Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., May 10, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 5383
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Wilson 5384
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. Robert Chisholm 5385
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - C.B. The Lakes: Roads - Maintain,
Mr. B. Boudreau 5385
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. J. Holm 5385
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5385
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5386
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. F. Corbett 5486
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 5386
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. K. Deveaux 5386
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. H. Epstein 5387
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. J. Pye 5387
Health - Environmental Illness: Treatment Clinic - Support,
Mr. D. Dexter 5387
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Public Accounts - Econ. Dev.: Authorities - Expenditures Breakdown,
Mr. J. Holm 5388
Recommendation - Adopted 5388
Private and Local Bills, Mrs. M. Baillie 5388
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Surplus Crown Property Disposal Report,
Hon. R. Russell 5389
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1912, Tourism - Partnership Council (N.S.): Sessions
(15-26/05/00) - Attendance Encourage, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 5391
Vote - Affirmative 5392
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1913, Housing & Mun. Affs. - CBRM: John Fraser (Rec. Dir.) -
Retirement Recognize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5392
Vote - Affirmative 5393
Res. 1914, Educ. - Schools: Custodial/Maintenance - Future,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5393
Res. 1915, CB Nova MLA - Libercrat Party: Leader - Action Enable,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 5393
Res. 1916, Nat. Res. - Fogartys Cove (Guys. Co.): Crown Land -
Protection Commit, Mr. K. MacAskill 5394
Res. 1917, Monte Solberg MP - Hank Snow Soc.: Attack - Condemn,
Mr. D. Dexter 5395
Vote - Affirmative 5395
Res. 1918, Help Line Soc.: Mary Clyburn & Volunteers
(Pictou Co.) - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 5396
Vote - Affirmative 5396
Res. 1919, Justice - Imprisonment: User Fee - Inappropriate (2000),
Mr. P. MacEwan 5396
Res. 1920, Justice - Shel. Youth Facility: Sewer Service (Shel.) -
Arrears, Mr. H. Epstein 5397
Res. 1921, Fin. - Deficit: Excessive Illusion - Creation Chastise,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5397
Res. 1922, Health - C. Kings Commun. Health Bd.: Service -
Acknowledge, Mr. M. Parent 5398
Vote - Affirmative 5399
Res. 1923, Nat. Res. - Forest Sustainability: Regs. -
Initiative Commend, Mr. K. Morash 5399
Vote - Affirmative 5400
Res. 1924, Educ. - Literacy: Diminishment - Rationale,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5400
Res. 1925, Educ. - Weymouth Consol. Sch. & J.D. Irving:
Electric City (Digby Co.) - Renewal Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 5401
Vote - Affirmative 5401
Res. 1926, Lib. Party (N.S.) - Educ. Critic: Policy (Class & Gym Sizes) -
Explain, Mr. F. Chipman 5402
Res. 1927, Educ. - Vol. Res. Ctr. (Hfx.): Travelling Museum
(Volunteering) - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 5402
Vote - Affirmative 5403
Res. 1928, Educ. - St. F.X. Univ.: Charles V. Keating -
Hon. Degree Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 5403
Vote - Affirmative 5404
Res. 1929, Econ. Dev. - Atl. Bus. Mag. (Top 50 CEOs):
Keith Condon (Yar.) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 5404
Vote - Affirmative 5405
Res. 1930, Chester Masonic Hall - Rededication: Clarke Lodge No. 61 -
Congrats., (by Hon. M. Baker) Hon. J. Chataway 5405
Vote - Affirmative 5405
Res. 1931, River John Lions Clubs: Anniv. 30th - Congrats.,
Mrs. M. Baillie 5406
Vote - Affirmative 5406
Res. 1932, Educ. - Evelyn Richardson Mem. Sch. (Shag Hbr.):
Fundraising - Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 5406
Vote - Affirmative 5407
Res. 1933, NDP (N.S.) - Business: Favour Curry - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 5407
Res. 1934, Educ. - Great Cdn. Geography Challenge: Brian Lessor
(West Kings DHS) Participation Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 5408
Vote - Affirmative 5408
Res. 1935, Health - Drug Awareness: David Mason (Truro) -
Dedication Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 5409
Vote - Affirmative 5409
Res. 1936, Educ. - ANSEA (President): Ann Jones (SW Reg.) -
Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5410
Res. 1937, Culture - Media: Lake Echo Crier - Anniv. 25th Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 5410
Vote - Affirmative 5411
Res. 1938, RCMP Sheet Hbr. - Greg Henley (Constable) &
Georgette Anthony (Sec.) Retirement - Serv. Appreciate,
Mr. W. Dooks 5411
Vote - Affirmative 1512
Res. 1939, Econ. Dev. - Commun. Dev.: Pictou Co. Strategic Plan -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 5412
Vote - Affirmative 5413
Res. 1940, Educ. - Parkdale-Maplewood Commun. Museum:
Activities - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 5413
Vote - Affirmative 5413
Res. 1941, Health - S. Shore Reg. Hosp.: Fund-raising Award -
Lighthouse Publishing (Bridgewater) Congrats.,
(By Mr. K. Morash) Hon. J. Chataway 5414
Vote - Affirmative 5414
Res. 1942, Effie Patterson (Amherst): 106th Birthday - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 5414
Vote - Affirmative 5415
Res. 1943, Kentville & Area Red Cross Soc. Vol. Award:
Cnetreville Good Neighbours Club - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 5415
Vote - Affirmative 5416
Res. 1944, Educ. - St. F.X. Univ.: Hon. Degrees & Graduates -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 5416
Vote - Affirmative 5417
Res. 1945, Educ. - Sc. Fair (Natl.-Ont.): Brendan Rideout (Berwick G9) -
Best Wishes Extend, Mr. J. Carey 5417
Vote - Affirmative 5417
Res. 1946, Culture - Pictou/West Pictou Band: Musicfest Can. 2000 -
Success Wish, Mrs. M. Baillie 5417
Vote - Affirmative 5418
Res. 1947, Sports - Hockey (Montreal Cup [Can. Div.]):
Truro Wood Gundy Oldtimers - Winners Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 5418
Vote - Affirmative 5419
Res. 1948, Econ. Dev. - Brocklin Toys Ltd.: Owners/Employees -
Success Commend, Mr. F. Chipman 5419
Vote - Affirmative 5420
Res. 1949, Educ. - Lun. Acad. (G3 [Renata Graham]):
Scholastic Books Contest - Success Wish, Hon. M. Baker 5420
Vote - Affirmative 5420
Res. 1950, Educ. - Hfx. Educ. Fdn.: Bucks for Books Campaign -
Success Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 5420
Vote - Affirmative 5421
Res. 1951, Health - Huntington's Fdn.: Wallace-Amherst Walk -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 5421
Vote - Affirmative 5422
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 677, Sysco - Sale: All-Party Comm. - Appoint,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 5422
No. 678, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Cuts - Special Needs,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5424
No. 679, Health - Budget (2000-01): Program Review - Cutbacks,
Dr. J. Smith 5425
No. 680, Educ. - Cuts: Special Needs Students - Impact,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5426
No. 681, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Cuts - Impact High,
Mr. W. Gaudet 5427
No. 682, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Schools - Maintenance
Deterioration, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5428
No. 683, Justice - Jails: Rural - Closure Impact, Mr. M. Samson 5429
No. 684, Educ.: Graham Creighton Jr. HS - Plans, Mr. K. Deveaux 5430
No. 685, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Hospitals/Boards - Deficits,
Mr. D. Downe 5431
No. 686, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Cuts - School Maintenance
Impact, Mr. J. Holm 5433
No. 687, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 107: System (Natl.) -
Inclusion, Mr. P. MacEwan 5434
No. 688, Educ.: Alderney Elem. Sch. - Air Quality, Mr. D. Dexter 5435
No. 689, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. No. 104 (Port Hawkesbury) -^
By-Pass Plans, Mr. P. MacEwan 5436
No. 690, Health: In-Home Support Prog. - Moratorium,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5438
No. 691, Environ. - Glace Bay: Water Supply - Trihalomethane,
Mr. D. Wilson 5439
No. 692, Tourism: VICs - Future, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5440
No. 693, Lbr. - Trade Unions: Fin. Statements - Filing,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5441
No. 694, Econ. Dev. - CBCEDA: Expenditure - Control, Mr. F. Corbett 5442
No. 695, Health - Prov. Health Council: Bill of Rights (Patients) -
Timetable, Dr. J. Smith 5444
No. 696, Health - Dart. Gen. Hosp.: Nurses - Hiring Freeze,
Mr. D. Dexter 5445
No. 697, Nat. Res.: Silviculture - Funding, Mr. K. MacAskill 5446
No. 698, Health - Care: Facilities - Deficit, Mr. D. Dexter 5447
No. 699, Justice - Info.: Release - Confidentiality, Mr. M. Samson 5448
No. 700, Educ. - Univs.: Governance - Policy, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5449
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1722, Health - QE II: Cuts - Reconsider, Dr. J. Smith 5450
Mr. D. Downe 5450
Hon. J. Muir 5453
Mr. D. Dexter 5455
Dr. J. Smith 5458
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 38, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Plebiscite Act 5461
Mr. B. Boudreau 5461
Mr. B. Barnet 5463
Mr. F. Corbett 5466
Mr. J. Pye 5468
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5469
Hon. A. MacIsaac 5472
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Illiteracy: Fight Against - Support:
Mrs. M. Baillie 5473
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5476
Mr. W. Gaudet 5478
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 11th at 10:00 a.m. 5480

[Page 5383]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Pictou West.

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House support steps being made by this government in the fight against illiteracy in Nova Scotia.

This will debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

The honourable member for Shelburne on an introduction.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery we have visiting with us today from the County of Shelburne, the Warden for the Municipality of Barrington, Sterling Belliveau; Councillor Tina Wickens; the Administrator of Bayside Home, Jo-Ann Rose; and also the Deputy Mayor of the Town of Clarks Harbour, Marlene Atkinson. I would ask that they rise and receive a warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

5383

[Page 5384]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the west gallery a group from Cornwallis Junior High School, Grade 9 students with their exchange partners from Le Collège de l'Assumption in Montreal. Their chaperones are Mitsy LeDuc, Sylvain Pichette, Joe Morrison and Ann Marie Danch. If you would rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today we have four members of the United Steel Workers of America, Local 1064, Kevin Young, Wes Nichols, Darryl MacDonald and Brian MacDonald. They are here to impress upon the government the necessity of having a decent pension package and that the sale of Sysco be best done for the good of all Nova Scotians. They are in the east gallery and would we give them some applause, please. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition in the form of letters and petitions from some of the following schools: St. Michael's Junior High School, Lakevale, Bridgeport, MacDonald Complex, Cornwallis, George's River, Breton Education Centre, Sacred Heart and Cusack. These petitions, if I could use a sample of one of the letters to give you an indication of what these petitions are about, it is from a Grade 5 primary student at St. Anne's Elementary School in Glace Bay by the name of Emma Donahue. It reads, "Dear Mr. Hamm: I am mad at you because today my teacher read me the note. The note said you are fired. I am sad. Please help my teacher get her job back." I have affixed my name to the petitions I would now table them before the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East on an introduction.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the group that organized that very petition. They are with us in the west gallery today. They are all student council members from St. Michael's Junior High School, Grades 7, 8 and 9, in Glace Bay. They are accompanied today by their teachers as well, Brenda Donahue, Amber Orychock and Karl MacNeil. I would ask the members to give them a warm welcome, please. (Applause)

[Page 5385]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 113 residents of Margaree Forks. The petition 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." I have affixed my name in support of the petition and I hereby table it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause reads as follows, "We, the residents, . . .", of Church Road, Little Bras d'Or, Georges River Road, ". . . who are traveling this road several times per day to and from our homes demand and are entitled to as tax payers, a safe road on which to travel. Our taxes are far too high and for what? We don't even have municipal water or sewer. Surely we can at least have safe, well maintained roads which are properly ditched. Right now, our auto repairs (ie. struts, tires etc.) because of the poor road conditions have gone beyond!!" There are 835 names on this petition. I have affixed my signature and fully support the efforts of these residents.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to have the opportunity to introduce this petition. This petition is signed by 163 residents from the Yarmouth 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. We demand the Premier reinstate the Public Education Funding." I have affixed my signature in full support of the sentiment expressed in this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of these residents of Inverness. The operative clause, "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." There are 40 signatures on this and I have also affixed my signature.

[Page 5386]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, beg leave to table a petition from the Port Hood Consolidated School, signed by 86 residents in the Port Hood area. I have affixed my signature to this 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."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to table this petition, "We, the undersigned, protest the 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." This is from the Jubilee Elementary School in Sydney Mines. There are 22 signatures to this petition and I have affixed mine.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of teachers from Inverness and Richmond, the operative clause which reads, "However, we will not sacrifice the education of our students by allowing the government to destroy our education system." It contains 34 signatures and I have affixed my name.

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 60 residents of Yarmouth, particularly Yarmouth Central School, 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." I will table it. I have affixed my signature.

[Page 5387]

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition signed by 210 residents of Neil's Harbour area, students who attend the Cabot Junior and Senior High School. The operative clause in 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. We demand the Premier reinstate Public Education Funding." I have affixed my signature in support of this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise to present 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 Teachers Centre, and there are 78 names on this petition. I have affixed my name as well.

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 on behalf people from Liverpool, in fact, from communities around the province in support of a full-time treatment clinic for environmental illness in Nova Scotia. The operative clause reads, "WE, the undersigned, wish to firmly express our support for (1) More physicians training in Environmental Medicine, and (2) a full-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 my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5388]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, I hereby beg leave by unanimous agreement to table the following recommendation from the committee. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts recommends that the Department of Economic Development require a complete breakdown of expenditures made by all economic development authorities in receipt of provincial funding.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the Minister of Economic Development about this. Since the committee has approved this recommendation by unanimous consent, I would like to ask the House for waiver of notice and adoption of this recommendation.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 36 - The Scots: North British Society Act.

Bill No. 41 - Hantsport Memorial Community Centre Financial Assistance (2000) Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

[Page 5389]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to table the Surplus Crown Property Disposal Report for the fiscal year 1999-2000. This program is about returning to non-profit organizations some of the surplus assets of the government at no charge.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very popular program, but I think there are a number of non-profit organizations around the province who are, perhaps, not aware of the program. The report itself outlines donations of furniture, kitchen supplies, and office equipment, et cetera, to organizations such as transition homes, food banks, volunteer fire departments, et cetera, all around the province.

Mr. Speaker, also, the report details a program which we have to enable students around the province to acquire surplus computers through the Computers for Schools Program. Last year alone, approximately 2,000 computers were donated to schools across the province.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation and Public Works is also responsible for disposal of certain assets and property through government auctions. Last year's auctions and sales recovered almost $0.5 million for the province. I think these programs of the department are very important and perhaps they need greater dissemination of information so that other associations, et cetera, around the province can take advantage of them.

I would encourage members who have organizations within their respective constituencies, when they hear that they need an old typewriter or desk or something like a filing cabinet, to contact the Department of Transportation and if they require further information, I am available and the department is available to provide further information.

So, Mr. Speaker, without further ado, I would like to table a report of the organizations.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, as Transportation Critic for the Liberal Opposition I would like to thank the minister for having provided me with an advance copy of his announcement here today. The announcement deals with a period during which approximately for four months our Party was in power and the other eight months of which the Conservatives were in power. We are pleased to see that their government is continuing

[Page 5390]

this initiative that we had under way and has not yet seen it fall victim to the cuts which have taken place in various government programs since they have come to power.

We are pleased to see that they will be donating goods to non-profit organizations. The need of non-profit organizations is greater now than it was before in view of the cancellation by that government of the plans that we had to distribute approximately $2 million, profits from the Sydney Casino, to worthy, charitable organizations throughout the province. So their needs will now be greater since that has been cancelled and we are glad to see that they will be donating those goods to those particular organizations.

Also, we are happy to see that they have continued, at least so far, the program called the Computers for Schools Program, one of the better initiatives of the Liberal Party during the six years it was in power from 1993 to 1999. This year approximately 2,000 computers are being donated to schools across Nova Scotia; we think that is good and we hope it will continue. We hope that the Minister of Education doesn't get her hands on those computers and sell them to try to raise a few nickels or dimes, because we certainly want to see those computers used by the schools of Nova Scotia and not taken out of those schools in moving vans as that minister across the way was attempting to do in Sydney Mines recently.

I would also like to say that I hope the minister is sincere when he states that his department will continue to assist Nova Scotians and to care for the interests of our taxpayers, because that is what it is all about. We would encourage him to actually do that and not place these programs that he has announced here today, or any others, on the sacrificial alter of the right-wing Hamm-Harris-Klein agenda that seems to have taken over since that Party came to power.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his statement in advance. This makes great bedtime reading, I can assure you; all members should have a good look at where some of these materials end up. In particular, I want to point out to members present that when you hand out 2,000 computers to schools and they have been used by the bureaucracy, it is like scraps from the banquet table. It seems to me that at this time it would be appropriate, that I know there is an exceptional young man in the resource department at Brookside Junior High School who can hardly wait to have the EA from the Minister of Education no longer use that computer with all those bells and whistles and, when they become available, I would request that that $6,000 beauty end up at Brookside Junior High School.

Those 2,000 computers are valuable in this school. It is too bad, however, we don't have the financing, the assistance for the programs and the various other things that are needed to make that Computers for Schools Program actually work. However, I compliment the government in continuing an idea that the Liberals miraculously didn't screw up, and it is

[Page 5391]

important that we continue to make these available to non-profit organizations across this province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to turn the attention of the House to the east gallery where there are six students from the Truro Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, accompanied by their instructor, Mike Kaminski. I would ask all members to give them a warm welcome. Perhaps you would like to rise. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1912

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Tourism Partnership Council is a private-public team that leads provincial tourism marketing and development plans in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the council is hosting a series of tourism business planning sessions around the province between May 15th and May 26th aimed at helping operators and others working to grow the industry; and

Whereas participants will receive a great deal of information on how they can put these plans to work for their businesses as well as have their say on how the province attracts visitors and keeps them here;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join me in encouraging operators and others with an interest in tourism to attend one of these sessions in a community near them.

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 5392]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on an introduction.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, through you and to all members of this House, I would like to introduce you to Sandra Duyakovich. Sandra is accompanying well-renowned and very distinguished CBC Radio reporter Jean LaRoche. Sandra is job-shadowing Jean today to see whether or not her assessment of his work will lead her to similar things in the future. So, Sandra, if you would please rise, we would give you a warm round of applause. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1913

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

Whereas Mr. John Fraser retired from his position as director of Recreation for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality on April 1, 2000; and

Whereas Mr. Fraser has led a distinguished municipal career in serving the people of Sydney; and

Whereas Mr. Fraser made outstanding contributions to the Cape Breton area through both a professional and volunteer basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize John Fraser's many accomplishments and wish him well on his retirement.

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 5393]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1914

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

Whereas custodial and maintenance workers at schools clean classrooms, washrooms, hallways, libraries and gymnasiums, remove snow and ice; and

Whereas custodial and maintenance workers work on plumbing, heating and ventilation systems as well as provide school security; and

Whereas custodial and maintenance workers fight the prevention of mould and other health hazards, see that schools are environmentally responsible, and take care of the removal of racial and other inappropriate graffiti at schools;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education rise today and inform members of this House who will now clean schools and protect our children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 1915

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

Whereas the Libercrat Party will need well rounded, experienced leadership; and

Whereas one member of this House has over 30 years' experience; and

[Page 5394]

Whereas that member has served both the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party and has had his pleadings to be a member of the Progressive Conservative Party dismissed;

Therefore be it resolved that the Committee on Assembly Matters enable the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova to take the first turn as Acting Leader of the Libercrat Party and that this occur before the honourable member bolts this Assembly for a run at federal politics.

I will be seeking waiver, Mr. Speaker.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1916

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

Whereas residents of Guysborough County are asking the Premier to designate Crown land around Fogartys Cove under the province's Wilderness Protection Act; and

Whereas the designation would protect the 1,000 hectare site from logging, quarrying or sale to private developers; and

Whereas more than 1,200 residents, including the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, have signed a petition put out by the Fox Island Main Wilderness Association asking for this designation;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier commit here and now to the residents of Guysborough County that he will protect Crown land around Fogartys Cove.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 5395]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1917

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

Whereas the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an unelected, unrepresentative lobby group, decided to attack economic development funding in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas in the House of Commons, the federation's political arm, known now as the Canadian Alliance, through Mr. Monte Solberg, MP for Medicine Hat, derided funding to the Friends of Hank Snow Society; and

Whereas Hank Snow of Liverpool is a legend of country music for such classics as I'm Movin' On, I've Been Everywhere, and My Nova Scotia Home;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House condemn Mr. Solberg for his attack on the Friends of Hank Snow Society and invite him to attend the 8th Annual Hank Snow Tribute, August 14th to August 16th in Bridgewater.

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 Pictou East.

[Page 5396]

RESOLUTION NO. 1918

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

Whereas the Help Line Society for Pictou County operates seven days a week between the hours of 12:00 noon and 12:00 midnight; and

Whereas Mary Clyburn has worked diligently for the Help Line for a number of years and was recently named the society's community liaison person, who will be responsible on a part-time basis to get the news about the help line out to the community; and

Whereas the Help Line is staffed by volunteers who provide a listening ear at a time of crisis for Pictou County residents;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the tremendous work being done by Ms. Clyburn and the number of volunteers for the Help Line Society of Pictou County who are contributing their time on a weekly basis to help those less fortunate in their time of need.

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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1919

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

Whereas this Minister of Justice gloats over the prospect of incarcerating people and then charging them a user fee to be imprisoned; and

Whereas such proposals have not received support in this House since the days when the Liberal Opposition led the fight against imprisonment for debt; and

[Page 5397]

Whereas it is well worth remembering how the unrepentant Tories of those times defended imprisonment for debt and self-righteously demanded that it should remain the practice in Nova Scotia for all time;

Therefore be it resolved that this Minister of Justice would be far more at home in the 1960's, in the company of the Tory dinosaurs who then ran Nova Scotia, than in these modern times which call for a much more enlightened outlook.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1920

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

Whereas the province is $15,000 in arrears to the Town of Shelburne for sewer service at the youth facility; and

Whereas Shelburne is giving the province written notice and 14 days to pay this bill; and

Whereas if the province doesn't pay up, the town is threatening to disconnect sewage lines servicing the youth centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government explain to the people of Nova Scotia why the Town of Shelburne feels it must send a collection agency after the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1921

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 bristles when questioned about figures in his fudge-it-budget; and

Whereas on Friday, May 5, 2000 the Minister of Finance admitted to reporters he may have overstated the cost of government restructuring; and

[Page 5398]

Whereas this is a clear signal that the Minister of Finance deliberately overstated the size of the provincial deficit;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance be chastised for creating the illusion of an excessive deficit, while in reality he has devised a process to hide his newly-established, political slush fund.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

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

Whereas yesterday at this House a racoon came to protest this savage Tory budget; and

Whereas the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing has issued gag orders on all those protesting his department's cuts and even this latest protester, which climbed a tree, wore a mask to hide his identity; and

Whereas it now appears the only group onside with this Tory Government are the browbeaten, downtrodden, spineless backbench Tories;

Therefore be it resolved that it is now time for this Tory Government to learn how to talk to the animals so that the next animal to protest at this House will not be a skunk.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That resolution is out of order. It was unparliamentary.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1922

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

Whereas the Central Kings Community Health Board recently announced assistance to local community groups through the Healthy Communities Fund; and

Whereas these groups included the Heart Health Community Action Team, the St. Leonard's Society, the Valley Chapter of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia and the Green Door Health Centre at the Central Kings Rural High School; and

[Page 5399]

Whereas the work done by these groups helps to make the region of Central Kings a healthier place in which to live;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House express their gratitude to those who serve on the Central Kings Community Health Board for ensuring a better quality of life for the residents of Central Kings.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1923

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

Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources announced on April 12, 2000 that Forest Sustainability Regulations are now law in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the enactment of these regulations into law is the culmination of a three year process, including the establishment of a Registry of Buyers in January 1998 to acquire more accurate and complete information on wood harvesting; and

Whereas these regulations will require major registered buyers to contribute to a Forest Sustainability Fund for wood harvested on private lands, ensuring adequate resources for silviculture programs across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend this initiative to develop these Forest Sustainability Regulations which will help to ensure a prosperous forest industry for all Nova Scotians in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5400]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1924

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 Halifax Regional School Board tabled its budget last night which will lead to the lay-off of 60 educational program assistants, 10 janitorial personnel and 35 library technicians; and

Whereas the lay-off of program assistants will affect special needs children, the lay-off of library technicians means some schools will no longer have libraries, and the loss of janitorial staff will lead to dirty, germ-filled schools; and

Whereas in the 1999 election campaign, the Premier led his Party in demanding more money, not less, for the Halifax Regional School Board;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to parents why she feels she must diminish literacy by closing libraries, forsake the education and well-being of children with special needs, and promote unsanitary conditions in schools all for the sake of the almighty dollar.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 5401]

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1925

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

Whereas the story of Emile Stehelin and his development of the turn-of-the-century Electric City, in the woods of Digby County, is the material of folklore and legend; and

Whereas the May 1st edition of Canada's weekly news magazine, Maclean's, highlights the efforts of Weymouth Consolidated School students in Grade 5 and Grade 6 and J.D. Irving to ensure the saga of Electric City is given renewed life through the Irving-sponsored development of a wilderness park and interpretive trail; and

Whereas these efforts also provide the opportunity for anyone wishing to experience the Electric City without making the trip, can log onto the interactive, bilingual website which was built through the efforts of Mrs. Kelly's Grade 5 and Grade 6 students;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House offer their congratulations to J.D. Irving and the Grade 5 and Grade 6 students of Weymouth Consolidated School for their efforts in ensuring this piece of Nova Scotia's proud heritage can be enjoyed for yet another generation.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report that we have just been joined, today, by 44 students, some of whom are at Cornwallis Junior High. Some are students at the College de l'Assumption in Quebec, here on an exchange. They are accompanied by four adults, Joe Morrison, Ann Marie Danch, Mitsy LeDuc and Sylvain

[Page 5402]

Pichette. I would ask them all to rise, please, and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1926

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

Whereas the previous Liberal Government refused to acknowledge that they were leading Nova Scotia into an oblivion of debt; and

Whereas the now Liberal Education Critic and former Education Minister authorized bigger class and gym sizes which led to increased overall costs in P3 construction budgets; and

Whereas the Liberals have considerable explaining to do about increased class and gym sizes because it was his government that obviously planned to increase the teacher-student ratio beyond comprehension if they had been re-elected;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Education Critic explain why he approved additional funding for class and gym sizes if his government was not planning to really deprive students of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1927

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

[Page 5403]

Whereas the Volunteer Resource Centre of Halifax was successful in its bid to host the travelling museum "Volunteering Through Time" as part of our national millennium celebration; and

Whereas this museum will be housed in the Helen Creighton Room at the Alderney Gate Library during its visit to the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas the purpose of "Volunteering Through Time" is to honour the traditions and accomplishments of Canadian volunteers since Confederation;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the management and staff of the Volunteer Resource Centre for this distinction and wish them well as they host an exhibit so important to our understanding of an essential part of Canadian history.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1928

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 Chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University honoured Charles V. Keating of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa on May 7, 2000; and

Whereas this degree is the highest honour accorded by St. F.X. University, a reflection of the admiration and affection of the Xaverian family around the world; and

Whereas the recipient of this degree is renowned throughout Nova Scotia for his excellence in business, his record of philanthropy and his devotion to public service;

[Page 5404]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with St. F.X. alumni, family and friends to congratulate Charles V. Keating for this distinction and thank him for his many contributions not only to his alma mater, but also to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 1929

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

Whereas Atlantic Business Magazine recently released its second annual list of Atlantic Canada's top 50 CEOs; and

Whereas selection of the top 50 CEOs is based on nominations received from readers of the Atlantic Business Magazine, taking into consideration company size, financial information, industry and community involvement; and

Whereas included in this year's list of the top 50 CEOs is Keith Condon of Tri-Star Industries of Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the leadership of Keith Condon, one of Atlantic Canada's top 50 CEOs, and wish him every future success as he continues to set an example for employees of Tri-Star Industries and other companies throughout the Atlantic Region.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5405]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[2:45 p.m.]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1930

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of the Environment, the Honourable John Chataway, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Clarke Masonic Lodge No. 61 of Chester has been a key community organization for 130 years and is housed in the original hall built in 1870; and

Whereas for the last three years, the hall has undergone extensive refurbishment while still preserving the fine craftsmanship of the building; and

Whereas the Clarke Lodge recently marked the completion of renovations by re-dedicating the hall;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the Clarke Masonic Lodge No. 61 for the completion of the refurbishment of this historic Masonic Hall and for being part of a tradition which has served their community for 130 years.

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 Pictou West.

[Page 5406]

RESOLUTION NO. 1931

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

Whereas Lions Clubs play an important role in communities throughout the world, providing assistance to those in need; and

Whereas for the past 30 years, the River John Lions Club has contributed to improving the quality of life for those in and around the village, while providing an opportunity for its members to gather in the spirit of fellowship and cooperation; and

Whereas this Saturday will be River John Lions Club charter night to celebrate their 30th Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the many special contributions made by the Lions Clubs around the world, and join me in congratulating the River John Lions Club on their 30th Anniversary and wish them success with 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.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1932

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Canadian Mint has expressed concern at various times over the past few years about the declining use of Canada's penny or one cent piece; and

[Page 5407]

Whereas their worries could be somewhat alleviated if they were to hear of the efforts of students at the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Elementary School in Shag Harbour recently; and

Whereas the students collected an almost unbelievable $1,147.60 in pennies, with Grade Primary French Immersion students leading the way in collecting $148 in pennies, as part of the school's efforts to assist with School Spirit Month;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate all students at the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Elementary School in Shag Harbour for their tremendous amount of work in raising funds for the local home and school support groups.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1933

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

Whereas the NDP are now apparently assuming the role of the great defenders of ACOA; and

Whereas corporations like the Royal Bank, Irving, and McCains no doubt will welcome the support and affection of the NDP;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House extend congratulations and best wishes to the NDP as they try to curry favour with big business.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 5408]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1934

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

Whereas Brian Lesser, a Grade 8 student at West Kings District High School, recently finished in the top 10 of the Great Canadian Geography Challenge for Nova Scotia students under the age of 16, held at Saint Mary's University in Halifax; and

Whereas Brian completed three different entry levels and wrote a test that was sent to Queen's University in Ontario for evaluation before becoming eligible to attend the geography challenge; and

Whereas Brian, in finishing in the top 10, answered approximately 150 questions during the Saint Mary's competition and is already looking forward to next year's challenge;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs extend their best wishes to 15 year old Brian Lessor, a Grade 8 student at West Kings District High School, for his dogged determination in wanting to participate in the Great Canadian Geography Challenge and wish him the very best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 5409]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1935

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

Whereas David Mason has been a dedicated volunteer for drug awareness, prevention and education since 1972; and

Whereas during these 28 years he has been Vice-Chairperson and Treasurer for the Truro and Area Local Committee on Drug Awareness; the Chairman of the Northern Regional Community Advisory Council; and organizer of many displays, special events and education presentations; and

Whereas Mr. Mason continues to make an outstanding contribution to his community and the Northern Regional Health Board cites him as one of Addiction Services' strongest advocates;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to thank and congratulate Mr. David Mason for his 28 years of dedication to drug awareness, education and prevention.

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 Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to draw the attention of the House to the Speaker's Gallery where Mr. David Mason is. He is accompanied by his wife, Ruth, and Cheryl Campbell who is a Program Administrative Officer with the Addiction Services, Northern Region. He is also accompanied by Anne MacLean who is the Director of Addiction Services, Northern Region, who also happens to be the Mayor of New Glasgow. So I would ask them to stand up, congratulate them, thank you for passing that resolution, and ask the House to recognize them. (Applause)

[Page 5410]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1936

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

Whereas Ms. Ann Jones, Superintendent of the Southwest Regional School Board, is the new President of the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators; and

Whereas Ms. Jones has been defending the interests of our students despite this budget's negative impact on public education in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this same individual has been criticized by members of the Tory Government for having led the charge against Education budget cuts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Ann Jones on her new position and wish her continued success in all her future endeavours.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1937

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 Lake Echo Crier is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of its first publication; and

[Page 5411]

Whereas the production of the Crier has advanced over the years from the use of manual stencils, duplication and collation to the application of modern design and printing techniques, providing a professional monthly media forum for community groups in Lake Echo and the surrounding area; and

Whereas the Crier continues to enjoy the enthusiastic support of advertisers and volunteers from the Lake Echo area and across the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the staff of the Lake Echo Crier on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary and thank all those in the community whose support makes this publication such a success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1938

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

Whereas a retirement celebration was held this past weekend at the Sheet Harbour Lions Centre honouring the many career accomplishments and contributions of two individuals within that community; and

Whereas Constable Greg Henley, a 27 year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was recognized and thanked for his years of dedicated service with the Sheet Harbour Detachment; and

Whereas Ms. Georgette Anthony was also honoured for her hard work as the secretary with the Sheet Harbour RCMP Detachment since 1988;

[Page 5412]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their appreciation to Constable Greg Henley and Ms. Georgette Anthony for their many years of hard work and dedication and wish them well with all of 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.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1939

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

Whereas the Pictou County Strategic Plan for Community Development has launched its "We're Working Wonders Corporate Campaign" under Image Committee Chairperson Harry Munro; and

Whereas the campaign will highlight the achievements of so many successful Pictou County businesses as well as community groups, sports figures and volunteers; and

Whereas Mr. Munro recently said, "he's been fortunate enough to have encountered great success when approaching business leaders while also pointing to the fact that a vibrant spirit is being felt in Pictou County";

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs extend best wishes to the Image Committee for the work they have undertaken to date, and will do in the coming months, to highlight accomplishments of Pictou County residents.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5413]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1940

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

Whereas the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum officially opened for the year on May 1st; and

Whereas over 100 people signed the guest book at the museum on March 25th, when a group from Halifax YMCA visited the museum and also made a visit to Rex Veinot's Maple Syrup operation; and

Whereas the Maple Syrup Festival held at the museum grounds on April 8th was one of the most successful in many years;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Parkdale-Maplewood Community Museum on their past activities in the community and wish them a successful and prosperous year ahead.

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 Queens.

[Page 5414]

RESOLUTION NO. 1941

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, the Honourable John Chataway, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Lighthouse Publishing of Bridgewater, a community-minded business, was instrumental in helping the South Shore Regional Hospital raise $300,000 for the purchase of a CAT scan, and was the largest single donor to the campaign; and

Whereas Lighthouse Publishing's efforts led to the company recently being recognized as Outstanding Small Business philanthropist by the Society of Fund Raising Executives; and

Whereas Lighthouse Publishing was chosen for this award out of a field of four Nova Scotian companies and one Newfoundland company nominated in this division;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lighthouse Publishing for being chosen as the Outstanding Small Business in the Atlantic Philanthropy Awards, and for their support of community initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 1942

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

Whereas Effie Patterson has just recently celebrated her 106th birthday at the White Birches Retirement Residence in Amherst; and

[Page 5415]

Whereas Effie is one of the few people in Nova Scotia whose life has spanned three centuries, experiencing the introduction of everything from electricity and motor cars to television, moon landing, and personal computers; and

Whereas Effie still enjoys a good meal and the company of her large family, which includes eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and live entertainment when it comes to the retirement centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the House recognize Mrs. Patterson on the occasion of her 106th birthday, and wish her good health and continued happiness and pleasure with her friends and family.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1943

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

Whereas the Kentville and Area Red Cross Society held its Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony on April 11, 2000; and

Whereas the society recognized the contribution made by members of the Centreville Good Neighbours Club; and

Whereas the members of the Centreville Good Neighbours Club exemplify the spirit of generosity on which so much of our community life depends;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the Centreville Good Neighbours Club for this distinction, and thank the club for its immeasurable service to the community.

[Page 5416]

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 1944

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

Whereas on Sunday, May 7, 2000, 760 students, 100 from the Antigonish community graduated from St. Francis Xavier University; and

Whereas the major prize winners included Bachelor of Science medalist, Scott Bradley McManus; Bachelor of Science In Nursing Medalist, Donna Aileen Beiswanger; Gold Medalist for Highest Marks in last three years of Honour Science, Jeremy Moeller; Governor General's Medal for Highest Marks in Arts for the last three years, Heather Jackson, all from Antigonish; and

[3:00 p.m.]

Whereas St. Francis Xavier also bestowed honorary doctor of laws degrees on Dr. Purnell W. Choppin, Charles V. Keating, Allan E. Gotlieb, Sister Margaret MacDonnell and Urs E. Schwarzenbach;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the university, the graduates, prize winners and the individuals awarded honorary doctorates.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5417]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1945

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

Whereas Berwick Grade 9 student Brendan Rideout will be competing next week at the national science fair taking place in London, Ontario; and

Whereas Brendan recently won a gold medal and was chosen to have the best earth/space project at the Valley Regional Science Fair; and

Whereas Brendan's project dealt with time travel;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs extend their best wishes to Brendan as he represents Nova Scotia at the nationals May 13th to 20th.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1946

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

[Page 5418]

Whereas the Pictou/West Pictou Band is making final preparations for its long-awaited trip to Toronto to participate in MusicFest Canada 2000 from May 17th to May 22nd; and

Whereas the band received an invitation to this prestigious national event after its gold medal winning performance in last year's Maritime Band Festival; and

Whereas through the dedication of the band members, their parents, along with the support of corporate sponsors and the local community, the band has been able to fund-raise the $26,000 necessary for the trip;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the hard work and dedication of the Pictou/West Pictou Band members and their director David Pos and the generous support of the surrounding community for helping to make this trip possible, and wish the band the best of luck as they participate in MusicFest Canada 2000.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1947

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

Whereas the Truro Wood Gundy Oldtimers Hockey Club won the Canadian Division title at the recent Montreal Cup; and

Whereas in round robin play, Truro had a 3 to 0 record defeating Kingston, Ontario; Long Island, New York; and Hamilton, Ontario; and

Whereas in the championship game, Truro emerged victorious with a 1 to 0 win over Kingston;

[Page 5419]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Truro Wood Gundy Oldtimers Hockey Club for winning the Canadian Division of the Montreal Cup and wish them every success in future tournaments.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1948

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

Whereas Brocklin Toys Ltd. began operations at their New Albany, Annapolis County factory 26 years ago in 1974; and

Whereas Brocklin Toys Ltd. manufactures everything from wooden rocking horses to furniture benches to shelving, and employs 13 people; and

Whereas under the leadership of President Brock Savage and Secretary-Treasurer Susan Gough, the company continues to produce top-of-the-line goods for their many valued customers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature commend Brock and Susan and their hard-working employees for their determination and craftsmanship which has made Brocklin Toys Ltd. such a successful business.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5420]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1949

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

Whereas the Grade 3 class of Renata Graham at Lunenburg Academy has participated in a class project to create children's books with the assistance of Emma Osbourn; and

Whereas seven books have been produced by the Grade 3 class; and

Whereas one of the books, the Great Stone Dragon, written by Meghan Burke, Rose Osbourn-Shisler and Mary Purcell will be entered in a national contest from Scholastic Books;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Graham's Grade 3 class for their efforts, and wish Meghan Burke, Rose Osbourn-Shisler and Mary Purcell the best of luck in the upcoming Scholastic Books contest.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1950

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

[Page 5421]

Whereas the Halifax Education Foundation through this year's Bucks for Books campaign has raised $37,000 for school libraries in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas Wade Atlantic and Mediacom have made available a billboard on Barrington Street to thank the valuable sponsors and contributors to Bucks for Books; and

Whereas the artwork on the billboard is the result of a school competition won this year by Caroline Whidden, Tara Lyn Heisler and Kerri Myers of Prospect Road Elementary School;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the Halifax Education Foundation, Caroline Whidden, Tara Lyn Heisler, Kerri Myers, Wade Atlantic, Mediacom and all of the sponsors and contributors of this year's Bucks for Books campaign and wish them much success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 1951

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

Whereas this month is the 26th Anniversary of the founding of the Huntington's Foundation; and

Whereas 26 walkers, aged 9 to 70, walked from Wallace, Cumberland County, to Amherst as part of the 7th Annual Norman Gray Walk for Huntington's disease on Saturday, May 6th; and

[Page 5422]

Whereas the walk and fund-raiser is held annually in honour of the founder, Norman Gray, who died in 1996 at the age of 58 from Huntington's disease and is one of the many fund-raising projects undertaken by the Cumberland County Chapter;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend the organizers of the walk, including local chapter secretary, Grace Trenholm and Beatrice Gray, wife of the late Norman Gray, for their efforts in raising funds to fight Huntington's and bring awareness to this deadly disease.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully 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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 3:07 p.m. and we will end at 4:37 p.m.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

SYSCO - SALE: ALL-PARTY COMM. - APPOINT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the minister responsible for Sydney Steel. Steelworkers are very concerned and some are here today and have spoken to some members and are hoping to speak to others. They are concerned about another sale deadline that is coming and going with no resolution to this problem. They are concerned because there are no new orders for the plant beyond the end of the month when massive lay-offs will occur.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, will the minister agree to an all-Party committee to review current bids for Sysco so the steelworkers and their families can have some faith in the sale process? This has been asked by Local 1064, Mr. Minister, will you agree?

[Page 5423]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Of course, the whole issue of how quickly we can bring resolution to this is much on everyone's minds. We are well aware of the concern to the steelworkers, to their families, to the people of Cape Breton and all of Nova Scotia. At this point in time, we are confident that Ernst & Young are moving forward. Involving an all-Party committee may well bog down the process beyond the date. So at this point in time we are not entertaining moving to an all-Party committee.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it cannot be any more bogged down than it is now, I can tell you that. Again, we have no commitment from this minister. All we have are statements that remind you of a broken record. This minister has danced around this issue and he is running out of excuses. As the sale date fast approaches, another concern steelworkers have is with the pension issue. Will this minister ensure that the pension issue is resolved to the satisfaction of steelworkers and their families prior to any sale being concluded or, heaven forbid, a closure?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we attempting to move forward in negotiations around the pension issue as quickly as possible, but negotiations require meetings and give and take. We have had a number of meetings. We will work as quickly as we can to bring forward a resolution around the pension issue and at the same time we are confident that Ernst & Young will be able to bring forward a sales agreement. Whether they happen at the same time remains to be seen.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that minister and that government have no idea what they are doing with the Sysco process. At the present time they are still dancing around the issue, trying to buy time until this Legislature dissolves this spring, and when it does, then they will do their job at Sydney Steel. We are concerned about what job will be done once this Legislature resolves itself into a summer holiday because that is when this government will wait to do something with the process.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the minister is, the entire plant is going to shut down, Mr. Minister, despite your assurances to the contrary. The other day you said in this House that things were fine at Sydney Steel, that there is all kinds of money there and the order book looks good.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, the plant is going down the end of this month. Will you ensure that issues surrounding the contract with Sydney steelworkers will be settled prior to any sale date, or will you tell the steelworkers to go look somewhere else for justice?

[Page 5424]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the process we put forward shortly after we were elected to office was that we would attempt, if at all possible, to find a private sector buyer who would continue to operate the plant. We are working toward that and we are optimistic that the process will result in a sale that will be in the best interests of all concerned, and we are confident that will occur.

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

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: CUTS - SPECIAL NEEDS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education has been saying for the past several weeks that her budget will not affect the classroom. I have news for this minister. The budget is hitting the classroom like a ton of bricks and it is hitting where it hurts the most. High-need students and parents woke up this morning to find the Halifax Regional School Board proposing to cut 60 education program assistants to save $1.2 million. Many of those children and their parents are already desperate for help. I want to ask the minister, does she have any idea of just how dramatically these cuts are going to affect the lives of these students with high needs?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board is going through a budget process. It is quite true what the member opposite says, that they are looking at teacher assistant jobs, some library jobs, some other jobs. Their budget has not been finalized. The school board is working very hard to keep the impact on the classroom minimal.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, we are not talking about minimal, we are talking about a dramatic impact on the lives of these students with high needs, Mr. Speaker. I want to tell the minister about a couple. The children and their parents already have a desperate time getting resources. They have been in my office in Spryfield. One family whose child, attending Rockingstone Heights Elementary School, desperately needs an education program assistant. Everyone agrees the need is there but there is no money, and with these cuts the family knows they will probably never get help for their child. I want to ask the minister, as an MLA in this House, what am I supposed to tell these parents and their child about the fact that they are being shut out from their right to have an education in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of some of these difficulties. A great many of these difficulties come into my constituency office and they come into my office at the Department of Education. The need for teacher assistants is high and growing. The Department of Education has put more money into special education. Quite frankly, we cannot meet the demand. I freely admit that. I would say that the Halifax Regional School Board has more than 500 teacher assistants and those children needing assistance will be given as much assistance as possible within our financial means.

[Page 5425]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: What is the minister saying, Mr. Speaker? What is the minister saying to these students? These students with high needs, she is saying to them, I am sorry, we can't afford for you to have an education. That is shameful in this province. I want to ask the minister if she would explain to me and to the parents and to those other children who have high needs, what they are supposed to do while her government continues to try to find ways to spend money that don't mean that those children are going to get help in the classroom. What about their lives, don't they deserve some respect? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I think is shameful is the amount of money this province is spending on debt, and how much money could be spent on teacher assistants if we were not. (Interruptions)

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - BUDGET (2000-01): PROGRAM REVIEW - CUTBACKS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. This government has said that its program review is going to serve as a basis for the budget which was introduced one month ago. We have heard conflicting reports about the status of the program review for the Department of Health. My question to the minister, can the minister confirm whether or not the program review was used as a rationalization for the cuts to the Department of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member for Dartmouth East that the program review was an input into the budgetary decisions of the Department of Health.

DR. SMITH: I thank the minister for that information, that is very important. Nova Scotians deserve to have access to the information so they can understand the massive cuts that are being made by that minister to the health care system. We have been told that the program review for the Department of Health is complete. Mr. Minister, is the Department of Health withholding the program review because you do not want Nova Scotians to know the impact the massive cuts will have on the health care system and hospitals like the QE II? Is that the reason that report is being withheld?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, no.

[Page 5426]

DR. SMITH: Hospitals like the QE II have been working on their budgets. That budget for that minister was approved by this Legislature. When will the exact nature of the cuts to the QE II be known? How many beds? How many nurses? Is it true that the minister knows that there will be 300 staff lay-offs at the QE II, including directors of physiotherapy and pharmacy? Is that true today? Inform the people of the QE II and the people of Nova Scotia of the massive cuts that you are making to this health care system.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe there were about four questions there. The honourable Minister of Health, would you like to answer one?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the QE II, like the other institutions and the regional health boards in the province, are undergoing a business planning process. That process at the QE II is just about completed and, indeed, they are doing some restructuring in that institution. The results of that will be known very soon.

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

EDUC. - CUTS: SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS - IMPACT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Minister of Education. I want to ask the Minister of Education why she and her colleagues on the front benches have decided that children with special needs in the Province of Nova Scotia do not deserve an education?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, children with special needs do deserve an education, and teacher assistants are a very important part of our education system. We will continue to provide funding for special education and funding to school boards, and school boards will continue to provide teacher assistants to the most needy cases.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, parents come into my office in Spryfield, who have been struggling to try to ensure that their children, who need some extra attention, get some help from the schools. They don't have the funds, the program assistants aren't available. Then they see that the Minister of Education ensures that her executive assistant gets a $6,500 laptop, or that senior officials in the Department of Education are travelling all over the world, and they say to me, where are the priorities of this government? Why do our children not deserve the attention that they . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . need in order to get an education? Maybe the minister could explain that to me and I could explain that to the parents.

[Page 5427]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our priorities are health, education and getting provincial finances under control.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: That might ring very nicely and it rolls off the minister's tongue, and it might be well received at the chamber of commerce dinner or maybe at a fund-raiser for the Tory Party, but with the parents that I am dealing with, whose children need program assistance, that just doesn't fly. I want the minister to focus her attention on those children with special needs who need the help from program assistance. What are they going to do? Why don't they deserve an education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all the school boards will continue to provide teacher assistants in their classrooms. They will determine the priorities within the schools as they do now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: CUTS - IMPACT HIGH

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. At last night's meeting of the Halifax Regional School Board, the board's budget for the school year 2000-01 was tabled. The budget as tabled contained a cut of $11.5 million or almost 10 per cent of its budget. This is a lot more than the 2.5 per cent cut as claimed by the Minister of Education. My question to the minister, can the minister explain to the House why the cut represents almost 10 per cent of the board's budget, when the minister has said all along that the cut in the public education budget is 2.5 per cent?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board has a budget of over $250 million, closer to $300 million. A 10 per cent cut would represent something like $24 million. So I would suggest that the member opposite perhaps ask the school board how they got that 10 per cent figure.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, here we go again. Ann Jones was first, who is going to be next? (Interruption) My first supplementary to the minister. The cuts last night includes the loss of 60 education program assistants who aid teachers with special needs students. Will the minister please explain to the parents of these special needs students how their children will receive a quality education next year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax School Board's budget is still under consideration. There will be changes made to it. I would like to assure the member opposite and parents that their special needs children will be looked after by all the boards to the best of their ability.

[Page 5428]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, along with the cuts to teachers' aides, the board will be cutting 35 library technician jobs. This will mean the elimination of the school libraries in junior high schools. Will the minister please explain how students at the junior high level can receive a first-rate education without a library in which to carry out research and be exposed to literary works of the highest calibre?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the libraries will not be disappearing from schools. As we have discussed many times in this House, the use of computer technology in schools has much improved the ability of students to research. As I say, the libraries will still be there, the abilities of students to research will not be affected.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.:

SCHOOLS - MAINTENANCE DETERIORATION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Last night, the Halifax Regional School Board began the process of hacking and slashing their budget as dictated to them by this government. One area being cut is school repairs and renovations. Now, we know if you take a teacher out of the classroom everybody notices but if you go after school maintenance, those schools deteriorate quietly over time. The Halifax Regional School Board estimates its schools need $75 million worth of repairs but its budget for repairs is now $1.8 million. I want to ask the minister, how does she expect teachers to teach and students to learn in schools that are literally falling down for lack of maintenance?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware and so are my colleagues of the maintenance problems in our schools; all members of this House are well aware of that. I would like to suggest, however, that the bulk of the money for renovations for schools, as the member was talking about, and new schools comes from the Department of Education and the government and not individual school board budgets.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a document that shows just how bad things really are. The document says that the Halifax Regional School Board will not make repairs on any school if those repairs cost more than $50,000. In those cases, they will be coming to the minister and if she doesn't come through, they will close the schools and they will send students elsewhere, likely for more split shifts. That doubles the disadvantage for those students. I want to ask the minister, why is she being penny wise and pound foolish, why can't she see that repairs delayed now will cost a lot more later?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the repairs and renovations and new construction needed for schools in this province. We will be bringing forward a plan very shortly to deal with those.

[Page 5429]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the first government to have this lackadaisical attitude towards school maintenance was the Tory Government of John Buchanan in 1990. He, too, took money out of maintenance and we are still paying the price for that mistake.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister whether or not she remembers the Buchanan Government and why is her government making the same short-sighted decision, going down the same road to ruining schools in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this government will be renovating schools and building new schools, the same as the previous government, perhaps more. The maintenance dollars in the Halifax Regional School Board are going to be exactly the same as the previous year.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - JAILS: RURAL - CLOSURE IMPACT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In recent months the minister has given an indication to Nova Scotians that he will take a new tough approach with crime, everything from a failed Johns legislation to making criminals pay for their own accommodations to tougher sentences for home invasions by sending out home videos. The Tory blue book makes bold promises even though most of those issues fall within federal jurisdiction. One thing the minister does have jurisdiction over is minimum security correctional facilities.

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, can the Minister of Justice give to this House the number of spaces that will be eliminated as a result of the five jails which will close in rural Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the exact figures with me but I believe it is in the 80's.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the number of spaces will be reduced to 440 from 505 as a result of these cuts, 80-plus, as the minister has indicated. We all know that there is more to punishment and rehabilitation than incarceration but the fact remains that some people do belong in jail. If the minister is pursuing stiffer sentences, that will mean the need for more spaces in our correctional facilities. My question to the minister is, with a cut of over 80 spaces in correctional facilities, how can the Minister of Justice expect judges to impose tougher jail sentences?

[Page 5430]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has failed to follow the trends in sentencing in this province. In fact, the tendency in sentencing is that there are actually fewer number of people incarcerated but those people who are incarcerated are more serious offenders. So the actual number of people in custody has been declining, however, those people have been sentenced for more serious crimes. What we are looking at is a more serious kind of offender in institutions and that is why we need newer, higher security institutions.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister says that the number of people being incarcerated is declining. I can tell you that the number of home invasions in this province is certainly not declining. This minister has said he is going to get tough, he is going to seek stiffer sentences. He wants to see people pay for these horrific crimes, make them responsible for these horrific crimes, while at the same time he is closing these correctional facilities. The fact is, Nova Scotia is second in having the highest number of people not going to correctional facilities and second in the highest number of people who go on probation.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: My question is, Mr. Speaker, will the minister ensure public safety in light of the comments that he has made by reviewing his decision to eliminate over 80 jail spaces in this province?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the importance of this question and I can assure the honourable member that we have reviewed very carefully the number of correctional spaces in this province and we will have more than an adequate number of correctional spaces in this province when we are finished our plan.

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

EDUC.: GRAHAM CREIGHTON JR. HS - PLANS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. She said in a previous answer that they intend to deal with the problem of sick buildings and schools. I am going to talk about a very specific school. It is Graham Creighton Junior High School in Cherry Brook.

AN HON. MEMBER: Whose riding is that?

MR. DEVEAUX: It is in the member for Preston's riding. As was noted earlier, the Halifax Regional School Board will not be repairing any buildings with over $50,000 worth of repairs. They are going to close them instead unless this government takes care of it. Now Graham Creighton Junior High School has been closed since January. It was supposed to open in the March Break. It is still closed and no one knows how much longer it will be closed. My question to this minister is, what advice does she have, Mr. Speaker, for the

[Page 5431]

parents, the teachers and the students and Graham Creighton Junior High School so that their kids don't have to breathe sick air.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there is actually a community meeting tonight regarding Graham Creighton Junior High School and I would urge all parents and those in the community concerned with the school to attend that meeting. The estimated repair and renovation bill for Graham Creighton Junior High School is about $5 million and the department is quite prepared to look at that after we get a request from the school board to do so.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the Department of Education and the Minister of Education would know about this problem. It happened in January and they still haven't even begun to consider. They even know the price, over $5 million, and yet she still stands here today and tells us that she doesn't know whether or not they are going to be able to provide the funding. The students and the teachers and the parents need answers in that community. My question to the minister is, when will the minister stop deferring maintenance costs, whether it be at Graham Creighton Junior High School or at other schools to make sure that this kind of problem doesn't happen again?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the way the system works is that the department responds to requests that school boards put in by priority. When the department receives a request from the school board particularly if it is unanimous from the community and the school board, we will look at that request and we will proceed with analyzing it and we will deal with it as quickly as we can.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my last question to the Minister of Education is a simple one. Can the minister, yes or no, guarantee that those students will be back at Graham Creighton Junior High School by September of the year 2000?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, no, I certainly cannot guarantee the students will be back in school by September. I don't know how long the renovations will take, and I don't know precisely when they are going to begin because we have not received yet the official request from the school board to proceed with the renovations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): HOSPITALS/BOARDS - DEFICITS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. A memo that the Deputy Minister of Health, Tom Ward, that has been circulated in this House, recently sent to the CEOs of the regional hospital boards and non-designated boards, basically it is giving the CEOs of these boards permission to run deficits in the next year. My question to the minister, how can the minister allow deficits in hospitals and health boards when he has

[Page 5432]

clearly indicated to this House that he will no longer accept that from any organization in the health care system?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up a good point. I think the point he brings up is that we don't want to find ourselves in a situation whereby the hospitals of this province, or hospital boards, end up with an accumulated deficit or debt of $281 million which basically took place soon after we assumed office last July. We are in a situation where we realize hospital boards are going to be administering their budgets and they should try to live with them as much as possible because obviously we don't know the circumstances day-to-day, but they, as well as school boards or governments, should try to live within their means. That is a goal and objective of this government.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary to the minister is that in fact, the deputy minister is encouraging these boards because they don't have a plan, they don't know where they are going financially, and they haven't even put a business plan together. They will in fact be able to run deficits for the next two years. Legislation tabled in this House clearly defined that such deficits would be assumed by the bottom line of the budget. That means the current budget we just voted on, that none of us on this side of the House agreed to, is projecting deficits that are wrong. My question to the minister is, will this minister revise his deficit figures to be based on facts that will be provided once the health boards figure out where they are going under the Minister of Health, so we can have an accurate number in the budget we just passed?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up a point that is valid in the sense that business plans are important to hospitals. I want to say for the record that the hospital that has been mentioned a few times in the questions today, the QE II, presented business plan after business plan after business plan to that Party on the other side which was never signed up. That is an important fact, and if we expect hospital boards to live within their means, they have to put through business plans that government will respond to in an orderly fashion whereby they at least can put a plan in place which will allow them to live within their means.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I understand the QE II, in fact, gave a budget to the Department of Health showing the impact of what this budget means to QE II in beds and patients, and the Department of Health rejected it. They said no way can we take the political heat for that. The reality is that this government does not have a plan. It will not accept the plans of what this budget really means. This budget we have seen is so broad, there are holes in it so big that I am sure Brooke could drive a truck through them. Will the minister issue corrections for the inaccuracy of the budget when he finally gets the figures from the Department of Health and the NDOs?

[Page 5433]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, when we talk about hospital budgets, we

won't be spending $12 million to have a business plan developed by the QE II that, basically, we won't implement. That is the first thing. The second thing is that this government, as per the previous government, will put forward (Interruptions) I hit a nerve, Mr. Speaker. This government will be putting forward quality reports, as any previous administration has done, and we will meet our objectives when we come down to the end, which is to try to live within our means. (Interruptions)

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

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.:

CUTS - SCHOOL MAINTENANCE IMPACT

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go through you to the compassionate Minister of Education. By now the Minister of Education will know that because of her budget the Halifax Regional School Board has been forced to make the decision that they will shut down a school if the repair costs are going to be over $50,000. The minister is also aware that A. J. Smeltzer Junior High School, in the constituency of Lower Sackville, was shut down last October because of an oil leak, one that had been going on for some time, and that as a result of that, A. J. Smeltzer students and Sackville High School students have been forced to go on split shifts.

My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, through you, because the board has said that they can't afford another clean-up like that, are you prepared to guarantee that no schools will be shut down because the board lacks the financial resources to make the necessary repairs to make that building safe?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the department, as in the past, will continue to help boards with their capital and renovation requests. If it can't afford to repair or renovate a school, the department will look at that request to see if it can help, the same as it has always done.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister from the bottom of my heart for her non-answer. The reality is that if they cannot afford proper maintenance, the boards will be forced to keep the teachers and students in an unsafe, unhealthy environment, or shut it down and force those students to go on split shifts. I ask the minister, why have you and your colleagues decided to put the school boards in that position, because of your budget?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the school boards have said that the savings they must make are manageable, so the school boards should be allowed to manage.

[Page 5434]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that sounds like John Buchanan, and I was around here to listen to that and we are paying the price for that today, with millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars having to be spent to build new schools to replace those that this government and the other government have let deteriorate.

I want to ask this minister, why is it that she and her government have chosen to create future problems like those being suffered at A.J. Smeltzer and other schools across this province because you are unprepared to allow the proper maintenance and repairs to go on now? Why are you sacrificing the children of the future for your short-term gains?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, school boards are discussing various areas in which they make savings. None of them have been finalized, and no school board has said it is going to stop school maintenance.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 107:

SYSTEM (NATL.) - INCLUSION

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, through you I wish to put a question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Last December two members of the government caucus, the member for Eastern Shore and the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, went off to Ottawa on a merry adventure, which I think they called an excellent adventure, and they were armed with this letter from the then-Minister of Transportation and Public Works, now the minister who is doing so much to help the Sydney steelworkers, the Honourable Gordon Balser.

I am going to table a copy of it here, and I have a copy for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, with the sections highlighted, so that he may see that this letter from the former minister indicated that Highway No. 107, that is up the Eastern Shore, be included as an element of the national highway system. While not in keeping with the national highway system policy, it was nonetheless going to be made a highway of strategic importance and referred to the National Highway Safety Policy Committee for their consideration when it next meets. My question is, is that still the policy of the Minister of Transportation and of his department?

[3:45 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Highway No. 107, by definition, would not be included under the national highway system. I think the member is well aware of that; however, it is a highway of strategic importance to this province. As such, we will aggressively pursue with the federal Minister of Transportation funding for that highway as we are going to with all other roads, other than the national highway system.

[Page 5435]

MR. MACEWAN: It would appear from the minister's answer that the former minister, now the minister for Sydney Steel, then as now did not know what he was doing. In any event, I would like to ask if the minister could indicate to the House whether the honourable Minister of Transport, the Honourable David Collenette, to whom this epistle was addressed, has he advised the Honourable David Collenette the policy reflected in this letter is no longer the policy of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation or of the government.

MR. RUSSELL: My honourable predecessor in my role at the Department of Transportation certainly knew what he was doing, which is more than you can say for the previous Minister of Transportation in the Liberal Government.

MR. MACEWAN: Our caucus office contacted the minister's office, asking if there was a letter to the Minister of Transportation in Ottawa repudiating this particular document and advising him that it was not the policy of the Department of Transportation and we were told that no such letter existed on file. In other words, apparently that still stands. I must ask the minister through you, sir, has he advised the federal Minister of Transportation this is not the policy of the Government of Nova Scotia, yes or no?

MR. RUSSELL: No, there has been no repudiation of that particular letter, but the intent of that letter was to demonstrate to Mr. Collenette that indeed that highway is of strategic importance to Nova Scotia. This government treats our transportation system seriously which is more than what the previous government did.

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

EDUC.: ALDERNEY ELEM. SCH. - AIR QUALITY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. We have already heard that as a result of the disastrous Education budget, the Halifax Regional School Board is cutting its school repair budget to the bone and any repairs over $50,000 may result in the closure of the school. Alderney Elementary School has had an environmental problem going back nine years. A succession of parents have tried, to no avail, to have air quality problems fixed. Now we have been told that the school board acknowledges the need for action, but that there is no money in the budget. So, my question for the Minister of Education is, what advice do you have for the parents of Alderney Elementary School who just want their kids to breathe clean air while they learn?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the last testing done at Alderney Elementary School, in which the department participated and helped fund, could not detect the oil smell that seems to be bothering people; they couldn't find anything. Mr. Speaker, our environmental officer does a very good job, has done a wonderful job in the schools that he has worked in. They tested the air quality. They could not find a problem.

[Page 5436]

MR. DEXTER: That amazes me, Mr. Speaker, because Alderney School in Dartmouth last year functioned with the windows in some of the classrooms open all year-round, including the winter, just so the kids could breath. The school board says they don't have the money for the repairs and, in fact, they have indicated that one option that is being considered is shutting the school down and split-shifting the students at another school.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: So my question to the minister is, how much money will the province allocate to fix air quality problems at Alderney School?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is up to the school board to come to the department with requests for help for the schools. We will continue to work with the school board in that school, as in other schools, but what I am saying is the latest tests that were done were unable to detect a problem.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if any group of students has a special claim to be able to stay in their community school as close as possible to their homes, it is elementary school students. So my final question to the minister is, what guarantees are you prepared to give elementary school students and their parents that no elementary school will be closed just because of its lack of money for repairs?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the member opposite that I absolutely agree with him, that elementary students should be moved out of their communities as an absolute last resort. However, what the member opposite is looking for is an absolute guarantee that I could not give in any year, much less a tough year like this.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

HWY. NO. 104 (PORT HAWKESBURY) - BY-PASS PLANS

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a further question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works who is right on top of everything. The Port Hawkesbury Town Council recently passed a motion calling for the construction of a by-pass around that town to circumvent Reeves Street, the main street through Port Hawkesbury, which is now the route of the highway through that town, Highway No. 104. I believe the Minister of Transportation and Public Works sent a letter back to the town council stating that there were no plans to proceed with that particular by-pass and that there has been some controversy over that.

[Page 5437]

I would like to ask the minister, in view of the plans for the development of a new gypsum mine at Melford and increasing traffic in the Point Tupper area, would the minister be prepared to commit to the building of that by-pass within the next five years?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, to the delight of the people in that area, the gypsum mine is going ahead and the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova brings forward the observation that at the present time there will be truck traffic along Reeves Street which is the main street of Port Hawkesbury, I believe, yes. That mine will not be at full capacity for another two or three years. They are putting aside each year a certain sum of money which will be utilized to examine the traffic on Reeves Street and to determine whether or not a by-pass is going to be necessary in the long term. At the present time, that decision has not been made.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit, through you to the minister, it is a very serious question because there is going to be an awful lot of truck transportation coming out of that gypsum mine when it gets going. The matter of whether they could use rail transportation rather than road has not yet been addressed. Could the minister bring the House up to date as to what initiatives he is undertaking to try to get the heavy truck traffic not routed through the town by way of using railway transport for the gypsum from the gypsum mine when it gets under way?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the option of rail was brought to the attention of the mine at a very early stage. It was discussed at great length with the Department of the Environment, the Department of Transportation as well as with at that time the Cape Breton railroad - I forget what it is right now. The result of those discussions was that it was not economically feasible to extend a line down there. The company thus made a financial contribution to the upgrading of Highway No. 105 to permit the easy and safe passage of the truck traffic down to Port Hawkesbury.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, again I say this is a very serious matter. It is going to cause extreme disruption in the Town of Port Hawkesbury if all those trucks are going right down the main street of the town every five minutes. I would like to ask the minister, in view of the petition of the Port Hawkesbury Town Council if he could perhaps try to get the same amount of attention for this particular proposal as his department is giving to that proposal to build the highway up the Eastern Shore that those two merry adventurers went up to Ottawa to petition for? My goodness if we could get equal attention for the road around Port Hawkesbury . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 5438]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the ring road around Port Hawkesbury is an idea that I am sure will come to fruition some day; however, that is some distance in the future. At the present time, the truck traffic is not heavy enough to disrupt the normal traffic on Reeves Street.

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

HEALTH: IN-HOME SUPPORT PROG. - MORATORIUM

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. I want to draw to the minister's attention circumstances facing an individual in my riding who has agreed that this matter be brought before the House. The gentleman's name is Scott Marshall, a young man with cerebral palsy who uses an old motorized wheelchair which is in desperate need of repair. Because of a moratorium on spending in the in-home support program which has been shifted over to the Department of Health, the only option made available to this gentleman was to lease an old chair, and this chair in turn has been causing him considerable pain, and it will eventually give him contractures in the hips and knees. I want to ask the Minister of Health, can he explain that our health care system cannot help someone who has such basic needs as Scott Marshall?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. I don't know any of the details of the individual of whom he is speaking, and if I did, I wouldn't discuss them on the floor of the House. I can say that our department is concerned about the welfare of everybody who is in a program that is affected. As the honourable member knows, some of the programs in Community Services have been joined with those of the Department of Health, and the process of getting those up and fully functioning is still going on.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Scott's situation is not unique. The fact is that the department, the minister, has put a moratorium on spending on the in-home support program. This government has justified cuts to health care on the grounds that it wants to make the system more efficient and with less waste, but helping someone access the proper wheelchair surely is not considered waste. Helping someone alleviate considerable pain is not waste. Spending $50,000 on headhunters, some would consider a waste.

I want to ask the Minister of Health, will he agree to lift the moratorium on spending in the in-home support program so that people such as Scott can live in dignity and without pain?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is implying that there is a moratorium on the in-home support program, and that is not the case. Those people who were receiving service continue to receive it.

[Page 5439]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what did he say? Scott Marshall and my office have been told by the minister's officials that there is a moratorium on spending and their hands are tied for the time being. I want to ask the Minister of Health, will he explain to Scott and to other persons in need across this province why it is that they can't get support from such an essential program, will the minister do something to help Scott and other Nova Scotians?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is asking me a question that I don't know sufficient details about. I feel very sorry and I appreciate your raising the issue of one of your constituents. I would be pleased to look at the issue of the gentleman you were talking about and to find out where he fits in our program at the present time. If you would like to bring the details to me, I would be pleased to look into it.

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

ENVIRON. - GLACE BAY:

WATER SUPPLY - TRIHALOMETHANE

MR. DAVID WILSON: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Last December, the government admitted that they were aware of unacceptable levels of the chemical trihalomethane in the Glace Bay water supply. Since that time not much has changed, the only thing is that those levels are now higher. Mr. Speaker, I suggest if this was happening in Halifax, it would have been dealt with four months ago. My question is, what is the government going to do to fix this potentially deadly problem?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate that the honourable member brought this very serious matter to the House. Trihalomethanes are substances created as a result of treating chlorine water which has a very high amount of organics in it. It is a by-product of an inefficient treatment plant. What the Department of the Environment has been doing is working with municipal units across the province to encourage those municipal units to put in modern treatment plants so that they can remedy this problem.

Mr. Speaker, it is significant to note that in one community where they addressed this issue, they went from the highest in the province to one of the lowest because they implemented the technology to treat this problem.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, in my community the levels went much higher to one of the highest in the province right now. I think this government owes it to the people of Glace Bay to solve this problem because Glace Bay residents have a right to clean drinking water. When will the minister wake up and recognize this problem instead of burying his head in the sand?

[Page 5440]

MR. BAKER: First of all, Mr. Speaker, just by way of information for the honourable member, it requires four test results before the readings are firmly established. I agree with the honourable member, people require safe drinking water. The municipal unit has a responsibility under the Municipal Government Act to provide that safe drinking water to the residents of the municipality. I would encourage the municipal unit to do that and I can assure them that the provincial government will be assisting them in this matter.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has a moral obligation to act here as well, you know. It is time to act. When there are people's lives in jeopardy, then you simply have to act and find the money. You have to do something about it. That is what is going to separate compassionate people from the members on that side of the House.

My question, Mr. Speaker, why won't the minister act now then and fix this problem so that the lives of the people of Glace Bay are not put at any further risk?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, this is a problem that is the responsibility of the municipal units, under the municipal-provincial service exchange agreement that the former government had implemented. That is a municipal responsibility. Our government is doing the testing and regulating. The requirement to do the work is on the municipal unit. I would encourage that municipal unit to carry out their responsibility by fixing the problem.

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

TOURISM: VICs - FUTURE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Tourism has grown faster than any other Canadian industry in the last 20 years. Nova Scotians have seen a 20 per cent increase in tourist traffic over the last two years alone. This department's own research proves that tourists who visit information bureaus stay longer and spend more money. Yet, the centres in Springhill, River Hebert, Pugwash, Oxford, Joggins, Elmsdale, Glenholme, and even in the Town of Amherst are in danger of being closed. My question to the minister, why does this government feel that supporting tourist bureaus is no longer an integral part of the tourism business in this province?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I do realize that a tourist who does visit a provincial visitor information centre does spend more money here in the province. Through the PEP program, the local VICs in local communities did receive funding throughout the years. That funding has been reduced this year through my department from Economic Development, and as a result, we had to ensure that the points of interest in such places as Amherst, Port Hastings, et cetera, that the provincial VICs had workers there, and unfortunately, some local VICs had a reduction in funding for the workers.

[Page 5441]

MR. ESTABROOKS: What an admission. This is not simply an issue for tourists. This concerns all Nova Scotians. The tourism industry employs some 42,000 people in this province. The industry contributes $1.27 billion, Mr. Speaker, annually, to the economy of Nova Scotia, and 60 per cent of this is new money. I ask the minister, why is this government not committed to providing the necessary infrastructure for the tourist industry instead of simply viewing it as a cash cow?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that is simply untrue. I will give you an example. Last year when we came in, we kept the VIC in Amherst and the VIC in Port Hastings open three and a half months longer than the previous government did, and we are committed to continuing with that in various VICs throughout the province.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, in the Budget Address, the Minister of Finance said, this government is committed to ensuring that the economies of rural Nova Scotia are not only sustained, but grown. The Minister of Transportation knows well that Joggins, Springhill, and Glenholme are in rural Nova Scotia. Can the minister explain to this House how closing down vital tourist bureaus in small rural Nova Scotian communities will help to grow their economy?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, it is not definite that those VICs are closing in those communities. This government is committed to economic development in this province and there are many examples of it. We are making an investment in Tourism. We are making an investment in the marketing side. We are making an investment in the new tourism development fund, cultural development through this budget. This is a good budget for tourism and Nova Scotia. We are committed to it. That is why we established a separate Department of Tourism and Culture for that very reason. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

LBR. - TRADE UNIONS: FIN. STATEMENTS - FILING

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. The Trade Union Act requires that all trade unions in the Province of Nova Scotia file a full financial disclosure statement with the Minister of Labour, at the end of the fiscal year, i.e. March 31st for the previous year. There are approximately 700 trade unions in the province. Can the minister confirm how many trade unions have filed their financial reports to date?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm any number at this point.

[Page 5442]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, well, he didn't know any answers to the other questions. The Cape Breton Building and Construction Trades Council is reported to have appropriated money from its members to defray the cost of damages to the Lynch property on Kings Road in Sydney. Reports indicate quite clearly that more than the legally entitled amount was appropriated from its members. If the council's financial statement shows that this disparity exists, is the minister prepared to order the council to refund its members for the illegally appropriated monies?

MR. MACISAAC: Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would like to turn that hypothetical statement into fact by saying it outside the House.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will do better than that, I will direct the minister to the file in his department that clearly indicates that evidence. The Trade Union Act (Interruptions) clearly prohibits a trade union from making contributions to individual political candidates. What action is the minister prepared to take should the Cape Breton Building and Construction Trades Council be making political donations to individuals with these illegally appropriated dollars?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I didn't want my - anyway, I won't go there. (Laughter)

It would appear, Mr. Speaker, that what the honourable member is referring to is another one of the files that he has left uncompleted in the office. I will certainly ensure that when the financial statements are brought forward that if there is anything that is inappropriate with respect to those statements and that there is any legal action required, that those matters will, in fact, be looked into. (Interruptions) You don't want the next line.

It appears, Mr. Speaker, they don't want to hear any more so I will take my seat.

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

ECON. DEV. - CBCEDA: EXPENDITURE - CONTROL

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this morning in the Public Accounts Committee, we heard the evidence of a Regional Development Authority out of control. The Cape Breton County RDA has spent more than $100,000 on travel and meal expenses in the last two years. The majority of the money was spent on board members. To give you an idea of how ludicrous this is, most RDAs in this province spend less than $1,000 a year on board expenses and less than $2,000 on staff expenses.

I want to ask the minister, will you immediately demand a full accounting of every penny spent by CBCEDA to ensure that their spending is brought under control?

[Page 5443]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. I believe the Chair of that committee brought forward a resolution that received unanimous agreement of the House to undertake that very analysis and we will be doing that. Obviously we require some level of involvement on the part of the department and it may take some time but certainly that is a reasonable request and we will working towards it.

MR. CORBETT: Well, Mr. Speaker, last fall the same minister told all RDAs that they were to have an audit in front of him, so obviously they did listen to him then. The Chairman of CBCEDA is currently getting a salary as a councillor, he is getting at least $10,000 a year in CBCEDA perks and he is also getting salary as a teacher. The school board has released him half time as their contribution to regional development. That means they are paying half his salary, plus money for a substitute teacher to replace him, money from education, dearly needed.

As the minister knows, boards like most RDAs, are run by volunteers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: They don't get paid. They don't spend thousands on their own expenses. Mr. Minister, my question, will you tell this House what steps are going to be taken to put an end to this absurd situation and ensure that education dollars are not going to pay for CEOs' meals and entertainment bills?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, obviously the information that was conveyed at the Public Accounts Committee meeting today will be reviewed by the department and the appropriate action will be taken.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned previously, this minister said he wanted these RDAs to be audited and they did not comply. This sweetheart deal beckons back to the Liberals, but CBCEDA's address is 338 Charlotte Street, the infamous Freidman Building. Mr. Minister, the Public Accounts Committee unanimously agreed today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: . . . to require a complete breakdown of expenditures made by all RDAs in this province? When will this happen? When will you table it in the House, Mr. Minister?

[Page 5444]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite did not listen to my first answer, which was that we already agreed unanimously in this House to undertake to do that and it will take some time. We have to begin the process. It would be premature to comment on a date at this point. I will tell him that we will do it in as timely and thorough a manner as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - PROV. HEALTH COUNCIL:

BILL OF RIGHTS (PATIENTS) - TIMETABLE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Several of the 243 Tory promises during the election referred to the Provincial Health Council. It is no surprise, since when in Opposition the Tories made quite a fuss and an issue about the Provincial Health Council. One of the promises was the development of a patient's bill of rights. My question to the minister, has the minister seen the proposed bill of rights and when can this House expect to see it brought forward?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question. Yesterday afternoon I met with the chair and the executive secretary of the Provincial Health Council and that very item that he mentioned was part of the agenda. As the honourable member knows, the Provincial Health Council was involved in provincial consultations about core health services to be provided in the province and that has taken up the bulk of their time. That report has now been submitted and they will now be turning their efforts to the development of a patient's bill of rights.

DR. SMITH: There was a little noise outside and around, Mr. Speaker, but I think the Health Council Committee, looked at the bill of rights and had its report finished in April. I am not sure if the minister said he had seen the bill of rights or not. So he has not. So it was my understanding that the Provincial Health Council would be reviewed by the health council on April 6th. I am surprised if that is so, then if the minister had a meeting with them that he has not seen it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: If so, when can we see this bill of rights expected to be enshrined in legislation and when could that be, Mr. Speaker?

MR. MUIR: I apologize, the din in here must have prevented the honourable member from hearing my response to his first question. Mr. Speaker, the Provincial Health Council for the first part of its ongoing mandate now, it did travel around the provinces to compile a list of core services that they felt should be offered throughout the provinces. That has

[Page 5445]

occupied most of its time; it has not yet put together that patient's bill of rights to which the honourable member refers.

DR. SMITH: Well, that is a commitment of a Tory promise and we would be expecting it. Another promise, Mr. Speaker, was to mandate the council to make recommendations on standards for the delivery of services and to report its findings publicly. The truth is that as of last month the Standards of Care Delivery Committee has not even met yet. I guess that is what we are seeing. The minister speaks of evidence-based decisions, and he speaks of measuring outcomes in health. The standards for delivery of service is vital in this time of restructuring. Why is it that the minister is allowing this delay to continue, both in the bill of rights and on the recommendations on the standards?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that, too, was a subject of discussion in my meeting with the officials from the Provincial Health Council yesterday. The answer to that is a rather complex one, but as the honourable knows, removing to district health authorities, a good number of the standards will effectively, probably, be a contract between the district health authority and the Department of Health, about the delivery of health services in Nova Scotia. We talked with the Provincial Health Council about their input, but there is some preliminary work which needs to be done on that before the role of the Provincial Health Council can be completely defined in that regard.

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

HEALTH - DART. GEN. HOSP.: NURSES - HIRING FREEZE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This week marks National Nursing Week, and this government is making the nursing problem worse. The Dartmouth General Hospital currently has 14.5 full-time nursing vacancies, 10 nurses are going through orientation, but these nurses will be filling casual and part-time positions because there is a hiring freeze. My question, if the minister is committed to bringing more nurses into the system, why is there a hiring freeze on nurses?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will have to take that question under advisement. I was not aware there was a hiring freeze.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it makes me wonder what the minister is aware of. We are told that there is a hiring freeze on at the hospital because no decisions can be made until the hospitals and the regional health boards have their business plans back. The Minister of Health's delay is making the nursing problem worse. My question, if you are serious about the nursing crisis, why are you tying the hands of hospitals through business plan delays and budget cuts, which are directly impacting nurses?

[Page 5446]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. I need a little bit more detail, probably, on what the honourable member is talking about. I had a report from a facility yesterday that is going through the business planning process, and yet they have hired about 10 new nurses. I don't know.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think he said, I don't know. At least that was how it ended. The lay-offs in health care have begun this afternoon at the QE II. Does the minister know that the lay-offs began this afternoon? If he does, how many were there, and how are they going to affect the workplace for nurses?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I was aware that the QE II was beginning their administrative restructuring today. (Interruptions) My understanding, although I do not have the details, I do not have details from the QE II, but they were indeed proceeding to reorganize their administration at that hospital, which means that some positions would be eliminated. My understanding is that no front-line care workers were involved in this reorganization.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES.: SILVICULTURE - FUNDING

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, today I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. During the election, the Tories promised to spend $8 million on silviculture development. During last night's late debate, the minister said that the silviculture industry could expect $15 million more next year. I believe this is not provincial money, I think it is money mostly made up from the fund of contributions from large wood buyers.

My question to the minister is this. Can the minister explain if the $8 million his Party promised is included in the $15 million fund, which was established as a result of the Registry of Buyers?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. Last night in the late debate, I noted to the House that as much as $15 million a year could be spent in the future on silviculture. That $15 million would be made up of approximately a $3 million Crown component, $3 million provincial contributions and $9 million would probably result from sustainable forestry practices and the Registry of Buyers have a deduction for a sustainable forestry fund.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, from the information I have that may not be quite correct. I know the industry was disappointed when the Tories cut the extra $1 million promised for silviculture by the previous Liberal Government. Then, I believe, the Tories went on to cut funding by an extra $1 million in this last budget. I wonder how the minister

[Page 5447]

can say his commitment to silviculture is strong when they chopped direct funding for this program by $2 million.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member is confusing two budgetary years. In the previous budgetary year, there was $1 million that was not expended last fall because of the lateness in the season, by the time we were able to take over the administration of a new government; secondly, a large expenditure in the fire account. This year's expenditure, the honourable member is right, was decreased by $1 million, but that decrease was on Crown land, which is in a sustainable position in regard to forest supply and wood supply in this province.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable minister for his clarification, but it is still a $2 million cut, as I see it. The minister knows, and we all know, that a sustainable forest is an important goal for Nova Scotians. On July 7, 1999, in Elmsdale, the Tory Leader was quoted as saying that it is time the government invested in our forests. My question to the minister is, when can the silviculture industry expect a government investment on top of the money generated by the Registry of Buyers?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. Certainly, the industry can expect, over the next two years, a marked increase in the amount of dollars spent on silviculture. Those dollars will be generated from the check-off through the Registry of Buyers. All members, and certainly the industry, agree it is high time those deductions occur, and those deriving benefits from the forest industry are partially responsible for making sure there are sustainable forests in Nova Scotia. Those are critical jobs to rural Nova Scotia and the forest is going to play a large role in the future of this province.

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

HEALTH - CARE: FACILITIES - DEFICIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health, who described himself as unaware. His government maintains that it is working in the best interests of Nova Scotians by keeping them in the dark about what health care will look like in this province. The Central Regional Health Board says it is accumulating $15,000 in deficit each day, they operate in the dark. By July 1st, the board will have accumulated $1.25 million in deficit. How can the unaware Minister of Health speak in good faith about the need for health care facilities to become more efficient when, under his own lack of direction, they are being forced to run a deficit?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. Our plan for the transition of the health system here in Nova Scotia and the transition of the district health authorities, where a good many of the efficiencies will come in with the administration efficiencies, in this region, like every place else, is going to take a period of

[Page 5448]

time. While I am not happy to hear the report that the honourable member has given me, assuming that it is true, I am not concerned about that in this Central Regional Health Board, for example, the budget of the QE II approximates $800,000 a day. If we were to take that deficit, say it is about a day and a quarter at the QE II and I think in the last three-quarters of the year, that would be possible to pick up, certain costs are front-end loaded and certain things will shake out at the end.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is now for the Minister of Health who describes himself as unconcerned. This government is making Nova Scotians pay for the fact that this minister doesn't have his act together yet. The minister is forcing regional health boards to run deficits and expects them to pay for the deficits the next year. I remember the Liberal Government compounded the problems in health care by encouraging boards to run deficits. My question to the unconcerned Minister of Health is, when health care facilities are already struggling with $80 million in health care cuts this year, what makes you think they can handle accumulated deficits next year?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I prefer to think that there will be no deficits next year. I believe our managers are that good.

MR. DEXTER: My final question is quite simple and it is to the unaware and unconcerned Minister of Health. What level of deficit is the government willing to accept this year and where will it appear on the books?

MR. MUIR: I will go back to my second response in which I do not anticipate deficits this year and if the deficits should occur - and we would certainly hope that they would not - they would appear in the consolidated statements of the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - INFO.: RELEASE - CONFIDENTIALITY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. During the last election, the minister's Party promised to release information to Mr. Lee Keating, which included personal information involving allegations made against him. After the election, the Minister of Justice reneged on his Party's promise and refused to give Mr. Keating the information. My question is, I would like to ask the Minister of Justice why he allowed this promise to be part of his Party's platform when he had to know that his government could not deliver?

[Page 5449]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate the honourable member's question. I understand that there may have been requests made with respect to certain information by individuals who are present or former employees of the Shelburne Youth Centre and some of that information can't be released to those individuals as a result of confidentiality issues.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the minister knows, Lee Keating is the Chairman of the Past Employees for Restorative Justice in Shelburne. This organization last election purchased radio and newspaper ads which benefited all of the Tory candidates on the South Shore. Will the minister admit that the promises made by his Party to Mr. Keating were for the purpose of gaining the support of Mr. Keating and his organization, specifically to help elect the member for Shelburne?

MR. BAKER: I will let the honourable member for Shelburne speak for what may or may not have helped elect him. One of the things that I feel helped elect him was the insensitivity of the former government towards the interests of past and present employees at the Shelburne Youth Centre.

MR. SAMSON: There is nothing more despicable than a Party that will say anything to get elected and tells someone, we will give you information, give you information when they legally know they cannot do so just to try to gain cheap political points. That is what is despicable here today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor. Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: All of the Tory candidates on the South Shore benefited from these promises, and now Mr. Keating and others feel betrayed. My final supplementary, will the minister commit today to write a formal apology to Mr. Keating for misleading him by promising to release information which he knew all the time that his government could not release?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that this government has done more to answer the concerns of those workers, former and present, at the Shelburne Youth Centre than that other lot ever did in their entire time in office. In fact, the concerns of Mr. Keating is the botched job that that member's government did in the Shelburne Youth Centre. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - UNIVS.: GOVERNANCE - POLICY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Members of this House are aware that there is an ongoing dispute concerning the

[Page 5450]

governance of universities in Nova Scotia, such as Acadia. This situation, I think, raises some important questions, and this government has curiously been quite silent on where it is they stand on university governance. So my question to the Minister of Education is simply this, what is the policy of this government relating to matters of university governance where there clearly is a lack of consensus within a university community? Is it the government's position to take sides in such a dispute.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker . . .

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

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: M. le président, il y a ici aujourd'hui un nombre des étudiants du Collège de l'Assumption à Montréal. They are exchange students who are joined here today with students at Cornwallis Junior High School. They are part of a third grouping of students who have been here today, a total of 132 students who have come to observe our proceedings. I would ask them, there are some in the east gallery, some in the west gallery, if they would all stand and receive the warm welcome of the members of the House. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1722.

Res. No. 1722, Health - QE II: Cuts - Reconsider - notice given May 3/2000 - (Dr. J. Smith)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak on Resolution No. 1722. The resolution states:

"Whereas the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre is facing cuts of $17.9 million impacting on bed closures and staff levels plus $10 million in salary adjustments and increased drug costs for a total of over $27 million; and

[Page 5451]

Whereas because of the massive cuts by this Tory Government, the new QE II will result in bed closures, job losses, staff shortages and heavier workloads; and

Whereas these cuts are totally inconsistent with the Tory election promise . . .", another promise we are exposing to be wrong, " . . . to heal the health care system for a mere $46 million;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm and Health Minister Muir reconsider these cuts which have caused tremendous worry, frustration and concern at QE II and right across the health care system."

I think it is appropriate, Mr. Speaker, that we are debating this resolution today in light of some 300 jobs, 300 individuals, 300 people that have now been given their severance notice at the QE II; 300 jobs that are gone, a promise that this government indicated that no jobs would necessarily have to leave the QE II to accommodate the problem. The deputy minister has informed the hospitals in his area that, in fact, they can go to a two year window of running deficits to correct this problem. The reality is that the QE II cuts are going to have a profound effect on the health delivery system here in the HRM area.

The cuts to the health care system are cuts that are based on the fact that this government told Nova Scotians, promised Nova Scotians, committed to Nova Scotians, gave their word to Nova Scotians that a mere $46 million would basically fix the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. Here we go, $27 million is going to be cut out of the QE II, and already we are seeing over 300 jobs affected. This government is committed to, in my view, moving forward with an agenda on health care without a plan. This government is committed to meeting a target number without understanding the implication and the costs from a health delivery point of view to the public of Nova Scotia.

This government is doing the same thing that we see in Education, but now they are going to be doing it as well in the area of Health. Monday night I had the opportunity to go to a meeting in the South Shore. They talked about the concerns of the cuts in health care. I quote one of the workers in the health care system, no good deed goes unpunished under this particular government, under this Tory Government. No good deed goes unpunished. That is basically how this government is proposing to deal with Nova Scotians, whether it is Health, Education or any other department.

I want you to know that the impact of the cuts that have been proposed in health care are going to have a tremendous effect, not only at the QE II, but right across the province. The ripple effect of what this government is doing in health care is going to cause impacts throughout Nova Scotia. We already see - the question I posed to the minister last week - a $12.5 million reduction in the southwest board. What impact will that have on those areas of Nova Scotia? I have been told that the possibility of losing the mental health ward out of the South Shore Regional Hospital is real. I am being told that the potential of losing the drug

[Page 5452]

addiction program that is in the hospital in Lunenburg is real. Those programs are essential to health delivery in Nova Scotia.

This government is talking about terms of districtization, if I am saying that correctly. I remember a pastor asking a question in the meeting that night, what does that truly mean by the health board? I can tell you there is a lot of confusion. We think that it is in fact going to cost more money than minimize the effect. This is a government that says we are the right-wing agenda, we are the right-wing approach to looking after Nova Scotians. Even in the right-wing approach, one would think they would have done some sort of cost analysis to determine how this is going to impact. They don't know what it is going to cost; they don't know how it is going to be implemented; they don't have a plan of where they want to head, in the area of health delivery; and yet, this government stands and says how proud they are of what they have accomplished. They have accomplished nothing in regard to developing or determining the long-term delivery of health care in this province.

The questions that are being posed are on the issues of equity and fairness. We do not see, under this round, where equity and fairness will play a role. As I understand, as I stand here today, the Western Regional Health Board are putting their budget together as I speak, to be presented Monday. The members who are on the backbenches of this government should listen to this, because those budgets that are coming together on Monday will have to be determined as to where, when and how the further cuts to health care in the western end of the province will be made. They will then go back to their bunker mentality, in their own riding, when they realize about bed closures, staff firings, and the list goes on. They don't seem to be very much aware of the fact that these are real, severe cuts in our area.

We are talking about trying to find numbers that are going to be massive, $12.5 million in the western region alone. What does that really mean to the western region? Well, after they pulverize the Queen Elizabeth II in Halifax, after they basically take away the ability to deliver a health care delivery system in this province through the QE II, the impact will even be further felt by further reductions in the western region and in every other region in this province. These are feeder regions to the QE II.

[4:45 p.m.]

This government does not understand that what they are setting up is, come January or February, when the budgets are empty, they are going to have a choice to be either shutting down hospitals, closing even more beds and letting go even more staff at a time when this government promised more nurses, a better health care delivery system, more ability to be able to find vehicles internally to sustain health care and make it available and transparent to all Nova Scotians.

[Page 5453]

The only thing that is becoming very transparent, Mr. Speaker, is that this is a government that does not have a plan and, quite frankly, should be scared to death of what they are doing to the health delivery system. I will sit down and allow other members to rise to speak on this resolution. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Resolution No. 1722 submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth East, which talks about the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and the adjustments that are going to be caused in the operation of that facility because of the reduced budget. I am not so sure whether the honourable member really had his facts correct when he submitted the resolution. I would just like to, perhaps - and those who are speaking behind me, would like to - have the correct information, too. I think there is no question about that.

The funding this year for the QE II, Mr. Speaker, is around $315 million. That is somewhere around $865,000 a day. You will note that during Question Period, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour asked me about an alleged deficit and I referred that it was probably about a day and one-quarter's worth of the QE II and that is why I felt that at this stage, if indeed the figure that he said is correct, which would have to be probably substantiated, although it is a big number and I would sooner it was not there, that if we are looking at this particular point in the year, then it might be possible.

I think, Mr. Speaker, he was talking about the reduction. There was a $31 million reduction in budget from last year. As he knows, $6 million of that right off the top came from Y2K funding and the Department of Health also picked up some high-end drug costs that had been previously the purview of the Queen Elizabeth II. So the actual reduction of the QE II is roughly around $17 million which is a substantial difference from that which the honourable member had put in the resolution. I did want to get that basically on the record so that others who may follow in the debate would have some good information upon which to work.

I think, Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin, having made that little correction for the benefit of those who will follow. Rather than worrying particularly about the cost, first and foremost I think what Nova Scotians are concerned about is what type of health care system we will have in this province after we make the changes and then probably, to be just a little bit negative - and I think a good many people appreciate this - to try to figure out what type of health care system Nova Scotians would have if we did not make these changes.

Keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, that the cost of servicing the debt in this province approximates about 50 per cent of the cost of running the health care system in this province; it approximates just about the same budget as is being put into public school education. In other words, if we had that $900 million, that these people tend to think, well, we will just

[Page 5454]

reach in our pockets. What is the first charge, Mr. Speaker, on this? We have to pay the banker. The fact is the Libercrats would see this province broke and we would have no education system and we would have no health system if we listened to them.

What we need, and what we are prepared to do is take the type of action so that we are going to have a health care system today and tomorrow and for many years to come. I have said, and I say this with more conviction each day, that spending more and more of the taxpayers' money has not really done much for health care, except put Nova Scotians in the poorhouse. We have to take a look at how we are delivering health care so that we can see that these services are available and they are delivered in a cost-effective way.

One of the interesting things that I get, and I am sure all members of the Legislature get, my colleagues and the members of the Libercrats too, is the e-mails and letters saying about these great cuts to health care that have gone on in the last half a dozen years. Mr. Speaker, you know from the figures that we have seen, that that has not been the case. There has been just about $0.5 billion of new money going into health care in the three previous budget years preceding this one. That is a lot of money. This mistaken impression that there have been cuts - there have not been cuts and if people think that there have been, then it must be because what we are doing is either not delivering the service or it can be done better.

We need a new approach, Mr. Speaker, one that focuses on priorities and on results. That is what we have started to do. Fundamental change is needed. Now some of these decisions are tough, there is no question. I guess any time you go to an acute care facility, because the emphasis in Nova Scotia - and the honourable member for Dartmouth East will agree with this - there has been too much emphasis by the health care system on illness and not enough on wellness and the prevention of illness. Now he will get up and tell you that. We have to do this, so if we can reduce the expenditures for our acute care facilities and the tertiary level institutions and put some more money into wellness, so that people don't have to do these things, don't have to access those facilities, then this province is going to be better off. We have to look at the future.

I am surprised, Mr. Speaker, to hear the member for Dartmouth North, who talks about his constituents. If anybody in the Legislature should be supporting the initiative of the government in trying to bring more wellness and returning things to the community, I would think it would be that member. I am surprised, as a matter of fact, from hearing him talk about health and communities, I had a difficult time trying to understand why he didn't join the member for Halifax Chebucto in being absent from the House on budget voting day. I know why the member for Halifax Chebucto did, because he supported the budget and he had that problem standing up here in the House and being counted, like the rest of us did, the good people.

[Page 5455]

I appreciate that people are frustrated right now, that the process we are going through is slow and I do apologize for that. What we want to do, Mr. Speaker, is not to just make change for change's sake, we want to make change so that the system is going to be better. We want to make the right decisions for the right reasons. That is really why we are in this period with the QE II, among others, saying look, let's construct a business plan that delivers the services that need to be delivered and is also a business plan that this province can afford to have.

Mr. Speaker, too often in the past, as I have said, we have continued to spend and spend. If we don't get a handle on it, whether it is in health care, which accounts for somewhere around 42 per cent of the program spending, then we are not going to have a health care system in the future.

We are also trying to move the responsibility for some of the ones the QE II has, and by the way, it is a very fine institution and a fine staff, and hopefully when we get this primary health care system that is really focused on communities and housed in communities, that some of the things which we think are typically the responsibility of the QE II or the Colchester Regional Hospital or the Highland View Hospital, or the Dartmouth General Hospital even, that that can go out, Mr. Speaker, into the communities and be delivered there and delivered there in sort of a more home-like setting than an institutional setting.

We have to balance the needs of today, Mr. Speaker, with the anticipated needs of the future. We believe, firmly, and are confident that there are a lot of savings to be effected here in this capital health district, which will become the capital health authority, by eliminating the duplication of corporate and clinical administration. We also believe that is the case throughout the province and that is where we are looking.

The previous government expected the QE II to cut costs and they did. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, about three years ago there was a plan developed by the QE II that probably would have gotten its costs under control and moved it well into the future, but for one reason or another, and I know the reasons, the previous government . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate this afternoon on the resolution by the member for Dartmouth East, "Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm and the Health Minister Muir reconsider these cuts which have caused tremendous worry, frustration and concern at the QE II and right across the health care system."

[Page 5456]

Mr. Speaker, whenever I listen to the Minister of Health speak, I think he must be talking about some other place. I think he must be in dreamland, or perhaps he fell asleep in Virginia many years ago and never woke up. I am not sure what it is. It reminds of the slogan of Big Brother: ignorance is strength. If you keep people without enough information they will believe just about anything, and you can get away with just about anything. Surely to goodness this minister must know what kind of havoc he is wreaking on the health care system and at the QE II; he must know that.

Mr. Speaker, the QE II, some time ago, issued a series of documents talking about the effect of this budget on their institution, and I guess I should explain something else to the minister, because he talks about there not being any cuts in health care. Well, he should know that the equation has two sides. If your costs continue to rise and the amount of money you invest in the system does not increase at the same rate, then you have no choice but to cut services. That is what has been happening. Health care costs have been rising, and you have not been keeping pace with the increase in costs, therefore the level of service has gone down. So when he hears people talking about cuts in health care, that is what people are talking about. Perhaps he didn't understand that; it is a little lesson in economics for him.

I want to let him know that maybe I should explain to him what microeconomics and macroeconomics are. I have been trying to explain it to the Minister of Finance. Macroeconomics is the stuff that that government screws up generally, and microeconomics is the thing they screw up specifically. So health care is a microeconomic question for these people. Mr. Speaker, that is the difference.

I want to give you an example about what is going on at the QE II. At the QE II they are estimating that they are going to have a projected demand for ambulatory care or out-patient visits, in the year 2000-01, in the order of 569, 470 visits; that is how many they are projecting to have at that institution. Do you know what they are budgeting to meet? They are budgeting to meet 502,000. Mr. Speaker, 67,000 visits they are not even budgeting to meet. How about operating room cases? They are projecting their demand to be some 30,070 cases. Do you know what they are budgeting to meet? They are budgeting to meet 28,715. This was before the impact of this government's budget.

So does it come as a surprise to the Minister of Health when we tell him today that the lay-offs have begun at the QE II? I would hope not, he must know that. He must understand that there are going to be lay-offs at the largest institution in the province if they have already issued documents that say they are not going to be able to meet the demand and if you request even more be cut out of the budget.

[Page 5457]

[5:00 p.m.]

After the budget was issued on April 11th, the QE II issued a statement to try to explain what was going to happen as a result of the initiatives of this government. They said that because our payroll takes up almost 70 per cent of our operating budget, most of which is based on a collective agreement with our unionized employees, it will likely take six months before we can begin to make changes to our workforce. To achieve an 8.7 per cent reduction over 12 months, we have to cut in the order of 17 per cent as we only have half the fiscal year left once changes take effect. Seventy percent of their budget is salaries, they have to cut 17 per cent of their budget; of course there are going to be lay-offs and of course that is going to filter down to front-line health care workers. This is not rocket science for the minister.

I thought it was somewhat amusing that during the last election when they issued this credo, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course - what we have been saying around here, a clear curse - one of the things they said in this document was that they were going to create a positive work environment, and they listed it under their chart, at no expense. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what world the minister is living in but in the world that the practising nurses are living in, when you cut administration and you download the responsibilities onto their backs, you are doing anything but creating a positive work environment. In fact what you are doing is destroying their work environment. No wonder they are leaving and no wonder it is that the Registered Nurses Association is beginning, virtually as we speak, a lobbying campaign to have their members contact all of the members of the Legislature to tell them just exactly what impact the cuts to the health care system are going to have on nurses in the province.

I happen to have with me this press release which I will be happy to table for the Minister of Health, but I just want to read a little bit from it because I think it is important that the minister know what front-line health care workers are saying.

According to a member survey conducted by the RNANS, 70 per cent of the nurses who are dissatisfied with their ability to provide quality health care mentioned a shortage of nurses and workloads as key issues. These results mirror a public opinion poll conducted by RNANS in 1999 in which 75 per cent of the public stated that the quality of care provided by registered nurses had deteriorated because there were not enough nurses. What is the minister doing but downloading yet more onto the backs of nurses?

They went on to say, however, that even though Dr. Hamm during the last campaign had made numerous commitments on health care, they say, in their dealings with the current government, Miss Webb says that the nursing profession is essentially at an impasse. This is a quote from her, "We have made every effort to inform the government of what needs to be done to address the nursing shortage and what could be done to retain nurses and to improve the overall delivery of health care services, but to little avail."

[Page 5458]

Miss Webb adds that although the government in its Budget Speech made a verbal commitment to address the issues facing the nursing profession, the cuts in the health care budget clearly negate the government's interest in living up to their commitments. Mr. Speaker, this is a very gentle way for them to say they broke their promises, they broke the commitments they made to nurses and to Nova Scotians. You know, they have done that and we are the people who are going to hold them accountable for it because we are not going to let them get away with it. We are telling them that nurses at the QE II, that nurses at the Dartmouth General Hospital know the score, they know what is happening to their institutions and they are going to blow the whistle on this government at every turn. You are not going to get away with it.

Mr. Speaker, the QE II has estimated that the actual impact of the cuts amounts to almost $100,000 less per day in operating expenses than what they were spending. Can you imagine? I believe the Minister of Health agrees with that because he noted that even though the Central Regional Health Board was losing $15,000 because he can't get his act together, that didn't amount to as much as what the QE II was losing on a day-to-day basis as a result of this government's inability to deal with the health care budgets.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, they have set up a slush fund to try to bail the Minister of Health out of trouble once the full impacts of the cuts become known. It is not enough because they made a commitment; before the last election they said that they were going to make $45 million new dollars available to try to fix the problems in health care. We knew at the time that this was insufficient, we said so. We said that was not enough, that there had to be an investment in front-line health care workers.

They won't listen to us now, they won't listen to the Opposition, they won't listen to patients who tell them what kind of trouble they are having and they won't listen to nurses. Will they ever listen, Mr. Speaker? I doubt it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to address Resolution No. 1722, which I had the opportunity to bring before the House. Other members have addressed the details of that relative to the QE II Health Sciences Centre and the impact of budgetary changes, massive cuts really, and the impact it will have on staff levels and bed closures and the impact of workloads on nurses particularly that will bear the brunt of the lay-off of support staff.

The resolution points out how this is totally inconsistent with the Tory's promises to deal with the health care system for a mere $46 million during the election and pointing out the worry and the frustration, the concerns at the QE II and right across the health care system.

[Page 5459]

Mr. Speaker, I feel this resolution is timely, especially as this afternoon or today we learned that the QE II is laying off approximately 300 people. Now that may be spoken of about 50 in administration so things are coming out in dribs and drabs, so rather than deal with the issue we are hearing bits and pieces. It is fine to say, well, 50 will come out of administration and they are mainly non-union and all those sorts of things but this is the impact on that fine institution which is really the flagship for health care facilities east of Montreal.

The Minister of Health is hiding the facts and we will have to wait for tomorrow or another day to see how the details are rolled out. We do know there will be involvement of directors, managers and supervisors but 300 is a large number and the cuts are bound to reach the unionized level very quickly, so I don't take much comfort in saying, well, this is just really a few administration, non-union people. They know at the QE II that they will have to reach much further to reach their budget targets that have been imposed.

We have heard already today that directors, some of whom have been in the hospital for 25 years or more, have been terminated. That is a term we hear more and more as we look at downsizing, cutbacks, lay-offs, that they are to be terminated. It is a terrible term that has really drifted into our jargon. Hospital officials, of course, are calling this a management reorganization, I think that is fair. They have to try to do that because after all, that is what Premier Hamm's promise was, that all of the savings would come from administration.

The reality is that this is the start of a massive lay-off within the health care system. The question is, how much is this going to cost; eliminating 300 senior level positions at the QE II will cost millions in severance, perhaps nearly $20 million we hear. These millions in severance are, undoubtedly, covered in the labour readjustment strategies, we call the slush fund, Mr. Speaker. This slush fund, the labour readjustment strategy, is being kept secret by this Tory Government but we do know that there is an $88 million slush fund for this type of situation. Already the slush fund has been used to save the government's skin on the education issue. We certainly saw them buckle under their previous rough and tough stand and how tough they can be.

The Premier said he doesn't mind making tough decisions, he will make tough decisions. It doesn't matter if it affects children's education, children with special needs. Now we are looking at the health care system and will he say the same thing there? Will he look at the human face that is being impacted here, either a worker or actually eventually the patient, the client, the resident, whoever is impacted because that is the bottom line. That is what we are here for, Mr. Speaker, and this is why we monitor the Health budget.

Mr. Speaker, when talking about the QE II, it is important to stress that this is not just another Halifax hospital. The QE II is a primary, tertiary care hospital in this province. In fact, the QE II is the leading adult health care referral centre for Atlantic Canada. The QE II used to have a staff of 6,500. I believe it is closer to 6,200 now. A complement of over 2,000

[Page 5460]

volunteers continues the quality care of the hospital and that is why the foundations and the auxiliaries are so concerned with Bill No. 34 because of the work that they do, how that will be realized and how that will be guaranteed that they will have some control over the monies, in fact, that they are instrumental in raising.

Earlier this year, the QE II Health Sciences Centre had to endure a $10 million operating shortfall and as a result of the Tory budget, the QE II is forced to cut costs to the tune of an extra $17 million to $18 million. We have heard the government was shocked senseless when the QE II presented its budget to the Department of Health, or I would like to say that it was shocked into its senses, but I don't see any evidence of that yet.

The measures outlined in the QE II budget were so frightening apparently that the Tory Government told them to go back and do it again. We had those experiences I think when the minister was being cut off, again he was about to repeat the misinformation about $12 million, a study during our times that was just simply cancelled. That is not true. The minister knows that, but yet he was prepared to repeat it in the House here again today and he fed the information, I think, to the Minister of Finance who, by the way, has enough trouble with getting his figures straight, that he does not need help from the Health Minister. That would be my opinion.

I think it is unfair. There were services provided during that time that the management firm did some studies, but they also recommended, and you have to remember that this comes from a health management group and more of an accountancy issue, because the types of cuts that they did recommend, slash and massive cuts, yes, we as a government were not prepared to do. I am not about to apologize to that honourable minister, or anyone else in this House of Assembly, that we were not prepared to carry out the type of cuts that that accounting firm did recommend.

They involved massive lay-offs and bed closures and we were not prepared to do that. Later our Health Investment Fund was developed and I felt and still today feel that that is a reasonable approach. Sooner or later the honourable minister, if he survives with his life long enough, if people don't get hold of him when he effects these cuts on the people of Nova Scotia, if he is around to survive, he will realize, too, because already last year they put $208 million in after saying they were going to save the system on no new money, but they were happy to do that because they could blame the previous Liberal Government.

The government has already demanded the QE II not to incur a deficit in the year 2000-01 despite being faced with nearly $30 million in cuts. The deputy minister said there are two years to fix this, two years for the deficits; legislation says that the hospitals and the schools cannot run deficits and budgets do not reflect this. The hospital still has to meet these cuts. This cut means cutting administration, which we are seeing today, support services and eventually closing beds, cutting clinical services to avoid that deficit.

[Page 5461]

[5:15 p.m.]

If a deficit is incurred, who is responsible? It must be the Minister of Health since he is the only one with authority unless the deputy minister secretly took that away from him as well, the way that they took the responsibility away from the regional health boards. Under the fiscal measures bill that we debated here and is still before the House, a hospital deficit is included in the provincial deficit.

The Tory Government told the QE II that when it makes its cuts, cut administration and management first and that is what we are seeing today. But what happens when there is no longer any administration left to cut? Then support workers will be cut and then we will see the nurses and the other support people. The truth is support workers, support people, support nurses and that follows. Last Wednesday, hundreds of the QE II people workers spoke about the health cuts and how they felt.

I know my time is really up and I think the resolution is very appropriate for today. I think we are just starting to hear the budget changes that have been based on a program review that we have not been able to see, still not available to us. We will be following it in the days ahead and we will be back to address it when the time comes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 38.

Bill No. 38 - Cape Breton Regional Municipality Plebiscite Act.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to rise today to speak on this bill, particularly since I presented it and I feel it is a very important instrument that could be used. Last week I had an opportunity to watch debate here, a similar bill that one of my socialist colleagues put forward and I certainly hope this bill is not regarded in the same fashion as that bill.

[Page 5462]

From what I have seen of that bill particularly, it was used as a tool to possibly beat up on the governing Party at the time regional government in Cape Breton was imposed. That is one thing I want to stress as very important right out front, that I do support regional government and I feel it is needed in that particular area.

However, as a former municipal councillor and a deputy mayor - and through my role as deputy mayor I had many opportunities to go throughout the municipality from one end to the other - and basically the same message I heard in every corner of the municipality. Perhaps when regional government was created, it was misunderstood. The reason why the regional municipality was created was a result of a request from all the municipal councillors and the various different councils within the area of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

I would suggest that perhaps because of the situation in the individual units that some of the municipalities actually got a little paranoid and jumped the gun. However, the bottom line is that they did request that regional government be imposed. I believe that aspect is one of the main reasons why it is misunderstood.

In the last year, I would suggest that many issues that have come forward within the municipality, the residents feel abandoned. For instance - I will give you an example - just last week during a debate regarding a landfill site and a rezoning issue, one of the municipal councillors stopped debate on the issue because he was concerned about public consultation. There wasn't any in place, there was no public consultation whatsoever on the issue. I believe that is what this bill is about, it will provide assurance to the CBRM that all decisions being made are in the best interests of all the people within the municipality, not just different sections. The difficulty in the CBRM, as I see it, is that there are different communities, different issues, different concerns, there is a whole broad number of issues, and the people feel that they are not being consulted.

There is a process in place that council has for public consultation, however, it is solely used as a tool; the council decides which issue it wants to seek public consultation on. I think that irks the residents a great deal, particularly since the council itself decides which issue it prefers to go forward with and gain input from the residents.

This bill, I would suggest, would eliminate that concern, and it will provide a type of assurance for the residents that each and every member of council would make the decision based on the best interest of the municipality as a whole. I believe this is necessary to make reasonable government work. I want to go on record as supporting the management team there. I know the mayor personally. The mayor is a friend of mine, I have always regarded him as a friend.

However, it is quite obvious that in order for regional government to be accepted it has to be accepted by the people which the council represents. That is the difficulty I see with regional government. Until it is accepted by the community at large, then it is not going to

[Page 5463]

work the way it should and could. I believe that regional government could provide a great deal of prosperity to that particular area of the province. The individuals, the various communities from which I have an opportunity to visit, raised the same concern with me during the time I spent as deputy mayor. They feel left out. They don't feel they have an input into the decisions that are being made. At one end of the municipality, the issue may not affect them as much as in certain other parts of the municipality. So the council actually doesn't involve the whole area. I would suggest this bill would eliminate that.

I have discussed this bill on several occasions with some of the members across the Chamber. There is one individual over there who has indicated to me that he was not in support of this bill because he felt that individuals were elected to make decisions. Now, I don't disagree with that theory, Mr. Speaker, that is correct. However, I think it is fair to say that the people who are being represented have to feel comfortable, and the decision being made is going to be made in the best interest of the municipality as a whole and not just one region over another. It sort of separates one community from the other. That is why the regional municipality in Cape Breton is not as successful as it could be. In areas such as the eastern United States - for instance, in the Boston, Massachusetts area - plebescites are a regular part of decision making for government. It works very well. I believe it is similar to the situation that exists in the industrial Cape Breton area.

Various cultural and community issues differ. The government in the Massachusetts area goes out and asks the people. When the results come in for that particular plebiscite, then the elected people take it from there. This is my vision of how this bill would work. Ten per cent of the people in the population, I would suggest, it is a difficult chore, on any issue. There are approximately 117,000 people in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, so to obtain approximately 12,000 to 17,000 names on a petition would be a very difficult chore in itself. I would suggest that if the bill is put to work in the form that is being suggested, that just the ratepayers would have an opportunity to sign a petition and be done in an organized manner. I heard various elected officials in this House ask how you could put a question that is illegal. I would suggest that this just simply would not occur. It would be illegal to ask any illegal question. So the question put forth would have to be the responsibility of the clerk in his office to ensure that it would be a legal question and a democratic question and in the public meeting that would proceed the actual plebiscite would put perspective in place.

I think I am out of time, Mr. Speaker. I certainly appreciate the time to rise today. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this evening with the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. First of all, I would like to begin by saying that I understand the issue that has brought this before us, certainly is a complicated and emotional issue, a charged issue in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. But this bill, the bill before

[Page 5464]

us, really has nothing to do with that particular issue. In fact, what it has to do with is any question whatsoever that the constituents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality feel there should be a plebiscite on. The Act that it refers to, the Municipal Government Act, Section 53, actually has provisions within that that will allow for plebiscites. The difference here is that this bill requires a plebiscite if a certain percentage of constituents, it doesn't speak to whether they are eligible voters or whether they are not eligible voters, but simply constituents who sign a petition and who come forward to their council or to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, then require a plebiscite be taken.

I spoke to the last bill, I think it was Bill No. 45. It is a very similar bill. It talks about the exact same thing. This, in itself, might provide some rationale behind the coalition Liberal-New Democratic Party, the Libercrats, now where they are thinking the same, maybe they could just introduce one piece of legislation, as opposed to two, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the plebiscite, bill du jour, although it came here as a result of a policing issue, as I said, it could get involved in a whole host of things. In the community that I represent, our community was embattled in a fight to close the landfill. In fact, the decision that council made was a wise decision and, ultimately, was a decision that was popular amongst the constituents I represent. But, unfortunately, this new landfill had to go somewhere and a community was chosen, a site was chosen, and that community, inevitably, became the host of a new landfill.

I will tell members of this House, as we probably all know, it took 10 years to do that and there was a great deal of consideration. There was a lot of public debate. There was a lot of consultation, probably, in the Province of Nova Scotia, I would guess, likely, the single biggest piece of municipal government business in terms of public consultation. There was a stakeholder committee of some 500 to 600 people. They met bi-weekly. They talked about sites. They talked about a whole host of things, but, at the end of the day, after all that consultation was said and done, a decision had been made by those people who were duly elected to represent the constituents of the Halifax Regional Municipality. That decision was not the decision that went very well with a certain community. That community lobbied hard. They came up with a lot of good reasons why it shouldn't go there. However, in the best interests of all constituents of the Halifax Regional Municipality, the site was located.

[5:30 p.m.]

I would submit that if this piece of legislation became law, that in fact the decision made by the Halifax Regional Municipality ultimately could have been deferred for a number of months, maybe six or eight or nine months, and they would have gone through a process again, mirroring the process they have already gone through, where people would have gone out and got petitions and had them signed, we don't know by who - anybody who lives in the municipality, regardless of whether they are 1 or 91, and maybe they all should be able to sign. It would have meant that at the end of the day a decision that was positive for the

[Page 5465]

community as a whole in the long run, a decision that was positive for the municipality, potentially could have been overturned for the wrong reasons. So for those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to support this particular piece of legislation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as a level of government we know only too well that when a higher level of government, particularly the federal government, makes decisions, that will impact on this province. If this province were to decide for the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia that we wanted to do any particular measure and it received all-Party support, wouldn't that be amazing. But, if it did, and all of a sudden the federal government said, we don't like what you are doing, we don't believe that is necessarily the right approach, what we think you should do is hold a plebiscite on that and we will go to the public and ask 10 per cent of Nova Scotians to sign the plebiscite, whether it is in the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia, based on us, as legislators, that decision is no longer ours.

Mr. Speaker, the Municipal Government Act has been amended from time to time. The municipalities have had a great deal of input into this Act. The recent amendments, just a year or so ago, provide clear and detailed information and detailed provisions for a plebiscite. It says clearly that a council may direct that a plebiscite be held in all or part of the municipality and that the Clerk hold a public meeting in connection with that plebiscite. It goes on to define who will do that plebiscite and how it will be done. It goes on to define what the results will be at the end of the day and how it will be binding.

Although I understand the member's rationale for bringing this before us, I point out the fact that every four years municipal councils are duly elected, based on their performance and the decisions they make and that the residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality and each district that is affected by this particular decision, or any decision that comes before them, will remember that and they will consider that when they make their decision.

Mr. Speaker, as a municipal councillor with the former County of Halifax for a number of years and the Halifax Regional Municipality from its beginnings to now, I know only too well that there are times when, as a councillor, you have to decide on issues that, quite frankly, will have a negative impact on some and a positive impact on others. I know only too well that issues become emotionally charged, that we see times when a simple zoning request or a simple amendment to a deck or a minor variance or something like that will pack an audience. I am sure the member opposite who introduced this bill has likely seen the same thing, where the simplest and smallest thing can divide a complete neighbourhood or a community or even a whole municipality.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would submit that this bill will do nothing more than further divide a municipality or a community, that it will put neighbour against neighbour, it will have people out signing petitions at the same time it will have other people out there encouraging their neighbours not to sign that petition. The entire rationale behind electing a municipal government is so that we have people who are able to obtain the facts on an issue, who are

[Page 5466]

able to decide and do the research and determine what is in the best interests of the people, based on good public input. I don't know in this particular issue whether or not good public input was received. I am not here to determine whether or not the decision that the Cape Breton Regional Municipality made with respect to policing was a good or a wise decision but I will say that this is the slippery slope to a beginning that will have no end.

I will wrap up and I will pass to the minister by saying that I have done some research, Mr. Speaker, in terms of other jurisdictions. I will point out that the New Brunswick Government in their municipal Act does not provide for plebiscites other than those that may be directed by municipalities. I have researched as well the Alberta Government and a number of others, and I can't find any single example where there is a government that will actually direct the municipality to hold a plebiscite. They may, same as we may. In fact, the people in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality could have a plebiscite if that municipal council decided that is what they wanted to do.

Mr. Speaker, in the best interests of everybody involved, I think the appropriate time for the people of Cape Breton to reconsider this issue will be coming in October of this year. They will have an opportunity to challenge those people who made this decision to determine the facts for themselves on the doorsteps when they talk to those people, when they meet with the candidates. Quite frankly, my concern is not so much for this one particular issue. It is for every issue that comes in the door after the fact. I am concerned if we do it for this one, we will see the next one will be a solid waste issue, and the one after that will be a zoning, and then a street paving, and it will go on and on.

Mr. Speaker, one of the problems is that there is nothing here to talk about financial accountability, for example. The decision that a municipality may make may be one based on its ability to pay or its ability to provide a particular level of service. A plebiscite could then come out and direct that municipality to spend money that they don't have to spend. That municipality would then be forced by virtue of this bill to go out and expend huge amounts of money that they don't have.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time tonight with the honourable member for Dartmouth North. I think that I will be a little bit more generous with my colleague than the previous speaker was with his.

Mr. Speaker, as the previous speaker said, there are some similarities between a previous bill and this Bill No. 38. I think, in all honesty, they stem from the same area about the policing issue in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton. I take some exceptions with the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank when he talks about there having been changes to the

[Page 5467]

Municipal Government Act, and municipalities seem happy with them. Well, that very well may be that the elected officials from time to time, when they are in power, agree with the changes that are taking place in the Municipal Government Act, but that doesn't necessarily mean the citizens by and large agree with the changes to the Municipal Government Act, because a lot of times it is something out of their realm.

Now, there is another angle of debate here, Mr. Speaker, when they are talking about, we wouldn't want a layer of government above us to impose their will on us, which is accurate. But, between federal and provincial governments, there is a better line drawn of responsibilities. As we have seen with the amalgamation of Halifax County and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, both of these were at the directive of the Department of Municipal Affairs, and not by the necessary will of those local governments. This is not a fact that this was something that they wished for. It was something that was forced upon them by a provincial government. So, for provincial governments then to wash their hands and walk away from it and say, we therefore have no more concerns, we have done it properly, we haven't heard from the residents. The elected officials can go to heck. That is not right.

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons this comes up, and I somewhat agree with the government's position on this, that this bill needs amendments. I think the Party that introduced it would accept some amendments.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, sure.

MR. CORBETT: What we want to do is let it go on to the Private and Local Bills Committee and then we can discuss it there further. If it is a problem with the government saying, look, we don't know whether you want people from one year old to 91 years old to vote, I am sure that could be accommodated. I don't think I am speaking out of turn here. If they want to change the percentage, maybe that is something, but, as I said a few weeks ago when we talked about a similar bill, what we have lost in the whole realm of forced amalgamation is the ability for the taxpayer to have a one on one vote whether they agreed with it or not.

Mr. Speaker, that is the problem here that this, once and for all, would give those people at that level a right to vote on it. If there is fear of it growing, well, let's talk about it. Let's get it out of here and into committee and we can talk about it. Then, it gives it a full airing, but just to cut it off at the knees and say it is not going to work, we have changed it from time to time, we found out it was not necessary, it is not going to work; that is grossly inaccurate.

I think if we took this out of this House and put it into committee and let Nova Scotians come in here and speak on this bill and let municipalities speak on it, then we will get a clearer picture. Then, if it wasn't to be carried, then it wasn't to be carried, but it is not fair to make some shortsighted comments and say it cannot work. For quite a bit of time in this House we

[Page 5468]

have heard this government saying, give us something constructive. Well, I think what we are saying here is, while this bill may not be perfect, we are willing to work with government, and I am speaking on behalf of our Party, I am sure the Liberals can speak on their own behalf, if there is perfection needed in this bill, or to move it forward, we would certainly be glad to do that.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I am going to take my seat and turn it over to the member for Dartmouth North.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, for yielding the floor to me to speak on this plebiscite. I want to say that I concur with the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and I want the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank to say he has made some salient points with respect to this bill. I want the member to be very much aware that this bill is far-reaching as it is now presented before this Legislature because it implies any question. I have spoken to the presenters of this bill and the member for Cape Breton The Lakes with respect to the potential this bill has before this Legislature, and the impact it has by allowing residents of a municipality to bring any particular issue before them to bring forward a plebiscite.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that if I were to make an amendment, I would say that this bill should simply imply, an Act to enable residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to require the municipality to hold a plebescite on certain matters. The reason why I say this is because if, in fact, this bill were to go forward under the condition that it is, then we would see a very serious problem. For example, one that I can bring to your attention rather quickly is probably a modest housing program, or let's say a low income or a subsidized housing development coming into a municipality, into an area where the provincial government actually owns the land. It now is in consultation with the municipality about a subsidized housing development, and the residents in that particular community don't want it. Then that would have a serious impact upon the numbers of families who wanted to live in that neighbourhood and that community, and wanting to be able to live in subsidized housing. That is just one example.

There are all kinds of examples that could be used with respect to this particular bill, Mr. Speaker, but I also want to know why this bill has been brought forward. I think that everyone in this Legislative Assembly knows, and I know, the government opposite has sent a mediator into Cape Breton to look at this very issue and to have some discussion on how best this could be mediated to solve the interests of the people of Cape Breton. I also want to go to the blue book on Page 21, under Local Government, this Tory Government has said, "In areas where there has already been forced amalgamation, work with communities to find imaginative ways to rekindle their sense of identity."

[Page 5469]

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is a sense of identity that has been lost. Now, I lived in Westmount, which is a suburb on the other side of Sydney River, I also know the communities of Leitches Creek, Balls Creek, Point Edward and that particular community, all of which have been policed by the RCM Police. I understand why that community would want to continue with 54 years of history of RCM policing and Mr. Speaker, you being a police officer yourself, can understand how communities become attached to a way of life. Policing in that community is a way of life. It certainly has been a very important way of life, they have built up a rapport with the level of policing services that they have become accustomed to delivering. One has to recognize that and one has to recognize that that was a commitment by this Tory Government, to rekindle that community identity.

I know the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has spent an additional $1 million because it is going to bring in regional policing services. As a matter of negotiating a deal or setting a policy whereby the entire regional municipality would be policed by regional policing, is something that was a decision by the regional municipality. Having served on the police commission for a number of years I can understand both sides. I served on the police commission for the City of Dartmouth for approximately eight years and during that period of time the residents of my municipality told me how pleased they were with the regional policing that they had in place at that time.

That is not to take away from the fact that communities recognize the levels of services that they receive. There were 4,000 people at a meeting at the Centre 200 to discuss this very issue of RCM Policing. That in itself

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I was almost tempted to allow the honourable member to continue, he was really wrapped up in this debate.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a number of short interventions on this particular issue because it is a very important issue, it is a serious issue and I can certainly appreciate some of the concerns that the minister raised on the previous date with regard to the possibility of making provision for plebiscites. As well, as noted earlier by the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, one of the primary concerns that he would have is the issue of cost, the cost to the taxpayers and the cost to the municipal government and ultimately to the provincial government. That could certainly be addressed very easily by the issuance of a plebiscite to the petitioners.

[Page 5470]

Certainly he made reference to one particular issue, the collective efforts by that particular community group indicated quite clearly that they were prepared to fund the entire cost of such a plebiscite. So there is no cost to the government if the government were willing to entertain such an amendment this time and it could be entrenched in legislation that all petitioners could certainly be required so as to eliminate frivolous and unnecessary filibustering of the democratic process. I believe the minister would understand that would be a fairly reasonable approach.

We must not forget it is not even a year ago when the honourable member for Pictou Centre, the honourable John F. Hamm, M.D. brought in a bill before this House, Bill No. 28, that would make provision for such an activity. In Clause 6(1), Notwithstanding any other enactment, whether enacted before or after coming into force of this Act, not fewer than 200 ratepayers in an area of a regional municipality may apply to the Board to be incorporated as a city, town or municipality. Mr. Speaker, here we have, now the Premier, when he was in Opposition, leading the Conservative Caucus, saying that we only needed 200 rate payers from the regional municipality.

This particular piece of legislation requires at least 10 per cent. You would be looking at a minimum of 13,000 or thereabouts. So there is a significant higher bar of measure for accountability. The issue of whether it is resident or ratepayers or whatever, those types of issues can be addressed very easily at the amendment stage of the Private and Local Bills Committee. This particular piece of legislation, in effect, would cost nothing to the provincial government, it would enhance the relationship between government and the community at large. It is essentially to deal, I think, on any major public policy issue or financial matter that impacts on the majority of the community, i.e., the community of communities within a regional municipality.

Mr. Speaker, certainly this is not an unreasonable piece of legislation that has been put forth by the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, and I think for the government to suggest that it is not a good piece of legislation, certainly the government is within its mandate to filibuster this to the point where there will be no vote taken on this particular issue today, and I strongly suspect that it will because there is a strong indication that the government does not want such a piece of legislation.

Sending it off to the Private and Local Bills Committee would certainly be an opportunity to find out if, in fact, there is some real measure of value to this particular piece of legislation. Notwithstanding the fact that such legislation was provided for under the old Halifax City Charter and the Dartmouth City Charter and when the new Municipal Act came into play, that was somehow put off to the side like some of the other issues, as is well noted by the minister's own legislation that is before this House, where he requires some 20 amendments to deal with some oversights and some adjustments, fine tuning of that particular piece of legislation because it was so large and so complex. I believe any reasonable individual would certainly not look upon such a measure with a negative response.

[Page 5471]

Mr. Speaker, issues that were dealt with yesterday, they are dealt with yesterday and we respect the democratic process, but let's not close the door and become parochial and start putting up fences around future opportunities to correct such inequities. It is like at any level, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, politicians do make mistakes. They do make mistakes; it is a given. If we didn't make mistakes, we would be on that side of the House, and certainly, if that government didn't make mistakes, they wouldn't have to worry about coming on this side of the House after the next election. I know the Minister of Health, perhaps - I am going to take a side bar here, Mr. Speaker - would probably feel that this new-found slush fund will help keep them on that side of the House, and maybe he is correct, but maybe the people of Nova Scotia will have a different point of view on that.

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I think this is a good piece of legislation and it will certainly open up the opportunity for regional governments and municipal governments that haven't been regionalized to look at this in a light that perhaps they just never thought of before. We are now looking at an issue in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, by golly, if one can imagine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who amalgamated it . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Well, it was amalgamated at the request of all eight municipal units, and that is public record. I am not going to get back into rehashing history. (Interruption) Absolutely, it is on public record. The Town of Louisbourg asked for regional government, all eight. They didn't all ask for exchange of services, only six out of eight, excepting Louisbourg and North Sydney; they were the only two that didn't. It is unfortunate the spin doctors from the NDP would rather be mischievous than deal with the facts. I am not speaking for Halifax; that is a different issue, and let the powers to be, they will let us make that judgement, but, let us deal with the facts.

What is now evolving in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is they are looking at this type of public consultation to deal with whether they should keep a landfill in one community or the other. That is on the table now, Mr. Speaker, so it is all relative. Which is more important, a major public policy issue that has major tax implications or responding to one politician's concern because he is suffering from the Nimby syndrome, he doesn't want this in his backyard, despite the fact that we have expended anywhere between $12 million and $14 million to establish this regional incineration complex or facility. So these are the types of things that we have to keep in perspective.

I realize that the minister may be receiving some considered and very well reasoned advice within his department but we have to bear in mind that this is an opportunity to forward it on. If the government doesn't want to go beyond that, the Private and Local Bills Committee, then that is fine, but I think in all fairness that this is a good opportunity. It is a win-win situation for the government and it is a win-win situation not only for the people of

[Page 5472]

the Cape Breton Regional Municipality but for all of Nova Scotia in making sure that they are in contact with the people.

Mr. Speaker, I would move that this be moved on to the Private and Local Bills Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. You have eight seconds.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, there were a few points that I wanted to address with respect to the comments made by the honourable member but . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order please.

The time has expired on the discussion of Bill No. 38.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our House Leader, we have no further business for today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I hope we have enough time to do Bill No. 46.

Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow from the hours of 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. we will be in Public Bills for Second Reading, that will be Bill No. 46, and, if possible, Bill No. 47. From 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. we will be in Question Period. At 3:00 p.m. we will go back into Public Bills for Second Reading.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Yes, the other Orders of the Day, resolutions, those will all be at 10:00 a.m., I assume.

MR. RUSSELL: We will start off with the daily routine and then go into Public Bills for Second Reading and then, at 2:00 p.m. into Question Period from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. and then at 3:00 p.m. revert again to Public Bills for Second Reading. There will be no late show tomorrow. The members will, if the members are of a mind, are, of course, all invited to the reception for the Lieutenant Governor which will occur between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

[Page 5473]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Pictou West who wishes to debate the matter.

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this House support steps being made by this government in the fight against illiteracy in Nova Scotia."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

EDUC. - ILLITERACY: FIGHT AGAINST - SUPPORT

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: I am very pleased, Mr. Speaker, to rise this evening and speak on the subject on which, luckily, there has lately been a lot of public interest, a subject that touches so many. The subject, of course, is illiteracy.

A quote I recently found said, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. As a schoolteacher for many years, I saw many instances where a child was severely affected by the inability to read, both practically and socially.

Everyone has heard examples of students who have moved forward in school without being able to read or write. How they can progress boggles the mind. These individuals are, indeed, creative, but are hiding a very serious problem and putting off the need to learn these basic skills for another day - maybe not putting it off, but couldn't learn to read because possibly the right program and strategy was not used, but that is another story. Even in this age of instant information, you still cannot escape the essential need for the ability to learn the three Rs - reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, as they say.

[6:00 p.m.]

While our schools have expanded curriculum over the years to meet the needs of changes in our society, the vital need to acquire the three Rs have never wavered. As many of you would recall, the Voluntary Planning report said that education and, in fact, lifelong learning are the keys to our future. Our government is in full agreement with that statement.

[Page 5474]

In our blue book we said that a strong education system is the foundation of an economy of sustained growth. We are working hard on the fiscal state of this province, so that the $900 million this year alone now dedicated for the interest charges on our debt is available for investment in essential services such as our education and health systems. That would be a lot to spend in a classroom - $900 million.

We all have to raise awareness of the importance of literacy. There are many statistics including the Education Indicators of Canada, that indicate people who do not complete high school have a much harder time finding and keeping work then do those with higher educational attainment. Unfortunately, many young people who are raised in families in so-called lower socio-economic environments often feel pressured to leave school early and to seek employment to assist their family financially.

Literacy is the cornerstone of success in today's world. As we have heard for some time, education must be a lifelong commitment. It is not enough just to pass Grade 12 English and feel that you are finished with learning. We all have to work at maintaining our reading and writing skills all through our lives or we will lose them. Literacy is something we must remain dedicated to throughout our lives, for as Mark Twain said, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." That is quite a quotation: "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."

We also know how important it is to have families involved in promoting literacy. What parents do with children before they go to school is very important. They should be reading to them; in fact we were always told we should be reading to them while they were still in the womb, nurturing them and preparing them for a life filled with a desire to learn.

What great enjoyment one can find in a book; in fact you can travel all over the world without even leaving your living room. That I have done many times. We also know that what parents do for their children during the school years is equally important. Parents are not only a child's first teacher, but they are also the greatest influence throughout a child's life. As they grow, a lot of the time of a child is spent outside the classroom. A very important learning ground for them. If our children spend too much time in front of a television or a computer screen, they aren't learning as they should, either content or life skills.

The good news is that we have a good foundation for literacy development in Nova Scotia and we hope to build on that. We have community partners, other levels of government, and the business community committed to developing and promoting literacy. This level of support is unprecedented. The literacy community across the province tries to engage parents of young children to develop literacy skills in the early years. Many of the programs are community based operating out of facilities such as parent resource centres.

[Page 5475]

Teachers work at this in the classroom every day. They are the ones working to develop literate citizens. That is why we are committed to protecting the teachers in the classroom from spending reductions. We offer special programs in school to provide extra help to kids who need it. Reading Recovery is one that can give some students a leg-up on their reading before it becomes a major issue for them. Building on our curriculum, which makes literacy a priority, we will implement a comprehensive strategy to assist in the development of Active Young Readers in Primary to Grade 3. We want all children to be reading by the end of Grade 1 and, by the end Grade 3, reading successfully and using their reading skills for learning across the curriculum.

I would like to tell you a personal story about a little boy. When I was principal in River John, we had a family move in to the area, a minister and his family of three, and it was getting on to the end of May. The little boy was at the end of Grade 1 and his name is Matthew. So we were talking there and I said to him, Matthew, why don't you come and read a book for me. Of course, that was my strategy to just to find out how to place him or to help. So his head went down. I said, Matthew, come on, here is a pretty little book. Let's read this book. I can't read. I said, certainly, you can read. I can't read.

Anyway, I talked away to him, but he was pretty disheartened and I looked at the father's face and I knew how very terrible they felt about it. I said, don't you worry about it. I have got a very special person here. She will teach you to read. I did have a very special reading person there. I buzzed the PA and she came up and I could see that little fellow and that big teacher, she was big a woman. They were walking down the hall and she had her arm hanging on the back of him, edging him along.

Weeks went by and, finally, just before school ended, I heard this little fellow come running up the hall. You are not supposed to run in the school. He came up and said, teacher, teacher, I can read. I said, you can? It wasn't much of a book, you see, but, oh, he could read. From then on, there was no stopping him. She unlocked the door for him and away he went. It was a success story.

Continuing with my debate here, we will support a professional development strategy for Primary to Grade 3 teachers to enhance literacy development for all young learners. This will help ensure high-quality reading instruction and effective interventions for those at risk of developing literacy difficulties. Funding will be made available to assist school boards with training, additional reading recovery teachers, to reach more Grade 1 children across this province. This is very important. Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction in the world to offer reading recovery in the French language and work will continue to expand the program to francophone Acadian students across the province this year. We all want to take a look at why some students are graduating from high school without sufficiently high literacy levels. It is a complex problem. With a little focus, I hope we can develop some practical solutions.

[Page 5476]

Finally, adult literacy programs, such as workplace literacy, can capture some people who didn't have the benefit of a lot of education early in their lives. Maybe times have changed and they need to retrain. First, however, in many cases, there is a need to pick up their literacy skills. We have to recognize that as a fact and, hopefully, work with individuals and the communities to do something about it. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt about the sincerity of what the honourable member for Pictou West has had to say, but that is as far as it goes. I do not, in any way, support what this government is doing in the field of education and I believe that none of my colleagues support what this government is doing. They are not to be congratulated and the meagre little measures that they may be taking, let's say, at the Grade 1 level with respect to literacy, will have very little impact. Then what? Grade 1 is one year and then what is going to happen?

Mr. Speaker, in the last few weeks, we have seen an out and out assault on education by this government and, frankly, in some ways it is a little bit disgraceful I think to bring a resolution of this nature forward, given where this government and that member's government is taking public education in Nova Scotia. With all due respect, literacy seems to be the least of this government's priorities for Nova Scotian children. They just don't get it.

We don't live in a world of the factory system any more, Mr. Speaker, which was the world that existed when I was going through the school system. At that time, our whole education system was geared in such a way where the expectations were that about one-third of the students in the school system would go on to higher education; one-third of the students would get enough education to be able to function out in factories, farms and certain kinds of resource-based industries, manufacturing; and one-third of the population would leave school early and do sort of manual kinds of work. That is not the world that young people inhabit today. We live in a society where they talk about a knowledge-based economy and what we need to be doing is thinking about how we take our school system and make it a very effective system, to move kids from the back rows into the front rows.

That is what we should be doing, Mr. Speaker, and the foundation of a prosperous society will be the foundation of education. That means that we need to invest in education from childhood right on throughout adulthood and the early years are indeed critical, but so are all of those other years in between. What have we seen with this government's approach to governing Nova Scotia and preparing young people for the world of today and tomorrow? We have seen absolutely nothing to address child poverty which is a significant and serious problem that teachers and others in the school system face.

[Page 5477]

You cannot learn, you cannot do your lessons, if you don't have a full belly, Mr. Speaker, and it is very difficult for children who are coming to school, who are stigmatized and ostracized because they cannot participate in school trips and all of those kinds of things that children from more advantaged backgrounds get to do. So investing in minuscule and insignificant little places without looking at the broader picture, I think, will not contribute to those changes that we require to invest in our children and have a prosperous future, not only for our children, but for our province.

Another problem, Mr. Speaker, that we have is this notion that parents have all of this time now to read to their children. I mean, I think it is a great idea. My parents certainly read to me and I have a great love for reading and for books, but there are a lot of parents who are holding down two and three jobs in the labour force, trying to make ends meet, and when they get home at the end of a long day, the last thing on their mind is to be able to sit down and have some nice family time and read to their children. Quite often, they are scurrying around trying to maintain the kinds of tasks that need to be done so that they can get up the next day and go back out into the shift work, the chasing of buses and trying to deal with the stress of being in the workplace in low wage occupations, quite often. So this is a problem.

We have a number of parents who cannot read to their children because they, themselves, have very low levels of literacy and they require adult literacy, but how in the world are they going to get it? We don't have a very sophisticated network of adult high schools. We have nothing by way of adult high schools as a matter of fact in any real way for people who need to upgrade their skills. This is another very serious problem. This government hasn't even begun to look at the big picture if they are serious about dealing with the illiteracy problems. If anything, what they have done in their disastrous Education budget and the policy that will come from that is that they will exacerbate problems of illiteracy that we have.

[6:15 p.m.]

If you go out and talk to parents, they are very clear about some of the things they need. They want a reduction in class size so that students will get the kinds of individual attention that is required for them to be good learners. They want schools to be safe, and they want policies put in place that will allow a safe environment for their children to learn in. They also want after-school programming because kids don't just have active intellectual curiosity inside a classroom setting. That is something that extends to the extra-curricular kinds of activities that go on around a school environment that contributes to the social development of children, which is a very important aspect.

So, we need to look at these things in a very holistic kind of way. I believe that the government has a long, long way to go to addressing the literacy needs of children, the literacy needs of adolescents, the literacy needs of adults. With at least seven teachers on the government side, one would have much higher expectations for this government's

[Page 5478]

understanding and their awareness of the importance of education. One would have hoped there would have been a greater priority placed on investing in the education of young people, as they promised in the election campaign last summer. It is very disappointing to see how little influence members of the teaching profession have actually had on the policy of this government. I can't imagine it is because that is how they really feel themselves. Many of these people have had outstanding careers as teachers in the classroom and, therefore, one can only assume that someone else is driving the public policy agenda of this government, not necessarily the members who were democratically elected by the people of Nova Scotia in their constituencies. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and say a few words on this resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that members of this House support steps being made by this government in the fight against illiteracy in Nova Scotia."

Mr. Speaker, isn't it typical of members of this Tory Government. They have only been in power for nine months - and it feels like years - and already they are taking credit for an initiative that has been ongoing in various parts of the province for almost 30 years. When you mention literacy programs in Nova Scotia, you have to give credit where credit is due. This time, I certainly would like to take the opportunity to give praise to all those volunteers across the province who volunteered their time and energy so that those among us who are not literate can become literate and take their rightful place in our modern-day society.

It is not an easy task to sit down when an adult can neither read nor write and teach that person the necessary skills to be able to read and write. Literacy is not only the ability to read and write, it is also the ability to understand and properly interpret what you read and write. Literacy also includes computer literacy. There are many volunteer groups across this province that are involved, through their community libraries and their community schools, in making citizens of their communities computer literate.

Mr. Speaker, while volunteer tutors who receive training through the Tutor and Instructor Training and Certification Program of the Department of Education, it is those same volunteers that make the whole system work. There is a wide variety of adult literacy programs across the province. Just through you and to all members of the House, I just want to make reference to a few of these groups. The Dartmouth Literacy Network, and this is kind of interesting, because, did you know, some statistics on adult literacy that at least 38 per cent of Canadian adults cannot read and write well?

I am looking at the Annapolis County Learning Network, which was formed in 1994, when the Nova Scotia Community Learning initiative was introduced. Just to name another one here, Port Hawkesbury Literacy Council, is a non-profit organization incorporated under the Nova Scotia Societies Act in February 1999. Mr. Speaker, those people who have started

[Page 5479]

these programs across the province deserve the thanks of the members of this House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, the goals of many of the literacy associations across the province are to promote lifelong learning, to promote literacy networking and awareness and to promote family literacy. Many literacy associations across this province share resources, they arrange volunteer information sessions. They also help people access information and resources to address the literacy needs identified within their organization, agency or business. They also support adults who are making decisions about basic literacy skills, upgrading, or for the GED program. They also promote and create awareness of family and community issues and finally, they form strong and appropriate partnerships.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the Family Literacy Association of Nova Scotia. This group has, as their vision, that all Nova Scotian families have both the opportunity and the necessary support to develop their full personal, social, educational and economic potential in order to live satisfying lives as healthy, self-sufficient and contributing members of their communities. Looking at the website of the Family Literacy Association of Nova Scotia, I discovered that the first Nova Scotia conference on family literacy was held in Wolfville in May 1997. So there is tremendous good work that is taking place out there.

Mr. Speaker, literacy impact on health, education, economic and social status of individuals and families should be given priority status across the sectors. The role of parents and primary caregivers, as their children's first and most important teachers, and the significance of that goal to the future of our society should receive province-wide attention and support. Training and support services should be provided for parents and primary caregivers to assist them in fulfilling their complex, multi-faceted role with confidence, competence and satisfaction.

Long-term sustainable programming and services, which address the literacy needs of families, should be a priority for the government and the people of Nova Scotia. It is people like those of the Family Literacy Association of Nova Scotia, that help our people become literate. It is not the government. The government is there to assist. Mr. Speaker, with the cutbacks that have taken place in education with this government lately, I am sure that literacy groups all across the province won't be receiving much assistance this year.

The budget that was tabled here in this House on April 11th will certainly have a devastating impact on public education in Nova Scotia. We have heard the seven school boards. We have heard the Nova Scotia School Boards Association saying that this budget will have a $53.3 million cut to public education in Nova Scotia. Just last night, Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board met to look at how they are going to meet an $11.5 million cut that this Tory Government has delivered to them. Last night, they announced they will be cutting 35 library technician jobs. What will this mean? This will mean the elimination of school libraries in junior high schools.

[Page 5480]

I am just looking at a clipping here from The Daily News, "Board lays out cuts." Over the next week, staff expect to identify another $811,000 in cuts, which could mean the loss of another 22 teaching positions. With those and with those 35 library technicians, it goes a little further saying that the loss of the library technicians will mean closing school libraries at the junior high level unless volunteers can be found. Mr. Speaker, that is shameful. Now, the Halifax Regional School Board will have to depend on volunteers to come forward to keep the libraries open. So, the obvious question is, how many more regional school boards will have to close libraries and invite volunteers to come in and keep these (Interruptions) Yes, there will probably be more tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to pay tribute to a former colleague of mine, Ray White, the former member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. Ray, as the member responsible for literacy in our caucus, worked many long hours promoting the cause of adult literacy. To Ray, I want to say a sincere thanks for all of your work on behalf of the literacy programs in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this very interesting debate this evening.

We stand adjourned until 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.

[The House rose at 6:28 p.m.]