Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., May 8, 2000

First Session

MONDAY, MAY 8, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5111
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. John MacDonell 5112
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. J. Pye 5112
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5112
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. F. Corbett 5112
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. J. Holm 5113
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. H. Epstein 5113
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 5113
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5114
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 5114
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. K. Deveaux 5114
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 5115
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. K. Deveaux 5115
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. Robert Chisholm 5115
Health - Environmental Illness: Treatment Clinic - Support,
Mr. D. Dexter 5115
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1830, Nat. Res. - Fire Marshal (Internat. Conf. [Hfx. 07-10/05/00]):
Interface Fires 2000 - Welcome, Hon. E. Fage 5116
Vote - Affirmative 5117
Res. 1831, Health: Nursing Week (Natl. [08-14/05/00]) - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir 5117
Vote - Affirmative 5117
Res. 1832, Educ. - Mar. Provs.: Robots East Comp. (Fredericton HS) -
Schools/Students (N.S.) Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 5118
Vote - Affirmative 5118
Res. 1833, Nat. Res.: Mining Week (N.S. [06-13/05/00]) - Support,
Hon. E. Fage 5118
Vote - Affirmative 5119
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 50, Bluenose Club Act, Hon. M. Baker 5119
No. 51, Education Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5119
No. 52, Nova Scotia Association of Realtors Act, Hon. M. Baker 5119
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1834, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Min. - Condemn, Dr. J. Smith 5119
Res. 1835, Battle of the Atlantic: Sailors' Sacrifice - Remember,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5120
Vote - Affirmative 5121
Res. 1836, Battle of the Atlantic: Sacrifice - Remember, Hon. R. Russell 5121
Vote - Affirmative 5121
Res. 1837, Hon. Justice Ronald Pugsley, Death of - Accomplishments-
Recognize/Condolences-Extend, Mr. R. MacLellan 5122
Vote - Affirmative 5122
Res. 1838, Veterans (Cdn.) - Netherlands Liberation (05/05/45):
Valiant Contributions - Remember, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5122
Vote - Affirmative 5123
Res. 1839, Red Cross & Red Crescent Socs. (Internat. Fed.):
Creation & Assist. - Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 5123
Vote - Affirmative 5124
Res. 1840, Kings S. MLA - Legislative Costs: Accountable Gov't. -
Remind, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5124
Res. 1841, OC - Brad Barton [Educator (N.S.)]: Investiture - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5125
Vote - Affirmative 5125
Res. 1842, Sports - Canoe (Olympic 2000 Trials): Steve Giles
(Lake Echo) - Success Wish, Mr. D. Hendsbee 5125
Vote - Affirmative 5126
Res. 1843, Nat. Res. - Forestry Week (Natl. 07-14/05/00): Participants -
Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 5126
Vote - Affirmative 5127
Res. 1844, Sports - Sports (N.S.) Awards of Year: Brian Todd
(Sailing Coach) & Peter Todd (Skiing [Alpine]) - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm 5127
Vote - Affirmative 5127
Res. 1845, NDP (N.S.) - Decision (Gen. Election 1999): Choice (N.S.) -
Recognize, Mr. D. Hendsbee 5128
Res. 1846, Kings S. MLA - Democracy: Cost Restriction - Condemn,
Mr. M. Samson 5128
Res. 1847, Culture - CBC Radio (Hfx.): Kitchen Parties - Commend,
Ms. E. O'Connell 5129
Vote - Affirmative 5130
Res. 1848, Educ. - Acadia Univ.: Hon. Degrees Recipients & Graduates -
Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5130
Vote - Affirmative 5130
Res. 1849, GG (Can.) Caring Cdn. Award: Douglas Rogers (Hfx.) -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5131
Vote - Affirmative 5131
Res. 1850, Educ. - Gordon H. Sampson Debating Champs:
Jason MacNeil & Nancy Ferguson (Glace Bay HS) - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Wilson 5131
Vote - Affirmative 5132
Res. 1851, HRDC - New Waterford Employment & Outreach Ctr.:
Support - Continuation Encourage, Mr. F. Corbett 5132
Vote - Affirmative 5133
Res. 1852, Fin. and P&P - Proj. Review: Details Absent -
Chastize (Mins.), Mr. R. MacKinnon 5133
Res. 1853, Health: Nurses - Recruit, Mr. D. Dexter 5133
Res. 1854, Econ. Dev. - Entrepreneur Awards: Jake MacKinnon
(Roadrunner Rickshaw Serv. [Hfx.]) - Congrats., Mr. R. MacLellan 5134
Vote - Affirmative 5135
Res. 1855, RC Archdiocese (Hfx.) - Youth: Rome Visit - Glen & Jeff
Patriquin (E. Passage) Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 5135
Vote - Affirmative 5135
Res. 1856, Health - Bone & Joint Walk (Sydney [28/05/00]):
Hip Hip Hooray - Recognize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5135
Vote - Affirmative 5136
Res. 1857, Culture - Maude Barlow & Elizabeth May: Publication
"Frederick Street" - Congrats., Mr. H. Epstein 5136
Res. 1858, Gov't. (N.S.) [1999 on] - Similarity (1978-90):
Elements Worst - Included, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5137
Res. 1859, Volunteerism - East Hants Mun.: Volunteers Recognition
(14/04/00) - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 5137
Vote - Affirmative 5138
Res. 1860, Sports - IKON Athletes (N.S. 1999): Karen Furneaux
(Waverley) & Steve Giles (Lake Echo) - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 5138
Vote - Affirmative 5139
Res. 1861, Commun. Serv. - Poverty: Relief - Increase, Mr. J. Pye 5139
Res. 1862, Educ. - NSERC [Can.] Research Awards: Jason Barrett &
Amy MacDonald (UCCB) - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 5139
Vote - Affirmative 5140
Res. 1863, PC (N.S.) Backbenchers - Budget (N.S.-2000-01):
Dictates Compliance Award, Mr. J. Holm 5140
Res. 1864, Culture - Barra MacNeils: CD Release - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 5141
Vote - Affirmative 5141
Res. 1865, Justice - Elizabeth Fry Soc. (N.S.): Service - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5142
Vote - Affirmative 5142
Res. 1866, Health - Med. Supplies (Cuba): Roy Moore (Glace Bay) -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 5142
Vote - Affirmative 5143
Res. 1867, Health - Acute Care: Cuts - Promise Fulfilment Consequences,
Mr. D. Dexter 5143
Res. 1868, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Ctr.: Promise -
Fulfil, Mr. K. Deveaux 5144
Res. 1869, Tourism - Peggy's Cove: Warning Notices (Tour Cos.) -
Prepare, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5144
Res. 1870, Health: Speech & Hearing Awareness Month (May 2000) -
Recognize, Dr. J. Smith 5145
Vote - Affirmative 5145
Res. 1871, Nat. Res. - Energy Council: Establish - Expeditiously,
Mr. H. Epstein 5146
Res. 1872, Nat. Res.: Forestry Week (Natl.) - Recognize,
Mr. John MacDonell 5146
Vote - Affirmative 5147
Res. 1873, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Ctr.: Promise -
Forgotten, Mr. J. Pye 5147
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 46, Financial Measures (2000) Act 5148
Amendment [debate resumed] 5148
Mr. M. Samson 5148
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5165
Mr. B. Boudreau ^^^^Mr. J. Pye ~ 5188 5176
Mr. P. MacEwan 5203
Mr. D. Dexter 5214
Dr. J. Smith 5227
Mr. F. Corbett 5243
Adjourned debate 5247
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., May 9th at 12:00 p.m. 5247

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HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 8, 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. Honourable members, before we commence the daily routine, I would like to advise that a farewell reception for the outgoing vice-regal couple will be hosted by the Premier in the Red Chamber this Thursday from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The reception is a farewell from the government and we hope that all members and officers of the House can and will attend. All Parties have agreed to change the hours of the House to accommodate this farewell.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition coordinated by the Yarmouth NSTU where the operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." There are 869 signatures and I am affixing mine as I speak.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

5111

[Page 5112]

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition of residents who use the Centennial Elementary School in Inverness. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." There are 42 signatures and I have affixed my signature as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I too, beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." It is from the Yarmouth NSTU and there are 420 names on this petition. I have affixed my name to this petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition and some letters today from the Parent-Teacher Association of Colby-St. Joseph's Complex in Sydney. It is in the form of a postcard addressed to the Minister of Education. I have also signed one of these postcards. When I table these here today, I would hope that the Minister of Education will take the opportunity to have a very careful look at this postcard and also to answer the people who have taken the time to send her a postcard regarding the cuts in education.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the Highlands Consolidated School with 230 names attached of students, parents and teachers. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the public Education budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I have affixed my name.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 5113]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a petition and voice of concerns. The petition is signed by 139 people and it comes from the Yarmouth-Clare-Meteghan area and the petition reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I have affixed my signature in support of the petition that is being presented.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a petition to table, signed by 240 residents of Yarmouth and surrounding area. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I have affixed my signature in support of this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a petition. This one is from the Havre Boucher Home and School Association. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." There are 270 signatures and I have affixed my own as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, before I table my petition, could I have your permission to make an introduction of guests in our gallery.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, make an introduction.

MR. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today in the gallery we are joined by a group of senior citizens and I would like to introduce them: Marie Crewe from Joe Howe Manor; Shirley Marryatt from Joe Howe Manor; Mr. Hickey from Albert Street in Halifax; Evelyn Cameron from McKeen Manor; Raye Frances Gillis from McKeen Manor; Elsie Fitzpatrick from Gordon B. Isenor Manor; Eileen Brightman from Sunrise Manor; Helen Flemming from McKeen Manor; Mary Campbell from McKeen Manor; Jean Whooten from Gordon B. Isenor Manor; Eileen Beaver from Sunrise Manor; Ruth King from Sunrise

[Page 5114]

Manor; Margaret Holloway from Gordon B. Isenor Manor; Joyce Himmelman from Gordon B. Isenor Manor; and Charlie Greene from Joe Howe Manor.

These seniors have joined us today to have an opportunity to see the proceedings of the Legislature and to express their concerns about increases to Pharmacare. I would ask them to rise and receive a warm welcome from members of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause which reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province. We demand the Premier reinstate Public Education Funding." The petition is signed by 57 residents from the Yarmouth area, and I have affixed by signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from students at Thompson Junior High School. The operative clause of which reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." It contains 14 names, and I have affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from Mabou Consolidated School, the operative clause with 83 signatures is, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East on an introduction.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, also in the west gallery today, I would like to introduce to the House, Mr. Forbes Harding and Mr. Daniel Dean from Glace Bay, and they are accompanied today by Mr. Bob Burchill and Mr. Hughie MacArthur of the United Mine

[Page 5115]

Workers of America. I would like the members to please join me in welcoming them to the House today. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I have here a petition in the form of postcards initiated by the Parent-Teacher Association, Colby-St. Joseph's Complex in Sydney, and the operative clause is very simple, "John Hamm's PC Government threatens the future of our children and the future of education. No to cuts, protect our education system." There are about 200, and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition in the form of letters from students at Bicentennial Junior High School. I will read the operative clause from the President, Lilah Pavey, "I am writing in my capacity as President of the student council of Bicentennial School. The students at my school are totally disheartened with the recent budget announced by our provincial government. We see this as being devastating to our educational experience and future prospects. Our schools are being gutted of young, dedicated teachers. It is unfair to lay the burden of the provincial debt on our lives." I will table these.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have upwards of 500 names here on a petition that reads as follows, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province. We demand the Premier reinstate Public Education Funding." These come from the Yarmouth area, and I have affixed my signature to these group of petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from Nova Scotians who support a full-time treatment clinic for environmental illness in Nova Scotia. The operative clause which reads, "WE, the undersigned, wish to firmly express our support for (1) More physicians training in Environmental Medicine, and (2) a full-

[Page 5116]

time Environmental Medicine treatment clinic service here in Nova Scotia, that will use treatment protocols and procedures that are accepted and widely used internationally within the field of Environmental Medicine." There are 300 signatures and I have affixed mine as well.

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

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. 1830

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

Whereas Halifax is the location of Interface Fires 2000 from May 7th to May 10th which is being co-hosted by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the Fire Marshal's office; and

Whereas the international conference brings together speakers, participants from Canada, the United States and Australia to discuss the growing concerns of forest fires that threaten our homes and communities; and

Whereas Nova Scotia had its own serious interface fire in Shelburne County last year which destroyed hundreds of hectares of land and threatened homes in the area;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature welcome participants and speakers to the conference and wish them well as they discuss this important issue of fire smart communities.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

[Page 5117]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1831

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

Whereas May 8th to May 14th is National Nursing Week; and

Whereas this province is very fortunate to have in the province such a high calibre group of men and women committed to the nursing profession; and

Whereas in recognizing the valuable role nurses have had in our health care system, this government continues to do what it can to address concerns and interests of nurses including converting casual positions to permanent, increasing the number of nurse training seats, creating a bursary program and hiring a nurse policy advisor to help develop a recruitment and retention strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to recognize this week as National Nursing Week and thank all Nova Scotia nurses for their ongoing contribution to our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 5118]

RESOLUTION NO. 1832

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

Whereas 700 students from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island competed recently in the annual Robots East Competition at Fredericton High School; and

Whereas Pugwash District High School picked up second place, Cole Harbour High School was fourth and J.L. Ilsley High School won the first place for a documentary about making its robot; and

Whereas this competition is an opportunity for many students to discover engineering;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the schools and students for their hard work, innovation and their success at this year's Robot East Competition.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1833

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Mining Week is from May 6th to May 13th and it is an opportunity to recognize a proud heritage of mining in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the mineral industry creates wealth and employment and contributes significantly to the economy of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 5119]

Whereas 1999 was a record year for gypsum production in the province and there was a number of new projects under development in the province;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature support Nova Scotia Mining Week and take this time to learn about the mineral industry and its importance to all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 50 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 135 of the Acts of 1930. An Act to Incorporate the Bluenose Club. (Hon. Michael Baker as a private member.)

Bill No. 51 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald.)

Bill No. 52 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 110 of the Acts of 1958. An Act to Incorporate the Halifax-Dartmouth Real Estate Board. (Hon. Michael Baker as a private member.)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1834

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

[Page 5120]

Whereas the Finance Minister has tried to justify Seniors' Pharmacare increases by providing a false account of Pharmacare numbers; and

Whereas clearly the minister has lost his justification for increasing the premium from $215 to $350 this year, and making the co-pay subject to drug inflation; and

Whereas, once again, we find the budget passed on Friday is an incomplete document, with no clear course of action;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the Finance Minister for his sorry budget and demand that he withdraw the Tory Pharmacare cash grab.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1835

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

Whereas yesterday, the Battle of the Atlantic was marked at Point Pleasant Park by commemorating the longest naval battle of World War II; and

Whereas this national ceremony honours the 4,200 Canadian sailors, airmen, and merchant mariners who lost their lives between September 1939 and May 1945; and

Whereas yesterday's ceremony involved members of the Maritime Forces Atlantic and military and merchant navy veterans;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House take a few moments today and remember the contributions and sacrifices made for this country by the 4,200 Canadian sailors, airmen, and merchant mariners who lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5121]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1836

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

Whereas the victory of the Allied Forces in the Battle of the Atlantic was essential to their ultimate success in World War II; and

Whereas more than 4,200 Canadian sailors, airmen and merchant mariners lost their lives in the struggle to protect the sea lanes between Europe and North America, ensuring the transportation of personnel and supplies vital to the Allied effort; and

Whereas their sacrifice is remembered and honoured every year in the commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic at the Sailors' Memorial at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with our veterans and all Canadians in remembrance of those who served and those who gave their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic so future generations may live in peace and freedom.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 5122]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1837

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

Whereas Mr. Justice Ronald Pugsley of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal passed away Sunday in Halifax; and

Whereas Mr. Pugsley was one of the finest legal minds in Canada and involved in some of this province's most significant legal cases, among them Nova Scotia Light and Power, the Donald Marshall Jr. Inquiry and Seabright Resources gold mine; and

Whereas in 1999, Mr. Justice Pugsley received the Law School Alumni Association's Weldon Award for Unselfish Public Service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Mr. Justice Pugsley's numerous accomplishments within the Nova Scotia justice system and extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1838

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

Whereas 55 years ago, on May 5, 1945, Canadian troops liberated the Netherlands from German occupation during World War II; and

[Page 5123]

Whereas emotions ran high that day in the eastern Dutch City of Apeldoorn as 150,000 Dutch citizens lined the streets to greet 4,000 Canadian veterans; and

Whereas Canadian flags were everywhere as the crowds greeted the veterans with endless applause;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature recognize and remember the valiant contributions of our Canadian veterans and the strong bond that will forever remain between the Netherlands and Canada.

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1839

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

Whereas the Red Cross has provided a helping hand to people harmed by natural disaster or due to war around the world for more than 140 years; and

Whereas the efforts of the organization over the years have allowed many people to get their lives back on track; and

Whereas May 8th is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the birthdate of one of the organization's founders, Henry Dunant;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for its noble idea bred in despair on the battlefield, but which has brought hope and assistance since then to millions around the world.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 5124]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1840

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

Whereas many Canadians have sacrificed their lives to establish and maintain a free and democratic Canada; and

Whereas for those who have sacrificed to build this country, the constant droning of the member for Kings South about the cost of keeping the Legislature open is an affront to their memory; and

Whereas the monetary costs of an open and accountable Legislature are minor when compared to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remind the member for Kings South that while the monetary costs of running the Legislature are important, his overriding concern should be free speech, accountable government and respect for our hard-won democratic tradition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 5125]

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1841

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

Whereas the family of Brad Barton will honour Mr. Barton on Saturday, May 13th, and commemorate his investiture into the Order of Canada; and

Whereas Brad Barton's professional career as an educator in the Nova Scotia school system has spanned 32 years and saw him become the first high school principal of African descent in this province; and

Whereas Mr. Barton's numerous accomplishments include serving as a member of the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism, Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation, President's Task Force for Blacks and Aboriginals at Dalhousie University, the Monitoring Committee of the Halifax County School Board, Inner City Education Advisory Committee and many other volunteer-related organizations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Brad Barton on receiving the Order of Canada and thank him for his selfless contributions to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1842

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

[Page 5126]

Whereas Steve Giles, the pride of Lake Echo, has demonstrated his paddling prowess across the world as a key member of the Canadian canoe team; and

Whereas he won the gold medal in the C1 1,000 metres and the silver medal in the C1 500 metres at the Pan Am Games last summer; and

Whereas he recently won, for the second time, the IKON Provincial Athlete of the Year Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Giles on his accomplishments and also wish him well in efforts to qualify for the Sydney, Australia, 2000 Olympics at the upcoming trials in Montreal, Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1843

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

Whereas May 7th to May 14th is National Forestry Week; and

Whereas the forestry industry creates the most jobs in rural Nova Scotia; and

Whereas to recognize National Forestry Week, students will be planting seedlings across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the importance of forestry to our province and congratulate all those who will be participating in National Forestry Week activities.

[Page 5127]

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1844

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

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia announced their award winners Saturday evening in Halifax; and

Whereas national sailing coach Brian Todd was named Coach of the Year, while his son, Peter Todd, was named Alpine Skiing Athlete of the Year; and

Whereas all athletes and coaches honoured by Sport Nova Scotia deserve the accolades of this House for their accomplishments and dedication to their sport;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Todd family winners and all other athletes and coaches on the honour bestowed upon them by Sport Nova Scotia and wish them well in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 5128]

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1845

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 NDP ran on a platform entitled It's Time; and

Whereas Nova Scotians themselves decided that it wasn't time to allow the NDP to do to Nova Scotia what they did in British Columbia or in Ontario; and

Whereas Nova Scotia chose policies and candidates over those of the NDP in Halifax Citadel, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Dartmouth South, Pictou West, Chester-St. Margaret's, Yarmouth and Preston;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the choice made within those constituencies; a choice of fiscal responsibility, as is evidenced in this budget, over a tax and spend platform.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1846

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 member for King South is complaining that it costs too much to run the Legislature; and

Whereas the member should be reminded of the Buchanan-Cameron era, where the Legislature was called but once a year; and

[Page 5129]

Whereas despite obviously saving money on legislative costs, those two administrations racked up a $9 billion debt;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the member for Kings South for suggesting that we nickel and dime democracy, therefore letting the government off the hook for its make-it-up-as-you-go budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1847

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

Whereas CBC Radio has just completed a series of Saturday afternoon Kitchen Parties featuring roots and traditional music; and

Whereas these concerts featured the finest Maritime performers, including the Barra MacNeils, Scott MacMillan, Natalie MacMaster, Mary Jane Lamond, Bruce Guthro and many others; and

Whereas these concerts were heard on Radio Canada International, BBC Scotland, short wave in Europe, NPR in the United States and over the Internet in real audio by an audience of over 2.5 million people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend CBC Radio in Halifax for producing this fine example of our rich musical culture and for sharing it with the rest of the world.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5130]

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1848

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

Whereas more than 800 students in four disciplines will receive degrees from Acadia University on May 14th and May 15th in convocation ceremonies; and

Whereas honorary degrees will be presented to Lt. David N. Kinsman, Eugene M. Thompson, David N. Harpp and Stanley T. Spicer; and

Whereas Acadia University provides a liberal education based on the highest standards and a scholarly community that aims to ensure a broadening life experience for its students, faculty and staff;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate those receiving honorary degrees and all graduates from Acadia University for their outstanding achievements and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.

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 Halifax Needham.

[Page 5131]

RESOLUTION NO. 1849

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

Whereas Nova Scotians contribute more hours in voluntary service in their communities than any other Canadians; and

Whereas annually the Governor General of Canada recognizes the outstanding contributions made by individual Canadians by bestowing a Caring Canadian Award; and

Whereas Douglas Rogers of Halifax will receive a Caring Canadian Award for his work at Hope Cottage, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Canadian Mental Health Association;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate Mr. Rogers for this well-deserved recognition of his selfless service to others.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1850

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

Whereas Jason MacNeil and Nancy Ferguson of Glace Bay High School won first place at the Fifth Annual Gordon H. Sampson Debating Tournament; and

Whereas MacNeil and Ferguson beat out Riverview High School in the final at the University College of Cape Breton on Saturday; and

[Page 5132]

Whereas 10 teams representing four Cape Breton high schools participated in the two-person team, parliamentary style tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jason MacNeil and Nancy Ferguson on their first place finish at the Gordon H. Sampson Debating Tournament.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1851

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 New Waterford Employment and Outreach Centre has helped many young people of that town; and

Whereas their funding for a counsellor will end on June 30th of this year; and

Whereas this centre plays a vital role in helping the unemployed write résumés, photocopying, networking and after school programs for youth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the federal government to continue its support for this worthwhile project, especially in these hard economic times.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5133]

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. 1852

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 Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee, who is also the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, refuses to make public the findings of the government's programs review study; and

Whereas by doing so, this Tory Government is intentionally concealing the total number of job losses to the Public Service; and

Whereas such action contradicts the Premier's claims of open and accountable government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works be chastised for dragging the Hamm Government back to days of the John Buchanan style of government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1853

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

Whereas May 8th to May 14th is National Nursing Week; and

Whereas this week marks the contributions of nurses to the health care system; and

Whereas a nursing shortage continues to plague this province with nurses bearing heavy workloads which have a negative impact on their ability to provide quality health care;

[Page 5134]

Therefore be it resolved that while nurses are being recognized for their contributions, this government come forth with its plan to actively recruit nurses to this province and to keep the highly-skilled and knowledgeable nurses that we have.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1854

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

Whereas Halifax native Jake MacKinnon received awards as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year and YES student entrepreneur of the year; and

Whereas Mr. MacKinnon, a full-time commerce student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, is the owner of Roadrunner Rickshaw Services in Halifax; and

Whereas this award was presented to Mr. MacKinnon for his dynamic entrepreneurial skills;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. MacKinnon on his outstanding achievements and wish him continued success in all future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 5135]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1855

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

Whereas two youths have been chosen from Saint Andrew's Parish in Eastern Passage to travel to Rome this summer; and

Whereas these two youths were chosen by the parish to go to the Youth Day Celebration in Rome; and

Whereas 82 people will attend from the region, including 56 young people from senior high schools and universities, chaperones, two priests, the coordinator of Youth Programs for the Archdiocese of Halifax and the Archbishop;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Glen and Jeff Patriquin as well as all others selected to participate in the Youth Day Celebration in Rome.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1856

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

Whereas Hip Hip Hooray, the ninth annual Walk for Bone and Joint Health will be held on Sunday, May 28th at the Bicentennial Gym and Atlantic Street field in Sydney; and

[Page 5136]

Whereas the money raised is split between the National Hip Hip Hooray Foundation for research work, the balance is used locally for research, education and the purchase of equipment; and

Whereas Cape Breton is among the top 10 areas in Canada that raised more than $30,000 for orthopaedic research and equipment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Hip Hip Hooray and encourage Nova Scotians to participate on May 28th in the annual Walk for Bone and Joint Health.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1857

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

Whereas the Sydney Tar Ponds has been identified as the worst toxic site in Canada; and

Whereas Maude Barlow and Elizabeth May have just published a book titled Frederick Street, examining the history and issues involved; and

Whereas examination of important public issues such as the tar ponds should lead to public debate and action;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Maude Barlow and Elizabeth May for having written the book Frederick Street.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 5137]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1858

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

Whereas the Minister of Finance inflated the cost of government restructuring to an artificially high level; and

Whereas this was nothing more than an attempt to create and hide a slush fund at the expense of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas such public mischief is reminiscent of the John Buchanan Regime of which this minister was a member;

Therefore be it resolved that the current government is no different than that of John Buchanan and, in fact, this government includes some of the worst elements of that ill-fated regime.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1859

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

Whereas voluntary service in one's community identifies those with an unselfish, giving spirit; and

Whereas the efforts of these volunteers most often goes unrecognized; and

[Page 5138]

Whereas the Municipality of East Hants would not let volunteers go unnoticed and recognized them in an awards celebration in Upper Rawdon on April 14th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate those deserving volunteers who were recognized and honoured on April 14th in Upper Rawdon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1860

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

Whereas paddler Karen Furneaux of Waverley and Steve Giles of Lake Echo were honoured Saturday as IKON Provincial Athletes of the Year; and

Whereas Karen Furneaux, a qualifier for the Sydney Olympics, won two gold medals at the 1999 Pan Am Games; and

Whereas Steve Giles is a repeat winner of the IKON award and the recipient of a gold and silver medal at the Pan Am Games last summer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Karen Furneaux and Steve Giles for their outstanding achievement and wish them continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5139]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1861

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

Whereas the Premier understands full well the impact his budget will have on ordinary Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the member for Halifax Bedford Basin keeps referring to herself as an ordinary Nova Scotian; and

Whereas Halifax Bedford Basin is the home of the largest food bank in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier of this province forget about his spine and open up his heart by giving more money to the poor.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1862

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

Whereas Jason Barrett and Amy MacDonald are recipients of a National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Undergraduate Student Research Award; and

[Page 5140]

Whereas both recipients are students at the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas research grants allow students to gain practical experience in their field of study;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jason Barrett and Amy MacDonald on their outstanding achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1863

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

Whereas a proper budget is one that is based upon a detailed and well thought through business plan; and

Whereas this House set an odorous precedent on Friday when the Hamm Tories voted in favour of a budget that, by their own admission, was still in its draft form; and

Whereas against the wishes of thousands of their own constituents, the Tory backbenchers demonstrated they are good lemmings as they followed the edict issued by their front-bench masters by voting in favour of the ill-considered budget, the details of which they neither understood nor could defend rationally;

Therefore be it resolved that this House award to the Tory backbenchers collectively the good lemming award for their mindless following of the dictates of the Hamm Government's front benches on the budget vote.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5141]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1864

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

Whereas the Barra MacNeils released their first CD in five years, titled Racket in the Attic; and

Whereas to celebrate its release they held a gala at the Delta Sydney on April 22nd; and

Whereas the proceeds from the $20 admission charge were donated to the Cape Breton Help Line;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Barra MacNeils on the release of their CD and commend them for using the release to assist those in need in their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 5142]

RESOLUTION NO. 1865

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 Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies is this week celebrating National Elizabeth Fry Week; and

Whereas the week is commemorated annually across Canada to enhance public awareness and education regarding the circumstances of women involved with the criminal justice system; and

Whereas Elizabeth Fry Societies across Canada, including the two which operate in Nova Scotia, are working towards challenging negative stereotypes that exist about women who come into conflict with the law;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Elizabeth Fry Societies in Nova Scotia on their ongoing delivery of many programs and services over the years, wish them well in the future, and join them in celebrating National Elizabeth Fry Week from May 8 to May 14, 2000.

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 Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1866

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

Whereas Roy Moore is a retired coalminer from Glace Bay; and

[Page 5143]

Whereas Mr. Moore, for the past 10 years, has been collecting medical supplies for the people of Cuba; and

Whereas these medical supplies range from over-the-counter drugs to cancer treatment drugs, and an EKG machine;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Roy Moore for his compassion and leadership in helping those who are less fortunate.

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. 1867

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

Whereas the Tory blue book made a commitment to "Working with the nursing profession to make sure the work-environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing clinical practice outcome."; and

Whereas the blue book also states, "Providing, as our first priority, the core funding required to establish additional, full-time nursing positions;"

Therefore be it resolved that since this week, May 8th to May 14th, is National Nursing Week, the Minister of Health explain to nurses how cutting over $80 million from acute care will allow him to keep the blue book promises.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 5144]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1868

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

Whereas it costs $2 million a year to send children out of province because we don't have a secure treatment centre here; and

Whereas the Minister of Community Services and the member for Truro-Bible Hill promised, in the Tory blue book, that this facility would open in the fall of 2001; and

Whereas to date, no land has been broken and no design approved;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services and the member for Truro-Bible Hill explain to this House how they feel this facility can still be built and opened in their time-frame when construction has not even started.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1869

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

Whereas the tour buses continue to arrive daily at the world-renowned Peggy's Cove; and

Whereas most of these tourists are not aware of the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean at this scenic destination; and

Whereas the Tourism Department has a responsibility for the safety of these visitors;

[Page 5145]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism instruct his staff to prepare warning notices for distribution to all tour companies that arrange charters to Peggy's Cove.

Mr. Speaker, I request for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1870

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

Whereas the month of May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month; and

Whereas the Speech and Hearing Association of Nova Scotia is dedicated to providing the highest quality of service to those with communication difficulties; and

Whereas "baby boomers" are the largest group of people with undiagnosed hearing loss which could be helped with a hearing aid;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the month of May as Speech and Hearing Awareness Month.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 5146]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1871

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

Whereas the Tory Government is investigating the possibility of selling Nova Scotia Resources Limited; and

Whereas any sale of NSRL would be a significant public policy change in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas major decisions about energy matters should not be made until the province adopts a comprehensive energy policy;

Therefore be it resolved that the government move expeditiously to establish its proposed energy council with a mandate to develop a comprehensive energy policy for the province prior to any proposal for sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1872

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

Whereas the forests of Nova Scotia help sustain our most basic needs of oxygen and water; and

Whereas the forests of Nova Scotia employ thousands of Nova Scotians and contribute over $2 billion just from logging and tourism to the economy of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 5147]

Whereas this week is National Forest Week across Canada, drawing attention to the valuable resources that for some people have become synonymous with this country itself;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize National Forest Week for the significance it brings to our national forests, and more specifically for the benefits provided to Nova Scotians by our provincial forests.

Mr. Speaker, I request for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1873

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

Whereas many parents of children with severe emotional problems have been requesting a secure treatment facility in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Minister of Health, in his former life as an Opposition member of this Legislature, continually called for a secure treatment facility; and

Whereas the Tory blue book, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, assured those parents a facility would be in place in year one of their mandate, a clear curse;

Therefore be it resolved that the only thing this Minister of Health and his government wanted to secure was getting themselves elected and then forgetting about the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 5148]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

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. 46.

Bill No. 46 - Financial Measures (2000) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak on the amendment to hoist Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, for a six month period.

Mr. Speaker, the last month has been a very tumultuous time in the Province of Nova Scotia, and certainly here in this House of Assembly, as Nova Scotians have started to realize some of the radical changes being proposed by this new Tory Government. If one message has gotten out, it is that the people have said, put on the brakes and slow down; give us a chance to absorb what is really taking place here and give us an opportunity to see what is being proposed and what this government plans on doing. Unfortunately, that has fallen on deaf ears up to this point, because on Friday we voted on a budget which, all members of the Opposition, and I think the public have clearly said, we are not quite clear what we are voting on because, as the Premier himself has stated, this is a work in progress.

[Page 5149]

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult for members of this House to vote on a budget that is deemed to be a work in progress. One would expect a budget coming up for a vote is quite clear, sends a clear message and has a clear formula around it to be implemented throughout this province, and that Nova Scotians know, when it is being voted on, exactly what the implications are going to be. Clearly, Nova Scotians have told us that was not the case.

Members of the Opposition voted reluctantly on Friday against this budget due to many of the radical changes and cuts being imposed, but also on the principle that this budget was not a complete document. There was much more work that needed to be done, much more information which needed to be shared. That is why, Mr. Speaker, now that we have the opportunity to debate Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, the Opposition has decided that a six month delay of this bill would be more than appropriate at this time to give Nova Scotians and members of this House a better opportunity to see exactly what this government is proposing to do.

Unfortunately, this government hasn't made life easier in this regard for the Opposition or for Nova Scotians. Rather than coming out and clearly telling Nova Scotians what programs will be cut, what changes will be made, what funding will be lost, the Premier himself issued the directive to Nova Scotians and to the Opposition that it was our duty to ferret out all of these changes, and that they had absolutely no intentions of coming clean with the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this government has basically forced us to bring forward such an amendment on this bill and to request a six month delay, for had they brought this information forward, then it would be difficult to stand here and to argue for a six month delay when we had everything before us that we would know what is taking place. Quite clearly, they have not done that. We have been left to try to figure out what has been hidden in the budget. Unfortunately, it is quite clear that in the weeks, months and even years ahead we will find out more and more of some of the hidden changes which have taken place in the budget are also hidden in Bill No. 46.

I will give you an example of that, Mr. Speaker, to show you the point I am trying to make. We continually asked the Minister of Education during Question Period, and debates in the House, if there were any cuts to special education. She would indicate that we were fear-mongering; there would be no cuts to special education, that the funding had been maintained, and that we should not even be suggesting that such a change would take place, that her government would even propose that.

On Thursday, the very last day before the budget vote, the minister was asked about APSEA, the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority - which provides funding and special services for blind and hearing-impaired children - whether she was aware if there had

[Page 5150]

been cuts to that very body. Contrary to her statement that there would be no cuts to special education, the minister stood up, and I think her statement during that question will go down in history as one of the most disgraceful statements ever made by a Minister of the Crown. She said, ha, ha, ha, ha, I fooled you guys; this is another example of where we had hidden cuts, and the Opposition, you silly fools, you forgot to pick it up. You missed that cut, ha ha, we tricked you, Opposition. It was right there in our budget, and you didn't ask the right question to find it. So, ha ha on you, ha ha on the parents and ha ha on these children; better luck next time. Shameful, Mr. Speaker.

She went even further, as if that wasn't incredible enough, to justify those cuts. She said, well, we asked this group how many cuts they could absorb and if they could find any savings, and she said they came back to me and said, we could absorb $300,000 in funding reduction, which would bring us to bare bones. The minister went further and said, so as a result of that consultation, we cut them $500,000. They said they could only absorb $300,000, so she cut them $500,000 and never told anyone. The sad thing, Mr. Speaker, is that last week on Tuesday, parents of these children received a phone call indicating that special tutorial funding, special services for hearing equipment and other devices, would terminate on May 12th; at that point, eight days' notice that this service would discontinue

Mr. Speaker, I will give you an example - I think Nova Scotians are reasonable - the issue of servicing the special hearing equipment, one could argue, well, the parents should accept responsibility for that and should be willing to pay for this, they shouldn't have to look to government to pay for this. The parent I spoke to said, that is not the issue, we don't mind paying for this, and if we have to we will, but look at the rural parents and look at the rural children. I will give you the example of the little girl in my school in Louisdale, Richmond County. If her device breaks down, her phonic ear or the boom mike used by the teacher, that has to be sent to Halifax to be serviced. She has to wait until the servicing takes place, and then has to wait until it comes back.

Mr. Speaker, those days, those hours, are critical and crucial to that little girl. That is the problem here. The minister has to ask, with the cuts - she is trying to justify her cuts - if cuts to APSEA and to this service being providing is justifiable when one looks at the cost being incurred. I would submit it is not, and to see that they cut this, as shameful as it is to have cut funding to special education, for a Minister of the Crown to continually stand in this House and tell Nova Scotians she has not cut special education. During the last Question Period, before the budget vote, to get up and say, ha ha, I tricked you, I really cut $500,000 and you didn't catch it as an Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, it is because of things like that that the amendment to hoist has come forward on Bill No. 46. It left the Opposition without a choice, it left us, at a minimum, to try to delay this to give us more time to do more research, to hope that the government and this Premier, who has campaigned on an open and accountable government, will finally come clean with Nova Scotians, set the record straight, put everything on the table, and say, here

[Page 5151]

it is, let's discuss this, and let's see if there are any changes that can be made, and here are the reasons why we had to make these changes.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit that I think Nova Scotians and even members of this House would have a lot of respect for the Premier and this government if they did that. I don't think that is asking too much. I heard the Minister of Health say, well, you guys did that for the last six years. It is interesting. He has only been here for two, so it is interesting to see that he can speak for six years.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that what is most infuriating here is that the Premier has come out and said, well, we have cut funding to 70 programs, but we are not going to tell you which 70 they are. I can say, myself, I have only been here two years also, but having watched and followed politics, I don't recall any other time where a Premier so boldly stood up and indicated that he has cut programs, and yet refused to tell Nova Scotians where he has made those cuts, and almost mocking them in saying, we are not going to tell you, because we don't have to. He went so far as to say, that is the role of the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is a limited time on the debate for the budget, and there is only a limited time for us to be able to ask the amount of questions necessary of this government to try to get all of this information out. I want to tell you, I think the Opposition has done a fine job in the debate of the estimates, because I think many of those 70 programs have been discovered; bit by bit, we have found out which ones they were. We have asked the right questions to get the answers necessary to be able to find this out. Again, it is clear that this amendment was necessary to try to give us some more time, the six months proposed, to find out this information.

I want to go back to the statement, well, it is in the budget, so you should be able to find it in the budget, it is right there, it is clear; the Minister of Education said that for the cuts to APSEA and to special education. I will give you another example, I remember during estimates on the Department of the Environment. I knew, as a former minister, I could see that the cuts incurred again in that department, some of the programs obviously fell by the wayside.

In looking at the budget, I noticed that for the administration of the regional offices there was a cost savings. I said, how could there be a cost savings in the administration of the regional offices? He claims that they have only cut so much staff. They had found, I believe, $900,000 in revenue. So the question was, what kind of revenue is this? After asking questions, it ended up that the minister said, this $50 fee on septic system applications would raise $200,000; there was another $200,000 that was to come from, I am not sure what it was, but there was $0.5 million missing, that was buried in that figure. Through asking questions finally the minister admitted, well we are taking that $0.5 million from the Resource Recovery Fund Board and putting it into the general revenue of the department.

[Page 5152]

Mr. Speaker, that is another example of something that was hidden in there and it was only by luck I would say, and by good questions and hard work, that members of the Opposition were able to discover this information but unfortunately, as I have stated before, there was limited time on estimates. In fact, I believe there were a few departments we did not even get a chance to ask questions because, unfortunately, the time was up and certainly as a result of that, that is why when we have this bill in front of us - and I would submit it may be the same thing for other bills which will come before us from this government - we have felt the need to support an amendment to hoist this bill for six months, to give Nova Scotians a clear opportunity to see exactly what this government is proposing.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, the more the Premier says this is what we have been elected to do, I think the more anger he instils in the people of Nova Scotia because clearly - and I am sure the backbenchers and all the Tory MLAs are hearing it also - this is not what we voted for. This was not in your blue book. This is not what we were told, these elevated numbers for the deficit and for expenses. You know this government sat in Opposition for six years. This should not have been a shock to them that there were problems with the finances of our province, to trump it in and say, my God, we never knew about this and this was a shock, I don't think it is acceptable to Nova Scotians and that is why they are saying that it is time to make sure that we find out exactly what this government is doing. Let's put a six month hold on this. Give us a better chance to have a look at it and see exactly what they plan on doing.

I will give you an example of why a six month delay of this bill would give an opportunity for Nova Scotians to get more information on this. You will recall last session, a tumultuous session, with the paramedics bill and the forced arbitration that went through this House by your government, one of the provisions in that was for a fee on the 911 system. Clearly, members of the Opposition used all possible parliamentary tools to hold up that bill to give Nova Scotians a clear opportunity to tell this government what they thought of this and to show that they did not support, well, first of all in that case, Mr. Speaker, they did not support forcing paramedics into arbitration, but certainly they did not support a fee on 911. In the end the government bowed down, as they have done with the Education budget, they bowed down at that point and said we will remove the fee system for 911.

After negotiations with the paramedics and the union, it was decided that they would support the changes that were made as a result of the lobbying by the Opposition, and we allowed that bill to go through. So, surprise, surprise, in light of this budget and all the changes, the cuts to 70 programs, Bill No. 46 pops up and, ironically, once again we see it creeps upon us again, this fee charge for the 911 system.

Mr. Speaker, I know we are not supposed to discuss specific clauses in detail, and I don't plan on doing that, but having looked at this clause and having looked at the bill, again this is another example of where it says that with the approval of this House to establish a fee for 911. What is the fee going to be? That is what Nova Scotians are asking. As a rural

[Page 5153]

member, I argued this during the initial bill last session. I have a number of my constituents who cannot afford telephones any more. Telephones have become a luxury to many Nova Scotians, especially in rural Nova Scotia. They can no longer afford a telephone; the basic monthly charge for a telephone makes it such that they cannot even have one.

Mr. Speaker, that is a very sad situation, that there are people in this province who cannot afford a basic telephone, especially when you think of parents who have young children, single moms with children, it is very disheartening to see that. When they see this, they say, wait a minute, whoa, if you are putting another charge on top of the basic charge that we pay without even making a phone call, how much are you going to charge on this? So this government has thrown out some numbers and said they are there, worry not, it is not going to be very much.

Mr. Speaker, that is the same platitude the Minister of Education gave us on cuts to special education funding: worry not, there are no cuts. Then we find out she has cut $0.5 million from her program to support the deaf children and the blind children. So Nova Scotians aren't buying it. They are saying no, we don't trust this government any more. Are they just going to use cost recovery for 911 when they are establishing their fees? Are they going to maybe raise a bit of revenue so that they can make a surplus off of 911? Those are all questions being asked and I would submit that this is one aspect of the changes that this government is making. I am not questioning that it might be a change that has to be made. What Nova Scotians are saying is, clearly explain to us what you are doing. Clearly tell us what that charge is going to be. Can we absorb that? Is there any other way that you could maybe move that around a little bit? Is my constituent in Richmond County, on a fixed income, going to pay the same monthly charge as the Bank of Nova Scotia is going to pay on their phone bill?

[3:15 p.m.]

Those are legitimate questions, Mr. Speaker, and I think Nova Scotians want a clear answer as to how this is going to take place. Is everyone paying the same? Those businesses that have numerous phone lines, do they pay for each phone line? Do they only pay one charge? Those are questions Nova Scotians want to hear and answers they want to get. Unfortunately, by just throwing these statements out there, as is in this bill, and not giving them any indication of what the fee is going to be, is scaring Nova Scotians. That is why they have told us, as an Opposition, look, we want you to do whatever you have to, to hold up this legislation and force this government to tell us what it is really doing.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think that is asking too much. I think Nova Scotians are telling us, we want to know what this democratically elected government is doing. We want to know what the impact is going to be on us prior to its implementation. I think those are very legitimate concerns. I think, as an Opposition, we have a duty to try to get that information out of government. It is unfortunate that a government that had campaigned as being an open

[Page 5154]

and accountable government, has now, all of a sudden, become so secretive and is hiding behind all of these veils and all of these closed doors and keeping all the information a secret, not only to members of the Opposition, but they are so bold that they keep it a secret from their own backbenchers who have to go back to their constituents, even they cannot provide any additional information. Even they are saying well, the minister tells us not to worry so you shouldn't worry. That is very unfortunate and it is a very dangerous precedent that this government is setting. I think Nova Scotians are clearly saying that that is unacceptable and that they will not put up with that.

Mr. Speaker, in talking about the backbenchers not really knowing what was going on, I remember we had a meeting in the Strait area a couple of weeks ago, 600 people showed up. We were there: myself; my colleague, the member for Victoria; the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, who is also the MLA for Antigonish; the Minister of Tourism and Culture, who is the MLA for Inverness; and the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. I remember one of the main concerns, certainly, was the loss of young teachers, the loss of young parents who were employed by the system. I recall all three members trumpeted up to the mike and said, well, we have a plan to avoid cuts to these young teachers. We have a plan. All three of them trumpeted that out, we have a plan. So when I got up, I couldn't help but say, if you have a plan, why don't you just tell us and why didn't you tell us from the beginning and avoid all this chaos that you have created in toying with the lives of Nova Scotians?

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? I was pessimistic at the time and that hasn't diminished in any way because they didn't have a plan. They told the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, we have a plan. They told the Minister of Tourism and Culture, we have a plan and they told the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, we have a plan. They just repeated that because they had no idea what the plan was and it is quite clear the minister had no idea of any plan because there was no plan and that is where Nova Scotians are starting to see exactly what this government is doing. Not only is it doing it to its backbenchers, I would say even members of the Cabinet are not even aware of some of these changes taking place and are being given these mere platitudes to calm them.

Certainly when one looks at the record that the Minister of Education has established in credibility and in honesty, I think many members on that side of the House are starting to question everything that they are told, as they should as responsible Members of the Legislative Assembly. When they go out and tell their constituents and tell Nova Scotians information, one would hope that they are at least trying to find out if it is actually true or if there is any realism to what they are saying. Again, that is why Nova Scotians, now that they are starting to discover this, when they hear their government MLA making these statements, well, we have a plan and tsk, tsk, worry not, and it will all be okay, that is why Nova Scotians are saying, it is up to you guys as an Opposition to try to find out exactly what they are doing, to hold them accountable, to let Nova Scotians know what they are doing. That is why they have supported us and said, you must use every tactic you can to hold up this legislation and

[Page 5155]

to give us an opportunity to have a better look at what this government is trying to do. That is why, Mr. Speaker, I speak in favour of the six months' hoist amendment to allow the Opposition a better opportunity to see exactly what this government is trying to do.

On Bill No. 46, itself, one of the other items they have put in, which kind of came out of the blue, is they are going to wind up and shut down the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission. I have yet to hear any reason as to why this is being done, what the justification is or again, I use the word plan. What plan do they have to replace this board or find a new body which will administer its functions? No information has been given on this. We are being asked in Opposition to allow this to go through and just hope the government knows what its doing. Quite clearly, the record to date has indicated that they have no idea what they are doing, which is why we must question them on all of these changes and try to find the reasoning that went behind these particular changes.

Mr. Speaker, not wanting to be overly negative, there are certain aspects in this bill which we find to be commended, but overall, the vast majority causes us to ask a lot of questions and creates certain fears as to what their impact will be. As I said before, it is our firm belief that six months will allow the public a better opportunity to question this government, and on the flip side, it would allow more time for this government, hopefully, to find the intestinal fortitude to go before Nova Scotians and say, okay, enough, the games are over, no more playing, we are actually going to be responsible, and we are going to tell you what we are doing, what our long-range plan is and what impact it is going to have. One can only hope they will take up that challenge over these six months.

Mr. Speaker, the demonstrations which have taken place throughout this province, it is quite clear that Nova Scotians have wanted to send a clear message to the Government of Nova Scotia to show their displeasure with the changes taking place. Let's look at these protests. I want to look at them for a second because often you hear people explaining protests, they say, well it is just the union trying to force it on the people, and the people who are there had to go because they had to be there and were forced to go and that is why they are there. Let's look at who exactly was outside here at the House of Assembly. You had students, you had parents, you had teachers, you had concerned citizens. No one forced those people to come to this House to show their displeasure. Those people came because there was a genuine concern they had, and they continue to show their displeasure to this government.

In fact, we saw today a number of postcards being sent to the Minister of Education. Unfortunately, I don't think one would say they were from adoring fans, but I think it was a tongue-in-cheek way to throw back in the minister's face the tactics which she used to get elected to this House by playing on an industry and playing on communities, one against another to get elected. I want to commend the students in the Sydney area for this initiative of sending these postcards to the minister to show their displeasure and trying to use the exact same tactics she felt were so worthwhile in her own bid to get elected to this House.

[Page 5156]

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians continue day to day to indicate their displeasure. All members have gotten e-mails, faxes, letters. It is ironic, in fact, I show you in talking about the displeasure, I received a carbon copy of an e-mail, it was a Boudreau, a young gentleman from Antigonish who had written to the minister, who took the time to write to the minister and cc'd all the members of the House. I wrote back to him, thanked him for his message, indicated our Party's position in trying to represent their concerns. As the youngest member of this House, I certainly encouraged him for having taken the time, as a responsible citizen, to make his views known to the elected representatives.

I got an answer back from that young individual, which I wasn't expecting, and he said: well, I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to me, unfortunately, I can't say the same for the Minister of Education; not only is she not responding to her e-mails but when we try to send e-mails, it says that her mailbox is full and it will not accept any more messages. So that is how responsive this minister and this government has been to the pleas of Nova Scotians who are doing their responsibility, as citizens of this province, in trying to make their views known to their elected representatives. It is quite clear, Mr. Speaker, that they are turning a deaf ear to these concerns.

In this day and age, with the amount of staff that the Minister of Education has, for her to sit here and allow her own e-mail system to be sending out messages to Nova Scotians saying, well, my mailbox is full, we will not accept any more messages, especially knowing that she is also Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat, which should be there to encourage Nova Scotians, especially our youth, to use the information technology that exists and to try to convey with their members as much as possible using the new technology.

I would encourage the Minister of Education, along with her deputy who is making $127,000, and all of the staff she has, that one would hope that she would appoint a few of them to sit at her computer, download her e-mail and respond to these responsible Nova Scotians and to show that she cares and that she, as a Minister of the Crown, takes their concerns seriously. That's why with his amendment, we are giving her six months to do so, Mr. Speaker. This would give her an opportunity to put aside the concerns with Bill No. 46, go back to her computer and start responding to these e-mails. In fact, her own EA could also assist her in that, I understand he has quite an expensive computer system himself, maybe he can answer two e-mails at once, whereby the old computers - mine is, unfortunately, just a regular computer - only does one e-mail at a time, maybe his can do more, one would hope. Maybe she could get him to put that expensive technology to work and get on this.

I think clearly what this government is telling us is that whoa, we're swamped, we don't have time to respond to all of these e-mails, these faxes, to these letters. We just don't have time. We need some sort of relief. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians are saying, they would like relief from this government. I think they are saying that they need relief to try to

[Page 5157]

see to it that this government is given the time to answer to the concerns of Nova Scotians and to be responsible to the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues which is of great concern to the residents in my area and I think throughout rural Nova Scotia is the initiative introduced by this government to remove the limit which was put on the seniors' tax rebate back in 1995. I don't think any member of this House would criticize this government for that initiative. I think all of us would like to see that rebate come back and benefit seniors throughout this province who are on fixed incomes and are seeing the prices of everything increasing all the time, yet their incomes are not increasing.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is an example of where the seniors are saying, wait a minute, let's see exactly what you are planning here. We don't want this to be a PR stunt where you are going to make us believe you are bringing back this rebate and then once this bill has gone through, you will say, oh, wait a minute, we have now seen that this costs too much, we aren't going to give you the full rebate, we might give you 25 per cent, maybe 10 per cent, maybe 5 per cent. That's where seniors are saying, we don't want to be fooled by this government. They have pulled too many stunts on other sectors of Nova Scotia's society, we will not allow them to pull this stunt on us. We commend them for wanting to bring back this rebate, but before the Opposition, our Party, supports this bill, we want to make sure that when they say they are bringing back this rebate, they really mean it, it is not a PR stunt, it is not a cruel joke to be played on the seniors of Nova Scotia, and they want to make sure we have the details.

Again, Mr. Speaker, six months is what we are proposing to give this government, exactly that, the time to sit down with the Senior Citizens' Secretariat and to sit down with seniors and clearly explain to them what their plan is to bring in this full rebate as existed prior to 1995 for all eligible seniors.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, with that argument, one would say, well, why have our seniors become suspicious all of a sudden, why should they be so suspicious? Well, I think the last few days in the media in this province, I think Nova Scotians have seen why they should be suspicious because even the Minister of Finance, the honourable MLA for Argyle, has admitted that these Pharmacare cost projections which his department provided to the Department of Health were false. They were not correct. They were heavily inflated.

Mr. Speaker, one must ask, and Nova Scotians are asking, was this a mistake that was taking place or, did someone just hit the calculator, hit the wrong button? Was it the same type of error that took place in the Department of Education when the minister first released her figures? She claimed that it was a mathematical error. In this day and age, considering the amount of money we pay for the Deputy Minister of Education, $127,000, and considering

[Page 5158]

what we pay for the staff in Finance and in Health - the most expensive deputy in government - one has a hard time and I think seniors should be vigilant and say we have a hard time accepting that these are just, whoops, little mistakes that we have made and we inflated the cost of Pharmacare because of a mathematical error again.

Mr. Speaker, and not wishing to make accusations, I know myself, as a member, and I expect every senior should feel the same way, I have a hard time accepting the response that those inflated costs were a mistake. It is quite clear what the Minister of Finance has shown since taking up that portfolio. On numerous occasions he has been caught giving figures to Nova Scotians about the deficit and about expenses and then having to swallow his own words by saying, well, whoops, we made a mistake again, a mathematical error, in arriving at those figures. This is just another example.

So I do not blame senior citizens in this province for being suspicious and for questioning why this government would provide these inflated numbers because I would submit that it is a means by them to try to justify this increase in expenses, this increase in charges to seniors, to say, well, look, it is going to cost this much so you have to help us here. We have to increase your fees and then the minister turns around a few days ago and says, well, it was not that high after all, but we are not lowering your fees. We are still keeping them at the same figure we had originally proposed based on those erroneous figures on the cost of Pharmacare.

In one sense they have admitted they were wrong, but certainly in no way have they indicated that they are prepared to remove that increase in Pharmacare costs. Seniors are very concerned. They should be very concerned. As I have indicated earlier, you have the increase in Pharmacare. You have the seniors' tax rebate and you have also got the user fee which will be imposed to pay for the 911 system.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we have said we need at least - we are going to give, I should not say we need, we are going to give this government six months to come clean with Nova Scotians, six months to give us as an Opposition better opportunity to go back and have a look at this and possibly explain to Nova Scotians exactly what they are proposing to do.

Mr. Speaker, talking about the concerns of Nova Scotians, it was with interest that I picked up a copy from one of the government members in the House, it is called, A Special Edition of the Eastern Shore Constituency, by the MLA for the Eastern Shore, April 2000.

Mr. Speaker, one would hope that government members and ministers all realize the importance of the message Nova Scotians are trying to convey to them and that they take it very seriously, and that they see that these are Nova Scotians who are very concerned. They have taken the time to come to Halifax, to come to this House of Assembly to try to get the message to the government of their concern. That is the democracy we have. Unfortunately, we have now learned that with the member for Digby and the member for Annapolis, their

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constituents had to take out ads in the newspaper to try to give their concerns to their member, because the members wouldn't answer their faxes, they wouldn't answer their phone calls, they wouldn't answer their e-mails. That is why Nova Scotians felt the need to come right down here to Province House.

I was curious about the Special Edition of the Eastern Shore Constituency, one would like to see exactly what, as a government backbencher, the reaction was to these demonstrations and to these concerns. I will read a little bit, I don't plan on reading it all. It says, "At this time, there is tremendous movement by organizations and individuals to push their own plan against the best interests of our children and educational system." Interesting comment. It goes on to say, "Those who purport to care for the children appear to be the very ones instilling fear and anger within their young minds." It goes on to say, "As a parent, I have to ask myself what are 'they'. . ." which means, he says, organizations, bureaucrats, ". . . trying to protect, and what are they hoping to accomplish by making students afraid and placing such stress on some teachers."

Mr. Speaker, remarkable comments, to see that a member of this government, in light of all the protests and demonstrations, would say. Clearly that member, at least, hasn't heard the message. He hasn't heard the message. He goes back to the argument, well, the people only protest because they are forced to protest, someone forced them to come down here, and that is why they are here. That is a very sad statement that a government member would write. It goes on to say further, one of the last things that it says is, "I understand that protest marches are being encouraged and have taken place by students as young as 12 to 14 years of age, with little or no supervision. Please do not allow yourselves to let emotion and rumour rule your decisions, possibly placing children in unsafe situations."

Mr. Speaker, if that is not government propaganda - I would say that if you want to talk about instilling fear and scaring people, that is exactly what that member was trying to do to his own constituents. By saying, don't allow your children - who you encourage to be active - to come down here and protest, you are putting their lives in danger, not us as a government, trying to put 50 in a class or trying to cut teachers and essential programs which they need.

It is quite clear. I will be curious. We will be watching the hand-outs coming from the other government MLAs, and I am sure we will be bringing them to the floor of this House. One would hope that they would not follow the same path as what has been followed by the member for the Eastern Shore. It is quite curious, I see here, how to contact me, he indicates his offices hours, phone, fax and e-mail. One can only hope that that member is answering his faxes and his mail and his e-mail, and not following the lead of the Minister of Education, who has turned a deaf ear to the concerns of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, again, it is quite clear, this is just another example of what Nova Scotians are saying, give this government six months, give them a break, give the member for Eastern Shore an opportunity to answer all of these concerns, give the Minister of Education a chance

[Page 5160]

to answer her e-mails, let them really hear what Nova Scotians feel, let's give them a six month, I don't know if I would call it a break or maybe a reprieve, but at least a six month delay to give them an opportunity to hear the concerns of their constituents in light of this.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that as a Party which sat in Opposition for six years, the Progressive Conservatives were quite eager on several occasions, saying you haven't consulted, where is the consultation, where is the discussion, you have to consult beforehand, why haven't you consulted? They wanted us to consult with everyone and every minute be doing consultations. At least I must give them credit that, unlike the NDP, they were not encouraging road shows at every opportunity, but they certainly were indicating a need for consultation.

It is with interest that now that they are in government, this concern about consultation has clearly gone out the door. It is no longer a concern for this new government. I will give you an example of that, Mr. Speaker. I like to give examples, when one makes such statements, to back up why I would argue that.

In the debate on the Justice estimates, we all know now that the government intends to close 10 satellite courts in rural communities throughout Nova Scotia. It is quite clear that the government members should be well aware of this impact because the MLA for Eastern Shore is losing a court in Sheet Harbour, the MLA for Colchester North is losing a court in Tatamagouche, the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is losing one in Sherbrooke and there are other members throughout the government benches losing courts.

I can say it affects me also. (Interruption) Not in Springhill; well, Springhill was one of the courts slated to close. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton East, with the Glace Bay one, my colleague, the member for Victoria, with the Ingonish court and even myself with the St. Peter's court.

It was with interest we all watched that suddenly the minister did an about-face and said, well, we have extended the deadline for a closure of these courts for another couple of months. The day that the minister said this, when we checked the papers the day before in Amherst, here is a big write-up about how the Speaker of this House, the MLA for Cumberland South, claimed victory in convincing the Minister of Justice to give a reprieve to the closure of the Springhill Court.

Certainly, that MLA, the Speaker of this House, was quite successful. At least he as a member of the government was able to get the minister's ear. It is unfortunate that the rest of his colleagues in the backbenches have not had the same amount of success. But to save face on this, the minister said, well, if we are going to do it for Springhill, it is only fair that we give this extension to the nine other communities.

[Page 5161]

When I questioned the minister, he said the reason for this was to give these communities an opportunity to come forward and tell the Department of Justice whether they were willing to make the necessary investment to keep the courts in their communities. Out of these 10 courts, only three are owned by the municipalities; the other seven are owned for the most part by community groups.

In Tatamagouche, I believe it is the fire hall; I know in my own riding, it is the Lions' den; I believe in Ingonish it is a fire hall. What the Department of Justice is asking is that they make all of these changes to adhere to the occupational health and safety standards which they want them to adhere to, to a t. The interesting thing is, the requirements they put on these groups to keep the court services are requirements that the government itself is not even adhering to with its own buildings where it is holding court. How ironic that they would do this.

The point I am trying to make is I asked the minister, I said, you should be commended for asking these community groups whether they are willing to make the investment to make the changes necessary to keep these courts. The question is, why didn't you do this from the start? Why didn't you start this process last year and say to these 10 communities, look, because of the costs, because of the problems with occupational health and safety, we are left with no choice but to take these courts from your communities? Is there anything you can do to assist us in maybe allowing us to keep the courts here?

That would have been the responsible thing. That would have been a way to give these communities an opportunity to work together to give them some time - they would have had almost a year, had it been done right - to come up with a proposal should they have wished to do so.

Instead, when I asked the minister, I said, will you now admit that you were wrong in not doing these consultations prior to bringing in your budget, the minister said, no, no that is not the Tory way. He said, the way the Tories do it, the way we do it as a government, is we come in, we bring a budget, we indicate in that budget which 10 communities are going to lose their court and then we begin discussions.

Well, I don't think that is the open and accountable government Nova Scotians thought they were getting. I don't think anyone, not even the backbenchers, and I know that some of them have been enraged at the closures of their community courts. I know some of them have actually approached members of the Opposition, asking us to ask the questions and get the information and try to fight for them. The Minister of Community Services laughs. We all know how powerful he is when it comes to the corrections services here in this province; he managed to move a jail and get elected on moving a jail. Unfortunately, his backbenchers do not have the same clout, obviously, as the Minister of Community Services. He was able to avoid a $57 million facility; his own backbenchers can't even keep a $5,000 court in their own riding.

[Page 5162]

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that this government, over and over again, is putting the horse behind the cart rather than putting the horse in front of the cart. That is why Nova Scotians are saying, look, we are very forgiving sometimes. On the most part we are forgiving, let's give this government six months to try to sit down and have a look at this again and try to tell us exactly what they have in this budget. Give the Minister of Education an opportunity to come out and tell us what other special education programs she has cut, how she plans on keeping French immersion, and how she plans on avoiding the lay-offs and loss of probationary teachers.

You know what I would like in those six months? I would love for the Minister of Education to go to the different communities and to meet with these teachers who are on term contracts and tell them what she has told us here in this House. Basically her message was, term teachers don't count. Terms come to an end - regardless of the fact that my budget is causing their end - they don't count. I would love for her to step outside this House and go to Nova Scotian communities and stand in front of these term teachers and give them that message: you don't count, sorry. Thanks for coming out, thanks for your service, but in the end I don't really think you should count.

That is what this six months would allow. It would allow them to go to these very communities and give that message, if they are brave enough, or if they still hold to those statements.

Again, with the statement of how forgiving Nova Scotians are, Mr. Speaker, this would be an opportunity during those six months for maybe this government to make amends to Nova Scotians, maybe go back and say, well, maybe I was wrong when I said term teachers don't count. In reality, this is what is going to happen. The Minister of Finance could go back and tell the seniors, well, I was wrong on the costs of Pharmacare, and we are trying to justify our increases, so someone kind of played with the numbers a little bit and we didn't mean to intentionally fool the seniors of the Province of Nova Scotia. We didn't mean to do that. I think Nova Scotians would forgive them for saying that. I think they could tell seniors they are sorry for proposing to increase their Pharmacare fees.

This was another interesting part, talking about consultation. They increased Pharmacare fees. The seniors asked, how much time are they giving us to prepare for this increase? When the Minister of Finance read his budget he said these increases will take effect immediately; in fact, they took effect that evening I believe. What kind of consultation is that, Mr. Speaker?

I know when this change first took place, a number of seniors contacted me with concern, but I was surprised there weren't too many phone calls. You know what? Within a couple of weeks, within a month, these very seniors started renewing their prescriptions, and

[Page 5163]

that is when the phone calls started coming in. That's where seniors started seeing how much it is costing them extra. When the minister says, well, it is just an extra $3.00 or just an extra $5.00 or it is just an extra $10, that is where the seniors saw what kind of an impact this would have on their budget for the rest of the year.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, giving those seniors six months will give them an opportunity to see exactly how this increase is going to impact them, and how serious this is for a government that said it would eliminate Pharmacare costs to now say, well, we are not going to eliminate those costs, we are going to ding you with higher costs. How much time are we going to give you to try to convince the federal government to increase your pension payment or to try to find new sources of income or to do new budgeting? Well, we are going to give you absolutely what? - at that time it was in the afternoon - possibly 12 hours, you have 12 hours to prepare for this; in 12 hours it goes into effect.

The interesting part of Bill No. 46, Mr. Speaker, is once again if one looks at the last clause, which talks about the implementation date, I think other than one clause, they have all already gone into effect. January 1, 2000, I believe is the latest date, one of the dates is in 1998. We are being asked here to vote on a bill whose implementation dates are already gone. Nova Scotians are saying, give them at least six months to try to explain to us why a bill is being brought to this House that we are debating in May 2000 which has an effective date of November 23, 1999, June 18, 1998, November 1, 1999, October 28, 1999, January 1, 2000, and March 1, 1994. So I don't think Nova Scotians have really had the opportunity to really find out what sort of impact this is going to have when this bill goes through, if it does go through. Hopefully, the government will see, as a result of this amendment and possibly other amendments and with the concerns raised by Nova Scotians, that they need to have a look at this again.

One would hope the backbenchers will take the opportunity, now that a little bit of the heat is off them regarding Education, they will take a minute to look at Bill No. 46, maybe question the Minister of Finance and say, Mr. Minister, what is really up here? What is going on here? Give us the goods so we can go back to our constituents and rather than say, well, the minister has a plan, and then actually sit down and have an intelligent conversation and use some intelligent thought in describing how this is going to impact their own constituents. One would only hope that, Mr. Speaker. As MLAs, I am sure everyone wishes to be as responsible as they can. I am sure my colleague, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, wishes to be as responsible as he can to the good Mayor of Port Hawkesbury and the Warden of Guysborough and his other municipal leaders. I am sure he wants to be very forward and very informative with them and in no way try to give them these empty platitudes. I am sure based on his own record as an elected official he would not want to be doing that to some of his fellow colleagues.

[Page 5164]

With that, Mr. Speaker, again, I indicate my full support. I am quite confident in saying that I believe my constituents, who have elected me to this House, would wish me to support this amendment for a six month hoist on this bill to clearly give this government an opportunity to reflect on the changes it has recommended and to give them an opportunity to sit down with Nova Scotians and clearly explain to Nova Scotians the impact of this bill.

It is with sincere hope, Mr. Speaker, that this government, now that they have rammed through their budget, hopefully, will be in a more conciliatory frame of mind and that they will say we are willing to listen to the concerns raised by the Opposition. I know there have been very good points raised in the debate and they will say, we have heard your concerns, we have seen the protests, we have received your postcards, your mail, your e-mails and your faxes and we think it is a good idea, as a responsible government, to maybe hold back, take six months and it will give us an opportunity to reflect on this again, to make sure that it is really the road we want to go down; make sure there are no more inflated numbers in the Minister of Finance's budget, where he and his staff are using to try to justify some of these cuts, so that the backbenchers go back home and say, well, we have to do it, because the minister told us that it is going to cost us this much if we don't do this. Only for those members to have egg on their face down the road when the Opposition has an opportunity to discover once again where other areas are where the Minister of Finance has fudged the numbers and has provided inflated numbers to this House and to Nova Scotians.

M. le Président, je veux juste prendre une minute - ou deux - pour juste dire en français que l'intention de - comme membre de l'Assemblée - l'intention de l'Opposition quand qu'on a proposé cette amendement pour six mois. C'est pour donner l'occasion au gouvernment de prendre six mois pour réfléchir sur le budget qui enraie de passer - réfléchir sur la loi no. 46 - et eux donner l'occasion d'aller aux citoyens de la Nouvelle-Écosse de vous expliquer vraiment qu'est-ce qui vient de l'impact de l'échange qui pisse. De donner une chance d'aller et consulter avec les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse - et eux de la Nouvelle-Écosse sont toujours prêts à parler avec le gouvernment, à donner leurs idées, à indiquer qu'ils ne sont pas contents, à indiquer qu'ils ne comprennent pas les changes qui prendent places - ce n'est pas arrivé jusqu'a date.

Un occasion à chacun des membres du gouvernment et même les membres de l'Opposition - de retourner à nos circonscriptions, de parler avec nos citoyens avec l'intelligence - pas juste dit ils n'ont pas un plan; le ministre de finance n'y a un plan - il sait qu'est-ce qu'il fait - c'est bien, n'inquiête-toi pas. Ça, ce n'est pas acceptable d'un démocracie, M. le Président. Il nous faut un occasion d'être capable d'aller nous asseoir et de parler avec les gens qui nous ont élus ici a l'Assemblée, et de l'expliquer clairement qu'est-ce que c'est qui se passe ici a l'Assemblée comme les législateurs ici - que nous sommes responsables, qu'on fait certain que les lois qui se fait passés c'est les lois qui vont assister aux gens; que c'est les lois qui sont acceptables et puis qu'on a fait certain que le débat a pris place sur les lois pour asseyer d'obtenir aussi tant d'opinions, aussi tant des

[Page 5165]

suggestions et des idées - pas juste de les membres de cette Assemblée - mais des gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse qui nous ont élus ici à l'Assemblée.

Alors, avec ça, M. le Président, je pense que mon temps ça vient pas mal a un fait, mais je voulais juste prendre l'occasion de dire en français à la communautée française que c'est pour ça que nous sommes en train de faire le débat a ce point ici sur l'amendement pour prendre cette loi et puis la terminer pour six mois et donner l'occasion a mon collègue, un autre acadien de l'Assemblée, le ministre de finance - qui je sais qu'il travail très dur de son départment - de lui donner l'occasion dans les six mois de parler avec ses collègues, de parler avec les membres de cette Assemblée et d'expliquer clairement aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse les changes qu'il fait, la raison pour les changes et comment ses changes vont travailler dans le futur. Il parle de plan et on a un plan, mais c'est le temps, M. le Président, dans ces six mois pour le ministre, pour le premier ministre et pour son gouvernement a nous donner ce plan et d'être capables de travailler ensemble et d'aller dans le futur de cette province avec un plan, avec une claire direction pour le futur de nos citoyens. Merci, M. le Président.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the opportunity to speak to the amendment to hoist Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, that will give us an opportunity for a sober second look at this particular piece of legislation that is, after all, a very important bill, one that furthers the financial agenda and the political agenda of this particular government. I think that it is certainly the case that there are many people in the province who want to have an opportunity for more consultation and more analysis of the impact of the budget that was passed here on Friday and this particular bill that is a supporting document.

When the minister introduced this particular bill, he made reference to the fact that it is quite a lengthy piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, some 98 pages in length, with many provisions covering a wide variety of issues, and certainly a very large part of this particular bill makes direct reference to taxation. Taxation is a very complex area of law and public policy and one that certainly these days engenders a fair amount of debate from a broad perspective in terms of people who stand in very firm opposition to any form of taxation practically at all, people who want a flat taxation kind of policy. People understand that all of those programs that we value - health care, education, community services, transportation, agricultural supports, these services to the citizens in our province that make our province a good place to live - can only be provided if we pool some of our collective resources through a progressive taxation system that will result in ample public services.

This bill is, in fact, really important in terms of what it tells us this government's approach to taxation will be. I think, Mr. Speaker, what this bill tells us is that, for example, the progressive measures that Paul Martin has finally seen fit to reintroduce into federal

[Page 5166]

taxation policy, for example, to prevent bracket creep that has occurred at the federal level where taxable income brackets have been de-indexed, his move to re-index at the federal level was one of the few positive things in the federal budget that he introduced, whenever that was, back in February I guess. So when we look at what the Minister of Finance here in Nova Scotia is introducing, he is introducing legislation that will not allow Nova Scotians to have the benefit of a progressive taxation policy in terms of protecting one's income from bracket creep or inflationary pressures.

[4:00 p.m.]

I believe, Mr. Speaker, if we had six more months to consult and analyse, we would find that there isn't broad public support for the Minister of Finance here in Nova Scotia, his approach, and that we could find other ways of dealing with very clear pressures that we have as a province in terms of the generation of revenue. Maybe during this six months of reflection, consultation and analysis, we would have an opportunity to look at what other provinces in the country are doing with respect to their taxation policy. We could go outside of our Canadian federation and we certainly could look at what they have been doing in Australia, what they have been doing in New Zealand, or what they have been doing in Continental Europe, for example, and I think that we would probably find that there are a variety of tools or approaches that we as a province could benefit from in terms of our size and in terms of our specific financial situation that we are in right now.

I think quite often when we are dealing with budgets and legislation that is very complicated, the numbers quite often, you know, when we start talking about the billions of dollars that this province has in debt and the millions of dollars that we have in deficit, and we talk about the revenues that we bring in annually in Nova Scotia, which are about $4.7 billion, these numbers are so large they are almost incomprehensible for the average person to understand.

If we hoist this bill for a six month period, we could actually embark on a process of public discussion that would help people look at the budget documents, the enabling legislation, the way that this particular government has decided that what it really wants to do is apply user fees, we would have an opportunity to look at the revenues that might be generated, and whether or not there are alternatives, and what the impact is on ordinary people of these kinds of approaches. This budget that we just passed on Friday, which is a budget that certainly didn't have broad-based support, is one that we still have many questions around, and Nova Scotians certainly have many questions around.

Today, some senior citizens came down and joined us here in our deliberations. Many of these people who are here today are people who have worked very hard throughout their lives, in the paid labour force, and perhaps as homemakers in the home. They have incomes that one could not describe as anything else but very modest incomes. The introduction of any new fees, such as the 911 user fees, conceivably, in combination with a variety of other user

[Page 5167]

fees, which we know will be very much a feature of the financial measures of this government, will have a tremendous impact on people whose incomes are modest and who have devoted an enormous amount of their time and energy into building the communities that we have today.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very sad comment, I think, that at this stage in the lives of many of those people, they have to be placed in a position where they are fearful of having to take an ambulance because of the enormous cost now of those kinds of services, which after all are very common among elderly people, an elderly person who falls and injures themselves or breaks a hip or has a dizzy spell. These kinds of situations are all too common, and to be hit with, for example an $85 fee for having to get from your home to a hospital or back again is very frightening for many seniors.

In addition to this, it is not unusual for seniors, I think if you look at prescription drug use among senior citizens in this province, because of the health status of Nova Scotians, we have a very high rate of prescription drug use, and it is not unusual for some seniors to have maybe three prescription drugs, seven prescription drugs. Now if you think about the increase in the co-pay at 33 per cent, the impact on one's budget, household income, their ability to acquire medications that have been prescribed for them by qualified medical practitioners will be profound. My fear is that some seniors will decide to rationalize their medication, not to take it in the prescribed way that is required. We know that that could be harmful, even life-threatening for people who require prescription drugs. When you get prescription drugs, you have to take them in accordance with the schedule, the number of times, the quantities that are laid out for you by your pharmacist and by your practising physician.

Really, we need to have an opportunity, and six months would not be an unreasonable period of time to do the research, do the analysis, to consult with seniors' groups, and to consult with people in the health care professions and in the medical community generally about the impact of moving more and more away from providing services through a taxation system we all feel some social responsibility for to one where people pay as they go based on their ability to pay, knowing full well that a fairly large proportion of people in our society are not able to pay on a fee-for-service kind of basis.

I think if we took six months we could look just at some of the recent studies that have come out since we have been in this House around the kind of disparity that we have in our society, a disparity that is growing between people who are wealthy and comfortable and well off and people who aren't. We have had reports on urban poverty that showed that some of the highest rates of urban poverty, at least one-quarter of the population in industrial Cape Breton and in metropolitan Halifax, in the HRM region.

This is extraordinary, Mr. Speaker, to have, in our province today in a situation where we have one of the most robust economies in the country because of the offshore, among other things, in a situation where we actually have seen some growth and some prosperity that

[Page 5168]

is being projected to continue for a period of time, when throughout parts of this province, we are actually incurring labour shortages in the skilled trades area which has probably very good implications for our unemployment rates if we can get our community college system up to scratch in terms of helping us train for these labour shortages, at the same time, among all of this prosperity and more wealth than we have seen for some time in this province, we have such growing levels of disparity.

One of the things that certainly is of real concern to me, and I wonder, perhaps if we took six months to look at the Financial Measures (2000) Bill with a more careful eye, we would have a chance to talk to the Minister of Finance and perhaps convince the Minister of Finance and his Minister of Community Services that this bill needs to include provisions for the disadvantaged in our society. Rather than taking away their $18 a month transportation allowance, perhaps we need to be looking at providing people with some assistance in the area of transportation so that they can get to training programs, so that they can go out and meet with various employers so that they can actually look at a way to get back into the labour market, rather than be more and more marginalized and kept from competing in the labour market. I think there are certainly a number of features of this government's policy, in terms of the budget, that haven't found their way into the Financial Measures (2000) Bill in a way that would be helpful for Nova Scotians and would certainly answer many of the questions that Nova Scotians have about where this government is planning to take them.

One of the things the minister said when he introduced this bill initially, he talked about the need for greater public accountability in terms of how public money is being spent. I don't think anybody would disagree here on the floor of this House that when you are dealing with the public trust and you are dealing with public resources and you are dealing with the public's hard-earned dollars that are taken into government through taxation that there has to be some form of accountability.

[4:15 p.m.]

Whether or not the approach of the Minister of Finance that is contained in Bill No. 46 toward greater public accountability, in fact, is greater public accountability is quite questionable. I think that if we took six months and we talked to Nova Scotians, we went out and we spoke with people, particularly in the health care sector, for example, where it has been our largest area of expenditure, where there has been annually increases in expenditure in that field, we would have an opportunity to really look at what are the cost drivers that are putting the financial burdens on the health care sector.

We would have an opportunity to talk about whether or not the measures that the Minister of Health, for example, seems to be imposing through his health care budget, will have an impact on those cost drivers and whether or not the impact might be a serious reduction in health care services to Nova Scotians and whether or not Nova Scotians therefore would want that to be the government's approach. When this Premier and the

[Page 5169]

members of this government ran for office in the election in the summer, they promised to invest in health care. They did not run on an election platform to cut the health care system and I think that Nova Scotians now, 10 months later, deserve an opportunity to comment on whether or not the plan, or the lack of a plan in some ways, that this government has, meets their immediate needs and their aspirations.

I had a call this morning in my office. This is a very good example of why we need to hoist this bill and why we need to talk to Nova Scotians and consult around the impact of the financial course that this government is on. I had a call this morning from a woman who lives in my riding, she was over at the QE II when she called me. She told me that her husband had been admitted to the hospital about six weeks ago. He is a person who has Alzheimer's, he is in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. She is getting up in age herself and she is really unable to care for her husband at home. He is in the Palliative Care Unit of the QE II and she was calling to tell me about the lack of nursing staff on that unit. She goes to the hospital every day at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and she stays until 8:00 o'clock at night and she cares for her husband. She helps feed him - he cannot get up and move around by himself - she helps him to the bathroom and essentially she is providing this care because there aren't enough nursing staff on the unit.

He is now going to be discharged to their home and as much as she would like to have her husband home, and she is prepared to have home care workers come and provide assistance, she is very concerned that the amount of home care will not allow her to take adequate care of her husband.

I think, Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of thing that results from cutting $70 million out of the health care system and absolutely, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect is bang on when he says if we hoisted this bill and we took six months to consult and listen to people in Nova Scotia and find out very clearly what the impact of certain financial measures such as this, a move to talk about accountability, but when we really need to be talking about the quality of services, being accountable for public dollars, but being accountable for providing the services I think that Nova Scotians expect, this is the important point.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the budget that we passed on Friday was lacking in a fair amount of clarity. It was, as we spoke, still a work in progress. The Premier indicated that that is quite a normal circumstance; however people who have been in this House a lot longer than I say that that is just not simply the case. This is not a normal circumstance whatsoever and that, generally speaking, the line items that are outlined in a budget brought to the floor of the House of Assembly are the line items that one can anticipate, and that the bottom line is there for people to see. It isn't something that continually shifts around, and that was not the case with the budget that we had.

[Page 5170]

If we took some time with this particular bill it would allow us to have more of the details of the budget that is still being worked on to come out and it would give us a chance, Mr. Speaker, to hear from people in the province who we have not had an opportunity to hear from this far because they have not had a chance to speak to their particular issues because they have not known what those issues are. This particular government ran on a platform of being open, being consultative, being transparent, being accountable, and we have not seen that at all.

More to the point, what we have really seen is a bit of deception, Mr. Speaker. We have seen an attempt to play little games with this budget to make it sort of a game of hide and seek, where the government hid aspects of what it was they were doing in the budget and aspects of program funding that would result in reduced services, particularly for people who really relied on and required particular kinds of services like farmers, like people who are living in poverty, like parents who have children with special needs, and they hid their financial and their policy agenda and their approach was to try to have the members of the Opposition seek out where it was that they had hidden the little half-truths, I guess, that they had planned for the people in this province, the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this is a fairly large bill; it is 98 pages. It has very complicated sections in here on taxation policy. I know very little about the legal requirements of the Income Tax Act. In fact, I would say that most people, unless they are tax lawyers, really know very little about the legal requirements of the taxation act. It is a very complex area of legal practice. (Interruption) The Minister of Finance says, if you don't pay your taxes, you will find out pretty quickly and that certainly is true. But, I would say that all of the honourable members here do pay their taxes, or most of them do pay their taxes and they do take that requirement of citizenship very seriously, as far as I know. Nevertheless, that certainly doesn't make us experts or anywhere close to experts on the details, the minutia of income tax legislation.

If we hoist this bill for six months, we would have an opportunity to not only consult with members of the general public with respect to their concerns and their understanding of the changes to the Income Tax Act, but we would actually have an opportunity to consult with people who have expertise in this field. No doubt they would have a range of opinions and advice on what the impact of these changes would mean for whether or not we could generate a fair amount of revenue or whether or not the revenue projections that we have been given by the Minister of Finance are off in any way.

I know that all members here in the House, prior to receiving a copy of Bill No. 46, received a report, an analysis of the changes to the income tax system proposed by the Minister of Finance from the Chartered Accountant and Management Consultants firm of Grant Thornton. I have had a chance to look at this particular report, Mr. Speaker, but I wouldn't mind having more opportunity, as I am sure other members of this House wouldn't mind having an opportunity to look at this report with a little more care. Given that we received this report in the middle of this government's budget, and given that so many of the

[Page 5171]

members of the Opposition, certainly, were spending great quantities of our time responding to the public, reading our e-mails, taking phone calls, meeting with groups, particularly groups of parents, students and teachers around the impact of the Education budget, it did not leave a lot of time to do our homework with respect to reading complicated reports from chartered accounting firms that laid out what their assessment of the measures in the Financial Measures (2000) Bill actually are.

So now that this government has forced through their dastardly budget, we here do have some time to examine some of the documents that accompanied Bill No. 46, but if we had a bit more time, Mr. Speaker, for example, if we had six more months, we could actually . . .

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I wonder if the member for Halifax Needham would permit an introduction.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for Halifax Needham for permitting this introduction. Through you and to all members of the Legislature and to Nova Scotians, I would just like to say that many of our Nova Scotia communities are blessed with volunteers and activists who always have their towns or communities' best interests at heart. In the west gallery this afternoon we have one such community activist. He is from the Town of Canso. He is also accompanied by two colleagues of his and they are all members of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op. They have been working very hard. They have come down to Halifax, to meet with the Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable Ernest Fage, and they want to present a strong case to take to the federal government in Ottawa.

I would ask Mr. Pat Fougere, John Armsworthy and their friend and colleague, Everett Hanlon, to please rise and receive a warm welcome from the Nova Scotia Legislature. (Applause)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Welcome to our visitors in the gallery. Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other provisions in Bill No. 46 that really could use some additional scrutiny, I think, that a six months' hoist would give us an opportunity to have a look at. For example, and I know we are not supposed to look at this bill clause by clause but to speak to some of the general principles and features of the bill, but one of the things this bill does is get rid of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority and it transfers that responsibility to the Utility and Review Board.

[Page 5172]

Mr. Speaker, this may be a perfectly sensible thing to do. Given that one of the things the Voluntary Planning's Fiscal Management Task Force said, and one of the things I think resonated with Nova Scotians, was that it pointed out there were an extraordinarily large number of boards and commissions around Nova Scotia. Unlike other provinces, we probably have more boards and commissions and various groups of that nature than do many other provinces. They raise questions about whether or not we shouldn't rationalize in this way.

Bill No. 46 certainly doesn't take up the recommendations of the Fiscal Management Task Force to eliminate or rationalize boards and commissions in any serious kind of way, although the government might point to this one tiny little change it is making as a sensible measure to rationalize and place the particular responsibilities for alcohol and gaming and regulation around alcohol and gaming inside the public utilities area. However, I am not sure we all understand the implications of doing this.

Alcohol and gaming now has become a feature of revenue generation, unfortunately, given weak economic performance in a lot of other jurisdictions. So if we took six months it would give us a chance to look at other provinces to see whether or not this is, in fact, the way they have handled the regulation of alcohol and gaming, and the implications. After all, Mr. Speaker, this is an area where Nova Scotians have a lot of concern about because we have a province which is small, it is a province where we try very hard to continue on with our community lifestyles, attempt to have low incidents of crime and we have historically liked to keep a fairly tight reign on the regulation of alcohol and gaming.

So whether or not going this route, where the responsibilities for alcohol and gaming are moved into an arena that has responsibility for quite a lot of other forms of regulation, is something that we would need to, I think, consider very carefully, Mr. Speaker, and not be too hasty in our moving away from a stand-alone authority that deals with these important issues to combining it in an area where there are many other pressures.

Another feature of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, which I found quite interesting, and I think, again, if we could hoist this bill for six months, it would really give us an opportunity to talk to the government, particularly the Minister of Justice, around what his specific plans might be, for example, around home invasions, because another feature of this particular bill is one where it restricts the powers of the director of Victims' Services to vary awards of compensation. I have noticed in the election platform of the Hamm Tories, there was a commitment to deal with home invasions in a variety of ways. One way was to attempt to strengthen the provisions underneath the criminal law, but another - and I think a very important way - was to provide some form of compensation to victims of home invasions, many of who are frequently seniors, who live alone, who, in the course of a home invasion, may incur certain financial costs that were unanticipated by them, such as perhaps broken eyeglasses, torn clothing, ambulance fees to go to an emergency department for treatment, perhaps a broken door, broken windows, these kinds of things.

[Page 5173]

It seems to me that if we hoisted this particular bill for six months, we would have an opportunity to know more fully what plans it is that the Minister of Justice actually has with respect to this whole area of home invasions and compensating victims of home invasions and we would have an opportunity to look at how such compensation would be delivered and under whose program area it would fall. It would seem to be a reasonable assumption, Mr. Speaker, to think that it would be the director of Victims' Services who would have the authority to deliver compensation to victims of home invasions, and that they would have some latitude in determining what would be an appropriate amount of award in that process.

So, certainly, Mr. Speaker, this is a very important area. I believe it is probably important in your area in Cumberland County and it certainly is in my constituency of Halifax Needham. We have had a number of really reprehensible home invasions into the private dwellings of senior citizens, people who are generous and trusting and have accepted assistance when it has been offered, only to be, essentially, victimized by people whose motives weren't to be helpful, but quite the contrary, whose motives were to prey on the trusting nature of some of the senior citizens who were involved in these incidents. Certainly, if we took six months and we hoisted Bill No. 46, we would have an opportunity to more fully develop our appreciation of what would be useful for seniors, in terms of being compensated as victims of crime. That would allow us to have a much better piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, there are so many important issues in the Financial Measures (2000) Bill, Bill No. 46, that deserve comprehensive consultation, analysis and attention, it would be a shame if members of this Legislature did not take the opportunity to reflect fully on where this bill will leave people in Nova Scotia. For example, another provision in this particular bill gives the Minister of Finance the power to revoke the certificate of registration for a community economic development corporation under certain circumstances. We have a number of fairly interesting community economic development enterprises throughout Nova Scotia. I believe that Nova Scotia has a proud history of cooperatives and community economic development. You can go back and look at the Antigonish movement and Father Coady and Tompkins, and the work that they have done that laid a very strong foundation in the Antigonish movement that has remained in Nova Scotian communities today.

To convey to a Minister of the Crown this power to revoke the certificate of registration for community economic development corporations under certain circumstances, without a full airing of what those circumstances would be, I think, would miss an opportunity that we should have here in the Legislature, but more importantly, out in all of those communities where there have been and there are community economic development corporations. It would give us an opportunity, I think, to actually have a very informed debate about the role of community economic development corporations and their relationship to government, and how government can facilitate and be helpful in terms of this type of community economic enterprise, rather than ways in which government is just sort of either fairly uncaring because their emphasis tends to be more on big corporate entities, or when

[Page 5174]

government does get involved in community economic development, it is as a more authoritarian or as an interferer in the process.

[4:45 p.m.]

So if we took this off the floor for six months, we would have an opportunity to maybe really itemize the community economic development corporations that exist in the province right now. We could hear from people who have been working in those enterprises. After all, I think people who do this kind of work and have committed themselves to this form of economic development, they really understand what the strengths and weaknesses of these models are, what are helpful ways in which government can support their initiatives and how very good employment opportunities and forms of service delivery that really meet community need come out of these kinds of community economic development enterprises and corporations. These are, I think, very important issues and they are not issues that we should rush into quickly, Mr. Speaker. There are things which we would should be very reflective around and take some time to deal with.

There is one measure, in particular, I think, in Bill 46 that is certainly a very good measure, but perhaps it needs to be situated in a much larger context, Mr. Speaker, and that is the revoking of the grandfather clause, I guess you could call it, in the senior citizens' financial aid bill. Now, most people here will know that there is a property tax rebate program, but the property tax rebate was limited to people who were receiving the property tax rebate in 1995. Any persons who would have qualified for the property tax rebate as senior citizens after 1995, were ineligible because of a change in the program that was introduced, I believe, by the John Savage Government.

What this particular provision in the Financial Measures (2000) Bill would do is it would remove that prohibition and it would allow, certainly, more seniors to qualify for a property tax rebate. This, certainly, is a very good thing, but I am wondering if we hoisted this bill for six months, if we couldn't encourage the Minister of Housing, for example, to do what has been done in British Columbia where they took a period of time and they did a province-wide consultation on what they call supportive housing for seniors. They, in combination with the equivalent of our Senior Citizens' Secretariat and the Department of Health and the Department of Housing and the Department of Community Services, went out and they looked at how you would create a seamless program for seniors in a variety of settings, from their own homes to nursing homes or senior citizens' complexes, that would result in healthier outcomes for seniors, that also would result in a much lower utilization of hospital services.

Their report called Supportive Housing for Seniors is a very interesting report. They drew on programs of this nature that have been in place in some of the other OECD countries for some period of time and have had quite a profound impact on the quality of people's lives in their senior years and, as well, have assisted in keeping seniors from having to be placed

[Page 5175]

in nursing home care. This really would be the ideal thing for us to do, Mr. Speaker, in the next six months, if we were to hoist this bill.

We certainly could encourage those ministries to come together to look at the numbers of seniors that we have in the province, to look at the distribution of seniors with respect to whether or not they live in manors or whether they live in their own homes, whether they live with other family members who are caretakers. So we could start to get a picture of the demographics of this population and the characteristics of the population.

Then we could look at what services are there already and we could identify where the gaps are in services. We could hear from seniors in a variety of these different settings, like the seniors who came here today. Many of them live in manors that are owned and operated by the Province of Nova Scotia. They are for seniors with relatively modest incomes. Many of these manors have very limited programs available to seniors. Some of them have lunch programs. Many of the seniors organize their own recreation, be it card plays or bingos. I know from some of the seniors who were here today, they are seniors who would like assistance setting up a small exercise program so they could have a stationary bicycle or a non-motorized indoor track, one of those little machines they could walk on so they would be able to maintain good health.

It seems to me that would be not only a financially sensible thing for us to do and the Minister of Health and the Minister of Community Services to invest in, a very low cost kind of program to provide those kinds of services. The benefits on the other end, in terms of people maintaining good physical and emotional health and good social health as well, would be much greater than the costs we spend now in our very expensive acute care and long-term care system.

So there are many things about Bill No. 46 that require some thoughtful reflection, some greater detail to the supporting documents or evidence that the way the Minister of Finance is moving will result in any kind of benefit for Nova Scotians. In fact, I think we are pretty clear that many of the measures that this government has taken in the budget, that we were forced to vote on on Friday and, again, this particular piece of legislation that will allow the Minister of Finance to pursue his cut and burn kind of financial agenda imposing greater financial burdens on Nova Scotians while withdrawing really important services from Nova Scotians is definitely not the way to go, it is not what Nova Scotians thought they were voting for when they voted for the Hamm Government in the summer.

I believe that if there is anything we can do here on the Opposition benches to convince the government to take a step back from the Mike Harris-Ralph Kline kind of agenda, and think more about the kind of approach that they promised to deliver Nova Scotians this summer, then we would all be much better off.

[Page 5176]

The kinds of demonstrations that we have seen outside the House of Assembly would cease, and people would be able to get on with living their lives in a much more settled and secure kind of way.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I will end my remarks. (Applause)

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I certainly feel very privileged to rise in the House today to speak on this amendment. The first thing I would prefer to say is that I feel, and I believe my caucus feels, that there are very good initiatives within the Financial Measures Bill, but there are many that are very worrisome, not only to ourselves as members of the House, but also to our constituents.

I hear that daily, several times every day, and not just on the weekends. People are even taking the time to call long distance to my office here in Halifax. They have expressed their concern for the direction that we are going in. It is my belief, and it is shared by my caucus colleagues, that if we took six months and allowed the government an opportunity to go out and discuss this bill with the ordinary Nova Scotians, then perhaps they would get a better feel of how the community feels about this bill and in which direction this government should go.

Mr. Speaker, surely the demonstrations that we have seen, on an almost daily basis, here outside the House and throughout the Province of Nova Scotia - from one end of the province to the other - certainly must be recognized by this government. I think the first thing I would like to say, and I have heard several of the ministers indicate very clearly and I would agree with them, that they don't have all the answers. I would agree, and I don't think there is anybody who does have all the answers, and that is why I feel that the amendment proposed is perhaps a very good avenue for this government.

We all recognize that answers must be found for the benefit of the province overall, for the future especially. When we look at taking six months to go out and discuss this at community meetings and allow input from ordinary Nova Scotians, then I believe that this government would benefit a great deal. I also believe that just because you have a majority government, it certainly doesn't give you the right to trample or force regulations on people. That is certainly not what I hear from many people who admit that they voted for the Tory Party in the last provincial election, they didn't feel that they were voting for this type of direction. They felt, with the commitments being made by Premier Hamm and the various candidates throughout that election campaign, that there would be an avenue for ordinary Nova Scotians to have input into the direction that this government would carry forward.

[Page 5177]

[5:00 p.m.]

I think that what frustrates them more than anything, Mr. Speaker, is that this is obviously not taking place. I believe in six months they could better represent the needs of the people in this province. Almost on a daily basis we have heard this government speak about accountability, the financial accountability in particular, and the open and honest government that they would provide to the people in Nova Scotia. We have heard rumours and stories about financial ruin, economic disaster and all this sort of gibberish. The government has told Nova Scotians very clearly that it is an uphill struggle and that this government is facing a very difficult road and how the cuts they are proposing are very necessary for the future prosperity of the province. I feel, in particular, as I believe most members of the Opposition here, and in conversation with many of the backbenchers of this government, we don't all feel that this is true.

If the government agreed to this amendment, Mr. Speaker, they could have six months. As well, the people of Nova Scotia could have six months and they would be better able to recognize and feel the real and true state of their finances in this province which I feel could be of major benefit to this government. The people could go out. They could educate the community. They could have an opportunity to explain the direction they are going in. Perhaps people would be more comfortable in the direction that the government is going. I hear from seniors on a daily basis, their concern on the increased Pharmacare costs, in particular.

This six months, Mr. Speaker, would provide an opportunity for the minister to set a committee up to go forward out into the community and explain the direction that this government is carrying forward for Pharmacare and the service that it provides for our seniors. Then perhaps the seniors in the province would be more aware of the direction that this government is going in and would probably eliminate many of their fears if this government is going in the right direction, which I feel perhaps maybe the government is afraid to do. Maybe they cannot explain in a proper and responsible manner the direction that they are going in. Maybe that is why they don't seem to want to hear the many members standing up here and discussing this amendment. The reality is seniors are concerned, in particular, about many things in this budget, but Pharmacare is one that I would bring forward.

The concern out there is real and it is expressed daily by my seniors who I represent and I know in talking to my colleagues in my caucus, they receive the same concerns each day. So I find it very odd that it is only areas that are represented by my colleagues that have these concerns. We get e-mails, faxes, from all over parts of this province. So I feel very comfortable in saying that all seniors feel the fear where Pharmacare is going in the province. This would provide the government an opportunity to go out there and educate the seniors and to justify the direction that they are going in. It could probably relax many of the fears

[Page 5178]

that the seniors have and maybe that is why the government does not want to hear about this amendment. Perhaps that is not available. Maybe that is the problem.

We believe that the Tories have thrown in everything, including the kitchen sink in order to make cuts that they believe are necessary. In six months, people will have had an opportunity to understand that this budget and the cuts they are proposing are not necessary. Many of the cuts, I firmly believe, are not necessary. We are all aware of the financial situation in the province and we feel that it has to be dealt with in a very straightforward manner, in a very responsible manner, but there are issues in this financial bill that is being proposed by the Finance Minister, which in my opinion at least, are ludicrous.

This government campaigned openly, and it is documented within their blue book, that they campaigned on less red tape. I would have to question what did they do about this less red tape. They introduced a red tape commissioner. Adding another level of bureaucracy within the system that we already have in place in this province. Is that what Nova Scotians were promised in July of last year? They were promised less red tape, not more red tape. I believe that the six months would provide the government the opportunity to go forward and educate the community and explain, perhaps not on an individual basis but through community meetings and open forum discussions, that this government could educate the community on why they feel it is necessary to create another level of bureaucracy within the province.

On top of this, almost every department has added more money to the deputy ministers' and the ministers' budget. Almost every department. Why? Why the extra staff? They just keep piling up the bureaucracy and the commitment that I heard during the July election last year was less bureaucracy. In fact, when the budget was presented here, the government and the Finance Minister himself committed to this House that there would be less bureaucracy. Another fact is that the Education Minister continually stood up in this House and indicated very clearly that she felt that the cuts to education could be controlled through cuts in bureaucracy within the Department of Education. And that is a fact, Mr. Speaker.

I find it hard to understand or take grips with the fact that the bureaucracy continues to pile up with another level being created. It doesn't make sense and it certainly doesn't indicate the concern that they have for their budget.

These are only a few of the budget items that we can identify, particularly within the budget itself. Many of these cuts are hidden and we all know that. The concern that I have is I don't even believe some of the ministers are aware of the cuts that are going to be necessary within the departments to get to the budget. Many of us had prior experience and I certainly feel very privileged to stand here today amongst my caucus colleagues because they have had the opportunity to be there on the provincial level. They have experienced this first-hand. It is a very difficult chore indeed.

[Page 5179]

The people in the province have a right to have input into the direction of their government and the government is only young. It is a new government, it is a young government, it is relatively inexperienced and I would suggest that if I was sitting in that government over there, I would welcome the opportunity to allow the community an opportunity to have an input into the direction of the various departments of this particular government.

I can't understand why the government is so against going into the community. Perhaps it is because of the demonstrations we see outside of this House almost on a daily basis. It baffles me, after you get elected, the people thought they were voting for something. If the members of the government feel that is what they are delivering, then I don't understand what the problem is to go out into the community, to educate and tell the people the direction in which you are going.

What else lurks in the budget that we are not yet aware of? The bill, of course, as the Premier says, ferret it out. Perhaps we should do what the Education Minister continually says, perhaps chill out. I don't think the people, at least the people that I represent and the message that they are bringing to me on almost a daily basis, that is not what the people are looking forward to. That is not the comments they welcome and that is not the direction that they thought they were getting in July 1999.

As the Opposition, I believe we owe it to the people to take much time and we need to tell them, Mr. Speaker, the whole story, especially if the government will not. It is obvious this government is certainly not prepared to face any criticisms or any questions. They don't have the proper answers. They certainly haven't had the welcome mat out since August when they were sworn in. So the government is trying to ram this bill through before a proper analysis can be done. As Opposition members, we are making it very clear to this government that our reply to that is absolutely no. It is not the direction we feel that this particular government should be going forward with.

Mr. Speaker, this hoist amendment is an amendment to give the government more time to consult with the individuals who, perhaps, they forgot to consult with earlier. I will just refer to just a few. Perhaps the teachers, or perhaps the Parent-Teacher Associations would welcome an opportunity to sit down with their elected members and discuss the impact this budget is having on the education system in the province. I would also suggest the jail guards are another group of people who would welcome an opportunity to sit down with the minister and discuss the various changes within that department. I think it is very obvious there will be a loss of employment in that field in the very near future, particularly when you look at the budget numbers within the budget. In fact, they have already admitted there will be job losses within that department.

[Page 5180]

The bill also wants all government business enterprise to have prior approval of all financial transactions. I agree to a point that the government needs to know what is going on, that is obvious. The government should be aware of what is going on. We also have to allow these government enterprises the ability to function efficiently. If that isn't provided, then how are you going to run a government and the enterprises? How are they going to operate on a normal, everyday basis if they don't have that ability? Mr. Speaker, even I can figure out that that is a very difficult chore for the various government enterprises within today's reality check.

So, of course, all the financial transactions need prior approval, of course, within this budget, and the loans and the credit limits, bonds, financial notes, whatever. I agree, I guess, with this, in principle, very strongly that handcuffing business opportunities is just simply not going to work within the province. Prior to July of last year, economically the province was number one within the country; number one out of 10 provinces and a territory. I would suggest that the previous government was doing something right within the economic situation that existed in 1997, when my Leader and former Premier, the Honourable Russell MacLellan, took over the government. They had to be doing something right. To come in number one in the country, it is obvious, the report card was there.

[5:15 p.m.]

What does the business community think about this and the individuals who were responsible for running these government enterprises think about this provision? What do they think? Were they asked? Was any time allotted by the minister to give them an opportunity to have an input into the changes, prior to this bill being presented in this House? I would suggest not, particularly the individuals that I speak to within the province. They didn't have a chance, Mr. Speaker. They didn't have any opportunity.

In fact, the people that I spoke to were not even aware that these cuts were going to be taking place. That leads me to believe that these partners, and I feel they are very strong partners, were not consulted. They didn't have an opportunity to have an input. They had no say whatsoever in the decision-making process. I would suggest that is not what Nova Scotians voted for last July. In fact, the Nova Scotians that I speak to who did, in fact, admit - and there are not many of them - that they did vote Tory last year - not after this spring - but, the ones that did are as shocked as any other Nova Scotian at the direction they took.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member he is to be speaking to the amendment and I would ask him to steer himself back a little bit, please, toward the topics. Thank you.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the point I was trying to make is that this hoist would allow the government six months to go out and correct the mistake. We all make mistakes. I am not criticizing the government for mistakes. I have made mistakes, that's obvious. I

[Page 5181]

would suggest this is a golden opportunity for the government to correct a mistake - and what is wrong with that - by standing up and saying, hey, perhaps we moved a little too fast. Perhaps we did it this way and just perhaps we should have allowed people to have input. Perhaps we wouldn't be where we are today. What is wrong with that? I think that would enforce the backbone of this government, in particular, if they allowed the six months to go forward within the province and address the concerns that people have.

I know it is not just the people I represent that have concerns here, not just my residents. I speak to backbenchers every day, and I am not standing here today, Mr. Speaker, to embarrass anybody, I wouldn't dare mention their names. But I speak to them. Their residents have concerns, and they know it. I guess the real challenge is, what are you going to do about it. That is the challenge.

Six months, Mr. Speaker, would allow the government the necessary time to reconsider all things in this budget, not just one or two or three items, all things within the budget, especially the ones thrown in at the last moment. I would say they should be a priority with this government. However, six months would give this government the opportunity to go forward and reconsider and educate the people and allow the people an opportunity to have an input in their government.

We have to realize, Mr. Speaker, and I think from time to time, sometimes when I speak to elected people, they sort of forget where they came from. Now, we represent people here, not my interests; I represent the interests of the people who sent me here to represent them in this great House and I think that is fair to say for every member, all 52 of them. The six months would allow each of us to go forward and possibly duel with the Finance Minister, you know, for the future prosperity of the province.

What is wrong with allowing the residents who are directly affected by these changes an opportunity to both be educated and allow them to have an input into what is being done by their government? This is a government that has been elected by the people to represent the people, not the interests of a certain select group of people or individuals such as myself. Perhaps the reason why the government is moving in this direction, they are steadfast and they are very stern on going forward in their own direction, what they obviously believe in, perhaps it is going in this direction because it plans to privatize most, Mr. Speaker, if not all, of the government services, you know, we have heard that. We have heard that on almost a regular basis. We have even heard it within our health care from the Premier himself.

Mr. Speaker, I hear about the reviews, all these reviews. We have not seen any, but we hear that, you know, the minister the other day indicated there was a review. One minister says there was not a review. Another minister says there is a review, it is real, you know, the Cabinet has it. The Premier made a commitment here in the House last week to present and table that review, but we have not seen it yet.

[Page 5182]

But what would be wrong with allowing the people, if this government is proposing changes within our health care in this province, the system we all know is number one in probably the world, in North America surely, what would be wrong with allowing the health care workers to come forward and provide good sound advice for the direction that this government will be taking in health care?

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if that had been done in the Department of Education, then all those demonstrations that we saw outside this House almost on a daily basis would not have been necessary because in discussing the role that these individuals played in these demonstrations, they felt it necessary to tell the government that they care about education in this province, they care about the direction that it is going forward in and they care about not only the people who deliver it, but the people who receive it, which is very important. The people who receive it are the children, the youth and the young men and women in this province.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that is where our future is. That is a very important element for our future prosperity that this province should be going forward in. That is what I hear all the time from the Premier. These cuts are necessary for the future prosperity of the province. So what would be wrong with allowing the people who know health care, to allow an input, to sit down with the minister and provide him with some good sound advice? What is wrong with taking advice?

As I look across the floor, I see many of my former colleagues from my municipal days and I know that is one of the reasons I am here, I can say that I have always listened to the people. When there are different areas such as farming within the area I represent, I listen to farmers and I rely on the farmers for advice. They give me a unified direction in the way they feel that farming should go within their community. That is the idea that I believe good government provides to the people that they represent.

It is obvious that this government has not done proper consultation with the people of Nova Scotia. They haven' even asked them what they think about privatization. For instance, I am forced to vote on this bill and it leaves me wondering. I certainly feel very aware of how the people in Cape Breton The Lakes feel about this bill. It makes me wonder what the people down in the western end of the province or down the Eastern Shore, what do they think? What do the people think in New Glasgow? Truro? Downtown Halifax, the merchants? I don't think the government knows either, certainly not the members that I speak to. They don't know any more than I do. Do they care? I don't know if they care, I am not here to judge them on that particular issue, but I would suggest that the six months would provide an avenue and give them an opportunity to go out and listen to those ordinary Nova Scotians that they represent and listen. Maybe it won't be all emotional topics that we discuss. In my experience, by consulting with the people, you can get some good, fresh, bright ideas. From what I know of this government, I think perhaps they need all the help they can get in that particular direction.

[Page 5183]

It is the government's agenda to privatize these services, not the people who reside in the Province of Nova Scotia. I haven't seen anywhere people coming forward to tell me that they welcome privatization in health care or in education, in farming, in any industry in this province or any category that these ministers represent. I have not received one phone call supporting changes in health care, if they are going to come forward in this government, I haven't received one phone call in support of privatizing health care in this province and I doubt it very much if these members of this government have received any either. It is obvious that consultation is not taking place. The six months would allow the government an opportunity to go out and consult with the people.

Mr. Speaker, is this a Harris-Hamm agenda being brought forward? Or is it becoming a Klein-Hamm agenda? It is kind of confusing from day to day and perhaps if the government were kind enough to allow a six month grace period, perhaps the ordinary Nova Scotians whom I hear them bragging that they represent, maybe they could have an opportunity to let them know what they think about these agendas. Perhaps that is what they are afraid of. I really can't understand why they would not take six months to go out and talk to the people in this province and get some advice, some direction. There are ordinary, everyday people out there who really have some good ideas, and that is one of the areas that I think they could learn from the former government, the previous government, and why economically this province is number one in job creation. What is wrong with listening to those ideas?

[5:30 p.m.]

That is what the previous government did, Mr. Speaker, that is why it had such success within the economic field in this province, because they listened to the people, they allowed the people the input and accepted the advice that the people gave them. They took that and put it into action and words and made it work. That is what each and every good government, and any successful government, throughout the history of this wonderful country, that is what made governments work for the people. That is any government, just go back in history. Any government that allowed their people to have an input, allowed consultation and accepted advice, that is why they were successful and that is why they were elected many times over, not just a one-term government, which many people suggest that we perhaps have in this province today. I probably could say that I am witnessing a one-term government.

I don't know if the Premier is set in his idea to privatize health care or not, and I certainly hope he isn't. I certainly hope that is one where he is going to allow the health care professionals in this province to have input into the direction that the health care system will go. Accept the advice from the people who work within the health care system and they will receive good advice, and I would almost guarantee them that, Mr. Speaker, because the people I know who work within the health field in this province certainly are knowledgeable people and are voluntarily willing to provide the advice that is necessary to this government, the knowledge that this government needs in order to change and save the dollars that they are saying are necessary to save.

[Page 5184]

I know my people - and I don't have a problem saying it - that I represent, they certainly don't, they would not want the government to move forward with any privatization strategies in any of the departments, in particular the health care, it is a no, no. They have indicated to me very clearly, Mr. Speaker, that they want an opportunity and they expect this government to consult them directly, through community meetings and various options that the government has to get their message out. They expect to be consulted and as a member of this House, I firmly expect them to have an opportunity to be consulted on all these changes, especially in health care.

There are major changes, Mr. Speaker. These major changes and decisions that the government is going to be proposing, now six months could do a lot for this government to ensure that it receives adequate public input on very important public policy. It probably would provide an avenue for this government to obtain some credibility that I firmly believe today, May 8, 2000, they are lacking. I believe they are not only lacking it with residents that I represent, I feel they are lacking it with the people they represent and, if I look over there, I feel I could see it on their faces. If this government is not looking to privatize everything in sight, if they are not, then they should allow government enterprise to go about doing its business in a reasonable manner.

I have to admit, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is not all that bad. There are some parts of the bill that perhaps deserve a second look and I think the jury is still out on the bill itself. For instance, when a department wants to initiate a new program which has not been budgeted for or that money was allotted for, that program must wait until next year's budget or the department is going to have to find the new money in the existing budget. It is a positive step in the budget process for sure, a very positive step.

But even in this provision, the six month period we are trying to request that the government provide, could be used to prepare government departments for these changes. What is wrong with that? Even the people in the Civil Service are stressed, paranoid; to just stand right up and say you are going to lose 1,600 jobs out of the Civil Service, 1,200 of those jobs are real jobs. There are approximately, if the numbers that are being provided are correct - and we are researching that and we don't have that answer yet - if there are 400 forced retirements, then that still leaves 1,200 people facing a loss of a job.

It is not just that simple, simply not that simple, because that doesn't just impact the individual that is employed by the government. It impacts directly to the community that individual resides in. It will have a direct impact on the economic prosperity of the communities within the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, six months would allow this government the proper amount of time to put time-frames in place, to allow a proper process to be put in place. It would allow knowledgeable people within the various fields an opportunity to provide not only input, but some very important advice to this government. As I indicated before, any successful

[Page 5185]

government in the history of this country, whether you look at Manitoba, Ontario, our friends in Newfoundland, even our own province, the success of each and every one of these governments relied on the advice it received from its resources. I would suggest that six months would provide an ample amount of time to put this process in place before you go wrecking it with a hammer and chisel or whatever. In this particular instance, perhaps they are going to use mauls.

After six months, Mr. Speaker, the various departments would be able to hit the ground running and implement the initiatives with very little glitches. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what the people want who are going to be laid off in the Civil Service? Isn't that what they want for their families? Isn't that what the communities want that are going to be affected by the downturn in the salaries that are being spent in these communities? Isn't that what Nova Scotians want? I would suggest that this government knows that that is what it wants. If it wasn't so stubborn, they would allow the six months, just a little bit of breathing time to put proper organization in place before the wrecking ball comes out and they move in with the gang crew and just smash everything that various governments over the years have worked hard to put in place. This government seems very sincere in taking the wrecking ball to the infrastructure that has been put in place.

Departments, Mr. Speaker, must be held firm to the money which is budgeted to them. We agree, totally. I believe our socialist friends next to us would agree with that and I believe that the government members, the backbenchers, they all agree. We agree that in the six months that is being proposed, it would help ensure that these various government departments are ready for the necessary cuts, the ones that may or may not be necessary. They could be put in different categories and it would give the government an opportunity to review, in the proper form, the demolition, I guess, is the best way to put it, that these departments are going to go through. It would seem to me more sane to go that way and prepare the province, the departments, the people, the communities and the individuals that are about to lose their jobs. Provide them with a little bit of breathing room so these departments can be ready and the people in the community and the people that we represent have an opportunity to get ready.

The six months, Mr. Speaker, is vital, I feel, to the agenda, and particularly this agenda that this government has put forward. It is obvious that various governments, over the years, sometimes just run out of control. I don't think that this government, in conversation with the ministers and, certainly, the backbenches, that that is not their intent here. They are not set to conquer. Some of them are doing what they feel is necessary, but I don't know if they are receiving the proper advice. How do we know where they are getting their advice? Certainly, I would suggest that a downtown Halifax businessman knows very little about the operation within the health field or the education field. I feel that we should take advice from people who are seasoned and experienced within these fields. I think that is the reasonable and responsible manner and the direction that we should be moving forward in. That is what the six months would provide. It would provide the proper infrastructure for these changes, the

[Page 5186]

ones that would be decided are necessary, the opportunity to move forward, instead of smashing and destroying everything in its way.

Just last evening, Mr. Speaker, I saw a five minute clip on tornadoes and how they start. Well, watching this government in the last seven or eight months, I think the swirls have started in August and they are growing and the winds are getting stronger right through the Province of Nova Scotia. By the time these guys are through, we certainly will require federal help, disaster relief for the whole province. I can't understand why, with this great vision of prosperity out there, we are going to get there with this government laying off people and hospital beds closing, steel plants being demolished. Slow down. There are ways to fight tornadoes in this province. I think we are going to have to find out rapidly how to do away with this one, that is for sure.

[5:45 p.m.]

The six months, Mr. Speaker, would allow this government to come back, take a little bit of control responsibly. Even if I look over there at the backbenchers and I look at the former municipal politicians, I certainly admit, I used to brag when I was a municipal politician, that I was part and parcel of a government that was closest to its people. Well, that is not just my theory. I know many of them, the colleagues over there, from various conventions such as when I was a municipal politician, and they feel the same way. I think that even the backbenchers feel left out here.

I don't even believe that this government requested any input from their backbenchers, let alone the citizens or the Opposition Parties or the people they represent themselves. They have a small group. I don't know if I should name that group here today or not but it is obvious that they have a small group of Tory hackers and that is where they get their advice and their direction from. It is going to lead this province into doom and gloom and that is going to become a reality long before your mandate is up.

Mr. Speaker, natural disasters or man-made disasters happen. I am glad to see that the minister has recognized these occurrences in this House, as the Liberals did. It is very interesting, for me at least, to see the balanced budget found in this bill. It is also interesting to see that it does not take effect until 2002-03. Of course, perhaps the minister could use the six months as a calendar, to double-check that it is, indeed, the third and not that fourth year. There seems to be a little bit of confusion about that, if we all recall, and it is documented confusion, by the way.

Mr. Speaker, I also seem to remember the Premier saying during the election campaign that they would balance the books in the year three. In fact, I am almost certain that I saw that in the blue book that was published by this government. I guess I would like to ask the minister what is going to happen when he presents a budget in 2002-03 and it forecasts a deficit. That is what I want to know. What is going to happen then? There are lots of

[Page 5187]

provisions for the departments to table reports and resolutions if they run over budget. The bill also makes those departments make up the shortfall in their next year's budget.

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing to say what will happen if the budget is not balanced, whether it is three years or four years or anything else. I would suggest that very soon after that, the people will judge this government again in this province. They will judge this government and the government, particularly the backbenchers, will have to go out there and start banging on doors and telling people why they didn't . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that he is to be speaking to the amendment, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the point I was trying to get at was that I think this is the more responsible manner, the most responsible direction that this government could do to defend, today. Don't wait until three years from now and you have to go out there banging on doors, trying to explain to the people why you could not slow down and allow them the opportunity to have an input into the direction that the government is going. Six months, not six years. Six months is all we are suggesting.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's 180 days.

MR. BOUDREAU: Just 180 days, to be exact, by one of my colleagues here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Plus.

MR. BOUDREAU: Plus a little more, because his arithmetic is not too good I guess today. But anyway, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is this minister does not tell anybody, does not tell anything, does not indicate whatsoever what will happen if the budget is not balanced in year three or four. Would the minister be able to use these six months to come up with the criteria? I would suggest that he would. Perhaps he could consult directly with ordinary Nova Scotians and ask them what they think he should do if he presents a budget that is a deficit in 2002-03. Maybe that is what this government is afraid of, that the people in this province may tell him directly what they expect from this government and this minister.

Actually I remember something that the Premier said, about how the Premier should resign if budgets don't balance. I seem to remember this current Premier wondering out loud about that one day, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the Minister of Finance should resign if he does not present a budget in 2002-03 to this House that is balanced. If he presents a budget, I, for one, will be, and I know there will be some colleagues over here very interested in the direction that this minister will be going in that particular budget year. I guess it makes me wonder if this whole Cabinet would put their jobs on the line if this budget is not balanced.

[Page 5188]

Six months, Mr. Speaker, six months. You know we have already seen health care beds closed, lay-offs, education. There has been much confusion, you know we laid off 400 teachers, 800, 700, 900, it even went to 1,100. Now this government, I guess from what I am hearing, this government justifies it because now they are only going to lay off junior teachers. Teachers in this province are our greatest resource within education, and it is a theory that I have when discussing lobsters, when an individual from government - not this particular government, it was a federal government many years ago, not the present one - and the concern was about a bunch of baby lobsters that were being killed and the scientists who were working for the Department of Fisheries indicated to me, you know, we are not going to kill the big ones, we are just going to kill the baby ones. If you just kill the baby ones, how the heck do you ever get big ones?

Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that the minister is listening. If we lay off all our junior teachers, then we will never have experienced, well-groomed teachers for our future education system that this Premier, this government, and this minister is promising Nova Scotians. How will the education system ever mature after our older and our well-experienced teachers retire? How are we ever going to rebuild our resources if this provision is allowed to stay within the Department of Education?

Mr. Speaker, you can kill the baby lobsters or the baby teachers if you want to put it in that perspective, but we require those resources, those junior teachers. We need them, so that some day they will become the experienced individuals that are necessary to teach our children what is required.

I have just been reminded I only have 20 seconds, so I would say, in closing, when I was on council in Cape Breton, they would never allow me an hour to speak. Thank you. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the hoist with respect to the Financial Measures (2000) Bill. I want to let you know that a week is a lifetime in politics. One can certainly attest to that on behalf of the government members opposite, particularly the backbenchers. I want to say that I am sure many of the backbenchers receive many calls from citizens within their constituencies regarding the proposed budget of this particular government, and in fact, the financial impacts that would be borne by those particular budget measures and recommendations.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this government has been in power for approximately 10 months. During that 10 month period, this government - and this is the reason why it is all-important to remember this six months' hoist so we can come back in six months to review the impact of this 2000-01 budget - because the first time the budget came forward with by this Tory Government, in fact, was with a Liberal budget. They had

[Page 5189]

commented with respect that there wasn't much they could do with that budget and that, in fact, they would put their stamp on the next budget that came forward.

Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians have now seen their stamp with respect to this budget. I want to say that this hoist will allow all members of this House to digest the accuracy of the estimates of each of the governmental departments six months from this date. The amendments will also give Nova Scotians time to evaluate the reductions of programs and services this Tory Government has determined will be the core programs which the government will deliver. Also, I want to say that six months from now we will know the impact on the delivery of programs and services as it relates to governments and to Nova Scotians.

There is not one Nova Scotian across this province who will not recognize the impact that will be affecting him or her as a result of this budget. Mr. Speaker, every day, there are components of this budget that are being vetted out by the Opposition, which will have a significant impact on Nova Scotians. I want to say that directly across this province, Nova Scotians have continuously called the Opposition, and I am sure they have called the members of the government with respect to the impacts this budget has had. I want to tell you that in six months from now, there will be, in fact, a very serious evaluation of the programs and services in each and every one of these departments.

Mr. Speaker, I recall back some time ago, I had the opportunity to speak about agriculture in a small way, and a former honourable member who is not here today, by the name of Mr. George Archibald, certainly brought to my attention the importance of agriculture because he represented an agricultural community. Six months from now that agricultural community is going to understand the impact of the 160 programs that have been cut from agriculture alone.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that my short tenure as a worker on farms in the Annapolis Valley, which I am very proud to say were a learning experience marked for myself. I knew nothing about the importance of agriculture, the importance of farming and what kind of an impact that had on the economy for Nova Scotia, and how proud farmers were in delivering the produce that many Nova Scotians and many people throughout the country would be the benefactors of. I am sure that during the next six months there will be an opportunity to consult with former members of this Legislature, former members who, in fact, had a deep appreciation for farming, particularly individuals like George Archibald, who, as I said earlier, knew a great deal about agriculture.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to go to some of the program cuts in agriculture, as when I look at the cut to produce and distribute a newsletter with the Orchard Outlook. I was fortunate enough to work on a mixed farm in a community outside of Kentville called Lower

[Page 5190]

Canard and another community called Hillaton. I can tell you it was extremely important for the community to understand, particularly in the orchard business, there are many different varieties of apples and pears and plums that are produced in the agricultural industry, all of them which require a great deal of expertise and technology that will allow farmers to get the maximum yield from their particular crops.

Mr. Speaker, I felt that that was very important and very good. Often, there was a very small newsletter - and I forget the title of the newsletter at that time - that used to come around, and during the time when I had an opportunity to sit back and read this newsletter, it was very informative. It gave me the opportunity to be able to distinguish a Starch Delicious from a Cortland, from a Golden Russet and so on, and it gave me the opportunity to be able to distinguish the different brands of pears, as well. I want to tell you that that component is no longer going to be there as a result of a cut. Six months from now, we will know the impact of that.

Mr. Speaker, presentations at meetings, workshops, field tours, short courses, all production-related aspects of vegetables, berry crops, fruit trees, greenhouse crops, ornamental nurseries, sod, maple syrup, agriculture, you name it, the list goes on and on with respect to the potential loss that the farmer and the committees and the communities have come to respect with respect to being able to organize themselves, to be able to understand and to be able to have the potential of knowing what it is to be a farmer.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the fortunate opportunity, while there, to work in the dairy industry, as well. There was a tremendous amount of research into technology. The adaptation at that time - I was a very young person - was that there were some very new technologies that were coming onstream that allowed dairy farmers to mass produce milk in bulk. As a matter of fact, quota restraint programs were put into place, restricting the amount of quota that would be produced by each farmer. I do believe they are still there today. I can't speak for that, but I do think those programs are still there today. What is happening, from my vantage point, is with the elimination of the technological expertise that is required to enable the farmer to continue to get the potential out of his particular dairy stock, then that is very important because it also provides the food source to many Nova Scotians. Without that maximum potential and without that maximum production level, then it can mean the difference between a farmer continuing to farm or having to sell his farm.

Mr. Speaker, six months from now is the only time we will be able to assess and evaluate that kind of a process as to what has happened. Where has this gone and what is the impact of that? I have to tell you that because, as I indicated earlier, this was mixed farming, I did have the opportunity to work on a number of different areas and in the hog producing section as well. I want to tell you there was a tremendous amount of work done in the hog producing industry.

[Page 5191]

As a matter of fact, in 1964 - if I can say, Mr. Speaker, this relates directly to the reason why we should ask for a six months' hoist on this bill, because back then - the technology and the expertise was not as readily available to those hog producers as what is available now, and what the government is now proposing to cut. I remember working on that farm and that farmer had a downswing in the pork industry and that farmer was a producer of some 2,000 hogs at that particular time. That is a huge farm in Nova Scotia for hog production and I want you to know that in itself meant that what had happened as a result of not having the expertise available and not having the marketing boards available and the committees that could help this farmer out, this farmer was left on his own.

Six months from now we hope that won't happen to many farmers in the area and that we will have the opportunity to be able to say to you and your government that in fact this was a wrong direction. Six months from now, that evaluation process will be able to take place because this particular farmer ended up losing his farm. That is what happened to this farmer. The expertise, the technology and the support was not there for this particular farmer, so that farmer who was obviously very well educated and a graduate of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College as well as the college in Wolfville, was able to take on another profession and move on because of the consequences of that.

If there is ever a need to recognize why government must be held in check, and there must be a checks and balances process, that is what this six months' hoist does. It creates the checks and balances process with respect to this government. It makes the government accountable. It makes government accountable to those people that they are serving and this particular area, it is the agricultural industry and the dairy producing industry and the hog producing industry and let's go to the chicken farming industry, or the feathered farming industry is what they now call it. In my particular period of time, there were two - there was the poultry industry and there was the turkey industry and I will tell you that this, in itself, is very significant when you look at 160 programs being cut out of the government with respect to the issue of farming.

Just look at the kind of impact. That is a $5 million cut from this Agriculture budget. Mr. Speaker, I know that we went through this budgetary process on Friday. Every member of the Opposition has delayed the budgetary process because we believe six months from now that budget will not be the same budget as has been produced by this government. We have also seen the shifting of numbers. We have also seen this government use money out of what was called the $88 million government restructuring plan. I have never seen a government whose ineptness with respect to the budgetary process and whose disregard for the very nature of the budgetary process is to such a point where it can turn around and use $88 million of a restructuring program that it told Nova Scotians would be for a different form of government.

[Page 5192]

I want to tell you that six months from now is the only time that Nova Scotians will know if there is a significant difference in this government and the delivery of services. I want to tell you when we look at the $88 million restructuring process that was set out by government, we don't even have a plan and six months from now the Opposition and all members of this government should, in fact, have an opportunity to have before them a plan. Only then will we know what direction this government is going. I think that is important to all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians want to know from this government what will be the core programs that government is going to deliver to Nova Scotians. That is of significant importance here. If, in fact, this government that carried a blue book through the election campaign - excuse me, Mr. Speaker, if I may because I just want to make sure I have my blue book here - it says Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course; a clear curse, as some members of this Legislature may say, a clear curse.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, six months from now I might even be able to because this government may be toppled. That blue book that was signed by the members of that political Party opposite, who are now the government, I might just simply be able to generate tremendous dollars in an election campaign, to run a very good campaign not only for myself but for every member of my political Party. So I want to thank the members opposite for delivering that signed, autographed book. In six months' time, we will be able to generate a tremendous amount of revenue from that. Hopefully, there will be a complete collapse of the Tory Government in such a way that we will be able, six months from now, to address that issue as well and six months from now that Nova Scotians will get the opportunity to do so.

Let's look at restructuring. There is not one single Nova Scotian in this province that can tell me what the intent of the present Conservative Government is with respect to restructuring. Yet there is $88 million set aside for the restructuring of government and the delivery of services and programs to Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: Slush fund.

MR. PYE: There are many people here in the Opposition, and you know who they are, they are saying, slush fund, in the background. Six months from now we will know that that is a slush fund. We will also know that that slush fund is, in fact, significantly important to the survival of that government because every time that government finds itself with a problem, it will reach into the slush fund, grab it out and address the issues. Now, Mr. Speaker, we already know it has dug into the slush fund with respect to education and taken some money from that slush fund. Six months from now, we will know what implications that has on the restructuring program.

[Page 5193]

Speaking about education, Mr. Speaker, I just want to go over here with respect to education. I want to tell the minister what has happened as a result of the changes with respect to that. When we look at education, and we also know that the money has been taken out and there has been some shifting by the budgetary process of the Minister of Education, we also know there has been money taken out of the restructuring program, but what we have not been told is that despite all that, we have not been told what consequences still lie with the district schools boards in this province in education.

We have not been told what kind of an impact that will have on the cuts of teaching aides, significantly important to those persons with disabilities who are going there and need these teachers' aides in order to continue through their education. It is only six months from now, if in fact we get the opportunity, that we will know the consequences of that in education.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the support staff, the administrative staff in education. There is this whole process with respect to what is going to be cut in the administrative staff. I am talking about the people who can least afford it, I am talking about the clerical and technical workers, some librarians and so on, who may very well be cut because the school boards have indicated that they are going to have to cut, despite the kind of agreement they made with this particular government. They said it was not their optimum but that it was something they were going to have to try to work around. Six months from now with this hoist, we will know if, in fact, that is attainable or not.

[6:15 p.m.]

Also we have the custodial services, janitors, very low on the totem pole, the very first people, very important people whose voices will not be heard; the number of reduced, the number as a result of school closures, the number of reduced custodial staff that will be needed to maintain our schools and, mind you, they do an excellent job, Mr. Speaker. You and I and everyone in this Legislative Assembly knows someone who is employed in the schools as caretakers, cleaners and the like. We know that and we know the kind of excellent job they do because we don't send our children to dirty schools in Nova Scotia and we know that those schools need to be well maintained and so on.

So, Mr. Speaker, that in itself has a significant impact six months down the road because we don't know. We also don't know what it would be like to have bus drivers, and there is even the talk about reducing the number of bus drivers. I want to tell you that if this is a case of forcing children to walk beyond the specified required limits set out by the Department of Education now and the kilometres are extended, we will only know six months from now how many deaths may have been attributed to that or not, if there are any.

[Page 5194]

Mr. Speaker, you cannot separate any of this. This all comes in one complete package called the budget of the Government of Nova Scotia. Six months from now each of those components of the budget estimates of Nova Scotia are in fact measured and there is absolutely no way to do this except with respect to the six month period.

When you look at education, Mr. Speaker, and we all know that education is paramount because a society is built upon education. We recognize the important contribution to education by the wealth in our society and in North America, in Nova Scotia and in the metropolitan area and, in particular, all of Nova Scotia, we recognize the importance of education. I want to say to you that all parts of Nova Scotia are not treated fairly with respect to education as well and that is the reason why the six months' hoist should be truly measured. In the metropolitan area the schools are blessed with the good graces of the former members of council, the present members of the Halifax Regional Municipality and the former City of Dartmouth with respect to providing a non-discretionary contribution to education.

Mr. Speaker, in the field of education that allows for extra-curricular activities. That allows sometimes for money to be spent for technical assistance and teachers' aides. That allows money to be spent in arts programs. That allows money to be spent on extra-curricular activities such as sports and recreation and the like. We all know that education is not a sole component by itself. A healthy mind and a healthy body are important and education is significantly important too. Six months from now we do know, Mr. Speaker, that that is the kind of change that might very well have a significant impact on education because we really have not come to the picture.

Although this budget was approved on Friday night, I sat here until approximately 4:50 p.m. as a matter of fact. After the budget was over, I just sat here and reminisced about the whole process of what was going on with respect to the budget and the kind of impact that it is going to have six months from now. When I look at all the members on the front benches and those members on the front bench are, obviously, ministers, Mr. Speaker, and I knew very well that they had a commitment and an obligation to stand up and to defend their budget and to defend their budgetary process in a manner even though they knew that their budgetary process was flawed.

What I did not imagine and did not dream is that members of the Opposition, I mean not of the Opposition, but the members of the backbench who in fact represent constituencies similar to mine, yours and everyone else's, are out there, and people are begging for their attention. They are crying for the attention of their MLAs and their MLAs are nowhere to be seen. Their lips are sealed. They cannot speak.

Six months from now, Mr. Speaker, the consequences of something like that is going to fall on government. You should say, why should I be concerned about the government? I am in a Legislative Assembly - and our Party from day one recognized that we lost the

[Page 5195]

election and we did not form government in 1999 - but what we did say was that we would be cooperative and that there would be a cooperative approach and that we would, in fact, inform government whenever we thought that there was a change in direction that would benefit them, that we would do that. That is why this six months' hoist is there, Mr. Minister. It is because we want this government to recognize the consequences of their budget.

Those backbenchers may not speak for their constituents and the amazing thing about that is that because they could not speak for their constituents, day in and day out, members of this Opposition were given the responsibility, which they were elected to, to carry out the petitions against the cuts in government. That, to me, was a most unusual circumstance. Six months from now, I hope that we can realize and hope that never happens again. Because, in my opinion, that is not what Members of the Legislative Assembly get elected for.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move on to another area of concern of mine and that is with respect to the Department of Community Services. As you might note, I have been going through the estimates of each department and singling out particular departments that have a special interest in my heart and a special interest, hopefully, in the heart of the government and that is why, six months from now, we will recognize the importance of what the government has done. The removal of the $18 for transportation. When I was first elected to this Legislative Assembly, just prior to the estimates being delivered in the 15 minutes presentation that I had, I had the opportunity to speak on the consequences of the $18 allotted for transportation. Six months from now, we will know the consequences of taking that $18 away. Allow me to tell you that that $18 was totally insignificant to getting any single person off welfare. I sat in my constituency office, time and time again, and had people come to my office from the Department of Community Services, able-bodied citizens who should be out there working and who would be out there working if they had the opportunity to get employment and they had the opportunity to be well clothed, to have the kind of support systems that would be available to them and the expertise that would be able to assist them in getting into the field of employment.

What happened here, Mr. Speaker, is this. That $18, when I stood here in this Legislative Assembly on my very first opportunity to speak, that $18 in this Legislative Assembly denied able-bodied individuals the opportunity to search the parameters of where opportunities for employment might be. Six months from now, there will be no opportunity for those individuals, $18 allowed them transportation costs for one week. There are four weeks in a month. (Interruption) Actually, I am told by my honourable colleague, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour that, in fact, there are 4.3 weeks. So $18 didn't provide any incentive for them to get off of welfare. I just want you to know that six months from now we will know the consequences of something like that.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that the scope of their opportunity to seek employment was extremely limited. So what they would do in order to fill the requests was this. They would simply just go to their parameters, seek the 20 job searches that were

[Page 5196]

necessary and they would take it down to the Department of Community Services, because they felt defeated anyway, and they would turn around and they would go on their merry way and wait for the next few months.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about helping people on social assistance and I want to say to you that I was very pleased when in fact I read in the local Daily News to an article that was delivered by Parker Barss Donham, Community Disservice, because I think that - and I do recall a few articles by a Mr. Surette of The Halifax Chronicle Herald and Mail-Star as well - and these individuals seem to tap right into the crux of the very particular problem that we have in Community Services and the disincentive to be able to take individuals off the welfare roll and put them into the employment field.

Six months from now we will still be in the same boat because what has happened here is that one time the individuals - and I particularly highlighted this and I want to read it out, Mr. Speaker, because six months from now we will know the consequences of it - and it said welfare claimants used to be able to keep the first $100 per month that they earned on a job. Can you imagine - the first $100 that they earned on a job, $200 if they had dependents and the government then clawed back 75 percent of the balance of their gross. Six months from now those individuals and you will know the consequences of what has happened here because the government has decided that the claimants will now be able to keep only $50 of the first $100 and if they have dependents the government will claw back 100 percent of the rest of the money on that pay. Mr. Speaker, allow me tell you that that is totally deplorable in a province that has found an abundance with natural resources and so on. To me there has to be accountability here and the accountability will come in approximately six months.

I just want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that under the old scheme - as the old scheme it certainly was - we recognized that after $200 all of a sudden you got $75 deducted off the gross. Now allow me to tell you that that was Unemployment Insurance, that was Canada Pension benefits and that was income tax benefits and that was taken off of the gross, not the net - but 75 per cent off of the gross. What incentive did that provide Nova Scotians to gain employment, particularly those people on social assistance? It provided absolutely no incentive whatsoever and six months from now there will be no incentive and totally all that incentive that was already there will be gone. Allow me to tell you that - and this is the mystery of it all - not only did they collect the 75 per cent of the gross of the remaining dollars that they received after $200, but when it came income tax return you know what happened? The Department of Community Services considered that income and clawed it back from the individuals. That is what happened, every single penny. There was not one single penny allowed to those individuals. The single penny was to go back into the Department of Community Services and was declared as an allotment.

Six months from now that will be even worse and the problem is that we as politicians don't enlighten Nova Scotians as to the consequences of people on social assistance because we find it very easy when we go out during the campaign to make derogatory comments

[Page 5197]

about those individuals that are less fortunate and we don't tell the truth when we are on the doorstep about how government can address this problem in the best interests of all taxpayers and at least make sure that Nova Scotians' tax dollars are there for their significant value and the value of returning the tax dollars to Nova Scotians and that Nova Scotians don't have to be in debt. Six months from now we will know that the Draconian measures that have been taken by this government with respect to the delivery of its budget will have an impact on those very individuals.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit as well, about the Community Services social assistance prescription drugs. I don't know if the members of the Opposition know this or not, but that is expected to generate $700,000. It is going to be recovered by those very people on social assistance. I want to bring to this government's attention a family who called me the other evening with respect to the impact of this measure as well. Six months from now this family tells me that they won't be able to live because there will be an accumulated debt. What has happened here, a husband and his wife came into my office and they spoke to me about the consequences about this co-pay. The husband has four drugs a month that are necessary in order for him to continue to maintain his health. The mother has eight drug prescriptions that are required a month for a total of 12 drug prescriptions.

Now that drug prescription cost to them at the present time is approximately $36. Guess who picks up the tabs for that? It is not Community Services; it is not the Department of Health. You know who picks the tab for that, Mr. Speaker? The tab is picked up out of the allotment of those people on social assistance; the $36 tab. Now, do you know what is going to happen? That Pharmacare prescription pay is going to $5.00. That very same family who had to pay $36 out of their allotment is now expected to pay - get a load of this - almost double that, $60, and that $60 allotment comes out of that client's, that welfare recipient's allotment for the month. That is, again, deplorable . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Reprehensible.

MR. PYE: Or reprehensible is the appropriate word, as my honourable colleague has mentioned. Reprehensible in the fact that this government recognizes what it is doing, yet continues to allow this kind of a budgetary process to take place on the most vulnerable of our society.

Mr. Speaker, what I have to tell you is that eventually all Nova Scotians pay when you deliver a budget like this. You want to know how they pay? I will tell you. Six months from now that debt will be accumulated because that individual can't afford those drugs, so what they will do is they will take away from the rent, take away from their power utilities and, of course, many of them are not allowed telephones anyway, so there will be no need for that, and what happens as a consequence of that build-up is the government ends up turning

[Page 5198]

around and having to pay the cost of every single dollar of that, because we cannot and should not be putting people on the street. That is the kind of issue that this budget process brings close to the constituency that I represent.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that when you represent a constituency that has more than its share of people who are placed in an unfortunate position and whom government should be assisting, helping out, you can really relate to the seriousness and the kind of impact the budget that was delivered here, the budget that was approved by every single member of that Legislative Assembly on Friday past, and that is the reason why this Financial Measures (2000) Bill is very important and why we put a six months' hoist to this Financial Measures (2000) Bill. We, as Opposition, believe that it is incumbent upon us and it is a responsibility of the Opposition to make sure that government is accountable to those people who don't speak for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, those individuals don't fill this public gallery. They don't fill the gallery and look over this Legislative Assembly. Their voices are not heard; they are embarrassed because of the situation they are in. Six months from now they will not only be embarrassed, they will be defeated; six months from now because of the implications that the Community Services budget alone has upon those individuals. When you think about individuals who are disabled, and the cuts in disability benefits and programs to those individuals, that have a significant impact upon their lives, not for just a short period of time but every day. Mr. Speaker, I can take you and your government to certain parts of this municipality where you would not believe how people live. It is all because of the government's attitudes towards those individuals who are less fortunate.

Now I know that right-wing governments have an agenda that will, in fact, impact upon those individuals. There are also alternatives. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if we had the six months' hoist and we allow this government a six month period in which to deliver, to evaluate its budget, then we can look at the alternatives to the budget that were set out by the alternative policy group. There are some excellent recommendations in that with respect to generating revenue and revenue generating sources.

Sometimes we tend to think there is no other alternative, yet I hear the Minister of Economic Development from time to time get up and make the comment of looking outside the box with respect to the bill, the six months' hoist. This is with respect to the six months' hoist, looking outside the box. Well, it gives you six months to look outside the box; it gives you six months to think of a new paradigm on the way of you deliver, the way of delivering budgets. It gives you an opportunity to look at a new method of delivery of services to Nova Scotians, one that is going to benefit all Nova Scotians and not a handful of a chosen few. Mr. Speaker, I mean the Murray Coolicans of this community who will not be affected by this budget all. I don't care if it is six months from now or not, they won't be affected because they have the dollars, they have the investments and they have the loopholes within government to turn around and to maximize their potential return.

[Page 5199]

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, six months from now those people still won't be worrying. But allow me to tell you, every working poor citizen in this province and every person who is on social assistance, the very minute their receive their cheque it goes back into the economy of Nova Scotia. The government gets a return on those dollars by way of spending and all levels of government get it because it allows store owners and so on, to pay the business occupancy tax, the property tax and it allows government to collect the GST and the HST, or I should say the HST. It allows the government to collect its tax revenues on that, so there is a return to the government. So government can't say that these people don't spend in the economy and make the economy flow. They are more likely, six months from now, not to have those dollars to spend in the economy. That is a significant problem.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go to another government department now and talk a bit about Human Resources. I know the honourable House Leader certainly had listened to me with respect to budget estimates. Six months from now we will know the consequences of those job cuts. I want all Nova Scotians tonight, and I am amazed at the number of Nova Scotians who do watch the Legislature channel and they do know that there are many things going on and they do know that we are doing the job of making this government accountable. That is the single most important issue to those Nova Scotians, even those Nova Scotians, I might add, who voted Tory. They have said to me, you know I am very pleased to see that you are making them accountable and I hope you continue with this six months' hoist because then and only then will we know what the government is going to deliver to Nova Scotians.

There are some 7,000 NSGEU employees - government employees, I should say - who, in fact, deliver the services to Nova Scotians that government offers. There are some 7,000 of those individuals, Mr. Speaker. There are another 3,000 civil servants, or approximately a total of 10,000 individuals who, in fact, deliver and administer programs and services by this government.

Mr. Speaker, six months from now they will know the consequences of having their pink slip before them. Let me tell you something, it is not a pleasant exercise to receive a pink slip. Many of those people right now are sitting back worried, apprehensive, stressed out, have the inability to communicate with their families, and their family life is suffering as a result of all this stress. Every one of those individuals, even though there is a bumping process, it will take six months to go through the negotiating process of the collective agreements and that long for those individual employees to know who is going to be going out the door.

We also know that under the collective agreement process, the last in is the first out. We do know that process is there and it is available. Six months from now that person does not know which person is going to be one of those people who are going out the door. There is some very significant worry and that has an impact whether this government is prepared to recognize it or not. The significant impact that has with respect to this is it does not allow any money to be spent in the economy for a six month period. All the while this process is going

[Page 5200]

on, there is no money being spent in the economy because these individuals don't know six months from now if they are going to have a job or not, so they have to continue to keep the dollars that are available to them at the present time, even though the government may have training programs, counselling service programs, a job search committee to look at that and a transition committee that will give them transition with respect to the six months' hoist and with respect to giving them six months into that area.

All that is part of this six months' hoist, and I know that you are making an attempt to bring me onstream with that issue from time to time, but I want you to know that what I say, and what I imply through this hour-long debate here, that every issue I am speaking on has an impact with respect to six months. I would hope that this Legislative Assembly would be aware of that. I don't think that there is a need to imply that every time someone opens their mouth that you are talking on the six months' hoist. I think that should be considered a given and in an intellectual society it would be considered a given.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could I just for the member's benefit advise him that I haven't once verbally admonished the member for not being on topic. I simply did wave the amendment at him two or three times, but he is doing a fine job and continue.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that you note that I am doing a fine job, thank you. I hope the government side recognizes the importance of making sure this six month hoist is significant and it is important. There are, and you know throughout this whole process these 10,000 individual government employees, civil servants and employees who deliver programs and services to Nova Scotians, every one of those, without question, deliver to the best of their ability under the stressful circumstances that have now been placed upon them.

They continue to deliver to Nova Scotians even though they know six months from now they may not have a job. They consider themselves to be professional people and they consider themselves to be above retaliation in forms of slow-downs and so on. They have done an excellent job under this duress and, Mr. Speaker, I have to say to you, as a member of this Legislative Assembly, I don't know if under those kinds of pressures that I could be so responsible, because I can tell you right now it is simply a strong demand and request of those individuals. Just to think that six months from now, that very individual who is communicating with a Nova Scotian today, through a government service, might very well be the individual who is gone. This has not proven to be effective. Governments have continued to reduce and lower the level of employees to deliver services and programs to Nova Scotians. I want you to know that when I look at the kind of delivery of services that the civil servants and the government employees deliver to Nova Scotians, to think that six months from now those individuals will know how honourable the Premier's word is because the Premier signed a five point agreement.

[Page 5201]

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, during budget estimates I have had the opportunity to question the Minister of Human Resources with respect to the Premier's commitment. It amazed me that six months from now, that I did not realize that because the Premier was not in government and that he did this in Opposition, that there is no commitment by the Premier to carry this mandate out and that his signature is not worth the paper it is written on. That in itself is significant to Nova Scotians because I don't think that Nova Scotians felt that during the 1999 election campaign, which was only 10 months ago, I don't think that Nova Scotians believed that the Premier, who is now the Premier of this province, was pulling the wool over their eyes. I don't believe that he considered them individuals whom he could pull a fast turn on. I really don't believe that.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the government employees genuinely believed, as well as the civil servants - and I am sure that you received a lot of votes from that part of the community - genuinely believed that in fact they were going to be listened to by this government. But then again, I suppose that many Nova Scotians did not believe in the kind of government that they were going to receive, that in fact the government was going to restructure the delivery of services and programs to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on seniors. Under the Department of Health, I want to go into the Department of Health for a few minutes and just touch base with the Department of Health. The seniors were told that if they did not agree to increases in the co-pay, there would be no delivery of the Pharmacare Program to seniors, that the government could not afford to deliver Pharmacare to seniors. In fact, six months from now we will know that the government is going to make a bundle off this because the government made some calculations which in fact it just openly admitted over the weekend here in an article in the newspaper, that in fact it had not accounted for some $22 million.

So there is $22 million and as a result of the Pharmacare Program stabilizing itself out, and it has been considered to be stable for a period of five or six months, the government will now be in turn making some money off of that which in fact it should not be doing. That is a 50 per cent increase in the co-pay fees to seniors. I know that for the most part seniors are very hard-working, diligent individuals who understand the value of a dollar. They grew up at a time when every single dollar meant something to them and they understand the need for your government, Mr. Speaker, and the government to bring into check its deficit. Six months from now we will know just how significant that will be, but we also know that seniors don't speak out. Many of them are very poor and they don't speak out as a result of that as well. They find some other way to pay that or else do without.

I know that this government, and the compassion that this Minister of Health has for seniors in the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia, I know that this minister wouldn't deliberately pull the wool over the eyes of seniors with respect to costing out the seniors'

[Page 5202]

program. But six months from now, we will know, Mr. Speaker, what this government has done with respect to the consequences of not calculating that $22 million in the Pharmacare Program. We will also know how the government arrived at its figures that show a 50 per cent increase in the co-pay. Remember, this 50 per cent increase goes up to a maximum of $350. It used to be $215.

Six months from now we will find that seniors will run out earlier on their drug prescriptions. They will run out of that co-pay earlier because it will meet at a faster time because they will be expected to pay more of the co-pay. So for those seniors, the government will just simply absorb the loss of that portion, plus it will create a hardship on the seniors because they won't know, and many seniors will be unaware of where that cut-off line is. So, Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that there are still many seniors out there confused with respect to this Pharmacare Program. I think that is significantly important.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know, as well, that six months from now, we will know that people - and the government decided that it would charge increases and generate an additional few millions dollars in Health with respect to charging fees that normally weren't charged before. Those fees were charged with respect to higher fees for discretionary items in hospitals, such as fibreglass casts, TVs and phones.

Mr. Speaker, there are some people who are just simply on a very limited budget, who are expected now to pay that fee and, as a matter of fact, they may be in the hospital for three weeks or one month and the only source of entertainment is by way of the television. Now, because of the increased fees, they will be expected to pay as a result of that to generate revenue for the government. As a matter of fact, there is new revenue of some $5 million. That in itself is significant because there will be people who will now be sitting in their hospital beds who had that limited dollar, but six months from now won't have those limited dollars to be able to sit back and watch the television. They won't have those limited dollars to be able to purchase a telephone so that they can communicate with their relatives and their family at home.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to tell you that, in my opinion, again, is something that this government should have given very serious consideration to. They certainly understand the consequences. They certainly also know the consequences for themselves. There is another significantly important issue here that the government feels that it was justified in doing. It upped the ambulance rates from $60 to $85. But it did that one shot, as a one payment deal.

If you come from Yarmouth to Halifax, it still only costs you $85, but what happened is that most of the people live in the metropolitan area. One-third of Nova Scotia's population live in the metropolitan area. They have now been hit with an increase of $25 to their ambulance fee. Many of those people come into my office and they can't afford to pay a $60 ambulance fee. Many of those individuals are seniors. Many of those individuals are recipients on social assistance. Many of those individuals have no way of getting that money and,

[Page 5203]

oftentimes, the Department of Community Services will not accommodate for the ambulance service.

There is also, Mr. Speaker, the working poor, who rely upon the ambulance services who have no benefits whatsoever. They don't have the opportunity to get access for funding from the Department of Community Services in the event of an emergency like that. I am sure there is an additional $5 million that is going to be sucked out of that as a form of revenue coming into the Department of Health. We haven't done the calculations on that. The Department of Health hasn't done the calculations on that, as well. So they don't know the potential of the revenue generated that comes through that.

Mr. Speaker, I know I only have one minute left, but I want to touch on another significantly important issue, and that is 911. We sat in this Legislative Assembly, and I remember going from 12:55 a.m. to 1:55 a.m. one evening, talking about the emergency and ambulance services bill and the emergency measures bill with respect to 911. Six months from now this government doesn't even know if it is reaching an agreement with MTT or another communications system to deliver the 911 service. They don't know what the cost will be to deliver that, yet it is a component of their budget.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to tell you in closing, six months from now all Nova Scotians will know the impact of this Tory budget. Every single Nova Scotian . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the debate. The motion before the House is Bill No. 46, a volume 98 pages long, containing 20 sections - each of which would normally be considered a bill in itself in this House - be not now read a second time, but be read six months hence, and I think that motion is justifiable.

The first thing I am going to say on this amendment - and I know the honourable members opposite are probably a little weary of it all, and the debate is becoming tedious, and it doesn't show any sign of coming to a conclusion - for what it may be worth, Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with them this food for thought, that it is not necessary for the government to pass this bill at this session of the Legislature at all. They have gotten their budget through, the Appropriations Act is carried. That gives legal force and effect to the government's budget. This bill is an additional bill, sort of like a coda or a codicil to a will, or an appendix to a book, or an afterthought to a thought. It is not absolutely necessary that it be passed at this time at all.

[Page 5204]

When we were in government, we had a timetable, a schedule for legislation on both the first budget and the second budget of the MacLellan Government, and there were Financial Measures Acts appended to those budgets. With the one we introduced in 1999, the one on which we were defeated, we had a Financial Measures Bill prepared to introduce at a later time, but we knew from the advice we had and from our own knowledge of these matters that it wasn't necessary to pass the Financial Measures Bill in the spring session of the House; it would wait until the fall. There was no great urgency to the matter. If the budget is passed, that is the acid test for the government, and that is the enabling legislation the government requires in order to be able to move forward with its agenda. This is an afterthought. It would be perfectly possible for the government to do all it intends to do in the meantime, legally, by orders in council and by warrants.

We don't need to do this right now, Mr. Speaker. So if they are having a caucus tomorrow morning, it might not hurt if someone were to bring that point up. It is going to be a bit of a drag if we have to stay here until July, or August, or September, to pass this bill. I realize at this stage of the debate, there are only 20-some odd speakers on this side of the House and they can go for an hour apiece but, when those hours have been consumed, then the question on the amendment will be put. Of course, there are other amendments that may be moved as well; the member for Kings North may not know this, but there are other amendments that can be moved at this stage on second reading. We can have what they call the reasoned amendment and we can go through the whole merry-go-round once again, and then there is another amendment that can be presented, referral to a committee, and we can go through the whole merry-go-round once again on that, but, if they would rather be out of here and go home and do some work in their constituencies, they can defer this bill until the fall session.

It seems to me appropriate that the Opposition take a stand on this bill and dig in their heels because this bill does, of course, reiterate those odious features contained in the budget that was carried last Friday. It was impossible to indefinitely delay the budget, under the Rules of this House. The budget debate goes 75 hours and then the estimates are presumed to have been fully debated and the estimates are reported back to the House and the Appropriations Act, the enabling legislation, is voted on by the House without any debate at all. Those are the Rules of this House.

[7:00 p.m.]

With this type of bill, second reading is only one of the stages at which the bill has to pass. It would then go to the Law Amendments Committee and I would expect that with a bill containing 98 pages of proposals, some of them pretty complex, there might be substantial interventions at the Law Amendments Committee stage. Then, when it gets back here from there, we have to go through the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, if you thought there were opportunities for extensive deliberations on second reading, they pale away as nothing, compared with the opportunities for extensive

[Page 5205]

examination on a clause by clause basis and on the title in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The Rules of the Nova Scotia Legislature at this time impose no time limit whatever on discussion in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills stage. It is not like the Committee of the Whole House on Supply, where there is a 75 hour time limit. The stage of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills is the stage at which it is possible to discuss the bill indefinitely, infinitely, Mr. Speaker. So perhaps when they have caucus tomorrow morning they might think about that. I can tell you, we on this side of the House are not prepared to let this bill pass quickly. We are not. (Interruption) Why not? Because the bill, of course, enshrines those odious features that the budget contained and they are matters to which I know I personally am basically and totally philosophically opposed.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North who spoke just before me explained something about cuts in the Provincial Social Assistance Program. That is a matter that some are reluctant to address because it is not considered particularly sexy, from a political point of view, to address that issue. I have never been afraid to address it, I believe that society has a duty and a responsibility to those within its ranks who are unable to look after themselves. Any of us could fall on hard times - Lord knows, we have a former member of this House who has fallen on hard times - more than one, I am told. I know of at least one who has fallen on hard times and is now depending on public assistance.

Under the scale of benefits now in effect, those benefits pay that woman $12 a month less than her rent, with no money for food, no money for transportation, no money for basic personal essentials - zip, zilch. They propose to cut those pittances and to reduce the amount that is payable. If anyone on family benefits or income assistance is so fortunate as to find a little bit of work, until now they have proposed that they have allowed $100 a month or $200 a month, as the case may be, and then 75 cents on the dollar charged against their budget after that. This crowd across the way proposes to eliminate all that and allow a flat $50 per month earnings with 100 per cent confiscation thereafter.

Mr. Speaker, odious measures like that have not been considered previously in this House during my 30 years in it. No government - not the Regan Government, not the Buchanan Government, not the Bacon Government, not the Cameron Government, not the Savage Government, not the MacLellan Government. None of those governments ever once considered, let alone attempted to actually implement, so odious a clawback, so detestable a measure as this crowd opposite dares to sponsor and attempt to promulgate, and they expect speedy passage to their legislation. What planet do they live on? Neptune, it is suggested. I think they are further out than Neptune, I think they are all the way to Pluto.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that I am really sure that all the members appreciate the explanation of how bills work in the House but I fail to see what that has to do with the six months' hoist amendment, so I would ask the

[Page 5206]

honourable member to rein himself in a little bit and relate as to what his comments have in regard to the hoist amendments presently before this House.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the most basic question of all that could be delivered in this House is why a course of action is being advocated. This is precisely what I am in the course of doing.

Now, I want to say this, that I have been in this House a long time, longer than anybody else here, and I have never seen some of the measures that this bill contemplates being proposed before, never. Therefore, I would think that a motion, an amendment, that the bill be not now read a second time but be read six months hence, is probably the most appropriate, justifiable, well-earned and deserved motion that could possibly be offered to the House for its consideration.

I can only say that I am flabbergasted with what I have seen of this government since they have come to power. I am flabbergasted. I thought Donnie Cameron was bad, but this government is so bad it makes Donnie Cameron look like a saint. There were other governments, too, and they did what they did and their time in history will judge them and history will judge this government, Mr. Speaker. But we who serve on the opposite side of the House are within our rights to delay and to deny passage, deny prompt and speedy passage, to any legislation that we find fundamentally objectionable. That is basic to the conduct of democratic and responsible government in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I was noting the press today. Interestingly, both daily newspapers published in this city had comments to make on the financial fitness of this government, not of a flattering nature. I think that as justification as to why a six months' hoist would be in order, it would be well to perhaps reflect briefly on the contents of the editorial, first of all, from The Daily News today, headed, "Budget fumbles hurt confidence".

I don't propose to read the entire editorial. I know that in debates of this type honourable members are supposed to give their own thoughts rather than quote extensively from other sources, but I found it of note and these are my own thoughts, that it referred to, ". . . the bungled, bumbling budget . . ." as an example of something that deserved criticism and that the editorial noted how the government has gone about what they have done, ". . . in amateurish fashion, creating not consensus but . . .", rather, ". . . resentment compounded by accounting goofs." Surely, that deserves six months to delay consideration of the measures that the budget contains so that they can hone their act a little bit, improve it and get it together.

The Pharmacare Program for senior citizens, I had a call from a constituent on the weekend who said, well, we have not heard you say anything about the hikes for the senior citizens' Pharmacare Program. I hope that when Hansard for this debate is published, I will be able to photocopy these remarks and send them to that constituent so he can see that

[Page 5207]

whether the papers report every word spoken in the debates of the House here or not, the fact remains that there are many members of this House, not just me, who have spoken out on that matter.

The Daily News today, and I say this in the context of the amendment that the bill be not now read a second time but be read this day six months hence, the paper states, the editorial, that the Pharmacare Program rates being increased for seniors was, ". . . based on a claimed near-doubling of costs in the last three years." Yet it turned out that, ". . . Finance Minister Neil LeBlanc's speechwriters had forgotten about $22.6 million that when included shows a sharp increase but nowhere near the leap used to justify hitting seniors with major hikes in drugstore bills." They were out by $22.6 million in their accounting on that particular matter.

If they had taken their time, they would then perhaps have been $22.6 million better off because they would not have made that mistake. They would have been adequately prepared. They would have done their homework. Haste, Mr. Speaker, makes waste. The Senate exists in Ottawa as a sober chamber of second thought. We don't have a Senate here, and so this House will have to act as its own sober chamber of second thought. When six months of debate on this bill, if that is what they want to spend their summer doing, have achieved that, then perhaps they will have their financial act in order, and they will know where they are going and what they propose to do.

I think that at this point it would be appropriate for me to table today's Daily News editorial entitled, Budget fumbles hurt confidence, referring to public confidence in the government. That is one of the daily newspapers that we read today. The other paper, The Chronicle-Herald had a comment about the notion that has been advanced by this government as a revenue-raising method, charging fees, $100 per day I think it is, to those who are incarcerated. I have never heard of such an idea before, expressed in this country, in all my life. I have heard, in ancient times, in the days prior to the 20th Century anyway, when those who were incarcerated were expected to provide their own food or else they would starve. The relatives would have to bring the food to the jails for them, or friends, if they had any.

I have heard of all kinds of strange things, but certainly not in Canada, in the 20th or 21st Century, as any other government that I know of anywhere, or any responsible politician anywhere propose such errant nonsense that this government, without batting an eyelid, dares to propose such financial measures. Well, this bill respects certain financial measures. I don't know if the idea of charging prisoners a fee for their daily board and keep is included in the bill or not, but of course, it could very easily be stuck into the bill by way of amendment, in the Red Room, if the bill were to advance to the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, since the government has served public notice of their intentions and since we in the Opposition don't support that particular proposal, it would be, I should think, most appropriate to seek to use every means and device at our disposal to seek to prevent passage

[Page 5208]

of the bill. I have here in my hand another item, another publication, perhaps not as widely read as The Chronicle-Herald or the Daily News, it is the constituency newsletter of Mr. Bill Dooks, MLA for the Eastern Shore. (Applause) Dateline April 2000, circulated to the residents of that constituency. What does it say, I am asked. Well, it says, among other things, at this time there is a tremendous movement by organizations and individuals against the best interests of our children and our education system. That is quite true, Mr. Speaker, that movement is sponsored by this government.

Because of that, I think it would be most appropriate to wait six months, so that they can get their act in order and avoid this attack on our children and on our educational system, so that we can be spared that difficulty here in Nova Scotia. What else did he say? He said a great deal. I think I will be tabling this so that honourable members who want to read it can do so. He asks the people, please do not allow yourself to let emotion and rumour rule your decisions, possibly placing children in unsafe situations. Well, I think that the passage of this amendment would meet the needs of the honourable member. I think he seems to be very much in a hurry.

Mr. Speaker, I came down today from Sydney, and in the course of driving down here from Sydney, from time to time, it was necessary to apply the brakes. That is just what this amendment would do, it is like applying the brakes when you are driving a car. It doesn't shut the engine off, it doesn't prevent further forward movement, but it enables you to slow down a bit, it enables you, even at a red light perhaps, to stop, look, and listen, before going any further. I think it would be very appropriate to stop, look, and listen, before we go any further down this headlong plunge. That is why I am supporting this amendment that the bill be not now read, but be read six months from today. I think it would be good now to table that.

The honourable members who haven't yet read the good news, can read it there. All those terrible things that honourable member is so concerned about can be addressed by passing this amendment, and if they wait six months and have time to get their act together and have that sober second thought they so desperately need, I think they will be much better off.

[7:15 p.m.]

You can see from what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, that I am only trying to help my friends across the way. Some may think I am out to try to frustrate them or try to hurt them, but I am really a soft-hearted fellow at heart. I have no desire to hurt anybody. I am just trying to help them based on my advice and knowledge of these matters.

Now there are some things in this bill I think is very bad, and certainly deserves the six months' hoist. One of those parts deals with the Emergency Measures Bill. I would like to say this about the Emergency Measures Bill, the 911 bill. This bill that I am asking be not now read but be read six months hence, reintroduces the user fee for the 911 emergency system

[Page 5209]

they floated last fall. At that time, the Opposition was successful in getting the government to remove that clause from a particular piece of legislation they sponsored at that time. The Minister of Health is saying, just because the provision is there, doesn't mean the government will use it. He said, if you don't intend to use it, don't have it there. So they pulled it out.

Now, it is back in. Why is it back in, Mr. Speaker? It is back in because they do intend to use it. That is why it is back in. I can certainly say to you, sir, that we in this Party, and I trust my comrades to the far left, don't agree with that. We don't want to see people be charged for calling 911 when they need help. That is wrong. It shouldn't be done. Besides, the amount of money that will be raised from that is nickel and dime in any event. They are not going to get any significant surge of new money from doing that. It is what they call a nuisance tax. It annoys people. It stirs them up. It is like driving a rock into a hornet's nest. If you don't do it, the hornets are all right. They will leave you alone. Do it, and you do so at your peril. Why does this government want to impose a nuisance tax on the long-suffering people of Nova Scotia?

You see, Mr. Speaker, I am trying to help them, whether they will accept the help or not is another question. But, certainly, you can't blame me for trying. Now, the minister who, six months ago or whenever it was, was telling Nova Scotians they didn't intend to impose user fees on the 911 service, was wrong at that time. We think a six months delay in the proceedings would be warranted in order to give this matter some further consideration, because you have to look before you leap. You have to certainly consider the consequences before you take action. And when action is apparently taken rashly, especially after they had already given the commitment they wouldn't do this, I think it is good to put on the brakes and slow down a bit. Six months will do them no harm. They are not going to collect much tax in that time anyway under this odious nuisance tax. The cure will be worse than the disease.

Is this open and accountable government? It certainly doesn't impress me one bit. This is an opportunity to take six months to sit down and talk with MTT about what the actual effects will be, what its impact would be, what the costs would be. We don't have any such details in the bill. It is simply enabling legislation, permitting the government to do whatever they want. This House will not give the government that kind of rubber stamp approval. I have often in the past, Mr. Speaker, and I say this in the context of proposing a six months' hoist in this House, this House is a democratic house in which you can do that. Such was not the case in the law-making organ of the USSR, the Supreme Soviet, where the deputies would pass all the necessary legislation in the twinkling of an eye. They all had voting cards and they would all hold them up together in unanimity - 1,200 deputies all voting yes together at one time in unison and that was the way in which each measure was dealt with by the House.

[Page 5210]

Debate would be very perfunctory, the sponsor might make a short speech of explanation and there would be cheers from the floor and a call for question and the question would be put immediately and the measure carried. In two or three days they could carry the entire program for the year, including the budget of that vast federal state. There was no provision there for free debate, it wasn't the tradition or custom, there weren't any microphones provided for the individual deputies or delegates, there was only one place from which you could speak and that was from the head table and those at the head table didn't generally let those who were down on the floor come up and address the assembly. A good system says the Minister of Justice. Well, it ain't the system here, Mr. Speaker, it ain't the system here. I see my friend, the member for Kings North jumping up and down with joy when I tell him that it ain't the system here. So I am making some headway, some progress.

You don't think so? Well, he may think that having the system they had in the Supreme Soviet is a good system, but I don't think that the majority of Nova Scotians would vote yes if a referendum were held on that particular question. Perhaps if the Minister of Justice is so enthusiastic with that proposal, he might carry it forward along with his proposal about charging people $100 a day to stay in jail. Put the two of them on the ballot and let's have a referendum on it and see what the people think. A six months' hoist will help the Minister of Justice to get his act together.

There are many other measures in this bill which defy credulity. On Page 35 in Clause 13, we get into mathematical formulae, A x (B+C) is the first formula. But that is just the beginning. They have some little formulae on Page 36 - A x B - by the time you get over to Page 41, it gets more complicated. They have their A x B/C and by the time you get to Page 49 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could the honourable member relate to his audience what all those sections and numbers have to do with the amendment before the House at this time? I would ask the honourable member to bring himself back a bit to the amendment that is being discussed at this point in time, please.

MR. MACEWAN: The proposition is that the House not now read this bill, but that it be read six months hence and in the context of defending that proposition, I am examining some of the contents of the bill. Page 49 of Bill No. 46 will reveal this mathematical formula I am going to table. It opens with (A x B x C/D) + (E x (C - (B x C/D))). That is the formula that we are being asked to vote on. Whether it be on the amendment or whether it be on the main motion for second reading of the bill. It hasn't been explained - I hear somebody over there talking about e=mc. The fact remains that this is an extremely complex piece of legislation that we have before us in the form of Bill No. 46.

Second reading is a debate of the principle of the bill. The amendment is that debate not take place now but take place in six months' time. In the context of that, surely with a generous interpretation of the latitude of the rules and forms of the House of Assembly, it

[Page 5211]

ought to be possible for members to make cursory reference to the content of the bill to explain why it ought not to be now read, but to be read six months hence. I note that it contains 20 parts, each of which could well make a bill of themselves.

You see, this bill is an umbrella. I am not going to use the term omnibus bill because that is jargon. The average person doesn't understand what that means. This bill is a catchall bill that takes 20 different parts, puts them all together under one cover and says, here, deal with that. So we are trying to deal with it, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to deal with it.

The Alcohol and Gaming Authority. That in itself, I feel ought to be one bill. The provisions relating to the Alcohol and Gaming Authority, that is Part I. There are 20 parts in this bill. I feel it would be appropriate for that to be dealt with in itself, as one section, one bill that we could debate and examine. The way the government has crafted this thing and put it all together in one catch-all enactment is such that it frustrates the proper examination of any legislation at all. It opens the door to measures such as a move for a six months' hoist because the normal ability to examine legislation in this House has been denied to the House by the way in which they have done it, putting 20 Acts together as one Act and saying, here. That is just one of the sections. It goes from Part I to Part II, the Assessment Act. That is an important Statute and we ought to have a proper chance to look at it. I don't think that rushing this thing through pell-mell is the answer for that.

Then we have the Corrections Act. There are two sections there. This provision that the Minister of Justice is so enthusiastic about would probably come in under Part III, the Corrections Act, by way of an amendment at some stage, perhaps in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. If we pass this speedily, grant assent, we are enabling the government, we are encouraging them to move forward with those plans. I think it would be helpful if the Minister of Justice wants to see that particular section passed quickly and not be delayed for six months if he might repudiate the notion that he plans to charge prisoners, who are in the jail, $100 a day, or any fee, for staying in prison. Actually prison is normally proposed as an option if one is unable to pay a fine, for example, then the alternative is incarceration. I think this would combine both, and the monetary penalty, in my view, would be unconstitutional.

Mr. Speaker, I have already dealt with the Emergency "911" Act, Part IV; Part V, I am not examining this section by section at all, I am looking at it part by part, which is different. The Equity Tax Credit Act, that is a complicated piece of legislation. A six months' hoist with reference to those provisions, in my view, would be very justifiable.

Then we get on to Part VI, the repealing of the Expenditure Control Act of 1993. Now, Mr. Speaker, with reference to the six months' hoist, in 1993, when the Expenditure Control Act was passed by this House, there was extensive debate at second reading and third reading and all the other stages on that one particular statute, which the House passed in good faith. Now it is repeal, it is removal from the Statute Books of the province as proposed with a single line in a 100 page bill. That is not due deliberation, that is not serious consideration,

[Page 5212]

that is why this amendment is needed, so we can have due deliberation on such serious proposals as are contained in this bill, such as to abolish the Expenditure Control Act.

Then we get on to Part VII of the bill, the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission Act. Again, there are very substantial provisions in this bill which, in my view, require time to address, to look at so we have some idea what we are voting on. If we were just to ring the bells now and call a snap vote, I don't think anybody would have any idea what they were voting on, not with such a complex piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. I believe that in the British House or in Ottawa or in any other province in Canada, this type of legislation would receive due and proper consideration and would not be railroaded through, as the honourable Minister of Justice indicated, in a style that he found something to be enthused about, as was done in another jurisdiction where they didn't have democracy.

The Income Tax Act is a very complicated piece of legislation. Lord knows, Mr. Speaker, in order to be an authority on the Income Tax Act you have to take special courses to know the Income Tax Act and to know its interpretation. Six months would be nothing in terms of learning the Income Tax Act. I know people who have spent three years learning the Income Tax Act and would be the first to admit that they still don't know all about it. This bill has a number of pages, including those formulae that I read out loud, that seemed to irritate some, but still, they are in the bill. We are only proposing six months, six months to study this bill so we can understand what it is all about.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Income Tax Act provisions that are in here are so complex and so complicated, I think it would be well if the House were to be recessed - I am not proposing to move that as a motion, I am just saying these thoughts - so that honourable members of the House could be given a briefing by senior officials of the Department of Finance as to the impact of this bill. That could be done either by having the House members meet such people in the Red Room or perhaps the individual caucuses could be addressed by senior officials of the Department of Finance, so that we have some idea of what this is all about. Certainly, that is not unreasonable. But if the government won't allow that explanation so that we can vote on this stuff with some understanding, then we have to delay the bill. We have to move as we have here to see the matter suspended, to see action delayed, so that the examination that we need to make an intelligent appraisal of the bill can be carried out.

Part IX of the bill goes on to deal, again, with the Income Tax Act. This is the second part in a row dealing with that particular piece of legislation, and again, everything I just said with reference to Part VIII of the bill would apply equally to Part IX. There is a great deal here. There is Part II or Part XI I think that is that I am talking about . . .

[Page 5213]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not going to sit here and allow the member to go through this bill clause by clause. The member knows full well that the opportunity to discuss this amendment, or second reading, is to talk to the principle of the bill and why the reasons for the amendment to hoist it should be allowed, not to discuss the details of the clauses, clause by clause. If the member persists, and again if I have to warn him again, then I am going to call for the next speaker.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what to say. (Interruptions) The principle of the bill. I was not examining the bill, on a clause by clause basis, I specifically stated I was not. I repeat that I was not. To examine it on a clause by clause basis would be to start at number one, go two, and three, and four, and so forth through the various clauses of the bill. That was not the approach that I took. I looked rather at its parts, which is different. It is only by examining the parts, which consist of sections but which are larger.

Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, to use a Biblical illustration, if you were to look at the difference between chapters and verses. To look at the bill clause by clause is to look at it verse by verse; to look at it by parts, as I was doing, would be it look at it in chapters. That is different.

I want to state again that I was not and do not intend to examine it on a clause by clause basis at this time, that will come later, but to look at it in sections is the only possible way in which you can identify what the bill is all about. The title of it doesn't give you any idea at all. It just says, Respecting Certain Financial Measures. What financial measures? You have to look at the bill in order to see what the financial measures are. That is all I can say, Mr. Speaker.

I have no deep desire, Sir, I have never in my parliamentary career been a friend of tedious and irrelevant repetition. I don't intend to indulge in that kind of thing for one moment. What I do intend to do is to attempt to, following the usages and precedents of this House and the standards of debate that we have enjoyed here in the past, examine the bill, and to examine an amendment. The amendment is that the bill be not now read at this time but be read six months hence. I have attempted to examine that proposition as one would in any debate, advancing those arguments that one can identify to support the proposition that one is supporting. That is all.

If, perhaps, my remarks transgress in some way, I apologize. I sought no harm in rising to speak, and I trust that it may be of no harm to address legislation in this House. I can say, Sir, that I have been here in this House, as I stated at the beginning, longer than any other member in this House, and in all my years here I have never seen a government go on as this government has gone on since it has been elected. Mr. Speaker, I thank you.

[Page 5214]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to say first of all that it is indeed a pleasure to have the opportunity this evening to join in this debate. I certainly enjoyed listening to the member for Cape Breton Nova. He is not a person whom I often share a great deal of philosophy with, but I must say I did enjoy his repartee and he sometimes actually makes me believe that he is a reasonable person. Then of course I reconsider it and understand that it is really the benefit of years of being able to speak on his feet that allows him to proceed in the manner that he does.

I want to, Mr. Speaker, do something a little bit different because I want to talk very much about what it is that we can accomplish in six months, because that of course is the sum and substance of this amendment. Now this motion was moved on April 28th and I am not sure when it is that they start counting the six months, but if it were the case that it begins on April 28th, that will take us through until October 28th. Now I believe that perhaps, just perhaps, if the government had six months of quiet reflection on this amendment, then by the light of the harvest moon of October the government would be able to see how seriously flawed the government's budget and, therefore, the Financial Measures (2000) Act really is.

This motion is sometimes referred to as the hoist amendment, and it was made by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. What it will do is it will give the government members 183 days to decide whether or not it is wise to pass the provisions of the Financial Measures Act in the manner at least in which they exist in this bill, Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures which, incidentally, I understand is also referred to as the Financial Measures (2000) Act.

Perhaps over the six months leading up to October 28th when this bill would come back, for example the government's dismissal of the chair and the vice-chair and the commissioners of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority will be properly assessed. Now I have to say, Mr. Speaker, on the face of it this doesn't seem to be a wildly unreasonably thing, it is perhaps the kind of initiative that will stand. The problem is that we don't know and certainly over the next six months both the government and the Opposition will be able to better analyze the decision and determine whether or not it is in fact a wise one.

Certainly one of the benefits to the government of waiting the full six months, of taking the six months to have a look at the completeness of the bill is that it gives the Opposition - we in the Opposition benches, the loyal Opposition - the opportunity to complete its analysis and therefore to be in a position to be able to offer sound advice to the government because, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I certainly understand this to be the case, it is certainly my belief that the job of the Opposition is not just to criticize but to offer constructive advice to the government and I think it is the government's responsibility to have a look at that advice and, where it is appropriate, to make use of it, and that is part of what could be done over a six month basis.

[Page 5215]

Certainly there is some good reason for the government to want to do that. The government has seen the kind of helpful advice that we have been prepared to give on other bills that have come forward over the course of this session and I know that the Minister of Justice particularly appreciated all of the helpful advice that we have been prepared to offer to him so far this session and, as I say, we would be certainly in a position to provide if this amendment were accepted by the House and the Financial Measures (2000) Bill placed in abeyance for six months.

Mr. Speaker, let's have a look at the provisions of the bill, as an example the provisions that have to do with respect to the arbitration provisions. Over a period of six months we could discuss in detail the principle of interference with the arbitration process. This is a serious aspect of the bill, but it is also the kind of thing that sets the tone for the entire piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, as you may know, part of this bill calls for the costs of arbitrations to essentially be downloaded into unions and into businesses that are now going to have to pay the costs, not only of their own participants, but also of the third arbitrator who will be selected by both the union and the government nominee. I guess the question that we would be able to have a look at over six months is whether or not that will affect the arbitration process in a negative way. I mean it is absolutely a classic case where the hoist amendment would allow for the proper consideration of the bill.

We know, Mr. Speaker, with, for example, the cuts to the Pharmacare Program, or I guess more appropriately put, the increase in the user fees, or the increase in the co-payments, the effect of that is to decrease the uptake of the program. That has been demonstrated in other jurisdictions in this country. So the question is, if you increase the amount of the fees on arbitrations, does that mean that the number of arbitrations that are actually undertaken, that they go down because if that is the case, then what this bill could potentially do is have a very disruptive effect on the labour relations environment of the province and the six months' hoist would certainly allow the government the opportunity to get some advice, perhaps from Dalhousie University or from Saint Mary's University. There is certainly no shortage of experts in the field of labour law in this province and I think that if the government thought about it for just well, let me say, I think they should take the six months in order to have due consideration of the issue which could affect the lives of many working Nova Scotians.

This would be a good thing for the government, not just because it would allow them to have a proper examination of the bill, but also because it would demonstrate the government's commitment to community-based, evidence-based decision making which the Minister of Health certainly has been very fond of talking about and has essentially become part of the lexicon of this government. The next six months will no doubt be critical to the credibility of the government on these matters and it sets the tone for the last three years of the government's mandate. I know I listened with some interest when the member for Cape

[Page 5216]

Breton Nova tabled the editorial from The Daily News which talked about shaking the confidence of the people of Nova Scotia with the fumbling of the budget.

So this would allow the government over the next six months to take the opportunity to try and restore a little bit of that confidence that it lost because of the quite terrible way in which they have handled the consideration of the budget so far.

[7:45 p.m.]

We believe that the next six months will prove unequivocally just how wrong the government is on many aspects of this bill. But perhaps, just perhaps, this will be an opportunity for the government to show that it can be salvaged. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that just because the bill in its present form is a bad bill, does not mean that given the proper input, given the opportunity for people from around the province to have some input into it, that it couldn't be amended in such a way as to be of some real benefit, not only to the people of my riding but to the entire province. That is one of the reasons why I think the hoist amendment, this calling for the bill to be read, not today but six months from today, is an appropriate amendment for the House to consider.

Now, in keeping with that theme, Mr. Speaker, the next six months will allow sufficient time for the government to understand the nature of things like its amendment to the Emergency "911" Act. Quite frankly, I must say, that is just one of the financial implications for Nova Scotians in this bill. It is a tax grab, pure and simple, by the government, to try and offset some of the cost of a system which is a necessity in this day and age.

This time will allow the government to understand, and I think this is the critical thing, this six months will allow the government the time to understand its own nature. The government now struggles to find its feet on this and many other aspects of its legislative agenda. I think it is because the government fails to understand its own nature. I am reminded of a brief fable which I want to use to illustrate why it is the six months' hoist amendment is so appropriate. I argue that it is necessary for the government to take the time.

Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, because I know you have been keeping people very tight on to why it is we are using six months, and I think this will illustrate it. Perhaps, you are already aware of what I think is a very instructive and illustrative fable. It is a story about a scorpion that is sitting next to a pond, and it is contemplating a trip across the pond. Just as it is doing that, a frog swims by and the scorpion thinks, if I get the frog to take me across the pond, it would cut down considerably my trip. So, he says to the frog, can I get on your back and you can take me across the pond? The frog replies by saying, no, I won't do that because you might sting me, and I would die. The scorpion points out to the frog, that wouldn't be a very smart thing for me to do because if I sting you and you die, then I can't swim and I would drown; so there would be no reason for me to do that.

[Page 5217]

So the frog thinks about it and says, that is true. So the frog agrees to ferry the scorpion across the pond, and the scorpion gets on the back of the frog. Just as they get to the middle of the pond, the scorpion stings the frog, and the frog starts to die, and the scorpion is thrown off his back and is in the water. The frog says with his dying breath, why, why? The scorpion says, because it is my nature.

You see, Mr. Speaker, in this fable, the frog is the people of Nova Scotia, and the scorpion is the government. So, what I want to do is allow the government the opportunity to do what is not in its nature, to do the right thing, to listen to the voices that are crying out to him from communities right across the province, from seniors, from children, from teachers, from those in the medical community, hard-working health care professionals. All of these people are out there asking the government for the opportunity to advise them. Mr. Speaker, that is what is happening right across this province today. It brings me back to why I believe it is so important that we take the opportunity to provide six months in which this government will have the time to listen to those voices that are crying out to them.

I say to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Finance, take the time to consider what the tax on the 911 system will mean to those who are on fixed incomes, many of whom, I say, Mr. Speaker, were among the 39 per cent of Nova Scotians who voted for this government, who elected you almost one year ago. Take the time, take the six months to answer these questions. What will this mean to seniors? What will this mean to those who are on family benefits? Perhaps the Minister of Finance has not fully considered what this means to those who are most affected. Perhaps the six months could be used by the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Community Services to create some kind of a high-level committee in which they could actually roll up their sleeves and bring together experts in the field and have a look.

That is right, Mr. Speaker, I am just reminding you. I said experts in the field, but you know something? The experts in the field, in this case, are ordinary Nova Scotians. They could bring together some of those ordinary Nova Scotians and get the kind of input that would allow them to make a reasonable or a reasoned and rational decision. That is what they could do that would be not only of benefit to themselves, but would be of absolute benefit to those individuals, to those people who live, whether it is in Dartmouth North or in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, or in Queens County, or in Timberlea-Prospect, or in Sydney, those people who are among the most vulnerable in our province, those who most need and expect, and I think justifiably so, that the government will operate in a considerate and compassionate way.

Mr. Speaker, I have never believed that it is enough to say that a complex society is ruled by a simple majority. This is a very complex issue because it affects so deeply and personally so many people. This is just another example of what could be done, what could be accomplished if the government members would put away their partisanship, would put

[Page 5218]

away their majority and just consider what is in the best interests of the people of the province.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment is entirely in order for other reasons, as well, not the least of which is the fact that the confidence of the people of Nova Scotia in this government has been shaken by their seeming inability of this government to present a believable, let alone satisfactory, accounting for their own initiatives. You know, if nothing else, in six months, in 183 days, this would allow the opportunity for the Minister of Health to brush up on his own budget. I had to explain it to him earlier. I am still in the process of trying to educate him about what it actually means and what the gap is between what he says it means and what it really means. I am sure that if we gave him six months, can you just imagine what the Minister of Health could discover about his own budget in six months?

They haven't consulted with anybody so far and the sad part is, not only is it obvious, but what they did is they did away with the consultation mechanisms like the Pharmacare board and the Education Funding Formula Review Committee. Rather than being more consultative, rather than seeking out the opinions of Nova Scotians, they have done less rather than more as I understand it. I realize this is getting off track and I will move right back on, but it is something less than what was promised to us during the election campaign. So, over the next six months, we would have the opportunity for the government to move back onto that clear course that they promised Nova Scotians. They could demonstrate what they called the strong leadership and we could see them engaged in the process of consulting with Nova Scotians.

I have to tell you one of the great things about taking the time to consult, about taking six months to talk to people about this, is the whole aspect of transparency. People would actually get to see the government at work. Can you imagine? The Minister of Finance might find out that the increase in Pharmacare fees is going to be of substantial damage to seniors on fixed incomes. Perhaps it will dawn on him that the changes to the Pharmacare Program are some of the most regressive possible changes that could have been made under the present system. Perhaps the minister will come to understand that the increase from 20 per cent to 33 per cent will mean that the cost to the government will actually increase.

I have already tabled for the inspection of the Minister of Health a study on the changes to the Pharmacare Program in the Province of Quebec which indicated that as Pharmacare costs to the individuals increased, the impacts on the system and to the seniors' population were profound. This is the kind of information the Minister of Health should have if he is truly interested in making evidence-based decisions. It would not be hard, I submit, given the expertise in the health professions, given the research capabilities of Dalhousie University and St. Francis Xavier and Saint Mary's and Acadia to bring together a blue ribbon panel of experts who could carry out the kind of research that was done in the Province of Quebec so that the Minister of Health could truly be able to appreciate the consequences of his actions.

[Page 5219]

He could find out, for example, if he were to carry out the consultations around the province, what it will mean for seniors in Queens County. Maybe these kinds of changes will be particularly harsh on people where both access and travelling time is not the same as it is in urban areas. Perhaps that is a significant consideration that the Minister of Health ought to consider before this bill was implemented.

Just imagine the opportunities that he would have over the next six months to consult with seniors. For example, I will just show you this, Mr. Speaker, here is an advertisement from the Liverpool Advance and it advertises that the Reynolds Pharmasave down in Liverpool, Queens County, is having a blood pressure clinic. As it happens, this one is already over, but I am sure over the next six months there will be many others.

This will be an opportunity for the Minister of Health, he could read this in the local paper. He could send one of his officials. He could go down to Reynolds Pharmasave when these clinics are on, and he could talk to seniors and others about what kind of effect this legislation and the budget is going to have on people. It is like a focus group, Mr. Speaker, and the fabulous thing about it is the government doesn't have to pay for it. They are going to be there. People are going to be showing up to get this done already.

[8:00 p.m.]

I understand, and I know there was some concern when I suggested this and to others in my caucus that there was some concern that having the Minister of Health show up at blood pressure clinics might skew the results of the blood pressure clinic itself, but I think given the time, given six months, you would be able to see an adequate number of people in order to properly assess what effect it was going to have on people.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to table this, because I know you are leaning forward in the Chair, so you want me to table it. I couldn't help but notice under the Reynolds Pharmasave ad, there is also an ad for somebody by the name of Stockwell Day who is going to be apparently attending some kind of meeting down in Bridgewater. Perhaps that would be another opportunity for the Minister of Health to consult with people, these kinds of meetings, although I expect the turnout at that one will probably be somewhat less than at the blood pressure clinic. Nonetheless they can use all of the opportunities that are available to consult with Nova Scotians and to be able to - I was going to say - get the pulse of Nova Scotians, but realize that would be a very bad pun, and since I am not in that business, I am in the business of serious debate here, I will refrain from drawing that analogy.

Mr. Speaker, I must say, given that we have the opportunity for debate, I was certainly hoping that I would hear from the member for Queens. We haven't heard from him yet on this. I know he was getting ready to speak on the motion going into Supply and I was waiting with bated breath to hear what he would have to say about the budget and about other financial measures, and what we got instead was something that was informative, a prepared

[Page 5220]

text on silviculture. Although somewhat informative, I think it offered very little to the people from Queens who have been phoning me, those who have been sending me e-mail about the devastating effect of the budget and the Financial Measures (2000) Bill is going to have on that community.

Mr. Speaker, you might ask the question, if you had six months to consider this legislation, wouldn't you just concentrate on your own constituency? I say, no. I think it is incumbent upon us as legislators not just to consult only the people in our constituencies. In fact, I think, although I advocate frequently and passionately on behalf of the people of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, I also know that my duty extends beyond those boundaries to all of Nova Scotia.

As you know, the Rules of the House provide for a certain number of caucus and critic trips around the province. Certainly over the next six months we could use these to meet with people. We could use the mechanism, as could the government, to travel around the province. In the 1970's, we used to call these encounter sessions. There are many people over there who would remember encounter sessions. In the 1960's we called them happenings. This was a kind of fresh new way for a government to be able to get input, to bring people in, to make them feel like they were part of the process, that the government was not only doing something to them, but doing something for them. This is the opportunity through this amendment which presents itself before the members of the government caucus, thanks to the motion of the member for Halifax Chebucto, and I say the government should take up that challenge. They should take up the opportunity to avail themselves of six months, 183 days, in which they can consult and talk with Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other.

I know already there are members of the public out there taking out ads trying to contact their members. Can you imagine, with six months I am sure there would be lots of time for those people to actually track down, trap their MLAs so they would have an opportunity to speak with them. They would not have to meet at 6:00 a.m., they could meet at the convenience of the constituents and show that democracy is, indeed, alive and well and at work not just in the ridings of Opposition members, as with the members in this caucus, although I have some doubt, I am sure they are working hard at it in the caucus of the Liberal Party as well. They seem to have been born again, Mr. Speaker, since July of last year.

Mr. Speaker, what about the compound effects of these measures? How do we look at the incompetence that has been presented to date? Well, we have to look at them all in the light of each other. Again, I would just like to use as an example, Queens. As a result of this budget, down on the South Shore, the new regional health board down there, the district health authority, do you know what they are going to have to do over the next six months? They are going to have to find $4.7 million to cut out of their health care budget. That is what they are going to have to do over the next six months. So we don't even know and the government doesn't know what effect that is going to have on the delivery of services in

[Page 5221]

communities up and down the South Shore. Can you imagine the opportunity that presents itself to the government to consult with those people, to consult with the communities, to consult with the district health authorities, the community health boards there?

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, because I know this to be a fact, that these boards are absolutely replete with some of the finest, hard-working volunteers that you will find anywhere because they have at heart the best interests of their community; they have at heart the kind of health care services that are going to be provided to their citizens. That is the business we are in or that we should be in, trying to deliver to the citizenry of the province the best benefit that can accrue out of the common wealth of the people of the province. That is the business we should be in.

I submit that allowing this amendment, the hoist amendment as it is presented before this House, to go ahead would, in fact, allow the government to do, or at least attempt to do that to get the kind of advice they would need. I know the people in Yarmouth have certainly been clamouring for an opportunity to try to have that kind of input and they have been reduced to having to distribute petitions and to have to table them day after day after day in this House because for some reason they can't seem to get access to their own members.

I can finally hear the member for Yarmouth speaking. Perhaps he should get on his feet and actually say something in defence of his own citizens. That is what he should do, but will he do it? No, he won't; he won't do it. I can tell you something, this amendment, this six months would give that member the opportunity to actually talk to some of the people in his own community, to get their input and perhaps to listen to them, and that would be a refreshing change.

Mr. Speaker, over and above the $2.7 million that is going to have to be cut out of the operating budget of the new district health authority on the South Shore, over and above that there is going to be another $2 million that is going to have to be cut out of the capital budget of that board. Do we know what effect that is going to have? No, we don't and, I submit, neither does the government. If they took six months, they would have the information they need to adequately make the decision they seem to be in such a hurry to make.

We have to know what it is that these large budget cuts are going to mean in terms of the kinds of services that are going to be able to be delivered by those institutions, the Queens General Hospital, the Fishermen's Memorial, the South Shore Regional Hospital. We are going to have to know what kind of services are going to be delivered so that we can determine whether or not things like the cuts to the Pharmacare Program are going to have a more substantial impact in those areas than they are going to have in the urban areas.

Mr. Speaker, I submit that this is only reasonable. Would it not also be reasonable that the members of the government caucus take the opportunity and the time to talk to those people? They can look at it as free focus groups. Now the focus group, if you are not aware,

[Page 5222]

is a mechanism that is often used by research organizations, in addition to things like polling instruments, and they also use, in the United States, something they call mall polls, where they actually conduct information research in malls, which have become the most significant gathering place for people these days, but the point is they need the opportunity to be able to siphon off the information so that they can make good decisions. I don't begrudge them the time; in fact quite the opposite. What we in this caucus are trying to do is offer the opportunity to save themselves, and in that opportunity there is inherent the opportunity to be able to save something for the province. Perhaps there is the opportunity for greater financial savings; perhaps there is the opportunity to save communities from bad decisions being made in an arbitrary fashion by a group of people who think that just because they can do something that they should.

Mr. Speaker, that is the problem. So often all we ever ask ourselves is can we do something; we don't spend the time to consider whether or not we should do something. Here we are to offer an opportunity, a period of time in which the government caucus will be allowed to reason through, think about why it is that they are doing this. For example, what will be the result of the single-entry system? This was introduced for the consideration of the public at large in connection with the facilities review. The Minister of Health stood in the Red Room, not far from this place, introduced a facilities review, and he talked about how important it was to have this kind of information in order to be able to make evidence-based decisions. How long did it take the government to do this? About six months.

Mr. Speaker, if this was such an important initiative, if this was so helpful, if this was so beneficial, and this was something you could accomplish in six months, just imagine, Mr. Speaker, what the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Housing, and the Minister of Community Services could do if they went back and consulted, not only with the people of their constituencies, but with the people of the province for the six months that is being allowed by this amendment.

[8:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what will be done with home care and how is that going to affect the question of Pharmacare and Pharmacare fees, how is it going to be affected by the cuts to the institutions on the South Shore, the South Shore Regional, the Fishermen's Memorial, and the Queens General Hospital? How is that going to be affected? Do we even know whether or not those institutions are going to be affected negatively by things like the Health Authorities Act which is something else that is coming forward? Do we even know whether or not those institutions are going to be able to raise the kind of money that they used to raise through their foundations? The word that I am hearing is that people are now considering whether or not they ought to be involved to the degree in these foundations, or raising money for foundations, if all that is going to happen is that the government is going to reach into the foundations and take that money and apply it to the budgets of the local institutions.

[Page 5223]

I have to say we have heard some very strong language already on this, they have called it out and out theft of the foundations' property. I don't know that this is the case, Mr. Speaker. All I am saying is that if you take the opportunity for six months to have a look at the broad range of impacts that you are foisting on the people of the province, then you allow yourself the ability to be able to amend the bill to go through and it was pointed out that this bill, which is of some considerable substance, is in the nature of an omnibus piece of legislation.

I know that the member for Cape Breton Nova said that the ordinary people out there would not understand what an omnibus piece of legislation was and I think he called it a catch-all piece of legislation and that is every bit as good a terminology because the reality is that there are very many provisions in this bill which the people of Nova Scotia have to have the opportunity to digest. You cannot do it all at once. You have to look at it in context. You have to look at the interactions between the various pieces of the bills that are going to be affected.

Mr. Speaker, what is going to be done with long-term care? The Minister of Health says there are no plans to increase the number of long-term care beds in the province, but do you know what they are doing? What they are doing is they are allowing institutions now to charge a daily rate to those who are in hospital beds who otherwise ought to be in long-term care facilities. So what they have done is they have injected a revenue source into the hospitals and with it comes a motive now for hospitals to understand that because the budgets are being cut, if they want to raise revenue, they can do it by increasing the number of long-term care beds that exist in their facility.

Mr. Speaker, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I think on its face it is not the kind of desirable legislation, desirable initiative that we want to see, but we don't know and the government does not know. So what we have here is an opportunity to look at whether or not this is the best way for the government to deal with its crisis in long-term care. I say it is not. I say that soon we will see that wings of hospitals, which were not otherwise used for long-term care beds, are going to be filled up simply because they will recognize it as a revenue stream and I say that this is an unfortunate development.

We don't know, Mr. Speaker, what is the continued commitment of this government to hiring additional nurses in this province. How does that interact with all of the other initiatives that they have undertaken? To date, we have not seen a proper recruitment and retention strategy, despite the fact that this government made commitments on that.

You know, I think it is appropriate that, this being National Nursing Week, this would be an appropriate time for the Minister of Health to stand up and to support this legislation and to say what we are going to do is, over the next six months, we are going to sit down with nurses, we are going to sit down with health care providers and with institutions and in a transparent fashion, in something that everybody can see, we are going to work out a proper

[Page 5224]

recruitment and retention strategy to see to it that the health care needs of the people of this province are properly looked after.

They could start with the recruitment and retention program that has been implemented by the Government of Manitoba. It is a model for other provinces to follow. The government of that province, Mr. Speaker, newly elected as well, they came in and they took seriously the need for more nurses in the Province of Manitoba and they have come forward with one of the most comprehensive recruitment and retention programs, as I understand it, in the country.

All of this is what can be undertaken over the next six months. For example, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you as have many other people, had an opportunity to have a look at what is contained in the Budget Bulletin - this is a supplementary document put out by the Minister of Finance - and part of what is contained in this document is the whole question of "Cost Recovery Measures." One of the things that immediately jumps out at you when you have a look at that is the first line, because the first thing you see is the increase in the ambulance user fees.

They are going to take another $5 million out of the pockets of people who are sick, out of the pockets of people who are at their most vulnerable, who require a service they cannot refuse and this government is going to take that opportunity, is going to take the opportunity when the people are at their most vulnerable, to try and wring a few more dollars out of them. Can you imagine? Do you think this is a good idea? I am sure I don't and I think that if the people of Nova Scotia were given six months to give their opinion, to give some advice to the Minister of Health, they would say to him, you are wrong, sir. You are wrong to implement this kind of a measure. It is inappropriate to take advantage of people who are in need of a service, much like the 911 recoveries. It is a tax on the sick.

Mr. Speaker, I have mentioned just briefly the Pharmacare increases and you know the Pharmacare Program rates not just a line, it is a line in the "Cost Recovery Measures", but over and above that it rates a separate page in the Budget Bulletin. It is called "Protecting the Future of Pharmacare for Seniors." I think that seniors would like to have an opportunity to have their say about what it is that will protect Pharmacare for them into the future.

I would say that many people out there would like an opportunity to meet with the Minister of Health, with their individual members of the Legislature in order to give them their opinion. There is something very important in this document that I want to make sure that you are aware of and that the members of the government caucus are if they haven't read this as closely as I have, because the important thing for them to consider over the six month period that they will have and that is this. Starting next year, increases in the premium and co-payments will be linked to a drug inflation index. The drug inflation index will be established in consultation with the Senior Citizens' Secretariat and other seniors' groups.

[Page 5225]

Mr. Speaker, the government already says that its intention is to consult with the Senior Citizens' Secretariat and with other seniors' groups, what better opportunity could there be to do this than during the six months in which this piece of legislation will be held in abeyance? What better opportunity could there be? It is far from being at odds with the intentions of the government. It was pointed out earlier that the budget has already been passed. The Appropriations Act has been passed, so this is simply an appendage to that. Nothing that would be done would be held up as a result of not passing this today. Indeed, what we can do is take the opportunity over the next six months to consult with the Senior Citizens' Secretariat, to consult with seniors right across the province, including Yarmouth and Queens County, because these people, for whatever reason, seem to have difficulty in communicating through their elected members, at least at this time. They have been relaying to us that it is because of their onerous duties here in the House. I don't want to diminish that, but I haven't heard them speak often in defence of their citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is interesting that in light of the rants which we are subjected to, from time to time, by the Minister of Finance, the Premier and others on the government benches, they keep shaking their finger and saying the reason why we have to do this is because we are being fiscally responsible. What is one of the first they do? They do away with the Expenditure Control Act. I would be the first to admit that the Expenditure Control Act was a flawed piece of legislation and, perhaps, philosophically, is incorrect. Nonetheless, there were many people out there who said that it was a symbol to the very constituency which this government pretends and perhaps may, in fact, represent, those interests in big business, those interests in the banking sector, those interests in the financial houses and the bond traders. Those are the people who are best represented by the measures that are contained in the Budget Bulletin and in Bill No. 46.

I realize that it has replaced the Expenditure Control Act with certain accounting controls which they seem to believe will better enable them to control financing. I know that they call for four year plans. This is, as far as I can tell, a take-off from a Marxist economic theory. I think they had five year plans and this government has decided to bring in four year plans.

So, economic planning, I believe, is probably a good thing. It is just interesting to see the government trying to incorporate some of that into their philosophy, trying to, I guess, be like Iago in Othello and to say to people, I am not what I am. You may remember those immortal words of Iago, as I do, Mr. Speaker, but, in the end, of course, Iago was a traitor.

I don't want to push the analogy too far, but I think it is clear that many people in this province consider themselves to have been betrayed by this government, to have been betrayed in their own constituencies, to have worked hard and, in some cases, I have heard members on the other bench say I have people who worked on my campaigns come to me and say, I am going to be losing my job, this is going to affect my family very negatively and what has been the response from the government members? They have just thrown up their hands

[Page 5226]

and said, you are on your own. Mr. Speaker, I have to say, I think that is a pathetic response. For example, if there was one thing we could do, and there are many we could do over the next six months, we could a look at the attack on the agricultural and farm communities throughout rural Nova Scotia. This would be something we could do that would be of great benefit to the people of Nova Scotia. The attack on the Production Technology Branch and getting rid of people who had a combined expertise in excess of 1,000 years, I think in the long term, will be one of the most harmful, one of the most ill-conceived, one of the most short-sighted aspects of this budget.

I say that with a great deal of sadness because if we simply did what the Opposition in this case asked the government to do, to take the six months, to have a look at a decision like this one, I think common sense in the end would win out or at least have an equal chance to win out. So, that the Minister of Agriculture would sleep a little more soundly, he would be able to look at himself in the mirror and know that, in fact, what he has done is of some benefit to the people of the province, rather than simply destroying a sector, destroying an aspect of rural life that goes back many years.

[8:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is something that could be done. Yet, it would appear, since none of the members opposite jump to their feet to talk about what is going on, I must assume they are not going to do it.

Just a few more things. I know my time is running short. With the unanimous consent of the House, we could extend my time, another half hour or so. I want to say this, there are other things. How about the driver testing handbooks and abstracts tax grab? Could we not reconsider that over the next six months? What about the increases to ferry fees, insurance agents and company licences, environmental approvals? All of these are just a way for the government to wring additional money out of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, and they have the audacity to try to stand there in front of us, in front of the people of Nova Scotia and say, we are not raising taxes. You know, a tax is a tax is a tax. People will recognize it for what it is. You, the Government of Nova Scotia, are seeking to take from all of the citizens of this province, not only its hard-earned money, but its way of life. The rural way of life in many communities is going to be very adversely affected by the budget and by the provisions of this bill.

Now, I see, Mr. Speaker, that I have only one minute left. I want to say with as much passion as I can muster to this group of people, to this group of men and women from across the province that, as my time wanes, as the time in this Chamber wanes, take it upon yourself to do the right thing. Vote in favour of this amendment, and vote in favour of the people of the province.

[Page 5227]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on the amendment brought forward by the member for Halifax Chebucto on Bill No. 46, which includes 98 pages. Just carrying it around is a load and it is almost as difficult as trying to sort through this budget. So I am speaking to this amendment in favour of a six months' hoist on this particular Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures.

This has been a very difficult budget. It has been a very difficult time in this House to sort out this budget. There are two things I guess, Mr. Speaker. Part of it is the budget itself and then this companion bill that supports the budget and that addresses certain measures, some of which have to be adhered to and others, as other members have mentioned, can go forward, matters within the budget can go forward without this bill. There are a large number, I have listed them, it takes over two pages just listing the various issues that are impacted through this Financial Measures (2000) Bill.

There are two things; the budget comes forward with supporting documents, such as this bill, and various documents such as bulletins and the Budget Address itself and various other measures. So that is one part of the whole process within this parliamentary system.

The other is an attitude of what the budget means and the government. So the government's attitude has been, Mr. Speaker, one of, we know what is best for you; we are acting in your best interests and we know what is best for you. That is the scary attitude because I think that is an arrogant approach but it is very pre-disposing to a lot of initiatives. We have seen them as they have unravelled, as they have been ferreted out. It has been scary, it has, quite frankly, been scary.

I have been in this House since 1984 and I have seen a few budgets, both being part of them on the government side and in Opposition. There is a trend developing that harkens back to the 1980's again and I see it coming forward with initiatives that are causing difficulties with certain groups, whether it is teachers or health care or whatever, the taxpayers, the consumers, but then following the budget, there is a dance process that goes on that you hear people say, but the government is meeting with people, they are meeting with people. You see the department, the group from agriculture. They come out and they say well, things are not really so bad, you know, instead of 12 offices we will have 5, or the technology branch will be closed, there will be 50-some jobs lost in the Kentville area, those types of things, but it isn't quite so bad as we thought it might be. So there is a process that that was very classic of the Duplessis Government in Quebec, if you have read that history. Yes, and the Minister of Finance, for Argyle would have probably even not only historical, might even have family connections.

[Page 5228]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have considerable political experience but I did not happen to be part of the Duplessis Government in Quebec. Just for the member's clarification, I wanted to put that on the record.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't know if that is a point of order or a dispute between two members.

DR. SMITH: It is a point and I think it is a very important point that he would distinguish himself as apart from that distinguished gentleman, but I guess the point being that the history I have read of that particular government was where groups were bought off one at a time and for their silence they received an amount that would allow them to function in some way, at least certain members of that group, to function whether it be agencies, boards or commissions or even professional groups.

We are talking about hoisting and why to hoist. I think the difficulty with the budget, the lack of clarity, the lack of development of that budget, the budget is being developed even as we speak, some of the details are as yet unknown. Daily we see programs being alluded to and mentioned and perhaps chopped after being cut, being brought in like we saw today, on the accessibility program. So there is a whole list, it is a work in progress and the process is still not complete even though we have finished the debates on the estimates, the Supply, and that part of the budget has gone through. It is interesting to note the number of seniors that have now realized that their Pharmacare Program will definitely be increasing and they have learned that as they go to the pharmacy, of course, and they are finding that out. Some of them only go every few months so that is when many of them will find out.

So, it is important that during the hoist period of time, the six months, that would be used by members on the government side and members on this side of the House to inform people, the seniors - because not all of them really pay attention and they don't watch the Legislative channel with great attention often, I know I don't think I would if I was home as a senior - but it is important that we use that period of time so that the full impact of this budget is learned and it is clear to the people of Nova Scotia. It is impacting and it is an attitudinal change as well as some factual changes that are happening to the budget. I hope that we are not drifting back to the old ways. It has been a difficult time over the last decade, there is no question, there are a lot of changes. The Civil Service, particularly, made sacrifices to keep that Civil Service strong and I want to commend them. I think that is the sort of group that we must listen to and use the six months to do that.

They have paid a price with wages, some have taken early retirements and those types of initiatives and they are looking at this government and they just don't know. They have gone quiet. Many groups have gone quiet. Groups such as the civil servants, they don't know, four years from retirement, what sort of a package there will be for them.

[Page 5229]

We know a lot of people in the hospitals don't have good packages either, that they can really retire at an early age and seek employment, seek retraining. But they have gone quiet. The normal people who would be speaking, particularly I would mention health care, and over the next six months it is going to be so important because this government in the dark of night literally just slashed one of the most significant volunteer groups that this province has seen, at least in my lifetime, the regional health board volunteers. So now we have a system where the CEOs, which are the employees and staff, report directly to the deputy minister.

So, we have lost those four regional boards and these were people that over the last couple of years and more have been involved and most of them have been involved for decades in that health care system. We have lost that voice. It has gone quiet and it is the quiet that bothers me because I believe that there is fear, there is anxiety, there is trepidation of what will be coming down from the $83 million that has been cut from the acute care system, or through the health care system. Those are really going to show and people are not sure where that is going to hit. They are looking at that continuum of care, they can't believe that the primary care development is still at an early stage of pilot projects. I hope they are up and running, they should be at least.

We have the acute care; we heard an honourable member earlier this evening speaking in terms of acute care being turned into long-term care. That is something that we need six months to talk about, I will tell you, because if that is seen as a revenue generator then that is fraught with problems. The main problem with people that are better placed in long-term care, being in acute care facilities, is not even the cost so much, which is a large difference, but it is the place of care.

Again, it is violating that basic rule of health care, that the care is not offered in the proper facility, in the proper bed, in the proper wheelchair, in the proper lodge or residential facility or whatever, or the rehab centre or whatever. The best practices can be developed through teamwork of nurses, doctors, social workers where acute care is geared for acute care, long-term care, rehabilitative care, mental health care. These are all specialties, every bit as important as the high-tech that we are all so taken with in our society, Mr. Speaker.

[8:45 p.m.]

So we need time to sort this out. We need time to get feedback from people. I am sure there are people, physicians and caregivers, but also patients, who know this. They understand that a nurse who is trained in the long-term care sector is trained for that particular care and delivery and it is a speciality, as much as the nurse who works in the intensive care unit or the coronary care unit. It is putting people down if you think that you can just interchange that overnight. So we need some time to speak of those matters, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 5230]

We do have this summer, the summer is very nice. I know we have warned the government members to go out in pairs, travel in pairs on the weekend and we did notice a real urgency last week to get the budget passed, which we accommodated. The honourable members are smiling and they will admit that we did accommodate that on Friday and we have to now accept some of that responsibility, because people don't distinguish. They felt that, probably, I was part of that as much as the government, but I will assure them, I am not. I think they have their budget passed so they wouldn't lose any backbenchers to the weekend. I would now encourage them maybe not to travel in pairs, to go to their constituencies. I visited some of them. I was up in Queens County on Sunday and Annapolis County on Saturday night. (Interruption)

I was in Dartmouth today. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I know I shouldn't even be responding to that sort of thing, but I certainly have preserved my constituency day and I had a full day in Dartmouth today, until I was called to the House. That next six months will involve largely the summer and the fall, which is beautiful in Nova Scotia, so the members can go out and speak with their constituents. In Annapolis Royal last night, I saw the ad in the paper for their MLA to call home. It was the honourable member for Kings West, I think, who wants to know who put it in. As far as I can see, it said it was the parents of the children in bands in Annapolis Royal. I did say that I thought the member was an honourable gentleman. I did say that and it is for the record, although he was scarce in his own area, they were saying. I have heard that he has been out to functions and I am sure that all members will go to functions.

We need this time to describe what is in these 98 pages. It is a heavy document. It is important. It is an important document because it has, also, relationships with the federal government. I know that the Minister of Finance is anxious to get them through. Those are very important matters that we will touch on later. So we have six months before us, Mr. Speaker, that involves the beautiful summer of Nova Scotia. I mentioned Queens County. I see the member for Queens County over there, and a very fine gentleman he is. He comes from a good family, albeit, one is a physician and I don't think he has got any lawyers, anyway.

I am sorry. My apologies to my Leader, who was also of that persuasion. There are lots of school reunions in Queens County so he can go out and speak to people who are coming from all around the world, all of North America, and he can find out how they are doing their budgets there, Mr. Speaker, and that would be very worthwhile. While he is in Summerville Beach, he can probably figure out why the piping plover wants to have its babies in the parking lot, because I haven't been able to figure that one out yet, but maybe he can. I know if he sees them and they have little bands on with different colours, I heard on the radio today that you are supposed to report them. The member for Shelburne knows that, as well. When he is down around Port LaTour and those places, he can explain this budget to people because I am having trouble. I am having trouble understanding it. I am having trouble explaining it.

[Page 5231]

We are regressing, Mr. Speaker. We have this infrastructure that we have fought for over the last decade or so, particularly the strengthening of education and the strengthening of health, and I really don't want to see that go. I don't want to lose any ground, and I think all members would agree with that. The other night, when I was at a function in Dartmouth, a distinguished gentleman, who sometimes even writes a column in the newspaper, spoke to me. Well, I won't say the nice things he said because the members will just think I am making them up. This sort of thing happens when you do speak to people over a six month period.

He said I was reasonable and why didn't I sort of work with the Minister of Finance and all the others because he felt they were good people too, and I agreed with him. Nobody really wants to tear down the education system and the health care system that has been fought so hard for over decades and decades. Now both education and health, among others, have great stresses placed upon them. A lot of the programs that were functioning, particularly in health, are 30 years old at least, maybe more. They do need revamping, they need change. We need to solve the issue of access, and we have to go out and hear the difficulties people are having in accessing the health care system; this is a real issue. The members would be surprised to hear perhaps if they would go to their communities and speak to the groups and listen to them - not talk to them, but listen to them - they would find many of them are pleased with the care they are receiving in health care.

Even though I am now in Opposition, I am not going to really act like some of the others did previously when we were in government and were saying how terrible the health care system was, because I think that just loses credibility for everybody. The health care system is really one of the finest in the world; we all know that. Just because I am in Opposition now, I am not going to start picking it apart and finding faults with it. Sure, identify where it is and try to follow up when you hear situations that aren't proper perhaps, and could be done better, but the system is working well.

The members shouldn't be afraid to travel alone and go out in their communities and hear about that. It is important that we address Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, and that we use the consulting time of the six months to listen to what the people in the communities have to say. Not to go out and preach to them, like the honourable member for Eastern Shore, in his newsletter, did; I think some of you probably have read that already. Listening is an art, and it takes a little time to achieve that, and I guess some of us never quite learned that.

The budget itself has not been developed. It was hedged and predicated on if the government gets in difficulties, and where they got in difficulties, they would adopt that 1980's government standard we had here. They would have that slush fund to pull out and save the day. We have seen that already in education. Health has gone quiet. The regional boards are gone. The CEOs are employed; they really don't have the opportunity to speak out, and they have to report to a deputy who is yet an unknown quality, or quantity or whatever, in this province. We shall know in the next few weeks a little more from health

[Page 5232]

care. We will be hearing from the nurses, Mr. Speaker, and I think this is really important this week, Nurses Week. They will be visiting the Legislature perhaps over this week and we will learn from them. So, yes, the budget has very much been a work in progress and still needs an awful lot of work.

We are talking about an infrastructure in this province, Mr. Speaker, that has been built over the last few decades, very slowly at times, and dramatically at others, but it is important that the people understand what the budget is about, what the Financial Measures (2000) Bill is about and where this government is going. Whether, in fact, they are buying, holus-bolus, the Klein-Harris-Lord triad of neo-conservatism. You treat the poor like they have an illness, and it was mentioned here today about that. I think when you put a human face on the difficulties, they will not be so quick to be so harsh and critical of those people who have to come to the government with cap in hand and asking if you will give me some help for a period of time, myself and my family are having some difficulties.

That is the shame I think of that right-wing agenda that is sweeping across this country and that people have no shame. They seem to speak out to the national media and are willing to tear down and criticize the very things that have made this country great and why we are outstanding within the United Nations. So I would just beseech that this government will not buy this for popularity. Their next polls will probably be down, I would be very surprised if they were not. I know their friends will be polling for them and they will have some information, but I would say on the issues, the initiatives, they have done enough to damage the social assistance and all those other initiatives.

You talk about job training and all of those things. We have to hear over the next six months more about that, Mr. Speaker, and how these people will in fact, instead of helping them get back to work, transition from social assistance into the job market, be handicapped and they will be hindered. I know handicapped is not the word. The barrier is the handicap. They will be disabled perhaps even in returning to work. So we have this period of time . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little too much chit-chat in the Chamber. Those who want to carry on conversations should probably go outside to allow the member for Dartmouth East to have the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we will work with the government where we think they are right and we will give them credit. I said that today in an interview. It probably did not get much air time, I don't imagine, because sometimes those things are not too popular, but I have tried to say that, where I see the good programs and the continuation of good programs, I will support them. As I mentioned to the person who spoke to me in Dartmouth, we should all work together, hold hands and have good thoughts. I think we will do that. (Interruption) No, it was not the honourable member for Dartmouth North who said that, but I hope he was spoken to by the same person. So perhaps, you know, we can all hold hands and have good thoughts. As I have said before, some political Parties thought that they could do that, hold

[Page 5233]

hands, but then as I pointed out, if we circled the globe doing that, holding hands, two-thirds of the people would be under water. So you have to be careful on that initiative as well.

The person who spoke to me, and it shows the value of getting out in the communities and speaking, mentioned that in all fairness he really did not think that this new government really understood. I suggested to him maybe they could not add either and he agreed that maybe that was a problem, but his point being, in all fairness, was to give them a chance; the government is new. The last budget they put together was really one of, they were so busy piling things in to blame the previous Liberal Government for, they probably lost sight of where they were going, and looking back as to how they could distribute that on the last year or two, and taking in the Sysco monies and all those sort of things.

So it was a funny budget and I think it really confused people and they did not know what was coming down. They maybe thought there was going to be more of the same in some ways, probably not realizing that although the Premier had said they were going to fix health care with $46 million, not new money, that would be taken out of administration, but the fact that they put $208 million in, I don't think really too many Nova Scotians understood that and if they did, they were pleased they had not torn a whole batch of money out of health care.

So along comes this budget and all of a sudden, if they follow the budget, if people are able to follow the budget, they look at acute care being slashed and essentially while there are some small amounts of money being put in places like home care and long-term care, they are well behind. I mean we are falling behind quickly in that. So you cut your acute care system and you don't have any areas of continuum of care for those people to go and it just does not make sense. I am not sure that people understand that yet and have figured that out, but something has got to give within that system because the slush fund can only go so far. They have already gone to the well for Education. Are they going to go back for Health? Well, we will know in the next week or so and we would like to have those documents as early as possible so we know really what it is doing. It has been really a work in progress on the Education monies that have been put in extra and where exactly that will go - health is probably as complicated and probably more complex.

Mr. Speaker, we will work with the government, we must understand, if you want the cooperation I would say that you have to be open and honest and come forward with the information and supporting documents to do that. Some of the documents that come out, particularly economic development and those areas, are just pages and pages of things that really are better written in a public relations course rather than in a budgetary process and as to how this government might be going.

I did want to just look at what can be done over the next six months and why it is important that we have that period of time, Mr. Speaker. This budget is not what Nova Scotians voted for last summer. That has been said by other members and the priorities within that budget, government says we know what is good for you, we know what it in your best

[Page 5234]

interests but those priorities are not the priorities of the people of Nova Scotia. This budget formula is simple, it is to gouge Nova Scotian taxpayers with higher user fees and cut health care and cut the education system and cut teachers. This government promised to consult with seniors before they changed Pharmacare. There was no such consultation and seniors were here today. They are coming here because they want to know what is happening. They are going to the pharmacy and over the next six months as the time goes on they will be more and more going to their pharmacy and finding out when they hit that limit, that co-pay limit that has been increased from $200 to $350 and they are going to be hitting the wall there. The day they hit the wall, that is going to be a very sad day for people on fixed income.

That is going to take a period of time and we need this time to explain to people. A group of seniors came to us today here in the Legislature, but we need the summer, the Nova Scotia summer and fall to go out and have seniors - more than the group of eight or nine groups that have - that is the group that they know how to get information and how to gather. That is the group that was consulted and I don't think there was unanimity there. The supporting documents here in An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, Mr. Speaker, that is not clear there, it is not clear in the budget and people need the six months to understand the implications of the Pharmacare. I think it is just hitting home, I can see more calls coming in now that the budget has passed. So the vehicle that we have now and supporting information we need is this particular bill, Bill No. 46.

With the Pharmacare, I mentioned with the dramatic increase in the co-pay and it is down the road over the next six months and so there will be changes both to the premium and to the co-pay and that is going to be important. They don't understand that yet, Mr. Speaker, and I think that there is a right - that they have a right to know that someday when they go in and they have reached the limit and they are still paying an increased fee on the co-pay, but then they reach the limit and that means by that time they have already paid a lot on their co-pay.

The hospitals that I mentioned have gone quiet, it is very quiet out there in many ways. You will occasionally get a brown envelope or you will have a phone call or a letter but we have lost a voice so somebody has to speak out for the people in Nova Scotia that, now that we have lost the regional health boards - those were very sophisticated boards that were developed, the chairs were just spectacular people, I know I had a chance to meet with them over my time in Health, but they are gone now. The chairs and the boards are gone. These were very knowledgeable people - we don't have that voice that we had before. So we need the people and all the 52 members on the government side and on the Opposition side to go out over the next six months and help to interpret the budget.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a bit too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside if they have to.

[Page 5235]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have seen the hospitals cut by $70 million, maybe $83 million, depending on how you use the Y2K. We mentioned the issue earlier this evening in debate, and I don't want to be repetitive in this, but the importance of the foundations not understanding where they are. Not only the foundations but also the auxiliaries. I was in Middleton on Saturday night, at the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital there, the foundation, and we have received more information today from them, and they are really concerned. They don't understand where they are. I know that impacts a bit on Bill No. 34, but these are all documents that are accompanying the budget, as Bill No. 46 is, as well.

The department is really arguing that there is a $40 million cut, because $30 million of the funding last year was Y2K. Without funding the other areas of the system, like home care and long-term care, this can be a receipt for disaster. Now I did mention this earlier, and I don't want to go back over it, but this whole lack of proper funding within that continuum of care, to cut in one area, one major important area, and then not building up or increasing home care, people don't understand that. People are receiving home care, they are going in for surgery, perhaps, or they have an illness and then they come home and they are finding their home care is reduced. People are saying, does that mean that I will lose what little I have?

There is a job there. Some of it can be handled in brochures, and some can be handled by home care workers or people within the department. I think we need the time, we need the six months to go out to our communities and understand. Where it is good and things are working properly, and I think the government is being responsible in those areas, I will support it where I can. I am not prepared, in my time in this House, to be negative on health care for the sake of being negative or for political advantage. I am not prepared to do that. We will use this time, and we will use it right.

During all of this, the ambulance fees. People are saying, what does this mean now? What does it mean? They had an idea, they are getting used to one set of fees, and now they have changed. Anyway, the jobs. People have gone quiet, because they are just hoping that they can hold onto their jobs. Someone has to tell them, what is the plan? What is the plan in health care? What will it mean? What does support services mean? To some people, that is clear. I think we should know, when we leave this House, what a support worker in a hospital is, what that definition is. Is that administrative? Is that support of people on the floor, those who help take care of patients? Does it involve technologists? What are those services?

We know the nurses and the doctors, and we are pretty clear on that. Then there is a whole group of people, often behind the scenes and some of them working directly in the intensive care units who aren't behind the scenes. This whole issue. We are starting to get into an area where, perhaps my job as a doctor will be okay, and my job as a nurse, and a social worker or physiotherapist will be okay. Perhaps they are just going to attack the support workers. Support worker can mean different things to different people. I think we have to be perfectly clear on that. We should know that before we go out this summer, when we have

[Page 5236]

the six months to deal with the particular issue of explaining this budget and explaining the supporting documents.

We are looking at the job cuts in health care, even the QE II and its couple of sites. It, as you know, is the size of a good-sized town. They are a community there, and they are concerned about each other. Each one is watching, will my job be secure, and maybe not hoping it will be someone else, but it has to be someone else so that they might be spared. That is not a good environment. We have seen the integration of those programs in those hospitals, and they are now really coming together, starting to work together, the wages and salaries are being unified, and that has been a difficult road. All of a sudden, this is placed back on them. They will read the paper, it will be 200 people going on a certain day, 350 at another time, what is the number? We have to know that. These are the supporting documents that will explain that.

I think the terms we speak of with children, the programs for children are important and they are admirable. Some of them are very positive in this budget and I would certainly support them, the early intervention programs and the 71 social workers. The minister was kind enough to show me the ad. I think I had seen it but I hadn't saved it. So I have saved it after he gave it to me and I can show it to people.

You have people wondering well, do I qualify, so it very clearly states who will qualify for those jobs that are funded through this budget. It has been a very positive thing, 71 social workers working in child protection, a major commitment on behalf of this government. That is one program that certainly I will let people know that I have been very impressed with, not only that program but also the early intervention programs and those types of child behaviour programs that will support families with children before they are out of control and find themselves in the courts. There are things we can do.

So that can be explained, Mr. Speaker, over the six months, that there is help coming within either the education or the community services. That is the thing with the education. We said the other day that the budget is a work in progress and needs more explanation not only to ourselves here but to all Nova Scotians. What does it mean for a child with special needs?

I tabled 30 letters here from an elementary school in Sackville. There was a young boy, Andrew - and I think I can speak publicly because it was tabled here - who suffered from a rare bone disease. It showed pictures of him in that classroom. You can just imagine, the impact on the students, the positive impact that would have, but yet the demands on the teacher's time and also the students' time, that they would have to sacrifice. That is only one within that system. So we are looking at, where are the special needs of children in the education system and we have to understand that.

[Page 5237]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the member is very sincere about what he is saying here, because of his past portfolios and his career, but I would ask the honourable member to try to keep in mind that we are speaking to the six month amendment here and I would ask him to try to bring his comments back to the topic, to speak about the amendment, please. Thank you.

DR. SMITH: That is a very kind but yet very direct nudge. What I was trying to do in justifying the six months, which can go pretty quickly sometimes, especially in the nice summer and fall, but the importance that we don't understand the budget. I have been in this House since 1984 and I have been on the receiving end of them and I have been involved on the government side. We don't understand yet the announcements from education that have taken place, exactly where the monies are coming from and what that will impact on. I think that is really important, that we have that period of time that when we vote on this budget and support that. The government has a majority and it most likely will pass sooner or later, as was mentioned today within the parliamentary system that we are under. The Opposition does have some avenues and this is an avenue here where we can debate the amendment for the six months, the value of that six month period and what can be done. So it is important that we have that period of time.

Each few days that go by I learn something about the budget that I was unable to ferret out within the last few weeks, even though I had ample time within estimates, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. I don't think you went much longer on a budget, I think the Opposition feels we had adequate time. Now we have a 98 page document that we have grave concerns about. There are arrangements in here with the federal government as well, so I think we really have to again understand this document and then help Nova Scotians understand as well as we can.

[9:15 p.m.]

There are a lot of good initiatives within this Financial Measures (2000) Bill, but there are many more that are worrisome. It is our belief that in six months the government will be able to get a better grasp on public perception. Surely the demonstrations that have been taking place here and across this province and I think the difference, Mr. Speaker, it shows that people away from Halifax and this community can drop into the Legislature. I think the numbers of demonstrations that have taken place around the province this year was unique. I think that was a difference, particularly in the Annapolis Valley region. So I think it does show that people are really concerned and they have been taking place and they have had some influence on the government.

Mr. Speaker, this is why I think the six months is so important because the people and the children, particularly, and the youth who came forward over the last while for education and then got this government's attention, had a response, went to the slush fund, found some money, and rejuggled here and there. We are not sure what is moving around within that, but that has been very encouraging. So the other groups that are more quiet right now on health

[Page 5238]

and others are probably thinking to themselves, well, if we can mount that kind of a campaign, then they will go back to the slush fund for us. I think that is why it is important that we see exactly how this Education budget is unravelling and how it might in fact impact as to what will happen within the health care field.

As a responsible government, I would think, Mr. Speaker, the government would want the opportunity to have the six months to look into this legislation further because, like my friend in Dartmouth said the other night, he believes they are good people. They are honourable people and they want to do the right thing, but he believes they don't understand their own budget and that is the point. I notice two people in the back row there are shaking their heads. One I think is maybe just talking with someone. The other person, I believe, is agreeing with me.

So that gives me encouragement to push harder for this six months' hoist, Mr. Speaker. In six months I think they can do better to represent the people of Nova Scotia. As I mentioned, they did not vote for this budget. The people of Nova Scotia did not vote for this budget and all the changes within Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act that support that budget. So perhaps they can better represent the needs of the people, make some changes in health care and maybe use those monies. They are transition monies. They will have to be used anyway, but I think people should understand where they are coming from.

We have heard this government speak quite a bit, Mr. Speaker, about financial accountability and the importance of having an open and an honest government. Well, here is the time. Here is their first real budget and I feel that it is so clouded that we are really supporting the member for Halifax Chebucto's motion to hoist this Financial Measures (2000) Bill for six months to give us an opportunity to study it, to consult, and to do the consultations that were not done by this government on the budget. I use Pharmacare as a great example of that.

We have heard stories, Mr. Speaker, on and on about financial ruin and economic disaster. This government has told Nova Scotians about what an uphill struggle they are facing and how the cuts they are imposing are absolutely necessary. Well, I don't believe (Interruption) I think something has taken the place of the flamingoes over on the other side. I bet it is the piping plover, but I am not sure of it. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, the humour is a bit dry here and it is affecting my throat. (Interruptions)

How does the government deal with reality (Interruption) There is an ostrich with his head in the sand. I hope in six months that he pulls his head out of that sand because I imagine it is hard to get air down there, but we don't feel, Mr. Speaker, that there is as much disaster. There is no question, it is awful difficult when you inherit the amount of debt that our government inherited in 1993, and which continues to this day. It is very hard when that much has built up to get out from under the debt, so it is going to take all of us working

[Page 5239]

together on both sides of this House, with all the agencies, boards and commissions, even the chamber of commerce, if you hold your nose some days you can work with them.

The reason I point that out, it is important that the Chamber of Commerce understands there is a difference between running a business and running a government. There are things that government has to do that the Chamber of Commerce members would never think of doing. We are members of the Chamber of Commerce, our Liberal caucus, and so I support many of their initiatives and I think they do a great job, but we need six months perhaps to explain to people like them and the small-business people, whom I met during the election in July 1999, who had a very simplistic explanation of what to do in government. It was sort of this neo-conservative simplistic measure that you get everybody off of social assistance and you take that money and you put it somewhere else and you do this and that. It sounded great until you really looked at all the problems you faced with that. So I think that there are a lot of people in that area that think, yes, it is important that the government is accountable, that it maintains its credibility and is sensitive and fair to all the people of Nova Scotia.

It is not a business as such because businesses would not run social assistance.What about child protection? There are things we wouldn't want run by a business or a private sector, we know that. So government will be government and business shall be business, although there is lots of room for cooperation and partnerships and certainly accountability in both. We don't feel there is that disaster that needs to be all this slash and burn and cut and I guess the question I have asked myself, both in the political sense and as being a member of this Legislature, is why the government brought the budget in that it did.

It scares me when I think of the Premier standing up and saying, I am not afraid to make tough decisions. I told Nova Scotians I was going to make tough decisions. Well, I am not sure if they quite understood what he meant at that time, but they have found out now and they have the budget and it has passed this House and so we have an opportunity now, in Bill No. 46, to really discuss some of these measures that perhaps are unfolding as we speak.

In six months, the government, as well as the people of Nova Scotia will be better able to see the true state of the province's finances. It will become more clear, hopefully. We believe this government has thrown in everything, including the kitchen sink, and probably there are a few of those in the tar ponds, as well. Seriously, in order to make these cuts seem necessary, and there is a real feeling out there and if it is not true, then this government has got its job cut out in the next six months to explain to people why it was necessary to take these Draconian measures, to cut social assistance, to jeopardize the education system, to cut back on the programs. Music and art and drama are not frills in education and the government must explain to people that they are not about to cut those and that they have found money for those programs. Or at least, I am hoping they are and we can describe that to people. So we will help the government explain to the schools. When I go to the junior high schools over the next month and during the next six months I will be speaking to people and trying to

[Page 5240]

explain to them why the government did what it did, but first I have to figure it out myself because I am not clear.

We believe they have thrown everything into this budget and made these cuts seem very necessary. They had the people prepared. In six months the people will understand, hopefully, that this is a ramped-up budget. The cuts they are proposing are not necessary. We don't need a lot of these, if we had the fair budget to start with, we wouldn't need 98 pages in this Financial Measures (2000) Act and we wouldn't have to be having this debate tonight.

This government, for instance, campaigned on less red tape. What did they do? They introduced a red tape commissioner and added another level to the bureaucratic system. On top of this, almost all departments have added more money to the deputies' and to the ministers' budget. I mentioned the tools we have to work with within government as Opposition; we have amendments we can bring in, and we can debate motions such as the six months' hoist. These are quite acceptable within the British Parliamentary System which we govern under and that we do our business as legislators. So, it is important we maintain the Legislature in session until we find out more about this budget.

I am concerned about what I am hearing in Health. There are rumours of large salaries being paid. There is recruitment again. We know to recruit some of the members that have come in from other provinces, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, have cost $20,000 to $30,000. We hear now, Mr. Speaker, that even more people are recruited from away. I will be watching that very carefully. I would like to know before this House closes, this is a means that the Opposition members have, to keep this House open until we find out why they are paying big dollars and bringing people in from out of province. They are not people within this province who can administer our health care system, both at the CEO level, at the assistant deputy and whatever they are bringing in. I thought for sure there would be people within that department, people I have worked with would be fitting. If they are going to put more administration in, at least use the people you have there with experience who are Nova Scotians, committed to the Department of Health and to the government and will work with any government, whatever Party is in, they will give their best. That is why we need some time.

As soon as this Legislature closes, Mr. Speaker, we will be hearing all these announcements. That is why it is important that we use the tools as legislators that we have to work with. When you go to these conferences, you visit governments within the Commonwealth, and I am sure you have been impressed on your recent meetings, how I am sure there have been sessions where they have been talking about rules of procedure. That is why you are so cautious that we stick directly to the amendment. I know that, and you probably were on a panel at the last parliamentary session in the Commonwealth, and you are much learned in those matters. But, I am sure you understand that we have those tools, and we must use them. We have an obligation to the people who elected us, not only in Dartmouth East, but to all of the province.

[Page 5241]

I am going to leave the red tape commissioner alone for now, and we will move away from the Department of Health. Hopefully, we will know more about the salary of those people, what will be paid to those people who are coming out of province, and how far away they are coming from, and hoping we are not importing them all from the left-hand coast out there on Lotusland, because it might be contagious. They might have a virus or something we don't know about until later. Anyway, why the extra staff? These are questions that Nova Scotians want to know. Perhaps over the next six months we can explain why they just keep piling up the bureaucracy. These are the only items we can identify in this budget, Mr. Speaker. What else is in this budget, in this legislation that we need to, as the Premier says, ferret out? In six months, we will be able to discover more and more of these hidden items. It is scary.

We in Opposition owe it to the people to take as much time as we need to tell them the whole story, especially if the government will not. The government is obviously going to try to ram this legislation through without a proper analysis done. We say no, and we will say no as strongly as we can and as forcefully as we can within the pleasure of the Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, an amendment to hoist is an amendment to give the government more time to consult with individuals that perhaps they forgot. Perhaps they forgot the seniors who came here today. They forgot to consult with them. They hadn't been consulted with, and yet they represent groups, and some of them very active in groups. But they weren't in the group of nine or group of eight, I keep forgetting, I should find that out. Perhaps they forgot to consult with them earlier. In this legislation the government wants all the government business enterprises to have a prior approval with all financial transactions. I agree, to a point, the government needs to know what is going on but you also have to allow these government enterprises the ability to function efficiently.

[9:30 p.m.]

We are looking on some of the proposals, all financial transactions need prior approval, and that is fair enough, although the principles are also handcuffing business opportunities. Some of the cost-benefit analysis, Mr. Speaker, maybe over the next six months some of that can be explained. We were criticized for not having a plan, we had a health investment fund that I still carry with me to this day that I, until I see something better, then I will discard that. We have all of these initiatives taken and the Finance Minister and others have admitted that there has not been a cost benefit.

We have the justification of increasing Pharmacare, Mr. Speaker, and yet we see that the Finance Minister himself missed the $22 million . . .

[Page 5242]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is way too much noise in the Chamber. I could hardly hear the speaker and he could not get any closer to me if I was sitting beside him, but I can't hear him. I would ask honourable members that if they have a conversation that they please take it outside the Chamber.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor for about three more minutes.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I really felt right warm when you said that about sitting so close and I thought, when your days as Speaker are over, you may want to come over to this side but, then again, by the time that would be we would probably be back over to that side, so you can join us there.

I want to talk a little bit about privatization. I think that is a poorly understood area, Mr. Speaker. I don't have any great philosophy as the other speaker did, that he summarized within a minute, but privatization is certainly a concern, whether it is the Liquor Commission, or health care is one we have had debate here in the House and we have had some Question Period initiatives on that and I when I see those types of initiatives come forward, I am concerned. I think it is important that we understand the revenue side of the budget, and we are not quite clear on that third party recovery and whether there will be initiatives, that beds within our hospital system and acute care will be open to people from out of country and where the priorities will remain.

It does concern me. We see more and more specialities and sub-specialties within health care moving into the private sector and I know for sure that means that that physician will be spending time in the private side and will not be available on the public fee-for-service side, or salary, whatever it is. We can see those things evolve. So I think on privatization, people want to hear about that. I don't think that this government has yet come clean with what their plans are, whether it is the support staff I spoke about in the acute care hospital, whether it is the Liquor Commission or whether it is the private side and the use of acute care beds.

I know my time is finished, Mr. Speaker. I really want to thank you for your indulgence and your kindness to me in allowing me some latitude. It is important though, I am sincere about supporting the government in its positive initiatives, and just as forcibly I will try to hold them accountable when I think they are doing wrong. I think this budget has been a very difficult budget. Perhaps it has been difficult for the government to put together. It has been difficult for us in Opposition to understand, and it has been difficult for the people of Nova Scotia to understand, and perhaps if they knew it exactly and I think we need the six months to do that and to try to allay some of the fear that is out there in the community regarding this budget. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

[Page 5243]

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it certainly gives me pleasure tonight to say a few words before the House rises.

AN HON. MEMBER: In six months time, we will . . .

MR. CORBETT: Six months. Bill No. 46, the hoist of that bill and the six months we are looking for, Mr. Speaker. Why do we need this hoist and why should we look at six months? You know, it reminds me of the winter of 1999 and had the Tory Party, at that time, waited six months and not stabbed their Leader in the back, what would have happened? But, no, they put the knives away and by the luck of the draw, he became Premier. But had they acted on their misguided instincts, they might have had someone like the member for, oh, I don't know, let's pick one, Dartmouth South, as the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, if we take time to do things, we do it right. Isn't there a beer commercial in this very province because they took the time to do it right? What is the matter? Why can't this government take six short months and do it right? I see a lot of the members over there, it took them nine months to get here and that was wrong, but let's look at the six months. We have had a government that told us that, by this time, we would be rid of Sydney Steel. Now, had we acted on the knee-jerk reaction this government did on December 31, 1999, we would be in a whole lot worse trouble than what we are. (Interruption)

Yes, and we are in pretty bad trouble. But, two weeks later, and I am not talking six months, we are talking a mere two weeks later, we found out there is no sale for that steel mill and we have a government that is scrambling around to tell us, well, we never really sold it anyway. We had a Premier who said it was sold. We had a Minister of Economic Development who said it was sold. But when the deal fell through, it was, no, we really didn't have a deal. We were only kidding Nova Scotians. We were just trying to fulfil an unfulfillable election promise and trying to show Nova Scotians that we were tough.

Well, that had less to do with being tough as being foolish, because they rushed in to a deal that they couldn't fulfil. That is all about time, Mr. Speaker. It is about time of looking over the lay of the land, what Nova Scotians expect from you and what you should do for Nova Scotians. But they didn't do that. They went and talked to their own little inner circle, went out and did it and it was a disaster. Nova Scotians are paying for that disaster today by paying bills for Ernst & Young.

So why can't they learn from their mistakes? Why can't they say, we will take our time. We are only here talking about time limits because, all of a sudden, they put time limits on, we are going to do this for a balanced budget. We are going to have this down this far. No basis, in fact, of why they drew these imaginary time lines, only that they look good in a pie chart or some kind of graph. It makes absolutely no economic sense to Nova Scotians nor

[Page 5244]

does it make any sense in the desire of what Nova Scotians want. This government has put upon itself limitations for their own well-being, and not the well-being of Nova Scotians. You know, I cannot remember, in last summer's election anywhere in their valuable blue book that they talk about hiving off the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission but, lo and behold, in this recently passed budget, they are exploring the hiving off of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission.

Now, were people on the doorsteps telling them that? That you have to get rid of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, that is what is dragging this province down. You people unload that and it will go gangbusters, the province will take off. I don't think so, Mr. Speaker. Nobody told me that on the doorstep, I don't know about you, but I am quite sure nobody said that to them on the doorstep. So where do they get this? Obviously the only group that I heard espousing that type of silly rhetoric was the chamber of commerce here in the metro area, because they see it as a way to gain a valuable asset for them and their friends.

So, what do they want to do here, Mr. Speaker? Well, the minister responsible puts together a group to study it. Now, not a bad idea if they take six months to study it. That is what we need, we need rational things to be done over reasonable periods of time, but these are not even rational. Like I said, the hiving off of the liquor stores makes absolutely no economic sense. A small group says they would want it and so these guys are jumping through the hoops. I would say to this government, when they talk about certain sectors of the industry that are for it, what about that larger group? The larger group of the employees in small towns in rural Nova Scotia who make a decent wage working at that location, they value those jobs. They do things in the community.

What about the idea of those people acting as a level of responsibility when it comes to the sale of alcoholic beverages? You know, let's look at - probably the model we can look at best is just to the south of us in the New England States - you look at the amount of armed robberies and so on around convenience stores as opposed to our Liquor Commission stores. Who do we have working late nights in convenience stores? We usually have young, single people - and by single I am not talking about marital status, I am talking about working there alone, solo - and those problems we face in those stores. We are not saying that at three o'clock in the morning they will still be selling alcohol because even in the United States they have a limit, they stop selling at 11:00 o'clock or 12:00 o'clock, whatever the case may be, but nonetheless, what you have in those stores are usually unsupervised young employees in a very dangerous position and that worries me. Will that be taken into consideration? Six months down the road, will that study take that into consideration? Even the parts of this budget that the government has set aside to say we will study it, as opposed to we will enact it right away, the studies themselves could be flawed because the government has not allowed an open process to see who is going to be on those committees.

[Page 5245]

I will go back to Sysco. The government has given Ernst & Young the ability to sell that plant. Now, is that plant going to be sold in one month, two months, three months, four months, five months, six months? We don't know. More importantly, it is not even so much the time limits there, but the bids and how they are interpreted. In questioning the minister responsible for Sysco, he said do you favour one bid over another?

[9:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just remind the honourable member that he is speaking to the amendment. I would ask the honourable member if he would bring his comments back to the reasons for this amendment on this bill.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you for that friendly reminder, Mr. Speaker, and I am getting there. It takes time to do these various things. There has to be time, and there has to be proper consultation. That is what we are asking for here, six months of proper consultation with Nova Scotians. My friend, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour spoke earlier about sending the Minister of Health to blood pressure clinics around the Queens County area, and how, while that may cause the results of that clinic to be skewed somewhat, it would still be a great relief to see him out there. That way he could dialogue with real Nova Scotians and find out what is going on, and certainly get their support if it is there, but, more importantly, get their ideas of what they want to do. Six months can be a lifetime indeed in this advocation or a lot of others.

We have just gone through a very large debate on the education system in this House, Mr. Speaker. Now, we will be about six months away from now into the new term of the year 2000. That is what is really going to show you how this budget is going to play out. Right as we sit today, we don't really understand the full and total impact of this Education budget. After last Friday having been asked to vote on a budget, we still don't know how that is going to impact on the number of students per classroom, how many teachers are going to be gone. With teachers, it became a word game. They are going to be pensioned off; we are not going to lay-off; we are not going to renew; they are going to be term, no full-time. It was never a clear-cut message. Six months would hopefully bring some clarity to that. When our children go back to school in the fall, what about the janitorial staff? Are they still going to be there? What about bus drivers? Are they going to be picking kids up now at 6:00 a.m. because instead of 10 bus drivers in an area, they now have five? So, now they either do four pick-ups in the morning to get students back and forth to the schools, or do they walk further? Do they then draw out the boundary longer and say, you are now four miles away, you walk, instead of what it is in the various school boards today.

Mr. Speaker, as a man who travelled many roads in his other profession, it may have been the same roads many times, but nonetheless, you travel the highways and byways of this province. Some places, a mile travelled over some of the roads in this province can equal about six miles in other parts because of lack of maintenance or no paving at all. Where does

[Page 5246]

that leave us in six months. If we had six months to study that, then we would know the fullness of this budget. That is a large problem. We saw right to the very limit of the voting last Friday in this very House, add-ons to this budget, and basically blank pages in this document. What are we going to do? Should we just buy that pig in a poke, or should we ask the government, in fairness to yourselves, in fairness to the Opposition Parties and, indeed, most importantly of all, in fairness to Nova Scotians, to wait six months to see what happens. Members of government will tell you this is what the people of Nova Scotia voted for. I don't know, Mr. Speaker, and if they can reassure us of that then it would be easier for everyone to get on with the straightforward work of government, but they are making it up as it goes.

It is interesting because we are much friendlier to them than they would certainly ever be to us. We are asking for six months. They are asking us to forget six years of the Savage Regime, six-plus years of the Cameron-Buchanan era. Forget about that, that has nothing to do with the mess we are in today. Well, Mr. Speaker, those three governments drove this province to the state where it is at today. We are saying, look, that is an awful hole to climb out of. Why don't you take a sober second look at this (Interruption) sober being the operative word. Do we want to do this or do we want to rush into this just to meet artificial deadlines? Let's have a vote.

I don't want to rush into this. Six months, is that too much to ask? All six months will do is put a little bend in their time lines, artificial time lines, Mr. Speaker, in a blue book that they have since thrown away anyhow. They have run so far from it that the only place you can find reliable copies of it is over in Dartmouth North. They have thrown them away. So why won't they do that, Mr. Speaker? Well, that is probably as the old game show, the $64,000 Question, why won't they? Well, I am from another vintage. We don't mind when it comes to workplace safety; we don't mind waiting six months. For six months we can wait, in this province, because safety regulations have been refused, to be enacted. As a matter of fact, I remember seeing a television program one night with the Minister of Justice telling farmers not to worry about roll-over protection.

Now since that aired, there have been three fatalities involving roll-over incidents. Now that is not to say all three deaths were directly attributable to roll-overs and they would have been prevented with some kind of cage and some kind of roll-over protection, but nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, it could have been there. It could very well have been the cause of someone living or dying in this province, but yet there is no problem putting those off. When someone's life is in the balance we don't mind it, but if the almighty dollar is on the line, then all bets are off, we will rush it through. No contemplating the results, just go and do it, yet we have had that.

Mr. Speaker, we have many calls in here. We have seen the Minister of Finance put $378 million more on the debt of this province by way of Sysco clean-up and pension liabilities. I don't think it would even take the minister that long, to show us the difference. You have put that $378 million on the table, why don't you separate it out. Why don't you

[Page 5247]

tell us; this much for pensions, this much for clean-up and cost it out. Every time when we come to ask the minister about that, he refuses to answer. It is like, where did it come from? Was that six months back that he had that figure and he grabbed it out of the air?

It is very simple, Mr. Speaker, give us some answers on that. That is all part of the general finances of this province, that instead of running into it and doing these things kind of backwards, why not really consult. How much consultation was done with real Nova Scotians over this budget?

AN HON. MEMBER: Not enough. What about highway workers?

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, there is really no problem at all. I am no fly-by-night politician. Do you know what?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. On that note, would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate?

MR. CORBETT: I hate to zip my mouth closed, but I will move adjournment until tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will go on to Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 46 and then Bill No. 47 if we have time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House stands adjourned until 12:00 noon on Tuesday.

[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]