Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., May 15, 2000

First Session

MONDAY, MAY 15, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Environmental Illness: Treatment Clinic - Support,
Mr. D. Dexter 5771
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2045, Lbr. - Occup. Safety & Health Week (NA): Support -
Recommit, Hon. A. MacIsaac 5772
Vote - Affirmative 5772
Res. 2046, Culture: Gaelic Awareness Month (May [N.S.]) -
Recognize, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 5773
Vote - Affirmative 5773
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2047, Lbr. - Health & Safety: Workplace - Promote,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5773
Res. 2048, Lbr.: Occup. Health & Safety Week (May 15-21, 2000) -
Recognize, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5774
Vote - Affirmative 5775
Res. 2049, Atl. Premiers Council: Cooperation Greater - Support,
Mr. J. Carey 5775
Vote - Affirmative 5776
Res. 2050, PC (N.S.) - Views: Deregulation & Privatization -
Recognize, Mr. Robert Chisholm 5776
Res. 2051, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Housing Starts -
Decline Continuance, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5776
Res. 2052, Gov'ts. (Tri-Level [Can.]) - Halls Hbr.: Wharf Construction -
Cooperation Support, Mr. M. Parent 5777
Vote - Affirmative 5778
Res. 2053, CBC - Cuts: Heritage (Cdn.) [HoC Comm.] -
Opposition Inform, Ms. E. O'Connell 5778
Vote - Affirmative 5779
Res. 2054, Premier Hamm - Advice: Dispensation (Can.) -
Concentrate (N.S.), Mr. R. MacLellan 5779
Res. 2055, PC (N.S.) Delegation - PC Convention (Que.C.): Reps. -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 5780
Res. 2056, Educ. - Schools: Power Centralization - Benefits Reveal,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5780
Res. 2057, Econ. Dev. - High Liner Seafoods (Lun.):
Export Achievement (Millennium Award) - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 5781
Vote - Affirmative 5782
Res. 2058, Econ. Dev. - Bus. & Commun. Ldr. (Can. Under 40):
Glenn Hynes (Sobey's) - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 5782
Vote - Affirmative 5782
Res. 2059, P&P - Red Tape Reduction Task Force:
"Monkey Business" - Dub, Mr. F. Corbett 5783
Res. 2060, PC Party (Can.) - Pep Talk Future: Premier (PC) -
Credible Use, Dr. J. Smith 5783
Res. 2061, Culture - Canoe Crafting: Kip McCurdy (Anna. Co.) -
Artisanship Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 5784
Vote - Affirmative 5784
Res. 2062, Health - QE II: Cuts - Denial (Min.) Search, Mr. D. Dexter 5785
Res. 2063, Nat. Res. - Wildlife: Diversity - Research Recognize,
Mr. K. MacAskill 5785
Vote - Affirmative 5786
Res. 2064, Educ. - Cole Hbr. DHS: Commun. Radio Licence -
Volunteers Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 5786
Vote - Affirmative 5787
Res. 2065, Educ. - Maritime Provinces: Robots East Competition
(Fredericton) - Pugwash DHS Success Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5787
Vote - Affirmative 5787
Res. 2066, Educ. - NSTU: President - Brian Forbes (Yar.) Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5788
Vote - Affirmative 5788
Res. 2067, Environ. - Glace Bay: Safe Drinking Water -
Failure Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 5788
Res. 2068, Volunteerism - E. Hants (Mun.) Award: Mary Sullivan -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 5789
Vote - Affirmative 5790
Res. 2069, Sports - Judo (Atl. Sr. Champs.): Medal Winners -
Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 5790
Vote - Affirmative 5790
Res. 2070, Lib. Party (N.S.) Ldr. - Back Benches: Bullies - Place,
Mr. J. Pye 5790
Res. 2071, Culture - Input 2000 (Conf. Hfx.): CBCEDA Booth -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 5791
Vote - Affirmative 5792
Res. 2072, Commun. Serv. - Homes for Special Care: Legislation -
Promise Unfulfilled, Mr. Robert Chisholm 5792
Res. 2073, Educ. - Parkview Educ. Ctr.: Shad Valley -
Students Selection (Congrats.), Mr. D. Downe 5792
Vote - Affirmative 5793
Res. 2074, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on):
Deficit - Address, Mr. J. Holm 5793
Res. 2075, Educ. - UCCB: Grads. & Hon. Degrees - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacLellan 5794
Vote - Affirmative 5795
Res. 2076, Health - Metro. Dispensary (Hfx.): Efforts - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 5795
Vote - Affirmative 5795
Res. 2077, Health - Cancer Care (N.S.): Bd. - Commend, Dr. J. Smith 5796
Vote - Affirmative 5796
Res. 2078, Health - MLAs: Activity - Pursue, Mr. D. Dexter 5796
Vote - Affirmative 5797
Res. 2079, Youth - Support: Sunday Shopping - Ban Preserve,
Mr. K. MacAskill 5797
Res. 2080, WCAT - Decision (Chronic Pain): Appeal (Gov't. [N.S.]) -
Discourage, Mr. K. Deveaux 5798
Res. 2081, Educ. - NSCC: Funding - Pledge Fulfil, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5798
Res. 2082, Volunteerism - E. Hants (Mun.) Appreciation Cert.:
Malcolm Noble (Chief Elmsdale FD) - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell 5799
Vote - Affirmative 5800
Res. 2083, Econ. Dev. - W. Valley Dev. Auth. (Anna. V.):
Smart Commun. (Can.) - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5800
Vote - Affirmative 5800
Res. 2084, Sports - Special Olympics (N.S.): Fundraising -
Success Wish, Mr. D. Wilson 5801
Vote - Affirmative 5801
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 46, Financial Measures (2000) Act 5802
Dr. J. Smith 5802
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5807
Mr. W. Gaudet 5818
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5828
Mr. K. MacAskill 5843
Mr. D. Dexter 5853
Mr. Manning MacDonald 5867
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5883
Mr. R. MacLellan 5896
Adjourned debate 5900
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., May 16th at 12:00 p.m. 5901

[Page 5771]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 15, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of Nova Scotians who support 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." The petition has 268 names and I have affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

5771

[Page 5772]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2045

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

Whereas today marks the beginning of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week; and

Whereas this annual initiative by our Occupational Health and Safety Division is undertaken in concert with our North American partners - Mexico, the United States, the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety; and

Whereas Work Safety For A Healthy Future is the theme for the year 2000 campaign, with a well-placed emphasis on making the young worker an integral part of that healthy future;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate the organizers of the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week and recommit ourselves to supporting their efforts in making our workplace safe and healthy.

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 Tourism and Culture.

[Page 5773]

RESOLUTION NO. 2046

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

Whereas the Gaelic language has been a part of Nova Scotia's cultural heritage; and

Whereas as forms of Gaelic cultural expressions such as storytelling, music and dance contribute to the diversity and wealth of cultural activity in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas it is desirable that the people of Nova Scotia be aware of and celebrate our Gaelic heritage;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing the month of May as Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia.

I won't be speaking in Gaelic today, unfortunately.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2047

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

Whereas May 15th to May 21st marks North American Occupational Health and Safety Week for the year 2000; and

[Page 5774]

Whereas this week strives to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public and all partners in occupational health and safety on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace; and

Whereas while this province has made progress in protective occupational health and safety laws, it still has a long way to go, such as in declaring in force the roll-over protection regulations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House endorse this week's message of promoting workplace safety and health, and urge the Minister of Labour to get with the spirit and put in force the roll-over protection regulations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2048

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

Whereas this week is Occupational Health and Safety Week; and

Whereas the majority of workplace accidents can be prevented if proper safety precautions are observed, and if all share responsibility for making the workplace safer and healthier; and

Whereas since Nova Scotia's new Occupational Health and Safety Act has been implemented, the total number of preventable workplace deaths has been substantially reduced;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize this week as Occupational Health and Safety Week and think safety first.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5775]

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2049

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

Whereas the Premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador met earlier today to sign a memorandum of understanding and to create the new Council of Atlantic Premiers; and

Whereas the formation of the council represents an important step towards greater interprovincial cooperation in Atlantic Canada, allowing joint action on fiscal, economic, social, cultural, and environmental policies and programs; and

Whereas the council will also allow Atlantic Canadians to speak to Ottawa and the rest of the country with one voice on a variety of issues, including health, social programs, education and transportation;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House express their support for greater cooperation between and among the Atlantic Provinces and for the Council of Atlantic Premiers as it promotes the interests of our region to governments across the country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 5776]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2050

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

Whereas this government is affirming the criticism of privatized, unregulated air fares, which have created an intolerable price gap, with Vancouver tickets costing less than Sydney; and

Whereas this government has singled out the cost overruns and lack of accountability in privatized, unregulated school construction as a source of financial pressures on the classroom; and

Whereas the Premier and his truck-driving colleagues drove to the privatized, unregulated stretch of Highway No. 104 to emphasize their opposition to the tolls that came with privatization;

Therefore be it resolved that the Progressive Conservatives should listen to themselves long enough to recognize that many of the severe problems they have discovered were caused by their own favourite cure-all - deregulation and privatization of public services.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2051

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

[Page 5777]

Whereas Nova Scotian urban areas experienced a 20 per cent decline in housing starts in April compared to the same month last year; and

Whereas the province had only 200 single-family and multi-family housing starts this year compared to the 243 stats last year; and

Whereas 195 of the 200 housing starts were centred in metro Halifax while Cape Breton and New Glasgow did not record a single housing start during this period;

Therefore be it resolved that this important economic indicator suggests a downward trend for Nova Scotia that can only continue to worsen under the conditions created by the recent disaster known as the Tory budget.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2052

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 new, innovative wharf at Halls Harbour in the beautiful Kings North riding has captured the attention of structural engineers and information technology professionals around the world, renewing the community's fishing and tourism infrastructure at the same time; and

Whereas this structure is the result of a partnership involving all levels of government, the private sector, community residents and the harbour authority; and

Whereas the wharf will serve as an international showcase for Nova Scotian technology and craftsmanship for years to come;

[Page 5778]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House express their support for increased cooperation between the three levels of government in Canada and thank those in Halls Harbour and across Nova Scotia whose support made this project such a success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2053

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

Whereas CBC President and CEO, Robert Rabinovitch, has been called to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Tuesday, May 16th; and

Whereas Mr. Rabinovitch will be asked to explain the reasoning behind the CBC's plan to eliminate regional supper hour shows and late night newscasts; and

Whereas reports to CBC staff stated that 674 jobs will be lost, 75 of which will be in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House inform the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that Nova Scotians are opposed to these cuts at the CBC.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5779]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2054

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

Whereas Premier John Hamm was the only Tory Premier to come to the aid of the fumbling Joe Clark at the federal PC convention this past weekend; and

Whereas Premier Hamm rushed to the rescue in Quebec City while health care, charities, seniors and education are suffering in Nova Scotia because of budget cuts; and

Whereas the lone Tory Premier was in Quebec by himself because the rest of his caucus was probably busy renewing their Canadian Reform Alliance memberships;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm had better clean up his own backyard before he dispenses advice to other Tories in trouble.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Before I read this resolution, just for a point of information to the honourable member, I was the MLA from this caucus who did go to the convention.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 5780]

RESOLUTION NO. 2055

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

Whereas this weekend a strong 60-plus member delegation of Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative members, as well as our Leader and Premier, the Honourable Dr. John Hamm travelled to Quebec City for the federal Party's policy convention; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas the convention attracted close to 1,200 Canadian citizens to seek views of forming policy for the Party; and

Whereas the idea was developed that the national Progressive Conservative Party policy convention will prepare the Party for the upcoming federal election;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the strong representation from Nova Scotia at the convention and the importance to all political Parties by developing their platforms based on the ideas and concerns at the grassroots level.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2056

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

Whereas proposed amendments to the Education Act would give power to the Cabinet to make decisions that fundamentally affect the relationship between schools, school communities and even regions within the province; and

[Page 5781]

Whereas stripping school boards of their powers flies in the face of recent attempts to give a greater voice to parents and local school advisory councils; and

Whereas many parents and communities have already complained that amalgamated school boards are too large and distant from their communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to parents how a centralized power centre in Halifax will benefit the school children of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2057

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

Whereas High Liner Seafoods of Lunenburg will be recognized at the 16th Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards on May 17th in Halifax; and

Whereas this company will receive a Millennium Award for having more than 500 employees and being longtime exporters; and

Whereas companies such as High Liner Seafoods make up the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate High Liner Seafoods for being awarded the Millennium Award at the Nova Scotia Achievement Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5782]

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. 2058

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

Whereas Pictou County resident Glenn Hynes, Sobey's Vice-President of Strategic Planning and Development was recently chosen as one of Canada's top 40 business and community leaders under the age of 40; and

Whereas Glenn was selected from approximately 750 nominations for the Top 40 distinction award; and

Whereas the award recognizes young Canadians who are super achievers in areas of vision, leadership, innovation, community involvement, impact and growth strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs extend our congratulations to Glenn Hynes for his dynamic leadership and wish him every success with future initiatives that he decides to take on.

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 Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 5783]

RESOLUTION NO. 2059

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

Whereas the Premier might refer to them as the "dream team", we see them more as the comedy act they really are, the Marx Brothers; and

Whereas the Marx Brothers comedy act featured an inventive attack on the socially respectable and upon ordered society in general; and

Whereas the member for Yarmouth should star as Harpo, who was known for always blowing a horn and not speaking;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of the dream team of red tape, we dub this commission Monkey Business starring the Marx Brothers - Groucho, the member for Kings North; Harpo, the member for Yarmouth; Zeppo, the member for Eastern Shore; and Chico, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley;

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2060

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

Whereas Premier John Hamm gave a lesson to Tories in Quebec City this past weekend about how to go from being a last place Party to forming government; and

Whereas if the federal Progressive Conservative Party follows the example of the Nova Scotian cousins, we can expect the Tories to propose cutting money for charities, chopping social assistance rates, gutting agriculture and slashing education funding; and

Whereas if Joe Clark follows Premier Hamm's advice, we should also expect the federal Tories to promise a solution for health care only to butcher the system after getting elected;

Therefore be it resolved that the next time the federal Tories need a motivational pep talk, they should try to track down a PC Premier who has some credibility in their own province.

[Page 5784]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION No. 2061

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 late Harold Gates of Spa Springs, Annapolis County, began a world-renowned canoe building business a number of years ago; and

Whereas following the passing of Mr. Gates, Annapolis County resident Kip McCurdy purchased the molds crafted by the late Mr. Gates and continued his work of shaping them into canoes; and

Whereas Mr. McCurdy is now crafting canoes as well, which are in great demand, and include many buyers from the United States and abroad;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Kip McCurdy for maintaining the artistic work of Harold Gates and wish him all the best as he continues with his successful business.

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 5785]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2062

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 latest protesters at this House were nurses, they very people this government vowed to protect; and

Whereas they placed shoes on the steps of this House, saying they want the government to walk a mile in their shoes; and

Whereas Captain Chaos, the Minister of Health, continues to claim ignorance to job cuts and their effects at the QE II;

Therefore be it resolved that it is time for Captain Chaos to jump into his skiff and sail off into the sea of denial in search of his long lost buddy and soulmate, Calamity Jane, who broke under the pressure of outcries from teachers, students and parents, in the hopes he might learn something from her debacle in education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2063

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

Whereas northern Cape Breton is world famous for its scenery, but it is also widely known for its diverse forms of wildlife; and

Whereas biologists and environmentalists from across the Maritimes gathered in Ingonish Beach to discuss concerns about the state of northern Cape Breton wildlife; and

[Page 5786]

Whereas the conference focused on concerns affecting all wildlife, especially the problems of humans encroaching on wilderness areas;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the research being done in this field, and encourage this work which will contribute to a diverse wildlife population in all Nova Scotia for generations to come.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2064

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

Whereas the communities that make up the students who attend Cole Harbour District High School have a history of not communicating well; and

Whereas in response to historic concerns, Cole Harbour District High School recognized the need to bridge the cultural and geographic divide between the communities through a community radio station; and

Whereas the CRTC recently awarded a community radio license to the Cole Harbour Community Radio group;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mike Whitehouse, Ray Teal and all the other volunteers who have invested so much to build bridges between diverse communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 5787]

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2065

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

Whereas students of Pugwash District High School recently placed second in the annual Robots East competition in Fredericton where participants must design radio-controlled robots to pick up various objects; and

Whereas delegates of the Pugwash school were among 700 other high school students competing at the event; and

Whereas the competition experience and success of these students will serve them well in our increasingly technologically-based economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the students of Pugwash District High School be congratulated by the members of this House on their success at the Robots East competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 5788]

RESOLUTION NO. 2066

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

Whereas 28 year teaching veteran, Brian Forbes, was elected on Friday, May 12th, as the new President of the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union; and

Whereas Mr. Forbes is a valuable member of Yarmouth Junior High School where he taught social studies and math; and

Whereas Mr. Forbes will begin his duties as the NSTU President in July;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Brian Forbes on his election to the important position of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union President.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2067

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

Whereas the people of Glace Bay have the right to clean water; and

Whereas a declining tax base and high unemployment means the municipality is in no position to fix the problem without provincial assistance; and

Whereas the Minister of the Environment has given no indication that he will help;

[Page 5789]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the government for its failure to ensure safe drinking water for residents of Glace Bay.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2068

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

Whereas the Municipality of East Hants annually honours those who make communities better places to live; and

Whereas on April 14th the municipality conferred a Certificate of Appreciation on Mary Sullivan, a life member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 133 in Enfield; and

Whereas Mary Sullivan has for years been indispensable in beautifying the Legion property, she has held many roles with the Caring and Sharing Angel Tree Food Bank, and she has been a huge part of the East Hants Senior Games Association;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mary Sullivan on her lifelong volunteerism and thank her for playing such a key role in making her community a good community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 5790]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2069

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

Whereas 9 Cape Bretoners won 12 medals at the Atlantic Senior Judo Championships held over the weekend in Stephenville, Newfoundland; and

Whereas Jacqueline Susin from the Cape Breton Family YMCA was the big winner, taking home a total of three medals; and

Whereas other winners from around Cape Breton included Nicholas MacFarland, Mandy Goyetche, David Coffin, Evan Mugford, Chris Mombourquette, Ryan Mombourquette, Mitchell DeCoste and Cory Macinnis;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all medal winners on their accomplishments and wish them success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2070

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

Whereas the crumbling of the Liberal Party was no more obvious than on Friday in this House; and

[Page 5791]

Whereas the member for Cape Breton West and the member for Cape Breton Nova voted down a resolution put to the floor by one of their own members, the honourable member for Clare; and

Whereas we feared for the safety of the honourable member for Clare as he sat between these two bullies;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Liberal Party put these bullies on the backbenches where they can't harm the diminutive member for Clare for his progressive and socialist views.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2071

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

Whereas Input 2000, a public broadcaster's forum, is expected to attract in excess of 1,000 international broadcasters in Halifax this week; and

Whereas Cape Breton is the only region to open a display booth at the show, thanks to the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority; and

Whereas the Cape Breton region is still at a serious disadvantage in film production because the budget failed to implement a significant increase in the film tax credit for areas outside of Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority for taking the initiative to host a display booth at Input 2000 to help support Cape Breton's film and television production industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5792]

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. 2072

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

Whereas nurses have long campaigned for a new Homes for Special Care Act with modern, enforceable standards for long-term care; and

Whereas some may have thought the Conservatives were listening when John Hamm's plan and Tory TV ads featured the promise to enact the new legislation in year one of this government; and

Whereas Page 8 of the blue book promised, ". . . clear guidelines and standards that address the need to protect the health and welfare of residents, promote efficiencies and ensure accountability;" in that legislation;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that by breaking the promise of a new Homes for Special Care Act in year one, the Conservatives are increasing the pressure on patient care and the wasteful practices they themselves criticized less than one year ago.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2073

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

[Page 5793]

Whereas Parkview Education Centre students Sigrid Ziegler, Matthew Ernst and Bruce Cameron have been chosen as candidates for Shad Valley, a premier program for senior high students; and

Whereas the Shad Valley program gives students the opportunity to foster entrepreneurial excellence in leadership, learning, science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and

Whereas the 525 students selected for the program must display academic achievement and leadership potential;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sigrid Ziegler, Matthew Ernst and Bruce Cameron for their achievements and wish them continued success in their future.

I ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2074

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

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

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,590 children have been born into poverty; and

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

[Page 5794]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,590 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2075

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

Whereas yesterday more than 700 students graduated from the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas honorary degrees were bestowed upon renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox; President and General Manager of Stora Enso, Jack Hartery; longtime music teacher and contributor to the arts, Marguerite McDougall; Commissioner of Nunavut, Mamyaoik Maksagak; Cape Breton's musical ambassadors, the Men of the Deeps Choir; and well-known broadcaster, writer, genealogist and professor James Otis M. St. Clair; and

Whereas located in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the University College of Cape Breton offers an innovative blend of degree, diploma and certificate programs that combine liberal arts and sciences with engineering, technology and trades traditions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to all graduates and honorary degree recipients of UCCB for their outstanding achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5795]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2076

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

Whereas the Metropolitan Dispensary traces its history back to the Halifax Visiting Dispensary founded in 1856 to treat the sick poor of Halifax; and

Whereas when the Visiting Dispensary ceased operations in 1966, it left many needy residents without affordable pharmacy services; and

Whereas a group of professionals, some associated with what is now the IWK Hospital for Children, mobilized to meet the need and founded the Metropolitan Dispensary Society in October 1966 and continued this much-needed service;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the ongoing efforts of the Metropolitan Dispensary in providing low-income citizens with drugs at cost, serving these people with life-threatening conditions who could not otherwise afford drugs.

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 Dartmouth East.

[Page 5796]

RESOLUTION NO. 2077

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

Whereas Cancer Care Nova Scotia has begun to hold a series of focus groups in an effort to make the system more patient-focused for those experiencing cancer; and

Whereas these focus groups will be held throughout the province over the next six weeks to help the Cancer Care board decide on concrete actions to take to improve the system; and

Whereas Cancer Care Nova Scotia's mandate is to coordinate, strengthen and evaluate services in Nova Scotia through integrated research, education and treatment programs that are patient centred, cost-effective and based on sound evidence;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Board be commended for its endeavours to improve the support for cancer patients and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2078

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

Whereas in a recent report released by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, a full 64 per cent of Canadians are still not active enough to benefit their health; and

Whereas the survey also shows that half of young adults are not active enough to benefit their health and two-thirds of Canadians between 25 and 64 are not active enough; and

[Page 5797]

Whereas this year's SummerActive celebration was launched on May 12th with Sneaker Day and runs until June 20th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind all its members to get active and be healthy.

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2079

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

Whereas Sunday has traditionally been the only day where those employed in the retail industry in Nova Scotia have to spend with their families and loved ones; and

Whereas the retail industry is the biggest employer of Nova Scotians with more and more families having two parents working in this industry; and

Whereas the reality of both parents working on Sunday will be to the detriment of their children's upbringing;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government not abandon the youth of Nova Scotia as it has with recent cuts to education and preserve Nova Scotia's ban on Sunday shopping.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5798]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2080

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

Whereas the Workers' Compensation Act was amended in 1999; and

Whereas the changes to the Act violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by discriminating based on disability; and

Whereas the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal recently determined that the amendments to the Act are unconstitutional;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the government to not appeal the decision of WCAT and pay injured workers what they are owed.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2081

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

Whereas the Minister of Education pledged $2 million in additional money to the Nova Scotia Community College system; and

[Page 5799]

Whereas at the same time the Minister of Education is cutting $1.5 million from the trades and trades related funding programs at UCCB; and

Whereas this action is a complete reversal of the Education Department's commitment to provide this funding to UCCB;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education do the honourable thing and fulfil this commitment and stop playing politics with the educational needs of students on Cape Breton Island.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2082

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

Whereas Malcolm Noble, the Chief Officer of the Elmsdale Fire Department, received on April 14th from the Municipality of East Hants a certificate of appreciation for his many volunteer efforts in his community; and

Whereas Mr. Noble wears many hats, as a member of the EMO Committee for East Hants, as a member of the Fire Advisory Committee of East Hants, Chairman of the Halifax-Hants Mutual Fire Association, and serves on the Tri-County Emergency Medical Services Council; and

Whereas he is also Director of the Fire Officers Association of Nova Scotia, Director of the Western Nova Scotia Firefighters Association and a member of the Provincial Committee for Critical Incident Stress Team;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Malcolm Noble for his outstanding service to his community and wish him well in continuing to balance those many hats he wears.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5800]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2083

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

Whereas the information and communication technology sector are crucial to the success of any economy in today's world; and

Whereas the Western Valley Smart Community project in the Annapolis Valley has been chosen over two other communities to become one of 12 Smart Communities in Canada; and

Whereas a $5 million grant has been awarded to the Annapolis Valley development group as part of the initiative, with an additional commitment of $60 million over the next three years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Western Valley Development Authority on being chosen as a Smart Community and wish them continued success in their endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

[Page 5801]

RESOLUTION NO. 2084

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

Whereas people with a mental challenge provide important contributions to our community; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics' goal is to enrich the lives of Nova Scotians with a mental disability through sport; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics are launching their first annual spring telephone lottery which will run between May 8th and May 30th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the initiative of the Nova Scotia Special Olympics and wish them success in their fund-raising campaign.

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 North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on an introduction. I would like to bring to the attention of the House a resident of Dartmouth North, in the west gallery, Mr. Dwight Caldwell. He is here to view the Legislative Assembly as it goes through its process today. I would greatly appreciate it if we would all give him a warm welcome. As a matter of fact, he is a former resident of Barrington. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we go to the orders of the day, on Friday the honourable Government House Leader rose on a point of privilege and I would like to call upon the honourable member for Cape Breton East to respond, please.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, during the time of that debate I think I misspoke and at this time I certainly would like to withdraw the comments that were made.

[Page 5802]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 46.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East, you have 18 minutes.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to rejoin debate on Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. We had covered many areas on Friday in debating the principle of the bill and I do want to add some further notes. Particularly, I want to use the remainder of my time today to speaking on the principle of the bill, to address, on Page 88 of the 98 pages of the bill, Clause 71(1), Section 74 under Government Accountability. It has to do with the deficit and the meaning of the deficit and outlining the deficit relative to hospitals.

This legislation, denies hospitals and health boards the ability to run deficits and that is within that Section 74, under Clause 71(1) on Page 88. This is basically a positive measure and as a government we were going to eliminate the deficits for the health boards and for the non-designated hospitals, there was a plan for that. What happens when a hospital or a health board runs out of money in February? Do you tell them, oh well, close down shop for a month or two, just carry on, the QE II send everybody back to Yarmouth, but where does Yarmouth send their patients? So that whole continuum of care breaks down. It is unrealistic, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 5803]

[2:45 p.m.]

It looks as though this government does not really believe that themselves. There is a memo passed around by the Deputy Minister of Health to the effect that they can carry that deficit for two years. The memo said that hospitals and boards can carry deficits into the next year. What is this government doing? Are they letting the boards run deficits or are they allowing the boards to run two year budgets? What is it? Either way, they are not doing what this legislation sets out to do.

For this reason we cannot support this legislation, but this is the main stumbling block. What will this legislation do to the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia? Mr. Speaker, I am referring to Clause 71(1), Section 74, Page 88. What will it do to health care in Nova Scotia? The Minister of Health has claimed that he is not responsible for the decisions made at the QE II; he stated that in the House the other afternoon. But the minister is responsible for the delivery of health care in this province, and his budget has caused the QE II to take such actions we heard of here the other day. I will maybe have a chance to address some of them when I am speaking to the principle of the bill and what a difficult situation this has placed that hospital in.

This is the companion legislation, Mr. Speaker, to the budget that puts into effect many of the restrictions found in the budget, and this is why we are opposed to this companion bill. The Premier has said there will be no effect on patient care; as a doctor he knows absolutely that he is wrong. The same way he told Nova Scotians that he would fix health care during the election campaign, for $46 million, no new money out of administration. We are seeing that here, and he is as wrong today as he was then. He knows the difference; he is a physician who has been in the health care system. You could be a nurse; you could be a social worker. Those people who work in the system should know and do know, and it seems only the Premier has this illusion about where all of this health care is going to be provided.

What is going to happen to health care if this legislation is passed, Mr. Speaker? The administrative staff of the QE II had jobs to do. They had gone through a very difficult time. We were opposed to the building of that new hospital. There were monies, $22 million I believe, that was held out as a carrot from Ottawa. The previous government did that. We had favoured a community type hospital, much like Dartmouth, to be built in the Lower Sackville area and Bedford community; however that was not to be. We inherited that, and we were determined to do as good a job as we could. We have tried hard. As a government, we worked hard. We integrated various nursing staffs. They have come together, and it has been a very difficult time. There were jobs lost and there were packages where people were retired. That is the principle of this whole issue, how people are treated.

[Page 5804]

We hear now that the lay-offs are taking place, there is a recommendation of some consulting staff that these people be heralded out of the building immediately - we will get more into that as we hear more - I have had some calls on that and that really concerns me; however there are times that there has to be action.

We saw the early reports of the 418 jobs. So, dealing with the principle of the bill, this particular section on how that impacts on health care, we saw the prelude to that the other day, Mr. Speaker, with 418 jobs being lost to the QE II. So, they had their jobs. Many of those people have gone who are losing their jobs now, or their jobs are being discontinued, and there is more add-on, so they have two jobs to do now, or maybe three in some cases where they had one before. These people have already gone through a lot of restructuring. There has been a coming together. They have gone through competitions. They have won the competitions - and I am sure it is true - you have the best people now qualified in those position. Now there is further change and discontinued positions and doubling-up of jobs. So you have people who now will have two jobs, three jobs in the place of one, all through very difficult times.

Nurses said they can't endure the changes that are taking place, any more responsibilities to be thrust on them. Yet we see the gist of this bill, as it addressed the deficits, putting limits on that and there will be no choice. It is not the QE II's fault, what is happening. They have to act responsibly under the legislation once the legislation is made clear to them. We know the nurse managers, the numbers that we have seen change, the 12 nurse managers - I just wanted to check my figures, it was the 12 nurse managers - that were changing positions. They said they can't endure any more responsibilities. They are already working to capacity, both in a physical and in a mental stress situation as well. What is needed are more nurses to relieve that burden.

This government campaigned on hiring more nurses and this government campaigned on being able to fix the problems in health care with $47 million of administrative savings. This is what we are seeing. These top people who hold that institution together and we will see it in other places. I think today is the day that most of the regions, or all of the regions in the hospitals, have their business plans forward. So we will be seeing more of this. They have been very quiet, Mr. Speaker, in many ways because they have been working hard at this. Then there will be more to follow and what will happen, when the infrastructure of the QE II is gutted and changed? How will that impact on the regions and the community hospitals and the nine boards, whenever they get in place?

Nova Scotians are realizing, Mr. Speaker, that they have been deceived by this government and the Premier has called the QE II's plan to lay off 418 staff.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ruled previously that the word deceived in this House was unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

[Page 5805]

DR. SMITH: Yes, certainly. Misled is okay? Oh, thank you, that makes it easier because that is really what I wanted to say. I do apologize and I do withdraw that comment, Mr. Speaker, because you are being fair.

The Premier has called the QE II's plan to lay off 418 staff a positive step forward in health care delivery. The Minister of Health says that he cannot guarantee that there will not be an effect on patient care. That is pretty obvious. It is obvious that this government has no plan for health care and they are making it up as they go along. This legislation just supports that and that is a bad principle to have at any time. That is why the Premier and the Minister of Health are contradicting one another's statements. Maybe they are playing good person/bad person, I don't know, but it is not coming out very clearly to people and people are really concerned out there, particularly this last weekend.

We are going to lose good people, Mr. Speaker. We are going to lose good people out of hospitals like the QE II and it will trickle down through. They have already gone through the changes and many, I believe, will not believe that they can go through another change and while they have taken various duties, many duties, and put that together, they are not prepared to take even more. They are not physically and they are not mentally able to do that. So this is what we are seeing.

The government wants us to believe that these cuts are necessary. Remember the Premier said last summer, just go and have a barbeque and I will take care of you; now he is saying, hang tough, it will be better. I don't think you better be very far away this summer. I know there will be people who will be apprehensive, looking throughout this summer and into September when there will be major changes in mental health within this community, within adult mental health at least. There will be changes there and now people are vying for jobs and positions and that creates a real climate at the time that we need strength and cooperation, you have people wondering if they are going to be the ones to be cut. Will they be chosen? Who will be the CEO of the Capital Region? Out of this, I can only see a loss of good people. That is a terrible principle to have in a companion legislation. When will it be better? In five years' time? In 10 years' time? What about the people who need medical help now? What about those who need medical care? Should health care providers say, well too bad you did not get sick in 50 years' time, we may be able to help you then?

What impact will this legislation have on the QE II? People of Nova Scotia have one of the best hospitals in Canada in the QE II. The Minister of Health is listening intently, and if he wants to come over and sit here, then he can read my notes. In fact, he can have my notes, Mr. Speaker. Then maybe that would be good when he is trying to convince that wayward Premier of his. I know the Minister of Health is trying to interpret this legislation, trying to interpret it to the regional boards and the hospitals, and then he has the Premier saying, oh, it doesn't really matter, just hang in, things are going to be all right.

[Page 5806]

Well, things aren't going to be all right. This is a major slaughter of the infrastructure of east of Montreal's largest, most successful hospital, and Bob Smith has just turned that institution around from very difficult days. I am concerned we are going to lose people like Bob Smith and those kinds of people. Shame on us as a province if we do. He has done a magnificent job, and the staff have worked for him. Under the guidance of their board, they have really turned that institution along and then in one fell swoop, we have just a tearing away of the infrastructure to support that, both in terms of human resources with nurse managers, managers for nuclear medicine and we also have that information technology that we spoke of. We were looking forward to that day that, finally, we would catch up with the rest of the world and other industries in health, and have an information technology, but we see six to seven positions discontinued and another person being transferred to Finance within that information technology institution. We haven't even heard much from the others yet.

People in Nova Scotia should not have to settle for a lesser system of health care delivery because John Buchanan spent money like it was going out of style. Our health care system needs an investment for the future. There is no question. You can argue about that, and when people say, oh well, we can do with less money, they are talking about preventive medicine programs that are in the future. We heard that in an interview with CBC and the chair of the Provincial Health Council which was an interesting dialogue. It is fine to talk about prevention. This has to be an integral part, and that is something that also needs to be addressed: health promotion programs, and prevention programs. That really speaks to the principle of the bill; it is to dismantle the infrastructure. It is also on mental health and health promotion which tends to be shunted aside. The principle of the bill lacks. It may have some principle to it, but it doesn't have any integrity, and it certainly doesn't have much common sense in my opinion.

Mr. Speaker, our health care system needs an investment for the future, an investment in new technologies and facilities so that delivery of health care can be carried out more efficiently. Our health care system needs to be delivered by the best trained and most dedicated people we can find. We have them there now. They have gone through a selection process and competition. They won those positions under great competition. They are dedicated with a great team in place, particularly a place at the QE II, I would mention, as well as the IWK-Grace Health Centre. We have those people in place. Today, they don't know what is happening, and they don't know where they are going. That is not a very good milieu to be delivering a service of caring to people in need from all around this province.

We have these people, as I mentioned, all across this province. We have them as physicians. We have them as nurses, social workers, technologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and all of those people in support services that take care and take great pride in delivering the care to those in need. Eliminating these bright people is only going to make things worse, not better. What impact will this legislation have on the delivery of patient care in Nova Scotia? Although administrative staff may not be at the bedside, it does not mean they do not play a part. They play a very integral, important back-up part and an integral part

[Page 5807]

of sometimes hands-on in ambulatory care and those places when there is work to be done. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I have how much time?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: About one-half minute.

DR. SMITH: About one-half minute, thank you. When a doctor refers a patient to the QE II, or the hospitals, your record may be transferred as well. What about prescription medicines, what about the diabetics who must receive a special diet from the hospital? What about delivery of counselling and scheduling of services? These are all services that are going to impact on patient care. What is going to happen to telemedicine in this province, that has been leading North America? It allows every patient to have access. Specialists are available throughout the province. This budget and accompanying legislation are going to have an effect on patient care . . .

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

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I must say I was somewhat disappointed that government members weren't prepared to heed the arguments of the Opposition to hoist Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Bill because this would have indeed given us time for consultation that is so important and for further study.

Nevertheless, I guess we now have a last opportunity to lay out some of the difficulties with this particular bill, not only what is contained in the bill, but also all of the important things that have been left out of the bill, which we know has occurred. The government has a particular agenda, an agenda that includes privatization. For example, we find very little legislative framework with respect to that particular matter of public policy, that this government will be taking the province in, reflected in this bill.

While this is a substantial document in size, some 98 pages, there is quite a bit that has been left out of the bill. I went back and I reviewed the Hansard from when the Minister of Finance introduced Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, where the Minister of Finance made reference to the taxation provisions, in particular, around this bill. We all know that taxation is something that this Party claims they are concerned about and certainly in last summer's election, when they were promising to be all things to all people and all interests in Nova Scotia, they certainly wrapped themselves in the mantra of tax cuts expected in year three or four of the mandate. But they didn't say very much about increasing taxes which, in fact, this bill does.

[Page 5808]

This bill has provisions in it for user fees, for example, that will be levied in every household where there is a telephone. That is not a selective user fee. I think generally speaking, it would be very difficult to find all that many households in the Province of Nova Scotia today that have no telephone. There are probably very few homes without telephones, just as there are very few homes today that don't have electricity. To introduce a user fee through the telephone system, I would suggest, is in fact a method of taxation. It is not simply a method of fee for service and I know that government members have indicated that this is a very small user fee and that the amount that will be charged will not generate revenue beyond the actual cost of providing 911 services.

That is the kind of argument we hear every time a new tax has ever been introduced. Taxes are quite often argued for by a government on the basis that we need to raise revenue for a particular thing and the first thing you know, you see that same government or subsequent governments abusing that particular mechanism or that particular taxation tool by increasing the amount of money that they collect from the ordinary citizen and then they are applying it to more than the particular good or service that initially was the intention of the tax or the fee. We have seen this with gasoline taxes, for example. We have seen it with all kinds of different forms of taxation.

I think that we need to say to the government that this is not an acceptable way to generate revenue and you are opening the door here to the probability that this particular fee will become something more than a way to collect the administrative cost of the 911 service. This government didn't say one word about this when they were campaigning last summer, as something that was on their agenda.

Mr. Speaker, this particular bill doesn't say anything about this government's position with respect to providing Nova Scotians with any form of tax relief. Nova Scotians have been increasingly drawn into the income tax system through bracket creep, which is something I would like to talk about in a bit more detail. There is a bit of a public debate occurring around taxation. This debate is mostly dominated though by the voices of those who are better off and those who have opportunity and control of the national media, particularly the National Post and The Globe and Mail, Conrad Black's papers; the Business Council on National Issues; financial columnists; the Reform Party, now the Canadian Alliance; the federal PC Party, I believe, have gotten in on the act; and all of those candidates like Stockwell Day, Tom Long and Preston Manning, running for the leadership of that new Party.

They have argued and are arguing for tax relief, for a reduction in taxation but they haven't necessarily focused on some of the fundamental problems that low-income people, middle-class people and seniors have been concerned about with respect to tax relief, I think. I think we need to always keep in mind that people's incomes, and income in general, have stagnated in real terms in probably the past 10 or 15 years. To people living in poverty and the middle class, senior citizens, people on fixed incomes, it certainly feels like the tax burden has increased substantially for people in these groups.

[Page 5809]

We can certainly understand why that would be. We have had the introduction of the harmonized sales tax here in Nova Scotia, the goods and services tax, which applies right across the board to a whole menu of goods and services previously untaxed or previously taxed at much lower rates. We were all told at the time that these taxes were introduced that we would see a decrease in the costs of appliances and automobiles and all kinds of goods and services where there was manufactured sales tax. I don't know about you, Mr. Speaker, or any other members here, but I certainly haven't noticed any reduction in the cost of basic commodities as a result of the introduction of the harmonized sales tax and taking away of the manufactured sales tax.

I think clearly the Mulroney Government who were the instrument and the orchestrators of this particular tax sold us a bill of goods, and we saw what happened to that political Party, I think, as a result of introducing that particular tax. It is probably the most disliked tax measure in the history of this country, and I think that particular federal government and that political Party and that particular Leader of a political Party probably earned the distinction of being the most disliked Prime Minister that Canadians have had to deal with. That is going a piece, Mr. Speaker, because Pierre Trudeau wasn't loved by the populace by the end of his time in office. I think governments and political Parties need to be very careful about the kinds of measures they take when they are increasingly encroaching on people's basic income and incomes that are diminishing and stagnating in our society.

A lot has been written about bracket creep, and, thanks to the good staff in the Legislative Library, I was able to find a couple of very good pieces that lay out exactly what bracket creep is. Tax experts have been talking about bracket creep for some considerable period of time, for many years. In 1986, the Mulroney Conservatives partially de-indexed the tax system. What that meant, Mr. Speaker, was, as long as inflation was below 3 per cent, there was no indexation of the income tax brackets, the three categories under which Canadians with taxable income up to certain levels would have their income tax determined by. The result of this de-indexation or partial de-indexation of the income tax brackets meant that increasingly people would be pushed from one tax bracket into a higher tax bracket, even though their incomes in terms of what those dollars would actually buy in the economy had not increased. They would move and have to pay a higher rate of tax. This is something Ken Battle and the folks at the Caledon Institute, which is a social policy research group, have called social policy by stealth, where governments have essentially used instruments in the Income Tax Act for huge tax grabs.

The research has demonstrated that an extraordinary amount of money has been collected through this kind of process. If you would bear with me one moment, Mr. Speaker, I can find some information that tells us exactly how much more money has been collected as a result of bracket creep in the past 14 years. One of the things that has happened is that 2.5 million Canadians have been moved into higher tax brackets, including 800,000 people who are low income earners, who shouldn't have been paying any income tax at all. This is really remarkable. Quite a few studies have indicated that large amounts of money, millions

[Page 5810]

and millions of dollars, have resulted from this sneaky form of taxation into the federal coffers which is why people who are poor and people who are in the middle income groups have felt overtaxed. In fact, they would not have been paying as high a rate of tax if the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives had not partially de-indexed the income tax system.

[3:15 p.m.]

An OECD study of Canada estimated that bracket creep pushed 1.9 million taxpayers from the bottom 17 per cent to the middle. So low income people were being pushed out of the lowest income tax bracket into the middle income tax bracket as a result of bracket creep. It isn't only the poor and it isn't only middle income people who have been affected by this, high income earners have been affected by bracket creep as well. Certainly there has been a lot of agitation and a lot of pressure from different parts of the political spectrum with respect to bracket creep. People who are concerned about the poor, people who are concerned about the middle income groups and the growing inequality in society have pushed very hard to get the federal government to reintroduce full indexation of the income tax system.

Back when federal Finance Minister Paul Martin introduced his last budget, lo and behold, one of the things that I think was a pleasing surprise for quite a few policy analysts and for Canadians generally was this particular measure that he reintroduced, full indexation of the income tax system. So that this phenomenon of bracket creep that has gone on way too long, 14 years, that has pulled 800,000 people living in poverty into the income tax system, where previously they would not have had to pay income tax at all, this practice would be addressed and it would be halted in its tracks.

I think, Mr. Speaker, it is important to give credit where credit is due. Groups worked very hard to influence the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister and have them move in a more progressive direction and perhaps because they know they will be facing the electorate in another year or so, they decided to go in this direction, but that brings me to this point. The question is, why has our Finance Minister here in Nova Scotia not followed the same example? Why is this government and our Finance Minister content to allow what is well understood and widely recognized to be a very unfair approach to taxation to continue on in Nova Scotia?

This Financial Measures (2000) Bill sets out a legislative framework which will allow our government here in Nova Scotia to continue the practice of allowing people to be pushed upward into higher income tax brackets where they will be taxed at higher rates without having had any real increase whatsoever in their incomes. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, if people's incomes were actually increasing, then they could afford to pay higher marginal levels of taxation; it wouldn't be a problem. As your income goes up, I would suggest, in a progressive society, you would expect that people who have a greater ability to contribute into the public pot, through the taxation system, would be more than happy to do that and they wouldn't think that . . .

[Page 5811]

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Certainly.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I thank the honourable member for yielding the floor. Mr. Speaker.

I would like to introduce to you, and through you to all members of the House, a very young, energetic, and vibrant community leader from Cape Breton. Just by coincidence, he has a very special name and I would like to introduce to you, Mr. Russell MacKinnon, President of the University College of Cape Breton Student Union. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and certainly welcome to Mr. MacKinnon and all our guests and visitors in the gallery.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I welcome our guests in the gallery as well.

So I think that not only is it curious that the Finance Minister and the Premier and this government have, through this particular piece of legislation, allowed this practice of increasing the amount of revenue that they are going to rip out of the bank accounts and the pockets of ordinary Nova Scotians and low income Nova Scotians, but I think it has been done in a way that is not completely up front, not out in the open, not in a way that will be readily seen by the average person because, once again, this is taxation policy by stealth.

It is done through these mechanisms that are quite complicated in many ways, very difficult to explain sometimes to the public, but certainly felt by people. They are felt by people when they actually need to do repairs on their homes, or they need to do repairs on their cars, or they need some basic necessity of life to get along and their incomes have been eroded through inflation, eroded through taxation, eroded through user fees and just generally eroded because wages and other forms of income security have stagnated quite significantly in our province and in other provinces, maybe even more so here.

So I think that is certainly a very big part of this bill that needs to be soundly condemned and needs to be rejected by members of the Opposition and members of the government's backbench, because those members are here to represent the best interests of their constituents and certainly this Financial Measures (2000) Bill and this kind of bracket creep potential in this bill will hurt many people in the ridings of those Tory backbenchers, as they will constituents in my own riding.

[Page 5812]

We know this government has other items on their agenda besides taxation and ways to increase the generation of revenue through bracket creep in the taxation system and user fees in terms of the 911 system and all kinds of other user fees. I know the members of the government have wanted to race their budget through as quickly as they possibly can and get whatever legislation is on the order paper passed as quickly as possible. Not so that they can get out of here and lie on the beach and get tans, but so they won't be subjected to questions, they won't be subjected to being held accountable by members of the Opposition Parties. We know that as every day goes by we learn about new problems that have been created by this government and this government's lack of plan, be it in the health care system or a plan for the education system or a plan with respect to dealing with child poverty or other forms of poverty. For example, in our community.

We should just briefly look at the health care system and what has been a truly disturbing picture that is starting to emerge. In my community, on the weekend, I took numerous phone calls at home. I had a lady who lives in my riding who called me at home after 10:00 o'clock on Saturday night. She called me from her hospital bed over at the QE II where she has been for 10 or 12 days now. She has had reconstructive surgery on her knee and her hip and she gets approximately 10 or 15 minutes of physiotherapy a day. She is scheduled to be discharged next week and she was totally beside herself. She had no idea how she was going to be able to go home and recover. She said that when she learned that the director of physiotherapy had lost her job, she was very upset because she understands that a certain degree of administration in a large complex organization is necessary.

If the front-line workers are going to be able to do their jobs, then there needs to be a coordinator. These positions are not positions that are frivolous or part of the fat administration. They are functions that are absolutely essential to the operation of any large organization. I would submit to you that the same is true in the social work department, in the pharmacy department and in nursing and many other of the health professions. To imagine that these are the areas that this government has looked to for financial savings is stunning. There is no rational, no logical, no acceptable explanation for why this would be done in this way. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Somebody in these organizations has to be responsible for scheduling, has to be responsible for the maintaining of practice standards, has to be responsible for monitoring proper record keeping. All of these functions are functions that are frequently performed by directors in the various departments.

I know this government likes to talk about all the fat that exists in the administrative quarters of the health care system, but certainly, Mr. Speaker, it is hard to justify the firing, the making redundant positions that clearly have a very important function to play if our health care delivery system is going to actually be there with the services that people require. I can't stress how serious this matter is, and I can't stress enough the need for this government to reconsider the very wrong-headed path it has headed down here, and the consequences of the direction it has taken for people who are sick and people who need good

[Page 5813]

health care and people who have paid for good health care through their taxation over the years.

[3:30 p.m.]

Last Friday, Mr. Speaker, we saw nurses come to visit us here. I had an opportunity to speak with some of these women. There was a nurse from my home area where I grew up in Antigonish County. She works in a long-term care facility in the Town of Antigonish. She was telling me what her situation, and the situation of other nurses in that facility, is today. She was saying that they cannot get sick and take any time off. They cannot afford to get sick and take time off because there are no replacements for them. She said they can't schedule vacation time. What this is leading to in the nursing profession is a very high level of stress, and therefore, a high level of burn-out. We are losing well-qualified nurses with good experience, very dedicated to their profession, but they are just simply unable to deal with the chaos that has been created by this government's lack of a health care plan that is respectful of the workers in these facilities, and is respectful of the people of Nova Scotia who require good high-quality services.

What we see, Mr. Speaker, in this Bill No. 46, sadly, is a negative agenda that is taking us back in time to the pre-Stanfield era before we had the expansion of a modern-day education system, a modern-day health care system, and a modern-day community or social service system. I would not be at all surprised to see the Minister of Community Services come forward at some point in time with his version of work houses or poorhouses. It is that troublesome, the direction in which this government appears to be going.

I think health care is very important to Nova Scotians. We see Nova Scotians writing letters to the editor, calling their MLAs, speaking to the Premier, and we all know that health care is something that Nova Scotians and, indeed, Canadians hold in very high regard. They value it dearly but, the outpouring of concern we saw around the Education budget also I think demonstrated just how strongly people in this province feel about their education system.

This is another area, Mr. Speaker, that this government has failed dismally in having a plan that is respectful of the people who work in that system as well as the children and the parents who rely on that system. The Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education like to talk about how this particular government will invest in education and how, in fact, there is more money in the Education budget this year than in the previous year. Indeed, that is true. There was additional money given to the community college system and I think that is a very good place to put money.

This province, sadly, is very lacking in the level to which we fund the community college system, the number of spaces that we provide for students to get technical and trades training. I believe that last year there were approximately 17,000 applications to the

[Page 5814]

community college system and they cannot accommodate anywhere close to that number of applicants. I think they can only accommodate maybe around 5,000 or 6,000 students. So we really need to address that situation clearly.

One of the things that I understand is occurring in our province today, is that increasingly there is a need for skilled technicians, workers with particular kinds of skilled trades and technical skills. They are not necessarily there, Mr. Speaker, and they are not there because we have not invested in our community college system so that we can train young people from this province in those various skills. When that occurs, we run the risk of having to import labour from elsewhere and I think that is a very big problem.

You have to look at all aspects of the education system. There was not much in the Voluntary Planning Task Force on Fiscal Management that I agreed with, or I should say there were quite a few things in their report that I and my colleagues in our caucus took exception to, such as a wage freeze for public servants. But there was one thing in that report and there was a theme through that report, I think, we all could agree to. That was the theme around lifelong learning but, Mr. Speaker, lifelong learning has to be more than rhetoric and for this government it has essentially been rhetoric.

They have not even begun to grasp the meaning of lifelong learning and the commitment that will be required from the government to carry out a program that will ensure Nova Scotians will have access to a publicly funded high quality education system from the time that we are young children throughout our teenage and other formative years, as youth on into adulthood. Mr. Speaker, I teach in a university, or I did teach in a university. You can go to university campuses around this province and you can see the way the infrastructure on those campuses is under real stress.

These large organizations, large communities, they have not had government support to properly maintain, properly retrofit many of their existing buildings. It is very demoralizing, trying to run an educational institution when it is starting to crumble around your ears. Certainly, this is something that this government has not taken into account and, in fact, if the signals from the Premier and from the Minister of Finance and from the Minister of Education are to be taken on their face, the signals seem to be that there will be no financial support for any kind of capital investment or improvement in the university sector, for example. This is very troublesome, given the state of the infrastructure in many of these universities. This particular Financial Measures (2000) Bill is absolutely silent with respect to how this province will deal with the whole question of rising student tuitions, and the increased debt load that students are carrying.

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity this morning to meet with students from Saint Mary's and from Dalhousie and from Mount Saint Vincent as well, and they tell me that they have no idea what framework will be put in place for the student loan program for the fall. They are extremely concerned about what will be happening to tuition fees on their respective

[Page 5815]

campuses. They are very disappointed and very upset at the loss of the loan remission program. One of these students, who I think will graduate next year, will leave the university with a debt load of $30,000. As he said, he is doing a Bachelor of Arts degree and will follow that with another degree in education, and he is looking at adding a substantial amount of money onto his debt load.

It seems to me that this government's failure to deal with the problem of increasing tuition and the costs that students have to bear individually through incurring so much private debt is only going to drive these young students out of our province. They are going to end up having to go elsewhere, looking for the kinds of high-paying employment that will allow them to get a handle on those huge debts. We know that while our economy has been producing some new opportunities for students and young people with particular skills, in no way is it able to accommodate the numbers of young people who are graduating from our universities.

When you see cuts in the health care system and the education field, you know, and you can say with absolute certainty, that the young people who have trained for those professions - for the health care professions and for the education professions - they are going to have to go elsewhere, because the entry points into those professions, those opportunities, those doors have been closed.

Mr. Speaker, last week there were nurses here who are in their last year at the Dalhousie Nursing School. I had a chance to speak with them. They were very frustrated about what their prospects looked like in the nursing profession. It was like being on a seesaw talking to nurses in the system who are overworked, run off their feet, cannot take any time off because there are no replacements and are talking about leaving the profession because conditions are so bad. At the same time or in the next instance, speaking to young women who are about to graduate from nursing school who would dearly like an opportunity to work in the nursing profession and they can't get an entry point.

There is a freeze on hiring and here they have trained, they have spent four or five years getting their degrees to be nurses and they can't find a way into the health care system. They can't find a way into the health care system because this government has just cut $80 million out of the health care system. That's not administration and that's not fat, what has been cut are the basic health care providers, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, others doing this kind of work.

[3:45 p.m.]

The same is true in education. We have had a whole steady stream of health care people and people from the education field coming to see us. One of the groups, Mr. Speaker, that we have heard a fair amount from in the education field are parents who have children with particular needs, with special needs. These children are being completely forgotten about

[Page 5816]

by this government. There are no provisions for taking care of their interests and their needs in this bill or in the budget that was forced through last Friday, none whatsoever.

You have to wonder, Mr. Speaker, about that approach. These kids and their parents, they are Nova Scotians too, they are Canadians, they are subject to certain guarantees, certain rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights. They have a right to a basic standard of education, just like any other child and because they have a special need, a particular disability, doesn't mean that they shouldn't have access and they shouldn't be included in the education system. This government certainly hasn't attended to their needs very well in looking at this bill.

The other group that has been totally left out of this government's agenda in terms of attending to what it is that these people require as Nova Scotians are people who are poor. What this government is doing is attacking the poor, not poverty. Last year, Mr. Speaker, members of this House, with the former government, went around the province on the Standing Committee on Community Services and we heard from a great number of Nova Scotians. We went to Sydney, Yarmouth, Kentville, Truro, Port Hawkesbury, Guysborough, here in Halifax, Bridgewater and Preston. We had hundreds of submissions from clergy, from people in the field of social work, from family practitioners, from non-profit organizations and voluntary sector organizations. We had a whole variety of recommendations about how to address and attack poverty head on to improve the lives of the people who are poor in this province.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, it is a number that is growing. It is not a number that is declining; it is a number that is growing. Not only does Bill No. 46 do nothing to address poverty and assist in the decrease of poverty, this bill will directly contribute to an increase in poverty and the numbers of people living in poverty in our province. Shame on the government for not having any vision, any ideas, any solutions or any political will to attempt to deal with what is a growing and unacceptable problem in our province.

The way to attack poverty, Mr. Speaker, is not to attack the poor. That has to be the very fundamental basis on which one would develop an approach to dealing with poverty. To take from people who are on social assistance, the $18 a month they get for transportation allowance, is a crime. It is an absolute crime to do something like that. To take the $24 people get monthly for what is called a household allowance is unbelievable. Let's be honest about how people really use that $24 or that $18. People quite often didn't use these things for household items. They used it for food. They used it for their basic food, or they used it to pay for their electricity. That is how those monies were used, because in the areas of food we weren't providing enough. Not even close to what an adequate nutritional diet would require.

[Page 5817]

I have a constituent in my riding who, for many years, worked for The Daily News. She is a hard-working Newfoundlander who prided herself on her work ethic. She was in a serious automobile accident when she was on holiday some years ago in the U.S. She sustained an injury that has left her unable to stand for any period of time. She has a difficult time walking. She is in chronic pain all the time. The result of that accident meant that she had to leave the labour force, apply to Canada Pension as a person with a permanent disability, and she receives from the Canada Pension Plan less than $500 a month. In addition to what she receives from Canada Pension, she gets a small income supplement from the Department of Community Services. I think she gets about $130 a month from the Department of Community Services. Her monthly income is about $700 a month. Out of that she has to pay for her housing accommodation which is more than $400 a month. She has electric heat and lights. She has a telephone. She is a single person with a disability, she feels she needs to have a telephone. At the end of the month she is left with almost nothing to get food with.

She and I were talking last week. She said that until she got into the situation where she needed social assistance, she would never have believed how small and how mean the rates were, the amount of money that we provide to people for their basic needs. She said she would never have imagined that, that she had this idea that there must be all kinds of money provided to people. She said that now she is making it her sort of mission in life to educate people she comes into contact with about the reality of the social assistance system, about how small the amount of benefits actually are that people receive and how one is made to feel for having to accept social assistance. She told me she is in a church group over at St. Theresa's Church I think, here in Halifax, and she was saying that the group had invited someone from the minister's office to come and tell them about the proposed changes to the social assistance rates and that other members of her congregation who were at this meeting were quite horrified at what it was that was being proposed.

She said that in some ways she felt that the Premier saying that members of the Opposition had to ferret out what the changes were that his government was making was a very disrespectful position for our Premier to take. She was very disappointed in Premier Hamm because he wrote to her, personally, during the summer election when she wrote him to express her concern about how poor the social assistance rates were and he wrote her back and said, yes, you are right, and that is something we are very concerned about and it is something that we are going to look at. She felt betrayed. She felt totally betrayed because she had this letter from the Premier that she felt indicated to her that this would be a government and this would be a Premier who would not abandon her to living in abject poverty and now she is learning that not only was there never any plan to improve the situation but, in fact, the plan appears to be to even make the situation worse.

Mr. Speaker, it is small wonder that many Nova Scotians are feeling betrayed. They are feeling betrayed by our Premier, by our Finance Minister. They are feeling that Bill No. 46 is taking a province that people really cared about, with programs that they want to see maintained and improved, and it is dashing those hopes entirely.

[Page 5818]

I know my time is drawing close to an end so in the last few moments I have, I would like to say that it is really not too late for this government to back off in some of their misdirected plans. We saw that they backed down substantially around what their plan was in education when the school boards were able to indicate to the Minister of Education the absolute devastation that those plans would have on education throughout the province. When people came here to Province House and they jammed the Premier's fax machine and they sent the e-mails until his e-mail was full. We know that worked, that another look was taken, that money was found in some slush fund someplace that, incidentally, isn't reflected in the Financial Measures (2000) Bill. It is never too late and people shouldn't feel that they should give up. Thank you.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. This bill has 98 pages, and has 20 different sections, from Alcohol and Gaming Authority to Workers' Compensation Act. We have the Assessment Act, the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission, the Income Tax Act, Provincial Finance Act, Government Accountability, Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act, and there is a lot more.

The government should have introduced 20 individual bills rather than throwing all of these together in one piece of legislation. There is a lot of information in Bill No. 46. Maybe this Tory Government has a reason why they have tabled this bill this way. This government is hiding the facts and they are not telling the truth to Nova Scotians with their budget. This is the Party in the last election that was telling Nova Scotians about being financially accountable and about being open and honest.

Nova Scotians have a right to know and especially those who voted to support this Tory Party in the last election. Maybe this Tory Government doesn't want Nova Scotians to know or they don't care now that they are elected. I am sure the government's own backbench does not know what is in this budget, or what is in this legislation.

No wonder the Premier told us to ferret the information out if people wanted the truth about the budget. Maybe the Premier doesn't know himself what is hidden in this budget or what is in this Bill No. 46. The full impact of this budget is still not known and will probably not be fully understood for some time still.

Last Friday, May 5th, we were forced to vote on a budget that was incomplete and day in, day out was changing while negotiations were underway. Unfortunately, because of the numbers on the government side - they hold the majority of the seats in the House of Assembly - the Tories voted in support of their own budget.

[Page 5819]

This Tory Government should be ashamed of the budget that they brought forward. This government is hiding the facts and they are not telling Nova Scotians the truth. Let's look at Education. The Minister of Education had no idea what her own budget would do to the public education system; she had no clue. Just think if the Minister of Education had consulted with school boards before the budget was drafted. The school board tried, they tried honestly, they tried to tell the Minister of Education that this budget would have a devastating impact on the public education system in Nova Scotia, but she didn't believe them, or she didn't know.

On Tuesday, April 11th, when this Tory Government introduced their budget that was devastating to education in Nova Scotia, the impact of these cuts to the education system this year would have been $53.3 million, if - I say if, Mr. Speaker - the Minister of Finance had not come forward to rescue the Minister of Education with a slush fund, as my honourable colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, so clearly indicated to this House on many occasions. From day one, this government has been very secretive about the size of cuts to education.

Mr. Speaker, the seven school boards across Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and the Association of the Nova Scotia Education Administrators told us that this budget would have a devastating impact on public education in Nova Scotia. I honestly believe that this Tory Government across the floor, that this Minister of Education and especially those backbenchers on the government benches, did not understand what impact this budget cut would have on public education in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Education didn't want to listen to the students. She didn't want to listen to parents. She didn't want to listen to teachers, support staff, home and school associations and everyone else. Everybody was wrong and this Minister of Education and this Tory Government stood alone.

Mr. Speaker, instead of investing in the future of our children, this Tory Government was putting their future on the chopping block. People had to scream, people had to holler that this budget would be devastating to our education system and for close to three weeks, we had people here at Province House who came down daily, time and time again, to bring that message across. You cannot blame students, teachers, support staff, parents and everyone else who joined them across this province to protest these cuts to education.

With all the demonstrations and protests that took place day after day, not just here at Province House but across Nova Scotia, finally, yes it did have an impact. This Tory Government finally backed down. Yes, they caved in. I am glad they did. I honestly believe, and not just myself, but there are many people out there who are glad that finally the government acknowledged what impact this budget would have on public education. So the obvious question here is why this government put themselves through that much hardship. I honestly don't know. I can't speak for government.

[Page 5820]

Mr. Speaker, do you remember before the budget was tabled or even - let's go back to last fall, last winter - before the budget was tabled? The Premier, the Minister of Finance and the members of this Tory Government told us that these cuts were necessary. Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you remember hearing the Premier saying we have to pay our own way; the Minister of Education saying that there was no new money for education, we had to live with the numbers that were tabled here on April 11th.

Well, Mr. Speaker, what happened here? I will tell you what happened here. All of these cuts to education were done without consultation. School boards were not invited before the budget was drafted. The minister said herself she could not meet with the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group, which includes school boards and officials from her department, because the budget process was secret. Well, who from government told the individual to make these cuts in education? I am sure it wasn't the minister herself. It was probably the Minister of Finance. But whoever that individual was didn't care about investing in the future of our children and the Province of Nova Scotia.

So what happens here, Mr. Speaker, is balancing the books of the province on the backs of our children. That is not right. Unfortunately, throughout this whole budget exercise many members on this Tory Government did not understand what a devastating impact this budget would have on public education in Nova Scotia. After the people of Nova Scotia got together to protest these cuts to education, guess what? This Tory Government gave in. Yes, they backed down. The Tories pulled their spin doctors together, and the Minister of Finance came to the rescue with his famous slush fund. That is what happened. So now the doctor is sitting with the school boards to try to resolve this mess they have created in education. Negotiations have been ongoing for the last two and a half weeks with school boards, and we still don't know the outcome of those negotiations. We have heard bits and pieces along the way.

Mr. Speaker, what students went through since April 11th was uncalled for, and it is a shame their education was disrupted. For what? Because in the end, the Minister of Finance came to help. This Tory Government failed to put children first instead of balancing their budget. This provincial debt did not happen overnight, and I hope this government reconsiders its priorities. Let's not be fooled, thinking, now that this government has come up with some new money, there won't be any cuts in education and that these cuts won't be felt directly by our students right across the province. That is not true. We know there are going to be cuts at the end of the day in education, and those cuts will be felt by our students.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the Minister of Education for the last two and a half weeks has been negotiating with the school boards across this province. Unfortunately, as we speak, we still don't know. Does anyone know? Do you know, Mr. Speaker? I am sure this Minister of Education doesn't know herself exactly how these cuts will impact on students, on teachers and on support staff. That is a shame.

[Page 5821]

Let me remind the Minister of Education that her responsibility is to make sure that students in Nova Scotia have access to a good quality education. Let me remind this Tory Government, cuts to education will also make it harder to recruit doctors, nurses and other professionals to Nova Scotia. The quality of the local education system is one of the most important factors when families decide to stay here in Nova Scotia or to relocate.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what about Health? Last week, when my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, questioned the Minister of Health on the possibility of 300 job losses at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, he was told that this was wild exaggeration (Interruptions) Yes, they denied it. The minister said he didn't know how many people would be lost. Last Thursday 418 jobs were cut at the QE II. The Minister of Health was not being honest, because if the Opposition knew, he must have known as well.

Mr. Speaker, again, another embarrassment for this Tory Government. You cannot cut 418 jobs at the QE II and not have it impact on health care. The QE II Health Sciences Centre is a health centre that serves all of Nova Scotia. I know many people from Clare who have come to Halifax, to the QE II, over the years. Where do they stay? I am sure many people from your riding have come up to the QE II as well. Time and time again, people have told me what wonderful care they received while they were there. Now, with this major cut of 418 jobs, I am sure this will have an impact on the service delivery that Nova Scotians will receive. Also, it will have an impact - this major cut of 418 jobs - on the health care providers themselves, mentally as well as physically.

Last Friday, Premier John Hamm called the QE II Health Sciences Centre's plan for 418 staff cuts a positive step forward in health care delivery. Now, maybe I am missing out on something. If he believes that this is a positive step toward health care delivery, I am sure many Nova Scotians will have a difficult time agreeing with the Premier. If this Tory Government, this Minister of Health is willing to do this to the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the rest of the province should look out.

Mr. Speaker, the western region, from Kentville to Bridgewater, will be cut $12.5 million. What about Lunenburg? What about Shelburne? What about Yarmouth? What about Digby? What about Middleton? What about Kentville? Very few details are known at this time about where the cuts will be made. On Saturday in The Chronicle-Herald, Victor Maddalena, the western health board's CEO, said they would not be making any announcements regarding potential impact or job loss until the plans have been approved by the department. The board must submit its business plan to the Health Department next week.

[Page 5822]

Mr. Speaker, there is a reason Mr. Maddalena indicated this; maybe this Tory Government is waiting for the House of Assembly to adjourn, to rise before any announcements, any cuts are announced in the western region, I don't know. I anticipate that could very well be part of their game plan.

Well, Mr. Speaker, several weeks ago I received a copy of a memo, by accident, from the Minister of Health. I was told this was not true. This rumour has been circulating in Digby County for a number of months already. I will table a copy of this memo. It is dated April 19, 2000, to all departments, from the clinical psych manager: I have been told to inform staff that the Digby General Hospital will be closing its doors at midnight, May 31, 2000.

Now, the minister did actually go on AVR, the Annapolis Valley Radio station, and informed the people down in the Valley and in Digby County that this memo was not true. This rumour had been circulating out there in Digby County long before this memo came out. If it is not true, will this Premier, or the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Finance, or the Minister of Economic Development, guarantee the people of Digby County that the Digby General Hospital will not close? Will they come forward and guarantee the people of Digby County that the Digby General Hospital will not close? I will allow them to do so.

Mr. Speaker, what about the program review? Where is it? The Minister of Health has said that the Health budget was based on the results of the program review. Well, minister, the people of Nova Scotia have the right to see that document. You would think the minister would love to produce this document; if it justifies the cuts that he is making, then why not show it to Nova Scotians so they can see for themselves. What is the minister hiding? What is this entire Tory Government hiding?

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot more in Bill No. 46 than simply finance. In this legislation, the government wants all government business enterprise or government service organizations to have prior approval of all financial transactions. These business enterprises and government service organizations include, to name a few, the seven school boards across this province, community colleges, Collège de l'Acadie, our hospitals, the Farm Loans Board, the Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Fund, the Nova Scotia Arts Council, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and many more. There are about 60 different public agencies, boards and commissions listed in this bill. I agree to a point that the government needs to know what is going on, but you have to allow these public bodies the ability to function efficiently. This is coming from a government that wants to have their finger on every transaction that takes place with these public organizations.

Is this what they want? What does the business community and the individuals who are responsible for running these government enterprises think about this provision? So would this new process with approval of the financial transactions be further delayed? I don't know. Is this a government that takes all its cues from the Halifax Metro Chamber of Commerce? It appears that way.

[Page 5823]

I am curious to know if this government wants private business to come in to provide these services that these government enterprises or government service organizations are now providing. I am curious to find out. Businesses like government enterprises are large complicated organizations. They need to be able to secure a loan, a line of credit or a bond or some other financial note in order to do business. Business does not have the luxury to wait for prior approval if an opportunity exists. It must take it.

This is the way that all business works so unless the Premier wants to privatize all government services and resources, they better remove the shackles from around the hands of the government enterprises. But perhaps that is the reason; the reason the government is moving in this direction is because it plans to privatize most, if not all, government services. I know the government has not done proper consultation with the people of Nova Scotia to determine what they think about privatization. What do the people across Nova Scotia think about privatization? What about the people in rural Nova Scotia? What about the people in Clare? Does the government know what they think? Do they care?

Maybe there is a government agenda here. Maybe this is the Harris-Hamm agenda that is becoming a Klein-Hamm agenda. Perhaps the Premier has an idea to privatize health care, but I certainly hope not. If this government is not looking to privatize everything in sight, then they should allow government enterprise to go about its business.

This legislation is not all that bad. There are parts I don't disagree with. For instance, when a department wants to initiate a new program which was not budgeted for or that money was not allocated for, that program must wait for the next year's budget or the department is going to find the new money in its existing budget. This is a positive step forward in this budgeting process. Departments must be held firm to the money which is budgeted to them. But we must also be cognizant of the fact that things sometimes happen out of control. Things such as natural disasters or other man-made disasters happen and I am glad to see that the minister has recognized these occurrences in this legislation as the Liberals did.

Let me talk a little bit about Emergency 911. The Tories are reintroducing the user fee they floated in the fall in Part IV of this bill. During the debate on this amendment - and I am not planning on going into detail at this time - as you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition was successful in getting the government to remove this clause from their 911 bill last fall. At that time, the Minister of Health said, just because the provision is there doesn't mean the government will use it.

Obviously the minister was trying to mislead Nova Scotians. Here we are, less than six months later and guess what? The government has announced this user fee again. Who has the government consulted on this user fee? It is our understanding that MTT was not consulted until this was a done deal. Is this John Hamm's open and accountable government? Does it not seem strange that the company that would be putting this charge on their monthly

[Page 5824]

bills did not have some say in this process? This, again, shows the arrogance of this government.

[4:30 p.m.]

They have their agenda and they do not need to consult with anyone it appears, Mr. Speaker, now that the election is over. Here they are elected for the next four or five years. We have seen their famous blue book along the election trail, but it seems that blue book has been revised because nowhere in that book do I recall seeing major cuts to public education in Nova Scotia or major cuts to health, major cuts in agriculture.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is right.

MR. GAUDET: That is right. So, again, Mr. Speaker, this government has their agenda and they do not need to consult with anyone. They could not consult with MTT beforehand because they, themselves, had no idea that they were going to introduce this before they did. Nova Scotians have concerns on this new tax that this Tory Government is introducing in this bill. The Tories are calling it a user fee. Well, Nova Scotians cannot see the difference between this new tax or this new user fee. Nova Scotians were not paying it before, but once this bill is passed by this Tory Government, they will have to pay it. So we have gone from a user fee and I guess not calling it a tax.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have concerns. Once this user fee is passed, and I anticipate it will be, the government benches have the majority of the seats in the House of Assembly, so it is only a question of time as to when this bill will actually go through this House. Will the rate remain the same next year or the year after? Is this user fee charged on every household? Is this user fee charged on every telephone that you have in your home? Is this user fee charged on car phones? Will Nova Scotians have to pay this user fee on cellular phones? I don't know. Do you know, Mr. Speaker? (Interruptions) We have a very good, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let me talk a little bit about the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission. Part VII of this bill deals with the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission, and here is another example of the Tories treating long-serving Nova Scotians with contempt and disrespect. Many of the employees of the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission were long-serving people in the twilight of their professional careers. This government has provided no early retirement packages for employees, has not offered any initiative for bridging the workers' remaining few years to retirement. We know that the government wants to control spending, but at what cost?

Nova Scotians expect that their government will act with a certain amount of compassion for people but not to treat people like a faceless commodity which can be used and then discarded like yesterday's newspaper, and that is a shame.

[Page 5825]

If this is John Hamm's sense of compassion and fairness, then Nova Scotia just became a whole lot colder place to live and raise a family, Mr. Speaker. This government is prepared to approve a budget for the Port Development Authority for the year 2000-01, which is something that the government must do in order to properly wind down the Authority's operation.

The government is also saying that any surplus which may exist from this budget will be divided between the province and HRM - the Halifax Regional Municipality. So why will the government not commit to putting any surplus which may remain from the Authority's budget towards early retirement packages for the employees? Why is the Premier so opposed to giving these employees, who are so close to retirement, assistance in attaining the retirement they deserve? Why would the Premier not allow these employees to retire with dignity, instead of ignoring them, Mr. Speaker?

Part 9 of the bill deals with the Income Tax Act. The changes being made to this Income Tax Act are going to mean a very complicated procedure for Nova Scotians. We are going to be left with a double tax system, Mr. Speaker. Instead of becoming more competitive with other Maritime Provinces, we are becoming less competitive. Has the minister done a cost-benefit analysis on this dual system? What new costs is the province going to have to endure? What about bracket creep? The Premier says they can do nothing about it because that would be a tax break and we cannot afford a tax break.

This is not a tax break, Mr. Speaker, this is simply being fair; this is about being fair to Nova Scotians. The Minister of Finance says this is going to be revenue neutral. It is not. Nova Scotians are going to end up paying more this year, even more in the following years. So if the Tories ever do get around to giving Nova Scotians a tax break, they would be doing it with the extra money people have been paying, thanks to this coupling.

Mr. Speaker, what about the economy in Nova Scotia? The announcement made by Sears last week is an indication that the business community has realized what the Opposition has been fearing since the Tories came to power. The Tories are going to return us to the economy of old, the economy of Buchanan and Cameron, the economy where companies like Stora and Michelin are wondering whether or not they are going to remain in Nova Scotia. Well, Sears has made their decision and they have decided to leave.

It is not just businesses that are leaving. For example, housing starts in Nova Scotia are alarming - 200 housing starts in April of this year. That is 20 per cent lower than this time last year, Mr. Speaker. Of those 200 homes, 195 were here in Halifax, leaving only 5 in all of rural Nova Scotia for the month of April.

Mr. Speaker, this government is abandoning rural Nova Scotia and the people know it. Since January of this year, there have been only 733 housing starts. Of that, only 41 were outside of Halifax. The people know this government has no vision for growing Nova

[Page 5826]

Scotia's economy and the people are getting out while they can. This is going to be a sad legacy for this government when the only economy in Nova Scotia will be the economy right here in metro Halifax. I am sure that will please the Metro Halifax Chamber of Commerce (Interruption) Mr. Coolican, Mr. Thompson, supporters of this Tory Government.

They don't care about rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and neither does this Tory Government. If they did, they would make a concentrated effort to invest in rural Nova Scotia. They would not present the sorry excuse for an economic plan that the Minister of Economic Development presented to Nova Scotians in this House just last week; more plans. I am afraid of the legacy this government is going to have on rural Nova Scotia and the government backbenchers had better start representing rural Nova Scotia or else they will have the dubious honour of only sitting here for one term, one term government backbenchers. A lot of them are from rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of very good initiatives within this Financial Measures (2000) Bill, but there are many more that worry me. We have heard this government speak quite a bit about financial accountability and open and honest government. This government has told Nova Scotians about that uphill struggle they are facing and how the cuts they are imposing are absolutely necessary. Well, with all the backdown that has gone on so far, Nova Scotians have lost faith in this bunch across the floor here, this Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, in Bill No. 46, Part II, the Assessment Act, with regard to the assessment aspect of this bill, I would like to know what consultation was done with municipalities? Maybe the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs is aware of exactly what consultation did take place. Did the municipalities agree with this downloading? I don't think so. Did they agree that at every opportunity they would be there to shoulder the brunt of this government's downloading? I don't think so. I have a hard time believing they agreed to this.

The obvious question here, Mr. Speaker, is what are going to be the real costs to municipalities across Nova Scotia? What happened to this government's promise not to download onto the municipalities? How soon do we forget. Who is going to be responsible for doing this work? Who is going to be responsible for training and upgrading the assessors? If there are appeals, who will hear these appeals and where?

Mr. Speaker, since this Tory Party was elected last July, this Premier and this Tory Government's credibility has been seriously damaged. Yes, this government's reputation has certainly suffered in the last several months. Nova Scotians don't trust them any more. On the weekend I was home and attended several public gatherings. This has been on everyone's mind, what has been happening in education and now, what is going to happen in health.

[Page 5827]

[4:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Run into any Tories?

MR. GAUDET: No, actually I didn't see too many Tories. No, that is not correct, Mr. Speaker. I did come across a few of them. But they had something interesting to tell me. Even they acknowledged that what this Tory Government is doing is wrong. I can honestly tell you there are Tories out there, I am not just talking about Liberals and people that did not support this Party in this last election, but their very own members out there, their own support. I can tell you, if there was an election tomorrow, numbers may end up to be different on election night.

Mr. Speaker, this is the government that cut last fall $2.5 million from charities. This is the same government that revoked a nursing home licence from the Sisters of Charity. Remember last fall when they cut the funding to allow people with disabilities to gain access to public building? The honourable member for Halifax Fairview remembers. Guess what? Last week, again, they caved in to public pressure.

The Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, and I thank him, found that new funding. Yes, the Minister of Finance probably provided that new funding to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs to make that announcement. Yes, I thank, personally, the Minister of Finance for allowing that program to be brought back to the surface, because I know last fall there were lots that people had to say about that program having been cut.

Mr. Speaker, this flip-flop reminds me of exactly what has happened in education just a few short weeks ago. It is really hard to follow what has been happening in education. I remember back on March 29th, asking the Minister of Education if there was going to be any teacher cuts in this province, and I was told at that time, no, this budget was not going to have an impact on teachers. There were not going to be any teachers cut.

Well, a few weeks after that, when the budget was tabled on April 11th, we found out that 400 were going to be reduced through retirement and attrition. Lo and behold, the minister found out shortly after the budget was tabled that only 88 teachers were actually going to retire this year. Then the minister and her deputy minister brought forward some retirement options here for teachers to consider in order to make the difference.

Well, I have had the opportunity to talk to many teachers in Clare about these options. Let me tell you, they were not impressed with these options. I hope some day the Minister of Education will be able to inform this House exactly how many teachers across Nova Scotia took her offer. I would be curious to find out exactly how many teachers bought into this special package.

[Page 5828]

Mr. Speaker, next September there will be less teachers in our schools, but I can tell you, parents and students across this province don't understand the difference between a part-time term teacher or a full-time term teacher, or the difference between a probationary I teacher or a probationary II teacher, or a permanent teacher. I hope the minister will be able to provide us with the real numbers. How many teachers will not be back next September working with students across this province? As we speak, department officials working with school boards are trying to find more money, reshuffling the numbers, so I still don't know, and I don't think anyone knows what exactly the cuts in education will look like come next September.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen all this chaos going on in education in the last several weeks. We have seen this government increasing Pharmacare costs to seniors across this province, and I can tell you I have had the opportunity to talk with many seniors in Clare, and I haven't seen one yet who approved of this move. We are now seeing major cuts in health care, in agriculture, and throughout other government departments. This Tory Government seriously needs to get its act together. One minute they are telling Nova Scotians we need to pay our own way, we need to make these cuts, and then they turn around and do just the opposite. They backtrack; they give in to public pressure. Yes, they caved in. I am wondering, and all Nova Scotians are wondering, how they are going to react this time on the cuts that they are now proposing to make in health care across Nova Scotia.

With those few words, I will take my place, and I will be voting against this bill. I hope that members across the floor will certainly reconsider when the vote comes up and maybe some of those individuals will do the honourable thing and vote against this Bill No. 46. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place this afternoon to bring to your attention, and to members present, some concerns of which hopefully members opposite will be listening. After all, the give and take of debate in this House, the to and fro of ideas is what we were elected for. So this afternoon, hopefully members opposite will take the opportunity to listen to a few points of view - and I encourage them, at any time, if they wish to rise in their place and express their points of view on this bill - and the fact that it does, as we have suggested before at an earlier time, need further thought.

Let's move on from that. Mr. Speaker, I have a confession to make to you publicly. You know I had to go to jail this weekend. I spent a disproportionate amount of time in jail this weekend but it is something I am quite proud of, the fact that I was put in jail by a number of students - I knew there was a hook - at the Beachville-Lakeside-Timberlea School Spring Fair. While I was in jail, I want you to know that a few of the inmates, my fellow inmates, parents in particular, who did hard time with me for those 18 minutes they were there - I mean, what we do for fund-raising - during that time in the B-L-T's Spring Fair jail,

[Page 5829]

the number of notes that were handed through the door and through the bars, and I have one here with me and I will table it for you and for the interest of the House.

This is actually a letter that I am supposed to deliver here today, so this note that came through the bars says - and it goes to the Honourable Jane Purves, incidentally - please explain how you can justify decreasing funding to this school board when in all other provinces in Canada children receive considerably more education funding. If the Page could, I would like to have that delivered from the B-L-T's Spring Fair jail, if you could table it there.

Mr. Speaker, it was a busy weekend for me. I don't know about yourself but I know I have been talking to members of the Parties on this side and we had a very instructive weekend because it was during the various things that I was fortunate enough to attend in my community, after my 18 minutes, incidentally, when I went out and then took place in the hockey shoot-athon, which I didn't win, I was approached by a young person who was running this as a fund-raiser for the B-L-T's Spring Fair. That young man had one question, it was pretty simple, it was not what a bad shot I was in hockey, but how come his teaching assistant, his program assistant, would not be at that school next year?

Mr. Speaker, I didn't solicit that comment; he knew, aside from the fact that I had my Boston Bruins shirt on, that I was his MLA and I guess Estabrooks across the back says ah, this is the guy I should be talking to. What does he want to talk about? This young kid, in Grade 5, wants to talk about why he and his school are not going to have a program assistant next year. In the middle of all the fun and excitement of a spring fair, this young man brings this up. In the middle of the 18 minutes I spent in jail, I sat there and listened to my fellow inmates and parents as they expressed to me their concerns about what was happening at their wonderful school. It was a phenomenal turnout, I want to assure you. The number of people who approached me during that busy afternoon about these concerns, the number of people and these concerns are reflective of the fact that Nova Scotians want to be listened to.

That evening, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to attend a community fund-raiser which was put on through an auction and dance. My wife and I were there, Mr. Speaker, and I know you don't want to talk business all the time, but I had an employee from the Department of Transportation and Public Works approach me. He said to me, you know, Bill, this isn't the right time to talk about it, and of course he wanted to buy me an adult refreshment of my choice at that particular event. I want you to know what he said to me, come next week he might not be able to afford to buy his MLA that refreshment of his choice. The Public Works employee is concerned about whether he is being listened to by us, as MLAs, or by that government opposite.

[Page 5830]

That particular Public Works official has a question; if privatization is so good, then show us the proof. If this is a government that said they were going to be open, they were going to be transparent, then show us that, show us the proof that this will work in the Department of Transportation and Public Works in this province.

[5:00 p.m.]

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, to round off my Saturday evening I took the opportunity to attend an awards banquet where a number of prominent citizens in the community that I represent were recognized. It was that evening, as my wife and I finished off the commitments in Timberlea-Prospect, when a tourist operator from the Peggy's Cove Road, who was in attendance, brought up a concern that I have addressed in this House before with the Minister of Tourism, a concern that revolves around the cuts to the Peggy's Cove rock patrol. I know that is one small issue, but for the people who are operating tourist facilities, which Peggy's Cove is a magnet in our community, it is really in the middle of the social events that I had the opportunity to attend this weekend, whether it is the young man at the hockey shoot-out, whether it is at the award's evening or whether it is during the 18 minutes that I spent in jail, 18 minutes and they let me out, just like that. I wonder if members opposite are also being approached in the same way with concerns from young people, from tourist operators, from Public Works employees?

So on Sunday, Mr. Speaker, if I can jump to the next day, I had the opportunity to go out and tour the Rails to Trails facility in my community. It was during that tour of the Rails to Trails that I had the chance to run into a number of volunteers who were out working on the Rails to Trails section which is attached to Lewis Lake, over towards Tantallon Junior High. During that afternoon, the volunteers had a question to put to me. The question is, just how much volunteer help does this government expect? Do volunteers have to patrol the rocks of Peggy's Cove? Do volunteers have to do the crosswalks in the community? Do volunteers have to take over the junior high school libraries in this community?

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are famous for their volunteering. However, the concern always comes down that Nova Scotians expect a minimum level of service, a minimum level of service which they should be guaranteed, a minimum level of service reflective of the taxes that they pay, reflective of what they expect in their community. It concerns me that volunteers are now being counted on more and more. My good friend, the member for Dartmouth North, when a member opposite stands in his place and does a resolution congratulating a volunteer in his or her community, often says - and I hope members opposite hear him - congratulate them, because you will need more of them. You will need more and more volunteers to guarantee the services which have been provided in the past by employees in our government services.

[Page 5831]

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to you that a volunteer can only do so much. So how does a Lions Club member feel? On Sunday afternoon, he is out giving his time on the Rails to Trails project. But when a Lions Club member goes to his Lions meeting this Thursday night and he gets a letter from the principal of the elementary school, which says that we need certain equipment, materials and books for our resource centre in that school, Lions Club members say - and there is no greater organization for volunteering in this world, I say to you, than Lions, and I don't mean to offend other service clubs, but the motto is we serve - what do you mean? The money that we collect in this community through fund-raising, we have to give to the schools for books?

The question comes back to volunteer organizations when they say, well, what does the government provide anymore? That principal has to turn to our Lions Club. That principal has to make sure that when it comes down to providing basic services for his students in his resource centre at Tantallon Elementary School, principal Doug Pickup has to turn to the local Lions Club because there is not a minimum level of service being guaranteed in that school. There are cuts and there are cuts, but when it affects children's education and textbooks, why should a volunteer service club be expected to pick that up?

Mr. Speaker, the question that I want to ask is the same question that the people who I met this weekend, who I had the opportunity to listen to this weekend, they asked me whether it is the gentleman in jail - they let me out after 18 minutes, I want my friend, the member for Dartmouth North, to remember - whether it is the young guy who is at the fund-raiser, whether it is the Public Works employee, or whether it is the tourist operator, the question they asked, is anybody listening, Bill, is anybody listening? After all who is driving this Tory agenda?

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get overtly political in the middle of some of the discussions that we are having here today, but Nova Scotians don't believe that MLAs on that side of the House are listening to their concerns. So it is important for me, as the MLA who sits on this side, to point out that average Nova Scotians believe, as my good friend, the member for Halifax Fairview, often says, that those members over there are disingenuous with Nova Scotians. That term - disingenuous - can be reflected in many ways, but are Nova Scotians getting the straight goods from this government? This is the government that when they went out this summer and knocked on doors and asked for votes, they were going to be open. They were going to be transparent. They were going to listen.

Mr. Speaker, the people who have been outside on the streets of this Legislature over the last couple of weeks don't believe one of those words today and the good member for Halifax Fairview puts it quite correctly that there has after all been a disingenuous attitude at times in this House. The Minister of Finance, when he sat on this side, was a gentleman and a member of this House who I respected and listened to. He had, after all, experience in this House and as a veteran, he was someone who I know at times we could turn to for advice and we could make sure that we had his ear when it came to how things were going.

[Page 5832]

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to a few comments that the good Minister of Finance, the member for Argyle, made during his Budget Address where he said, in the Conclusion on Page 32, "It's about honestly and openly reporting to all Nova Scotians on where we started and where we are headed." Those are words in this book, I highlighted them at that time as I listened to the good member for Argyle, the Minister of Finance; those are great words. But let's find this out here, where we started and where we are headed, I don't think at any time since this House reconvened on March 27th there has been any clarity given to where we are headed.

If I could, Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to Page 21 of this address. There is a section of this, I wish I could speak it in French as that member did at that time. He says, and this is an issue which is of some concern. Page 21, the translation says, "During the election campaign, before being elected, we were open and frank with the people of Nova Scotia. We told them what we intended to do." I cannot disagree with a word of that although the part in French I am sure would have been more interesting to read. When the member opposite was speaking that time in French, I highlighted my English part, "We promised that we would free taxpayers of the cost of providing those services that could more effectively, or more efficiently, be provided by others."

Mr. Speaker, that last paragraph says to me that there is the agenda buried deep within the budget where it says, again, " . . . providing those services that could more effectively, or more efficiently, be provided by others." That is the question. Nova Scotians want to know, where is the proof? Where is the proof? Privatization is the great Mecca that we are all headed towards. Prove to us that privatization of services, that extra fees, that user fees are what Nova Scotians want. That proof has not been provided and it is because of that that the Financial Measures (2000) Bill, in particular, should be opposed. It should be opposed because there are not within it the details that are important enough for us to decide.

I want to turn, if I may, to a wonderful phrase in this address, it is on Page 22. We are going to talk about the right sizing of government - not the left sizing, not the correct sizing, certainly not downsizing; somebody out there in buzzword land decided the Minister of Finance should return to a slogan of right sizing.

Mr. Speaker, what is the right size for the Public Service? More importantly, what is the right size for such wonderful things that operate efficiently in this province like Digby Pines, Keltic Lodge, Liscombe Lodge or, of course, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. What is the right size; downsizing, right sizing, correct sizing, that is what Nova Scotians want to know about.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue because I want to turn to another section which is of some concern to us as members opposite. I am on Page 29, if you are following along of the Budget Address. The Impact on the Public Service - here is the key part - Fair Treatment of Employees. Now, the Minister of Finance, the good member for Argyle, spoke

[Page 5833]

those words, fair treatment of employees. Does that member understand the lack of morale, the concerns in the Department of Transportation and Public Works? Does he understand the frustrations of Public Service workers in all segments, whether it is in education, health care, or the Department of Natural Resources - fair treatment of employees. My question is, come clean, where are the plans?

The member for Argyle said, " . . . there is no ignoring the fact that with a smaller, more focused government we need fewer people." Yes, he says, Mr. Speaker, there will be lay-offs. My concern again comes down to, Nova Scotians want to know the clean goods. They want to know what the plans of this government are. This is a peekaboo government when it comes to making those tough decisions. I heard the member for Argyle say that he was going to show leadership, that he was going to be open, that he was going to treat these workers fairly. That has not been the case.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the other day when my good friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, was speaking, he referred to the ferret website - http://www.ndp.ferret, and how many hits had been at this ferret site. I want you to know there have been over 2,000 hits at this ferret site from Nova Scotians. Now aside from the fact that I know we have all made enough political hay of the ferrets and all the other stuff that happens when the cameras begin to roll, that with 2,000 Nova Scotians wanting to know some of the details that the NDP researchers and MLAs have found out, that says to me, well, we have to ferret it out, as opposed to what the Minister of Finance so eloquently said that day, a number of weeks ago, there is a big difference between fair treatment and having to rely upon this sort of information to get the absolute goods on what Nova Scotians are headed for in the future.

Mr. Speaker, the intimidation of public workers in the service industries is a tremendous concern. You have heard me speak, and I will tell you again, highway workers are concerned about their future. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works knows well, as did his previous Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who, when he was a member of this House and he was the MLA for Shelburne, stood in this House and congratulated these workers on the great jobs they did. I know that that minister, the current member for Hants West, that he feels that way too, because in his area there are great men and women out there providing a quality service. So are we coming clean with these members and these people who work in the Public Service in Transportation and saying to them, oh, we are going to have to privatize some of this; we have four proposed sites, we are looking at the fact that up to 30 per cent of the services provided by Transportation and Public Works are going to be privatized, are going to be put out to tender.

[5:15 p.m.]

The question these men and women ask is which ones. Tell us how we can be involved. After all, there is a committee, it is called the alternate services review committee, I believe, and the men and women who are employed with the Transportation and Public

[Page 5834]

Works Department, Mr. Speaker, want to be part of that committee. Guess what? The answer is, well, we don't know what the answer is yet. They have written, they have asked for a response. We have brought it up a number of times but the very people in the Transportation Department who will be most affected, these workers who have provided quality service for years, they are not going to be part of this alternative service review committee.

I say that is shameful. There is no excuse for that particular response. After all, if you are not part of the problem then you are part of the solution. It seems to me that these workers have the right, they have the privilege to be consulted on this matter. Is this the same sort of literature, is this the same sort of approach where we turn to Page 29 in the Budget Address and we hear, impact on Public Service, fair treatment of employees? I say not. Either the Minister of Finance is talking out of one side of his mouth and the Minister of Transportation is talking out of the other side of his mouth, because that committee, if those workers are going to be treated fairly, they should be part of this review system. They should be part of what, after all, they have a stake in, their job, their opportunity to be tax-paying Nova Scotians and make a contribution to the services of this province.

Now if we go from the intimidation of highway workers, I think we should turn to a couple of other things that are of some consequence to us today, Mr. Speaker. You know, the word deficit is a word that, after all, as Nova Scotians, and the problem of the issue of the deficit, we are all concerned about. But I truly believe that there is a deficit hysteria, this hysterical response to the fact that the deficit must be solved immediately and that this again must be put on the backs of Nova Scotians; the very same people who under earlier governments were told they had to buckle down, they had to face these cuts, they had to do what is best for Nova Scotians.

Well, here we go again. Deficit hysteria is all around us. It seems to me, and if I may I would like to refer to, A Better Way, Putting the Nova Scotia Deficit in Perspective. There is a section in this, and it comes from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and I think members opposite should perhaps listen to it. I know they wouldn't dare be caught with one of these in their hands, right? The socialist hordes are at your door if you read this stuff. The bogeyman will be there, you will never be able to sleep that night if you read A Better Way, Putting the Nova Scotia Deficit in Perspective.

Here we go. Nova Scotia, it says, is once again in the grip of deficit hysteria. Did we not just go through a decade of cuts? Were we not told less than a year ago that the provincial accounts were in a surplus position? These are serious issues and the public would benefit - and here is the key thing - from a calmer, more reasoned consideration of the issues. Such analysis is essential. Nova Scotians would benefit from having their input on whether the deficit has to be solved with such rapid solutions.

[Page 5835]

Mr. Speaker, there are seniors, there are young people, I have heard the Minister of Education at one time say this is a good experience because young people are getting involved, parents are becoming more involved, seniors are out there petitioning, people are concerned; it is a healthy experience. Yes, the involvement of democracy and the response that this budget and that this Financial Measures (2000) Bill has brought forward is a healthy response, but it is not a positive one, it is negative. It has created a lot of chaos, a lot of unfortunate bad feelings and Nova Scotians, I am sure, have made their views known to members opposite.

Is that the way that we should be addressing the deficit issue, to be hysterical to the degree that Nova Scotians will respond in such a negative way? Nova Scotians want to be consulted. They have points of view to address and I want to bring some of them up here today. I can't use some of their names because of course they are concerned about the fact they are losing their jobs. On Friday, a certain name came to the House floor and it became public knowledge that this outstanding young woman who had 23 years in the nursing business and who, coincidentally, used to be a student of mine - and I know if you do the math, you would realize I was a first year teacher at the time - but this young woman has lost her job.

She is a nurse manager, I believe that is the term. When a past student calls me and I recognize the name, I get back to them about the concerns that they have, as you do with all constituents. Do you know what a nurse manager does? This young woman told me this way in terms that her old teacher could understand, a nurse manager is being like a vice-principal in a school.

I don't know if you remember your school days, Mr. Speaker, but a vice-principal could go in when a teacher was late or a teacher was ill or a teacher had to leave early for some reason, the vice-principal goes in there and takes the class, covers until such time as whatever is going to happen that day will be taken care of. The vice-principal in the schools that I worked in always taught a couple of classes. So this particular young woman tells me that she is, in her position which is a nurse manager, like a vice-principal in a school, but she has been told she has lost her job because she is an administrator.

An administrator, Mr. Speaker? An administrator with me in my school experience is somebody who doesn't deal with the students. An administrator is somebody who sits in their nice, plush office over there where the old Dartmouth City Hall is, that is an administrator in the Halifax Regional School Board. I do know that Stella Campbell has some tough decisions to make along that line, but when you tell somebody who is a nurse manager with 23 years experience that she is an administrator and she can be cut, do you know that the nurses who work on that unit - there were tears - were upset.

[Page 5836]

There were calls to MLAs, they want to explain to MLAs and they want to explain to the decision makers exactly what a nurse manager does. A nurse manager deals with patients, deals with concerns in the hospital, just like I when I was a vice-principal or a principal dealt with concerns in my school. I am an administrator so are they going to make cuts in the school system and get rid of all the vice-principals?

That would not be well received by parents, kids, teachers. So suddenly, we have nurse managers, I believe 12 of them on Thursday morning, pink slips, out the door. Is that the term we are allowed to use now? Then, of course, they have to agree that they can't talk to the media, that they can't go public with certain things. I haven't used that student's name. Many people know who she is though and many Nova Scotians are concerned about the fact that that nurse manager alone says that the cuts that are being made in health care are not wise cuts.

They are cuts that after all, when you can affect health care by getting rid of that one particular outstanding nurse; a month before, she received a glowing report on what a wonderful job she was doing. She was recommended to go on for her Masters program. That particular unit received letters of accommodation and recognition for the excellent job they did in that hospital, and then those 50 nurses are so angry and so concerned and so upset that their nurse manager has lost her job.

Mr. Speaker, is that the sort of response that the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health and members opposite want? If you are going to effect cuts, and they still say that in some of the systems, whether it is in health care or education or agriculture, that there is a better way and better way we can get a better bang for our buck, then let's consult the people involved. Let's consult the nurse managers. Let's consult the people who are involved in the school system or are involved in the Christmas tree industry. Let's consult them. Many of those Nova Scotians do not believe that they have been listened to.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go to another nurse, if I may. I have an e-mail here from her. She would prefer that I not table it, because of course, there she is, and maybe I shouldn't refer to it very long. She says as it stands now, I do have a job, but time can only tell, and more cuts are coming within the month in my specialty area. This particular nurse is concerned about safety. She explained to me in a follow-up phone conversation, the number of patients and beds that she is now responsible for.

Mr. Speaker, if you have spent any time in hospitals at all, you know that this is after all a position that we all take for granted until we are ill. The very people who are on the front line in health care are these nurses. These nurses are stressed out. They are sick. They are physically sick because of the pressure they are being put under. The morale among some nurses is as low as it has ever been, I have been told by constituents of mine. These people chose to be nurses; they chose to offer the wonderful services that they have been trained for. Yet they constantly face these cuts.

[Page 5837]

Now, we can get very political and find out what the average nurse makes, as opposed to what the average deputy minister or consultant from out of town makes. It seems to me that if we are going to deal with administrative cuts, we do not deal with people who have that nursing degree, who are RNs or LPNs. Those are the people who we have to keep. The people who are the so-called administrators and who make their $100,000-plus a year, they could be running - the Lunenburg West member aside - a chicken farm, they could be running a hospital, or they could be running the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, because they are administrators, their MBA is in their back pocket, their Commerce degree is inside here. They haven't got one idea, one iota about health care. Those are the people that if we are going to continue the address of getting the best bang for our buck, those are the people we should deal with, not a nurse manager or not a nurse, like I have heard from before.

Those health care workers are upset. I saw their shoes out here - I don't know if you did or not - I saw their shoes, and the message they gave us was walk a mile or a kilometre or whatever the expression is today, do one shift in some of those high-pressured jobs, and then you see if you want to face cuts. Nurses have concerns. My concern is that they have not been listened to.

I want to turn to a teaching assistant. A teaching assistant who comes from the riding of the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. That teaching assistant, program assistant - that is the term, it depends where you are - knows of her commitment to the young person who is under her care. That young person has some basic problems educationally but is a wonderful young lady to meet. She is friendly, she is outgoing, and she is going to a bigger school next year. She is leaving her elementary school and she is going to a middle school. That program assistant, that teaching assistant, is not going to be there next year for that young lady when she moves on to that bigger school.

[5:30 p.m.]

That, Mr. Speaker, is something that has not been well received in the community served by the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and is it a coincidence that I hear from that person? Is it a coincidence the member for Timberlea-Prospect responds because maybe somebody else did not? Well, it seems to me that that is the very sort of parent, that is the very sort of young person who the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank should go out of his way to meet. He should go to Hammonds Plains School. He should meet that young person and he should see what that teaching assistant does and has accomplished for that particular person.

While we are in that particular area, hopefully, the member for Bedford-Fall River has heard from the library technician who works at Madeline Symonds. I congratulate the member for getting back to that library technician at Madeline Symonds. Again, Mr. Speaker, I told her, when I rose in this House and had the opportunity to speak on this issue, I would not use her name, but I mean you don't have to do the math very quickly to know that that member

[Page 5838]

knows this person's name. Library technicians, we are now going to have junior high, or middle school libraries, that are going to be run by volunteers. This young woman has had the opportunity over this short school year to set up the library position at Madeline Symonds. She has gone out, she has ordered the books, she has got the software, she has schooled these young kids in the technology that is available, and now with library technicians on the chopping block, with library technicians no longer going to be part of Madeline Symonds middle school, she is not going to have a job. Oh, we will get volunteers. I don't think so.

Young people who come into the classrooms where I used to teach, many of them knew more about the computers that I asked them to turn on and find about Bismark. Many of them knew much more about technology than I did. So now we are going to get mothers and perhaps most of the volunteers during the school day are mothers, we are going to get seniors. We are going to get Lions Club members to come in and run the library at Madeline Symonds? That is the suggestion, Mr. Speaker.

Library technicians are going to no longer have positions. Libraries are still going to be open though and who is going to deliver the service, Mr. Speaker? Libraries are going to be rooms that teachers would come in and unlock and say, okay, we are in the library and you two have to go to this computer and we are going to do this project and where is the library technician? She or he is gone and it seems to me, if I remember the response correctly that this young woman gave me when I was talking to her at Madeline Symonds, that she told me that her MLA said during the next two weeks, and I don't want to quote him directly on it because I don't have it directly, don't worry, in two weeks, you will be happy. That is what she was told. I might be off on the quote, but that was the general hit song of the day. Don't worry, be happy.

Mr. Speaker, I will assure you the member for Bedford-Fall River will hear from this librarian technician at Madeline Symonds School. Madeline Symonds School needs a librarian technician. They need a library that is operating every minute of the day. The other day I was there at 8:45 a.m. I had the opportunity to be there on reading day and at 8:45 a.m., school began there at 9:00 a.m. after all the buses arrived, I mean there were some kids outside shooting hoops, there were some kids outside just hanging around, and there were a number of kids, and I want to say in excess of 20, who were in the library.

Now, can you believe that, Mr. Speaker? You have to believe it because I saw it, not that I during my school days would be in the library, but I want you to know that before school started that day at Madeline Symonds middle school in Hammonds Plains, there were kids in the library and that library technician was busy. She was helping this kid. She was answering questions from this young person. They were getting information and do you know that when the bell went, for them, I think the bell came on and the vice-principal said two minutes to O Canada. Those young people still sat there and she had to go over to one of them, I did not catch her name, and give her a tap on the shoulder and say you better head off to home room. It is going to be O Canada. Oh, I just have to finish this. No, no, no, you don't

[Page 5839]

have time now. That young person wanted to stay and complete that assignment and, of course, she saved the disk and did all the wonderful things of technology and away she went.

Mr. Speaker, libraries have to remain a focal point of our schools. They cannot, at the middle school or the junior high school level be a focal point if there are no qualified, trained individuals in those school. Those people are library technicians. Library technicians must continue to be part of what this education system is all about.

Mr. Speaker, I want to, if I may, refer to a few important, salient facts here that sometimes get neglected. I have a legendary senior in my community. He is from the community of Five Island Lake, and I hear from him all the time. This weekend I didn't hear from him, which is surprising because he usually drops by. This senior has a concern about the added pressure that it being put on him as a long-time taxpayer in this province.

This senior, I am sure, voted Tory, because there is a member opposite that he is duly impressed with, or I should change my sentence structure there, he was duly impressed with. This senior, and I ran into him and knocked on his door during the summer campaign, he told me he was going to vote Tory. He was going to vote Tory because of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. (Applause) The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - and I will join in the applause - I am sitting right in his seat I believe, or is it right there, when the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley sat here, he didn't sit much. He was on his feet all the time. He stood in his place day after day and introduced petitions. What were those petitions about? They were about free fishing licences; free fishing licences that member introduced. He had the seniors in this province on side about the issue that under no circumstances should senior citizens in this province under any possible way have to pay for a fishing licence. That particular person, Harry Beuree from Five Island Lake. That Harry Beuree today would love to have the opportunity to be able to talk and ask a few questions of and make the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley listen to his point of view. As you well know, Mr. Speaker, there ain't no free fishing licences from what I understand and from what Harry Beuree in Five Island Lake understands and the member should be explaining that to seniors across this province.

Seniors are concerned. We have met some of them in this gallery. We have had an opportunity to listen to them. These seniors have paid taxes in this province for years. Now they are in a situation as older residents of our communities where they believe they should be listened to. They should be given the dignity and respect to have their opportunity to express their points of view. I hear from Harry Beuree, and I will assure you of one thing, God bless him, the commitment he gives is, there will be a sign of the proper political persuasion, a black and orange one next time on his lawn in Five Island Lake, and it will not be a Tory one. Mr. Speaker, that commitment I know I can take to the bank and I can count on.

[Page 5840]

I hope that members opposite hear from seniors about the concerns they have, they themselves are concerned about Pharmacare and the increases in co-pay. Now, you can say, well somebody has to foot the bill. That is right, but does it have to be the segment of our population which now is in need of Pharmacare, who have paid taxes for years and years and years, and now we put it on the backs of seniors again. That says to me that that is not the way Nova Scotians in the kinder gentler society that we are famous for in this province, that is not how we treat senior citizens in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn again to an issue that is of concern to paramedics, and that is 911. Now, we remember paramedics. I bet members over there remember them when they jammed that front door. Now there are paramedics that are concerned about the fact, is it truly fair to make Nova Scotians pay a user fee for 911. I say no, that is not the way Nova Scotians, in the kinder gentler society that we are famous for in this country, that we after all are known for, is that how we should sneak the 911 payment in? I thought we had pretty well clarified that issue last fall, but here it has reared its ugly head again.

Mr. Speaker, let's turn to an issue that is of some consequence to the good member for Victoria, and I am sure we will hear from him about this, the nickel-and-dime approach. Oh yes, we have to get this deficit under control. The Englishtown ferry, the fee now goes from $1.75 to $3.00. Is that correct? The fee goes up. Now ferries across this province, that many Nova Scotians take for granted, this fee has to go up because that is the sort of thing that will control the deficit in this province.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at an issue on which many high school students have expressed their concern to me. They are going in for their driver training book that at one time was given out to these young people here. This is an important book. I can tell you, at one time, early in my teaching career, I was teaching a great bunch of young people who were going for a driving lesson. So I went in and I picked up a class set, 30 or 32 copies of the driver training manual, and they were just given to me across the counter.

I took that driver training manual back to my classroom and, for the next week, I probably had the most effective class that I have ever had with those young people, teaching a Grade 12 class, looking at something that was of real consequence and importance to them, the fact that when they went in for their beginner's test, they would know the rules of the road, they would know the details that are included in that driver's training manual. That book is no longer going to be given across the counter; there is no way a teacher can go in now and get a class set. Instead, it is $7.00. Young people are now going to have to pay that, and there are many Nova Scotians who say yes, somebody has to pay for it.

It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that there is a lack of balance with some of the decisions that this government has made, a lack of balance and, more importantly, to go back to this famous clip here, Fair Treatment of Employees, Page 29 of the Budget Address, from the

[Page 5841]

good member for Argyle. Is that fair? Is that the way that we should be treating young people when they have the opportunity to go for their driver's license, they now must pay $7.00?

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, I hear from many people in my constituency and I am proud to say that I am available to them and try to get back to them about their concerns, and I want to share another concern with you at this time. She said I could use her name, so I am going to, and this comes from an active parent in the community of Timberlea. Her name is Susan Doyle. Susan Doyle is a mother, the parent of a young man who goes to the school served by Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea. She faces the situation, a situation that many of us have to ponder these days.

I read the issue of The Daily News the other day - I think it was The Daily News - about a number of prominent people in this province who have made the choice for their children to go to private school. Susan Doyle asks me, as a public school teacher at one time, about the advantages and disadvantages of private schools. I gave her the same answer that I gave Rick Howe here a couple of weeks ago - when the good member for Dartmouth East and myself guested on the CJCH open line show that morning - why more and more people are going to private schools. I can tell you, the answer is very simple: it is student-teacher ratio.

That is the answer. I mean it is not that they are getting a better quality of service because the teachers who are teaching in the private school system have the same degrees, have the same background, the same training as public school teachers. They use the same textbooks; they have the same clean buildings; they get the same good service from the secretary or the principal that they do in the public service. The answer is, private schools have a lower student-teacher ratio, and that is a concern when you have a young person who, perhaps, needs a little bit of special help in, let's say, reading.

Maybe, on the other hand, you look at the fact that a class that has 19 or 20 - and there are classes in the private schools who have that ratio - as opposed to being in a Grade 8 class that has 35 or 36 students. I know members opposite say oh no, there is no school in my area. Come to a growth area such as Timberlea-Prospect, come to an area where they are bulging at the doors, where the portables are out back - two portables at Sir John A. Macdonald this year, two more to come next year. At Tantallon Elementary they are moving back into their portables. Tantallon Junior High continues to have portable classrooms. It is not uncommon in this municipality to have average class sizes in the junior high of 34 and 35.

[5:45 p.m.]

So what do I tell Susan Doyle? Mrs. Doyle, your concern has to come down to the fact, if you can afford it and if you believe that your son would get a better education, then it is your decision about sending him to private school. It is not something that I am proud, as a public school teacher in another career, to have to admit, Mr. Speaker, but there are

[Page 5842]

more and more parents who feel they will get a better quality of service by sending students to private schools.

Now Mrs. Doyle and her husband are going to make that decision based upon the very facts that I, hopefully, presented to them and that they have to consider before they decide whether the public school that they are paying taxes for, the public schools across this province that they pay for out of their taxes, they now have to have an additional fee of how many thousands of dollars, to allow their son, daughter, whoever, to go to a private school situation. Many Nova Scotians are questioning that.

What is wrong with the public school system, Mr. Speaker? There is nothing wrong with the public school system, let's get that straight. Teachers care deeply and they work hard. I, as the nurses said, can assure members opposite you walk a mile in a Grade 8 science teacher's shoes, you will know at the end of the day that you have had a job and had a few challenges during that day.

Now the huge majority of students in the public school system, and I am sure in the private school system, are cooperative, respectful and do still listen to the adults that they are dealing with. I know the members opposite always pay attention when I talk about education because they are beginning to say to themselves, maybe this guy does make some sense once in a while because I don't know if their schools are overcrowded; I don't know if they have some of the concerns that we have with supplementary funding, whether we have concerns about French immersion, some of the concerns that we have parents asking us about, as MLAs. I can assure you that parents, come this September, they are going to be very closely monitoring their school and making sure that they are being listened to.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, I had the opportunity recently to go to Sir John A. Macdonald High School and, at that time, to break the news to the young people there about the opportunity to go away on this Swissair exchange, a wonderful opportunity. I am sure you have been following it, these young people whose parents and relatives and many of them themselves were involved in that Swissair recovery operation and what it meant to the community which I am fortunate enough to serve, and the member for Chester-St. Margarets shares part of that area with me.

In the middle of that positive announcement at Sir John A., a number of young people came up to me about concerns about the teachers and the programs that are at that school, those young people very quickly have developed a political awareness, a conscience. They are aware of the fact that there has to be a minimum level of service for them in their classrooms. Those are the very same people who are going to expect a minimum level of service, whether it on their recreation facilities, whether it is on the Rails to Trails, whether it is in their local arena, that balance is not there. This particular bill is far too heavy-handed. After all, we are talking about a government that is making it up as it goes, a government that would love to get out of this House because of the heat that is going to continue, and not just

[Page 5843]

the physical heat, but when we get toasty in here in July, the heat out on the streels will be even more, and the heat in those constituency offices will be even more because I will tell you, we are going to ferret out these cuts, we are going to hear from Nova Scotians and we are going to continue to bring them to this House.

Mr. Speaker, I heard - and again, I can't use the man's name because, of course, he is concerned about it - I heard from one of the electricians in the local hospital. You say to yourself, an electrician in a hospital, what does an electrician do in a hospital? When he explained to me what he did, I mean you can imagine the tremendous responsibilities that man has. That man has unbelievable responsibilities. He is the only electrician at this hospital and the rumour is that they are going to make a couple of cutbacks and he, hopefully, will maintain his job and he will be responsible for not just one hospital in Dartmouth, but another facility across the harbour.

That concern, coming from that devoted employee, is the very feeling of animosity, the very feeling of absolute distaste that Nova Scotians have expressed to me and have expressed to members here. The concern is that those guys, those people, those men and women over there, are not listening. They are not listening to Nova Scotians and the way that they are going about making sure that the deficit is under control is heartless, is cruel, is short-sighted and it is unfair. So I ask the member for Argyle, when he reads over this Budget Speech and when he comes to that section on Page 29 where it says fair treatment, I say to that member, fair treatment of employees in this province does not happen.

They are literally like mushrooms, they are kept in the dark and you know what they are fed and they are getting a lot of that stuff from this government. It is time to come clean, to tell Nova Scotians and to make sure that Nova Scotians have an opportunity to have their say about this truly unfair bill. I thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I must admit, it is a hard act to follow. I doubt very much that my remarks will be as informative. I tell you, too, I probably won't use as much volume, although I wish I had some of the member's volume, but for a few moments this evening, I want to talk on Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act.

Let me begin by saying that I think this government should be ashamed of the budget that it has brought forward. There were and still are major holes in the budget, there are holes in the budgets of Health, Education and Agriculture. The full impact of this budget is still not known and will not be fully realized for some time to come. We were forced to vote on an incomplete budget. We can see that it creates a lot of difficulty between the members when you are forced to vote on the budget that is not complete.

[Page 5844]

How could we vote on the companion of this legislation? We believe this budget does not contain hard facts. We believe the details were left out. I believe the government does not know the contents of this budget. That is why the Premier told us to ferret out the information because even he did not know it. We saw this kind of a budget in New Brunswick and we saw the Auditor General in New Brunswick look long and hard at their budget. We, in our Party, have written a letter to our Auditor General and I hope the Premier will do the same because I believe this government is hiding the facts and are trying to deceive Nova Scotians.

Let us look at education. The Minister of Education had no idea what her own budget would do to the education system. We have recently seen before the House people protesting, screaming and hollering that this budget would be devastating to our education system. We have seen that day after day. Only after weeks of protest did the Minister of Finance finally pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Mr. Speaker, he came to the rescue with his $88 million slush fund in tow. Now we ask where did this trust fund come from? If the government was going to bail out school boards, why did they not announce that in their Budget Address? Why did they put themselves through that much hardship if they knew they had the solution or if they knew they had the slush fund which they could dip out of? The answer is obvious, they did not know themselves that this money was there. The minister pulled together his spin doctors and said, find me a pot of money I can justify using on education. This was what they came up with.

So now, we are facing a crisis in health care. What about our health care? Mr. Speaker, we heard over the last number of days about announced lay-offs as the QE II. The minister said recently that he did not know how many people would be lost out of health care. We don't believe he was honest because if we knew and the union knew, then the minister must have known. If the minister still pretends to not know the impact on the QE II, let me remind him of the numbers.

Mr. Speaker, 300 people are going to lose their jobs at the QE II. Starting with the director of pharmacy and the director of physiotherapy who has 25-plus years' experience. You cannot do that and not feel the impact on that facility. If it is that bad at the QE II, the provincial flagship, how bad is it going to be in the rural hospitals across Nova Scotia? What about Lunenburg? What about Queens? What about New Waterford? What about Yarmouth? What about Sydney Mines and North Sydney? What will become of the new hospital in my riding that just opened a little over a year ago? What will become of that? If the minister is willing to do this to the QE II, the rest of the province should look out.

What about the program review? Where is it, and what will it look like? The Minister of Health has said the Health budget was based on the results of the program review. I tell the minister, the people of Nova Scotia have a right to see this document. You would think the minister would love to produce this document. If it justifies the cuts he is making, then

[Page 5845]

why not show it to Nova Scotians so they can see for themselves; or is the minister trying to hide something? What is the entire government trying to hide.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation denies hospitals and health boards the ability to run deficits. I think most of us will agree that this could be a good measure, because if we are going to eliminate the deficits of the health boards as well, that may be a good thing. But what happens when a hospital or a health board runs out of money at the beginning of a year or midway through a year? We know we can't close the hospital down. We can't take a month off from a hospital and say we will come back in a month. We all know this is unrealistic but, it looks as though the government does not really believe this themselves anyway. I know they know that we can't close the hospital down no more than we can leave a forest to burn if a fire happens to start. We know we must take action.

[6:00 p.m.]

The memo passed around by the Deputy Minister of Health demonstrated that. The memo said that hospitals and boards can carry deficits into the next year. Well, what is this government doing? Are they letting the boards run deficits or are they allowing boards to run two year budgets? Either way, they are not doing what this legislation sets out to do. For this reason, we, on this side of the House, cannot support this legislation. What will this legislation do to the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia? The Minister of Health has claimed that he is not responsible for the decisions made by the QE II. Also, the Minister of Health is responsible for the delivery of health care in the province. This budget has caused the QE II to take such actions and, Mr. Speaker, this is the companion legislation to the budget and puts into effect many of the restrictions. It puts into effect all the restrictions that are found in this budget.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said there would be no effect on patient care. As a doctor, he should know, but we believe he knows very well this is wrong. What is going to happen to health care if this legislation is passed, if we on this side of the House cannot stop it, and we know we can't? We don't have the numbers. The administrative staff at the QE II had jobs to do. Now those jobs will have to be done by other staff, and probably nurses. Nurses have said they cannot endure any more or any further responsibilities. We all know that the nurses are already working to capacity, both mentally and physically. What is needed is more nurses to relieve this burden. This government campaigned on hiring more nurses, and that is the sad part.

This government campaigned on being able to fix the problems in health care. Do you remember that, Mr. Speaker? They would fix the health care system with $47 million and we can make savings in administration. Nova Scotians are now realizing they have been deceived by this government, hoodwinked. The Premier has called the QE II plans to lay off 480 . . .

[Page 5846]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe the Speaker, earlier today, had ruled that the phrase deceived or deceit is unparliamentary and I believe the honourable member misspoke himself and I would ask him to withdraw that.

MR. SPEAKER: On that point of order, I think that is a point of order. That the Speaker made a ruling earlier that did acknowledge that deceived was an unparliamentary word. So if the member would retract that and use some other alternative word that describes the exact same.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to withdraw the remark and I am sorry if I use any words that disturbs the honourable minister. I thank him for pointing it out. I will try to work my way around it.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has said he cannot guarantee that there will not be an effect on patient care, but it is obvious that this government has no plan for health care. They have no plan for anything. They are making things up as they go along. That is why the Premier and the Minister of Health are contradicting one another's statements.

What is going to happen, Mr. Speaker, or what is going to be the impact on health care if this legislation is passed? As I said earlier, no doubt it will be passed. The government wants us to believe these cuts are necessary. The Premier has said, hang tough, it will be better. When will it be better in five years' time, in 10 years' time? He did not say, but I know it will get better when they are bounced out of office in four years time.

Mr. Speaker, what about the people who need medical help now? Should health care providers say, too bad you did not get sick in 15 years' time, or 10 years' time, we may have been able to help you then. What impact will this legislation have on the QE II. The people of Nova Scotia have one of the best hospitals in Canada in the QE II. People in Nova Scotia should not have to settle for a lesser system of health care delivery because John Buchanan spent money like it was going out of style.

Our health care system needs an investment for the future, Mr. Speaker, an investment in new technologies and facilities so that the delivery of health care can be carried out more efficiently and more effectively. Our health care system needs to be delivered by the best trained and the most dedicated people we can find. We have these people now in the QE II and across Nova Scotia. Eliminating these bright people is only going to make things worse and not better.

Mr. Speaker, what impact will this legislation have on the delivery of patient care in Nova Scotia? Although administrative staff may not be at bedside, it does not mean that they do not play a part in the delivery of service. When the doctor refers a patient to the QE II, or any hospital, your records must be transferred as well. What about prescription medicines? What about a diabetic who must receive a special diet from the hospital? What about the

[Page 5847]

delivery of counselling and scheduling of services? These are all services which are going to impact on patient care. These are the services which are going to be affected by this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, what is going to happen to telemedicine if this legislation is passed? This system made the delivery of services much better in Nova Scotia. I have a hospital in my riding which was a pilot project for telemedicine and that was the Buchanan Memorial Hospital in Neils Harbour. It allowed every patient to be able to access the resources of the QE II from any part of Nova Scotia. Specialists were available for you if you had an accident in Cheticamp, or in Bedford, or in Yarmouth.

Mr. Speaker, this budget and this accompanying legislation are going to have an effect on patient care in Nova Scotia for generations to come. It will get worse, but I must focus on the bill in hand, the Financial Measures (2000) Bill. Many of the speakers, prior to my remarks, have talked about the economy and the effects of this budget on the economy. Just recently an announcement was made by Sears, an indication that the business community has realized what the Opposition has been fearing since the Tories came to power - the Tories are going to return us to the economy of the old, the economy of Buchanan and Cameron, the economy where companies like Stora and Michelin are wondering whether or not they are going to remain in this fine province of ours.

Well, Mr. Speaker, Sears has made their decision, and they have decided to leave. It is not just businesses that are leaving, housing starts in Nova Scotia are alarming; 200 housing starts in April, and that is 20 per cent lower than this time last year. Of those 200 starts, 195 were in Halifax, leaving only 5 in all of rural Nova Scotia. What a shame. That tells us what this government is doing for rural Nova Scotia; it tells us the outlook that Nova Scotians see in their rural areas. This government is abandoning rural Nova Scotia, and the people know it. Since January, only 733 housing starts, and of that only 41 were outside of metro Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, the people know this government has no vision; it has no vision for growing Nova Scotia's economy. The people are getting out while they can. This is going to be a sad legacy for this government, when the only economy in Nova Scotia is the economy in Halifax. That will please the Metro Halifax Chamber of Commerce. They will be happy; they don't care about rural Nova Scotia. As well, this government doesn't care for rural Nova Scotia; if they did they would make a concentrated effort to reinvest in rural Nova Scotia. They would not present the sorry excuse for an economic plan that the Minister of Economic Development presented to Nova Scotians. I am afraid of the legacy this government is going to have with rural Nova Scotia; the government backbenchers had better start representing rural Nova Scotians or else they will have the dubious honour of sitting, as the member for Cape Breton South mentioned last week, as a one-term government.

[Page 5848]

Mr. Speaker, there are some positive initiatives within this Financial Measures (2000) Bill, but there are many more that are very worrisome. We have heard this government speak quite a bit about financial accountability and open and honest government. We have heard stories about financial ruin and economical catastrophes or hardships. This government has told Nova Scotians what an uphill struggle they are facing, and how the cuts they are imposing are absolutely necessary. This government talks about repatriating our foreign debt, and for the most part we agree. After all, it was our Liberal Government who started Nova Scotia down the road towards limited foreign exposure, since 1993. Our Liberal Government learned the lessons of Buchanan and Cameron. We knew because of their costly mistakes, we could no longer afford to be borrowing money from other countries, playing roulette with foreign exchanges.

When this Minister of Finance began speaking of limiting Nova Scotia's foreign exposure, we agreed because we started the province down that road. I am happy this government intends to continue what we began. Unfortunately, the government is only going halfway on this commitment. When the government set out in this legislation their section to deal with foreign exposure, they set a very realistic and credible target, 20 per cent exposure. This is an acceptable level of exposure and I feel everyone should agree with this. Where the problem comes in is with some of the language. The government says that they cannot finance or refinance using any foreign debt until the province's total foreign debt exposure is at or below 20 per cent, and in the next breath the government says foreign investment is okay as long as it is fully hedged. So what is it going to be? Do you want to invest in the foreign market or not?

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that a fully-hedged financial transaction, although it has diversified out the exchange risk, still consists of foreign content. This flies in the face of the government wanting to get out from under the thumb of foreign banks. Does the minister have no confidence in the Canadian system of banking, that he has to find ways to allow the province to finance their debt in other countries? Why will the minister not give this legislation some teeth and require that all financing be in Canadian funds until our foreign exposure target of 20 percent is met? There seem to be a lot of trapdoors for the government to escape out and it seems like this is one of them. In the days to come I would like to hear the Minister of Finance explain if indeed his government is serious about reducing the province's foreign exposure.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to change my focus a little bit now. This is the government which campaigned on less red tape. We all remember that. They said the inefficiencies which they could find in the system would help them to find better ways to do things. Well, what did they do? They introduced a red tape commissioner, adding another level of bureaucracy to a system already full of bureaucracy. They also saw the size of their own staffs increase; no downsizing or cutting back on administration there. These ministers were out feathering their

[Page 5849]

own nests and they just kept piling on bureaucracy. Now this government wants all government business enterprise to have prior approval of all financial transactions. This is coming from the government that wanted a tighter, more efficient process in government. This is coming from the government that wants private business to come in and do everything for them. This is the government who takes all its cues from the Halifax Metro Chamber of Commerce.

I guess the minister was sick the day they talked about business opportunities in the free market. Businesses, like government enterprises, are large, complicated organizations. They need to be able to secure a loan, a line of credit, a bond or some other financial note in order to do business in our province. Does this mean that the enterprise will necessarily run a deficit? No, it means that cash flows and expenses do not always occur simultaneously. Business does not have the luxury to wait for prior approval, if an opportunity exists, it must take it. This is the way all businesses work; so, unless the Premier wants to privatize all government services and resources, he had better remove the shackles from around the hands of government enterprise and maybe that is the government's agenda. Maybe this Harris-Hamm agenda is becoming a Klein-Hamm agenda. Perhaps the Premier has an idea to privatize health care, but I certainly hope not and many Nova Scotians hope not. If the government is not looking to privatize everything in sight, then they should allow government enterprise to go about doing its business as usual. They should continue to allow government enterprise to conduct their business.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier on, this legislation is not all bad. For instance, when a department wants to initiate a new program which was not budgeted for, or that money was not allocated for, that program must wait for the next year's budget or the department is going to have to find the new money in its existing budget.

Mr. Speaker, we believe this is a positive step forward in the budgeting process. Departments must be held firm to the money which was budgeted to them. We must also be cognizant of the fact that things sometimes happen out of control, such as natural or man-made disasters happen. I am glad to see that the minister has recognized these occurrences in the legislation. It is very interesting to see the balanced budget provision found in this legislation. It is also interesting to see that it does not take effect until the fiscal year 2002 or 2003. I seem to remember the Premier saying during the election that they would balance the books in the year 2002-03. It seems to me to be year four, but does it matter?

I would like to ask the minister, what would happen in the year 2002 or 2003 if he presents a budget which may forecast a deficit? There are lots of provisions for departments to table reports and resolutions if they run over budget. This legislation also makes those departments make up the shortfall in the next year's budget but there is nothing to say what will happen if the budget is not balanced. I seem to remember the Premier saying something about how Premiers should resign if their budget doesn't balance. Perhaps now that he is on that side of the House he would like to make that commitment, since it is nowhere seen in this

[Page 5850]

piece of legislation. Maybe it is the Finance Minister who wants to resign if he presents a budget to this House in the year 2002 or 2003 which may not be balanced. Maybe we will get the whole Cabinet to make that commitment, that they would resign if they don't present a balanced budget in the year 2002 or 2003. Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I think there is nothing that brings out the best in a government like a little incentive.

Now I would like to move on to something which I find quite ironic. This legislation contains a section dealing with how departments and government agencies report on financial decision-making. The legislation says these reports and budget figures have to be rational, fair, efficient, credible, transparent and accountable. They are only part of this as those are all the things this budget is not. No wonder the Premier told the Opposition to ferret out information. He knew that since these words were not in legislation, the chances of any of his ministers being open and accountable was slim. It truly is a sad day when the Premier and the Minister of Finance have to legislate rational, fair, transparent and accountable government in order for them to achieve it.

Mr. Speaker, we have said many times before that this government has no plan for Nova Scotians. This legislation mandates that the Minister of Finance shall table four year projections in his consolidated physical plan. I wonder why this wasn't introduced with the last budget, so we could hear the minister's projections this year. Could it be because the minister has no plan for the future for Nova Scotia? Or could it be because he does not want Nova Scotians to know the truth about the financial outlook for the province, and that they will know it is not nearly as bad as the government is saying? This would mean that all of the ridiculous cuts proposed by the Minister of Education and all the cuts in agriculture and in the Civil Service were not necessary. That is why I think this minister did not introduce these measures earlier. We will be watching to see if this is changed next year so that the minister can get around this again. By that time, all of the one time hits he has piled on the budget this year to convince Nova Scotians that the sky is falling, that will be gone and he can try and tell the people what a wonderful job he has done. But we know the difference and the people of Nova Scotia will know the difference.

There is another issue in this section that I would like to address with the minister. Mr. Speaker, the minister, next year, will also be required to report for each fiscal year in the form the minister sees it. Well, first of all, this seems very redundant from the standpoint that we already have financial statements in Nova Scotia. So why do we need to see the information in another form? Is it so the minister can portray his numbers in the best possible light? Could it be that?

I am reminded of the commitment the minister made to us to calculate the deficit figures used in GAAP all the way back to 1993. We believe he did not do that. The reason? It would have shown Nova Scotians that, indeed, it was the previous Tory Government, for which he was a member, which gave Nova Scotia this giant debt we are facing today. The

[Page 5851]

minister now wants to be able to do this every year, portray the numbers in a way which will most glorify his efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I have spent some time going over the financial aspects of this legislation. But there is a lot more to this bill than simply finance. I would like to get into some of them now. Let's talk about the income tax changes. The changes being made here to the Income Tax Act is going to mean a very complicated procedure for Nova Scotians. We are going to be left with a dual tax system. Instead of becoming more competitive with other Maritime Provinces, we are becoming less competitive. Has the minister done a cost-benefit analysis on this new dual system? What new cost is the province going to have to endure? What about the bracket creep? The Premier says they can do nothing about it because that would be a tax break and he says we can't afford a tax break. I am sure there are many Nova Scotians that would not agree with that. But this is not a tax break. This is simply being fair.

The Minister of Finance says this is going to be revenue neutral. Mr. Speaker, again, many Nova Scotians believe it is not revenue neutral. Nova Scotians are going to end up paying more this year and even more in the following years. If this government ever does get around to giving Nova Scotians a tax break, they would be doing it with the extra money people have been paying and that is thanks to the decoupling.

Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority has been removed. The government is attempting to sever the chairman, like any other civil servant. But, the chairman has a very specific contract, which the Tories are trying to break. When, or should I say, if, the government consulted legal counsel on this issue, did counsel say they could win a wrongful dismissal suit? How much is this going to cost the people of Nova Scotia, for the Tories to disband these members so that, in the future, the Tories can replace them with their good old Tory poll captains.

Mr. Speaker, let us talk briefly about the 911 bill. The Tories are really introducing the user fee they floated in the fall. The Opposition was successful last fall in getting the government to remove this clause from their 911 bill last fall. At that time, the Minister of Health said just because the provision is there, it doesn't mean the government is going to use it. I remember those remarks very well.

[6:30 p.m.]

Obviously, the minister was trying to mislead Nova Scotians because here we are, less than six months later and the government has announced this user fee. Who has the government consulted on this user fee? It is our understanding MTT was not consulted until this was a done deal. Is this John Hamm's open and accountable government? Does it not seem strange that the company who would be putting this charge on their monthly bills did not have some say in this process? This, again, shows the arrogance of this government. They have their agenda and they do not need to consult with anyone. This is government by whim.

[Page 5852]

They could not consult MTT beforehand because they themselves had no idea they were going to introduce this before they did.

I would like to talk for a moment on the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission. This is another example of the Tories treating long-serving Nova Scotians with contempt and disrespect. Many of the employees of the port development commission were long serving people in the twilight of their professional careers. This government has provided no early retirement packages for these employees and has not offered any initiatives for bringing the workers' remaining few years to retirement.

We know the government wants to control spending, but at what cost do they want to control spending? Nova Scotians expect their government will act with a certain amount of compassion for people. Not to treat people like a faceless commodity which can be used and then discarded like yesterday's newspaper. If this is John Hamm's sense of compassion and fairness, then Nova Scotia just became a whole lot colder place to live and raise a family.

We all know one thing that this Premier does not mind and that is to help his Tory friends and to help them wherever he can and at any cost. This government is prepared to approve a budget for the port development authority for the year 2000-01 which is something the government must do in order to properly wind down the authority's operation. The government is also saying, any surplus which may exist from this budget will be divided between the province and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Why will the government not commit to putting any surplus which may remain from the authority's budget towards an early retirement package for the employees? Why is the Premier so opposed to giving these employees who are so close to retirement some assistance in attaining the retirement that they deserve? Why won't the Premier allow these employees to retire with dignity, and show some compassion? After all, many of them have served their province well.

I want to talk for a moment on Pharmacare. On what did our government base the decision to raise Pharmacare from $250 to $300? Was it based solely on revenue expectations for the Department of Health? Was it based on the expected cost of Pharmacare plus a mark-up for the department? Was there any consideration as to the effects, both physical and mental on seniors this increase would have? What research did the health department do to anticipate the number of seniors who would not be able to afford to pay for their medicine? I doubt that there was any research done. Was there any consideration or consultation done to try to determine the number of seniors who may decide that the amount of Pharmacare was too high and they would choose to do without medicine that they desperately need. What consultation was done in conjunction with the Department of Community Services or the senior secretariat to determine if this would have any adverse health effect on seniors?

[Page 5853]

Mr. Speaker, it seems that most of the user fees introduced in the minister's budget last week were aimed at our seniors' population. I am sure this is not the case, but you could not blame people for thinking such a thing. I believe it is an attack on our seniors, who over the years, have paid dearly to our province. Now I think the time has come when we should respect our seniors for the contribution they have made to our province both financially and through to their services. It is time we said thanks to our seniors and give them some break.

Could the minister tell us what other essential services, like Pharmacare and ambulance services that people cannot go without, are going to be subject to further government user fees? I hope the minister is not telling us they have a plan as to what will be taxed and what will not in the years to come. I would think this goes against the grain of open and accountable government. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister about that.

Just last Friday, we had a group of nurses protesting outside by the Legislature, and they left a pile of white shoes to represent nurses who are losing their jobs. They talked about the $83 million from their budget. They don't believe the government's claims that cuts will be limited to administrative jobs. They said they were going down the road to American-style two-tiered health care in this province. Mr. Speaker, the head of the Nurses' Union said that Tory cuts include $27.1 million slashed from the QE II hospital, another $16.8 million from the IWK Grace. There is a nurse at the maternity hospital who said she can't imagine how the cuts will affect patient care.

These are difficult times for Nova Scotians, and these cuts that are taking place every day are going to have a devastating effect on the economy of this province. The cuts go from every department in government. Just last week we talked about cuts to silviculture. That was something that the Premier, in his election platform, said they would be supporting strongly. However, in the Tory document, The Course Ahead, it is not even mentioned.

Mr. Speaker, in our last budget we had $4 million of government money into silviculture. The silviculture industry was counting on this money, so why didn't the government follow through on its commitment? These are cuts that are going to hurt our resources in the province. The cuts go on all through the system.

With those remarks I will take my seat. (Interruption) Another 15 minutes. I think I will call it quits at that and allow another member to entertain you for the rest of the day. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Victoria. I listened carefully throughout his speech. It was not only interesting and articulate. I think it was very informative for the members of the Conservative caucus, and I hope they paid good heed to the member for Victoria. He had a lot of interesting things to say. I know

[Page 5854]

that the Liberal Party is going to be in the market for a Leader. I am certain that that was the first volley that was fired by his campaign.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure to have an opportunity this evening to rise and to speak on Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act. I wanted to say, I guess first and foremost, that I consider this to be truly the most mendacious and insidious appendage that a budget has probably ever had in the history of this province. I don't know that there are many pieces of legislation which you can actually point to and say that this is actually part of a soul-destroying campaign on behalf of a government, aimed at no one else but itself, but truly the Financial Measures (2000) Bill, as it sits in this form, is certainly one of those pieces of legislation.

What it does, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to talk about it just generally for a second, is it truly goes through and demonstrates that all of the commitments that were made over the course of last July's election campaign were nothing more than just posturing on behalf of the government. They had no intention of ever fulfilling those commitments and, in fact, rather than taking the opportunity in this budget to do some good and to fulfil the promises that they made, they have decided to go in exactly the opposite direction. They have decided that they would betray the people who have elected them.

I don't think anybody feels that more acutely than the seniors of this province. I had one senior say to me, it is like they want to practice genocide against seniors. They know this stuff is going to hurt us. They know it is going to hurt us deeply and in some cases, Mr. Speaker, the changes to Pharmacare are going to be so extreme that we fear for other people in our community. I understand that and I have heard that, not just in my community, in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, but I had the pleasure this weekend to be in Liverpool, in beautiful Queens County, and I heard it down there from seniors in that constituency. So I know that it is felt right across the province.

I guess part of it comes out of the fact that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance are just so poorly - well, I was going to say they are misunderstood - but perhaps it is that their message is not understandable. I am a loss because the budget of the Minister of Finance reminded me in a large measure of a little story I remember about a fellow who had gone to speak at a conference and he had sent off his biography in advance. The fellow who was supposed to introduce him read the biography and then left it home and forgot about it. He could not remember exactly what the details of this person's biography were so he stood up and he said the important thing that you have to know about our guest speaker is that he once made $800,000 in an oil deal in Texas and he sat down. So the fellow got up and said, well, you know, actually it wasn't Texas, it was Florida; and, by the way, it wasn't oil, it was actually real estate; and they have gotten the figures a little bit confused because it wasn't actually $800,000, it was actually $800; and besides it wasn't a profit, it was a loss.

[Page 5855]

Well, that is what the budget reminded me of. After they finished trying to explain it, after they finished trying to justify what it was that they had set out in the document, it was something completely unrecognizable, Mr. Speaker. It did not look anything like the Budget Speech that was given by the Minister of Finance, absolutely nothing like it, and it was only through the auspices of the Opposition Parties that we were able to ferret out all of the truths that surround this document. In fact, I don't think it went more than a day. It couldn't stand the scrutiny of the member for Lunenburg West, it couldn't stand the scrutiny of the member for Dartmouth North or the member for Halifax Atlantic, even the member for Cape Breton The Lakes was quick to unveil some of the truth in this budget. It was much to our chagrin because I think, like most people who come to this House, like most people who are elected to this position, they come here in the true and fervent hope that what will come forward as a result of this process is something that will be genuinely beneficial to the people of the province, to the people of their communities, to the town and cities they live in.

[6:45 p.m.]

I believe that when people come here they come with this open - in some ways, it is a little like the law, there is an explanation in legal cases, what they call the toothpaste theory of law, which is you get people squeezing hard enough on one side and somebody is pushing hard enough on the other, what comes out of the middle is the truth. Well, you hope that in legislation and in places like this, that what happens is they bring forward pieces of legislation and it is held up to the scrutiny of the members on this side and we both push on it hard enough that what comes out of - I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very difficult for the Speaker to hear the honourable member who is addressing the Chamber. I am sure most members would certainly be paying attention so maybe I could encourage those who do want to carry on conversations to do so outside the Chamber, please. Thank you very much.

MR. DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know there is no ill intent from the members of the Conservative caucus. I know they really are intent on listening to this. I realize that in some ways the idea of a toothpaste theory of legislation is something that certainly the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank doesn't seem too enamoured with, but I tell you, if I brought forward a piece of legislation like this, my mother would have washed my mouth out with more than toothpaste, I could tell you that. This was such an abomination to people right across the province that soap is the only thing that could truly clean out the mouth of the Minister of Health after bringing this forward.

That is the truth, Mr. Speaker, that you hope through that process, where the scrutiny of the House is brought to bear on a piece of legislation and a great deal of pressure is applied to it, that what you get in the end, after it goes through that press, is something that is of a pure nature, something that is going to truly benefit the people in all our communities. Sadly, that is certainly not the case here. I don't think that the Minister of Health, for example, has

[Page 5856]

deliberately set out to ruin the lives of people, I don't think that is the case. I think the sad fact is that the place we go and the place we intended to go are not always the same destination. That is the problem for the Minister of Health, I am sure he intended, originally, and perhaps thought, that he could do some good, move the health care system in a positive direction.

Unfortunately, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the road is littered with good intentions and there is very little follow-through on the intentions of the government contained in this legislation. I think that now we have had a fair opportunity to point this out to the Minister of Health; we have had a fair opportunity to point this out to the Minister of Finance, that the appropriate thing for them to do is to join with us and to say there is no need for this piece of legislation to come forward in this form and either we are going to withdraw it and have another look at it and take the good advice.

I realize that although that would be the honourable thing to do and that it would take a great deal of intestinal fortitude for the members opposite. It would mean, perhaps, admitting that they were in error, which is a very difficult thing for governments to do. But I think what they would find, if they were willing to do that, is that everything they would have lost, in terms of time, they would have gained in credibility with the public. They would have gained the respect of the people in their communities and their constituencies and, certainly, the respect of the members on this side, if they were just prepared to say, I am sorry, we made a mistake. It is time that we did the right thing and withdrew this and didn't do things like, and I just want to use a very brief example, the tax on 911. I mean, how much more basic can you get than that?

They tried to introduce this in legislation last time. It was roundly criticized by everybody. They realized that without a pitched battle, they weren't going to be able to get that through the House. So it was one of the concessions they made, to withdraw it at that time. What do they do now? They bring it back. We thought, at the time, that they had learned a lesson, that they had truly benefitted from the advice that we give. But instead, here we are, six or eight months later, and back they are with the same piece of legislation in a different format, but, nonetheless, with the same effect.

It is essentially just a tax grab on behalf of the government and they justify it by saying that it is a way to defray the cost of the system. Well, that is true with everything, Mr. Speaker. Every tax that you raise is a way to defray the cost of the systems of the departmental initiatives of the program of the government. That is what every tax does. So they can't skate around it by calling it a user fee. It is a tax, pure and simple. I know, like all people, they will say, a tax is a tax.

I was talking a little bit about the road that got us here. I mean, this is the story of human life. The truth of the matter is that human beings plan better than they perform. That is certainly the case with the Minister of Health. I am sure that in the planning stages, all of

[Page 5857]

this looked just rosy. But when you actually get down to the performance, when you actually get down to, here we are in the House, does this bill stand the scrutiny of the members of the Opposition, we find that it falls apart, that there is nothing here. In fact, seniors have been telling him this. Health care workers have been telling him this. The nurses, who were here and left their shoes on the front steps to ask him to walk a mile in their shoes, they all have been telling him the same thing: this is a bad budget; this is a bad bill, withdraw it; go back and start over again. I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that, for some reason, he refuses to do that.

I know it has been said that if we should suddenly be transformed into the person we always intended to become, we would have difficulty recognizing one another. Well, that is the case with the Minister of Health. I believe that his intentions, because he is a smart fellow, because he understands the way the government operates, I believe that his intentions were the best at the time. Unfortunately, they went astray somewhere. They took a wrong fork in the road, at some point in time, as the initiative got out of the gate. This is the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, for him to haul that back and to say, we are going to do something else. We are going to actually work with Nova Scotians to make our community safer, to make our health care system much better.

Mr. Speaker, you will remember, like I do, some of the commitments that the Honourable John Hamm made to the nurses of this province, just as an example. I remember him speaking at the Aberdeen Hospital. It was back at the mid-point of the election campaign and he said, we will address as our most urgent priority the need for full-time nurses. He used language that put the need for nurses right at the top of the agenda of the government. He talked about their platform, about the clear course and how when they released it, it identified the kind of practical, concrete, and I think he said innovative steps that are needed to secure nurses for today and to keep them in the province tomorrow. Those were his words. What have we seen in terms of the follow-through that I talked about in those good intentions? What have we seen? Nothing, Mr. Speaker.

We know that today in hospitals and in institutions right across this province, nurses are working under more stressful conditions than ever before. They have to close the cardiac unit in the hospital in Truro in order to give nurses time off, so that they can take vacations. A unit is going to be closed because they don't have a sufficient number of nurses to staff the unit. This is inexcusable. They say, it is a temporary closure. We have to call it what it is. It is a withdrawal of service to the people of that community; nothing more, nothing less. It is an erosion of a basic service that was contained in that hospital and operated continuously for many, many years.

I don't know if you saw, Mr. Speaker, but I saw on the weekend an article in The Globe and Mail, which talked about how the nurses are fleeing from Nova Scotia, how they have been recruited to practically every jurisdiction in North America. There are incentives for them to go to B.C., Manitoba, and south of the border. Everybody is recruiting them, I believe the article said, except for their home province. I have to say that what I read in those

[Page 5858]

comments was a sense of exasperation, a sense of confusion about why it is that a government would seemingly intentionally throw away some of the best and brightest nurses coming through the system when there is such an obvious and urgent need that was identified by the Premier during the campaign.

Mr. Speaker, I received correspondence, as I am sure you do often from your constituents, from a constituent of mine who talked about a visit he made to the local hospital and the wait he had in the emergency room. This fellow showed up at the emergency room with a badly abscessed tooth. He was left in the waiting room for some five hours. He said that after five hours he felt he was entitled to complain to somebody. Having waited as he did and felt that it was appropriate, he finally made his way up to the nursing station and said, look I have been here for more than five hours. I haven't had any attention, I would like to know when it is I am going to be seen. He indicated to me that during that time he had actually seen people get up and leave the emergency room, having become frustrated by the wait. He says in the end he never did see a doctor. He was seen by a medical student who made certain suggestions to him about what he could do in terms of alleviating some of the pain he felt.

Now, he feels very strongly that when somebody is in need of emergency attention which he felt he was, they shouldn't have to become so frustrated that they end up simply leaving and try to deal with it themselves. He says, and I think he is quite right, that everyone deserves adequate medical treatment. What he received in the emergency room - and he even gives me the date Saturday, April 8th - was not adequate. He has a complaint about the system which I hear time and time again from constituents in my riding, but also from people who contact me as the Health Critic for the Party, and they say that what they are receiving is not adequate to meet the needs of the people who need medical treatment in my community.

[7:00 p.m.]

That was what was expected from the Minister of Health. That burden was transferred onto his shoulders when they became the government, and I think that initially there were high hopes from people in all parts of the province - less so in some places than others - that this government would address those concerns in a forthright manner. People did not expect miracles, they did not expect that the whole system or the whole health care system was going to change overnight. They knew that it was going to take time and they were prepared to allow the government sufficient latitude to bring forward initiatives and to implement them.

I will tell you one thing that they did not ask for is the kind of approach to the health care system that has been taken by this government. They did not expect to see $84 million taken out of the health care budget; in fact they look back, as I did, and recollect that the promises of this government included an injection of $45 million in new money into the health care system in the first year. So this is a far cry from what was promised and, as I have said,

[Page 5859]

what we have may be good intentions, but we have very little in the way of follow-through by this government.

I remember the Premier saying that most importantly nurses want a positive rewarding environment where they know that they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued, and where they know they will have a meaningful voice in shaping change. Do you recognize those words, Mr. Speaker? Those were words of a man on a campaign trail and, I think at the time that they were uttered, that he meant them. Somewhere on the road between the Aberdeen Hospital and this House and the day that the budget was released, he went astray and he has not delivered on the promises that he has made.

I want to recall, if I can, the words of a great Canadian poet who said that a promise made is a debt owed; a promise made is a debt owed and the trail has its own stern code. That is the case in this case: the Premier made a promise and that promise now becomes a debt that he owes to the people of this province. I remember when he spoke at the Dartmouth General Hospital - I think it was the day after he was at the Aberdeen Hospital - and he said that he was there because institutions across the province, like the Dartmouth General Hospital and the front-line health care workers who provide service, should have the support of the government.

They didn't think what he meant by "the support of the government" is the support that they were going to get as they were pushed out the door, as they were shown the exit ramps out of the province. I am sure that is not what they felt he meant when he said they should have the support of the government. He said that front-line health care workers shouldn't be expected to struggle through each day without support. He said that they need and deserve leadership, respect, and trust and yet here we are less than a year later, and I think you could go to any institution in this province and ask the question, do you think that this government has shown leadership, do you think that this government has shown respect and trust for health care workers across the province, and I think the answer would be loud and clear, no, absolutely not. I think it was ironic that at that time the now Premier said, I fought my first campaign on health care. I am fighting this campaign on health care and I am prepared to fight the next campaign on health care.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell the Premier that if he keeps going the way that he is going now, you can be darn sure that the next campaign will be fought on health care because what we will be fighting for is to try to salvage this province and the health care system in this province from the horrendous mess and from the devastation that has been wreaked upon it by this administration. It is a sad statement of fact that this government came into being as a result of commitments that were made primarily with respect to health care, only to brutally abuse the system in the way that it has through pieces of legislation like this bill and through things like the budget.

[Page 5860]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said, and perhaps you will recall this as well, that during the course of an election campaign you pay close attention to what your opponents are saying. I remember the Premier saying as part of his platform policy announcements on health care at the Lord Nelson Hotel and, again, I think we were one week into the campaign - the House fell on June 18th - and about one week later the Progressive Conservatives decided to roll out part of their platform and their health care policy. At that time the Premier said, working with the nursing profession to make sure that the work environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients and where they know they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing clinical practice outcomes.

That was a commitment made on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and now the government and yet these days, Mr. Speaker, we hear no mention of empowering nurses. We hear no mention of having them influence the decisions in their workplace. We hear no mention of allowing nurses to have the time to provide the kind of patient care that they think is best because you have to remember that the standards of practice that nurses try very hard to adhere to are based on years of experience, are based on the advice that they get from their nurse managers, are based on the standards that are put in place by their associations. Who else is in a better position to decide what appropriate standards of patient care would be than bedside nurses? I say that that is, in fact, who is in the best position to provide that advice and, unfortunately, the government isn't listening.

If you don't believe that, Mr. Speaker, you only have to look at what has happened at the QE II. You only have to look at some of the material that has been issued by Mr. Smith, the President and CEO of the QE II, as he undertook the grim task of having to lay off 12 nurse managers, knowing full well that all of those duties were going to fall on the shoulders of the nurses on the floor who were already saying they didn't have enough time to do the kind of work, to provide the kind of care they felt was appropriate.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I think that since this information came to light and since the Minister of Health was embarrassed by the questions of the Opposition and the questions of the news media around why it was that when the Opposition Parties, when the newspapers, had copies of the lay-offs that were happening at the QEII, the largest institution in the province, the Minister of Health didn't seem to know what was going on. He said, how do you explain this? How do you explain that the Opposition knows, the Health Critic for the New Democratic Party knows how many lay-offs there are going to be at the QEII? The Minister of Health seems to be, as he described himself, unaware. He said he was not aware, unaware, unconcerned. I remember the Minister of Health referring to himself as unconcerned.

Well, the unaware and unconcerned Minister of Health may not have to answer to us in here, but when he walks out through those doors oftentimes he has to answer to the members of the press who are there with good questions and are asking why is it you don't

[Page 5861]

know what is going on? I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to stand on the outside of that scrum and listen to the questions being asked and I was quite flabbergasted to hear the Minister of Health respond by saying, well, I don't know, but I can find out. That is astounding. Of course he can find out, but that is not the point. Read the file before you come to the House, know what is in your brief, you are here to answer questions. You are here to see that your information stands the scrutiny of the people in this House, not only of Opposition members, but of the press and of the people of the province. It is just not good enough to say I can find out, he should know.

When the CEO of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre says that there is going to be a reduction of 315 positions in that institution by the end of the year, you have to know that and you have to put forward, to the people of Nova Scotia, a plan that justifies what it is you are doing. Have we seen that here, Mr. Speaker? Have we seen this?

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he say?

MR. DEXTER: What he said was, instead, I am unaware, I am unconcerned. I know that while he was down in Virginia spending his time getting his education in the United States that perhaps that is the way they do things down there. Perhaps, because they have a privately run system that the minister seems to be quite enamoured with south of the Mason-Dixon Line, that is okay down there. But you know something? In Canada, in Nova Scotia, we demand a little accountability from the Minister of Health. I pointed out to the minister that, unlike his days down there when he was cheering for the University of Virginia Cavaliers, unlike those days, today in Virginia there are a million people who don't have access to proper medical care. They have a problem attracting physicians to rural parts of their state, they have people who are not getting proper medical care.

If that is the model the Minister of Health is intent on foisting onto the people of the province of Nova Scotia, the message is clear, we won't stand for it. People are not going to sit idly by and allow the Minister of Health to import, from south of the border, a kind of health care system which will see to it that the people of the province are not receiving the kind of medical care they need, where they need it, when they need it.

[7:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg with respect to the cuts to medical care in this province. We don't know what effect other pieces of legislation are going to have when looked at in combination with this bill. We don't know what effect the Health Authorities Bill is going to have, how it is that you can set up nine new administrations and run those and pay to run them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 5862]

HON. JAMES MUIR: I wonder if the honourable member might entertain a question? I was just thinking about something he said a minute ago.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member entertain a question?

MR. DEXTER: I find the Minister of Health quite entertaining, so indeed.

MR. MUIR: It is a point of clarification, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize, I may have missed something. (Interruption) You had just stated a few minutes ago that the Conservatives had indicated they would fix health care for $45 million, I believe that was the number that you used. The Libercrats, the other part of it, had been using $46 million. During the campaign, if I am not mistaken, your Party ran ads saying that we were going to take $168 million from health care. I am just wondering, that doesn't seem to be consistent. If you could explain to me where the inconsistency arises, or did I misunderstand something you said?

MR. DEXTER: I am very glad the Minister of Health asked that question. You know what, Mr. Speaker? It turns out we were right and they were wrong. They said they were going to invest $45 million and we said they were going to take money out of health care. It turns out we were right, and we knew they had a hidden agenda. We knew they wouldn't come through with the promises they made, no more than the cries of the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. When he talked about the fishing licences, he said there will be no more fees for seniors' fishing licences, and what do we see today? You know they have to pay to dangle a line, as he said.

In promise after promise after promise like those of Pharmacare; do you remember? I remember only too well going into seniors' manors and having seniors come to me and say, well, you know, John Hamm says he is going to do away with Pharmacare premiums, and that is really important to me. I said, well, you know, they have never followed through on any of their promises before. He said, oh, but Mr. Hamm is so believable, I have to believe he is going to follow through on his promises to us.

Mr. Speaker, here we are. I agree, and the minister can stand up and say or the Premier can stand up and say, well, that was 1998, those were promises we made in 1998, not 1999. But in 1999, they never bothered to say, you know all those promises we made in 1998, they are off. They don't count anymore. No. They allowed them to dangle out there in front of people. They allowed them to believe that they were going to follow through on those.

Now, the unkindest cut of all, is (Interruption) Oh, the Premier thinks it is funny that commitments made to seniors would not be followed through on. As I said, the unkindest cut of all was that people who placed their trust and their faith in a person that they looked up to

[Page 5863]

have had that trust abused. I think that is part of what makes people so cynical about politicians. They say, they promise one thing, but once elected, they never deliver.

Now what happens? We have a Pharmacare premium set at $215 a year, and the minister says, well, next year this is going to be tied to some kind of a drug inflation index, so we can look forward next year, Mr. Speaker, to an increase in the premiums for seniors; already the co-pay has gone from 20 per cent to 33 per cent. I think that what you are seeing already, as I have seen, I know I watched the minister with the seniors downstairs in the lobby and how uncomfortable he looked and his body language really said it all because almost as he was speaking, you could see him kind of inching away from these people. Body language sometimes says much more than what the actual words convey. I understand why the minister looked so uncomfortable when those seniors were saying to him, this is not what you promised us, you haven't delivered what you said you were going to provide during the course of the campaign.

Of course if you are going to misrepresent something, the whole idea is that you misrepresent it in a big fashion and nobody can believe that you would be that outrageous, so they will just accept it. What they wanted to say is that the Pharmacare costs were spiralling out of control. Well, Mr. Speaker, if that is true - and, by the way, it is not, but if it were true - all of that burden was being shifted onto the backs of the seniors.

I can remember - and perhaps the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health don't have seniors in their ridings, I find that unlikely, but perhaps it is the case - when I was knocking on doors out there, having seniors come to the door and say, people keep telling us that they want us to stay in our homes, that they want us to live as long as we can in our own residences, but you know something? These guys are doing everything possible to drive me out of my house. You can just imagine what the combined effects of things like an increase in Pharmacare premiums, an increase in fuel costs which have been dramatic, and all of the other increases in cost drivers have on seniors who are trying to live in their own homes. It is outrageous, Mr. Speaker. No wonder these people feel like they are literally being driven out of their own homes. I think it is regrettable.

I know I have had correspondence on numerous occasions, by way of copy, from Mr. John Ryan, who is a man who is quite knowledgeable with respect to the Pharmacare Program. He is a senior and a former pharmacist, Mr. Speaker. He points out that in 1990 the seniors contributed zero to the costs of Pharmacare. In 1999 seniors are contributing $25.13 million. The burden over nine years has been transferred right onto the backs of seniors, while over that same nine year period there was only a $1 million cost increase in the program to the government - 25 times more onto the backs of the seniors. What we get out of the Minister of Finance is some gobbledegook about Pharmacare prices spiralling out of control. Well, if they are, it is because they are transferring them right onto the backs of the seniors.

[Page 5864]

You know, Mr. Speaker, perhaps it is just the case that the unaware Minister of Health doesn't know what is going on in institutions like the QE II. I have been pointing out to him, and I am going to do it again because I think it is important you have to try to keep emphasizing this. It is like I do with my nine year old, if I repeat things to him often enough, I think sooner or later he is going to remember it, so I adopt the same kind of strategy with the Minister of Health - if I say it to him often enough perhaps it will get through and he will understand that even before this budget, the QE II was not budgeting to meet the demand placed on the institution. Do you know what that means? That means there are going to be people who are going to show up at the institution who won't be able to have access to the services that they require. That is what it means.

For an example, the projected demand for ambulatory care or outpatient visits was 569,470 cases. What did they budget for? They budgeted for 502,100, more than a 65,000 visit shortfall. They have a projected demand of 30,000 and 70 operating room cases. What did they budget for? They budgeted for 28,715, a shortfall of 1,300. These are the kinds of things that happen when you fail to plan appropriately, but it doesn't stop there and this is what we find to be so alarming because what is so alarming about that fact is that after the budget and after the implementation of this bill, the QE II has to issue a statement in response to the documents that have been issued by the Minister of Finance and they say to people, look, you know 70 per cent of our operating budget is payroll, is the best way to put it so people understand.

Because of the way that the collective agreements work, they are not going to be able to begin to make their adjustments for six months down the road. In order to achieve an 8.7 per cent reduction which is what is being demanded by the Minister of Health over a 12 month period, they are going to have to cut in the order of 17 per cent of their costs.

I don't care what measure you use, that is a substantial slash in the budget of the most major institution in our region. Is it any wonder why it is that we are seeing really the opening gamut some 315 people being laid off at the QE II. I have to say that one of the things that I found quite disturbing is that since that information has started to leak out, I think the lid has been screwed down incredibly tight on that institution. The way that this government operates is that as soon as they see information starting to come out, what they want to do is just clamp the lid on as tight as possible on the theory that if they can just get themselves through the session, if they can just get out of the House, then they won't have to answer questions from those of us who are on this side of the House and those who wait outside the door for them to come out. That is the strategy of this government and it harkens back to the strategy of the governments in the 1980's, the administrations of then Premier Buchanan, of whom there are several members in the House who were here at that time, and in fact, who were members of the Executive Council at that time.

[Page 5865]

What is old is new again. It is not just the QE II. Right across the province, we see hospitals and the organizations that are set up to begin the process of moving to the new district health authorities are saying the same thing. Certainly, I thought it was somewhat interesting to see the comments of officials in the district health authority, or that organization that is going to represent the district health authority on the South Shore. That includes the South Shore Regional Hospital, the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital, the Queen's General Hospital - they are going to have to cut $2.7 million out of their budget. Where are they going to find it? I know that Mr. Langford down there, as I understand it he is the Acting General Manager for the Health Services Association of the South Shore, and he said that it was obvious from the size of the cuts that they were talking about that there were going to be a lot of people who are there now who will not be here after the cuts are made.

[7:30 p.m.]

He said that the biggest challenge on-site is just trying to talk to the staff and keep them focused on the task at hand because the reality is, Mr. Speaker, that this kind of legislation, this kind of bill, what it does is it upsets the delicate balance in the workplace and far from what was promised by the government, far from contributing to a positive work environment, far from providing nurses and front-line health care workers with a work environment in which they can thrive, far from doing that, it does exactly the opposite. It undermines their ability to carry out their jobs in the way that they feel will truly benefit their patients.

Mr. Speaker, I know that things are starting to wind down, but I just wondered if you could tell me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, the honourable member has a little over eight minutes.

MR. DEXTER: Just eight minutes; well, that is truly a shame because there is much to be said about this legislation that has not been said yet. I know that I had the opportunity while the Minister of Health was here to talk a little bit about his experience in Virginia and the way that that has clearly influenced some of what he is doing here as the Minister of Health. I think I pointed out, and I want to point out to him again, that the information that is found on the website of the Virginia Health Care Foundation states that more than 1 million Virginians do not now have access to primary health care.

My point, Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Health has missed it, is that if this is the model that the minister intends to work with here in Nova Scotia, we don't want it. We have seen enough of what goes on in the U.S. to know that even though they spend more money on the provision of health services in that country, they get less service because so much of it is tied up in accounting, so much of it is tied up in lawyers. They go after people who have bills outstanding from the health care system. So it is not a system that we want to emulate.

[Page 5866]

In fact, if you go down to the U.S., many people will say to you, if we only had a system like they have in Canada where there is universal coverage, where people don't have to worry about their health care costs, and certainly we have seen a very active group in Kings County. The Health Action Coalition of Kings has been very vigilant in their pursuit of the government to recognize their institution for what it is. They have said that they are not prepared to live with another round of cuts after year over year of cuts to their institution and I have got to say, I don't blame them.

I want to give you a brief example, Mr. Speaker, if I might. In Dartmouth, the Dartmouth General Hospital now has a floor with beds on it that are completely dedicated to long-term care. Those are beds that would otherwise be available to the general population of the community. The incentive to maintain those long-term care beds in the hospital is evident as a result of the changes that came down in this budget, because they are now entitled to charge a daily fee to the people who are using those beds the same as a long-term care facility would do. So there is an incentive to maintain those beds there because they become a revenue generator for the hospital.

That was never intended and, in fact, because what is happening is you are taking those beds essentially out of service, it is absolutely a withdrawal of service from the community. It is done in a way that is insidious but, nonetheless, that is what it is. It is a withdrawal of services from people in the community.

Let's take another example. Let's take a look at the increase in the ambulance costs. Now, Mr. Speaker, just imagine this: you pick up the phone to call the ambulance, and the first thing you know is that because you have a phone, you have to pay for 911 through a tax. You call the ambulance, the ambulance comes, and your fees associated with the ambulance have gone up. You get to the hospital, you have an experience like the fellow I talked about earlier had, you wait five hours, you get a prescription and you are sent home. The next day you go to the pharmacy only to find out that the co-pay, if you are a senior, on your Pharmacare, has gone up from 20 per cent to 33 per cent. Every step of the way, the 911 call, the ambulance, the prescription, have all increased. You know something, last month when they adjusted the Old Age Supplement, it went up 46 cents I was told. Can you imagine? It is an insult to people.

I don't understand how people who seemed to have all the answers when they were in Opposition, can take on the mantle of government and seemingly so quickly forget what it is that they knew so assuredly when they were in Opposition. Then you point it out to them. They simply shrug their shoulders and say, ah shucks, I guess we were wrong. It is truly a sad day for all Nova Scotians when we have to witness, not only the erosion of a system, but an erosion of confidence in people who were so recently elected.

[Page 5867]

What about home support services, Mr. Speaker? Suppose you get your prescription and go home, and for some reason you need some kind of a home support service. Well, those fees have gone up as well. It makes it virtually impossible for people to live and continue to live in their own homes.

There is one more thing I want to mention. Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you have this experience, but in my community, many of the schools, especially the elementary schools, if you are going to volunteer there, what they do is they have you fill out a child abuse registry form and they run a check to see whether or not you are on the registry. It is a safety precaution. Now, with this budget, there is going to be a charge to do that. So it is not enough that you are coming forward to volunteer, now you are going to have to pay a fee to do it, and my bet is that if that was money you would have otherwise spent probably in support of the very program that you were volunteering with. So, it takes more money out of the pockets of people who simply want to volunteer.

I see you are telling me that I have now only a minute left. So what I would like to do is wrap up once again trying to impress upon the government the need for them to do the right thing: to withdraw this legislation, to go back to the drawing board and to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia the program that they promised when they were out on the hustings less than a year ago. With those words, Mr. Speaker, I am going to take my place and I understand that we are going to hear yet another unique perspective from the next speaker. I know that from the previous speaker we had a very intelligent piece of debate and I am looking for the eloquent musings of the next speaker. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you for that kind introduction. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join in this scintillating debate this evening on Bill No. 46. I am sure that members opposite have been listening to every single word that has been said from this side of the House, all day today and, I believe, since April 18th when this omnibus bill, or as I called it the other day, this ominous bill was first introduced to the House.

Here we are, the middle of May and we are still discussing Bill No. 46, with no apparent end in sight. There are a lot of reasons for that. There are still many questions to be asked and answers that are not forthcoming yet, regarding this particular bill and what is included in this bill. I would have thought that a bill with so many pieces of legislation contained in it, all 100 pages of it, and close to 100 clauses in it, that perhaps this bill would have been introduced to the House by way of a number of bills rather than an omnibus bill as we see here today, and what we are dealing with.

As previous speakers have said, time and time again, it is difficult to vote for a bill or even consider voting for a bill - I can tell you, it is no secret that we will not be voting for this bill at second reading - that contains this much and a bill that Nova Scotians know very little

[Page 5868]

about. It is a trust-me bill, really. There are a number of tax measures in here, there are a number of things happening with this bill that should give Nova Scotians much food for thought, if they knew what was in it. It is our responsibility, through every means that we have at our disposal, to tell Nova Scotians that this is not a good bill, it is going to impact negatively on their daily lives, it effectively changes the way we do business in Nova Scotia, perhaps, in terms of some of the dramatic changes that are being made, some of the Draconian changes that are being made.

Much was said about the kind of language that has been used in this House in describing this bill, and some words have had to be retracted here, from speakers who I think meant no malice with some of those words, rather they were expressing the frustration that most of us feel. Some of the statements that were made by government members, both front-bench and backbench over the past few weeks, have given us concern. We are concerned about what is happening with this particular bill, as we are concerned about the other agenda items that are before this House at the present time, including the agenda items going on at the Private and Local Bills Committee at the present time. The members are going to have to deal with that bill, as they are going to have to deal with this particular bill, at some point. If we ever get to the stage of third reading, where we are voting for this particular bill, I can assure you that is not going to be tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, but it will come.

I hope that the government will see, perhaps, the wisdom in entertaining some amendments on this particular bill at the Law Amendments Committee and, indeed, have sober second thoughts about the capacity of this bill, the sheer weight of it, the voluminous tones of it, the kind of legislation that is contained in here that Nova Scotians, again, know very little about. There are major holes in the budget that we passed last week. Certainly both Opposition Parties were united in their opposition of that budget, but nevertheless it passed the House.

[7:45 p.m.]

This is considered by many as a companion piece to that budget. There are still major holes in the budget, major answers that are yet to be forthcoming in the budgets of Health, Education, and Agriculture, to name a few. Some of the measures connected with these particular bills are in this omnibus bill. I think one could probably say that this budget that was presented to this House was completely incomplete. The reason I say that is while this is a companion bill, Bill No. 46, there was very little companion information with the budget when it went through the House, followed the normal procedure of the House and then was ultimately approved by the government's majority in the House.

The full impact of the budget and the impact of this bill is not known and still not known and won't be fully realized for some time. You might say, Mr. Speaker, that the errors of the ways of the government won't become obvious until well down the road.

[Page 5869]

Unfortunately, it will be at a time when the damage has been done to Nova Scotians. Once that damage is done it is going to be very hard to repair it.

As I stated, Mr. Speaker, we were forced to vote on an incomplete budget and we are forced, at some, point to vote on Bill No. 46, the companion piece, which is perhaps a lot more complete than the budget, except that Nova Scotians are not aware of the full impact because it is contained in a series of measures designed to use a bit of political trickery, to achieve the end goal of passing everything in one fell swoop and then go home for the summer. That is what this particular bill would suggest.

As I said, the bill is 100 pages, some 98 or 99 clauses, a lot of them dealing with tax measures that Nova Scotians were not expecting during the last election campaign. There was very little mention made of any tax increases at that time.

So how can we vote on the companion legislation when the budget was so incomplete? I call it companion legislation, the son of the budget. How can we vote on the son of the budget when we clearly were uncomfortable voting for the budget itself?

There is some meat on the bones of the budget in Bill No. 46, but not all. The budget contains no hard facts; Bill No. 46 contains a lot of hidden facts. The details were left out of the budget, for obvious reasons. The government doesn't have a game plan. I am certain that a lot of the legislation in this particular bill will follow the same pattern, ram it through and then try to find out how to put the meat on the bones, make it work, pass it on to the bureaucrats and tell them to make the cloth fit the suit.

I think that is the reason the Premier, at some point along the way, told us to ferret out the information; if you can't find it then go look for it. Well, we have been looking for the past few weeks. We saw that kind of situation in New Brunswick and we saw the Auditor General finally get involved in New Brunswick and take a long, hard look at their budget. We have done the same thing here, to ask the Auditor General to take a look at an incomplete budget that came before this House and was subsequently passed with very little information. Now we have Bill No. 46 before us which supposedly contains some information. Unfortunately, it doesn't contain the kind of information Nova Scotians think is in this companion piece. What it does is contain a number of new tax measures and a number of public policy statements of this government, all rolled into this ominous piece of work here called Bill No. 46.

Mr. Speaker, the government is hiding the facts. They are trying to put a major piece of legislation through here as one bill. I think that is something we should be very concerned about. I believe that first of all you have to look at some of the major government departments and how this particular piece of work is going to impact on those departments. I believe the government feels if they can get Bill No. 46 through, and perhaps the Education Act, they will call it a day and go home for a while and then leave this bill to the bureaucrats

[Page 5870]

to figure out how to implement it. Or better still, give this bill to the bureaucrats and try to put a public strategy together for trying to convince Nova Scotians that this is a good piece of work. I think that is going to be very hard to do. I would not want to be the spin doctors who are going to have to put a public statement out that is going to do anything complimentary for this piece of work that we see before us here.

I think this government probably realizes by now that it is a one-term government anyway and I think the first session of this House, the first two sessions (Interruptions). Pardon me? (Interruption) It will be a good term, yes, it will be a good term all right. I believe that this particular government has succeeded in one thing; they will make Nova Scotians forget about any previous government that was ever here, I can tell you that, by the time this mandate is up.

In education, you have to look at what happened with the Education budget. Clearly the minister had no idea what she was bringing before the House. It changed on a daily basis, perhaps there is some new information in Bill No. 46, maybe that will help to enlighten us as to exactly what is in the Education financials or what is in the Education plan for the future. It changed every day so is this a work-in-progress document like the budget was? The budget was a work-in-progress document, in other words and an incomplete document. Now we have Bill No. 46 which is another work-in-progress budget.

The one thing the government understood in the Education estimates is that the people who took the time to come to this House for days on end and to write and call the Premier's office and to write the Minister of Education and to descend on this place in record numbers; suddenly the figures of the Department of Education changed. Suddenly there was a new game plan, it is called, get these people off our backs; do whatever you have to do to bring to bring peace and quiet to the street out there. So there was no plan, it was just the first shot was fired across the bow and the government capitulated. No question about that, now we are probably going to see the same thing in Health and we are probably going to see the same thing in this particular piece of work here as it moves along.

What I am leading up to, Mr. Speaker, the difficulty is, we had a shot at the Education budget. We had a shot, we are now zeroing in on the health budget and we have had a chance to look at their estimates. We have had a chance to make them change the game plan, if you will, but in Bill No. 46 the government expects all of this to be passed before anybody gets a chance to take a look at changing anything in here. The people of Nova Scotia have no idea what is in this document. They have no idea of the tax measures that are in here; they have no idea of the game plan that the government has put together for the future in here. A document of weight, 100 pages, a document of public policy here. I said the last time I got up that it resembled more a Sears catalogue, which we used to use playing hockey for shin pads and perhaps that is what we should do with this one. There are lots of copies of it around and it is pretty heavy, it would stop a puck pretty good I would think. It is going to

[Page 5871]

give Nova Scotians cause for concern once - if they ever find out what is in here before it is implemented.

That is my point, Mr. Speaker, and that has been the point of a number of Opposition speakers both to my left and members of our caucus, that Nova Scotians have not had a chance to look at this particular piece of legislation, not had a chance to see what is in here and how it impacts upon them. The government has not gone out and taken Bill No. 46 and said, here is the impact of Bill No. 46 on you, the taxpayers, the people who pay our salaries, the people who live here in Nova Scotia and pay taxes. The government has not tried to sell Bill No. 46 to the public; the government is telling the public what is good for them in Bill No. 46. Take it, we know what is best for you; trust us. No consultation at all; not one minute of consultation on Bill No. 46 with the people of Nova Scotia.

One would think that with a bill such as this omnibus bill here, or ominous bill as I like to refer to it as, that instead of running around with a committee of five MLAs to tour the province at public expense to find out how to do away with red tape, perhaps the government should send a committee around the province to tell Nova Scotians what is in this Bill No. 46 and solicit the support of the citizens there because the citizens are not going to be as concerned about the red tape in this province as they are about the taxes they are going to pay in this province over the next months and years.

So, Mr. Premier, instead of sending five of your underworked MLAs across the province, send some senior Cabinet Ministers, with this document, from Yarmouth to Glace Bay to explain to the people of Nova Scotia what this bill is doing here in the House in its present form. Why are you trying to ram this through without any consultation with Nova Scotians?

The critics of our stand on this would say, you have the Law Amendments Committee, that is where you can go, where you can put five minutes on every presentation. How many people from Glace Bay or Yarmouth or Cape North or Springhill are going to come down here to Law Amendments Committee to get five minutes if they are lucky to talk about Bill No. 46 when they don't know what is in it in the first place. They have no idea what is in it.

We are trying to tell people what is in it. There are a lot of Draconian tax measures in here; some things in this bill that this government said they would never do, but they are here. Instead of doing what I think a responsible government should do is go around the province and explain this bill to people, they are going to send it off at some point down the hall to the Law Amendments Committee and when it gets down to the Law Amendments Committee, they will invoke closure there, five minutes or two minutes, whatever. Then it will be back in here and we will go at it again for 20 hours, probably on the title and then it will go for third reading and we will probably get at it again for a number of hours, probably 20 and then it will become law. The people of Nova Scotia will be no wiser until they start seeing what the end result of this bill is going to mean to their daily lives.

[Page 5872]

Is it any wonder that we are up here, person after person, member after member, on both Opposition Parties trying to make our point that this bill should not have come to the House in its present context and certainly should not be rushed through this House without the consultation that is necessary? Imagine sending a committee of five MLAs around the province to find out about red tape instead of sending a government committee out to talk about as an important piece of legislation as Bill No. 46.

I can't rationalize that; I am sure Nova Scotians don't even know what the Premier is talking about when he talks about red tape, going around talking about red tape. They think it is something you put around a hockey stick. The people are concerned about tax measures here. They are concerned about how those measures will affect their daily lives in the future and they are not getting any consultation at all so is it any wonder that we as Opposition members are on our feet trying to reach as many Nova Scotians as we can. Unfortunately for us, the cable television network doesn't extend throughout the province on a regular basis, so we have to try to get our message out on the floor of the House and then convey that message by the written word to our areas of the province that we represent. That is a laborious task and it is something that takes time to do. It would be much more effective if the government took the lead and went around the province with this particular piece of legislation to explain the tax measures.

You don't try to sneak tax measures into law anymore without upsetting a great number of people. What you have to do is consult with people and perhaps, as a result of consultation, not confrontation, but consultation, you can avoid confrontation. There was no consultation on the Education budget. We had confrontation, the shot was fired and lo and behold, the Department of Education caved in. They shouldn't have had to do that, they shouldn't have been out on the limb in the first place, they should have had consultation and to realize the folly of that particular budget and trying to plant the fiscal flag on the hill of education, as they are trying to do now on the hill of health.

After many weeks of consultation in this House, we are consulting with the government from over here. We are consulting with Nova Scotians through this medium. It amazes me that the government would put themselves through this much hardship on some of their major budget items when they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and not having now developed a reputation of caving in at the first shot by consulting with Nova Scotians prior to coming here with an incomplete budget. Now they are coming here with Bill No. 46, which is a much more complete document. I will give them that much. There is a lot of complete stuff in here. The problem is, Nova Scotians don't know what is in here. They don't know there are tax measures in this budget that are going to affect them. They don't know that there are tax measures in here that are going to affect seniors. There are tax measures in here that are going to affect virtually every Nova Scotian at one point or another.

[Page 5873]

[8:00 p.m.]

In regards to the budget, Mr. Speaker, that came before the House and some of the implications of that budget are contained in Bill No. 46 - that I believe and Nova Scotians that I talk to believe - that this government didn't know what was in the complete budget when they got here. I think they are victims of bureaucratic foul-ups here, when, all of a sudden, figures change on a daily basis, depending on how many people are out on Hollis Street or out this way or over there or how many letters come in. It is amazing how finances can change in a hurry. It is just amazing how things can change when there is confrontation or when people rise up and want to know what their government is up to.

We have the same situation in Health, Mr. Speaker. Now we hear 100 lay-offs in one day - no more then 50 the first day, then it was 100 - now it is up to 400. It is only supposed to be the QE II. Now we hear, in the local paper in Sydney, on Saturday, there are going to be lay-offs in industrial Cape Breton in the hospital. That is just what we need down there. So all of this stems from two weeks ago when there were only going to be 50 administrative positions lost in the entire system and it wouldn't impact. Now it went to 100, then it went to 300, then it went to 400 and 600. Now there is going to be lay-offs out in the hinterland, all across the province. Eventually, the way things end up here, the only thing that has been equal or will end up being equal, is lay-offs. Anything else is not equal, but lay-offs will certainly end up. I can guarantee you that the people in the area that I represent are saying whatever happens up there, it will eventually filter down to us. That is exactly what is going to happen here.

Is there any reference in this bill to the hospitals that are going to be closed or the hospitals that are going to be altered or the lay-offs, New Waterford, Yarmouth, Queens, Lunenburg. If the minister will allow what is happening to QE II, God help the rest of the province in terms of where they are heading. The minister said in the House the other day that the Health budget was based on the results of a program review. Well, where is the program review? I think the minister has a responsibility to make that program review available to Nova Scotians. Is it in here? Are there measures in here on the program review? I don't know. Never mind whether I know or not, it is whether Nova Scotians know, all Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians don't have access to the stuff because nobody has bothered to show it to them.

I can't believe that a document like this is not, at least advertised, at least explained. Take out an ad in a couple of the major papers in this province and tell them what is in here. Don't try to ram it through the House because you have a majority government. You know that, eventually, if you can sit there, and if this Government House Leader can keep 15 in the House every day, that you can sit here until the summertime, but you are going to get this bill through, at some point. I know that. I can count and I know that, eventually, the smugness of the government that they have a majority government, will prevail and everybody will fall in line and vote for something that Nova Scotians have no idea of.

[Page 5874]

Last week when I had the opportunity to speak on the hoist, I said to the backbenchers in the Tory Party that you have the ability to vote your conscience in this House at any time; you are not part of the government, you represent your ridings. Front benchers don't have that luxury. Front benchers are members of the Cabinet and as members of the government, are duty-bound by government policy but the MLAs, representing Tory ridings, who sit opposite have responsibility to take this document home and show it to your constituents and ask your constituents, do they agree with the measures in here? Your job in this House is to represent your constituents in this House, as the MLA for a particular area, not to protect the front benches of the government.

You are not members of the government, you are no different than we are over here; you represent . . .

MR. BARRY BARNET: Oh yes we are.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: No, you are not, and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, as a former municipal councillor, knows that if you don't pay attention to your constituents and at least tell them what is going on, then you won't be here a second term. It is as simple as that. There are all kinds of examples around here in the past few years that the same thing happened to and, as I said before, I am doing a report card on a lot of backbenchers over there and at the end of this session I will have a good idea who will be back and who won't.

I will tell you one thing, if you don't pay attention to your constituents on important matters like tax measures, at least tell your constituents what tax measures are coming; at least tell your constituents what you have in store for them. It is a 100 page document here that the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank should have a public meeting on, as the MLA, and so should the member for Preston, who likes to interject off the record all the time in these debates. I think the member for Preston should have a public meeting and tell the good people of Preston what is in store for them with Bill No. 46.

I think, Mr. Speaker, most Nova Scotians are saying the government is hiding behind their majority government, they are just going to ram these policies through. They are going to try to recoup some money from Nova Scotians to make their agenda a little better and then they will try to do that again next year and then, lo and behold, as they head towards the next election, they will start to throw a few goodies back to those they just finished taking it from.

As a matter of fact, the entire agenda of the government makes very little mention of any development policies in Nova Scotia that are going to mean anything in the future, except a lot of tax grabs. They talk about the economy. Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is safe to say that the Tories are going to take us back to the economy of old, which is looking after your friends, looking after the big business interests in this province . . .

[Page 5875]

AN HON. MEMBER: Fishing friends.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Fishing friends, yes, particularly people who have a lot of material gain to be had from this government if they are allowed to get in the bunker in one way or the other and get their policies before the Cabinet; that is the economy of Buchanan and Cameron.

I think in the past couple of weeks there has been some indication of what has been happening in this province that I think the government should be very concerned about, the fact that a number of businesses are getting very nervous about doing their business in Nova Scotia. Some of them are leaving; you saw an example of that this week. You see an example of an unstable economy which the government has not been able to zero in on; you see the lack of housing starts outside of Halifax metro; as a matter of fact the housing starts inside Halifax metro are not as buoyant as they once were. You see the effects of major industrials in this province hurting badly: the Cape Breton Development Corporation, Sydney Steel, and now that is finding its way to Trenton car works. It is finding its way into other counties of the province where there are some troublesome indications that the economy may not be growing as much as we thought, and may, indeed be slipping back. As a matter of fact, there is evidence to suggest that it is slipping back.

I think the government has made a critical mistake in its first year in regard to who it is listening to, and it is certainly not listening to Nova Scotians. Two things have happened here. They are trying to, I think, toe the agenda of the Board of Trade in this particular area. I believe there is a relationship between the metro Board of Trade and the government that I have never seen before. The consultation here is something that I have never witnessed in this province. Yet, in Bill No. 46, there is absolutely no consultation. There is consultation with just about every matter of public policy that affects the economy of this particular area through the greater Halifax Chamber of Commerce. It has been said that the real Premier doesn't sit in this room, that he sits in the chair of the Halifax metro Chamber of Commerce. (Interruption)

That is Murray Coolican. I am not telling tales out of school here. I believe that is a well-known fact. Isn't it a shame that the Premier and his Cabinet have adopted the agenda of the elite here in this particular area, and have forgotten about the rest of Nova Scotia. For example, why wouldn't the same consideration be given to Nova Scotians to go around the province with this document? Or to hold some budget meetings prior to coming here with an unfinished document and expecting us to, by your leave, just pass it and let the government get on with doing its dastardly deeds in regard to Draconian tax measures.

I believe the first shot was fired on the mandate of this government when their plans for economic development were included in their strategy for the future. One and a half pages, I believe, or perhaps it was two pages. If that is the engine that is driving the government, then it is a two-cylinder. I have said it before. There doesn't seem to be anything

[Page 5876]

from cover to cover in this Bill No. 46 that would give me any hope to think there is going to be any credit given to that Department of Economic Development in terms of where this economy is going and why it is not growing.

There is a feeling in rural Nova Scotia that they have been abandoned. Certainly the agriculture sector is feeling that way. People in Cape Breton have lost what little confidence they had in this government. They have already lost that to the point where it gets tricky for government members to even go there, unless they certainly would go down with a document like this and discuss it with people.

AN HON. MEMBER: Travel in pairs.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Travel in pairs, yes, for safety. There is no plan. The answer to the plan that was developed by the greater partnership in Cape Breton was to put another plan together, to discuss that plan. There is nothing in this particular bill that would suggest to me there is going to be any development initiatives to actually put people to work. There were a number of good suggestions in the recommendations that came out of the partnership, but none of those recommendations are being looked at other than the recommendation to do another study. Well, that is very nice. I believe that there are some good recommendations there that government could act upon. All it takes is political will, and the political will certainly doesn't seem to be there to do anything except ramming legislation through the House, albeit very slowly because of the concerns we have on this side of the House regarding Bill No. 46, and the next piece of legislation that is due to come before the House as well. That is the Education Bill.

There are going to have to be some changes made in both of these, or we are in here for a long time. There is no question. Until the clock runs out. The clock will eventually run out, but it is going to be like an hourglass. When you tip it up, it is going to be dripping very slowly because there are parts of this bill and parts of the Education Bill that we are going to want to change. I am not standing here naive enough to think that anybody is going to listen to my suggestion that you take this bill and you go on a roadshow, like you are doing with five backbenchers to talk about red tape. I cannot believe that this government would put five MLAs across this province to talk about a red tape commissioner.

[8:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: The dream team.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The dream team, I cannot believe that. Yet a bill as important as Bill No. 46 does not leave this House and you want it to get passed in its entirety, 100 pages of it, without any consultation with Nova Scotians. Yet the government can go out there and with a straight face, the Premier with a straight face can talk to the press and say, I am sending a dream team around the province to talk about red tape, at the same

[Page 5877]

time they have 100 pages of it here ready to be put into practice without any consultation from Nova Scotians.

As I said before, the backbenchers in the government opposite had better start listening to their constituents, particularly those who represent rural Nova Scotia because contrary to what they may feel today, the people they represent are going to judge them on what they have done for the people they represent, not what they have done for the front benches of this government. Governments come and go, but if you want to stay around here as a backbencher, then you had better start listening to your people back home. One of the things, I said before, you better start doing is making them aware of some of the tax measures that are before this House.

I am not being politically partisan in that remark. I am being honest when I tell you that, that if you don't tell the people you represent what is going on in this place in regard to their futures, you will not be around here after the next election because the government will not save you. It is only the people in your constituencies who decide that you deserve to come back. They will judge you on that, nothing else. They will not blame you for putting these tax measures in, but they will blame you for not telling them and they will blame you for not voting your conscience on these bills.

The budget was a different thing. I would expect that anybody over there who did not like the budget held their noses and voted for it because you would have been kicked out of the caucus if you did not vote for it. I am not naive enough to think otherwise. I know who is running the show there and you would have been kicked out of the caucus. But on a bunch of tax measures that you did not campaign on, you did not campaign on any tax increases, quite the contrary, you did not campaign on tax measures, you did not campaign on reducing the quality of education in this province, you did not campaign on reducing the number of people working in the health care system in this province.

As a matter of fact, you did campaign and made statements on some issues that I don't see in here. I don't see the code of conduct yet that was supposed to be, when we first started the House, the Premier said it will be in daily. Give us a couple of days and it will be in. I don't see it yet. Why are we not discussing that? Is that in here? Do Nova Scotians know what is in that?

AN HON. MEMBER: That was the week you were away.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Was it? Okay. I am talking about in here, you know, do Nova Scotians know what is in it? Is there a bill coming on major government structural changes? We heard about that, but we have not seen too much of it.

[Page 5878]

There are some good initiatives in the Financial Measures (2000) Bill, not many, but there are a few good ones. But I have to tell you, anybody who will believe this government has any other agenda in doing away with the Halifax Port Authority than to get rid of the people who are presently serving on it, is more naive than I am for asking the question; or anybody who would believe that they are getting rid of the Gaming Corporation for any other reason than to get rid of the people who are working there and replace them with Tories in six months' time, miraculously these things will come back onstream, oops, we made a mistake, we should never have done away with the Halifax Port Authority.

Now here we are, this government is doing away with the Halifax Port Authority in this bill and we are trying to set one up in industrial Cape Breton, so we can develop the harbour. What do they do here? They do away with it. They did away with it because it is the easiest way to get rid of the people who are on the board or working for them. That is why. That is the old Tory way, you get rid of it then you bring it back in six months with our own people. The same with the Gaming Corporation, broke contracts all over the place here, going to be involved in some lawsuits here, no doubt about that. If you read the second page of this there is a lawsuit there for sure.

They don't care, it doesn't make any difference; you get rid of the people, break the contracts, suffer the consequences, eventually settle and then bring your own people back in with exactly the same boards. We know that is what is happening here in Bill No. 46. You are putting this thing through the House without any consultation. I will bet you that the people of Halifax are not yet fully aware of the fact that they are doing away with the port commission here. I would suggest in six months' time you will see that resurface, along with some form of gaming corporation. There will be a lot of friends of the government on that particular commission or those commissions, I can tell you that.

I think we learned the lessons of the first year in office in 1993-94. I want to tell you that Nova Scotians, the first time that Nova Scotians are going to forget 1993-94 is this year. The present Premier is going to go down in history for making Nova Scotians forget about any previous Premier. As a matter of fact, they won't even be able to tell you who they were after this because this Premier will go down in history as the most regressive administration this province ever had. The indications are all there, this is where we are starting to move; development is not forging ahead in this province, the people of this province are upset with what this government is trying to do but, more so, they are upset with the lack of any plan. They are upset because a major Minister of the Crown comes to this House with a set budget that can't be altered and a week later it is altered because there was a bunch of people out there with a megaphone. That is all it took to take that budget and unscramble it.

Suddenly there was money. Then we found there was a slush fund. Now we are into the health debate. I will bet you that the second shot that is fired across the bow will see some changes there and that is what it should be because none of those changes were done with any consultation from Nova Scotians; none of those changes were made in the best interests of

[Page 5879]

this province. I could tell you that when you start chopping teachers, when you start chopping health care people in this province, you are in for trouble. I mentioned earlier that you are in for one term. Well, I will tell you, those who might be smug and laugh about that right now may not be laughing in a couple of years' time because your front benches have assured your notoriety will last far beyond the next budget.

What the government of this province has forgotten is that Nova Scotians cherish basic services in this province, including education and health care. What they don't cherish and what they were told they had enough of is tax increases. What they don't cherish is seniors who are concerned about Pharmacare increases. What they don't cherish is seniors who are afraid now to dial 911 because it might cost them some money they cannot afford, they are on fixed incomes. The very first page here talks about 911 and the equity tax credit. A lot of Nova Scotians don't understand what the government is doing, in terms of the taxation, because they have not had a chance to look at it.

I can't repeat it often enough that the government has the responsibility to tell Nova Scotians what tax measures they are about to implement that are included in Bill No. 46. Not after the fact, because, after the fact, it is too late. Then you retreat to the bunker and put the companion orders in place to enforce what you have in here, then you write the regulations, and you get the bureaucrats to do the bidding on it.

We talked about the equity tax credit, and today I introduced a resolution in this House, Mr. Speaker, regarding the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority and the initiatives they were doing here in the Halifax area regarding the media promotion that is on this week, talking about promoting the film industry, despite the fact that the government has cut the tax credits to the film industry in Cape Breton, and guess what happened? The government voted for my resolution today, voted against their own tax measures in this House this afternoon. Now that will tell you that there is nobody minding the store over there when it comes to tax measures or when it comes to anything else.

That resolution passed unanimously in this House today. I, certainly, was proud of that, that the government realized the errors of their way, realized the errors in what they have been doing in tax measures that they saw fit to give me unanimous consent today in my resolution, even though they have an Equity Tax Credit Act position on Page 3 of Bill No. 46 that contradicts. Maybe, just maybe, the government adopted a conscience today that said the member for Cape Breton South is right, and we are wrong on our tax credit initiatives in Cape Breton; we should never have pulled back on those tax credits.

Maybe the government is having second thoughts about that and maybe they decided that today was a good day to give unanimous consent to my resolution on the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority and their promotion of the flim and music industry in Cape Breton. Anyway, it got unanimous consent and I am pleased about that because it is the government that will have to answer for why they voted for that. Obviously, they felt their

[Page 5880]

tax program was wrong. I am pleased that they admit that. Obviously, they must admit it, every one of them voted for it today.

But I shouldn't have to come to this Legislature with a resolution on everything here and do it by form of resolution. It would be much simpler if the government spin doctors took this document, went across the province and asked Nova Scotians, asked the people in Halifax metro, are you in favour of doing away with the port commission? Ask the people in Bedford, are you in favour with doing away with the Bedford commission? Ask the people across the province, do you want increased user fees for Pharmacare? Do you want to pay for 911 services? Do you want lesser tax credits? Do you want some of the other measures that are in this bill? At least have some consultation. That was the reason for the earlier hoist, Mr. Speaker, and the earlier hoist, of course, we talked that out and we were defeated on that, but we were wanting six months of a time-frame, so discussion could take place. That didn't happen, so now we are faced with the bill on second reading.

I would like to see the government have second thoughts about proceeding with this. Leave it on the order paper for a few months and then all the backbenchers can take a copy of it - or the sections that they feel are applicable to their constituents - back home to their constituents and ask their constituents, do you agree with this? After all, I am representing you, and I want to know what you think. I am not representing the Premier; I am not representing the Minister of Education, or the Minister of Justice, or the Minister of Health. I am representing the good people of my constituency and you, as backbenchers, on the government side, should exercise that right to take this document back to your constituents and ask them if they agree with this document and further ask them that, if I toe the government line of these measures, are you going to back me up or not? I think you will be surprised at some of the answers you might get.

[8:30 p.m.]

I know what you are saying, oh, well, I don't have to do that because I am going to be promised this or I am going to be promised that. Over the next couple of years, you know, you may put the money back into Inverness for the golf course when the timing is right, that the previous government put there, or you may put some more money into the millennium project in Yarmouth, or we might do something else in Antigonish. (Interruption) Do you think that? Yes, well, forget Yarmouth. I think that is too late down there but, anyway, I believe that if the MLAs have a chance - and you can come clean with me if you want - put your hands up if you took this document back to your constituents and explained it to them. How many over there did that?

Put your hands up. None, not one hand goes up. In other words, there is nobody in your constituency who has seen this document, nobody. All these tax increases and nobody has seen it. I cannot believe that not one hand went up over there. Are you people so smug

[Page 5881]

that you think you can get away with this in the long run, that you can force this on the people of Nova Scotia and get away with it?

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Justice said yes.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, I am going to tell you, like I said the other day, there will be a lot of different faces in those chairs in a couple of years' time, I will tell you, a lot of different faces in those chairs. You don't achieve longevity in this business by abandoning the people who sent you here, Mr. Justice Minister, and if that is funny to you now, I hope it is still as funny in a couple of years' time because I am going to tell you the people of your area will not think it is so funny.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that a bill of this size, a bill that contains these many measures, should never have come to the House in the form of this omnibus bill that it did. I believe there are very important bills contained in this omnibus bill that should have been brought to this House on their own and discussed by this House, but this is the way of, hopefully, shortening the session, getting all of the damage out of the way at once, you know, taking this particular document, ramming it through second reading, go down the hall, ram it through there, come back up here, sit and read magazines while we spend another 20 hours on the bill, you know, and then go to third reading and then, hopefully, get out of here before too long with the bill intact.

All they have to do is wait us out. That is all they have to do, but I am going to tell you the damage that will be caused by that will be irreparable. As I said earlier, this administration will make Nova Scotians forget about any previous problems that were in any administration in this province, I will guarantee you that, including the Buchanan-Cameron years, because I believe that this government does not have a plan. You cannot plant a fiscal flag on the hill of education or health and get away with it in this province. If this government tries to save money by destroying the health care and the educational system of this province, they are going to pay dearly for it. I can tell you, I go back to another government of a federal nature, a few years ago when the federal Tory Party tried something and ended up with two seats in Canada, a political rump in the wilderness, and I am suggesting that after one term the Tory Party in Nova Scotia will be a footnote in history as well. They were here, but they were not here very long.

There seems to be a lot of exit mechanisms for this particular government and one of them is to ram a major piece of legislation through the House in the form of an omnibus bill, in the form of an ominous bill as well, to ram it through, hoping that Nova Scotians will be none the wiser until they wake up, depending on which sector they are in in this province, and find, oh my heavens, my taxes have increased, or this has gone up or that has gone up, everything from ambulance fees to 911, to user fees in just about everything, something that is surely a sign of things to come in this province and that is more user fees and perhaps we

[Page 5882]

should be very concerned about the direction this government is going in terms of its health care delivery.

I cannot believe, again I have to come back to this, but I cannot believe that the Premier and his Cabinet were serious when they put five MLAs and a citizen of the province, somebody from outside this Legislature, on a red tape commission to go around the province. I wonder how much that is going to cost the Nova Scotia taxpayers. Is that a reward for some underworked MLAs? I have never seen that in the history of government in Nova Scotia where you take five MLAs and send them on a road trip to talk about red tape. I would like to see the kind of interest that is going to be concerning people across this province when you have a bill that concerns people that has no discussion connected with it, that has no intentions of having any discussion with Nova Scotians attached to it - and, it is going to be rammed through this House, rammed down there in the Law Amendments Committee, rammed back up here, third reading, it will go through and Nova Scotians are none the wiser - yet, at the same time, we have a group of five MLAs to keep them busy, was the term I heard, to go around the province and solicit some views on red tape.

Well, what they will get is a bunch of Tories coming to those meetings saying, yeah, we don't like the red tape. We want to know how to access government programs. We don't want to go through the procedure. We just want to know what you are going to do for us. That is what you are going to get. You are going to tell them, here is how to access the programs easier, just show us your membership card; that is all. But you won't find that in here. This is a document that is foisted on Nova Scotians. This is an I-got-you document. That is what this is. But the five people to go around, Johnny Abbass might even get his bakery out of this, if he hasn't already gone to the Alliance. He has been making some moves that way.

This is what the insanity, I guess, of the program of this government is. A bill of this import is here before this House with no public discussion at all, and we have the spectacle of five Tory MLAs going around the province asking Tories, how can they access government largesse easier. Tell me, is that fiscal sanity from this government? Senior citizens are going to be awfully interested in the red tape commission going around the province when their Pharmacare is going up; when their ambulance fees are going up, when their 911 fees are going to be going up, although the minister said, don't worry about that. Putting legislation in doesn't mean we are going to have any fee increases. Oh no, it doesn't mean that, doesn't mean that at all.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is getting short, and I just want to say that I will probably be back again to give the same lecture on Bill No. 46 and other government legislation as we approach the committee stage and clause-by-clause debate, and I will also certainly have an opportunity at third reading, but I want to say to government members again, take this document back to your constituencies and ask your constituents whether or not they agree with the contents that lie from cover to cover in this particular document. I

[Page 5883]

think that members opposite will be very surprised at the response they may get from their constituents. Some of them may come back here and maybe suggest some amendments to Bill No. 46 on their own. That would be something wouldn't it, that would be really something, to have somebody who represents, not the government, but the people of their constituency.

Remember, you MLAs are not part of the government, you are MLAs representing your area. It is only when you get elevated up there to the front benches do you have to toe the Cabinet solidarity mark or you are out. But as an MLA, your first responsibility is to your constituents and that responsibility should be exercised every chance you get. If it isn't, Mr. Speaker, they will be a footnote in this place in the future, because the people of Nova Scotia sent them there to protect their interests. They didn't send them there to toe the mark of the government front benches. They sent them there to represent the areas of the province that they are elected to this place to do that. They have a responsibility in this place to take bills like Bill No. 46 and explain it. Have public meetings in your area and explain it to people. You will be very surprised at what you might get. Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in the debate on Bill No. 46. I am the last speaker from our caucus. Second reading on Bill No. 46, we have had a pretty good go at it, we have talked about it for a few hours. My colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, had introduced an amendment trying to get the government to consider taking six months to review the implications of the Financial Measures (2000) Bill. They did not agree to that so we then went on, as did our colleagues in the other Party, and debated the merits or lack thereof of this particular bill, trying to impress upon government members that this bill and what they are doing with the budget, because this bill accompanies the budget, really betrayed the trust of Nova Scotians.

When you talk with Nova Scotians either in the malls or on the street or out in front of this Legislature, you will hear them say that they don't know what this government is doing. Whether it is through Bill No. 46 or the budget or any of their other measures, they don't know what they are doing. They don't understand because this isn't anything that this government and this Premier talked about when he was seeking the support of Nova Scotians in the election last summer.

I must say that I was somewhat disconcerted in the response from the Premier and the members of Cabinet in their response to questions about the implication of the various parts of the budget and of this particular bill. We have said, for example, that the cuts in that budget would have an impact on the classroom, on the type of education that children in Nova Scotia will receive and the Minister of Education or the Premier will stand up and say, no, no, these cuts will only affect administration. Then we will get up and we will say, well we just talked to this child, this parent, this teacher, this principal, this member of the school board and they in fact have said that these cuts will mean x number of teachers gone, x number of program

[Page 5884]

assistants gone and this will directly affect the ability of the students to receive an education, of their parents and their teachers to deliver that education. Then the next response is, well, okay, maybe you are right. It will have an implication on children and parents and teachers and the school boards, but the deficit made us do it. We just didn't know how bad things were and this is what we were going to do.

The Premier has even said to me across this floor in Question Period, Nova Scotians knew what they were going to get because we told them what we were going to give them during the election campaign. He said that with a straight face, which I found quite incredible because we campaigned long and hard last summer and what the Premier didn't tell Nova Scotians was that he was going to attack Public Services. That he was going to squeeze what was left of the goodness out of the Public Services and public servants, he is going to squeeze them even harder than they have been squeezed over the past 10 years.

That he and his colleagues were going to go after teachers and they were going to go after program assistants, schools and school boards. They were going to go after hospitals and health care workers in order to try to suck some money back so they could eventually, in three years time, be able to give their wealthy and powerful friends a small tax break. That is not what this government and this Premier told Nova Scotians when he was seeking their support in the last election.

We have heard it again and again and Nova Scotians don't need to be reminded that they had the wool pulled over their eyes by this Party, by this Premier in the election campaign when he said, we will make health and education our top priorities. We will invest in better health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. We will invest in the classroom. We will ensure that there are more teachers, there are more program assistants. We will keep class sizes down in the province.

Nova Scotians believed the Premier, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the members that were running for the Progressive Conservative Party in that election. Nova Scotians believed what it was that they were being told and now, Mr. Speaker, they have had that all thrown back in their faces and the government, basically, say to them, we were just kidding. Sorry that you are upset, but we were just kidding. That was what we had to say in order to get elected. Don't you understand? That is how politics works in the Province of Nova Scotia. Political Parties run and they say whatever they have to say to make you feel good so you would vote for them. Then we form the government and then we do whatever we please. That is what the Tories are saying now to the people of Nova Scotia.

[8:45 p.m.]

So that is how we got here, Mr. Speaker, but let's talk about it for a second more. In the summer after the election, after Nova Scotians gave these Tories their trust, after they gave them their support, the new Premier and his colleagues told Nova Scotians to take the

[Page 5885]

rest of the summer off. Don't worry. Be happy. Go barbecue. We will look after things. We will put together a budget. We will get these finances under control and we are going to come up with a plan for health care, for education, for the economy of this province and we are going to get this government rocking and rolling.

What did we see in the fall? Well, we saw the announcement of a program review. That was announced in September, a program review that they were going to review all the programs in the Province of Nova Scotia and we have heard numbers of up to 1,200-some odd programs that are delivered by the Province of Nova Scotia, which this government was going to review. They were going to review and, I guess, decide which ones they liked and which ones they didn't like. They were going to get rid of them. Then they brought in a budget in the fall, which was, basically, the Liberal budget that was defeated in the spring. They just brought that budget in and said, yes, I know that we voted against this and we didn't like it, but it is all we have been able to put together so far. So here it is and now we like it. Now we are going to support it.

So there we were, three or four months into this government's term, still no plan, still no vision, still no answer to the problems facing the health care system, still no answers to the problems facing education, facing the economy. Still this government said, wait and see. Then, on top of the program review, they decided that they would send a blue blood committee of Nova Scotians out and they called it the task force on fiscal renewal. They would send them out around the province to talk to Nova Scotians about the things that needed to be done. That committee went out and consulted, supposedly, with Nova Scotians throughout December and came back with some recommendations in January. The recommendations were, basically, that this government should dismiss what it was that they promised Nova Scotians in the summer and just simply cut and slash, privatize, get rid of public assets to the private sector and give wealthy and powerful Nova Scotians tax breaks.

Still, we hadn't seen any program review results, still we hadn't seen any indication of a plan that this government might have had for economic development, they might have had for health care or for education. We did know that the government had announced, in health care, for example, that they were going to get rid of regional health boards. That they decided that the way to address the problems, the lack of stability, the chaos, the under-funding in the health care system was to create more chaos, to eliminate one set of structures and put another set of structures into place. This was this government's idea of trying to bring some stability and refreshing direction to the people of Nova Scotia and the health care system. That didn't work.

Mr. Speaker, then we got the budget to which this bill is affixed, a budget that, it is fair to say, many Nova Scotians found absolutely devastating in the damage that is being caused as the implications of that bill and the impacts of that bill are rolling out, but also devastating in the betrayal Nova Scotians felt at the hands of this government, that instead of investing in more teachers, investing in the classrooms, they were doing the opposite of

[Page 5886]

that. They were cutting teachers, they were cutting program assistants, they were cutting funding to repair dilapidated and sick buildings. They were increasing Pharmacare costs for seniors, they were increasing the costs of medication, they were cutting back the funds to the health care system to the point where the QE II alone is going to have to shed in excess of 400 jobs and it may even be more. Many of those, as we have heard in the last few days, are coming directly from the front lines of the health care system.

That is what Nova Scotians found when they woke up on budget day and heard the Minister of Finance deliver his now-infamous budget. You may remember the statement in there about how we are going to take $20 million out of the education system, that will translate into 400 teachers but they won't be laid off, they will leave through attrition, through retirements, voluntary leaves, and this kind of thing. Well, you know what happened with those words, it blew up in the government's face. Their numbers were way out of whack, completely wrong. In fact, now what they done is they have had to add $27 million to $33 million - we still haven't been able to nail it down completely - to that $20 million. They have had to add that amount to the Education budget in order to try to slow down the carnage to some extent and, perhaps most importantly, slow down the revolution that was building across this province as parents and teachers, school board members and others concerned about the integrity of the public education system were coming to their feet and going into the streets, and saying to this government, it is wrong, you can't do this, you are affecting our ability to compete in the future, and that is just not acceptable.

This government had to back off, they had to admit the fact that they were wrong, that the projections that they had made in their budget were way off. They had to admit that the impact of their budget cuts was much more significant than they had let on, and they came up with an extra $27 million to $33 million, in order to try to stem the flow of people in the streets. We know, and as each day goes by, we are beginning to get a better sense of the degree of the cuts regardless of the extra $27 million to $33 million. In the Halifax Regional School Board alone, they are talking about 60-plus program assistants, those are people who deliver very important, essential support to children with high needs in the classroom to address a situation that has been very serious leading up to this year, and it is just simply going to be compounded with the reduction of 60 additional program assistants.

I know in my constituency - I have raised it in this House before - there are parents who, since their children have entered the public system three and four years ago, have been fighting tooth and nail, have given up jobs, have rearranged their careers, in order to be themselves in the classroom, in order to provide some assistance to their children because the program assistants were not there to begin with. They have had confirmation from the principals of these schools, the teachers, the specialists in the school board that their children need a program assistant but they were told the money just was not available.

[Page 5887]

Now this government, in the first real budget they bring in, it cuts away at any hope that these parents might have had that their children would receive any of that assistance whatsoever. A devastating decision in the lives of many people in the Halifax area and, undoubtedly, across the province because their children, as a result of the decision by this Premier, the Minister of Finance and people across the front benches, as a result of their decisions on this budget, one approved by all members of the government caucus, their children are being deprived of their constitutional right to an education. That is shameful, Mr. Speaker, but, most importantly, it is devastating to the people who are directly affected. That was education.

The Health budget, not only did the figures change on a daily basis in education, in health care it was not dissimilar. The Minister of Finance was forced to issue a mea culpa with respect to the costs he quoted in his budget, the cost increases of the Pharmacare Program which he greatly exaggerated, he said that in the year 1997-98 that they paid $42 million, in fact they paid $64.6 million, the program, the cost to the province had never been as low as the Finance Minister claims, since 1987. I mean he was out by over 10 years, Mr. Speaker, and out to an enormous amount.

The minister indicated that in the last three years alone - it came out of his budget statement - the cost of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program almost doubled, from $42 million to $83 million. As I said, Mr. Speaker, instead of it being $42 million, it should have been $64.6 million. Why was that big gap so important? It is because that huge increase, from $46 million to $83 million, is what they used to justify an increase of over 50 per cent in the amount that seniors are now going to be asked to pay for Pharmacare. Shocking.

When it was revealed that they were wrong, that the Minister of Finance and his officials were wrong, did they say to seniors, sorry, we don't have to increase your co-pay, we don't have to increase the costs that are being borne by seniors? Did they say that? No, they did not, Mr. Speaker. They ignored that. They made a huge mistake, in terms of the argument they made to seniors, they said we are sorry, we don't have any choice; the costs in the past three years have almost doubled, said the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health, we just can't bear these costs. They jacked up the cost for seniors and, I will tell you what, there are some seniors who said, well, you know if that is the way it is, in order to maintain the Pharmacare Program, we will pay more if we have to. What the government is telling us is true, but it was not true, Mr. Speaker. The member for Yarmouth thinks that is funny. He thinks it is funny to lie to seniors. He thinks it is funny.

[9:00 p.m.]

That is, in fact, what happened, Mr. Speaker. Seniors were not given the straight goods, and as a result of a fallacious and an inaccurate argument, they were increased. The member for Pictou East, we don't often hear from him, but he thought he would speak up there a minute ago. He thinks this is funny, too. I wonder how many seniors he has told in his

[Page 5888]

constituency that he was wrong and his government was wrong; that, in fact, the cost of Pharmacare had not doubled. I don't think he told anyone because you and I know, Mr. Speaker, the member for Pictou East does not have the guts to tell seniors what is really going on here in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party would realize that that is unparliamentary to say that to another member and I would ask him to retract that, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just withdraw that and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . say that I don't think the member for Pictou East had the courage to tell seniors that, in fact, there was a huge discrepancy in the way that the Department of Health or the Department of Finance made that presentation. You call it whatever word you want but it all comes down to the same analysis - seniors are not getting the straight goods from this government.

It just keeps going on, I mean it just continues and continues. The government tried to present a different picture in terms of what seniors were actually going to be asked to pay. They said in their document that the fees were going to be $4.4 million. That is what their budget documents actually said and that is what the minister's speech said, the fees were going to increase by $4.4 million. They actually increased $8 million and we had to, through Question Period in this House to the Minister of Health, get him to finally admit that we were right, that that is, in fact, the truth. In fact, he may not even have admitted it here. It may have been to the press outside this committee, which is what often happens, Mr. Speaker, that that in fact was the truth.

We then ferreted out some more information about the fact that the government was going after an additional $5 million in fees in health care, Mr. Speaker, everything from TV rentals to fibreglass casts. This government was going in, this government that said we have to get the finances of this province in order so we can get money back into the pockets of Nova Scotians, and yet what is the first thing they do? The first thing they do is they get their central vac, a Eureka vac, and they stick the hose in the pockets of Nova Scotians and they start sucking money out for everything that Nova Scotians could imagine, whether it be drivers' licenses, whether it be probate fees, whether it be for ambulances, whether it be for an emergency call, a plastic cast, whatever, this government is going after Nova Scotians at a level we have not seen for some time.

Mr. Speaker, the government, this Party, during the last election campaign, raised some expectations out there amongst Nova Scotians and that is what we are seeing right now. We are seeing a huge divergence in expectations. Nova Scotians were told by the Progressive

[Page 5889]

Conservatives they were going to do this and then they ended up doing that and Nova Scotians are trying to figure out why. They are trying to find out why it is this government is heading down this road.

You know, in the government's Budget Address, they make a projection for the next two years in the Province of Nova Scotia on employment levels. In the rest of Canada, unemployment is going to continue to go down; but in Nova Scotia under these Tories, they estimated themselves it is going to go from up to 10 per cent and then 10.2 per cent and 10.4 per cent. Do you know what that means in real terms? That means 5,000 people, that means 5,000 more unemployed Nova Scotians.

You know what? I think this government has set out to create those 5,000 unemployed themselves. I honestly think they are going to do that themselves, whether it is in health care, whether it is nurses, whether it is nursing assistants, whether it is cleaners in the hospital, whether it is the people who work in dietary or the maintenance people, whether it is teachers, program assistants, bus drivers, people who work in the maintenance, it doesn't matter. Agriculture and agricultural services, they are laying people off left, right, and centre throughout the province.

There is not a rural community in this province that isn't taking a hit from the Party that said they were going to protect and enhance the economy of rural Nova Scotia. It is a funny way to show it. It is just like the closing down of correctional facilities in the province, and they are going to centralize them in Burnside. That, to me, is shifting jobs from rural Nova Scotia to the city. That is not what this government said they were going to do. This government is bent on, I believe, Mr. Speaker, ensuring that that 5,000 is a target they meet themselves, 5,000 more unemployed. But, you know, they are getting some help. They are getting help from the Sears call centre, they are getting help by other means. The effect of the cuts in rural Nova Scotia are significant.

Let me talk for a minute about a couple of other things the government said they were going to do, what the Leader of the Tory Party said, the Premier. When asked pointedly, he said, I am not going to attack the Public Service, that is not the way to do it. They have been under attack now for the past 10 years. We know they are doing a great job. We know that is not the way to do things. That is not the way to ensure that our Public Service is productive, to attack them. We are not going to go and suck more money out of the health care and education system because we understand that we need to ensure there is more money invested in health care and education. But we are going to do it smarter, they said; through efficiencies and administrative savings, we are going to be able to put a control on spending. It is not going to take great hacking and slashing, they said. We did that through the Savage years and that didn't work. So, we are going to do it differently. They said that was the way.

[Page 5890]

But, Mr. Speaker, this bill and the budget that accompanies this bill, we saw that the reality is much more stark and much more divergent than what this group proposed. If you look at some of the departments for example, in Agriculture, the production specialists. I was up in Kentville a few weeks ago when the announcement first came out. I met with some of those people who have been there 25, 30, 35 years. I know from my experience of having worked on farms in the Valley, just how important some of those specialists were to the proper and economical functioning of many of those farms. All of a sudden those are the people that the farmers see. Those are the people that are out there getting their hands dirty. They are working side by side with the farmers to try to figure out what kinds of insects are attacking their apple crop in any particular year, or trying to figure out why it is the apple blossoms are not growing as fully as they should, or are working with the milk producers and the horticulturalists and others in the province. Those are the direct specialists. In fact, I talked to somebody from the insurance branch and he said to me, I can't do my job properly if I don't have these guys out in the field to give me the accurate information in order to make the calls.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It is very hard to hear the speaker.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: That is what farmers are saying and that is what the reality is and the impact of this particular budget. The Environment Department was one of the hardest hit, at a time when we need to ensure that our environment, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land on which we produce is not further contaminated than it is. Now is not the time to be cutting back on inspectors and experts within the Department of the Environment, but that is what these guys are doing. That is what this government is doing. I don't know what they hope to accomplish. Maybe they figure the private sector will just look after themselves. I think that is probably it, I think they probably figure, don't worry, these companies will look after themselves. Even though we don't have inspectors, you know there won't be people out there who will have open dumps in a community where it is not permitted. They won't be dumping stuff in their ground, in the backyard or in their community where it not allowed.

Maybe they believe that companies won't just dig a hole in the ground and begin to put all sorts of stuff in there that affects the groundwater in a particular community. You don't have to worry about companies doing that, but you know what? You do have to worry about companies doing that. Not all of them, but a few. There are always a few out there who are going to try to take advantage. They are going to try and push the envelope, they are going to try to make sure they get away with everything they can get away with. If they can save some money, even though it might affect the environment, even though it may endanger the safety and health of their employees and people in their surrounding community, if they can save a few bucks, there are a few - not a lot of them - that will do that.

[Page 5891]

That is why we need to maintain the integrity of the Environment Department. It is why we need to ensure that there are inspectors in place to monitor what is happening throughout the Province of Nova Scotia, to the quality of the air, the quality of the water and the quality of our environment in general.

In education, I talked a bit about it in terms of the direct impact. Do you know that one of the most underfunded universities in this province, one of the universities that plays a most important role of any university in the economic development of their particular community? I refer, of course, to the University College of Cape Breton. It took a nearly $2 million hit as a result of this budget. Imagine. At a time when this government is ensuring that nothing good will happen at Sysco, when this government is sitting around twiddling their thumbs while the federal government has their way with coal miners and the coal mines in Cape Breton, while the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket in Cape Breton, the one institution that is a positive beacon in that environment, the University College of Cape Breton, this government cuts them back by nearly $2 million. What are they thinking about? Once again, when the now Premier was the Leader of the Tories in Opposition, he went to the president of UCCB and he said, you are right, you are not being adequately funded; the funding formula is unfair and we are going to do something about that. That is what he said. What did they do? They turned around and they cut them by nearly $2 million; shameful.

[9:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, how is this government treating the most disadvantaged in our communities? How is this government treating people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a situation where they are not working, they can't work? What is this government doing? Under the guise of combining two - in some cases three - different levels of income under welfare payments, by streamlining them into one, harmonizing them they call it, it is a nice word, harmonize. As a result of this decision to harmonize welfare recipients in particular, single parents and people with disabilities are looking at cuts of 10 per cent. Imagine, these are people who are living well below the poverty line, these are people who are not able, through no fault of their own, to help themselves. This government is going after them: $44 a month, household maintenance they are cutting; $28 a month, household supplies; $18 a month for transportation; this is what this government is doing to people living on social assistance, the disabled and single parents.

The in-home support program has just been transferred recently from Community Services over to health care and they put a moratorium on in-home support services. What does that mean for real people? I brought an example here before and there are other examples across the province, where an individual required an improved wheelchair in order to have access to services, in order to be able to get around, in order to be able to prevent the further destruction and deterioration of his own body, and this government was unable to help this person because of the moratorium on in-home supports. That is a real example, that is

[Page 5892]

a real person, a real Nova Scotian who was not able to be helped because this government has put a moratorium on in-home support to those people, Mr. Speaker.

We raised in here services under the APSEA program for children who are deaf and blind, who access specific funding for itinerant teachers and other aides in the classroom; their funding has been cut. The Minister of Education said, in response to questions here from the member for Halifax-Needham, we can't afford it. How can she say that? How can she say that to the parents of children who, without these aides, are unable to access education? How can they say that?

Mr. Speaker, we have talked at some length about this bill; we have talked at some length about what it is that this government is doing to Nova Scotians. We have heard from people outside this building; and we have heard from people through e-mail, on the phones, and faxes, that this government is betraying and has betrayed their trust, that this government has turned their backs on the promises that they made in the last election campaign.

You have to ask yourself why this government is heading in this direction. Some have called it what has been known as deficit hysteria, Mr. Speaker. What this government did when they came in last fall and ever since, is they put everything they could find, every bill anywhere they can find, on the deficit. That is fine to this extent in that we have all of the liabilities for the Province of Nova Scotia in one place. We can account for them. They are all on the consolidated books of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is all they have stated. That is a good thing. I mean, they cranked her up to $767 million that the deficit was in the Province of Nova Scotia. What they didn't tell you and they didn't tell Nova Scotians was that all but about $300 million, which is a large sum, all but about from $275 million to $250 million to $300 million, everything else are one-time charges, one-time costs. They are gone now; they are not part of the annual operating costs of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Let me tell you, if you are looking at merely $800 million as your annual costs, as your annual deficit, as opposed to $300 million, then you can really crank up the rhetoric about how bad things are, and that is exactly what this government tried to do. That is exactly what they tried to do and have been doing every since, Mr. Speaker, because you see $300 million, with appropriate and more realistic revenue figures in this budget, could have been brought down to a balanced stage and, in three years time, we could have achieved a balanced budget without the significant cuts in Health and Education, and without pounding it to the poor in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We could have done that, but you see there seems to be another agenda in place here. The members of the backbenches seem to know, really, what is going on, the story. They are sitting back there pretty cocky, with big, smug smiles on their faces because they seem to know. They seem to know what is really going on. They haven't told me. I don't know, maybe they told you, Mr. Speaker. They haven't told my constituents; they haven't told very

[Page 5893]

many Nova Scotians that I know of, exactly what it is that they have got up their sleeve. Some think that maybe they don't have a plan and they are just making it up as they go along.

The Minister of Economic Development, did he bring in a plan for the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia? No, he brought in a discussion paper. Right? I mean we are almost a year into these guys' mandate and they are still trying to figure out what to do. The Minister of Health, for the past nine months, has been getting up and saying, don't worry, I know that is an important question and you are absolutely right and we are going to answer that question. That is why we are doing a footprint, not a blueprint - that was the former government - these guys are doing a footprint, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the problem is the foot that was making the footprint has gone to the podiatrist and is getting the corns taken off or something, because we haven't seen that footprint yet. In other words, these people still don't have a plan for health care; no plan for economic development; no plan for health. Do they have a plan for education? Well, as soon as they can figure out how many teachers there are going to be, as soon as they can figure out how many school boards there are going to be, because they are going after them too, then maybe they can start figuring out a plan.

When are they going to have a plan? Maybe they will come before the electorate in three more years, and they will say, guess what we have been doing? We have been working on a plan. We have a plan for you. I think Nova Scotians are going to say, but didn't you tell us that you had a plan last time? You came before us, you had all the answers. What was it called, Jerry, "Strong Leadership . . . a clear course"? I mean, come on. Nova Scotians are laughing.

Nova Scotians are laughing, Mr. Speaker, no, let me get that right, on the one hand they are laughing, on the other, they are sick to their stomachs because of what is happening to the Province of Nova Scotia. I want to take you back for a second. In 1993, we had an election campaign, you remember. Donnie Cameron was the Leader of the Tories. I don't know if the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank was out of high school then or not. Was he? Anyway, Donnie Cameron, give him his due, Donnie Cameron and the Tories ran on a plan, he said for the past year what he had been doing was cutting public services, he had been cutting away at the Public Service; he had been cutting away at health care; he had been cutting away at education. He said elect me and elect the Tories and you will get more of the same, because, he said, we have to deal with this debt and deficit problem. Well, Nova Scotians said, sorry, that is not the way we want to do things here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The Liberals got in with a majority government. The Liberals, in fact, turned around and said they were going to create jobs and they were grow the economy, they were going to save the Public Service and they were going to do all these good things. They turned things on their ear, and they started doing in secret what Donnie Cameron said in public he was

[Page 5894]

going to do. Nova Scotians didn't like that either, because there wasn't any pay-off. There was all kinds of pain and chaos over the six years but the deficit didn't go down, it went up; the debt didn't go down, it went up.

So then the 1999 election comes along, and there is Honest John again, and he says, we are going to do everything, Mr. Speaker, to make you feel good. We are going to invest in health. We are going to invest in education. We are going to stabilize government. We are going to ensure that the people in the Province of Nova Scotia have pride in the future and not do this cut and slash stuff. What did he do? I am surprised that some of these members can even be seen in public with the commitments they made and the way the commitments have been dashed so heartily over the past number of months.

You see, now what we are into is a cut and slash mentality again, and this government, this Premier, members of the front benches, backed up by the silent members in the backbenches, say that this is what we really need to do.

[9:30 p.m.]

The member for Yarmouth is yapping over there, Mr. Speaker, he thinks I am talking to him. He is under the illusion that I am talking to him, but I am not talking to these guys because these guys have all the answers; it is Nova Scotians. So the point is these guys have betrayed Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: Betrayed?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: That is right. They made commitments and they failed to follow through on them, Mr. Speaker, and as a result of that we are in a situation where Nova Scotians have lost trust, again, in a government. They have lost faith in this government.

The health care system continues to be in chaos. The education system, Mr. Speaker, is under attack. Economic development is just sort of floundering along and somehow these guys think Nova Scotians should have confidence that they have things under control. That is probably the most discouraging part about where we are right now. Nova Scotians deserve better than this. Nova Scotians deserve a government that will be straight with them, that will be straightforward. MLAs who will go out and will admit when they have made a mistake, and who will listen to Nova Scotians, listen to their constituents when they have problems, when they are concerned, who will not hide in here or somewhere else.

That is what Nova Scotians need, Mr. Speaker, not elected politicians who think they have all the answers, that they know best. What Nova Scotians deserve and I think what this province needs, is clear direction. It needs a vision for the future, but all this government has done is take us back. It will take us back further and further. Somehow, even though they said

[Page 5895]

in the election campaign they understood that an investment in education is an investment in the future, what that means then by implication, because they are cutting education, because they are cutting the classroom, that means they have turned their backs on the future. They have turned their backs on the children of this province and that is too bad; frankly, that is too bad.

It may seem like a game, but I will tell you, I am sure that those members are getting e-mails, phone calls and they are being approached by many Nova Scotians who don't see the fun in it, who don't see it as a game, Mr. Speaker, but are actually faced with the real implications of what it is this government is doing. I want to say that I, as a member of the NDP caucus, am proud to stand here and debate Bill No. 46 - for the past couple of weeks - to try to raise issues, to try to make points with this government, to try to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to talk to their MLAs, government MLAs, so we might somehow break through this smugness we see across the aisle. Even though the government has made all these mistakes in the budget, in education, in health care and Pharmacare, there is no realization they were wrong, that they might have made a mistake, none whatsoever, and I think Nova Scotians have appreciated the opportunity provided by the Opposition, through debate on this bill, to give them the opportunity to make some of those points to this government.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, as I begin to wrap up, we are going to have other debate on Bill No. 46. We will have an opportunity to see what this government's agenda is with respect to issues like privatization, the disposal of public assets. This is an issue in here. It is an issue dealt with in this bill. It is an issue that has real, tangible implications, not only for the bottom line but for the future of this province, for the future of the economy of this province, that we need to examine.

We are going to have the opportunity to talk about the fact that this government, in the two budgets they have brought in, have, on two separate occasions, ensured that Nova Scotians will not realize benefits that resulted from the federal government reducing taxes. This government has ensured that Nova Scotians will not realize the tax breaks that other provinces and other jurisdictions will realize because of the changes the federal government made, whether that be in the bracket creep, the re-indexing of the income tax system or in the decision they made to de-couple themselves from the federal rate.

Those are the issues that we are going to continue to talk about, that Nova Scotians will understand, that in three years time, if this government is able to, after they have slashed and cut away at public services in the Province of Nova Scotia, they have passed on tax relief to the wealthy and powerful, that it comes as a result of failing to pass on reductions now and the other pain that they have inflicted on other Nova Scotians. Those are some of the issues we are going to be able to continue to debate over the next number of days, if not weeks, in this House on Bill No. 46.

[Page 5896]

As others have said, this bill has nearly 100 pages. It is a complicated piece of legislation, it has a lot of technical items in it, a lot of technical clauses that need to be examined and the implications of those provisions. We will have an opportunity to do that in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. We will take each and every opportunity we have to make the point that this government has betrayed Nova Scotians with the budget and this bill, that they are trying to increase fees, increases taxes, that they are going to further punish the Public Service as a direct result of this bill and hive off public assets which will, in the long run, be to the detriment of the people of Nova Scotia.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, as I take my place, I understand my time is drawing up, that I appreciate having had the opportunity to debate on second reading, both at this point and on the amendment to hoist. I wish this government would recognize the folly of what it is doing in Bill No. 46 and the budget, would begin to talk with Nova Scotians to try to correct some of the damage that is being done. Nova Scotians deserve better and Nova Scotians won't forget the way their trust has been so lightly handled, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: It is nice to see the Government House Leader here, Mr. Speaker. I apologize to members of the government that I am keeping them up way past their bedtimes. It is gratifying to see so many government members here, waiting to hear me speak. I know the need to keep a quorum has nothing to do with the fact that so many of you are here. (Interruptions) It is a little disconcerting to see all the yawning going on. I am trying not to take it personally. Standing here, it is like looking down about 20 subway tunnels. I do welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill No 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act and to talk about where this is taking us.

I want to say at the outset I know that as the government has said, there is a difficulty financially. I accept that. We have accepted that in this Party for some time. That is only one of the aspects. There was a tremendous debt run up in the 1980's by former Tory Governments that you can't discount, you can't ignore.

You take that and you add to the fact that economic times are going to become a little bit more difficult for those who have to fight deficits and debts. The very low unemployment rate in the United States - I think it is 3.9 per cent now - is undoubtedly going to lead to very increased inflation. We see it starting and the economy in the States is overheating and that has to be adjusted. The problem in Canada, of course, with the Canadian dollar being so low, vis-à-vis the American dollar, is that even though our economy has not overheated to the extent that it has in the United States, we, in order to maintain the dollar at some semblance, at a competitive rate, have to watch that interest rate and have to try to keep the interest rate close to the United States, so that investment in Canadian dollars will occur.

[Page 5897]

We are not, on this side, discounting the challenges that the government faces. What we are challenging, of course, is where this province is going and what we have to do to maintain a competitive nature in Nova Scotia with respect to industry and investment, with respect to training our young people - both in our educational systems, community colleges and post-secondary education - and the health care that we have to maintain and offer to citizens in this province; not in 10 years' time, but now. It is no good to talk to someone who has a very serious health problem and say to them, it is too bad you didn't get sick in 10 years time because then we would have had the economy that could have done something for you. We have to be able to address that health concern now. These are people who have worked, in many cases for three, four decades and are entitled to good health care. We as a government and as a province have to be able to offer that good health care.

The question, of course, is, how are we going to be able to deal with this debt that exists in Nova Scotia? The only way that you can really deal with the debt in the long term is to grow the economy. If you can't grow the economy, then really the debt we have as a province is completely unmanageable and there is no way we are going to be able to deal with that debt, it has just gotten to such an extent. You add to the debt, of course, the problems of Nova Scotia Resources, and the problem of the Sydney Steel Corporation. Both of these have to be managed, you don't deep-six them and run away. You have to manage those problems, you have to manage them so that you get the best return that you possibly can, as well as the best benefit that you can for the people of Nova Scotia.

This government has not done that in either case. With respect to Nova Scotia Resources they have sold a major natural gas play for a bag of coloured beans when in fact they could have gotten considerably more. With respect to Sydney Steel, they could have sold that to a very reputable purchaser, it could be an ongoing operation for decades to come and we wouldn't have had to write off, to book the environmental cost, which is added to the debt.

Most of all we have to look at where we are going on education. Education and health care, two very important aspects of where we want to be and how we want to be looked at as a society and as a province. We talked to the Minister of Education before, we talked to her about the fact that she was looting her schools, particularly the one in my riding is the one that I mentioned to her, Jubilee Elementary.

We still don't know, frankly, where this is going to stop, where this looting is going to stop, and how many of these new schools are going to have computers and furniture removed from them and put in other schools to try to nickel and dime the education system. We are building new schools in Nova Scotia, which needed to be built. Too long in this province - and a lot of this, and a majority of which was Tory Governments - where schools were built by supporters of the particular Party. We have schools that just aren't fit for the use intended. In a lot of them the windows don't open, the air quality is bad, the actual construction is substandard and we weren't, in this province, building schools we should have

[Page 5898]

been building. There is no question about that. That is not right. Now we are building to a P3 system. The schools are expensive, but they are good schools. They are schools that will last for a long time. That is just as well, because they are a big investment. The other feature is that these are schools which will accommodate information technology, computers and the aids for the future.

[9:45 p.m.]

You know, Mr. Speaker, we see more and more people with money looking to put their children into private schools in Nova Scotia. They can because they have the money to be able to do that. Most people in Nova Scotia don't have the money to put their sons and daughters in private schools, but because they are Nova Scotians, because they work hard, because they have contributed to this province a long time, deserve to have their children properly educated. In many cases, in the areas of this province that have the greatest economic difficulties, we should be making the greatest attempt to make sure the schools are a first-rate nature. We should make sure that these schools are the schools that we want to have our children in because, for instance, in some areas of Cape Breton where the unemployment rate is 50 per cent, there is a lot of distraught people about the fact that there aren't jobs to employ them. This is a source of great concern for these parents and they are concerned about the fact that neither of those parents has a job, but their anxiety is lessened to a considerable extent if they feel their sons or daughters are not going to be in the same situation when they get to a point of needing employment.

How do we best look after that? We best look after that by making sure we have proper education in this province, that these young people are being educated to the best degree possible. This is not something that this government is concerned about. Where we, as the former government, were concerned with it, they have completely abdicated their responsibility by nickel and diming the schools, by reducing the number of teachers, by reducing teachers' aides, by reducing other staff, maintenance staff, playground supervisors, bus drivers, whatever, throughout this province, to minimize the quality of education to the best way they possibly can. They don't understand education. They don't understand what we need education for in the future. They are still back to the days of slate blackboards and chalk. They don't understand that this is a new era. That in the last 15 years, the world has changed so dramatically that in no 15 year period has this world changed even close to the way it has changed in the last 15 years. The microchip has just completely revolutionized the way we live, the way we work and the way we study.

This government doesn't realize the way of educating our young people has to change. We have to have a component of teaching information technology, of taking our young people and giving them this familiarity and this grounding in information technology, along with the other basic subjects. You talk to any child psychologist and they will tell you that the time a child can learn most is in the early years of their life, that their minds are just like sponges from the time they are three, four, five, six and seven. They learn quickly. They

[Page 5899]

learn languages without an accent. They learn anything that you can want to teach them and they will learn, of course, information technology. We have young people in some of our new P3 schools who are proficient in computers, even though they are still in Primary and Grade 1. These young people will grow up with a proficiency and they will be leaders in developing yet the next generation of technology because of what we are able to teach them in the schools.

It was our aim as a former Liberal Government to have one computer for every five students in the school system by the year 2005. There is no way this government is even seeking any kind of objective that is anywhere near that. In fact, they are reducing computers in the schools and we don't know to what extent, but the fact of the matter is, there may be new schools with lawn furniture for the children to sit in at the rate they are going.

Mr. Speaker, this is just absolutely incredible that anybody in a position of influence or a position of authority would break faith with our young people to the extent that this government is doing. They are going to be held accountable by this. We have in Acadia University a new B.Ed. Program for teaching teachers to instruct in the new technologies in the schools in Nova Scotia. What is this government doing? They are getting rid of all of the young teachers in Nova Scotia. The young teachers are not getting jobs. So what we are doing with this tremendous program at Acadia University, we are instructing teachers to teach in Ottawa and North Carolina and Mississauga, places other than the Province of Nova Scotia. It is absolutely ludicrous.

This government tried for weeks to bluff the teachers and other people in the education system and the people of Nova Scotia, into believing that they had a budget that was going to be satisfactory. Their math wasn't right, of course. Here is a government and a department in charge of mathematics and calculus, and they can't even add and subtract themselves. Yet they wanted the people of Nova Scotia to trust them, to believe they had the answers. They had the proper budget. Well, it was uncovered. They were uncovered, they were found out.

It was found out that their budget was faulty, and they had to come up with another $33 million. They came up with this from various ways, but most interesting was the fact that they tapped into what is an $88 million slush fund that they put forward that is supposed to be for restructuring, but no accounting as to what the restructuring is going to be. They just merely took millions of dollars out of this $88 million slush fund and put it in education. We still don't have enough money in education. As others have said here before me, we don't have a plan. We don't know where this government is going. We don't know what their intention is on education. We don't know if they have any intention at all.

All they are doing is trying to keep their finger in the holes in the dyke. Now they are obviously running out of fingers, because the holes are coming much more quickly than they are able to supply fingers. The people in this province are becoming very upset by what they

[Page 5900]

are seeing, by the fact that this government really doesn't know what it is doing. It has no idea in this world where it is going. As has been said, they have short-changed the University College of Cape Breton by $1.5 million that was promised. They have broken a contract with them. They have broken contracts with other universities. They have taken $4 million off the $8 million that was supposed to be supplied to universities this year. Agreements mean nothing to this government. In fact, what they are doing is causing so many more problems in the long term. It is just absolutely ridiculous that this government would ever be imagined as being a solution to a problem.

Mr. Speaker, they are a cause of the problem. The fact of the matter is that it is not only in education. It is also (Interruption) It is very noisy in here, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, order.

MR. MACLELLAN: Good. Well, I need my deputy here. (Interruptions) I tell you, you don't want to tangle with this guy.

Mr. Speaker, it is also a question of the fact that, when we talked about this budget as being absolutely incomprehensible, it is largely because they haven't given us the information that we need to have to be able to understand where this money is going to be used, where the restructuring is going to be taking place and the program review that this House Leader has so nicely said is not being made available to the people of Nova Scotia. We want to be able to see where this money is going; not just ferreted out as the Premier has suggested. That is not the Opposition's job, that is not the job of the people of Nova Scotia. It is the job of the government to provide this information, to be able to tell us where they are going to spend this money.

We have written to the Auditor General questioning this type of budget and we are hoping for a positive reply. We are just saying that this type of budget is completely unsatisfactory and we are looking for some kind of regulation for the future that will prohibit a government from ever being able to do this again. We feel that is not an unreasonable request because there is just smoke and mirrors in this budget. This is not going to be the prototype if we in this House have any way of stopping it.

It is unbelievable. They have the attention span of a nit. All you have to do is look at the budget and know what their thought processes are. It is absolutely incredible. (Interruptions) They haven't lost a thing because they never had it, but it is coming close to the time and I just want to suspend debate for this evening and I know they will be eagerly awaiting, they will be coming early for good seats tomorrow when we pick up from here.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of debate on Bill No. 46.

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

[Page 5901]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine we will have Question Period and when Question Period is completed, we will go into Public Bills for Second Reading, commencing with Bill No. 46 and then proceeding to Bill No. 47 and then after we finish that we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The House will now rise to sit again tomorrow from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 9:58 p.m.]