Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., May 18, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 6133
Conflict of Interest Commissioner Report [Exco - President:
Harness Racing - Intervention]:
Finding: No Conflict of Interest,
Mr. Speaker 6133
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Econ. Dev. - N.S. Export Achievement Awards: Recipients - Recognize,
Hon. G. Balser 6135
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 54, Lobbyists' Registration Act, Hon. M. Baker 6137
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2160, Health - Hospitals: Budgets - Release, Mr. R. MacLellan 6137
Res. 2161, Health - Hospitals: Bed Closures - Concerns Recognize,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6138
Res. 2162, Justice - Truro Police Service: Anniv. 125th - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 6139
Vote - Affirmative 6139
Res. 2163, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA: Deficit Fighter Reborn -
Condemn, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6140
Res. 2164, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Reveal, Mr. Robert Chisholm 6140
Res. 2165, Econ. Dev. - Clearwater Fine Foods Ltd.: Export
Achievement (Millennium Award) - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 6141
Vote - Affirmative 6141
Res. 2166, Econ. Dev. - Topsl's Little Vegas Dining Room & Lounge
(Rhodenizers) [Bridgewater]: Anniv. 25th - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 6142
Vote - Affirmative 6142
Res. 2167, CBC - Funding Inadequate: Gov'ts. [Can.-PC&Lib.] -
Condemn, Ms. E. O'Connell 6142
Res. 2168, Agric. - Anna. V. Apple Blossom Festival: Importance -
Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 6143
Vote - Affirmative 6144
Res. 2169, Health - Nurses: Job Opportunities - Failure Condemn,
Dr. J. Smith 6144
Res. 2170, Premier - McCarthyist (Dart. N. MLA): Use - Chastize,
Mr. F. Corbett 6144
Res. 2171, Exco - Code of Conduct: Commitments - Fulfil,
Mr. K. MacAskill 6145
Res. 2172, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Ins. Brokers Assoc. (N.S.):
Matthew Trask (Pres.) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 6146
Vote - Affirmative 6146
Res. 2173, Health - Care: Action - Advise, Mr. D. Dexter 6147
Res. 2174, Educ. - System: Cuts - Responsibility (Min.), Mr. W. Gaudet 6147
Res. 2175, Fish. - Lobster: Dispute - Solution Support, Mr. C. O'Donnell 6148
Vote - Affirmative 6149
Res. 2176, Sports - Cole Hbr. Parks & Trail Assoc.: Trail (Salt Marsh) -
Asset, Mr. K. Deveaux 6149
Vote - Affirmative 6150
Res. 2177, NDP (N.S.) Leadership Race - Ldr. (Present):
Neutrality - Maintain, Mr. P. MacEwan 6150
Res. 2178, Youth - Summit G-8 (Japan 19-27/06/00): Reps. (N.S.) -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 6151
Vote - Affirmative 6152
Res. 2179, Health - Budget (2000-01): Details Full - Release,
Mr. M. Samson 6152
Res. 2180, Youth: Tatamagouche Commun. Youth Vol. Serv. -
Congrats., Mr. W. Langille 6153
Vote - Affirmative 6153
Res. 2181, Gov't. (N.S.) - Blue Book: Remedial Reading Course
(Premier) - Recommend, Mr. H. Epstein 6153
Res. 2182, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA - Policy Positions
Inconsistent: Caution - Use, Mr. D. Wilson 6154
Res. 2183, Agric. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Farmers Meet (Min.),
Mr. John MacDonell 6155
Res. 2184, Educ. - Ctr. Consol. Sch. (Lun.): Breakfast Prog. -
Initiative Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 6155
Vote - Affirmative 6156
Res. 2185, Health: Down's Syndrome Conf. (Can.-Sydney) -
Recognize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6156
Vote - Affirmative 6156
Res. 2186, Sackville-Beaver Bank MLA - Budget Cuts: Debate -
Participate, Mr. J. Pye 6157
Res. 2187, Health - QE II: Cuts Consequences - Professionals Believe,
Mr. John MacDonell 6157
Res. 2188, Culture - Input 2000: Film Makers (Young [N.S.]) -
Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 6158
Vote - Affirmative 6159
Res. 2189, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6159
Res. 2190, Health - Info. Systems Tech.: Restructuring Costs Fund -
Use, Dr. J. Smith 6160
Res. 2191, Sports - Hockey (Stanley Cup [18/05/71]): Montreal Cdns.
(Victory) - Al MacNeil (N.S.) Coach Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 6160
Res. 2192, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA - Red Tape Reduction
Task Force: Goal - Remind, Mr. M. Samson 6161
Res. 2193, Environ. - Wooden's River Watershed Environ. Assoc.:
Chebucto Pen. - Initiative Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 6162
Vote - Affirmative 6162
Res. 2194, Health - Min.: Monies Musings - Unsuitability Indicated,
Mr. P. MacEwan 6162
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 753, Econ. Dev. - PEP: Grants - Policy, Mr. R. MacLellan 6165
No. 754, Health - QE II: Cuts - Details, Mr. Robert Chisholm 6167
No. 755, Econ. Dev. - PEP: Jobs - Reduction, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6168
No. 756, Health - QE II: Cuts - Physiotherapy, Mr. D. Dexter 6170
No. 757, Econ. Dev. - PEP: Applicants (Rich.) - Success,
Mr. R. MacLellan 6171
No. 758, Health: Roseway Hosp. (Shel.) - Bed Closures,
Mr. D. Dexter 6172
No. 759, Health - QE II: Cuts - Epilepsy, Dr. J. Smith 6173
No. 760, Health - Kings Co.: Cuts - Patient Care, Mr. Robert Chisholm 6174
No. 761, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - The Way Ahead: Implementation -
Plans, Mr. P. MacEwan 6175
No. 762, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Special Needs,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6177
No. 763, Educ. - Schools: Construction (18/05/99) - Status,
Mr. W. Gaudet 6178
No. 764, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Privatization -
Model (Ont.), Mr. W. Estabrooks 6179
No. 765, Econ. Dev. - PEP: Info. - Release, Mr. R. MacLellan 6180
No. 766, Tourism - VICs: Cuts - Donations Proposal, Ms. E. O'Connell 6181
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 47, Education Act 6184
Amendment [debate resumed] 6184
Mr. J. Holm 6184
Mr. D. Dexter 6189
Mr. K. Deveaux 6202
Ms. E. O'Connell 6222
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6235
Adjourned debate 6242
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Nat. Res.: Industries (Resource-Based) - Abandonment:
Mr. K. MacAskill 6243
Hon. E. Fage 6245
Mr. John MacDonell 6248
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 47, Education Act 6250
Amendment [debate resumed] 6250
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6250
Mr. F. Corbett 6255
Mr. H. Epstein 6268
Adjourned debate 6269
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 19th at 9:00 a.m. 6269

[Page 6133]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Shelburne on an introduction.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, today in the east gallery we have visiting with us from Hillcrest Academy in Shelburne, 28 Grade 6 students. Also, accompanying them: Karen Harris, Raymond and Carol Barland, MaryAnn Campbell, Patti Kiley, Sue Wallett and Wendy Hicks. I would ask they rise and receive a warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, I have received a report from the Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner which is addressed to the Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly.

"RE: Request by Premier Hamm for an investigation of his conduct regarding the government's decision to provide financial assistance to the harness racing industry of Nova Scotia; and complaint filed by Don Downe re Premier Hamm's discussions about financial support to the harness racing industry of Nova Scotia with Cyril Reddy, General Manager of the Truro Raceway."

6133

[Page 6134]

The commissioner has filed a three page report. I will read the last two paragraphs which basically summarizes what he is saying. Based on the information, ". . . I am able to recommend to you that Premier Hamm has acted within the guidelines set forth in the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Finally, I should add that Mr. Downe's complaint suggested a possibility of a breach of Section 18 of the House of Assembly Act. Again, on the evidence I am unable to find any conflict of interest on the part of Premier Hamm in this matter with the result that no breach of this section has occurred." It is signed by Justice D. Merlin Nunn, Commissioner.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday, in response to a question by the member for Cape Breton West, I inadvertently misled the House. I rise to take the opportunity to correct the record. In response to a question on the Ministerial Code of Conduct, I stated there was no commitment to legislate the code. While that accurately reflects the blue book commitment, it is inconsistent with my statement when the code was originally announced. I want to make it clear today that legislation will be introduced in the House this session. The commitment will be kept and I compliment the member for his diligence. In the interim, the code is in effect and applies to all members of this government. I apologize to the member and the House.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his comments. There is certainly no need to apologize, we were just certainly looking to ensure that the commitment that was made was acted upon. He has given us that assurance and that is all we are looking for. I thank the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government has abandoned resource-based industries.

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

Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

[Page 6135]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to recognize this year's recipients of Nova Scotia's Export Achievement Awards. These awards acknowledge the accomplishments of Nova Scotia exporters and are jointly presented each year by the Department of Economic Development and the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, throughout the year we work with companies at varying levels of expertise. We help them develop the networks in their fields, and bring them together to create a level of export readiness. There are a number of ways in which we do this. Our export rallies across the province are one example.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, last year, Economic Development worked with 223 companies on 43 trade missions at home and around the world. Independent follow-up studies indicate that companies attending these events project a total of more than $140 million in sales. I believe it is important to recognize their progress and their achievements as they are the backbone of so much of the business activity in this province. Among this year's recipients were Unique Pattern Designs, Jacques Whitford, and Convergys Corp. of Dartmouth; Electrobraid Fence Ltd. of Upper Nine Mile River; Envirosoil of Bedford; Inland Technologies of Truro; Eastcan Geomatics, and Satlantic Inc. of Halifax. The outstanding export performance award for the year 2000 was presented to Info Interactive of Bedford.

Mr. Speaker, a special feature of this year's presentation was the Millennium Awards presented by our Premier John Hamm to nine Nova Scotia companies for their contribution to Nova Scotia's economy. The winners this year included a list of manufacturing and processing companies which are long-time exporters with more than 500 employees in this province. The winners this year included High Liner Foods of Lunenburg; Stanfield's Ltd. of Truro; Trenton Works of Pictou County; Bowater Mersey Paper Company of Liverpool; Scotia Investments of Hantsport; Stora Enso of Port Hawkesbury; Michelin of Granton, Bridgewater and Waterville; IMP Group of Halifax; and Clearwater Fine Foods.

Mr. Speaker, as we recognize the achievements of these companies, we look to the future and to the opportunities presented by ingenuity and energy of more up and coming ventures of Nova Scotia companies. The results so far in the year 2000 indicate that we are on track for another rewarding year. In the first four months alone eight trade missions have reported sales of over $15 million. To highlight one recent example, Economic Development partnered with Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation on a trade mission to Boston, and all six Island companies made progress, ranging from signed contracts to the opportunity to send

[Page 6136]

product samples for future opportunities. This is just an example of how Nova Scotia's proactive approach is yielding results.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues in the House today to join me in acknowledging this year's Export Achievement Award recipients, and in congratulating these companies for their contributions and their success. (Applause)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for making a copy of his statement available to me a little while ago. I also want to thank the minister for bringing this statement to the House today. The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Award is a good event for Nova Scotia, and the accomplishments of Nova Scotia exporters are well known and they are to be congratulated. Also, the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters in Nova Scotia are to be congratulated for what they have been doing to promote business in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, export rallies are important, and I hope they continue in the future with more success stories, such as the ones that we have heard here today. All the companies that were mentioned are valuable corporate citizens in Nova Scotia. I would like to particularly congratulate Info Interactive of Bedford, with the Outstanding Export Performance Award. I think it is well deserved. I know this particular company, and I know this company to be a real comer in Nova Scotia business.

Mr. Minister, you state that you are looking forward to the future, and I hope your department is as involved in the future and is able to play the important support role that has been the strength of the Economic Development Department in the past few years.

A note of concern, all these great companies that are recognized with awards, all of them unfortunately are within 25 miles of this place. Not spread throughout Nova Scotia. Someday, (Interruptions) Well, you are talking about two different awards, Mr. Agriculture Minister, but I will get to that in a moment. All of them are within 25 miles of this place and I think that is another example of the two economies we face in Nova Scotia. Someday we hope the success stories will spread from one end of this great province to the other.

I want to congratulate the Millennium Award winners in the manufacturing and processing field who are spread throughout at least mainland Nova Scotia, but again, there are none from Cape Breton, with the exception of Stora at the Strait.

Finally, while I do want to congratulate the award winners and wish them all well, and continued success, I want to remind the Minister of Economic Development that if he truly believes in his department's role in the promotion of Nova Scotia business in the future, in the role that should be played by business, he will have to convince his colleagues in Cabinet to

[Page 6137]

give him the tools to do the job, instead of slashing this budget to the point where this department will cease to exist as the catalyst for development in Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the minister for giving me this statement in a timely fashion and congratulations to these companies on the export awards and the Millennium Awards, but my concerns are similar to those of the member for Cape Breton South that most of these export awards are within the metro catchment area and it grieves me greatly that this amount of support isn't being given to the areas that are most needed; whether it is Cape Breton or areas of farther reach from metro, whether it is Yarmouth or whether it is Guysborough, whichever.

I would hope that this government would seize upon these successes and grow out from there. Let's see them invest in the economy right across the province, not just in metro, that the government does recognize the value of economic development in rural areas throughout this province, that it does give the minister the financial wherewithal to support companies throughout the whole province and that we are seeing continued growth everywhere; a balanced growth, if you will.

So, in closing, I would like to congratulate the companies that won these awards, congratulate the minister for his diligence in helping these companies win these awards, but we are watching, Mr. Speaker, and we hope that he will help the economy grow throughout the province and not just in one small area. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTIONS

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 54 - Entitled an Act to Provide for the Registration of Lobbyists. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2160

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

[Page 6138]

Whereas last week the QE II announced that it would be laying off 418 employees; and

Whereas health care employees from across the province are facing uncertainty and unrest about possible job lay-offs; and

Whereas emergency room hours have been restricted and hospitals downgraded as a result of this government's budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government stop the confusion and start releasing hospital budgets across the province instead of waiting until the House closes to destroy our health care system.

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2161

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

Whereas on July 26, 1999, in his final campaign statement the now Premier said, "We understand the extent and nature of the demands on our health system. And we are prepared to meet them."; and

Whereas in that same statement the Premier cited bed closures in Yarmouth as conclusive evidence that the Liberals were wrong to say the nursing shortage was perception, not reality; and

Whereas in his final appeal for votes, the Premier said further, "I want care givers, communities and volunteers to shape the future direction of health care";

[Page 6139]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should recognize that the growing number of bed closures, the grave concerns of caregivers and volunteers, and the unmet demands on the health care system are warnings of his failure to make health care his government's top priority.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2162

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

Whereas on May 14th the Truro Police Service marked its 125th year of service; and

Whereas the Truro Police Service has, throughout the past 125 years, provided area residents with exemplary, dedicated service for which all citizens can be proud and thankful; and

Whereas it is important for the Truro Police Service to be recognized for the high level of dedication it has provided over the years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Truro Police Service for its 125 years of exemplary and dedicated service and wish it safe and successful years ahead as protector of law and order in the Truro community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 6140]

RESOLUTION NO. 2163

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

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has become a born-again deficit fighter by admonishing the Opposition for calling for investments in health and education; and

Whereas from 1993 to 1999 the member was not so concerned with the deficit and constantly harped on the government for not spending enough money; and

Whereas it is not unusual for the Tory caucus to have collective amnesia about their Opposition and government past;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and all other born-again deficit fighters in the Tory caucus for collective amnesia about their less than perfect past.

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2164

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

Whereas in his final campaign statement, July 26, 1999, the now Premier stood in front of the Yarmouth hospital and promised, "We don't need to mortgage the future to meet today's health care challenges."; and

Whereas he actually said, "Tomorrow when you cast your ballot - I urge you to look to the only Party that has demonstrated a real understanding of the problems within our health care system . . ."; and

[Page 6141]

Whereas the Yarmouth hospital is in the region hit the hardest by Tory cuts and every day this government ignores the health care challenges;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his government should tell Nova Scotians the truth about the huge Tory cuts that are about to hit patient care throughout Nova Scotia, instead of trying to hide behind tall ships' sails and barbeques.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2165

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

Whereas Clearwater Fine Foods Ltd. was one of only nine companies honoured with a Millennium Award at the 16th Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards ceremony in Halifax yesterday; and

Whereas Clearwater is one of the largest private sector employers in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas Clearwater has a long and successful record of exports abroad, demonstrating that Nova Scotians can compete with the best in the world;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the management and staff of Clearwater Fine Foods Ltd. on this distinction and wish them as much success in the years ahead as they have enjoyed in the years past.

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 Lunenburg West.

[Page 6142]

RESOLUTION NO. 2166

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

Whereas Topsl's Little Vegas Dining Room and Lounge celebrates its 25th Anniversary on May 23rd; and

Whereas Douglas, Murray and Maureen Rhodenizer are the owners of this popular establishment which provides a dining room, lounge and a contemporary games room; and

Whereas the Rhodenizers' facility can accommodate 450 people and it employs 16 staff;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Rhodenizers and Topsl's Little Vegas Dining Room and Lounge and staff on their 25 years in the Town of Bridgewater.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2167

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 it was Brian Mulroney who first started cutting the CBC, with Jean Chretien leading the protest against cuts; and

[Page 6143]

Whereas when Jean Chretien came to power, despite his previous protests while in Opposition, he continued on with the Mulroney agenda and made further cuts at the CBC; and

Whereas when the President of the CBC was grilled by Liberal backbenchers at a House of Commons Committee meeting, he refused to be drawn into speculation on how much money was needed to save the CBC's regional news programming;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the federal Liberals and Tories for their lack of funding that has led to the crisis at the CBC, and for destroying the ties that hold our regions together.

I don't think there is any point in asking for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2168

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 Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival will be held between May 24th and May 29th of this year, marking the 67th Anniversary of its inception; and

Whereas the Apple Blossom Festival is one of the premier tourist attractions in Nova Scotia, drawing thousands of visitors from across Canada, the United States, and even farther afield; and

Whereas the festival is a reflection of our agricultural heritage, our attachment to the beauty of the Annapolis Valley, and our commitment to family and community life;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the importance of the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival to the Province of Nova Scotia, and thank those volunteers whose hard work makes this event such a success every year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6144]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 2169

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

Whereas in the Tory blue book, the government stated that it wanted to hire new nurses, and a 1999 report said the province is already short 650 nurses; and

Whereas this month more nurses will graduate from nursing programs all across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas nurses fresh from university know that salary, bonus, and incentive programs in other parts of Canada and the U.S. currently exceed what is being offered here in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government be condemned for failing to provide job opportunities for Nova Scotia's brightest and talented nursing students.

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 Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2170

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

[Page 6145]

Whereas Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt for "Communists" in the 1950's masked his real aim of destroying social activists and political enemies, and he did destroy many lives and careers in those tense times; and

Whereas the term "McCarthyism" has become a powerful pejorative in our current language, akin to the use of the term "communist" by McCarthy; and

Whereas yesterday the Premier accused the member for Dartmouth North of "McCarthyism" when the member asked about the possible misuse of municipal funds by members of the Tory caucus during last summer's election;

Therefore be it resolved that this House chastise the Premier for using such a "McCarthyist" tactic of labelling the member for Dartmouth North as a way to stifle public debate about a topic well worthy of discussion.

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. 2171

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

Whereas since this budget has been introduced, Tory Cabinet Ministers have been absent-minded and unusually forgetful; and

Whereas yesterday the Premier seemed puzzled as to the code of conduct legislation and whether or not he had made a commitment; and

Whereas for weeks the members of the Opposition have had to remind the government of the commitments they have made to Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government stop turning a blind eye to the commitments they made to Nova Scotians.

[Page 6146]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 2172

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

Whereas the Insurance Brokers Association was created some 50 years ago by L.G. Trask of Yarmouth; and

Whereas approximately 25 years later, following in his father's footsteps, Michael Trask became president of the association; and

Whereas Matthew Trask, grandson of L.G. Trask, recently became the third generation of the Trask family to be chosen President of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Matthew Trask on being named President of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia and wish him well as he endeavours to uphold the long tradition of excellence set before him by his father and grandfather.

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 6147]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2173

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

Whereas the Minister of Health stated yesterday in the House that the problem of growing children getting prostheses that fit on a timely basis is proof that the current health care system needs to be revamped; and

Whereas the suddenly activist minister said only last week that the QE II's announced cuts were up to the QE II, not him; and

Whereas the minister has yet to show Nova Scotians that he has a plan for the health care system other than to cut funding;

Therefore be it resolved that this House advise the minister that he must do more than make idle comments about the health care system's failings if he is to assure Nova Scotians, particularly the parents of children with prostheses, that they will receive adequate and timely health care under this government.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2174

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

Whereas since the release of the budget, the Minister of Education has blamed everyone except her own department for her government's devastating budget; and

[Page 6148]

Whereas earlier this week the Halifax Regional School Board said it has had to trim $11.5 million from its budget; and

Whereas when asked, the Minister of Education said it was the school board's decision to make these cuts;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister stops hiding behind school boards and take full responsibility for her department's gutting of the provincial education system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver, please.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2175

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

Whereas the Municipality of Barrington is known as the Lobster Capital of Canada with its economic base dependent on a strong and vibrant fishery; and

Whereas each year the lobster fishery exports nearly $225 million worth of product from our province; and

Whereas peace, safety and a properly managed commercial fishery is needed for its continued success, benefitting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal fishermen;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House unanimously support the efforts of all groups in finding an acceptable resolution for this fishing season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6149]

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.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, if I may be permitted to do an introduction before my resolution. In the west gallery are two job shadowers who are observing the House today and have been following me around to get a sense of the job of a member of the Legislature. From River John (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will allow the member to do an introduction.

MR. DEVEAUX: It is a busy job, that's right. From River John is Meaghan MacKinnon, who happens to also be my niece; and from Salt Springs is Nicki Jardine, both Grade 11 students at West Pictou High School. So, if they would stand. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2176

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 Government of Nova Scotia grant program, Capital Construction of Recreation Facilities, has given approval to a $50,000 grant to the Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association; and

Whereas the purpose of this grant is to help complete Phase I of a 14 kilometre trail through the Cole Harbour salt marsh; and

Whereas Jim Vance, President of Cole Harbour Parks and Trails Association and other volunteers have worked hard to complete this project;

Therefore be it resolved that this House be reminded that this project is an asset to Cole Harbour, which will provide the area with new walking trails and a wonderful outdoor experience.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 6150]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2177

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this may be of some interest to the last speaker.

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

Whereas the Leader of the NDP has taken sides in his Party's current leadership battle, welcoming Dave Peters, a candidate for the position, with warm encouragement; and

Whereas the Leader is quoted as saying, "'Dave Peters has made a great contribution already to the province of Nova Scotia, and has lots to offer,'"; and

Whereas when the current NDP Leader was seeking the post he now holds, he would have protested vehemently had Alexa McDonough made similar interventions on behalf of his opponent, Yvonne Atwell;

Therefore be it resolved that the departing NDP Leader should abstain from taking sides in his Party's current leadership race and permit all candidates equal and fair courtesy as he himself received on a past occasion.

MR. SPEAKER: [The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Preston.

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

Whereas the exhibit Home: the Art of Preston is on display at the Dalhousie University Art Gallery between May 5 and June 18, 2000; and

[Page 6151]

Whereas this exhibit was organized by curators David Woods and Dr. Harold Pearse, and sponsored by the Black Artists' Network of Nova Scotia and the North Preston Cultural Association; and

Whereas local Prestonian artists featured in the exhibit include Cortonio Beals, Kim Cain, Avery Crawley, Bolivia Czernon, Frances Dorrington, Alexander Fraser, Fabian Fraser and Clara Gough, as well as writers Natasha Williams Matheson and David Woods;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate those who creativity, imagination and determinations made Home: the Art of Preston such a success and thank them for sharing with all of Nova Scotia the talent and culture of this historic community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. No! No! Thank you. I could not hear two words of what the member said.

The resolution is out of order.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2178

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

Whereas students throughout the world will gather in Japan from June 19th to June 27th at the G-8 Youth Summit; and

Whereas Sackville High School student Robin Hutchison, and Katherine Hughes and Tung Nguygen of Queen Elizabeth High School will represent our province and our country in discussions on such themes as the world economy and the environment; and

Whereas Sir John A. Macdonald High School teacher Tabitha Bainbridge will accompany these students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate these Nova Scotians with best wishes during their deliberations at the G-8 Youth Summit in Japan this summer.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 6152]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2179

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

Whereas the Minister of Health has been unable to guarantee that cuts to health care will not impact the quality of patient care; and

Whereas the Strait-Richmond Hospital, like many regional hospitals, is left to wonder what these cuts will mean for these institutions; and

Whereas this government brought forward a budget without having any idea as to how this budget would impact the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health come clean with the people of Nova Scotia and release the Health budget in full before this House closes.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

[Page 6153]

[12:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2180

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

Whereas the newly formed Tatamagouche community youth volunteer service recently held a clean-up of village streets, as well as the village's waterfront; and

Whereas Kevin Aitchison and Ryan Duggan are two of the community leaders spearheading this project; and

Whereas a number of projects exist for the new community youth volunteer service to do, they are also open to any and all suggestions toward making Tatamagouche and area an even greater place to live;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature congratulate the new, energetic and youthful Tatamagouche community volunteer youth service, and wish them every success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 2181

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

Whereas we completely understand when yesterday, confronted with information on a forgotten Tory promise, the Premier appeared unaware and confused; and

[Page 6154]

Whereas when the Premier was asked about legislation enacting his government's code of conduct for Cabinet Ministers, his answer appeared to change inside this House, and then absolutely change outside of this House; and

Whereas after making 243 promises, it is no wonder the Premier forgot this one, along with hiring more nurses, better funding for education, consulting seniors, and I could go on and on;

Therefore be it resolved that we recommend a remedial reading course for the Premier, where he can sit down and pour over the blue book and understand fully what he promised Nova Scotians and how he has failed to deliver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2182

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 closet Canadian Alliance member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is calling for the government to regulate gasoline prices; and

Whereas this hard left shift in gears in support of more government regulation leads one to believe that in fact the member may wish to join the NDP; and

Whereas perhaps the member is keeping his options open, considering the Premier will likely keep him on the backbench for time eternal;

Therefore be it resolved we urge the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to proceed with caution as he toys with inconsistent policy positions and flash-in-the-pan political Parties like the Canadian Alliance and the NDP.

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.

[Page 6155]

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2183

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 much maligned and misunderstood Minister of Agriculture read a resolution into this House yesterday on wine; and

Whereas it was only fitting that this minister who often whines about being misunderstood and misquoted should do this resolution; and

Whereas from where we stand the Minister of Agriculture has neither a pleasant blush nor a pleasant bouquet;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of constantly whining here in the House, he should go visit farmers who he has directly affected with his harsh Agriculture budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2184

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

Whereas Amy Bennett, Karen Kinley, Andrea Smillie and Donalda Andrews have initiated a pilot project at the Centre Consolidated School, which provides quick and nutritious breakfasts to students; and

Whereas research shows that children are better able to concentrate and, therefore, do better in school when they are not hungry; and

Whereas the second focus of the program is to introduce healthy eating choices to students;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates Amy Bennett, Karen Kinley, Andrea Smillie and Donalda Andrews for their work in initiating the breakfast program pilot project at Centre Consolidated School.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6156]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2185

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

Whereas more than 300 people from across Canada will be coming to Sydney for the National Down's Syndrome Conference 2000; and

Whereas the conference, held at Victoria Park, will include three days of seminars and social events for the members of the society and their children; and

Whereas those with Down's syndrome contribute greatly to our communities all across this province;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize this National Down's Syndrome Conference 2000, and congratulate its organizer as well as all its participants.

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.

[Page 6157]

RESOLUTION NO. 2186

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 member for Sackville-Beaver Bank appears to have a lot to say from the safety and obscurity of his chair on the backbenches; and

Whereas when this member is out of this House, he appears to have nothing to say on health care, education, Pharmacare and special needs for children; and

Whereas it is easy to hide on the Tory backbenches for the member from Sackville-Beaver Bank when he doesn't need to account for his words or even have them recorded;

Therefore be it resolved that if this member from Sackville-Beaver Bank has something valuable to offer in debate then he should rise and provide us with his insight into the deplorable state of health care, underfunding of education, the lack of adequate funding for special needs children and the gouging of seniors.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2187

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 CEO of the QE II, nurses and health care professionals say cuts at the QE II will affect patient access and waiting time; and

Whereas Captain Chaos, the Minister of Health, says these cuts won't have these effects; and

[Page 6158]

Whereas Captain Chaos continues to maintain, "I have a great deal of faith in the people we have working in the health care system in Nova Scotia.", yet in the same breath he is saying they are fabricating the truth about the effects these cuts will have on the system;

Therefore be it resolved that Captain Chaos admit to this House that if he had any faith in the health care professionals, he would take their word as the truth on how cuts will affect patient care and waiting times.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2188

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

Whereas 16 young Nova Scotia film-makers got to show their stuff, as it were, to an international audience yesterday as part of Input 2000; and

Whereas the conference held here in Halifax will feature three videos produced by students of Nova Scotia First Works program which is designed to train young Nova Scotians interested in developing a career in video and film production; and

Whereas this conference will open doors for young people trying to find employment in this growing industry while giving themselves self-confidence and allowing them to make a positive contribution to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate all 16 participants and wish them continued success in the film-making industry.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 6159]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2189

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: 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, 1,608 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;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,608 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 6160]

RESOLUTION NO. 2190

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

Whereas earlier this week the Council of Atlantic Premiers decided that health care information systems are a priority; and

Whereas under the Tory Government, seven information technology specialists will lose their jobs at the QE II Health Sciences Centre; and

Whereas cuts to information technology will allow for more errors and impact negatively on patient care;

Therefore be it resolved that the government redirect money from the Tory slush fund to health systems technology.

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 Cape Breton Centre

RESOLUTION NO. 2191

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

Whereas we are in the middle of the Stanley Cup race, the second year in a row that my beloved Montreal Canadiens did not make it; and

Whereas the Habs have won more Stanley Cups than any other team; and

Whereas on this date in 1971, they won the Cup, coached by the only Nova Scotian to coach a Stanley Cup championship team;

[Page 6161]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Al MacNeil on the 29th Anniversary of this great victory.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2192

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

Whereas in his first act as member of the red tape task force, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is calling for more regulation; and

Whereas this goes to show the task force is a waste of time and energy that could be spent improving the business climate through the red-tape-busting initiatives of the previous government; and

Whereas the previous Liberal Government already started a process to streamline this regulatory process;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remind the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that the goal of the red tape task force is to reduce red tape and not create more of it.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 6162]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2193

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

Whereas the Wooden's River Watershed Environmental Association recently hosted a well-attended public meeting to investigate the future of lands contained on the Chebucto peninsula; and

Whereas area residents expressed a community need for proper planning in conjunction with proposed developments; and

Whereas land use remains a top priority for these citizens and the Chebucto Trails group;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Wooden's River Watershed Environmental Association on its initiative and wish the Chebucto Trails group best of luck in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2194

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

Whereas the Minister of Health claims that money is not the solution to problems in the health care field; and

[Page 6163]

Whereas the minister is quoted prominently in the press under the banner headline: "Muir: money no solution"; and

Whereas if the minister's "Money is irrelevant" line were pursued to its logical conclusion, we would need no budget at all for Health as its problems will not be solved by the provision of money;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister's foolish musings indicate all the more the unsuitability of this minister, or the Premier who appointed him, to manage so delicate, sensitive, and important a service as health care for Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Before we move on to Orders of the Day, yesterday the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank rose on a point of order. It pertained to a question that was put to this House to the Premier by the honourable member for Dartmouth North. I had an opportunity this morning to review Hansard, and for any other members who may have reviewed it, they would note at the time when the question was asked that I indicated, and I am going to quote, I said this, "If the honourable Premier heard the question and would like to answer, I did not . . ." - and I did not hear the question because if I had heard the words that were used at that time, or at least what I felt was being attended here, I would have intervened.

Again, when I look at Hansard and read that, I really believe the question that was put forth by the honourable member for Dartmouth North brings into question the credibility of two members of this House, which I haven't seen any documentation to support. I would ask the honourable member for Dartmouth North if he does have some documentation to support, in regard to that question he asked of the Premier, that he would table that with this House. If he hasn't, if he would retract at least a part of that statement that referred to those two members. (Interruption)

Order, please, until I finish - that referred to the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and also the member for Preston. Does the honourable member for Dartmouth North have any information to support that?

[1:00 p.m.]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I heard your comments, but the question was dealing with information that had been contained in a newspaper article, and I don't believe - I haven't reviewed Hansard, but I don't believe - they were direct accusations made as you are suggesting. There was a request to the Premier to do something to assure this House as to the integrity of the particular matter. I would have to say that I have some concern if every

[Page 6164]

time a member of the Opposition is standing to ask a question, Mr. Speaker, you are supposed to have some kind of document, some kind of material that you are laying on the table. This is Question Period and it is asking the government members, those on the front benches, to provide information to members of this House and that is why we have a Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, I am not questioning the member's question about the article he referred to that was in the paper, but he implied there were two other members and, if you want to read Hansard, you will see that he implied that there were two other HRM councillors who, ". . . had access to discretionary funds that were allegedly misused.", and I take that as a direct discredit to those two members (Interruptions)

Order, please.

I would ask the honourable member for Dartmouth North to retract that statement in regard to those two members that he implied, that allegation.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for bringing this to my attention. I also want to bring to your attention that this was an allegation that was allegedly made by a councillor of the Halifax Regional Municipality, which I brought before this Legislative Assembly to deal with the whole issue of the non-discretionary funds that are allocated throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, for you to request me to apologize for such a broad questioned area, and if you are asking for my removal from this House then I will accept that because I certainly will not apologize to a broad statement issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, I want to be sure the honourable member for Dartmouth North understands. I realize the question he asked was pertaining to the article which spoke directly about one member here, but not those other two that you mentioned in your question. For the last time I will ask you to retract your statement pertaining to the two members who are not mentioned in that article, that you brought forth in this House. So, again, I would ask the honourable member for Dartmouth North to retract that statement.

MR. PYE: Once again, for clarity, it has to do with the whole pot of the non-discretionary funds, and the answer is no.

[Page 6165]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member does not have to agree with what I have asked for, but he has shown disrespect for the Chair. I am naming the honourable member for Dartmouth North and I would ask Mr. Pye to remove himself from the Chamber. Would the Sergeant-at-Arms remove the honourable member for Dartmouth North, please? (Applause)

[The Sergeant-at-Arms escorted Mr. Jerry Pye from the Chamber.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid had something to say?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Yes, I did, Mr. Speaker. I was discussing with my colleagues what our strategy will be to respond to the ruling that you have just made that we do not agree with.

MR. SPEAKER: I thought you had something else that you said.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I had not, to the best of my knowledge, risen on any point of order in the Chamber . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. HOLM: . . . nor to challenge you publicly yet on the decision you made, but I would appreciate your ruling and clarity. Mr. Speaker, am I permitted to have a discussion with my colleagues about matters that are going on?

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Are you rising on a point of order?

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was responding to your question to me. So I thought we had a bit of a question exchange going. I was trying to respond.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. It is Question Period. The time is 1:04 p.m. Question Period will begin and expire at 2:04 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

ECON. DEV. - PEP: GRANTS - POLICY

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On Saturday, Gwynn Shaw, who is the contact person with the Baddeck and area Youth Action

[Page 6166]

Society, received a phone call from Mr. Dan Chiasson, the PC candidate in the last provincial election. Mr. Chiasson told her that her organization would be getting two grants for two councillors under the provincial employment program for students. Now Mr. Chiasson's call was three days before that information appeared on the Economic Development website. Mr. Premier, I want to ask you, through the Speaker, why are government resources being used to foster the putrid political practices of the Tory Party?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have no information relative to the member's question but I would refer it to the minister responsible.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the process by which PEP grants are awarded is certainly set in policy. As to a phone conversation, I can't comment on that, I have no pertinent information. I will say, this year, based on a formula that awards PEP programs to areas of high unemployment, Cape Breton region is actually going to receive more employment opportunities than has been in the past.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to stand here and listen to the condescending track from this minister. I want to get back to the Premier. On Thursday, five days before this information appeared on the website of Economic Development, Mr. Frank Sutherland, the former Tory candidate in Richmond and the President of the PC Association in Richmond, called the applicants and told them it looked good, that their grants were going to be approved. This information had to come through the Premier's office and/or Economic Development.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Why is this Premier lending himself to this nonsense and this seedy activity?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, I have no information relative to the question asked. I refer it to the minister.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, there are literally hundreds of PEP grants and literally hundreds of phone calls from people who have put forward proposals asking the status. I am sure if there was a phone conversation, it was simply the programs are in the works.

MR. MACLELLAN: When you believe this Tory Government can't sink any lower, can't use practices that are any more reprehensible, you listen to the Minister of Economic Development spouting this nonsense. I want to ask the Premier, how can he possibly give any kind of comfort and any kind of encouragement to our young people who are applying for these jobs when it is obvious that the Tories are lobbying for particular programs to be approved, and that it is obvious that they will now go back to these successful applicants and say, we approved your program, now give us the jobs that we have approved.

[Page 6167]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to want to understand or to learn how the positions were awarded and I would ask the minister to respond.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, there is an arm's-length group who reviewed them, including the RDAs in the local areas and also representatives of the federal funding agencies. They are reviewed and recommendations are put forward on the basis of merit, the basis of need. I would call the opposite member's attention to the number of employment opportunities created in Cape Breton. For example, in Cape Breton County, last year there were 177. This year there are 250. In Inverness County last year there were 36, this year there are 54. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

HEALTH - QE II: CUTS - DETAILS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. Today front-line health care workers came to Province House and spoke out about conditions at Atlantic Canada's largest hospital. They know that a bad situation is about to get a lot worse. Yesterday the Health Minister said, in that kind of aw-shucks style of his, it is kind of hard to blame anything on the Tory budget cuts yet. Today the Premier, outside this House, gave a clear sign that he, in fact, wants deeper cuts than the 418 jobs already targetted at the QE II. I want to ask the Premier, since he and his government already know how bad health care is, why does he insist on making it even worse?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite aware that the way we have been delivering health care in this province is not sustainable. We all know that we can do better, and we are moving ahead to do better. Part of that is a reallocation of funds within the health care envelope, so that more and more health care dollars will in fact be spent on patient care and less on administration. That is the road down which we have elected to travel. I believe it is the right road.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is talking about dollar signs, when I am looking at the condition of patients and the kind of health care services that Nova Scotians receive. The reality is that a nurse who cares for extremely ill cancer patients sees a staff ratio of 2 nurses caring for 16 patients, when there should be at least 4 nurses. The reality is nurses are calling in sick because they are exhausted. The reality is daily evidence of unsafe working conditions for hospital staff. That is why on April 12th, the government gave hospitals and regional boards permission to run deficits as they try to cope with massive Tory cuts. I want to ask the Premier, why is he now backing away from that permission for hospitals to run deficits to help prevent a government-caused health care disaster?

[Page 6168]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the difficulties that has been allowed to occur in the province is that in health care, and indeed in Education, ongoing deficits were allowed to build up. Traditionally the way it was handled in this province - and I was part and parcel of the system when this was the case - every year hospitals would in fact run a deficit, but it was mandatory that that deficit be cleared off in the ensuing fiscal year, and that would be done through an arrangement of negotiations between the Department of Health and the then hospital boards. No deficit was allowed to be carried on beyond 12 months at the end of the current fiscal year.

Unfortunately, we got into a situation whereby deficits were allowed to accumulate and that worked to the tremendous disadvantage of the taxpayer. We are not going to have that. What we are saying is that deficits, if they occur in a fiscal year, will have to be made up immediately in the following fiscal year, so we don't get into the fiasco that we found ourselves in recently.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the fiasco we find ourselves in is a government that got itself elected by saying health care is their number one priority, has turned their backs on that commitment, has turned their backs on providing adequate and appropriate health services for Nova Scotians. That is the problem. Now it is clear that patient care is being sacrificed on the altar of deficit and debt reduction. I want to ask the Premier, can he not even guarantee that patient care will be maintained at the levels that he and his colleagues found so totally unacceptable just one short year ago; can he not make that guarantee?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre has a mandate to provide certain services for the people of Nova Scotia, and even more services for the people in the metro area. I believe that they can make the adjustments that their new budget requires, and deliver that mandate. By following this kind of an approach, I believe that not only will they be able to fulfil a mandate this year but in years to come they will be able to even improve the delivery of that mandate.

[1:15 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV. - PEP: JOBS - REDUCTION

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. It would seem that the good old days are back again and political patronage is alive and well. In response to an earlier question, the minister said there are more jobs in the PEP program this year than before. My recollection of the numbers . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Talk about misleading.

[Page 6169]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My recollection of the numbers is there are 600 less this year, spread over more constituencies but those who have been successful in receiving Provincial Employment Programs are notified by mail - this is the information that I have been led to believe - and the employment opportunities are posted on the website, at least that is what the minister told me on Monday. Look at the website and you will find out which ones were approved.

Last Saturday, Mr. Speaker, former PC candidate Danny Chiasson notified Gwynn Shaw of the Baddeck and area Youth Action Society that she would be receiving two grants under the Provincial Employment Program. My question to the minister is, how would the Progressive Conservative Association of Nova Scotia receive a list of successful Provincial Employment Program applicants before anyone else? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I have no information to verify that so it is purely speculation. As I said earlier in response to a question, I get a number of calls, as does every MLA, about the status of proposals. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the last time that I looked, the Minister of Economic Development was still in charge of what is left of his department. When I asked the minister for information, he told me to go check the website. He could have told me to do something else, maybe, but he told me to go check the website in regard to these applications. The former PC candidate, Danny Chiasson, has a list, and I am told the President of the Richmond County PC Association also has a list. Now there are 600 fewer jobs in the program this year and now we find the Tory Party is taking control of the program. I want to ask the minister, in my first supplementary, if he didn't give the list to the PC Party, who did?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as I did inform the member opposite, the lists were placed on the web page and they are, in fact, published in this document. I believe they were placed on the web page earlier this week.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Economic Development doesn't know how his list got into the hands of the PC organizations, then obviously that is another thing that this minister has lost control over, and that is the putting out of provincial programs from his department. My final supplementary to the minister, Nova Scotians demand full disclosure on this kind of stuff and I would like to know, how did the minister allow a situation to develop where PC presidents and past candidates are announcing government grants prior to notification by the staff in his department? How are they doing that? (Interruptions)

[Page 6170]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I have no evidence that would indicate that this has, in fact, occurred other than the speculation on the part of the member opposite.

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

HEALTH - QE II: CUTS - PHYSIOTHERAPY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We heard this morning how the QE II physiotherapy department has gone from 104 beds and 40 staff to 69 beds and 24 staff. With less beds, patients come in sicker, and they need to stay longer. Patients can't stay longer because these beds are needed, so they get discharged earlier than they should be. Why is the minister forcing hospitals to make even more cuts, instead of dealing with problems like those that already exist in physiotherapy?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. I can say that the hospitals have produced business plans, and those things are being reviewed at the present time, and of course, they are taken in context of the provincial scene. The honourable member knows that this province has a rather serious financial problem, and health has to be part of that solution. However, I can say that planning is ongoing, that we will see a sustainable and affordable health care system in Nova Scotia which provides its residents with access and quality.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this morning a laboratory technologist reported that Nova Scotians can expect to see further delays in test results. She also said that speed is of the essence in lab results for dealing with serious medical conditions but, because of cutbacks, they can't hire the needed staff and they are seeing backlogs.

The Conservatives were elected by promising that they had a health care plan ready to roll. Instead, what we are seeing is a rollback of standards. What steps has the minister taken to ensure that medically necessary tests will be done properly with due speed after his cuts take full effect?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I missed the first part of the question, so I am not sure whether it is this particular institution he was referring to, or whether he was referring to laboratory services in general. I can say that there are laboratory services available in Nova Scotia to meet the needs of Nova Scotians, and they will continue.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I know the minister is bored with these nuisance questions about the health care system, but I would ask him to listen for a change. The Premier promised on the last day of the election campaign that caregivers, communities and volunteers would shape the future direction of health care. Now he is dictating that direction in secret without consultation. Why are caregivers, communities and volunteers being ignored, while the government drives forward with an agenda of health care cuts?

[Page 6171]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there has been more consultation by this government about health care than probably at any other time in the history of this province. We have been in contact regularly with community health boards. The Provincial Health Council has recently consulted right around the province and had meetings in communities around the province. Members of my staff, including the deputy minister and other senior officials and myself, have been out around the province. We have met with people. I can tell you that our health plans will include and are including the advice we receive from Nova Scotians.

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

ECON. DEV. - PEP: APPLICANTS (RICH.) - SUCCESS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. We have checked, and we have been able to substantiate that those calls were made by Mr. Danny Chiasson to the successful applicants under the program. We also know that the president and former candidate in Richmond let it be known that he knew the applications in Richmond were going to be successful. I want to ask the minister, how did that information get into the hands of high-profile Tories days before anybody else in the province knew who the successful applicants were?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly take the member opposite's information under advisement and raise it with people in the department to determine how it happened. As I said before, there are any number of calls made about the status of programs. I would also remind the member opposite that, looking at records from previous years, oft-times there were a significant number of applications that were approved before and after the fact, which leads one to believe that political interference and intervention has been a matter of course for some time.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister is not going to be able to slough off his condescending putrid activities by blaming us for something we didn't do. I want to talk to the Premier, I want to ask the Premier, this information should not have been made public to Tories throughout Nova Scotia, and I want to ask the Premier how it happened? As the Premier of this province, does he agree to the Tory Party doing this sort of thing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all I can say is I have already indicated I don't know what happened. The minister has made a commitment that he is going to look into it. I think that is far as the frontbenchers can take it today.

MR. MACLELLAN: It is absolutely incredible. Tory candidates and presidents in Richmond and Victoria Counties know how they got the list, but the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development, who had the list, don't know how it got out of their care. This is a throw-back to seedy politics that was practiced by the Tory Party years ago. They are back at it again. I want to know why the Premier has foisted this sort of practice on the

[Page 6172]

people of Nova Scotia. We thought we had gotten away from it and now this Premier has brought it back. Why?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, you have a commitment from the minister that he would look into the issue, and the minister will do so. He will look into the issue.

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

HEALTH: ROSEWAY HOSP. (SHEL.) - BED CLOSURES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. We have just heard that the Roseway Hospital in Shelburne will reduce the number of hospital beds from 19 to 12 because of a nursing shortage. The beds started moving out last night. The people in Shelburne County already have to drive two hours to reach Yarmouth or Bridgewater hospitals to access some health services; more bed closures will mean this will happen more often. This government stated in the Budget Address that they were committed to ensuring that all Nova Scotians, regardless of where they live, have access to affordable and high-quality health care. My question is, is driving two hours to access health care acceptable?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the short answer to his question is yes, in some cases driving two hours to get medical care is acceptable. I think he is referring to summer closures at the Roseway Hospital. He knows as well as I do that there have been a number of beds closed or will be closed throughout the province in the summer to allow staff vacations.

MR. DEXTER: For the minister's information, because of nursing shortages, that is why they are being closed. When the minister was told of bed closures in Yarmouth six weeks ago, he said that the system had the capacity to handle it. He said it was good news for Nova Scotians. On the final day of the government's campaign, they pointed to the bed closures and nursing shortages in Yarmouth, and they said that this threatened safe levels of care. They promised to do things differently, and now we are seeing the situation get worse. Mr. Minister, if you know the nursing shortage threatens safe health care, why are you permitting more beds to be closed?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is, unfortunately, a shortage of nurses in facilities around here. One of the things that this government is committed to is safe health care. I am interested to hear the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour go on about this, because he talks about people needing vacations in order to recharge their batteries, and this is exactly what is going on. I don't know why he is complaining.

[Page 6173]

MR. DEXTER: New meaning to the words cavalier attitude. This minister talks of bursary programs, recruitment strategies, hiring for full-time positions, but we see only more bed closures, cutbacks, nursing managers being laid off. I ask the Minister of Health, will he reassure the people of Nova Scotia today that they can expect no more bed closures in this province due to nursing shortages?

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the province has a number of initiatives to try and improve the human resources in all medical fields here including physicians, nurses, lab technologists and others. It would be my hope that there is sufficient human resources, in this case nurses, in the system now so that there would not need to be more beds closed in order to allow these individuals to get a vacation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - QE II: CUTS - EPILEPSY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. As we hear of hospital closures, bed closures and nurse lay-offs, we also hear and learn from around the province that facilities are not allowed to announce lay-offs of any nurses at this time; a gag order has been in place. But the Epilepsy Association has spoken out and they have said that they are concerned about the elimination of the position at the QE II of the Director, Medical Diagnostic Services, Ms. Rahey, who also served as Epilepsy Program Coordinator.

My question is to the minister, how can the minister guarantee that people with epilepsy will not see their care suffer as a result of the loss of this position at the QE II?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the management of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre has done some administrative restructuring, apparently the position to which the honourable member for Dartmouth East refers was one of those that is going to be, probably, consolidated. The fact that the position has been removed does not mean that the service will not be delivered.

DR. SMITH: That's the guarantee we are looking for.

The Epilepsy Program Coordinator was not just an administrator, she was involved in direct patient care. She was involved in coordinating, directing care, referrals, follow-up, organizing, in general she was the primary support staff person for the program, and that is why the association is concerned. The elimination of this position means that thousands of Nova Scotians with epilepsy will face longer waiting times and reduced access to treatments. Mr. Speaker, when is the minister going to dip into his slush fund so that Bob Smith and others can restore this vital position at the QE II?

[Page 6174]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health does not have a slush fund.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Epilepsy Program at the QE II offers specialized care and other treatments not available anywhere else in Atlantic Canada. We know that. Is the minister prepared today to allow the QE II's reputation as a regional health care facility to suffer as a result of these cuts?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, for as long as I can remember, has had an excellent reputation for providing tertiary level health care to people in the Maritimes and also in the Atlantic Provinces, and that will continue.

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

HEALTH - KINGS CO.: CUTS - PATIENT CARE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. Health care workers and patients are realizing this government was telling the truth when it said that schools are getting better treatment than hospitals. The government keep pretending that it is not cutting patient care but the Health Action Coalition of Kings County says that if every single dollar of administration was eliminated, they would still have to cut patient care that is already the worst funded in Nova Scotia.

I want to ask the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, how can he and the government pretend that it is targeting health care when these doctors, like many others, say that patient care is the part of it that is going to be hit hard?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party for that particular question. One of the things that he, I think, is probably well aware of is that some of the figures being put out by the folks whom he was talking to are not necessarily ones that the department agrees with. We are continuing to work with the regions, including the Western Regional Health Board, to see that services are delivered, that we can put up a health care system that is accessible, that has quality, is sustainable and affordable.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about people who are, in fact, delivering eyeball-to-eyeball health care, not the eyeball that is happening down on Hollis Street by this minister and his colleagues. Dr. O'Reilly from Kings says that the reward for Kings Health Care doing its share to reduce costs in past years is that they are being required to cut more than their fair share. The bottom line for Nova Scotians comes when their life and their health are at stake and thanks to this government, the care that Nova Scotians need is not there. I want to ask the minister, what does he say to Dr. O'Reilly and other health care workers who see patients on the front line every single day and see the impact firsthand?

[Page 6175]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that one could say; sometimes they are better not said. The fact is that the regions have money to operate. They have some services and some administrations, we are asking them to take a look at - let me start again, I am sorry. We are asking them, I believe in this case for about a 2.2 per cent reduction in the western region. This has been similar right across the health care system. I believe that there are quality people working in the Western Regional Health Board, and as well their administrative staff down there, those who are making decisions, and they will ensure that people in Kings County and those who feed into that area for medical services will receive quality treatment.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have the same problem happening here that happened in education. They are not talking to people on the front lines, so they don't know that there is a huge funding gap happening in health the same way there was in education. It took 24 days for the government to realize the funding gap of $53 million in public education. The group from Kings says that the health funding gap in the western region alone is $19.5 million. I want to ask the Premier, when will he and his government admit the truth about the full extent of its funding gap in patient care?

THE PREMIER: I don't think that the information that the Opposition Parties are bringing forward would indicate that there is any gap in information. The government has been very clear about what it is going to do. The government has been very clear about how much it is going to spend in various departments. The government is very clear on what it is doing and it is doing exactly what it said it was going to do in the election of last year.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - THE WAY AHEAD:

IMPLEMENTATION - PLANS

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In December 1999 the government and the minister released this document, a 22 page treatise entitled The Way Ahead - A Strategic Framework for Coordinating Transportation Development in Nova Scotia. It is a document rather full of vision, goals and principles, not too much by way of specifics but, in any event, it does state that the duty of government, I suppose of the Department of Transportation, is to ensure the provision based on demand of adequate transportation facilities that are consistent with the province's economic and social strategies, recognizing the role government must play as advocate and facilitator and so on and so forth.

I am wondering if the minister could advise the House what activities are currently underway in his department to implement the recommendations of this particular document?

[Page 6176]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is a fine document the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova was holding up. The Way Ahead certainly does demonstrate, I think, to all Nova Scotians what the intentions are of this government with respect to transportation needs in this province. We certainly have a lot of work to do and that work will be done. It will be, I would suggest to you, about three years hence, we will have restored the highway system to the state that the Liberals inherited in 1993 when they came to power. Certainly The Way Ahead demonstrates how we are going to achieve that aim.

MR. MACEWAN: I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, that answer outlines The Way Ahead, but in any event, I want to state that the report I just held up states that by the year 2007, in seven years' time, the total vehicle population of Nova Scotia will have increased by 27 per cent, from 590,000 to 750,000 motor vehicles on the roads. I would like to ask the minister, what plans does he have to handle that increased traffic that will result as a result of this mind-boggling increase in the number of vehicles?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal Minister of Transportation, a certain Mr. Huskilson for Shelburne, had the foresight to originate a document called the 10 year plan for highway construction in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is a fine document. Maybe it was the honourable member for Lunenburg West, but anyway, they did come forward with this document. It is a good document, it is a good blueprint for what is required to be done during the next 10 years to meet that increased capacity that will be coming on the roads, and certainly, it is our intention, with certain modifications, to implement that particular program.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this study says that Nova Scotia's economy is going to grow. I don't know how under this government, but anyway that is what the study says. It means our Gross Domestic Product, according to the study, is going to grow from $15 billion to $20 billion per year. So, crucial to such growth, I should think, would be a first-class highway system. I agree that the government now in power did inherit that from the outgoing Liberal Government which did a very good job of looking after the roads, but what are this government's plans for highway construction over the next decade, should they remain in office over that time?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are a couple things we will be doing differently. One is, we will certainly be pursuing the federal government with great vigour to enjoin with Nova Scotia a national highway system fund to improve our national highway system. The second thing we will be doing, and I think it was indicated in this year's budget, we are prepared to put additional funding into the secondary road system. It is no use having a good health care system or the finest education system in the world if people can't access those particular facilities on reasonable roads. At the present time, that is not the case. We are starting the rectification process this summer.

[Page 6177]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - SPECIAL NEEDS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. Last week, the Minister of Education agreed to follow a child with special needs so she could learn more about the impact of cuts to educational program assistants. Since then, we have received quite a number of letters and e-mails and phone calls from parents who would like the minister to see how much their child relies on these assistants. I will give these to the minister when I finish.

One call came from Sharon Avery who said that families of special needs children "already have their elastic stretched to the limit," and that families are "terrified" of the impact this budget will have on them and their children. My question is, minister, families with special needs children have a hard enough time at home. Why are you now taking away the support they get in their local schools?

[1:45 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, children with special needs have a lot of support in the school system. There are many people who help them; there are resource teachers, there are psychologists, there are speech language pathologists, and there are teachers' assistants. (Interruptions)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think it is time for the minister to get out of the House and follow one of these children for a day. One of the letters we have received is written on behalf of Grade 3 student Nick Colpills, who goes to Caldwell Road School in Colby Village. Here is a picture of Nick with his little brothers. Nick writes about all the things his teaching assistant does for him. First on the list is, "She is the smiling face that welcomes me to school each day and makes me feel important." My question to the minister, what is Nick, and children like Nick, going to do if he goes to school in September and finds his teaching assistant isn't there anymore because of budget cuts?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the school boards are going to have to make some reductions in their budgets. We know that. They have agreed that the reductions, while they do not like them, are manageable. Children with special needs will still have access to many support services.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, special needs kids didn't have any supports, hardly at all, before this budget. That is the point. Nick's mother wrote, and she said, "The availability of EPA's is a crucial brick in the successful building of many children's lives; without them, it all comes tumbling down upon these very vulnerable members of our

[Page 6178]

society." My question to the minister is, why haven't you worked to protect Nick and Sharon and people like them from the devastating effect that this budget will have on them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government is working to protect these children and all the children and their children from the consequences of very devastating debt and deficit. Within that context, we are protecting children now, as much as we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: - CONSTRUCTION (18/05/99) - STATUS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. One year ago today, 16 new schools were announced for the following communities, a P-5 for Elmsdale; Ecole Petit de Gras, P-12; Chedabucto Place in Guysborough; two schools in Argyle; a P-12 for Clare; St. Anthony Daniel for Sydney; South Colchester; East Pictou High; Ecole Pomquet; Sydney Elementary; West Pictou High; Rankin Memorial; Shelburne High School; Amherst Elementary; and Cumberland Elementary. The people in these communities are anxiously awaiting word on the status of these school projects. Will the minister please advise this House and the people of these communities when construction on these projects will begin?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the people in these communities will learn when these projects will begin as soon as we have made the final decision on how the schools will be financed.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I don't have too much confidence in this minister. I am just wondering, May 18th next year, if I am going to have to raise this again and bring this to the minister's attention. Not only do the residents of these communities want assurance that their schools will be built, but they also want to be assured that they will be equipped with the equipment promised when they were announced. Will the minister assure these residents that these schools will be equipped with the promised equipment?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I will commit to is when these schools are announced, we will be sitting down to talk with communities, principals, school advisory councils about the community's new school.

MR. GAUDET: My final question to the minister, will the minister assure this House that as the need for further new school construction is identified by school boards across the province, the Department of Education will build those schools according to the need of those communities?

[Page 6179]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, schools will be built according to need and according to affordability at the time. I would like to add that before we start on too many more new schools, we are going to have to do the dozens and dozens of renovation projects promised but never funded by the former government.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - ROADS:

PRIVATIZATION - MODEL (ONT.)

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation. Yesterday, the minister got a bit feisty as he defended his plan to privatize our roads. He also told us where he is getting his advice - from Mike Harris in Ontario. He said he wanted to use the exact model of the privatization model that Ontario used, based on 5 per cent savings. The word is out about Ontario, the project is a failure. Their Auditor General concluded that privatization is costing Ontario taxpayers money. So, I want to ask the minister, why are you determined to follow the Harris road when everyone knows it is a dead end?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: If I said that we were following Ontario's model, I misspoke myself. What I said was that we have looked at the models of Ontario and Alberta and I should also mention that we have also looked at the model of British Columbia which has a New Democratic Government and they have fully privatized their system. We examined all three provinces and we will take the best from each to model our system on.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The Auditor General from Ontario pointed out that the ministry used all kinds of creative accounting to make it look like they were saving money for the people of Ontario. He also found that they didn't have a method for evaluating the so-called pilot projects. Now there is a term we have heard that minister use before. They couldn't tell if they were getting quality roads for their money. I ask the minister, the Harris road plan is a lesson in failure, will you show Nova Scotians you have learned from it by cancelling these needless pilot projects?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is a long question and it will probably take a long answer, but first of all, the need for pilot projects is because unlike the New Democratic Party which has a problem and just tosses money at it, we intend to find out the cost-effectiveness of ASD before we go province-wide with that system and we will do so by putting in place three or four pilot projects around the province and we can measure the costs of those particular contracts against true costs for the government providing the service.

[Page 6180]

In response to the second part of his question with regard to the failure in Ontario, we do not intend to repeat the failures in British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario, but we certainly do intend to take whatever they have that has come out from those particular privatizations that are of a positive nature and have indeed saved the governments money.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Obviously this minister is not listening to Nova Scotians, he is not listening to highway workers, he is listening to his Tory cronies. It would seem to me very appropriate that the minister go and take one of his out-of-province trips, go to Ontario and meet with the Auditor General so that he will learn first-hand about the failures in Ontario. I ask the minister, will you go ahead and take that trip and listen to the Auditor General and actually understand why it has failed so desperately in Ontario?

MR. RUSSELL: If that honourable member over there would get his caucus to agree to passage of Bill Nos. 46, 47 and 42 this afternoon, I will go tomorrow.

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

ECON. DEV. - PEP: INFO. - RELEASE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the media have called Danny Chiasson to ask him how he got that list. He said he got if from the local PC Association. Now he had information three days before it was on the Economic Development website. Frank Sutherland had it five days before it was on the Economic Development website and I want to ask the Minister of Economic Development, how soon before it was on the Economic Development website did the PC Associations in Nova Scotia have it?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier on, I am going to undertake to determine exactly how that information was conveyed - if, in fact, it was conveyed - and I will get back to the member opposite as soon as I have that information.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier can say he doesn't know anything about this. Maybe he doesn't know anything about the PC Associations. Maybe he never talks to them. Maybe they just come in and clean his office and pick up whatever is on his desk but I want to ask the Premier, as a certain PC of note, wouldn't he expect to be in contact with them? Wouldn't he expect that he would be informed when they got this information? Why does he not know about this and how does he explain that they have it and he doesn't?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite, you have brought forward an issue about which I have no information. The minister has indicated that he has no information but he is prepared to get the information. I would think, at some point, that should satisfy the member opposite.

[Page 6181]

MR. MACLELLAN: I would just ask the Premier how he runs his office in Priorities and Planning or Treasury Board or whatever, or Economic Development. How does this information, Mr. Premier, get to PC Associations from his office, from Economic Development? If it isn't through your office or Economic Development, who else has access to this information?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, provided, in the previous question, an answer for the member opposite. I would ask the minister to try again to get the information to the member opposite.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the information pertaining to the PEP grants is retained within the department. As I said, the approval process involves an arm's length organization, a group that includes people from Economic Development. It also includes people from HRD, our federal funding partners, and their recommendations are brought back to the department for final approval. I will tell you that in terms of the numbers approved, of the 220 positions that were recommended by the department, 227 were, in fact, approved. I would also make reference to a previous year in which, for Cape Breton, 193 positions . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

TOURISM - VICS: CUTS - DONATIONS PROPOSAL

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. This government has reached new lows in passing the buck. Ever since the budget was tabled, Nova Scotians have been scrambling to determine the impact of the cuts. Now we know Yarmouth is contemplating a September closure of their only Visitor Information Centre. The South Shore Tourism Association has proposed placing donation boxes in tourist bureaus to help deal with the cuts. My question for the minister is, is there any depth to which this government will not sink to feed its fiscal obsession?

[2:00 p.m.]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I told the honourable member yesterday, the funding came from the PEP program in Economic Development in a block. It came to my department. We distributed to the regional tourism associations. There has been a reduction in that, and the associations are dealing with that.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, nobody over there is responsible for anything. I can just picture it. Tourist walks into the Visitor Information Centre, ready to explore historic Lunenburg and is asked, please give some money to make up for the shortcomings of this government. I want to ask the Minister of Tourism, how can he stand in this House and

[Page 6182]

maintain yet again that the cuts to Tourism Nova Scotia will not adversely affect rural economies?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the provincial Visitor Information Centres are maintaining staff as usual in the various key locations such as Yarmouth, such as Amherst, such as Port Hastings. These VICs do a great service for our tourists. I was in Amherst the other day and had the opportunity to look at the beautiful information centre there. The previous government did a great deal of work there, and I commend them for that work. It is a beautiful centre. Again, we had to set priorities, and we have asked the regional tourism associations to do so as well. Unfortunately, we do have a $900 million interest on . . .

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

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I think maybe it is a better idea to try to help this poor minister, right? Here is what I think he ought to do. This summer he should go around to the various Visitor Information Centres and stand there playing his fiddle with his case open on the ground and busk for a few dollars to help out. Why don't you do that, instead of gouging tourism operators, and nickel and diming our fastest growing industry?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hope the honourable member is not making fun of Cape Breton fiddling, I will say that right now. I hope that is not her intention, because I do take that very seriously. I know people who play instruments such as the violin, and I hope she is not making fun of people on the streets who do that. I take that very seriously. These individuals who do busking . . .

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

The honourable member for Shelburne on an introduction.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the press gallery today, we have the Municipal Clerk Treasurer from the Municipality of Barrington, Brian Holland. Also we have the Warden with us today, Sterling Belliveau. I would ask that they rise and receive a welcome from the House. (Applause)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I rise based on the standards that were set earlier today. During Question Period, I heard on a number of occasions questions for example, coming from the Liberal caucus, the member for Cape Breton South and the Leader of the Liberal Party, where they cast aspersions about this government. They made accusations and assertions about sleazy politics when it came to providing lists of summer employment programs to PC riding presidents, to former candidates, without providing any evidence on the floor of this House.

[Page 6183]

Mr. Speaker, you have set a standard here earlier this afternoon with regard to the member for Dartmouth North and I would like to ask you, in light of the standards that you are now imposing, to review the Hansards of all of the questions that have been asked to find out which ones, according to the new standards that you are imposing, are out of order because not only are they not nice, they cast aspersions. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: It is on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid mentions me, as the member for Cape Breton South, and also the Leader of the Liberal Party, in questions that we raised during Question Period regarding the information that was given out regarding PEP this summer. I think there is a great deal of difference, we were questioning the procedure used by the government opposite . . .

MR. HOLM: No way. You are just making allegations.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . and how the associations of that government received this information for and, yes, we cited a case, and that is a factual case that we are prepared to back up. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is not the point. It is correct what the member just said, supposedly made allegations without putting on the table the actual documents, and you have ruled earlier today that if you cast aspersions and are not laying any information on the table, that that is out of order and those kind of comments are to be withdrawn. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If you review Hansard I think it will show that what I ruled on was comments made directly against members of this Legislature and that is what I recommended against and I stand by that and I will (Interruption)

Order, please.

The questions and answers that were asked here today, as the honourable member for Cape Breton South said, they were about policy, about government issues and that is entirely different when . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Go way . . .

[Page 6184]

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Come on, you have got to have one set of rules.

MR. SPEAKER: I do have one set of rules when you talk about members of this House. There is not a point of order.

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. 47.

Bill No. 47 - Education Act.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak on this, I am pleased that I have some of the rules from the privileges and immunities ahead of me, I know about freedom of speech in this House, which I was looking at a little while ago, and hopefully I will be able, as I make my remarks this afternoon, to at least be afforded some of the privileges that supposedly are afforded to members of this House according to the freedom of speech provisions that are in the book that we supposedly follow.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a minefield.

MR. HOLM: That is a minefield, but I will attempt to stay within those rules as closely as I can, because I would not want to be un-nice and offend any members of this House.

Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about here this afternoon is a power grab. I cannot use the word "dishonest" because that would be unparliamentary. I cannot, in fact, say about this bill and this government what 95 per cent of the people of this province are saying because that would all be unparliamentary. I have to try to couch my words in the most diplomatic of fashions. So what I will try to say as diplomatically as possible so that I have the privilege of staying in this House to which I was elected, what I say is that what this government and each and every member on those backbenches are trying to do is, to put it politely, intentionally pull the wool over Nova Scotians' eyes.

[Page 6185]

We are hearing, Mr. Speaker, that members opposite are saying, oh, this is just a pilot project, and, I hear the squawks and the squeals from the member for Yarmouth, from his back corner by the door where he likes to make his speeches, where he is not in Hansard, he is not before a mike, . . .

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: I do it in front of my people.

MR. HOLM: Oh, he does it before his people, and I am sure they appreciate it, too. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Let your people go.

MR. HOLM: It is not a matter of letting your people go, the people in Yarmouth are going to say, let the member go, and that will be coming as soon as they get the opportunity. What they are trying to do over there is pretend that the legislation that is before us has to do only with a pilot project in the Southwest Regional School Board. Mr. Speaker, if you believe that, let me tell you, I not only have one but I have a whole bunch of bridges to sell you because what this legislation is, is a pure power grab. It is a power grab on behalf of this government and, in fact, in the legislation that is before us, one of the most abhorrent, odorous provisions in that legislation is a provision that gives the Cabinet, that select group of 11 wise people - the brains, supposedly, of this government - give us a break. Those individuals can go down in the bunker, down in the Cabinet Room, without any public discussion and they can turn around and they can, on their own, decide that any provision in the Education Act no longer applies. In other words, by passing this amendment, they can in effect say that the Education Act no longer exists.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to that, this government is saying that they have the ability, again, without the assistance of any dictionary, without any input from the public, they can even redefine any word, any provision in the Act, to make it mean whatever the heck it is they want it to mean. Who is all this power going to be in the hands of? The Minister of Education.

Let's take a look at this. Here we are asking Nova Scotians to have confidence and give the minister absolute authority to decide anything and everything dealing with school boards and not just that one because, although it is called a pilot project without coming back to this House, without any consultation, without any further legislation, snap of a finger, any Thursday morning downstairs, Cabinet can do away with each and every other school board in this province. That is scary. That is dictatorship. It is not the kind of thing that you would expect to find in a supposedly democratic country and certainly not in a province like Nova Scotia with its long heritage. Even free speech, we fought for that in this province and, of course, we still have to continue to do that and some of us will insist that we continue to do it, no matter what kind of measures certain government supporters might try to impose.

[Page 6186]

Mr. Speaker, here we have a government telling us to give all this power to an Education Minister and to a government that did what? Does anybody remember what they have done recently? Does anybody remember how they fouled up on the budgets of school boards and the crisis that they have created? Do you remember hearing about, oh, 400 teachers are going to be laid off but no classrooms are going to be affected and it is only going to be a maximum of 400? Well, when they found out, of course, that they didn't have a clue what they were talking about, actually some say they have two clues - one is lost and the other one has gone looking for its buddy. That is the way they act. They didn't have the foggiest notion of what they were doing. Then they turned around and it has been hammered home to them that oh, obviously, yes, indeed, they have mixed up, they didn't know what they were talking about and that far more than 400 teachers would be laid of. In fact, it could be 1,000 or more.

Then they turned around and they went into their slush fund and did some creative accounting and they found ways to put some more money back in. But have they done anything to assist the children with special needs? Has anybody over there on the government benches heard what is going on in the school system today? We have people who are sitting on those government benches in important positions, who have some knowledge, or did have some knowledge, about what went on in the education system until they got elevated, in their minds, to this House. Then all of a sudden it would appear that their commitment to a quality education and an equal opportunity for the children of this province disappeared like that. Now they have a new master. I don't know if, based on what we heard, we should be saying it is a Buchanan-style Government, in other words a Bu-Hamm Government, or maybe a Cam-Hamm Government, because it is has elements of both the Buchanan and the Cameron Regimes.

[2:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Canned ham, did you say?

MR. HOLM: You might say it could be Cam-Hamm, I think that would be a Buchan-Hamm, it might be a real hodgepodge of what it is. We are being told the government, what an obscene idea, give this bunch, who are, as we heard in Question Periods, even government members, backbenchers who have to come in here to maintain the quorum - and I am so gratified so many of you are here to hear my comments today, and that means the voice is going that way, but out of the bunch who are sitting on the government benches, maybe two are paying any attention whatsoever, if I am lucky or unlucky. The other reality is that all the other 13 or more who are there, it is called a quorum, and they know full well, as I am speaking, if I notice for one minute that the numbers drop below the quorum figure, I will call the vote, and we are out of here.

[Page 6187]

The concern members opposite have for education is appalling. You talk, you go out, and you look in the eyes of those individual children and the parents of children with learning disabilities, and you tell them how they are going to be surviving, and how you are doing them justice and giving them an educational opportunity, when you are taking away the funding that is essential for providing special education.

The Minister of Education, this one we are supposed to be trusting with all of this power, she chastised us in the Opposition, she criticized us because we were bad, we didn't ferret out the fact, during her estimates debate, that they were cutting $0.5 million out of APSEA funding. We were bad in the Opposition, we didn't catch that one. This is a government that obviously believes, Tories believe, that the way you operate as a government is simply - yes, I see you are noticing and you are telling your members to come back in, because yes I am just about ready, if I had my members out of here, I would have called the quorum, don't worry, I noticed. Yes, bring them back in, member for Kings South. I am glad you are bringing the members back into the House so that we don't call the quorum. Oh, look at this, five new members came back to hear my words because they knew that I was about to call the quorum. That was very kind of you to come back.

Mr. Speaker, it would be even more kind of those five of you who came back in and one or two who have now just left, it would be even more kind of you if you actually paid attention to what was in the legislation. Maybe you could read it, and you could read the Education Act, and then you would find out what you are doing. Some people, of course, are satisfied with their job of just being a lump on the log, just being a bump there, to come in and be a number to be counted, and literally counted, like I was doing mentally in my head as I was looking across and watching government members disappear, as I was getting ready to call a quorum. Members opposite, some members are happy to be the numbers who just sit there so that the House can continue. Some members are quite happy to be there and yes, the Whip is back now, so the government is back under control, I don't have to do his job for him anymore.

Mr. Speaker, some members are happy to just sit there and be little puppets, and whenever the strings are pulled and the names are called for them to stand in support of the vote, they will stand in support of the government, happy as little lemmings being led to the cliff. But I ask you, why don't you start to listen to your constituents? Why don't you start to listen to somebody who actually knows something about what is going on in education out there?

AN HON. MEMBER: This amendment will allow that.

MR. HOLM: This amendment that we have before us on the House would actually allow them to do that, because this amendment would send the subject matter of this bill to the Law Amendments Committee, and the Law Amendments Committee can then take that bill on the road. They can go to Yarmouth, where the member for Yarmouth could actually

[Page 6188]

then be on the committee down there and listen to his constituents on this legislation. You can go to Kings County, you can go to Dartmouth, you can go to Sydney, you are more than welcome to come to Sackville. I would be only too happy to arrange a public forum in Sackville where you could come forward and we would even do this - I would even make sure there would be no rent charge - I will get you a location for free. You can come out and sit and make your presentations and the residents of the community can come. Then you can hear what people think about the loss of educational opportunities for their children, about the large classrooms.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, those kids, those parents, their future, that is something this bunch doesn't seem to understand. I don't know if that is unparliamentary to refer to the honourable government members as a bunch. Is it unparliamentary? Well, unless you order me to take it back, I won't, because I consider them just to be a bunch of ill-informed - of course, well meaning people - but of course they are getting their instructions from the front bench. Maybe the Minister of Finance has his hand on the strings of the puppet, and they are good little marionettes. They are dancing to his tune and to the tune of the Premier, and they are doing, like other members, some people who have positions of authority appear to be doing as well. Some might even know what I mean.

I am never sarcastic. Mr. Speaker, if this government wants to have the respect - and I heard the Premier, he is dreaming in technicolour if he continues the way that he is, but he is dreaming about the days, like sugarplum fairies dancing through his head on the day he is going to be re-elected. The way that he will get re-elected is by actually listening to Nova Scotians and meeting the needs of Nova Scotians. A society is judged by how it treats its children and its disadvantaged. Our society will be casting a very harsh sentence on this government unless they start to try to find a little bit of humanity in their hearts, and a little bit of common sense.

Our children, if they do not get the quality of education they need and deserve now, how can they possibly get the education to be able to become the employees of the future, to lead this province forward. How can a child with a learning disability have any hope, how can that family have any hope if the doctrinaire cut-slash philosophy, callous as it is of this Tory Government is imposed?

Mr. Speaker, this bill in its present state is repugnant, and I hope I have encouraged a few members of the government benches to rise and speak in support of the amendment going on to the Law Amendments Committee for debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Liberals have caved.

[Page 6189]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to rise this afternoon and to speak on Bill No. 47, the Amendments to the Education Act. I was listening to the very passionate and eloquent speech of the member for Sackville-Cobequid, and it struck me in the dying minutes of his speech when he talked about the measurements by which you look at your society, and he said, and I think it is worth having it said again that the way in which you measure the quality of any society is by how you treat those people who are the weakest and most vulnerable in your society. What is it that you offer to those who are at the margins of our communities, at the margins of our society? How do we deal with those people who are often, rather than finding a smooth way through life, how do we deal with those people who are often feeling instead the jagged edge of life.

That is what the member for Sackville-Cobequid was saying, and I think when we consider this amendment, referring it to the Law Amendments Committee, we should do it in that light. Consider what these kinds of amendments to the Education Act would mean to those children who, not those who are in the mainstream, not those who are gifted, but those who are less fortunate. Those who perhaps do not have the gifts others have and that is what is so troubling, certainly to the member for Sackville-Cobequid and certainly to those of us on this side of the floor, those of us in the New Democratic Caucus. Our caucus and our Party has had a long and very proud history of speaking up on behalf of those people who often don't have a voice, those who don't exercise the same kinds of power that control the Parties like the government caucus.

I might say it is something we have done for many years, because giving voice to those who are not in a position to wield power is something that is part of a tradition that includes the work of Tommy Douglas, includes the work of Stanley Knowles, for many years in the House of Commons. When I hear the member from Sackville-Cobequid, he reminds me of the words of those great Leaders in our Party, over many years.

The reality is that this bill needs to be referred to the Law Amendments Committee, as you know they have it within their mandate to be able to examine each of the proposed amendments and its effect on the Education Act from a policy perspective. I have to say I was somewhat dismayed when I looked at what I felt were some provisions which were going to limit, in effect, the democratic rights of individuals and communities to have input into the education system. Mr. Speaker, you may remember, as I do, the long battle it took in this very House in order to establish fully elected school boards. This was not something that came easily. It was not something that the government simply said, we believe fully in the democratic right of individuals and their community have control over their schools. This was something that had to be ground out, day by day on the floor of this House before members of the then government which I believe was the Conservative Government of John Buchanan before they would finally seed that ground and say, yes, this is an important aspect of our democracy.

[Page 6190]

In this bill, we have a situation where a board can be dismissed if it doesn't meet certain performance standards that are decided by the minister. First of all, those who seek office often face different context in different communities, they face different realities and they get elected with different agendas on different positions. Maybe they are far different from the agenda or position that is taken by the minister. That doesn't make them wrong, it doesn't make their opinion of the standards that are required wrong, it simply means they have a different point of view. I wonder if we were to hold a plebiscite today on whether or not the Minister of Education has met the performance standards that are demanded by the people of this province, I wonder what the result of that would be? I am not saying that to be mean, I am saying it because all our opinions with respect to these things are shaped by many things. They are shaped by what we read in the media, what we hear in coffee table conversation, what we hear in the coffee shops, maybe what we hear that is second or third hand information, and it may be wrong. Nonetheless, people vote and make decisions based on things that are much different than is perhaps the best of all possible worlds.

[2:30 p.m.]

I can't imagine that a person who is democratically elected by their community to fulfil a role that they ran for, that they talked about their policy and their plans for could be summarily dismissed by a Minister of Education. That seems to me to be undemocratic. It seems to me to be heavy-handed, it seems to me to be antithetical to the notion of democracy. There is a little phrase in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that says, "These things are subject to such reasonable limits as may be demonstrable in a free and democratic society." Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that these kinds of limitations are demonstrably justified.

We hold almost as a first article of faith in a democracy that even though we may disagree with the government, even though we may disagree with the decisions that are made by an elected body, we recognize the right of them to fulfil their mandate. We recognize the right of the people of the province to pass judgement on them at an appointed time under a free and fair election. I think it would be wrong for us to say, and I know there are those who are out there who believe that there should be mechanisms for upsetting governments in mid-term, I think those are, in fact, dangerous suggestions in many regards. If there is a mechanism for recall that is to be instituted, it must also follow the tenets of democracy. It cannot be used, and that is what we have seen in other provinces, even when recall legislation has been very, very difficult to impose, we have seen them used as a form of political chicanery rather than as a true up welling of public discontent.

Mr. Speaker, I think when people go to the polls and elect, whether it is a school board or a Minister of Education or a Premier, they know that there is going to be an ebb and flow in the decisions that that person is going to have to make. That, in some cases, they will learn over the course of their experience or their portfolio or in their job and it may be that someone who gets elected in the first year of their mandate don't do a very good job and then over the course of their experience become capable administrators, become capable Cabinet

[Page 6191]

Ministers, become capable councillors or school board representatives and do get re-elected, because not everybody who comes into this job knows all there is to know.

I think that if this bill was forwarded on to the Law Amendments Committee and we had an opportunity to bring it around the province, that you would hear that from people. I think you would hear from people that although they have difficulties with this bill, and I am sure there would be many amendments that would come forward and I am sure that the government would hear its amount of criticism but the electorate is amazingly forgiving. They will say, we are going to judge you on all of your record, not just what you did in the first six months of your mandate. Therefore, we are willing to give you the time, the years that it is going to take to see whether or not you are going to be effective in your overall management of the province.

I say this, not to lecture the members on some of the qualities of democracy, but to say that we must apply these principles when we look at a school board. Just because you disagree with the position of the school board; just because you don't believe that they are fulfilling what your opinion is with respect to their mandate, should we then intervene and dismiss a board?

I find that objectionable. I think that the mandate should be run out. If changes are to be made, if school board districts are to be changed, they should be changed in accordance with the normal practices of review. In this House, Mr. Speaker, we have a review mechanism, I believe after every census. In fact, it may be that many of the members who sit in here today will run in constituencies in the next election which have different boundaries than the one they ran in today. They may represent different communities, even, or at least sections of different communities. That is certainly possible. But the people who cast their votes for them expect that they will have, after the next general election, the opportunity to represent them for a full term.

With the exception of minority governments, it is usual for governments to last three or four years, because people want stability. They want to know that there is, in fact, somebody there at the helm, steering the boat. They don't always agree. People are highly critical of their governments. But they do need to know that there is going to be a stable regime, that there is going to be a stable group of representatives they can go to, to talk about the problems they have in their district.

Mr. Speaker, we have in this province people who have run for school boards on issues that aren't necessarily directly, or should I say exclusively, on education policy issues. There are people who run for school boards because they are concerned about the air quality in their schools, because they are concerned about transportation, because they are concerned about the shape of the facilities that their children attend. They run for school boards for all of these reasons. Under the amendments to this bill, what will happen is those issues will be stripped away from the school board. They won't be entitled to affect those particular kinds of issues

[Page 6192]

through the boards. That is an important and fundamental change to the way in which the school boards will operate. I have to say, I think parents are going to find it very difficult when they know that all of those issues affect the day-to-day schooling of children as much as educational policy does.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take a chance here, because I believe that many of the students who go to schools in your district would go by bus, because I know you have rural riding, so that busing to schools would be an issue. In my riding it is also an issue. We don't often think about that in so-called urban ridings, but the reality is my riding stretches from Spring Avenue in Dartmouth, which is a very urban and suburban area, all the way out to Ross Road. On Ross Road, I believe the reason people live there is because they like the urban atmosphere, they are close enough to the city that they can come in quickly, but yet they still have a well and a septic system and a certain amount of independence away from the municipality.

In my riding the question of transportation to schools, whether or not elementary school children are going to have to walk 2.6 kilometres or 3.5 kilometres, would be an important issue that school board members would run on. They would talk about that. They would talk about it as a priority, in addition to how many educational assistants are going to be in the classrooms - I think they call them classroom assistants in some places and EPAs in other places, but they are the same person, they are doing the same job; they are in the classroom helping students, helping teachers.

All of these things, although they may not be directly related to curriculum or education policy, they are very important to the people who live in the communities. If you strip them out of the school board's mandate and responsibility, then you are hampering the board's ability to actually deal with those things which affect the classroom.

I think, Mr. Speaker, if we were to take this bill to the Law Amendments Committee and, as my colleague the member for Sackville-Cobequid said, if we were willing to take it around the province, and he mentioned in specific taking it to Yarmouth, it would be interesting to hear what the parents whose children go to Centre Consolidated School, what they would have to say about these kind of amendments and the effect on their board.

Can you imagine taking the Law Amendments Committee to Sackville-Beaver Bank where the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank would actually have the opportunity to stand on his feet and say something in front of his constituents, so they could actually hear him talk about something that is going on in the Legislature that is relevant to their lives? Can you imagine? I know that it is a very difficult position for the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank to be in. He has to sit there and not get an opportunity to speak on this bill because - we can only judge from what we see - apparently they were told that they are not allowed to stand up and talk on bills like the Education Act.

[Page 6193]

I mean can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, he could have an hour to stand on his feet and tell the people of his constituency about how he feels about a very important bill, Bill No. 47, An Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96, the Education Act. He could do that, but do we hear from him? No, we don't. But if we took the committee to his constituency, then he would have the opportunity to not only just talk to other members of the Legislature and not just in the hallways and not just to the Cabinet as he waves to them as they come out of Cabinet meetings, I mean he could have some first-hand interaction with the people of his constituency at a committee meeting that would actually mean something. That is what the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank could do.

Well, we will see if we hear anything more than faint carping from the backbenches. We will hear whether or not the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank can find it within himself to stand up and say something on the bill. We will find out.

MR. BARRY BARNET: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite. In fact, what he said was what I did last night. I met last night with a number of parents and teachers in Beaver Bank, in my community, and 30-some people were at the meeting. We had a good discussion; we talked about issues surrounding that bill. The member must have been there, a mole or something must have been there because, quite frankly, he described the same kind of meeting that occurred; he described it to a "T".

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I was certainly very pleased at the member's intervention, although I guess I lost whether or not it was a point of order or what it was. But if he is taking my advice, what I would like him to do is stand up during his own time and tell the people of his riding where he stands on this piece of legislation and to get it on the record, just exactly whether or not he agrees with all these provisions. No, I am not clairvoyant. I don't have any special abilities to see into the future, but I have to tell you, you don't need any of that to read what is going on with that member, because people can read him like a book. We know just exactly where he is coming from, like we do with all of the government members, because it is written right here. It is contained right within the provisions of Bill No. 47, the Education Act, and that is that they intend to do everything that they can do to try to strip people of the ability to actually have some input into the system.

They are not going to do what they ought to do, which is to give people the opportunity to speak on this bill. I have noticed a reluctance to do that on, I guess I wouldn't say all other bills but most other bills, although that is not what we are here to discuss today.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I talked a little bit about the need for the school boards to be able to discuss matters that are what I would call necessarily incidental to education policy. Those people who have had an opportunity to look at the way these kinds of policies are developed, there are a core set of principles that you function on, and off of the core set of principles, you

[Page 6194]

will find that there are matters that are necessarily ancillary, but no less important than the main core principles. In this case, although it is true that the main education concerns, whether it happens to be curriculum reform, whether it happens to be discipline policies, whether it happens to be any manner of things that affect the actual classroom, these are important, but kind of hanging off of those kinds of core principles in the schools are many other very important things. I have talked a little bit about, in my constituency, what effect transportation has on the ability of the schools to function.

Just by way of illustration, I remember last year, in a particular school in my district, the principal of that school convened a meeting. What he did, and he was illustrating the very point that I make, and the reason why I think it is necessary to bring this to the Law Amendments Committee to allow these people to come to this committee and to tell the members of the Legislature about matters just like this, he convened a meeting. What he did is he brought in what he considered to be all the stakeholders from all the community organizations that affected his school, he had Public Health, he had Child Protection, he had Recreation Services, he had any number of individuals in the community and service-providing organizations that affected the lives of the children who went to his school.

He said to them all, collectively, look, education in this province and education as delivered in my school is having some difficulties, because I am being asked to provide a public health component in the school, I am being asked to do social work, I am being asked to look at child protection, I am being asked to deliver mental health services, I am being asked to provide recreation services, I am being asked to essentially give the full gamut of services to these children, but I am not being provided with the resources to be able to do that.

He said, my frustration is that after I am told that I have to provide all of these services in my classroom, I am then told, oh and by the way, in addition, we also want you to deliver an education to the children of this school. In his frustration he was saying that is just not possible. I can't be responsible, I can't do all of these things and still ask my teaching staff to deliver the quality education that these children are going to need to go forward into the future.

Mr. Speaker, that is what he said. He was asking for help. I think that in this particular school, this particular principal had the foresight to be able to bring these people together and be able to squeeze the system a little bit to be able to get some help. I know that school is better off today because of it. It is a sad fact. I don't know how many years ago you went to school, likely not as long ago as I did, but we had public health nurses in the school. When I first went to school, they were there throughout. Then as I went through the system, their interaction with the schools became gradually less. I think by the time I went to high school there were none in the schools, and perhaps that was just a function of them being needed more in the younger grades.

[Page 6195]

The reality is they had an important role in the schools. They could catch many problems earlier on, they could resolve them earlier before they spread, and my understanding was that part of the reason why the public health nurses came out of the schools was because it was felt children could reach medical care that was readily available anywhere. Indeed, I think that in the 1970's that was probably true. Well, it isn't anymore and we see that today in Question Period. I have asked question after question about the shortages that are occurring in medical services, in hospitals, the lack of doctors and nurses in our communities, specifically in rural communities.

So, if we were to take the Education Act on the road, to have a look at that whole discussion about what is in here and what should be in here, then it is likely the case that you would hear people say, we have to recognize that the doors of the school swing open to all the students in the province and many of them come with problems or with difficulties that are specific to them.

I guess this brings me back around to the point I made at the very beginning, which is that the quality of our society, the quality of our education system is measured truly by how we deal with those people who are most vulnerable, those people who are least in the position not to deal with the difficulties they have either inherited or were born with, who aren't mainstream.

That is just one good reason why you ought to be taking this bill to the Law Amendments Committee, why the committee ought to have the opportunity to examine it fully. The other reason I can think of is, the other night, myself, along with the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and with the member for Halifax Needham, attended a very well attended meeting at Auburn High School. Auburn High School generously allowed the school board members to present and to consult with members of the community around what was going to happen as a result of the budget cuts that came down through the Minister of Education's budget. They pointed out that because of the anomalies in the system, because there is supplementary funding for the schools in the old City of Dartmouth and the old City of Halifax, that the city council was demanding. You can understand their rationale, they said the citizens of the City of Dartmouth, the citizens of the City of Halifax are voluntarily paying an increased rate for this money to go into their schools and we are insisting this money be spent in those schools.

What that would mean was that the budgetary impacts were going to be much greater in the rural areas than they were going to be in the urban areas. In fact, what they were saying was they could expect the loss of many more teachers in the rural communities and in rural schools than was going to happen in urban schools. I must say, I had the opportunity, in addition to meeting with those parents that night, a constituent of mine, Mr. Chevrier, who came over to the House, took time out of his schedule, he met with me in the library and what he brought with him were the budgets of the school boards and 31 years of experience working as a math teacher in a rural school.

[Page 6196]

What he said to me, I think was in many ways, very touching. What he said was, I have worked 31 years in the schools. I am going to retire shortly, and I have no reason to care, except that I do. He said people must understand what impact these kinds of budget cuts are going to have on rural schools. You are going to destroy the fabric of the schools in rural communities. The young teachers who are in there, the term teachers who work in my school are going to be gone. The programming that is valuable to us is going to be altered so significantly that we will barely recognize it.

He said, I don't understand why it is that the government is doing this. It is funny because I remember watching them in Opposition and they knew the answer. They knew when they sat on your side of the House, but all of a sudden when they are on that side of the House they are doing exactly the things that they criticized the previous government for doing. He said, I don't understand it. You could see that he was very discouraged with the way in which he felt education in his community was being treated.

Mr. Speaker, I must say, although he was perhaps the most dramatic example to me of this, what he said is consistent with all of the things that I heard last Monday night at Auburn School. It is consistent with the discouragement and the frustration that students and teachers and staff feel about a group or collection of individuals who got elected, promising to do better, but who are doing worse, and appear to do it with glee, appear to be setting out knowing the kinds of dramatic and awful impacts their budgets and legislation are going to have on the school system, but seem uncaring, unconcerned about what it means to people in their communities, to students, and children. The way that they voice this is just with disillusionment and discouragement.

I know that the member for Preston knows, because I was there when the member for Preston was at the meeting with respect to Graham Creighton Junior High School. I heard him at that public meeting, stand up, and talk to the people of that community and say that he was disappointed with the school board because he didn't feel all of the information had been given to the community so they could make a proper judgement.

Well, just exactly the way the member for Preston feels about the school board, I feel about his government. I feel they just haven't given the information to people, in fact, quite the opposite. What they do is tighten down the lid. They don't let information out. They don't allow the public to engage in the debate. I will bet you that when the vote is called, that very member, the member who called for more open debate, who called for more information, will vote against this resolution. I am just willing to bet on it. I am willing to bet that the same guy who said the community should have more input will vote against an amendment to this bill that calls for the Law Amendments Committee to take this bill and allow for more community input.

[Page 6197]

He knows that is exactly what he said, and there were hundreds of witnesses in that gym that evening. If he really feels that way, and if he really feels the people of his community, of his constituency, on issues like the Graham Creighton Junior High School - the people there were concerned with a very specific educational issue. As I understand it, Mr. Speaker, it is exactly one of the issues that is going to be stripped out of the responsibility of the school board. If he truly believes what he is saying, shouldn't he be one of the first people on his feet to support this resolution? I think so. I think that is reasonable.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, perhaps some of the parents of students who go to Graham Creighton Junior High School, are tuning in this afternoon, and perhaps they, too, are waiting for the response of the member for Preston. Who knows? Maybe they will somewhere run across a copy of Hansard and see these remarks, and see that I asked the member to speak out on behalf of the parents and students who are either attending or have children attending that school. Well, we will see whether he chooses to speak out on their behalf or if, like the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is content to hide on the backbench without so much as a word in defence of his own constituency.

Mr. Speaker, of course, the member for Yarmouth is another case because he has issues in his constituency as well that could be addressed if we were able to take this on the road. (Interruption) I hear the member say July 27th. The member should know that his election on July 27th was not a pivotal point in the history of this Legislature and was not a pivotal point in the history of this country. We will just see how the people in his constituency feel about him next time around once they have had an opportunity to properly evaluate their performance. (Interruption) He says he doesn't worry about it. Well, if he doesn't worry about it and he doesn't care, then all the greater shame on him.

Mr. Speaker, we come to this House from constituencies across this province and we represent a diverse group of people but, I can't believe there could be a group of parents in the good community of Yarmouth who would agree with the position that has been taken by that member. He doesn't care about important initiatives that will affect the very education of their children. I can't believe that they wouldn't want to have an opportunity to speak before the Law Amendments Committee and to make the case for strengthening education rather than destroying it. I can't believe that and I won't believe that.

I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have spent lots of time down on the South Shore, and I have spent lots of time in Shelburne and in Yarmouth and in Queens County because I still have family who live up and down the shore. I have heard from those people at Search and Rescue dinners as I went to last Saturday night. I didn't hear anybody there saying that dividing the powers of the school board and stripping out things like the ability to deal with facilities or transportation or air quality were going to be good for the schools in their district. I didn't hear that. Perhaps this weekend. This weekend I am going to be in Caledonia.

[Page 6198]

Perhaps this weekend, I will have an opportunity to speak to some of the people in Caledonia who will tell me whether or not they think that it is a good idea for the school board to lose its authority and power. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I am just reminded by the member for Halifax Chebucto that, in fact, his family is from Yarmouth. He said if he had known that the member was going to run, perhaps he would have moved down there himself. (Interruption) We will see if he has an opportunity to laugh on the other side of his face come the next election.

One of the things I find most distressing about the bill is the way it talks about the ability of the minister to modify, restrict or enlarge the meaning of any word, expression or provision in the bill. Can you imagine? This is Alice-in-Wonderland kind of stuff. They can decide that a word means something different than the conventional meaning. They can do things which I think in the normal course of the drafting of legislation is considered to be the job of the Legislature to make such changes. You don't allow the minister, simply by regulation, to make changes to the wording of the legislation or to the meaning of the words in the legislation that could dramatically affect the whole principle of the bill.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that were we to take this on the road with the Law Amendments Committee, perhaps out to Preston, people would say we have had enough of that over the years where people have taken words that have fairly simple meanings and distorted them to the point where they don't mean what people in the very common sense way would expect them to mean.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: I am not the lawyer, you are.

MR. DEXTER: The member for Preston is yelling, you know, he is not the lawyer, that I am the lawyer and, Mr. Speaker, all I can say to that is that we have struggled for many years in the legal profession to bring forward plain language kinds of legislation and, in fact, I was and am still a member of the Public Legal Education Society which provides plain language explanations of legislation just for that exact reason because I think that people are insulted by the notion that in a bill, like Bill No. 47, you are going to be able to so distort the meaning of words by simply a stroke of the pen in the backroom of a Cabinet office and I think they would just say that that is wrong, because it is wrong and that is why they would say it because it is wrong.

Mr. Speaker, things have a funny way of cycling around. When it comes to issues with respect to education, we think, I suppose we think that all of this is new, but we have seen the education system revamped now on many occasions. People keep saying, well, why is it that every time there is a review, that review really means cut and every time there is a restructure, a restructuring really means cut and why is it that every single time that the government takes an initiative, instead of making life better for people, they make it worse? That is exactly what is going to happen in this bill and I think if you gave them the

[Page 6199]

opportunity to say so, the people of the province would tell you, you know, put this away, get on with the things that we elected you to do, the things that you said you were going to do, which was to strengthen the education system rather than to try and destroy it, make an investment in the future by investing in our children. That is what you said you were going to do.

Why is it that now that you have the ability to wield power, that you have decided to take steps that far from being positive are going to actually damage the future prospects of the young people of this province and it is not just, they see it at every level, Mr. Speaker. They see it at elementary school level. They see it with special needs students and I am certain, and there is quite a debate that is going on around the whole question of how special needs students are best assisted in achieving their full potential. We recognize that there is, in fact, a complete debate out there and what better way to hear about it than through a committee that would get the full range of views on many subjects and I would say including that.

Mr. Speaker, can you imagine, instead of having a school board that is going to have to live with the decisions that are made by the director of each school board, and this is an experience that we have lived through in the Halifax Regional Municipality. You may remember, as I do, that when the Halifax Regional Municipality was brought into being, I think we called him the amalgamation czar at the time, went ahead and selected the first CAO. There was a wide discussion among the members who got elected to that first regional council about whether or not that was properly done by council, rather than in advance of the council being elected. They said, after all, it is the council that is going to have to deal with the CAO.

Mr. Speaker, in this bill, the first director of education in each district will be appointed by the minister. Have we learned nothing? Have we learned nothing about what effect that has on the ability of, in this case, a school board to work effectively with the person who is going to be charged with the lion's share of the responsibility of implementing the decisions that they are going to make? Normally the school board wants to be in a position to have confidence in its chief employee. Why would the minister want to intervene in that, and make the mistake of tying the hands of the school board? It is not that I know the minister would necessarily make a bad decision, I don't know that. It may be entirely appropriate that the person who is selected can do the job in each district.

Mr. Speaker, really, wouldn't it be better left to the individuals who most assuredly know what it is that that person is going to have to respond to to make that decision, rather than the minister, in some cases, who may be hundreds of miles away, sitting in an office on Hollis Street, downtown Halifax in any event? Why would that decision be better made from that office? Perhaps that could be explained and perhaps if we had the opportunity to bring this before the Law Amendments Committee, it might be the case that the minister could

[Page 6200]

demonstrate sufficient reasons for this to be the case. I don't think so, but at least it would have an opportunity for a full airing of the debate in a forum that would be public.

Mr. Speaker, I guess something that hasn't been said or may not have been said to date is just that there is a fundamental reason for having this kind of debate in public that is of a very basic nature, which is that you give a full public airing to all of the concerns. It is the very best of participatory democracy. We have said for a long time, and the members opposite have said, they use words like stakeholders, interest groups, those people whose interests are going to be affected by the decisions, and they want to bring them in, get them to buy into the changes that are going to be made. Well, if that is the case, then this is the opportunity to put into practice that which the government says is so valuable, the right of citizens to participate in the debate.

Mr. Speaker, in this case, Bill No. 47, the Act to amend the Education Act will have not only far-reaching but long-standing effects on the way in which education in the province is going to be delivered. That being the case, the case for a full public discussion of the issues contained therein is that much more important. Among other things that are in here is just the whole number or range of powers that have been reined into the minister's office. We have seen this, now on two occasions, with this government, the re-establishment of power at the centre. It has happened to a very large degree with the Health Authorities Bill, under the Minister of Health where power is being centralized, but also again with this bill where the Minister of Education is drawing in much of the power that had been delegated to school boards.

[3:15 p.m.]

I suppose, well I guess I know it is part of the inability of this government to work with community organizations; in fact they don't like people standing in their way. They find that democratic organizations like school boards that demonstrate a mind of their own are particularly troublesome. They won't take direction, and they continue to argue over things like maybe it is not 400 teachers, maybe it is 1,200. They put forward the information and, darn it all, they turn out to be right and that is very embarrassing for the minister. So the easy answer is to get rid of the obstacle. Get of those people who are raising those concerns and put in place people like the directors of education in each district, which can be appointed by the minister and ensure they know right from the very beginning where their marching orders are coming from.

I can tell, you Mr. Speaker, where they are coming from under this bill, they are not coming from communities; they are not coming from the rural towns and villages; they are not coming from the working people of Nova Scotia, the people who have students in classrooms. Where they are coming from is the minister's office and, if not from the minister's office, from the Cabinet office. I often wonder who is operating in the background there.

[Page 6201]

Can you imagine if the member for Kings South were to have the opportunity in his community to stand up and speak with his residents, like the member for Kings North, about what is going on in education in their communities. A very important aspect of life in the Valley, a very important part of the democratic tradition in the Valley is the provision of a good education to students. If you don't think that is true in the Valley, you just have to look at the debate that is raging over the Acadia bill. It is another aspect of education, granted, but it just shows how seriously and how dedicated the people in the Valley are to all aspects of education. We see it demonstrated within that bill.

Can you just imagine if you were to take the Education Act down to New Minas and hold a public forum? I think you would get all kinds of very, very constructive suggestions about the way in which this bill could be made better. I think the member for Kings South would benefit from a little education of his own with respect to that. He would hear from his constituents and he, like the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, and the member for Preston, and the member for Yarmouth, would have an opportunity to speak.

I haven't mentioned the member for Shelburne, but he too would have an opportunity to speak to this bill in a forum where his constituents would hear what it is that he has to say. And now that the member for Shelburne has drawn my attention, the Lockeport High School is under threat of closure and, having attended high school at Liverpool Regional High School, the Lockeport Green Wave and the Lockeport High School was a rival of ours over many years. The students who attended there, today some of them I count among my friends and I think it is going to be a terrible blow to that community to lose that high school. He says it is not going to happen, and I hope that he is right, because it would be a terrible, terrible blow if that were to happen either this year or next year or in the years to come because of budget cut backs and because of poorly thought-out decision making.

I know my time is winding down. I am sure the members opposite know they can extend my time for another hour with the unanimous decision of the House. It is just a sad fact they don't want to see a full debate on this and that is why I think it is even more important (Interruption) Well, now, a good suggestion has been made. Maybe the reason they don't want me to continue to speak is because they intend to speak. I am looking forward to that, I am looking forward to hearing from the member for Kings North, because I know that as an educator himself, he would have some valuable things to say about (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I think my time here is drawing to a close. (Interruption) Apparently I have two and one half minutes, as the member for Preston mentions. I am glad the member for Preston has decided to speak up because I wanted to just go back and remind him of what I had said previously and what his commitments had been to people at the last public meeting he was to. I hope that rather than just hearing him from the sidelines, when I sit down he will be in his seat and will take the opportunity to get on the record and to tell the people of the Preston constituency, and to tell the people who have kids who are going to Graham Creighton Junior High School what the commitment of his government is, and his Party is

[Page 6202]

with respect to a full airing of the Education Act. If it was any assistance whatsoever, I would be more than pleased, even though I don't sit on the Law Amendments Committee, to go to any meeting that committee was going to have in Preston or in any of the catchment area that deals with Graham Creighton Junior High School, to have a full debate on this issue and to get all the information out to people so they can make a proper decision.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, there is so much, but in summary, this bill needs to be brought before the Law Amendments Committee to be circulated around the province in order for the people of the province to have an opportunity to pass judgement on it, to give advice to the government in order to make it a better bill, so the government can achieve what I think it really wants to do, which is to bring forward legislation that will constructively enhance educational opportunities for children right across the province.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few moments to discuss the motion my honourable colleague from Halifax Needham put on the floor with regard to Bill No. 47, the subject of the bill being moved to Law Amendments Committee and having some hearings so the people of this province will have an opportunity to actually debate and discuss these very drastic changes to our education system.

This bill has a very simple title, the Amendment to the Education Act, Bill No. 47. That title seems to not exude what is really happening in this piece of legislation, which is a fundamental change in the governance of our schools from local, community-based control, an ability for communities to have a lot of influence on how our schools are run, to a very top down, bureaucratic and controlling process through the Minister of Education's office and then, more largely, the Cabinet of the province.

Our province has always been a place of various communities and that is why there is a need for this bill to be sent around for consultation. Our province is a small province, looking at things across North America. There are many places like Ontario or Florida or Texas that have tens of millions of people. We have less than one million here. We are a small province by area, compared to most of the rest of Canada.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, what is important to remember is that we are a province of various communities. You yourself come from the community of Clare, a French-speaking, Acadian-Nova Scotian community. You just have to go down the shore a little further to the South Shore where there are people of German descent, and you can see a very different culture from the one in which you and your community are based. Or you can go the other direction, over to the Annapolis Valley, and you see, both based on religion and based on culture, a very different community again. You have the rural/urban split where you have Halifax-Dartmouth and the needs of our communities in the Halifax-Dartmouth area, which

[Page 6203]

my riding is part of, clearly are quite different than the needs of Clare of Shelburne or Argyle or Meat Cove or Inverness.

Mr. Speaker, that is important to note as well, that the communities are very different. You can go up to Truro, you can go to Amherst, you can go to Pictou and, again, you will see various communities, and how they will be impacted by this particular piece of legislation. (Interruption) Cape Breton, of course. Cape Breton, for a long time it was a separate political entity from Nova Scotia. It was French controlled. My ancestors are from there. People say, you are Acadian, your family must have been expelled at some point, and I say, no, they were in Cape Breton, and Cape Breton was never part of the expulsion, it was under French control in 1755.

I think it is important to reflect on this. If we are going to do this piece of legislation, it is important for all those various communities to have the opportunity to be consulted, to have the Law Amendments Committee go around, meet with these communities, hear what they have to say, because the beauty of Nova Scotia, amongst other things, is the fact that it is diverse in its communities, based on religion, based on language, based on culture, based on geography. Obviously the geography of the Annapolis Valley compared to the geography of the Eastern Shore has resulted in a very different perspective.

It is that kind of community-based differentiation that has made Nova Scotia what it is. It has made this Legislature, as a microcosm of that, very unique. We are going to get rid of that. We are going to eliminate that community control, we are going to say, whether you be from the South Shore, the Valley, Cape Breton, Halifax-Dartmouth, we are all going to treat you the same. It is going to be done through a top-down controlled education system that the Minister of Education will control. That is not what the people of Nova Scotia voted for on July 27, 1999. They believed, in fact I believe it is in the blue book, in a much more diverse form of school governance, where we may even break down the school boards that were in place so that they would have an opportunity at a more local level to have control.

It was only a few years ago that the former government passed legislation that created these four or five school boards, I guess, when you include the Acadian school boards. (Interruption) More than five, seven. These seven school boards were put in place because it was felt there was administrative duplication, there was a need to consolidate. A lot of communities, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, your community, my community and many others said, we are losing something here. Particularly on the southwest, ironically, based on this bill, they said that they were losing something because it was so unmanageable, they had no ability to have input at a level that ensured that their voices would be heard.

This Tory Government, last summer during the election, promised that they would review that. The innuendo there was that they would be reviewing it to reduce the size of the school boards, reduce it down to maybe more school boards, so that they were more community-based, so people could have a real voice, a democratic voice in how their schools

[Page 6204]

were operated. The irony is, this piece of legislation does quite the opposite. That is why it needs to be consulted on. This government did not agree to this when they ran last time, in the election, and they are doing something quite different. They are saying that we are going to take over the Southwest Regional School Board. Yes, maybe we are breaking them down into two district boards, but those district boards have no direct control based on the community. Yes, there are "advisory school boards", but the Minister of Education will be controlling and dictating, from Halifax, what will be happening.

Quite frankly, if you live in Clark's Harbour, or if you live in Lunenburg, if you voted Tory hoping to get smaller school boards with more local control, you didn't vote to have the Minister of Education in Halifax, whose riding is in the South End of Halifax, to have control over your children's education. But that is what you are getting, and that is why we need to have consultation on this piece of legislation. This government did not tell the truth back last summer, and they are now doing something quite different, and it is about time the people of Nova Scotia had an opportunity to be consulted and to give their advice to this government on this form of dictatorial control that we see in this piece of legislation.

[3:30 p.m.]

I want to talk for a second about the Law Amendments Committee because I think it is an important part of the motion. Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity last year as the Justice Critic for the Party to sit on the Law Amendments Committee when the Workers' Compensation Act amendments were coming through, and the Municipal Government Act which the Speaker would be aware of in his previous position in government. With those pieces of legislation, quite frankly we are very lucky in this province, we are one of I think only two, or maybe only one left now, that actually allows public input at the Law Amendments Committee process. It gives people the opportunity to come forward to have their say. It is something that is sadly lacking in some other jurisdictions, but we still have it here. It is that kind of retail, personal contact that allows people to know that they still have the ability to influence government.

I am quite proud to have sat on the Law Amendments Committee for that very reason because it does have that opportunity to do that. I saw how it impacted the Workers' Compensation Act. I saw how it impacted on the Municipal Government Act, particularly on the pesticide component which was changed based on pressure from individual citizens.

Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of pressure we need to apply to the Education Act. Bill No. 47 needs a public airing. It needs the opportunity for people throughout this province to have an opportunity to speak on it, to be consulted on it, and the Law Amendments Committee is the proper place to do that.

[Page 6205]

I want to talk a little bit about education generally and the system in this province because that is what needs to be consulted on as well. Some would say this bill is nothing more than administrative, but this is doing nothing more than assuring a more accountable system so that the Minister of Education can have more accountability and control over the spending and over the administration of school boards. Well, that is a little short-sighted to look at it that way, because, quite frankly, this is a fundamental change in our education system. From my own personal experience and maybe many others', a lot of structural change and administrative change, as it is described, turns out in the long run to be fundamental, substantive change, in how something works. In this case, maybe this is just talking about the Minister of Education having a more hands-on or under-your-thumb control of education, but in the long run it will mean a fundamental change in how our education system works, or doesn't work as the member for Halifax Fairview points out.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to go back, and I want, just for a second, to talk personally about this. I think probably there are 52 different stories about this in this Legislature. It was only two generations ago, my grandparents were a steelworker and a butcher, tradespeople trying to earn a living. Through an education system and two generations, my family has been able to move forward, educationally and in many other ways. My parents didn't have an opportunity to go to university either. But in the long run, through an equitable education system, people from working-class communities were given the opportunity, and in my generation, all of us had the opportunity of post-secondary education in my family. That is important, because in two short generations - and as I say, probably everyone has a similar story in this province - we were able as a province to ensure that people of this province had the opportunity to succeed. Education was there. It was provided. It was affordable. It allowed people to learn, to grow and to have the opportunity to go on for post-secondary education, whether that be nursing school, or whether that be vocational school, or whether that be university.

Quite frankly, it is those forms of opportunity, through an equitable education system that also reflected the communities' needs, Mr. Speaker, that resulted in us having the prosperity we have today. Though many would suggest our prosperity is limited compared to many other places, and that is why we must improve on our education system and invest in it, not just try and control it and make it accountable and have it under the thumb of the Minister of Education. That is not the way to ensure our education system grows. That is not the way to ensure our province will prosper more, and that is not the way to ensure the people of this province have equal educational opportunity based on the communities from which they come.

So, I have talked a bit about my own personal experience that I have been able to use an education system, coming from a working-class community in Eastern Passage, to be able to use that as an opportunity to learn. I was provided with a decent education and I was able to take that forward to be able to go to university, to law school, and then here in the Legislature, where I am honoured to be.

[Page 6206]

Mr. Speaker, that was important because I would suggest to you, and some would say, well, what does that have to do with this? It has to do with the fact that we had a system that was community based. We had a system in which the communities had influence over their education, to ensure that that education would be maintained so that their children had the opportunities to prosper and to succeed. I would suggest to you that the fundamental change in the governance of the school boards that this bill is proposing will result in a radically different system where we will have central control from Halifax, from a Minister of Education and from a Cabinet that will not reflect the difference, will not reflect the inequities that are currently in the system to try to straighten them, but will in fact result in a cookie-cutter education system that will only result in some succeeding and many others not. That is the problem with this.

This isn't just about governance, Mr. Speaker, this is about fundamentally preventing some, who can succeed, from succeeding and preventing others, who have the opportunity to grow and learn and to be able to prosper, from prospering. That is what is wrong with Bill No. 47 and that is why I think we need time to consult through the Law Amendments Committee as to why this bill should not be passed.

The other aspect of this, which is sort of written between the lines, is the issue of investment. We have had a lot of debate about education since the budget came out but, Mr. Speaker, I think why this needs consultation, why the Law Amendments Committee must take the subject of this bill around, is what is really underlying why this is being done. Why would the Minister of Education want to put education under her thumb? Why would she want direct and absolute authority over our education system? Why would she want to destroy the school board system that this province has been built upon?

I would suggest to you that it is predominantly not because she wants the power or not because she feels that she knows more about education than other educators, it is because she believes that there is wasteful spending that must be stopped and she believes that the only way that can be done is through direct accountability. Or maybe she is jealous of the Minister of Health because Bill No. 34 gives him almost the exact same powers and she, particularly, would be interested in having the same powers but, Mr. Speaker, I think what is clear, and we have heard this from the minister and from the Premier, is that they believe that there is wasteful spending in education, that that wasteful spending must stop and they will make sure it is done by taking control of the system.

I would suggest to you that this comes down to a fundamental gap that we see here personified in this legislation between whether or not we should be cutting back on education spending because it is a cost that must be saved or whether it is an investment that must be provided so that we can ensure a more prosperous province in the long run. This government is short-sighted in what it is doing. It seems to want to slash and burn, particularly in education, as a means of saving money, balancing the books and not reflecting on the long-term implications that without investing in education, without putting the money into it, that

[Page 6207]

is only going to result in a province whose labour force is unable to capture those high-skilled, long-term jobs, but will be spending time working in call centres and McDonald's because we don't have anything but cheap labour for the corporate sector. If that is the type of education system this government is trying to get, I will tell you, this bill is its first step towards doing that and that is why I think this bill needs to be considered further and why I am opposed to Bill No. 47.

Education is the great equalizer. I forget who said that, Mr. Speaker, but quite frankly it is the truth. This government by taking control, by governing centrally from Halifax the education system and doing it in a way that is underhanded, is only resulting in taking away education as an equalizer. Our communities are diverse. Their needs are diverse. Let's begin to reflect that and let's ensure that our communities have an opportunity to have a say in how they are run, not advisory. This is what we do in health care. We have these advisory community health boards that have no influence.

In education, at least, we had and we fought - our Party fought for years to have a fully-elected school board. It was done and now we are taking that away. They are going to become advisory boards with no influence. They will be the scapegoat when something goes wrong, but when it comes to making decisions, they will all be done from an office in Halifax, not in Argyle, not in Clare, not in Pugwash, not in Wallace, not in Pleasant Bay and not in Cheticamp. That is where the decisions must be made. That is where the communities must have the ability to influence how their children are being educated and they will become nothing more than advisory bodies with no influence and the Minister of Education will control everything.

I want to talk a bit about some specifics around governance and some of the issues maybe that can be discussed when we do send this bill out for consultation from the Law Amendments Committee. I will talk about some issues that are near and dear to my heart, just from my own riding, and I will get to the specifics a little later. One of them is lunch fees, and this is a good example, Mr. Speaker, of why consultation must be done. You saw last year a government budget that came down and then a local school board that tried to adjust its budget based on that, and one of the sort of real politic solutions was a lunch fee that would be imposed on children who were within walking distance of a school. The school board tried to impose that. What happened?

Well, in my community, particularly in Cole Harbour, I received a lot of phone calls, letters and e-mails from people in the Inishowen area or in the area of Willowdale in Cole Harbour who were quite concerned about this. They were originally not paying this fee and they knew their children could go to school and receive the opportunity to eat their lunch there without having to pay. Then they were slapped with a fee on the final day of school, something that took them by surprise and the school board wasn't very prepared to deal with.

[Page 6208]

Now, setting that aside, maybe the school board could have handled it better, Mr. Speaker. The point is that they were able, over the next two or three months, to mount a campaign to change that. Originally, the policy was $200 a year, period; every school had to charge it. Then it became the principals had discretion, and then by the end of September of last year it was down to, in many places, free or $40 per year. That was a big change and the parents felt that they had influence. Why did they have influence? Because it was a local school board and they had local members elected who weren't just advisory, but had real authority and they were able to ensure that their position was listened to, that the school board acted and that decisions were made that reflected the community's needs. That is what was important and that is why governance was working, because the school board, through a political or democratic process, listened to the constituents, agreed that things could be done differently and acted.

Are we going to get that same level of governance when it is a Minister of Education in Halifax? Now my constituents are lucky enough to maybe work in Halifax or to be only one-half hour away but, Mr. Speaker, many in this province, in fact, most, are not. They live much further away. The Minister of Education is someone they see on television once in a while or, more recently, every day. They do not have the ability to influence that Minister of Education, the ability to ensure that she will change her mind, or whoever the minister is will change their mind. If those decisions are imposed from Halifax, there is a lot more likelihood that people are going to be less willing to accept them because they will see them as top-down, under-your-thumb driven, and not giving people an opportunity to have influence over them.

Then you end up getting people who are apathetic and you get people who are unwilling to participate in the school system. You get advisory councils, much like those community health boards, in many cases, where people are unwilling to participate because they don't feel they really have any influence, and we end up getting a system that is more and more controlled tightly, not by the parents, not by the students, not by the teachers who want to make sure the school system is working well, but by bureaucrats and by a Minister of Education in the Cabinet in Halifax who will ensure that things are done their way or the highway, and that is why we need to consult on this bill. That is why we need an opportunity to allow the people of Nova Scotia to ensure that their community's influence will not wane and that they will have an opportunity to ensure that Bill No. 47 isn't passed.

Let me talk about split shifts. Again, another part of my community, Eastern Passage, which had to be forced into split shifts because of a school board, and it was a horrible decision, one in which the community had been consulted. They had made decisions. It was an issue that really was gut-wrenching for the parents. They didn't want to see split shifts, they wanted to see alternatives. They consulted with the school board. They had an opportunity to influence and they tried their best, through a democratic process, to ensure that their decision was being adhered to. Again, some can argue the school board maybe didn't address it perfectly. What democratic process would?

[Page 6209]

Mr. Speaker, in the end those people were able to have their say and were able, through that democratic process, to ensure that the school board made the building of a junior high school in Eastern Passage an A-1 priority, and within one year the split shifts were no more. Are we going to get that same influence if it is a Minister of Education in Halifax making the decisions and not a local school board? Are we going to have the ability to ensure that the people of Eastern Passage or the people of Cole Harbour or the people of Woodside, or anywhere else in this province, will actually be able to influence a minister who lives in Halifax and works in Halifax and has no direct connection with the other parts of this province?

I would suggest no, they will not. It will result, again, in a top-down system, not a democratic system, not one in which the communities can ensure that their interests are being met. That is what is wrong with Bill No. 47 and that is why it must be consulted on and that is why the Law Amendments Committee should look at the subject of this bill.

[3:45 p.m.]

Let's talk about the inner-city schools, something which I have talked about before. The South Woodside School in my riding is an area that needs an inner-city school designation. Why? Well, because there are a lot of children there who are in need, who are at risk and need help. It is an area that could use an inner-city school status. What is inner-city school status? Well, for those of you who are not in the Halifax Regional School Board, it is a status where that school board locally recognized a need.

They said there are parts of these communities, whether it be in Halifax or in Dartmouth, or in the former county, that need help to assist the children there who might be at risk of falling through the cracks, to be able to ensure they have the same opportunities, as I talked about, communities that may not be purely equitable with others, to be given an opportunity to succeed by a local school board providing them with their needs. It has been done at St. Patrick's-Alexandra School. It has been done at Joseph Howe School. It has been done at Nelson Whynder Elementary. It has been done at Harbour View School and I think a couple of other schools, Mr. Speaker; I think the one in my leader's riding is, as well, Rockingstone Heights Elementary School, and one other.

Mr. Speaker, those schools were given that designation because of the special needs of the students there and that is something the local school board recognized and funded because they knew it was important. My community in South Woodside could use that same designation and it is something I am working with the parents to fight for, something that I know - having met with them in February, talked about this issue - they would like to see come to fruition. They want to see that designation. They want to see a junior primary program or, as it is called in this school board, a "Four-Plus" Program. They would like to see the extra resource teachers. They would like to see the extra funding to ensure that those students have the opportunities to succeed that all the others do.

[Page 6210]

Yes, they have special needs. Yes, they have high resource needs. Yes, they are at risk of falling through the cracks but, Mr. Speaker, that is what the local school board thought needed to be addressed and they did it through their inner-city school designations. I am fighting with the parents of South Woodside to try and do that. What happens if that Minister of Education takes over the education system in this province like Bill No. 47 allows her to do? No more local input, no more ability for those parents to say, you know, inner-city schools are a relevant factor in urban Halifax-Dartmouth.

The Minister of Education could very well say, you know, it is not something that I need to worry about, I have to look at the whole province. Again, a cookie-cutter mentality to education and not looking at the needs of specific communities or specific school board regions, but looking at it as a province and saying that is not a priority when, in fact, it is a priority for the people of South Woodside. It is a priority for the Halifax Regional School Board as they have designated. That is why Bill No. 47 needs work. That is why we need to have consultations so the people of South Woodside have an opportunity to say your taking over this school board, your taking over control of the governing of schools in this province will hurt my children and that cannot happen and that is why we need to consult on this piece of legislation.

I want to talk about some other places in the province where in the past we have particularly seen some of the issues that have arisen. I am going to talk about my niece who was here today, who lives in River John, one of the two people job shadowing. I know the member for Pictou West is probably quite familiar with this, but I have talked to my sister about this, who lives in River John, and she has three young children still in the elementary school. That is a school that is shrinking, shrinking drastically, where with declining enrolment, they cannot even ensure that there is a full-time primary class. They may have to split the classes with Grade 1.

It is not just River John. This is happening in other places, but there is a real problem when we start talking about issues like busing them to Pictou to go to school, or Tatamagouche, or Lions Brook, or wherever. The fact is that it is a community school and it is the heart of that community among other things and to say that those schools need to stay open is a priority for the people in River John.

Mr. Speaker, the local school board knows that and the local school board is trying to keep it open. They have been fighting hard to do that. How do we know that those communities will still have the influence to ensure their schools stay open when the Minister of Education is the one controlling the school system? I don't even know if she has been to River John in her life. I don't even know if she knows where to find it on a map. It does not matter. The point is that when you are in Halifax and you are the minister, you lose touch with communities and the needs of those communities. River John is a good example of a community that particularly needs . . .

[Page 6211]

HON. JANE PURVES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the member opposite that I have indeed been to River John many times. That is where my son grew up and went to school.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for that information. (Applause)

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, let me go back to my point then. So she does know where it is on a map, great. Now, what are you going to do about declining enrolments in a place like River John? I would suggest to you a school board with local elected officials are the ones who are more likely to know how to deal with that issue and are fighting to address that issue. It is not something the Minister of Education should be dealing with or can deal with. Quite frankly, that Minister of Education or any Minister of Education, through Bill No. 47, will take direct and absolute control of our school boards and can do and probably will do it and what will happen is lack of community influence, lack of ability to ensure that they have an opportunity to ensure their communities remain relevant and the needs of their communities are being addressed. No Minister of Education should have that much authority. It must be community based and it must be the communities that have an opportunity to ensure that they maintain their schools.

Let's talk a bit about Pictou East. We talked about the consolidation of the schools, the former Minister of Education is quite well aware of the issue of consolidation. It is not just Pictou, it is Mabou, it is Judique, it is Richmond, it is many places and these are places where the school system has recognized that there is a need to consolidate schools because of shrinking populations. It is a problem. One of the solutions is consolidation. There are debates ongoing throughout this province with regard to exactly whether that is the best thing to do, ones that we heard much about last year, before and during the election.

Those are debates that are held at a local level. Those are debates that are held through the local school boards and the local school board representatives that are elected have an opportunity to ensure that they hear their residents, they hear the citizens, they hear the parents, they hear the students and they make decisions based on that. That is why we have local school boards, that is why our Party fought for fully-elected school boards because there is a need to ensure that those school boards have absolute opportunity to both democratically listen to the citizens and ensure the decisions are made based on their needs.

Will the Minister of Education in Halifax have the opportunity to do that? Will she, or will he be able to ensure that they can listen in a procedural manner? Or indeed, will they even want to listen? Again, cookie-cutter education system, here is one policy for all of Nova Scotia and therefore we will consolidate everything or we will consolidate none. The fact is that local community influence and the ability to influence those decisions means we have decisions reflecting community needs and that is what is needed in this province, not one minister in Halifax making the decisions from everyone in this province.

[Page 6212]

I want to give you an alternative example and it is Advocate, up in Cumberland County. I had an opportunity last year to speak to the principal of that school. There are many different ways of testing the success of a school, but that is a school that does quite well on a lot of different tests - achievement tests and so on. It is a small school, it is a distance learning education school and it has succeeded because it uses technology and it uses local community interest to ensure that school stays open.

That is a decision that that local school board knew had to be made, the people in that community fought for it, they influenced their local school board and they made that decision and it has kept that school open. Are we going to see things like that disappear, schools that have been successful, schools that are an integral part of the community eliminated because we are going to have one policy dictated from Halifax for everyone in this province? That is not right. That is what Bill No. 47 does and that is why we need to consult on it so the people of this province know exactly where this government is going and why it is bad for their communities.

I want to go back to my own community and maybe give a little background history on race relations in the Cole Harbour area. That has been an ongoing problem for 40 years, anyway, since the creation of Graham Creighton High School in the early 1960's. It is a problem because you have diverse communities, like I have noted, across the province in a microcosm with race relations issues that have erupted in my community.

Originally it was probably four or five equally populated communities of Lawrencetown; the Prestons, North and East; Cherry Brook; Cole Harbour; Westphal and Eastern Passage; all of them having around the same population in the early 1960's. Those communities came together, they were bused because of the need in the suburban Dartmouth area to bring those children together, they were educated together.

Yes, there were always problems. Yes, there were always race issues that still to this day fester and are trying to be addressed through the school system. There have been times in which they have blown up into fights and into disputes and into riots, whatever you want to call them, but the fact is that the problems were local and the solutions were local. The school board was always able to find ways to address them, like they did after the incident a couple of years ago in October 1996; a school board that reflects the community, that had local members from the community and that is what happened; you had members from Eastern Passage on the school board, you had members from Cole Harbour, you had members from the Prestons.

They came together and said, we have to find a local solution to our local problem and they have worked through it. It is not perfect, it is not 100 per cent complete but they are working through it and that is why you see things like the new radio station that received its CRTC license in the Cole Harbour area that will broadcast throughout all that side of the harbour. It is one way of bridging the gap and it is a local solution identified by local

[Page 6213]

residents. That is what a school board can do, and quite frankly it was a local school board that helped them find the building, helped them find the equipment; again, local solutions through a local school board.

Even taking it a bit further, Mr. Speaker, as the population in Eastern Passage grew, back in the 1970's and 1980's, more particularly in Cole Harbour, there was a need for a second high school. There were ongoing debates, both when Gordon Bell and Cole Harbour were built as high schools, and then after they were amalgamated, when Auburn Drive and Cole Harbour were being discussed, there was clearly a need to address how those boundaries would change, given the race issues, given the need to ensure integration of the school system amongst African Nova Scotians and those from various communities.

These were long, arduous debates, these were debates in which members of the communities had opportunity to influence the members of the school board, to discuss, to debate and to ensure that decisions were made the majority could agree with. Not everyone was happy with the decisions in the end but they knew they had their chance to have their say.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very specific, race-related issue in my area but it is a clear example of how local school boards have been able to influence and ensure that the communities have influence over the education system. If the Minister of Education, through Bill No. 47, takes over the school boards, has them under her thumb and is unable to ensure that the people in the community have direct influence, not advisory influence but direct influence, then we are only going to result in communities that have decisions that will have no local solutions. Everything will be dictated from Halifax, we will have the inability to do things like local radio stations that can influence the system. We will not have local solutions, whether it be what was done through the Frank Report or whether it was done in other areas that will ensure that we have issues that are being addressed.

These are just the race-relations issues on the outskirts of Dartmouth. There is the City of Dartmouth, there is Halifax, there are issues of race relations in Hants East, there are issues of race relations throughout this province, both rural and urban, each one a different community with different needs.

We have the language issues in some places. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, doing it all from Halifax, under the influence of the Minister of Education and a Cabinet, will ensure local citizens do not have the ability to identify local solutions. They will become disenfranchised from the process and they will feel they do not have the ability to both influence and ensure the decisions reflect their community values.

Yes, we are all Nova Scotians, but within Nova Scotia we are thousands of communities but each one is different and we must ensure those communities still have representation, and a school board that is run through a Minister of Education will not allow that. That is why we must consult on this piece of legislation. That is why the Law

[Page 6214]

Amendments Committee must look at it. That is why I hope we have an opportunity to do that so all Nova Scotians, in all communities in this province, have a chance to report and to say why they think Bill No. 47 is good or, what I would presume, why they think Bill No. 47 is wrong and why it must be changed.

Let me talk for a minute about my specific communities. I know I mentioned a couple of issues around lunch fees, but I want to talk about some other education issues, Mr. Speaker, that are a particular influence in my communities of Cole Harbour, particularly the south part of Cole Harbour which takes in Colby Village, Bissett Road, Willowdale, Inishowen, the Atholea Drive area. Then you have Eastern Passage, CFB Shearwater, you have Cow Bay, which are other communities in my area, and the South Woodside or Imperoyal area. All these are within my riding. It is an area on the outskirts of Dartmouth that has grown rapidly and continues to grow. They have specific issues. Let me talk a bit about some of them.

We heard today the question from my colleague from Halifax Needham with regard to special needs, specifically a child whose name, I believe, is Nick, who lives in my riding, and his particular needs. You know I have travelled to the schools in my area and they, within my own riding, are diverse in their needs. You look at a school like South Woodside, which I mentioned earlier is hoping to get inner-city school status. I think half the children in that school need resource teachers. Do you know what? That school is working well and it is a success because the residents of Dartmouth, when they had their own school board, ensured that there was money being put into areas like South Woodside to ensure the needs of those children were being addressed. Yes, it needs more, yes, it needs the help to maintain where it is at; but that is being done by local school boards. That will be gone when the Minister of Education comes in and under her thumb ensures that she takes control of the school system and then is not able or willing to actually listen to local residents and ensure that their needs are being met.

[4:00 p.m.]

Let's talk about, again, special needs. The particular incident raised by the member for Halifax Needham, my colleague, was around the area of Colby Village and Inishowen area. In those particular areas the needs are somewhat different, they maybe don't have the high volume of resource but the children who do have needs have a lot of them and we need to ensure that they maintain the EPAs, they maintain the resource teachers that they need to ensure those children and the others are getting the best education possible. Again, very different from the needs in South Woodside and there is a school board locally that is able to reflect that and ensure that it is being done. Eastern Passage would be somewhere in the middle, Mr. Speaker, it has some who need resource help, it has others with high needs.

[Page 6215]

Again, a school board that reflects those needs and is able to ensure through local principals who have influence, through advisory councils who have influence, that their needs are being met. Will that all be gone, either directly because the minister takes control, or indirectly because through her control, who is going to sit on a PTO? Who is going to sit on a school advisory council? What motivation do you have when you know decisions are being made by one person far away? Probably very little motivation and you are not likely to continue to do the job that you feel needs to be done for your community when you know you have little or no influence. That is why Bill No. 47 must be stopped and that is why consultation through the Committee on Law Amendments is important to ensure that the people of Nova Scotia get their voices heard.

Let's talk a bit about PTOs and home-and-schools, which I mentioned. Home and schools in the cities, PTOs or PTAs in the county, the former county. Mr. Speaker, these are wonderful groups - and I guess I will also throw in there also school advisory councils - these are people who have concern with how the schools are being operated. They recognize the need to raise money, whether it be through spring flings, whether in spring fairs, whether it be through auctions, whether it be through wine and cheeses, what have you. I have had an opportunity to go, whether it be the Colby Village Elementary School that has its wine and cheese in February, whether it be the spring auction held at the Astral Drive Elementary School, whether it be the spring fair held at those schools and in Eastern Passage. They continuously are working to raise money, not for frills, but in many cases for the necessities. Whether it be the necessities in the classroom because teachers sometimes run out of chalk and they have to buy it out of their own money, whether it be necessities in libraries or whether it be necessities in other parts of the school, they are raising money constantly because they know it is making their children's education better.

They also know, as a member of a school advisory council or a PTO or home and school, that they have some influence over the school. They can talk to their principal, they know by name their school board representative, they are able to use that influence to ensure that the needs of the school, their needs of their community are being influenced properly. I did meetings around my riding back in February, I went to one in Cole Harbour at Astral Drive Junior High, I did one at Eastern Passage Learning Centre in Eastern Passage and another at South Woodside Elementary. I met with parents, over 150 of them between the three meetings, who all said, you know, this is a great idea. Let's take the opportunity to talk to you and our school board rep to tell you what we are thinking, to answer questions that we may have and ensure that our schools are operating the way we want.

They identified the concerns that I have mentioned, whether it be inner-city school status for South Woodside, whether it be a lack of resource teachers or the lack of a high school in Eastern Passage, or whether it be issues of violence and drugs in the schools in Cole Harbour or French immersion issues. Those issues were identified by local citizens, by parents, by students and it was relayed to the school board representative and their local MLA and it ensured that they were going to be passed on to people who could do something. But

[Page 6216]

what happens when that school board is gone? What happens when the Minister of Education takes control, runs everything locally and has an advisory board with no influence at all? Those parents are not going to want to get involved. They are going to see that their work is for naught.

I will give you a classic example of this, we saw it in HRM when they amalgamated. It used to be that we had locally controlled fire departments, whether it be Middle Musquodoboit or Eastern Passage or Ecum Secum or Hubbards and those local fire departments knew if they fund-raised for a new engine for the fire department or a new tanker truck or water truck, that that money would go directly to what they wanted in their community. With amalgamation we saw that end. Now, Mr. Speaker, coming from Middle Musquodoboit, you may know full well that the fund-raising the people do in Middle Musquodoboit for the fire department, does not necessarily stay in Middle Musquodoboit. It may go somewhere else. It may go to Halifax which would be no good to someone in Middle Musquodoboit or Ecum Secum. It has really deflated the motivation and the ability for local communities to raise money for their fire departments. That is a real problem. That is what centralization and amalgamation did in HRM.

We are going to see the same thing when the Minister of Education takes over and takes control of school boards at a central provincial level in Halifax. Why would a parent get involved in a PTO? Why would a parent get involved in a home-and-school? Why would a parent want to get involved in a school advisory council? I suggest to you, they wouldn't. They have no influence. They have no ability to ensure the money they are raising may even go to their own schools. That is why Bill No. 47 is so radical. Why it is so dangerous for the future of our school system. Not only does it cause changes in governance, not only does it make changes in how our students will learn in the long run, but it will disenfranchise those involved at the local level from wanting to get involved and wanting an opportunity to influence the education of their children.

They will lose their motivation. We will have fewer and fewer people participating. It is not only in these extra-curricular activities like PTOs and school advisory councils, Mr. Speaker. It is also the parents, particularly women, mothers, who work in the schools during the day, whether it be as lunch monitors, whether it be as volunteers in a library, whether it be working at Excel or something in an after-school program. Why should they bother? They will lose contact with a system that must remain local, must reflect the needs of their community.

That is what will happen with Bill No. 47. That is why the Minister of Education should not have the power to take over school boards, keep them under her thumb, and prevent local community influence in how our education system works. That is why Bill No. 47 must be sent out for consultation, Mr. Speaker. That is why we need an opportunity for the people of this province to actually have a say in how our schools are going to be run.

[Page 6217]

I mentioned the lunch fees earlier, Mr. Speaker, and it is a crucial issue. Those lunch fees are a classic example of the influence of local citizens over their local school board. They had the opportunity back last year to fight for what they believed in. Maybe they didn't want any lunch fee. Well, in some cases they did win that. In many other cases, they got them reduced, because the school board saw the political implications, and they fought to ensure those residents were going to get what they wanted. That is not the case when it is run provincially. That is not the case when a Minister of Education controls everything. What we are going to get is something quite different. We are going to get cookie-cutter decisions, centrally dictated from Halifax from a Cabinet and from a minister that knows very little about the various communities in this province and knows very little about what each community needs, whether it be race-relation issues, whether it be lunch fees, whether it be split shifts, whether it be over-crowding versus consolidation, declining enrolment. Every community is different. Their needs are different, and the Minister of Education, as one human being, is not able to ensure that she or he can reflect all those needs. That is why we have local school boards. That is why we fought to ensure we had fully elected local school boards, so that the people of this province can democratically ensure that their system would work for them, and their needs would be met.

I have talked about local control, Mr. Speaker, and it is an important issue. I think in this province half our budget is spent on health care and education, and our province has, time and time again, fought for one thing, locally elected people who represent them with regard to health care and education. We have community health boards with no influence. We have district health authorities appointed by a minister. Our Party, when this comes back to the Committee of the Whole, will be promoting the issue of ensuring that we have elected officials that will reflect the needs of those communities. The same thing we finally got in education, used to be school boards were fully appointed, then they were one-third or two-thirds appointed, then maybe it was a half, now they are fully elected. It is important to ensure that stays in place, that what we fought so long to have as local democratic influence is maintained, and that the people in this province, in whatever community they live, have the opportunity to ensure those communities, needs are being met.

That is what local control does, that is what real politics is about. That is why our education system cannot be destroyed through a Bill No. 47 that consolidates everything under the thumb of a Minister of Education in Halifax.

Let's talk a bit about the money issue, which I noted earlier. As I said, education is more than about money. There is a synergism that happens when we invest in education. There is a multiplying factor. For every dollar we invest, we get many more dollars back. Quite frankly, the sooner we invest it, whether it be at age one or age three or age five, the more the payback later on in life.

[Page 6218]

Mr. Speaker, this government seems more concerned with taking money out, cutting the administration, cutting the costs, cutting corners so that they can balance the books, but in the long run there will be multiplying factors in the other way, and that is in costs. Save costs now, spend a lot later, whether it be in an increased health care cost - everyone in this province probably agrees that the less education you have, the more you rely on the health care system, the less healthy you are. That is a big cost later on in life. We are going to throw that away by having a system under Bill No. 47 that is controlled by a minister who is only concerned with the bottom line, not concerned with the education of children. That is what is wrong, and that can't happen.

Let's talk about a justice system, of people who fall into risk of being dealt with through the legal system, commit crimes. It happens. But the better educated someone is, the less likely they are to do that. Quite frankly, that is why it is important that we invest in education so that we are not spending money later on on justice issues, whether they be courts or Crown Attorneys or more police officers, but we ensure that through a better education system, that stuff can be eliminated. Let's talk about a welfare system, where there is a lot of people on assistance. Yes, there are people on assistance with university degrees, but the vast majority of them have not even finished secondary school, they don't have Grade 12. That is a problem.

Mr. Speaker, it is only going to get worse. If this Minister of Education, through Bill No. 47, takes over, is only worried about the bottom line, is cutting costs to the point, as she said, we haven't cut to the bone yet, I think she said in this House a month or so ago, well, I don't know what it means to cut to the bone but we are already the lowest funded education system in the country. What does it mean to have to actually cut to the bone? If this minister plans on more cuts, we will end up paying in spades and in aces in 10 years or 20 years, through increased health care costs, increased assistance costs, and increased legal costs. That is what happens when you only worry about the almighty buck, and you don't look at the synergism that happens through investing in education.

This minister is playing with fire when she tries to take over school boards, to have absolute control over them as a means of ensuring that she can save money now. It is only going to cost us more later. That is what this debate is about. It is not about school boards, who feel that their jobs are being threatened; it is not about teachers, who feel that their jobs are being threatened. These people know something. They know that the education system can work, it has worked in the past. We are probably all examples of that or we know people who are.

Mr. Speaker, we see, on this side of House, and through those involved in the education system, a line being drawn, an ideological line, this isn't only about money, it is about the belief that the this government thinks that it can cut money from education, it can put school boards as advisory bodies, it can deal with unions in a hard-handed way, and it will, in the

[Page 6219]

end, save money, balance the bottom line, and in the end, their presumption is, it will make this province better.

What will happen instead is the demoralization of our students, the disenfranchising of their parents, and a system in which no one feels they have any influence, and a Minister of Education who is only worried about the bottom line. It will end up costing us many billions of dollars down the road. That is what this province has done for 132 years, we have looked at the short term, the short-term cuts, the short-term solutions, because we felt they were the best, but in the long term, what have we done?

I want to give you another example, on a more global level. Ireland, in the past five years, has become the Celtic tiger. It has grown in influence, and now has a higher standard of living than in the United Kingdom. It has one of the highest standards of living in the world. I think it is fifth or sixth, I was reading in The Economist the other day. The point is that Ireland has succeeded because it has taken the money that it got from the European Union and invested it in education. That is not a two year project, that is a 20 year project, but it ensured that its residence and its local communities had the influence to ensure education was being dealt with.

This Minister of Education seems to see things differently. We get equal amounts per capita of equalization money every year from the federal government but, over 132 or 133 years of Confederation, countless governments have continued to waste that money on short-term spending, not knowing in the long run that it needs to be invested in things like education, so that our system can succeed.

[4:15 p.m.]

Ireland is an example and I would suggest that Saskatchewan and Manitoba are as well - places that have recognized the need for long-term investment in education to ensure a more prosperous province, a more prosperous country. Nova Scotia needs to begin to see that. The short-term, slash and burn mentality of things like Bill No. 47, that are only about controlling costs and not about investing in our future, will only result in us not succeeding and not prospering. That is what has been the problem for 133 years. It will not change under Bill No. 47, it will only get worse, Mr. Speaker.

I guess the last component I want to deal with is bureaucracy. The whole problem with bureaucracy is that having worked in government for 10 years, I know that it is always present. I don't mean that necessarily in a pejorative sense but I will, to some extent, use it that way. Yes, there are bureaucrats, there are civil servants, they are people who do work, we need them. The public needs their influence, they do good work but bureaucracy, in the pejorative sense, can mean the kind of red tape and stalling and the inability to effect change that we see in governments from time to time, and we see them in corporations, big institutions have this problem. At the local school board level we have been able to ensure

[Page 6220]

that parents and students and teachers have influence to ensure that we avoid those kinds of problems, that bureaucracy can be avoided based on the fact that we have local principals and local PTOs and local school advisory councils that can see a problem, can nip it in the bud and avoid the bureaucratic mix-up.

If we pass Bill No. 47, if we don't allow the citizens of this province an opportunity to be consulted on it, we are passing a piece of legislation that will, in the end, result in the inability to end run bureaucracy; everything will be run out of the local Department of Education here in Halifax - not in Yarmouth, not in Amherst, not in Wallace, not in Lismore, not in Inverness but in Halifax. Community after community, when they have a problem, and you see it now, they go to the local principal or they go to their PTO president and that person can make a call to a local school board rep who knows that they have the influence to effect change. It is a simple thing. They have final votes on that school board and they are the employers of the school board members' reps.

Well, Mr. Speaker, those school boards will only be advisory under Bill No. 47 and the parents who call the school board rep will not have the same ability to influence the Minister of Education in Halifax. Backbench MLAs who may be in government won't have the ability to influence because decisions are being made in Cabinet and the backbenchers don't know what is going on. We will have a closed shop, we will have the inability for people to feel they can influence it and we will get nothing but bureaucratic answers and the bureaucratic run-around and it will prevent parents, students, teachers and children from ensuring bureaucracy can be avoided through the local control of their school system.

That is probably what is most insidious about this whole bill - this government talks about fewer bureaucrats; this government talks about ensuring that people become more self-sufficient and less reliant on government when, in fact, what they are doing with Bill No. 47, as they are doing with Bill No. 34, is creating more layers of bureaucracy, more layers of control, more inability for citizens to directly access what they need from their government and to ensure it is being done right. We are talking about more bureaucracy, more control, more of a mishmash that is going to result in a poor education system and people who will continue to fall through the cracks. That is what is wrong with Bill No. 47 in the end, it is both removing local control, creating more bureaucracy and saving money instead of investing in education. That is why Bill No. 47 needs to be consulted; that is why the Law Amendments Committee needs an opportunity to listen to the people of Nova Scotia and to get a sense of where they are coming from before they make the final decision.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about four and a half minutes.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is what is so important about this legislation; Bill No. 47, what we are trying to propose here with this motion is that it be sent

[Page 6221]

to Law Amendments Committee, a committee made up of all Parties, a committee made up over the long tradition of listening to the people of this province, it is a committee that clearly has the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians and we have seen that, both recently through things like the Workers' Compensation Act and the Municipal Government Act. We have seen that through a process in which Nova Scotians have had the opportunity, with that committee, to influence the decision, whether it be the pesticide decision in HRM, which was put into the Municipal Government Act, whether it be in some of the unconstitutional clauses that were going to be imposed in the Workers' Compensation Act.

The Law Amendments Committee is a perfect place for Nova Scotians to have their say. We can move it around the province. Those people can talk to the politicians, whether they be Opposition or government side, and they can listen. It is that kind of consultation, at local community level, that, quite frankly, we must start with in regard to Bill No. 47 and, if we want to keep it going, we do it by not passing Bill No. 47. That is what is needed. We need that consultation, and we must maintain it. Passage of this motion would ensure that kind of consultation on this bill. The defeat of this bill would ensure longer term that we maintain local control over our communities, local control over our school system, local control over our students and the parents have the influence that they rightly deserve and the teachers in the community, who are concerned about education, have the opportunity to have influence, as well.

That is what is necessary. That is what we must do. That is why we need to send this to the Law Amendments Committee for consultation. That isn't what we are doing. Bill No. 47 is going in the wrong direction. It is about bureaucracy. It is about saving money over investing in our children and it is about removing local control. This is the real irony, as I said earlier on, Mr. Speaker, that it was only 9 or 10 months ago that this government promised, in its blue book, it would review boundaries with the intent to reducing the size of school boards so there could be more local control. A lot of people in this province voted for this government. They voted for backbenchers and Cabinet Ministers alike, on the belief that school boards would get smaller so they could have more influence.

I am sure many people on that side of the room talked on the doorstep about this with people and, specifically, made that promise. Look in the blue book, they would say. Look at what we say. Of course, we are going to reduce the size of school boards. We are going to give you more control. Well, this is doing the exact opposite. Without doing this, without consultation, without giving people an opportunity to judge you on what you are saying now, instead of when you didn't tell the truth on the doorstep, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. That is why we need to consult. That is why the Law Amendments Committee must be dealt with. That is why they need an opportunity to be listened to, so that Nova Scotians can say, this isn't what you said in 1999. This isn't what you told us. You told us something different. We don't want this. We want local control. That is what we were voting for. You are doing the opposite and please stop this. I don't want one person in Halifax making all the decisions for

[Page 6222]

my children's education. I want local people having an influence over it. I want influence over it.

That is why Bill No. 47 needs to be addressed. That is why we need consultation. We must ensure that local control remains. We must ensure that the residents, whether they be from Pubnico or Wolfville or Economy or Ecum Secum or New Waterford, have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that their children's education reflects the community values, reflects the needs of their community and ensures that whatever inequities there may be at a community level, they are being adjusted. Cookie-cutter education will not work, it can't work. We need the people of Nova Scotia to have their say. We need the Law Amendments Committee to deal with this and that is why I am voting for this motion. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have in the gallery, Mr. Norman MacIsaac from Giants Lake. Norman is the brother of our MLA from Antigonish, the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, Angus MacIsaac. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to Mr. MacIsaac and all our visitors who are in the gallery.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise, as well, on the heels of my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, to talk about the amendment, to support the amendment, that we have put forward on Bill No. 47. A lot of, I think, sensible things have been said by my colleagues and by the other Opposition members on this matter. I want to talk about why it is so important for the kind of education system we want and need to be openly discussed around this province but, before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I want to suggest, or I want to express my surprise at the nature of this kind of approach to education. When I look over at the government benches, I think I see: from Pictou West, a school principal; from Digby-Annapolis, a superintendent; from Inverness, a high school teacher, I believe; from Antigonish, a teacher; the member for Chester-St. Margaret's is a teacher. And on the front benches as the Minister of Health, we have a man who was the principal of a teacher's college who spent his life's work, or at least the later part of it, engaged in assisting young people to understand the philosophy, the pedagogy, the difficulties, the content of teaching students in public schools. He engaged with public education every day in his working life, and he engaged with those who were prepared to go out there and make a life's work themselves of the teaching of children.

[Page 6223]

Mr. Speaker, when I was a child, we didn't think in terms of professions. Teaching was a vocation. It was a calling, kind of like the clergy. In those days, people took it up with a dedication and a force that was strengthened by their convictions of the usefulness, the value of what they were doing, not just for the students, but for the society around them. Now, six of them at least over there on the government, you would never know it from this legislation. You would never imagine that there was a single person engaged in education on the government side of the House, and not to mention, not just those professionally engaged. The member for Halifax Bedford Basin has been an active school volunteer, has devoted herself to her school community in that district. Other members are parents, their children are in the school or have gone through public school.

There is a wealth of knowledge on the government side that they could use to make good legislation about education, Mr. Speaker, and they haven't done that. They haven't done that at all. We have to wonder why. We have to ask ourselves, when we see a bill about education, is this a bill about education at all, or is this a bill about something else? I think it is pretty clear what the answer to that question is.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier in this sitting of the House that the government's own tame task force, if you like, Voluntary Planning, they went out at the government's instruction and produced a document at the government's request to guide them in their budgetary deliberations for this province. I said it before, but I think it needs to be repeated, the most interesting recommendation from the government's own Voluntary Planning task force was, there needs to be a major debate in this province about education. They went out to talk to people about debt and deficit and how to manage it and they came back astounded. They came back blown away, because what had happened everywhere they went was people wanted to talk about public education, university education, community college education and lifelong education. Everybody in this province they spoke to wanted to talk about education, and they said we did not go looking for this, but this is what we found.

[4:30 p.m.]

There is an integrity to that, Mr. Speaker. They bring this back to the government and you would never know from the shenanigans that have gone on over the last month in this House, you would never know from watching the dismantling of the system, of a struggling system, you would never know that anybody had said anything to the government, because I don't think anybody else did because they did not ask anybody else. They did not ask the people who knew what they were doing. They did not ask the people engaged in the practice of teaching; they did not ask people engaged in learning; they did not ask people engaged in the parenting of children who go to school or early childhood educators, or anybody, university administrators, student leaders at the university level and so on and so forth. But they did ask Voluntary Planning.

[Page 6224]

Then what happens in this House is they come in here with legislation and a budget that is either ill-thought or machiavellian, or perhaps even both, and the fact of the matter is that this bill to amend the Education Act of 1995-96, Bill No. 47, is a piece of work. Mr. Speaker, it is a piece of work. In order to understand what it does, or to understand the significance of what it does, it might be useful to talk about a little history here. I am not an historian, but one of the benefits of professional training for teachers is that they learn a little bit about the history, the context of what they are doing and, you know, the rich could always educate their children. If you go back far enough, they could educate them at home through private tutors, governesses and people like that, or they could send them to private schools set up for the purpose of training the children of the elite to become the elite of tomorrow in a hierarchical society where very few people had the means and a great many people were poor and were there to serve those with means.

So they could get private tutoring or private schooling and it is only in the last 100 years or so that public schooling became recognized as, if you like, a civic value, something of use to the community as well as to the people who receive an education. The first models for public education, Mr. Speaker, I think they were kind of an industrial model. They were based on the perceived need after the Industrial Revolution for a sober, industrious, obedient, and loyal mass of workers for the capitalist leaders. So the virtues that were expounded, taught and learned, abided by in the early public schools, were those kinds of virtues.

It was a very hierarchical world even when public education began. It was a top-down world in which those in charge knew what was good, what was right, what to teach, how to enforce discipline, how to punish those who did not abide by the disciplines of public school, and that model, I guess it served society for a number of years, although we cannot say anymore that it served the children who went to school in the way that education could, and has tried to and has begun to in the world of today.

Mr. Speaker, if you remember the classroom of your childhood, I can remember the endless lining-up, two by two. I went to school with the nuns who had a particular fondness for putting the shortest children on the front and the tallest children at the back. We marched around from place to place, two by two, kind of like the little children in the Madeleine story book. We sat in straight rows. How did they keep them straight? They bolted the desks to the floor, remember that? The desks were like a railroad car, the front of one was the back of another and so on and so forth and they could be sawed off anywhere so the rows could be lengthened or shortened, but they were bolted to the floor, and that is a pretty strong symbol of the rigidity of the system. It was top down, but it was something else, too; it was a highly exclusionary system. When we went to school it was exclusionary, when I went to school, not just to elementary school but beyond. It was an industrial model - you taught a program to a group, you decided to teach it somewhere to the average, to the middle, hit the centre of that dart board, and everybody around it had to cope for themselves.

[Page 6225]

Now the bright, advantaged children got enrichment at home, got bored in school - am I not right, you are smiling, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, the Minister of Health, is smiling. He knows we are going back there with this kind of legislation. Here we had this exclusionary form of education, and it is history, everybody knows it. Children who could not cope dropped out or were run out; children who could not learn in the way that teaching was done. When the first boy to drop out of my grade, who dropped out in Grade 3, and he was 16, we didn't understand, and the teachers in those days didn't understand that this poor boy had learning difficulties of huge magnitude. If they did know it in their hearts, they didn't know, or were not instructed or encouraged to help this boy. Certainly, with, say, 53 children, as there were in my Grade 1 class, with an 18 year old teacher, they were not able, in the course of a day, to assist in the desperate learning needs of these children who fell behind.

Remember corporal punishment, Mr. Speaker? I remember children being strapped fairly routinely by some teachers and not by others. I, myself, was never strapped. (Interruption) Well, I can't speak for the member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I was.

MS. O'CONNELL: The Leader of our Party says he has been strapped. Mr. Speaker, corporal punishment is a thing of the past. We would not dream - I can't imagine a teacher today who would push a student around, throw them up against a wall, take out a strap and go through some kind of a formal, stinging ritual, but that was our perception of education in those days, that was the perception; train children for industriousness, loyalty, obedience and all those other virtues that make them an industrious workforce.

Now, Mr. Speaker, almost 50 years later, we had come a long way in public education in this province and in this country, particularly, I would say from the 1960's to the early 1980's, people began to understand not everybody was cut from the same cloth. Education began to develop, first of all, a philosophy, a basis and methodologies for teaching in the way they could best learn. Good teachers always did that. When somebody didn't understand the question, they said it again differently. But the strategies were limited. Mr. Speaker, there is a huge pile of research and evidence that has accumulated, and I could site other examples, but we all know it is true.

Children learn differently, for example, children who don't each breakfast, don't learn as well for another example. Children who have dyslexia or some kind of word oriented learning disability can be helped by teachers, especially by specialists. We know that children suffer depression and family stress. We know there are tactics and support services to help children through the things they go through while they are in their school day, their school year and their school life. Mr. Speaker, we know all this today. We could have come a long way with this. We could have, and we were starting to. I call it the difference between the old way and the new way, the difference between the hierarchical model and the collegial model.

[Page 6226]

By the time I went to teach at high school, there was a clear understanding that the principal was in charge, but a good principal understood the value of colleagues and of students, and their contributions to the school world and the wider world, and staff contributions and suggestions were welcomed, as they will not be in this bill should it come to pass, which is what this government needs to hear when we take this bill out on the road, because the community knows better than this government what the power of education is or can be.

This amendment would enable this government to begin to understand - and as I said before, I don't know why their own members haven't enlightened them, but they clearly haven't - why their input would be extremely useful here, because they need an education, frankly. They need an education about education. I can't think of a better way, Mr. Speaker, than to open it up wide and, as somebody said, take this show on the road, have people come and explain what it is that education is trying to be today as opposed to what it used to be 40 or 50 years ago.

This bill has one thing in it, one very contradictory thing in it that I want to talk about. As I said, the old education was exclusionary. The new attempts to be inclusionary. Mr. Speaker, that includes everything from screening textbooks for fairness and equity and historical representation, to including representatives of communities on school boards. Now, the government has a provision in this bill, and I want to get this right off the table, right now. I want to get it said and get it out of here. The clause in this bill that allows for, or perhaps mandates, Clause 9(7) "A qualified African Nova Scotian elector may vote in a school board election for either (a) a candidate for election as the African Nova Scotian member of the school board; or (b) a candidate for election to the school board other than as the African Nova Scotian . . ." Prior to that there is a specific provision for African-Nova Scotian representation on school boards.

This is where we get to the heart of the problem with this bill. It is yet another reason why we need to talk about it, and we need to talk about it out loud in public until the ramifications are understood. What we have here is a bill that does the exact opposite. At the end it has a clause that recognizes the rights of certain communities, visible minority communities to be represented, to have their faces on those school boards so that children and parents and everybody see themselves when they look. It is tacked on to the end of the bill that takes everything back. It sets the machinery in motion to go back to the hierarchical, exclusionary kind of education system.

[4:45 p.m.]

I don't know whether the African-Nova Scotian communities accept this version of things. I know they wanted it. But, do they know, for example, and I am pleased to see that the member for Bedford-Fall River knows what I am going to say before I say it - do these communities know that this is tacked on to a bill which contradicts the very value and the

[Page 6227]

motive for doing what they are doing? If these communities get representatives on a school board just when school boards become meaningless, then what is it that this government is doing? We need to debate that, we need to go out, we need to talk - the Law Amendments Committee is the perfect committee to do it - and take the show on the road.

It is not new, Mr. Speaker. After the 1998 election, our Party decided that we would have an education committee. We set up an education committee and we met frequently. We took upon the daunting task of reading as much as we could of all the Royal Commissions since the Pothier Commission in 1954. We struggled through those as much as we could and if you want an historical record of what education has been struggling to become, it is all there in those Royal Commission Reports. Recommendations taken and not taken, new understandings of the value of learners, the value of types of methodologies, the value of inclusion, the value of joint enterprise rather than top-down instruction; it is all there.

Over the years, because of our increased understanding - and this is something that could well be talked about at Law Amendments Committee hearings - there have been a great many initiatives in schools in this province to attempt to implement our newer understanding of education. Sometimes they were successful and many times they were less so, and there are all kinds of reasons for that because change requires strong integration into a system before it can be said to work.

I can remember the joke that went around my high school for years. We would get a dictum from the school board that would say next year we are all going to this in Grade 10, we are going to change the program, we are going to change the scheduling, we are going to do this, do that, do the other thing and somebody would invariably say, oh no, who went to Alberta and got a Ph.D. now? That was because changes were sometimes at least implemented without the proper groundwork and more importantly, without the money to back them up. Changing the system is certainly not free and it is definitely not cheap.

Which brings us all here to the money. We have a system that has been - I can't remember that expression - cheese-pared and stinged-on in various respects over the years, and the most odious and egregious example is the maintenance of buildings which has come home to roost, very much like the starlings that nested in my bathroom vent on the weekend. There is a disaster in our province around school buildings, and I am not going to go into all the sorry history of that all over again, because we all know it. We know that the previous government's response to it was a hugely expensive, invented on the run, form of privatizing of schools, which we have spoken about so many times that we can't count them. We know that there may have been money wasted. There certainly was in that.

Mr. Speaker, this government has made up its own mind. It has gone down into the hole, put the blankets over their heads and they have said, we are going to take the money out. We are going to shrink it down. We are going to hold up and stall initiatives to save money. We are going to increase class size. We are going to get rid of teachers, young and

[Page 6228]

old, experienced and new, those with wisdom and those with the energy to learn what the others have to teach and we are going to tramp all over this system in the name of fiscal management.

Mr. Speaker, if we had properly invested in education for the last 20 years, there might be a little fat to cut. You might be able to shrink it a little, if it had been properly funded. But, more to the point, they pulled the blankets over their heads and did this, without asking Nova Scotians if that is what they wanted. Nova Scotians were telling Voluntary Planning. They are telling anybody who will listen, whether it is their MLA, whether it is the newspaper they read on a daily or a weekly basis, whether it is their neighbour over a cup of coffee, they are telling everybody that they didn't want this. This is not their idea of what education should become. We are all the way back now to what the Voluntary Task Force said. It said, have a public debate on education. Let's get this out in the open and let's decide, through some open, transparent and democratic means, what it is that Nova Scotians want and expect. Let's look at what we can afford and implement the best possible system, based on consultation with Nova Scotians.

Well, Mr. Speaker, it sure hasn't happened and that is why it would be so important to take the subject of education and all the strings that are hanging from it, every important piece of subject matter that is related to education, take it out to Nova Scotia communities. It has been done before. I remember, my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, before I came to this place, was on the Select Committee on Education in 1992, which we read, as well, in our efforts to try to understand the context that we came to in this province, as members of the Legislature and representatives. It is not new, but why fiddle with the tried and true? It has worked before. People know when they are being consulted and they know when, to use a colloquial expression, they are being jerked around. Real consultation could take place. It could happen.

Of course, the irony is, that some of the very mechanisms that were set up in recent years to take the vertical out of legislation and make it lateral and horizontal, the participation of students, for example, outside this House. When I was in school, if I went home and said to my parents, the teacher said I broke a window and I didn't do it, my father said, sure you did. Don't tell me your troubles. Adult authority was against us when we were in the wrong and we didn't have any sense that we had a right even to defend ourselves, because children were not given credit for their abilities to both learn and negotiate in certain situations.

So, Mr. Speaker, today we have all these school advisory councils. There they are. What the previous government said to Nova Scotians was get involved in your school. I was struck by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, I wrote it down when he said it - as a parent of a two-year old - I want control of my community's school, I want control as a parent. So we had all these mechanisms set up and people took it up joyfully and gleefully. Somewhat to my mild astonishment, after amalgamation, communities were participating in school councils, they were participating in site selection committees, anti-site selection

[Page 6229]

committees, school lobby groups. Parents, children, teachers, all those people with a stake in the system, not just the groups that are constructed, formally, to speak up, got involved. Now, here they are wondering what it is that has hit them. They have been hit by a brick or something.

Here is what has happened. After all this evolution, if you like, painful struggling as it has been in schools; all the consultation; all the learning the education community, including parents, has gone through; all the understanding about the rights of children; and the needs of children, and what is fair, and what will help them in the future, all that went on. Then along comes this government. This bill, I am sorry to say, reflects very strongly the cut of this government's claw, because we see it in the Health Authorities Bill, we saw it in the budget. There is an agenda here that has nothing to do with serving the needs of any of these important aspects of Nova Scotian life, whether it be their health needs or their education needs. That is really unfortunate. They need to take that agenda out to the communities. They need to be honest about it. They need to lay it out for Nova Scotians and say, well, here is what this means and here is what this means, and what is it that you want? Do you want this paid down faster, this debt, or do you want us not to dismantle an education system influx, so that 20 years down the road it is going to cost even more money to put it back together again?

Of course, all this time, too, there has been an ideological war going on about whether public schools should remain public. It has been insidious. Mr. Speaker. Now, the history of the dismantling of the public school system is generally this, a government underfunds it for a very long time and then the government says, look, the system can't do the job so we had better try some other alternatives. What they do is they set them up for failure, and then they say, see, I told you so, the system won't work because there is not enough money for it, so we are just going to have to let the system go, whether it be through charter schools of which, by the way, the first two in Alberta went belly up. One of them, I believe the CEO was arrested last year for misappropriating funds, and the other one was closed down because of financial ineptness. They just couldn't do it.

So, we have a system that basically knows how to do it, could be given the resources. We could hold on to what we have and in better times, as the revenues come in, we could strengthen it, or we can take it apart brick by brick as this government is doing today. I don't think Nova Scotians have had the chance to make that choice. I think they thought they were voting for something else. I think they thought they were voting for education when they voted for this government. They have since found out differently, and so has this government. Hundreds and hundreds of people coming down here complaining to the government, through all possible means, electronic, virtual and real, if you like, telling the government, do you know what you are doing? You can't do it; it is crazy, we are going to take years and years to recover from it and you are going to have a worse mess. Mr. Speaker, this is identical to what is happening in health care.

[Page 6230]

[5:00 p.m.]

Now, to get back to specifically what the government has done that needs to be talked about here, I find it very strange, Mr. Speaker, that you are going to have two kinds of people in charge of a school district. In Clause 3, Section 10B(1)(b), we are told that, " . . . the responsibilities of a district school board are limited to (b) policy development respecting and implementation by the director of education of and monitoring of the delivery of education programs and services;". Well, this is the classic and this needs to be made clear to the public of Nova Scotia.

I know an incident, a member of our caucus whose wife is a teacher, participated on a school advisory council. School advisory councils are just that, advisory, so they are as hamstrung as this structure is going to be; they don't have power, they don't have any money, and that is fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your position on the matter, but the fact is that a lot of parents and teachers and community members gave their valuable time to these things. In the case of this particular member of our caucus, his wife was on the school advisory council and the school advisory council was given the task of getting the potholes in the parking lot filled in, so the cars would not be damaged.

First of all, it doesn't sound educational to me, it sounds like a maintenance or a property management issue but, because they had a school council and it was an on-site problem, some genius thought this should be dealt with by the school council. Well, Mr. Speaker, the school council had no money so the suggestion was that somebody's brother-in-law, who had a small paving company, would come over some Saturday and throw some gravel in.

Well, Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what is going to happen here; you tell me how you can have a director of education who says we are going to implement - and this is something dear to the hearts of some of the government members - more history, mandatory history for students. Let's just make it up as we go along, for example, we are going to mandate one history course in high school because we feel that all Nova Scotian students should not leave school without one Canadian history course, let us say.

So the director of education says, you know, this really important, we all believe in it, we are all committed to it, so I need several thousand dollars - Mr. Speaker, textbooks are exorbitant, which is another whole discussion - and the district CEO says, but you don't have any power over the money. So how do you artificially split the implementation of education policy from the funding that makes it happen? This shows not just a misunderstanding of education but an incredible blindness to the huge bureaucratic problems that such a thing can create. If you think it through, you can think of countless other instances where a director of education, who is responsible for the implementation of " . . . policy development respecting and implementation by the director of education and monitoring of the delivery of education programs and services;"

[Page 6231]

Well, monitoring. What does it mean to monitor? It is to oversee it. So you oversee it. You have a good knowledge of your district; you have a good rapport with the people who work with you; you have a clear-eyed vision of what needs to be done; and you monitor. You go back and you say, we have real problems here. We don't have enough textbooks in this school. That school is raising thousands of dollars just to keep their programs going. The other school has a closed library and the students can't even get a book or the use of the library computer. Another one has potholes in the parking lots. Well, that is probably not educational. (Interruption)

That is exactly right. What is educational and what isn't? This is the kind of bizarre, schizophrenic decision making that can't possibly work, Mr. Speaker. You can't do anything with nothing. Schools are famous for it. How many times has my sister-in-law made cupcakes or shortbread cookies for the class party, or phoned the list as the class mother, or sat on the school traffic safety committee? Now you get a lot of value for your no money with a committed volunteer, whether a parent or otherwise, but the big things you can't do without money. There is some question about whether the little things should be done without money, because there has been a huge downloading onto these committed and dedicated school communities by the Department of Education, first through the bill and now, of course, it is going to be through even deeper cuts to the system.

I am utterly flabbergasted that the Minister of Education, who, herself, worked in the journalism business, doesn't seem to care. She either doesn't understand or she doesn't care and I would prefer to think she doesn't understand what they are doing when they pull library technicians out of school and download that on to volunteer time, and the bill says carefully chosen, curriculum-supporting materials, in addition to reading for pleasure, which is the key to every child's learning to read well and early.

How can they do this? How can this government say it is okay to shut those doors and lock them and put a volunteer on them. Let's talk about volunteers. My sister-in-law is of the finest kind, but when one of the kids gets sick, she can't go to the traffic safety committee meeting and feels no obligation. She is a volunteer. When strep throat goes through the house, she doesn't go the Grade 1 French immersion to read to the children who need extra help, as a volunteer, because she has other commitments that are more pressing in her life. The more we do it with volunteers, the more hit or miss the whole situation will be and, frankly, Mr. Speaker, having been there for 18 years, I can tell you it is going to be more miss than hit.

Mr. Speaker, we have a bill that uploads power and downloads responsibility. It says to Nova Scotians, you haven't done it right. We have done all these initiatives and involved and, in fact, in truth, politicized a great many Nova Scotians around the value of education and along comes Bill No. 47 to say, oh, we fooled you. Go back where you came from. We are going to do it all and we are going to do it like the Grim Reaper with his scythe. All we are going to do is we are just going to sit here in Halifax and we are going to make decisions,

[Page 6232]

as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, said so clearly, you are going to sit in Halifax and you are going to make decisions for Clark's Harbour and other communities along the South Shore.

Mr. Speaker, this is totally contrary to what we know about working on the ground in education, being there, being in the community and it is also totally contrary to the message that has been delivered by the previous government for several years now. So let's talk for a minute about how important it would be to take this bill, or the subject of it at least, take the subject, take it out, take it through the Law Amendments Committee, it is as good a committee as any, and don't just sit over in the Red Room in the fancy chairs, let's go into those communities and talk to all those parents, children, teachers and support workers and all the people involved in this what I have to call an incredibly challenging and worthwhile dignified enterprise.

Let's say to them, let's say to those communities in the same way that we have said to our children, you have worth, you have value, what you want matters, you elected us, 40 per cent of you did anyway, we got more seats than the other fellows and girls, we have a responsibility to you. Mr. Speaker, the pettiness of this government is beyond anything in my admittedly four short years here, it is beyond anything that I have ever . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Has it been four years?

MS. O'CONNELL: Four years in a couple of weeks, Mr. Speaker. What is it that is driving a government to say, we don't care what you are doing, we don't care what you think, we don't value it, we will not help you assess it and improve it, we are just going to go in without talking to anybody, and that includes the formal organizations like the unions and the school boards and whatnot and the other thing. We are just going to tell you, this is what you do and this is how much money you have to do it with.

That brings us to the minister's strange ability to set policies. Now, I thought we had Statutes and I thought we had regulations and we do have policies in education. They have come through these means, Mr. Speaker. But how can you run a school, how can you possibly do what needs to be done with heart and spirit and success if you know that sitting in Halifax the minister can simply decide that she does not like, or he does not like, what you are doing. It is some deviation from some presumably unclear policy. We already have a structure that mandates curriculum, that mandates review of materials, that mandates education for teachers, we have a structure that can work and it can work better, but how can we deal with the randomness of a minister who can simply run around saying, well, no, I don't like that, sorry.

It is like trying to work with a knife over your head, or a machete. How is it that Nova Scotians can do the job that needs to be done with good heart if they find that there is a randomness? I think in this bill we have a minister who can define words.

[Page 6233]

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, that is right.

MS. O'CONNELL: I could go down that road for a very long time as a language teacher, Mr. Speaker, and there were a number of years where I spent a good several weeks, or longer, with Grade 11 students struggling to read George Orwell's, "Politics and the English Language", being my favourite essay, Mr. Speaker, in 1984 and it was a difficult book. The print was small which is the first thing they look at in Grade 11. There were no pictures and there is a huge section at the back of that novel talking about the language that is used in the book and the philosophy. Orwell had it right, you know, if you say something often enough, people start to think it is true. Big Brother could say that love is hate, and war is peace, and if you brainwashed people enough they began to accept it. The power of language is enormous and it is worth wrestling with in school.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when it got to the point where every book had a rubber band around it because the pages were falling loose, we knew that we did not have enough book money. That is when we went to the Sackville flea market and sold heaps and heaps of stuff - I can't think of any other word for it - in order to buy, if you can believe it, books from a second-hand bookstore so that we could get twice as many, or a third more, to supplement our book budget. Here we are now - after 40 to 50 years of the evolution of education, based upon new understandings, new experience, research and the commitment of communities - 50 years back.

The minister was the one who said, classes of 50 - well, no, she misspoke herself about that; 400 teachers - well, she misspoke herself about that. But the vision, if you can call it that, that came through from this government belonged to the antiquity of my childhood, to the good old days when everybody stood in a straight row and their desk was bolted to the floor and if the teacher said you were wrong, even if you knew you weren't, or the teacher told you that the capital of some country was incorrect, you didn't argue, because the teacher was the authority.

We have come such a long way from that. Now we have big mother, the only teacher in the province - there she is; she is right and we are wrong. We had better line up, stay in straight rows, instead of going out there and saying to Nova Scotians, those days are gone, and today we all have a part to play. We value it and we show that we value it by doing it the very best we can, together, and that is what this province needs.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I support this amendment so wholeheartedly, and I am surprised that the government does not because, as I have said, they were told by the only people they consulted that this was job one - get out there and talk to Nova Scotians about it. I have to say, I am also disappointed with our colleagues in the Opposition; I am a little disappointed, but I will get over it.

[Page 6234]

AN HON. MEMBER: Why?

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, because they know the value of this public debate that is so badly needed in education; they know the value of it. But they are not on their feet with us. They know it, but they are not up there with us this afternoon to say it over and over again, in the hopes that (Interruption)

Well, the member for Cape Breton Nova says you don't have to alternate back and forth with speakers, and that is good news, Mr. Speaker, because maybe that indicates that they will continue to engage in this very important debate which encourages the government to again look at the dangerous construct that we have here in Bill No. 47, to put it aside and say, let's not do anything until we have that discussion with Nova Scotians that we need to have. We can do it, and we can talk to them, but mostly we can listen to them. It would be such a valuable thing to do.

It doesn't matter what community you go to; you don't have to carefully pick the places because no matter where you go, people will come out in droves to express themselves around it. Parents of special needs students, for example - I don't even know if I want to go there, Mr. Speaker, but every community in this province will have the people who know on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, except when their children are in school - if they can get there - people who know the challenge of teaching and learning with a special needs child, for example; parents of children who play the violin beautifully because some program existed to teach them; parents of children who are on every team in junior high school because they think with their fingers and toes and they are brilliant.

I have had parent after parent come to me in junior high school and say, thank God for athletics, it is the only thing that gets my daughter to school and boy, is she good at it. Other parents had children who were good students but were better students when they had all those activities that teachers and parents and community volunteers devote themselves to, to make school an enriching experience.

I think I heard on the radio yesterday some teachers saying - or maybe it wasn't yesterday but within the last week - it takes 500 hours of work to put on a school musical, out of class time. That is a lot of time. It takes three hours a day plus lots of weekends, I am sure, to be an athletic coach and those students who, as I said, sing in a musical, who paint flats for a school production, who play on the volleyball team or run with the track and field team, or put out a yearbook - they do it on CD-ROM now. It is quite interesting, you get your video yearbook or your CD-ROM yearbook, the technology is there and the kids know it; the yearbook, all those activities.

The most recent school writing journal that I have seen is devoted entirely to the stress around the education cuts. As a language arts teacher, as an English teacher, I know the quality and it is great. You might not like the subject matter if you are on the government

[Page 6235]

side, but some teacher and a bunch of students took the problem and turned into art their frustration and anger. There is so much there that is going to be taken away by large classes, burnt-out teachers, closed libraries and there is not going to be any mechanism to work it out and to say we need this back. As I said, she just sits here and says, no, sorry folks, we haven't got the money.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you it is not satisfactory to us in the Opposition, but that is not just because we say so. It is not satisfactory to us because it is not satisfactory to all those people I have tried to talk about today, who don't want to go back to 1950 and start all over again.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on the amendment that is before us today with respect to Bill No. 47, the amendment that the subject matter of Bill No. 47 be referred to the Law Amendments Committee.

I commend the member for Halifax Needham who introduced said amendment because I think, as others have said and as I will try to explain this afternoon in my presentation, that the Law Amendments Committee would be an appropriate body to review the implications of what is provided for in Bill No. 47.

Bill No. 47 basically changes a lot of the thought behind the Education Act, which was put through just a couple of years ago, back in 1995, which tended to devolve more of the decision making in education to the communities and tried to involve a much more holistic process of determining curriculum and delivering education throughout the education system to involve parents, as well as teachers and students, in the decision making around how education was going to be delivered in those schools and throughout the school boards. Now, we have been presented with a piece of legislation which fundamentally alters what the main theme of the Education Bill is, which I just described, by centralizing a great deal of the power in the hands of the minister and the hands of the department. I would certainly want the government to heed the direction and the advice that is provided in this amendment, to refer the subject matter to the Law Amendments Committee for consideration, because the impact of the provisions in this bill are significant and should not be considered without some due review.

Mr. Speaker, it is funny, here we are today, considering the implications of Bill No. 47, and the idea of referring it to committee, a bill which centralizes and is moving us down a road to centralizing the decision making in the education system in the hands of the minister of her department, in fact, sets up a pilot project with the Southwest Regional School Board, where that school board is basically going to be gone now, and all of the decisions will be handled by an employee of the Minister of Education. This was done in New Brunswick.

[Page 6236]

My point is we are heading down a road to get rid of duly elected school boards and centralizing control in the hands of the Minister of Education, and that is exactly what New Brunswick did several years ago. Today, a select committee of that Legislature in New Brunswick reported back and recommended that New Brunswick set up elected local school councils or school boards. What the select committee report seems to be suggesting is that the presentations made by New Brunswickers to that committee said that the Minister of Education has too much control. There is not enough local autonomy. There is not enough opportunity for input by parents. There is not enough opportunity for the individual schools to be making decisions on, and how best to deliver education, and they have recommended that, in fact, that be changed. That committee report says, with respect to good government, its roles and responsibilities, that it is clear that there is an increasing demand for decentralization of the school system within the context of provincial standards.

I raise this, Mr. Speaker, in light of the amendment that is before us here today, because New Brunswick, I would say is ahead of us in having gone down the road of centralizing power, and now they have recognized, or they appear to be recognizing the folly of that move, and they are going to head back to ensuring there is much more local input, local autonomy, by properly constituting local boards, local councils, and that these boards and councils be properly elected. I think this amendment before us today would provide an opportunity for the Law Amendments Committee and members of the Law Amendments Committee to examine the report of the standing committee, of the select committee on education of New Brunswick, the experience of New Brunswick in managing the governance of the education system, as well as engaging in that debate that I think is so important on how public education is going to be administered and governed in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[5:30 p.m.]

Back in 1995 the then Liberal Government brought in the Education Act, which was a huge bill which made exhaustive changes in the education system. I remember us dealing with it and there was great upheaval because they were doing it at the same time that they were hacking and slashing away at the education system. They were making fundamental changes, the governance system, within education. They brought that bill in here and I am telling you, the outcry within the stakeholders in education was incredible. We have not seen the likes of that in many years in the Province of Nova Scotia.

That bill went through, and I forget how many amendments there were, but it went though hundreds of amendments. The member for Hants West undoubtedly recalls - he was in Opposition in those days - that we went through that bill, the Education Act, with a fine- tooth comb and the Minister of Education of the day brought in a number of his own amendments and then the Opposition introduced a whole host of other amendments, many of which were accepted. It was unbelievable. I don't think we have ever seen a piece of legislation introduced in this House go through those kinds of changes. Largely it was because of the Law Amendments Committee, we had representation after representation by

[Page 6237]

parents and teachers and administrators and others who were concerned with the implications of the Education Act and changes needed to be made.

I guess my point is that that was done and it wasn't done as a result of consultation, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, it was done in reaction to this huge document, a piece of legislation that was tabled in this House. The proverbial stuff hit the fan and people came running down to the House and everybody went into action, ourselves included, and the government was forced to make an incredible amount of change.

Here we are, five years later, and we have another piece of legislation before us which makes further fundamental changes - not further in terms of heading down the same road, but further in that they are significant. In fact, they are not going down the same road, they are taking us back to a time when the Minister of Education, the government downtown had much more control over these decisions than was permitted in that bill of 1995.

Again, my point in saying this is that we have had two periods within five years of fairly significant change in governance issues with respect to education but we have really had no public debate. We have had no public discussion of this issue. It was referred to earlier, my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, participated in a Select Committee on Education that I think was set up under the Don Cameron Government when the Tories were in power, up until 1993. I think it was in 1990 it was happening right around the time when I was elected, it might have been 1991 or 1992 when that piece of legislation was finally tabled but that was the last time there was any kind of exhaustive debate and discussion across the province on what was happening in education, giving parents an opportunity to come before the committee and talk about their experiences, the experiences of their children and older students come before the committee, teachers and others, administrators, to talk about what was happening in the system.

The Education Act of 1995 was, in part, I think, a response to the recommendations of that Select Committee on Education. Now here we are with this Bill No. 47, Mr. Speaker, making more changes and Nova Scotians are not being given the opportunity to consider this issue. So the amendment which proposes that the subject matter be referred to the Law Amendments Committee may be just the opportunity that is necessary to have the subject matter not only referred to the Law Amendments Committee, but use the Law Amendments Committee as a vehicle to have a fairly wide ranging public discussion debate about these fairly fundamental issues of governance and governance changes being proposed. So I support that.

Mr. Speaker, our public education system in the Province of Nova Scotia has been undergoing some considerable change over the past 10 years. I think a lot of the change was described by my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, but what I wanted to address, briefly, was the upheaval in education over the past number of years that I have experienced in talking with my constituents, as they come in, year after year, raising concerns, either

[Page 6238]

similar concerns or different concerns about the type of education their children are receiving, the upheaval as it relates to individuals, relative to the quality of education that their children are receiving, the upheaval as it relates to school administrators, teachers, being the committed individuals, women and men, that they are, try their best, under circumstances out of their control, largely, to be able to deliver the best level of education that they possibly can, within their purview.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of the upheaval has been caused as a result of funding changes, removal of funds from many schools. You have heard members in this House talk about the fact that in 1992, there was a facilities working group, I forget the exact title, which determined that there was something in the area of $30-odd million that needed to be invested in schools, to build new schools and to renovate schools that needed to be repaired, that that needed to be done over the next two to three to four years. In 1993, the Liberal Government came in and they, I think, invested somewhere like $3 million, as opposed to $30 million, and the amount of money that was invested in school construction and school repair, in fact, declined over the next four years, to the point where you had a number of schools develop very serious problems in terms of their maintenance, in terms of their condition, so that some schools had to be shut down, air quality problems, children were getting ill, teachers were getting ill, people working in those schools were getting ill. It created a very serious problem.

Then, recognizing that the folly of not investing in school construction and maintenance became apparent to the Liberal Government, in 1997, I believe, and they tried to find a way to catch up and then they went down the road, as you know, of P3 financing to, almost like a magic way, get them out of the hole, or get us out of the hole we were in, to build new schools. The total number of schools that were put on that P3 list was, (Interruption) altogether, upwards of 50-odd schools that needed to be built. There were other schools that still needed to be built. The need for those new schools was clear to everyone, in particular, the parents in the communities where those schools were proposed.

Mr. Speaker, the arguments that we were having were around the method of financing. We argued that P3 financing was simply a way to get the cost off-book and that, in the long run, it was costing Nova Scotians scarce dollars. We still believe that. I think, in fact, evidence has shown us that those who said P3 was not a way to save money, in fact, it was going to cost us money, evidence has borne out that fact.

The reality is, the unequivocal part of that whole topic was that schools needed to be built, and they needed to be built then because the government back in 1993 withheld money over a four year period until 1997, that was designed for the construction of new schools, and the repair and maintenance of existing schools.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues have talked about schools in their particular districts, schools that needed to be fixed. I know that there have been problems in a couple of schools in my district that had not been dealt with. They have been pushed off year after year, and it

[Page 6239]

has pushed the problem off, but, in fact, the problem has grown, and we still need those investments. That is scarce dollars we have in the education system. We need to make sure we invest them in our schools. That is why Nova Scotians responded to this government when the now Premier said that it was time in the Province of Nova Scotia that we look at education as an investment in our children, as an investment in our future. That goes with the schools in which they learn, as it does in the classrooms in which they learn, as it does with the tools they have available to them to learn, as it does with the teachers' program assistants with which they have to learn. If they don't have those tools, those aides available to them, then it definitely impacts on their ability to learn, their ability to have access to a quality of education, therefore, will have an impact down the road in their ability to contribute to their community and to the province and to this country.

The Premier was right, I thought, many Nova Scotians thought, many members in this House undoubtedly thought, when he said that we need to invest in our education system in order to ensure that we look after our future.

This amendment which refers the subject matter of Bill No. 47 to the Law Amendments Committee is important in that it will give us an opportunity to review in that committee the details, the clauses of that bill and consult with Nova Scotians. It will also provide us with a little more time, Mr. Speaker, whereby we can ferret out what it is that is happening to the education system as a result of this government's budget.

As you know, the government brought in a budget which proposed a $20 million cut in education. The Minister of Education, when she made those announcements or, I guess, the Minister of Finance, when he made that announcement said that what that means is that we are going to focus on administration, that is where we are targetting, and that 400 teaching positions will no longer be in the system as a result of attrition. Well, I don't need to remind you what happened when those remarks hit the floor and hit the air waves. Parents and students and teachers hit the streets. School board members, school board staff quickly came to this House and began to speak to the Minister of Education and many members of this House and say, you are wrong. That is in fact not the case. What you are asking us to do is not cut $20 million, but cut $57 million, that the effects of the budget you are proposing are extremely significant to our classrooms.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now it took 24 days of debate within this House and debate outside this House for the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance to finally admit they were wrong, that they had the figures wrong, that it was not $20 million as they said, it was more like the $57 million that the school boards and the teachers were saying. In fact, they went so far as to quickly find that extra money, Mr. Speaker. We don't know for sure where that money is coming from. There is this transition and slush fund which has been identified. We are not quite sure how much is coming out of that. We also know that the Minister of Finance - he

[Page 6240]

tells us anyway, we haven't seen the bottom line - performed a bit of accounting hocus pocus to allocate some of the board's deficit from last year somewhere, we are not quite sure because you and I both know and the Minister of Finance knows, certainly the Auditor General knows, the books for 1999-2000 were closed and it is going to be very difficult for the Minister of Finance to be able to argue otherwise.

That is what happened with 24 days of debate and discussion inside and outside this House; the government agreed they were wrong, that it wasn't $20 million, it was $57 million and they came up with the money, good for them. We are still trying to track down and we will try to hold them accountable, as best we can, where that money is coming from and where it is going to go but, nonetheless, they admitted they were wrong.

The second part of that, of course, was the 400 teachers which they finally acknowledged was wrong, that it was going to mean upwards of 700, 800 or 1,000 teachers across the system, that it was going to be extremely dramatic and devastating, the impact on the classroom, of those teachers being laid off. In fact, we stood here in this House and got notes passed in as we were asking the Minister of Education questions about lay-offs. She was saying to us, there are not going to be any lay-offs, and we were getting calls from teachers and principals saying that we are in the process of giving pink slips or we have just received our pink slip.

My point is that this amendment that we refer the subject matter of Bill No. 47 to committee, provides us with more opportunity to have a debate inside and outside this House about what the real impacts of the budget and of Bill No. 47 are on the classroom, on education, Mr. Speaker. Every day that goes by, and I wish other members would be debating this clause, like the member for Lunenburg West participated in the debate on this clause because it is important that we have more time to ferret out the impacts. Every day that goes by we learn more because we know that the school boards are wrestling with the financial impacts of the budget. They are wrestling within the context of certain criteria which the Minister of Education has provided them.

We understand, for example, that in the Halifax Regional School Board they were given criteria which said that you can lay-off no more than, or get rid of, no more than 70 teachers. My information is that they are laying off 69 - the 69 falls within what the minister has allowed them.

We also understand, but this is changing as we speak, that the Halifax board is going to get rid of in excess of 60 program assistants. We also understand that there are possibly hundreds of custodial persons, bus drivers and others involved in the education system who will be let go.

[Page 6241]

We have begun every day, this past week in particular, to hear from parents and teachers about what the impact of these cuts is going to be and I would like to have more opportunity, that is why I wish my colleagues adjacent would participate in this debate because I would like to have more time to keep gathering that information because I know that some of the parents who I have talked to, for example, of special needs students, or of high needs students, have called me in an absolute panic about what the removal of 60 program assistants will mean in the system.

One parent, whose young fellow is confined to a wheelchair, is afraid of what this might do to him. He is very social. His classmates love him, but if things change - he needs a program assistant and if the program assistant cannot be provided - then what this government seems to be saying is that Rickey might end up going in a classroom with other high needs kids and not in with his regular class, the people he has gone to school with. That would be devastating to this young fellow and it would be devastating to his family and it would be devastating I would suggest to his classmates.

We are hearing more and more of this. I think of the discussions I have had with parents in my office in Spryfield. I am thinking right now of one family whose child has been in the system now for I believe about five years, and every single year it is the same thing, every single year they are in the class, they are in the school, they are before the school board fighting, struggling for more services, more support for their child. You could not find parents who were more committed to standing up and being there for their child including working different shifts so they can be in the classroom themselves and in the school themselves. I know I have seen this gentleman go to a meeting with the school board or with the school in an evening on his way to a shift and then work right through from say 10:00 p.m. until 10:00 a.m. and then come home, change his clothes, and go to the school in order to provide the support that is so important for the survival, let alone the learning, of his child. He and his wife have done this year after year.

Last year was even more difficult than the previous years because of resources being curtailed and it was even more difficult for them. They are saying to me, this year, that if this government goes through with more program assistant cuts, he is going to be in a situation where he is going to have to either home school his child or come up with some other kind of alternative, move somewhere else, or something, and this is what parents say to me and have said to me, that they will do whatever they have to do, whatever they are able to do, they will do in order to ensure that their child receives the kind of education they believe they deserve.

I think if we had the Law Amendments Committee review the subject matter of this bill members of the government caucus would have an opportunity to hear from these people, will have an opportunity to see and to hear what their lives are like in trying to deal with the realities of the public system and what the changes mean to these people.

[Page 6242]

You know the Minister of Education stands up and says, and the Premier says, and has said on occasion, we don't have any choice, we are thinking about the future of these children, the fiscal future of this province and that the best way to protect the future of these children is by getting rid of the deficit and the debt. But what about right now? What if these kids lose even one year, maybe two years, maybe three years; what if they lose one year of education? What if they lose or miss out on a proper foundation in, say, Grade 2? I remember Grade 2 or Grade 3, those are extremely important years. Why are we asking these people to wait? Why are we asking these children who are going to be the future leaders, who are going to be the pool from which the future leaders will be drawn, leaders in business, leaders in social development, leaders in academics, in politics - how can we afford to put on hold, the foundation these children need in order to prepare them down the road, Mr. Speaker?

I have certainly done a fair bit of reading into education issues and theory. I have never seen any text or any papers that have said you can take a child away from education for a year and it won't affect them, that you can inflict upon them inferior education for a year or two and it won't matter in the final analysis. That is not true, Mr. Speaker; in other words I think the point I am trying to make is I am afraid this government is gambling. They say they are trying to protect the future but I think, in fact, they are gambling with the future by jeopardizing the education of thousands of children in the Province of Nova Scotia who will be our future in 10 or 15 years down the road. That is not a risk I want to take.

That is not a risk this Party said they were going to expose Nova Scotians to when they ran for office during the summer election. They didn't say that; in fact, they said the opposite thing, more teachers, we have a shortage, invest in the future, smaller classes, smaller class sizes, more local decision making, more local autonomy, we need more schools, we need to fix schools. They said all these things. They knew the finances were bad then, I don't think they simply said those things to get elected. I understand that we reached . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: : . . . the moment of interruption. I would be happy to adjourn the debate and return at 6:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova:

"Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government has abandoned resource-based industries."

[Page 6243]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES.: INDUSTRIES (RESOURCE-BASED) - ABANDONMENT

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have a few minutes tonight to talk on this subject of our resource-based industries. As we all know we did not have the opportunity to discuss the estimates of the Minister of Natural Resources and of course we won't be able to speak about the estimates here tonight, but certainly for half an hour we can talk about our resource industries.

The main topic I want to speak on tonight is forestry and the Department of Natural Resources. We all know that now all our resource industries are under one ministry; our farming, our forestry and fishery and I believe that is a shame. We believe on this side of the House, at least in the Liberal Party, that any one of these resources certainly would keep a minister busy full time. Particularly Natural Resources, I believe, deserves to have a minister who will spend much time with that portfolio. I know the minister has his work cut out for him and I know he will work very hard at it and I am certainly not saying that we don't have a good minister there, I believe we do. I don't quite know how he can fulfil his mandate within that portfolio and also serve two other portfolios: fisheries and aquaculture, and agriculture.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, farmers, fishermen and those in the forest industry are starting to see that the minister is having trouble finding time to dedicate the energy that needs to be displayed and that each department demands and deserves. With so many demands on the minister's time the minister will depend more and more on the dedicated and professional staff of the Department of Natural Resources. I spent two years in that department and the minister should be thankful that he has an extremely good, talented staff. That is one thing that is certainly in his favour when he has a workload of three portfolios, but I can't say enough about the dedication of the staff at Natural Resources. In our budget this spring it was disappointing to see that some of those staff will lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts. These job losses as we know are a cost cutting-measure.

This is an indication that this government has - many people feel - abandoned our forests and those who work in the forest industry. The budget for reforestation has been cut by $150,000 and this is quite a significant amount. No doubt there will be job losses as well as, quite likely, a long-term negative impact on our forests. Just yesterday we heard the honourable member for Lunenburg West raise the issue of the Christmas tree industry and I

[Page 6244]

think, rightly so, that the member had the opportunity to discuss the issue because I understand that part of the province is the Christmas tree capital of North America, or probably the world. It is an industry that employs somewhere around 500 or 600 full-time employees and probably another several hundred part-time.

On Page 29 of the Tory election blue book there is a promise to support and promote Nova Scotia's Christmas tree industry. It is hard to figure out how you can support an industry by taking from it in terms of monetary support and lose professionals in that industry. We all know that Nova Scotia has an international reputation as a quality Christmas tree producer and I understand that $93,000 has been cut from the budget of the Christmas tree specialists and that translates into two lost jobs there. This cut was made unfortunately without any consultation with the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia. They learned about it when the budget was introduced, Mr. Speaker. This government is putting Nova Scotia's reputation in world markets at risk as a result of these cuts. The government is also breaking faith and breaking another promise to Nova Scotians.

Our forests and forest industry workers deserve better than what has been offered to them by this government. There are 243 promises in the Tory election platform. Since health care commitments are at the top, one would assume that promises are in order of priority. Promises about forestry and mining are the last set of promises in their platform, Mr. Speaker, and I guess we know where Natural Resources stands on the Tory list of promises and priorities. A good example of this is the disregard for our forests and the Tory commitment or lack of commitment to silviculture. In the Tory election platform, the word silviculture is not mentioned, but the government did promise to spend $8 million more on forestry development in year two of their mandate.

Mr. Speaker, on July 6th, during the election, the Leader of the Tory Party and now Premier repeated in his election platform to pledge $8 million to silviculture development, but what have they done? They have cut silviculture by $1 million. Add this to the $1 million they cut from the fall budget, which was money promised by the previous Liberal Government after consultation with the industry. This means that the Tories have effectively cut silviculture funding in half from $4 million to $2.2 million. In order to fulfil their election promises to silviculture, this government would have to put $10 million into the industry next year. I am sure the silviculture industry will be looking forward to this money.

Mr. Speaker, in the Tory document, The Course Ahead, in March 2000, it says, "Our commitment to silviculture remains strong, and the steady erosion of support to the forestry sector over the past few years will cease. Strategic investment in this sector benefits many rural communities and provides excellent seasonal employment." According to the Forest Group Ventures Association, the silviculture industry is suffering because of a lack of commitment from this government and 80 per cent of people are now out of the industry according to John Roblee of the Forest Group Ventures Association. Sixteen groups can't pay their dues to this organization because of the cuts.

[Page 6245]

Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to explain how he expects forestry groups like the Forest Group Ventures Association to advocate on behalf of the woodlot owners when the government is cutting back. In the recent meeting of forest technicians in Truro, it was decided that foresters need to do a better job of communicating with the public. The forest industry is not the enemy of the environmental lobby, despite what is often portrayed in the media, but our forest industry is having trouble getting its side of the story across to government because this government keeps cutting and cutting until the industry has no voice left.

Mr. Speaker, it is good to see that the department has put additional money into forest fire protection this year. That was raised in the House a few weeks ago, because the previous years, whatever was put into the budget for forest fire protection, the department went over it by many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and talk on the resolution tonight. I would like to read the resolution into the record.

"Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government has abandoned resource-based industries."

It was put forward by the honourable former Minister of Natural Resources.

It is a pleasure to speak a few minutes on resource-based. I know he has given his comments, but I think it is important to note for all Nova Scotians, the resource-based economy in Nova Scotia is the forest industry, it is the mining industry, it is the fishing industry, it is the agriculture industry, and it is the sum total of all those rural activities and coastal activities involved in the fishing industry as well that make the backbone of rural Nova Scotia and really are the tradition and heritage of industries that have survived and prospered over 400 to 500 years in this province.

I think it is extremely important to take a little bit of time and highlight the positive rather than, as some would say, dwell on some things that need our attention. Certainly when I look at the forest industry, Mr. Speaker, the forest industry currently has the largest total output of over $1.5 billion in this province that it has ever had and certainly the forest industry, all people and all Nova Scotians are concerned about sustainability. What this government has done with the publication of the sustainable forest regulations and the buyer registry - which I would commend the former minister for bringing forward - with the new Forests Act, it offers an opportunity, and I emphasize opportunity, because it requires the participation, the goodwill, and the management of the forest industry itself to ensure that we

[Page 6246]

do have sustainable forests, that forests in Nova Scotia do grow, they do mature, and they can be cut selectively.

They can be cut in areas that because of the particular species, or the lay of the land, in larger sizes, but they do regrow, Mr. Speaker. It is not a devastation of the land; it is a natural cycle that has gone on for thousands of years and certainly ensuring that there is productivity and 17,000 to 20,000 jobs in rural Nova Scotia is a huge opportunity for this province. Those are well-paying, meaningful jobs for all Nova Scotians and certainly I think we should take every effort to remind Nova Scotians that this government is determined to ensure that that sustainability occurs on small, private woodlot holdings and that is why with the publication of the new regulations on sustainable, the levy on round wood, that within a year you will see upwards, with government funding and private funding, there may possibly be as high as $15 million within the implementation period of this new policy being put forward to ensure that forests have the maximum opportunity to be sustainable in this province.

That does not discount the multiple use by other users in this province for recreational, for tourism opportunities and certainly for the pure aesthetics of our hunting and fishing tradition throughout the province, which has long been a tradition with many native Nova Scotian families and certainly many of the families who have been for generations part of rural Nova Scotia and the fabric of rural Nova Scotia. The forestry industry is certainly not scared of the future, and participants within the industry want an opportunity to have a say in that future, but they fully realize that they derive great benefits from that future and are willing to reinvest. That is why we see sustainable forestry funds and such options now and in the future that were not there in the past.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the agricultural industry. The agricultural industry has recently also hit that $1 billion output mark approximately and the agricultural industry, although overcoming challenges in the last number of years, certainly one being the drought over the last three years, our government was proud to, actually for the first time, put money through a Nova Scotia policy into the hands of farmers in Nova Scotia. There had been talk in the previous two years and I would commend the previous minister for announcing the policy in the previous years, but certainly we were pleased with consultation with the agriculture industry, to actually accelerate that payment from three to five years and ensure that the first payment was actually made last year.

[6:15 p.m.]

I think that, certainly, colleagues, on all sides of the House were pleased that that money was put forward to the agriculture industry and I know from my perspective, and I am sure theirs, it would have been nice if it could have been more. But those are the fiscal realities we deal with in our province and, certainly, this year, when we look at the agriculture industry, the reality of the budget is one that was reflective of the agriculture industry, when

[Page 6247]

you take the drought relief money out, it was only down, year over year, a two year period, less than $1.5 million and, actually, there was $1 million more in programs for the farmers in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Alternative service delivery, certainly, of the Technology Production Branch and that expertise is a contentious issue. There is no question about that, trying to do with less and look at alternative service deliveries and empowering the industry to decide what their priorities are in regard to the expertise they want and how they would like it delivered.

Certainly, I am pleased to say that, at this point, we look forward with the industry to working out a resolution on what is the best way to expend those $2.7 million worth of total readjustment funds for that regional office and the Production Technology Branch. I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that those talks between industry leaders and myself and senior staff are going very well. We all agree that the services are very important, finding the proper method that suits both the government's need for long term to be smaller and industries perspective on how they should be delivered. I am confident we will find that accommodation and move forward in that regard, in the near future.

I would also like to take a moment just to comment on the fishing industry. The fishing industry is fully one-third of Canada's output, Mr. Speaker, and that is no small accommodation. The fishing industry in this province will exceed $1.1 billion worth of export, the largest export in Canada. We have a fishing industry that is diverse, of which lobster, certainly, makes up a large component; snow crab, as well as groundfish and a number of other non-traditional species. We continue to see growth, not only in sustainability in harvesting, but we see an industry that continues to add jobs and value-added jobs to the economy of Nova Scotia. Those jobs are very welcome in rural Nova Scotia and certainly offer more opportunity in the future, as long as it is done in a conservation and a controlled method.

Certainly, one of the programs this year that we have identified to help coastal communities even more is the fund we have established, the $1.5 million revolving account fund for small craft construction. This offers an opportunity of possibly thousands of jobs more in rural Nova Scotia, professional, well-paying craftsmen and tradesmen, who will build craft for the North American market. That particular craft is in large demand, the particular hull type of Nova Scotia and the craftsmanship. So we are very pleased to encourage that development of the finished boat industry that will be sold into the leisure and pleasure craft component of North America.

We have all the confidence that those boatbuilders have the expertise to do it. We will ensure, through community college and other training programs, that we offer those opportunities to coastal communities and are pleased to be able to target our dollars effectively in this last budget, to maximize growth opportunities and each one of those three rural budgets. Whether members opposite realize, certainly Nova Scotians realize, to deliver the services that are critically important to all of us, each and every sector in this province is

[Page 6248]

helping out and contributing to reducing the size of government and the amount of expenditures and, thus, we have brought in a budget that reflects that, but, more importantly, highlights growth opportunities and provides a fair, level playing field to all rural residents and protects them. Thank you.

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

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I am pleased to speak on this resolution, simply. I heed the words of the minister. I know the minister thinks that the only time I get to my feet is to criticize what somebody else is doing and tonight I guess is probably no different. I do want to say that I appreciate the recognition for any positive things that the minister has initiated. I think it is probably not fair, but certainly usual that he might try to take credit for initiatives that were done by the previous administration and I criticize them for not doing enough as well.

I think what he mentioned about the small craft initiative which was an initiative of the previous administration anyway, but I think that as the minister sees fit to continue that forward it shows the desire to help diversify the fishing sector. If there is an avenue to create an industry there then I have to applaud him for that. There is no way I am going to knock him for trying to generate more jobs.

I want the minister and all members present to be aware that my constituency, along with having the highest tides in the world also has the home of the largest masted vessel built in North America, the W. D. Lawrence, out of Maitland. It carried the name of the builder actually. William Lawrence was a member of this House and I don't know if all members would have been aware of that although the configuration of the constituencies in the province, I think at that time it certainly wouldn't be Hants East, but it may have been Hants County or some other shape. William Lawrence was a member of this House in those days of wood, wind and sail and I think that it is important that we all consider. Certainly, I wasn't around then, but I know from what history tells us and if I look along the shore, the Minas Basin in my riding, that was a fairly well-to-do area. You can see in the Village of Maitland, the homes that are there are evidence of a past that was affluent. When those days passed this province then, it never really has recovered to the same extent.

Agriculture has gone downhill, only those supply managed, in particular the Coxes in Sterling Brook with their poultry operation and eggs and also some of the dairy farms in the area are the remnants. The beef sector has declined markedly over the last number of years and there is the greenhouse operation - I am trying to think of the name for that as you get beyond Minasville and that area, heading toward Tennycape - and they are still there as well, but you can see a decline in rural Nova Scotia in my area and it concerns me.

[Page 6249]

I would like to think the minister actually believes his numbers in regard to the sustainability fund. I would say the numbers employed in the forest sector in this province are more in the range of 30,000 jobs and really it is a big employer in my area. Actually, I was in Kennetcook last night to a meeting and I think it was after 10 o'clock, closer to 11 o'clock when I finally got close to my driveway and I met a tractor-trailer on the road with a load of logs. I thought, where is this guy going at this hour of the night, 11 o'clock in the evening going with a load? He had just left the woods by just a few miles and a few minutes and I think that I have gone up to my barn in the evening at midnight some nights when I get home from here and I would see tractor-trailers loaded going by my home. You know people should be aware that this is getting to be nearly a 24 hour-a-day job and we have the technology to do that and they are doing it. I have a friend who owns a feller-buncher and he has two shifts of men on that machine and he has to work that machine to pay for it. Somebody is making money in the forest sector, that is for sure, but I don't say that it is well spread out.

I am certainly willing to agree with the minister that there should be more money go into silviculture, but silviculture is not just planting trees. The minister says that they can cut selectively, well, very few people are and if anybody had gone to the clear-cutting forum last week at the School of Architecture they would have seen some interesting facts. One of them was an aerial photograph which showed a clear-cut that was a kilometre across and actually another area that you could walk from point A to point B, and other than walking around a few clumps of trees, it was six kilometres in a clear-cut.

So, if anybody is trying to tell me that we are harvesting sustainably and that this fund will establish that, they are - the limit on cutting in this province, according to the department's own figures, has to be somewhere in the range of 5,800,000 cubic metres, which you can divide by two to get the number of cords. But there is nothing in any of the minster's regulations that says we can't cut beyond that. All of their statistics up to 2070 are based on cutting no more than that amount every year. Unless you are going to put a limit and say we can't cut more than that, then we can't hit those targets at all and there are those in the industry who will say that we are cutting twice that amount and it is not sustainable, even with dollars put into silviculture.

The agricultural sector, the minister talks about the money that we have put into safety net programs, you can't build an industry on a safety net. The hog sector, is one area that we know or sure that hasn't worked and the Pork Nova Scotia people came to our Resources Committee a couple of weeks ago and actually, the minister, when I indicated to him we should be looking at supply management of pork, since we only produce 65 percent of our need, he said the industry wasn't interested in it. Actually they were, they were quite open to it if anybody was willing to pursue it. So, why would we cut production technology and say that we are supporting Nova Scotia, rural Nova Scotia? The honourable member for Victoria is right in his resolution (Interruptions)

[Page 6250]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the members allow the honourable member his time on the floor. If you have to have conversations, take them outside, please.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I want to say that the honourable member for Victoria is correct in his resolution that rural Nova Scotia has been abandoned because you can't cut the programs that the minster has cut, especially in production technology, and then leave the industry to grapple with how they are going to survive and say that we are offering support there. I think that to blame our present fiscal situation on the cuts you want to make, it does not carry in the argument because all members should be aware that if you want to address the deficit situation, first of all be prudent in your spending and the second thing is invest in your economy and see that your economy grows to take care of those needs.

By not investing in rural Nova Scotia we have abandoned rural Nova Scotia. That means schools, doctors, et cetera; as these communities dwindle you can't maintain the infrastructure, you can't maintain the schools and people will not go into those areas that should otherwise attract Nova Scotians or attract anybody to Nova Scotia. Whenever I raise concerns about the fishery, I am always told it is a federal jurisdiction and we know that hungry children don't need to hear that.

I see that my time is up and I thank the member for the resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members for taking part in this evening's late debate.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 47 - Education Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party on the amendment to Bill No. 47, you have about 24 minutes.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed very much the intervention of the member for Hants East, the wisdom that comes out of that member at times is really incredible. I really enjoyed it.

[6:30 p.m.]

Let me go back, if I may, to where I was. I was talking about the investment in education being an investment in the future and why that is so important and why the government is proceeding is so problematic. As I said, the idea to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 47 to the Law Amendments Committee would provide an opportunity to consider the implications of not only the bill because there are some important matters in this bill that need to be reviewed, but also the whole host of changes that this government is bringing

[Page 6251]

forward with respect to education. No matter how you shake it up and no matter how you line things up and cut it down, or whatever you want to say, if you don't have the money in there, if you don't have enough resources to fund the system properly, then you are going to have trouble, you are going to have problems.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that if we have had difficulties implementing the new Education Act from 1995 onwards, it is for that very reason, that we didn't invest enough money in the system, in the classroom, in our schools, in order to stabilize and provide a good, solid education. I don't know how many people I have talked to who are just pulling their hair out every September, trying to adjust to the changes taking place in their schools, whether it be in terms of the number of students in a classroom, whether it be the question of program assistants or other resources in the classroom. It is a very serious problem.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I had the good fortune back through Grades 2 through 5, to go to a three room schoolhouse in a place called Woodville, in Kings County, Nova Scotia. I often look back fondly on that. There were not a lot of kids and we had, in some cases, three grades in one classroom. What I remember most about it, and I am reminded of it when I go down and visit the Sambro Elementary School, is the fact that that school was a community; that school itself was a community. The parents would come into this school during the day, after school, on weekends and participate in concerts and in various types of meetings and activities, sports activities and so on, with the students, the staff, the teachers, the cleaner, the secretarial staff who were all part of the team, were all part of the family. I think back fondly to that.

Then I went to Grade 6, to a consolidated school in Cambridge where, in Grade 6, I was bused and it was a good half hour bus ride there and back - one way it was a good half hour bus ride. All that did was give me more time to get into trouble. You know the bigger classrooms, 25 or 30 students, it offered different things and even there it was a community and we came together. All of the people in that school participated together in providing a good quality education for all of the students there.

What I was saying earlier about Sambro Elementary School in Sambro, it is a school that hasn't gotten the resources it requires for repairs and renovations. It doesn't have a proper gymnasium. The minister's department has allocated $10,000 towards some renovations down there to help give them a room big enough to have proper gym facilities. Nonetheless, in the nine years I have been there as the MLA, every year we seem to be fighting for resources so they can fix various problems, whether that is the windows because the wind is blowing rain in, and it is cold and damp. They had a mould problem at one point. They had drainage directly underneath the school itself, and it wasn't running off. Anyway, it has been a constant battle to get resources each and every year.

[Page 6252]

This school is, I would say, second to none, in terms of spirit, in terms of being part of the community. I have been down there for some of the parent-teacher meetings, PTA meetings or the school advisory committee meetings, and there is never a shortage of people who are prepared to come in and help, whether that is to help in the classroom, or whether that is to help in the library, or whether that is to help provide meals on special occasions, Thanksgiving or other times. I have been at a number of Thanksgiving luncheons down there, where they have two local members who play in the symphony come in and play - in one case the violin and the other the oboe - and it is quite a sense of community and of commitment that that community has to those children. The support staff, the secretarial staff, the library technicians, everybody who works there participates in the education of those children.

If, in that case, the government cuts mean that one or two or three of those staff are removed from that classroom, if they continue to have to fight without any success to get money for repairs, you are affecting not only the children in that school, but you are affecting that community, I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, and that is wrong. That is being, I believe, penny wise and pound foolish. That robust, dynamic school contributes to that community as that community contributes to that school. We need to understand how important that is to the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia. I know from one end of this province to the other, there are all kinds of schools that are just like that.

We have a perfect example of how these people fit in. There was a story on the news tonight from Atlantic View Elementary School down in Lawrencetown, where a child was choking on a piece of food, or whatever it was. The children and the teacher tried with the Heimlich manoeuvre to relieve her distress, unsuccessfully. They went to the principal. Again they tried some more unsuccessfully. It was the secretary - this was yesterday - who came to the aid of that little girl, knew what she was doing, did the Heimlich manoeuvre and the blockage was removed; that child was okay. Today that secretary, who saved the life of that child, got her pink slip. She is gone.

The point is, the secretary doesn't just deal with the phones and deal with correspondence and deal with administrative matters, which are important to the operation of a school of any organization like that, but that secretary is also an integral part of that community, of the community of that school.

I found, in my experience, in the schools in Spryfield, that the secretaries interact with the students. Every single one of them knows the ones who need extra attention, knows the ones who maybe have additional challenges outside the classroom or outside the school. When they come in, they pay attention to them and make sure that, while they are at the school, they are safe. They make sure that while they are that the school, they get the kind of emotional nourishment that they need, as well as the educational, physical nourishment that they need in order to make them well-rounded members of our community, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 6253]

This budget and this bill go to the heart of those things that are so - my goodness, time flies.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much chatter inside the Chamber. It is very difficult for the Speaker to hear the member. Thank you.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that I have one minute left, you said?

MR. SPEAKER: You have until 6:54 p.m., 14 minutes.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you. So my point there, Mr. Speaker, is that each school is a community unto itself and the education of those children is not just put them in a classroom, put them in front of a teacher. You have to make sure the class size is appropriate, and you have to make sure the children who are in that class, that their needs are being met and if there are high-needs children, in other words, with the policy of inclusion, that you have a program assistant, at least one, if not more, in order to deal with the needs of those students. Because it is a constitutional requirement that every student, every child in the Province of Nova Scotia has access to a quality education. This government needs to recognize that and do something about it. It is not good enough to say, sorry, we can't afford it right now, maybe next year, or maybe the year after that. These students, these children, are a tremendous resource to the Province of Nova Scotia and we cannot let them down, I say to the members opposite.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to spend a couple of moments talking about the difficulty facing those administrators, teachers and others who are trying to cope with the challenges. I have talked about parents with children with high needs. I have talked about all parents dealing with a constantly changing state of affairs in their school and the difficulty that makes, the upset, the problems. The pressures on families today is significant in terms of often both parents in a family working or, in single-parent families, the person working and the stress that is added on when there is chaos in the education system and in their school and how that adds to the burden that these people carry. But there are also the challenges facing the people who work in that system, again, the bus drivers, the custodial people, the secretaries, the teachers, the program assistants, teaching assistants, and the school administrators.

This government keeps saying, we are just going after administration. How do you think these schools operate, for Heaven's sake? Administration is a part of any organization. Administration is part of running this House of Assembly. You have to keep track of the people who are here; you have to keep track of the staff who work here; you have to ensure the supplies are here to make sure that this place functions, that it is clean, that it is painted and repaired, and on and on it goes. That is all administration.

[Page 6254]

[6:45 p.m.]

A school is no different than that. It is like the ward of a hospital; if there is not a nurse manager there to carry out the administration for that, somebody is going to have to do it. In a school, if they don't have a secretary, if they don't have resource people, somebody is going to have to carry out that work. So you are putting more functions, more responsibilities on the shoulders of those people who remain in that school, in that classroom. Inevitably what is going to happen, you are not only going to burn out the people who are there, but some things just are not going to get done, whether that is cleaning the halls, cleaning the bathrooms, whether that be minor repairs, whether that be filing letters from parents or information in a file on a student as a result of parent-teacher meetings and so on and so forth. It all has to happen and this government doesn't seem to recognize that.

There is this phantom pool of money in the envelope called administration. That is just people sitting around with their feet up, drinking coffee like they do and not doing anything. That is not the reality. I wish these members would go out into the schools and see what is actually happening right now, follow along behind a school principal for half a day and see how hard that person works and see the kind of time they put in and then maybe they would get a truer picture of what administration really is.

This government is proceeding with this budget and with this Bill No. 47, which is increasingly taking away control from school boards, from the local schools. When they are bringing in a budget that is taking resources out of the classroom, out of the schools, away from the communities, there can only be negative results from that. The reason why this amendment is so important is to give us an opportunity to review the implications, review the impacts of this bill and, hopefully, to understand what it is that needs to be done in order to make sure that the schools continue to function as a positive, constructive environment, to nurture and educate young people in the Province of Nova Scotia. Ultimately that is what we are here for, that is what this government should be focused on, Mr. Speaker. Frankly I am somewhat discouraged when I hear these members say in response to concerns raised by members of this caucus or raised by parents, it is not our fault, it is the budget, it is the deficits, it is the debt and we have to tackle that so put your concerns aside, hold your children back, come up with some other strategies but we have to deal with the deficit and the debt.

As other members have talked about in here, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong-headed and it is folly because there are ways to deal with the deficit and the debt that don't jeopardize the very future of our province. If you restrict the future of our children, you are truly jeopardizing the future of this province. Not only was that not what was promised by members opposite in the election campaign, it just simply does not make sense.

[Page 6255]

If you don't want to listen to me, if you don't want to listen to members of our caucus, listen to other Nova Scotians, listen to the parents who call and send you e-mails and raise concerns, listen to the teachers, listen to the program assistants, listen to those children who have come down here and who have echoed concerns about what you are doing to their system. Listen to those people. Go back to your constituencies and listen to what it is that your constituents are saying about what you are doing to the education system.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the government to that course of action. With this amendment we will have a little time in order to be able to review the implications of that and give members opposite - while the Law Amendments Committee is either across the way in the Red Room hearing presentations, or maybe they will travel throughout the province - the opportunity to talk with their constituents and talk with Nova Scotians in general about how they believe the education system should be managed, should be properly handled.

This will ensure that their children, whether they be in Yarmouth, or in Antigonish, or in Liverpool, or in Truro, or throughout Cape Breton, have an opportunity to get an education that will allow them to compete, not only with other people in Nova Scotia, but with people across the country and around the world. It will put them on an equal footing so that they can, if they decide, move on and grow, start businesses in the province that will succeed and work for employers and provide the trained labour force that it is so important for an economy like ours and who will be our leaders, the women and men who will be the leaders in the province in the next generation. That is what we are talking about here today I would suggest to you. That is what we are talking about when we say an investment in the future of our province.

Mr. Speaker, I understand my time has come to a close. I am going to say that I will be voting in support of the amendment to have the subject matter of Bill No. 47 referred to the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to say a few words about referring Bill No. 47 to the Law Amendments Committee. It is important that we give this bill enough time to be aired, if you will, before it goes any further in this House, or at least the substance of this bill, because there is no other subject matter coming out of this recent budget than the budget of the Education Department because for days upon days during the deliberations on the budget we had protestors out in front of this very building protesting that very budget, the Education Department budget.

Mr. Speaker, the largest problem I think people had with the budget of the Department of Education was the fact that it was incomplete, that the numbers kept changing. It started off that there would be no employment losses except through pensions. Well, we found out very early into those deliberations that, in fact, it would have an impact if it was not clearly

[Page 6256]

understood that the Department of Education had to put funding in there and reallocate some other funding to meet this kind of level of attrition that they said they would get.

We all pretty well know that the government still is not going to meet its target of no teacher lay-offs. We have said this. We have talked to other school boards and we have seen the Halifax Regional School Board and they have said that they are going to lay off, but we don't know the impact of the other lay-offs as it affects janitorial staff, bus drivers, mechanics, librarians. We don't know where that is at, Mr. Speaker. But what did this government do? Did it try to bring clarity to that? No, what it did was bring this bill forward, and the bill is Draconian in nature, if you look at the power it gives the minister. The fact is that this minister will now have the power to get rid of school boards. They say it is a power they won't use. Well, we have seen that we couldn't trust their numbers, why should we trust the statement? Why should we even trust them on this? It is extremely important. If they would go out within the realm of the Law Amendments Committee and hear Nova Scotians on this subject, I think they would change their mind. I think they would have the ability to see that the minister doesn't have to have all those powers vested with her. We have to go and make sure that the powers stay at the local level.

Now, I came from a time in my school days when most municipalities ran school boards. These school boards, in the Town of New Waterford at that point, there used to be three high schools, Mount Carmel, Saint Agnes where I went to and Central.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many Catholics, how many Protestants?

MR. CORBETT: They were referred to at that time, Mr. Speaker, two Catholic schools and a Protestant school. Each one of those institutions were interesting in their dynamic because you had a relatively small mining town and you had, whether it is scholastically or on the playing field of the soccer pitch or whatever, the basketball court, there was always a great rivalry amongst these groups. You know, when all was said and done, there was a general camaraderie of where you were from. While that type of schooling does not exist in the Town of New Waterford now, there is a larger high school, and a good high school it is, the home of the Coal Bowl. What would be the fear here, if that power was centrally focused to the minister to determine if these schools amalgamated or where the schools are going to be, how can we ever be sure that the best interests of the people in that community will be looked after, because, as we see it, the government is primarily running solely on dollars and cents and not common sense.

The idea of centralizing power for anything in this province, centralizing it here in Halifax is wrong. Mr. Speaker, we don't have to extrapolate that too much further to say, do we now just have metro seats for this Legislature, and we will govern with people elected from the metropolitan region. I think most people in this province would be rightfully upset if we talked in those terms. The South End of Halifax ruling the rest of the province. While, they may do that financially, I suggest that it would be wrong to do that electorally. That is

[Page 6257]

why that part of the legislation has to be vetted to a larger audience, if you will. Whether it is over here in the Red Chamber, or whether it is by committee travelling throughout the province. It is an extremely important aspect of this bill that the province invest its right in the minister to yea and nay school boards.

[7:00 p.m.]

The school boards may not be perfect and that may be kind to some school boards. There are some problems with some of the school boards, but certainly throwing the baby out with the bath water type of attitude is not the way to go. If there are problems at that level, I think that by vetting it with Nova Scotians and finding out if they had problems with their local school boards and how to best define them, that would be much better and I think the minister would be served well by that. They would have that information to make a clear and honest assessment of what to do with the education needs of this province.

We go back to the problems that were foisted on us by this budget, and there was clearly one of no consultation. They made the large statement that 400 teachers will be retiring this year. Well, those words hadn't hit the microphone when anybody that was anybody in the education system said no, that is not going to happen. There is just no way that 400 teachers are going to retire this year, and shortly after that school board after school board and various locals of the Teachers Union came here to say no, and gave us the factual numbers, and it was well below that and I would say below the 100 mark.

Now they were forced into doing that, they had to regroup. In this regrouping they said, hold the ball for awhile and go and hold some meetings with some of the various school board administrators around the province, and lo and behold, after a couple of weeks of trying to pound that stuff up, they came with an agreement. This agreement consisted of new money, more money being placed in the envelope, if you will. More, when we were being told day in and day out there was not more money.

We were told there was no more money in the budget for schools, then lo and behold under this restructuring they found more. What signal does that send to the rest of the people who are involved in the process here that this government put in more money when it said it didn't have any more. What it told people who deal with this department and this minister, it told them quite clearly that if pushed, they will capitulate. They will do something other than what they said. They have entered themselves into a problem, not just with the school boards, but I would suspect in negotiating with universities.

Universities may well have gotten a $4 million increase in their funding; not all have. Not all universities, through this budget, got that increase. As we have seen on the floor of this House, by questions in the last few days, the University College of Cape Breton actually had $1.5 million taken away from them. Just taken away and when asked to explain this, the deputy minister merely said, I can do it, I can take that money and I can do it. It was promised

[Page 6258]

to them, they had built their budget this year, which I don't think I will be shocking you to tell you that budget is extremely tight and if you take out $1.5 million out of that budget it makes tough times extremely tough.

Trying to deal with smaller budgets as they were, UCCB was trying to probably rationalize some staff movements, so that probably meant some buy-outs and maybe some early retirements.

In some ways, while the money was referred to as trades and trade program money, they had some leeway with it, Mr. Speaker. This money, I say to you, they could have allotted for other ways and helped with the easing of the pressure of offering early retirement packages, and so on. But, no, this was taken from them. They found out about this budget shortfall while the Budget Address was going on in this very House. They weren't given any warning on it or any such thing.

So what do the university president and the chairman of the board do? They try to arrange a meeting with the minister, but that is a no-can-do. What they have to do, is they have to go down to a defeated Tory candidate in Cape Breton and beg for a meeting, the former member for Cape Breton West, Alfie MacLeod, who is now in the Cabinet office in Sydney. So they had to go down and beg for a meeting. Why does the University College of Cape Breton have to be treated in such a way? I am sure that if it was the president of one of the local universities, it would have been like that and the deed is done. But, no. Was there a moment when they took this money away from this institution and said, look, maybe we should revisit this because the people in Cape Breton, right now, are right against it, economically. No matter what political stripe you are, no matter what level of politics you are, they see that as a beacon of hope. They see it as an institution that helped train our young people for the new economy.

No, Mr. Speaker, that was taken away with just the curt phrase of well, we took it. We needed the money to reduce the expenditures, so we took it. We just took it. Was there any thought at all about how that impacts on that economy? I say there wasn't. It was a callous decision made in Halifax. That is why I bring that up, because it goes to the point of decisions being made in Halifax that affect all of Nova Scotia, but it is centralized on Hollis Street or wherever, at the minister's prerogative, and that is it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know you have some idea of what I am talking about because you were fortunate enough to be a Minister of Education, at one time. So you know that while you have to be prudent with your dollars, that you cannot just use that as the only bar to measure how well you spend your money. You cannot arbitrarily say that the operating costs of the University College of Cape Breton get $1 million, the same as everybody across the board, because that is just not workable. It is not workable in the sense that if you took the components of a liberal arts college and put their programs into bins and weighed them, they are not as weighted as if you look at the science and technology trades at UCCB. The

[Page 6259]

components there are much more expensive than just a liberal arts college. So, by way of comparison, I don't think it is fair to compare the funding of UCCB with Mount Saint Vincent, because they don't have that same weight ratio. Furthermore, some of these other weighted factors, say the Mount, they don't really even offer those directly, they send their students by bus into the city here and they can use Dalhousie.

There is a problem with centralizing more power with the minister and why this bill should be referred back, to allow people like the board from UCCB and its president to come here and talk about what the $1.5 million out of their budget really means to them. It is not unlike anybody else who is running a business or a household or anything like that. If you believe the money is there and then it is expunged, then you have problems. There is a real problem, Mr. Speaker, because I think you have to think about it in terms of, we took it, we wanted it and we took it.

The idea that that funding in particular was to be over a three or four year period was given at various times and with the expressed idea of helping this institution along. It was not to be, Mr. Speaker. A decision was made here in Halifax.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will probably come back to UCCB later but I want to talk about a few other things, in particular, special needs children. I can remember back in the early 1960's when one of the oldest programs for special needs was at St. Agnes Elementary School in New Waterford, in the old Primary Building. It was an interesting concept because I tell you, I was probably nine or ten years old when this program came into effect. It was interesting because it wasn't very long after the fact that the idea that people who were mentally challenged were kept at home and were not to be talked about, quite frankly. It is not a time that any of us are proud of but that was the reality of life and that is where it was.

Mr. Speaker, there was a woman who took over this class, by the name of Christina MacDonald; in New Waterford, she has the nickname of Tiny MacDonald. That woman worked tirelessly with these children. You didn't realize what was going on at the time but when you looked back, this woman was taking children who were not much far removed from being kept home alone and not being bothered with, not being talked about, into integrating them. It started off in little ways, like those times you would have recess and the children would be getting a recess and then the lunch breaks and so on. You know you realize after a few years what is going on here, you realize that they are taking these human beings and making them as much a part of society as they can.

This was a new idea, Mr. Speaker. As I say, looking back that is almost 40 years ago. You rush the clock ahead to today, and one of the first calls I got after this disastrous budget was from a teacher at St. Agnes Elementary School who does the exact same thing today. Those parents who had called me, in a span of 24 hours, I got over 60 calls in Halifax from parents and teachers alike, 60 people.

[Page 6260]

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring that up because that program has been at that school for over 40 years. This day I still see some of the folks who were there for Mrs. MacDonald's first class and I see young children go by my mother's house on the way to school. These children are sent to that class in a very loving environment, that helps them very much.

[7:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: And it helps the other kids, too.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, it does. Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues says it helps the other children. It does. It gives them certainly a great deal of respect for these students, but in talking to one of the parents, a fellow by the name of Trevor Leadbeater, Trevor called me earlier on in this and said, what are you going to do? What can we do?

Mr. Speaker, it was not so much that Trevor was worried that the teacher was going to get laid off. He was certainly worried about that. He did not want to see anybody in an area with an economy like Cape Breton to lose a job. His own son, he said, I think it is important that he is exposed to the school atmosphere and so on, but it is not that and he said, we have gone to that school together. He said for years there has been an appreciation of what that class does and he said whether it is my child or my next door neighbour's child, or somebody from somewhere else's child, it is the opportunity lost. These people were not talking about, oh, woe, it is me, I am burdened, I have a special needs child who puts pressure on me economically, it puts pressure on my marriage.

No, Mr. Speaker, in typical giving fashion they are saying, what about everybody else? How can this decision about these gifted children be decided, not by us, not by the taxpayers here, but by a bureaucrat in Halifax? So that is another reason why this should be referred to the Law Amendments Committee now before this bill gets further because it is people like that who have to come and share their thoughts with these committees or, better still, I should say that this committee comes out to hear them and go out into areas because, by and large what we saw as protests about education around this building, you could probably take a compass and square it off about an hour away and that is where most of the protesters came from because some worked in the education sector so they could not come here. If you were in Yarmouth, or you were in Cape Breton, you could not make those long treks and be back at work the next day, or whatever, so by and large what we saw was just a very localized protest. You just could not come up here from Cape Breton.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Bill and I are on the Law Amendments Committee. We are happy to go on a trip.

MR. CORBETT: My friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, says he and the member for Timberlea-Prospect are on the the Law Amendments Committee and would be glad to go out on the road to expose this bill.

[Page 6261]

MR. EPSTEIN: Even if we have to go with the Tories.

MR. CORBETT: Yes. But, Mr. Speaker, you know, these people need a voice and that is why it has to go there because the idea that this bill represents two things, that this is what Nova Scotians want and this is what Nova Scotians voted for, is utterly wrong. Nova Scotians don't want this. Nova Scotians want a government that is economically prudent. There is no argument there. There is nobody saying throw money at the problem. We want a government that is economically prudent, but we also want a government that can combine being prudent and being caring.

That is what is wrong here. Bill No. 47 is primarily a bill that allows this government to centralize power here in Halifax and I could not say wrong enough times to tell you just how opposed I am to that idea, that power anywhere should be centralized here in Nova Scotia. I do not have to tell you about how the Acadians would feel about having power centred here in Halifax. When questions are asked of the minister about how this affects the Acadian school system in this province, they are not very forthright with the answers. I think we have major problems there. I know you and your colleague, the member for Richmond, are of Acadian descent. I certainly would never attempt for either one of you fine gentlemen, but I know that you have concerns. You have asked questions about this issue. I don't think you sit down satisfied, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when you hear the answers there. This government should be forthright with them, but they are not.

We have gone almost 10 months with this government now since election day. They have flip-flopped and tried to redefine themselves more times than any chameleon could ever think of. They have gone and distanced themselves from their infamous blue book. They have distanced themselves from promises made in the previous budget. We were here last fall debating with this government about a surcharge on 911 calls, and now they try to backdoor us. This bill should be referred to the Law Amendments Committee so we can get that wide perspective. It is not a bill as simple as say dealing with a university charter. Say if we were dealing with a university, and we will call it Acadia. Mr. Speaker, one would think that would be a relatively easy bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who sponsored that bill?

MR. CORBETT: I think it was the member for Kings North.

So that should be a fairly easy bill in content to get through. In my short time in this House, and you are much more senior to this House than I am, Mr. Speaker, but those types of bills, you call them pro forma or motherhood type of issues. You go, you give them a rubber stamp, and you move on. On a relatively innocuous bill, you talk about coming in with guns blazing. There were two sides of Acadia University there that, my goodness, I am glad they were all learned men and women because they were kind of embarrassing.

[Page 6262]

AN HON. MEMBER: You are on the wrong bill.

MR. CORBETT: I am on the right bill. I am drawing a parallel. Mr. Speaker, if the boys went to the cracker barrel over there I could tell them. This is the idea. This government doesn't understand legislation. There is nothing simple with this government, Mr. Speaker, except for their thought process.

So that seemingly innocent bill, I don't think will see the light of day. Mr. Speaker, this goes to the point of, if a relatively simple bill can get so befuddled with this group, could you imagine what an all-encompassing bill like this, Bill No. 47, could become without the clear vision of the Law Amendments Committee, and people could give us the outside thought process on this very bill. This bill, and any bill that deals with education, has an impact on the economy of this province. We cannot educate our children to become productive citizens, if we don't allow them to reach their full potential, we have certainly failed. So the most important aspect here is the ability for the children to reach out and get a good education.

We may, by virtue of this bill making such an uneasy and uneven playing field for people to get educated in, and I will come back later to it, because I said about UCCB and how that playing field, at the secondary level, is not level. That causes so much of a problem, do we centralize all of our powers with the Minister of Education? Is that the right way to go?

AN HON. MEMBER: No!

MR. CORBETT: No, I don't think so, either, Mr. Speaker. Power to the people on the different rungs of the ladder. That is what we have got to do, we can't be taking it away, we have got to be giving it.

Mr. Speaker, one could say that I have seen some smart and bright moves in the right direction from the Minister of Education which would encourage me to maybe do that. However, I have not seen that from this minister, I have not seen a move like that yet. She has stumbled more times than a full-back with a broken leg and she has continuously embarrassed the people in the education system. She has told us, don't worry, it is all under control. The only substantive thing that that minister has done is let her EA purchase a $6,500 laptop while she cuts other programs.

Mr. Speaker, this is a problem that was created by the minister herself, that she does not have the confidence of the majority of people in this province. There are people in this province who may say, look, I agree with cuts, that they have to be done; but what she has done, she has flip-flopped and people are saying, I don't know - do we need cuts? How many is it going to be? Do we know if she makes a statement is she going to stick by it this week? If she sets a budget down is she going to stay with it? Well, we don't know. We don't know because this minister will not stay in one place and make a stand. She has really done more

[Page 6263]

harm to the education system in her nine months as minister, than probably the last 10 Ministers of Education could ever even have thought about.

Primarily, she went with a slash and burn mentality and she didn't care what she torched until she realized that these slashes and cuts aren't just pieces of paper, they are people. They were real people, teachers who were working who won't be working and providing a pay cheque in the house. There are librarians who provide a necessary service in the schools that won't be there, who will not be getting a paycheque. There will be bus drivers laid off and there will be janitors laid off. These are real people, these are not just a list with numbers on it and say we are going to cut and that is it. No more, don't worry about them.

I would suspect that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is in the top four or five employers in Cape Breton County. Now, when you start whittling away at jobs there, you are whittling away at one of the largest employers, yet that is what this minister proposes to do. Why don't we allow the people from that area to come to the Law Amendments Committee before this bill goes any further and tell their story and tell about the impact. They can give the reason why this is not about numbers and just cutting numbers off a budget. There are faces with those numbers. There are people out there who will be not only just be laid off but will be devastated, that is not a word you like to use but it is a word that will impact.

There are young families who are affected. As I was saying before when this budget came down, there was one young teacher who called me and said that she was preparing to start a family and they were looking at buying a home. As a matter of fact, she is pregnant as I speak, Mr. Speaker, but everything else is on hold. I think they are going to continue renting. They are not going to buy and all these other implications because now, they don't know.

[7:30 p.m.]

Another side of that, Mr. Speaker, are the ones that are just throwing their hands up in disgust and have said, look, I have had enough of being tugged around in this province. I am out of here, that this province doesn't appreciate me and I am going elsewhere to look for work. That is not isolated. These are quite a few fine young minds that will be leaving. We lose two ways. Firstly, we lose because we are losing these fine young minds, people who want to be school teachers, those who want to stay here in Nova Scotia and help us. Secondly, we lose our investment through our universities, the education we invested in these young people that won't be around here because of the cavalier and callous way that this minister has treated these young graduates. They don't want to stay here and be treated like that. There are many opportunities away from here to which they will go.

[Page 6264]

Mr. Speaker, we are the worse off for it because we are the ones that are losing these bright young minds. We lose their energy and all that they bring to the job. As I say, God knows how we lost in investment over the years of educating these fine young people. There is no employment at the end of the rainbow or, if there is, that these people don't find that they want to put their life on hold that long to try and do that. They just want to get on with life and that is, again, part of the reason why we have to put the essence of this bill over to the Law Amendments Committee and allow these people to come and speak to us before they leave the province, to tell us their thoughts and tell us, quite directly, why they think what is going on here is wrong. I think that would be a lesson for us all to learn. It would be good for most of us to hear. I don't think they are going to have an opportunity to do that.

I certainly would love to hear those stories, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you would, because these people are just so full of energy and want to be part of helping the economy of all of Nova Scotia grow. Therein lies another one of our problems. We have got an economy that is centred in this greater metropolitan Halifax area. We have an area, rural Nova Scotia - whether it is Yarmouth, or Pictou, or Cape Breton, Victoria County and various places - where we are experiencing real hard economic times.

So, if we centralize power back here again, that is going to cause other problems while I think some of these decisions are well meant, they may not be mean in spirit, what happens is that they are made in the context of how this economy is going. If you live in this area, Nova Scotia certainly seems, by itself, to have a robust economy. When you go out and whether it is in Colchester or Cumberland or Lunenburg or Inverness or Victoria Counties, that isn't necessarily the way it is going.

One thing that these areas seem to have going for them is the IT sector. It is still in its infancy, it is still so new, but we see a growth area there. Those jobs can grow there, Mr. Speaker, but if we don't have the education system in place to help educate these fine young people to get out and get involved as the new entrepreneurs in that sector, it is all going to be lost. We are not going to have any businesses in Musquodoboit, we are not going to have businesses of that type in Lantz or in Ottawa Brook or any place like that, or Iona. We are not going to have any of those things because what we have done is brought all the power to Halifax, and the rest of the province will be akin to a Third World nation.

With that in mind too, Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the $1.5 million that was hived off UCCB because it is so important when I talk about the IT sector, because they are now in the midst of negotiating with the federal government, getting these chairs of excellence that just came out in the federal budget. With those chairs of excellence comes certain research money, and if they don't have the staff to avail themselves of that research money, it goes for naught, and I would suspect they would lose those chairs. Again, a loss for Cape Breton, a loss in a system that can't afford another loss.

[Page 6265]

We have to realize, through the Department of Education, that that university is more and means more to Cape Breton finding its way in the new economy than most universities around this province. I would dare say that if you took St. Francis Xavier University out of Antigonish or Acadia University out of Wolfville, those economies would suffer severely. Mr. Speaker, I would tell you that if UCCB was to be taken out of Cape Breton, that it would be devastating because, as I said before, we are not just talking about a liberal arts-type education here, we are talking about trades training, technology training, technology and science engineering that are expensive programs to put on.

I think what is also interesting to understand about UCCB is the fact that it is the newest of all the universities, so therefore, it doesn't have a rich history of graduates to be part of the alumni association and to feed money and to help it grow. It is like any new venture. A new venture needs more seed capital than an older operation, so that, again, should have been another reason why that $1.5 million should never have been touched, because it is so important that that university be allowed to reach its full potential.

Quite honestly, that may mean for the time being some imbalancing of revenues to them greater than to other institutions, so you can bring them up to that level, so it can attract that type of student who would ordinarily go somewhere else in this province, indeed in this country, that it could be able to attract those people, Mr. Speaker. It needs that time to grow, so that $1.5 million was so important there and that is one of the reasons, again, why we need to have this bill sent off to Law Amendments Committee, so that the government can answer questions about why that was taken off.

I don't think it is fair, again, for them to simply say we needed the money to reduce expenditures, so we took it. What is next, Mr. Speaker? Is the only way that kids in school are going to get milk is the expired stuff because we can get it cheaper?

That is a Halifax-based decision. It was not a decision of that university. It was, I would say not even a wise global decision in the fact that the budgetary process, they would just go and take out that money and say that is it and you are not getting anymore, we took it because we wanted to take it. I think they have told UCCB when they asked for further rationale on the taking of this money, they were told, well we broke some other commitments in the budget and they weren't specific about them and yes, it is true that a letter from Lloyd Gillis contained no options for the annual review or other budget contingencies, but we took the money away anyway. They just took it away.

The withdrawal of that money seems no more than the punishment of Cape Bretoners for not voting with the government. I can't explain it any other way. Why would they do that? Did they go take that $1.5 million and reinvest it in Primary to Grade 12? I don't think so. They didn't reinvest it anywhere, where did it go? Poof. This government has told institutes of higher learning that our word is worth nothing, that we don't care, that we broke our promise, but so what? So what? So, if that is the message, then indeed I think any new bills

[Page 6266]

concerning education coming out of this government have to be held to a special form of scrutiny. (Interruption)

I just think they saw next year's budget. I think this very House could use some hall monitors, but (Interruptions) someone said he saw a mouse over there. Every day I look over, I see a bunch of rats. (Laughter) Where is the ferret when you need it? Some heckling is just too easy. Somebody just got to let it lie.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is when we saw this type of heavy-handedness that was used on UCCB coming from the Department of Education, the minister's office, in particular, by the deputy, we have to realize that if this is the way they are going to play with the budgets of our institutes of higher learning, then where are we on the level of honesty? I think that these bills have to be scrutinized, that we have to go in and have a full airing of what is a promise to be kept and what is just a political promise? What is a promise made during an election campaign and what is the reality of a budget?

We had discussions here and questions asked to the Minister of Finance in this very House yesterday about how the debt is going to be carried from these school boards and he gave anything but a satisfactory or knowledgable answer. My friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto asked that yesterday and really did not get any kind of full and straightforward answer from that minister.

We believe that Bill No. 47, if it was sent on and referred to the Law Amendments Committee, that we could certainly allow these people, whether it is the Board of Directors and the President of UCCB allow them their ability to get their side of the story told and allow a full airing of what really happened to that $1.5 million. Was it, as the minister would have you believe, a political promise made by another government that did not have to be honoured by their government? Was it monies invested in the educational process in an economically deprived area that would help an institution kind of get somewhat to a level playing field as the administration portrays it?

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, those are questions I think will be answered out there and I think that shedding that light on them we would find out who indeed is right there because whoever is right, whether it was a political expedient process done by another government, it still does not make this government right in taking it away without any reasonable explanation. To merely say, we needed the money so we took it, is not good enough. I think the minister and her staff have to be more open, whether it is the Nova Scotia Council on Higher Education, whether they have to come before the Law Amendments Committee and talk about the

[Page 6267]

funding for universities in this province. Indeed, maybe we can get into discussion about the necessity of that organization, if it is necessary at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one was that?

MR. CORBETT: The Nova Scotia Council on Higher Education. Maybe that should be where we are going. Maybe we should be looking at the necessity of that, not giving the minister the power to merely go and take away the elected right of school boards, because the last time I looked at the Nova Scotia Council on Higher Education, there is nobody elected on there. They are pretty well all appointed. They have no obligations to anybody, I would say, but the Party in power, and very little there.

Mr. Speaker, we are looking at a system here if this bill is allowed to go forward, it would centralize its power here in metropolitan Halifax by way of the minister's office. The minister would have the ability to take away, revoke, whatever you want to call it, the elected officials in any school board. I don't think Nova Scotians want that and I think she would hear it loud and clear if she went out. She can tell us that that is not her intention . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is like the 911 tax.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, we were told there would be no 911 tax. Well, Mr. Speaker, it was back-doored. We were told that no matter what happens with the Education budget, the funding was proper, there would be no lay-offs and there would be no more money put into it. Pick which one of them did not come true, you know, holy jumpins, this group. So now we are supposed to believe, no, no, no, trust us, we are not going to go and take over school boards. Trust us, we are not going to take over school boards.

Mr. Speaker, just think if the minister sitting next to her, in his legislation that was in front of this House, he wants these new health boards all to be appointed. The fat process does not go very far - well, in that group it does not go very far anyway - but that is the way to look at it. It is right there. They don't want Nova Scotians to have a voice in how anything is governed. They believe that along with a cadre of friends they can go and have a little back-room deal made, they will know how to straighten out the finances of the province. They will know how to straighten out the fiances within education; not with people that are duly elected, but with people that very seldom go out to be seen politically in the light of day. More of the back-room type boys that will kind of shepherd them through some of this very mess that we have. Mr. Speaker, this is a real problem, and I don't know where the minister is going with it, and I think we should refer this to the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 6268]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I propose that we talk the only language that the government seems to understand, so let's talk about money. I pose for the members of this House, a question. The question is, why is it that in the Province of Nova Scotia, the one area which is markedly, obviously, clearly wealthier than any other is the Halifax-Dartmouth Metropolitan area?

Now, is it because of our vast forests on Inglis Street? Well, I don't think it is because of vast forests on Inglis Street. Is it because of our fruitful orchards on Robie Street? Well, I don't think so. Is it because of our great fishery? Well, not in Halifax Harbour, I don't think so. Is it because of our wealthy gypsum mines on Spring Garden Road? Well, I don't think so. Is it because we have steel mills and coal mines on Duke Street? The answer is obviously, no. Is it because, out on the Bedford Highway, we have great manufacturing facilities? It is not that either.

So, I invite members of this House in a fairly simple and straightforward analysis of why it is, given that we don't have right here in the Halifax-Dartmouth Metropolitan Region this vast abundance of natural resources, why is it that we are so wealthy here compared with the rest of the province? Do you know what? On Inglis Street, there may not be forests, but there is Saint Mary's University. On Robie Street, there may not be orchards, but there is Dalhousie University. On Spring Garden Road, there may not be gypsum mines, but there is the Technical University of Nova Scotia, TUNS, now DalTech. Over on Duke Street, we have the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Out on the Bedford Highway, we have Mount Saint Vincent University. (Interruptions) This is the centre and, I am being told by the honourable Minister of Health that there is another degree-granting institution on Francklyn Street, and I am perfectly aware of that, but I thank him for his assistance, nonetheless.

Now, the obvious answer to the extent of the wealth in this part of the province, compared with the rest of the province is that this is a centre of learning and education. This is a city where education is valued from Primary to Grade 12 to post-secondary education in all its manifestations. That is the reason that this is the centre of wealth in this province, and will continue to be, because the economy, worldwide, has transformed itself to the point where it is a knowledge-based economy, and that is what is going to generate wealth for us and all of our nation. If that government is not prepared to take that seriously, they are missing out entirely. They have got it wrong. They have the wrong picture in their head, and yet, the picture is obvious, there is no reason why they should be able to miss out.

Let me tell you how seriously the residents of Halifax-Dartmouth take education as an important value. Halifax and Dartmouth are the only two metropolitan areas of the province where the citizens voluntarily pay additional money on their municipal tax bills, specifically designed to give extra money to their school system, called supplementary education funding, because the adults in Halifax and Dartmouth are firmly of the opinion that the way forward

[Page 6269]

for their children, for their cities, for this province, is investing in education. That is what is going to continue to guarantee the predominant position of metropolitan Halifax-Dartmouth inside this province, compared with any other area.

Let me tell you, if the vision of that government is allowed to predominate, we are lost. We are simply lost. We are gone because they have failed to read the message that is so obvious to all of the rest of us. I find it particularly appalling that it is a Minister of Education from South End Halifax who ought to know better, who is leading us astray with Bill No. 47 and its implications and all that it is tied to, namely the undermining of our education system in the foundation Primary to Grade 12. I do not know how that minister can possibly hold herself out for re-election someday on the basis of that piece of education, when she is betraying the fundamental value that her constituents, abundant with degree-granting institutions, abundant with parents who are prepared to put extra money into their school system. How she is able to face any one of them and say to them, I am your Minister of Education and I value education the same way you do, that will be unbelievable to them. Absolutely unbelievable, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member wish to adjourn debate for today?

MR. EPSTEIN: If you wish, Mr. Speaker, all right. I move that we adjourn the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit until 5:00 p.m., or until the amendment on Bill No. 47 is completed, whichever occurs first will be the time to go home.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]