Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Mar. 28, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS 2699
POINT OF ORDER:
Sysco: Steelworkers - Entry Blocked (Point of Order by Mr. M. Samson)
Referred to Committee on Internal Affairs 2704
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 834, Agric. - Beef Prog. (Atl. Branded): Co-op Atl. & Maritime
Beef Group - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 2705
Vote - Affirmative 2706
Res. 835, Educ. - Cole Hbr. DHS: High-Tech Prog. - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 2706
Vote - Affirmative 2706
Res. 836, Nat. Res. - Chaswood Educ. Woodlot: Staff Work - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 2706
Vote - Affirmative 2707
Res. 837, Aboriginal Affs. - Mi'kmaq Bounties: Proclamation (1756 AD)
Ineffective-Confirm (Gov't. [Can.])/Hostilities - Regret
(Gov't. [Can.]-Invite/Gov't. [N.S.]-Express), Hon. M. Baker 2707
Vote - Affirmative 2708
Res. 838, Justice - Lun. Co.: Seniors Check In Prog. - Partners Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 2708
Vote - Affirmative 2709
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 30, Flea Markets Regulation Act, Hon. M. Baker 2709
No. 31, International Wills Act, Hon. M. Baker 2709
No. 32, Water Resources Protection Act, Hon. M. Baker 2709
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 839, Sysco - Steelworkers: Premier & Min. - Meet, Mr. F. Corbett 2710
Res. 840, Sysco - Promises (Premier): Disregard - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2711
Res. 841, Justice - RCMP & Preston Communities: Commun. Relations -
Improvement Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 2712
Vote - Affirmative 2712
Res. 842, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit - Address,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 2712
Res. 843, Sysco - Steelworker: Election Campaign (Educ. Min.) -
Opposed, Mr. P. MacEwan 2713
Res. 844, Educ. - Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council: Efforts - Commend,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2714
Vote - Affirmative 2715
Res. 845, Educ. - P3 Schools: Opposition (Kings South MLA) - Voice,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2715
Res. 846, Sysco - Sale: Continuance - Commit (Premier),
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2715
Res. 847, Health - Pictou Co.: HELP Prog. - Volunteers Recognize,
Mrs. M. Baillie 2716
Vote - Affirmative 2717
Res. 848, Gov't. (N.S.): Staff Advice - Take, Mr. J. Holm 2717
Res. 849, Econ. Dev. - Chickenburger Restaurant (Bedford):
Anniv. 60th - Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 2718
Vote - Affirmative 2719
Res. 850, Health - Care: User Fees - Access (Poorest) Impossible,
Mr. D. Dexter 2719
Res. 851, Human Res. Comm.: Politicized - Disband, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2719
Res. 852, Culture - Anna. Royal: Crossroads (Commun. Play) -
Organizers Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 2720
Vote - Affirmative 2721
Res. 853, Commun. Serv. - Low Income: Heating Relief - Response Low,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2721
Res. 854, NDP (N.S.) - Debt: Additional - Continuance Recognize,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 2721
Res. 855, Justice - RCMP: Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Citizens
on Patrol - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 2722
Vote - Affirmative 2723
Res. 856, Airfield Eng. Flight Lun. Co. (143) - Reservists:
Readiness Challenge - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 2723
Vote - Affirmative 2723
Res. 857, Nat. Res. - Freeman's Lumber (Greenfield):
Silviculture Efforts - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 2724
Vote - Affirmative 2724
Res. 858, Econ. Dev. - C.B. Unemployment: Solution (Liberals [N.S.]) -
False Hopes Admit, Mr. John MacDonell 2724
Res. 859, PC Party (N.S.) - Seats (C.B. [2]):
By-Election Success (PC) - Wish, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2725
Res. 860, EMO - Rich. Co.: Disaster Relief Plan - Present,
Mr. M. Samson 2726
Res. 861, WI (N.S.): Contribution - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 2726
Vote - Affirmative 2727
Res. 862, DFO - Licences Commercial: Buy-Back - Monitor (Fish. Min.),
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2727
Res. 863, Econ. Dev. - Rich. Co.: Dev. Plan (Mun.) - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 2728
Vote - Affirmative 2729
Res. 864, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM: Balanced Budget - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 2729
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Sysco - Closure: Steelworkers - Pensions, Mr. Manning MacDonald 2729
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 317, Sysco: Sale - Announcement, Mr. Robert Chisholm 2732
No. 318, Sysco - Steelworkers: Protection - Elaborate,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2733
No. 319, Sysco - Steelworkers: Promise (Premier) - Retreat,
Mr. F. Corbett 2736
No. 320, Sysco: Deal - Reveal, Mr. R. MacLellan 2737
No. 321, Sysco - Steelworkers: Expertise - Use, Mr. Robert Chisholm 2739
No. 322, Sysco: Closure - Policy, Mr. P. MacEwan 2740
No. 323, Sysco - Sale: Remediated Lands - Inclusion, Mr. F. Corbett 2742
No. 324, Econ. Dev. - ABN Amro: Litigation - Details,
Mr. R. MacLellan 2743
No. 325, Sysco - Steelworkers: Pensions - Commitment,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 2744
No. 326, Sysco - Pension Plan: Funding ($30M) - Commit,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2745
No. 327, Sysco: Deficit - Addition ($378.5M), Mr. J. Holm 2746
No. 328, Sysco: Deficit - Addition ($378.5M), Mr. D. Downe 2748
No. 329, Health - Valley Reg. Hosp.: Acute Care Beds - Ratio,
Mr. D. Dexter 2749
No. 330, Sysco - Site: Remediation - Cost, Mr. P. MacEwan 2750
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 10, Farm Practices Act 2752
Mr. W. Gaudet 2752
Hon. E. Fage 2753
Vote - Affirmative 2754
No. 27, Holocaust Memorial Day Act 2755
The Premier 2755
Mr. R. MacLellan 2758
Mr. H. Epstein 2760
Vote - Affirmative 2763
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 27, Holocaust Memorial Day Act 2763
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 28, Motor Vehicle Act 2763
Hon. M. Baker 2763
Mr. J. Pye 2765
Mr. M. Samson 2769
Mr. B. Taylor 2775
Adjourned debate 2778
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 43:
Sysco - Closure: Steelworkers - Pensions:
Mr. R. MacLellan 2779
Hon. G. Balser 2782
Mr. F. Corbett 2786
Mr. B. Boudreau 2790
The Premier 2793
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2796
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2801
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2804
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2806
Mr. J. Holm 2807
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Mar. 29th at 2:00 p.m. 2809

[Page 2699]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MARCH 28, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the winner of the late show submission this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Clare. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier live up to his commitment of June 29, 1999 in a speech at Silicon Island in Sydney when he stated, "I can't protect Sysco jobs but I promise to protect the steelworkers."

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today we have in the gallery a number of Sydney Steel workers, including President Bill MacNeil, his executive and a number of the membership. Many of them are good friends of mine and they have travelled here today, a long way, to express their frustration at the way their situation is being handled by this government. While they are here in Halifax they hope to meet with the Premier and government officials. I would ask the House to give them a welcome to the House today. (Standing Ovation)

2699

[Page 2700]

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order on a very important matter which I believe must be addressed by this House before we go any further.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, it is you that has been entrusted with the security and operation of this House of Assembly, the oldest seat of Parliament in Canada. As you know, this House belongs to the people of Nova Scotia. We are here as its residents and you are here entrusted to protect it. Nova Scotians have every right to access this building at all times during our proceedings. There is a very dangerous precedent which is being set by this new government.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It was set by John Savage.

MR. SAMSON: The Leader of the NDP mocks but that just shows his ignorance toward the people of Nova Scotia. During the paramedic legislation we saw the Draconian measures of this government being used when the gates of this House were locked and the paramedics were locked outside, not being able to come into this House. Unfortunately, people are being forced to enter through the Granville Street entrance which is not the custom and actually, the regular custom, there is a sign there telling people to enter through the Hollis Street entrance which is now locked. Today we had visitors from Sydney Steel, Sysco, who are here and when they arrived at the House of Assembly, their House, they were met by locked gates, locked out like barbarians.

Nova Scotians have every right to access this building, regardless of who they are, where they are from, what their employment is, or what their situation is. By locking the gates we are denying them access to this House. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to immediately make a ruling and inform the members of this House and inform Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the next, when should they expect to be locked out of this House, when will they be met by locked metal gates with chains on and when will they be allowed to access this House freely in a democratic society? Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise because I too consider this to be an extremely serious matter. It isn't something that only arose today, quite frankly, this has been an issue for the last three governments and it goes back, I believe, to 1993, when the gates and front doors started to be locked. This is the people's House. If there are concerns - and I don't know where the initial request came from to lock the doors and gates at this point in time came from - then we have committees of this House like the Committee on Assembly Matters, or the Committee on Internal Affairs, that can deal with these kinds of matters.

[Page 2701]

I would like to request that you have the decision to have those doors and gates locked reconsidered, unless there is deemed to be and shown to be a safety risk to the members of this House and to the other guests in this House, and to have the matter referred to the appropriate committee. I do not think that the kind of message that was sent to the guests in our galleries who are here today to express a very legitimate concern and to ask for government's attention was the right one. Those locked gates sent a message to them before they even hear what is going to be said in this Chamber and that is that there is an attempt to lock them out of the political process. Now whether that was the intention of the message being sent, that is the reality of the message that was sent.

I would ask that you seriously have a look at the decisions to lock those gates and if you feel that there is a need, have it referred to the appropriate all-Party board of this Chamber. Thank you. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the difficulty that we experience in this House is occasioned by fire regulations, and I would suggest that members of both Parties opposite know that. We are restricted in this building to (Interruptions) 60 persons within the gallery. Insofar as the locking of the gates, I would suggest to you it was that former government that originated that policy. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South indicated he wanted to rise at the same time as the Government House Leader, so I will recognize him.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I want to deal with a problem that arose today regarding the numbers in the gallery that the Government House Leader alludes to. When I went out to speak to the steelworkers who are here today, they told me that they were told there were only 20 of them allowed in the House, not 60 as the House Leader . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame, shame.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Now I want to know who told the guardians of this place that we sit in here today that there could be only 20 people in the gallery and not 60, because that is what they were told. On questioning the commissionaires in the building, they agreed to let 48 people in, but initially they were going to hold them to 20, and I want to know where that number came from. If it came from the Government House Leader, I want him to tell this House. (Applause)

[Page 2702]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I cannot let the Government House Leader's comments go unchallenged. The Government House Leader is absolutely correct in that the fire marshal's regulations limit the number of persons in the galleries - and galleries only - to 60, not to the number of members in this House as a whole. Secondly, the fire marshal's regulations do not prohibit or do not require that those doors be locked and the guests to this House be prevented from coming into this Chamber when the House is not in session, and the fire marshal's regulations have absolutely nothing to do with chaining those gates. I would suggest that locking the doors creates more of a fire hazard than leaving them open. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, as far as the allegations made by the member for Cape Breton South, I had absolutely nothing to do with locking the gates or locking the doors or delegating the number of persons. (Interruptions) Wait one moment. I don't know who gave those orders, but I would suggest that it was probably somebody within the security staff. I am sure you can find out who did give those orders but it certainly wasn't me or any other member of government.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a further matter, I would request this matter be referred to the Internal Affairs Committee of this House, and hopefully the Government House Leader would indicate the support of the Conservative Government to have the matter referred to that committee for further investigation, to get to the bottom of the questions as to who did what, who gave what instructions and to find out what is and is not going to be the policy and the rules as to how this people's House is actually going to operate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think as the honourable member from Sackville-Cobequid understands and knows full well, this matter can indeed be referred to the Committee on Assembly Matters and . . .

MR. HOLM: Internal Affairs.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, it is not Internal Affairs.

[Page 2703]

MR. RUSSELL: Internal Affairs? I don't believe it has to go to Internal Affairs, but however, if the honourable member wishes to go to Internal Affairs, I would think that the Committee on Assembly Matters would be much more competent to rule on a matter such as this than Internal Affairs.

MR. HOLM: Equal representation to all Parties.

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further interventions? Order, please. Ultimately I, as Speaker, am responsible for the security of this building and this property. In discussion with the gentleman in charge of the commissionaires - who is directly responsible, along with myself, for the security of this building - it was decided that we would limit access to the building until we determined the numbers that were going to be allowed inside the building and into the Chamber. We also agreed we would try to accommodate downstairs, if there was an overflow, so that those people would be able to see the proceedings of this House. There was no intention in any manner at all to limit anyone access to this building, but certainly to the gallery and as well to ensure security of the building and the members inside.

If there is some other protocol or precedent set previously in regard to a situation like this, I would like to be aware of it. I have asked several questions of several people and apparently there is not. It would certainly be helpful for me, in my position, in situations like this that if there were a form of protocol to follow, it would be to the benefit of all and that includes the public who come here each day to see the proceedings in this House. (Interruption) If I may finish, please. If it is the sole wish of the members to submit this to the Committee on Assembly Matters to decide that, I am fully agreeable and I will work with that and I am sure the security people of this building will, but it is unfair to second guess someone who makes a decision based on the facts they have at the moment and to try to do what they think is right for not only the public, but for the members who sit in this House every day.

So if there is a rule or a precedent that has been set in the past, or a protocol to follow, we will follow it. If not, I would suggest we all get together and try to formulate something that is agreeable to all. (Interruption) If I may finish, there is no need to look to anyone else who made the decision, I made the decision. I am ultimately responsible for this property and this building and what happened here today was decided by myself. There is no need to look to anyone else.

The honourable member for Sackville Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I very much welcome your intervention. I just wish to point out one thing if I may and, hopefully, this will be helpful to you in future situations. It has to do with the Functions of Standing Committees and it goes on - I am on Page 52, Rule 60(2), "For greater certainty, (a) the Internal Affairs Committee is established for the purpose of considering rules, privileges, procedures, matters relative to the Legislative Library and Members' amenities and like matters;"

[Page 2704]

I think, Mr. Speaker, that that might well be the appropriate committee to look at the situation and, hopefully, be able to provide you with some guidance on how to deal with similar matters in the future. I provide that in the intent, or hopefully anyway, to be helpful.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your comments and I want to make something clear. No one is questioning the fire marshal's decision to limit how many people can be in this gallery or how many people should be in this House. In fact, we have a sophisticated system right now in which people have to come before the commissionaire and present some form of identification. As we look in the gallery, we see each one of them has a visitor's badge. They cannot access the gallery without having a visitor's badge. Therefore, that is your means right there of limiting how many people get into the House.

The point of order which I raised was the fact that the gates of this House were locked. The gates outside, not inside, outside, not even letting them get access into the foyer where they meet the commissionaire and then it is decided how many people should be in here based on the fire marshal's recommendation. That is the fundamental flaw in which we are trying to have addressed, the decision to lock the gates and keep people out, not the decision of how many people should be in. That can be controlled at the Hollis Street entrance by the commissionaires who are there based on the amount of visitors' tags there are. So the fundamental question of why were the gates locked has not been addressed and I would submit to you that question still needs to be answered by yourself and whichever committee you might refer that to.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, if there are no further interventions, the point of order raised, as I say, I will take responsibility for what happened here today. I made the decision through the gentleman who is responsible for the security of this building and if someone wants to make a motion to refer this to the Committee on Internal Affairs, . . .

MR. HOLM: I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for this matter to be referred to the Committee on Internal Affairs.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in the meantime can the gates be unlocked? That was the point he was trying to raise.

[Page 2705]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

I will discuss the matter with the gentleman who is responsible for the security downstairs when we get a chance to have a break here.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 834

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

Whereas the new Atlantic Branded Beef Program was launched on March 20th with the introduction of Co-op Atlantic's "Atlantic Tender Beef Classic" line of products; and

Whereas this is an exciting beef marketing and consumer awareness initiative that provides producers with a guaranteed market for their product and consumers with quality locally-grown beef; and

Whereas this is a demonstration of what can be achieved when producers, processors and retailers work together for the benefit of agriculture and consumers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Co-op Atlantic, the industry members of the Maritime Beef Development and Marketing Group for joining forces to develop this exciting and progressive new program.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2706]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 835

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

Whereas Cole Harbour District High School has been selected by the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada to participate in a cultural exchange with Robert Service School in Dawson City, Yukon; and

Whereas the aim of this exchange is to promote a common sense of citizenship built around shared values and principles encouraging civic participation across linguistic, cultural and geographical borders; and

Whereas the 20 Cole Harbour High School students are posting daily reports and photos on the school website sharing their experience with all the schools in the province and beyond;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the students and their high school for their involvement in this high-tech program that is giving our students and many others a chance to share in the experience of a lifetime.

I seek waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 836

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

[Page 2707]

Whereas staff of the Department of Natural Resources are holding a Spring Festival at the Chaswood Educational Woodlot this week, from March 27th to 31st; and

Whereas this festival has been ongoing since 1989 and is a celebration of the maple tree and the maple syrup industry; and

Whereas school children from Halifax, Hants and Colchester Counties come to the Chaswood woodlot to learn about maple syrup, have an opportunity to tap trees and to see how maple products are made;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature offer congratulations for the work being carried out by the Natural Resources staff in their education of our children about the forests and promoting the maple syrup industry.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 837

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

Whereas prior to the convening of the First General Assembly of this House, the colonial administration of Great Britain issued three proclamations offering bounties against the Mi'kmaq; and

Whereas historical records show that only two of these proclamations were formally repealed by the colonial administration; and

Whereas modern day Nova Scotians would clearly find such actions repugnant and offensive;

[Page 2708]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly invite the Government of Canada to confirm that the 1756 Proclamation is no longer of any force or effect; and

Be it further resolved that we invite the Government of Canada to join our province as we express our sincere regret over past hostilities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 838

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

Whereas the Seniors Check-In Program is sponsored by the Mahone Bay Lions Club, the Bridgewater and Area Kinsmen Club, Municipal and RCMP police services in Lunenburg County and Whynacht Security and Survival; and

Whereas SCIP is a no cost public safety program designed to provide a daily phone service to seniors who are at home alone; and

Whereas this program is designed to assist seniors to enjoy peace of mind while living independently;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate all of the partners who have made the Seniors Check-In Program possible for their promotion of the interest of the senior citizens of the province.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[Page 2709]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 30 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Sale of Certain Items at a Commercial Flea Market. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome some visitors in our gallery today. We have present today with respect to the former bill: Mr. Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business; Mr. Carlo Weickert of Canadian Tire Stores; Mr. Bruce Stone of Canadian Tire Stores; Mr. Jeff Burley of Canadian Tire Stores; Mr. Al Acheson of Canadian Tire Stores; Mr. Archie Christie of Canadian Tire Stores; Mr. Gary Grant of Atlantic Wholesalers; Mr. Eric Bannerman of Shoppers Drug Mart; Mr. Ian Barkhouse of Sobeys; and - I am having a hard time but I believe it is - David Jamieson of Shoppers Drug Mart. I would ask them to rise and receive the greetings of the House. (Applause)

[2:30 p.m.]

Bill No. 31 - Entitled an Act Respecting International Wills. (Hon. Michael Baker)

Bill No. 32 - Entitled an Act to Protect the Water Resources of Nova Scotia. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

The honourable Premier on an introduction.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the members of the House to some special guests in the Speaker's Gallery. We have with us today Professor Sheva Medjuck, the Vice-President of the Atlantic Jewish Council; Mr. David

[Page 2710]

Korn, who was a hidden child at the time of the Holocaust; Helena Jockel, a survivor of Auschwitz; Mr. Philip Riteman, a Holocaust survivor; Mr. Jon Goldberg, Executive Director of the Atlantic Jewish Council; and Mr. Bill Gibson who was a prisoner at Buchenwald. I would ask our visitors to rise and receive the greeting of the House. (Applause)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In the past, when a bill was introduced, as a courtesy when that bill was introduced, copies of the various pieces of legislation were provided to each caucus when the bill was tabled. So far this session we haven't - from any minister who has tabled a bill - received those courtesy copies at the time of tabling.

I am just, as a way of trying to be helpful, Mr. Speaker, by way of point of order, reminding government of the common practices and request that they return to the better manners they had previously.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to inform the honourable member that yesterday when I introduced a bill I provided a copy of that bill to both the Justice Critic for the NDP and the Justice Critic for the Liberals.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my information is that the copies of some bills have been obtained when people have gone to the bill briefing. Certainly we appreciate, and if I incorrectly or inappropriately made a slight to the minister, I apologize for that if I incorrectly accused him of doing something that he had been doing. Mr. Speaker, the normal practice when a bill is introduced is that copies be provided and that gives all members of a caucus an opportunity to review that bill.

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 839

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 Premier has said time and time again that he will take care of the steelworkers of Sysco; and

Whereas his zest to fulfil an election promise made by the Minister of Education has caused nothing but hardship and anxiety for the steelworkers and their families; and

Whereas many steelworkers are reaching pensionable age and due to mismanagement by both Tory and Liberal Governments they find their pension funds are inadequate;

[Page 2711]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his minister in charge of Sysco meet directly with the steelworkers and to give them the pensions that will provide a dignified and acceptable standard of living as he promised.

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 South. (Interruptions)

RESOLUTION NO. 840

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 has been hiding behind the Clerk of the Executive Council who made blatantly political statements in defence of the government failure to sell Sysco; and

Whereas instead of speaking with steelworkers directly or defending their action publicly, elected officials are using the Public Service to carry out the political agenda of the government; and

Whereas the Premier made specific commitments to the Sysco workforce that he has not lived up to;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Premier for his disregard of his promises toward the Sysco workforce and censure him for his failure to answer publicly for his handling of the sale of Sydney Steel.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 2712]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 841

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

Whereas the positive relationship between a community and its police force is the key to ensuring maximum effectiveness in law enforcement within any area of this province; and

Whereas when the RCMP in Cole Harbour recognized their relationship with the people in the Preston communities was lacking, six black community constables and two detachment constables were hired to bridge the gap between the community and the police; and

Whereas there has been an unprecedented improvement in the relationship between the Preston communities and the RCMP resulting in a renewed confidence in the police and one hopes in the confidence of the people of the Preston communities in their force;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the RCMP and the residents of the Preston communities for their positive, joint efforts to improve this essential community relationship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 842

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

[Page 2713]

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, 1,342 children have been born into poverty; and

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,342 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

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 member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 843

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

Whereas when the PC of John Hamm were seeking office, they issued a flyer in Halifax Cornwallis constituency under the authority of the Official Agent for Jane Purves, PC candidate; and

Whereas this flyer or card stated, and I have lots of copies of it here if anybody wants to read it, "A John Hamm Government will close SYSCO once and for all" and "PRIORITIES MATTER stop pouring $$ into SYSCO protect our Health Care System"; and

Whereas when Miss Purves got elected on the strength of such propaganda, the response of the Premier was to make her his Minister of Education;

[Page 2714]

Therefore be it resolved that the selection of the Minister of Education by this Premier after the type of campaign she waged to get elected, demonstrates that this government began from day one not being on the side of the Sydney steelworker.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Order, please. As always, we welcome guests and visitors to the gallery, but they are not permitted to show their pleasure or displeasure in regard to what is happening on the floor of the House. I would appreciate it if you would not respond to what is happening on the floor of this Assembly. Thank you.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawksbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 844

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

Whereas the Port Hawksbury Literacy Council has organized "Project Options", one of three Nova Scotia projects designed for literacy upgrading for both adults and youth; and

Whereas "Project Options" undertook a series of workshops to increase the level of awareness for literacy options in the Strait area while also taking steps to address concerns related to essential skills needed; and

Whereas it has been proven that literacy skills are linked to work skills, health and self-esteem while enabling more people to participate in both society and today's knowledge-based economy; and

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend the Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council for its determined efforts towards enhancing Nova Scotia's literacy level.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2715]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 845

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

Whereas the member for Kings South was an outspoken opponent of P3 financing when a private citizen; and

Whereas the member for Kings South actually participated in a demonstration at this very House against P3 financing for schools; and

Whereas since being elected to this House, the member for Kings South has become noticeably silent on the P3 issue:

Therefore be it resolved that since the Premier said in the Tory blue book that he would give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents, the member for Kings South should exercise this freedom and once again voice his opposition to the P3 financing scam.

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 846

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 workers at Sydney Steel want the government to sell Sydney Steel as a going concern so that workers continue to work in a viable industry and not on a make-work project; and

[Page 2716]

Whereas the government has given no indication that it will sell the plant as a viable business rather, it is taking a liquidators approach to selling Sydney Steel; and

Whereas the Premier promised to protect steelworkers during the last election and now he is abandoning them:

Therefore be it resolved the Premier commit to selling the steel plant as a going concern so that the interests of steelworkers and the community are put ahead of the political concerns of the government.

Mr. Speaker, I ask 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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 847

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

Whereas the Canadian Red Cross Society's Health Care Equipment Loan Program has been operating in the Town of Pictou for the past five years; and

Whereas through the HELP program, volunteers loan pieces of health-related equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers, to people free of charge for three months to aid in their recovery; and

Whereas this much-needed program would not continue without the dedication of a number of committed volunteers and the loyal support of the local community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank Elinor Murphy, Freda Green, Lillian Mackenzie and Debbie Avery for their hard work and dedication, and to everyone who has contributed to this special volunteer program.

[Page 2717]

[2:45 p.m.]

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-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 848

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

Whereas this Tory Government is quickly becoming a government that spends its limited dollars on consultants' reports, despite being given good advice from its own employees; and

Whereas to date this Tory Government has wasted an estimated $1.169 million on these consultants; and

Whereas this includes a further study of Highway No. 101 for $30,000, a study of Highway No. 104 for $40,000, mental health services consultations of $50,000, a compensation program for reform school abuse victims of $950,000, a P3 schools audit of $89,000 and a Voluntary Planning report costing an estimated $10,000;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government stop wasting money on more studies and start acting on the advice of its own staff.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

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

[Page 2718]

Whereas this Tory Government of John Hamm announced on New Year's Day that it had successfully sold the Sydney Steel Corporation as an operating entity and was rewarded with appropriate citation and hoopla by editorial drumbeaters and Tory sycophants; and

Whereas it worked out soon afterwards that the government announcement was revealed to be bogus and that a deception had been perpetrated by this government on all concerned; and

Whereas this carelessness with facts, the callousness towards the effects its actions would inevitably have on those concerned, and the incompetence and ineptitude this episode revealed, indicate that this government is not fit to govern;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its massive displeasure with the record of the John Hamm Government on Sydney Steel, towards the steelworkers and their families, and ask that the Tories recognize that steelworkers are Nova Scotians too and deserve better than this from their government.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to have a look at that motion before it is tabled. Again, I would remind the visitors in the gallery not to respond or react to what is happening down here on the floor, please.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 849

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

Whereas the Chickenburger Restaurant has been a landmark meeting place in Bedford for 60 years; and

Whereas the Chickenburger Restaurant has played a leading role in the community for supporting sport and recreational organizations; and

Whereas through their hard work and commitment, Thomas and Paulette Innes have operated a successful business and have shared that success with members of the Bedford community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Thomas and Paulette Innes, their family, and staff on the 60th Anniversary of the Chickenburger Restaurant.

[Page 2719]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 850

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

Whereas this Tory Government during the election, like Iago, denied their nature, saying don't worry, we won't be like Mike Harris; and

Whereas now the Tories, like a second coming of Ralph Klein, advocate managed health care; and

Whereas adding user fees and co-pay options means that proper health care is available only for the rich;

Therefore be it resolved that what this Tory Government is actually doing is making it impossible for the poorest in our society to be able to have health care services.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 851

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 Tory Government of John Hamm claims to have depoliticized the nomination process for agencies, boards and commissions; and

[Page 2720]

Whereas the likelihood of being appointed to these Tory-controlled ABCs appears to increase as financial contributions to senior ministers increases; and

Whereas despite declaring himself in a conflict of interest at today's Human Resources Committee meeting, the Chairman bowed to political pressure and voted, putting his Tory Government's political agenda ahead of doing what he believed was right;

Therefore be it resolved the John Hamm Tory Government disband the Human Resources Committee and put an end to this political chicanery.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 852

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

Whereas Crossroads is a three hour community play that will debut in the Annapolis Royal area this summer; and

Whereas Nova Scotian playwright and director, Jay Frederick Brown, has been working on this play for nearly one year, with researcher, Donna Lee Butler; and

Whereas Crossroads will become one of only a handful of plays of this magnitude to be staged in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature congratulate the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council, the Western Valley Development Authority, the Municipality of Annapolis, and the Town of Annapolis Royal, along with corporate sponsors, in providing funding for this well-documented community play scheduled for presentation July 28 to 30, 2000 in Annapolis Royal.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2721]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 853

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

Whereas this Tory Government introduced a program to help low income earners with relief for their home heating fuel bills; and

Whereas to date, out of over 70,000 eligible recipients, only 10,000 have stepped forward; and

Whereas while similar programs by previous governments have failed abysmally, this Minister of Community Services now considers that extending the closing date of this program will somehow make it a success;

Therefore be it resolved that this government admit today the only relief this program has delivered is to the government's bottom line and explain to this House and all Nova Scotians how they will fix this latest Tory disaster.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 854

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

Whereas the New Democratic Party has questioned almost every decision of government to date, indicating that while deficit and debt are important its message consistently is don't cut or spend more; and

[Page 2722]

Whereas a few examples are their reaction to the tax on income decision, the Panuke gas find decision, and the Fuel Assistance Program; and

Whereas this morning, however, the member for Timberlea-Prospect veered off the Party message and challenged this administration, saying that he would like to see the government meet that deadline of a balanced budget in the fiscal year 2002-03;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP recognize that you cannot have it both ways, more expenditures and a balanced budget, and remember that in the time it took to read this resolution, another $1,000 will be added to our debt.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 855

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

Whereas in association with the RCMP, volunteers in the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea community have shown the initiative of organizing a Citizens on Patrol organization; and

Whereas these responsible citizens provide a valuable service to this growing community; and

Whereas on Saturday, March 25th, the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Citizens on Patrol held the official opening of their new community office at the BLT Recreation Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Citizens on Patrol group, with wishes of good luck in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2723]

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 856

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

Whereas 143rd Airfield Engineering Flight Lunenburg County Reservists are in training for a world competition next month on a Florida airbase; and

Whereas the local reservists will be representing our area in the 7th Readiness Challenge, with teams competing to construct an airfield in the fastest time possible; and

Whereas the 10 member team has been training for the challenge which will test leadership, engineering skills and combat abilities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the 143 Airfield Engineering Flight Lunenburg County reservists on their dedication to protecting our country and wish them good luck in the upcoming Readiness Challenge.

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 Queens.

[Page 2724]

RESOLUTION NO. 857

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

Whereas Freeman's Lumber Mill in Greenfield is a business that has been relying on our forests for its product since 1832; and

Whereas the company is now giving back to the forest; and

Whereas it is investing $80,000 each year in silviculture efforts, a program which can be used by private landowners as long as the trees remain standing for at least 10 years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Harry Freeman & Son Lumber for recognizing that industry has a responsibility to assist in ensuring our forests are a renewable resource for generations of Nova Scotians who will follow after us.

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 858

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

Whereas last night in this House the Liberal Party would have had us all believe that only they can solve Cape Breton's economic difficulties; and

Whereas a brief examination of their record shows that while those Liberals were in power, their federal counterparts closed the Devco mines without proper severance for the miners, and they signed a royalty deal with major gas companies practically giving away our natural gas; and

[Page 2725]

Whereas during those Liberals' time in office, unemployment mushroomed in Cape Breton and those Liberals allowed a natural gas pipeline of inferior quality to be built, while giving away federal money meant for struggling areas to prosperous areas;

Therefore be it resolved that those Liberals admit today in this House that they have given Cape Bretoners nothing more than a history of cronyism and false hopes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[The notice was tabled.]

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 859

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

Whereas the member for Cape Breton The Lakes inadvertently stated last night that there was only one Progressive Conservative representative in Cape Breton; and

Whereas this member was unaware or did not realize that Port Hawkesbury, too, is on the Island of Cape Breton; and

Whereas with this in mind, the member is reminded that there are two Progressive Conservative representatives for Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House not forget the importance of the community of Port Hawkesbury and its people when speaking of the Island and, at the same time, wish Progressive Conservative candidate Brad Kerr all the best as he continues to work to raise our level of representation on the Island to three within government after the by-election on April 4th.

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.

[Page 2726]

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 860

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

Whereas on Friday, January 21, 2000, Richmond County was hit with hurricane force winds along with extremely high tides; and

Whereas this combination caused serious damage to fishermen, businesses, property owners, and coastal roads throughout Richmond County; and

Whereas the Municipality of Richmond has assessed the total damage which has surpassed the $1 million mark, and presented it to the Emergency Measures Organization including a meeting with the Minister responsible for the EMO;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Emergency Measures Organization and his government, immediately present their disaster relief plan so that the residents of Richmond County can be compensated for their damages.

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 Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 861

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

Whereas the Women's Institute continues to educate women in rural communities in this province; and

Whereas the first Women's Institute was organized in 1897 and the first Women's Institute in Nova Scotia was organized in 1913; and

[Page 2727]

Whereas the motto of the Women's Institute is "For Home and Country";

[3:00 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates the Women's Institutes of Nova Scotia for their ongoing contribution to our homes and country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 862

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

Whereas on Friday past, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans earmarked an additional $16 million to be used to buy back commercial fishing licences so they can be transferred to Native communities; and

Whereas many fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia have expressed concern that despite this large sum of money, they fear the federal government will offer less than the real value for their commercial licences;

Therefore be it resolved that this House direct the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to take an active role in this process and protect the interest of Nova Scotia's fishermen.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2728]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I heard a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 863

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 western part of Richmond County presents tremendous potential for industrial and economic development; and

Whereas the Municipality of Richmond has taken a lead role in forming a development plan for this important area which is home to Stora, Statia Terminals, Nova Scotia Power and the USG Wallboard plant; and

Whereas on Monday, March 13th, the Municipality of Richmond, the Richmond Economic Development Agency and EDM Consultants Limited publicly released the West Richmond Development Plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the Warden, councillors and staff of the Municipality of Richmond for their vision and initiative in establishing a structured approach to the future economic development of our county.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2729]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 864

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

Whereas last Tuesday night the Halifax Regional Municipality passed its first ever balanced budget; and

Whereas despite this good news, many HRM councillors fear the balanced budget will be wiped out by expected downloading from the province; and

Whereas the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has been unable to commit to keeping the Tory election promise of no downloading;

Therefore be it resolved that the Halifax Regional Municipality be congratulated for its first balanced budget and hope that the Tory Government will not prevent it from having any more.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The resolution that was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, I will allow it, omitting the second paragraph which suggests deception on behalf of the government. I will allow it without that second paragraph.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I had asked that that resolution be put to the House for waiver of notice and passage without debate and I don't believe that request was ever granted.

MR. SPEAKER: No. I am ruling the resolution out of order.

The honourable Liberal Opposition House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as you know, this morning I served notice to your office as per Section 43(2) with a request for this House to entertain an Emergency Debate. I move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance. The matter is as follows:

[Page 2730]

On March 23, 1999, then Progressive Conservative Leader John Hamm called for the immediate closure of Sysco, scrapping the Hoogovens business plan and stopping the ABN Amro sale process. Sysco workers would be employed in an environmental cleanup to bridge them to retirement.

In August 1999 our new Premier then allowed for the sale process to continue employing the Hoogovens business plan and using internationally respected ABN Bank of the Netherlands. A deadline for sale or closure was set for January 1, 2000. On December 31, 1999, the Premier's Office issued a press release with the headline Sysco Sold. The first line in the release stated, "Rail Associates, a consortium led by U.S.-based S&K Steel, has agreed to purchase the Sydney Steel Corp.". Soon after the announcement, Mr. Speaker, it was revealed in the media that S&K Steel was not part of any consortium and only its President, Myles Paisley, was involved. On January 20, 2000, a press release was issued by the Minister of Economic Development stating that the sale agreement had ended. The press release called into question the credibility of ABN Amro. Subsequent news reports indicate that the Minister of Economic Development was prepared to sue ABN Amro for mishandling the Sysco sale. Clearly something went wrong. Now Ernst & Young have been employed to take a liquidator's approach to selling Sysco.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has broken faith with the Sysco workforce by not ensuring pensions if the latest deal attempt fails. A threatening letter has been sent to the Steelworkers' Union President, from the Clerk of the Executive Council, demanding the cooperation of Sydney steelworkers with the Ernst & Young process.

Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton is undergoing an unprecedented unemployment crisis. The Premier and the minister responsible are exacerbating the situation by not respecting Sysco workers or fulfilling their promise to treat the workers with dignity. They are hiding behind bureaucrats and not dealing with the workers directly.

During last year's election, the now Minister of Education promised that hospital beds would open if Sysco was closed. Now we find that the environmental and pension liability of Sysco is at least $378.5 million and probably higher. The new government has pledged to bring together openness to the accounting procedures of the government. While the government has accounted for $318.5 million of environmental liability, they will not spend one dime this year; in other words, Mr. Speaker, it is put on the books to make Sysco look even worse financially.

Either there is a financial crisis created by the Sysco liability or there is not. The government has misled the Sysco workers and they are misleading the people of Nova Scotia into believing that the closure of Sysco was to be pain free. A possible sale of Sysco could have given the taxpayers of our province a chance to catch their breath. Now we face the spectre of adding at least $318.5 million to the debt, and probably more.

[Page 2731]

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing this matter of urgent public importance. If Sysco must close, then the workers must be retired with dignity. If there is another viable option, then Nova Scotians must be made aware of that option. Nova Scotians must now understand that closure comes at a cost, putting the province in a deeper fiscal malaise than anticipated when the Education Minister promised hospital beds would open if Sysco closed. The closure of Sysco means no new hospital beds. The government must come clean with the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in support of the emergency debate motion put forward by the House Leader of the Liberal caucus. I think that under our Rule 43, it asks that the matter be defined as a definite matter of urgent public importance, and I don't think there is any question that the current status of Sydney Steel and the way it has been handled over the past number of years is a matter of utmost public importance.

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that the House sat since the infamous deadline of December 31, 1999, where the Premier said that the sale had been completed when in fact it hadn't. The lives of the steelworkers and their families had been in turmoil for the past number of weeks and months and I think it is time that members of this House, including this government, put their minds to how we are going to try to solve the chaos and the crisis created by a government that declared war on Sysco, during the election campaign, in order to get elected.

I would say on behalf of my caucus colleagues, particularly the member for Cape Breton Centre who has been extremely involved in this issue, that this is a matter that should be debated fully and here tonight before this House, and we will hopefully get some commitment from this government to proceed in a constructive matter with the lives of these workers. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we, on this side of the House, look forward to the debate this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any other interventions? I have received the submission from the honourable Liberal Opposition House Leader. It was within the time-frame of the parameters under our rules and this does fall within the parameters of our present rules. It is a proper subject to be discussed. However I still must put the question to the members of the House. Does the member have leave for an emergency debate?

[Page 2732]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The matter will be discussed at the moment of interruption at 6:00 p.m. tonight and the original winner of the late debate will be put off until Thursday.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 3:11 p.m., the beginning of Question Period. We will end at 4:11 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

SYSCO: SALE - ANNOUNCEMENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put my question through you to the honourable Premier. On December 31st the Premier went to Sydney at which time he issued a news release which says "Sydney Steel Sold". He said then, " . . . we have secured the best possible option with a sale that makes sense." The problem is that the signed document that he was referring to, which I will table at the end of my question, says no binding obligation is hereby created with respect to anything. My question to the Premier is, why did he announce a Sysco sale when the truth was that there was no agreement to sell Sysco?

THE PREMIER: I can say to the member opposite, the member for Halifax Atlantic, that we followed and accepted the due diligence prepared by ABN Amro, the firm that was contracted by the previous government, who indicated to us that in fact we were dealing with a company that had the wherewithal and the ability to run Sydney Steel. I went along to Sydney that day, with the minister responsible, feeling we had a deal that would solve the problems for the Sydney steelworker. Now that deal fell apart, but in defence of the position of our government, the previous government had put in place a deal and that Minmetals had been on the Sydney site for three years, didn't contribute five cents. In 20 days, because we put a proviso on the deal, we knew that Rail Associates Ltd. was not going to come up for the money and the deal was killed. It took us 20 days to find out. It took that government three years to find out about Minmetals.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier called this document the sale agreement. His minister even said, " 'The province is out of the steel business.' " Yet the deputy minister responsible, Mr. Spurr, has admitted there was no agreement for the sale of the plant, only an agreement to further investigate whether to negotiate a sale. I want to ask

[Page 2733]

the Premier, who would explain to the steelworkers in this House and their families, whether it is not true that his government cared more about making an announcement on December 31st, than they did about telling the truth about whether they had a sale or not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for Halifax Atlantic and all members of this House are concerned about the fate of Sydney Steel and what will happen to the jobs at Sydney Steel. This government is working effectively. If Sydney Steel can be sold, this government will sell it and will sell it as a going concern.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is all about credibility, the credibility of the Premier and his government. He and his minister called this a sale, they said it was an agreement to purchase when it was not. What are steelworkers to believe? This government said first, demand that Sydney Steel be closed, then they realized that selling it was the best option. They said that it was sold, then it wasn't. They said that they would cooperate fully with the workers, and then they shut them out from key information.

I want to ask the Premier if he will give a commitment here today to assure the workers and all Nova Scotians that his government will make an honest and a cooperative effort to involve the steelworkers and to sell Sysco as a going concern?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked two questions, and I will answer them both. The number one question in the minds of steelworkers, is this government committed to selling this as a going concern, if at all possible, the answer is yes. Will we involve the steelworkers, and I have committed to the steelworkers, we will involve them as much as possible, as long as that (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: We will involve the steelworkers as much as possible in participating in the sale of Sysco as long as that participation does not jeopardize the sale.

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

SYSCO - STEELWORKERS: PROTECTION - ELABORATE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Premier. In regard to the previous answer, regarding the sale of Sysco, I think the big difference is that this government did not put a deadline on the sale. Once the deadline was put on the sale, that killed any hope of a deal, and the Premier knows that.

[Page 2734]

On June 29, 1999, in a speech at Silicon Island, the Premier stated, I can't protect Sysco jobs but I promise to protect the steelworkers. There were many other statements made by this Premier regarding his ongoing interests. I want to tell him that that interest is shared by steelworkers who have written the Premier asking for some answers from this Premier as to where this government is going with the sale and some answers to some very pertinent questions. I have here a letter that I will table from steelworker, Brian MacDonald, who took the time to write three letters to the Premier, none of which have been answered by this Premier.

I want to know from this Premier, is he going to acknowledge the concerns of these steelworkers like Brian MacDonald and others who have taken the time to write to him or is he going to ignore them like he is ignoring the Sysco sale? Can the Premier elaborate on what he means by protecting the steelworkers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from the member for Cape Breton South, I met Mr. [Brian] MacDonald outside. He reminded me of the three letters that he provided me. It was interesting because standing right beside Mr. [Brian] MacDonald was Mr. Walter Covey. I had responded to a letter from Mr. Walter Covey, because while I do get a lot of mail, all of which I can't answer, I try to do a significant portion of it. I suggested to Mr. [Brian] MacDonald that he look at the answer in the letter I sent to Mr. Covey because it clearly addresses the concerns of steelworkers. This government is concerned and this Premier, as far as possible, will answer all his mail. Sometimes because I get a lot of mail, I don't get around to doing it all, but I make a good effort to do as much as I can.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, speaking of mail, I have some mail here today from Ernst & Young asking for another deadline to be imposed on the sale, and saying in the last paragraph that they will be making a recommendation sometime in May for the final sale of either Sysco's business or assets. That is what they are looking for now, today, another extension. Just miraculously this letter came to me today on the day the steelworkers were coming up here. The first correspondence we have ever had from anybody . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could we have your first supplementary question, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My supplementary question is to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, and it has been asked to me by steelworkers, the steelworkers need to know they are going to have decent pensions and that they will be bridged to retirement if the Sysco sale fails. What has the Premier done to ensure this will happen? Mr. Premier, will there be more money put into the Sysco pension plan to give Sydney steelworkers a half decent pension for those who are leaving the industry? Will there be more money put into the pension plan for Sysco?

[Page 2735]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I find it extremely ironic that the member questioning this government about the pension plan at Sysco is the very member who put the pension plan in place, the pension plan that he now can't defend, the pension plan that the Sysco steelworkers had to sign with that government. The same pension plan that you now say is not adequate, you put in place.

I will make the same commitment to the Opposition Parties and to the steelworkers in general, that we are committed, as I said to Mr. Covey in the letter that I wrote to him in response to his letter to me, that we are interested in expanding the umbrella of the pension plan to take in more workers. That is my number one objective because that is what most steelworkers have said to me when I spoke to them in a one-to-one conversation. Secondly, yes, we will be providing additional benefits above those provided by the previous government in the pension plan that you foisted on the steelworkers.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I will have to hear that and I can tell you that this government put $30 million additional money into the steel plant pension plan about two and one-half years ago and the Premier has just told this House he will do the same. Thank you very much, Mr. Premier, I appreciate that generosity on behalf of your government.

Now, my final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Premier, you promised to immediately start a cleanup if the Sydney steel plant was closed. You promised to retire the workers with dignity. What happened to that promise? I want to know on both the sale and the matter of protecting steelworkers. We are still playing mind games here with the steelworkers. Why do you continue to lie to the steelworkers, Mr. Premier, as to what this government is going to do?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Tell the steelworkers why you continue to lie to them. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton South to retract that, please. He knows full well that it is very unparliamentary to call someone a liar in this House and I would ask you to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: It may be unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker, but it is the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton South to please retract that statement.

[Page 2736]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will retract that because I fully want to take part in the debate later on today on Sydney Steel. That is the only reason why I am going to retract it and I will replace it with the word mislead.

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

SYSCO - STEELWORKERS: PROMISE (PREMIER) - RETREAT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: My question also is to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Many people in this province will point to December 31, 1999 as the day the last morsel of this government's credibility slipped away. That was the day the Premier told steelworkers that one of the government's key principles was the fair treatment of the workers. Last week, as pension talks started, a lawyer representing this government, came to the table with no more than lint in her pockets, nothing, zilch, a big goose egg, nothing. My question to you, Mr. Premier, is, why are you backing away from your promise to treat workers of Sydney Steel fairly?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite is this has been a long and difficult time, over 30 years, for steelworkers. I hope the member opposite doesn't think that he is making it any easier to steelworkers with that kind of question. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I will tell you who made things difficult for these men and women up in the gallery, it is members of his Party and members of that Party, so don't blame anything on me with your cock and bull stories.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier is also on record as saying that he would look after the steelworkers on the pension issue. Everyone knows the pensions are too low, you admitted that, you just admitted that to the member for Cape Breton South. The Premier is finding out there is a long road from rhetoric to reality. My question to the Premier is, when will you start making good on your promise to send negotiators to bang out a deal for these people instead of sitting on your butt?

THE PREMIER: What I can say to the member opposite (Interruptions) There are two ways that this government can handle the file. We can simply go and make a decision on the basis of the information we have and go to the steelworkers and say look, this is the deal, this is it. Instead we made a decision that we would go down and negotiate a deal so that they could have input into each and every clause that we will address in coming to a rational decision as to how steelworkers will be treated. It is still the number one objective of this government to sell the steel mill as a going concern. Having failed that, we will keep our commitments to steelworkers.

[Page 2737]

MR. CORBETT: We would like to know what his commitments to steelworkers are, because they move in and out more often than the tide. It didn't take him long to call a news conference on December 31st and tell everybody we have a sale. He didn't take long to call his friends in from Ernst & Young and say, oh, sell this thing off piecemeal, we will throw a few parts in our pocket.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to put a question, if he has it, please.

MR. CORBETT: I am coming there, Mr. Speaker, I am a coming.

MR. SPEAKER: Better come soon.

MR. CORBETT: Why is the Premier now hesitating to follow through on his own promise, his promise to look after steelworkers, let them have a voice at the table and give them a fair pension package?

THE PREMIER: I can again say to the member opposite that the government is committed to keep its commitments to the steelworkers, but our number one objective is still to sell the plant as a going concern and I believe that is still a strong possibility. Failing that, we will keep our commitments to steelworkers. Our number one objective is to take more steelworkers under the umbrella of the pension plan. The second thing is to provide some enrichment of the pension plan because the pension plan that was signed by the member opposite and the government opposite clearly is now being deemed by those people not adequate. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could I just remind the members that the initial questions are taking too much time and so are the answers. I would ask the members, please, I realize you have to have a preamble to the question but if there are two supplementaries, please get right to them, we will get an answer. There are a lot of members who want to ask questions. In all fairness to all members, please shorten up the time for questions and answers.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

SYSCO: DEAL - REVEAL

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, that trumped-up agreement of December 31, 1999, was one of the cruelest tricks ever played on any group by a government in the history of Nova Scotia. This was unconscionable, not only to the steelworkers but to the people of Nova Scotia. The Premier has said that he will sell Sysco if possible. That is not what Jim Spurr, the Clerk of the Executive Council and deputy responsible for Sysco has said. He has said that the current government will be successful in selling the plant where previous

[Page 2738]

government have failed. Is there a deal for the sale of Sysco or is there not or is there once again fumbles in the backfield by this governments and the supporters of this government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe it is time that the minister responsible enter the debate, and I would refer that question to him. (Interruptions)

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, obviously the number one priority of this government is to ensure that if it can be sold as an ongoing operation, that Sysco does have that opportunity. With Ernst & Young, we are confident that they have been able to access companies that may be interested in taking it over as an ongoing operation. It is difficult to negotiate those deals on the floor of the House. We do have a timeline in place, and certainly Ernst & Young are doing their level best to ensure that the first priority is met, and that is that if it is in any way possible and viable that we find a buyer who will continue to operate the plant.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that Sysco hasn't been sold, no buyer has been targeted, and I want to say when this government hides behind its employees, they should make sure that the story is straight. This minister tried to put the blame for the fiasco on December 31st on the backs of ABN Amro. He threatened to sue them. I want to ask this minister now, where does that lawsuit stand and when will he be initiating that lawsuit?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when we assumed responsibility for the government, we recognized that there was a process in place, a process that involved ABN Amro and it looked to be the best possible solution. We honoured that commitment and were convinced up until the deal came apart that we did have a viable buyer. Certainly the process in place now indicates that there is an expression of interest from a number of companies. One of the reasons why Ernst & Young has come forward today to extend the deadline is simply because of the level of interest that is out there. They are not able to undertake the due diligence in the timeline that currently exists so they have suggested that in order to ensure that every possibility is exercised that they extend now to the 27th. So we feel that that is a good sign.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, that deadline was extended because the steelworkers were going to be here today and for no other reason. This government created that trumped-up agreement on the eleventh hour before December 31st. I want to know and this whole House and this whole province wants to know, in what form did ABN Amro's approval of that agreement take and will this minister, will this government table that approval in this House? We want to know. Stop hiding behind other people for their own mistakes.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe there were several questions there if you would like to answer one or all.

[Page 2739]

MR. BALSER: Certainly the issue around how ABN Amro brought forward the Rail Associates' deal was one that involved a number of decision points. The board of directors of Sysco, one of whom represents the steelworkers and sits there to make sure that their interests are taken to heart, was involved and gave his blessing to moving forward with the Rail Associates' agreement. So we had every belief that ABN Amro had exercised the due diligence to ensure that it was a viable sale, and it was not until well after December 31st that it became apparent that it was not in the best interests of anyone concerned to continue to try to massage that deal to conclusion.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the agreement?

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

SYSCO - STEELWORKERS: EXPERTISE - USE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the Premier on the question of what kind of information he and his government are prepared to release to the steelworkers. Steelworkers have signed a confidentiality agreement and are ready to provide any expert analysis that this government may need - and surely they need a lot - about the bidders, but the government is refusing to share the most basic of information and that is the names of the bidders so that these people who have all kinds of expertise can provide them with information that had they had that information back in December, they might have avoided the fiasco that we have seen.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he and his government learn from the mistake that was made and take full advantage of the expertise provided by the steelworkers and their willingness to sign any confidentiality agreements they like and involve them in determining the analysis of any bids that come forward?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that we will avail ourselves to any expertise that will help us sell the plant.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, that is not true because he has not done it, Mr. Speaker. Let's be clear about that. They have refused to give very pertinent information to the steelworkers so that they can be of assistance. Obviously this government is going to continue down a road to fail with this project.

Mr. Speaker, last year when the Premier announced his decision to declare war on Sysco, he said that a Conservative Government would guarantee work until the steelworkers were of full pensionable age and that was for everyone working at Sysco. I want to ask the Premier, is that still his position?

[Page 2740]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the concern of steelworkers as to what will happen to the plant and what happens to them relative to their pension and whether or not they will in fact be able to achieve their pension either through bridging or through work is of a great deal of concern. We are prepared to answer those questions to steelworkers. Our preference, as is the preference of almost every steelworker I spoke with, is to sell the plant as a going concern and we have not strayed from that determination from that day until this. That is our preference, to sell the steel plant as a going concern, and I believe at this point we have done a reasonable job in doing that. Now whether we are successful or whether we are not, nobody on this floor has the answer to that, but we are giving it our best shot.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier, having declared war on Sysco, having turned the lives of these workers and their families upside down, for him to stand in his place and say we are going to give it our best shot is just not good enough. It is not good enough. You promised these workers. You gave them your commitment that you would guarantee that they had work until they had achieved pensionable age. If you have broken that promise as well, will you tell these workers and their families what is your policy now? What are you going to do to fulfil your commitment to them and their families?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again I will say to the member opposite that the government is committed first of all to sell Sydney Steel as a going concern. We are committed to taking more of the workers under the umbrella of the pension and we are going to investigate with steelworkers at the negotiation table other items that were not arranged for by the previous government in the pension plan that they saw fit to put in place at Sysco.

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

SYSCO: CLOSURE - POLICY

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this subject that has come up this afternoon is of very great concern to me because the steel plant is in my constituency. It is practically in my backyard. I very much want to find out from the government what its true intentions are on Sydney Steel. Now I think the Premier would agree that the signals that have been sent out are very mixed indeed because this government came to power on a platform that a John Hamm Government would close Sydney Steel once and for all. There it is in black and white. That was passed out on the streets. If we get in, we are going to close Sydney Steel once and for all. The Sydney steelworkers found out about this because while it was distributed only in Halifax, people in Sydney find out what is happening in Halifax and they have copies of it. They believe what that item said.

Now I would like to ask the Premier, first of all perhaps for a starter, is it no longer the policy of the John Hamm Government that a John Hamm Government will close Sydney Steel once and for all as was stated by the Honourable Jane Purves in her election propaganda?

[Page 2741]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to table that document he referred to.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refresh the memory of the member for Cape Breton Nova. The commitment of this government was to take the Nova Scotia taxpayer out of the steel business and that is, I believe, a commitment that is shared by steelworkers because many of them have said to me that they know there is no longer a viable future for the Sydney steel plant in public hands. That was the commitment that this government made and that is still the commitment of this government made and that is still the commitment of this government. We are going to take the taxpayer out of the steelmaking business.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, that being the statement of the head of the government, the obvious sequel arises as my colleagues here have already expressed, is why then is a liquidator in place attending to its duties, the liquidator Ernst & Young?

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

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier said, we are removing the province from the steel industry. In the best of all possible cases, we would sell it to someone who could take it over, have it in private hands and run it as an ongoing operation. In the eventuality that cannot occur, then we are going to have to look at the sale of the assets. Certainly we have been committed to trying to find a buyer who would see it as an ongoing concern, but the reality is the decision has been taken that the province is getting out of the steel business.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that this is my final supplementary. You only get three kicks at the can here and this is my final kick for the time being, but I would like to ask the Premier as the final supplementary, is he not sensitive to the very great difference, the apparent difference in the message we just heard from the minister responsible as compared to the message that I think he has been expressing here today? Does he not appreciate that there are two different messages to being expressed here?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member for Cape Breton Nova is having difficulty in interpreting what seems to be and what are intended to be very straightforward answers. Perhaps the minister responsible could have another kick at the member for Cape Breton Nova. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 2742]

MR. BALSER: What we would say is that the first priority of the province is to find a buyer who will continue to operate the plant. That is our first commitment. We have also said that in the eventuality that that cannot occur that we are going to have to look at a way of removing the province from the steel industry and obviously that would be through a sale of assets.

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

SYSCO - SALE: REMEDIATED LANDS - INCLUSION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for Sysco or whoever happens to be pulling the strings. We were aware of a fiasco with PLI a couple of years ago on that site. I want to ask the minister if the sale of Sydney Steel, the PLI lands that were passed over to the Department of Public Works, those remediated lands, are they part of the sale of Sysco?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, what would be included in the sale as being negotiated previously and that is generally speaking, the confines within the facility, if it is sold as an ongoing operation, that material, or that facility that is needed to continue to operate the plant. Beyond the scope of that, remains with the province. One of the issues that had to be resolved was the level of provincial responsibility around environmental remediation. That is being determined and has been consistently said to be those lands outside of that which is needed to continue to operate the plant.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, they booked this year for $378.5 million for Sydney Steel for cleanup and for pensions. So you should not, unless you are this government, pick a figure out of the air, so I ask the minister, can you tell me how much of that money, because obviously you have a figure, so somebody over there cost it out, what remediation is going to go on there? Can you tell me what portion of that is for remediation and what portion of that is for pensions?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when one is looking at the total cost of environmental remediation, it is difficult to determine a final figure. The figure that we have put forward around that is in the neighbourhood of $300 million.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I think the Brothers Grimm must run this government over here because it is fairy tale after fairy tale. We have figures but they do not mean anything. We have answers but we do not believe them. God darn it. I want to ask him if he has a figure, how many men will be working there when you guys get rid of it and how long will they be working there? That is pretty straightforward.

[Page 2743]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, if it is sold as an ongoing operation, the number of workers that will be needed will be determined by the new buyer. In the event that it isn't, then it will be determined by the number of pensionable workers who will be covered off in the agreements negotiated. What we have said is that through the remediation process, those people who are not eligible for pensions would have an opportunity to earn pensionable points.

[3:45 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV. - ABN AMRO: LITIGATION - DETAILS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I asked the Minister of Economic Development when he would be initiating his lawsuit against ABN Amro, I don't believe I got an answer. So I want to give him the courtesy of asking the question again, because he might have lost something in his train of thought and he meant to answer it but he didn't. Would the minister please tell us when he is going to initiate this legal action?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it helps when you are only asked one question at a time. So with regard to the lawsuit, one of the things that we have to determine is the strength of the lawsuit and that takes some time. Obviously, any kind of litigation may become very protracted and very expensive. So what we are doing within government is determining the strengthen of our case, what in fact went wrong, whose is responsible and how best to proceed. We will not be going forward until we have made that determination.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my other question, too, wasn't answered and I asked the minister if he would table in the House the recommendation of ABN Amro for this trumped-up agreement that the government delivered on December 31st. Would he please table that information as soon as possible?

MR. BALSER: Yes.

MR. MACLELLAN: I want to ask the honourable minister when we can expect that information?

MR. BALSER: Soon, very soon.

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

[Page 2744]

SYSCO - STEELWORKERS: PENSIONS - COMMITMENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the Premier with this question and again it is about Sysco. In the last election campaign, the Leader of the Tory Party and his colleagues decided to declare war on Sysco and, in fact, declare war on Cape Breton in order to gain political advantage on the mainland. The Premier, after making that declaration, went to Cape Breton and said to the steelworkers, don't worry, I will look after you. He said, don't worry I will ensure that you get a proper pension, the pension that is there now is not enough, I will see that it is improved and that you will be looked after.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, after having played such callous politics with the lives of these men and their families, why have you waited so long and still have failed to give them a direct answer about your commitment on pensions?

THE PREMIER: My response to the member for Halifax Atlantic is simply, I don't think it is callous to try to keep steelworkers working. That's what we are trying to do. I think that's the right thing to do and we are still doing it.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am beginning to feel, Mr. Speaker, that this Premier makes commitments like they are a dime a dozen and he doesn't remember them and he doesn't want to remember them because he has no intentions of fulfilling them. This is a commitment that this Premier made about the pensions for steelworkers who work at Sydney Steel. I want to ask the Premier again, will he assure members of this House here today that his government is going to move immediately to negotiate openly and fairly, not like what happened last week, with the steelworkers to ensure that his commitment on pensions is fulfilled? Will he make that commitment here today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the process of negotiation is one that I know the member opposite supports. It is one that I support and this government supports and I would suggest very strongly that that process continue.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier continues to play fast and loose with commitments that he has made and, I would suggest, fast and loose with the lives of steelworkers and their families. He is the one who tried to placate Cape Bretoners and steelworkers during the election campaign by making a commitment that he would ensure that enhanced pensions were received by these steelworkers. I want to ask the Premier, will he end the anxiety that these steelworkers are feeling while he is trying to negotiate a sale for Sysco as a going concern and direct his officials to negotiate an enhanced pension package immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that to the minister who is directly responsible for directing the process of negotiations because that seems to be the thrust of your question.

[Page 2745]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we had made arrangements to have a meeting with the steelworkers on March 15th and March 16th, I believe it was, and because one of the negotiators for the province had another commitment we indicated we would not be able to keep to that time line. It was requested by the steelworkers that we go ahead with an alternate which we did. Unfortunately, the initial meeting was over very quickly and the only way that we can hope to negotiate is to have a return to the table so that we can work through a process. Obviously, negotiation implies that there will be some give and take. For that to happen we have to be talking.

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

SYSCO - PENSION PLAN: FUNDING ($30M) - COMMIT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question again is to the Premier. Much has been said about the pension plan commitments in the past few moments to Sydney steelworkers and much has been said about where this entire operation is going or where the steelworkers are heading. I want to remind the Premier that it was the previous government who signed a contract with steelworkers and placed $30 million of public funds at their disposal in that contract to enhance the pension plan, I believe three years ago.

I want to ask the Premier, will you commit a similar figure and at that time, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the Premier, if the Premier does not already know, that when we enhanced the Sysco pension plan, it was a long-term commitment because we had no intention of seeing the steel plant go down. We had a viable process in place until this government put a drop-dead deadline on it. Now I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Premier, are you committed to putting the same $30 million into the pension plan that the previous government did?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how time changes the position. I remember the member opposite on so many occasions saying we do not negotiate contracts on the floor of the House. I can say now to the member opposite that we do not negotiate contracts on the floor of the House. We negotiate them at the negotiation table. That is where they belong and that is where they are going to be.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can remember the former Leader of the Tory Party when they were in Opposition screaming at me for information in this House on a regular basis. My supplementary question is, the Government of Nova Scotia still owns the Sydney Steel plant, will the Government of Nova Scotia commit to signing a new contract which is outstanding with the steelworkers prior to any sale or liquidation of assets at Sydney Steel?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the new owner who is going to run the plant to sign their contract.

[Page 2746]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that is pure unadulterated hogwash. The Government of Nova Scotia owns the steel plant, not a new owner. There is an outstanding contract here that should be settled with these steelworkers including monies in that contract for enhanced pensions. You cannot say that the new owner, Mr. Premier, is going to do that. You have a responsibility to sign a contract.

My final supplementary to the Premier, Mr. Premier, how much is this government paying Ernst & Young to conclude this deal at Sydney Steel and is there a bonus payable to Ernst & Young if they come up with a dollar figure on assets, which would add up to nothing more than a cash grab for this government?

THE PREMIER: I will refer that question to the minister responsible.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, a final figure has not been determined simply because we do not know how much is going to be involved. One of the things I can say is that there has been one payment made to them, but the interesting thing about it is it is coming out of the current operating funds of Sysco, the Province of Nova Scotia has not had to put one more dollar into the operation of that plant, to date.

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

SYSCO: DEFICIT - ADDITION ($378.5M)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, asked the Minister responsible for Sysco, for some details on the $378.5 million the province put onto the books, charged against Sysco, in order to inflate the deficit and of course to make Sysco look even worse. He was asked for particulars and details from the Minister of Economic Development on that, but the minister couldn't provide it. So I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, can you provide us with the details on that $378.5 million that you have placed on the books?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I know there are three or four different components of that number, one of which of course is the reclamation of the site, there is also the Muggah Creek site, and there was also the shortcomings, the unfunded liability with regard to the contract at Sysco as it currently stands. I think those are three components in it. I don't have those details right at my fingertips, but I know on the day that we had the third-quarter briefing and I know that the member was present, there were questions asked, and I want to make sure that I give him the exact number so I will go back and find out what it is.

What we did that day was to bring onto the books of the Province of Nova Scotia what was the quantifiable number in regard to the liability for Sydney Steel as it presently was. Those were numbers that were calculated through Transportation and Public Works in regard

[Page 2747]

to the reclamation; the pension shortcomings, most of that work was done through Finance, but I will endeavour to get that number. I want to make sure if I give him one that it is accurate.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just happen to have that report here. I would have thought that the minister who has ballooned the deficit to make Sysco look bad would have known those numbers. I want to ask the minister, because that report also said that you had independent third party reports upon which you based the pension and the environmental provisions, will you table those independent reports in this House, have them sent over today, so that members here and members in the gallery can get the information also?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the truth is the truth. We said two things, we said when we went to GAAP, when the numbers could be quantified in regard to the environmental reclamation - and that previous administration always said that no matter what happened, you couldn't deal with Sysco because the reclamation costs would be there and we should just forget about dealing with Sysco. I heard that many times sitting on that side of the floor looking across here, that it is cheaper to keep it open. I kept hearing that. Environmental reclamation costs don't go down, they happen to be increasing as time has gone on. The honourable member who has asked the question has been in this House over 15 years, I know because I was elected the same day he was, and environmental reclamation costs have gone up considerably since I was first elected to where they are today.

Some of those reports were not produced through Finance, they were prepared outside of my department, I will be in contact with them. In regard to the actuarial report that was calculated in regard to the pension, I will go back to my department and I will find out what the numbers are and whether or not they can be provided. I have no problem with that.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the government, when they put those numbers on the books to inflate the deficit, said they had been quantified and that they are approved by the Auditor General. If you have those independent reports, you didn't answer the questions, will you provide those, put them before this House, now, today? Make that commitment so that members can see what the actual facts are and what this government is actually planning to do.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, when he says I inflate the deficit by putting that forward, I have talked about the deficit being higher. Yesterday, I said in a speech that when I compared with the base, how our deficit is growing, I didn't include Sydney Steel's liabilities in it because that was a one-shot deal. I didn't try to inflate the deficit. The truth is the truth and you want to add it on, what we added on according to the GAAP, this year it brought our facts forward. You can't deny that there are costs and we have brought them into line with the province's financial statements. (Applause)

[Page 2748]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

SYSCO: DEFICIT - ADDITION ($378.5M)

MR. DONALD DOWNE: My question, too, is for the Minister of Finance. The average Nova Scotian understands that a deficit is a situation where we spend more money than we take in. Under GAAP itself, one-time expenses such as Sysco and environmental liabilities were added to this year's deficit in the amount of some $378 million. I ask the question to the Minister of Finance, how much of that money is being spent this year?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, that is an establishment of the amount of liability that we have. The member knows full well that we are at March 28th, and that the monies will not be spent in this fiscal year.

MR. DOWNE: Again, going back to the issue; the number keeps growing every day with this government inflating the so-called deficit day after day after day. The money isn't being spent but they are adding it to the books. It is an interesting scenario how they are trying to fool Nova Scotians into believing the reality of their numbers.

So the full amount is not being paid out this year. Nobody will argue that the debt is a serious issue in the Province of Nova Scotia - gosh only knows that we understand that, and after inheriting that minister's former government in 1993.

The question really is, Mr. Speaker, to the government, does he expect Nova Scotians to believe the number of a $757 million deficit in light of the fact he is putting numbers on the books and they have not even spent the money?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I could probably garner some fees by giving him Accounting 101. However, he asked a question which is reasonable. When we brought forward the facts of the amount of liabilities for Sysco, we made sure to show it as an extraordinary item. We don't want people to believe that this is part of the base of government, in the sense that it is a recurring cost. If you listen to GAAP and you talk to the Auditor General, which is an independent agency that will report on the accuracy of our statements, he will clearly show that if you can quantify costs in regard to the reclamation and both the pensions, when you can do that you should show them on the financial statements of the province.

I don't disagree with the member saying that it shows when you go to $767 million, people will think that is an ongoing cost. That part of it is extraordinary and we made sure to say it on that day, and even yesterday in my speech, I made sure when we talked about the

[Page 2749]

base that I didn't include that. I am not trying to alarm Nova Scotians but I am trying to deal with figures.

Mr. Speaker, people deserve to know that information. The Auditor General himself said if it could be quantified, it should be brought into the statements.

MR. DOWNE: I believe that the Minister of Finance is, in fact, trying to scare every Nova Scotian so they can set an agenda of slash and burn, no matter how it affects the government and the people of Nova Scotia. I happen to believe that the deficit is a lot less than the numbers he is reporting to the public of Nova Scotia.

This government told Nova Scotians that under a Tory Government it would be easy, all the problems would go away, we would not have a problem, health care would be fixed for $46 million. They said if they closed Sysco that beds will open across the province. They said that the operating line of credit, they said no more money in Sysco, we are closing it right away. Yet they spent the operating line of credit in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government has done all of the above, misleading Nova Scotians. My question to the minister is, would he tell Nova Scotians how much his government's Sysco fiasco is going to cost, overall, Nova Scotians in people, in administration and in dollars?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, that is an amazing question coming from a member of the former government. I can stand on my feet here today and say that they mismanaged Sysco when they were there. ABN Amro and Hoogovens, cost millions of dollars per month, let alone other issues. We have stated publicly what our policy was in regard to Sysco. We will not be in the steelmaking business.

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

HEALTH - VALLEY REG. HOSP.: ACUTE CARE BEDS - RATIO

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, health care remains an important issue in this province. You may have heard about a group called HACK, Health Action Coalition of Kings. They are a group of health care professionals and community members who are concerned about the deteriorating state of health care in the Valley. Mr. Speaker, HACK has gathered evidence over the past few months that states that the Valley Regional Hospital has the lowest ratio of acute care beds of any hospital in Nova Scotia. I want to ask the Minister of Health if he is aware of this and what he intends to do about it?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think he asked a couple of questions and the first one was, was I aware of the information that was coming out of the Valley hospital you were speaking to, and the answer is yes, they have sent that along on a number of occasions.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, do you mind if I answer the second question?

[Page 2750]

MR. SPEAKER: We might as well stay with tradition today.

MR. MUIR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the honourable members knows, there is a clinical footprint being developed for the province and such questions as that should be answered. I would remind the honourable member and his colleagues that this government is committed to evidence-based decision making in health. As evidence presents itself and says that we should make certain decisions, we will assess it on the basis of evidence and not on whims.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the CAT Scan at the Valley Regional is the oldest in the Atlantic Provinces. It is faster and safer for people hurt in accidents in the Valley to be airlifted to Halifax for a CAT Scan. Is the Minister of Health aware of this and what does he intend to do about it?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question because we do recognize that there is a capital deficit here in the province. I think, though, the important thing to note is that while that machine in the Valley Regional may be as the honourable member describes it, the encouraging thing is that the residents in that area don't need to be denied, there are other sites in the province where they can get that treatment immediately or that diagnosis immediately.

MR. DEXTER: HACK tells us that the Valley's emergency room has to be closed one or two times a month because they are full. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier of this province. Is he aware of this and what does he intend to do about it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, and I would ask the Minister of Health to respond about the remedy.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, no, I was not aware of that information and I would very much like the honourable member to table that information because the folks down there, as you know, are very good at making the government aware of their concerns and that is one that hasn't been presented.

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

SYSCO - SITE: REMEDIATION - COST

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Premier concerning Sydney Steel once again. I would like to ask the Premier, in view of all that has been said here this afternoon on the question of site restoration and remediation at Sydney Steel in the event of a cessation of operations, has his government, indeed, reached a conclusion that the costs to do this and to do it thoroughly and properly would be enormous indeed, shall we say, perhaps without measuring them in exact dollar value?

[Page 2751]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, I agree, they will be enormous and I would ask the minister to respond.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, yes, how much it will cost at the end of the day is difficult to determine at this point. All we know for sure is that as it has been mentioned earlier, the costs are escalating. Certainly a figure of $310 million is not beyond the realm of reason. What we did by booking that figure is try to go with a reasonable yet low estimate. One can't determine how much it will cost until the project is entirely restored or remediated.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this government may be standing on the brink of very, very serious decisions on this whole issue. I would submit to the minister that the figure that he has mentioned of $310 million to completely restore that site to greenfield conditions is unreasonably low. It is probably ridiculously low.

I would submit to him, through you, sir, that a true cost of at least $1 billion would probably be a fair but conservative estimate of the total cost of site restoration there. I would like to ask him if, in view of these enormous costs which would kick in on this government as the legal owner of the site, immediately upon cessation of operations, would it not make more sense, perhaps, to allow the sale process to continue without deadlines in the hopes of reaching a successful conclusion, if needs be, down the road?

MR. BALSER: The reason that we are at the point we are today is because a difficult decision has been delayed and postponed. The argument has always been that we will put it off until tomorrow. The reality is we can no longer afford to do that. So we have determined that $310 million is a reasonable starting place and what the end price will be remains to be determined.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: 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. 10.

[Page 2752]

Bill No. 10 - Farm Practices Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to say a few words on Bill No. 10. First I want to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing for bringing this bill forward. As my colleague for Lunenburg West indicated earlier in this debate, lots of work has gone on to bring this bill forward.

The intent of this bill is to establish a fair process for resolving disputes between farmers and their non-farming neighbours. I can recall when I was at the department, individuals would be writing or calling the minister to raise concerns about living close to a farm, concerns about odours, about dust, about noise, and other problems.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with you, and my colleagues, one of these disputes that was brought to my attention during that time. I can recall a concern that was raised from a non-farmer in regard to the odour coming from a hog farm that was near his home. Also I can recall hearing from the hog farmer himself in this case. Many discussions went on with staff, with the farmer and with this individual to try and resolve this dispute.

These disputes are not as easy to settle as one may believe. These disputes are ongoing and will probably continue to increase as we continue to see agricultural land turned into residential areas, used for golf courses and other uses. I am also pleased to see that this piece of legislation will help provide protection for farmers where many of our farms in our province have been in the family for many years and generations. Yes, farm practices are changing and, yes, farmers need to continue to have the right to farm, but at the very same time a process that allows non-farmers to raise their concerns as well.

Mr. Speaker, is this piece of legislation going to resolve all disputes between farmers and non-farmers? I don't believe it will, but this bill is the beginning. I hope that the process will improve with time. So, before I take my seat, I would certainly encourage anyone with concerns on this bill, Bill No. 10, to come to the Law Amendments Committee and share them with the members of that committee.

With those few words, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat and I feel assured that I will probably have a future opportunity, once the bill comes back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, to express some other concerns at that time. So with those few comments I want to thank you for the opportunity.

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

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

[Page 2753]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members for their comments and I want to say that many of the comments are very insightful and, I listened with interest. In general, I certainly am pleased with the comments and the intent of supporting the principle of the bill.

[4:15 p.m.]

I want to say to everyone that this initiative certainly is industry driven. The Federation of Agriculture and farm groups have supported this piece of legislation and helped vet it through the entire process. I want to reiterate the intent of this particular piece of legislation. It is to protect farmers, but it is also to provide the balance and the needs for a growing non-farm population out there in rural areas. It is not our intent to lull farmers into a false sense of security. The industry does not see it that way, Mr. Speaker, and they support this as a means to put balance and clarity into the issue.

Dealing with a number of questions that were raised: a concern was expressed about the creation of another board. What will drive the agenda of the board will depend on how many issues arise or how many disputes the board will be required to take part in. This will be the only proof of how good this piece of legislation is. Regarding the power of this board under Section 96 of the Constitution that was raised, I think it is important to point out that this board would be making decisions based on normal farm practices, not on what is a nuisance or what is a negligence.

I think legislation can be challenged, Mr. Speaker. Let's face reality, there are similar pieces of legislation in nine other provinces and some of these legislations are third generation. They are meeting the changing needs of the industry and there has never been a challenge to any of these regulations in another province. In regard to taking away rights of people living near farms to sue, people can still sue if it is determined that the farm is not following normal farming practices.

I would also like to address partisan appointment processes that were alluded to during debate. All ministerial appointments have to be approved through the Human Resources Standing Committee and there are four members at large and those four members at large will be advertised like any other boards and commissions. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture may not have to, but I am sure they will be putting forward nominees as well.

The composition of that board; the board will be able, at any time, to draw in expertise and specialists for advice without having to make those people permanent members of that board. The bill will clearly define what are normal farming practices. That is the intent of the bill and those regulations certainly will clearly define that, Mr. Speaker. The whole bill has been developed in consultation and will continue as the regulations are developed.

[Page 2754]

Also under this bill, Section 8 states the board recommend a code and the minister shall develop it. That code will be developed in consultation. The minister has the flexibility in what codes he sends to the board based on what requests he receives. Once sent to the board, the minister shall develop a code if it is the recommendation of the board. I think these couple of passages clearly show that the board, not the minister, will be the one making the recommendation.

The bill supports the future of agriculture, Mr. Speaker, and this government has shown it will show its support back to agriculture and the non-farming community, and the rural community as well. This bill is a proactive and positive step for agriculture in Nova Scotia, as well as for all Nova Scotians, especially in rural communities.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to move second reading on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 10, the Farm Practices Act. 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.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. I rise on this point with regard to some activities that took place earlier today at the Human Resources Committee, one of a number of committees of this House. During the course of the deliberations at this committee Mr. James Spurr, who is employed by the government at a senior governmental level, attended this particular session and took on the role that is by commission, the responsibility of Legislative Counsel, giving legal opinion to the chairman and to members of the committee as to what their roles and responsibilities were. Mr. Speaker, under Beauchesne Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th Edition, on Page 27, Paragraphs 106 to 113 inclusive, clearly state that the privileges of the House are extended to the privileges of the committees as well.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that in view of the fact that as well, the fact that I have spoken with the Chief Legislative Counsel subsequent to this particular meeting and he advised myself that it is not the role of Mr. Spurr but rather the role of Legislative Counsel to provide such opinions on matters that arise on certain matters before the committee. I would ask that you investigate this particular matter and if so found that Mr. Spurr be directed not to be interfering with matters of the committee and for whatever purpose, whether it was his intent simply to represent the government, I respect that, but to transcend that presence and his opinions in a manner and form so as to impose his opinion on the will of the entire committee as being the legislative legal opinion, then I, sir, take exception to that because obviously he would certainly be in a direct conflict of interest. I would ask that you investigate this matter at the earliest possible time.

[Page 2755]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: You know, I think the honourable member misapprehends what the Clerk of the Executive Council was at the meeting for. He was a witness in front of that committee who was asked in front of that committee and asked questions. (Interruptions) Human Resources Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the member for Cape Breton West for the point of privilege and I will take it under advisement and report back at a future date.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are going to go on to Bill No. 27, the Holocaust Memorial Day Act. Can we just stand by for one moment? The Premier was just pulled out into the hall for one minute, I will go fetch him.

Bill No. 27 - Holocaust Memorial Day Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I earlier had an opportunity to introduce members of the Jewish community who have joined with us here today to watch second reading of this bill. We all appreciate them being here, they have had a long wait. I would like to make special mention of one of our guests, Mr. Philip Riteman, a Holocaust survivor who has devoted his time and energy in speaking to young people and other groups in the region about his experience during the Holocaust.

Also, Mr. William Gibson, one of hundreds of thousands of Canadian servicemen, including many from Nova Scotia, who went overseas to fight for freedom and democracy. Mr. Gibson is an RCAF veteran who was shot down and interred in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, although he was not Jewish. He witnessed atrocities against peoples of all faiths and races in that death camp. I would also like to welcome David Korn, who was a hidden child and who survived the war through the efforts of a Lutheran priest and Mrs. Helena Jockel, a survivor of Auschwitz, who also survived the infamous death march of 1945.

These people remind us of the fact that the Jewish community has made significant contributions to Nova Scotia from Cape Breton to Pictou County and in Halifax. This province owes much to our immigrants and the contributions made by those members of the Jewish community who began arriving here as early as the 1750's. I would also like to congratulate the Atlantic Jewish Council for their work on Holocaust education. With their help and that of their national counterpart, the Canadian Jewish Congress, efforts are being made throughout Atlantic Canada to ensure that we do not forget the past.

[Page 2756]

The reason, Mr. Speaker, these individuals are here with us is that today, we are giving second reading to a very important piece of legislation - the Holocaust Memorial Day Act. Yom haShoah, literally, the Day of the Shoah, or Holocaust, as it is commonly translated from Hebrew, is a worldwide commemorative day which occurs annually in the spring. The Holocaust refers to the state-sponsored, systemic persecution and annihilation of the European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators, between 1933 and 1945.

Six million people were brutally murdered, including 1.5 million children. Thousands of books were burned and thousands of Jewish communities were obliterated forever. Whole families, whole villages and whole towns were wiped off the face of the earth by the Nazi killing machines. In many cases, it was extremely difficult to even compile a complete list of the victims.

The day is determined in the Jewish lunar calendar each year, and referred to by its Hebrew name, to signify the unique characteristics of the Holocaust and its meaning for Jews around the world. Yom haShoah is observed each year in the State of Israel, where it was established by an Order of Parliament. Sirens sound for two minutes at 11:00 a.m. Everyone stops and stands at attention. It is a call for all to remember the parents, the friends, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is proud to join our sister provinces, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in commemorating the Shoah. Our bill to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in Nova Scotia is inclusive of all of the victims. It calls on us to consider other instances of the systemic destruction of people, human rights issues and the multicultural reality of modern society. For Holocaust survivors, their families and the Jewish people, this bill will ensure a perpetual day of remembrance. For the rest of us, it will serve to denounce those who deny the Holocaust, or the ultimate aim of Hitler's "final solution", which was to systematically remove Jews from the earth.

In this country, we have been very privileged to have democratic traditions and freedom of religious choice. But neither Canada nor Nova Scotia have existed without bigotry or policies of exclusion to our Jewish, African-Nova Scotian and other citizens. In fact, our dismal immigration policy during World War II turned away a ship of Jewish refugees looking for a safe harbour here in Halifax. It returned to Germany where many of them perished in the concentration camps. All Canadians should learn from our apathy in this tragedy so that we might right the wrongs of the past. By this day we will reflect each year on our collective past as we look to enshrine the importance of respect for each other, regardless of race, creed, colour, religion or ethnic heritage. Canada was at the forefront of the Allied effort to crush Nazi tyranny. We paid dearly with loss of life and liberty for many.

[Page 2757]

[4:30 p.m.]

Again I recognize the efforts of our veterans, such as Mr. Gibson, who was interred in winning freedom. We also need such legislation because we also can look around the world today at the horrors which continue to threaten various peoples, whether that is in Rwanda, Kosovar or Cambodia, we continue to witness human rights violations which may lead to the horrors of ethnic cleansing and the type of hatred violence that, in the worst case, was the Shoah, or Holocaust. So it is very timely to remember and learn from what happened, remember the generations who must bear the burdens of those awful days.

Those who think there is too much emphasis on retrospection need only look at recent events in Austria. Had governments expressed the outrage that we did against Austria at the time of Hitler's ascension, history might have been different. We must remember that Hitler was elected to Parliament. One of the things he did was to eliminate opposition to his racist policies. He silenced and persecuted Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and other peoples through the enactment of government policies and oppressive laws. Jews were made to wear yellow stars, slowly shut out of businesses, shut out of schools and universities. Their property was unlawfully confiscated and, in the end, they were rounded up and enclosed in ghettos or sent to the camps.

Hitler also made sure that only his propaganda films would be shown to the rest of the world, in order to cover up the severity and horror of what was really going on in Europe. The reality was the creation of forced labour and concentration camps, organized death machines. These were home to the most hideous of experiments, unbelievable tortures, imprisonment and ultimately murders that many did not believe were possible.

We need to remember the Holocaust in the year 2000. We need to remember and honour its innocent victims of hatred and racism. As the award-winning writer, Elie Wiesel has so eloquently put it, the dead "are now being defamed or forgotten - which is like killing them a second time."

The world-wide Holocaust memorial project, Unto Every Person There is a Name, now in its eleventh consecutive year, is a unique project designed to perpetuate the memorial of the Jewish victims of the Shoah by public recitation of their names on Yom haShoah. Their names, ages, places of birth and death of those who perished are read out in synagogues and community centres around the world, in an effort to personalize the enormity of the Holocaust. As time passed and fewer witnesses remain, it is important to remember the men, the women and the children who perished as people and remember them not wholly as the six million.

This year, according to the Jewish lunar calendar, May 2nd will be the day the world will commemorate Yom haShoah. Last year I had the honour of attending the ceremonies of the Shaar Shalom Synagogue and I was particularly moved at the reading of the names and

[Page 2758]

the ages and the places of the victims. It certainly does personalize what went on. It is not only the survivors and the veterans who commemorate the Holocaust. In about three weeks Nova Scotia will be sending 11 of our Jewish youth to attend the March of the Living. They will march the three kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau on May 2nd with other Jewish teens from 30 nations. They will experience first-hand the depths of despair in Poland. They will also celebrate the greatest moment in Jewish history, the creation of the State of Israel which they will visit on Israel's Independence Day.

I would like to think that by passing this bill and proclaiming the importance of Yom haShoah, the people of this province can in a small way participate in their own March of the Living. One participant in the March of the Living, a young girl from Toronto wrote in her diary of the immensity of haShoah at a very personal level. Elyse Korman wrote, "At Auschwitz each barrack held different contents. Each barrack told its own story. I entered one room and approached the glass display. My heart sank. Behind the glass lay braids; blond, red, brown . . . These braids once belonged to little girls with big hopes for the future. Perhaps a mother had braided this hair to protect it from becoming dirty while her daughter played outside. Perhaps they belonged to an older girl who wanted to attract a boy at school. Perhaps they were tied with pretty red ribbons to match a Shabbat dress. I reached up and touched my own hair and a chill raced down my spine." These are the kinds of observations that Canadian youth make when they encounter first-hand the atrocities of the Holocaust and we should all join them in saying never again.

Mr. Speaker, Holocaust denial continues to this day, fostered by neo-Nazi groups and the ever growing use of the Internet to spread anti-Semitic material without control or censorship. I hope that the House will unanimously support this bill, not only because of the need for a suitable memorial, but also because we need to educate our children about the evils of racism. It will serve to remind us that in Nova Scotia with its diversity of peoples, religions and heritages, that what we value is an open and democratic society which must oppose intolerance. We must never forget the lessons of the Holocaust and we must ensure that our youth are taught the truth of what happened. That is why it is so very important that those who were there, like our survivors, continue to meet today's students and speak to them about the Holocaust.

The Province of Nova Scotia has developed a Holocaust education kit for use in our schools. We hope to build on this and increase the awareness in our youth and in our schools. I would ask for the unanimous agreement of this House in adopting this bill. Its importance for generations of Nova Scotians to come will ensure that we and they will never forget.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Premier for the introduction of this bill. I do not think we all realize the tremendous importance of this bill because it goes to the very fabric of our civilization and our humanity. I chose to be a lawyer

[Page 2759]

because I thought of the importance that law has in our society, binding together our society with laws, rules, conventions and that our society would stay together and be able to function as a unit with this network, but more important in our society and more fragile is the humanity of spirit, the spirit that keeps us all together as individuals. It is more fragile because there is nothing codified. We have nothing written to say what is the quotient of decency that we have to extend to one another? What is the level of tolerance that we must express towards our fellow man and to those of other religions, creeds, other nations?

We, as humans, as individuals, as citizens of Canada and citizens of Nova Scotia are bound as a fundamental precept to determine what it is we believe we have in this spirit of humanity that must allow us to function as a society. The Holocaust has given us the greatest example of what happens when that very fragile network of laws and conventions of the spirit break down. It tells us that there is no degree to which humanity can sink if we, ourselves, do not maintain in our hearts a level of concern for our fellow man, no matter who they may be or what race they may be, what nationality they may be.

We all like to think that today in the year 2000, as we enter the new millennium, that we have somehow triumphed over intolerance and prejudice. That this will never happen in our civilization and in our society again. That is the first failing and the first crack in that very fragile network of the humanity and the spirit of the humanity. Once we accept that this can never happen again, we are deemed and doomed to be on the fast slide to it happening again. Any of us who have read the newspapers about what is going on in this world as the Premier said, in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, know that we have not surmounted this tremendous need. We have not surmounted our tendency to fall into that terrible feeling that we - whoever we may be - have an edge as an individual over someone else. This reminds us, not because we ourselves are prone to that, I mean, we cannot just look at ourselves and say well, I'm okay, why do I have to acknowledge this holiday? Why do I have to acknowledge this special day? It is because we are part of a society and we have to stand and be counted for the dignity and the rights of every individual in our society.

Canada is a country of many nationalities, many ethnic origins and the sum of the parts is greater for Canada than the individual parts themselves. We are enriched to a tremendous degree by being a multicultural society and a society that celebrates its multicultural basic network. Not all countries do, but Canada does and we have taken a responsibility as a country to make sure that those who from all ethnic backgrounds in Canada are respected. Not only for what they are, but for what they and their predecessors have gone through in their countries of origin. In that basis, in that means, we have to honour this very special day because it does not only tell us about the people who suffered, who were involved in the Holocaust - people who died. It tells us a lot about ourselves because if we choose not to follow this then we are saying that we do not fully understand, fully appreciate what happened from 1933 to 1945. We do not appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that has been made by the Jewish community and by other ethnic groups who died during that period of time in that very black period of our history.

[Page 2760]

[4:45 p.m.]

So in the whole scheme of history, such a short time ago - it wasn't in the days of Genghis Khan, and it wasn't in the days of the Borgias - it was just a few decades ago, and we see the continuum. I think that Nova Scotians welcome this legislation to a tremendous extent. I think that we have to, as the Premier also said, instil in our children that the Holocaust happened and it is never to be repeated or in any way condoned. This is absolutely vital, and not something that we take for granted as parents or as Nova Scotians, it is something that we actually promote.

We don't like to visit the seedy side of humanity. We don't like to look at ourselves and say that maybe in there is some demon that would, under the wrong catalyst, condone what happened in Europe between 1933 and 1945. We were not there, but we have to be able to say that if we were there we would never have been a part that. Never mind the tyranny, never mind the fear, never mind the oppression and the intimidation, we have to be able to say under no circumstances could we ever condone that. Until we reach that point, we are not there and that is why we need this special memorial day.

To our guests, all those who died, all those who are relatives of those who died, we can only imagine the horror and the dreams that were shattered, the nightmares that continue. On behalf of members of my Party I want to say, in some inadequate way, thank you for your courage, thank you for reminding us of what we need to do. Thank you very much for being such an integral part of weaving spirit of humanity. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: My thanks today to the Premier for having chosen to sponsor this bill himself. In doing so, he has done exactly the right thing, because at its heart what this bill is about is standing up against prejudice. It is important that those who are leaders in the community go officially on record against prejudices. It is important that those who are leaders in the community go officially on record with respect to this particular manifestation of terrible prejudice carried out through calculated genocide, because we know that there are still, in the world today, those who are Holocaust deniers. It is the right thing for those who are leaders in society to stand up and say we know that what is said about denial of the Holocaust is just not the case. It is important that leaders stand with those who were there and say, yes, we saw it, we experienced it, we know it to be true, and that is what this bill does.

I am, I think, the only Jewish member of this Legislature. My family on both sides, came to Nova Scotia about 100 years ago. We had other branches of the family still in Europe, still in what was then and is again Russia. So far as I know none of them have survived. I don't expect to ever hear of any of them.

[Page 2761]

When my father, who was in the Air Force during the war, when his plane went down over Germany during a bombing run and he and his crew parachuted out, amazingly they all survived their plane going down. He was at large for a week, hiding, sleeping in farmers' fields during the day, running at night trying to make it back to that part of Europe that was by then - this was 1944 - in the hands of the Allies. He was at large only for a week until he was captured. He was taken to the local Gestapo. One of the things they wanted to know, based on his name of course, was, are you Jewish?

All we have to give, he said, is name, rank and serial number. Fortunately for him, the point was not pressed. Fortunately for him, where he ended up was in a prisoner of war camp for Air Force officers, in fact, the very prisoner of war camp concerning which the film The Great Escape was made. He arrived there very shortly after the events of that film. One of the first things that occurred was they were shown the ashes of those who had escaped and been captured. Had that not occurred, undoubtedly he would have ended up in a concentration camp. Had it not occurred the way it did, it is very remote that he would have survived the war. As it was, things were extremely difficult, even for Air Force officers, in those final months of the war as they were being marched from place to place in wintertime in order to move in front of the advancing Allied armies. If he had been in a concentration camp, it is very remote that he would have survived. Yet there were survivors, amazingly enough.

We know that this isn't just something that happened from 1933 to 1945. We know that prejudice survives and this particular prejudice of anti-Semitism survives. Not only do we still have some individuals, like Mr. Philip Riteman, who are still alive here in Canada, but the phenomenon of the difficulties of children of survivors is something that is very much in the minds of people in North America, in the Jewish community who grew up here. Children of survivors have found their lives to be very difficult because as you can well imagine often the family dynamics in families where the parents, one or both, went through the Holocaust can be very difficult.

In Canada, we have not been without active anti-Semites, they are still among us. We know that in Canada in the 1930's, there were organized groups that supported the views of the German Nazis. Proper historians like Lita-Rose Betcherman who has written a book called the Swastika and the Maple Leaf have given us the history, and it is not a pleasant history, of what went on in Canada in the 1930's. We know that Canada was very resistant, not just during the war but in fact after the war to taking in Jewish refugees. There is a book by another historian, Irving Abella called None is Too Many. The title comes from the statement of a senior Canadian civil servant who when asked at the end of the war how many Jewish refugees Canada would be taking replied in those words, none is too many. It wasn't easy for Jewish refugees to come to Canada even after the war.

We know that people who have fastened onto the false history that has been generated about anti-Semitism of anti-Semitism still survive and in some instances in Canada have achieved teaching positions and have sought to give their views to the children, the young

[Page 2762]

minds given into their charge. Another book and a very dynamic one that I was always aware of but hadn't read until last year was by the Canadian historian David Bercuson called a Trust Betrayed, the Keegstra Affair. This was about school teacher Jim Keegstra in the Town of Eckville, Alberta in the 1970's and 1980's. Let's not forget Jim Keegstra was the Mayor of that town as well as a schoolteacher. Let's not forget how long it took before complaints emerged and action was finally taken to remove him from his teaching position. We don't have to go to Alberta, we can think about our neighbouring province, New Brunswick and Malcolm Ross.

Mr. Premier, I thank you for sponsoring this bill. One of the things that historian, David Burcuson said in his book, A Trust Betrayed, in identifying the conditions in Alberta at the time that allowed a man like Keegstra to carry on for so long was that leaders of society had not chosen to stand up and say and put it on the record that prejudice is not acceptable in our province and this particular prejudice and this particular lie about history that the Holocaust did not happen was not something they chose to say. We know, as you said, that Holocaust deniers continue and are indeed using the Internet to try to influence the young minds of today. But when legislation like this comes forward, sponsored by the Premier of the province, and adopted, as I am sure it will be with the support of all members of the House, then we can know that we have done the right thing by going on record and saying to those who persist in telling these lies that they are not acceptable here, that we reject them, that we know better, that we were there.

[5:00 p.m.]

Last year I took my family to Israel. I took my wife, my children and when we were in Jerusalem, we visited the museum that sets out and tells the story of that terrible time between 1933 and 1945. I had been through that museum before, they had not. It is an extremely difficult experience to see so vividly what it was that went on. Photographs have survived, documents have survived, artifacts have survived, along with the individuals who we still have.

Unfortunately, when it comes to learning lessons from the Holocaust, when we look at the years that have followed 1945, one of the things we see all too often is that perhaps the main lesson of the Holocaust has been how to do it. One of the main lessons of the Holocaust has been how to carry out genocide with modern weaponry, with efficiency of modern technology, making it possible to be ruthless and sweeping in killing those that some group does not like. I would never want that to be the main lesson of the Holocaust.

Having a bill like the one in front of us today goes at least a step forward in making sure that there is a different lesson that can be learned and implemented. We will certainly support this bill. Thank you again, Mr. Premier. (Applause)

[Page 2763]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the concurrence of the House, I would like to move this bill through second and third stages today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party Deputy House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: On behalf of the NDP we certainly agree with that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, is it agreed that the bill move through the House for second and third reading?

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 27. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

Bill No. 27 - Holocaust Memorial Day Act.]

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.

Bill No. 28 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on second reading to the amendments we are bringing forward to the Motor Vehicle Act. With these amendments we are fulfilling yet another commitment made to the people of Nova Scotia. As honourable members are aware, we are serious about keeping our commitment. Essentially this is

[Page 2764]

enabling legislation. As you may recall, in March 1999, the Honourable Alan Abraham, Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners in Halifax - and I have the letter, Mr. Speaker - asked the government of the day to bring forward legislation that would deal with this issue. This request was supported by the Halifax Regional Police. We are responding to that request by bringing forward this piece of legislation. We are giving municipalities the legislative framework needed to deal with street prostitution in a very practical and effective manner.

The elements required in a by-law that may be adopted by a municipality are all clearly laid out in the legislation. This approach is quite simple, Mr. Speaker. If enacted, the by-law will allow a peace officer to seize a vehicle if he or she is satisfied the vehicle is being used in the course of committing a prostitution-related offence. As you will know from the legislation, the specific sections of the Criminal Code we are referring to are: Section 211, transferring a person to a bawdy house; Section 212, procuring for the purpose of prostitution and Section 213, an offence relating to prostitution.

As I have stated, Mr. Speaker, there are several elements that must be contained in a by-law. For instance, the by-law must outline procedures for the detention and impounding of vehicles and the subsequent forfeiture if the owner is found guilty of one of the offences I have just mentioned. The owner will be required to pay for any costs involving impounding and detention of the vehicle, because we believe that those who break the law must be accountable and must pay for their actions. We also understand there may be some circumstances where the lawful owner could not possibly know the vehicle was being used for such a purpose. That is why the by-law must outline provisions to deal with this situation. We want to ensure that innocent owners of motor vehicles are not punished for the actions of others.

There are several other provisions that must be included as well. The by-law must outline procedures for the return of personal property contained in the vehicle. It must outline procedures for release of the vehicle should money or security be provided or should the vehicle owner be found not guilty. The by-law must outline procedures to be followed should the value of the vehicle be less than the cost involved in detention.

Mr. Speaker, we know that there are some areas of this province where prostitution is seriously damaging communities. Some people have referred to prostitution as a victimless crime. That is simply not the case. The victims are the people in our communities who had to live with this problem. The victims are the families of the johns who continue to solicit prostitutes despite the impact this activity has on their families. The victims are the women themselves who are responding to a demand we hope to reduce.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that this enactment will provide municipalities with an effective law enforcement tool. As Mr. Wayne Sitland, a resident of north end Dartmouth said, it is about taking back the neighbourhood and the community. We are not the first in Canada to

[Page 2765]

take this approach. Manitoba has had this legislation in place for some time now and it is working. The legislation has proven to be a strong deterrent to the problem of street prostitution. In other words, the legislation has gone a long way in promoting safer homes and even safer streets. It is about building healthy communities. When one talks about the difficulties of street prostitution - and I have had conversations with the honourable member from Dartmouth North about the difficulties that have been placed on the community he represents - one has to look at dealing with the horrible blight that it places on the innocent residents who live in those communities.

This is a very sincere attempt by government to enable police agencies to have the legislative authority to deal with the problem. We have the ability to do something to end this problem, or at least to do a lot to assist the police agencies, to assist them in dealing with the problem. It is not a simple problem, but it is an important problem. It allows the municipalities the power, if it is a problem in their communities, to deal with this effectively.

This, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make clear, is not downloading. Municipalities have a very clear choice. The can enact the by-law if they feel that it is a problem in their community. There are communities in this province where, fortunately, street prostitution is not a difficulty. Unfortunately, there are other communities in this province where it is. This bill will enable those communities where this is a difficult problem to address that problem. It allows the police agencies and the boards of Police Commissioners to have the issue they have raised with government addressed.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there will be another member from our caucus who will have an opportunity to address the other provision of this bill, that is the provision dealing with the jake brake and I will leave it for that honourable member to refer to those issues. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill No. 28, which is brought before the Legislative Assembly. I also want the honourable Minister of Justice to know that I am very much aware that it is on Page 23, bullet no. 1 of the blue book, which, in fact, is the Party's commitment to introducing this legislation. I also want the Minister of Justice to know that within that commitment, there was no downloading or no indication that, in fact, this would be held a responsibility of municipal government by way of a by-law.

Mr. Speaker, before I speak directly on the bill, and I hope that you will give me some latitude with respect to this bill simply because I believe there are some issues that ought to be brought to light in the Legislative Assembly. Number one is that the issue was an extremely long, very serious issue in a community which, in fact, is a part of the Dartmouth North constituency. For many years, that community had to deal with the problems of prostitution. The residents had, many times, taken it upon themselves, simply because the municipal police

[Page 2766]

services, at that particular time, was, in fact, cash-strapped and there was the ability of the municipal government to come to grips with its finances.

So, having taken that consideration, the residents of this particular community, created a tremendous vigilance, went out into that community, tried every deterrent action possible to restrict prostitution in their community. One of the residents who the minister spoke about during his presentation of his bill, was Mr. Wayne Sitland; and I would like to mention a Miss Susan Jones and a Miss Frances Hunter and I would also like to mention a number of other residents, along with the community police services that, in fact, took an active role in trying to reduce prostitution in that neighbourhood.

What has happened over a period of time is, in fact, that this neighbourhood has gradually come to grips with reducing the problem of prostitution. But that is a result, primarily, of a diversion program. That diversion program was the introduction of a program that prevented johns from going to court by attending a john school. Their avenue was, in fact, that the johns would pay a fine and they would go to john school and the money would be accumulated and put back into the community. That is something that I tried to press when I came here to this Legislative Assembly, quite early, by asking the former Minister of Justice, Dr. Smith, if, in fact, it was possible for municipalities to extract, through their provincial proceeds of crime, revenue that would go to the cash-strapped municipalities to deal with serious issues in their communities, such as prostitution and drugs. That did not occur.

I also want you to know that this community in itself, along with the former Minister of Municipal Affairs, Sandra Jolly, in fact, had a stakeholders' meeting to address the issue of prostitution in June 1995. The issue of prostitution is not just simply to address by taking away vehicles of johns. It is a very serious social issue.

[5:15 p.m.]

It is an issue where many of the prostitutes who have attended johns school, and I am not an expert and I do not have the statistical information available, but I will tell you that many of them who have brought this information forward have indicated that they have come from abusive relationships, abusive families. They have done prostitution as a result of not having sufficient income to raise their children. So there is a huge social issue and people who can speak to this issue much better than I. People have done a tremendous amount of research into why 80 per cent of prostitution takes place and those numbers are real, they are hard, and the Minister of Justice is very much aware of those numbers. He can confirm those numbers as well.

What has happened here, Mr. Speaker, is that the Minister of Justice through this bill has in fact downloaded to the municipalities, whether the Minister of Justice wants to believe it or not, if a municipality is financially sufficient to be able to introduce the by-law whereby the municipality can in turn apprehend the vehicle, impound the vehicle, provide the policing

[Page 2767]

services that will in fact do the convictions, then have the sufficient policing service that will appear in the courts, do the administrative responsibility of that municipality. All these factors taken into consideration are cost factors and in some municipalities, where municipalities are in deficit position, yet still have a prostitution problem, that matter cannot and unlikely will be addressed.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to know how well this has actually been going in Manitoba. I listened to the Minister of Justice make comment with respect to how successful it was in Manitoba. So I decided to find out if that information was correct. My understanding is that this legislation came into effect in March 1999 in the Province of Manitoba. In March 1999 to this date approximately 80 vehicles have been impounded, most of them by out-of-town and out-of-province individuals who did not know the law. If I can clarify, I would say that as a matter of fact only one was in fact a takeover by the municipality.

What has happened here and that the Manitoba police service has also recognized as well as the Manitoba RCMP, that this would not work and will not work and would not have been successful had there not been a diversion program.

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

MR. PYE: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for allowing an introduction. I would like to draw the attention of the members in the House to some people in the gallery. Mr. Bernie Walsh and Mr. Ian Robb are here. They represent the VOLTS organization, video lottery terminal gamblings, and they are here visiting. I would like to invite the members of the House to show their appreciation. (Applause)

MR. PYE: As a result of the diversion program which seems to be the most successful here, the police services, the seizures of the john vehicles have, in fact, been somewhat successful. It has not been as successful as the Minister of Justice would like this province and the municipalities of this province to believe.

There is also a major concern with respect to when you introduce such legislation, re the seizure of john vehicles, what happens to prostitution then? Does it simply slide out of the community or does it simply go elsewhere? Is there no such thing as prostitution after the introduction of this measure? No. Simply, what happens for the most part is that drugs and prostitution continue to stay in the community, but it is inside residential facilities, multi-unit complexes and so on and extremely difficult and even far more difficult to police.

[Page 2768]

What has been found in my conversation with Manitoba is that it has been somewhat of an effective tool to address the issue of prostitution; however, there have been no studies since the introduction of this legislation in the Province of Manitoba to prove how effective the seizure of johns' vehicles have been. Although I am going to support this legislation going on to the Law Amendments Committee, I would hope that at that time the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, and municipalities that are faced with the issue of prostitution, take a very close look at the cost implications of this legislation with respect to putting the onus and responsibilities on the municipalities to make sure that this matter is dealt with, when it should actually come from the Province of Nova Scotia and the federal Government of Canada with respect to amendments to the Criminal Law Act.

Mr. Speaker, I think that what the minister has brought forward here is a reactive measure to concerns that I do not think will go away until this government recognizes that prostitution is a truly social issue and it ought to be addressed in a manner by those experts who can give the government the advice on how best to address, how best to eliminate the issue, the serious issue of prostitution by providing adequate services to those people who are in need.

On behalf of the residents of my community, I want to say that there are a number of residents who in fact have contacted the government and government members I am sure on the government side, and you yourself, Mr. Speaker, as a former policeman I would think have had conversation with some of those individuals as well. Those individuals strongly supported the seizures of johns' vehicles as a deterrent to eliminating the blight of prostitution from their communities.

I want to tell you though, it is my opinion, and I want this government to be aware that the reduced level of activity of prostitution, particularly in one part of that community of Dartmouth North has, is truly instrumental because the residents of that community have taken it upon themselves along with the police, the community policing service that is presently there and doing a magnificent job of using every method available to them to address this issue. And I want to tell you that it has been a long six, seven years of having to address the issue of prostitution in this community. If this in fact eliminates one more john, one more prostitute from frequenting that community, then in fact this legislation will have done its job.

So, Mr. Speaker, with that I will thank the Minister of Justice for bringing the legislation forward. Hopefully, the Minister of Justice will in fact communicate further with the municipalities and hopefully those municipalities that are in financial need of additional funds for policing services will look at the provincial government's proceeds of crime funding and pass it on to those communities that, in fact, might need it.

[Page 2769]

I might say, Mr. Speaker, that would be consistent with the Province of Ontario's Government which, in fact, does pass on to municipalities funds from the proceeds of crime. So, I want to say that I will be looking forward to this bill going through Law Amendments Committee. I will be looking forward to what others might say or might bring forward at the Law Amendments Committee with respect to this legislation. I want to say to the minister that although I support this legislation, there is more that has to be done with respect to the issue of prostitution. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise to speak on Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Motor Vehicle Act, on behalf of my caucus. Certainly as has been pointed out by the minister, they have dusted off, I believe were his words, a former piece of legislation which had been introduced in this House. In fact, it is our understanding, Mr. Speaker, that it was introduced by yourself, during your time as a member of the Opposition. It is in many ways very similar to that which was introduced to you.

Certainly I guess the first thing that jumps from this bill, which I do not believe was in your particular bill, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that all of a sudden the government is making it possible for municipalities to take the initiative to enact by-laws to be able to address the concerns of prostitution, in this case to be able to seize and forfeit cars involved in prostitution-related offences.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is my submission that this is not the responsibility of municipal units throughout this province. We have a provincial Department of Justice which has the expertise, which has the know-how and the ability to be able to administer such legislation as is being put here. To tell the municipal units, you have a problem with prostitution so we are going to solve it by allowing you to enact legislation and then you take care of it, is very poor leadership on behalf of the Minister of Justice and on behalf of this government.

In their blue book the government said it would enact this legislation but in no way did it ever say, we will enact legislation but the municipalities will be responsible for it, that we are just going to make it possible for the municipalities to do it. They never said that. It was in their blue book, sure, but at no point did it say that. I don't believe that your legislation, Mr. Speaker, when you introduced it, actually put that responsibility and burden on the municipal units. I am sure with the respect you have for your own municipal unit, I am sure you would not have been very welcome had you tried to pass that burden on to your municipal councillors.

Let us not kid ourselves, Mr. Speaker, for a municipality to be able to enact this by-law and be able to put in all the procedures as required under this legislation, under Clause 2, Section 291(E)(3), this is not going to be a simple cut and dried process. It is a very

[Page 2770]

complicated process and is one that will have to be dealt with very carefully by the municipal units, to ensure that they are not putting themselves in a position where they are going to face litigation as a result of their activities. Certainly I am sure no municipal unit in this province is going to want to open itself up to any judicial claims as a result of any by-laws they have enacted which are as sensitive as the one being proposed here.

Again, if the government is so confident that this is going to succeed and that this is the proper way to go, then it should be the government itself, through the Department of Justice, that would administer this and be responsible for this. If this is not going to work, then they would put themselves up to legal liability and not pass that responsibility on to the municipal units. Mr. Speaker, I would go so far as to say that municipal units may not even enact this by-law because of these reasons of not wishing to open themselves up to the litigation that may follow because of this by-law.

So while the minister would make Nova Scotians believe that this is a great announcement and a great move, I would submit that in its current form maybe none of the municipalities will even move on this or enact this by-law, so this is not a solution because, unless the municipal units take the initiative to do this, the problem remains, and the solution proposed by the Minister of Justice is a useless solution for it will have done nothing.

[5:30 p.m.]

The question is, and maybe the minister can enlighten us when he closes debate at second reading, whether any municipal units have indicated that they will enact this by-law as has been proposed by the Minister of Justice. Has he spoken to anyone at the UNSM? Has he had any conversations? Has he said, look guys, we have a problem here, how do we find a solution? I am going to enact this legislation so you can enact by-laws, what do you think of it? Maybe some of them said great, maybe some of the them said that is the way we want you to go, and that this is the solution and we feel that it is our responsibility as municipal units to take care of this, not the responsibility of the provincial government or the Department of Justice. So maybe the minister can indicate that to us.

I know when they were in Opposition they were very big on consultation and they were very quick to accuse our government of not having done proper consultation. So I will be curious to see what kind of consultation is taking place between the Minister of Justice and this government with the UNSM and municipal units on this very important issue.

The minister was quoted in the press as saying that the idea is to make it riskier for men to solicit prostitutes and thus reducing demand. Forcing women to leave the stroll were his words. Again the question is what evidence does the minister have of this that he is prepared to share with the members of this House. What sort of a report, what sort of a document does he have that he can present to this House, table with this House that says yes, members, Opposition, if we threaten to take away the cars of johns, it is going to reduce prostitution

[Page 2771]

and it will have the desired effect. Here is the evidence that I am prepared to give you so that you should support this legislation. As a result of it, this will have the desired effect. (Interruption) Well there is nothing yet, there was nothing at the bill briefing indicating this. There is nothing that has been sent out to the Justice Critics or to the other Parties that shows what is the rationale behind this.

What is the rationale behind this? Is this just a knee-jerk reaction and a smokescreen that is being thrown out by the Minister of Justice and by this new government to convince Nova Scotians that they are addressing this very important social problem that faces Nova Scotians?

You might wonder why are you so suspicious. These Tories must have something to confirm that this is actually going to succeed. Well, Mr. Speaker, my suspicion comes from previous experience with this government on other issues, where they have proven that it was simple smokescreens that they were throwing up hoping to fool Nova Scotians and convince them that they were tackling issues. I give you the example of the nursing bursary. This was meant . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the member that you are speaking to the principle of this bill, and I would ask you to bring yourself back to that very item please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I think the issue which I am pointing out is the fact that when we raise legislation here in this House there needs to be some sort of an informed thought process which goes behind the legislation we are bringing forward. The question here is, what was the informed thought process which went behind Bill No. 28? At this point, it appears that there was none, that someone threw out the idea, let's take away their cars, and they are going to stop soliciting prostitutes, prostitutes are going to go. I don't know what the Tories believe. If they are going to go find some job instead of prostitution and the whole problem is going to go away? (Interruptions) Yes, they won't be able to go work at Sysco with this government.

Mr. Speaker, that is the whole issue. This government has proven on other legislation such as the doctors' bursary and the nurses' bursary that there was no thought process that went behind this; there was no evidence. We are asking here, what evidence do they have? The minister says they did it in Manitoba, the only province, it has been there for a long time, proven legislation. Yet when we look at the facts, this legislation was put into effect in 1999. Well, I am sure that if one were to put himself in the minister's shoes, I guess one day with this Tory Government seems like a long time, so I guess a year for him seems to be some great period of jurisprudence that we should be able to rely on to show that this has a great effect.

[Page 2772]

He goes on further to say that to our knowledge, or as far as we know, this legislation has never been challenged constitutionally in Manitoba. To our knowledge - well, that doesn't seem to be very assertive to me. I would hope the minister could come forward and if he is going to rely on the Manitoba legislation, say, I assure you there have been no constitutional challenges to this. or that it has stood up to constitutional challenge or even say it has had its desired effect in Manitoba - as a result of this legislation, prostitution has gone down. None of those has he been able to provide this House.

Mr. Speaker, as legislators we have a responsibility, and we all know that, to try to make sure that it is the best possible legislation that we are putting forward in this House to address the issues that concern Nova Scotians. But at the same time, we have to assure Nova Scotians that when we tell them we are passing this bill to have this desired effect, that we really, actually believe in what we are telling them. In this case, I do not even believe the Minister of Justice - you know, really, if he asks himself, will this bill actually achieve the desired result? Is this the way this government should address the social issue of prostitution? I do not think it is. I think it is a knee-jerk reaction. It is a matter of checking another one of the list on the blue book, but it is not enough and it does not even come close to addressing this most important social issue.

The minister went on in his opening statement here today, he said that this is not downloading, the municipalities have a choice. Mr. Speaker, we all know that municipalities - all of us who have our own units know how hard-working our municipal councillors are, how hard-working the staff is, the financial burdens that they face and the problems that they have. And to think that by just throwing this out to them, that they are going to jump for joy and enact all of these by-laws, is not realistic. Again I submit that if the Minister of Justice has any sort of documentation or can tell us he has even had any communication with the UNSM to show that they approve of this legislation and that, yes the municipal units most affected by the problem of prostitution will enact the by-laws as would be set forward through Bill No. 28, then I would say I have much greater confidence in this minister and I have much greater confidence in Bill No. 28 in knowing that. The unfortunate thing is, he has not given us any of that documentation or any indication that he has spoken with anyone other than Tory members on this and maybe a few citizens who are very frustrated by this unfortunate social problem.

The minister said in the press, "We expect those who break the law to pay for their actions." Yes, well that is pretty much, Mr. Speaker, the basis of our whole justice system. We expect that those who break the law will go through a period of incarceration or some form of penalty to try to make amends for their actual crime. But the question here comes down to, if they start to seize vehicles involved in prostitution, these so-called johns, who is really the one who pays for these actions? Is it the john? Is it the wife? Is it the children of the john? Is it the parents? Who is hurt most by this? Is it the johns themselves? We do not know that, nor has the Minister of Justice provided us with any sort of information which shows that this is an effective means of stopping johns from soliciting prostitutes. We all know the

[Page 2773]

problems, the social problems in families, the difficulties faced by families, single parents, others, broken homes. Is this really the way? Is this really the solution and has the minister or his department even given any thought to what impact this legislation would have on them?

Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, our caucus and myself are very concerned about the problems with prostitution and we applaud all efforts to address this problem. If we are going to do this, let's make sure that we know what we are doing. Again in this case I do not think the government knows what they are doing. They are throwing this out. It is an idea. They hope it works.

When I asked the Minister of Health about the nurse bursaries he said "If it doesn't work we will go back to the drawing board." That is not good enough. Nova Scotians did not elect us to come here to govern this province and to be legislators to say, let's give this a shot and throw up our arms and if it does not work, let's try something else. If we are going to address this problem, let's do it right. Let's make sure when we are going forward we have the proper facts. In this day and age, to enact such legislation to deal with social policies to not have any documentation from sociologists, family counsellors, any sort of experts who deal with the problems of prostitution is completely unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. This is an informed society that we have here today. Members of this House are highly intelligent and we expect that when we make decisions, that someone is going to be able to show us concrete evidence that this is going to work and not just say, hey, it is an idea. Let's give it a shot. If it doesn't work, we will try something else. That is not the solution.

I noticed, with some humour, the Minister of Justice in trying to sell this package to the municipalities said, well, the good thing is, the municipalities get to keep the profits from the sales of the cars. Well, Mr. Speaker, I know municipal units are fighting deficits throughout this entire province and fighting reduced government funding, but I don't think there are too many who are going to jump on Bill No. 28 with the idea that somehow it is going to make them some money by being able to forfeit these cars and to make some money off those cars.

Mr. Speaker, with this legislation comes a whole host of legal questions and questions of whether this bill is actually constitutional or whether it will pass the test of the Constitution. The minister went on to say that Bill No. 28 does not overwhelm the presumption of innocence. He says that people who are awaiting trial for drinking and driving also have their license suspended until their trial. All members of this House know that and they certainly know the dangers of drinking and driving and how it can put people's lives in peril and how dangerous a social problem it is. But the question with this bill is, really, when we look at the presumption of innocence, is taking away their car and waiting until they have to go to trial, not knowing if they have actually been found guilty, a trial which could take six to eight months, denying the rest of the family members access to this vehicle which, possibly, is used to get to work, to get to school or to get to some other leisure activity. Is this really the way that this is going to take out the problem of prostitution?

[Page 2774]

Mr. Speaker, I completely fail to see how that is going to work and the question is whether the minister or his government have even looked at what social problems Bill No. 28 in itself could create. It doesn't even look like they have addressed that. Certainly, the minister has not addressed that in his comments, that he has even turned his mind to what impact that Bill No. 29 could have on the families of these johns, the innocent people in this whole picture. What impact will it have on them? That is what we are very concerned about and that is what we want to make sure has been properly vetted by the minister and his whole department.

Again, to the Manitoba legislation, it has only been in for one year. One year is a very short period of time for a bill to see if it will pass the constitutional test or not. So for the minister just to rely on it saying, well, Manitoba did it, so we are going to do it, is not good enough, Mr. Speaker. The minister can say that we are trying to lead the way. We are trying to be innovative. Again, the minister must bring forward reasonable evidence as to why this bill is being presented to us. It is completely unacceptable to throw bills on the floor of this House and expect that members of the Opposition are going to praise the government and cheer and say, hey great, look, what an innovative idea, they are going to seize the cars of johns. That is going to solve prostitution. The minister says so. Manitoba put in a bill, so they must know what they are doing. Let's do it, also, and give them support. That is not acceptable. That is not good enough.

Another question which I have, Mr. Speaker, maybe I am wrong, I would like to know whether the minister's staff, his senior legal counsel in the Department of Justice, whether they endorse this legislation. Do they even support what the minister is bringing forward here? There are serious questions to that. This is very strong legislation on a constitutional basis and the question is whether he even has the backing of his department in bringing forward this legislation. So I could be wrong. I will ask the minister when he is doing his closing statements on this bill. Maybe he can address that very issue and indicate whether senior counsel in the Department of Justice feel that this will pass the constitutional test. I know the minister said he thinks it will but I would be most curious to see whether the staff in his department believes that to be the case or not, and whether they support this or if they have just held their nose and sent it out so that the minister could check another check off of the blue book. Only time will tell, and I hope the minister will advise us of that.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, our caucus will be looking forward to discussing Bill No. 28 in more detail with members of the UNSM. We will be going back to our own municipal units for those whom this issue affects most and see whether they support Bill No. 28 and if they believe that it should be their responsibility to enact these by-laws. I am quite confident in saying I don't believe Richmond County will be enacting any by-law based on Bill No. 28, but certainly that doesn't make light of the serious social problem of prostitution especially in the riding of my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 2775]

Mr. Speaker, in closing I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee stage where Nova Scotians can come forward. The reality is that this is a very big problem in metro, and since we are here in metro with the House of Assembly, it is my hope that the residents most affected by this will come to the Law Amendments Committee and will tell us in their informed opinions whether they believe Bill No. 28 is the right way to go or whether there are any amendments we can make here or whether it should not be passed at all. I certainly look forward to that opinion. Again, if the minister has even spoken to the UNSM, I hope he will advise us of that because certainly once we have had the opportunity to talk to all of our own units, we will quickly be able to deduce whether those conversations have actually taken place or not.

Mr. Speaker, with that I make no commitment on Bill No. 28 on behalf of our caucus. We will be looking at this further. It is certainly our sincere hope that the minister, as the result of some of the comments I have made, will present us with much more evidence as to why we should support Bill No. 28 as an effective means of dealing with the serious social problem of prostitution in the Province of Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 28, the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, is essentially two clauses; one which has been discussed at some length here tonight provides that where a municipality has passed, ". . . a by-law dealing with the seizure and forfeiture of a motor vehicle involved in the commission of a prostitution-related offence . . . a peace officer may detain the motor vehicle . . .", where the peace officer - and I think this is an operative clause - is satisfied that the vehicle was, ". . . being operated in the course of committing an offence under section 211 . . .", transporting persons to a bawdy house, Section 212 procuring, or Section 213 an offence in relation to prostitution of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Now to listen to some of the previous speakers, one would think that should a municipal unit put in place a by-law to deal with this very serious concern that, in fact, the peace officers and enforcement would be just going around sort of with reckless abandon gathering up a bunch of johns and taking their vehicles. Mr. Speaker, you know, being a former police officer, that is just not the case. If you have a spare moment, I know you are a very busy MLA and quite involved in your Speaker's role, but if you do have an opportunity, perhaps you could talk to some of the speakers opposite, some of the members opposite who have participated in this debate and just tell them how responsible police officers in Nova Scotia are, be they municipal police officers, vehicle enforcement officers, or in fact the RCMP.

It is always convenient for members opposite, especially the members that are supposedly to the left, to talk about things on constitutional grounds. Just last night we heard the honourable member, I believe for Cape Breton West, stand in his place and say, well you

[Page 2776]

know, the NDP is great at always throwing this red herring up, if we find the bill is okay, well we will challenge it on constitutional grounds. And here we have the very same thing taking place tonight. We know full well that Manitoba has enacted similar legislation. The fact of the matter is Manitoba has. So I guess I would say to the honourable member who raised this concern on the Constitution, when they were talking to their friends out in Manitoba they probably are already aware that the Liberals in Manitoba probably did not issue any challenge at all to this particular piece of legislation. It is good legislation.

I know as a former municipal councillor, many times we wished that we had the ability to enact by-laws of all different kinds, of many different natures, Mr. Speaker, but there was no provincial Statute that would give us the ability to do that. So I guess what I would say . . .

MR. JERRY PYE: On a point of order, I am wondering if, in fact, when the speaker is speaking about this legislation, that the speaker can identify to the Legislative Assembly how many vehicles in the Province of Manitoba have been seized under the john program?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would think that where his colleagues in this House, at least who are to his right, were in contact with Manitoba, perhaps he could ask them. They seem very interested in what is going on in Manitoba. I am quite interested in what is happening here in Nova Scotia and what is happening right in the Halifax Regional Municipality, in your riding, honourable member, in Dartmouth North, you should be supporting this legislation and standing in your place and do not worry about Manitoba. Worry about Dartmouth North. You cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, this bill is essentially two amendments. One amendment, I guess we should gather that, I think it might be safe to say that silence relative to the first amendment is an admission of support. Some people might call this the jake and john legislation, but they stayed away from the jake amendment in this legislation. So, obviously, members opposite support it and I believe I did hear the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto say subsequent to the bill briefing last evening that, in fact, those trucks that make that nerve-wracking noise in his riding are troublesome too and, therefore, he would support the legislation.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell all members of the House that that particular amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act is at the heart of a quality of life issue. It is about eliminating noise pollution. We are talking about engine brakes. It is about eliminating noise pollution and preventing an unwelcome racket in our neighbourhoods. It is a victory for our communities and for common sense.

With this amendment, Mr. Speaker, Clause 1, Section 181A of the Motor Vehicle Act, trucks will no longer be able to use their engine brakes anywhere within speed limits of 50 kilometres an hour or less. Our caucus received complaints, and I would suggest that other

[Page 2777]

caucuses in this House have received concerns and communication from their citizenry and constituents that this noise is most unwelcome. I know, with some qualification, that when you are travelling along at 50 kilometres an hour, or 30 miles an hour, you can stop the big rigs with your conventional brakes with no problem. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I am getting a lot of help from the members opposite, but I would suggest that certain members - and I can appreciate this and respect it - would not understand exactly how the engine brake works. The engine brake is a mechanical device that sits on the block (Interruption) Yes, it sounds a little bit like that and it is between the head and the block. I think maybe they know what I am talking about now, but essentially it is activated by electricity. The exhaust valves open and compression goes out the stack and you lose the horsepower and, obviously, it is going to slow the vehicle down.

We believe this amendment with its widespread support by all members in the House and in the communities and by, in fact, most of the trucking industry I would submit, it will convince all truckers to follow the rules of the road and stick to using their conventional brakes when in a 50 kilometre zone. Members opposite know that 50 kilometre zones are for the most part in residential neighbourhoods. I know it is quite disturbing perhaps in the middle of the night, 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m., to be enjoying what should be a good sleep, to be awakened by this noise, this awful terrible racket, and we are hoping to reduce that in support of our citizenry, Mr. Speaker.

I am told by my colleague, the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, that the people in Truro-Bible Hill that they want this bill and this legislation. It is good legislation. I have been told by the honourable member for Bedford-Fall River that people in Bedford are looking forward to this legislation. I can say that the people in the community of Brookfield-Colchester County, the people in Middle Musquodoboit, Halifax Regional Municipality and even some police forces have indicated that they are supporting this legislation. Yes, Colchester North, Tatamagouche - we won't go across the map here because the amendment has received such widespread support from this House that I don't believe it is necessary to go on at any great length.

People in residential communities, perhaps in the honourable member's riding of Cape Breton Nova, people in residential communities in his neighbourhood like to enjoy their property. What we are trying to do is assist that honourable member in Cape Breton Nova in his riding and his citizenry.

I notice, Mr. Speaker, that the hour is (Interruption) Well, the Liberals opposite have been talking to Manitoba and I think they are quite impressed that some Manitoba municipalities have enacted this legislation. They know full well that red herring and that red flag they are pulling up every once in a while is without substance.

[Page 2778]

I know we do have an emergency debate coming up, a very important emergency debate and because of the lateness of the hour, I would take pleasure in moving this bill for second reading. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Before the bill can be debated, the person who introduced the bill stands and moves it, brings it forward for debate. If we are closing the debate at this point in time to resume, then the last speaker adjourns debate and asks that it be called again on a future day. I am assuming that is what is intended and it is not an attempt to bring in closure through the back door and end debate on this bill.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, for clarification, I will adjourn debate with your approbation, on Bill No. 28.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We have just about reached the hour of adjournment and as agreed, we will now enter the two hours of emergency debate on the issue brought forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton South.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please have the Liberal Party House Leader advise the House of the hours and business tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal Party House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, if that completes the government's business for today, does it? Yes, then we are going right into emergency debate?

MR. SPEAKER: Right.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Tomorrow, following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Bill No. 23, Resolution No. 276 and Resolution No. 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The emergency debate will run from 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

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

[Page 2779]

SYSCO - CLOSURE: STEELWORKERS - PENSIONS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak this evening on this emergency debate on Sydney Steel. A lot of members in the House feel that this is not really as serious as we, on this side, indicate it is. I want to assure all members that this is extremely serious and it is something that has to be clarified. We, in the Liberal Party, believe that Sysco had a future when we were in government. We believed that with the proper presentation, by eliminating the negative history of Sydney Steel and providing the proper business plan and go-forward document, that Sysco could be sold. No one really believes that government should be the owner of Sysco. It should be in the private sector. Governments had it for over 30 years - far too long. The question, of course, was, who in the private sector would put in a proposal to take over Sydney Steel Corporation?

[6:00 p.m.]

First of all, you had to eliminate and nullify the negative history of Sysco, the mismanagement, the rumours, the losses, and the only way to do that was to develop a business plan. To take a document that would bring a go-forward position to say where Sysco could go in the future with the proper financing and the proper direction. That is why we increased the guarantee of Sysco by $44 million. That is why we retained Hoogovens to manage the plant and to bring forward this business plan. It was a good business plan and the fact of the matter is, it did the job that it was supposed to do.

In that business plan, we were shown what was needed to be done at Sysco in order to bring it to a position where it could be sold. It would cost, in the estimate of Hoogovens, $44 million. This was brought forward last spring. Hoogovens, as it was then - it is now Corus because it merged with British Steel - because they felt that they could be a partner in a consortium that would take over Sysco, did not want to be responsible for the actual sale. So ABN Amro, a Dutch Bank dealing internationally with a world-renowned reputation, was retained to actually sell the plant. They took on the job with a retainer and a certain amount a month, with a major bonus if they were successful in selling the plant.

The key was, that if you were to sell Sysco, the owner had to feel that it was a worthwhile commodity. The owner had to feel some pride of ownership and some value in the plant. Immediately, the Progressive Conservative Party said they would close Sysco. Now you are dealing immediately with a government, with a Party that could be government, saying they didn't want to retain Sysco. You completely throw away any belief that the province has any feeling that Sysco is worth anything.

We were told by ABN Amro that they felt the plant was worth between $75 and $100 million. People tend to think of Sysco as an old plant, but with the money that was put into it in the 1970's and 1980's, there is a great part of Sysco which is essentially new and really

[Page 2780]

quite valuable. The question of course is who would run it? Who would see the value and what would they pay for it? When the Tories took over government, having said they would close the plant and continuing to say that they would do that and that they would not put in any new money, people who would have bought the product immediately backed away from buying products from Sysco. So the order books completely collapsed. The products just weren't being purchased, because who would buy a product when they felt that the plant wouldn't be in operation when the product was to be delivered to them thereby denying them the product forcing the perspective buyer to go on to the market to get a product at that time, which is impossible, for the most part, but if it is possible, you pay a considerable premium to get that product so that was a major deterrent.

Secondly, those who would be interested in purchasing the plant, when the Tory Government said that the plant had to be sold by December 31st, said, well, if they are going to sell it by December 31st or close it, I will wait until they close it and pick up what is left, pick it up after that date because it will not be worth anything. The government will have backed away from it and they will just be so glad that to have it taken off their hands either as a going concern or assets or whether they be all of the assets, some of the assets. So, people backed away from paying a logical price for Sydney Steel Corporation.

Now, the government said and in particular, the Premier, said that on June 29th during the election campaign, I would rather take the $44 million line of credit and invest it in the Sysco pension fund. They are just a few years away from retirement, if I could move that retirement date up a few years, the Sysco workers would be better off. Well, he has done neither. He has not helped the workers and he did spend, he did not keep that promise, he did put more money into Sysco, he did spend most of the $44 million.

Where did he spend it? Where did this government spend it? It wasn't spent in accordance with the business plan because the changes to the structure of the plant, the capital investments were not made, so where did the money go? We do not know. Did it go to Sysco at all? Did it go somewhere else? We do know that now, if not all of the $44 million, most of the $44 million was spent.

This takes us to December where the government on December 31st told steelworkers and all Nova Scotians that the plant had been sold. I said earlier today that this was one of the cruelest tricks played on any group of people in the history of Nova Scotia and it was. It was. This was a very cruel trick on the steelworkers and all the people of Nova Scotia too to say that that plant had been sold. There was no basis in this world for saying that plant had been sold. No basis whatsoever. The contracts had not been negotiated, pension benefits had not been negotiated, the down payments had not been obtained, the $1.5 million had not been brought forward and there was a $1 million deposit made as I understand it.

[Page 2781]

On January 20th, the Minister of Economic Development pulled the plug on the whole deal. Three weeks that agreement lasted. Three weeks. Now, I cannot understand why the government entered into that arrangement. Did they really believe that there was a sale, that it was going to work? Anybody who reads the letter of statement of intent would know that that would never work. Was it an intentional ploy to put the finishing touches on Sysco, to make sure it did not work? I do not know, but it was a very cynical, convoluted and treacherous procedure by this government.

What transpired to bring this deal to place? The Minister of Economic Development says this consortium was recommended by ABN Amro. We now know that S & K Steel was not a partner to this deal. Mr. Paisley, who was the President of S & K said they were not, only he was. Corus are saying they were not a partner in this deal. So who really was in this deal? No one was represented at the sale other than an employee of, I think, Corus who worked at the plant, no responsibility, and could not be assumed as representing any of the respective partners in the proposed purchase.

Now we are told by the government that maybe it will be sold and I hope it is. I hope it is, but if it is, it will be sold because someone has waited until the very last minute to pick it up. What kind of deal that will represent I do not know, but I have to tell you steelworkers and people in Cape Breton want this plant sold as a going concern. To sell the assets is going to be a tragedy. Sydney has been known as the steel city. Now that is not going to be possible if the plant is not operating.

I will tell you a thing, too, Mr. Speaker, that another reason this sale was so tremendously important is that we had to be able to tell the people in Cape Breton that we did everything we possibly could to sell that plant, that we acted truthfully, we acted constructively and we acted in the best interests of that region and the whole province. You cannot say that now because the government used the Sysco issue for political purposes during the election and it might have worked, I do not know, but the fact is they now have to bear the consequences. They now have to be held accountable for deliberately deep-sixing the best opportunity that this province has had to sell this company.

We are not only talking about 700 direct jobs that were there. We are talking about 1,200, at least, indirect jobs, people who sell to Sysco, who do some work for Sysco in the community. We are talking about a community that already has a 30 per cent unemployment rate and is about to lose a major part, if not all, of the coal industry. For this government to cynically use this issue for political purposes and to deliberately sabotage the best opportunity that this province had of selling that plant is unconscionable. It is something that the people of this province will never forget; it is something which they will never forgive this government for having done. I think that for years this Tory Government will be remembered as the one that played with the lives of the steelworkers and their families, deliberately used a very important and sensitive issue for political purposes to the detriment of the people in that area and the people of all Nova Scotia.

[Page 2782]

Mr. Speaker, this is something that we have to look at. They take pride, they say, in putting $318 million on the books to drive up the debt, make it look much worse. It is going to be much more than $318 million, as the member for Cape Breton Nova has said. That did not have to be put on the debt if the plant was sold, but the fact of the matter is this is something that we have to deal with, with what is there now, and that is what makes it so difficult.

Ernst & Young is saying that the final sale of either Sysco's business or assets will be recommended to the board of directors and the Province of Nova Scotia by mid-May. There is still no sale guaranteed. We hope there is a sale, but if they break up that plant, sell it piece by piece, it is an awful legacy for this Tory Government, an awful problem for the people in Cape Breton to deal with, and we will lose more young people. We will drive the economy of that area deeper into economic problems and we will, in this province, for the next decades, be trying to find ways to replace what could have been a viable plant had this government acted in the proper manner. Thank you.

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise tonight, well, a pleasure in one respect, in that it is an important critical issue to be talked about. It is interesting to note that the situation we face today is one that we really began the journey toward in 1967 when Hawker-Siddeley decided they could no longer operate that plant. We began a journey that for over 30 years the facility has never turned a profit. The situation we inherited, as I said, from previous governments, regardless of political stripe, simply because they were not prepared to make the hard decision. In 1967, rightly or wrongly, they could not face the prospect of putting over 3,000 people out of work. They made a determination to continue to fund and they did that in various ways from then until now.

The history of trying to sell this plant is fraught with mistakes and misdirection. What we said when the Hoogovens proposal came forward, after carefully reviewing the contents of that document, was that this scenario was no different from the A. D. Little scenario. The business plan was based on numbers that had never been attained and, with the wisdom of hindsight, which tends to direct most of the discussion around this whole file, could not be attained, would not be attained, in the year past they fell far short of anything close to the break-even. In actual fact, Hoogovens were out there taking orders of very low margin simply so they could fill the order book, with the view that if you could drive up the order book, then your fixed costs would decrease. The problem was that in order to turn a profit, you have to produce rail or you have to produce product that has high margin and that did not happen.

[Page 2783]

We honoured the process that was inherited. That, in itself, certainly shows the previous government's inability to deal with this file, documents signed in the waning days of the government. We looked at what had transpired and we said, yes, you are right. If we have a chance to sell this we must work with Hoogovens, the ABN Amro group, to ensure they have every opportunity to go out and canvass the world, the due diligence. We reviewed and respected what they said. They came forward at various times along the process. It was not a decision taken just by this government.

I remind the member opposite that we, in fact, appointed a board of directors, something that was lacking prior to, and the board of directors took their responsibilities very seriously; in fact one of the board of director members was a member of the union. So they would be part of the process, they would be able to buy into the information, and they did. In fact throughout the process and when we decided to go forward with the Rail Associates agreement to try to see if we couldn't sell this, because that is what is in the best interests of the steelworkers of the Province of Nova Scotia and the taxpayers. No one wants to put those people out of work; this government does not want to do that. What this government wants to do is honour a commitment to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that we cannot continue to write cheques forever.

A comment opposite was made today that, yes, it is cheaper to write a $44 million cheque annually rather than deal with environmental remediation. That goes back to an inability to recognize a true, fundamental problem, that is that there comes a point in time where you have to make tough decisions, and that is what this is about, making a tough decision, a decision that didn't come easily and certainly one with which we have grappled long and hard.

When the Rail Associates deal fell apart, after we had continued to massage it in light of growing concern on the part of the government whether or not this truly was going to go forward, finally we made a determination that it is not possible to continue down that trail and we pulled the plug, as they say, but immediately we had made provisions to ensure that the operation could continue through another scenario, by retaining Ernst & Young after an aggressive call for proposals, one that allowed them to bring in expertise around the liquidation of steel operations that is global. Not only that, but they brought forward a sales network and contacts that gave a whole new opportunity to sell this plant. That is what this is about.

The fact is, Ernst & Young are operating that plant. They reoperated the melt furnace. They have taken on new orders. They have been able to go out and contact people. One of the difficulties around this is the comments made about the inability or the lack of willingness on the part of the government to open up the process so that all and sundry can have details. That is not possible because many of the companies that have come forward are concerned about the issue of confidentiality. In fact, it has come to light that the Steel Workers Union, who are also attempting to find a buyer, have the same difficulty. They, in fact, have indicated

[Page 2784]

they have had some success in contacting potential buyers. If they are successful at the end of the day, that is a good thing for all of Nova Scotia. But, interestingly enough, they are not willing to tell us who, in fact, they are conversing with for the same reason that we are not able to.

This issue is not the fault of the workers. It is a fault of the type of situation we are in.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, just to be helpful, I wonder if the minister would entertain a brief question?

MR. BALSER: I would.

MR. HOLM: The minister has indicated that Ernst & Young, of course, are running the steelmaking plant, operating it, accepting new orders and so on. I am wondering if you could tell us what expertise they have within their group of managing a steelmaking industry? What steelmaking experts do they have working for them?

MR. BALSER: In the plant, on a daily basis, the manager's team is headed by Matthew Harris of Ernst & Young, Halifax. They have been able to call on their expertise in the United States. They have been involved in the sale or liquidation of 11 plants globally. So what they have done, is bring in people.

MR. HOLM: I am talking about running the plant.

MR. BALSER: The team that is in there is working with the current management, including the president, to make decisions around how best to go forward. The reality is, the bottom line for the plant shows a $7 million positive figure, something that hasn't happened in some time. In fact, it looks as though not only will they be able to continue to operate, but, if everything unfolds as it should, they will end up the process with perhaps as much $11 million to the good. This is happening without the province having to put additional funds into the operation, something that is unique in itself.

The whole issue of what to do and how to move forward, there are a number of outstanding issues, regardless of the scenario, one of which has been touched on at length today, and that is how do we deal with the unionized workforce. We put in place a negotiation team that was willing to go there and did, in fact, go to sit down with the unionized workforce to talk to them about the issue. Unfortunately, those discussions broke off after a very short period of time. It is my understanding that if you are going to negotiate, it must involve some back and forth discussion. I believe that what the union expected was that they had put forward a proposal and we, as the government, were going to endorse it 100 per cent.

[Page 2785]

Well, that is not very realistic, given that the proposal that they put forward was the entire asking package that would have been under negotiation if, in fact, the province was going to continue to operate the plant. That is not the case. What we have said is that there is a pension issue that we need to look at and we are willing to look at. The other reality is that we need to have in place a mechanism so that a buyer who would take this over and continue to operate it as an ongoing operation, would have a chance to restructure. Every one of the sales proposals that has come forward over the past number of years has indicated that there would be a requirement to downsize and restructure significantly.

The problem for a potential buyer is they don't necessarily want to be hamstrung around a negotiated deal that was done by a province when, in fact, they may have other needs and requirements. We recognize that and we said to them, negotiate a contract with the workforce. We will address those issues that are the responsibility of the province, that is the environmental remediation issues, the issue of unfunded liability in the pension, the issue of what happens to the workers who are currently there. I think there are 150 workers who are currently eligible for retirement. What they have suggested is that they would like to stay in place in the event that the province does come forward with an enhanced package. So, at least from some perspective, it is an opportunity to have the best of both worlds. The reality is, if this plant is going to continue to operate, every other one of the mini mills in the world that currently operate, operate with a much smaller workforce, and using multi-task job descriptions, which currently don't exist under the present collective agreement. So we have to recognize that there is a need for that to happen.

We have been called into criticism for the way in which the events on December 31st unfolded. As I said earlier, we went there with the true belief that this was a consortium recommended by ABN Amro, that represented the level of expertise necessary to make this go forward. The Board of Directors of Sysco had made that determination. In fact, the legal counsel for the Province, who was involved in every one of the previous sales attempts, certainly in the last four or five, when I asked him a direct question about whether or not this was a viable deal, said yes, in his experience and association with the file, this represented the best chance for the province. We went forward with that belief. It was unfortunate after the initial agreement, certainly which constituted all the necessary terms and conditions that would have required a final sale, the consortium itself began to fall apart. Everyone can look back with 20/20 hindsight. When you are in the midst of a negotiation you have to go with the best information available. We had made a commitment to the people involved that we would sell that plant and continue to operate it, if that was possible, in private hands. Unfortunately that deal did not come to pass. We are optimistic at this point in time that Ernst &Young will be able to bring forward a deal.

One of the difficulties I have today is that I have to stand here knowing some information which cannot be divulged because of the issue of confidentiality. However, I do believe, as was stated here in the Public Accounts Committee, again, that this government represents the best chance to sell this as an ongoing operation that there has been in some

[Page 2786]

time. We are committed to that and we believe that that is what the people of Nova Scotia want. But the people of Nova Scotia do not want to have to continue to write $44 million cheques annually, forever. The accumulated debt, as a result of that practice, is something like $1.2 billion; that is a lot of money that could have been directed in new ways to revitalize the economy of Cape Breton.

Everyone recognizes that change comes upon us, wanted or not. It is true that the history of Nova Scotia, certainly in Cape Breton, the history of coal and steel is one that they have every reason to be proud of. But there comes a point in time when you have to move on, and I believe that the way to move on is to ensure that a restructured sale that allows the plant to downsize and continue to operate, accessing new markets, is the best possible solution. But the reality is that may not be possible, and because that may not be possible we have retained Ernst & Young to ensure, that at the end of the day, the Province of Nova Scotia will be out of the steel industry and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will no longer be on the hook endlessly for cheques.

That to me is the best possible solution and certainly is the position we articulated going into the election and certainly as a result of the initial proposal put forward by Hoogovens, one which, after careful deliberation, we realized was un-doable and certainly, again with the wisdom of hindsight, it was un-doable. They did not hit their production targets. ABN Amro, in retrospect, were unable to find a buyer so we are now moving forward, as we should, as any responsible government should, to ensure that the taxpayers' best interests are protected. At the same time we recognize an obligation to the steelworkers of Cape Breton, to the whole economy of Cape Breton, to ensure that, come what may, we devote the attention necessary to ensure that a diversified economy emerges after the closure of coal, and if in fact at the end of the day the steel plant has to be closed, that we do have opportunities for them there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say this is humorous listening, if the subject was not so serious, listening to the minister's description of what has been going on at Sysco because it has less to do with the reality of what really went on there and how you messed the deal. Do not come and tell us and re-use words like we had an agreement, we had this, you blatantly sent out press releases saying "Sydney Steel Sold." So do not retreat from that. Be a man and stand by it. You said it. Stand by it. We all know that we did not have a deal and those releases were less than forthright. We have a Premier today, telling steelworkers outside this House, that the deal will be fair. Your idea of fair and my idea of fair may be different. It is that type of shenanigans that is causing the problems at Sysco because it is all semantical. There is no substance to what these folks are doing. This government comes in and says, it is sold, and then three weeks later, it is not sold. What does that do to the lives of those people.

[Page 2787]

That is one area I want to get to. Because you know what is interesting is, this group keeps calling this a file. It is a file. It is no more than a file. That file in Cape Breton buys groceries, sends kids to school, buys clothes in the clothing stores, pays taxes and they live and breathe. It is not a file. I sincerely hate the way you people portray this as a file. Let's not make it look like there are any living or breathing people involved with this, just detach ourselves from it. That is the hard way you people govern.

[6:30 p.m.]

What did the minister say before, you have to make hard decisions. You are a Leader, you have to make hard decisions. That is not factual. We all appreciate hard decisions, what we don't like are mean decisions. This is what this is. I look at the Minister of Education, she clearly said, close Sysco, keep hospital beds open. Clearly, that is what is there. That has nothing to do, minister, with hard decisions. What that is is pandering to a group of people in Ontario who are telling you how to run your government in Nova Scotia. It is as simple as that.

But fairness, where is the fairness in this? Who is being treated fairly here, minister? Are the people of Nova Scotia being treated fairly? No. Are the people of Nova Scotia being treated with openness? Well, what did he say? He said, we had Ernst & Young in there to bring expertise in managing that mill. They are number-crunchers. But what do we do when we say to you, let's put steelworkers in that process? Oh no, as your good friend, Mr. Spurr, said in this very Chamber last week, oh no, we can't allow steelworkers, they are just a commodity; just a commodity, like a can of Campbell's soup on a shelf. They are a commodity to be sold or maybe after their expiry date, thrown on the scrap heap. That is what it is.

Until you, Mr. Minister, start to treat this file as living and breathing human beings that have gone a long way to better the lives of all Nova Scotians, and when you start to realize what steelworkers' families have done in the past and if allowed to will continue to do in the future for the cultural aspect of this province and for the economic aspect of this province, then it would be a lot better. I would feel a lot more secure sitting in my seat here, if you were talking about the men and the women of industrial Cape Breton as opposed to calling it a file. It defiles them is what it does.

Let's start talking about the nuts and bolts of negotiations. I don't know how many collective bargaining processes this minister has been involved with, but now he is going to stand in his place and purport to tell us how collective bargaining takes place now. He has now told us what? That the steelworkers don't know anything about making steel, Ernst & Young know about making steel, and now he is all of a sudden an expert on the collective bargaining process. He is going to show us how he sent Karen MacAskill, his lawyer down to represent his file, last week, and tell the file what was going to be in their pension plans.

[Page 2788]

I will tell you something Mr. Speaker, I quite fortunately have been involved with quite a few sets of collective bargaining, and it is just that, it is a give and take. The minister by his own admission had said the workers had put an offer on the table. But did he go the other step and say that his emissary put an offer on the table? No. It was like a note taking. With all due respect to the Pages in this House, you could have sent one of the Pages down with the note and come back. It probably would have been a heck of a lot cheaper than Karen MacAskill. But no, they are playing a game.

The Leader of the Liberal Party got up before, he and I have locked horns when he was Premier and we disagreed many times about his direction for the economy in Cape Breton and I said this in the House about that member before, that I in no way doubt his sincerity about his love and admiration for Cape Breton and how he would like to see it survive. That is probably the last nicety I will say about the Leader of the Liberal Party, but I want to make a point, that we disagree about a lot of things, but he brought a great deal of empathy to this file, more than what this group has done.

You know, one of the things the minister talks about is the new economy, how are we going to rev up the new economy? Well, last June 29th the Premier gets up and says that Hoogovens is costing $750,000 a month. What I am going to do with that money, if elected, when that contract is up I am going to give ten small businesses $75,000 a month. I put a resolution on the floor of this House last night to ask him to table the names of the companies that he has helped. You know what I got today, Mr. Speaker? The same thing the steel workers got from this minister last week: nothing. Nothing. Zero. A goose egg. They got nothing and they have nothing.

The history of this government since they were elected has been siphoning off Cape Breton. One of the first announcements this group made was taking the $2 million in charity. But you know, this mysteriously went into general revenues and that vaporized. Now where is the $2 million, over $2 million now, that should be in the pockets of small businesses in Cape Breton? This minister does not know because it is not there. It is not there. Maybe it was part of the deal, it is almost the amount of money that they were talking about giving to Scotiabank here in Halifax so that is probably where it is at. It has been taken off the backs of Cape Bretoners and given to an economy that is doing very well, thank you.

So, what else? You know, where are we going with this? What are you doing for small businesses of the new economy of Cape Breton? You know, they like to throw these cliche phrases up like oh, you know I have the utmost respect for steel workers and coal miners. Talk is cheap, Mr. Speaker. And then they go on to say that that era has ended and we are moving forward. Well, how are we moving forward? They told us through an election plan that we are going to give this money, this $75,000 a month to small businesses. When you ask them to fess up to this, they don't say anything, shrug their shoulders and do not tell us anything.

[Page 2789]

So, what is it going to mean about the loss of Sysco? Is the loss of Sysco just an economic loss for what we refer to as the industrial area of Cape Breton, which is fastly becoming an unindustrial area of Cape Breton, thanks to this government. But you know, one of the major things that is going to be lost is a rail link because the major customer of that rail line is Sydney Steel and I am willing to bet here in this House today that if we do not have Sysco shipping rails or shipping other commodities out of that mill that that rail line will not be long and you know yourself Mr. Speaker, that once a rail line is gone, it is gone. Those infrastructures do not come back. We lose them forever.

Does this government think that far in advance? Is their universe that big? No, to the contrary, it is a very narrow universe. You know, we have to look at that mill not in its past, not by its mismanagement for 30 years, but its possibility into the future, its diversification. I know the minister looked at the Hoogovens plan and said it was unrealistic. Well, you know, I would like to know again the great deal of steelmaking expertise the minister brings to this file that says when he looked at Hoogovens, it could not work. Well, it was managing in a way one would hope to try and diversify that mill because everybody knows that that mill is not going to survive on rails alone, but yet we are stuck in a position with a limited market because of counter rails against Sysco rails until it is sold to a private entity. So we have got to go out and we have got to diversify and certainly what we were strapped with at this point then is a December 31st sale deadline.

Mr. Speaker, that caused a great deal of concern not only to the steelworkers, but within the industry itself because people within the industry realized why should I bother paying full ticket for this mill when, if we just take our time and wait them out, we can certainly make a better deal when the fire sale starts. I will tell you I think that has begun. That is why the minister is kind of saying, well, if you knew what I knew, you would not be saying those things. Well, you know, secretive information or not, those people who are looking to buy that mill today are not willing to pay what they wanted to pay a year or so ago or three months ago because of the position it is in.

When we talk about sale, Mr. Speaker, one has to wonder. You talk to people who know the industry, like the steelworkers they do not want to talk to, and what the steelworkers tell you is we are trying to find out about bids that were not even opened. There was apparently a bid, not even opened, put forward by a well-known Canadian steel firm and a family known to many Nova Scotians. That is the Joudreys. So why was that not explored? Is that part of the secretive negotiations? Is that the reason they cannot be taken into confidence?

I know I do not have to kind of pick up for anybody here and I am sure that when they get on their feet, they will do it themselves, but I do not think this government should get credit for having a member of the United Steel Workers on the board of directors because, quite frankly, they did not do it. That member was there before they arrived. So, you know, he is again taking credit for something he did not do and I guess, Mr. Speaker, in wrapping

[Page 2790]

up, the interesting part here is this government will certainly jump to the front of the queue when it is time to take accolades, but certainly will hide when they have to take some of the blame. Mr. Speaker, this is not a file. This is about human beings. (Applause)

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is not too often, I have to admit, that I speak on this issue, particularly with the experience I have in this caucus particularly on this file, as the minister has indicated, but it is one that has a very damaging effect on the area that I represent and I believe in the entire Province of Nova Scotia. I do not really believe that this government realizes yet the impact that it will have throughout the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think at first I would like to bring along a little bit of history here. On March 23, 1999, the Leader of the Progressive Conservatives, who is now the Premier of the province, called for the immediate closure of Sysco, the scrapping of the Hoogovens' business plan and the stopping of the sale process. Sysco workers would be employed he indicated in an environmental clean-up to bridge them to retirement. Mr. Speaker, there was never ever any detail given to that statement. It looked good. We are going to save some money here by closing Sysco and the taxpayers would not have to continue to fund Sysco. Well, there was no detail on how much that clean-up would cost. The clean-up could cost, and as a former member of the TAG process in Cape Breton and representing the municipal council down there, the actual figure for the clean-up of TAG, and I don't know if the minister is aware of this and perhaps he should be briefed by his people in his department if he is not, but the actual clean-up of the tar ponds alone, and when you add in probably another $1 billion of remediation after the closure of Sysco, I don't see where the taxpayers of this province are going to get any great savings. I don't think they are being told the truth on that issue. I don't think people on the mainland understand that for many years, it is probably going to take anywhere from 15 to 25 years to clean up that site. So this is certainly not going to save the taxpayers in this province one red dime.

[6:45 p.m.]

In August 1999, a new Premier, then elected in July, allowed for the sale process to continue, employing the Hoogovens business plan and using internationally respected ABN Amro Bank of the Netherlands, a deadline was set for January 1, 2000. Mr. Speaker, I believe that as soon as the province imposed that deadline, all potential buyers backed off and the real plan was to close the plant. The sale, I don't know if the government really wants to sell the plant. I can't figure it out. One day they appear to me that they are serious, that they really want to sell the plant and continue the employment levels there and other days I think they are just playing a cat and mouse game here and they really just want to piecemeal this to - I don't know if to their friends would be proper words - but things in this whole story, this whole file, as the minister has indicated, just don't add up.

[Page 2791]

On December 31, 1999, the Premier's office issued a release which indicated very clearly that Sysco was sold - good news for the steelworkers, the community and Cape Breton Island as a whole, and, I would suggest, for all of the Province of Nova Scotia. The first line in the release stated that Rail Associates, a consortium led by a U.S.-based S & K Steel has agreed to purchase the Sydney Steel Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, soon after the announcement it was revealed very quickly that there was no consortium and it was only President Myles Paisley who was involved with this government. On January 20, 2000 a press release was issued by the Minister of Economic Development, stating that the sale agreement had ended. I really didn't ever, neither did the taxpayers of this province, see any agreement that was in place for the sale of this steel plant. The press release called into question the credibility of ABN Amro bank. News reports indicated that the Minister of Economic Development was prepared to sue ABN Amro for mishandling the sale.

We have not seen this lawsuit, Mr. Speaker. Under questioning today in the House it is probably somewhere in the clouds, still dangling. I don't see that becoming a reality any time in the future, let alone soon in the future and, as the minister indicated today, real soon. Well, I don't think it will be soon at all, I don't even think it is a reality.

Something went wrong, that is clear. It is clear to every person I speak to on this issue. Now Ernst & Young have been employed to take an approach to selling Sysco. Well, we all know what Ernst & Young specializes in. It is not really selling operating steel mills. If they are in the business that the government really wants to piecemeal and sell the assets, then Ernst & Young is exactly who they would employ and that is who they have employed.

The Premier, I believe, has broken faith with the Sysco workforce by not ensuring pensions if delaying the sale fails. That was a commitment made by the Premier during the election campaign, prior to the election campaign, after the election campaign and, today, again in this House. I still don't see anything on paper, and when I look at details of the negotiating process, it is very frustrating and frightening to come to realize that this government is dealing with steelworkers in the manner in which they are.

I don't think when you hold threats of intimidation over heads, particularly when I look at a letter that was sent by a bureaucrat to the president of the steelworkers union, then that makes me very concerned about exactly what kind of a negotiation process the steelworkers are going to proceed and, hopefully, have a fair and reasonable - as the Premier has indicated throughout this ordeal, because that is what is really is. It is an ordeal, particularly for the steelworkers and their families, commitments made by the Premier.

[Page 2792]

A letter has been sent, and it is right here, for anybody that wants to see it. I am sure it is readily available and most MLAs have it, I would suggest. As I indicated before, the letter clearly indicates that they are demanding cooperation. If this is not a threatening letter, I don't know what it is.

Cape Breton, of course, is an area in the province that is going through an unprecedented unemployment crisis. I am sure the minister representing Cape Breton, maybe he may not welcome that title, Mr. Speaker, however, being the lone Tory Cabinet Minister from Cape Breton, that is exactly what he is, he is the lone voice in the Tory Cabinet and I would suggest that he is very familiar with the unemployment that exists in that community. I would hope that he communicates that very clearly to his Cabinet colleagues.

Of course, the Premier and the minister are exaggerating the situation by not respecting Sysco workers of fulfilling their promise to treat them equally and with dignity. I haven't seen any dignity yet. I get phone calls from steelworkers' wives, after their husbands go to work and their husbands are not aware that they make the phone calls and they are very concerned, upset and stressed to the limit because of this issue. I would encourage the Premier to get personally involved here and move this process along and be fair and take this atmosphere of uncertainty away from these steelworkers. They toiled long, hard years in this industry and they don't deserve this treatment. They just simply don't deserve it, neither them nor their families.

During last year's election, it is no secret it is quite obvious that the now Minister of Education promised hospital beds would open if Sysco were closed. Now we all know, Mr. Speaker, that that is just nothing short of a farce because I believe that within the next month or so, when this government brings in a budget, people in Nova Scotia are going to be able to see very clearly that this is just propaganda that has no room in our democracy. It has no room in the Province of Nova Scotia, particularly when it creates conflicts between two communities.

I would suggest that is what this may have created, a conflict between the mainland and the Island of Cape Breton. It is one that I am not particularly very fond of or proud of and it is not one that we welcome. As an elected member down there, we certainly don't need it or want it. I am a Nova Scotian first, and a Cape Bretoner. I am proud to say that I am a Cape Bretoner; I don't have a problem saying that, but I am a Nova Scotian first and I expect to be treated the same way as any resident in this province whether I live on the mainland, down the Valley, on the Eastern Shore, or in Cape Breton. It should not matter where we live.

Mr. Speaker, this creates something that has no room in our democracy. Now we find that the environmental and pension liability of Sysco is at least $378.5 million and probably much higher. That is the figure that has been given to us and I believe with proper research that figure is not correct. The new government has pledged to bring in greater openness to the accounting procedures of the government. While the government has accounted for $318

[Page 2793]

million of environmental liability, they will not spend one dime this year; not a dime of that this year.

Being involved in local politics from 1991, I know that the cost of the project this year will certainly increase next year, because of the operating costs and various reasons. I am sure these members of the government over here are very familiar with those sort of things, and they know that those figures are going to be much higher by the time this government, or any future government, actually takes action with the environmental issues that will result with the closure of this plant. Either there is a financial crisis created by the Sysco liability or there isn't; one or the other. It is simple.

The government has misled the Sysco workers and they are misleading the people of Nova Scotia, into believing the closure of Sysco was to be pain free. This is not going to be pain free; it is impossible. I think as I continue here, perhaps some of these members over here, particularly with the backbenchers, maybe they will understand that. As they indicated in the first session of this House, they are ordinary Nova Scotians.

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

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: I welcome the opportunity to speak this evening, of the issues that face us in finding a proper resolution for Sydney Steel. I welcome it because, although I have spoken to and written to many steelworkers, I know that many of them are still concerned about the intentions of this government. That is why I welcome another chance to speak about those issues, because it is the lives of steelworkers, their families and their communities hanging in the balance. The messages coming forward here tonight are not so much for members of the Opposition Parties, but the messages are for steelworkers. I do welcome the opportunity to engage in this debate, and I welcome the steelworkers being here today because it gave us an opportunity in responding to questions from the Opposition, to again reiterate the position that we have taken with Sysco, and they will have the opportunity on the way back home, the long drive back to Cape Breton, to think about what it is that they saw here today and what they heard.

What they heard today is simply what we have been saying right along, and what we said here today hasn't changed anything, but I believe it was simply a reaffirmation of what we have said from day one. The irony is that what we have been saying hasn't changed since March 1999.

[Page 2794]

[7:00 p.m.]

One year ago the caucus and I agonized, and that is the proper word - agonized - over our position on Sydney Steel. I had been through the plant, on two separate occasions had very extensive tours. I had been at the union office on a number of occasions and although I cannot pretend to know steelworkers as well as many who sit in the Opposition benches including the member for Cape Breton South, I did get to know a number of them and the more I got to know them and to understand their personal situations, the more difficult the whole issue became. It was for me personally the most difficult decision that I made at that time since coming to public office.

In the end caucus and I made a decision based on the belief that all Nova Scotians were not well served by the continued public ownership of Sydney Steel. At that time I said it was time to close the book on the public ownership of Sysco. I said that in March 1999 and I am repeating it here today and as long as this file is open you will hear me repeat the same thing. The position has not changed and it is not going to, but that is not what steelworkers came here to hear because they have heard it from me personally on a number of occasions, but they came here for some reassurance that government would keep its commitment to them.

The interesting thing is in conservations with steelworkers there is a somewhat different opinion expressed than what I hear from some members on the Opposition benches. Steelworkers are not saying keep the plant open under public ownership. When I visited them shortly after the election, they said, look, proceed until the end of the year, until the Hoogovens' contract has expired because there is an opportunity here to sell the plant. That was a commitment that the steelworkers asked from this government and that is the commitment that they got from this government - to keep the plant operational until the end of the year to allow an opportunity for ABN Amro to come up with a legitimate purchaser.

I do not plan to talk about Hoogovens. I believe they are a reputable steel company and it is not my intention here tonight to make pointed statements about ABN Amro. The fact remains that after all of the efforts of ABN Amro we all know that the company that they brought forward to the province as the purchaser of the plant, how well put together that company was and how well put together that plan was and how financially stable that consortium was. It allows us to draw some conclusions about how well served we were by ABN Amro.

I had an opportunity to speak with steelworkers outside today. Their concerns are very real. They have gone through 30 years, many of them, of uncertainty because many of them are second generation steelworkers. Many of them are very uncertain as to their future because they full well realize that if, in fact, the plant were to close sometime this year, that they at the present time are not qualified for their pension. I do believe that steelworkers feel that we work hard on this file. I am working, Mr. Balser is working, the government is doing its very best to give steelworkers a chance. The first and the best option of this government

[Page 2795]

has always been to sell Sysco and I will not waste any more time talking about what I think of the process that had been put in place by the previous government. There will be ample opportunity when this issue is finally settled to have that kind of a debate.

We have had good dialogue with steelworkers. The minister and his team have been in close contact with steelworkers ever since the minister was on the file. I believe Opposition members know, I know, Bill MacNeil knows, steelworkers know that Minister Balser ate, slept and breathed Sysco. We, like everyone in this House of Assembly, were disappointed when the deal fell through. Disappointed when we found that Rail Associates simply did not have the wherewithal to come forward and purchase the plant.

What has remained, even though the deal went away, is our commitment to taxpayers that we would get the province out of the steelmaking business and our commitment to steelworkers that in fact, we will do what we said we would do for steelworkers. So we moved forward, we moved forward with a new company, Ernst & Young and their instructions are clear: sell it as a going concern if you can. Now, that is not a great surprise to steelworkers because I have said that on a number of occasions. I had an opportunity to sit down at a meeting with the steelworkers' executive and repeat that it is the preferred option of this government, it is the instruction of Ernst & Young to sell the plant as a going concern.

Now, that was my commitment a year ago. That is what is best for steelworkers and that is what is best for Nova Scotia, and I mean all of Nova Scotia, so that is what we are trying to do. The happy part of this story is there is interest in Sysco, more interest than certainly was expressed last fall. Interest that wasn't there before and when all of this settles out, regardless of how it settles out, I believe that we will be able to look back and say that Ernst & Young have served the province well and certainly that is our impression as government, that we are getting yeoman service from Ernst & Young. They were given a job and I believe they have been relentless in their pursuit of performing that job for us.

If they succeed, and while many have tried and none before them have succeeded, that will be fine and it will be welcomed by steelworkers, it will be welcomed by Nova Scotians. It will mean that the government has been able to fill all of its commitments. The commitment has not changed and it will not change. Now, it may seem strange to say that perhaps there is a measure of comfort in that fact because I did make a second commitment and that will not change either. That commitment was to treat the workers fairly. I said that in the spring of 1999, I said it to steelworkers today, I am saying it here tonight and we will follow up.

That is not to say that when push comes to shove that what government says is fair, that it will not necessarily follow that all steelworkers will say it is fair, but we have made certain commitments to steelworkers and I have repeated them today and no doubt in Question Period in the days and weeks to come I will have some opportunity to repeat those things again.

[Page 2796]

We are preparing, and Ernst & Young is doing its job, but we are preparing through negotiations to bring as many men as possible in under the umbrella of the pension plan because when I talk to steelworkers that is the one message I get from all of them. You do talk to steelworkers who are now qualified for the pension and they can go tomorrow morning, but I have talked to far more who are one year out or two years out or three years out and they are saying, look, just get me my pension. That's all they say, get me my pension.

The steelworkers say that that is our most important task, to protect as many workers, as many families as we possibly can and that is only fair. My commitment to the steelworkers was then, and is now, in the final analysis, to be fair. That has not changed and it is not about to change.

Once the umbrella has been opened as wide as possible, we will look to ensure that the pensions are fair for the years of work you have contributed. We will examine those issues which will provide steelworkers with the dignity that should accompany a lifetime of hard work. Members opposite are saying, treat the steelworkers with dignity. Well, it must have been hard for many years to be a steelworker and have a lot of dignity because it was a few weeks of work, a layoff, EI, back to the plant, a few weeks of work - always that uncertainty as to whether or not government was prepared to go along in an open-ended fashion with the Crown Corporation.

After 30 years - some would say perhaps 30 years too late - the story of Sysco is slowly coming to a close because I would grant that a purchaser for Sysco will change the name, so one way or another Sysco will come to a close. We are closing the book and the final page of the story has yet to be written. One would hope that it will be a happy story, that we will come up with that purchaser and there will be a steel industry in private hands in Sydney, in industrial Cape Breton, for years to come. That is not beyond the realm of possibility.

I can't make it happen any more than the previous government could make it happen. It will only happen if, in fact, the right company comes along with the kind of commitment we need, a company that will make a commitment to the community, to the workforce and knows the steel industry. I believe that is possible, I hope it will come to pass and I would hope that in the weeks to come that this government will have a good-news announcement for Sysco, one that gets carried out. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to be able to have a few minutes to speak on this particular emergency debate with regard to Sysco and the steel industry in Sydney. I particularly am grateful for the opportunity to speak after the Premier, when he has so purposefully explained his government's position with regard to Sysco. I think I want to start by making a couple of points. On a micro level, what this government is doing to the workers at Sysco is, quite frankly, cruel. What they are doing, I would suggest to you,

[Page 2797]

is this slash and burn mentality of, it must close, we must set arbitrary deadlines. It is almost a game of Russian roulette where the workers really don't know what is happening and they are not being given any of the information they need. It is truly like putting a gun to their head and not knowing whether there is a bullet in the chamber. Quite frankly, I think it is abominable for any government to be doing that to the workers.

Let's also look at this with regard to a bigger issue. Quite frankly, Sysco is a bitter symptom of a much bigger problem that this government has. It is that divide and conquer mentality that got them elected and is continuing to keep them in power. It is a mentality that Cape Breton is the punching bag of this province and that the people of Nova Scotia on the mainland will vote for a government - it started last year, I think someone said March 23rd, almost a year after the 1998 minority government election - that came forward and said, we will close Sysco. From that day forward they used that as a leverage.

I find that the most despicable form of politics and quite frankly, that itself is carried over from the Mike Harris Ontario Government, this belief that we will address some people in this province, we will say that these people are the ones who are our buddies and we will work to help them while other people are bad and we will work to keep them down or to knock them down. It is that divide and conquer mentality that I think is a bigger problem and one that this government will continue to see and face over the years because that is something they set up.

[7:15 p.m.]

Let me talk a bit about what I think of is some of the history of this. I think this is important. You have heard a bit about it over Devco, particularly when the miners were occupying the mine back in January, but I think it is as relevant for Sysco. I am not from Cape Breton, but all my relatives are. My grandfather was a member of the USW, a member of the executive. He lived in Westmount, Robert Hunt. So I have heard the stories over the years of Cape Breton, a very proud Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, a Cape Breton that up until probably the 1950's, was truly the economic engine of Nova Scotia. It was the industrial heart, it was the economic heart and, in many cases, it was the cultural heart of Nova Scotia.

In the early part of this century, even as I say, up to the middle of the century, it was the immigration. They wouldn't come to Halifax. They were going to Sydney, they were going to Whitney Pier, they were going to New Waterford and Glace Bay. That was the place that was dynamic in Nova Scotia. It was the place that drove the economic engine of this province. Quite frankly, a lot of dollars came out of Cape Breton and went into the pockets of people in Halifax for many years. It was a Nova Scotia that was proud, it was a Nova Scotia that was doing all right and it was a Cape Breton that was driving that economy. It was a Cape Breton that was there to put the money in the hands of the people in the rest of this province. I think it is pretty sad that we forget about that when it comes time when they, economically, are having troubles. Instead of saying, they were there for us for decades, it

[Page 2798]

was Cape Breton that drove the economy of Nova Scotia, it was Cape Breton that was willing to be the dynamic engine, it was Cape Breton that was willing to do what it took, economically, to make sure Nova Scotia was doing all right.

To say that is now literally forgotten, and that we seem more concerned because Cape Bretoners have fallen on hard times, because its unemployment rate is 30 per cent or even greater. What we see now is that we are turning our cheek, we are turning our face to Cape Breton and saying, we are not going to be there to help them. We are not going to be there to give them what they need to get back on their feet. They were there for us. They were there providing us, us being all of Nova Scotia, with what we needed. I don't think it is fair for us now to say that we will ignore them and, particularly, we will go out of our way to ignore them in a way that we can try and win votes on the mainland of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, no one would deny that Cape Breton, obviously, in the last couple of decades and, particularly, in the last few years, has fallen on hard times. As I noted earlier, there is a 30 per cent unemployment rate or greater. Who knows, really, because these days unemployment doesn't count those who actually have stopped looking for work. So God really knows how many people actually are unemployed in Cape Breton. In fact, as we have seen, many people have had to leave Cape Breton Island. That has happened for years. Cape Breton has always been an exporter of jobs to a great extent, but more recently we have seen that increased. We have seen this exodus.

I was talking to someone back in January or February at a caucus retreat. They were saying, when we were in Cape Breton, that it has even gotten to the point now where the families that left are now going and getting the parents who grew up in Cape Breton in the earlier part of the century, and they are bringing them back to Calgary and bringing them back to Toronto. In a way that is almost like a second or third tier of immigration from Cape Breton, where they are losing the people that have grown up, lived their lives and retired, they are now moving away to live with their families in Calgary or Toronto or Vancouver or, of course, Halifax.

Yes, the money has started to turn the other way. Money has, for awhile, been coming from Halifax and Ottawa into Cape Breton. There is no denying that. There is no denying that Cape Breton has needed that money. There is no denying that that money has gone there. I will talk a little bit later about why I think that that is not necessarily the fault of Cape Bretoners, but of governments that have wastefully spent that money on short-term ideas and projects. Yes, I might say that what we have seen in the last five years is the end of industrial Cape Breton and it is time that we begin to look at a post-industrial Cape Breton. One in which we recognize that some of those industries that were there for, quite frankly, hundreds of years in the case of the coal mine, or over 100 years in the case of steel, may no longer be around for very long. But that doesn't deny the fact that we cannot quickly stop.

[Page 2799]

You can't recognize, Mr. Speaker, that there is a change from an industrial to a post-industrial society and expect it to change on a dime. You need to give the money and the financing and the support and the dignity to the people who are leaving one industry, and hope that you can help with the transition in a way that you are not going to cause massive social and civic disruption and that is, quite frankly, what we have on our hands in Cape Breton. That is something this government seems to have forgotten as well.

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, what makes this even more ironic is that the problems that Cape Breton may face today - and some would argue about this - have been brought upon it by the governments themselves. Whether it be because in 1967 they felt that the short-term answer was to take over Devco and Sysco, whether it be the money that has been funnelled in to certain projects or whether it is the money that has not been funnelled into other projects. Many would argue, Mr. Speaker, that the problems Cape Breton faces today economically - and therefore socially and civically - are there because government has not allowed the people to have enough control over their own financing and their own funding and their own economy and instead have wasted it on short-term projects and have resulted in what I think is an economy obviously that is not in very good shape - but not the fault of the people who are there.

This is a proud people. These are people with a history of a strong work ethic. Again, a place that was the economic engine of Nova Scotia, of Atlantic Canada. To say that it is their fault that this has happened or that - you know, you sometimes hear on the street - Cape Bretoners are nothing but lazy, they do not want to work. We all know this is not true and I think we have to start to admit that those kind of attitude doesn't recognize one thing; whether you are from Cape Breton Island or Yarmouth or downtown Halifax, we are all Nova Scotians. We are Nova Scotians and that is the most important thing to remember, that we all have deep roots. Whether we be French or English or Irish or Native, we all have deep roots in this province and we must work together to solve our problems because quite frankly whether it be Sysco or Devco or any other industry in Nova Scotia, we only succeed when we all succeed and we must stop this divide and conquer attitude.

I want to talk a bit particularly again about this issue which is, the Tories and how they are treating Sysco. Quite frankly as I said, and the most obvious example of it was during the election: Keep hospitals open - close Sysco. Quite frankly it was two photographs on one card, but it said it all. It said what this government really meant. Some may argue that was one candidate in one riding who particularly was just promoting it, but I don't think it is a coincidence that that became a news story on the news throughout Nova Scotia for a few days. It was strategically done, I would suggest that it was done in a way to make sure that people around this province got the message. The message was that we will divide, we will work with some while we kick others while they are down. It is that kind of attitude as I said, Mr. Speaker, that has resulted in this kind of attitude towards Sysco and Cape Breton that is not the proper way of doing it and quite frankly it is disastrous to this province.

[Page 2800]

This government has specifically, with regard to Sysco, used arbitrary deadlines like the December 31, 1999 deadline for sale. It has not negotiated in good faith with the workers. It is not providing them with - as I think my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, said - negotiation is not about one way hearing what someone's offer is, but it is the give and take, the to and fro. We have not seen that and, quite frankly, that is a problem. You must wonder why again this government is unwilling to do what needs to be done.

Finally, we have a government that seems to be silent with regard to the workers, not telling them what is going on, not allowing them to be part of the process, not recognizing their expertise and allowing them to have a say and have some input into exactly how Sysco will be dealt with. It is all seeming to be done behind closed doors. Again, that is a problem in Nova Scotia and that is a problem that we have had in this province and again, Sysco is just a symptom of a much bigger problem of how governments have dealt with economic issues; not allowing the workers to have enough say and that is a real problem, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to wrap up, but I think it is important to recognize that what we have seen with Sysco and this government are short-term political solutions. Whether it be an announcement - the line in the sand announcement that we will close Sysco. Whether it be a deadline of December 31st, whether it be this belief that Sysco will not be a going concern of government. Whether it be these political answers again that divide and conquer this province. These are political solutions. These are short-term solutions and these have been the problems that have faced Sysco for years, a lack of leadership in government and recognition that we need long-term planning and long-term investment, whether it be for Sysco closing or Sysco staying open, the government cannot expect this to be off their books in one year, like they seem to be trying to do. That is the problem with how they seem to be dealing with this.

Secondly, what we have again is a form of cronyism and partisanship. We seem to be, and it is not only this government, it is governments before it, but this belief of funnelling money into Sysco or funnelling money into friends of the government in a way that hasn't allowed both the workers and the community to have enough say. That in itself is a dilemma and that in itself is a problem. Again, not allowing the community and the workers to have enough say and not allowing them to have some control over the future of their own economic and social destiny. Again, that is a problem of Sysco and that is a problem in Cape Breton and that is a problem that Nova Scotia has had for decades.

Finally, this particular government is probably the worst example of it and we will see more of it in the coming weeks, this belief that we must slash and burn in order to save our province economically. This belief that the best way of dealing with a trumped up deficit is in fact to slash and burn, to cut, whether it be Sysco or whether it be jobs in government, but not looking at it in the long term, that if we are truly serious about making this province prosper, if we are truly serious about making Cape Breton succeed economically and socially, we need a province where we are going to grow and invest, not slash and burn.

[Page 2801]

We need a province where the government is going to ensure that it has a long-term economic plan that includes making Cape Breton successful, not trying to cut the Island off from the mainland in hopes that people might leave in an exodus and then maybe in the ashes there might be something that can rise up. That won't work. This government has to learn that that kind of attitude won't work, and quite frankly, days like today, maybe they are getting through to them. Maybe the government is listening. But quite frankly I don't expect it. We are going to see a lot more of this kind of attitude.

Mr. Speaker, finally, to sum up, the Sysco workers and the community in industrial Cape Breton need to have a voice, they need to be heard, they have the expertise, they have the knowledge, let's use it. Let's use the money that we have to ensure bridge financing, transition financing so the workers do have a future, they can move forward. Let's not talk about cutting people off, slashing and burning. Let's stop it. Let's talk about long-term planning and investment in Cape Breton because they are part of this province, and we cannot be successful until Cape Breton is successful and Cape Breton won't be successful as long as this government continues on the path it is taking. It must stop, and this government must stop.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have been listening with interest for the past hour and a half now to this emergency debate. I think it is very appropriate to remind members of the House again about this priorities matter, the piece of literature that went around during the last election that says a John Hamm Government will close Sysco once and for all, and it marks an x by Janes Purves of Halifax, Progressive Conservative Party. The people of Cape Breton will not forget this piece of literature for many years, I can assure you. The mere mention of this government in Cape Breton brings shivers to many people. The previous speaker alluded to not only what is happening but what is going to happen with this government.

I want to bring you to December 31, 1999. I attended a press conference announcing the sale of Sydney Steel. At that press conference, there were a few government officials including the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development and assorted other government lackeys that were hanging around, but what was noticeably absent on that day was any owners, any new owners, not one, no owners. They just announced the Sydney Steel plant was sold on December 31st. I didn't believe it then and I said it at the press conference that I didn't believe it. It only took 12 days for the deal to fall apart, because there wasn't any deal. We have never seen the deal. We have never seen any evidence that that plant was sold on December 31st. It was a game, keeping with the promise that the government made to the people of Nova Scotia: Elect us and we will close Sydney Steel.

[Page 2802]

This is becoming somewhat of a soap opera. Let me again go back to 1997 when we decided that it was time to stop playing games with Sysco, but to bring people in here who could operate that plant successfully, build up a clientele, and eventually find us an owner for the plant.

[7:30 p.m.]

We had gone through some of the scenarios that were alluded to here earlier regarding the debacle of the previous attempts to sell Sysco, but I want to say since Sysco became public property, the steelworker should bear none of the blame for why we are here tonight discussing Sysco. A litany of governments, including Liberal Governments, over the years have made a mess of the operation of Sydney Steel because it was used as a political football. It was only when the MacLellan Government came to power here that we decided to get the best people we could possibly get in the world on the plant at Sydney Steel, to take the politics out of the running of Sydney Steel, but we did not put a deadline on it.

We worked very hard to recover business from Canadian National which had gone offshore for their rails. We worked very hard to upgrade the facilities on the plant to allow us to produce more head-hardened rails. We did everything possible to assure the steelworkers, including signing a contract with them by the way, and injecting more money into the pension plan which was woefully underfunded, not to solve the problems of the pension plan, but to put money in the pension plan to bridge workers to retirement once they had reached pensionable age, not at the closure of Sydney Steel.

I challenged the Premier earlier today that if he is sincere about that, his government will put additional money into the pension plan to do exactly what I alluded to, but I have to say this evening I watched the Premier's remarks. They were very carefully crafted. As a matter of fact, he had a script there. When it comes to Sydney Steel, I do not need any script to talk about my feelings on Sydney Steel nor do I have to carefully craft my words. The Premier was moving from one tack to another. One minute they are going to try to sell it. The next minute they are going to look after the workers if it is closed, going to look after the community. The Minister of Economic Development has a plan for the rejuvenation of the economy in industrial Cape Breton. I have not seen any evidence of any plan. I have not seen any evidence of anything that this government has planned for Cape Breton. Even the Summer Student Program has been cut this year - another slap in the face to the students of industrial Cape Breton who need the jobs.

They included more constituencies in the program this year. They went from 15 per cent unemployment down to 10 per cent. Guess why they did that - so they can get more Tory ridings in under the scheme that had unemployment rates between 10 per cent and 15 per cent. That is why. So instead of all the Cape Breton constituencies getting the majority of the jobs because of high unemployment, we are now going to take the lesser number of those jobs and spread them out.

[Page 2803]

I want to say that as far as I am concerned many people agree with me that nobody knows what the government agenda is here regarding Sydney Steel, employment in Cape Breton, or anything in Cape Breton as a matter of fact. The people who I talk to in Sydney, Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney, Sydney Mines, or anywhere else in Cape Breton Island, say the Tory Government has written them off. We have a Cabinet Minister representing Cape Breton Island who has not uttered one word in support of Sydney Steel or its workers. Maybe he is just toeing the Party line, I do not know. (Interruption) He is into culture.

Now, we have the spectacle of civil servants making statements publicly about selling the steel plant. I refer again to the so-called - I do not know when this gentleman got appointed a deputy minister, it must have been under the cover of darkness, but he is now a - deputy minister making statements that he will sell the Sydney Steel plant where the previous governments have failed. I will remind the Premier that that gentleman was one of the chief architects of the Minmetals deal so, I think we have to take that comment from where it comes. I also want to read a paragraph here and I will table this about a threatening letter that went to Bill MacNeil. Members of the government can slough this off if they want, but here is a civil servant saying, "The opportunity to achieve the best outcome of the Ernst & Young process for the employees of Sydney Steel will be maximized if you, the President of Sydney Steel, and the Sydney Steel employees you represent, actively demonstrate your full support and cooperation with this process, and we expect to see that support and cooperation consistently throughout."

This is signed by a public civil servant of this province, talking about a government policy statement regarding what the workers of Sydney Steel must do if they are going to get anything from this government. Unheard of; I have never seen a piece of correspondence from a public servant in my life like this one. This gentleman is getting away with it because he is running the show, Mr. Premier, and you are not, in regard to this file. If you were, you would have made a change here already. (Interruption)

In regard to the Development Minister and his statements, all we can conclude from his statements is that it is a different one every day. You talk about a process now that is happening. On the day that the steelworkers are coming to Halifax, miraculously Ernst & Young send us a fax - the first time I have ever heard from them - saying that everything is okay, we just want a little bit more time.

I asked a question today, how much were they being paid? Instead of that we get the Development Minister telling us that Ernst & Young are running the steel plant successfully. Ernst & Young are not steel people, they are headhunters, they are accountants, and they are sent in there to decide how much they can get for the assets and come back and report to government, or if they are lucky enough to conclude a sale, then they will do that too. But don't stand in this House and tell me that Ernst & Young are running the Sydney Steel plant. They don't have any steel people there; the steel people there were with Corus and they left.

[Page 2804]

They are running it with a skeleton administrative staff down there right now. You have chartered accountants on there who are running the process of trying to sell the assets off.

To get a letter from Ernst & Young today that now they are going to come with a letter to the government saying that they will either recommend the final sale of either Sysco's business or assets; in other words we could be waiting on a fire sale.

I spoke to the Premier earlier today durng Question Period and challenged him to sign a contract with the Sydney Steel workers and approve their pension plan prior to any closure or sale, preferably sale. His answer back to me today, Mr. Speaker, was, we will let the new owners do that. The new owners are not responsible for a contract, it is this government that owns the plant right now and should settle this contract and settle the terms of engagement with the steelworkers on the pension issue prior to divesting themselves of the plant itself. Once the plant is sold, the government can simply throw their arms up and say, we don't own the plant anymore, go see them if you want anything. That is what the steelworkers are afraid of here. They are afraid they are being conned, right up until the last day when Ernst & Young decide they have sold the assets and it is "see you later" time. That is what they feel.

I want to tell you that Sysco, yes, would be better off in private hands, the right private hands, and we were prepared to wait until we got the right deal, no matter how long it took us. At that time we were negotiating new contracts, we had CN back, we were looking at obtaining new markets with some capital expenditures we had outlined, and this government did not spend any money on that. As a matter of fact, we can't even find out what they spent the money on but the credit line is gone and there are no new capital expenditures on the plant that I am aware of, because they don't want to put any new capital expenditures on the plant. That would send a signal that they are willing to stay with the operation until they got a sale, and that is simply not in the cards for this government.

I might say in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that I have spoken about this issue many times. I don't need to quote from a prepared text; I know what I need to say about this Sysco issue, that this government has to do what is right for the Sydney Steel workers and has to do what is right for the economy of industrial Cape Breton. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Inverness.

The debate tonight has been an emotional one, to say the least, and the reason is obvious. The original decision to look for a buyer for the Sydney Steel Corporation started in the 1990's and it sent shock waves through a community in fear for its very future, fear of what might happen to its workforce and, in consequence, the families of those workers, their homes and what the economic impact would do to the surrounding community. This is all

[Page 2805]

about the future of a community. It is something that all of us as MLAs worry about, the continuation of our communities as we know them today. That is why we become concerned when there is talk of a closure of a school, a courthouse, a government office, a hospital or a private business closing up shop. The facilities and our core businesses sustain our communities and our people.

Sysco has been a major employer for the community of Sydney and the people and the families have depended on the mill for employment for decades. It is no wonder that the workers came here to Halifax today to ask for our government to work harder to find a buyer to avoid a closure because, Mr. Speaker, jobs are at stake. Our Premier held a press conference and announced his intention with regard to the steel mill prior to the election of 1999 being called. He said, "It's time to invest in a new Cape Breton based on viable opportunities that have a future in the 21st Century."

While I understand that closing Sysco at a time when the people of Cape Breton are facing fear and uncertainty of life without Devco, I firmly believe that this is in the best interests of the people and the economy of Cape Breton. Our Leader told Nova Scotians then that the government is simply wrong if it believes it must invest millions more into Sysco. As everyone knows there has been an investment of approximately $3 billion over 30 years. Someone had to say "when". Our caucus did not make that decision lightly and it does not make decisions as a government lightly when it comes to jobs in the steel mill or jobs in any other part of the province. At the time of the press conference, our Leader offered the former Premier his commitment and the commitment of our caucus to work with the steelworkers of Cape Breton, the community at large and that government to make wise investments in Cape Breton's future.

This full caucus commitment is still there. We have knocked on doors in Cape Breton East to try to secure a seat from industrial Cape Breton so that there is a voice from that area of the province at our caucus table. While in a minority government situation the Leaders of both our Party and the New Democratic Party offered to take a tri-Party approach in making representation to the feds about Sysco's future. The Liberals turned us down. The Premier has committed time and time again starting with his trip to Cape Breton immediately following the election which as many will recall included a meeting with Sysco representatives, that we want to refocus industrial Cape Breton on a vision that is lined with hope, hope for new possibilities, hope that can translate into a brighter future for the next generation with a foundation laid by the people on the island who want to build for the future.

Our Premier has made a promise, Mr. Speaker, and ladies and gentlemen, he has said that he is committed to treating workers with fairness and with respect. That is a promise that I guarantee he will keep. (Applause)

[Page 2806]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member from Inverness.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to say a few words on Sydney Steel. This subject as we all know has generated a great deal of interest, not only throughout the province, but especially in Cape Breton. I am proud of where I come from and I know that each member from the island shares that sentiment. We are proud, as the member from Cape Breton The Lakes alluded to earlier, of our heritage and of our history from which comes forth generations of coal miners, fishermen, farmers and of course, steelworkers. But as they say, as one door closes, another one opens and I believe that is the case not only in the riding of Inverness, but in all of Cape Breton.

Steelmaking is an industry that belongs to another era in Cape Breton. It is now something which belongs in private hands. Cape Bretoners can open the door to a whole new world of opportunities, I believe, Mr. Speaker, and there is a bright future ahead for the future of Cape Breton. I would not be here if I did not think so. This government has a message of hope for Cape Breton. Some who sit across the floor may want to create fear with doom-and-gloom scenarios, but I am here to tell you that there are no limitations on the future of this island. People in Cape Breton want to help build a successful future and we want to help them with that vision to make it a reality.

[7:45 p.m.]

Last summer, Mr. Speaker, this government was clear about its intentions for Sydney Steel in the election campaign. We believe that the province can simply not afford to be in the steel business. It is a business that costs taxpayers, and not only the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but the taxpayers of all of Cape Breton, not just industrial Cape Breton, but Richmond, Victoria and Inverness Counties, as well. We committed to get out of the steel business in our blue book and we are going to stick to that commitment. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, of course, the preference is to sell Sysco as a going concern. Last week, I met with some of the steelworkers and I shared that with them. Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't anybody in this House? I know the honourable member sitting across there wants that. I know the honourable member for Cape Breton South wants that. This is something we all want. I am optimistic that that can happen. While the government is not committed, Mr. Speaker, to staying in the steel business, we are committed to the steelworkers and that remains strong. As our Premier said in Sydney, in the days after the election, we will treat Sydney steelworkers with fairness and compassion and we have been doing so and will continue to do so.

Mr. Speaker, we understand the impact that Sysco has in industrial Cape Breton, its communities and families of steelworkers. It is not something uncommon right now in Cape Breton. It is something that has happened for years. It happened in the mines in my area where there were mines closed in Port Hood, Inverness, Mabou, you name it. But, as even

[Page 2807]

as one segment of Cape Breton's resource-based economy faces serious challenges, another resource, natural gas, has the potential to power industrial Cape Breton.

As we all know, the resources tapped beneath the Laurentian sub-basin have the potential to return to Cape Breton a time of prosperity and opportunity that we haven't seen since World War II, a time when coal was king. This government has been doing its best to make sure that the benefits that flow from natural gas, and particularly those that flow from the Laurentian sub-basin, will wash to the shores of Cape Breton, like a wave. We are working to maximize spin-off benefits and encourage the petro-chemical industry. The resilient and hard working people of Cape Breton will surely benefit from the lucrative resource hidden just off our shores.

Another area, Mr. Speaker, is tourism. There are a number of different areas. As a region, we have earned a worldwide reputation for breathtaking scenery, a unique culture, which is steeped in tradition. No one who has ever visited Cape Breton can deny its beauty and we are going to make sure that the charms of our island are known far and wide. Tourism is worth over $1 billion a year to Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton contributes to that ever growing number, and will continue to provide a focus and clear direction for that industry.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I urge all members not to dwell on the negative. It serves no purpose. Let's concentrate on what is possible in Cape Breton by looking ahead instead of back. We can set a course with Cape Breton's future, rather than reliving the successes and failures of the past. It is easy to lay blame. It is the easiest thing to do, point fingers, not to worry about things that are out of our control. But, in the end, it solves nothing. It only compounds the problems we have as an island. I challenge the members of the Opposition tonight to stop simply criticizing and direct that energy on finding solutions. Join with us to help Cape Bretoners seize the opportunities that are knocking on the island's door, because if you dwell too long on the opportunities that have passed, you won't be able to recognize the new opportunities and the bright future that awaits Cape Breton, which we all forget to do. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the speech writers for some of the Tory members who have spoken. I am not sure exactly how they would have done had a page disappeared from their speech and their context had been thrown off, but they do have excellent speech writers. I would like to point out one thing, certainly, to the member for Pictou East, that is that yes indeed when the Conservatives were in Opposition along with ourselves as the two Opposition Parties, we did make a request to the government of the day for an all-Party committee to approach Ottawa, but that was to work on Devco, which has to do with coal not with Sysco, which is a steelmaking plant. That comment by that member was about as inaccurate as many others that we have heard this evening.

[Page 2808]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier in his opening remarks said that he was glad that the steelworkers were here this afternoon so that they could hear what he had to say and think about it on the way home. Had the Premier taken the time to go outside this chamber at the end of Question Period when the steelworkers were leaving the gallery, he wouldn't have had to wait to find out what they thought about what went on in here this afternoon. Every single steelworker I spoke with, and I freely admit I did not speak to anywhere near the majority of them, but every single one of them left with the view that the government is excellent at ducking answers and would not address the issues that were put before it. They were absolutely correct.

The Minister of Tourism and Culture says we can't look back, we can't place blame, we have to only look at the opportunities and into the future. He is correct in part. He is correct in that we do have to look towards the future and future opportunities, that is a given. And that also requires that the government take a leadership position in trying to make sure that those opportunities that can be there in the future have a chance. I will get into the Laurentian Shelf at some time on a future occasion.

Mr. Speaker, before anything happens there, if Sysco is closed and nothing is done in the short term, the economy of the industrial part of Cape Breton will have been trashed even more severely before that comes about. Back in March 1999, when the Conservatives reached that hard decision around the caucus table, came out and announced that they were calling for the immediate closure of Sysco, what they were really doing was announcing their, yes, very successful election strategy. The election campaign was then on, because they had arrived at their strategy. Obviously those backroom advisors had told them that government can be won and even a majority government, without winning seats on industrial Cape Breton. Buchanan had done it before, and now Dr. Hamm has done it again. The strategy was on, divide and conquer, pick on the weak, make them the victim again, and to ride that to victory on the mainland.

Mr. Speaker, I lost votes in that last election because I opposed, and I would on the doorstep, the callous plan that was being announced by the Conservatives. I knew when questions were posed to me in certain ways what answer certain people wanted, and I wouldn't give it. This is more important than politics, far more important. We are talking about the lives of the steelworkers, of their families, of their children, all the businesses within the larger community that depend on, not only the wages paid to the steelworkers that are then recycled through the economy, all of the goods and services purchased by that mill and to the suppliers of the mill they also have to purchase goods and services.

You know when the government talks about investing money and the multiplier effect on how that creates more jobs, they never mention it when good jobs are removed, that that has a multiplying effect too, in taking other jobs away. That is a reality, an absolute reality. The government today is still continuing on that same thing, use Sysco as a whipping boy, by adding on artificially - as we found out today, they don't even know the figures, but they want

[Page 2809]

to build up the deficit of this province to make it look bad to justify other things that they have on their agenda. So they throw unsubstantiated numbers on the deficit to drive it up to close to $800 million to hide the fact that in truth, the economy of Nova Scotia has grown more than they expected and the actual deficit is about $110 million less than they were projecting just last fall. That is what they are trying to hide and they are using Sysco and the people of Sydney again, and their families and all those who depend upon it. That is despicable.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said over and over again that he will treat the workers with dignity, with compassion. Well, I want to see - I will stand here and I will publicly congratulate the Premier the day he demonstrates that compassion to the families and to the members of the steel working community and their larger community. When he demonstrates that I will be only too happy and proud to jump up and applaud him. When he starts to show the dignity, or treat these people with the dignity that he has promised, I will applaud that.

What is being done? The words of rhetoric being used does not cut it. I would suggest that the main reason why the government continued the Hoogovens contract to the end of the year was not out of compassion but it was because it was bound by a legal agreement. They promised to re-invest that money into the economy of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, and I know you have told me that my time is running out, the scary thing is that the government is being driven by an ideology that the only way to save is to cut and to slash. People don't count to this government. Look around yourselves, pinch yourself, go without food and you are hungry. You are no different than any other member who works in that steel mill, or had their family and their children - and I ask you, how many more children are going to be living in poverty the day you carry out your decision? It is going to be steelworkers, family members' children and many other children living in a community. Those are your decisions. You can either honour your commitments or, unfortunately, it will be Nova Scotians who will be the first who will be paying the price for what you do.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for the emergency debate that was brought forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton South. We are adjourned until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 8:00 p.m. ]