Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

La Chambre s'est ajournée le
26 octobre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 9, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Justice - Lunenburg Correction Centre: Closure - Cease, Mr. D. Downe 8467
Health - Colchester Reg. Hosp.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 8468
Educ. - Eastern Passage: High School - Need, Mr. K. Deveaux 8469
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Anl. Rept. of the Standing Committee on Resources, Mr. J. DeWolfe 8469
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
EMO - CBRM/Victoria Co.: Disaster Financial Assistance Program -
Implement, Hon. J. Muir 8469
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3186, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Veterans Mem. Hwy.: Tribute -
Recognize, The Premier 8473
Vote - Affirmative 8474
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3187, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Veterans Mem. Hwy.: Planning -
Participants Recognize, Mr. W. Gaudet 8474
Vote - Affirmative 8475
Res. 3188, Peace - Canada: Thanks - Give, Mr. H. Epstein 8475
Vote - Affirmative 8475
Res. 3189, Dartmouth - North End: Anti-Violence March -
Residents Commend, Mr. T. Olive 8476
Vote - Affirmative 8476
Res. 3190, Sysco - Sale: Practice - Non-Customary,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8477
Res. 3191, Dartmouth - North End: Satellite Police Office -
Request Support, Mr. J. Pye 8477
Vote - Affirmative 8478
Res. 3192, N.S. Sport Hall of Fame - Antoft, Kell: Induction - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 8478
Vote - Affirmative 8479
Res. 3193, Health - Shubenacadie Dist. Sch.: Healthy School -
Selection Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 8479
Vote - Affirmative 8479
Res. 3194, Health - Care: Min. Direction, Dr. J. Smith 8480
Res. 3195, Health - South Shore: Health Services Foundation -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 8480
Vote - Affirmative 8481
Res. 3196, Legislation - Form: Plain Language - Adopt,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8481
Res. 3197, Farrell, Betty - Order of St. John: Award - Congrats.,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8482
Vote - Affirmative 8482
Res. 3198, Acadia Univ. - Personal Fin. Serv.: Training Prog. -
Establishment Congrats., Mr. D. Morse 8482
Vote - Affirmative 8483
Res. 3199, Astral Drive Elem. Sch. - Commun. Peace Garden:
Construction - Participants Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 8483
Vote - Affirmative 8484
Res. 3200, Euloth, Ms. Jody - SMU Basketball: Season Opening -
Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 8484
Vote - Affirmative 8485
Res. 3201, OH&S: Red Tape Task Force - Disband, Mr. P. MacEwan 8485
Res. 3202, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roadwork: Priority List -
Publicize, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8485
Res. 3203, Vet. Affs. (Cdn.) - Veterans: Hosp. Beds -
Commitment Honour, Mr. B. Taylor 8486
Vote - Affirmative 8487
Res. 3204, Gov't. (N.S.): Promises - Unkept, Mr. B. Boudreau 8487
Res. 3205, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/98 on): Deficit -
Recognize, Mr. H. Epstein 8488
Res. 3206, HRDC - Adult HS Prog.: Continuation -
Min. Thank, Mr. W. Gaudet 8489
Res. 3207, NDP Leader - Office: Fees - Charge, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8489
Res. 3208, Econ. Dev./Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Mins.: Plan -
Produce, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8490
Res. 3209, Legislative Library: Use - Legitimate, Mr. P. MacEwan 8491
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1015, Health - Flu Vaccinations: Supply - Back-Up Plan,
Mr. W. Gaudet 8491
No. 1016, Environ.: Responsibilities - Departmental,
Mr. John MacDonell 8492
No. 1017, Health - EMC: Dispatchers Strike - Contingency Plan,
Dr. J. Smith 8494
No. 1018, Sysco - Sale: Agreement - Environ. Exemptions,
Mr. F. Corbett 8495
No. 1019, Sysco - Remediation: Funding - Commit,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8496
No. 1020, Educ. - Hfx. West High School: Replacement - Commit,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8497
No. 1021, Justice: Lun. Correction Ctr. - Status, Mr. D. Downe 8498
No. 1022, Health - Cochlear Implants: Access - Provide, Mr. D. Dexter 8499
No. 1023, Health - Dist. Health Authorities: Transition - Timetable,
Dr. J. Smith 8500
No. 1024, Health - Roseway Hosp. (Shel. Co.): Budget - Availability,
Mr. D. Dexter 8501
No. 1025, Educ.: Hfx. West HS - Plans, Mr. W. Gaudet 8502
No. 1026, Educ.: Adult Ed. - Accessibility, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8504
No. 1027, Econ. Dev. - Stream Int'l.: Glace Bay - Locate, Mr. D. Wilson 8505
No. 1028, Health - Sutherland-Harris Mem. Hosp.: Outpatient Serv. -
Reduction, Mr. D. Dexter 8506
No. 1029, Nat. Res. - Sawmill Operators: Fees - Suspend,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8507
No. 1030, Justice - Ruck Comm.: Report - Action Plan, Mr. H. Epstein 8508
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 64, Dairy Industry Act 8509
Mr. John MacDonell 8509
Mr. D. Downe 8515
Hon. E. Fage 8522
Vote - Affirmative 8523
No. 69, Denturists Act 8523
Hon. J. Muir 8523
Dr. J. Smith 8525
Mr. D. Dexter 8529
Hon. J. Muir 8530
Vote - Affirmative 8530
No. 71, Psychologists Act 8530
Hon. J. Muir 8530
Dr. J. Smith 8531
Mr. D. Dexter 8534
Hon. J. Muir 8534
Vote - Affirmative 8534
No. 72, Dental Act 8534
Hon. J. Muir 8534
Dr. J. Smith 8536
Mr. D. Dexter 8537
Hon. J. Muir 8538
Vote - Affirmative 8538
HOUSE RECESSED AT 3:41 P.M. 8538
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:17 P.M. 8538
No. 68, Occupational Health and Safety Act 8538
Hon. A. MacIsaac 8538
Mr. K. Deveaux 8540
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8545
Adjourned debate 8549
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Environ. - Gov't. (N.S.): Obligations - Meet:
Mr. John MacDonell 8550
Mr. P. MacEwan 8552
Hon. G. Balser 8555
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 68, Occupational Health and Safety Act [debate resumed] 8558
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8558
Adjournment of debate moved 8565
Vote - Affirmative 8565
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 10th at 9:00 a.m. 8566

[Page 8467]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

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

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government should meet all of its environmental obligations and should never again try to exempt itself from the Environmental Act and regulations.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition.

"To: The Honourable Michael Baker, Minister of Justice, Province of Nova Scotia

8467

[Page 8468]

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has proposed and announced the closure of the Lunenburg Correctional Centre, scheduled for August 1, 2001 -

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia as follows:

That the Lunenburg Correction Centre remain open because

it provides an incarceration facility for two police departments and five RCMP detachments

it is beneficial to the rehabilitation progress of inmates to remain in their community

it provides volunteer work programs beneficial to Lunenburg County

its staff provide an Alcohol/Drug Outreach Program to youth in schools

it represents about $850,000 in the local economy and provides 18 jobs

Further, closure of the facility would

increase cost of legal council

increase transportation costs of inmates to and from court

displace staff and families"

Mr. Speaker, there are some 337 signatures on this petition, bringing a grand total of over 3,337 signatures. I have signed this petition and I table it before the House today.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to the members of the House, it is my pleasure to introduce two members of the correctional centre who are here because they are concerned about the potential closure of that facility. In the west gallery we have Mr. Dale Conrad and Derwin Swinimer. There will be another member joining them later who I will introduce later. I ask the members of this House to please give a warm welcome as they stand in the gallery to receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from citizens of Truro and the surrounding areas which reads as follows, "We the undersigned are opposed to the planned cuts to the pediatric nursing staff at Colchester Regional Hospital scheduled to begin on November 2, 2000. We believe that a 50% reduction in nursing staff will put our children at risk of being treated in an unsafe health care environment. We demand that the administration of the Colchester Regional Hospital find alternative funding solutions." There are 1,000 signatures and I have affixed my signature.

[Page 8469]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Eastern Passage. The operative clause reads, "According to the 'Evaluation of High Schools' report produced by the Department in May, 2000, Cole Harbour District (High School) is the only school whose projected enrollment exceeds the 'theoretical building maximum'. Given the fact that over 50% of that school's population comes from Eastern Passage and the inability, for logistical reasons, to transfer these students to another school with less capacity pressures, it is our opinion that the only alternative is to build a high school in our community." I have affixed my signature and I will table that, please.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the House a good friend to this side of the House in the east gallery, Mr. Harold Northrup from the community of Colby Village in the riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. Mr. Northrup is a dedicated community volunteer and involved in the auxiliary program at the RCMP office and is also here for the veterans' dedication this morning. I would like to welcome Harold to the gallery. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Standing Committee on Resources.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. It was my pleasure in April of this year to inform this House that a disaster financial assistance policy had been developed for the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 8470]

Under that policy Nova Scotians who sustained uninsurable losses when a disaster occurred would be able to apply for assistance when the eligible costs met a particular threshold.

Mr. Speaker, this House is well aware of the flooding which has occurred in and around the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Victoria County. For two weeks now, rain has saturated the ground and overloaded storm water systems. There has been significant damage to provincial property, municipal works and to the homes of Cape Bretoners. I am pleased to inform the House that after a careful review of the situation, government has today approved the implementation of a Disaster Financial Assistance Program for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Victoria County. (Applause)

We will offer assistance in accordance with the policy announced last April. We will provide assistance to individuals to help them restore their primary residence to a basic level of habitability. We will provide assistance to small businesses to help them get back on their feet, and we will provide assistance to municipalities to help them restore essential public services to a pre-disaster condition. The program will begin immediately. Residents of the affected areas are asked to pay particular attention to the announcements and advertisements which will appear very soon on local media outlets. These will provide additional information on where applications for assistance may be obtained. Under this program, the Emergency Measures Organization will make as much as $2 million of assistance money available to the affected communities of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Victoria County.

Mr. Speaker, let me stress that this is an initial approval, and that if the approved eligible costs exceed that amount, then government is prepared to adjust the plan as may be required. Eligible costs, as members of this House may recall, are determined in strict accordance with the criteria laid out in the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. These arrangements provide for sharing of costs between provinces and the federal government. We know at this point that there are at least 300 homes which may have valid claims for assistance. We know as well that the events have cost the Cape Breton Regional Municipality at least $850,000. Damage to provincially-owned infrastructure is at least $1 million.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge and thank the mayor-elect, council and staff of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, who have worked closely with my staff to develop the information needed to make this decision. They have also agreed to allow us to use their municipal facilities to distribute claim information to affected residents and to help us adjudicate the claims in a timely manner. We appreciate their cooperation and assistance, as this will allow us to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Mr. Speaker, when I announced this policy, I emphasized the government wished to take a balanced approach to disaster financial assistance, one which balanced the need for individuals and local communities to take responsibility for their own security, with the

[Page 8471]

responsibility of the province to assist when the need is legitimate and clear. Let me reiterate, the assistance we will offer under this program is not intended to be a replacement for readily available insurance, nor will it provide for replacement of luxury items. I am confident that it will provide the appropriate assistance for those with legitimate, eligible costs.

In making this policy, we wanted to provide our officials with a yardstick that would allow a timely and accurate assessment of need. I am pleased to inform the House that this approach is working and working well. We have been able to gather information quickly and make an informed decision faster than has ever been possible in the past. While we fully appreciate the disruption and hardship that the weather in Cape Breton has caused, we are pleased that we are able to respond quickly, and we hope that the assistance that is being offered today will provide some measure of comfort and support to those who have been affected by the floods. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his announcement today, although I didn't receive the document until I walked into the Legislature a few moments ago. However, I guess it can be said better late than never. So at least I want to thank the minister for giving me a few minutes.

[12:15 p.m.]

I think, Mr. Speaker, we all have to agree that this is a good announcement today, a good announcement for the people of industrial Cape Breton, as well as areas of my riding. I want to stand and make a few comments to address the statement and thank the minister for bringing it forward today.

Mr. Speaker, this will have been welcome news, particularly for the residents of Glace Bay and throughout the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. There are people who have been waiting for well over a week, 10 days or more, for something to come from the government in relation to the disaster they are facing and the hardships they are facing. We know that the areas of Glace Bay, New Waterford and other areas within the regional municipality are facing difficult times, not only with the flooding, but prior to the flooding; the lack of employment there and the need for jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I hope this program will first serve the needs of the people in need. I know it refers to municipal and provincial infrastructure and my hope is that any monies that are available to this program will first serve the people who need it most and those are the individuals whose houses have been flooded, who have been facing very difficult and trying times over the last week. I hope when the minister says the program will begin immediately, it will. Also, I hope it provides the level of support these homeowners need to bring their homes back to the state it was before the flood arrived or before the flood damage hit them.

[Page 8472]

Mr. Speaker, we see there is $2 million of assistance money available to the affected communities of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and, of course, in Victoria County. That is, indeed, good news for areas of Victoria County, where there is mostly infrastructure damage through roadwork and, I hope, as I said earlier on, that that will be the last to receive the funds after the homeowners in Glace Bay and industrial Cape Breton are served first, that their homes will be brought back to the state they were before the flood hit.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister will not have a fine line in what he considers a luxury item. Is it their automobile? Would it be their radios or their televisions, which they need to bring the news to them? I would hope the minister will not have a fine line when he is referring to luxury items. Whatever a home had in it that was damaged by this flood, I think that should be part of the replacement package.

Again, I am pleased to see the announcement made today and I hope, as I said, that the minister will move quickly to bring, not only the news to the flooded victims, but the news will be followed by a cheque.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this is basically good news. I would like to quote the Premier, when he was in Opposition in February 1998, when he said that a week is too long. So let that be a guideline.

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to say that I hope the $2 million is for individuals and residents, in particular. I notice that the minister did state the damages for the municipality is $850,000, which is a cash-strapped municipality, and $1 million for infrastructure for the province. I hope that is separate from the $2 million, when we are talking about that because it leaves just $150,000 then for residences and businesses.

Mr. Speaker, I think when we talk about the insurability, if you will, we also have to be cognizant of the dire economic straits in industrial Cape Breton and, indeed, Victoria County, and that, as I said many times in this House, some people are now seeing that homeowners' insurance is a luxury. I hope the minister will take that into account. These are extremely trying times when you are hit with a double-whammy of losing your job and losing many of your personal possessions and, indeed, your principal residence. I think we have to be aware of that.

I also would like to ask the minister to realize that his criteria are guidelines and could certainly be revisited to maybe look at a deductible more in the range of $500 where most insurance companies are, Mr. Speaker. These people have already been hit and it has been admitted that it is a disaster through no fault of their own. So we shouldn't be hitting them with another financial hit. Maybe if there has to be a deductible, maybe we should be looking

[Page 8473]

at one that is in line with accepted insurance practices across North America, which is in the range of $500.

I don't want to be completely negative about this, Mr. Speaker, because I appreciate that this government at least has the criteria in place, better than the previous government. So I want to say this is a step. I hope the minister realizes that there are some really serious economic problems that go beyond this flooding and that they would be taken into consideration. I appreciate the fact that this can be revisited. I hope that we get on very soon with the filling out of these claims and getting on to rebuilding and, hopefully, having most people's lives put in order because you can see, walking around the town, people are getting ready for the Yuletide season already. I think we should have something to look forward to.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for the statement today. I want to ask him to make sure that he keeps an eye on it that, indeed, if the claims have gone beyond what is anticipated, that there will be further action. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3186

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas today our province commemorated the portion of Highway No. 102 stretching from Truro to the intersection of Highway No. 118 and Bicentennial Highway as Veterans Memorial Highway; and

Whereas this commemoration is a fitting tribute to the thousands of veterans who gave their youth to preserve the freedoms and the way of life that we enjoy today; and

Whereas Veterans Memorial Highway will stand not only as a tribute to all veterans but also will stand as a message to all Nova Scotians and to those entering and exiting our province through this busy stretch that we will not forget their sacrifice;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize the courage of all of Nova Scotia's veterans and acknowledge Veterans Memorial Highway as a lasting tribute to those men and women who sacrificed so much so that we are able to enjoy the peace and freedoms for which they fought.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8474]

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. (Prolonged Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3187

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

Whereas all Nova Scotia Scotians owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, who sacrificed so much for our freedom and for democracy; and

Whereas it is important to recognize the contribution of our veterans, especially as we approach Remembrance Day; and

Whereas the Truro to Halifax highway known as Highway No. 102, has been renamed Veterans Memorial Highway in honour of those who served our country;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the MLA for Colchester North, the members of the Veterans Affairs Committee, the Premier, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Royal Canadian Legion, and all those who have made this project a reality.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8475]

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3188

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

Whereas today marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of the Broken Glass, when the Nazi Government unleashed a pogrom against the Jews of Germany on November 9, 1938; and

Whereas Kristallnacht marked the start of a movement towards an unspeakably horrific attempt to kill an entire people; and

Whereas the Holocaust has been in turn followed by other attempts, by other governments in other lands, to kill entire peoples - known in our times as "ethnic cleansings";

Therefore be it resolved that this House give thanks for the peace that prevails in our nation, condemn government violence directed against defenceless people, and look forward to the day that Canada's peacekeeping role, however honourable, will not again be necessary.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

[Page 8476]

RESOLUTION NO. 3189

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

Whereas about 200 residents of the north end of Dartmouth marched together last night to signify their deep concern for street violence in the community; and

Whereas the local Boys and Girls Club organized the march which crossed Victoria Road to Pinecrest Drive and stopped at the location where former member, Jason MacCullough, was murdered over a year ago; and

Whereas the parents of the young teen addressed the march and said,"When a house is on fire, everybody has to help put it out, because the next one could be yours,"

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend these Dartmouth residents for pulling together in a show of force against criminal activity and violence, and join with these residents and the community to work together to, as one eleven-year-old girl so simply put it, "stop the hurt and violence in the North End."

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank on an introduction.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the members of this House in the east gallery, a resident of Sackville, Steve Craig. He is the President of Lake and District Recreation Association, and a good friend of members of this side of the House. I would ask members to give him the usual warm welcome. (Applause)

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

[Page 8477]

RESOLUTION NO. 3190

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

Whereas every day we are reminded how rudderless the ship of state has become under the current Premier; and

Whereas the latest example is the sale of Sysco, in which the province is giving Duferco the money to take the plant; and

Whereas the Premier seems oblivious to the fact that he claimed poverty when steelworkers asked for more assistance with their pension plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier recognize he has paid a company to buy Sysco, which is contrary to the customary practice of purchasing something for a specified amount of money.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3191

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

Whereas crime in north end Dartmouth is a major concern for residents in the area; and

Whereas 300 residents, led by the Boys and Girls Club of Dartmouth marched in the streets last night in the hopes of taking back their community from crime; and

Whereas Jim Smith, Councillor for the area, said "It's time we take back our streets. It's time we make it clear that we're not going to be a haven for criminal activity";

[Page 8478]

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the community of north end Dartmouth in their call for a satellite police office in the area, and congratulate the residents for taking back their community.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 3192

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

Whereas Mr. Kell Antoft was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in the builder's category on October 27th; and

Whereas Mr. Antoft helped build enthusiasm for the sport of skiing in Nova Scotia for people of all ages by encouraging participation more than competition; and

Whereas the Lunenburg County native, Mr. Antoft, joins Freda Whales in the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame for contributing to the sport of skiing;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Mr. Antoft as the newest inductee into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame and wish him success in all his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8479]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3193

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

Whereas public health awareness leads to a superior lifestyle for the general population; and

Whereas public health awareness must begin at the elementary school level in order to have a lifetime and cumulative effect; and

Whereas Shubenacadie District School was recently selected as this year's, Healthy School, by the Public Health Services for their good ideas on staying fit;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the staff and students of Shubenacadie District School for their initiative and leadership in this important aspect of improving our lives.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 8480]

RESOLUTION NO. 3194

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

Whereas yesterday in this House the Health Minister needed a geography lesson to learn the difference between Pictou and Tatamagouche; and

Whereas it is no wonder the minister does not know his way around the province, because many Nova Scotians have been telling him to get lost; and

Whereas the two towns probably appear the same to the minister because they are both dealing with terrible cuts to their hospitals;

Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister has proven once again that he does not know where he is, where he is going or where he is taking the health care system.

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 Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 3195

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

Whereas the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore has initiated a fund-raising campaign to raise funds to purchase an echocardiography laboratory; and

Whereas the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore has sponsored the Jeans and Gems, A Blue Denim Gala fund-raiser, which was held recently at the Nova Scotia Community College, Lunenburg Campus; and

Whereas the Jeans and Gems fund-raiser was a tremendous success, with the foundation receiving $12,000 towards their goal;

[Page 8481]

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore on their fund-raising success and wish them continued success as they proceed towards their goal.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3196

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

Whereas Nova Scotians quite properly want to know how they will be affected by the various decisions that we make in this Chamber; and

Whereas members of this Legislature would like Nova Scotians to know what we are working on when we are in this Chamber; and

Whereas bills that are debated, perhaps amended and passed or rejected are usually written in very technical language;

Therefore be it resolved that bills brought before this Legislature also be made available in a plain language form.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 8482]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3197

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

Whereas first-aid instructor Betty Farrell has received a national St. John award; and

Whereas Betty Farrell was among 150 people from across Canada who received the Order of St. John; and

Whereas the Order of St. John is given to individuals for their outstanding service to St. John Ambulance, to their community and, most importantly, to humanity;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Betty Farrell for this outstanding service and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3198

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

Whereas Acadia University is recognized internationally as a leader in modern education techniques, as was evident with the recent and successful introduction of the Acadia Advantage Program; and

[Page 8483]

Whereas the university has recently added to its list of innovative educational opportunities by establishing a program through the Fred C. Manning School of Business that will teach students to become specialists in personal financial services; and

Whereas the program will be the first of its kind in Canada, placing Acadia at the forefront of training for the securities and banking industries;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the establishment of the personal financial services training program at Acadia University and wish every success not only to those who teach the program, but to those who are enrolled in it as well.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 3199

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

Whereas children learn best by doing rather than seeing, especially in the area of science and ecology; and

Whereas every effort must be made to make schools greener by providing parks and green spaces for our children to enjoy; and

Whereas Astral Drive Elementary School is in the process of building a community peace garden to bring the community and school closer together and give the students a place to learn by doing;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Debbie MacIntosh, a teacher at Astral Drive Elementary School, the staff and students at the school and all community members who are working to build the community peace garden.

[Page 8484]

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 3200

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

Whereas the Saint Mary's University Women's Basketball Team opens their 2000-01 regular season this weekend against Memorial University; and

Whereas Saint Mary's Coach, Jill Jeffrey, is looking forward to the experience and leadership which Hilden, Colchester County native, Jody Euloth, will bring to the team this year; and

Whereas in three previous years of CIAU Basketball competition, Euloth has made her mark on the game including a top-10 finish in three-point shooting while attending Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in the House of Assembly take the opportunity to wish Ms. Euloth, her team-mates and Coach Jeffrey all the best as they begin a new season in which they hope to earn a CIAU National Women's Basketball Championship for the university.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8485]

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. 3201

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

Whereas new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations became law November 1st following scrutiny by the Red Tape Reduction Task Force; and

Whereas these regulations flow from a review process involving management and labour which began in 1993; and

Whereas these regulations were ready for implementation at least six months ago, but were delayed as a result of the actions of the Red Tape Reduction Task Force;

Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately disband its make-work project for Tory backbenchers called the Red Tape Reduction Task Force which instead of getting rid of red tape is causing more red tape by delaying implementation of necessary safety regulations.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3202

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

[Page 8486]

Whereas this government promised "a comprehensive, non-partisan, multi-year plan for maintenance and upgrading of secondary roads based on need rather than partisan politics"; and

Whereas area residents who regularly use the Prospect Road want to know where their neglected roads are on this mythical list; and

Whereas improvements to Porcupine Hill, upgrading of the Prospect Bay Road, the paving of Club Road and various other subdivisions are important to these residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation make public the priority list for road work in the Prospect Road area.

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-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that some veterans who came to the Legislature today are members and were members of the North Nova Infantrymen and I am pleased to present this resolution.

RESOLUTION NO. 3203

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

Whereas prior to the federal election call, former Veterans Affairs Minister George Baker promised that more beds would be made available for our veterans; and

Whereas there are many veterans living in Colchester County who fought for their country in the major battles of this century and are now looking for the care they could be afforded through a veterans' bed near their home; and

Whereas there is a long waiting list for the five veterans' beds now available at the Colchester Regional Hospital;

[Page 8487]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature support our veterans by encouraging the federal government to honour its commitment, through the former Veterans Affairs Minister, and ensure that regardless of the outcome of the federal election that this promise is kept.

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 East on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank all members for the opportunity to introduce, in the west gallery, a group of people from the Grace Baptist Church in Dartmouth East, who are involved in home schooling. I would like to introduce Mr. Ian Vincent, Sarah and Daniel O'Neill, Scott and William Wilson, Sharon, Robert, Kristen and Karis Emberley, Marlene Hill, Rhoda Blaaum, John-Mark Benjamin, and Hans Stephen. If they would stand and receive the warm welcome of the House, they are having a tour of Province House today. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3204

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

Whereas the Premier promised the residents of Nova Scotia that his government would stop unilateral downloading; and

Whereas the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is breaking the Premier's commitment by downloading the cost of assessment services to municipalities; and

Whereas this Tory Government is a government of unkept promises;

[Page 8488]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government be condemned for once again deceiving Nova Scotians and breaking yet another one of their 243 promises.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3205

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: 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 17, 1999, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 2,700 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 2,700 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 8489]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3206

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

Whereas 23 mature students in the Annapolis Valley had been told that their adult high school program had to be cancelled; and

Whereas Human Resources Development Canada, following negotiations with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, has agreed to provide funding for these 23 students; and

Whereas as a result of this funding commitment, these 23 mature students will now be able to continue with and complete their high school studies.

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the member for Annapolis forward notes of grateful appreciation and thanks to the Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada and to the Honourable Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3207

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

Whereas the Legislative Library is an excellent resource for the members of this Legislature as they conduct legislative and MLA duties, and as of late this Legislative Library has been converted into an NDP headquarters for partisan plots; and

[Page 8490]

Whereas all three political Parties are allocated funds by the Speaker's Office for office space, staffing, office supplies, and the like;

Therefore be it resolved that the newly elected Leader of the NDP be charged office rental fees and a business occupancy tax for her permanent occupancy of the Legislative Library.

[12:45 p.m.]

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3208

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

Whereas yesterday in this House a resolution asking for the Ministers of Economic Development and Transportation and Public Works to work together to produce a plan that fosters economic development based upon our road system received unanimous consent of this House; and

Whereas in the spirit of cooperation we, as legislators, must indicate to Nova Scotians our foresight on such matters; and

Whereas the economic engine of this province depends heavily on a well-maintained road system as urged by all members yesterday;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Economic Development and Transportation table their plan in this House before the House adjourns this fall.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 8491]

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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3209

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 NDP has occupied the Legislative Library much as the Bolsheviks occupied the Smolny Institute, in Petrograd, in 1917; and (Laughter)

Whereas the NDP propose, like the Bolsheviks in the case of the Smolny Institute, to turn the Legislative Library into their headquarters; and

Whereas it is not an appropriate use of the Legislative Library to be turned into a Smolny Institute that would accommodate the NDP;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Library should be used for legitimate reading and research purposes only, and not become a Smolny Institute for the NDP to plot the storming of the Winter Palace. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:47 p.m. and end at 1:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - FLU VACCINATIONS: SUPPLY - BACK-UP PLAN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The minister told this House earlier this week that more flu vaccine was expected from suppliers at the end of the month. Well, this statement turned out to be false. It is a good thing that the

[Page 8492]

minister confessed that he misspoke on this issue, because misleading the House is a violation of the first section of the Premier's code of conduct. My question to the minister is, since any new supply of vaccine will not arrive in Nova Scotia until flu season is well underway, what back-up plan does the minister have to help hospitals deal with the upcoming epidemic?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question because it gives me the opportunity to repeat that the flu vaccine program that was put in place this year has been the most successful in the province's history. Indeed, to this point, I believe 14,000 more Nova Scotians received flu shots than last year.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this has become a tradition for this government and for all the ministers on the front benches. Every time you ask these guys a question, you never get an answer, but I will try again. Overworked staff in hospitals will have extreme difficulty in dealing with the influx of flu patients; in fact, some health care workers are too busy now to get their flu shots. My question to the minister. Can the minister tell us what percentage of front-line health care providers in Nova Scotia have yet to receive their shots?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct something. In his first question, I had indicated 14,000 more doses this year than last year; the actual number that was reported was 19,500 more doses. This program has been very successful. There were 210,000 doses of flu vaccine distributed throughout the province this year. There are still significant amounts of vaccine that are available. Those people who are in the high-risk categories can be assured that there is vaccine for them, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will try again. There is now a limited supply of vaccine to go around for seniors, people at risk and health care providers. My question for the minister is - the minister now has to make a choice - how does this minister plan to choose who is going to receive what little flu vaccine is left?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, public health officials have advised physicians that members of those groups that the honourable member has just described will be among those who would be deemed as at risk and would be given high priority.

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

ENVIRON.: RESPONSIBILITIES - DEPARTMENTAL

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question to the Premier. Yesterday, the Acting Minister of the Environment had the look of a deer in the headlights when he found out that his own government was trying to exempt itself from the Environment Act. Ironically, a review committee established to take a look at the Environment Act issued a damning report yesterday about the acting minister's department.

[Page 8493]

The committee said the department suffers from inertia, lack of political will, lack of accountability and insufficient resources. My question to the Premier, when is his government going to start taking its environmental responsibilities seriously?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the short answer is we are taking them seriously now. For a longer answer go to the Acting Minister of the Environment. (Laughter)

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable members that this government takes their environmental responsibilities very, very seriously. In point of fact, our government in Nova Scotia has a fine record and Nova Scotia has a fine record in the environment. For example, we were the first and only province in this country to meet 50 per cent waste diversion in the environment.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, a hard act to follow. The review committee did take time to say that Nova Scotia's Environment Act is in many ways an innovative and progressive piece of environmental legislation. The review committee notes that the Act provides the Minister of the Environment with wide-ranging authority to protect the environment, and it advances opportunities for citizens to contribute to our province's shared environmental aspirations. My question for the Premier, if all this is true, why is this government exempting itself from the Environment Act with respect to Sydney Steel?

THE PREMIER: I will pass that to the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as was told to the Opposition members yesterday, this Act does not eliminate the responsibility for environmental remediation related to Sysco.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't seem to realize there should be some connection to what he says and what his agreement says. This government and the government that came before it should hang their heads in shame that they allowed environmental enforcement to reach this sorry state. My final question to the Premier, when will the Premier start taking these concerns seriously and employ a full-time Minister of the Environment?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that our Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act, our Minister responsible for Natural Resources and our Acting Minister of the Environment take all of this very seriously. We are in many ways at the forefront of environmental legislation. On the other hand, there are serious environmental issues that face this government and this province. We will face them, and we will address them.

[Page 8494]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - EMC: DISPATCHERS STRIKE - CONTINGENCY PLAN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last night Emergency Medical Care dispatchers voted 100 per cent in support of a strike. The possibility of a strike has been looming for several months, and the minister has had plenty of time to think about it. We saw what happened last fall when the minister said he had a back-up plan in case paramedics went on strike, and it turned out that this was not true. Can the minister please explain his plan to provide dispatch services in the event that dispatchers walk off the job?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. I would remind him that the employer of the dispatchers is EMC, not the Department of Health. Nonetheless, I want to tell the honourable member that the employer and the union are in the process of collective bargaining, and they are still talking.

DR. SMITH: That may or may not be so, but that is the information the minister chooses to bring in today. Dispatchers are the crucial point of entry into the Emergency Medical Care system. Any delays at that crucial point can certainly lead to tragedy. My question to the minister is, will the minister guarantee that dispatch services will not be compromised if managers are forced to run the dispatch centre?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that EMC does have a contingency plan.

DR. SMITH: We saw a strike last time with the paramedics, and we don't want to see this with the dispatchers. The neglect of the minister is causing the erosion of our world-class emergency medical services, it is being chipped away. My question to the minister is, will the minister promise that he will not treat the dispatchers with as much disrespect as his government and he treated paramedics last year?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as all members of this House know and the public knows and the paramedics know, we treated them with respect last year, as we treat all of our health care professionals with respect.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West, I would remind you there are no props in the House, and I would ask you to remove the sign from your desk.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 8495]

SYSCO - SALE: AGREEMENT - ENVIRON. EXEMPTIONS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act. Yesterday in this House our Party pointed out that the agreement to sell Sydney Steel would exempt the province from the Environment Act and its regulations. Specifically, Section 13.6 of the agreement states that, "The Environment Act . . . shall not apply to matters for which the Province is responsible . . . nor to: (a) the operations of Sysco . . . up to the time of closing; (b) the presence of any Substance . . .", on the Sysco property up to the closing date. My question to the minister is, who asked for this clause to be put in the agreement, was it Duferco or was it you, Mr. Minister?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as with any agreement reached between two parties, it is negotiated clause by clause.

MR. CORBETT: I will take it that he doesn't know. Again, he has been sent over here with a message and he didn't even read the message before he got here. Clause 13.6 of the agreement does nothing for Duferco and everything for the province. All it does is exempt this province from its own environmental laws. It is hard to see why Duferco would object to removing this clause from the agreement. My question to the minister is, when will you contact Duferco and tell them that you no longer require that clause and have it removed?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question the honourable member is asking, is it referring to the agreement or the bill? (Interruptions) The agreement.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the agreement was signed by both parties and witnessed, so we are in agreement with the terms and conditions of that agreement.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again, that can be removed, that is all we are asking. He can renegotiate it. Yesterday outside the House, the then Acting Minister of the Environment claimed that the clause did not exempt the province from the Environment Act. He claimed it meant nothing, something else. Something about the respective responsibility of the province and Duferco up to the time of the closing of the sale. What the acting minister could not explain was why the words were in the agreement and could not back up his interpretation.

[1:00 p.m.]

I am asking the minister once more. Do you agree with the interpretation of the Acting Minister of the Environment or was he just freelancing an answer?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the intention of that particular clause is to clearly show who is responsible for what in terms of environmental remediation. The point up to closing the province assumes responsibility, after closing it is Duferco's responsibility.

[Page 8496]

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

SYSCO - REMEDIATION: FUNDING - COMMIT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My question is to the Premier. Last spring the Tories had a crisis, the deficit was starting to shrink so they had to make it look worse to justify cuts to health care and education. And guess what? Their favourite whipping boy, Sysco, gave them an opportunity to do that, to make it look worse. That included adding $318.5 million to the deficit for Sysco remediation.

I want to refer to the year-end forecast and I will table this document. In that overview, it states that provision for pension liability and environmental clean-up costs at Sydney Steel will be included in this forecast in the amount of $378.5 million. The total provincial deficit is now forecast to be $767 million. On the bottom it is called - an extraordinary line - $378,500,000 for Sydney Steel Corporation. My question to the Premier is, now we find that the government is trying to escape the environmental liability, is the Sysco agreement, Mr. Premier, going to be used as an excuse not to spend the $318 million?

THE PREMIER: No.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I will take that answer to mean that the $318 million is going to be spent at Sysco for remedial liability this year. The Premier backed himself into a corner by putting that $318 million on the deficit so now he needs an out. When that money was put on the bottom line, it was indicated that money would have to be spent with or without a sale.

My question, again to the Premier, is the Premier saying that the $318.5 million is for Christmas presents or will the money be spent on a comprehensive environmental clean-up of the Sysco site as it was intended?

THE PREMIER: I gave the member opposite the answer to his first question that clearly should have allowed him to avoid the second question. We will accept our responsibilities. The Minister of Finance has booked that as an expenditure that will be undertaken by the province.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I know it is booked, I want to know when it is going to be spent. People of the Sydney area want to know when it is going to be spent on remediation and I am asking the Premier again, when are you going to spend that money on remediation at Sydney Steel properties?

[Page 8497]

THE PREMIER: There are a number of issues that are pertinent to this, one of which is the passage of the bill and I would hope that the members will take that into consideration that the quicker the bill is passed, the quicker the steelworkers get back to work and the quicker we can get on with our plans to remediate the site.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - HFX. WEST HIGH SCHOOL: REPLACEMENT - COMMIT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is for the Minister of Education. In August the minister and her staff met with a group of parents from Halifax West High School and she promised two things: to take the structure down to the beams for a retrofit and significant enhancements to bring that school in line with modern educational requirements. Now, a renovation planning team is increasingly clear that the $8 million that has been allocated to do those things is insufficient to do either. So my question to the minister is, why is the minister not prepared to commit to building a new school to replace Halifax West now?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the engineering report, with which the member opposite seems so familiar, is one which has not been submitted to me yet. The reports of what is in this report are entirely circumstantial. When I see the report I will decide what is to be done with the renovations at Halifax West.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the parents have been involved and they have been dealing with the engineering people who have been in there. They want answers and they aren't getting them from this government or this minister. With the plan to restrict upgrades to basic renovations, they feel as though their children will not have the best possible learning opportunities. My question to the minister is, if you are going to ignore the parents with regard to a new building, will you at least commit to a true modernization of the current school beyond the planned renovations?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we have not ignored the parents. I met personally with this group in the summer. They have been meeting with officials from my department. All along they have been included in this process. They have accepted information, they have been a joint-planning process. They appear not to be satisfied now but, as I say, the final report is not ready and when it is ready, we will discuss what the report says.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, they are not satisfied because the minister is backing away from promises she made to them in August. Now, can the minister guarantee that any announcements regarding funding for Halifax West will be made immediately after the engineering report is provided on November 20th, and she not put off announcing what she is going to do until a by-election is called, using this school for cynical, political ends?

[Page 8498]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there has been unprecedented consultation over these school renovations at Halifax West. When the report is made available to me and I have had a chance to study it, I will tell the parents and I will make an announcement. The only people playing politics with Halifax West are the members opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

JUSTICE: LUN. CORRECTION CTR. - STATUS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Justice, the Acting Acting Minister of the Environment. Over the last two weeks it has been my pleasure to present a petition to this House, over 3,300 signatures from individuals from Lunenburg and Queens Counties. They were asking and requesting this government to reconsider its decision on the closure of the correctional centre in Lunenburg. That correction centre provides: an incarceration facility for two police departments and five RCMP detachments; $850,000 in the economy of Lunenburg County; 18 jobs; and training and education for our students. My question to the minister is, will the minister allow the facility to remain open so that closure does not cause unnecessary harm to our region?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate the question from the honourable member because this is obviously a matter of great concern. Mr. Speaker, we have too much capacity in our prison system in Nova Scotia. That is a reality. As a result of the decision of the former administration to build the facility that is presently being constructed in Burnside, we have too much capacity in our system. We have to rationalize our prison system. We have a very fine facility in Lunenburg. It is a beautiful facility, but we have tough choices to make. Unlike the former lot, we will make the tough choices that are necessary.

MR. DOWNE: This same minister fought against the Minister of Health about closure of the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital. Yet, he will not fight for a facility in his own region, in his own constituency, Mr. Speaker, and he is blaming previous governments for it. The reality is, there is no study that proves this is an economically feasible process of closing it down. My question to the minister, will the minister today table to this House his economic analysis that shows it is not cost efficient to keep that facility open in his own area?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, the cost of running the Lunenburg Correction Centre is $950,000 a year. I can assure the honourable member that the cost of closing the Lunenburg Correction Centre will be far less than $950,000 a year. Secondly, the jobs in Lunenburg County are not jobs that belong to that institution. The honourable member knows that the union contract provides for bumping so that even if the Lunenburg Correction Centre were to remain open, there is no guarantee that the people presently working in that institution would have a job.

[Page 8499]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, my final supplementary. The Nova Scotia Legal Aid Association, the Bar, lawyers in the area, individuals that work at the facility as well as people in Correctional Services, said there is no detailed study to show the economic analysis that was done for this government to make that decision. It is only a political decision that government has made. My question to them, will they reconsider the decision of closing that facility, and if not, will they table in this House the economic analysis that was done across the board to show that is really the reason why you shut down that facility.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is a far-fetched thing to suggest this is a political decision. Can you imagine me making a political decision to close this? It is just laughable that the honourable member says that. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - COCHLEAR IMPLANTS: ACCESS - PROVIDE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this morning, we heard from families who said that because of cochlear implants, a device that provides for even profoundly deaf persons to hear, their lives have been changed forever. I wish you could have been there this morning, because it was a touching plea for compassion from this government. Unfortunately, these people can only have access to this miracle device if they travel at their own expense to another province. Between April and September of this year alone, 12 patients have had the surgery done in Ontario. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health, the Department of Health pays for the cost of the implant. Why can't deaf persons have access to this new technology in their own province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question, and I guess the quick answer is that the procedure is not available here right now. That is why we don't have access it to it here in Nova Scotia.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this device allows deaf people to be able to hear birds sing, to hear voices from another room. It gives them back their hearing. The Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic of the IWK and the QE II have a fully-developed proposal in to the Department of Health. A surgeon is ready and willing to relocate in Halifax. If he doesn't get an answer soon, he may go elsewhere. Everything is ready, only the minister stands in the way. When will the minister move this proposal forward so that deaf people in this province can have the choice to hear?

[Page 8500]

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the honourable member that indeed I did meet with representatives of that group and he knows that I did. He should also know that I have asked our department officials to take a very strong look at it and we are currently working with the Capital District Health Authority officials to see where we can go with the proposal from these people.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister's pace here is too slow. Parents are having to spend thousands of dollars to travel to Ontario for services for their children. The current set-up turns hearing into a privilege for those who can afford the travel costs. Will the minister commit today, in this House, that his government will ensure that all deaf Nova Scotians will be given the chance to hear and that he will move on the proposal immediately?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member that this is probably the first minister who has listened to these people and again to remind him, as I said in my previous answer, my department is working with the Capital District Health Authority officials to see where we can go with this particular proposal.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DIST. HEALTH AUTHORITIES:

TRANSITION - TIMETABLE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Health. Over a year ago the minister ignored the Goldbloom report and released his plan for dismantling the regional health boards. It has been over a year and every single deadline that he set, listed in the timetable has been missed. For example: clinical footprint draft due March 15th, missed; consultation with stakeholders, April 30th, missed; final draft, May 31st, missed. Budget for district health authorities, July 1st, missed. My question to the minister is, with all these missed deadlines, will the minister make public a revised and accurate timetable so that health care workers will be able to plan for the disruptive transition to district health authorities?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this government has tried to do, rather than probably adhere to a timetable which was very optimistic, was to try and do things correctly. That is our intention. As we move from the regional health boards to the district health authorities, we will do it correctly and to see that the process that is put in place and the structures that are evolved are ones that are going to meet the needs of Nova Scotia, not like that creation that other bunch put forward there four or five years ago.

[Page 8501]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the results will show a disruption that this minister has caused would be unconscionable. I would like to table the transition work plan and the district health authority deadlines. I would like to table that, today, that we have received from a freedom of information request. Other missed deadlines include all CEOs will be appointed August 4th, missed. The district health authorities in operation by September 30th, way behind. Labour strategy for workers, October 2nd, missed. The minister missed the deadline for his labour strategy for workers. When will employees be told whether or not they will have a job in the new district health authorities?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the business plans that were accepted this year and filed by various agencies, as the honourable member well knows, there was some adjustment in the labour force as a result of that. I will tell the honourable member that one of the things that has happened, which they probably don't understand, is that in the selection of the administrative officers for the health authorities, one of the reasons for a bit of the delay was that we wanted the chairmen of the authorities to be able to participate in that process. Indeed, I can tell you that there have been some appointments made already and others will be made and announced in the very near future.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, an important part of doing things right is having a detailed plan with clear goals and an accurate timetable. The minister's own plan says that the timetable schedule will be updated and modified as the transition process proceeds. My question to the minister, is it not true that the timetable is not being updated because the plan has been thrown completely off the rails?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have a very good course mapped out. The process has been a bit slower than we had hoped when we got into it. However, as I say, we are trying to do things right. We do have another timetable in mind and that will be announced in due course.

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

HEALTH - ROSEWAY HOSP. (SHEL. CO.):

BUDGET - AVAILABILITY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: The Minister of Health stated a year ago that he would make sure that communities were able to influence health care decisions. Mr. Speaker, I know you will not believe this, but a coalition of community groups in Shelburne County has been trying to do an analysis of their services since the Roseway Hospital recently lost seven acute care beds. They were unable to get the hospital's budget from the hospital itself and - here is the really unbelievable part - the coalition was forced in the end to file a freedom of information request for the information. I want to ask the Minister of Health, if you are serious about communities having a say in health care, why did Shelburne have to resort to filing a freedom of information request to get their information?

[Page 8502]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member has just made a statement which supports the direction in which we are moving the health care system. Clearly, the regional health board that was serving that area was too large and it was not able to respond. The new district health authority which will serve the residents of Shelburne, as the honourable member knows, two-thirds of the membership is from nominees made by the community and, indeed, these people have already gotten together and begun to make plans for their active involvement and taking over the operation of that health authority.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that had absolutely nothing to do with the question I asked. It is amazing. All the coalition wants to know is what the total budget is for their hospital. The Department of Health forwarded their freedom of information request to the western region who wrote to the board stating that the budgets for the hospital are not available and that all they could give them was global numbers.

Now, I want to ask the minister, how can communities be involved in health care decision making when they are denied the basic decision-making information, why?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this is why we have created DHAs. The health care coalition that the honourable member speaks of, are they a group of official standing down there? Who is it and what are they?

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister should be aware that they are citizens and citizens should have a right to the information about how their health care is being managed. The minister is developing a terrible track record with communities, communities that are consistently saying the decision-making process is sealed off from public participation. Will the minister guarantee here today that communities in Nova Scotia will have full access to the kind of information they need to represent their communities in health care matters?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this is why we have DHAs and are moving towards DHAs. I can tell the honourable member, and indeed all Nova Scotians, information that is appropriate to go out to DHAs, it will go out to them. We are not trying to hide anything. What we are trying to do is create a sustainable, responsive health care system for this province and if we do not do it now - I make no apologies for trying to develop a health care system within the financial abilities of this province.

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

EDUC.: HFX. WEST HS - PLANS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Halifax West High School parents feeder group is today sending home, to all parents who have children presently attending Halifax West High School and children in the Halifax West High School feeder system, a letter asking the parents to express their concerns about

[Page 8503]

the Department of Education's plans for Halifax West High School. Jane Davies, chairman of the parents feeder group wrote to you on October 16th raising several issues with respect to the Department of Education's plans for Halifax West High School. Late last night she finally received a response. Can the minister share with the members of this House what was contained in that response?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly, if Ms. Davies is prepared to allow me to table that letter, I would be quite happy to table that letter when I get a copy of it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her commitment. The Halifax Regional Municipality has approved a motion to provide land for a new high school on the Mainland Common. There is a motion to be presented at the next council meeting that would include servicing and the donation of land, roads, sidewalks, sewer and water, and playing fields. My question to the minister is, are you aware if this generous offer from the Halifax Regional Municipality will be part of the decision once the engineering study makes its recommendation as to whether or not you will repair or replace Halifax West High School?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I was aware of that offer. Once I receive that engineering report, I will make, as I said, a decision then, about the renovations to Halifax West High School. I shouldn't answer hypothetical questions, but in this particular case I will. The offer by the municipality is a very generous one, and certainly in a case like that it would be considered if a new school were to be built. But I have to say that a new school, excluding the land and the offer that the HRM has made, would still cost in the area of $20 million, and it is not our policy to build a new school if renovations can take care of the issue.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, although the minister has not yet visited the school, she did meet with Jane Davies on August 4th. During that meeting, the minister made certain monetary commitments, including $5 million for environmental clean-up and $3 million for upgrading. Is the minister's silence on this issue due to the fact that the environmental concerns have escalated, resulting in the transfer of the $3 million meant for upgrading now being added to the environmental clean-up?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member is no doubt aware, there was a study at Halifax West High School done last spring by Tang Lee and the Department of Education jointly. It was the Tang Lee report that helped us to this renovation decision. Tang Lee will be back to look at the engineering plan to see if the plan will cover the remediation he recommended. Looking at that is part of the decision that will be made about Halifax West High School within the next few weeks.

[Page 8504]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC.: ADULT ED. - ACCESSIBILITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. We recently learned that this government plans to lower school fees to help people on public assistance finish their education. We also know that as a result of government cuts, at least in one school board the continuing education department has closed, and schools that once offered GED training have had to cut these programs. My question for the minister is, how does the minister reconcile this government's reported interest in adult education when they are making it harder for those who need to access it?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am actually very grateful for that question because it allows me to correct some information that appeared in local papers. The situation with adult education, the plan we have is not exactly as advertised. Our plan for adult education, which will be announced very shortly, does far more than hopefully address some problems for social assistance recipients. It is not connected to a GED; it is much bigger than that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a fair amount of contact with people in the field of education and adult education in this community, and they say there is no plan and that there are no programs out there for people to access. So other than the move to lower fees for welfare recipients seeking to upgrade, what other steps are you, as minister, prepared to take to make adult education a reality?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, just watch me. (Applause)

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think the last time a politician uttered those words we saw the War Measures Act imposed in the country. (Applause) I am not sure if that is what the minister would like us to think about in terms of where she is going with education in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: It has been very clear that this government has a war against the illiterate and not illiteracy, so will the minister tell us why is her government talking out of both sides of its mouth?

[Page 8505]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we will be announcing an initiative to help adults with reading and writing problems as early as next week. I believe the members opposite will find a lot to applaud in that announcement.

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

ECON. DEV. - STREAM INT'L.: GLACE BAY - LOCATE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Last spring the minister ended the Economic Development Department's highly successful relationship with Connections Nova Scotia. At that time, I understand that Stream International was looking at a call centre for Glace Bay. Recently the company held a successful job fair in the area. My question to the minister is what is the minister doing to ensure that Stream will locate in Glace Bay?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I reassure that member that we were very pleased with the results of the job fair, and that we are in conversation with that company, and many other companies. We realize that, not only in his area, but in all areas of Nova Scotia, there is interest in job creation. So, while we do not negotiate deals on the floor of the House, I assure him we are moving forward on a number of fronts.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that we need those jobs as much if not more than any other part of this province and it is basically a question of survival for the 20,000 residents of Glace Bay. Will the minister commit the resources necessary to help Stream locate in Glace Bay?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, what I commit to do is put resources forward to locate industry all over the Province of Nova Scotia where the opportunity presents itself and when it is advantageous to the area and to the government, to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to help the minister here. I don't want you to botch this one like you did Sysco. I am trying to help. Unemployment in Glace Bay is not just unique for a town such as Glace Bay. Unemployment in Glace Bay, as it is now, Mr. Minister, is totally unacceptable. I am asking, why won't the minister commit to whatever it takes to get those jobs to Glace Bay and commit today?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite, all members opposite, that this government is interested in growing the economy of Nova Scotia all over the province. In fact, the issue in his area is no different than the issues in areas like Shelburne or the Eastern Shore or Yarmouth or any other areas of high unemployment.

[Page 8506]

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

HEALTH - SUTHERLAND-HARRIS MEM. HOSP.:

OUTPATIENT SERV. - REDUCTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I know that comes as a surprise to him. Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital has had their outpatient hours reduced from a 12 hour, 7 day a week operation to 8 hours, 5 days a week service. Dr. Randy Burrill has stated that this reduction makes no sense. He said the cut reduces outpatient services to the very hours that the patients actually have an alternative, their family doctors. I want to ask the minister, where will the patients go after 4:00 p.m. when they need medical assistance?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the information, he has mixed up two things. I think the hours, honourable member, do remain the same. There has been some reduction in the nursing hours on the weekends but the clinic is remaining open.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is another example of a cut that risks patient safety and it doesn't even make common sense. This minister is forcing patients who need medical help to go to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow. Who will be hurt by this most? Seniors and the poor who don't have money to hire a taxi or an ambulance, the fee for which the government has just increased. My question to the minister is this, when you made the decision to cut Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital's hours, did you incorporate into your cost-benefit analysis the impact that this cut would have on seniors and low-income patients?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have to go back to my response to his first question. I think the honourable member was perhaps given some information that is not entirely accurate. The hours of service are basically unchanged and the residents at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital are going to get the same service as they have.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is approving health care cuts that put patients' safety at risk. Doctors are trying to find viable solutions but this government won't listen. The public have tried to reach the minister and the Premier but their calls aren't even being returned. My question to the minister is, is this what you call a responsive and accountable health care system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable member that in terms of consultation and communication with the people at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital, of course there are field people who do that on a regular basis, including those in the regional health board, but I also want to tell them that one of the things that that community has is an extremely effective MLA, the Pictou West MLA, who has regularly brought the concerns of that community to this department. I want to tell you that that community doesn't have to worry about its concerns being presented to this minister.

[Page 8507]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - SAWMILL OPERATORS: FEES - SUSPEND

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. In 1997, the previous Liberal Government was proud to bring in the Framework Towards Sustainable Forestry. Sawmill operators agree that they should pay their fair share to sustain our forests, but they feel the fee structure developed by the minister is unfair and the minister knows that the lumber industry is facing its lowest prices in 10 years. My question to the minister is this, will the minister suspend the fee until he has had more time to consult with sawmill owners to determine the impact on their businesses?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question, it is a very important one. It highlights in Nova Scotia the need for sustainable forestry production and fibre production in the province. Clearly, the study we published last year indicated that lands on private woodlot holdings in Nova Scotia were not sustainable. This response under the sustainable forestry agreement plus the Registry of Buyers certainly is one that is needed in the Province of Nova Scotia. At the current time, I would like to inform the member opposite that approximately 60 per cent of the province's producers are paying the fee and we will be implementing the remainder of the industry on January 1st.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his answer. The Tory blue book promised $8 million for silviculture. The blue book did not say that this money would come from a huge tax on small sawmill operators. My question to the minister is, what is the minister doing to make sure that responsibility for sustainable forestry is shared equally by woodlot owners, sawmillers and pulp companies?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the commitment by the provincial government is to fund one-third of it and that money certainly is in order. No producer in this province, large or small, is being disadvantaged, the same charge is being applied to all. The honourable member appears to be confused on his answer in that regard.

MR. MACASKILL: I may be but I am sure the minister is somewhat confused too. Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is, the minister knows that this levy applies to logs but not wood chips, and that's where the sawmill operators are having the problems. I ask the minister, what provisions is the minister exploring to make pulp companies pay their fair share by charging a levy on wood chips?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a good point on his question. What is taking place currently is a negotiation between the pulp industry and the sawmill industry to ensure that that fair distribution of credits between those two industries and their responsibility for sustainable silviculture and reforestation occurred. Those discussions are occurring now and I have all confidence that they will be fruitful.

[Page 8508]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - RUCK COMM.: REPORT - ACTION PLAN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in December 1998, the former Premier precipitated a controversy over the job opportunities for graduates of the Indigenous Black and Mi'kmaq Program at Dalhousie Law School. The problem is that there are still barriers for the graduates to find jobs. The government established the Ruck Committee, formerly known as the Employment Equity Guidelines Committee to advise it. The committee reported in August. Can the Minister of Justice let us know the current status of the government's plans for acting on the committee's recommendations?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate the opportunity to answer this question. By way of notice, this very evening the Department of Justice is sponsoring a forum for the students from the IBM Program to meet with employers across the way at the Nova Scotia Art Gallery at six o'clock.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to let honourable members know that we are trying to facilitate contact between students and employers. Furthermore, as I have indicated earlier, our government is committed to coming up with a policy response by the time of super Saturday in January of this year when all the employment begins for law students.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, generally what is over at the Art Gallery is there for show. What I was asking about was action. The Ruck Committee recommended that the minister not allow outside law firms to be hired to do government work unless they have in place employment equity policies and a plan. The recommendation is quite specific and this is known as contract compliance. Is the minister going to act on this very specific recommendation from its Employment Equity Guidelines Committee?

MR. BAKER: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I believe that it is very unfair to the students to say that taking steps to ensure that they have contacts with employers is nothing but window dressing. I think that is a shame and the honourable member should be (Interruption) Furthermore, we will have a policy and we will have it in time to make a difference.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in a confirmatory letter to the chair of the committee Premier Hamm said, "It is the position of Government that we support equal participation of all minorities in the work place." That was last January. Were the Premier's words just a lot of hot air? Was the committee's work a waste of time? What is the minister going to do, and when, to implement the committee's recommendations?

[Page 8509]

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

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce Jane Davies who is sitting in the Speaker's Gallery. I would ask her to rise and receive our usual warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, also, I would like to take this opportunity to table this note that I have received from Mrs. Davies, to allow the Minister of Education to table a copy of her letter to Mrs. Jane Davies.

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. 64.

Bill No. 64 - Dairy Industry Act.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want the members of the government to know that we support this piece of legislation. I think that it is actually keeping in step with the directions of the industry and actually the requests of producers across the province. That does not mean that this piece of legislation was necessarily an easy sell. There was a fair bit of negotiation and consultation, particularly between producers and processors, in order to get us to this stage that we are today. I would like, if I could, to talk a little bit about the industry. I certainly would be open to any comments if the minister wishes to rise on occasion to correct me. The minister's knowledge of the industry, I think, should surpass mine, but I will take a crack at this.

[Page 8510]

Mr. Speaker, I come from a constituency that produces close to 20 per cent of the milk that is used in this province by the dairy industry. If we consider $300 million or $360 million in farmgate receipts for agriculture, then about one-third of that actually comes from the dairy sector, which means that it is a significant contributor to communities and to this province. I think what point, I hope, will be made today is, and I certainly hope the government picks up on the point, but it is the notion of looking toward supply management in other commodities wherever possible if the producers are keen to go in that direction. I know that with the GATT and world trade talks and NAFTA, there is more pressure all the time on our supply-managed system and actually commodity groups have to be more creative all the time in order to establish mechanisms that don't seem to have been falling into a pit of challenge at the international level. Actually, that international level has really caused quite a bit of redirection within the domestic market.

I think all members would be willing to acknowledge that the pressure internationally on our supply-managed system, not just in the dairy sector but all sectors, is one that we can make the case that certainly for those sectors the better price that we can give to producers, then the less necessity for safety net programs. Farmers have always said, give me a good price or the price I need for what I produce and I won't have to come looking for support in some other capacity.

To give members opposite some indication of the benefits of the dairy sector in my constituency, I am not sure if the members would be aware of Harry Smith. If they watch On the Road Again with Wayne Ronstad, they would remember a Shubenacadie tinsmith man. Harry Smith is in his 90's now and his family had established a business of making cream cans and milk cans. Watson Smith, his father, came from Springhill in 1894 and happened to be in Shubenacadie when the train pulled in and while the train was there, it started offloading milk cans at the yard. The local farmers would come and their cans would be identified with a number, or whatever, and they would come and pick up their cans and take them home to make sure they had cans for the next day or whatever time the milk had to be delivered again.

So the Smiths moved to Shubenacadie, established the tinsmith shop and over that time made over 80,000 cream cans and milk cans. I know Harry Smith has stated that at one time he could make 1,000 cans a year so if anybody would think about what economic spin-offs come from the dairy sector, this is an aside but in its time this had a major effect on that small community and on that family, I think significant enough to cause the municipality to create that as a heritage building.

Mr. Speaker, I will move on to the P6 and the reasons for the establishment of this particular bill for today, but I know that members opposite, if they come from rural communities and communities where dairy farmers are present, that certainly they would be aware of the stories of farmers taking their cream cans either down to the train station or to the end of the road and setting them on the stand at the end of the driveway for the milk truck

[Page 8511]

to come along and pick up those cans, take them to whatever closest dairy there would be in that community and then they would wait for payment. They would wait for a month, generally. Dairies paid in 30 days. The creamery in Windsor paid in two weeks and actually it was a fairly good incentive for dairy farmers to try to send as much milk as they could to the creamery because they got their cheque in two weeks rather than trying to manage their dollars on the basis of 30 days.

We didn't have a quota system like we do today. The dairy allotted a producer a can or two cans or whatever and paid a certain price, in some cases on 70 per cent of the milk. The extra milk that he produced, he really didn't get anything for. There were severe problems as far as supply and management in relation to the demand. In this case, we had an industry whereby the dairies actually had quite a bit of control. I know that when the milk deliverers, the independents we would call them, the milkman brought the milk around to people's homes and put it on the step, or whatever in those days, if that happened at 6:00 o'clock or 7:00 o'clock in the morning and the homeowner came out and opened up the milk for breakfast, and if turned out that the milk sat in the sun for any length of time, then she or he may open a bottle of milk that had gone bad.

The first thing that would happen is they would be in contact with the dairy, and then the dairy would be in contact with the farmer. There were incidents that once a year an inspector would come around, examine the facility, and they could make claims of things such as what was referred to as ropy milk, where they would put an object, a stick or a toothpick or whatever, in the milk, and if it tended to curdle or make lumps on the item they would say there was something wrong with the milk and wouldn't pay the farmer.

At a time when farmers were not overpaid in any way, shape or form and they had to wait for payment, to lose the income from their milk, or to never be sure, and actually some days the farmers would send their cans of milk to the dairy and not get paid, with very little explanation about quality and very little in the way of quality control. Actually, there were even those conditions. Now, farmers were paid, I think in the late 1950's, 3 cents to 4 cents a pound for their milk, and I think there was a point of somewhere around 3 per cent butterfat that the dairies looked for. If the inspector came around - and a lot of herds, at that time, would have been Guernseys and Jerseys - and saw a Holstein in this herd, then they might not buy the milk, thinking that the lower fat concentration produced by that breed of cattle would affect the quality of the milk, and that cow had to go; in other words it had to be Jerseys or Guernseys, or it could be nothing. (Interruptions) That is exactly right. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, actually the way farmers are paid for their milk has really changed over the years. It went to being paid so many cents per litre, there wasn't as much of an emphasis on butterfat, we have pretty well gone completely to the direction of paying for kilograms of fat. I think, considering the value of it and the dairies realizing the value of it, that is the way to go.

[Page 8512]

In the 1960's, we brought in a national program of supply management for the milk supply in the country. You can imagine, with these small local dairies, what would be the case in some instances, with heavy boat traffic or ship traffic in Halifax Harbour, a ship would arrive, fill its store, and looking for milk would approach the dairies and then, all of a sudden, an unexpected request for milk. There would really be not much planning and the dairies would be scrambling, looking for milk, because they would be putting their extra on this order that they weren't expecting. All these fluctuations actually occurred quite often because there was not as much control on supply and the management of that supply in relation to demand. You can also well imagine that in cases where there was a surplus, that farmers were not paid for it.

[2:00 p.m.]

We needed a much more controlled system to ensure, first of all, that there was a constant supply for the consumer and that the producers had some mechanism whereby they were going to be ensured that quality was maintained and that they were going to get paid for the milk that they produced.

Well, when we went to the national system that actually came closer to addressing the concerns about supply for any particular province and also over time, as allocations increased depending on growth within the province, then this allowed a mechanism for farmers to increase their income and also for new entrants into the system.

What has happened in Nova Scotia with a population of roughly 1 million people is the industry - and actually I would say that due in part to the initiatives by the government to establish a strong agricultural sector and a strong dairy sector that the dairy sector, in recent times - has come to the point that it can supply the milk for Nova Scotia. There is no room to expand, so what would be the alternative?

The only way that the provincial producers here in Nova Scotia, and obviously in other provinces, felt that a mechanism whereby they could increase their share in the market place was to basically amalgamate into a system of what we refer to as the P6 whereby provinces from Ontario east have become a single pool of milk and that producers here in this province now have access to a much greater market. In other words, a small increase in demand in Ontario or Quebec would actually result in a significant increase for producers here in this province when you consider the small size of Nova Scotia's population compared to those other provinces, thereby representing growth for Nova Scotia producers that they would not actually have been able to access because of the relatively stagnant population growth or consumer demand in Nova Scotia. This gave them an avenue to access that increased market.

Some supply producers in this province are paid almost entirely for what we call fluid milk. This is the milk that goes into containers bought in the retail stores in the carton; industrial milk is the milk that goes into ice cream, cheese, et cetera. Well, Nova Scotia has

[Page 8513]

had a high percentage of fluid milk in the province, and compared to other provinces actually, and what had happened was in order to try to amalgamate the systems of all the provinces as far as the quota allocations go and accessibility to greater markets, provinces like Ontario, where farmers were paid more if their quota was industrial and less if it was fluid, then Nova Scotia producers really had to take a bit of a cut in the amount that they are paid simply to balance out those in Ontario getting an increase in the value for their fluid milk production.

I know that at the start that this probably appeared to Nova Scotia producers that this was not a good thing. Here they were getting access to a bigger market, but their paycheque was being cut, or the cash flow was being reduced. I think about some concerns that farmers had that this probably wasn't the best kind of a deal. I think over time, Mr. Speaker, milk producers here in the province have started to climb back. In other words, the accessibility to the greater market has increased the volume of milk that producers here produce, and that increase has actually allowed them to come back to a better cash flow into accessibility of a market they otherwise would not have been able to tap into.

Now, what is the thrust for going to this piece of legislation? Well, the present system that dairy producers are under with the Dairy Commission - and any of the honourable members if I get this wrong, they can straighten me out - but it is a tripartite system which involves the producers, processors and independents. When it came to negotiating quota exchanges or anything of this nature at the federal level or national level, then producers in this province could go and negotiate, but they couldn't be signatories to the agreement. That had to come back and be signed on by the Nova Scotia Diary Commission. Now, for the producers this actually created more stress for them because it was only through the product of goodwill that any of this was occurring. From cutbacks to the Dairy Commission by the province that started with the previous Liberal Government, the milk producers of Nova Scotia were asked to pick up more of the costs. So here they were funding a greater and greater share of the operation of the Dairy Commission, but they still didn't have any authority when it came to signing on agreements at the national level. For them, that was getting to be a problem.

The thrust of this legislation really is to give the Natural Products Marketing Council the power that is delegated to the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia so that they actually can have the authority to negotiate agreements at the national level and sign for those agreements. I think that if we expect dairy producers or the milk producers of Nova Scotia to pick up more of the costs, then they certainly should have more authority when it comes to what they negotiate, and they should be able to sign those agreements and feel they actually have the negotiating power to do that. This marketing board structure actually brings them in line with marketing boards in other provinces. I think they feel now that they will be able to sit at the table and negotiate as more of an equal partner at that level. So the powers delegated to the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia would be for quota management, quota exchange, licensing of

[Page 8514]

producers, buying milk from producers, selling milk to processors and enforcement of quality standards.

I hope the minister will take a second look. It may depend on what we see come through the Law Amendments Committee, but there are a couple of points in this legislation that I would certainly like to see the minister address. One is the reference to the Natural Products Marketing Council having the ability to extract fees or collect fees for administration, arbitration, and I forget, setting regulation - I might be wrong there. If I can find it. Yes. Administration, arbitration and auditing functions. So I think the dairy producers, I know the Natural Products Marketing Council does have the ability, for other commodities it represents, to extract fees for arbitration and auditing functions.

I think that it is unfair to expect the milk producers to pick up the tab on the administrative side, and I am not sure if it is appropriate for them to give dollars to an organization that is actually in place to regulate them, it would tend to cloud the issue a little bit, I think that is something I would like the minister to look at. Also, I would like the minister to consider where the council, actually, subject to approval may make regulations regulating or controlling the transfer or sale of quota outside the province. This would appear to be the very power that we want delegated to the diary farmers in Nova Scotia by this bill. Again, they come up against this. It is certainly something I would like the minister to take a look at, and I may actually talk to the minister about it myself, if we get an opportunity.

There is nothing in this bill that people should have any apprehension of. I know that as soon as we start to talk about milk and milk prices, flags go up. Certainly, I think any of those organizations that are concerned about the cost of milk, this piece of legislation doesn't affect that. I would say for all of the good that can come from this, and for the direction that the Milk Producers Association of Nova Scotia has been working, and this has been an ongoing concern for some time, that this is a power that the milk producers do need if they are going to be equal partners in a national program. I think they have sat on the sidelines a little too long. I think the fact that the province has really demanded that they pay more of the cost, therefore they should have a little more authority in directing their own concerns.

Mr. Speaker, one other issue I want to raise with the minister would be that this process is not going to be one, when this bill is proclaimed, that is going to fall into place overnight and in an easy fashion. In other words, there is going to be some transition time that is going to be necessary to go from the workings of the commission to the workings of the Board of Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia. There has been no indication, but I certainly would like to know that the minister is open to funding this transition period, so that the Natural Products Marketing Council actually is in a position to allow for this transition, and that the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia don't have an added cost dumped on them through the transition period that we are going to enter when this bill comes through.

[Page 8515]

I want to give credit to the minister for his initiative in bringing this bill forward. I want to give some credit to the former Liberal Government, strike me in my place if that is necessary. (Laughter) This initiative by the Milk Producers Association of Nova Scotia is one that started under the previous administration, and they certainly seem positive in working with milk producers toward that. Therefore, I applaud the minister and other members of the government for their initiative in keeping this going. I think this will have positive effects. If anybody can assume for a minute that the dairy industry and all the connected communities and the regulation is an easy thing to grasp, I will be the first to let the House know that I have as much difficulty as anybody trying to keep all of the complexity of the dairy industry straight in my head. I quite often have to go back, after having something explained, and have somebody re-explain it. It seems to be building in small pieces to have a really clear understanding of this industry. I know the minister would have a much clearer understanding than I do because of his closer association with it. I know that the member for Lunenburg West, involved in the supply management in his farming operations with turkeys, would certainly have a good understanding of it as well.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I support this piece of legislation and my caucus will be supporting this piece of legislation. The minister hopefully will address those concerns that I raise. I think these are concerns for the milk producers. So, with that, I will relinquish the floor to another member, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member for Hants East in his presentation and, obviously, his knowledge. He has done some homework. He also lives in one of the largest dairy producing areas in the province. I think his good brother is a little active in farming as well, so he comes by it honestly (Interruption) Exactly.

The dairy industry is a very important area. Dairy farming is very important to this province, to his area, to your area, Mr. Speaker, and throughout the province. In fact, the 360 producers that we have in Nova Scotia producing approximately 170 million litres of milk with farmgate receipts of about $100 million a year, points out very clearly that this industry is vitally important to the economic and social aspects of the rural community and clearly to the Province of Nova Scotia, as is agriculture. Those dollars that spin around the province are very important to us, and they stay at home. Whether they stay at home in farmgate receipt, the money that is spent by the farmers - generally most farmers when they get the cheque in - is usually spent fairly quickly, as the minister knows, he is a former dairy farmer, still a dairy farmer, I guess, himself, and understands all too well the importance that plays.

[Page 8516]

I am pleased to be able to stand here today to talk about Bill No. 64, the Dairy Industry Act, An Act Respecting the Regulation of the Dairy Industry. I want to say in the beginning, I want to compliment the members who work so hard in making this a reality today, the producers themselves, the industry, and I want to compliment this government, I want to compliment this minister for bringing this legislation forward today. I noticed the backbenchers were happy to see that. I think it is important to compliment the government when they do the right thing. I have tried to do that and I know the member in the New Democratic Party, the member for Hants East also complimented them, and it is important to do that. So I, too, want to compliment the minister and the government for moving forward with this legislation.

I believe it was back in 1997 that dairy farmers were working closely with the then provincial government - I don't know if Guy Brown was the minister at the time or Ed Lorraine, I can't remember, but a former minister - to talk about the need to restructure the dairy industry. That is where the basis of this whole structure really started to come to fruition. The dairy industry realized all too well that it was time that they would take responsibility for their industry and they wanted to take that responsibility.

The Dairy Commission had done an excellent job up until that point and I, too, want to compliment Mr. Comeau and others who worked on the Dairy Commission for so many years and did an excellent job of representing the producers, but I think everybody realized it was time for the producers themselves to clearly manage the affairs of the industry that are directly related to on-farm production, very similar to whether it is a turkey industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, or the chicken producers, or other supply-managed industries like the egg industry. It was time for the dairy industry to have their own marketing structure. I believe that the minister himself supported this initiative as a producer prior to this legislation being brought forward here today.

I remember being in Cabinet when the minister's name came forward to be supported to go on, and I cannot remember the exact board that the minister was appointed to under our Liberal Government, but it was a board and his name came forward. I remember supporting this minister's name, who at the time was a producer, going forward to be on a board because he was one of the most knowledgeable people of the dairy sector and one that the dairy sector supported to go forward.

I remember some people might have criticized me for doing that, no names brought forward here, but I was not ashamed of supporting this minister and this member to go forward before he became a minister. I fought to make sure that his name did go forward and was supported because he was the best person for the job. His credentials were impeccable and it meant that he would represent the industry very effectively and that is why at that time I remember supporting him. I cannot remember the exact board and the title of that board, but it was to do with the dairy sector.

[Page 8517]

Little did we know, little did I know that he would later become the Minister of Agriculture, a very important portfolio and one that I deeply respect, and one that I know he obviously will take very seriously. Although we differ on some items and we have had exchanges on issues, they have been there because I believe very strongly on certain things, and I am not going to get into that, Mr. Speaker, but I wanted you to know that back in 1997 when this initiative started to come about, I believe the minister, as a producer, supported some of the changes that are there.

Anyway, what we have today is Bill No. 64 that allows the dairy producers in Nova Scotia to take responsibility for the management and the production aspects of the industry and will be known, after this bill has been passed, as the marketing board of the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia, thus the beginning of a new journey for the producers and the end of the Nova Scotia Dairy Commission as I understand it. Now, the Dairy Commission has worked very hard and, as the member for Hants East has talked about, the changes between the fluid and industrial milk and all the evolutionary changes and all the changes that have been made are all part and parcel of the growing of a very dynamic industry; the growing of not only the production side but also the processing side of this very important industry to Nova Scotia.

As I said before, they have done an excellent job and I understand that the minister and the department will be paying for the transition. It is going to be about a year or so for this transition to happen between the Dairy Commission and the marketing board itself, but at the end of that time the department will save money. There will be a saving within the Department of Agriculture and Marketing to the tune of the cost, or some amount thereabouts, of the Dairy Commission.

I am sure that the minister will probably at some point be able to explain where those dollars that are saved are going to go and will they be associated directly to the dairy industry in forms of programs or will they be shared across the board to all farmers as far as programs go, support staff, or whatever it might be, but I am sure that the minister might want to explain that part to us. I compliment him again for the fact that there will be a transitional program for that industry while they get their feet established in the new board itself.

The legislation is not new in Canada and as stated in the minister's own press release, that other jurisdictions have had this board structure for some time. I note with interest Quebec and Ontario, the two largest producers of milk and cheese in the country, the largest producers, have structured their own marketing board for their producers, by their producers and for their industry, as well as Manitoba. Manitoba, interestingly enough, is about our size and population base. Philosophically - although politically they might not be the same all the time - but philosophically they sit at the national table.

I remember, as being Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, having the pleasure of meeting with many dairy farmers across this country, philosophically we were areas that tried to find solutions. Manitoba and Nova Scotia when there was a gridlock

[Page 8518]

somewhere with Quebec or Ontario or British Columbia or some other province, it was generally Manitoba and Nova Scotia trying to find solutions, whether to do with the dairy farmers or chicken farmers or grain or turkey farmers.

I know that people joke that I am a turkey farmer, and the common MLA from the New Democratic Party makes a little bit of joke about it, and I know that he knows a little bit about farming himself. He knows that maybe this is where he got the common touch a long time ago, when he used to tell me he used to clean out chicken barns or something like that. He learned very well what it was like to be normal and so on and so forth, and every once in awhile he has to get pulled back to that stage in his life to understand what it is all about.

I remember that Manitoba and Nova Scotia worked very closely together on a number of fronts, but this legislation is not new to this country, as I said. The marketing structure is around Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, the other Atlantic Provinces and this is really a process that we should have been at, and we are happy to see the producers in this capacity with this legislation.

People ask, what this means to us as consumers, what will this bill mean to us? Well, the Natural Products Marketing Council will still have a great deal of authority, as they have had in the past. In fact they will be out there doing their job, protecting some of the broader issues of milk production in the Province of Nova Scotia. They will regulate milk quality. Milk quality is an issue that I think is important to us all, and nobody takes that issue any more seriously than the producers themselves. There is nothing better for a farmer than to have that sign on the side of their barn, or on their mailbox, giving them the Excellence Award. There is no one more proud. I know these farmers, and when they have that Excellence Award of quality and production, there is a great deal of pride, and all producers respect that. They want quality product, but the regulatory side will be through the Natural Products Marketing Council. They will provide and make sure that the quality aspect is there.

The distribution of milk will also be administered through the regulatory body of the Natural Products Marketing Council. I note some people had asked the question, what does this do to pricing? Well this bill is about producers negotiating and working on pricing structures for the raw product; not the end product in a store, but the raw product. The end product is totally under the responsibility of the Natural Products Marketing Council.

The licensing of the processors is not part of this bill; it is still part of the Natural Products Marketing Council. The processors, and its ability to distribute that milk throughout is going to be that responsibility. So what will be the producers' responsibility under Bill No. 64? They will be responsible for on-farm production of the milk; in other words, who is producing and making sure that everybody produces up to their level of production, the on-farm production will be their responsibility. The pricing of raw milk sold to the processor will be the responsibility of the board. They will in turn have a cost-of-production model, and they will be negotiating and working with the industry to make sure the producers are paid

[Page 8519]

properly. Nobody should ever argue about a producer getting paid a reasonable return on investment. That particular system has worked well for consumers and for producers and for the total industry.

[2:30 p.m.]

I compliment Eugene Whelan, the former Minister of Agriculture under the Liberal Government, who brought in supply management for agriculture in this country. It was a federal Liberal Government that brought in stability and regional development through that arm of supply management. If it wasn't for that, maybe all the production of milk would be in Quebec or Ontario, and it wouldn't be down here as we know it now. It was under his leadership and his vision and the leadership of the Liberal Government federally that we have supply management in this country and in this region and in this province. It was because of that type of leadership that we have stability in the dairy industry in this country.

I remember all too well, fighting that battle, whether it is to do with GATT or other areas in this country that wanted to change that. It was because farmers from coast to coast, ministers of all political stripes realized the tremendous benefit that supply management of the dairy industry and other sectors like poultry and so on and so forth has been. I want to just add a little bit of history here to the discussion. A very good friend, and I have a great deal of respect for Eugene Whalen, the former Minister of Agriculture under a Liberal Government, had the vision to make sure this industry would flourish and would be beneficial to society across this country.

In 1997, the effort started with the dairy farmers, and they worked very hard. The dairy farmers of this province worked extremely hard to bring this Bill No. 64 forward. The government is saying they consult all the time, and we say we consult all the time. Well, I would like you to know that dairy farmers consulted extensively with the industry to bring this to a reality. They deserve the credit. They met with producers from one end of this province to another for years working out this piece of legislation. They held two votes, two open votes of the industry as to whether or not this legislation should go forward and what would make up this legislation. Those two votes were open and all producers throughout this province understood what they were voting on. They worked for over a year extensively in the last year to make sure consultation with producers and processors were above board and open. That is why this industry feels very strongly about bringing this bill forward.

Now during that time of debate and discussion and voting, they realized there were some areas of concern. What about developing an arbitration process? Processors and producers, although they are cooperatives generally speaking, whether it is Scotsburn or Farmers or Cooperatives which mean that dairy producers themselves own those companies, are involved in a board of directors, but they are also two different areas. One is production and one is distribution and processing.

[Page 8520]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, could I impose on you to again today permit an introduction by an honourable member.

MR. DOWNE: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much, honourable member. Your kindness is only exceeded by your intellect. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PARENT: It is a great pleasure to recognize in the gallery a correctional worker, Clyde Millner, who lives in Kentville, and we welcome Clyde as he watches the proceedings of the House. I hope you will give him a very warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to all our guests in the gallery this afternoon. The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, is there anybody else who wants to introduce anybody before I finish off here?

So developing an arbitration process, and I believe we have that built into the structure between producers and processors, and changes are going to be made to the legislation - I believe they are in part of this legislation - to ensure that the processors' concerns and the producers' concerns and issues could be dealt with through the Natural Products Marketing Council Act, so that they have an arbitration process built in.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, Order. Honourable members, there is an awful racket in here. Could you please just try to turn it down a little bit. Thank you. (Laughter)

Order, please. Yes, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, I guess by his gesture, agreed to yield the floor for an introduction.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for Lunenburg West for his indulgence. I know he had some words he wished to share with the House which I am sure were going to be exceedingly exciting.

[Page 8521]

Mr. Speaker, I apologize, I know we have some visitors here in the gallery, and it is my pleasure to introduce those visitors. In fact, the reason I was late is because I was meeting with correctional workers, so I guess it is kind of appropriate. (Interruption) Well, we were meeting.

Anyway it is my great pleasure to introduce to you the gentlemen in the gallery opposite, and they are as follows: Renee Frederick, Senior Prison Officer from Castries, St. Lucia; Vincent Jackson, Director of Corrections, St. John's, Antigua; Earl Fearon, Deputy Commissioner of Custodial Services, Kingston, Jamaica; Leo Abraham, Deputy Commissioner of Prisons, Trinidad and Tobago; Roy Raymond, Superintendent of Police, Royal Grenada Police Force in Grenada; Hallam King, Chief Advisor to the Attorney General in Barbados; and Edwin Culmer, Superintendent of Your Majesty's Prison, the Bahamas.

I might say that I have visited a number of these countries, but unfortunately, I have never had occasion to visit any of the institutions in any of these countries. (Laughter) Quite a number of the countries I visited purely as a visitor and never as one of Her Majesty's guests. I would like to introduce them to the House and thank them for visiting the House here today, and welcome them to Nova Scotia on behalf of all the honourable members. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you honourable member for that introduction and, yes indeed a very warm, friendly welcome is extended to all of our guests in the gallery. Again we would revert back to the honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to welcome our guests in the gallery. If they do have an opening, I am sure the Minister of Justice would love to come and spend a few days inside your facilities just to see what it is like.

AN HON. MEMBER: He deserves it.

MR. DOWNE: Exactly.

So in the arbitration process, there is a vehicle for allowing that to happen. I think that is a concern some individuals would have, and I am happy to see that in fact in discussing this with members of the committee that the Natural Products Marketing Council has that vehicle to be able to respond to that area.

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that through this consultation and the work that has gone on, the position of the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association is clear. Their organization is fully satisfied, and the document I received from them says they are fully satisfied that the legislation will position the dairy producers well to be able to respond to the national and international changes affecting the industry. They go on to say that the Nova Scotia Milk

[Page 8522]

Producers Association is fully supportive of this legislation as it is currently drafted and seeks no amendments. When that body speaks, anybody who has been involved with farm organizations knows that it has been well researched, it has been well thought out and they don't normally make a statement like that unless they truly mean it. For that, we will be supporting this bill and supporting, again, the minister's efforts to bring it forward.

Before I close - to put it on the record - I want to very clearly thank the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association, its members, the leadership of the people in the department, in the Dairy Commission for their efforts over the years in making this a reality. In closing, I thank the minister for bringing it forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, before we close debate on second reading, I would like to make a few remarks. This bill before us today is a bill that represents a journey for an industry in Nova Scotia, the dairy industry. The dairy industry in Nova Scotia has a long and proud tradition and has been very much a part of the agricultural fabric of this province for decades. What we have coming before us today is what the industry perceives as the opportunity to help them maintain their stability, which they have provided not only to the agricultural community but rural Nova Scotia, and an opportunity to grow and expand their markets and compete in the years ahead as different arrangements for trade are signed in the coming years.

Mr. Speaker, this particular bill deals with an industry that is well organized, and certainly is one that has spoken for many years with a united voice. The piece of legislation proposed here is a piece of legislation that offers the opportunity to the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia to take charge of and responsibility for their own stability through being able to form the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia. As well, that progression from a loose society organization, which it currently is, the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association, that allows them the authority, along with the Natural Products Marketing Council of Nova Scotia, to enter into agreements regarding production, price for raw product, transportation concerns and production concerns that relate, primarily, solely to the production side of the industry.

This piece of legislation, I believe, accurately reflects their concerns and the options which they are going to exercise. I might add the industry held extensive consultations over the last number of years to arrive at this point, culminating last fall with a producer vote that of a large majority to move forward in this direction, and I believe the actual vote was a little in excess of 66 per cent of those who participate. That certainly is a high number, and shows that the industry is united in moving forward to take charge of their destiny.

The production side of the industry in Nova Scotia, currently there are four processors, those being Farmers and Scotsburn, both of those being co-ops; independent Cooks', in the Yarmouth region of Nova Scotia; and Baxter, which is also located here in Nova Scotia. All

[Page 8523]

of these companies produce fine processed dairy products for the consumers in Nova Scotia, and that determined partnership between these processors, producers and, I should add, people who distribute milk on their behalf in Nova Scotia has ensured that Nova Scotia has the highest per capita consumption of fluid milk in the entire country, and has held that distinction for over 25 years. This shows you the kind of united, solid marketing effort this partnership has been able to put forward.

As we move forward, I also want to thank all the dairy producers in the province for their hard work, and the dairy producers from the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association, the members of that body, as well as the Nova Scotia Dairy Commission for the valuable work and effort they have contributed for many years. Certainly, I would want to note their Secretary-manager, Gabriel Comeau, who has done outstanding work on behalf of the industry, the producer, processor, as well as government policy, and certainly a person who has spent many years dealing with the growth in this industry, the emergence of different marketing concepts and ideas, and deserves certainly our accolades as one who has done a good job and who will continue to do an exemplary job in the future.

[2:45 p.m.]

I want to thank my colleagues opposite for their remarks and support for this piece of legislation. With those remarks, I wish to close debate on second reading and have the legislation move forward to the Law Amendments Committee. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 64. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 69.

Bill No. 69 - Denturists Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House for second reading of an Act to replace the Denturists Act. I want to begin by saying how pleased we are to have worked with such cooperative groups from both the Denturist Licensing Board and the Nova Scotia Dental Association. It was really with their initiative and a lot of their hard work that this bill is on the floor during this session.

[Page 8524]

I think I had indicated during first reading, Mr. Speaker, that it has been about 11 years since the last amendments to the Denturists Act so this is a very good thing. I would like to make a few remarks summarizing the amendments. The primary goal of the amendments is to strengthen the disciplinary process for denturists and to make their Act consistent with the legislation that governs other health sector professionals like physiotherapists, occupational therapists and doctors.

This is an important development, Mr. Speaker, for the protection of Nova Scotians because the amendments will allow the regulatory body, which is the Denturist Licensing Board, to more effectively and more quickly deal with complaints and concerns by patients. This bill, as I indicated, was developed in consultation with the Denturist Licensing Board and the Nova Scotia Dental Association and I really appreciate the cooperation these organizations gave my staff. With these amendments, as well as proposed amendments to the Psychologists Act and the Dental Act, we are attempting to create consistency among the legislation governing health professionals with regard to the enforcement of standards and the disciplinary process.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, we have already amended legislation for doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists and we are pleased to be moving ahead to address the same issues for denturists, psychologists and dentists. The strengthening of the disciplinary process in the Denturist Act will provide a measure of reassurance for all Nova Scotians. It is essentially a measure of protection should the public have any concerns or complaints with their denturist. The Denturists Licensing Board will be better able to enforce standards and more effectively deal with complaints and concerns by patients.

Another important amendment in this bill is that it will now allow denturists to independently provide partial dentures to patients, which enhances consumer choice. The people who choose denturists for the provision of partial dentures will be protected because there is a requirement that an oral health examination must be conducted by a dentist within the 90 days preceding the patient receiving a partial denture.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little too much noise in the Chamber. Could we please hold it down; the honourable minister has the floor.

MR. MUIR: These people choosing denturists for the provision of partial dentures, as I said, are going to be protected with it because of the assurance that their oral health will be determined by a dentist before the placement of partial denture can begin.

We very much appreciate the valuable input from different stakeholders involved with these amendments. These amendments place great responsibilities on denturists, Mr. Speaker, and that is entirely appropriate. These kinds of amendments are extremely important for the integrity of our health professions and for the reassurance of Nova Scotians.

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As I had indicated earlier, the disciplinary process in the amended Denturists Act is consistent with the most recent changes made to the Medical Act. I want to recognize the work of the departmental staff under two Health Ministers, myself and my predecessor, Jim Smith, for the work that we see carried forward today. Once again, I want to thank the two groups involved for their cooperation in preparing the amendments, particularly Heather Kugler, the Registrar from the Denturists Licensing Board, as well as Blanche Keats, the board chairman, along with Don Pamenter, the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, and Dr. Ian Doyle, President of the Nova Scotia Dental Association.

Amendments like these are another way of strengthening our health care system, Mr. Speaker. The amendments to the Denturists Act have been a long time coming and I certainly hope that this bill moves forward without delay. I would add that the amendments to this bill will now make the legislation governing denturists consistent with those in all other provinces in the country. It also enables labour mobility and it will also enable the establishment of a denturist training program in this province.

With those few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 69, the Denturists Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable minister for his comments and recognize that this legislation has been in the works for a long period of time and seen a few ministers involved. Bill No. 69, An Act Respecting the Practice of Denturism, brings together various issues and previous regulations relating to the practice of denturism in Nova Scotia. It does replace the existing legislation for denturists. If I remember correctly, the original legislation was introduced in 1973 by a distinguished former member of this House, from Digby, Mr. Joe Casey. The members here today, if they do something significant, maybe history will be kind to them and we will also note various matters that they bring before the House of Assembly.

It is fitting also, Mr. Speaker, to note that another resident of Digby, as the minister mentions, Ms. Blanche Keats, Chairman of the Denturist Board, has been a very vocal person about bringing the bill before the House today. The Denturists Society of Nova Scotia has always enforced their code of ethics but Bill No. 69 strengthens the disciplinary process to bring it in line more with the Medical Act. This means that the licensing body, the Denturists' Licensing Board, will be able to deal more effectively with complaints and concerns by patients. That part of the process is so important. I notice also, that different from earlier days when organizations representing various professions were closed to members of the general public. Now it is quite common that when legislation such as this nature comes before the House of Assembly, rather than being sent back to have lay people on their boards, they are already in place.

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I would like to recognize that I think it is very important from the disciplinary point of view, particularly on the discipline committees and on the hearings, that there is a perspective of the consumer representing the ordinary citizens. It is not only, because that system, when it is up and working and in place, for the protection of the people they serve, from the point of view of the denturists, it is also protection for the denturists themselves. When the system is strong everything works better within that system.

There are approximately 53 denturists practising in Nova Scotia. I am sure people wonder how many there are, and I think it is not commonly known. I wasn't quite aware, although I knew some personally in my own area, of Dartmouth East particularly. So, it does impact throughout our communities and across this province.

Bill No. 69, today, changes the scope of practice for denturists. As the minister mentioned, I want to acknowledge, as well, that this bill allows denturists to provide partial dentures directly to the public. This is only after the denturist makes sure the patient will have an oral health examination by a dentist within 90 days of receiving the placement of the partial denture. I think this has always been an area of concern between the denturists and the dental society, and I am pleased to see that they have, over the years, worked this out and it is now brought forward in legislation.

As I understand it, Bill No. 69 was developed after much consultation with the Denturist Licensing Board, as well as the Nova Scotia Dental Association. It is very important that all stakeholders are consulted and have an input into developing legislation such as this. Sometimes legislation such as this is delayed even with consultation. I would like to recognize that and compliment the Nova Scotia Dental Association for their support of this legislation and their involvement with this. It is not easy to satisfy all their members when some perceive, as they have in other provinces, particularly in B.C. when legislation such as this has come forward, that there would be an infringement on their own practice. So I compliment the minister, the Nova Scotia Dental Association and also the Denturist Licensing Board.

The bill today represents a lot of work. The direction was taken some time ago and challenges have been met, and we see this legislation here today. As a previous government, we were pleased to work with a number of health care professions. I think this is so important, we have had debate on this matter in the House before, that the professions have legislation that clearly spells out matters relative to their profession, that they are self-governing for their own protection as well as the protection of those they serve.

For example, I was proud to introduce legislation and Acts for physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They, too, were in the same situation as the denturists and now they have their self-governing profession, accepting referrals without having to go through physicians, particularly in the area of physiotherapy.

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The denturists and a team of lawyers have been working on the legislation with the Department of Health for a number of years. Indeed, every MLA in this House has probably heard from the denturists regarding their legislation at some point in the past number of years. I am sure many have become acquainted with those people who have visited the Legislature. I think it is almost too bad that they are not here today, Mr. Minister, so they could be recognized for that. I am sure they will be in time. But, I am sure they are very appreciative. They were appreciative anytime you spoke with them, so all the MLAs I think over the while have probably played some part in having this legislation come forward.

[3:00 p.m.]

Of course, if the government's lobbyist registration bill ever makes it to the floor of the House, groups like the denturists may have to curb their efforts to inform MLAs about their concerns, but I doubt if it will interfere with that. I hope we never interfere with that process.

It is very important that every group of practitioners has specific legislation that spells out their rights and professional responsibilities. For some time now, we have had legislation specifically governing discipline committees or complaint committees relative to the dental profession and the medical profession. This type of legislation is certainly the trend right across Canada. In June of this year, as I mentioned earlier, denturists in British Columbia succeeded in getting new legislation passed in that province. B.C. was the first province to get legislation recognizing denturists as qualified professionals, establishing stringent standards of training and education for denturist services in 1958.

Denturists have become recognized by legislation in every jurisdiction in Canada except Prince Edward Island. Canada is seen as a leader in this profession I understand. Presently, Canada has five colleges of denturism and approximately 2,000 professionals who are recognized as denturists across this country. Nova Scotia can become a leader in the field in Canada, and from what I understand, the Nova Scotia Community College will be introducing a program in denturism. In British Columbia there are a few denturists who saw the legislation as an infringement on their practice, as I mentioned earlier, and I think that is something the associations always have to deal with within their membership. So I hope any outstanding issues like that were resolved before bringing this legislation forward in Nova Scotia because I do recognize the efforts of the Nova Scotia Dental Association in working with this legislation.

I want to say that I know the denturists have been very patient in the time it has taken to bring this legislation forward. Denturists are not doctors, but they do play an important role in the introduction of Nova Scotians to oral health care. Proper denture fittings are important to prevent medical problems and certainly psychological problems in extreme cases. Medical problems will result with the patient not being able to chew their food properly, and certainly result in digestive problems and other health problems of nutrition. We see this particularly in our seniors.

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I want to compliment the denturists for being available to our seniors and often in their home or making their offices readily accessible to them, because I think this is extremely important. These are the issues sometimes of poverty and other initiatives that really do impact dramatically on people's health, particularly seniors, particularly our seniors in rural communities. Accessibility is an issue. Affordability is another. I think that is extremely important.

I am accepting that the i's have been dotted, and the t's have been crossed in this legislation, and we in the Liberal caucus would like to compliment the denturists for their patience and for their perseverance coming forward with a bill. I have read it as well as I can. My only concern might be that I hope there is not too much power placed in the registrar. I would hope that very quickly complaints would go into an initial complaint hearing format. I think it is there, but I know there have been some problems. I know the dental bill we will be debating later.

Sometimes I have had some constituents that I thought had concerns that should have been legitimately addressed, and I believe they weren't done that way. I know the Medical Society has had problems and the Provincial Medical Board that is now the College of Physicians and Surgeons has been very aware of that, that people properly understand where to go, and the patients within the health care system know that the Medical Society is not their route but that they should go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Within the dental community, I think it is important that not only the registrar makes decisions on whether or not complaints go forward, I believe the legislation allows for that, but that would be my only plea, that all complaints, however trivial they might seem to the people hearing them on the other end of a busy phone on a busy day, that they are really paid attention to and that there is a mechanism in place so that all complaints are addressed, and the people will receive a proper response in writing. I notice that sometimes phone calls are made and dismissed, and I think that is not really acceptable.

In supporting this legislation, I am assuming that the process and mechanism is in place, because I think it is extremely important for all of us. It is extremely important for the minister, that he is supported by the professional groups in that way, that they are properly discharging their responsibilities to their own profession and to the people they serve, and that it is done and supported through legislation. For that reason, throughout the whole course of this legislation, unless we hear something in the Law Amendments Committee that otherwise gives us concern, we will be supporting Bill No. 69, An Act Respecting the Practice of Denturism. Thank you, Mr. Speaker

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments I want to make with respect to Bill No. 69, An Act Respecting the Practice of Denturism. As you know, and as was mentioned by both the minister and the member for Dartmouth East, this bill has been in the works now for some number of years. I remember Mr. Edwards would be here at the House from time to time to talk to members about the need to support this legislation, to have it go forward at the earliest opportunity. I think the point was that the modernization of the existing Act was something that was important to him - I think he was president of the association at the time - and to the members of his association.

What this bill does is it achieves that end, it essentially modernizes the Act. I think the existing Act came in in 1989 and, at the time, perhaps it didn't address all that it might have, perhaps it was not as far-sighted as it should have been. What this bill does is essentially recognize the standing of dentursists in our community as part of the health sector, so it makes that important step forward for the association. As was mentioned, and I will mention it again, it also deals with the whole question of licensing and sets out in further and better detail how that licensing takes place. It has in here a prescription for the regulations under which both standards and qualifications will be dealt with.

I think that is an important part, of course; those qualifications and standards are really the nub of the protection of the society and the protection of our community. In this particular instance, the board directs the registrar of the society to enter into the registry only those people who meet the qualifications that are set out by regulation. That allows the government the opportunity to decide what an acceptable standard or qualification for members of the society is, or members of the board.

Members of the board now are being required, in their entirety, to hear a complaint, and that is the other part of this bill, dealing with the disciplinary structure. Instead of having hearings in which the whole board is convened, it is possible to set up hearing panels. This is consistent with other boards, as the minister pointed out, in the health care sector. What it does is bring this legislation into line with the other pieces of legislation that we have seen come before the House dealing with other health sector professionals.

So far as I know, we have had a chance to go through the bill to some degree. We have read through it. We are still consulting, Mr. Speaker, but I believe this bill has the full support of the community, both the wider community and also the denturist members, those who will be most directly affected by the legislation. It appears that the best thing to happen is to have the matter moved through the debate process and into the next phase of the procedure. So with those very brief comments, I wanted to say that we will be supporting the legislation at this stage and watching its process through the House.

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to thank my colleagues from across the House for their support of this bill. I believe it is a good bill and I now would like to move that this bill be forwarded through the Law Amendments Committee process.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 69. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 71.

Bill No. 71 - Psychologists Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minster of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House for second reading of a bill which will replace An Act Respecting the Practice of Psychology, or simply the Psychologists Act. Before making a few remarks which summarize the amendments, I would like to thank several people who were closely involved with my staff in the preparation of these amendments. I would like to thank Rilda von Feggelin, the Registrar of the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology, and Dr. Carolyn Humphries, the board chairman, for their cooperation in relation to this bill. Everyone has worked very hard to prepare the amendments which we are bringing forward in second reading today and we appreciate the cooperation from them with my staff.

The primary goal of this new Act is to have a strengthened disciplinary process which is consistent with the Medical Act and, of course, Mr. Speaker, the Denturists Act which just went through second reading. This is important for the protection of Nova Scotians because the amendment will allow the regulatory body, the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology, to more effectively deal with complaints and concerns by patients. The bill will also provide for a more independent board that will be able to make some regulations without government approval. The amendment will also define the practice of psychology so that the public is better aware of the scope of practice of a psychologist.

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These amendments, Mr. Speaker, place great responsibilities in psychologists and that is entirely appropriate. These kinds of health Statutes are extremely important for the integrity of our health professions and for the reassurance of Nova Scotians who use their services.

[3:15 p.m.]

The disciplinary process in these amendments is consistent with the most recent changes made to legislation, as I said, for occupational therapists, physiotherapists and for physicians. With these amendments, as well as the amendments to the Dental Act and the Denturist Act, we are attempting to create consistency among health professionals with regard to the enforcement of standards and the disciplinary processes. As I have said, we have already amended legislation for doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and we are very glad to be moving ahead to address the very same issues for denturists, psychologists and dentists.

Mr. Speaker, the amendments to the Psychologists Act are another way of strengthening our health care system. I certainly hope that this bill will move forward without delay. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 71, an Act Respecting the Practice of Psychology. We will be debating three bills today, quite similar in many ways, the bill relative to the denturists, which has already been passed through second reading, and the psychologists bill, governing the practice of psychology, and then moving on to the dental bill. While very similar in many ways, strengthening, as the minister said, and ensuring safety and good health throughout our health care system, it is so important that these bills are coming forward.

While they are similar, they are also very different. I think this bill is extremely important, while being different, perhaps, than the other two. Anywhere in the delivery of professional services where there is maybe a lack of clarity or understanding of who does what within a particular health care system, I think the practice of psychology has probably been less well understood by the public than some of the other professions that have been involved. Psychology is particularly important in our school system, in the early development - educational and social development - of children. I think there has been all too infrequent access to psychologists in that area.

Through adolescence and youth, so many times one cannot do psychotherapy as we understand it with youth, but there are times when they certainly need professional assessment and support. Psychologists do not prescribe medications, and therefore significant illnesses that start in adolescence often have to be shared with other professions. I think there

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has to be a real team approach, a sharing between the professions. There is lots of work to do out there in the field of psychiatry and psychology. There is no lack of work, and there should not be a fear of infringement on what is considered to be the work of certain professions as opposed to others.

I say this particularly here in psychology because I think so many times you see signs hanging over doors or signs in various establishments advertising family therapy. I think sometimes the qualifications of those persons are adequate, and far too often, it is sad to say, inadequate. I think recognizing someone who calls himself a therapist or a family therapist is not necessarily a psychologist, is not necessarily a psychiatrist, that has to be clearly spelled out. I think it is so important that we have legislation such as this psychologists bill, it is giving an understanding and a higher profile, an accountability and an understanding by the public of the great work, the important work that psychologists do.

I mentioned children, moved to youth and adolescents, but in all areas of development, especially in areas working with brain injury or others with dysfunctions of the nervous system, and also in matters of family stress, family breakdown and dysfunction. It is extremely important. That is how I would like to open my comments. It is probably not as clear as it could be, but I feel it is very important that this is recognized, that this legislation is extremely important, both for those that practice psychology and those whom they serve.

This bill, Mr. Speaker, will provide for an independent board, and the board will be able to make some regulations without government approval. This is something the psychologists have been working for and working towards for some time. Again, like the Denturist Act and similar pieces of recent legislation governing medical professions, this bill is designed to strengthen the disciplinary approach to make it more consistent with the Medical Act. Like the Denturist Act, this change will allow the regulatory body, in this case, the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology to better enforce their standards. These are standards that are developed by the profession itself, and they are designed to protect the public as well as protect the profession of psychology.

It is safe to say that these disciplinary standards have everybody's interests at heart, and I think that is extremely important. Bill No. 71 will also allow the board to more effectively deal with complaints and concerns of patients. I mentioned earlier my concern that the legislation, and I think that the Dental Act spells this out quite well, that complaints are not just taken over the phone and ignored or dealt with by one person, but there is a fair hearing, an assessment at least of the complaint. If the process is strong, the system will be strong, and it will help to strengthen health care services. So it will allow the board to more effectively deal with complaints and concerns by patients. This is a major necessary safeguard. This is an added layer of protection for both consumers and providers.

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Bill No. 71, Mr. Speaker, better defines the practice of psychology. This will give the public an increased awareness of the scope of the practice of psychology. As I mentioned earlier, it is my opinion that this is poorly understood by the public in general. As a former Minister of Health, I am aware of the amount of work that has gone in to bring this legislation in line with the Medical Act. If I understand it correctly, this bill has been a long time in coming to the House as well. Fortunately, the staff of the Department of Health have worked with different groups of health professionals like the physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropractors, laboratory technologists, they have gained more experience in making sure the legislation addresses the needs of the profession and the public. I don't think it is fair to say in the old days in the Department of Health that there were those that necessarily agreed this was the way to go, that these individual care providers, these professions have particular individualized legislation. There are those that supported broad-based legislation in trying to fit everyone in. I don't think that was workable. It is certainly not meeting the needs of our modern society, and that is why we support this bill here today.

Bill No. 71 also brings together the various issues and previous regulations relating to the practice of psychology. It is very important that all stakeholders are consulted and have input in developing legislation such as this, and I believe they have. I want to compliment the department and the psychologists who have worked on this.

Nova Scotia has been moving in this direction over the past years. Previous governments have worked with the health care professions in bringing this type of legislation here, and we have gained experience in that. Now the course has been charted, and we are seeing the fruits of those labours here today. The psychologists and a team of lawyers have been working on the legislation with the Department of Health for some time now. Input from all stakeholders is important because this legislation is sensitive. It seems when it arrives in a complete package to be straightforward and understandable, the proper thing to do, the right thing to do, but it doesn't arrive here by accident. There is a lot of discussion and negotiations over definition, the implications of certain regulations and other matters and what can be done through regulations by the profession without government approval and what should not be. So, it is very important that every group of practitioners have specific legislation that spells out their rights and their professional responsibilities.

For some time now we have had legislation specifically governing discipline committees or complaint committees relative to the dental and medical professions and this type of legislation, I am pleased to say and recognize, is not only becoming more common and usual here in the Province of Nova Scotia but it is certainly across this country and we are in a position that we can say that we are doing the right thing in Nova Scotia. So, I am pleased to conclude my comments on Bill No. 71, compliment the minister for bringing it forward and that we will be supporting this legislation throughout its progress through the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: My comments will be brief. One of the advantages of batting clean-up on these bills is that most of what is to be said, has been said, especially after the member for Dartmouth East speaks.

I want to say that we have had the opportunity to review the bill, everything seems to be in order, we have checked with those in the field, they support the legislation so we would like to see it go forward. Of course, that is subject to some further examination on its way through the procedure. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I welcome the comments by the member for Dartmouth East and the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. I am pleased that this legislation which again has been a relatively long time coming, will move forward now. It will help to provide consistency among the Acts which regulate those who practice as health care professionals in this province. With that, I want to thank the members for their interventions and I would like to move second reading of this bill and see it passed through the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 71. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 72.

Bill No. 72 - Dental Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I am very pleased to rise today for the second reading of An Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1992, the Dental Act. This is the third, Mr. Speaker, of a bundle of three bills which have been tabled which provide for an improvement in delivery services in Nova Scotia by three very important health care groups.

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Before I make a few remarks, summarizing the amendments of the Dental Act, I want to say I am pleased that these amendments have been brought forward. This bill will strengthen the disciplinary process and then will act to make sure it is consistent with the other recently enacted health profession Statutes. The amendments will allow the Provincial Dental Board to better enforce the standards they have in place, specifically the ability to respond to a wide range of complaints more effectively.

A Complaints Committee will be added to the existing process to allow for more appropriate and time-and-cost efficient handling of infractions not requiring a full hearing. This will benefit the three professions governed by the Act as well as the public. I would like to thank Dr. Donald Bonang, the Registrar of the Provincial Dental Board as well as the board chair, Dr. Elaine Gordon, for their cooperation with departmental staff in the preparation of these amendments.

[3:30 p.m.]

I certainly appreciate the hard work that has gone on to bring these amendments to the House today. Mr. Speaker, these amendments are important for the protection of Nova Scotians. The changes will allow the regulatory body, the Provincial Dental Board, to more effectively deal with complaints and concerns by patients. These amendments place great responsibilities on members of the dental profession, and that is entirely appropriate. The amendments, of course, affect not only dentists, but dental hygienists and dental assistants as well. These kinds of health Statutes are extremely important for the integrity of our health professions and for the reassurance of Nova Scotians who rely on the services of these professionals. The disciplinary process outlined in these amendments is consistent with the recent changes made to legislation for occupational therapists, physiotherapists and physicians.

With these amendments, as well as the amendments to the Psychologists Act and the Dental Act, we are attempting to create consistency among health professionals with regard to the enforcement of standards and the disciplinary processes. As I mentioned already, Mr. Speaker, we have amended the legislation for doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and we are very, very pleased to have had the opportunity to move forward to address these same issues for denturists, psychologists and dentists.

The amendments to the Dental Act are another way of strengthening our health care system and I certainly hope, Mr. Speaker, that these amendments will move through this House without delay. Thank you very much.

[Page 8536]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to address matters relative to Bill No. 72, An Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1992, the Dental Act. I think what we see here before us is the result of consultation and working with the department. It also reflects some of the matters which we discussed earlier relative to other legislation here this afternoon, and the denturist and psychologist bills. It does spell out clearly in Clause 1, Section 2(da) of the Dental Act, "'complaint' means a written complaint received by the Registrar respecting", but it also spells out more clearly the responsibility of the registrar to refer all complaints to the complaints committee. I think that is an improvement from the point of view of safety for the members of the profession, and also for those they serve.

As the minister has said, these are strengthened and in place. The findings of the discipline committee are extremely important in dealing with members of the profession. It is a high-stress profession. It is very demanding, dental, and sometimes there are activities of the membership of that profession, like any other, that are involved with matters relative to the negative impact on their health, through one way or another, that requires counselling and perhaps some evaluation of practice habits, and I think this is spelled out in the legislation here.

So you hope that more and more, we will be seeing issues within a discipline committee dealt with as is mentioned under Clause 4, Section 33, under counselling, that that would be the intervention that we would see rather than the other ones such as cautioning, reprimanding, suspending or counselling, registration, and more severe. We hope this process is in place and it is strong and is functioning and supported by the association, and that matters will be dealt with at an earlier level of counselling, as I mentioned.

I think it is extremely important that all complaints to the registrar are referred and that there is a satisfactory response to the person; whether they will be happy about their findings, that is another matter, but I think it is extremely important that this is conveyed in an open, written and forthright manner.

This legislation also allows for the appeal process to function and that is important. Some of these disciplinary hearings are becoming very expensive and I notice the last Supreme Court ruling has mentioned, certainly in the courts in this country, that the use of experts is becoming extremely expensive and probably overdone and probably usurping the function of a jury. But, at least in these areas, I noticed there is one piece of legislation of the three bills we have discussed this afternoon, that the minister has brought forward that does refer to the amount, the number of experts can come forward as deemed necessary by the board. I think that they should be aware of the Supreme Court ruling that has found that this may really be interfering with the true course of justice, true justice, and usurping the roles of members who sit in judgement of their peers and in this case, within a professional body

[Page 8537]

such as the dentists of Nova Scotia, that they do not burden themselves with too many experts. One side hires an expert, another hires an expert, and then you just have a standoff with a whole bunch of experts. This can be very expensive and those expenses are often passed on to those people, sometimes when they are not necessarily found guilty within those findings, but they really are deemed to be responsible for the cost.

The legislation deals with matters of secrecy which are obviously important relative to the functions of the committees and also provides for assessment and evaluation. So, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to support Bill No. 72. Like other amendments, the bill is designed to strengthen the disciplinary process in the Dental Act and it should make it more consistent with the other recent health profession Acts. It will allow the Provincial Dental Board to better enforce the standards that they have in place already. Like other health professions, enforcing professional standards has always been very important. This offers a protection to the profession and to the public. Specifically, amendments give the Provincial Dental Board the ability to respond to a wide range of complaints more effectively. It does require the Provincial Dental Board to refer all complaints to the complaints committee, as I mentioned earlier.

It also authorizes the Provincial Dental Board to make regulations establishing a complaints committee and a disciplinary committee and the powers and procedures that go with them. So being able to suspend the licence of a dentist, a dental hygienist or a dental assistant in urgent and compelling circumstances gives an added layer of protection to the consumers. With those comments, Mr. Speaker, I will add that our caucus will be supporting Bill No. 72 to go to the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, again, just a few brief comments on the bill. As the minister was pointing out, it is really a part of a renewal of that Act to bring it more in line with other Acts in the health professional sector - part of three Acts that have come before the Legislature today. There is nothing in this that we can determine that should not go ahead. I know the minister has informed us that he does have an amendment to the Act that he will bringing forward at the Law Amendments Committee. I had an opportunity to look at the amendment, and it appears to be reasonable in nature and, as I understand it, requested. So it is a piece of legislation that just needs to get through, Mr. Speaker, and we will be watching its progress through the House, continuing to consult with those who are interested in the bill, and we will be supporting it at this stage and, of course, reserving our judgement as it goes through.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Health it is to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 8538]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to thank my colleagues on the opposite side of the House for their support for this legislation. We believe it is good legislation. It has been a long time coming and we are very pleased that we have been able to get it to the floor of this House. I am now prepared to move second reading of this bill, so we can take this legislation through the Law Amendments Committee process with the objective of having it passed in the quickest period of time possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 72. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the acquiescence of the two Opposition House Leaders, it has been agreed that the House will recess until 5:15 p.m., at which time we will reassemble and commence with Bill No. 66, then Bill No. 67 and Bill No. 68, et cetera.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed to recess until 5:15 p.m.?

It is agreed.

[3:41 p.m. The House recessed.]

[5:17 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 66. (Interruptions) I am sorry, yes, indeed, I spoke to the Opposition and they had a request that we go to Bill No. 68 first because of certain difficulties with members being available.

Bill No. 68 - Occupational Health and Safety Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time. What the bill does is it updates legislation governing crane operators and power

[Page 8539]

engineers in the province. It is entitled Crane Operators and Power Engineers Act and this legislation furthers the government's commitment to safeguard workers across the province. We are taking a common sense, practical approach with these changes. The philosophy that is key in developing regulations that are easy to follow and easy to enforce.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We are on Bill No. 68, the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

MR. MACISAAC: Do I have to make another motion, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: I understand the honourable minister just did that to see if everyone was paying attention.

MR. MACISAAC: I must say it took five paragraphs for everybody to catch on.

MR. SPEAKER: I thought you were going to eventually lead into it. (Interruptions)

MR. MACISAAC: I was right up in front. The first thing I spoke about was the title, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is this about environment?

MR. MACISAAC: No. Well, it is. It is about improving the work environment, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is designed to ensure that our regulations under Occupational Health and Safety are what I would like to describe as living regulations and that is that we will take time to review the regulations and ensure that we are not allowing regulations to become stale. We are not allowing circumstances to arise that existed prior to our putting in place the regulations on April 1st of this year because those regulations replaced regulations which referenced things like asbestos, like acetylene that are not in use.

There is, Mr. Speaker, a need for us to review our regulations. It is particularly so in a society which is so influenced by changing technology. Our technology changes very rapidly and, as a result of that, it is necessary for us to ensure that our regulations are up to date.

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure members of the House that it is our intention to put in place a mechanism for this review that respects and involves the Advisory Committee on Occupational Health and Safety. That is going to be part of the process with respect to the review that will occur. I can also say that we will be open to the public with respect to any recommendations they make or concerns that may arise with respect to regulations and how they are implemented.

[Page 8540]

What this does is put in place a vehicle whereby we can ensure our regulations will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and that the review will take place in an environment that is respective of the workplace but, at the same time, respects changing technologies, changing circumstances, that occur from time to time within our society and within our economy.

Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable pleasure that I bring this piece of legislation forward at this time and I look forward to hearing comments from other members.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it is not with considerable pleasure that I have to stand up and debate this particular bill. I am in trouble.

Mr. Speaker, I will start with a brief summary of what I will be saying by saying I find it abhorrent that this government believes this is the appropriate way in which we should be reviewing regulations, by putting into law a belief that they should be repealed automatically, without having the legislative structure in place to ensure that we are going to ensure there will be regulations. If this was any other province, if this was any other government, any other political Party that was in government, we might have an ounce of trust in the fact that this government really does mean what it says, that they intend this to be a way to continually review regulations.

This is the government of Westray; this is the government that did not produce regulations for the full 15 years that it was in power, between 1978 and 1993. It did not produce one new regulation with regard to health and safety and did not do a thing in order to ensure we were updating our regulations and making sure they were working.

There is a sad history in this province, Mr. Speaker, a history that health and safety laws are changed in this province only when coal mine accidents occur. There was a review back in the 1950's, after the accidents in Springhill, which I am sure you know much more about than I do. There was a review again in the 1960's, or the early 1970's, I believe, when there was an accident in Cape Breton. The point is that it took Westray, in 1992, to force this government to have to come to the table with management and labour to create a new Occupational Health and Safety Act and up-to-date regulations.

Now, I was fortunate enough to have been able to work on that particular project and realized the benefit of review. I don't disagree with the minister; review is good, review is necessary, there are technological changes. The way to do it is not to repeal what is in place before you have guarantees that they are going to be replaced with something. This is a province that, up until recently when regulations were changed which for 50 years hadn't changed its industrial safety regulations and in 45 years hadn't changed its construction safety regulations. There were regulations, not only around acetylene. There were regulations, Mr. Speaker, around the fact that women had to have special rooms and special attendants to look

[Page 8541]

after them in their time of need. No one actually understood exactly what it meant, it had been so long since these regulations had been changed.

This government never changed them. These Tories, back between 1978 and 1993 felt compelled to not change the regulations. It was only after 26 workers died at Westray that they were forced to do what any good government would have done on a regular basis. Reviewing regulations in this province has a history of being done when coal mine disasters occur. Maybe as time goes on and the coal mining industry wanes in this province, maybe other industrial accidents will be the reason why we are actually reviewing regulations, but this government has never proven that they have a solid track record or any track record in really trying and attempting to update health and safety regulations on an ongoing basis.

We only have to look at the last six months when the Minister of Labour at the time, now the Government House Leader and the Minister of Transportation who specifically delayed the implementation of regulations that were originally completed by the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council in 1995. They were ready for implementation in October of last year, and they were delayed by this government. Then they had to go to a red tape commission where, hopefully, on their part, they could have been further watered down.

There are good reasons why the people of this province, whether they be employers or workers, should be weary of what this government is trying to do with regard to this legislation. Their record is abysmal. They have never been committed to health and safety as Tories, and this particular government has never proven their commitment to health and safety. This legislation has so many holes in it, you can drive a truck through it as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley can attest to. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is, without that level of trust, without that level of commitment in the past and a record that shows there is a commitment on them to ensure health and safety regulations are going to be continually updated, this legislation allows them, in four years with regard to some and five years with regard to others, to basically get rid of the regulations.

What does that mean? Well, they have an Occupational Health and Safety Act. An Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed back in 1997, I believe, and it was an Act that brought us up to the national standard. I would argue, based on labour and management coming together, it was the first Act with regard to labour laws in this province in 30 years that actually brought labour and management together and ensured they worked together. They came to a consensus, something many people in this House and in the province probably never thought could happen. But they agreed on almost every component of that legislation.

At the same time there was a review of regulations, something I had personally worked on with people from the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, with people from the Mainland and Cape Breton Trade Councils, with members of the Nova Scotia Association of Health

[Page 8542]

Organizations, with the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters, with the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, and various other employer groups. They came together. Yes, there were difficult times. Yes, there were times in which the two sides had trouble working things out. But, you know what? They did because they knew in the end it was important to have up-to-date regulations, regulations that ensured that we as a province were harmonized with the rest of the Maritimes and in many cases with the rest of Canada, and even in some, with the rest of the world.

I will talk a bit about economic development and why it is important to continue to have regulations that are up to date. But, for now, I think it is important to reflect back on that process. It is a process, Mr. Speaker, that many thought would never work, and there were some days I can attest to that many of us in the actual group weren't sure it would work either. But it was effective, and it assured through the Advisory Council that was in place under the Occupational Health and Safety Act at that time that we did have a review. The two sides had an opportunity to come together and to work out their differences, and to come to an agreement, something which I think is a model for all labour legislation in this province, something that, since 1978 and under the Michelin bill, this province hasn't had. This is a shining example of what it could be and what it can be again if this government had this commitment.

In this legislation, we don't see that commitment, Mr. Speaker. We don't see anything in here saying that after five years or after four years there shall be a review by the Advisory Council. We don't see anything in here with regard to automatic reviews like you see in the Workers' Compensation Act. It just says that regulations will be repealed after five years. What happens then? Do you jump off a cliff? Who knows? Because this government hasn't explained. It could very well be, and again, going back to that issue of lack of trust, that they just want to see more recent regulations fall by the wayside. Why? Well, I will go back to Westray because Westray is a shining example of what I think is the Tory commitment to economic development.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what was Westray? Well, many in this room and many in the province can probably explain it better than I can, but here is my take on it with regard to health and safety and some other issues. A Tory Government - and some of the members are still there - were eager to try and get jobs, jobs at any cost. We saw what the cost was - 26 people died. Now some can say that is being harsh, but I would suggest to you that is exactly what happened. They were willing to look the other way with regard to health and safety regulations; they were willing to look the other way with regard to mining regulations; they were willing to look the other way with regard to environmental regulations in order to ensure that someone like Clifford Frame could come here and create short-term jobs before an election. That is what it was about. It is that crass.

[Page 8543]

That is our concern with this legislation. It opens it up for this government to again go back to the bad old days when economic development and political opportunism are more important than legislation that protects the health and safety of workers and ensures that we have an opportunity to actually protect our workers. That is the problem, that this government's idea of economic development is to go to the lowest common denominator; not that different than we see with regard to Bill No. 62. This government is more concerned with getting cheap labour and labour that does not have the right to organize or the right to protect themselves in the workplace, in order that we can bring the likes of Clifford Frame and Westray in here to create jobs in the short term. They talk about higher education and a well-skilled workforce, but they are more concerned with cheap labour for people who are willing to come here to make a quick buck. That is the problem, Mr. Speaker, that is the problem with this bill. There is no trust in what they are saying, there is no ability for us to believe that they are serious about actually trying to upgrade regulations on a regular basis.

I think it is important also to reflect on the fact that we do have this advisory council. We have an advisory council that is in place for this very objective, to review legislation and to make recommendations to the minister. This can be ongoing. There is no need for sunset clauses, there is no need for us to say that we will stop these regulations and they will have no effect as of five years when the advisory council is in place and has an opportunity to do that on an ongoing basis. All this does is create an opportunity for political interference. Political interference which was and is the reason why we had the Westray disaster. What we need is to remove that political interference; to remove the politics from health and safety. Let those who know best get in there and define what they need in order to ensure we have productive and safe workplaces. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, what is important is to reflect on the fact that that political interference is gone from health and safety. It is no longer there. We don't have a government that is dictating rules based on political opportunism, we have those that are there, whether it be the millworkers at Crossley Carpets - I remember working with some of them, both production staff and unionized staff - whether it is workers who are facing violence issues or indoor air quality issues at the QEII or at long-term care facilities, these are the people that know best what they need. Quite frankly it was a system that was set up not unlike collective bargaining. The people who had the best opportunity to ensure that their workplace rules were being negotiated were those in the workplace - the union local and the employer. Well, do that on a provincial level and let's have them negotiate health and safety legislation including regulations. Let them decide the widths of planks on a scaffold, let them decide whether or not certain types of scaffold should be allowed - referring back to the fall protection and scaffolding regulations. All this bill does is say that will be repealed within five years and now let us start - well, it does not even say start, who knows what it means? If the government was truly committed, if they wanted us to believe their words weren't just platitudes, but that they really meant something, then this government would put in place, in this legislation, specific components that show how this legislation will ensure nothing will be repealed until new regulations are in place. Without that, this government is setting

[Page 8544]

us up for another Westray; it is setting us up for another disaster and setting us up for more economic development based on low-waged, low-salaried jobs, not based on highly skilled jobs that ensure that we are all safe, healthy and that our environment is protected.

We saw yesterday, with Sysco, what this government is willing to do with regard to the environment, and today we see what they are willing to do to health and safety. It is not just about sunset clauses, it is not just about the details of the words of an agreement. Let us look beyond that, let us look at the big picture. It is about saying that the biggest environmental disaster in North America and at least Canada - the tar ponds - this government won't have to deal with the environmental liability of that. It is about saying that health and safety rules in this province that just recently, in a matter of weeks, have become up to date and harmonized with the rest of Canada, will shortly be repealed in the next few years, and God knows what will happen after that.

It is about trying to turn back the clock and trying to ensure that this government and those who supported them in the last election are not in a position where they have to worry about regulations or worry about those who are willing to actually fight to ensure health and safety in the workplace, or a safe environment. That is what is wrong with this legislation. If this government were serious they would ensure they were providing us with the details in the legislation of not only that they are going to repeal laws, but that they are going to have in place a mechanism. The minister says, we will have a mechanism; if it isn't in the legislation, Mr. Minister, I will say to him, Mr. Speaker, then there are no guarantees. Guarantees are what we need to have any level of trust in a Tory Government.

That is what the problem is with this legislation. Our caucus will not be supporting it, the member for Cape Breton Centre will be speaking on this longer, but it is vital that the people of this province understand what this government is trying to do. There is no trust, there is no reason to trust. There is no trust because of what you have done in the past and what you are trying to do now. If there is no trust in the past, if there is no reason to trust you now, how can we trust in five years what you are going to do? If you are willing to be serious about actually improving regulations, there are other means and I encourage you to take them. This is only a way of ensuring cheap labour and lack of health and safety rules in this province and that is not the way to go. That is not what Nova Scotians want and I will not be voting for this on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce a special guest in the west gallery, Reverend Kevin Little. Reverend Kevin Little is a United Minister in Fairview and he is also our federal Liberal candidate here in Halifax in the upcoming election. I would ask members to provide him our usual warm welcome.

[Page 8545]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I am pleased to rise and make a number of observations on Bill No. 68, An Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1996, the Occupational Health and Safety Act. I concur with many of the observations that have been made by the previous speaker who, by the way, I find on some issues I tend to agree with. As I understand it, this particular individual was part of a working group in the design and the drafting of this particular piece of legislation when it was put into force back in 1996. I understand, and I think he knows me quite well, as myself having served as Minister of Labour in the department, I am always quick to give credit where credit should be due. I do believe he made a rather substantive and positive input and contribution into this process.

He does speak with some credibility in the understanding of the principle of the present piece of legislation and what this particular piece of legislation will mean should it be adopted by the government and all indications are that it will be. It will, simply by the mere fact that the government does have the majority and it would only be a time factor as to how long we would wish to stay and debate the issue, but ultimately the government has the majority of the members in the House and the vote will carry.

But, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe it will be with the support of the Liberal caucus either and certainly not with the support of myself for a number of reasons because what we see here is a pattern that is developing, much as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, has stated. It opens up the door to start disposing of and putting to rest many of the regulatory initiatives that are now in place and there is supporting evidence to show why the government would move in that direction.

We all know that this government is pro big business at just about any cost. We know, Mr. Speaker, by the way that the minister has handled a number of occupational health and safety issues in the House of Assembly here as well as in dealing with a number of very vital issues that came in under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We saw in the last session of the House where the Minister of Labour overrode the unanimous decision of the Occupational Health and Safety Panel by favouring Nova Scotia Power to the detriment of the linemen on a particular regulation that would require at least two linemen to go out on site in an emergency situation. But the government opted, as per the request of Nova Scotia Power, because some officials from Nova Scotia Power took it upon themselves to make a direct intervention to the minister's office and perhaps other officials within government, perhaps the Premier, or some senior Cabinet Minister that, no, we do not think that we should have two linemen out on site in an emergency, they only need one.

If something dreadful happens, like a lineman should fall off the pole down to the ground, or if he gets zapped with 30,000 volts, he would have a telephone, he would have a cell phone with him, and he could just easily call for back-up. I have not seen too many people who have been zapped with 30,000 volts of electricity take time out to make a cell

[Page 8546]

phone call to their head office. I have not seen too many people who fell from the top of a power pole to the ground and still be conscious enough to make a call for back-up.

Mr. Speaker, the initiative that was supported by the minister was absolutely ludicrous. It was absolutely ludicrous and to the detriment of the safety of the workers at Nova Scotia Power, but yet even the employers representatives on the Occupational Health and Safety Panel supported the regulation that two linemen go out on site in an emergency. The employers, the employees, it was unanimous, but it was a political decision by the Minister of Labour to override the very process that took several years to put in place.

That is the type of politics that we had pre-Westray, Mr. Speaker. That is the type of legislation and law enforcement we will have if this piece of legislation is approved. I think it is extremely counter-productive. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works is shaking his head and saying no, no, no, but let's not forget he was part of that process. He was part of that process.

[5:45 p.m.]

I remember standing in the House, asking questions on safety at that particular juncture. I also remember the Minister of Labour of the day, the honourable Leroy Legere, standing up in response to a question from the member for Cape Breton the Lakes. He finally stood up in frustration and said, well, Mr. Speaker, - I may paraphrase just a bit but I think I am pretty close to his exact words - if I had known the honourable member was going to ask me a question on this issue, I would have prepared for it.

It was not a test, it was an issue of safety. For months and months prior to that explosion, the minister was grilled in this House about safety. What did he do? He did nothing, Mr. Speaker. That is what happens when politics gets into the process.

There is a place for the minister in this process. Under this new Act that was brought in in 1996, the basic principle and working element that underlines everything to be achieved in this particular piece of legislation - the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1996 - was the internal responsibility system, better known as the IRS. It is a checks-and-balances system, Mr. Speaker, that goes from the front line, from the workers right through to the employer, to the complaints process should the Department of Labour be called upon, to that complaints process there, to a review process, to an appeals process and ultimately, up to the judicial process.

There are powers for the minister in that process but they are with checks and balances. That is why I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the government and the Minister of Labour would like to bring this particular piece of legislation that they have on the books today, and put it in place so they can eliminate those checks and balances and impose political will whenever it is convenient.

[Page 8547]

Mr. Speaker, we went through pure misery through that entire period after the Westray explosion. Lives were destroyed, people died, political careers were ended, public servants were affected in a major way. Do you know what was so frustrating? The Premier of the day would stand in this House - and Hansard will prove me correct - and he blamed everybody; he blamed the workers, he blamed the Opposition, he blamed political conspiracies, he blamed the Cape Breton coal miners, he blamed anyone he could blame. He blamed everybody, in an effort to cover up why he didn't want to do what he was hired to do. That is a legacy we are not proud of. We went through a lot of work to correct it.

This particular piece of legislation is a move in that direction. It is very disturbing. Last evening on ATV, I believe the news report was, armed robbery up 27 per cent here in metro, in Nova Scotia in the last year. Well, Mr. Speaker, just before we exited as a government last year, we had the final draft of the violence in the workplace regulations prepared for P & P. They were before P & P for approval when we left. That was a long, consultative process.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member permit a question?

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if, in the interest of clarity, the honourable member would not agree that in fact those regulations were taken forward to P&P, and they were sent back by P&P with no explanation as to why they were rejected and not accepted?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, they were sent several times, and several times they were sent back with explanation. If the honourable minister would at least show up in his department and consult with the staff, he would know all this information rather than come up and play politics on the floor of the Legislature. It was quite evident yesterday, when I raised an issue of conflict of interest in the Occupational Health and Safety Division - what did he do? - he engaged in personal attacks.

Mr. Speaker, I will table the document that clearly indicates that conflict, and why I, as a member of the Legislature, would be concerned about turning back the hands of time on safety in this province.

He might think the bravado of the political chicanery that he likes to maybe engage in is something that will divert attention from the reality of the seriousness of this situation, but we won't be fooled. We were fooled with the previous Premier, Donald Cameron, but we won't be fooled by this lot. To experience is to know, and we have learned. We have learned what this lot over here is all about when it comes to safety. At any cost, roll back the hands of time.

[Page 8548]

Here is the so-called independence that the minister alluded to yesterday, the arm's length and the no conflict of interest. Now, this is an individual who, in my view is in a conflict of interest for almost two months, and then when it became quite apparent there was a conflict, perceived, or real or apparent or whatever it may be, he issues an order relieving himself of the duty. But here is the catchphrase: I reserve the right to cancel, suspend or alter any or all of these delegations for any reason at any point in time before a final decision is rendered pursuant to Section 67 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Well, does that sound like a person who is being kept in check, Mr. Speaker? I am going to relieve myself, but I am going to come back if I feel like I should. Where is the deputy minister? Where is the minister? Where is the IRS system? I will table this document.

This is very disturbing. Then the minister has the audacity to come into this House and ask us to support this legislation. I don't think so; I don't think so. The safety of the workers is more important. Has he not even understood the implications of his actions? Who is pushing the button? Who is really driving this legislation, Mr. Speaker? Because when the sunset clause kicks in, what do we lose? We lose the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Appeals Panel. We lose a lot; and that is just one aspect. What about all the other regulations?

Yes, I will go back to the violence in the workplace regulations that the minister refers to because that was part of the consultative process. Various stakeholders raised objections. Employers had concerns about the costs; employees who were working late at night in corner stores, with boxes stacked up in front of the windows, were concerned for their safety. Somewhere in between there had to be a balance of trying to achieve the maximum benefit for safety and, at the same time, not trying to force our small mom-and-pop businesses to the point of bankruptcy and burying them in this red tape; that is why it went back and forth. If the minister had checked that, maybe he would have known, rather than get up in such a senseless direction. That is absolutely ludicrous and had he even asked me prior to this date, I could have explained it to him.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious, the minister does not know the workings of his department. That is the message that is getting out there. Maybe it is because he has too many portfolios, maybe a whole lot of reasons, I don't know, but it is quite apparent that this is a bad piece of legislation. It will affect people's lives - to the detriment. Tied with this as well, the Workers' Compensation Act. It was an all-Party effort. We went through a rather elaborate consultative process with the hearings around the province. When the Liberal Administration under John Savage took over back in 1993, certainly it is clear that I didn't agree with some major policy initiatives. But there was one good initiative that was put forth and that was bringing some controls under the workers compensation system-financial accountability. The politics that reigned through that process, at that time, and the implications that it had on occupational health and safety in this province and the security

[Page 8549]

of the system were absolutely mind-boggling. The biggest problem (Interruptions) I certainly will.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to be detracted because I want to stay on this workers compensation issue, but in fairness to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, yes, I believe the honourable member knows that I made a rather serious effort in making sure that the occupational health and safety panel wasn't one sided on its representation from the labour community. Thirty per cent of the total labour force in this province is unionized, and they were representing 100 per cent of the labour pool. That is why I started leaning towards the agricultural community, where they didn't have organized labour pools but they had a structure in place to allow for a very strong and responsible voice. Yes, I did try with the truckers association as well, and a whole lot of other entities. It is not a perfect system, but I believe the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley knows that we made some very good progress in that regard, to extend that balance of fairness. We just didn't cater to the agendas of the Rick Clarkes, a member of the NDP caucus; or to the Peter O'Briens, who was off on his mission. I didn't capitulate to those types of initiatives every time they came through the door. It was a give and take, it had to be fair.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation will eradicate that. This is politics at its finest, but it will have a very negative impact. With regard to the workers compensation system, it was on the verge of bankruptcy, and it wasn't until that management plan that was put in under the honourable Jay Abbass, to bring some financial accountability and stability to the system, that finally we were able to deal with the unfunded liability, which was pushing over $476 million at that time. The government of the day laid out a 40 year plan to write down the unfunded liability, to bring stability. But through our initiatives, and some reforms within the workers compensation system, I believe that that unfunded liability will be paid off somewhere in the vicinity of 23 years as opposed to the 40 years as planned. That is pretty good management.

Mr. Speaker, not only that, presently I believe that the Workers Compensation Board and the employers in this province are in the position to have lower rates. We are doing so well because of the initiatives that we took when we were on that side of the House and, yes, it was a cooperative effort by all three Parties.

There is one initiative, Mr. Speaker, dealing with the offshore, non-Nova Scotia firms, as it were. The fact that these companies would come into Nova Scotia and, for six months, they wouldn't have to pay . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment, so we can go to the late debate?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 8550]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[6:00 p.m.]

The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government should meet all its environmental obligations and should never again try to exempt itself from the Environmental Act and regulations."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

ENVIRON. - GOV'T. (N.S.): OBLIGATIONS - MEET

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, well, I guess if ever there was a debate that is timely, this one is it. I think that if you have any discussion at all with the public in Nova Scotia, then they certainly have the impression that this government and previous governments have some concern for the environment, and you probably will find that maybe in those instances where people feel that for one reason or another their wings have been clipped on a project they want to do, that they have to meet some environmental regulation.

Although the drafting and the enforcement of environmental legislation and regulations is probably a difficult one, it is one of those tasks that means you really have to weigh the interests, perhaps, of a few against the interests of everybody. It may appear to a point, to be walking that fine line between what people are craving to see in environmental legislation and being a visionary when it comes to trying to bring forth protection for the environment that even the public may appear to be somewhat resistant to.

I think, generally speaking, Canadians and Nova Scotians regard themselves as open-minded and they think that in a country like Canada, where we still feel that a pristine environment is one that we have a monopoly on because of our history and, to that end, they expect their politicians will not allow special interests or single interests to somehow jeopardize the protection of the many for the wanton destruction of a few. That may come down purely to your definition.

[Page 8551]

Mr. Speaker, the question has to be, whether or not you can actually come up with any evidence that the government has somehow neglected its obligation and has tried to exempt itself from the Environmental Act.

Now, in doing that, I guess there are two routes you can go. You can go the implied route; in other words, you can say well look, here we have all this legislation, we have all these regulations, and even though we have it in black and white, we are going to make a case to show that the government really hasn't followed any of its regulations or legislation in this regard. Even though they can stand in their place and say yes, here we have it, it is part of the Statute and it is in writing, and all Nova Scotians can be aware that this is the law of the land and this is what we do. So therefore, there is no argument about the intent of this government when it comes to environmental concerns.

In that I say, Mr. Speaker, we talk about the implied lack of concern or the implied exempting of obligation by the government. In other words, that is a much more difficult case to make. But, the other way this can occur is insomuch as what you put in black and white. In other words, whatever you put in legislation, if you can say that directly enough that you are exempting yourself from the Environment Act, then there really can be no argument to support the notion that you are not doing your share.

Well, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's Environment Act Legislative Review, this process that has gone on, certainly looked at the province and looked at its implementation of its environmental legislation, and I have to say that the assessment that was done by this group that carried out this process definitely are saying that the province has neglected its duty as far as its enforcement of the Act. What they are saying is that we have it in legislation and in regulation. We have a lot of what we need, and previous governments have put that in place. The reality is that what we have in place and how we act in relation to the enforcement of that, we are sadly lacking. That is what consultative review of the Act has told us.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the other mechanism for determining whether or not the province actually has exempted itself, in other words, in this case, it is the implied. We have legislation, but people for some time have been saying that the province isn't fulfilling its role in regard to this legislation. Therefore, what you see in the legislation tends to make you think well, it is all there for them to do it, and the government can probably make a case. This review tells us that is not so, even though the legislation exists.

The other case to be made, Mr. Speaker, is what you have in writing. What we have in writing is the agreement with Duferco. Now, this agreement has two clauses I want to bring to the attention to those of us who are here. "Province agrees to forever indemnify and hold the Indemnified Parties harmless . . ." What that means is the indemnified parties are the two companies referred to in this agreement. What it is saying when it indemnifies the parties harmless, it means that in such a case as these parties may be found liable for anything that has existed regarding the Sysco properties and what has come to them in the

[Page 8552]

agreement, that if by chance a court could find them liable - and I know when I get to the next clause, it will refer to after the closing date, that anything prior to that date - that they couldn't be. That is the way I would understand it. But in the thought that a case could be made in a court of law what the province is saying here is that you are not going to be liable; in other words, we will pay for whatever liability you suffer; in other words, if you have to pay a fine or are sued, then we will compensate you for that value. The province agrees to forever indemnify and forever hold the indemnified parties harmless, and that is what it means.

The other clause I want to get to is, "The Environment Act (Nova Scotia) and the regulations thereunder, as from time to time in force, supplemented, amended or replaced, shall not apply to matters for which the Province is responsible . . . " That doesn't mean the province is not responsible for the tar ponds or some other product as a relationship to Sydney Steel. The province is responsible, but the hammer for which we can say the province must deal with that has been taken away. In other words, the Environment Act, which somebody could hold up and say you must clean that up because your legislation says that you must, no longer applies to the province in regard to that, therefore the province has put in writing it is exempt from its own environmental legislation, that is what this resolution is saying. I find no way to argue out of that.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: It gives me great pleasure to speak to this resolution. I want to speak about the failure of this government to deal with the Sysco site. I have explained before that that site is in my constituency. I am not a chemist or a toxicologist and I cannot comment with authority on the degree of contamination or pollution that may exist there, but I can certainly comment on the visual appearance of the site. I have already described to the House the many derelict buildings, including the blast furnace department, the open hearth building, which is the largest building in the City of Sydney, and many other abandoned, no longer used buildings that are falling apart, falling down, rusting away and generally blight the landscape in the area I come from. They blight the landscape almost as much as a barrage of Tory signs but I am very happy to report there are no Tory signs up right now in the area that I represent. So, we have the environmental front licked on that count, but we don't on the aspect of keeping the site of Sydney Steel cleaned up.

I think it is very important that I be active and vocal on this topic because we cannot allow this government to slither off the hook and to reverse the environmental gains that were achieved under the Liberal Government of Premier Russell MacLellan. That government had a massive clean-up program going at Sydney Steel. There were 150 unemployed steelworkers working there cleaning up the plant site who would otherwise have been on welfare. (Interruption) We were doing that and the Opposition sabotaged the program and brought it to a halt, and I have explained that to the House before and it was a

[Page 8553]

shame and a disgrace that that excellent program was brought to a crashing halt thanks to the sabotage of Opposition political elements.

In any event, there are $318 million booked on the books of the Province of Nova Scotia, passed by this House as law and part of the budget of the province, that we are going to insist be used for what the books say it is there for. And what is it there for? It is for site remediation and clean-up and environmental restoration at the site of the Sydney Steel plant in Sydney.

We will keep hectoring them, we will keep pursuing them, we will keep harassing them until they explain when and how they propose to spend that money. They have told the House that they will spend it, they never said when, they have never said how. Try that approach to any bill collector if you are in debt. I am sure financial collection agencies would not be very impressed by the debtor who said, yes, I will pay my bill, but don't ask me when, don't ask me how, I will pay it when I pay it.

The government now says, we will clean that site up when we get around to doing it. I hear rabbit tracks down there in the corner but I am not going to be distracted. We are after big game. Speaking of rabbit tracks, I was disappointed to note that the member who sponsored the resolution didn't make the speech on the bill here. I understand he is out beating the streets trying to save Alexa from the Reverend Kevin Little. I have an inside tip that he may be greatly . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, being a previous Speaker knows full well he is not to mention the presence or the absence of a member of the House. I would appreciate the comments. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: To do that, Your Honour, had you listened to me more carefully you would have heard I was expressing disappointment that the honourable member who moved the motion did not make the speech, to speak to it, that is what I said.

MR. SPEAKER: Also, if you read Hansard, you will note that you said he was elsewhere, which is against the Rules of this House and I will stand corrected. The member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: All right, I just wanted to share that hot tip. In any event, I do hear, and another hot tip for you, Mr. Speaker, that Alexa may be greatly belittled come election day.

[Page 8554]

[6:15 p.m.]

To get back to the topic that the resolution deals with, we say that it is our job as the Opposition to stay on top of this so that the Sysco site and the tar ponds are cleaned up with that $318 million that they have stashed away in the budget and whatever other money is needed to do a proper job of site remediation. I admit that the job is probably beyond the capabilities of the Province of Nova Scotia, and I am not suggesting that they go it alone on this, but I do think that they ought to produce a plan of action on this matter. It is a very serious subject. I don't think that they would have salted away that kind of money in their budget for this if they didn't think that they could defend on the front of public opinion the expenditure of so large a sum for that particular cause. If this wasn't something massive, if this wasn't something great, if this wasn't something significant, they never would have included so large a sum of money in their budget for that purpose.

What we are asking for is that the plan for execution be now unveiled. That is not an unreasonable request; that is not something that is outrageous; it is not something that is radical or Bolshevistic. It is something that I think is very common sense, middle-of-the-road, plain and defensible. We ask that they do that. I know that by asking they are not going to do it, because as the saying goes, they will do it when they are bloody good and ready. I don't think it is fair to the people of Nova Scotia or to the constituents that I represent to keep the community dangling on this matter indefinitely. It is not fair. People want action. There is a great deal of concern on this in the Sydney area.

I think this concern was brought home more to the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government than it has been to this government, because there was a higher expectation at that time, there was the belief on the part of the people that they had a Premier who cared, that they had a Premier who had a heart, that they had a government that was based in that area, that its geographical base was very strong, its roots very deep in the industrial Cape Breton community, and that the Liberal Government would do something. So there was a great deal of pressure put on our government to deliver. We endeavoured to do the best we could. I guess it wasn't fast enough for some people, and so there were some who got upset and aroused, and went over to the NDP, and did what they could to bring our government down and to defeat our members.

There were various groups and organizations that spent vast amounts of money to try to do that. One organization spent $20,000 to try to defeat me, $20,000 to try to defeat my honourable friend over there by the door, and $20,000 more - $60,000 in total - to try to defeat the Premier in Cape Breton North. All three were elected anyway, despite that massive expenditure of money.

When this government got in, immediately, I think, expectations came down because it was a Tory Government and it wasn't a government that had any significant following in Cape Breton, especially in the industrial part, and so people kind of gave up and felt, well,

[Page 8555]

they are not going to do anything anyway so why bother trying. I don't come here with that attitude. I come here with the attitude of keeping after them and holding their feet to the fire, so to speak, to make them come across.

They did put the money in the budget, and I don't claim that it took any great amount of lobbying on our part to get them to put that item into the budget. Indeed, I think there was a rather Machiavellian intent on their part to try to use that to pad the deficit, to try to make our government look even worse than they were claiming that it had been. By inventing numbers and putting them on the books and saying, well, this is the actual obligation that the province has, or our ballpark estimate of what it is to do what they should have done, although we didn't have enough time to do it, they could make things look even worse, and portray themselves as even greater saviours and heros, when, I suppose, in three years' time when the next provincial election comes around and they have their election budget, they can say, well, look at the great things we did, we overcame this enormous deficit that they themselves created on paper with dollars that they had no intention of spending.

I think that is their game plan. We intend, if possible, not to allow them to get away with it. Certainly, in any way that we can, we intend to raise this matter, in late debates, in Question Period, in resolutions, in any device that is available to us here in the House, and beyond that on the broader forum of public opinion, through the media and through any forum that is open to us, we intend to raise this issue because it is a very valid concern. I believe that the minister is getting ready to follow me in the debate, and here is a golden opportunity for him to unveil the great plan and to set the record straight, if we haven't told the truth or perhaps haven't explained it the way it is, here is the opportunity. So I hope that for 10 minutes, rather than abusing me personally, because I have been abused for 30 years in this House and I am still here, I hope that rather than embarking on that kind of a quixotic quest, he will give us the straight goods and tell us what they are going to do to clean up that environmental mess at Sydney Steel.

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

MR. SPEAKER: You are finished. Thank you very much.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise tonight and address head-on the issue of environmental remediation, as it applies, I believe, even though the resolution was somewhat convoluted in terms of what it was truly referencing - the issue of the agreement between the Province of Nova Scotia and Duferco - as it applies to their environmental responsibilities. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Opposition members in the questions and so on over the last number of days have been trying to mislead, to some degree, the intent of the clause, so I want to clarify that for the record.

[Page 8556]

I will start by reading into the record what Article 13.6 actually says: "The Environment Act (Nova Scotia) and the regulations thereunder, as from time to time in force, supplemented, amended or replaced, shall not apply to matters for which the Province is responsible or in respect of which it has agreed to indemnify any other party or parties pursuant to provisions of Section 13.1, to and including 13.5, nor to

(a) the operations of Sysco or the Business up to the time of Closing;

(b) the presence of any Substance in, on, over or under the Purchased Assets or any of them up to the time of Closing."

The intention of this clause is to protect the province and to protect the purchaser. The province has provided full environmental indemnity to Duferco, as the purchaser of Sysco. I would remind the members opposite that every time there has been an attempt to sell this operation, the issue of environmental responsibility has been paramount to whether or not the agreement would proceed. This actually has been included in previous purchase agreements, including the Minmetals deal and the Mexican deal, so it is not foreign. Both those deals should be familiar to the members opposite because they had a hand in them - failed deals, I might remind them.

The other thing is the indemnity in Article 13.1 of the agreement, given by the province to Duferco that covers the liabilities for the following to the closing date. That means that while the Province of Nova Scotia is the owner-operator, the presence of any pollutants at Sysco on the closing date, the escape or discharge of any pollutants present at Sysco on the closing day, the indemnity provides that the province shall, at the request of Duferco, perform remediation work required to be performed by any order of regulatory authority or court arising from the escape or discharge of pollutants present on the closing day.

It is clear that the intention of the clause is to ensure that while the Province of Nova Scotia is the owner of record, they maintain responsibility for any environmental issues. The indemnity provides the mechanism to allow the province and Duferco to resolve contractually environmental issues raised by any regulatory authority or court.

After the closing date, with the transfer of the assets to the new owner, Duferco, the responsibility for liability around environmentally-related issues transfers to the new owner, as would be the intention. Section 13.6 of the agreement is designed to prevent the actions of third parties from imposing liabilities on the province greater than those covered by the province's indemnity under the agreement that the province would have spent more money on Sysco remediation over and above that which is agreed upon.

[Page 8557]

In other words, Mr. Speaker, in layman's language, it is to ensure that some third party, after the fact, does not use the opportunity to expose either the new owner, Duferco, or the Province of Nova Scotia to a liability greater than that which they should be expected to be responsible for. This clause clearly protects people for any environment-related damages that occurred while the province was the owner and, at the same time, at a very definite, finite date, the closing date of the sales agreement, the responsibility for any environment-related issues is transferred to the new owner. That is the intention of the clause. That was the intention of the clause in every one of the previous sale agreements. There is no intention on any party to avoid responsibility. In fact, it is clear from the outset that the province has recognized they have an obligation to people about environment-related issues and they have accepted that.

What has been happening in this House, because people generally are happy with the agreement that has been reached, that it is a good deal for the people of Nova Scotia in that it ends a 30 year dependency on paying to have a steel industry in Cape Breton that has not made a dime in 30 years, ends a $44 million annual expenditure, addresses the fact that we have $3 billion in accumulated debt directly attributable to our relationship with Sysco, we finally stopped the bleeding. We have an opportunity here for a new private sector steel owner to create slab steel, to create 215 jobs - potentially 500 jobs - to change a psyche in Cape Breton that has been very reliant on two traditional natural-resource-based industries, that being coal and steel, and to put Cape Breton on a footing to move to a new economy, an economy that they can be proud of, an economy they see as a steel industry that stands on its own two feet.

The rhetoric in the House around whether or not the province would accept responsibility for environment-related issues has simply been an attempt on the part of the Opposition members to divert attention away from what is really, truly a success story, something this government has accomplished that the government of the past was not able to do and that is find a buyer for Sysco who is willing to take on a responsibility to ensure that that asset can reach its true potential and that is, in fact, what that is. It is a diamond in the rough, if you will, it is like buying a car that is old, but with low mileage. When the people from Duferco came to that plant floor and saw the level of equipment that was there, the fact that it had never in 30 years been used to maximum potential, they thought that there was a strategic opportunity for them to acquire that asset and to become involved in the Nova Scotia economy in a very positive way. There have been comments made about the fact that they are not there for more than five years. In fact, I believe seven, 10 years from now, you will see a new and revitalized steel industry.

I would also like to comment on the misinformation around whether or not Nova Scotia is committed to environment-related issues and responsibilities. First of all, it is a fact that this is the only province in Canada to have achieved the nation-wide goal of a 50 per cent waste reduction from 1998 levels. In the year 2000 it is the only jurisdiction in North America to have achieved that, an 80 per cent return of beverage containers in 1999. I am

[Page 8558]

willing to give credit where credit is due. The fact that we have created that opportunity shows clearly that Nova Scotia Governments of the past, the present government and I hope into the future will accept that responsibility. Eighty per cent of the residents of Nova Scotia have access to centralized composting and that is a significant improvement over the past. We have also introduced new regulations and guidelines for the monitoring of public drinking water supplies. We have introduced a ban on the bulk export of water under the resources protection Act. We have also made improvements in on-site sewage disposal systems. We have also reduced the costs of delivering new water and waste water products up to 65 per cent because of new initiatives. We have also developed a stewardship agreement that will see the returning of milk containers.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, a lot of what has transpired in this House I believe is prompted in large part simply to maintain Sysco as a political football. I believe members opposite would almost like to see the province continue to operate Sysco so they could use it for political advantage and, in fact, this is the end of that. This is truly the end of that. We have steelworkers who have signed an agreement, 85 per cent of them voted in favour of accepting the pension agreement. Again, they ratified the contract between Duferco and the union to ensure that when the opportunity presents itself, we can move on. We have an Act before the House that has gone to the Law Amendments Committee and that will be coming back here to be passed.

Once that is done, Duferco is willing, anxious and able to step in and begin restructuring the plant so they can produce the maximum amount of slab steel that can be produced with the existing infrastructure. In fact, they have said that over the next five years their intention is to increase production and increase employment incrementally to a level well over 500. So I would say to the members opposite, let's get over this and move on. It is a good deal for Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this evening's late debate.

We will now revert to second reading of Bill No. 68, the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 68 - Occupational Health and Safety Act. [Debate resumed]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable members on the government side are saying, let's get back to the political football and that is really what Bill

[Page 8559]

No. 62, is it is a political football. It is a political document so they can go back to the good old days.

[6:30 p.m.]

As I was making reference to the workers' compensation system and the excellent job that had been done by the Honourable Jay Abbass in putting a financial (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to give the same consideration to the honourable member for Cape Breton West that he has given to other members when they had the floor. (Laughter). The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I know my speech may not exactly be riveting for certain government members, but . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Put a few more rivets into it.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . the honourable Minister of Finance would be well advised to enlighten the members of the House as to what he is going to do with that $300 million that is slated for the environmental clean-up at Sydney Steel, rather than just leave it on the books to look like other people in the past have done a terrible job. Again, he is one of the ministers that was part of the good old days, he was one of the members in the Government of John Buchanan that oversaw some of the most regressive activities in the market place here in Nova Scotia that have certainly put the Workers' Compensation Board on the verge of bankruptcy.

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member for Cape Breton West permit an introduction by one of his colleagues?

MR MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member. The honourable the member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to introduce to the honourable members of this House, in your gallery, the Speaker's Gallery, we have four residents that put a presentation before the Law Amendments Committee. They represent the group Crossroads: Reg Colbourne, Sylvia Jessome, Marilyn Ivey and Angela Stairs. I would ask all members to welcome them. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests in the Speaker's Gallery. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

[Page 8560]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) No, I won't start over, but it is hard to gain a little momentum here.

With the Workers' Compensation Act and how it relates to this particular piece of legislation, it is quite evident that all the work that was done under the honourable Jay Abbass when he was Minister of Labour, as well again when I took over that portfolio, we undertook a lot of initiatives to eliminate that unfunded liability. That will be paid off, as I was saying a little earlier, in 23 years or thereabouts, which is about half the amount of time that we anticipated. That is because, particularly with the non-Nova Scotia firms - as I was saying just at the moment of interruption - they would come into Nova Scotia and they could operate a business, they could win a contract anywhere here in Nova Scotia, whether the firm was from New Brunswick or the Cayman Islands or wherever, they would come in and they didn't have to pay workers' compensation in Nova Scotia for six months. In some cases there was evidence that these companies from outside Nova Scotia, would go back home at the end of the fifth month and the 29th day, and then they would send in another holding company or some subsidiary of their organization to keep the clock running and enjoy the benefits of lower rates from another jurisdiction.

What we did, Mr. Speaker, is we passed a new regulation that made it a requirement that within five working days, these companies would have to pay workers' compensation, putting all the Nova Scotia firms on an even playing field. That generated a lot of revenue for the Workers' Compensation Board. I believe that first year it was estimated somewhere between $10 million and $12 million. All these initiatives were good, positive initiatives.

With the adoption of the Workers' Compensation Act back when I was minister, with the cooperation of all three political Parties, again, we brought it to another level. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the backlog at the Appeals Tribunal of the Workers' Compensation Board system, as the Minister of Justice indicated at a press release about a month or so ago, is now eliminated, again an initiative that we undertook. So all the basic framework and the initiatives that were undertaken are now showing some positive signs for not just the employees in the province, but also for industry. The average rate, I believe, is $2.52. Now, out of that, 70 cents goes towards the unfunded liability. So once that unfunded liability is paid, we have an excellent opportunity to reduce the cost of doing business in Nova Scotia that much more, and business will benefit.

So to implement this particular piece of legislation to cater to demands of big business is really counterproductive; we have gone from one extreme to the other extreme. The basic framework is in place there. In fact, last year we could have very easily realized a reduction, in our rates, but I understand that the board, in its wisdom, decided to further pay down the unfunded liability. Well, that is fine; that is a good policy decision in the long run. But, undoubtedly, all indications are there will be another surplus this year, so, Mr. Speaker, once again, that will be of benefit to small and medium-sized businesses in Nova Scotia. There is no reason not to reduce the rates in another year or two. There is no reason whatsoever that

[Page 8561]

business should continue to pay high rates because the work is done. It is only a matter of time.

So, you look at this particular initiative, the sunset clause, and all the regulatory processes under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, I think what is going to happen, we are going to go back to the old process, all indications say we are and then, ultimately, business will pay more; they will pay more for this short-sighted political document. Because what will happen? We will have more claims coming in because accidents will increase in the market place because the safety mechanisms are not there. Sometimes it does cost a little. It is like an investment, Mr. Speaker, to have these safety training courses. You have to have your basic training certificates and so on to be able to go work on a construction site or whatever the job description is. That is the purpose of these joint occupational health and safety committees in the market place, on the graduated scale. You go anywhere from 1 to 24 employees, then from 25 and up. It goes on and on, these joint safety committees, where they would meet once a month.

Then there is the documentation of what safety initiatives have been achieved and realized. Many of those will be put in jeopardy because there is no guarantee under this proposed legislation, Bill No. 64, or 62 rather, that once the sunset clause - sorry Bill No. 68. I have numbers floating around here in my head. (Interruption) I will pick a number just like the Minister of Economic Development did for Sydney Steel. One day it is $20 million, the next day it is $30 million. So I guess we are a little sidetracked. Rabbit tracks, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) What is $1 million to the minister? What will happen is the cost to industry will go up because when these sunset clauses kick in, there is no requirement under this proposed legislation to ensure that new regulations are in place. There is no requirement whatsoever.

So all this work that has been done over the last five to six years since Westray will be put in jeopardy. It will cost more for business if we start to tamper with the safety regulations that we now have in place. The short-sighted political interventions by certain elements from big business to this government is a sure sign that we are going back in time. This is counter-productive.

I know that anyone who has run a small business certainly knows we can't afford - and for the most part, it is the small mom and pop type and the single-employer type operations, the small to medium-size businesses, that always get hit the hardest. Until we made changes on the assessment process for employers, the payroll deduction plan that we adopted, at least we made that request to the Workers' Compensation Board when I was minister, we requested that. They took our advice - I believe they did a random sampling of 100 employers across the province, as a trial, to see if that would work. It showed, I believe, a 99 per cent success rate.

[Page 8562]

What that means, for those who are not familiar, is that at the beginning of every business season, at the beginning of the fiscal year, you would automatically get a bill from the Workers' Compensation Board and you would have to fill in an estimate of what your payroll was going to be for that year. If you were off by more than 20 per cent, because you were lucky enough to win a good contract, then you would have to pay a penalty. You would have to pay that at the beginning of the fiscal year, whether you were fortunate enough to make that amount of money at all, Mr. Speaker.

Let's say, for example, if it was a $1 million operation, maybe if you had a bad year you would only generate revenue or had a payroll of $500,000, but yet, at the beginning of the fiscal year, you had to pay for the $1 million. We changed that, so that employers would be paying for their actual payroll. That would be done on a monthly or quarterly basis, or whatever option they preferred - I believe it is on a monthly basis.

We have made a lot of changes in the system that complement the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to make it easier, to make employers and employees realize this IRS system and how important it is, due diligence. Everybody has a responsibility for safety in this province. That was the objective - to make people more accountable with themselves, as much as it was to make others accountable, Mr. Speaker.

So to entertain this initiative, I find it very concerning. I don't see the value of having this legislation before the House, other than the fact that somebody somewhere in the governmental or bureaucratic level or business level, there is some interaction somewhere, Mr. Speaker, somebody has done a lot of lobbying to move back the hands of time. This will cost employers more money. If they think it won't, wait until the flood of claims comes in, safety regulations are not in place to ensure that the activities in the market place are forthcoming, and then we will be back here again. That is my prediction - we will be back here again to put back in place what has been dismantled by this minister and this government.

[6:45 p.m.]

It is scary, the implications. Whoever is behind this particular piece of legislation and I do not believe it is the minister. I do not believe for one moment that the Minister of Labour is the driving force for this legislation. Somebody has a self-serving agenda here that goes beyond the scope of occupational health and safety in this province.

We have one of the finest, not perfect, but one of the finest Workers' Compensation Acts in this country. We have some of the best safety laws in this country and we have a new culture in the market place because of the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association and a number of other bodies that are now training employees and employers how to think safety first. Is all that going to be just a waste of time because a sunset clause kicks in and the new

[Page 8563]

regulations are not forthcoming? It will be just like lifting the dyke and letting the water flow because we are going back in time.

If it is a cost consideration that the minister is concerned about, let him say. Just as I indicated with the violence in the workplace regulations, yes, there is a cost to employers - that is why it went back and forth between P & P and my office and the stakeholders. We were trying to develop a meeting of the minds as to the break-off point for the small Mom and Pop businesses. See? We were not designing regulations to put people out of business.

It is very unfortunate that the minister would even ponder bringing this legislation before the House because it is extremely counter-productive. All we have to do is go back to the PLI site at Sydney Steel, that project. Well, the hackles - that involved the issues of safety in the market place, if that was not a litmus test for the safety laws of this province, nothing was. It would be well-advised for the Minister of Labour to review that particular file because if he were to examine that particular file in its entirety, he would know that this is a bad piece of legislation.

I am disappointed that the minister has not really come clean and told us who is the driving force? Is it the Murray Coolicans of this world? Is it the Peter O'Briens of this world? The Ian Thompsons? What is going on? (Interruptions) Well, well, isn't that a sad rhetorical? The Dr. Plummer Report was an independent assessment of the safety laws and the initiatives that were taken on by the Department of Labour and the government of today, confirmed exactly the direction we were going because we were doing what was right for business and not just the employees. (Interruption)

I am not going to argue with an unarmed man, so let us stay on the issue. I am not going to argue with an unarmed man on this one.

These laws were good for small business and big business in Nova Scotia, but somebody is getting greedy. Somebody is getting greedy, and this government seems to have capitulated. For what reason? Is it a philosophy, is it a philosophical position that they have? Why is it that the Conservative Government of Nova Scotia doesn't seem to like safety laws? I have never seen the likes of it. Even if the minister were to have said, we will have the sunset clause, but if the new regulations aren't in place, we will ensure that the existing regulations will stay there until the new ones are drafted, hence, ergo, there is no purpose to have this bill before the House. Or if he wanted to bring in an amendment and say okay, we are going to review the regulations every two years or three years or five years or whatever, just the same as the review process that is mandated under the Workers' Compensation Act, then so be it.

[Page 8564]

Why open up Pandora's box to turn back the hands of time and do away with safety? When some of the members of the government benches were in Opposition, we couldn't hear enough from them about how little we were doing for safety. How little we were doing, and we were not doing this, we were not doing that, and yet the honourable Minister of Economic Development when he stood up in his place, when he was on this side of the House, introduced a Private Member's Bill to do away with safety laws. He introduced a bill to do away with safety laws.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

MR. MACKINNON: The honourable Minister of Economic Development, when he was in Opposition, he tried to do away with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. That is the type of safety consideration that member has. Any wonder he would introduce a bill, the Sysco bill, that would say forget about the environmental clean-up, let's forget about all the safety laws of this province and the health and well-being of people. He was lobbied by a certain element in his constituency, and he said I am going to go to Halifax and I am going to stand up for you, and I don't care . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Small business. Small business.

MR. MACKINNON: Small business. Balser Trucking. There may not be a conflict there, but he didn't read the Act, because if he had read the Act there was already a provision for the Director of Occupational Health and Safety to provide exemption for what he was looking for, but he didn't even read the Act. He didn't even read the Act, which is why I am so highly suspect of this minister with this Act. What was there was an allowance to address the concerns of the member for Digby when he was on this side of the House. He didn't even take time to read the Act. It was political opportunism, but it is consistent with the philosophy that he has. Only the fittest survive; the law of the jungle here.

Mr. Speaker, that is the difference between government and business. Government has a social mandate, on top of their drive to meet their budgetary targets. For the most part, you go in private business to make money. That is what I went into business for, to make money and to do the things I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, the member for Digby, he didn't understand that, he didn't even take time to read the legislation that was approved. If he wants to check the record again, still, that as supported by his own caucus when it came before the House. His caucus voted for legislation one day, and then he comes back representing the caucus on another day to say, no, we don't want those laws, we want to get rid of them. And you wonder why we are suspect.

Mr. Speaker, they do things without even at least taking the time to read the document that they are putting forth. That is the sad part about this. In time we will find out who is the driving force behind this legislation. Where is the consultative process? It is clearly demonstrated the minister is even overriding the advice of the advisory panel representing

[Page 8565]

industry and labour from all walks of life. Many of those appointments were supported by the Conservative caucus and recommended by members of the Conservative caucus. Now we have the minister saying, oh, we don't want your advice. Go away. That is not what we want to hear.

So, Mr. Speaker, no, our caucus will not support this. We will not support this political document. We will not support any initiative that will hurt employers, because it will hurt them in the long run. It will hurt employees. It will hurt the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, and it will certainly hurt our image as being second to none on safety in this country. With that, Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member can go until 7:08 p.m.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, at this juncture, I would move that we adjourn the debate and call for a recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that we adjourn debate. Is it agreed? (Interruption)

We had a request for a recorded vote.

We will begin ringing the bells and come back at the very latest by 7:56 p.m.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[6:56 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[7:07 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied?

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise, to meet again tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. We will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading.

[Page 8566]

Mr. Speaker, we are coming up to a long weekend, I just mention that in passing. When we finish the Consumer Protection Act, the Crane Operators and Power Engineers Act, the Probate Act, and the Law Reform (2000) Act or the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act, whichever one, then I think we should adjourn for the weekend, if that is possible.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, the hours for tomorrow, November 10th, are 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. or until the business is completed, as introduced and presented by the Government House Leader.

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

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 7:09 p.m.]