends well beyond what limited experience and knowledge I have. That is why we have registered appraisers and there are very few.

If you are a real estate broker, if you are a real estate agent, you are not necessarily qualified to do a fair market analysis. There are very few in this province; in fact, I would submit that perhaps you could count on your two hands the total number of registered appraisers in this province. We have people who are making major decisions on the value of one piece of real estate and personal property that perhaps are well off the mark. This creates a problem for the taxpayer. As anyone knows - and I am very keen on the value for dollar - how many times individual homeowners or landowners are constantly appealing, going through the process, dealing with issues of assessment, because the assessors simply do not have a complete understanding of the dynamics of fair market value in that respective community.

One can only go along the Bras d'Or Lake through the Ben Eoin and East Bay and Big Pond area, that is a classic example. Now they have gone to the point in this particular regional municipality that if you can see the Bras d'Or Lake from your property, whether you are fronted on it or not, you are assessed a higher value than your neighbour who may have 20 or 30 trees in front of him obscuring his view. Until this very minute, I have never been able to get a complete explanation from the assessment office as to how they come up with the analysis that because you can see a body of water from your property and your neighbour has trees on his property and can't, that the assessment is going to be significantly different. I can understand if the piece of land fronts on the Bras d'Or Lakes or the body of water, whatever it would be, then certainly I can appreciate that but no comparative analysis has been done on that.

That has not only created difficulty for the assessed landowners, but for the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The amount of money wasted on appeals and people going back and forth, the amount of money that has been wasted in that department, Mr. Speaker, because of those types of decisions, is certainly an issue I am sure the minister would be pleased to help resolve. It would generate some revenue for other issues that are well worth addressing within the department.

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how many tens of thousands of landowners in the province have appealed their assessment but, I know in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, for example, there have been a significant number because, even though there has been in some areas some reduction in the overall assessed value because of the economic circumstances, there are many cases where that simply is not the case. With no new services, I fail to understand whether we are dealing with an issue of maintaining an assessed value for the purposes of meeting the bottom line, because it is a give and take relationship with the municipalities across this province.

[Page 4104]

The old adage was that if your assessed value went up this year and your rate didn't or it went down a couple of pennies, then going into a municipal election, that was pretty good, because the local municipal politicians looked pretty good. Well, we just reduced your tax rate, when in fact, the bottom line is, your property taxes went up. Then, a couple years later - and that has been seen time and time again, Mr. Speaker - going into a provincial election, the assessed value did not go up at all. In some cases, it may go down. Well, that is good for the provincial government.

One has to be careful that if we are going to start moving on this change of policy on assessed value, we are not going to be getting into this old game with a new coat of armour, because therein lies part of the problem with the issue of non-residency, of assessed value, particularly with the issue of taxation. If this is an enabling piece of legislation that will allow each and every municipality to be able to assess foreign ownership as they see fit at a higher rate than the resident owners, then we have to ask ourselves if we are simply trying to resolve a financial dilemma that each of the municipalities finds itself in because the province is hit by a cash crunch. Maybe because, they will make the argument, we are getting less money on transfer payments, or because of certain global agreements there is less money in the pot and so on and then that trickle-down effect. But if the concern is about non-resident ownership, then I would submit it would be more productive to adopt a similar type of policy, as they have done in Prince Edward Island.

For example, if, in fact, I bought a piece of land on a waterfront property in Prince Edward Island, I would not be allowed to buy a second piece of property there unless I developed the first one. If I did not put a summer cottage or some type of a settlement there, then, in fact, I would be . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I would be surprised if they would let you buy one.

MR. MACKINNON: The socialists are always so supportive of me, Mr. Speaker. They would only be too happy to see me buy a piece of real estate out of Nova Scotia and move, but that is not in the books.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted to achieve some type of control over foreign ownership, then that is the type of direction or policy I would submit would be far more productive in addressing many of the concerns that have been raised by members here in the House about non-resident ownership, because if we go down through the southwestern part of the province, or indeed through Timberlea-Prospect, or indeed down through Richmond County, where there are tremendous amounts of economic activity because of people coming from other countries and buying pieces of real estate and developing then the argument is made by many local residents that they are pricing this out of our realm. There is no way that we can afford to pay the same price as many of the people from Germany, or Switzerland, or whatever; we cannot compete with that as local residents because we don't have the resources.

[Page 4105]

Well, that is fine. If they can afford to pay $50,000, or $100,000, or $200,000 - in fact, as much money as they really need they almost have it in hand when they execute these particular pieces of real estate transactions - another $2,000 or $3,000 on property taxes does not mean anything because, first of all, Mr. Speaker, they can use it as a corporate tax deduction. So all they are doing is moving the money out of one sleeve into another, one envelope into another, with a good accountant, that is really a tax write-off. All they are reducing is the total capital gains income by that amount.

So, Mr. Speaker, it does not cost them five cents, but it costs the residents, the full-time Nova Scotians, a lot more. This is basically a piece of legislation to generate capital revenue for the local municipalities and take the pressure off the provincial government . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They have the potential to generate capital.

MR. MACKINNON: Certainly the potential, and it is a real potential because the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs has for all intents and purposes through its budgetary process, indicated there is no more money. So it is a taxing issue. Now, how many businesses will be affected by this? Let's look at the non-residency factor. Are we talking Canadian non-resident? Are we talking about individuals who live in other provincial jurisdictions or the Territories? Are we talking about people who are not Canadian residents?

What happens with people who are enlisted in the Armed Forces, in the Navy, the Air Force, the RCMP? What happens to all those people who, through a choice of professional career, that they are being moved around. Will they be punished because a director looks at their address and says, you are not really a Nova Scotian? If they are being moved, should they be punished? Should they be taxed on the same level or the same basis as someone coming from Switzerland or Germany or wherever with bags and bags of money? I don't think so, I think that is wrong.

[8:30 p.m.]

What about the children in Nova Scotia who have pieces of real estate willed or deeded to them and they choose to go to university in other provincial jurisdictions, where they find themselves from their first year of university, Mr. Speaker, until their fourth or fifth year, or if they want to go on to post-graduate and a professional career whether as a doctor, a lawyer or whatever the professional career would be, and they work in summer jobs in those other provinces? Essentially, under this legislation, they are considered as being non-residents. Should they be punished?

These are the types of issues I believe the government has kind of swept all into one confinement. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that will create as many problems now as the existing system. In fact, I will make a prediction. Unless the wide wielding powers that are going to be given to the director of assessment are going to be so sweeping with the support of the

[Page 4106]

regulations that will be drafted for this ADR process by Cabinet, I would respectfully submit there will be as many problems with the new system as there are with the old. I hope I am wrong on that.

Just to give you one example, if you provide an amended notice of assessment, there is nothing in here that states that has to be by certified mail. There is nothing under that entire Clause 9. These are the types of things. If you send it to the wrong person or to the wrong address, and that person does not get it, what happens? The director makes that decision, and then the onus is the other way around. The burden of proof is now on the person who has been, as they say in real estate terms, injuriously affected.

AN HON. MEMBER: Injurious affection.

MR. MACKINNON: Depends upon where you are sitting. Mr. Speaker, also on this issue of the regulations for this ADR process, there is a prescription for the remuneration and allowance for travel and other expenses for the mediators and arbitrators from the Consolidated Fund of Nova Scotia. Who are these mediators and arbitrators going to be? Now I would hope this is not another opportunity to create some more political appointments. We have already had several pieces of legislation here that are inflating the size of government when the government is saying we are reducing it. (Interruption) There is a pattern developing here, Mr. Speaker. I hear a minister saying, no, no, no, but there is a pattern developing here.

We are reducing the size of the Civil Service, but we are increasing the number of political appointments. I will submit that, as time passes and more pieces of legislation come before this House, we are going to see more and more of that. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to find out what the government is up to. They are not happy with the Civil Service because they are not getting the political advice they like, and I emphasize political. Yet, if they introduce enough pieces of legislation and restructure things the way they see fit, they will achieve their political agenda.

Mr. Speaker, that draws you to the issue of the fact that someone who works for the assessment office can take a leave of absence and run in a municipal election. This is an issue that the Conservative caucus, when they were in Opposition, raised concern about. In fact, the honourable member for Kings North stood in this House and adamantly opposed it, because of the potential conflict, (Interruption) No, the previous member, the honourable George Archibald, when he was here. He was very vocal on behalf of his constituents. He wasn't afraid to stand up. He stood up for his constituents, even when he took issue with his own government. I guess there is more than one around the Legislature with that. But the fact of the matter is, that on this particular issue, he raised some genuine concerns.

[Page 4107]

You can have someone who may have a very strong knowledge of a number of assessment-related issues in a particular jurisdiction which that individual may have in mind, and certainly the constituents in that particular jurisdiction will know it could very well affect the value of their home. We have to make sure - and I am not suggesting this is the case - that someone doesn't come along and say, okay, maybe your assessment is a little high, I will see what I can do after the election. These things, I am sure, have happened, at some point in time, where someone has misused his or her political office of public trust. Mr. Speaker, that to me, is a genuine concern. This is a direct conflict that could very easily occur.

Mr. Speaker, as well, fast-forwarding to the issue that I mentioned before, with regard to the potential conflict of interest and the fact that an individual may be prevented from pieces of information because of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That is an issue that really has to be ferreted out a little more, it has to be vetted a little more, so that the director of assessment is not making an arbitrary decision that is contrary to the best interests of all the stakeholders. I would submit that perhaps the minister, in his closing remarks for second reading, or indeed, perhaps, at the Law Amendments Committee, may want to address it as well.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect made reference to the issue of coastal properties, and to be honest, I don't necessarily aspire to the adage that everyone should have access to everyone else's coastal properties. That is essentially what the honourable member has been suggesting. For example, if you have a piece of real estate and you have a beautiful waterfront, then that honourable member is suggesting that if there is a gate at the end of your property preventing people from trespassing, then that gate should be removed and everyone in the community should have access. Well, if you as a landowner are paying for that, you should have certain proprietary rights.

The honourable member well knows that this is an issue that he addressed in the House on a number of occasions, because of his concern about the non-residency factor. I believe, in certain measure, he has addressed part of it, by the fact that the government is not dealing with the real problem here. What they are doing under the guise of saying that is they want to control foreign ownership.

Mr. Speaker, look at the facts and ask yourself, even in Prince Edward Island, where the legislation is far more restrictive, what has that done to limit foreign ownership at the small, local level, the individual property owners? But the large corporations still have ways of dealing with that. Their legislation is far more restrictive than ours. Ours doesn't deal with that. Ours does not deal with limiting foreign ownership. If that is, ultimately, what we are trying to achieve, then I would suggest that, perhaps, the minister and the government may want to introduce an amendment to provide a limit on foreign ownership because increasing taxation will not work; it will only punish resident Nova Scotians. That is what will happen.

[Page 4108]

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation will not achieve the goal that the government says it is going to. To say that what we want to do is to deal with the issue of foreign ownership, saying it and putting it in black and white are two different things. To say it to the people of Nova Scotia sounds good but it is not in the legislation and it is being counter-productive to the Nova Scotians who are involved in various communities across Nova Scotia that benefit, economically, because of the structure and the corporate structure and the real estate development initiatives and opportunities that are taking place across Nov Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we even have, in Cape Breton, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, what they call Retirement Cape Breton. They are asking people to come back. They are asking retirees to come back to Cape Breton. Similarly, many of the people that buy real estate that is developed through many of these Swedish and German interests, in and around Cape Breton and Richmond and Victoria Counties, they sell to people that eventually settle. It is very expensive. It is certainly beyond the reach of many of the elected members in this House. The ordinary Nova Scotian cannot afford to compete with that but, in fact, those issues are generating economic activity. I would submit, up through Richmond County, I have seen a tremendous boost in the housing economy and the spin-off effects from that.

Mr. Speaker, in the final analysis, what happens is the developer, whether it be Canadian or non-Canadian, they take their money and they do what most entrepreneurs do, they either put it in their pocket or they invest it somewhere else. So it is a constant transitional process. This legislation will not deal with the issue of foreign ownership, but that is really what the government is trying to tell people.

What type of inter-provincial relationship do we have? I can certainly appreciate, in Prince Edward Island, where the Irvings and the McCains, large corporations that have interests that could swallow up the rights and the opportunities for local islanders or, indeed, if that were in Nova Scotia, that could certainly be a concern. But we are not even coming close to that we are not addressing that.

We have to ask ourselves, what is going to happen? Does Bowater Mersey have their head office in Nova Scotia? Does Stora Forest Industries from Port Hawkesbury have their head office in Nova Scotia? No, unless I am missing something here, Mr. Speaker. Would the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury be willing to go back and tell this employer of some 800 or 900 people, and then all the indirect jobs that are created, all the millions of dollars that have been invested in their forestry and silviculture programs in the respective counties across Nova Scotia, that they are going to be treated differently. Are they not really a Nova Scotia entity just because their head office is not in Nova Scotia? There are a lot of facets to this particular issue that we cannot just leave in the hands of a director or a politically-appointed board - and I don't mean that in the negative sense. We have to deal with issues and they may not have the expertise to deal with some of these issues.

[Page 4109]

[8:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Until 8:59 p.m.

MR. MACKINNON: But who is counting? (Laughter). This is just the first of three sections; I haven't even gotten to the other two sections. Maybe I would get the honourable Government House Leader pretty upset if I introduced an amendment at this point and tried to get back to the other two points, and I know he would only bring closure again.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue of the electoral list - in fact, Clause 25 deals with that; essentially the entire issue is surrounded on this particular issue - and the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer for the province may enter into an agreement with the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada for the supply of information - essentially buying their voters list for use in a particular election - one only has to go back several years ago, just after the federal election - I believe it was in 1996 or 1997 . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You are talking about the referendum.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . and what happened there, Mr. Speaker, the provincial government used the federal list - no, we wanted to use the federal list; the federal government had used the referendum list - and that was a complete disaster. I know in the federal constituency where I reside, upwards of 25 per cent of the names were omitted from the list because it just had not been done properly. By the time it got into the actual electoral process, because the enumeration was not done on the front lines at the provincial level or the federal level, many residents were not afforded the opportunity to vote.

This reminds me of back during the Harrington days, Mr. Speaker. Anyone who has read anything about history would remember all the concerns that were raised when Premier Harrington, after three years in power, desperately tried to hold on. It did not work but there was considerable concern raised about the eligibility of residents for voting, and because their names were not on the list, when they went out on election day, they could not even get themselves sworn in.

The process is a little more fine-tuned and refined to the extent that many of those safeguards have been put in place, but an average Nova Scotian who does not follow the legalese of this process very well can become very frustrated very easily. It is a very trying experience for a senior to go into a polling station and be told that they have to take an affidavit that they have been a resident in their community when they have lived there for 60, 70 and in some cases even 80 years.

[Page 4110]

This particular amendment to the Act is of great benefit to the urbanized centres, particularly in Halifax and Dartmouth and central Nova Scotia; this particular amendment will serve very well. I see the Minister of Education smiling. Perhaps she will remember a few elections just prior to her coming onto the scene where there was considerable concern about people's names being left off the voters list and so on, and the line-ups and the massive numbers of problems that were created because of that.

In rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, having that front-line enumeration at election time serves a number of positive values. Number one, because you have enumerators from the various Parties going together they ensure quality control and the assurance that one particular Party that may have a sense that particular family is leaning to a political persuasion that is not in their best interests, won't be on the list, that is not the case. So a lot of these inequities are dealt with on the front lines and very effectively. The opportunity for any type of abuse in rural Nova Scotia is very minimal under the present structure.

I realize that it is far more difficult in an urbanized setting when you are dealing with a large concentration of population numbers, whether it be in apartment units or whatever. I can appreciate that would create considerable difficulty for the government doing enumeration and in making certain of quality control. I am not sure that the minister would agree or not, but perhaps somewhere in between there is some way of addressing that. I know the minister himself comes from a somewhat rural constituency and, for example, if he had 50 or 60 polling stations in his constituency, that is essentially anywhere from 100 to 120 enumerators going out and ensuring that quality control because you have the different philosophies the different political Parties represent to ensure there isn't any type of gerrymandering or neglect, for whatever reason.

That is important because of the large number of constituencies - out of the 52, you are looking at at least 29 that are essentially rural, or perhaps if you want to take out some of industrial Cape Breton, subtract those out, you are looking at at least 50 per cent of the province is rural. Somewhere in between has to be a mechanism to address and that is certainly an issue that we wrestled with when we were in government and we didn't know how we were going to address that.

There was an all-Party committee that made some recommendations, but the consultation with the individual constituencies, in my view, wasn't as thorough as I believe, as a rural member, it should have been. This is an issue that I am hoping will be addressed by the minister and/or his department, or at least maybe somebody may want to address it at the Law Amendments Committee level. There is that general concern that just simply piggybacking off the federal for the sake of cost-efficiency, may, in fact, end up costing us more in the long run. I realize my time is getting a little bit short so I will not steer off the trail too much.

[Page 4111]

Another issue is the issue of aquaculture. I commend the minister on that. I am quick to criticize him on various things, I readily admit, and sometimes when I am wrong - and I know on a previous day he has addressed one point that I was wrong on the WCAT versus the Workers' Advisers Program - I will readily admit that. On this issue of aquaculture, making it resource based rather than a commercial or industrial enterprise, I believe that is a positive initiative for the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia. In saying that, Mr. Speaker, I draw to the minister's attention an issue that certainly he may want to confer with the Minister of Fisheries on because there is considerable concern by the fishing industry, particularly the lobster fishing industry in Nova Scotia, that many of these aquaculture sites are creating considerable pollution in or around the lobster beds, particularly in southwestern Nova Scotia. These are confined spaces and considerable residue builds up at the bottom of the cages. There is concern about infection and contamination.

Earlier today the member for Timberlea-Prospect was going around with vials of strange products regarding some agricultural activity in Truro. I am sure if he wanted to get a snorkel we could put him down into one of these aquaculture cages, and he could probably do the same thing for the aquaculture process. (Interruption) I have learned not to travel into too many constituencies other than my own.

Mr. Speaker, that is a major concern. If we are going to be giving considerable latitude and support to the aquaculture industry, then certainly it is an issue that we not bend too far in one direction to the disadvantage of the other. Anyone involved in the lobster fishing industry would certainly want that particular issue addressed. I am sure they would come along and say, why don't we get a similar type of support? In general, I think it is a good initiative and I would support that section of the bill without question.

I realize my time is coming to a close. I have many more words to say on this particular piece of legislation, but we will be back during Committee of the Whole House. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your indulgence.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will speak briefly to this bill. I saw the minister try to beat me to the punch there. Not that that was the reason I rose, but I am glad to see the minister and the government, at least, think about trying to address this issue. I am not entirely sure that I disagree with some of their approach, but I think they have not gone far enough. What I would like the minister to be aware of, or to think about, in drafting this legislation is that there are those circumstances in the province - not that it necessarily applies in my case, but I live in an area that is rapidly growing. I live on a lake, and my family has been there for 100 years. (Interruption) A grand lake.

[Page 4112]

I would like the minister to be aware there are foreigners who have come and bought land around that lake. There are people in that area now who have had their assessments go a bit beyond, based purely on the fact that properties around the lake and on particular islands in the lake, have been bought for prices that most of the locals could not even approach. I would say the minister's attempt by allowing the municipalities to tax these properties at a higher rate or to glean more taxes from them based on non-resident ownership is probably a good idea, but what I would like the minister to consider is that there should, perhaps, be some mechanism that takes into consideration the traditional or continuous use of those properties, and for the province to look at the way that it assesses those properties. I remember having this discussion with someone in his department a year or so ago, and it was around the case of a commercial development in the Elmsdale area, where properties had been sold and a McDonald's franchise went up, in another area there is a Tim Horton's franchise.

[9:00 p.m.]

The individual who worked for the assessment office actually made the case to me, he said, look, we can't assess those properties along that certain road on the basis that they are all going to be sold for a large price to one of these franchises that might come in. We have to consider the usual and traditional use of those properties, there are people using them as homes right now, and we have to take that into consideration. I thought that was quite intelligent, I thought the way the assessment department looked at that was logical, and they were trying to give the best benefit of the doubt to those landowners, and didn't try to have those properties assessed purely on the basis that commercial interests were buying those properties, and therefore, it helped prevent an exorbitant increase in the assessment of those properties.

I thought, to speak to somebody who was a bureaucrat and to have them talk in such a sensible manner, was a breath of fresh air to me. I hadn't been at this very long at the time. But what I see the assessment department doing in that case, which seemed to make some sense, they seem to be doing the contrary in the case of these islands in Grand Lake, where they are being assessed far beyond their traditional use that the local landowners might have. I think you have to question, when you do assess that, is it purely based on the fact that somebody else was willing to pay so much more than what locals could afford to pay for that, or do you have to take into consideration the fact that if you are talking about an island, you have no road to it, you have no power to it, and you have a limited capability, even if there was land enough there to get it to pass for sewage treatment or disposal, that if you had to haul tons and tons of material in to build a disposal field for that, how would you ever get it there.

I think that it is important, and I would like the minister to consider, that his initiative on increasing tax on non-resident landowners is a good first step, but I would like to see some consideration of those people who are the traditional users and owners of land in an area and not until a particular property is bought for an exorbitant price, then it will be taxed based on

[Page 4113]

what that has been, rather than making all the local, traditional landowners, who have been in the area for numbers of decades, start to pay taxes that are based on that new price paid for that piece of property.

In these two instances, I have seen a case where assessment was based on the traditional users and uses of the land, and another case where it was not. I don't know how the assessment department actually considers that. I haven't had a chance to speak to them again about it. But I want to mention this to the minister, just so he will give some consideration to that point.

I am glad to see what the minister has done, regarding the aquaculture sector. I do consider aquaculture to be farming, and I think for the minister (Interruption) I don't think there is any pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. I would like the minister to think a little bit about whether the government wants to look at aquaculture as an industry, and I am sure the Minister of Fisheries would have some comment in that regard, but the whole question about whether or not there should be a tax incentive for the industry, or of changing the way that they are taxed, that the government should look at some regulations regarding aquaculture enterprises, and the concerns raised by communities based on environmental concerns. I think we can look at aquaculture and think of it as a renewable, sustainable industry, but the question of whether or not any of these enterprises should be in the water, in bays or harbours, is questionable.

This industry might be more appropriately placed on land and allow for some way to control the effluent from the ponds or the pens that have been created and also I think would be much more able to monitor disease and prevent escape into the wild populations. I think if we consider if there is an aquaculture farm carrying out its business and it is affecting lobster stocks, or the lobster industry in that area, and it is already there and it has been there naturally, with some controls that DFO has put on it, if it is renewable and sustainable and could go on to the end of time, then it would seem that it is really defeating the purpose to allow an aquaculture business to go on that actually could detrimentally affect the lobster industry.

So I don't see that we are gaining anything, but I think I know where the minister is coming from with his tax initiative there. I think I would applaud him on that, but I would like the minister and the government to look at whether or not it is appropriate to have aquaculture in harbours and bays where environmentally it does not seem to have worked. I think for the longevity of that industry and the longevity of other industries that it could detrimentally affect, we should look at this because we are running the risk of maybe ruining them both. So with those few brief comments, Mr. Speaker, I will relinquish the floor to other members.

[Page 4114]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this bill covers a lot of territory and so I may not perhaps be very brief in responding to it. I had a call over the weekend from a chap who wanted to know about one particular provision of this bill and he could not understand that it was part of a bigger bill that covered all kinds of things. When I used the term an omnibus bill, he had never heard of that before. He thought I was talking about something they have over in England but, anyway, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: A double-decker bus.

MR. MACEWAN: This is a double-decker, indeed, it is a very big double-decker. So we are going to have to go through it step by step.

AN HON. MEMBER: Clause by clause.

MR. MACEWAN: Level by level, story by story. I noticed some reference to aquaculture projects by the last speaker and I see the first section of the bill, the Assessment Act provisions do deal with aquaculture projects. I notice the new-found enthusiasm of the members of the New Democratic Party for projects involving aquaculture - something I thought that they were totally against because they certainly did not want to find any pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow.

In any event, I see this as a progressive move and I would be glad to see all the colours of the rainbow unfold and see this particular provision enhance the ability of the aquaculture industry to expand and grow in Nova Scotia notwithstanding the efforts of Ms. Michelle Dockrill, Member of Parliament for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. MACEWAN: Who, indeed. Let's move on. I am going to move forward, Mr. Speaker. I may also move backward in the course of my remarks, but I want to move forward right now to the Municipal Elections Act, which is the first part of Part II. This is a very major step forward. There were times when municipal offices were restricted, even more so then they are now. There was a time, for example, when teachers were not permitted to run for municipal office, even though there are a great number of them now on councils throughout the province.

It was a provision of the Municipal Elections Act for many years, including within my own memory as a teacher. I am advised that the late brother of the honourable member for Cape Breton West was the first serving, active school teacher, not a retired one, not a former one, but an active one, to be elected to municipal office under the new provisions of the

[Page 4115]

Municipal Elections Act when it was changed to allow school teachers the right to run. So that was a historic first.

Now, here again, we are facing up to a long-standing grievance of many municipal employees. The definition used of municipal employees has been pretty broad, because it has included not just people who worked in the town hall or city hall as the administrative staff, it has included everyone who worked for the municipality, the char ladies, the cleaning staff, yes, firefighters. We had the ironic situation where a volunteer firefighter could run, but his buddy right next door, who was on salary, could not, within the same fire department.

AN HON. MEMBER: He can now.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, it hasn't been passed yet. Let's just hold our fire until it is passed and proclaimed and made effective. I have been involved, for some time, with an effort involving firefighters who wanted to run for municipal office. I was lobbied by Mr. Jody Wrathall. Mr. Jody Wrathall is President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2779 in Sydney. I spent some time with him and he explained to me, in detail, the situation that their members faced. I received a letter from him. I think I will enter this into the record, Mr. Speaker. I am quite prepared to table this exhibit from Mr. Jody Wrathall, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, addressed to myself, and it is dated March 9, 1999.

It states, "The political process in our country, province, and municipality is very exciting in these days of restructuring and growth. And we, as paid professional fire fighters, are very excited in becoming involved with our political process. However, we can only become involved in Federal and provincial politics . . ." because we ". . . are limited in our own municipality. What I am referring to is the right to seek office during a political election. The municipal elections act denies paid firefighters the right to seek municipal office. We would like this changed!"

"In the past both priests and teachers were not allowed to run for political office. However, after much lobbying, both parties are now allowed to hold publicly elected offices. Volunteer Firefighters are also allowed to run in political elections, and some of these volunteer firefighters receive stipends from the same municipalities in which they are running." So that was a further incongruity. "We would also like to have this opportunity to run for political office at the grass routes level, and we require your help to allow this."

Well, I will certainly send him a copy of my speech here this evening so that he can see that I am up here on my feet doing that, Mr. Speaker. "Please accept this letter", he concludes, " . . . as a formal application to request paid firefighters to be able to run in municipal elections. Sincerely, Mr. Jody J. Wrathall, President, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local #2779." He sent copies of that to the other local members - the honourable Manning MacDonald, honourable Russell MacKinnon and so on and so forth.

[Page 4116]

If I could have a Page who wants to do a little errand, perhaps you could take that historic document to the Table.

[9:15 p.m.]

Here we are tonight trying to do something for those people, and I think that it is a significant change indeed. I was struck very much by the injustice of members within a fire department, some of whom could run and some of whom couldn't. Not all of our fire departments are composed of fully professional or fully volunteer. We actually have three types of fire departments in Nova Scotia: the fully volunteer; the fully professional, such as you might find in Halifax or in Sydney; and then the mixed departments that you might find in Glace Bay or New Waterford, and other such towns throughout Nova Scotia. I know that in New Waterford there are four paid drivers and the rest of the department is volunteers. So when they have their annual installation of officers, we have seated around one banquet table those that are paid and those that are unpaid. The ones who were unpaid had the right to run for the council, but the ones who were paid did not.

That is what this bill addresses, not just the firefighters, but I am interested in the case of the firefighters in particular, because it is a matter that I have raised with both governments, both the government that I was in and now this government, and I know that the Municipal Affairs staff had found no difficulty with allowing the firefighters to run for public office, but had suggested to me that perhaps it might be wiser to incorporate this concept into a broader bill, such as we have before us now, that would include not just the firefighters but rather all the municipal employees.

Now a case could be made for that, and obviously has been. It has been accepted by the powers that be, so I would just like to go on record, Mr. Speaker, as indicating my support for that particular provision. I am glad to see it coming before the House. When this is passed, it would then mean that virtually no one in Nova Scotia would not be able to run for office, except perhaps certain prohibited categories, such as those who have been convicted of crimes of a certain severity or gravity and also the chief administrative officers of municipalities, which I think is a rather exceptional category. I suppose if a chief administrative officer felt so strongly that he or she wanted to run, they would probably have to secure an ongoing leave of absence from their job in any event, because it is impossible that they could function in that role and be on the council at one and the same time.

As far as the Municipal Elections Bill goes, I have no difficulty in supporting these clauses, I have no difficulty in supporting this section at all. I would be interested in hearing from the minister as to when this is intended to become effective. At the conclusion of the bill, there are the usual enabling provisions that make the bill effective upon what? It seems that there isn't anything here that says it will become effective upon proclamation of the Governor in Council, so I would presume, therefore, that it would come into effect upon passage by this House and receipt of Royal Assent. Is that correct? It is, the minister suggests. Well, that is

[Page 4117]

good. I will give credit where credit is due, I have no difficulty in that. I don't think that a provision of this type should be further delayed.

Presumably it has received much study. I know the request for the municipal employees to have the right to run for office has been before government for a long time. There are, of course, many examples of municipal employees who have run for provincial office and federal, one is sitting right in front of me, right now. I remember the Honourable Scott MacNutt, in 1970, and there have been many others who have run for provincial office, who were active municipal employees at the time that they ran. It is time those rights were extended at the municipal level as well, I submit.

Now then, we have other clauses in this bill as well. There is the question of the non-resident owners of land. This is a thorny issue indeed, because I suggest that anyone who owns land that they don't reside on is a non-resident owner of land. If I own a lot in the City of Sydney, which I do, which has nothing on it, just a vacant lot, and I don't have my tent pitched there, I suppose that makes me a non-resident owner of land. Certainly a landlord would be a non-resident owner. It would be impossible for them to live in every apartment or tenement they rent out. I suppose someone who lives in town, wherever town may be, Glace Bay or wherever and owns a cottage out on the Mira, is a non-resident owner of land in a sense. Then we have people who are our own people who have moved away, but they want to keep in contact with Nova Scotia, so they might own a summer property and when they get their annual vacation they will come down here and enjoy. They can meet with their old friends and neighbours. Are they non-resident owners of land? I don't know. I don't think they are, really. I don't think that is what people have in mind.

Usually what people have in mind when they are thinking about this issue is, perhaps, citizens of other countries. That is usually where you can draw the line, the non-resident who is not a citizen of Canada. This provision before us doesn't, in my view, definitively address that issue at all. It rather downloads the question and allows the municipality to pass legislation that would deal with the issue within its own boundaries.

I am not particularly impressed by this, Mr. Speaker. I think if this government had the desire to pass legislation on that subject, they should have come in with some formula of their own, because with all the different municipalities we have in the province, we may get a great range of differing policies ranging from none at all to perhaps one of great severity in a particular municipality. The municipalities don't have the legal input and the expertise to draw upon that this level of government does. We, here, have access to a battery of some pretty able lawyers, some pretty able advisors that can give us legal advice, step by step, clause by clause, word by word, when drafting legislation and regulations. If something is untenable, if something won't hold up in the courts, we can get that kind of expert advice very easily.

[Page 4118]

We also have the resources to retain outside counsel if needed to advise us as we draft legislation. Municipalities' abilities to obtain such expert advice is much more limited, and very frequently a town solicitor or municipal solicitor is a barrister in practice who might receive a fee of $15,000 or $20,000 to also be the local municipal solicitor, but it is not their primary source of livelihood, and that is all the legal expertise the municipality has to draw upon.

Therefore, it would seem to me that legislation framed by municipalities to cope with this issue would probably not be as well researched as legislation brought out by a provincial government, whether it be this government, our government or some other government. So I think what they are doing here is downloading the problem to the lower level of government that has less resources and less expertise to draw on and therefore is perhaps more likely to stumble. I am sure any person who felt their rights to be violated or to be discriminated against by municipal legislation passed under the provisions of this bill, assuming the bill is passed, would certainly have recourse to the courts, and the municipality could perhaps be tied up in litigation. It could be very time consuming and very costly to the municipal taxpayers. I am not sure that in this respect the bill represents a responsible course of action by a provincial government; I'm not.

I am also advised that a municipality that passed a law, say doubling the property taxation of someone that was not a Canadian citizen that owned land in the municipality, say someone from Germany or Switzerland or some such country, to those people, the doubling of the property tax on their land probably wouldn't represent any great disincentive for them to own land here and develop it here. Compared to the property tax rates they are charged for owning property in Europe today, in countries like Germany or Switzerland, the taxes we charge here are virtually nothing, it is almost at a nuisance level.

So we may think we are achieving great things by saying, well if you are not a Canadian citizen and you own land in the municipality your tax rate is double what it is for everybody else, it would be perhaps something that could be challenged in court, but it might not have any great financial disincentive on continued non-resident ownership of land because if you increase say $300 a year to $600 a year, so what. Really, when you compare the deflated value of the Canadian dollar as against most other currencies in the world, someone who lives in Britain today and who is paid in pounds, earns roughly twice what an equivalent Canadian wage earner owns, so anything they can get in Canada, whether it be land or the payment of taxes, to them, is a bargain, because they are paying in 50 per cent units of currency, half of what they are used to paying for whatever it may be.

I just leave that thought with you. I could go on and on on that subject, Mr. Speaker - please do say some, but there might be some others who want to get in on this very important debate - I don't want to be unfair to my colleagues who I am sure are chomping at the bit to get in on this.

[Page 4119]

Now, there are other subjects also raised in this bill. As I said, Mr. Speaker, it covers many different matters. We have municipal employees running for office, we have aquaculture assessments, we have non-resident landownership. I should talk about the federal voters list. The federal voters list is a device that has yet to actually be tried in action. I think that is the first point I will make about the federal voters list. In 1997, the time of the last federal election, we were told this is the last time we will ever have enumerators going from door to door drawing up the voter's lists for federal elections because next time, that is the federal election to come, we are going to have a permanent voters list like they have in the United States. When you file your income tax return, you will indicate by ticking a box that the address given on your tax return is your address for the purposes of voting and from that there will be compiled a master list of all the voters in Canada and you will be on it.

No one has yet seen that list anywhere. It is a theoretical device and I can be sure that when the next federal election comes, we will rue the day that we went to this new system because the old system was tried and proven. Enumerators going from door to door, knocking on every door asking who lives here, who is over 18 years of age and is a Canadian citizen, taking down the name, sending a card in the mail to the household saying the following names at your address have been enumerated. If any name is spelled wrongly, you can come before the Revising Officer; if any name has been missed, you can report to the Returning Officer's headquarters and register; and so on and so forth. That is the system we have always used.

This bill, as I understand it, an amendment would allow municipalities to plug into this new-fangled federal voters list that is yet to be proven in action and I am certain that when that list is printed and circulated, the number of people who are going to say, but my name isn't on it, are going to far exceed the number that would have been missed under the old system. If this new system is so good, let us see it in action at least once before we encourage our municipalities to plug into it. I will tell you that where I am coming from on this is that I think when we pass legislation in these Chambers we have a need to be responsible and not to encourage municipalities, or anyone for that matter, to take some course of action that might be ill-advised.

We have already seen on the non-resident ownership of land that by not coming up with a formula here for dealing with it but rather downloading the issue holus-bolus to the municipalities, we are really passing it on to units that are less equipped than we are to grapple with the problem and to come up with something wise. Here again with the federal voters list, I think the same thing is happening. Municipalities know the costs of enumerating voters and it is a burden to them, it may not cost a great deal but you have to pay enumerators and here we are telling them you don't have to enumerate the voters anymore. You can save $800 or whatever the cost is of enumerating your municipal voters by plugging into this nice new federal voters list.

[Page 4120]

The bill can make it sound so attractive that hard-pressed municipalities will probably be encouraged and think, yes we should do that, that would be the way to go. We can save some money and we are going to solve a problem and the list is there and we can get at it and so we can conduct our election from that list. Is the list going to be reliable? Is the list going to be accurate? Is the list going to be complete? Well, we don't know. If we don't know those things, why should we be passing bills here encouraging municipalities to try this option. I think that it would be far better to wait and see what the upcoming experience with this new federal voters list system actually is before we go encouraging any of our municipalities to plug into it and to run their elections from that list, because I can tell you this, Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely certain that the chaos that would be caused in a municipal election if large numbers of names are left off that list would be far greater than it would be in a federal election, because a municipal election seems more immediate.

[9:30 p.m.]

It is more local. It is just for here; it is not for the whole country; it is not for even the province. It is just for our little community here, and if an election for a municipality is conducted on a voters list that is not pretty well all there, you are going to have problems big time, much more so I would think than in a federal election where there is more time and there is more advertising put out by the federal chief electoral officer, and there is more direction given to the voter as to what to do if your name isn't on the list, so it would be a more orderly process.

I think we should think about those things before we go rushing into this thing pell-mell. (Interruption) Pell-mell, no connection with Paul-mall, although over in London they call that "pal-mal", but anyway, pell-mell, that is what I said.

AN HON. MEMBER: Paul said . . .

MR. MACEWAN: That is what Paul said, yes. My honourable friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, really wants to get into this thing tonight and I am not going to be mean to him; I am going to give him all the time he wants. I think I have made the main points that I wanted to make, Mr. Speaker, and I don't intend to repeat them again in some other language; I am going to let it go at that. I am sure that other honourable members will want to join in the fray. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I recognize the honourable minister it is to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all honourable members who have participated in the debate; certainly there were a number of very good observations

[Page 4121]

made by members. Some of them reflected a great deal of thought with respect to the subject matter before us, and I know from the degree of involvement of honourable members in the debate that for many of them some of these issues are matters that they have spent a great deal of time dealing with. We were very pleased to be able to bring these measures forward for the consideration of the House and I look forward to the legislation moving forward to the other stages of the process.

There are a couple of comments that I would like to make with respect to matters that were brought forward by members. I don't want to unduly prolong the debate; certainly if I were to use every note that I made throughout the process, Mr. Speaker, and respond to all of the members who had spent upwards of an hour in their deliberations on this debate, then I would require as much as four hours to respond adequately to all of the notes that were taken by myself. But I will make this undertaking to honourable members, that we will indeed look at Hansard and have a good look at some of the points that were made, especially those factors that may be of relevance with respect to future considerations related to the subject matter that is in the bill, and we would want to attempt to evaluate some of the points that were made by honourable members because some of them have, indeed, as I indicated previously, spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the subject matter.

There are just a couple of matters that I want to comment on, and one of those is the reference that we are somehow downloading to the municipal units when we bring forward legislation that enables a municipal unit to make a fundamental decision with respect to a matter relative to foreign ownership.

Mr. Speaker, I have considerable difficulty accepting that somehow when you give to another level of government the capacity to make a decision with respect to something as important as the issue of foreign ownership, that that somehow constitutes downloading. What is does is it says to the local government that you have a far better appreciation of the degree to which this is an important issue in your jurisdiction and it says to them, we are giving to you the capacity to be able to respond to this by setting a different rate or a different levy with respect to foreign ownership. Now, we are not saying that this will, in and of itself, provide any total or complete solution to the question of foreign ownership but we are saying that municipal units who have a very real concern will, in fact, be able to respond and be able to take action if they see fit.

The very fact that members opposite suggest that you have on the one hand a warden of one municipal unit who is totally opposed to this legislation and you have municipal politicians in other jurisdictions who say that it is good legislation makes my point. The fact is that in some parts of this province people are concerned to the point where they indeed want to take a decision with respect to this, whereas other parts of the province feel it is not important; they want to move away from that and this legislation gives them the option of moving in that direction.

[Page 4122]

Members did suggest that the degree to which foreign ownership is a problem in the province is a question that has not been adequately measured. I was certainly taken by the description of the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect with respect to his map on the wall and the colour-coding that he has of all of the foreign ownership that exists within his constituency. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, we don't have that kind of a handle on the issue of foreign ownership throughout this province and we should have that handle on it. I was a member of this House when a piece of legislation was brought forward which required that all property owned by foreigners should be registered. Well, I don't know what happened to that legislation, but it fell into disuse as far as I am concerned because we don't have the kind of statistics that we should have.

I can tell honourable members that we are, in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, working at compiling such a list so that we can, throughout this province, get a very good handle on the degree to which the issue of foreign ownership is a problem or the degree to which it causes concern or at the very least we would have a clear measure on the extent to which foreign ownership is an issue within the province. That will be forthcoming and it will give us an opportunity to deal with things further and down the road. I expect, as I indicated, we will indeed look at all interjections made by honourable members and we appreciate very much their participation in the debate and I look forward to the bill proceeding through other stages of the legislative process. Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to conclude the debate at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 42. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 43.

Bill No. 43 - Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, Petroleum Resources Act and Pipeline Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise this evening and speak a bit on Bill No. 43. This bill amends a number of Acts: the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, the Petroleum Resources Act and the Pipeline Act, so it is actually dealing with a number of existing bills and legislation and is in fact an omnibus bill as was mentioned earlier. It is built on some very important principles. First of all, it clearly

[Page 4123]

deals with the issues of responsibility around occupational health and safety, around environmental protection. It makes those things very clear to anyone concerned about them. Secondly, it clearly determines that the function of the Petroleum Directorate is that of promoter. It is not correct or proper to have the body that is charged with promoting the industry also responsible for the regulations. This clearly deals with that.

These whole issues of the principles involved are well known to Nova Scotians. The fact, rules for regulating onshore oil and gas were first developed and came about in the earlier 1980's and was built primarily on the Alberta legislation. In that particular body of legislation, the intention was to bring everything together under one body, to consolidate it so it would be one-stop shopping, if you will. It worked for awhile, but what immediately became clear to everyone involved is that there was some level of confusion about who was going to do what, and who was responsible for what. As a result of that, there was a breakdown in communications, and we can all see what can happen when that occurs. In fact, the inquiry that came out of Westray clearly determined that there was a need for a clarification of roles and responsibilities. What this bill will, in fact, do is clearly determine that. It will place responsibility where it lies.

The administrative arrangements between the departments and the various agencies were designed to overcome these barriers. What we are going to be doing today when this bill moves forward, is we are going to be setting in place changes which are needed, and not only needed but are recognized as being needed. It will ensure that the responsibility and expertise are clearly separated so that those who are responsible for the promotion of the industry can do that. Those who are responsible for ensuring occupational health and safety regulations are enforced and followed will be able to do that. Those concerned with environmental issues will be able to do that.

We are going to achieve this separation in two very clear ways. First of all, we have undertaken the signing of a memorandum of understanding. Actually, that occurred on April 12th. It brought together five departments and agencies that are involved in the onshore oil and gas exploration industry. This piece of legislation has nothing to do, as such, with the offshore. It falls under a different realm of responsibility. The MOU clearly defines what each of the departments and agencies will have to do. It sets out the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities that are necessary. There is not split responsibility which is something that has been in place before and was a problem, as I said earlier, in the legislation that was originally drafted. There was some lack of clarity around who would be responsible for what particular part of the bill.

Under the MOU, there is only one regulatory body for occupational health and safety, and that will be the Department of Labour. There is only one regulatory body for environmental concerns and, obviously, that is the Department of the Environment. There is only one body charged with resource management, and that will be the newly named Energy Resources Conservation Board. This board actually existed before under the name of the

[Page 4124]

Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Board. So, a number of items in this bill are simply a matter of housekeeping, clarifying names and responsibilities. Now, the Department of Natural Resources remains responsible for the petroleum resource regulations, and the Nova Scotia Petroleum Directorate will be responsible for promoting the industry.

[9:45 a.m.]

Again, Mr. Speaker, I remind everyone that that has been the practice but what the MOU does and what this bill will do is clarify that in legislation and in writing. The MOU will also achieve another critical goal. It commits each department and agency to a process of formal information sharing. As I said earlier, one of the issues that emerged out of the Westray Inquiry was that there was a lack of clear communication between departments. There wasn't a clear understanding of who was responsible for what particular aspect of the legislation. This clearly takes care of that. Not only that, but it ensures there will be regular, ongoing meetings convened under the auspices of the Petroleum Directorate but designed clearly to have issues of mutual concern discussed and resolved before they become a major problem.

Having this mechanism formally in place will ensure that each department communicates with its counter-department. The mechanism allows for one window, one standing committee if you will, of officials who will meet regularly. With the relationships and the roles and the responsibilities now clarified, it is really critical to move the legislation that was originally drafted in the 1980's to keep abreast of the changes that we see as needed.

There is a second way we are going to do this and that is through a clear separation of responsibilities. The amendments we are bringing forward to this bill will enshrine in law the modern regulatory practices which I have alluded to already.

The other thing I wanted to do before I close my opening comments is to make it very clear what this bill applies to and what it does not apply to because what I have noticed in terms of some of the discussions around other legislation is that many members use it as an opportunity to walk pretty far afield from what the real intent of the legislation would be.

This bill is clearly designed to deal with provincial jurisdiction in onshore oil and gas exploration and development. It does not apply to the regulations that are enforced in the offshore. Make no mistake about it, this particular piece of legislation and the amendments being proposed are only designed to deal with onshore gas and oil exploration, not the offshore. That concern is going to be addressed in the fall once we are able to get our federal counterparts to the table and clearly move ahead. There is certainly a willingness on the part of the province to deal with that.

[Page 4125]

The offshore, for those who may not realize it, is actually covered under the Canada - Nova Scotia OffShore Accord and the related legislation. Offshore, the regulatory body enforces a Canadian-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The promoters and the policy makers for the Nova Scotia offshore are, in fact, the Petroleum Directorate and in the case of the regulations, Natural Resources Canada.

There are two separate issues here and I would hesitate to think that some of the members opposite may want to wander around through that field, because what we are talking about today is fundamentally some housekeeping legislation designed to clarify roles and responsibilities related directly to the onshore. In effect, the arrangement of the offshore already reflects the principles we are debating here today, there is no question. Occupational health and safety, a major issue; environmental protection, a major issue; and we will be, as I said, moving forward in that area in the fall.

The other thing we are always concerned about is the role of the Petroleum Directorate, and as I have said repeatedly, the purpose of the Petroleum Directorate is not to be a regulatory body, but to be a promoter for the industry and to ensure that Nova Scotia benefits are maximized.

I also want to clarify how this bill relates specifically to the Sable OffShore Energy Project liquids line to Cape Breton and to the gas plant. Again, there may be a perceived opportunity to discuss that issue. In September 1999, the Petroleum Directorate transferred by Order in Council the authority to license and permit the facilities to the URB, an arm's-length agency charged with the regulations. That part has already been taken care of, that was the beginning of what the Petroleum Directorate saw as divesting itself of responsibility for the regulations. Certainly, at its inception the Petroleum Directorate had to bring together the policy and regulatory regime to ensure that Nova Scotia would have an opportunity to grow an industry. That role of the Petroleum Directorate has gradually come to conclusion and now, by transferring regulatory powers to arm's-length agencies, we have ensured that we can focus on our number one chore and that is bringing the maximum benefits to Nova Scotia.

The bill before us today makes it clear that any occupational health and safety and environmental issues related to facilities are where they should be. They will rest, first, in terms of occupational health and safety with the Department of Labour; with regard to environmental issues, clearly with the Department of the Environment. That is the way it should be. That brings clarity to roles and functions, something that was, as I said earlier, recommended in the Westray Inquiry and something we see as being needed.

In conclusion then, Mr. Speaker, the current practices had been in place for some time and were appropriate, but now we need to move on to the next step and what we will do with this piece of legislation once it moves forward and is ratified, I believe by all members of this House - because it is a good piece of legislation, one that is recognized as being needed by industry practitioners, certainly by the departments involved, because it was brought forward

[Page 4126]

as a joint process. So I believe that this is a good thing and I look forward to hearing the comments from across the floor.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would have been surprised, when the minister was taking his place, if he had said that he didn't think that the legislation was a good thing for Nova Scotia since he is the author and the sponsor of the bill that is before us. So I want to congratulate the minister on being extremely predictable.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize at the outset for not hearing the first part of the minister's illuminating remarks. He tells me that they were good. I guess I will have to read those in Hansard, but I was down the hall listening to some presenters at the Law Amendments Committee where not everybody was thrilled with Bill No. 34 that was introduced by the Minister of Health. I am sure that there will be an opportunity in due course for those who wish to make presentations on this bill, Bill No. 43, at the Law Amendments Committee process as well.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the minister in his comments was trying to head off really, it appears, discussions from the Opposition benches as he was trying to answer any possible criticism that could come forward in his opening remarks. Be that as it may, the minister knows that that will not stop me from bringing forward a few, what I hope are illuminating ideas (Interruption) constructive ideas. First of all, I want to say to the minister the overall thrust of the legislation I do support. (Interruptions)

The minister, Mr. Speaker, just encouraged me. The minister just in his own subtle way incited me to drag on a little bit longer with my remarks. First of all, I do want to say that I do support the notion that things should be separated and I have no hesitation in saying that. We have seen difficulties and we saw the problems that had existed, for example, with Westray, when you had one department that was responsible for trying to promote an industry and the same department that is responsible for regulating and also for trying to enforce the safety regulations.

Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that I support the separation from that arm which is designed, or is supposed to be trying to promote a particular industry from those other bodies that should have responsibility to try to regulate it. So I am pleased that the legislation that is before us will be doing that, that it will be clearly hiving off for the Department of the Environment the responsibility to look after environmental issues.

Of course, when you are talking about the Environment Department looking after environmental issues, you must take a look at what we have in the way of a Department of the Environment today as a result of the Tory budget that was introduced less than a week ago. That budget, of course, basically guts the Department of the Environment and one might

[Page 4127]

even ask the question, why do we even bother having a department when so many of those who had been employed, so many of the inspectors and so on and different offices around this province are to be shut down?

If the Department of the Environment is going to be carrying out the mandate - and let's face it, this is going to be an extremely important mandate here to be looking at and regulating the distribution, Mr. Speaker, of the oil and gas industry onshore - that means that the department must have the staff to be able to go out and be proactive, not just do as they tend to do and that is, when they hear a complaint, they call up the particular company, say that they have had a complaint and that they are going to come out tomorrow to look into the situation. You have to be very much in a proactive stance.

Also, Mr. Speaker, when ones takes a look at the health and safety issues and, again, this is an area that I totally support, and that is having the Department of Labour, if the Department of Labour is going to have the proper resources to do it. One of the obvious obligations of this government as it is moving forward with this legislation is to ensure that those resources are available.

Now there are a number of things that I don't think I am going to be able to finish tonight, Mr. Speaker. I want to look, for example, at the Memorandum of Understanding, because attached to this bill was a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by various government departments and the ministers of those particular departments. One of the things that runs through that Memorandum of Understanding, or at least as I read it, is secrecy. I will be addressing that a little bit more.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not from this government.

MR. HOLM: Not from this government. Some of my colleagues can't believe it. They can't believe secrecy from a government that committed itself to openness and transparency. The two things would be sort of counter to each other, two notions. In case Nova Scotians haven't already noticed it, what this bunch on the blue side said before the election and what they are delivering after the election are like night and day, Mr. Speaker. However, I will get into that.

I don't know if the minister, in his opening remarks, as well, talked about fees. Did the minister talk about user fees? Did that come up anywhere? Because, certainly, Mr. Speaker, in this legislation (Interruption) Well, they are saying that the minister talked about weasels and ferrets. I don't know. I am looking forward to the government members who are talking about weasels and ferrets, they seem to know them better then we do on this side. We are given the job of trying to sort through and ferret out the information from the budget, but they seem to be implying that they know weasels quite well.

[Page 4128]

Mr. Speaker, when one takes a look at the weasel words that have been coming from government, one might understand where that impression comes from with government members.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I wonder if the member, as we draw close to the hour of adjournment, might adjourn debate on Bill No. 43.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, at your request, yes I will. I will move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 43. The Minister of Finance is saying that he would like to make an intervention, I think, on this, as well. So I look forward to the Minister of Finance standing up and speaking on this bill, probably when it finishes second reading, in about one week's time.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion to adjourn debate on Bill No. 43.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow will be from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The business in the House will be Public Bills for Second Reading and the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, following four hours on estimates.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion to adjourn, I take it?

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

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 9:59 p.m.]