Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

La Chambre s'est ajournée le
26 octobre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 23, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Sutherland-Harris Mem. Hosp.: Outpatient Services - Retain,
Mrs. M. Baillie 9158
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 9159
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3503, Ledwidge, Mr. Francis - Enfield Vol. Fire Dept.:
Commitment - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 9159
Vote - Affirmative 9160
Res. 3504, Chignecto-Central Reg. Sch. Bd./NSTU - Awards:
Recipients - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 9160
Vote - Affirmative 9161
Res. 3505, Petroleum Direct. - Announcements: Significance -
Acknowledge, Mr. T. Olive 9161
Vote - Affirmative 9162
Res. 3506, Eastern Passage - Community Youth Drop-in Centre:
Opening - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 9162
Vote - Affirmative 9162
Res. 3507, Premier - Mar. Premiers (Tory): Meeting - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9162
Res. 3508, Fawthrop, Doug: TIANS Award - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 9163
Vote - Affirmative 9164
Res. 3509, WCB - Widows: WTN Documentary - Viewing Encourage,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9164
Res. 3510, Health - Research Commun.: Participants - Commend,
Dr. J. Smith 9165
Res. 3511, Fishermen's/Fisherwomen's Mem. Park (Owls Head) -
Establishment: Participants - Commend, Mr. W. Dooks 9165
Vote - Affirmative 9166
Res. 3512, Election (Cdn.) - Promises: Gov't. (Cdn.)/Gov't. (N.S.) -
Similarities, Mr. F. Corbett 9166
Res. 3513, Highland Village (Iona) - Christmas Open House:
Participants - Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 9167
Vote - Affirmative 9167
Res. 3514, Sports - Atlantic Bowl: CIAU - Motion Reconsider,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 9168
Vote - Affirmative 9168
Res. 3515, Health - Cuts: Premier's Promises - Min. Remind,
Mr. D. Dexter 9168
Res. 3516, Health - NDP: Press Conf. - Content, Mr. D. Wilson 9169
Res. 3517, Terence Bay - Blessing of the Fleet: Participants -
Recognize, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9170
Vote - Affirmative 9170
Res. 3518, Sports - Atlantic Bowl: Loss - Min. Prevent, Mr. B. Boudreau 9171
Vote - Affirmative 9171
Res. 3519, Environ. - Gov't. (N.S.): Min. (Full-time) - Appoint,
Mr. H. Epstein 9171
Res. 3520, Inverness Co. Council - Meeting: Premier -
Refusal Admonish, Mr. R. MacKinnon 9172
Res. 3521, Prime Minister - Dartmouth: Election Info. - Shared,
Mr. J. Pye 9173
Res. 3522, Col.-Musq. Valley MLA - Pol. Sci.: Course - Enrol,
Mr. D. Wilson 9173
Res. 3523, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Twinning -
Construction Begin, Mr. P. MacEwan 9174
Res. 3524, PC Party (Cdn.): Election (Cdn.) - Status, Mr. M. Samson 9175
Res. 3525, NDP Leader (Cdn.) - Election (Cdn.): Statements -
Frustration Reveal, Mr. P. MacEwan 9175
Res. 3526, Health - Acute Care Beds: Addition - Nurses Recruitment,
Mr. D. Dexter 9176
Res. 3527, Robertson, G.B. - Death of: Family - Sympathy Extend,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9177
Vote - Affirmative 9177
Res. 3528, PC - Cabinet Meeting: Campaign Ads - Presentation,
(by Mr. D. Dexter) Mr. Robert Chisholm 9177
Res. 3529, NDP Leader (Cdn.)/NDP (N.S.): Uselessness - Recognize,
Mr. M. Samson 9178
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 9179
Hon. P. Christie 9179
Mr. John MacDonell 9179
Dr. J. Smith 9186
Mr. F. Corbett 8189
Adjourned debate 9192
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1124, Health - Pictou: Nurses - Reinstate, Mr. John MacDonell 9192
No. 1125, Environ. - Martock (Hants Co.): Min. - Action, Mr. W. Gaudet 9193
No. 1126, Health - Aberdeen Hosp. (New Glasgow):
Kitchen Facilities - Cleaning Ensure, Mr. D. Dexter 9195
No. 1127, Environ. - Sewage Disposal: Martock (Hants Co.) -
Permits Question, Mr. R. MacKinnon 9196
No. 1128, Commun. Serv. - Housing: Affordable - Min. Provide,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9197
No. 1129, Health - Sutherland-Harris Mem. Hosp.: Outpatient Dept. -
Nurses Reinstate, Dr. J. Smith 9198
No. 1130, Health - Seniors: Fuel Prices - Effects, Mr. J. Pye 9199
No. 1131, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Paediatric Dept. -
Review Availability, Dr. J. Smith 9201
No. 1132, Justice - E-Commerce: Consumers - Protect, Mr. H. Epstein 9202
No. 1133, Educ. - West Kings DHS: Renovations - Status,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9203
No. 1134, Health: 911 Employees - Strike, Mr. D. Dexter 9204
No. 1135, Mun. Rel. - UNSM Members: Gag Order - Reason,
Mr. B. Boudreau 9205
No. 1136, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Gas Dist. System - Public Safety,
Mr. H. Epstein 9206
No. 1137, Environ. - Martock (Hants Co.): Situation - Min. Investigate,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9207
No. 1138, Fish. - Lobster Licences: Concentration - Cease,
Mr. John MacDonell 9208
No. 1139, Lbr. - Firefighters: Volunteers Benefits Act - Time-Frame,
Mr. K. MacAskill 9210
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act
[Debate resumed] 9212
Mr. F. Corbett 9212
Mr. P. MacEwan 9223
Mr. J. Pye 9235
Adjournment of debate moved 9249
Vote - Negative 9250
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Hospital Beds (Post-1999): Increase - Promise Keep:
Mr. D. Dexter 9251
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9253
Mr. B. Taylor 9256
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act
[Debate resumed] 9259
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9259
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9270
Adjourned debate 9279
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 24th at 9:00 a.m. 9279
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3530, Question Period - Cabinet Ministers: Absence -
Premier Explain, Mr. J. Holm 9280

[Page 9157]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 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 honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on a point of order.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Yes, on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have spoken to the Government House Leader about this already. Today we have been advised that not only will the Minister of Finance be absent and the Minister of Environment, but we also know the Minister of Labour, who is also responsible for Consumer Services and Municipal Affairs is not going to be here. We have also been told that the Minister of Tourism and Culture plus the Premier won't be able to be here until after 1:30 p.m. So I am making a request, through a point of order, that the Question Period for today be delayed until 1:30 p.m., a time which the Premier and the Minister of Tourism and Culture are expected to be back. I think it is important that we have at least a little better than 50 per cent of the Cabinet in the House during Question Period. I think it is extremely important that the Premier be present.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

9157

[Page 9158]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have no difficulty with that. It is unfortunate that the affairs of business of the government must continue while the House is sitting and, unfortunately, on some days you just cannot avoid the absence of ministers from the House during Question Period. To accommodate the Opposition, who obviously have questions for the Premier, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and the Acting Minister of Environment and Labour, we will certainly be prepared to delay Question Period until 1:30 p.m. When we are finished the daily routine we will proceed into Government Business and then come back and revert to Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that Question Period will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the arrival of the Premier?

It is agreed.

Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid:

Therefore be it resolved that the government should keep its promise and provide more hospital beds than existed in July 1999 to meet the needs of Nova Scotians.

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 Pictou West.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition here today. The petition is, "Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital Out-patient Service. We the undersigned as citizens of Pictou West, demand that nursing services be restored to the outpatient department of the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital to a twelve (12) hour seven (7) day-a-week service." I have attached my name for the purpose of tabling.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West on an introduction.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the House today a group - I won't name them all - from Pictou West, my constituency, who came down to see the petition being tabled, and to watch the proceedings of the House. Please rise and accept the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 9159]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman, the Minister of Justice, I am directed to report that the Committee on Law Amendments has met and considered the following the bills:

Bill No. 75 - Law Reform (2000) Act.

Bill No. 77 - Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act.

Bill No. 80 - Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3503

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

Whereas volunteer firefighters are an indispensable part of rural life; and

Whereas long-serving firefighters carry on important traditions and pass on valuable knowledge to new recruits; and

[Page 9160]

Whereas Mr. Francis Ledwidge of the Enfield Volunteer Fire Department has served 30 years as a member and is currently serving as Chief;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Ledwidge for his longstanding commitment to his community and to the Enfield Volunteer Fire Department.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3504

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

Whereas last Thursday, in Truro, four Cumberland County teachers received awards for excellence in teaching; and

Whereas the recipients of the awards were: Janice Fullerton of Pugwash District High School, Heather Slack of Cyrus Eaton Elementary in Pugwash, David Skidmore of Parrsboro Regional High School and Nancy Tucker of St. Charles Elementary in Amherst; and

Whereas these awards are annually presented to teachers by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and the NSTU locals in Cumberland, Colchester-East Hants and Pictou;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes to these exemplary educators for their outstanding accomplishments in the field of education.

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

[Page 9161]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3505

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

Whereas last Friday, our Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate and members of the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline opened the Halifax Lateral Pressure Reducing Station in Burnside Park; and

Whereas the lateral to the capital means that business and consumers outside the main line have access to a new competitive fuel source and also serves as a jumping off point for service to the western part of the province; and

Whereas officials today met in Tufts Cove to celebrate the first natural gas to come from our offshore to be burned in Nova Scotia for the benefit of all Nova Scotians through Nova Scotia Power's Tufts Cove plant;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the significance of these two announcements as they illustrate both the first tangible signs that this new offshore Nova Scotia energy source is working for Nova Scotians and illustrate the potential for our province economically.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 9162]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 3506

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

Whereas the Boys and Girls Club has a long history of working with communities to ensure every child has potential; and

Whereas the youth of Eastern Passage have clearly stated a desire to have a youth drop-in centre in the community; and

Whereas local parents have been eager to have a safe location for their children to hang out;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of the Boys and Girls Club, parents Barb Dennis and Cathy James and the youth of Eastern Passage on the opening of the Community Youth Drop-in Centre.

I ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3507

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

[Page 9163]

Whereas the Premier, although he is certainly happy to have the election to hide what his government is doing in the House, had to take time this morning to meet with Joe Clark and two other Maritime Tory Premiers; and

Whereas it warms the members of this House to sees the Premier involved in this sort of partisan camaraderie; and

Whereas it is nice to know that the Premier is getting the chance to spend time with his federal counterparts, since the rest of the House certainly is not;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Premier and his colleagues, who shall collectively be known as Green Eggs and Hamm, but remind him that in our opinion these gatherings just remind us that true happiness is never having to say you're Tory.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3508

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

Whereas Doug Fawthrop, Managing Director for White Point Beach Resort was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia for his outstanding efforts to increase the number of visitors to the province; and

Whereas his many contributions include having played a founding role in several tourism organizations, including the South Shore Tourism Association, Canada Select and TIANS; and

Whereas Mr. Fawthrop is also the first chair of the Nova Scotia Partnership Council, an industry-government cooperative which leads tourism marketing and product-development initiatives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House praise Mr. Fawthrop's energy and special dedication to Nova Scotia, and congratulate him on receiving this prestigious award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9164]

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. 3509

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

Whereas tonight on WTN there will be a documentary on widows fighting for benefits from the Workers' Compensation Board; and

Whereas this documentary will detail the fight these women have endured against both Liberal and Tory Governments in this province; and

Whereas this documentary will chronicle the fight and hardships these women have faced;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House should watch this documentary at 9:00 p.m. on WTN, so that they will understand the negative effects Tory and Liberal actions have had on these widows.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 9165]

RESOLUTION NO. 3510

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

Whereas medical research in Nova Scotia received a shot in the arm, yesterday, with the creation of four bio-tech companies; and

Whereas these firms, based at the Dalhousie Medical School, will focus their research on cancerous cells, Parkinson's disease and improving the delivery of inhaled medications; and

Whereas MedInnova, created by the Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund, will also invest $6.5 million in new Atlantic Canadian bio-tech companies;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend all parties involved for their investment and faith in Nova Scotia's world-class medical research community.

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 3511

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

Whereas after weeks of work by members of the local community the Fishermen's and Fisherwomen's Memorial Park recently opened to the public; and

Whereas this memorial park, located near the Government Wharf in Owls Head, was conceived by the local community as a special tribute to three local fisher-people, Gerald Melvin Stevens, Roger Bradley Stevens, and Dianna Paulette Stevens, who tragically lost their lives at sea; and

[Page 9166]

Whereas the names of these three individuals are engraved in a simple stone monument erected at the park overlooking the ocean;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends who have lost loved ones at sea, and further thank the members of the steering committee and the local community for developing this special project.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3512

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

Whereas the Prime Minister visits Cape Breton only when doling out grants and before elections; and

Whereas, true to form, the Prime Minister was in Cape Breton yesterday to say that somebody really ought to do something about cleaning up the tar ponds; and

Whereas for over 20 years the Prime Minister has served in or led Liberal Governments - I hear a noise. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor. (Interruption)

MR. CORBETT: One can only hope.

Whereas for over 20 years the Prime Minister has served in or led Liberal Governments that have steadfastly refused to do anything about cleaning up the tar ponds;

[Page 9167]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that the federal Liberal Government and the Nova Scotia Tory Government do have at least one thing in common, and that is the ability to promise everything during an election and deliver nothing after an election.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3513

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Highland Village in Iona will host a Christmas open house on December 2nd and December 3rd; and

Whereas four of the historic buildings will be open to the public and will be decorated according to the custom of the time, allowing visitors to see how Christmas was celebrated during the Victorian era; and

Whereas during the open house, visitors will hear hymns and carols performed by the Iona Gaelic Singers and the Gaelic cultural studies students from Dwight Ross School in Greenwood;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all those individuals involved with the Christmas open house and be encouraged to experience a Victorian Christmas at the Nova Scotia Highland Village in Iona.

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 Preston.

[Page 9168]

RESOLUTION NO. 3514

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

Whereas next year will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Atlantic Bowl being hosted in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the CIAU Board of Directors recently passed a resolution calling for this CIAU semi-final game to be put into rotation with the Quebec Conference beginning in 2002; and

Whereas local organizers question this decision, noting that Nova Scotia has worked long and hard to draw the crowds from across the region to this annual sporting tradition enjoyed by so many;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House make their voices heard and call the CIAU - the Canadian Inter-University Athletic Union - to reconsider its motion and keep the Atlantic Bowl in Atlantic Canada full time.

I ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3515

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

Whereas John Hamm promised in the past election that there shouldn't be any doubt about the quality of health care Nova Scotians will get in the future, the John Hamm plan will make health care the first priority by providing more nurses, more doctors and hospital beds in the community; and

[Page 9169]

Whereas the Minister of Health is unaware of what the Premier promised the voters of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Minister of Health is breaking the promises of the Premier by closing acute care beds in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier remind the Minister of Health that health care cutting is not what he promised Nova Scotians and the cutting must stop.

I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3516

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

Whereas yesterday the NDP held a press conference that proved more than anything that they can count beyond ten; and

Whereas Helen-come-lately of the NDP rehashed old election promises and information ferreted out by the Liberal Leader last June; and

Whereas the NDP press conference looked suspiciously like a Liberal press conference held four months ago, right down to the taped Tory election ad;

Therefore be it resolved that while health care cuts are an important issue, the NDP should do more than count closed beds and copy Liberal press conferences, but rather they should disclose the implications of acute care cuts rather than just counting beds.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 9170]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3517

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

Whereas the annual Blessing of the Fleet truly reflects the historic tradition of the seafarers in Terence Bay and neighbouring coastal communities; and

Whereas each year at this moving ceremony we remember the terrible tragedy of the SS Atlantic, which sank in 1873 off Lower Prospect with more than 500 souls lost; and

Whereas this event indicates that community spirit is alive and well in Terence Bay;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Vince Norris, Willie Jollimore, and the organizing committee for their excellent work at the Blessing of the Fleet, which was held at the SS Atlantic Memorial Park in Terence Bay.

I ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 9171]

RESOLUTION NO. 3518

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

Whereas Nova Scotia may lose the valued Atlantic Bowl in 2002; and

Whereas yesterday the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission said this was not a pressing matter as the move will not take place for two years; and

Whereas the deadline for entering bids to replace the Atlantic Bowl is December 8th of this year;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister responsible take immediate action to try to prevent the loss of this highly treasured sporting event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3519

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

Whereas this government's environmental policies have been rife with confusion and disrepair; and

Whereas this government either doesn't care about the environment, is too confused to effectively deal with environmental concerns, or both; and

[Page 9172]

Whereas this government's stumbling around in the dark on environmental issues is hurting communities beset by poor water quality, airborne toxins, and waste sites long in need of clean-up;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage this poor, confused government to get its act in gear and appoint a full-time Minister of Environment.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3520

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 Inverness County Council recently requested a meeting with the Premier to discuss a matter of serious concern to the council; and

Whereas the council wanted to discuss the province's refusal to permit the Margaree Fish Hatchery to sell to local small operations; and

Whereas this is just another example of this government's total neglect and abandonment of the needs of rural Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House admonish the Premier for his callous action in refusing to meet with the Inverness County Council.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a request for waiver? There was no request for waiver.

The notice is tabled.

I just want to remind the members again, when you hold your resolutions over the microphone, they cannot be heard upstairs.

[Page 9173]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3521

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

Whereas the Prime Minister took a short swing through our province, discovering that Nova Scotia does indeed exist; and

Whereas he did not include a stop in the riding his own Nova Scotia Cabinet Minister hopes to win; and

Whereas this is a clear sign that even the Prime Minister does not think Bernie Boudreau is worth the time or energy or, for that matter, a backward glance;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Prime Minister for coming to terms with what the citizens of Dartmouth already know.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3522

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

Whereas the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley seems to be unfamiliar with the Rules of this House; and

Whereas the same member seems to be equally unfamiliar with the principles of democracy and responsible government; and

[Page 9174]

Whereas the member in question has an uncharacteristically huge amount of responsibility to this House for someone with those pronounced deficiencies;

Therefore be it resolved that the House offer to send the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to a first year political science course at one of the many fine universities in this province as well as purchasing him a copy of Beauchene's Rules of Parliamentary Rules and Forms.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3523

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

Whereas hardly a day goes by when there isn't an incident of some kind on Highway No. 101; and

Whereas Nova Scotians use this highway by the thousands on a daily basis to go back and forth to work; and

Whereas with so many people using the highway on a daily basis, reasonably intelligent people would consider this travel on the highway to be part of their daily requirements;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works should immediately begin construction on the twinning of Highway No. 101, as promised prior to the last election, so as to make it a safe place on which to travel.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 9175]

RESOLUTION NO. 3524

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

Whereas a small gathering of Maritime Tories toasted themselves this morning in Halifax with soon-to-be-dumped Tory Leader Joe Clark; and

Whereas a mere 500 Tories showed up, along with the three Maritime Tory Premiers, while Prime Minister Jean Chretien was greeted by over 1,000 Cape Bretoners yesterday morning; and

Whereas John Hamm, Bernard Lord and Pat Binns tried their best to boost Joe's sagging fortunes, asking us to forget that Joe was a major player in the scandal-prone Mulroney Government which left the country bankrupt when Jean Chretien took the helm in 1993;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the federal Tories are now on life support, with the plug about to be pulled on November 27th, and support Jean Chretien's advice to all Atlantic voters that a Tory vote is a wasted vote. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The notice is way too long.

[The notice was tabled.]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3525

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

Whereas as the prospects for continuing to lead a recognized Party in the House of Commons slip away from NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, her verbiage becomes more and more venomous; and

Whereas St. Alexa is now calling her opponents cockroaches, grasshoppers, and morally bankrupt, which surely is most shocking and appalling; and

[Page 9176]

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas The Globe and Mail has selected St. Alexa as having issued the nastiest jabs of any Party Leader in the current hard-fought election campaign;

Therefore be it resolved that St. Alexa's nasty language indicates her frustration at the prospect of the coming election, making her even more impotent and more irrelevant than that other NDP saint, St. Helen of the library.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Applause)

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3526

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I seldom get that kind of applause when I stand to speak on a resolution, so thank you very much.

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

Whereas the Minister of Health feels that if evidence indicates that there should be an increase in beds, then bed numbers will be increased; and

Whereas what the Minister of Health fails to recognize is that in order to increase the number of beds, you must also increase the number of nurses; and

Whereas we all know and are all aware this province has a nursing shortage;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health explain to this House where he intends to find the nurses when he adds acute care beds to the system.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 9177]

RESOLUTION NO. 3527

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

Whereas George Burnley Robertson passed away on Wednesday, November 20, 2000 at the age of 84; and

Whereas Mr. Robertson was a military World War II veteran and a partner and prominent corporate lawyer of the firm of McInnes Cooper Robertson; and

Whereas Mr. Robertson was very active in his local community and had a keen interest in politics, having served as President of the Halifax-Cornwallis Liberal Association;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend their sympathies to Mr. Robertson's family and friends, recognizing his outstanding contributions to our local community.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3528

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

Whereas 1999 Conservative election ads about health care featured the Premier who said, "There shouldn't be any doubts about the quality of health care that Nova Scotians will receive in the future."; and

Whereas the Premier forgot to say that the quality of health care will not be in doubt because he planned to slash and burn his way through the health care system; and

[Page 9178]

Whereas the Minister of Health wants to forget what they promised Nova Scotians in order to get elected;

Therefore be it resolved that the next Conservative Cabinet meeting should include a presentation of their 1999 campaign including the 243 promises in their platform, the 19 other promises the Premier made during the campaign and the ads that promised more hospital beds.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3529

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

Whereas federal NDP Leader Alexa McDonough has reached a new low in her career by now pleading with voters to help her Party maintain official status in Ottawa, abandoning all hopes of ever forming government; and

Whereas Alexa's contribution to this federal election has been displaying how many orange suits she owns and debating other Party's platforms by referring to Jean Chretien, Joe Clark and Stockwell Day's testosterone levels; and

Whereas Alexa's continual wailing of how she would spend the Liberal surplus should be a reminder to all Canadians that she will exercise the same fiscal restraint as previous socialist Leaders, such as Ontario's Bob Rae and B.C.'s Glen Clark;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that Alexa McDonough and the federal NDP Party, along with their Nova Scotia counterparts are out of touch, provide no constructive suggestions to important policy issues and overall have become completely useless.

[Page 9179]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

There are no further resolutions. As agreed, we will go to Government Business. Question Period will be at 1:30 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 62.

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to move third reading of Bill No. 62.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on Bill No. 62. It is the last shot over the bow, in the hope that the government opposite will actually really think about what they are doing. I think that it is probably not going to be the role of the government to promote the notion that the economy of Nova Scotia may not be as strong as they would like Nova Scotians to believe. I know that the government certainly promotes the notion that the economy in the Halifax area is strong. I think, for us, we would say that we would agree that there is strength in the economy around the Halifax-Dartmouth area, but I would like the minister and the government to think about the economy in the rest of Nova Scotia, in rural Nova Scotia.

If the minister will think back to the program brought forward by the Halifax Regional School Board, a breakfast program for their students, then perhaps they might reconsider it in their thoughts. If an area of the province, which has the lowest unemployment, which supposedly has the greatest growth in the economy, which seems to be doing the best in the

[Page 9180]

province, feels the need to bring in a breakfast program for their students, then they should stop and think about those areas in the rest of the province where the economy is not so great.

This piece of legislation in no way addresses those very real needs. I think that if the thrust of this bill is to put people who are on social assistance back into the workforce, then I have to ask the minister, where is the work that they are supposed to move into? All I see is the force. I would say that this force is coming from this government, to push people off social assistance into nothing. The minister and the government would obviously disagree, but I see no incentives for people to get off social assistance. Actually, the minister should stop and think, there is no incentive for people to go on social assistance. I think that notion is the one that seems to carry this government, that for some reason there are people in this province who would rather be on social assistance than in the workforce. I think that nothing could be further from the truth.

One point I want to make that I know I haven't made in the previous times I have stood in this House and talked about this bill, and that is the number of individuals who actually would be fraudulent in the system. I think this would be the crux of the direction that the government is going, the notion that there are so many people defrauding the government, who actually shouldn't be on social assistance and are somehow getting a free ride at the expense of the taxpayers.

Mr. Speaker, only 2 per cent of those on social assistance have ever really been identified as fraudulent, and I would say that something the government might want to think about is how they would define fraudulent. I know one of the complaints that people come into my office with is the fact that they get hit with overpayments. Quite often that doesn't say that those people are not in need. Maybe through their fault or the fault of the caseworker, but somehow they have received dollars that they shouldn't have received. These people would be lumped into that 2 per cent of individuals who would be deemed as fraudulent, and therefore make the government think that this number is actually people who for some reason have access to all kinds of money but have fooled the government in some way and they are living off the avails of the taxpayer.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that if they were to investigate and find out that even those that they might consider to be fraudulent are still people in need, they may want to rework the figures in order to ensure that somebody doesn't get dollars that their policy doesn't allow. There is another key word. The question of poverty or the question of need is a relative term, and relative to your society. Governments are judged by how they take care of the most vulnerable in their society. I would say that this government is receiving a failing mark. Not only are we neglecting those with real need, but we have no system in place to actually help people who are working but are in poverty.

[Page 9181]

Mr. Speaker, I stated the other day about those most affected by this legislation; I stated the other day about the myths that people have around those individuals who receive community services. There is no one coming into my office making $40,000 and saying, look, I want to get on social assistance because it is a much better deal than working and receiving a good salary. I think I raised to this House that if we consider the minimum wage, $5.60 an hour, for 2,000 hours, on a 40 hour week throughout the year, a single adult would make in the range of $11,000 or $11,500. The poverty rate for a single individual in this province is $14,000. So at the minimum wage, that person is making below the poverty rate. For anybody who would think that there is a major incentive for someone to go on social assistance rather than to work, social assistance for a single adult in this province is about $7,500. It is half the poverty rate. That is roughly $3.60 or $3.80 an hour.

Why anybody with a job would think that going on social assistance would be a better plan is beyond me, but that is certainly the direction that this government is trying to tell Nova Scotians. I will refer people to the November 3rd article in The Chronicle-Herald, I believe, where Premier John Hamm said he personally knows people who are making more money on welfare than those who are working one or two jobs. Where are they? Where are the people who are making more on welfare than those who have one or two jobs? What he should be concerned about are two things. One is whether or not the welfare system in this province that he wants to bring in will actually get people off the system, will actually reduce poverty, and will it help those who are having to keep one or two jobs to survive? There is an issue alone that he should be addressing. If this economy is so great, then why would someone have to work two jobs in order to survive, if they can survive?

I want to tell members opposite, if you are going to force people off the system, then you have to have something to force them to. I would say that the jobs are certainly not here in the metro area, which is supposed to be the most booming area of the province. In other words, if you had zero unemployment, then I would say there is a pretty good chance that there are people out there who are looking for people to employ, but that is not the case. Nothing in this bill addresses industrial Cape Breton, 17 per cent unemployment. Where are the jobs for those people? If you want to do something, come up with a job creation strategy. That would be item number one, before you embark on a program such as this.

[12:45 p.m.]

There are precious few people who would want to be on social assistance and this bill, the people this bill most affects, I think are children. The numbers have been adjusted - I think $133 a month pretty much across the board, from infancy to 18 years old - $133 a month, I think the members should realize what that actually means. The first category is for children 6 years old and under and $133 a month means that we are paying slightly more than $4.00 a day to feed and clothe a child, to take care of all the needs for slightly more than $4.00 a day.

[Page 9182]

I will say to members opposite, if you give your children any money when they walk out the door heading for school, to buy their lunch, you are going to use up probably $3.00 of that $4.00 just to buy the lunch at school. So I would say that if there is a thrust in this bill that would actually help people who are presently on social assistance, I missed it.

Actually this would be something that the Minister of Health should really be concerned about because one of the driving costs of health care in this country is poverty. I would think that the Minister of Health would want us to take a look at this and say hold it, maybe we should be allocating more dollars to help alleviate poverty, so that we don't increase costs in our health care system, which is something that if ever there has been a minister hammered in this House about the direction of the health care system, it is that minister.

Mr. Speaker, there are those concerns about this legislation that are not addressed, the concerns for those in poverty, the concerns of those on social assistance that are not addressed in this piece of legislation. There is no disputing the numbers; 7 per cent of Nova Scotia's population is on social assistance, that is the exact same number of people in this province that make use of the food banks. Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of individuals using food banks in this country and actually Nova Scotia will compare itself to Newfoundland. We tend to think because of the downturn in the fishery, that Newfoundland is the poorest province in this country, but the percentage of Newfoundland's population that makes use of food banks is about half of the percentage in Nova Scotia - 3 per cent of the population in Newfoundland make use of food banks; 7 per cent make use of them in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba are the closest in use of food banks, by percentage, to Nova Scotia and those three provinces fall into the 3 per cent range. Nova Scotia is the highest, at 7 per cent.

Now I would think it would be interesting to the government to note that the percentage of those who make use of food banks in this province is the exact same percentage of people who are on social assistance in this province. A light should go on for someone. Maybe this is a case of the light is on but nobody is home.

I think the government should realize that we really would have been interested to see a piece of legislation that actually showed, in clear detail, what it was that this government was trying to do with its bill for Community Services, Bill No. 62. The expression "the devil is in the details" could not apply more than it does to this piece of legislation because the regulations that go with this legislation are not available for the members of the House to see. So exactly the final spin on what this will mean to those on social assistance is not clear.

People wind up on social assistance quite often through no fault of their own. I would say that there are those people who are working who are only going from paycheque to paycheque that through conditions beyond their control they wind up on social assistance. They cannot make ends meet for one reason or another, and they hope that the time they

[Page 9183]

make use of social assistance will be a short time; as a matter of fact they cannot believe that they even have to go there. The myth that all the people on social assistance are uneducated is untrue; 11 per cent of those people receiving social assistance have some post-secondary education. So these would be individuals who have shown their intention to try to improve their lives.

We presently have a generation in this country that has begun to realize, because of the economic situation that this country has been through we will hear people from Ontario, Mr. Speaker, talk about two recessions in this country, starting around 1981. Well, we had one recession and this province has barely started to move out of it. Somewhere around 1996 I would say there has been some turnaround in this province but, for the most part, in Nova Scotia we have had 15 years of recession.

Well, 15 years of recession has to impact on those individuals. If we were to think of them as 20-year-old individuals in the early 1980's and now they are 35, 36 - or actually close to 40 - and a major part of their working years has been in a province that was going through a recession, then they would have had a difficult time maintaining employment or building up any kind of nest egg for the future. These are individuals we have to worry about. Some people will say, they should move; they should go to where the jobs are. Some people do that. As a matter of fact, there has been no greater outward migration from any province than there has been from Nova Scotia. It is classic; as a matter of fact they even made a movie about it - Going Down the Road.

So this is not new. People have been leaving Nova Scotia for years and years and years. All you have to do is talk to Nova Scotians with friends or relatives in the New England States, relatives in the West, and this is not a new phenomenon. To say that Nova Scotians would rather stay and live on social assistance than move is malarkey. People have been leaving this province, and actually we may have been losing some of our best people because they were people who took up the challenge to try to better their lives and were willing to move, but we certainly do not want to be forcing Nova Scotians to do that; we do not want to be using that as an answer.

A friend of mine who worked in Alberta for a number of years worked with an Albertan who started to complain that a lot of the best jobs had gone to easterners and that Albertans were kind of shut out of that high-level job prospect. He informed this individual that if he wanted a better job he should go back to school and get a better education, that easterners did not have the same opportunities as far as being able to make money in the oil patch the way Albertans had done over the past few years. You could have a low level of education, but you could get good paying jobs, but the best paying jobs were going to those people who were educated, and easterners were getting educated because they saw that as the only opportunity for a step up. We are running into a generation whose gain in their economic development, or their monetary capabilities, for the first time will not be greater than those of the parents, and that is something that government should be thinking about.

[Page 9184]

Mr. Speaker, the last several months, and certainly the budget last spring, would tell anybody that if this government was concerned about a job creation program, it sure didn't occur with the budget. As a matter of fact, there were more government employees that got canned due to this government than perhaps at any - well, probably not since the Liberals, their record may have been worse.

So the question has to be, what is it that you really think that you can accomplish by a piece of legislation like this? Is this a piece of legislation that will actually secure income for people? Is this a piece of legislation that will actually give security to those people who are most in need? It definitely will not, Mr. Speaker. This makes their existence more unsure than ever it has been in the past. I am amazed, I know that the government, their political philosophy or their social philosophy would be different than my social philosophy but I would certainly think that the time that they spent in dealing with the impact of dollars, crunching figures, I mean the Conservative Party seems to be overtaken by this notion of good monetary fiscal management, although if they pull it off I will take my hat off to them. Certainly, the previous Tory Administration was unable to do it but when it comes to placing priorities, dollars are the things that the Tories try to sell to Nova Scotians and we are good fiscal managers, therefore trust us.

Well, somewhere in all that number crunching, they seemed to miss the message of what legislation like this actually costs. I often wonder what it is they think that the people who are on social assistance do with the money that they received. There are none of them, that I know of, who are hoarding that. That money goes right back into the economy. They buy goods for their family. They try to pay their bills as much as they can. I think they have a tough job doing it.

So I guess it does come down to a question of philosophy. I look at this on a basis of what is it going to cost down the road? Is it going to cost more in the future to take this approach rather than try to stabilize incomes for people so they know that they can meet the needs of their children, reduce poverty, so that you can reduce those costs on the health care system and the education system and the judiciary. That, to me, would seem that it would be worthwhile investing a few more dollars into social assistance rather than spending a lot of dollars in these other areas. It is the notion, which is now cliché, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That looks to the future. You have to have a vision to do that. Tories think they can't sell that vision. They can sell enough to get us to the next election. That is the way this province has been run. That is the way that money has been dumped into Sydney Steel since the 1960's, consecutive governments trying to get re-elected. That is exactly what this government is doing.

Now for the government, they might not see this as a cost, Mr. Speaker, because if you are not going to spend it, in other words, if the need is there but you are not going to try to meet the need, it is not a cost. If homelessness or people on the streets, if you can walk by

[Page 9185]

those people and it doesn't affect you, then you don't spend the money. But it doesn't eradicate the problem.

[1:00 p.m.]

I think I read somewhere that the mission statement for Community Services is to enhance the quality of life of communities in Nova Scotia by helping individuals, families and communities reach their potential. I would have to say the people who are working hardest for communities to reach their potential are the Nova Scotians themselves, they are getting very little help from this government. We have seen that through the Health Department; we have seen it through Community Services; we have seen it through the Agriculture Department; and actually we have seen it through the Department of Natural Resources, when it comes to forestry policy in this province.

This province is on the verge of being shut down because of clear-cutting. We are cutting more than we can replace in a reasonable time, to sustain that industry. There are people who will tell you that we are up against the wall now. How are we going to sustain those rural communities without some investment in Agriculture and Natural Resources, and if we are going to depend on Community Services to save those communities, if that is what this mission statement is about, so that those communities can reach their potential, it is not going to happen. It hasn't happened.

Mr. Speaker, it comes down to, what is the value of the people in the province? Is it really good value for money for the taxpayer to see that those people who are in need, whether it is for the long term or the short term, but whether that will actually pay in the long run? It will reduce the burden to the taxpayer to invest now. I believe it would. Governments, federally and provincially, have failed. Some have tried better than others. In 1989, there was a resolution passed by the House of Commons that child poverty would be eliminated by the year 2000. The year 2000 is rapidly slipping away and child poverty to this point has increased since 1989. (Interruption) My honourable colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, is saying the numbers just two days ago indicate 400,000 more in the country.

We have read a resolution in this House on many occasions that indicated the number of children born into poverty since this government took office. We are rapidly approaching the 3,000 mark. There is nothing in this piece of legislation that is going to not only stop that but reverse that trend. I know the minister will say, well, we are offering more money and we are offering training. Where is that training going to occur?

These people are going to have to compete - if the training is at a level like a level offered at a community college - with the other 16,000 or 17,000 who are applying to the community colleges, and half of those are not getting in. There has been no indication by this government that they intend to try to create more spaces in community colleges. Nova Scotia was one of the slow ones off the mark in developing that system, and yet we talk about

[Page 9186]

training as a mechanism for those people to get off community services, but there is no place for them to be trained.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is my hope that the actions of this Tory Government come back to haunt them at some point in the future. It seems to me to be totally unfair that you can treat Nova Scotians the way this government has treated Nova Scotians and get away with it. So the question will be, how long will that take? I know and the members opposite know that there are communities represented by Tory MLAs in this province who are pretty fed up with the treatment that they have gotten from this government. I certainly hope that the Tories don't do what the Liberals did and dump their Leader, because I would certainly like the Premier to still be in his seat when Nova Scotians deliver to this Tory Government the message that they seem to not want to hear and that is about their callous treatment of Nova Scotians over the short period of this administration. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thanks for the opportunity to address on third reading, Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance. I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak on Bill No. 62. This is basically, inherently, a flawed and inadequate piece of legislation. As the Speaker knows, we have been vigorously against this bill from the first of the three press conferences that the Minister of Community Services used to spin his presentation of this bill to the public and to introduce and sell this bill.

The foundation of Bill No. 62 is in its regulations and the impact of this legislation can only be found when the regulations are scrutinized. This is a crucial part of the debate that we have had, the regulations that we have no idea of the extent or the lack of spelling out of what that will be and how that will impact on this bill, because we will never get the chance, during this session of the Legislature, to examine those regulations. The government has kept them a secret from the House and has left us walking blindfolded through this bill in the dark. There are very few details in this bill. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. The lack of details and lack of regulations, would be counter-productive to propose any amendments. We have chosen not to do that, Mr. Speaker.

The bill is silent on major key areas. It is especially silent on the impact to those persons with severe disabilities and single mothers with children. When you are dealing with a social assistance Act, those are two crucial areas not to have addressed in some meaningful way by a government that should show at least some degree of compassion. Indeed, perhaps even by amending such a bill, one would be, in effect, showing support for it, and we have no intention of doing that. The philosophy behind Bill No. 62, while you might say is noble, however, it is, in my opinion, misdirected. The philosophy of transitioning persons on social assistance for meaningful work is crucial. This is in no way clear.

[Page 9187]

Mr. Speaker, this bill could have been effective. It could have helped many people in this province, but when the Tories tried to please their friends in big business, this bill lost its purpose, it lost its meaning and it lost its direction. Instead of helping people on social assistance, this bill degrades them. It has turned into poor-bashing and imitates the policies of iron-fisted Mike Harris in Ontario. We have often said that what works in Ontario does not necessarily work in Nova Scotia. Ask the respiratory technologist therapists and others that are making representations to this government over matters that are being interfered with nationally by Ontario. Ontario is often a bully and we are seeing it here in the attitude towards those on social assistance, particularly those with disabilities and single mothers with children. Workfare did not work in Ontario, it failed and it will fail here in Nova Scotia as well. Instead of removing barriers to unemployment, this bill only reinforces the barriers.

One of the more important barriers and probably the most important barrier is the stigma that is attached to people on social assistance. The Premier himself reinforced the stigma in his speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He almost had Nova Scotians convinced that his heart was in the right place, they wanted to believe him. They did during the election. In my opinion, his comments were shameful. Obviously the Premier is not convinced that this is a good bill, otherwise, he would not have, in my opinion, made such hateful comments. Pitting the poor - those on social assistance - against the working poor is not what this bill should be about, and that is exactly what the Premier did.

The Liberal caucus agrees and believes that the best form of social assistance is a job, we agree on that. That is why the previous Liberal Government believed in growing the economy. We are proud of our record of job creation in Nova Scotia. The previous Liberal Government created more jobs between 1993 and 1999 than at any other time in the history of Nova Scotia. Moving towards a system that allows more people to find meaningful employment is a great goal, a commendable goal, and we have led the way on that here in Nova Scotia.

Bill No. 62 does not clearly define the difference between a meaningful job and just any job. We heard that from many presenters at the Law Amendments Committee and that is a real flaw within this legislation. In Ontario the Mike Harris Government never did clearly define what a job was supposed to be. This led to a serious breakdown in the workfare program. Being able to find a good, stable job is important to breaking the cycle of poverty. This is why this bill does not address the problems faced by people in areas of high unemployment. How does this government expect to meet its goal of forcing people off social assistance in a place where unemployment is so high, like industrial Cape Breton and many rural communities in Nova Scotia, such as Digby and Digby County?

We should not and cannot let ourselves be fooled by this bill. This bill is not clear; it does not clearly outline what it hopes to accomplish, nor does it outline how it is supposed to help those on social assistance. This bill is ambiguous and open to any number of misinterpretations; for example, the availability of telephones and the retention of family

[Page 9188]

homes on social assistance. Those are areas that were very unclear. Are the Tories saying that you can only have an acceptable quality of life if you have a job? What about the severely disabled or our seniors? Are the Tories saying that they do not have an acceptable quality of life, they should not, they do not deserve it? Is that what this bill is saying?

This bill says that social assistance is no longer a right for people in need. As Liberals, we have a big problem with that. It is the Liberals who built the safety net in Canada. We believe it is the right of every Canadian to receive assistance, if required, to ensure adequate shelter, literacy, adequate nutrition and also to have matters protecting them from matters of personal safety. Those are basic rights.

Bill No. 62 alienates those who, through no fault of their own, cannot find a job. It says that people only have a right to social assistance if they are looking for a job. What about people in rural areas who do not have access to transportation? They are shut out because of this bill. This bill, Mr. Speaker, lays the foundation of learn-fare. We saw in Digby County the difficulties of forcing people to take training programs. Unless you first address these difficulties, you cannot expect learn-fare to be successful.

[1:15 p.m.]

In Ontario, learn-fare was tried and again had been a failure. In Ontario, like Nova Scotia, it became mandatory to take job training and other skills in education programs but in Ontario, this training was never designed to help people find jobs. In Ontario, there is no evidence that this training was ever very effective. Ontario Works focused on the shortest route possible to get a person a job. This meant that training programs did not offer the skills needed to get meaningful employment or to support persons from social assistance to meaningful employment. In Ontario, there was no room for real career training or in-depth career counselling. Therefore Ontario Works only led to part-time, low-paying jobs that did nothing to help the problem of poverty.

Bill No. 62 leaves too many unanswered questions. This bill, in addition, Mr. Speaker, leaves the door open to the possibility of privatization of the social assistance system in Nova Scotia. This bill gives the minister power to delegate powers to persons or classes of persons. This means that people, other than government employees, such as staff of the Department of Community Services, will be in charge of some aspects of social assistance. This could mean that the Tories plan to set up private companies to administer social assistance and where are the safeguards and protections for those in need? A private business will have no compassion or respect for those on social assistance.

Again, this is something that the Tories under Mike Harris did in Ontario. The Tories are giving up responsibility for those in need, just like they did in Ontario, but the truth is we will not know the full impact until the regulations are brought forward. In its present form, Bill No. 62 is flawed and it does not deserve to be passed by this Legislature. Our Liberal

[Page 9189]

caucus cannot support this broad, secretive, incomplete, misdirected legislation. The Tory philosophy behind this bill pits social assistance poor against the working poor. It is mean-spirited and too much is left unsaid.

Mr. Speaker, many groups have spoken in the Law Amendments Committee on this Bill No. 62 and they spoke against this legislation. We support them and we will vote on third reading against this Tory legislation.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about Bill No. 62 in third reading. I was amazed by how the previous speaker, the former Minister of Community Services, said they took the bat and ball theory of we are going to take our bat and ball and go home if the bill doesn't reflect what we want. They do not put anything constructive forward. They have done nothing to help the poor in Nova Scotia. Indeed, that former government was the same one that clawed back federal funding for child credit. I have to think that the moaning from that group is too little too late.

AN HON. MEMBER: I am just as concerned about those people in my riding as you are in yours.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Get up and speak about them, then.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: I already have.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Do it again. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

AN HON. MEMBER: One more, you will be next.

MR. CORBETT: The bus driver for the Liberal caucus has his mouth going again, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have gone forward and have provided amendments so we have been here fighting this battle all the way.

I want to discuss some of the substance of this bill. You know it is a bill entitled Employment Support and Income Assistance which it is not. It is a workfare style and that is it. It is not even giving itself the ability to do that, because on numerous occasions we have stood in this House and asked the minister, what are you going to do as far as a job strategy?

[Page 9190]

How are we going to get people from welfare to work when the work does not exist? And he has no substantive answer for that.

What are we going to do in industrial Cape Breton where real unemployment is up around 35 per cent to 40 per cent? Where are we going to find jobs? As the Premier put it to his friends, we have problems, there are people working two jobs out there and they are not making as much as those who are home on social assistance. We do not even have that in Cape Breton; we do not have that ability to have people working two jobs because the jobs are just not there.

Let's take this down the road a bit further and ask, what if the jobs were there? What is there to help these folks with childcare? Well, there is absolutely nothing there for child-care. We know that there are not enough subsidized seats in day care there now, so what are we going to do? This week, on Monday night, we had a group of preschool educators come in front of this very House, and what did the minister tell them? We are going to look into it. He puts together a very sweeping bill that talks about getting people from community services to work, but yet has not thought out a very strategic part of that. That strategic part is who is going to provide childcare for the children, whether they are going to be put in courses to learn a marketable skill or whether they are going to go directly into the workforce?

I think of back in Cape Breton where there was one group in particular, the Northside Futures Group, where they were really proactive last year and this minister could take a lesson from their book. What they did was get funding to start re-educating, especially women, to go back into the workforce because of the effects the closing of Devco will have on the Northside, and they have been re-educating people who have been out of the workforce; I think the benchmark was five years. These are proactive ways of trying to reintroduce people into the workforce, but this minister has not done that with his bill. There is nothing in this bill that in any substantive way that would show how we get families who are on welfare from welfare to work.

Yet this government, as in so much of its legislation, has taken the line of "trust me". Trust me. We talked the other day with one of the other ministers about it, the fact of trust. You have to give trust to get trust, and there has been no trust shown here.

AN HON. MEMBER: No consultation.

MR. CORBETT: No, nothing. We are talking about consultation. Again, that is another thing that this government likes to put forward as one of its hallmarks, consultation. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, who did this minister and his group consult? Back in 1998 there was a process that went through this province, as the Community Services Committee of this House, getting submissions. I wonder, did that report form any basis of how this government

[Page 9191]

arrived at this form of workfare. I would suggest not because things that were in there are certainly not in this bill whatsoever.

What is in this bill is just a headline. There is no substance to it. There is no substance whatsoever to this bill. It is a headline that the Premier can go back the next time he wants to give a state of the province address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, rather than give it in this House to the elected officials of this province, he will go to the people who elected him and put the money behind them, his friends at the chamber of commerce, and go and report to them rather than report to this House and tell them, look, I have these members in this province back working. This is not what we want.

We want something that is going to be done for the poor in this province, Mr. Speaker. The poor in this province are not considered in this bill whatsoever. This bill does not do anything substantive to help the poor. This is what we have been fighting since this bill has been tabled in first reading. It has never been so highlighted as, I go back to the Premier's own speech when he made those infamous comments about people on social assistance making as much as people with two jobs. All he did was make our story for us, the fact that the poor in this province do not get an even break from this government. He is pitting the poor against the poor. Why is he doing that? It goes back to the very fact that this government wants to fill its agenda for its friends in the business community and drive down prices.

Mr. Speaker, if this government was certainly anxious to help the poor, then you would see things like . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Will the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre allow for an introduction? Thank you.

MR. CORBETT: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: I want to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor. Mr. Speaker, and members of the House, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce in the east gallery my nephew, Greg Griffin, from Markham, Ontario, who is down here visiting. I would like the House to give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre can continue. The House agreed to continue the debate until 1:30 p.m., but we will keep going until the arrival of the Premier.

[Page 9192]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, thank you for your intervention. We have talked about this bill and its impact on the poor because what happens here is this is not doing anything to help the poor. It has not any intentions of helping them find work, get to work.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe we are going to require adjournment of debate on the bill to go to Question Period. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre move adjournment of the debate for the one hour of Question Period?

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I so move adjournment of debate.

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

The motion is carried.

As agreed, Question Period will begin at 1:30 p.m. and will end at 2:30 p.m.

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

HEALTH - PICTOU: NURSES - REINSTATE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be directed to the Minister of Health. Today in Province House a bus load of residents came all the way from Pictou to deliver you a message - they want their nurses back. The minister has responded so far to this outcry by advancing the review of the cutback from three months to one and one-half months. The people of Pictou here today say that is not good enough. They don't want their health care services to come down to the results of a report. So my question to the minister is, will you give Pictou back their nurses?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. We met with the community last week and agreed to make some change in the evaluation process that was going on. We shortened up the evaluation period and we actually made more inclusive the number of people who were going to be part of that. So with the evaluation process, when it is completed, as we have assured the community, we will examine the results of the evaluation process very carefully and act upon it.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if he has assured the Premier. My next question will be directed to the Premier. What has happened at Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital is a perfect example of how this government has decided that it is okay

[Page 9193]

to cut rural health care, it is okay to force seniors to travel treacherous roads in the winter to have a chest pain checked, or to force a migraine sufferer to wait six hours in Aberdeen Regional Hospital because the doors are shut at her own community hospital.

Mr. Premier, you have said that you will honour the results of the report. Will you honour the people here today who say they need their nurses, and immediately reverse the decision to cut outpatient services?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, what the government is undertaking to do is base health care on evidence. We can't do that if in fact we don't look at evidence before we make decisions. The way we made decisions for the last number of decades in this province has resulted in the situation this province finds itself in, even this year, a $262 million deficit. We will never in this province be able to address the deficit if we don't do the kinds of things the minister is doing. The community will be provided, after the evaluation, with the kind of health care that will ensure those residents that health care will be there, but it will be based on evidence. Until we have the evidence, we can't make a decision.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, if there is anybody in this province who should be able to understand the evidence of sick people, it is a doctor. The people who spoke today say they know exactly that the reduction in outpatient departments will hurt seniors, will hurt low-income persons, will put the health of members of their community at risk. My question to the Premier is, is saving $70,000 worth the risk?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the honourable member is portraying, which, I think, is mistakenly so, is there is a reduction in the outpatient service at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital. The number of hours of outpatient service has not been changed.

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

ENVIRON. - MARTOCK (HANTS CO.): MIN. - ACTION

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment or the Acting Minister. Yesterday in the House, the Premier said he would look into the situation developing in the Martock Marshland area. As I have indicated, permits were issued for developers in that area by a former Minister of Environment despite assurances this would not take place. As recently as this week an official with the Martock Marshbody Group has been approached by prominent Tories, that that group should rest assured that the two developments currently in place would be the only ones. My question to the Acting Minister of Environment is, now that 24 hours has passed, what action has he

[Page 9194]

taken to ensure no political interference is being brought to bear on this very important matter of public policy?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the marshland bill, as it is before this House, and we shouldn't be discussing it, incidentally, in Question Period, was originated by this government to protect the marshland. For that honourable member to suggest that there is political interference now to destroy them, the cause and effect of the marshland bill, is atrocious.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, we are not debating the bill that is before this House at the given time, we are talking about the two permits that were provided to the developers on the marshland area. My first supplementary is to the acting acting minister. We are very concerned on this side of the House that political interference might tip the scales in favour of the developers in this highly vulnerable marsh area. We know for a fact that there are at least 13 additional on-site sewage applications that are not looked on favourably by department staff. My question is, can the minister ensure this House and all Nova Scotians that no further development will take place in that area?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the ignorance of the honourable member who is the present Leader of the Liberal Party is appalling. First of all, yesterday he attributed a brother of Scott Brison to be the person who was originating this particular development. Scott Brison doesn't have a brother. That is number one. (Interruptions) Number two, I would like to remind the honourable member that development comes under the municipalities not under the Department of Environment.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable minister, he earlier indicated that he had breakfast with the former MP Scott Brison this morning. I am being told that Scott Brison not only has one brother but he also has a sister as well. Maybe he could go back and check the record. My final question, again, is, Environment Department staff do not want to see those developments approved, as I have asked the Premier yesterday and received no response, will the minister assure the people of Nova Scotia that these permits were not issued as a result of political expediency rather than sound public policy?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can't speak for political interference at the municipal level, but I can certainly speak for it insofar as this government is concerned, it never has and never will be a method of conducting business by this government, to interfere in the political process.

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

[Page 9195]

HEALTH - ABERDEEN HOSP. (NEW GLASGOW):

KITCHEN FACILITIES - CLEANING ENSURE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Aberdeen Hospital is a fine institution. The Premier, as past president of the Aberdeen Hospital Medical Staff, will attest to that. However, the dietary department at the Aberdeen Hospital is contracted out to a private company. I have reports now that the Toronto-based company is not allowing for proper clean-up in the kitchen area of the Aberdeen Hospital, in fact this is the second serious complaint of this nature. Will the Minister of Health tell us what he has done to ensure that the Toronto-based company is ensuring a thorough and proper cleaning of the kitchen facilities at the Aberdeen Hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The Aberdeen Regional Hospital, Mr. Speaker, like other facilities in the province that serve food and are responsible for food and other things, has a certain standard of cleanliness that is required. I am sure the Aberdeen Regional Hospital is meeting that standard.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, we have reports that the company is not putting the proper resources into the kitchen cleaning. I will table here the minutes of the OH&S Committee to that effect. We have reports that garbage bags were left lying around for days, unwashed floors, dryers left unclean for six months, and so on. My question to the minister, can he tell us if the administration at the Aberdeen Regional Hospital has the authority to instruct the private company to maintain a clean kitchen at the hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would provide me with that information, I would pass it on to the administrator. If the company is under contract to the Norther Regional Health Board and the Aberdeen Hospital, then clearly those who are responsible for the administration of that hospital would be responsible for seeing that the standards are met.

MR. DEXTER: Well, in fact, Mr. Speaker, the administration knows full well the problems. In fact, they sat on the committee. What they say is they have no authority over the private company, it is up to the company to do this.

My question to the Acting Minister of Environment and Labour today is, will he commit today to sending the appropriate staff to that hospital to ensure that the kitchen is up to health standards?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Agriculture and food and health inspections, we will definitely ensure that if there is a problem, we will have an inspector on the site. Give us the complaint.

[Page 9196]

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

ENVIRON. - SEWAGE DISPOSAL:

MARTOCK (HANTS CO.) - PERMITS QUESTION

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question as well is for the Acting Minister of Environment and Labour. Which one is it today? Okay, the Minister of Tourism. Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture, acting as the Minister of Environment and Labour. As the minister should be aware, two structures were approved for on-site sewage disposal in an area known as the Martock marshlands area; they were approved under a previous minister and that minister obviously is the Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee. There are currently 13 other applications pending for on-site sewage disposal licences in the same area and we understand that staff in the minister's department feel these permits should not be approved. So my question to the minister is, will the minister assure the House that he will not override departmental recommendations for the sake of political expediency?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that any decisions made in this government are not just out of political expediency. They are well thought out and they are done in the best interests of the residents involved and the people of this province.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on-site sewage disposal permits should never have been approved in the first place, according to the legislation. Not only are there environmental issues, this area is also a fertile flood plain which is well below sea level and is protected by dykes. There are also several dams on the Avon River that could conceivably be breached in a heavy storm. If the development continues, the consequences would be disastrous. My question to the minister is, will the minister assure the House that no more permits will be issued in such a highly sensitive area?

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I would like to thank the member for the question, Mr. Speaker. Any such type of initiative taken forward by this government is done within the policies and we will continue to do that. The staff at Environment is very professional in their manner. I can assure that honourable member that it will be done within the policy guidelines.

MR. MACKINNON: The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, one Environment Minister has already approved permits that should have been denied. That's a fact. If the Environment Minister or Acting Minister can't give some assurance that he will not do the same thing, then perhaps we need another minister to give that commitment.

[Page 9197]

My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, will the minister commit to ensuring that he will not - I emphasize will not - issue any more permits that could harm the Martock marshland permanently?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member knows something that this side of the House doesn't, I would ask him to table that information in this House right now.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - HOUSING: AFFORDABLE - MIN. PROVIDE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services and housing. We read in the news today that Nova Scotians have the hardest time keeping a roof over their heads, more than any other province in this country. There has been a study released of six communities in Nova Scotia, both rural and urban, that shows that over 50 per cent of the families in those communities are living in nonaffordable or poor quality housing. There is not enough affordable housing to cover the needs of Nova Scotians. So my question to the minister is, when will the minister take responsibility for the housing component of his department and start investing in affordable housing for Nova Scotians?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I will tell the honourable member that this government is already taking initiatives that way. We attended the Ministers of Housing meeting in Fredericton in September and we were suggesting to the federal government that we wanted to be part of the role that developed the housing initiative across the country. We are part of that group and we will take a leading role in working with that.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, Mr. Speaker, that didn't come within a mile of an answer to my question, so let's try again. Single parent families in this province have, by far, the hardest time getting affordable housing. In Antigonish, the study showed that 80 per cent of single parent families are living in housing that is too expensive, nonaffordable; and in Yarmouth it is 68 per cent. So my question to the minister is, you have reduced shelter allowances for single parent, mothers and fathers, in this province, so how can you say that you are helping the people of this province and what are you going to do to finally help them with affordable housing?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I guess first to correct the record, we did not reduce the shelter allowance, as he indicated. We have initiated a series of initiatives in terms of back to work initiatives, and other special needs for people. Apart from that, we do have a lot of programs that we are hoping to work with the federal government, the homeless initiative, that's one of them, and the affordable housing initiative that we will keep pushing forward with.

[Page 9198]

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, Mr. Speaker, this minister will keep pushing forward. Yes, we will have back to work initiatives but they won't have any affordable housing to return to. That's the problem with this government. This government says they have no money to increase housing stock and options in this province, but in Truro only 4 per cent of the people in that community who live below the poverty line have affordable housing. In Kentville, it is 12 per cent. So my question is, when will this Minister of Community Services start taking his housing responsibilities seriously and start investing in affordable social housing for all Nova Scotians?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House and the honourable member that we do take that very seriously. We take it seriously in the fact that we know there are a lot of issues around affordable housing. There are issues around rural and northern housing and there is the whole issue around the homelessness, and we are working on those programs with the federal government to bring those forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - SUTHERLAND-HARRIS MEM. HOSP.:

OUTPATIENT DEPT. - NURSES REINSTATE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. On November 14th, the MLA for Pictou West proudly announced that the Health Minister would review the cutting of two full-time outpatient nursing positions at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou. This good news quickly turned sour when the minister said he had no intention of changing direction. However, the minister did send a letter to Mayor Lawrence LeBlanc, which I would like to table, and in that letter he said the nurses would be involved in the review of the cuts. My question to the minister is, does this mean that you will reinstate the nurses so that outpatients can be at full capacity when it is being reviewed?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there were changes made in the staffing of the outpatient services at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital. I met with the community group, Mayor LeBlanc and other representatives from the community at the request of their MLA, the honourable member for Pictou West, Mrs. Muriel Baillie, who arranged the meeting. The honourable member for Pictou West also met with the group this morning, supporting her constituency. As a result of that, we reviewed the decision, and we shortened up the review period. We also broadened the representation of people who were involved in that review.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that is the answer I was looking for, but it is an answer. Also in the letter, the minister said the review is being conducted, and to make absolutely sure that this was the right step to take. Since the minister only makes, obviously, and the Premier even referred to it today, evidence-based decisions - we have seen a lot of

[Page 9199]

that here - why wouldn't he admit right now that he has no intention of reversing his original decision to cut these nurses?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable member that the decision to change the staffing for that particular unit was a decision made by the Northern Regional Health Board. I have indicated to Mayor LeBlanc and the people of Pictou, as well as their MLA, that we will take the results of the review very seriously.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that Pictou is not just a suburb of New Glasgow, regardless of what the Premier might be telling him. Minor medical problems can become major, if not treated immediately, and major problems can very quickly become critical. How can the minister expect patients to get appropriate access to care when they are forced to travel to other hospitals as the result of his cuts?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member knows that under his government the emergency services at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital were closed. The decision to remove the emergency service was made by he and his colleagues. The outpatient hours and the service being provided by the physicians there remain unchanged. The fact is that the positions in the community (Interruptions)

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

MR. MUIR: . . . are being delivered in New Glasgow at the Aberdeen Hospital and have not been at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital for some years.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - SENIORS: FUEL PRICES - EFFECTS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Health. The weather has turned colder and the furnaces are working full time. Furnace oil prices have hit an average of 62 cents per litre, and the only direction the price is going is up. Seniors and other people who are on fixed incomes will be forced to make some uncomfortable choices about where they spend their dollars. They will be forced to eat less or spend less on medication, just to stay warm. My question to the minister is, what message does the Minister of Health want to send to seniors about what his government is doing to help them stay warm this winter?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable member for Dartmouth North. There is no question that the issue of rising fuel oil prices creates a problem, not only for seniors, but for a good many Nova Scotians. This is a serious issue and the government is considering options, as individuals are. There are going to have to be some choices made. I would love to see the price of fuel oil drop by 20 cents, like

[Page 9200]

everybody else in this House would. Unfortunately, we are into a world market and it is something that, as much as I would like to be able to control it, the Department of Health cannot.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister will be very much aware that his government was very supportive of seniors and that is why seniors come under his Department of Health. The minister's hard-hearted colleague, the Finance Minister, is crying poor mouth these days despite the booming HST revenues from fuel. The Minister of Finance says that he cannot spare one single dime to break the heating costs. The Premier's office offered the sad excuse that his government is trying to figure out how the federal tax credit works before deciding what his government is going to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. PYE: My question to the Minister of Health is, once again, Mr. Speaker, what have you told your colleagues, the Minister of Finance and the Premier, about the health effects on seniors who are forced to choose between medicine, food and heat?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell everybody in this House that the Minister of Finance and our Premier are very concerned about the high price of fuel oil and are very much aware and concerned about any negative effects that this high price might have on seniors.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to table an excerpt from The Truro Daily News which states that, "'Nova Scotians are facing the possibility of record high prices for heating oil this winter,' said Steve MacIntosh, public affairs manager for the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Oil Heat Association." He also went on to say that, ". . . experts are predicting an increase of up to 20 per cent above last . . ." year. My question to the Minister responsible for the Seniors Citizens' Secretariat is, when is your government going to do the right thing for senior citizens and offer a tax credit, or a rebate, so that they can heat their homes this winter?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from the honourable member for Dartmouth North. I can tell you, again, this government is very much concerned about seniors as it is with all other citizens on whom this high increase in the price of heating oil has an effect. I will be pleased to bring his question to the attention of the Minister of Finance when he returns on Monday.

MR. PYE: And to the Secretariat.

[Page 9201]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.:

PAEDIATRIC DEPT. - REVIEW AVAILABILITY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. It has now been three weeks since the reproductive care program of the IWK-Grace was to review the cuts of the paediatrics department, nursing in particular, at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Even though the minister did not keep his end of the bargain throughout this time, the review should now be complete and in the hands of the medical management committee of the hospital and the administration. My question to the minister is, does the minister have knowledge of this report and when will he be making it public?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that question, the first part of that, the comment was made some time ago and I thought I had made it abundantly clear to the House that the Health Department and the people in the administration of the hospital had done everything they could to keep that commitment. There was indeed one shift where they were short, but there was one patient. So one nurse, one patient is not a bad deal.

Mr. Speaker, I am told this morning that that review has been slightly delayed and I look forward to receiving it. I will make it available as soon as I can.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not point out to the minister that what I meant by not keeping his word, is that there were at least a dozen shifts that were not up to the commitment the minister had made. He should check the records. The records have been checked at the hospital.

[2:00 p.m.]

Like many issues, the minister has mishandled this issue from day one and he has let the situation drag on and the service was threatened and the reproductive care program report must be acted upon immediately. When will the minister announce the implementation of the reproductive care program review recommendations?

MR. MUIR: My understanding is that the on-site visitation by the teams has been completed. The report is in the process of being finalized. As the honourable member knows, it will go to the medical management committee and be considered there before it arrives at my door.

DR. SMITH: One of the fundamental problems with the merger of the paediatric and the obstetrical units has still not been solved. These units are at the very end of two separate wings. My question to the minister is simply if the reproductive care program report

[Page 9202]

recommends that the merger go forward, will the minister guarantee that the capital renovations will take place before these two units are merged?

MR. MUIR: I cannot comment on the review. Everybody is in agreement that the merger of those two units should take place. Indeed, it was suggested about three years ago by the paediatrics and obstetrical staff. The people at the hospital are responsible for the physical implementation of that and I am sure that what needs to be done will be done.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - E-COMMERCE: CONSUMERS - PROTECT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. This past Saturday there was a computer glitch that affected a lot of people who used their bank cards at Wal-Mart. As many as 25,000 persons had their purchases charged up to their accounts twice and even three times for the same transaction. This enormous glitch was not discovered by Wal-Mart or by its Internet service provider, it was discovered by the customers.

Now, if we did not know it before, we certainly know it now. Protections are needed for consumers engaged in e-commerce transactions. Will the minister tell us what he is doing to put in place protections for consumers engaged in e-commerce transactions?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Frankly, this area does not come directly under the Department of Justice. It is a matter of consumer protection which is ordinarily handled by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. However, in the interest of efficacy and brevity to prevent me referring it to the acting minister who is not here, I would suggest that (Interruptions) Sorry, to the minister who is not here. I would suggest that the honourable member brings up a good point. I would also point out that no consumer protection legislation is very effective unless someone notices a mistake, because consumer protection legislation still presupposes that someone discovers that there has been an error, but it is a good point.

MR. EPSTEIN: We know it is a good point and we also know, or were told by the minister's office, that he was the minister responsible for this area of activity and of course he sponsored a bill having to do with e-commerce just recently. We know that this subject is being studied elsewhere, but we also know that action is being taken in other provinces. In Ontario where 40 per cent of the Canadian population lives, they have adopted legislation to protect consumers engaged in e-commerce transactions. They just did it in the last week or two with their Bill No. 70 and Manitoba is studying it, so the legislative models are out there. Will the minister explain why he cannot follow the lead of Ontario and Manitoba and introduce a bill?

[Page 9203]

MR. BAKER: Frankly, the member brings up a good point and I can assure the honourable member that the staff at the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the Department of Justice will be cooperating over the next number of weeks to look at the legislation in other provinces, because I think there may be some room for that kind of legislation as the honourable member suggests.

MR. EPSTEIN: I wonder if the minister, in addition to promising that staff in some department that he may or may not be responsible for, will look at it, could tell us if he is planning some specific protections. I would like to know, would it include provisions for correction of errors, for delay periods and for dealing with bait and switch situations? Can we have some specifics or is the minister just not serious about this?

MR. BAKER: I find the line of questioning a little surprising since I am basically agreeing with the honourable member that this matter is worthy of looking at. I can tell the honourable member that I am prepared to look at the legislation across the country and, indeed, any suggestions that any member of this House has with respect to legislation, because I think we all agree that protection of consumers is very important.

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

EDUC. - WEST KINGS DHS: RENOVATIONS - STATUS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. For the past 20 years administrators, teachers, parents and students of West Kings District High School in Auburn have been making their case for major upgrades and repairs to the school. In the spring of 1999, the previous Liberal Government made a commitment to provide the necessary renovations. An architect was appointed to work with the community, to develop plans and proceed with the necessary construction. With the election of the present government all activity concerning West Kings High School ceased. Will the minister please inform this House, here and now, of the status of the preliminary work carried out last spring?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, what the honourable member says about the plans for West Kings District High School is correct. The previous government also had a budget which did not include any money for West Kings. The situation at West Kings is that West Kings is being considered by the School Capital Construction Committee, among the many projects across Nova Scotia that have to be completed. That report is due by mid-December.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, Tuesday in this House, in response to a question about Halifax West High School, the minister said, "I have deliberately not visited that building personally. If you visit a building personally, it raises expectations and it raises them unnecessarily."

[Page 9204]

My question to the minister is, since the minister has already visited West Kings twice, what might the school community expect from her?

MISS PURVES: Well, the honourable member for Richmond has actually answered the question. That is something that I have learned. I have indeed visited West Kings twice, both times looking at the school, and it did raise expectations. That does not mean renovations, or the school will not be built. It does mean, however, that we have to weigh all these needed renovations and constructions within the context of which schools are in the worst conditions and have to be completed first.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this minister is constantly accusing our Party of wanting to spend all kinds of money on the health of students, and she is correct, we don't put a price tag on the health of students. My question is, Madam Minister, how unhealthy does a school have to be before this government will spend money to provide a healthy and safe environment for those who will ensure the future of our province, the children?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, spending hundreds of millions of dollars that we don't have doesn't ensure health and prosperity for anybody in our province. Thank you.

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

HEALTH: 911 EMPLOYEES - STRIKE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, back on November 1st I asked the Minister of Health what he was doing to avert a strike by 911 communications centre employees. The minister basically patted Nova Scotians on the head and said, to not worry, everything is okay. Well, time marches on, and the employees could be in a strike position as early as next week. My question to the minister is, the government was playing a game of brinkmanship with paramedics last year and lost, why is the minister now playing the same game with these employees?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, this is a first contract and the negotiations between EMC and CUPW unfortunately have not gone as quickly or as well as I would like to see them go for both of those sides. I have encouraged both sides to get back to the table and get serious. I can report that there have been a number of issues resolved; there is still some way to go, but I hope they will get back and get serious about it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that the real employer of the communications centre employees is the province. Now a private entity has been placed between the employees and the province, but the province pays the piper and the province calls the tune. It is within the power of this government and this minister to get involved and

[Page 9205]

avert a strike. My question to the minister is, when will the minister stop hiding behind EMC and start taking his responsibilities seriously?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this minister does take his responsibility very seriously, and part of his responsibility is not to negotiate collective agreements on the floor of this House. I can tell you though that there are still conciliation talks scheduled for Monday, and I am hopeful that the two sides will get back to the table and resolve their differences.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, make no mistake about it, this problem is one that this government inherited from the Liberal Government who shamefully neglected proper pay and working conditions for these important and highly skilled and trained workers, but that is no excuse for this government to do nothing. The government has been on the job for 15 months and they are fumbling at this issue as bad as the last government. My question to the minister is, the union representing the communications centre employees is requesting a meeting with you because they know you are the real employer, when will you meet with them?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the union is in the collective bargaining process with EMC, and it would not be appropriate for me, as minister, to meet with them while the collective bargaining process is going on.

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

MUN. REL. - UNSM MEMBERS: GAG ORDER - REASON

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. I have a letter from the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities about the recent annual meeting, and I would like to table that letter today. In the letter the minister demands that steps be taken to make sure that members of the UNSM do not speak their minds to the departmental employees. Why is the minister imposing a gag order on municipalities?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The department in no way is putting a gag order on anyone. I have not seen the letter, but what I am sure (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Acting Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has the floor.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister was talking about respect, something that Party knows nothing about.

[Page 9206]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the letter speaks for itself, sir. The minister is shooting the messenger. Members of the UNSM are so upset with these Tories that they will tell their concerns to anyone who will listen. My first supplementary is to the Premier. Does the Premier agree with the steps his minister has taken to silence municipalities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the current Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has been very forthright with UNSM and municipalities individually. We have attempted to forge a better working relationship with government than existed with the previous government. Not that the sailing is always smooth, but the dialogue will continue and the cooperation will continue, and we will work with municipalities to strengthen that level of government, as we are working to strengthen this level of government.

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, people at the grass-roots levels are frustrated and they are not stupid. The Premier promised to be open and accountable, this means he must also be open to criticism. What disciplinary action will the Premier take against his minister who was trying to silence valid criticism?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will remind the member opposite that at the annual meeting of the UNSM, our minister, the Premier and many ministers met with municipal officials, engaged in very constructive dialogue. We opened the door of communications far wider than it has been opened for decades.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: GAS DIST. SYSTEM - PUBLIC SAFETY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Yesterday, the minister explained the delay in the roll-out of provincial gas distribution system on the basis of concern over public safety. This raises questions about the process to date. The Utility and Review Board had hearings all throughout 1999, was it not supposed to deal with public safety? Sempra had to register its project for environmental assessment, was the Department of Environment not supposed to deal with public safety? Will the minister tell us if it is only now, at the last minute, that the legislated review process finally deals with public safety?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure of the full extent of the hearings that were held by the Utility and Review Board, however, it is my understanding that at the Utility and Review Board Sempra did not indicate that they would be laying the pipeline in the shoulder of the road. At that time, the understanding was, I believe, that it would be laid within the right-of-way of the highway.

[Page 9207]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, yesterday and again today, the minister suggested that his officials thought Sempra intended to lay the line in the bushes or trees alongside the secondary highways in what he is calling the right-of-way, but Sempra's documents before the Utility and Review Board speak time and again of their intention to place the pipeline "in a gravel shoulder or gravel road". Their photos, filed with the board, are absolutely unambiguous, and I will table a copy in the House here today, of those photos. Will the minister tell us when the light first finally flickered on over at the Department of Transportation and Public Works and they realized Sempra's intentions as Sempra had laid them out?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I understand from what the member is saying that if, heaven forbid, the New Democratic Party was the government of this province, they would have no difficulty whatsoever with laying a pipeline in the shoulder of the road, even if there was a public safety factor that would, perhaps, endanger public lives in this province.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, when we participate in hearings, we tend to pay attention. My supplemental is to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. The province's Petroleum Directorate was a formal intervener at the hearings before the URB, in fact, I noticed that the PC caucus was also an intervener. Apparently, the Petroleum Directorate failed to look out for the public interest at the hearings. What I would like to know from the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate is, what has the minister done to get the Petroleum Directorate to learn its business?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite, the Petroleum Directorate is taking its job very seriously, and that is why we are trying to ensure that public safety is a paramount consideration before we move forward. The member opposite seems to be suggesting that we move forward without any clear plan. We are looking at a plan that has seven years to be completed. We want to make sure that we do it right the first time.

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

ENVIRON. - MARTOCK (HANTS CO.):

SITUATION - MIN. INVESTIGATE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday in the House the Premier said he would look into the situation developing in the Martock marshland area. The Premier has had 24 hours to become familiar with this issue. Now will he answer this question; will the Premier commit to investigating this situation, so that we can be assured that the minister did not overstep his ministerial bounds or provide favouritism to the developers in this area?

[Page 9208]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from the member opposite, yesterday I did request that that kind of investigation begin. The preliminary investigation that I have is that nothing untoward has happened. The regulations and the law, as it exists, has been followed and if further information becomes available that is contrary to that element, I will make the member opposite aware.

MR. GAUDET: I want to thank the Premier for his answer, he is currently looking into this. Mr. Speaker, all we want to do is clear the air. If there is no undue political pressure being brought to bear, so much the better. We understand that a Department of Environment official is recommending against approval of 13 on-site sewage disposal permits. We have been informed that prominent Tories are alleged to be making promises on behalf of a government they do not and should not represent.

My question to the Premier is, what is the Premier going to do to clear the air and ensure that due process is not being discarded in favour of political interference?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite has information relative to those who are making these kinds of statements, who are, in fact, suggesting that they can influence the system in any way, will he please table it and we will look into it. Or, if it is simply gossip, let's treat it as gossip.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, at best we have a part-time Environmental Minister who doesn't have time to properly look after his priorities. Now, today in Question Period, we had three acting, part-time Ministers of Environment. At worse, we have a minister who is not properly fulfilling his duties to laws and regulations.

My question to the Premier, will the Premier launch a third-party investigation into the events surrounding current pending approval for on-site sewage disposal in the Martock marshland area?

THE PREMIER: If the member has information that would lead the government to believe that something untoward is going on, the government is prepared to look into it. The member stands up in Question Period, reads from a piece of paper, and he expects that we will create a public inquiry on the basis of the gossip that he presents to the government across the floor of the House.

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

FISH. - LOBSTER LICENCES: CONCENTRATION - CEASE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. On Tuesday this House passed a resolution calling upon the federal government to stop the concentration of lobster licences into the hands of

[Page 9209]

a small group. I want to ask the minister, will the minister commit today to take this issue forward to his federal counterpart and demand that this concentration stop?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as this House is well aware, the issuance of lobster licences is a federal jurisdiction but the member should also be aware that lobster licences are issued on an individual basis, not a collective basis and, in fact, the point he raised may be moot or somewhat like the point that was raised by the member for the Liberal Party on gossip; there is no basis in fact for it.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the lobster fishermen in these communities are not a jurisdiction unto themselves. That Party over there supported that resolution; it was passed unanimously. One by one, segments of the fishery have been swallowed up by large corporations at the expense of fishers in our coastal communities. Now, with increasingly high licence fees and the state of the ITQs, only the biggest players in the industry can afford to participate. Will the minister stand today and condemn this course of action on the part of the federal government and call for the slow slide toward privatization to end?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member. This Party and this government supports the fishing industry very strongly and I, as minister, have represented the fishermen of this province very strongly on many issues concerning fishery related matters in Ottawa, with the federal minister. What I am trying to impart to the honourable member is a bit of knowledge. The knowledge is that lobster licences are conveyed on an individual basis, not a collective basis. We support as many people as possible involved in the lobster fishery in this province as long as conservation is respected, and that is the type of lobster licence system that is out there now.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am going to impart a little knowledge to the minister. The licences are given out independently to individuals, but that doesn't stop an individual from buying them all up either. This situation mirrors what has happened in nearly every aspect of the fishery. The federal government has been complicit in the slow but steady privatization of the industry, and now the last truly independent fishery we have is threatened. Will the minister fight to ensure that the de facto privatization in the ground fish and scallop industries will not happen in the lobster industry as well?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. Certainly this government is extremely supportive of individual owners of lobster licences and lobster fishermen in this province. We have put in place and are dealing with loan programs that will allow individuals to more easily transfer licences between generations of father and son, or father and daughter, to ensure they do remain in private hands. Those are the types of tools that are extremely important to the lobster industry, the ability to get financing. We support that strongly and encourage it and are very supportive.

[Page 9210]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

LBR. - FIREFIGHTERS:

VOLUNTEERS BENEFITS ACT - TIME-FRAME

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier is letting down our rural volunteer firefighters and that is a shame. I know the Premier is not setting many fires across this province, but . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Not putting many out either.

MR. MACASKILL: . . . it is disturbing that they are turning their backs on these unsung heroes. Although the government did waive registration fees last winter, it has broken its promise of providing the Volunteers Benefits Act. This promise included insurance benefits and a $500 tax credit. I ask the Premier today, could he tell this House when exactly he will come through on this promise?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because all members of this House are aware of the service that is provided to the people of Nova Scotia through voluntary fire departments. We, in fact, could not afford the kind of service that we receive from the volunteers who work very hard on our behalf in providing fire protection. Now the member opposite is also aware that what he is asking is an item of the budget, and we certainly are not going to be talking about issues of the budget prior to the Budget Address, but I will assure the member opposite . . .

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier in the day in Question Period, the member for Clare, the Leader of the Liberal Party, asked a question of the House Leader who was acting as Acting Environment Minister of the minute, and that question had to do with marshlands. In answering the question the Government House Leader and Environment Minister of the minute responded to the question about Mr. Scott Brison's brother, stating that Mr. Scott Brison did not have a brother. Obviously the question was directed to him in reference to a very serious issue that might be involving Mr. Scott Brison's brother.

[2:30 p.m.]

We have learned, Mr. Speaker, that indeed Mr. Scott Brison has two brothers and a sister. This was given to us by the media this afternoon. Now, either the Government House Leader is misleading this House or he simply does not know anything about his Party or his former MP . . .

[Page 9211]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order, but it is certainly a lesson for the House, I guess, and the family of a . . .

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. To the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour as well as all members of this House, in Question Period earlier today, the particular member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour directed requests about health and safety to the Department of Environment. I would like to inform the House that the Food Safety Branch of the Department of Agriculture is the one that conducts inspections at the Aberdeen Hospital kitchen. I would also like to point out for the information of the honourable member that two inspections have already been carried out this year at the kitchen in Aberdeen and the rating is above average.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, it is not a point of order, but a clarification of the facts. Before I recognize the next honourable member, I should have explained that at 2:30 p.m. Question Period had expired. (Interruption) No, I realize that, but I did not say that when the Question Period expired.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Yesterday in the House during Question Period I had asked the Premier about tabling the contract for his chief of staff. He said he did not think he could get it done yesterday but that I would get it. I haven't yet, and I am just wondering if I can get that today?

THE PREMIER: On a point of order. I am very pleased to table the contract. (Applause)

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Yes, I realize that the honourable Leader pro tem of the socialist Party has secured that document without allowing it to be tabled, and we would like if it is being tabled we . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The document has been tabled and will be circulated among all members.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I do take a little bit offence to the kinds of comments that were just used by the previous member, who stands on his feet making certain kinds of slurry comments at exactly the same time when he witnessed the document actually being tabled in front of him. I think that that kind of comment is inappropriate and below even that member. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. It is not a point of order.

[Page 9212]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Very entertaining, Mr. Speaker, very entertaining. Would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 62.

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor. You have 49 minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, some of the points I was making before we were interrupted by Question Period, and one of the prime examples of what was wrong with this bill was (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I cannot hear the honourable member on the floor. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we have talked about the inadequacy of this bill and nothing probably was more evident about the inadequacy of this bill as the right for recipients of social services to have a telephone, because the glaring mistake made there was that on the original vote, the government side voted for that very amendment in the Committee on the Whole House. But, what we will say to be kind, as a home-town ruling on the second vote and probably at the insistence of the glare from their Leader and various other frontbenchers, they knocked it down. They defeated that amendment.

One could say that if we were to put a telephone in every home of every person that was in the receipt of welfare, it would be a tremendous cost, and you know what? It is a cost, but we could look at it as a cost or we could look at it as an investment. The very fact that we are telling these people that we are going to get you out there in the workplace, we are going to get your children involved with day care, so here we go, Mr. Speaker. We will draw

[Page 9213]

a time line, we go at early stages and we get the single mom in a course, we get some sort of child care for the child or children and this person becomes successful in her endeavours and graduates from the course and then goes out, as we would want them to do, looking for gainful employment.

So, then it begs the question, how are these employers going to contact these people? That is a simple question. How will employers contact this perspective employee? It is simple. Unless they have the availability and support of family members where we can use Mom or Dad or sister, brother, aunt or uncle to use their telephone, then there is no way of contacting these people. So that is one aspect of the job search.

Let's back this up a little further. Think about it in terms of their going out - we will talk first about able-bodied persons, we will not talk about the disabled. We will talk about able-bodied persons to go out and search for work. Obviously, they do not make enough money to afford an automobile if they cannot afford a telephone, especially with the price of gas the way it is going in this province, so now we have a person out there looking for public transit. It is fine to say, okay, they can just grab a bus. The only municipalities with large infrastructure for transit companies are HRM and CBRM.

It is not so easy if you are up in Neils Harbour and you are trying to get out to get transportation for various job interviews, how are you going to get there? It is not like there is an hourly or a 20 minute bus schedule that comes by your door or within say a couple of hundred yards of your door and allows you to go out and grab a bus and go.

So, what is this bill doing? How does this bill address that very fact? How do we get that prospective employee into where the jobs are? Well, again, this bill is silent on that. We get over that hurdle and what they have to do - I want to talk in terms of people who live in rural areas because this is a major problem for them. If you look at many of the people that are sitting on the benches across from me come from rural areas, whether it is Goldboro or whether it is in parts of rural Yarmouth County or wherever, these people have to get around. So what do we do? They finally end up getting some kind of course. Do they come in, we'll say, from an area outside of Yarmouth, and they are taking a course, maybe at the local community college. What this may very well mean for some of these people, when taking this course, is that they will have to actually have living accommodations in the Town of Yarmouth, and board there from Monday to Friday. What do we do to resolve that? What monies are we allowing there? Then we take a step back again and say, how do we pay for child care, because we are not just looking at the day-care situation, we are talking about somebody actually taking care of these children 24/7, pretty well. What do we do there? What does this bill do to address that, to get those people in the workforce? It is, again, silent on that.

[Page 9214]

What are we trying to do here? Is this bill really an honest and true attempt to get people back in the workforce, or is it just some sort of campaign promise window-dressing? My assertion is that that is exactly what it is, it is a form of window-dressing, that we are really not being honest about what the intent of this bill is. I will come back to areas where it is hard enough to get any kind of job, let alone training and so on, but there are a few other things.

I want to talk about a couple of constituents of mine. In particular, one woman, who was trying to get back in the workforce, she was there, she was at the point, she was getting close to the point where her mother would be able to help share child care with her, because what her mother had promised her was she could take her son during the day if she attended a community college course, which she was trying to get in. The problem arose that there was just no money there. Looking at what Community Services told her, if you take advantage of student loans and so on and look after your education that way, then that is the way to go. There was no encouragement then, as there is no encouragement with this bill for that person to go to whatever institution it would be, whether it was a community college or a private college, to better themselves, because there is just not enough money available to students on student loans, whether it is a Canadian student loan or a provincial student loan, to help you raise a family and stay in a residence and pay for child care. This bill does not do any of that either. It does not take those people who are out trying to help themselves.

Another constituent of mine was in a similar situation, but said, look, the heck with it, I am going to go and try to live off student loan money for my education, and try to raise my son. She has a young three year old son who has some chronic diseases. One of the primary acquisitions of people when they are in receipt of community services is the Pharmacare card. That is quite literally a lifeline for many of those recipients, but she was told by her worker that if she was to leave the rolls, she would also have to forfeit her Pharmacare card. Her son, who has chronic diseases - one I think is some kind of congestive heart problem - needs ongoing medication.

[2:45 p.m.]

There is nothing in this bill that would do that for that woman, yet this bill, which is entitled Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, doesn't do a tinker's darn to help her secure employment. It sets up roadblocks, walls, barriers, whatever you want to call it, Mr. Speaker, that is what it does to these folks in that situation. There is no real incentive, there is no real kind of at-the-end-of-the-day settlement here.

Let's go back over to the areas of high unemployment. I will speak of Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, because that is where I am from. I am not saying that is the only place that has these same problems. I only speak of it by way of what I know, but I know, in talking to other members, that there is a fair amount of problems with unemployment in many of the rural areas of this province.

[Page 9215]

Mr. Speaker, these impediments to employment are particularly hard in areas of high unemployment. It is fine to say that we are going to train these people, but I would like to know what consultation the Minister of Community Services had with groups from various agencies and so on in Cape Breton and other rural areas and areas away from metro - even in metro, groups represent people in poverty - what substantive consultation did this government have with those folks?

It would be interesting to say, if they had done a calendar or an itemized list of things they would have wanted, if they came back to us and said, well, we have gone to the job market and we have identified so many hundreds of jobs that are left unfilled in this province and we can train these people for that. The minister has not said that. The minister has not gone out and identified places in the area where employment numbers are down and we could raise them. No, he has just put a bill forward with no basis of fact. That is a challenge to the minister, that he should go out and do the type of analysis that needs to be done in the workplace to see what skill sets are needed to fill jobs.

Now, do we import everybody into the middle? Do we take them all to the HRM? Do we say okay, the jobs just are not going to be available in Lunenburg County, they are not going to be available in Colchester County, they are not going to be available in Springhill, they are not going to be available in Truro, so what we will do is bring you all into the centre. Well, some people would say that is a far-fetched idea. I remember listening to the Premier himself, who certainly did nothing to get rid of that argument because he said himself yes, he would look at helping people move from other areas into metro. So, what are we looking at here? Are we looking at the Joey Smallwood style of getting rid of the outports of Newfoundland and shipping people out and depopulating whole sections of the province? Is that what we are having?

Well, there are two problems with that. One of the first ones I want to deal with is the fact that there is no poverty here in metro. There is real poverty and there are large groups that, through no fault of their own, are underemployed in this very prosperous municipality. People, whether it is because of where they happen to live in this section of this city or whatever, are not enjoying the tremendous prosperity that is around them.

Another factor here, Mr. Speaker, is the high employment rate in this area is built on the service sector. We know if you rely on the service sector to create your jobs, once demand starts to fall for some reason then those jobs are the first to go. There is no basis in fact for them. They run parallel to the hot and cold of the economy. If we have high volumes of people working in the food service industry and the retail sector and so on, those jobs are good as long as the economy is good, but they are the first ones eliminated when the economy sputters or stalls, whichever term you want to use. So there is the problem.

[Page 9216]

I know myself, I have stood up in this House quite a few times and talked about the economy booming here in metro. I think it has been said by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, on many occasions that there are areas in the HRM that have the largest soup kitchens in this province, food banks. Mr. Speaker, if you are exiting the city some days, you drive by Hope Cottage around meal times and you will see huge line-ups there.

I had the occasion once, while visiting friends in Vancouver, there was a similar type food bank that was being administered by the Graymoor, The Friars of the Atonement, in downtown Vancouver. What we saw there would shock most people, because a good 95 per cent of his clientele were natives. Now we all know there are no native reserves in Vancouver proper, but that is what happens. This becomes the result of the type of thinking the Premier says will help you to depopulate, we will give you money. We will give you your ticket out of New Waterford and send you to Halifax. What happens a lot of times is that you are given a bus ticket and maybe $50 and that is it. You are not given any kind of substantial support once you get there.

This is what happens a lot of times, and this is as it was relayed to me in my time at this soup kitchen shelter in downtown Vancouver when it happened where, as I said, a lot of these people were people who were lured to the large metropolitan area on the idea of this promised land. What happened was that their vision didn't equate to what they expected. Certainly what happened was that these people - we don't have to go over this too much - what happens to people who fall on hard times in large inner cities, they are subject to criminal aspects, and many of them fall into drug abuse, that is what happens.

If we are going to buy into that line, Mr. Speaker, of having people move into the middle, that will depopulate regions of Colchester County and will depopulate regions of Argyle and so on; if that is what we are going to buy into, then we are going to buy ourselves a whole bunch of trouble. Many of the people who live in metro today can tell you first of all that there is a housing shortage in metro. Now that is why you see what people would have thought of 10 years ago as being unbelievable. If you told people 10 years ago you were going to live out in Enfield and commute every day to Halifax, they were thinking you were living out in never-never land. That is what is happening now.

Along the lines of bringing in people from the extremities - and it has been referred to as the hub-and-spoke style of economics - the problem with that also is, on a personal note for me, I find it offensive because, if you listen to some of the characterizations from across the way that part of the problem is, if those people would just get off their duff and go find work. Well, Mr. Speaker, I will challenge anybody in this House, you probably can go anywhere in the four corners of this Earth and you will find people from Cape Breton working there. So it is not a matter of people sitting in their kitchen waiting for somebody to come by and drop a job on their lap. We have a long history, and too long a history, I might add, of having our people go down the proverbial road. That is another factor I don't

[Page 9217]

think this government has really realized. They make statements and they don't think them through.

The idea of getting everybody to come to Halifax and work here doesn't work. I will try to sum it up, Mr. Speaker, because (a) there are only so many jobs to go around, and (b), as I said, the majority of jobs here are based on the service sector. Once there is a stall in the economy the first level of employment to go is the service sector. By and large, they are at or near minimum wage. They are not high wage in the service sector. So there is a problem there. Let's go and look at people who want to stay at home and find work; let's look at the impediments there. First of all you have a government that is willing to ship them out, which means another thing, which means the government is not committed to any kind of infrastructure.

MR. CORBETT: So if you get rid of the infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, people will still not get jobs. If this government was sincere about helping, they would do not the usual knee-jerk reaction of here is how we get people from welfare to work. Let's talk about a comprehensive plan. Let's say what we are going to do is we are going to be the leaders in the economy there. We are going to put in highway infrastructure that will do two things: it will allow the shipments of goods in and out of the region, and it will provide employment during that building period.

Now, where are we looking at for employment? What are the jobs of this new millennium? If you talk to people in meetings as we were, the other day at the Economic Development Committee meeting, they certainly will tell you it is in the IT sector. So why does this government not get involved in a real way with serious, capable lines of bringing a broadband-type of communications into areas that are underserved? Why not do that? Why not go and build those infrastructures such as that?

Why is it that industrial Cape Breton, for instance, Mr. Speaker, will be one of the last areas served by natural gas? Why does the government not get proactive there and cut a deal like the western provinces did with the federal government to get natural gas into residential homes in those areas? Again, it is a way of the government being proactive. It is not the government itself being the provider of jobs, what it is is the government working in concert with private industry trying to grow the economy.

It is very much so in Cape Breton, like why will business not come here? Well, we have metro here that has many of the advantages. It has many of the universities, and it has many of the infrastructures as far as communications already in place. So that is a deterrent and that is a deterrent, whether it is for industrial Cape Breton again, or Yarmouth, or Shelburne, or the Eastern Shore. It is all there. These are the problems facing these communities.

[Page 9218]

Mr. Speaker, I do not have to tell you, coming from a largely farming area, that resource-based industries were, and a great deal still are, the economic backbone of this province. We have talked much about the new industry, the information technology industries and how we are moving forward and, hopefully, our gas and oil - which again gas and oil is a resource-based industry - and whether it is farming or fishing, but yet you know, after those resources are depleted, there is a lot of well, you know, wash your hands of it and walk away from it, as if, what do we owe these people? We have never talked in terms of how these people have improved the lives of all Nova Scotians.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am fond of talking in this House about how the miners from my home town and surrounding areas were vilified quite a bit throughout the century, but it is an indisputable fact that in the early 1970's it was the coal mining regions where I come from that helped fuel the engines of industry for this province. There is not much said about that today, when they are being pensioned off at an early age or losing their jobs outright. Certainly I will contend that some of those people will fall under this very Act within the next couple of years, as their severance runs out and they are left, because of an inadequate EI system, to fall back on this very program we are debating today.

There is not much said about it; it is a continuous reams of government that come through this province that take the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude. We have men and women in this province who have worked in the resource sector and have never ever really been given their due, the support they should have had from this province. What is happening, Mr. Speaker, as we move away from some of those "traditional ways of life", these people are really being left on the scrap heap. You know what? The size of this scrap heap is being almost doubled because of Bill No. 62. There is nothing in this bill for these people; there is nothing in the way of real employment.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to go back a bit and talk about just the straight out, and I think this is a small group of people, the ones who are lucky enough that they may be able to get some sort of assistance when it comes to getting some kind of course; whether it is in a community college setting, whether it is in a university, I don't see the money here that would provide for that. Who is going to look after those children? Who is left to look after these children? In this province we have 2,480 subsidized day care spaces. The number of children under seven years of age in low income families is over 17,500. Do the math, there is not enough room for them.

The workers were here on Monday night and the minister gave them a very vague explanation, we are going to do something. Well, why can't these things be looked at from the front end? Last year about this time, Mr. Speaker, we were through the emergency medical technicians' strike. One of the clear arguments made during that strike, one of the prime causes of that strike was that the workers were the last ones to be looked after. The

[Page 9219]

people who got the service were looked after, the trucks were looked after but the very basis on which that industry is built, the direct deliverers of that service, were not factored in in a proper way. They were factored in by a, we will get to you later. Now this province may very well be visited by a second work stoppage in that industry, by the dispatchers, because again, this government and governments before it have taken this idea of we will deal with you later.

Why can't you learn something from that? What are we going to do to keep qualified day-care workers in this province? That is what is going to be needed here. If we are going to go down this road of workfare, why are we not paying the trained day-care workers in this province a decent wage? We are making these people care for our children and they are living below the poverty line. These very people I suspect, could not afford quality day care themselves for their children because the rate of pay is so low.

Why wouldn't the government do that in the front end? Say, here is what we are going to do, we are going to make sure that you are going to get some sort of training, we are going to help you move from welfare to work and one of the prime ways we are going to do that is to make sure that your children have the best of care. That is one of the worries you are not going to have to have, they will be in a secure learning environment. But, they will not do that.

Money alone does not do that, we know that. What we are saying, quite honestly, is that if you do not pay your workers a decent rate of pay, one of two things happens. One, is that they do not stay in that industry; and, two, is that they stay in the industry but they go to another province or another area that pays a decent wage. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, isn't this just so indicative of this government. They are calling, but nobody is home.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I advise all honourable members on all sides of the House to turn their cell phones off when they are in the Chamber. Thank you. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: What we have now is this bill that is trying to tell people that we think it is important that you get out and get educated, get re-educated, get into the workforce and we are going to have day care for you. Well, we know the numbers do not add up. We know the numbers do not add up for the amount of children that we are talking about, the number of spaces available and in a very real way, for the workers, because it is such an underpaid job that people do not want to venture down that road.

I have many friends that work in that industry and these are hard-working individuals that go well beyond the 35 to 40 hour work week. They do it because they see the value in their jobs, but while that is great and I applaud those workers for doing that, at a very early time into that they realized that good intentions does not put food on the table nor does it do anything to improve their lot in life. So, they often just move out of there and go on. That

[Page 9220]

is trying in a way to say that this bill does not, in any way, shape or form, address the problems with childcare when you are either getting someone into the workforce or getting them into an educated group.

One of the other groups that this bill is deplorable for are persons with disabilities. So, let's go back to transportation for people with disabilities. There are certain areas that have what we refer to as assistance for transportation of people with disabilities. I know CBRM does and I know HRM does, but, again, let's go back to people in the rural areas. How are these folks going to get by? I know in CBRM it is an on-call basis, before you can access this, it is not a regular route. You have to call and make an appointment to get yourself picked up. That is just transportation.

Has this government gone anywhere and said we are going to really look at the fact of allowing certain seats at community colleges for people with disabilities? Has the government said that in the introduction of this bill, that they talked to the Department of Education and told them that this is what we want, that these people need this help? No, that is not what we see here at all. We see, again, that this bill is silent on that fact. There is nothing there for people with disabilities.

Let's look at government's role in employment after the fact. What is this government doing? Has the government set aside a job fair particularly aimed at people with disabilities, so they can help them get in the public sector? It is not doing anything in the private sector. This is the same government that tried to take away the grants last year to make public buildings accessible, after a very large hue and cry from people like LEO and so on, they relented on that. How assured can people with disabilities be by this government, that after this bill is passed they will do something substantive to get them re-educated and get them in the workplace in a meaningful job? That is the problem. This is what this all revolves around, meaningful.

Does this government have some kind of strange idea of what a job is? If we were to go out and say, what is a meaningful amount of money to get someone from welfare to work? What is this government saying? Is this government ready to subsidize a worker if they are only making $8.00 an hour and need $12 an hour to get by? No, the bill is silent on it, again.

Mr. Speaker, we have real problems there. People with disabilities have a hard enough time in this province finding work now, what happens if this government forces them? Are they going to cut off their benefits? Is that the next step? Is it saying, if you don't participate in this charade, we are going to get rid of your benefits, you are left without benefits, this province does not support you. If you are in Pleasant Bay and there is a job that fits your criteria in North Sydney, you better get there, or you are out. Is that what we are moving toward here? That is the fear. Again, with most legislation that has come forward from this government, it is what the bill doesn't say. One could make all kinds of assumptions of what its impact is going to be, but it is not going to resolve anything.

[Page 9221]

Another area that I wanted to talk about this afternoon is the idea of the people who work in Community Services now. These people are, again, underpaid and overworked. Does this bill talk about hiring new employees? Not one. They are going to have job counselling added to their many duties, yet they are not going to be given any more money. They are not going to be given any more resources. They won't be given any more employees to help them. So what are we going to do? The question begs to be asked, who is going to do this job? Is it right to hire somebody under the real fact, here is your job description, here is what we are hiring you as. You are a social services recipient worker, and you aid these people. Here is your job and here is what you do, and here is how you help these people. Now, out of left field, because of a government bill, you are also, with no real training, asked to be an employment counsellor.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is unfair because, I would argue, it is a whole different set of job skills to be an employment counsellor than to be a worker for a person who is in receipt of social assistance, a whole set different. There is a case in my riding right now where Community Services is refusing to pay a third-party bill for somebody getting a plane ticket from Cape Breton to Ontario. The reason they are not doing that was that this person could have waited and bought an $800 airplane ticket but showed some initiative, went out and bought a $275-and-change ticket from here, so they put that person on the bus to Halifax and that person is now off our rolls here, gainfully employed in Ontario. Community Services will not reimburse that person. The worker had so much work to do, couldn't get back to them that day. The mother of this individual went out to a family member and got this person to put the ticket on their charge card, assuming that once she received the ticket, Community Services would pay for it. Well, Community Services said no, we are not paying for a third-party endorsement of a ticket. Mr. Speaker, this worker has shown the initiative to go out and do this. Yet Community Services is saying no. What will the auditor say if they look at our books? You know what you have to say if you have an ounce of brains. You tell the auditors, instead of costing you $8,000 to $9,000 a year, it will cost you $275 for someone to go to another province to seek gainful employment. Doesn't that make sense? That makes tremendous sense to me. Yet, the same ministry says no, today. No we will not do that. It is third-party.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate there is a line of liability here, but there also should be, more importantly in dealing with people, a line of common sense. The common sense would prevail hopefully. Those people would say, look you go and show me the airline ticket and we will reimburse you. Then they can settle up. But they have bought into the fact that person has bought an airline ticket, they bought it and left from Halifax, and everything on the line, but because it is a third-party payment, they wouldn't endorse it. Does that make sense? I don't think so. It really goes to the whole idea of the commitment of this government to help anybody in a substantive way in receipt of social assistance.

[Page 9222]

Mr. Speaker, what are we going to do with these underpaid and overworked people in our Community Services office? I spend quite a bit of time on the phone to people in . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member yield the floor for an introduction?

MR. CORBETT: Sure.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite. It would like to introduce in the east gallery opposite two fine gentlemen, Mark DeWolfe and his father Jim DeWolfe, and I would ask that the House give them a warm round of applause. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and welcome to our guests in the gallery. Honourable members I understand Mark is an offshore worker, so we welcome Mark to the Legislature and, of course, all visitors to the gallery. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has approximately two and a half minutes.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, if I knew what half that introduction was, I probably would have been a bit more reluctant to give up the floor.

Mr. Speaker, in the few closing minutes I have left, I just want to talk about the people who work in the industry, and that is what it is, it is becoming an industry because that is how this government is treating it. It is not one we would look at that we are dealing with human beings, it is one of quotas. These overworked employees of the Community Services Department, which I was saying before I took my seat, I deal with quite a bit in Glace Bay. More times than not, when I tried to get hold of various workers over there, you get voice mail. It is not because they are not answering their phones, it is because they have huge workloads. These people are asked to do Herculean tasks as it is now. This government is also telling them that we are also going to increase your workload. What does that tell you? It tells you that we are in line for more mistakes; the busier you are, the more apt you are to make mistakes.

Mr. Speaker, I want to close in the few minutes I have remaining and say that this bill is not helping the poor. I believe in my heart that all this bill does is fill a tick in the blue book that says we have done this, without any way of really helping anybody in this province who is poor, that is helping to relieve the debt of this province. It is the type of bill that I believe history will bear out this side of the House and say it was a blight because this province - as a nation - you know you are judged by how you treat your poor. I think if this bill is allowed to pass the way it is, it will be a shameful result in this province. Thank you very much.

[Page 9223]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in rising to address Bill No. 62 on third reading, there are many aspects of the bill that I regret. I think the first thing I regret very deeply is the lack of any process for explaining the content of the bill and its impact on the members of this House. We have had to fly blind on this. I have had to depend mainly on newspaper articles and on submissions I have received from various stakeholder groups for a briefing as to what the bill would purport to do. I will agree that the Deputy Minister of Community Services came in and, with one of his senior officials, addressed the Liberal caucus. However, the deputy minister is a public servant; presumably were the government to change hands he would remain there. He is not a representative of the government, in the direct sense, in the sense of a political official.

The minister has not arranged briefing sessions; the minister has not arranged briefing notes; the minister has not made available to the 52 members of the House the Briefing Book that he himself would have, to explain the bill adequately. Without that kind of material being presented, we have been asked to extend to the government in blind faith, our approbation for something that has not been explained to us clearly by the government. That may or may not be of any significance because had the government gone to exhaustive lengths and provided every one of us with a thick briefing book, the question would still arise as to how credible that material would be because certainly there are many books that are very thick but contain little of substance. It may perhaps not make any great difference in the long run as to what the government would say the bill would make.

I want to place it on record in third reading - this being the final time that we get to address this matter - that the government did not attempt to brief members of the House as to what this bill was all about. Considering the importance of the bill, that failure on their part, I would think would cause anyone of prudent mind to become suspicious, which raises the question of what is the purpose of the bill. What is the purpose of the bill? It is plain that the purpose of the bill is to get people off assistance as quickly as possible. The purpose of the Act, says Section 2, ". . . is to provide for the assistance of persons in need and, in particular, to facilitate their movement toward independence and self-sufficiency."

That is based on certain assumptions; for example the assumption that it is possible for them to move towards independence and self-sufficiency. The presumption on which the bill appears to be based is one that there are many jobs out there, but there are some people who would rather be on public assistance than work - the Premier said that himself in his address to the Halifax Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce - and this government is determined not to make it more attractive to be on welfare than to be working. Well, I want to say that the indicators we have are that the economic climate necessary to provide large numbers of additional jobs, so that people who are now on public assistance could move from assistance to the workforce, the evidence that we have on that question is that those jobs simply do not exist.

[Page 9224]

I was struck by an article that appeared in the press this morning - I have the electronic on-line edition of it here in front of me, from The Halifax Chronicle-Heard - the heading of the article was the Conference Board sees N.S. bringing up economic rear. The articles is by Bruce Erskine, Business Reporter. It begins - I am going to table this, so I trust I can read from it briefly, extracts - "Nova Scotia's economic growth in 2000 trails every other province's, according to a new study released by the Conference Board of Canada. The province's gross domestic product growth this year is pegged at 1.9 per cent, well below the national average of 4.7 per cent. It is projected to increase to 2.3 per cent in the year 2001, ahead of only New Brunswick." But, for the year 2000 the article established Nova Scotia has the poorest economic growth rate anywhere in Canada.

I don't want to divert my attention from the bill, but I must say that that fact is a reflection both on this government and on the inadequacy of the federal representation that we have had up until now through the NDP and PC Parties. Were we fully plugged into the bounty that is Canada, we would be doing a lot better, but we are not. Therefore the jobs that the bill presumes exists, that people can move to so easily, are not there, and therefore the bill will make more miserable the lot of those whose lives are already too miserable to begin with. That is the effect of the bill, regardless of what the purpose may be.

I went into the Legislative Library this afternoon and, after running a gauntlet of NDPers, who are not members of this House but are nonetheless in occupation of that library . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is open to the public, isn't it?

MR. MACEWAN: It is for the use of the members of the House primarily.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is open to the public.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, if that member wants to speak he will have his turn. I would say that in my view the Legislative Library has always been there for the use of the members of the House, first and foremost. I found there in the Library a new book . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: How did you find it?

MR. MACEWAN: I found it by scurrying over a bevy of NDP-types (Laughter) and after running that gauntlet and pressing through that throng . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a wonder they let you take it out.

MR. MACEWAN: It was. I heard them whispering to themselves, various things about me - be careful lest you catch something - but in any event I caught this book. The title of it is Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids, the Tragedy and Disgrace of Poverty in Canada. I am not

[Page 9225]

going to read the book to you, Mr. Speaker, because we are supposed to give our own thoughts in these debates. But it struck me that those are the alternatives this bill presents to persons in need in the Province of Nova Scotia, to pay the rent or feed the kids, which will it be? The bill attempts to provide what they call extrinsic motivation. That could also be called the carrot-and-stick approach to goad people who are now on public assistance to be off assistance and to go get those jobs that exist that don't exist. That is what the bill does. It makes it a little tighter, a little harder, a little tougher.

[3:30 p.m.]

Regardless of what they state that the purpose of the bill may be, the actual effect of the bill is to make more miserable the lives of those who are already facing the alternatives of paying the rent or feeding the kids.

Mr. Speaker, a close analysis of this bill will demonstrate that approximately one quarter of its contents relate to the subject of overpayments and tighten up existing overpayment provisions, tighten up recovery provisions. Give the minister the power to record a judgement against a person without due process of law having taken place first, because I want to say this, and I am sure, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, with your business experience will appreciate the point I make. If you claim that I owe you money or if I claim that you owe me money, we can obtain a judgement one against the other through the course, but we have to go to the courts first and satisfy the court that the debt is valid to obtain the judgement. If I hire Brooke Taylor Trucking Services to truck 50,000 Liberal lawn signs to my constituency - that wouldn't be enough, but if I did that - and I don't pay my bill for the trucking services within a reasonable time . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just might comment that my trucking company maintains the right of first refusal. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor, and I know he is using this as a classic example I am sure.

MR. MACEWAN: As an example, if the bill is not paid, one would sue. You sue either in Small Claims Court if the amount if under $5,000 or you sue in the Supreme Court if it is over $5,000. In any event, the matter would come to trial, and you would have to satisfy the judge that the bill was valid, that the service was rendered, that there was a contract explicit or implied. Then the judge would perhaps grant the order, and there would be a judgement placed against the debtor for the amount awarded plus costs. Then if that is still not paid, then you go to Sheriff's office and you obtain a writ of execution, and the chattels and goods are seized if they exist and if they are not, wages can be garnished. There are means for recovery, but only after due process first. That is the point.

Now, let's make the contrast between that procedure and the procedure employed by the minister who is just walking toward the door. He doesn't have to go through that. He can just simply say Jane Doe owes the Department of Community Services $50,000 and go

[Page 9226]

forthwith and register a certificate stating that against her in the court and then recovery can be effected on the basis of a judgement recorded without first having to prove it before a court of law. That strikes me, Mr. Speaker, as a denial of natural justice.

I have done a great number of overpayment inquiries and appeals. I know they present a certain difficulty because one could say, well, you don't have to go to court to get a judgement against somebody who hasn't paid their income tax, but that is not so. If you don't agree with your assessment for income tax, you can appeal the matter to the Tax Court of Canada, and you can get a full hearing there before a judge and no garnishment, no execution will take place until the matter has first been decided by the courts.

Until now, the Social Assistance Appeal Boards have not been permitted to waive overpayments. In fact, part of the preamble that each chairperson is required to recite before they hear a case, when an appeal case is heard by the Social Assistance Appeal Board, is that we do not have the power to forgive or to waive overpayments.

This bill, again, vests exclusively in the minister the power to forgive overpayments and provide for rather restrictive terms for a minister so doing. The minister can forgive an overpayment if it is not possible to recover it because of death, bankruptcy, permanent absence from the province, or other cause - that other cause kind of creates a loophole that you might be able to persuade a reasonable minister to exercise - or will cause undue hardship to the person. That is a very subjective criterion because what is undue hardship to one person might be considered not undue to another, or is contrary to the purpose of this Act, that in those cases the minister may direct that the overpayments be not recovered, but the Social Assistance Appeal Boards are not given the power, the minister is given the power and so you still do not have the right to appeal through a due process of law an overpayment that is assessed against you under this new (Interruption) I am good for five minutes.

I find this procedure very troubling because I have dealt with many cases involving overpayment. I have two of them on the agenda right now. I wrote a letter last night to Mr. Bob Fowler, Deputy Minister of Community Services, concerning one case, around about 11:00 o'clock last night, and later in the evening I did a second one. I know that in both of those cases - and I am not going to detail an individual case here on the floor of the House, I do not think that that is right - there is good cause to submit that there ought not to be any overpayment recovery action taken.

This bill does not make it any easier for a person who is assessed in overpayment to defend themselves. I do not know to what extent honourable members of the House know what I am talking about here, but you may have it happen some day to one of your constituents, Mr. Speaker. They may get a letter in the mail, frequently without any warning. Sometimes people who have not been on public assistance for years, they have left the welfare system and they have gone to work, they get a letter in the mail saying upon reconsideration or recalculation or revisiting, or re whatever, we have determined that you

[Page 9227]

owe $8,926.32 to the Department of Community Services on account of assistance that you received in the past to which we feel you were not entitled. Kindly pay within 30 days or else. Or else what?

Well, I will tell you or else what right now, Mr. Speaker. This department, that minister has the power to go to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and see that any GST refund cheques payable to that person are stopped and those funds are paid to the Department of Community Services simply on their say-so, not as a result of any hearing in a court of law, not as a result of any decision by a Social Assistance Appeal Board, not as a result of any independent review by any quasi-judicial tribunal or judicial officer, whatever, simply because of the determination usually of a bureaucrat, a faceless, nameless bureaucrat working for the Department of Community Services. That is the first thing that can happen.

The second thing that can happen is that if that person has any income tax refund payable to them when they file their income tax return, instead of going down to H & R Block and getting a cash advance, or to wherever they can go to get their income tax discounted so that they can get their payment back in advance, that money all goes to the Department of Community Services without any hearing, without any due process, without any mechanism by which that person can say wait a minute, I want the facts of this case laid on the table and heard by somebody who can determine whether or not I have been treated fairly.

There probably isn't any other situation like this in the Canadian legal system, Mr. Speaker. I do not know of any other. I have had people come to me saying, look, I have this horrible tax bill from the municipality, what can I do? Well, there are all kinds of things that you can do. You can go, for example, and challenge your assessment to the assessment appeal court if you feel that the assessment of your property is too high. That option is open to you. You can go down to city hall and you can make arrangements for the payment of your taxes if your account is delinquent. There are even legal provisions such as if your property is sold at a tax sale, within one year you have the right to buy it back. That right is given to you by law. But the people I am talking about do not have any legal rights at all. They do not have the right to even ask how, why, they only have the right to have their GST cheque and their income tax refund taken away from them.

One is reminded of the words, thou shalt not steal. This seems to me to be a system of legalized theft. I know that it can be claimed, that they can through fraud and other such means, may be able to receive money that they are not entitled to. Mr. Speaker, you know and I know that the department has every avenue opened to it to prosecute for fraud any person who has committed a fraud and that that is a separate matter.

What I am talking about is overpayment. Let me talk again about overpayment while I have the floor. We have heard some representations in this House recently about workers' compensation and widows. An honourable member opposite invited us to tune into television

[Page 9228]

tomorrow night I believe it is, to watch a program at 9:00 p.m. on that very subject. One such widow I know of in my constituency recently received retroactive workers' compensation payments on account of the fact that she is the widow of a man who had been killed at work many years ago, she had subsequently remarried and that of course, under the laws of those times, halted any further payment of survivors' benefits to her, but as a result of the law that was passed when the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government was in power, she recently received a back-time cheque back to 1985. All the way back to 1985 from this year of 2000, 15 years back-time pay. She had been on social assistance all these many years because the second marriage had not worked out I think husband number 2 lived with her for about three months before he flew the coop. So, for all those years from that time until now she had been on social assistance receiving about $430 a month on which to live.

When that woman received her back-time settlement from the Workers' Compensation Board - and she will be receiving a monthly pension of approximately $1,900 a month from now on in place of $430, a considerable advance, that is from the Workers' Compensation Board, not the Department of Community Services, she notified the Department of Community Services the very day she received her cheque and said, I have now received my cheque, I have received back money from the Workers' Compensation Board and they are going to pay me a pension of $1,900 a month for the rest of my life. I do not need you anymore. Very well, they said, you will not get from us any more.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, three months after that she got a nice notice in the mail of an overpayment and the Department of Community Services wanted her to pay back to them the benefits she had received from their department for, I believe, the last two or three years. They did not go back the whole distance, back to the time husband number 2 flew the coop. I do not know how they calculated this alleged overpayment, it seems to me an arbitrary, random figure that was pulled out of the air, because it did not equal three months' benefits, it did not equal six months' benefits, although according to this bill, if this bill becomes law, an overpayment can be recovered when the person has fully disclosed all that was going on and it was through an error of the department, they can only recover for six months' back payment. That is all this bill provides for, but that is not what the department did in the case of my constituent, because while she had been receiving $430 a month from the Department of Community Services, when she received her retroactive workers' compensation settlement, she was sent a bill by that minister and by that department for $9,000; which of course, she does not have right now because the money has been spent.

The money was spent, there was no hint that Community Services was going to come looking for that money, or a part of it. She spent it on such things as paying her debts and fixing up her home, which was about ready to cave in on her, and buying some furniture and, in general, making up for the many things she had lacked, that she had gone without those many years she had been on social assistance.

[Page 9229]

What this bill does, one-quarter of its contents are devoted to the overpayment recovery process. That is how important they think it is to squeeze every last drop they possibly can out of the poor. So if a woman like that gets some money from the Workers' Compensation Board or from an insurance settlement or from an inheritance, or God knows what, they can get everything they possibly can back of what they paid.

[3:45 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, it has never been my view that social assistance payments were a loan, unless they are specifically issued on that condition at the time of issuance. I know that the Department of Community Services does, in essence, make interest-free loans to people. I know that if a person has a worker's compensation cheque coming at the end of the month, or an employment insurance cheque coming at the end of the month and they have no money right now and the power is about to be disconnected or they have no food, they can get an advance against their coming cheque from the department, on the signing of an offset agreement, of an assignment of future benefit back to the department, so that the debt will be paid. In that function they are probably not doing any different than many of us might do if we went to the bank to get an overdraft against an upcoming cheque or to a credit union to get an advance against wages that were coming but had not yet been paid; they do do it without the payment of interest. On the other hand, the terms of repayment are very stringent and there is certainly no flexibility.

That is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is the general issuance of income assistance and family benefits payments to the long-term clients; mothers with dependant children, fathers with dependant children, disabled persons, wives of prisoners, various such categories. My view is that those payments made to those people are made to them as persons legally in a state of need and are given on a month-by-month basis, based on their circumstances of being a person in need, as unconditional assistance, not as a loan, not as a repayable advance. If such a person's circumstances change and they suddenly inherit $1 million or win the Olympic Lottery or get a retroactive settlement from the Workers' Compensation Board representing 15 years of benefits that they should have been receiving but didn't, all the department can fairly ask for back would be the one month's payment if there was an overlap of one month - not to go back years, not to go back months, and say you were entitled to that $400 a month when we gave it to you but now that you have inherited or you have come into some money, hey, give it all back to us, because it wasn't given as a loan at the time it was issued, it was given as assistance.

It is a very important distinction to me, Mr. Speaker, because I know a fair bit about lending and borrowing money. I have probably borrowed more than my fair share over the years. I know that one of the essential elements to a loan is the issuance of a contract, of a promissory note that, for value received, I undertake to repay to the Royal Bank of Canada the sum of $10,000 on or before January 2, 2001, or whatever. Assistance issued by the Department of Community Services has never been issued on that basis except for those

[Page 9230]

advances given for persons who are about to receive employment insurance or other such cheques and have a short-term need.

However, this bill and the philosophy it reflects, to me transforms the Department of Community Services into some kind of a loan-sharking outfit. I was going to say of a finance company but it is not a finance company, it is a loan-sharking business because people are going to find themselves in debt to the Department of Community Services who had no idea when they received the assistance that they would ever be asked to give it back. The thought never even crossed their mind. You go down to the welfare office if you have no money. The understanding has always been that whatever you did get from them, it wasn't to be paid back, it was given to you because you had no money.

This bill, Mr. Speaker, subverts all that. It shows a government that is fixated on trying to recover from the public whatever has been paid out by way of public assistance and to go to every possible length they possibly can to achieve that end and I think that is fundamentally wrong. I don't like to dwell on the number of years that I have been up here but I have seen a good number of governments in my day and I have seen some that I thought were pretty tight and mean, such as the Donald Cameron Government, but I never saw the likes of this in all my days up here.

I am going to oppose this bill as best I can. I would invite the minister, if he has any compassion in his make-up at all, to reflect on what I have said, and to establish some kind of a process by which those who are assessed overpayments can appeal them, without having to throw themselves on his personal mercy, which is the only mechanism available right now or under this bill.

I think that the woman I have just described - I merely use her as an example, there are plenty more - should not have to go to the Minister of Community Services and say, please, sir, please don't register a judgement against me, please don't garnish my GST refund cheque or any income tax refund that I may have, any income tax rebate, because I need the money. She should be able to go to some kind of an independent tribunal similar to the Tax Court of Canada, at the federal level, and appear before a judge or an arbitrator or, I was going to say, an umpire - an umpire in the sense of the umpire under the Unemployment Insurance Act, that kind of an umpire - she should be able to go to some kind of a person of that type and make her case. And let the department make its case too. If the department can show that that woman knew that she was going to get that workers' compensation payment and if they can show that that woman had agreed to repay to the Department of Community Services whatever they paid her as assistance in the meantime, so be it. A deal is a deal. I have never pretended for a moment that you could welch out of your debts or disavow your obligations by means of some kind of subterfuge or weaselling out process.

[Page 9231]

I say that those who were paid assistance in good faith and received it in good faith, that ought to be respected, and there ought to be no legal or other process under which a person can arbitrarily have a debt just charged on them, big debts sometimes too, I am not talking about little things like $400 or $500, they are usually thousands and thousands of dollars. One case that I am working on right now involves $50,000 - a woman received assistance for five years, and now after five years, the decision is, well, she shouldn't have been getting it all those five years, pay it all back to us, $50,000. That woman has no ability to repay $50,000. She never will. The department is kidding itself if they think it is collectable. I am not going to argue an individual case on the floor of the House, I am just simply using this by way of illustration to try to make a point as to the deficiency of the bill and of the process that the bill anticipates.

I want to say another few words about the appeal process. This bill also deals with the appeal process in some length. The appeal process is something that, again, I am quite familiar with, having usually a dozen or so social assistance appeals under way at any one time. I appear before the Social Assistance Appeal Boards, arguing on behalf of people. I take cases whether they are from my constituency or not, if they ask me to help them and if it is reasonably possibly for me to do so. I know that the appeal boards generally do the best job that they can, and this bill appears to support the appeal process, and to perhaps reinforce it somewhat. I am not here to attack the men and women who serve on the Social Assistance Appeal Boards, but I am here to very strongly attack the appeal process.

The appeal process, as it now exists, is so time-consuming that I think it would drive any reasonable person to despair. Let's not forget that the only reason why anyone would appeal is that they feel aggrieved under the processes and procedures of the Social Assistance Program. What could they be aggrieved by? For one thing, they could be denied assistance. They could be told, no, we don't think you qualify because of a, b and c, therefore we won't help you at all. All right, I appeal. So you write out a letter saying, I appeal the denial of assistance to me by the Department of Community Services, at its office in Glace Bay, on September 27, 2000. You send the letter off to the coordinator of appeals, Mrs. Gladys Sanford, P.O. Box 696, Halifax, Nova Scotia. So you send off your letter.

That might be one cause of an appeal, another cause might be that you might feel that you are not being paid the proper rate, or you might feel that you are not in the proper category, you ought to be categorized as a disabled person because you have submitted six medical reports, all saying you were disabled, and the department keeps on sending you back those denial letters, saying, in our opinion, we think you are capable of working, so you are not disabled, regardless of the six medical opinions you have submitted.

All right, for one reason or another someone appeals, they send a letter off, and what happens? The answer is that nothing happens. You have been denied assistance in September, you have appealed to Mrs. Sanford, October passes, November, December, January, February and March, and you still don't hear anything. You wonder, well, did they

[Page 9232]

get my letter? Are those people up in Halifax alive? Maybe you come to see your MLA, and get him to check on it when he is up in Halifax the next time. You call over to the office, I think the number is 4262, and is Mrs. McGillicuddy's appeal in from last year, in November? Oh yes, it is right here on file, file no. 398B. Is that case scheduled to be heard? You are always told, soon, very soon. Well send it down to the chairman of the local appeal board in Cape Breton to be put on the docket for appeal hearing.

You wait and you wait. Finally, it is about 365 days from the date the appeal was sent in, that it finally gets to be heard. What is a person supposed to have done in the meantime, in the whole year that has passed, if it was a case where they were denied any assistance in the first place, and that is the grounds for appeal? It doesn't make sense. There is no other appeal mechanism that I know of that is so time-consuming. Perhaps I might say, that I know of at the provincial level, because there are some at the federal level that are even worse. I won't get into that, I will deal with the provincial level for now.

This bill does appear to address some of the concerns that I have just mentioned, because it places a certain onus on the minister, that is the department, to respond when somebody appeals, so that within, I believe, 10 days or so - there is a time-frame there, I read it, I can't recall exactly what it is, but it is a reasonably short time-frame - they have to respond. Of course, it doesn't explain what that means, to respond, it could simply be an acknowledgement letter saying, yes, we have received your appeal letter and it is here at the office, where it will sit for the next 12 months, then we will deal with it. That is a response, it may not be an adequate or proper response but it is a response.

I think that before this bill is passed, we ought to receive more appropriate assurances from the minister that the appeal process will be speeded up and that a person's right, given by the Canadian Constitution, to a speedy trial will apply in this particular instance. The people who apply for these kinds of appeals do not do so in a superfluous way. They are people in need, they are people who feel that they ought to be getting a little more than they are getting, or they ought to be getting something where they have been told that you get nothing. They are people who are desperate. I don't want to scream and shout to try to impress on the House how desperate some of them are, but I can tell you, having dealt with many of them face to face for the past 30 years, many of them are absolutely desperate indeed. I think I will stop at that point, on that note, because if I start getting into individual examples of some of the people I know and with whom I have worked, I am going to be tying up the House unduly, and I don't want to do that. I want to make my points and then I will sit down.

I want to move on now from the inadequacy of the appeal process to regulations. If I were to stand here and say, vwxyz, you would wonder, what is he talking about? I want to tell you that vwxyz are the only letters of the alphabet that are not covered in the alphabetized list of regulatory powers given the Governor in Council by this bill, everything else is there, from a all the way down to u. The Governor in Council may make regulations to do a and

[Page 9233]

then to do b and then to do c and all the way down to u. The reason that I mention that is that the bill is really just a shell. It doesn't contain the specifics of what the government wants to do under its provisions. It says that the Governor in Council may make regulations to deal with all these different things, including rates of assistance, procedures for applying for assistance, procedure on appeals, recovery of overpayments, defining any word or expression used in the Act not defined herein, and so on and so on.

[4:00 p.m.]

For those who do not know it, Mr. Speaker, the Governor in Council means the Cabinet. It meets behind closed doors in the Cabinet Room. Its members function under an oath of secrecy that when they are sworn in as ministers, they swear to Almighty God that they will not divulge to any person what transpires in the course of their dealings as Cabinet Ministers when they are in session in what we call the bunker and what governments in power, including Liberal Governments, call the Cabinet Room. So that is where the final contents of this bill will be determined, not here in this House at all. We are being asked here . . .

My Lord, Hansard is probably asking me to clarify what I said, but I am not speaking from any notes so I will not give any copies of anything to Hansard. I just speak from the heart, as you know, Mr. Speaker, I do not use notes. I cannot give them a text of my speech.

AN HON. MEMBER: You do not want details to get in the way.

MR. MACEWAN: Of course not.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or facts.

MR. MACEWAN: I was talking about regulations, not details, not facts, but regulations.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the fact?

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the facts are that the regulations will determine what is in the bill. Those are the facts and we have no idea what those may be because, you know, a good government given these powers could do all kinds of good under this bill and a bad government could do all kinds of evil. This government I think leans more to the latter alternative than the former and, therefore, I am not inclined to give them the powers that they seek to do all these things with legal sanction, but without us knowing what they intend to do.

[Page 9234]

I might say, Mr. Speaker, that I am not favourably impressed by the bill. Now, I want to deal finally with the business of amendments and the debates on the bill up until now in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I have already covered this point, but the Liberal Party deliberately did not submit amendments for debate and I do not know if we are going to move any amendments here on third reading, but I certainly do not know of any and there is a reason for that.

To submit an amendment to a bill means, in my view, that you basically agree with the content of the bill, but think that it requires a little bit of fine tuning. You buy the product, but you do not quite like the way in which it is presented. Maybe you go down to buy a new car and they offer you a nice new car and you say, well, I like the car, I like the make, I like the model, but I do not like the colour. Could you please amend the car by sending it down to the paint shop and changing the colour from red to orange and then I will buy the car. That means that basically you do like the car, but you do not like some small aspect of it. You could go perhaps to another place where they are selling lawnmowers. You could say I like the lawnmower, I am going to buy it, but before I buy it, could you amend the lawnmower by adding to it perhaps a bag on the side to catch the grass as it shoots out the nozzle and they will, but it means that you buy the lawnmower. You liked the product. You just want to see it amended a little bit.

We in the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, did not like this bill. Because we did not like this bill we did not suggest any fine tuning type of amendments saying, yes, the bill is good, but we would like to add on these few little words here to clarify it and make it just a little bit nicer. That is why we did not do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a cop-out.

MR. MACEWAN: It is no cop-out at all. Those people know exactly what I am saying. If they are familiar with the legislative process at all, as they should be by now, they would recognize the truth of my words and I want to say that I am very proud, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberal Party has not played those kinds of games with the poor and needy of Nova Scotia. We have stood by them and when we were in office, we did our best for them and perhaps we did not do enough, but if we ever get back into office, and I am sure we will quite soon, we will carry on where we left off and do things right instead of the way that they are being done in this bill.

So, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I am impressed neither with the performance of the government, nor of the NDP, but I am impressed with the performance of the Liberal Party and I would encourage my colleagues to carry on the struggle against this unjust legislation, against this unjust government, and fight for the day when we will have good government once again here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 9235]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that I will be able to attain a quorum on the government side of the floor. There is no question about that because we certainly will be watching it. I want to say that I was listening intently to the member for Cape Breton Nova speaking on behalf of Bill No. 62. It went along so well until his final summation. In his final summation he used a cop-out. He surrendered to this government simply by saying that he and his Party were not prepared to put any amendments to this legislation. This legislation will be in effect because this government will be in office for approximately three years, maybe even more. So what we as a political Party have decided to do, is we have decided to make sure there will be constructive, substantive amendments to this legislation, to this bill.

However, the members of the Liberal Party have chosen not to do that. They have chosen to take the easy way out, Mr. Speaker. They have chosen to walk out the back door. They have chosen not to introduce one single piece of amendment to this legislation, and then they turn around and call a press conference based on the premise that they are the best that can possibly be. There must be a federal election or something going on around here. Introducing that kind of talk to Nova Scotians and implying to Nova Scotians that they, in fact, are doing the kinds of things that all Nova Scotians expected them to do.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that this Party had its time in office. This Party had its term in which to make amendments to the welfare bill that has not been amended since 1964. That is in fact the opportunity this government had. Five years prior to this legislation, the John Savage Government was in power for a solid five years. In five years, it chose not to allow the Department of Community Services Standing Committee to sit once. It did not allow the Standing Committee on Community Services to sit once. This government turns around and says, it is the voice of the people. This political Party that was once in government, I stand here shocked at the kind of action that can be caused by this Opposition Party that calls itself the Liberal Party, the free-thinking Party, and acts on the best interests of Nova Scotians.

Well, allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this political Party failed in the year of 2000 to address a very crucial bill that has an impact on a significant number of lives of Nova Scotians. If we go to the Voluntary Planning report, we know how significant an impact this bill has on many Nova Scotians because the Voluntary Planning report says that 55 per cent of Nova Scotians earn an income of $20,000 or less. Everyone is just on the brink of needing the assistance of Community Services, the social safety net that we, as governments in this country of Canada and in this province have enacted in order to make sure that individuals are protected from circumstances beyond their control.

[Page 9236]

Mr. Speaker, I do know that it is somewhat an exercise in futility to stand here and speak on Bill No. 62, and I do know that this government would certainly like me to move third reading, finish and get rid of this bill and walk away. But that is not going to happen. I can assure this government that is not going to happen. Our Party has indeed put forward amendments, and some of those amendments have been endorsed and supported by the government. They are not the overall effective amendments that will put the kind of weight to this bill that is absolutely needed. As a matter of fact, this government does not practise what is preaches.

In 1999, this government - this Party, I should say - went out to all Nova Scotians seeking election, and they told Nova Scotians that if they elected them government that they would address the social concerns of this province, and that they would have ongoing consultations. They would speak to interested groups. They would cause the effective changes that were needed to make all Nova Scotians have a quality of life. Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that this government has failed on that task. They did not practise what it preached. As a matter of fact, at the Law Amendments Committee we heard a number of presentations. Each of those presenters were asked if in fact they had had consultation with the government or, better still, consultation with the deputy minister or the Department of Community Services.

We all know, and all of us who have attended the Law Amendment Committee's hearings all know, and understand that not one single one of those groups that came forward indicated there was consultation on behalf of this government for introducing such a significant bill. Not only did this government not have consultation with those Nova Scotians who will be directly affected by this bill, they totally ignored any agreements that the federal Government of Canada had with respect to the United Nations covenants by providing the term adequate support.

You know this government, and I don't believe that there was ever a government in this province that has, in fact, been a signatory to an agreement that was agreed to by the Canadian Government, agreed to by the United Nations, and all countries that consider themselves a civilized country, to be a signatory to this agreement and then turn around and say, that is not sufficient, that really doesn't matter.

The Minister of Community Services and a number of the members from the backbenches asked, what is adequate? Well, we leave that to the decision makers, the courts; we leave that to those people in authority to make those decisions on what they believe is adequate. One prime place in which the definitions usually come out, particularly if it is a deal with legislation, is in the courts. At least every single person who is in need has an opportunity, if they don't receive adequate benefits and adequate support, to at least take it to the court.

[Page 9237]

In this particular case, since there is no definition, it is virtually impossible for them to do this. So I wonder how many members of this government, and how many of the members of the backbenches agree to a UN violation, agree that they know that their signature no longer counts, the signature of Canada no longer counts, or the signatures of all those in a civilized nation no longer count, that by the stroke of a pen, by the changes of legislation, you can erase that and get away with it.

There are members who were in the police services over there; there are members who were, in fact, municipal government, who recognize and understand why legislation, why agreements are in force and brought into force. They are there for the protection of society; in this particular case to protect those individuals who are the least fortunate.

Mr. Speaker, I think that all Nova Scotians will judge and test this particular government over the period of time on just how competent this government is when, in fact, it holds no credence to whatever it signs. It reminds me of the five-star agreement with NSGEU prior to the agreement, prior to right-sizing and downsizing. This government - the Premier himself signed his signature to the five-star point, indicating that, if I get elected, there are the five quality points on which I will turn around and I will support.

The Minister of Human Resources saw the five-star points, and the Minister of Human Resources knows full well that the government didn't live up to that expectation, didn't live up to its commitment. It right-sized and downsized individuals. It had minimal consultation. As a matter of fact it was only during the pressures of the Budget Debate that there was any movement at all. Mr. Speaker, the same can apply here to this Community Services bill.

You know a couple of days ago, as a matter of fact there was a member in the Committee of the Whole House, who is a friendly member to the government, who just happened to be chairing the Committee of the Whole House on debate when Bill No. 62 came forward. That Chairman, because he was friendly to the government, decided that after many hours of debate this government didn't understand the amendment to this legislation. So he carried on a practice that he said is normal, is consistent with being the Chairman and it is consistent with my practice that I will read out the amendment so that the government can understand. It is like driving a truck into them, waking them up and saying, look, this is the kind of thing you have to do.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, on a point of order, I would submit to you that the comments the honourable member for Dartmouth North is making have absolutely nothing to do with this bill that is now in third reading. I believe that as Speaker you would agree to uphold the rights and privileges of all members in this House, not just the NDP.

[Page 9238]

MR. SPEAKER: I appreciate the comments of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and I have been listening carefully to the member for Dartmouth North's comments and I will continue to listen carefully, but I do believe that with regard to his discussion of what happened at Committee of the Whole House, I think it is relevant with regard to what amendments potentially were or were not passed on this bill. Since that is not on the record and he wants to put this on the record now, I think that is within order. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I concur based on the premise that we are now debating Bill No. 62 in third reading and I just wanted to make the chairman of the committee aware that in fact, it is not just the NDP and on that particular day it was not just the NDP, but it was the total Opposition. That member decided to take preference over what the Opposition and what the House had ruled on that particular day and decided that it was appropriate for him to carry on another form of dictatorial government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Dartmouth North, as I said, I have been listening carefully. I will note two things. First of all, I would ask you to retract the term "dictatorial government" because I think that is unparliamentary. Secondly, I do appreciate you putting forth your comments, but at the same time, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley I believe was the chairman at that time and it is not the position of any member of this House to be questioning decisions of the chair and I would suggest that some of the language you are using is a little bit too much.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I do apologize for using such strong language.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. PYE: I have to say that I guess what I will do is I will detract from that train of thought completely before the chairman pulls me together again. So, what I want to say is that this is what we have to deal with when in fact we are in Opposition. That is the reason why it is significantly important to put those amendments forward so that those amendments are on record, so that all Nova Scotians know that as a Party we have placed those amendments - and they were NDP amendments - to this Bill No. 62 and that is what is significantly important and that is what is important to bring forward here.

I also want to say that I want to look at the issue that really brought it to a head, the issue of telephones and the need for persons on social assistance to have the right to a basic telephone service. This was something that was agreed to by all Parties and the Standing Committee on Community Services. We toured this province from one end of it to the other. We listened to every single presentation and this Party, which is now the government, had listened to those presentations as well. Every single individual who came before that Standing Committee on Community Services indicated that it was essential to have a basic telephone service.

[Page 9239]

I have portrayed to this House the kind of problems that can occur and the kind of situations one finds themselves in when in fact they do not have access to a telephone. As a matter of fact, I talked about a mother who once placed her child in jeopardy because she did not have a telephone after 12:00 o'clock at night and had to go across to the neighbour's house in order to call 911 to get a policing service to come there. Now that is not uncommon in the constituency that I represent. I don't know about other constituencies, but it is certainly not uncommon in the constituency that I represent. It is not uncommon to see people take away from their social services allotment and pay for a phone card, $10 or $20 for so many hours on a phone card, and then in the evening have to go out and use that phone card if their children get ill or something, children on each leg, talking on a pay phone and having to use a phone card that is money out of their budget.

Here we live in a province that can very well afford to give millions of dollars away to multinational corporations based on the premise of a threat that they will leave this province and set up house elsewhere, but we can't provide a basic telephone service for people who are less fortunate.

Mr. Speaker, there is some real serious kind of thinking when that kind of action is taken by a government. I often wonder where the Minister of Community Services has come up with the fact that this is going to cost some $12 million. I have never seen a cost analysis of it. I have never seen a cost sheet. I know that the social services rolls are continuing to drop. I know they are dropping significantly, and this government is going to take credit for that, and it is going to take good credit, but it turns around and comes in and says to us that it is going to cost some $12 million to introduce a basic telephone service to those people on social assistance.

The minister didn't say that they tendered out, that they turned around and did a cost analysis of this. He didn't say what kinds of methods would be used to reduce that particular cost. He didn't say that by possibly tendering this out, since there are a number of telecommunications and electronic communications services available now, he didn't say there was a competing field or industry out there. He didn't say we could tender this kind of a contract out. Maybe it will come in under budget or under the estimates that we think it will, to some $8 million or $9 million.

He didn't say that because of that telephone service, there would be a decrease in those persons on social assistance or welfare. He didn't say that because they have a basic telephone service that his prospective employer can now call them and say, look, we have an employment opportunity for you, and that we have that employment opportunity, and you can come in tomorrow and call them directly instead of calling my office or calling other MLAs offices or calling their friends home to see if there is an individual there. They may be a half a block down the street, and by the time they are going to get the telephone, the boss is long gone because he says, the individual is not responsive enough to be there at a particular time when my call comes in, the job is lost.

[Page 9240]

Those are employment services that need to be considered. A basic telephone service is essential, it is significantly important, and you can't do without it. To think that we live in a province where Alexander Graham Bell allowed people a first opportunity to communicate with each other by way of a telephone. It has been said that we no longer need to have smoke signals. We no longer need to beat drums. We can communicate with people by electronics today. It is significantly important for those individuals to have that kind of technical equipment so they are able to go out and do the kind of job that is necessary to have done.

This government decided once in favour of it, then pulled it back, and then decided, Mr. Speaker, that it would vote against that kind of an amendment to the bill. Well, the government has succeeded, and I can tell you that you will succeed. You will be patient. You will sit out the 20 hours of talk in debate, and yes, there will be very little that we can do, but at the end of the day you will be measured, and you will be measured for what you have done. There is absolutely no question. Across this country, we have watched people tinker with those individuals who are on social assistance, all coming up with these grandiose schemes of driving people back into the employment field not thinking of what kind of an impact that has on the individuals who are already out there, not thinking of the number of companies, including governments, that have downsized, not thinking that the economy looks like it might be in a spin, and not thinking about the fact that this government itself has pulled in millions and millions of dollars through casino operations and so on, which it can generate and direct into other areas of significant causes. There is absolutely no question. As a matter of fact, there was a fight last year for Loaves and Fishes to make sure that it received its fair share from the Sydney casino operation.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, living in a province that now has food banks, clothing depots, breakfast programs and will continue to have more. As a matter of fact, there is a proposal to build a new, $1 million facility to house a food bank. Can you imagine the fastest and the largest growing industry in this country is food banks, clothing depots, church shelter centres, in a country that brags and boasts about its wealth in a province that is going to be on the cusp of one of the greatest wealth returns it can possibly have, by tapping into its resource of natural gas. It is now going through my community and in communities where people can't even afford to link up to natural gas, the pipeline is now going through my community. I watch it every day and I wonder how beneficial and how much of a benefit Nova Scotians are going to be in receiving that, particularly those on fixed incomes and who are less fortunate. That is the kind of thing that I sit back and look at.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to go on the train of thought with respect to this government saying that it is committed to a quality of life, it is committed to making sure that everyone benefits from Nova Scotia's wealth and Nova Scotia's resources in this province. This government does not live up to its own commitment because when I happened to be the critic for Human Resources for my Party, which was for a short period of time, during budget deliberations last year, I asked the Minister of Human Resources, what are you doing with respect to employment for minority persons, for persons with disabilities? The minister could

[Page 9241]

not - and I asked the minister to table this, the Minister of Human Resources, and I asked him to table it for all you backbenchers and every member on the government side, to show government's commitment to those people who are minorities and to those people who are disabled.

I just want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that in just this House sitting alone, we brought in three resolutions; one dealing with technical aids, the government kaput it, voted against it; one dealing with public transportation, transportation for the disabled. The government voted against it. Here, in particular, is the crux of all resolutions, one which would not cost the government a single penny, that is to tell the national oil companies that it ought not to go total self serve. Disabled people and seniors who can no longer get out there and pump their gas or anything, didn't cost the government one single penney. You know what it did? It voted against that resolution.

Now are you telling me that that government isn't callous? That that government isn't cold-hearted? That government doesn't care? Well, I will tell you, when resolutions and questions come through this House, that doesn't cost the government a single penny and all they need to do is act on it, all they have to do is turn around and send a communique through to the appropriate agencies and the appropriate private sector industries to compete with that, then that is what they should be doing.

I will never understand why this government chose not to support major oil companies and private retailers from not going total self serve. Think of the employment that it causes in the industry. Think of not only the employment that it causes in the industry but think of the individuals who are handicapped, who are disabled, who are seniors, who can't get out there and who can't pump their own gas and so on. Think about those.

Think about the resolution, and I go back to the resolution, that in fact the disabled persons organizations, including the Nova Scotia Disabled Persons Commission, it had requested this government get involved in a technical aids program, provide a grant for a technical aids program so that individuals who need technical aids, for example, a wheelchair, that is a technical aid, this government and the Department of Community Services chose not to even fund a wheelchair for individuals. It is left to the Lions, the Kinsmen, non-profit charitable organizations in the community.

[4:30 p.m.]

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, a recipient of Community Services is expected to raise at least one-half of the cost of that technical aid, that wheelchair, in order to even have the Department of Community Services look at it and reflect as to the need of that. That is a person who is totally amputated, if you want to look at it in that particular light, who has no other mode of mobility except for that wheelchair, they are expected to go out there and they are expected to turn around and raise that kind of money. Talk about embarrassing. We

[Page 9242]

talk about compassion. We speak about caring. We speak about being our brother's keeper. We use all these kind of descriptive phrases to make sure (Interruption) - and ministers do - we use all these kind of descriptive phrases to demonstrate that we do have some human quality about us, some quality that says we are prepared to support those who are less fortunate, those who need a hand up and those who need a helping way.

Mr. Speaker, here is another crux of it. As a disabled person, I will tell you it costs significantly to have a long-leg brace. If you have a prosthesis it cost you nothing in this province, but if you have an orthotic apparatus, then it costs you and you must pay for that. The one that I wear costs $1,100 alone. It costs $1,100, and because I have a benefits program I am able to get a portion of that cost paid for, as well as a small portion of it that is paid for by the provincial government. There are other people who do not have a benefits program who do not have that, who have to turn around and pay for their orthotics, be it a back brace, be it an arm brace, be it a long-leg brace, or a brace, whatever the case may be.

Those orthotics are out of reach to some individuals, and I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, when I put the resolution, I do not know how this government thought. I felt about it as a disabled person. When I put this resolution before the House, just to turn around and ask for a grant, to introduce a technical aids program, to see if, in fact, it will work, to see if there is something that can be done here, something that will save the taxpayers millions of dollars, something that will bring people out of hospital rooms at a high of $800 and $900 a day, earlier, when I asked for a waiver on that resolution and the government said, no, I do not know if any member of that political Party, in the government, understood what a crushing blow that was for me. I can tell you what a crushing blow it was for all those individuals who are disabled. What a crushing blow it is for them.

Mr. Speaker, 78.4 per cent of disabled persons in the Province of Nova Scotia are forced out of the labour force. Think about it; 78.4 per cent of them. This government has not done its job. It has not talked to Crown Corporations. It has not talked to private businesses that it does tendering and does work with that receives government funding through contractual agreements. It has not talked to any of them about upping its commitment to the support of persons with disability and those minorities who in fact should be employed and should have a hand up. If the government wants to talk about self-reliance, independence and a quality of life, there is a great way of doing that. That is by showing the commitment yourself. When I stood at the Human Resources estimates and I asked the minister what his commitment was, he said, well, we have this agreement with our unions, and there is a commitment that we will meet a certain percentage of those individuals who in fact will be employed in government. But you know, we have to be very careful because we are right-sizing and down-sizing and there are not many employment opportunities left.

I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, and I am saying to this government, if government doesn't show initiative, it doesn't show direction, then I can only speculate that this bill, Bill No. 62, is not intended to bring about independence and self-reliance, but it is intended to

[Page 9243]

throw all those people out on the sidewalk and say fend for yourself, because we are going to talk the talk, but we are not going to walk the walk. You are going to walk the walk. It is just reflective. As a matter of fact, two days ago we heard the report about the number of people who are living in poverty in Canada. It actually jumped another 400,000 people. Can I ask you if in fact the economy is doing well?

We have a Prime Minister who is walking around boasting about cutting the deficit. Actually, he is boasting that he has eliminated the deficit and that is the reason why we have billions of dollars in surplus. Nobody knows how much. Some people say it is $28 billion. Some people go as high as $100 billion. I doubt very much if it is that, but I would say somewhere around $28 to $50 billion would be a realistic number. Yet, Mr. Speaker, we have people in this province who are living in total poverty. When I look at the wealth and the worth of our nation and I see how many people are actually denied a benefit of that, I wonder if it isn't the responsibility of government to do that. I keep saying to myself that yes it is a responsibility of government to do that. Government will do that, and government should do that.

Mr. Speaker, I know we brought in resolutions with respect to this government making the commitment to the 1 per cent of the budget going to support housing. We have had a question here today by our Community Services Critic on housing and how desperate the housing situation is in the Province of Nova Scotia. A significant part of my community is multi-unit residential development. Many, many people who are on fixed incomes will not be able to own their home, will never even have the beautiful dream of owning a home. They will never have it. Never will they have it. This government has what is called a modest housing program, a program that supports people's total combined income in a household of $50,000 or less. How many single mothers who are out there who are working for minimum wage jobs even know about that program? How many single mothers out there and how many single parents, I should say, not only mothers, don't even know about that program, that they can tap into the program.

One of the greatest programs we do have for support of housing is what we have when Habitat for Humanity comes along and helps people become self-reliant and independent by building them a home and allowing them to take over home ownership. Do you know how they do that? They do that in a significant way. They tell the people that they will assume the mortgage. There is no interest charge on the mortgage, and that they will, in turn pay it over a period of time, and the home will be theirs. It gives them an opportunity to have home ownership. This government can do the very same thing.

We live in a province rich in natural resources. We sell forestry products. As a matter of fact, we ship it out of the country and, as our Critic for Natural Resources can tell you, without even value added to it. We bring it back as a value-added good. We turn around and we have all these resources available to us and yet we don't use the imaginative, intellectual capacities we have to bring about the kind of significant social changes that are needed, that

[Page 9244]

in the long-run will save every single taxpayer dollars, untold dollars as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to reflect briefly on the modest housing program and what it can do. This happens to now be under the umbrella of the Department of Community Services. The Department of Community Services is now responsible for housing. As a matter of fact, many of our members have turned up and said there is not sufficient housing, there is non-profit housing. We get calls in the constituency office that I represent and every single one across this province, maybe with the exception of Cape Breton where, in fact, there is some surplus housing, but because of public transportation and inadequate public transportation, they can't use or are unable to take advantage of that public housing because it is away from the centre of activity where they need to go to see their doctors, where they need to buy their groceries or they need to buy their clothing. That is the kind of thing that goes on here.

You know, Mr. Speaker, when you look at the potential of what government can do for a society and why it doesn't do it leaves a lot of thought in the minds of many Nova Scotians. Each and every one of us know, or have relatives who are on fixed incomes, who, in fact, are working poor, who might very well be on social assistance. Every single one of us know that. Do we call them lazy, no-good-for-nothing bums? Of course not, we don't. We know that every single one of those individuals try because it is an embarrassment to tell their neighbour or their friends that they are on social assistance.

Why do you think they don't enter the door of a church? Why do you think they don't enter community centres and why do you think that they don't enter this Legislative Assembly? Because it is an embarrassment and the government knows that and the government takes advantage of that. The government knows that they can be silenced just simply by talk, that they will not, and the ministers know that, and they know that they can be silenced simply by talking, they won't come into this Legislature. You know I have to tell you that what really impresses me is that some members from advocacy groups have been here almost every single day while this bill has been debated. Those individuals have watched this debate day in and day out because they know the people they have to work with; they know that the people can't even take the time off, for the most part, to come to this Legislature: (1) because they don't have the money for transportation; (2) because they will be identified and they are afraid of repercussions from the Department of Community Services, that their cheque will be cut off or something of that nature.

I don't know how many times, Mr. Speaker, I have heard those kinds of comments from individuals. I can only praise those agencies and organizations that come in here on behalf of those individuals and speak because those individuals would not have a voice if it were not for those agencies. They see the kind of relationships, abusive down-trodden, they see that out there in the communities and they know it exists and they know the voiceless individuals out there and they come here to watch the kind of direction the government will

[Page 9245]

take on legislation, particularly legislation that has a significant impact upon the lives of those less fortunate and working poor.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that my Party has talked about alternative ways of doing things and the government laughs it off, saying all you want to do is cost us money - great ideas but they are going to cost you money. Well, I believe in a front-end investment, I believe in an investment up-front today that pays 15 years from now. Now you can say that that is a long time but you know how long it takes to educate a child from P to 12. Well, it takes 12 years, so 15 years is not uncommon to turn around and to invest in the life of a child and the life of the child's family and so on. Those are numbers that can be calculated, there are costs that can be calculated, there are also outcomes that can be calculated. Those outcomes can be calculated because you can do the test and you can do the (Interruptions)

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am having a little trouble hearing the speaker and I would ask that the members who are engaged in some very active conversations, please take them outside of the Chamber. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do not want to say this, but I think it is worthy of comment. I hope the government members will be a bit more attentive to the comments that I am making because I am sure that they do have people who they represent in their constituencies who are less fortunate. I know that some of them have worked hard in those communities; I know some of them have volunteered at food banks; I know some of them have watched the individuals who receive a welfare allotment and then have to get on a bus to go to a food bank to bring back their bags of groceries in order to have enough to hold them over until the end of the month because their paycheque does not last until the end of the month. We know that.

We also know the Department of Community Services has made it significantly harder on individuals, and it is easy to sell that in a province where in fact the minimum wage is still $5.70 an hour. We are talking about increasing the minimum wage to $6.10, which it will be by the year 2003. What kind of a significant impact will that have on small business? We know and we understand that small business is the backbone of the economy. We also know that there are calculations, there are assessments and cost factors that are taken in.

We do not say a single thing when we are going to up the HST and we can join with the Government of Canada and cause a 15 per cent HST that is going to be placed on every man, woman and child's clothing. We do not talk about that. Can you imagine that we tend to forget that if you buy a $100 pair of dress shoes, it may very well be tax exempt, but yet if you buy some baby's clothes or child's clothes, you have to pay the 15 per cent tax rate on it? We tend to forget the kind of inequities that we as government have built into legislation.

[Page 9246]

Nobody has taken into consideation, factoring in the cost, welfare payments, social service allotments have declined, yet HST has been brought in and now most recently, the cost of living has risen 2.7 per cent. I know there are people from the Department of Community Services up there in the gallery and they are listening to this particular presentation and I also know that I have worked with them. I have worked with individuals who are in the Department of Community Services, hard-working individuals, and they will do anything as long as government puts the funding in there and develops the policy that will allow them to do it. Those social service caseworkers - and remember, they are caseworkers - are not callous, calculated, hard-hearted individuals. They certainly are not. They are going by direction and policy that is set out by government.

When you become a member of this Legislative Assembly and you get two books and one book is for income assistance and the other book is for family benefits and you know the allotments and you know that the money is there and you also know that the cost of living is there and you know that nothing has changed, then you know very well that this government deliberately knows what it is doing. It is deliberately taking the kind of action it can take because it knows full well that it wants a bump when it goes to the polls two and a half years from now. That is all this Bill No. 62 is about. When I talk to many Nova Scotians, they say show me the numbers. Show me the figures. I made quotes from The Daily News with respect to a comment from Parker Barss Donham's article of April 2000 and the Minister of Community Services said, it ain't so. It ain't so - he didn't say it is not so, he said it ain't so. The point is that, there was a whopping 15 per cent cut in two and a half years of the Department of Community Services budget. As a matter of fact, they expect another cut of 2.3 per cent - let's round it off to 2 per cent this year - and a continuous drop each year thereafter.

I hope that the government - and I hope that the last direction is not the kind of direction in which I will see - will boost up this economy, and that it will make it a favourable environment, and that more jobs can be created and that there is the opportunity for those people on social assistance to be employed. But if the Minister of Economic Development who served on that Standing Committee on Community Services can sit there, and that Minister of Economic Development can ask each individual at the end of the day, what is the single thing you would like to see, and then he turns around and he is now the Minister of Economic Development, then let's see some progress.

What is happening on the Eastern Shore in the MLA's riding? I know when I lived down there, a lot of people were part of a fishing industry. There was also a Scott Pulp and Paper Company down there, right in Sheet Harbour. There was a shipbuilding industry on Sober Island. Allow me to tell the minister, the member that represents the Eastern Shore, that I know the Eastern Shore, and I know it reasonably well. As a matter of fact, the minister knows it quite well also, and he knows he has an uphill battle and a hurdle. I want to say to that minister, that I don't think that minister is not compassionate, that he is not caring, that he doesn't understand those issues, because he does. The Eastern Shore is but one example.

[Page 9247]

Cape Breton Island is another example. Some 17 to 20 per cent of people may be displaced of employment simply because there will be no employment opportunities provided on Cape Breton Island. I know this government has tried by bringing in e-commerce industries, by bringing in communications industries, by trying to diversify the economy of Cape Breton Island. I know that, and I know that it is going to take a long time.

I know the Minister of Education has turned around and said to sell Sysco, and I will talk on that one - when there was an industry we had back in 1892, and it first started out in New Glasgow and then moved on to Cape Breton Island and so on. I will talk about that one on a later day, but I do want you to know that there was an industry that provided billions of dollars to the Province of Nova Scotia and provided employment opportunities.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Thank you very much. Way too much noise in the Chamber, and I would appreciate it if the members would take their private conversations outside of the Chamber please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, as I am going on my train of thought with respect to Sysco, with Sydney Steel and so on, and the names of the company as it transpired over the history and the takeovers of that company and the kind of employment that it provided individuals, some probably $3 billion to $4 billion over the history of that company has gone into the economy of Nova Scotia. We talk about a Minister of Education who campaigned on a premise of closing Sysco, closing employment opportunities and opening more hospital beds. Well, the Minister of Health comes along and he says, somebody is wrong here - we may have campaigned on that, but we are no longer going to have hospital beds. Even those individuals who cannot provide will have the appropriate food allotment to have the nutritional food, will, in fact, be hauled up on a stretcher and moved into a hospital. The Minister of Health will turn around, this very minister who was part of the Standing Committee on Community Services, will turn around and have them stretched out in the hallways of hospitals until a bed becomes available. That is the kind of thing we are moving towards.

Every time somebody tells me that prosperity is here, and I see the kind of individuals and the number of individuals who in fact are not benefiting from that prosperity, Mr. Speaker, I have to sit back and I have to reflect.

We talk about employment opportunities. Now I have talked about employment opportunities and how individuals with disabilities are unable to access those employment opportunities because they don't have the expertise and the technical aids and the equipment available to provide them with it. Think about the individual who in fact is a single person on social assistance who would like to move away from that role. The government has not presented its regulations with respect to what it is going to provide. We do know that it has talked about continuing Pharmacare with respect to one year while they get their feet off the ground, but we haven't talked about a national Pharmacare Program.

[Page 9248]

Even if the federal Government of Canada does not provide a national Pharmacare Program you can provide a provincial Pharmacare Program. The Province of Quebec provides a provincial Pharmacare Program. You know the provincial Pharmacare Program can meet the test of time because again you can measure the outcome. Five, 10, 15 years down the road you know by providing that program that there is a need for less larger institutions called hospitals or medical centres. There is less need for that because you are providing people with the adequate - and I say adequate - funding in order to provide them with the appropriate nutritional meals.

The single person who needs the skills, the upgrading, the education, who needs the adult GED program there is only one in the entire metropolitan area, and I represent a significant part of a community who has, in fact, a number of people could take advantage of that upgrading program, who in fact could then turn around and as a mature student enter a university and get into the university under a mature student program. There are a number of ways in which government can take positive, proactive action.

The intent is that government must show the way and it must make the way and it must make it as easy as possible. That is the kind of direction that government can provide. We are not only talking about GED, university educations, but we also must if in fact we are going to move people from welfare to work, we are going to do it in a dignified way, we are going to do it in a way so that they will have the supports that are needed for a long-term quality of life and be able to be a participant of that community in which they have always dreamed to be a part of.

Mr. Speaker, that takes a commitment by government of not only shuffling dollars back and forth of this $25 million that it found, and I had a conversation with the Minister of Community Services and I said, now, let's make it clear because I said I don't want to be wrong here, but is that money not now being used, the National Child Tax Benefit, is that now not being clawed back and put in the pot? He did agree and he did say until August 1, 2001. Now August 1, 2001, that money is still going in there. This is year two, this government committed on a platform that it would scrap the National Child Tax Benefit clawback and that it would give it to the single Nova Scotians, to families on welfare, much the same as the Province of Newfoundland and the Province of New Brunswick have done.

This government has chosen, Mr. Speaker, not to do that. Once again it has reneged, it has backtracked on its commitment because now it is elected to power, and as said the other day, there is some magical thing that happens as you tiptoe across that four-metre line and become government. For some apparent reason, your mental capacity just simply turns to mush because it really doesn't matter what you say out on the campaign trail, at the end of the day, once you are the government in power you come up with this magic scheme of saying, well, we didn't know the finances of this province. We didn't know how desparate a situation it was. Yet we all sat here, we all received the budget book. Each and every one of us received a Budget Book, we could do those budget estimates, we could do the budget

[Page 9249]

analysis. We all knew that, in fact, the books of the government weren't exactly the same as they were told to be but they didn't care. The bottom line was that the most important thing was to get elected and, after getting elected, this platform within the Tory blue book of social concerns hit the well hard. As a matter of fact, it went to the bottom of the well. Do you know what happened? The bottom of that well was empty, much like the promises in this blue book. They are empty promises. That is the kind of thing that turns off Nova Scotians and turns off the voters.

[5:00 p.m.]

If you wonder why you get voter participation in this country by 70 per cent or less, then you have to realize that people don't have faith in their governments; they don't have faith in their politicians because they say one thing when they are running around to get elected and, when they are elected, they do something else.

Now we know that in Pictou, in Yarmouth, in Kings North and in every constituency in this province, that the single most important issue that comes through a constituency office is, in fact, that of social assistance, for the most part. We know, and yet we tend to put blinders on and say that for some apparent reason, it doesn't exist. Well, when reality hits you in the face it is hard to actually see it. You know it really has to bang you back three or four times before you actually get the picture.

Mr. Speaker, I have talked about disabled persons, about single persons on social assistance, about education, and about a significant number of issues. I have to tell you that every time I stood before this Legislative Assembly to speak, I wanted to make sure that I was spending the maximum amount of time because I am speaking in this Legislative Assembly for those who can't speak for themselves. It is what we have to do; it is what we have been elected to do. We have been elected to speak on behalf of every single citizen. I have represented the constituency of Dartmouth North, both at the municipal level and at the provincial level, and I have made sure that I represented, or tried to represent it fairly for all people, through all walks of life, in every part of the community. The business sector comes to me and they know that they can speak and they will be heard.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that it has been a pleasure to be part of the public process, to be an elected official, to make significant, effective change. I would certainly hope that other governments would intend to do that as well. So, as I take my place, I would move adjournment of the debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 62. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

A recorded vote is being called for.

[Page 9250]

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[5:04 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[5:55 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Downe Mr. Christie

Mr. Manning MacDonald Mr. Russell

Mr. Holm Mr. Muir

Mr. John MacDonell Miss Purves

Mr. Deveaux Mr. Fage

Mr. Pye Mr. Balser

Mr. Epstein Mr. Parent

Mr. Estabrooks Ms. McGrath

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Dexter Mr. Olive

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Boudreau Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Wilson Mr. Dooks

Mr. Morse

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 13. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

We have reached the moment of interruption. This evening's subject for late debate has been submitted by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid:

[Page 9251]

"Therefore be it resolved that the government should keep its promise and provide more hospital beds than existed in July 1999 to meet the needs of Nova Scotians."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

HEALTH - HOSPITAL BEDS (POST-1999):

INCREASE - PROMISE KEEP

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes to explore the subject matter of this resolution because I think it is an important one for all Nova Scotians. We have to draw attention to the fact that this government got elected on a platform in which it set out its very, very clear intentions with respect to the matter of health care in this province. They said from one end of the province to the other that they had a specific and particular plan with respect to health care. They said they were going to fix health care, and they said very specifically, Mr. Speaker, "There shouldn't be any doubts about the quality of health care Nova Scotians will get in the future. The John Hamm plan will make health care the first priority by providing more nurses, more doctors and more hospital beds in the community. And we will do that with a budget Nova Scotians can afford."

[6:00 p.m.]

That is what they said, Mr. Speaker, and in fact if the minister cannot remember it, I have a tape that I would be more than happy to play for him, but it is pretty clear that the Minister of Health does not seem to recall the platform from the last election. I want to refer, if I can for just a second, to the front page of The Chronicle-Herald this morning, this headline, it is not my words, this is the headline of The Chronicle-Herald. It says, "NDP: Tories reneged on health vows." Then there is a section where in referring to the ad that I just quoted from, the reporter says, "Health Minister Jamie Muir said he's never heard the ad." So he never heard of his own Party's platform?

Then in today's Daily News, both of which, Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling so that others will have an opportunity to read it, in the headline entitled "NDP blast Tories over hospital bed cuts", the sub cut is, "Health Minister says he doesn't recall election promise . . . " Then in the text of the story it says, "Muir said he never heard of the Tory campaign pledge of more nurses, more doctors and hospital beds in the community."

I said in these stories as well that it is quite startling when a member of the Cabinet of the government cannot reach far enough back in his own memory to recall the platform on which he ran. It is astounding and startling that the things that he says to his own

[Page 9252]

constituents, the things that his Party, on his behalf, says to all of the people of Nova Scotia, are not of enough gravity, do not carry with them enough meaning for him to even remember them. You can tell how much faith and trust he invested in the words of his own Party because he could not even remember one of the most important pledges that he made to the people of this province. I think, Mr. Speaker, that is astounding and it is part of what feeds the cynicism that people have about the faith that they put in politicians, about the faith specifically that they put in Progressive Conservative politicians who clearly say things, appear to say things, may I say, Mr. Speaker, because I know there is a lot of company in this House and I can only speak on the evidence that I have which is with respect to the Minister of Health himself because after all he is the one who specifically said it, that he cannot even remember a key point in his own Party's platform.

When you are a member of the government, you have to take responsibility for all the things that the government does. In April 2000, not a year after the election was over, when they were in a position to bring in their first budget - in fact it is their second budget - but they always like to claim that it is their first one so let's just go down that road with them and say that it was their first budget, in April 2000, John Hamm's Government cut $70 million from acute care in this province. The Minister of Health said to everyone who would listen that these cuts would be absorbed in administrations and administrative reductions. When everybody said that is not possible, he said, sure, it is, we can do that. We can get $70 million out of administration.

Well, you know what happened after that, Mr. Speaker, you were here as well. The minister had to reallocate some $12 million back into the budget in order to be able to just reach a reasonable standard in some of those areas and, basically, if you are not too cynical about it, the reality was the reason why they did it was to get out of the Legislature. That is why they did it. We have the astounding representations that have been made in this House where more than 6,000 residents of the Minister of Health's own riding, his own constituency, the people who supported him in his bid to sit in this House have filed petitions in this House beseeching him to change his decision with respect to the Colchester Regional Hospital. Absolutely amazing.

In spite of putting a little bit of the money back in, the Minister of Health seemed truly shocked that nurses and other people in the health care community would come forward and say to the minister, when you cut this kind of money out of the system, what is going to happen is that all of those administrative duties are going to flow down onto the shoulders of the doctors and the nurses and the people who are providing the front-line health care service. Their time is going to be taken up doing administration. And he seemed shocked by that. What did he think was going to happen to the necessary administrative services? Did he think they were going to disappear? Of course not.

[Page 9253]

Not only that, the minister stands in his place regularly in this House and says to everyone who will listen and anyone who will believe it that they are going to make evidence-based decisions. Well, you cut the administration to the point where they cannot even do the kind of research that is needed to be done in order to make evidence-based decisions. What we see every day in this province is story after story about cancelled surgeries, waiting lines, people not getting the service they need whether it is in outpatients or in the Emergency Department and yet the minister sits there and says, we are making evidence-based decisions.

It is not possible to ignore the outcry that has been made right across this province; a virtual crescendo of voices saying to the minister you have to listen to what the citizens of the province are saying about one of the most treasured assets in this province - their health care system. Just today in this Legislature, we had a delegation from Pictou who were talking about the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital and they were here in the gallery. I have to say, if you could have been in the Red Room where I was and probably where the Minister of Health should have been, you could have seen these people coming forward with absolutely the greatest of intentions to simply say, we don't want to criticize the government. We don't want to engage in partisanship. All we want to do is to deliver a simple message to the member who represents us and to the Minister of Health which is that you have made a mistake in cutting the nurses at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital, the outpatients clinic does not now serve the needs of the community in the way that it should. You have made a mistake, won't you please recognize it and reverse the decision?

They pointed out that the total savings was going to be something in the order of $60,000 or $70,000 and in return for that savings by the government, what was going to happen was that the people in their community when the causeway was closed, they were going to be unable to get access quickly to medical services. They were not going to be in a position to be able to receive the kind of services that they need in their community.

I will tell you that delegation was very articulately led by Mr. Paul Veniot who was here as a member of the Council in the Town of Pictou and by Mr. MacMaster who, I think is the Deputy Warden of the Municipality of Pictou and both gentlemen came forward with evidence that they had gathered from people in their community . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and join in the late debate on behalf of my colleague, Dr. Smith and others in our caucus. As I look at the resolution that we are debating here, "Therefore be it resolved the government should keep its promise and provide more hospital beds than existed in July 1999 to meet the needs of Nova Scotians."

[Page 9254]

That is an interesting resolution and it sounds exactly like something Russell MacLellan and Dr. Jim Smith stated at the end of June. In fact, the big NDP news conference yesterday was almost an exact rerun of a Liberal news conference held on June 30th this year, right down to playing a tape of the Premier's campaign radio commercial. It has been said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I know that members opposite agree with me on that. (Interruptions) So I am happy the NDP took so much time yesterday and today to flatter the Liberals, Mr. Speaker. The NDP has been playing catch-up on this issue all summer. However, the Liberal caucus is glad the NDP is finally up to speed on this issue and I hope they can keep that up because things move pretty fast here in the House. The NDP must be congratulated for tricking the Health Minister into admitting that he has never heard of his Party's campaign promises. With 243 promises, the minister can't be expected to remember every one of them, particularly the ones that pertain to his department.

It is disturbing, Mr. Speaker, that the minister does not know what his Party promised, because on June 7th, the Deputy Health Minister, Tom Ward - we all know who he is, the $200,000 man - appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. Tom Ward said that he also was not familiar with Tory campaign promises.

So here we have the Minister and Deputy Minister of Health who have no clue about what the Tory plan is for Health. The NDP resolution, Mr. Speaker, talks about the number of hospital beds in Nova Scotia in July 1999. I remember July 1999 very well; we were in the middle of a heated election campaign which was forced upon Nova Scotians by the Leader of the Tories. He must have been feeling lucky after surviving a caucus revolt a few months earlier. The long knives were out for the Tory Leader at that time and those knives were held by most of his caucus, including the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley; the MLA for Argyle; the MLA for Hants West; the MLA for Pictou East and the two Georges, Moody and Archibald.

In July 1999 the Tory Leader said he could not vote for the Liberal budget, a budget which proposed an innovative investment in our health care system. Instead, the Tories promised to hire more nurses, open more hospital beds and fully fund health care for just $46 million more.

Now, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians believed the Tories, but were quickly disappointed when the government cut almost $100 million from the health care budget. I said it before, Nova Scotians voted for Dr. Jekyll but they elected Premier Hyde. After a province-wide protest over education cuts the Tories became gun-shy. They shut down the flow of information about cuts to health care; health care workers became afraid to speak out because they were afraid for their jobs.

Mr. Speaker, during the last session of the House the Liberals revealed that a gag order was imposed on employees of the former regional health boards. Like members of the media, the Liberal caucus had to depend on off-the-record conversations and anonymous phone calls

[Page 9255]

to ferret out information. We took this information, given to us confidentially, to the floor of the House of Assembly for clarification. Last spring, during Question Period, we asked if 300 people would lose their jobs at the QE II. Officials said, including the minister, that this number was widely exaggerated. Two days later we learned the actual number was 400 - widely exaggerated. On June 6th we asked about hospitals that are scheduled to be downgraded. The Premier stated at that time that our accusations were wild accusations only (Interruption) They were.

Outside of the Chamber the Health Minister played word games with the media. What is a health care centre? What is a clinic? The Tories refused to answer the concerns unless we could table a document or provide back-up paperwork. On July 30th, the last day Russell MacLellan served as Liberal Leader, we produced a pile of documents. Nova Scotians were shocked at the extent of the cuts to health care and, Mr. Speaker, it was really unbelievable. It was so hard to believe that the Health Minister again accused us of lying. When he learned we were telling the truth, he said our information was old and outdated. It wasn't. The sad, cold reality is that the Tories broke their promises on health care, and every single Nova Scotian knows that. They broke their promises on health care. The Liberals ferreted out that hundreds of nurses would lose their jobs, and nearly 150 hospital beds would close. Services and beds at facilities like the Roseway in Shelburne, the Digby General, Fishermen's Memorial in Lunenburg, Valley Regional in Kentville were drastically reduced. The minister is not going to refute that because that is what happened. That is reality. Those figures aren't coming out of the sky. That is reality.

[6:15 p.m.]

Cuts also happened at Hants and Dartmouth hospitals, Highland View Hospital and yes, even St. Martha's. There are cuts to mental health services in the western region, Aberdeen Hospital and the Cape Breton Health Care Complex. Emergency services were scaled back at Lillian Fraser Memorial, North Cumberland and in New Waterford. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, that is true. The Health Minister can sit there again and say it is not true, but it is true.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this is what happened in this House last spring. They got a bunch of draft documents that were not accepted and they were presented as fact. They are doing it again. This is a slow-learning group on the other side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order, but disagreement of facts between two members. The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

[Page 9256]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I would hope that non-contributory comment will be added to my time. In any case, we will move on. The Health Minister has said, Mr. Speaker, time and time again that you cannot equate beds with services. We have all heard that. That is just like saying we are going to take the beds out, and we are going to prove it is the right thing to do. Well, it is the wrong thing to do. That is not what the Tories said during the election.

During the election, Mr. Speaker, the Tories said that beds count. They didn't say anything about taking away beds in the interests of health care. They said that beds count. Beds matter; more beds mean better health care. That is what they said during the election. After the election they conveniently forgot about that statement. They talked about beds so much that Nova Scotians began to believe them. So now the Tories must deal with the consequences. They are cutting beds and cutting back on health services in this province, and are going to suffer the political consequences earlier than they think regarding this particular assault - it is the only word I can use - on health care in this province.

What it adds up to, Mr. Speaker, is proof positive that the Tories never in the first place had a plan for health care in this province. As a matter of fact, we are still waiting for their plan, and to this date, we still don't know where this government is going with health care in this province.

All we hear is there is a clinical footprint. That is all we hear. There is a clinical footprint that is walking around somewhere, but it is not in this House. There is no clinical footprint being presented to this House for Nova Scotians to evaluate as to what is actually happening here in the health care system in this province. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, what is happening is that this service is being ripped and ripped and ripped from the people who need the service in this province more than ever. The service is being ripped, this Tory Government is not keeping their promise they made during the election to provide Nova Scotians with a better health care system. Mr. Speaker, that minister knows that. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I know that you can't tell honourable members to listen, but you can request that they do listen to some actual facts about the health department and about the health service delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight for the late debate on the NDP resolution. "Therefore be it resolved that the government should keep its promise and provide more hospital beds than existed in July 1999 to meet the needs of Nova Scotians."

[Page 9257]

I would like to thank the member opposite for providing me with an opportunity to more clearly illustrate this government's commitment to building a responsive, efficient and affordable health care system for Nova Scotians. If we want the services we provide to better meet the needs of Nova Scotians today and into the future, we have to be prepared. The Progressive Conservative caucus is prepared to fix what is broken and adapt to the changing demands.

The demand and need for hospital beds is changing. This is a reality, Mr. Speaker. Across Canada, this great nation of ours, the number of acute care beds is, on average, decreasing by about 6 per cent a year. Now there are good reasons for this. If we look back, let's say a decade ago, 10 years ago, our health system was very different and, without question Nova Scotians in November 2000, have different needs than they did back in 1990. New technologies, new medicines, treatments and care approaches are helping people to overcome, or have better outcomes, against many illnesses and diseases that would have severely limited their quality of life just a few years ago.

Our surgeries are becoming less invasive, meaning that a greater number of people are being seen on an outpatient basis. For example, let's take gall bladder surgery. I have a friend who was having gall bladder surgery and it used to be a major procedure and patients ended up in expensive hospital beds for at least 10 days and usually more. Today, technological advances are allowing for scopes to be used for the treatment of gall bladders and patients are typically in and out on the same day. Stomach ulcers, for example, they provide another good illustration of the changes in treatment. Until recently those ulcers would have counted on surgery and about seven to eight days in hospital. With the new drugs available, and I know honourable members are aware of some of this - surgery and hospitalization are mostly obsolete relative to ulcers.

We know there is a tendency in Nova Scotia to count hospital beds as a measure of how well health care is working. Now, we are not condemning the members opposite for doing that, in fact when in Opposition we did the same thing, but if they would listen perhaps they would look at things in a different light and look at it in this perspective. Right now they have a misperception, Mr. Speaker, and we are trying to be helpful this evening. So what good is a hospital bed if it isn't being used? What good is a hospital bed to a patient who could be effectively cared for at home? Our current system encourages the concentration of resources in our hospitals. We have among the highest number of beds per capita in Canada. Yet out-of-hospital services are needed by many more Nova Scotians. We simply cannot develop these services if we don't allow some of our resources to be moved from the hospitals. For example, does the member opposite not agree that more focus on prevention is needed? Think about cancer and heart disease.

I notice that the honourable member for Cape Breton South is very busy now after his discourse, but I have to say, Mr. Speaker did you know that the federal Chretien Liberals in Ottawa spend less than a measly $5 million dollars a year on cancer R&D? Just to make an

[Page 9258]

analogy, less than $5 million, and last year 5,400 Canadians died from breast cancer alone, just one form of cancer, but yet the Liberals have the audacity, they have the indecency to spend upwards of $5 million on a costly gun registration that saw 159 people die last year, some of them by suicide. Come on, where are the Liberals' priorities?

Now, to get back to the script. Mr. Speaker, we need to develop more programs aimed at educating people about the benefits of making positive choices. Now, let's be realistic. We don't have an endless pot of money, so we have to make adjustments to how we are using the money that is available, the scarce resources that are available. Those resources became very scarce in 1995 when the Chretien Liberals in Ottawa cut the Canadian health and social transfers, in fact today for health care we only have two thirds of the amount of money we had in 1993 alone. It is disgraceful, it is a shame. They should hang their heads in shame. (Interruptions.)

I appreciate, and my caucus and my government appreciates that change is difficult, but the challenges in our health system are real and require real solutions. Now, the NDP solution is to grab a big pot of money, it doesn't matter about the consequences, about the debt or deficit, throw it at health care, throw it at education, throw it at transportation, with no accountability built in. It is absolutely a disgrace what that caucus has done. They should hang their heads in shame, it is a disgrace, Mr. Speaker, absolutely a disgrace. Never a solution, nothing.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You know oftentimes in this House I know that the member has been given to hyperbole before and fatuousness but I am just wondering if there is something coming out of that side that is going to tell us whether or not they are going to live up to their campaign promise to have more beds in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: It wasn't a point of order, it was a question. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the Health Critic for the NDP wanting to get up on his pins and try to stop the government from explaining to Nova Scotians once again that the NDP doesn't have a practical solution about anything, just throw more money.

I can understand and I appreciate the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour doing the very best he can but look, Mr. Speaker, we believe - remember the regional health boards, remember how far removed they were from the delivery of community-based health care? Remember the regional health boards that the Liberals thrust dictatorially on Nova Scotians? Well, we believe in fact that the new district health authorities will go a long way toward identifying the specific health needs of our communities, your communities and Nova Scotia communities. Initiatives like single-entry access - does the NDP, does the Liberal

[Page 9259]

caucus have problems with single-entry access? It will help ensure our system is more responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians.

Now, the trend in our health system over the years is to keep seniors in hospitals or nursing homes, even when home care might have been more appropriate. Remember the devil of a time we had, as a Tory caucus in Opposition, trying to get those Liberals to put an appropriate health care in place. We are still working towards that goal. It is a dreadful job but we believe in appropriate home care and we will deliver. So you talk about promises, we will keep some of the promises we have made.

Now, every single task force since 1980 has pointed to the need for single-entry access. A pilot is now under way, and do you know where that pilot is under way? Down on the beautiful island of Cape Breton. That is where that pilot project is underway, Mr. Speaker. The new system will begin operating province-wide in April. This government is making an effort. We are confident that this new approach will help relieve some of the pressures on our nursing home beds and hospitals by ensuring that those with the most urgent care need are placed first. People will no longer be able to buy their way into nursing homes. And, despite the narrow focus of the NDP, nursing home beds and hospitals are not unrelated. That is what that NDP caucus believes; people will no longer be able to buy their way into nursing homes. We can't look at one part of the system without looking at the other part of the system. Things aren't going to be done in isolation.

Now I see you looking at the clock, Mr. Speaker, but let's all . . .

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

The time for this evening's late debate has expired. We will now revert to the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

[GOVERNMENT BUSINESS]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. [Debate resumed.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and offer a few comments on this particular bill, Bill No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. It is all about leadership and how we treat our citizens, particularly those who are in the most need.

[Page 9260]

I couldn't help but be somewhat taken by the comments from the honourable member who just spoke during the late show debate because he was talking about making sure we get maximum use of our resources for the limited dollars that we do have; in other words, value for dollar. That is very important because the more efficient we become in other departments, the more resources we have to help those in most need.

[6:30 p.m.]

I am going to relate, Mr. Speaker, a little story about an individual I met on the street this morning as I was coming to the Legislature. About the health care system, he said, you know, Russell, I had to go to outpatients at the IWK last night and he said the darndest thing, I had to wait four hours to get to see the doctor. Well, I said, surely to heavens, there must have been more than one doctor on call. No, one doctor with six rooms to see six individual patients at a time and there were over 40 people waiting in the waiting room to be able to get to see that one doctor. He relays the story that the doctor is just about at the point of burn-out because he has to see all these 40 and those who are coming and going through that entire evening. Is that the type of single-entry system that the honourable member is talking about?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Maybe the honourable member for Cape Breton West is aware that the late show is over and we are now on third reading of Bill No. 62, the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate those observations because it goes right to the very heart of what I said right from the start. It is about efficiency and getting maximum use from our limited resources, our dollars, to be able to help these people who are affected by Bill No. 62. What I am saying there is contrary to what the government is saying, they are not making efficient use of the resources.

That is the point I am making, Mr. Speaker, it is the waste in this government that makes it so unfair for those who will be most affected by Bill No. 62. Just that one issue in health care is a classic example because how can those individuals say that they are receiving good quality health care when they have four and five hour waits, one doctor who is almost at the point of burn-out, and so on and so forth. Some of those individuals, I am sure, if they received effective, efficient service, they would be healthier. There would be less need to go to the doctor and there would be more money for Bill No. 62, to support this particular piece of legislation. That is the point I am making. So we have come around to the late show debate, but we have made the point quite eloquently I think you will have to agree.

MR. SPEAKER: You have made your point.

MR. MACKINNON: I am not going to start mentioning names, but I mean talk about disparities in the system, you know, I saw that one contract that was tabled there today for a chief of staff and administrative assistant to the Premier receiving almost $105,000, plus

[Page 9261]

close to $5,400 a year for a car allowance, plus all the full benefits and the fringe benefits that one could imagine. My initial calculations would put the gross benefit there somewhere in the vicinity of $120,000 for one individual in the Premier's office.

Now, that is unprecedented, Mr. Speaker. Some of those dollars could be channelled to help those in most need who will be severely affected by Bill No. 62. That is the point. It is very discouraging. It is so discouraging it is laughable.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the Deputy Minister of Health?

MR. MACKINNON: It is laughable.

AN HON. MEMBER: There are two Deputy Health Ministers.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, the Deputy Minister of Health, $180,000 and so much so, okay, and that does not include shipping and handling, you know, to have him shipped over from British Columbia and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, unprecedented. So the empire that is building is taking all our much-needed valuable resources.

HON. JAMES MUIR: On a point of order, I would like to remind the honourable member that the position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Health was created under the Liberal Government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Not a point of order, but a clarification of the facts, but again I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton West to bring himself back. He is talking about employment, but the employment we want to talk about Bill No. 62, the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: The Minister of Health is quite correct in what he says, except for the amount of money that they piled onto the salary of that particular position which makes less money for those who are affected by Bill No. 62. It is all about making sure we make the right choices to give maximum benefits for our people.

It is so discouraging. Every time the government caucus feels that the Opposition makes a little snafu on a particular issue here, they go oops, oops. It is like the soup gang over there, they are slurping in their soup or something. The fact of the matter is, they are so busy looking after their little mini fiefdoms that the people who need the most help through this particular piece of legislation, are not receiving it.

For example, doing away with the issue of the telephone service. That is a basic, human essential in terms of helping people work themselves from social assistance. How are they going to communicate with the outside world? How are they going to communicate with

[Page 9262]

any potential job opportunities that may be advertised on the local radio station or the local TV station? We have in our particular jurisdiction the job line that is posted every day and if that job opening comes up and they cannot call anybody - they are not going to be able to use two soup cans and a string. They can rush out, make the call and get to the other soup can and then say, okay, I will accept that call. It is senseless what the government is trying to do. I appreciate the government is trying to (Interruption) Well, it may be mean-spirited, I would be of that opinion, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's give the Tories the benefit of the doubt because they want to bring costs under control. I think there is a general feeling that the cost of this telephone service would be $10 million or $12 million out of the entire budget for the year?

But, that is an investment to allow those individuals to be able to communicate with the outside world to take advantage of the opportunities that the Minister of Community Services is saying are there for them. What is the value of trying to be educated and to better yourself and to become employed and develop that sense of independence and self-worth, both for yourself and your family, if you are going to take the tools to get the job done away from them. That is what is so discouraging.

Just the travel allowance - that one public servant alone, the car allowance is more or is equivalent to what a disabled person would be receiving for the entire year. It works out that a disabled person - these figures are a little obsolete, they are 1996 figures, but they may be down some because there have been so many cutbacks - for a disabled person, you would receive $472 a month to live on. That would work out to approximately $5,664 a year. Now, the travel allowance for this one public servant is $5,400 a year. And that is to live on. One is the luxury of having your automobile expenses paid for and the other one is the necessity of survival.

Most people who go to work every day, they are not given tax credits for travel allowance, whether you are working in Stora Forest Industries or Bowater Mersey or Nova Scotia Power or even all the public servants that work here in the city. They don't get paid a travel allowance by the government. So why should we be giving special consideration to certain individuals within government? It is like empire building. The strong get stronger and the weak get weaker. They starve them out. If they tried to speak up, then they are perceived to be, oh well, they're lazy and they're just whiners. They just don't want to do anything with their lives. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I am getting some assistance from the socialist camp over here. But they shouldn't be too proud. They wanted a $6,000 raise for their caucus this year. That is almost $1,000 more than a disabled person would be making for the entire year. Their salary increase would be almost $1,000 more. That is shameful. That is the type of hypocrisy we get from the socialists. But we don't want to go there because that is just a waste of time and energy. Let's focus on the people that need the most help, the individuals that need the most help.

[Page 9263]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services made the point about less people receiving social assistance this year than the previous year. I believe I heard the minister correctly on that. That is good news. Obviously some people have had good fortune and have been able to upgrade their educational and market skills. Employment opportunity came around and they were fortunate enough to hopefully seek and receive that employment.

On the reverse of that is the fact that there seems to be a lot of - I don't know if you would use the word heavy-handedness, but I would say that there seems to be - considerable pressure this year over the last year, I would say, by the Department of Community Services to crack down on any potential abuse. That is not unreasonable if it is done in proper fashion, proper form with the intent of really ferreting out those who are abusing the system. But, it is generally known and accepted that the abuses would represent less than 3 per cent.

I have heard numerous individuals who have not had the good fortune of having their own jobs and so on, but have had the misfortune of having received family benefits through no fault of their own, say in some cases, the social workers or the case workers within Community Services are becoming more like investigators. (Interruption) Silence can be helpful, too.

If we look in the two concentrated areas in the province, in industrial Cape Breton we have approximately 7,500 individuals receiving family benefits. These are 1996 figures. (Interruption) Pardon. (Interruption) Oh, 9,200. So it has gone up by almost 2,000 in the last four years, so that is very concerning. In metro here the 1996 figures were a little over 10,000. That may be up a bit. It may be down a bit, and that is because of the good fortune of the economy here in metro which is somewhere below 7 per cent. That is real good news. But what we have to be careful about is not to impose a system that is going to have a negative billing effect on those that really need the assistance because, as we know, Mr. Speaker, industrial Cape Breton is the one, I would suggest, that is affected the most on a per capita basis because of the downturn in the coal industry, the steel industry, because of the high rate of seasonal employment and so on and so forth. The job replacements haven't provided the same level of income as the traditional industries. Everybody pretty well knows that. If the opportunity to have a job at a call centre was there, I would certainly welcome that; $7.00 or $8.00 or $9.00 or $10 an hour is certainly better than nothing. I would certainly adjust my lifestyle to make maximum benefit of that.

I know how difficult it can be, not that anyone in this House is immune to the real world of what it is like to face tough times. There are very few in this Chamber who have not had some tough experiences in their lifetimes, financially. Politicians are generally criticized sometimes for being insensitive and not caring and they have never had to experience some of the misfortunes of those who are now experiencing that, but that is not necessarily true, Mr. Speaker, and I recognize that.

[Page 9264]

[6:45 p.m.]

What we are experiencing here is a government that is moving extremely fast to the right of the spectrum, and that is what concerns me. We really won't know until we see the regulations how effective they are going to be. I honestly believe that if the legislation, if adopted, perhaps with some adjustments, on its own were to be given full opportunity, I think it would be a good thing but there are so many other dynamics to it, because of economic development, education, health care. I mean there are competing interests within the government that would make the bill flawed even before you are off. So it is a tough job description for the Minister of Community Services. I think that is something, from a practical point of view, that will make it very difficult for the minister to have Bill No. 62 live up to its full potential.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I think we have seen many occasions where the government has committed resources I think with the best of intentions, but the lack of accountability. When the Premier took over the province he made a commitment, that any expenditure in a government department by a minister, or within a minister's purview in his department, anything over $1,000 would have to be signed off by the minister. It would be very interesting to see if the Minister of Health is doing that on a day-to-day basis.

Now I can't for the life of me imagine he is signing off every expenditure over $1,000 in his department on a daily basis because if he was he would be there for two hours just signing. He would have carpal tunnel syndrome before the day was out, his hand would be that sore, with a budget of $1.5 billion.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if one were to put a FOIPOP in, a freedom of information request, it wouldn't take long to prove me correct on that.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has indicated that he felt we were not following appropriate financial procedures in our department. I just want to assure the honourable member that invoices for over $1,000 that are required to be signed by the minister in my department are signed by the minister. I think I can speak for my colleagues in all other departments.

Mr. Speaker, I would think the honourable member should retract that statement.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order but a disagreement of facts, I guess, between two members.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West, if you would like to retract that, you are certainly welcome to.

[Page 9265]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I would if it wasn't for the evidence that points to the contrary. I can give you a classic example: when the Department of Justice went up and rented facilities at Citadel Hill, they could have been using the boardrooms down at Business and Consumer Affairs and the Minister of Justice didn't even know about it. That was certainly over $1,000; it was several thousand dollars, and I tabled that evidence here in the House.

Mr. Speaker, only for that, I would, perhaps, withdraw my comments. Evidence points to the contrary.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the honourable member a question, if he would field one.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West entertain a question?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes.

MR. MUIR: I signed a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: . . . today for over $200,000. Would he have me sign it more than 200 times, simply because it is over $1,000?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I can see why this government is in trouble, with a silly question like that. Obviously, he can't even interpret the Premier's guidelines on ministerial expenses. Simply stated, in layman's terms, any expenditure over $1,000. Now the honourable minister, he is a schoolteacher, he should be able to count, at least interpolate what that statement means. I don't want to start getting into the theory of calculus and all of this, to be able to analyse this so the Minister of Health would be able to know exactly what to do in his own department.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, could the member opposite take a question? Could he define interpolate for the House?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I didn't think I was going to have to go back and teach them the basics. This is amazing, we are dealing with a very serious piece of legislation and he doesn't even know the definition of the word interpolate. (Laughter) My heavens above. We have six or seven Acting Ministers of Environment. We have a Minister of Justice, who thinks he is the Minister of Environment; we have the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who wants to be the Minister of Environment, he was but he gave it up and now he wants it back; and we have the Minister of Agriculture and

[Page 9266]

Fisheries, thinking because it has something to do with land he is the Minister of Environment; and then we have the acting minister somewhere in The Hague, we don't know where he is, some international tribunal or something that is going on over there.

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely ridiculous, when we have Bill No. 62 before this House, and those types of irresponsible - I hate to use the word juvenile - this is absolutely astounding, to think that the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank would make so light of such a serious issue, when the lives of people, tens of thousands of people, are being affected. He hasn't stood in his place once, not once, to defend Bill No. 62. (Interruptions) Well, well, well. The ordinary Nova Scotian wants to join in the fray. She is such an ordinary Nova Scotian, she is against democracy. She is against democracy, when it came to legislation at the Law Amendments Committee she wanted to shut it down. She didn't want the poor people of Nova Scotia to come and have their say, and she is catcalling relevance. Her own Premier went out before the media and had to admit it was because of her inexperience and her lack of knowledge about the Rules of the House that got the government in the trouble it was in. We haven't heard a peep from her yet, not a peep - more noise coming out of a church mouse - since that incident. I would welcome the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin to speak on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just remind the honourable member for Cape Breton West that we are discussing Bill No. 62 in third reading. I would ask him to bring his comments back to the bill, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that, because sometimes it is easy to get caught with rabbit tracks when you are dealing with rabbits.

AN HON. MEMBER: Turtles.

MR. MACKINNON: Or honourable turtles, as a member has stated on a previous day. But this is a very serious matter. It is, because it would be, I believe important for the Minister of Community Services to indicate whether we are really getting value for dollar by simply cutting and slashing that $12 million or whatever the figure is - I am using a round figure - because of the telephone service. What is the downside to that? Obviously right before you, you say great, we are saving $12 million. But are we? By isolating these individuals and making it more difficult for them to be able to make themselves available and communicate with potential employers, that may result in these individuals being forced to stay on family benefits for a longer period of time through no fault of their own. Mr. Speaker, that is what is so patently unfair about the way this process has taken place to date.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to belabour the issue too much, but I believe the Minister of Community Services is an honourable individual.

[Page 9267]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was in the middle of listening to the member, and I heard some of the members from the opposite side raising the issue whether interpolate is a word, so I thought it was important for the record to note that interpolate is a word, and it means to insert words in a book, especially to give false impressions as to its date, and it also means to estimate values from known ones in the same range as the opposite of extrapolate. So it is a word. I think it is important that we put that on the record.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage for that. It is not a point of order, but certainly educational for the House. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the point. The government has been giving the false impression to the people of Nova Scotia that they are doing the right thing. Maybe the intent is that they are doing the right thing (Interruption) It is unfortunate. They don't know that. Maybe they do and they are just not saying it, but that is the whole point. The optics is, the perception is, and in politics fortunately or unfortunately in many cases, perception is reality. If the perception is that we are going to bring in this piece of legislation to kind of tighten the screws on these people who are abusing the system, that makes the working poor feel better. Well, at least it is good to see somebody else suffer a little, because I am working from sun up to sun down. Myself and my spouse, we are working seven days of the week just to be able to try and make ends meet, so why should somebody else have the lap of luxury.

That is the impression that the Premier, unfortunately, left with the Halifax Board of Trade. Rightfully or wrongfully. I think that is wrong. This divide and conquer attitude in the government is very counter-productive because after awhile, everyone, through various communities, various groups and individuals throughout Nova Scotia are going to come to a conclusion that, where is the source of all these problems coming from?

I saw it happen during the John Buchanan era. He was a master at this, Mr. Speaker, particularly with pieces of legislation like Bill No. 62. There would be some good stuff in there, but then there would also be some not so good stuff. It was like an illusion to create the image that this is the next best thing since sliced bread. But in fact, it wasn't. That is my concern, particularly without the regulations. We do not have a solid blueprint or a document to move with confidence to be able to say to the Minister of Community Services that this is good. That is what is concerning me and I believe the Minister of Community Services would readily agree that this blueprint, because that is essentially what any Act of the Legislature is, it is a blueprint, it lays out the general principle of what the government wishes to achieve in a point of law, and the regulations are the working component of that Act that make it happen. Otherwise, without the regulations, the Act is just paper.

[Page 9268]

[7:00 p.m.]

It is very difficult for ourselves, Mr. Speaker, to give that type of blind endorsement. It is very difficult. I think there is still time for the Minister of Community Services to provide at least some material on that for the honourable members to at least get some comfort level on it, but with that having been said, I think, you know, the government - I do not know if they were having a little bit of fun with myself or they were really serious, or trying to convert me, but somebody dropped this pin on my desk. It says, "Change you can trust." It says PC. It is a little blue pin. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I know it would not have (Interruptions) No, I just could not put it on but, see, that is exactly what the Premier and his caucus members and all the Party faithful in the last election said to the people of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: Trust me.

MR. MACKINNON: This is a change you can trust.

AN HON. MEMBER: Trust me, I am a turtle.

MR. MACKINNON: Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, people are losing faith in this government because they are not doing what they said they were going to do. I know when we are speaking on the title of any bill in third reading, we are talking on the general principle of it and it is a little more restrictive than second reading, but I mean it is about confidence. People have lost confidence because of occupational health and safety and you can go on and on through various departments and when you take the whole thing, it is like a mosaic, it does not fit together very well for the people of Nova Scotia.

Bill No. 62 is another facet of that mosaic which allows people to be able to measure whether the government is doing a good job or a not-so-good job. In this particular case, it is very difficult, by the minister's own admission, the problem within the Department of Community Services vis-a-vis the dependency in industrial Cape Breton, it is getting worse. It is not getting better. So is there something within this blueprint that we can actually take some comfort with? I think that is a reasonable request that we have to ask because if the total number of individuals has increased by 500 per year - is it 500 per year, I think, four years, 2,000 - 500 more persons per year are going on Community Services benefits in industrial Cape Breton.

If that trend continues, I am really concerned that (Interruptions) Well, maybe there is still a provision or an opportunity for the minister to have some discretion that maybe in certain cases, if someone has demonstrated the opportunity to improve themselves, educational-wise, perhaps taking better care of the public housing unit that they live in and so on and so forth. It has often been suggested that perhaps different educational programs,

[Page 9269]

not just for academic and vocational skills, but also in terms of lifestyles, budgeting, how to budget dollars. Of course, anyone who is on family benefits, I would think, would be an expert at budgeting their dollars, much more so than someone like ourselves who have extra dollars and an extra $5.00 here or there or $2.00 here or there, it is a lot of money but for someone who makes a lot of money, it doesn't seem like a lot. If you are on family benefits, $1.00 is like $10 to someone else because in the Department of Community Services a child receives in their budgets only 96 cents per meal per day. Now I believe that has gone up 6 or 7 cents, so it is a real bonanza for them - they have gone up to $1.03.

Now let's be realistic, what type of nutrition can you provide for a child, during developmental stages, for $1.00 per meal? You really can't. It is very disheartening for those individuals and they lose confidence, they become, I don't know, perhaps very mistrusting, resentful of the system. You notice it, particularly, Mr. Speaker, at election time when you go canvassing. If people have the misfortune of having individuals who are receiving family benefits and you sit down and talk to them, then you come to understand why they have given up on the system. It is a confidence-building thing as well; you have to earn their trust and they have to earn your trust. Does Bill No. 62 do this? That is a very important question.

All the money in the world, whether you put more money in or you cut it out, it is all about attitude as well; it is about trust and it is treating people with respect, not trying to play them off as the inferiors in society, for a political opportunity because it is easy to do that, it really is because when you have money, you have the opportunity, you have the resources and you have the power to communicate that message out to the masses because there are more people working than are not working so it is a human nature thing.

Unfortunately, for the 9,000 persons or so - 9,400 or 9,500 persons - in industrial Cape Breton who have the misfortune of receiving benefits or the 10,000 or 11,000 here in metro who have the misfortune of being in that position, some of which have no control over it, period, because of being mentally or physically disabled, ironically they are the ones who receive the least amount of resources from the Department of Community Services. These are documented figures. They are the ones at the very low end of the scale. How it worked out that way, I don't know, I am not an expert, Mr. Speaker, but that is very concerning.

So if the intent is to try to reduce the total financial burden within the Department of Community Services, and there are some initiatives and some programs as an end result of this nation-wide harmonization, if I could use that at the moment for lack of a better word, in terms of standardizing and modernizing government's approach to helping those in need of the Department of Community Services, then that has to be communicated. That could be very easily communicated through the regulatory process, i.e., the regulations.

I believe I have pretty well made my point. I could spend another half hour - I could spend another two hours here just beating up on the government in a roundabout fashion on the things they have done wrong, and draw the analogies to this particular piece of

[Page 9270]

legislation, Mr. Speaker, but suffice it to say I believe I have made my point. I know the minister has been listening very intently and I believe he is genuine in what he is seeking to achieve, but he does have competing forces within his government, some extremely right-wing individuals who I am not so sure are sensitive to some of the demands and the pressures that are on his particular department - and he is one voice. It is very unfortunate. So that having been said, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this particular piece of legislation and look forward to further interventions. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise in my place and make a few remarks about Bill No. 62. This is, I guess, probably the fourth opportunity I have had to speak on this bill, having spent an hour during the second reading, an hour during Committee of the Whole House and - actually two hours in second reading.

Mr. Speaker, what is really disturbing about Bill No. 62 is the absolute lack of vision that this bill demonstrates is the position of the current government. I would like to start by posing a question that I think we all need to seriously think about. That question is, would a country or a province where there was no poverty have a competitive advantage in today's competitive free market environment? We seem to be of the view that having no deficit is something that gives us a competitive advantage. But I would ask, what would it be if we were a province where there was no poverty and how would that work to the advantage of people in this province with respect to attracting investment in Nova Scotia and having people who live here invest in our province and work in our province? That is a question I will come back to throughout the time that I have to speak on Bill No. 62.

Today is November 23rd and a month from today will be the eve of Christmas Eve in Nova Scotia and, in the next few weeks, Nova Scotians will be engaging in a flurry of seasonal activities having to do with Christmas. Our television sets and our radios and our households will be bombarded with commercial advertising for seasonal goods, for seasonal events, and among many of the events that we will be encouraged to participate in will be a number of fund-raising events. Fund-raising events to support our local food banks, fund- raising events for the Christmas Daddies' show, fund-raising events for the Good Fellows to provide a Christmas dinner to people who are unable to go out and get their own dinner.

Many groups and organizations will informally organize around adopting a family or gathering goods to bring to a transition house or Phoenix Centre for Youth, or some of the local charitable and non-profit organizations in their communities. These activities will occur, as they always do in Nova Scotia, so that people who are poor, especially children who live in poverty, will have a Christmas, will get a toy, will have a Christmas dinner.

[Page 9271]

The people of this province have, in the past, demonstrated their generosity and their caring and their compassion and I have to say shame on this government, people in Nova Scotia are compassionate and caring people, but Bill No. 62 is a mean-spirited and misplaced piece of legislation that defies what I think is the basic good character of people in this province. This government is mean, and it is mean like Scrooge was mean in A Christmas Carol. The sad thing is it is not possible for the good people of Nova Scotia to provide for the poor throughout the year in the way they provide for the poor at Christmas time. This is what government is for, this is why we pay taxes, and this is why we provide services and programs.

[7:15 p.m.]

I would remind members of this government where these programs came from, programs like social assistance, because we didn't always have these kinds of programs. There was a time, a time not so long ago in this province and in this country when the way we provided to the poor throughout the year is precisely the way we assess poor people at Christmas time, through charity, through philanthropy and through benevolence. We are returning to that state. We are returning to that state with Bill No. 62. It is an absolute shame that this government has chosen a path back to the past instead of looking ahead to the future, at a time when this province is entering a period of prosperity, prosperity that should be shared equitably with all members of society, not prosperity for a few, for friends of the government and people who are doing very well, thank you very much.

It is quite interesting. There is a well-known Canadian economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, who has done a fair amount of work looking at the neo-Conservative agenda of various governments and, in particular, looking at the push for deficit reduction, for debt reduction and for tax breaks that favour the richest people in society; the whole concern around maintaining high levels of productivity which mostly benefit the rich. He says, it is interesting that there is this theory in the neo-Conservative agenda that the rich are not working because they have too little, while the poor are not working because they have too much. Isn't that precisely what the Premier's message before the chamber of commerce was, that shameful statement he made at that $50-a-plate luncheon. You talk about Scrooge, that was a very sorry thing for the Premier of this province to say.

Mr. Speaker, the reason we have a social safety net and social programs in this country is because charities could not meet the need for dealing with the poor and the disadvantaged in spite of their attempt to do so over many years. During a period of industrialization and during the periods of war there was a great need for labour. Many of the people in our communities were simply too sick or too physically incapable of the hard work that was a part of those times. You can go back and you can look at many reports that were done in the early 1920's and 1930's that had significant impact on the shaping of a safety net in this country, where they talked about the need to provide health care and to provide a safety net. This is where the origins, finally, of a more modern welfare state came from.

[Page 9272]

Mr. Speaker, social assistance in Nova Scotia, the Family Benefits Act and the Social Assistance Act, are, in fact, old pieces of legislation in desperate need of an overhaul and in desperate need of change. Members of this caucus have always felt that if there were any pieces of legislation that needed to take some priority, it would be an overhauling of the social assistance system to give us a modern day social assistance system, a safety net that would not only be there for people during bad times but a safety net that would be a springboard, a safety net that would facilitate people's return to the labour market if, in fact, they were capable of getting back into the labour market and if there was a healthy labour market to get back into. These things are all very much interconnected, Mr. Speaker.

There are a tremendous number of myths and misunderstandings and misinformation about social assistance and social assistance programs. I believe that this government had a golden opportunity to actually engage the citizens of this province in a very constructive discussion and debate about the future of a social safety net that would be a springboard for people in poverty in Nova Scotia. What that process would have required would first of all have been the sharing of information that exists within the department that would allow people to understand what the trends and the patterns have been with respect to family benefits and social assistance over the last 10, 15, 20 years. This government chose not to take that route.

There has been very little empirical information - well there has been no empirical information as a matter of fact; not very little, there has been absolutely no, zip, zero, not one iota of empirical information that the government has provided as part of a public discussion on social assistance reform that would allow for a healthy and rigorous debate and some consensus building, more to the point, around what needs to occur with a new social assistance program in Nova Scotia.

Let me give some examples of some of the myths and misunderstandings. A number of years ago back in the 1970's and 1980's when I worked in a legal aid office, and in fact, I got this after I was elected as an MLA, people would call my office. People who were in need of assistance who would have gone to the Department of Community Services to ask for assistance because they had fallen short. Maybe they were in the labour force and they required prescription drugs, and they didn't have the money to pay for them, or maybe they were on social assistance, and they had a requirement, and they had gone to the department and asked for assistance, and they would have been turned down. They would come to me to advocate on their behalf. In doing so, they would say, well, so and so is working, and they are getting social assistance. They would be very upset about this, that somebody who was working was also getting social assistance.

You hear this in the community quite often. So and so is working, and they are getting social assistance. Well, hello. Under the social assistance system, you could, in fact, work and get social assistance. It didn't mean you were cheating. It didn't mean you were doing something shady. In fact, there were all kinds of provisions in the current Social Assistance

[Page 9273]

Program and the Family Benefits Program so that you could both work and get social assistance. What it meant was that your wages were so low that it was not possible to meet your basic needs of food, clothing and shelter as established by the limits, the ceiling set by the Department of Community Services. Therefore, the Social Assistance Program would provide a supplement to people so it is not that complicated. It was possible to work and to receive social assistance.

There are many misunderstandings about the fact that we had so many Social Assistance Programs, or so it would appear, in Nova Scotia. Even when we were at the Law Amendments Committee and people were coming in front of us and making presentations, there were times when it appeared that there were members of the committee who did not seem to recognize the difference between the Family Benefits Program and the Social Assistance Program.

What Bill No. 62 is doing is essentially eliminating what were two Social Assistance Programs. One that was a long-term Social Assistance Program for people with disabilities and parents who had young children still in school and it is eliminating a program that was short-term social assistance - or social assistance for people who were able bodied and unable to find work or who had disabilities that were short term in nature and had no income. This is essentially what is happening here. About a year and a half, two years ago, the Standing Committee on Community Services in this House went around the province and we heard from quite a few people and the NDP caucus brought forward a number of recommendations, that I will table here before I conclude my remarks. We talked about, in our recommendations, the fact that the current social assistance system was way too cumbersome, complicated, lacking in transparency and was very difficult - particularly for clients - to understand, people who needed the social supports.

I am recognizing that one of the significant changes that Bill No. 62 will bring forward here is - hopefully - a more simple, less complicated social assistance system in the Province of Nova Scotia. I see the minister shaking his head, yes, in agreement and I think this is important, this is something that we certainly can support, or I certainly support, a more simplified, less complicated, less cumbersome system.

However, there is no evidence that this system will be more transparent. Especially for clients. This has not been made part of Bill No. 62. In fact, the process of Bill No. 62 which has kept the regulations in terms of how this new bill will actually work is one that creates a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, and I think with good reason members of the Opposition have been very concerned about the vagueness of Bill No. 62. We are concerned about the vagueness of Bill No. 62 and we have jumped to make certain conclusions about Bill No. 62 because of the kind of fundamental meanness that many of the comments that have been made, with respect to Bill No. 62, have suggested that there is much more contained in this bill than simply a simplification of the program that was a very cumbersome program.

[Page 9274]

[7:30 p.m.]

I have, and I will table this as well when I finish it, a copy of an article that was written by Bessie Harris last year at the time of the government's budget. Mrs. Harris is the past president of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers and now works as a private consultant. People in Nova Scotia will know that for many years Mrs. Harris worked for the Department of Community Services, in the Policy and Planning Division, and is a social policy analyst and knows a tremendous amount about social assistance policy.

I am going to read a small quote from what she has to say with respect to where this government's social service agenda has been and where it has been going. She says that notable among the current government's preoccupation with deficit reduction is the unimaginative and misguided attempt to reduce expenditures by slashing already inadequate family benefits rates for women with children, and persons with disabilities, under the guise of standardizing the rates for short- and long-term, vital income assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what has occurred here - I will be reading a few more passages so I will hold this for a moment - so while it was really important to do some restructuring of the social assistance in Nova Scotia to modernize it, that was not a reason and that should not have been a reason to further erode and reduce benefits for people in receipt of social assistance. I have heard throughout this debate, on more than one occasion, various members of the government say it is not so, people aren't going to lose their benefits, they are not going to have less money to live on, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Well, you know, the reality is not this at all; in fact the reality is that people on benefits will have less money to live on. New people coming into the system - which I think is the most important point, Mr. Speaker - the new people, new applicants coming onto the social assistance system will have a very difficult time living on the amount of money. (Interruptions)

Members of the government backbenches like to sit in their places and talk while other members of the House are speaking; that is their idea of how to enter into a debate, I guess. However, they will have to account to the members of their constituencies. Any person in the future applying for assistance under Bill No. 62 will have even less money than the people who are currently on social assistance in their constituencies.

Now as I was saying, Mr. Speaker, we have more than enough information to be very worried about Bill No. 62. It is absolutely clear that there will be a reduction in benefits for new entrants, people who are not currently on social assistance but coming onto the system. This is unbelievable, given that the existing rates are so fundamentally inadequate, and I guess I was extremely disappointed when the members of the government were not prepared to adopt an amendment that would put one little word into Bill No. 62. The word was "adequate", that the basic needs of people under the Social Assistance Program would be

[Page 9275]

adequate and by failing to do so this government readily admits that the social programs that they will be providing to the poorest people in our province will not be adequate and I say shame on those members.

The Standing Committee on Community Services looked at quite a few changes that were recommended by people - more than 156 people who submitted their ideas to that committee - and certainly one of the recommendations that the NDP caucus had was that the current social assistance rates, especially the food rates, should be subjected to an independent review by one or more persons with expertise in the field of health, nutrition and human performance for a complete analysis of how realistic they are and what implications they have for health, illness prevention and for the determinants of health.

We all deal with members of our constituency, Mr. Speaker, who need our help from time to time and I am sure we see first-hand the instances of where poverty has an enormous implication for health and not just health, for health care and for the costs of health care, for the amount of pressure that is placed on the health care system when people have inadequate assistance, inadequate means to live on.

Last Friday morning, Mr. Speaker, when we were here in the Chamber, I had a call from my constituency office because a woman in my constituency called my constituency office and my assistant could not understand her. She had very slurred speech and this woman was threatening to take her life. My assistant called me and told me that she had just gotten this call, what should she do? I asked her if she was able to get the woman's name and as soon as I heard the woman's name, I knew this was a woman who had, in fact, attempted suicide in the past, who had a serious mental health problem and history. The situation with this person is that she is a 52 year old person who worked in the labour force for 26 years. She worked at a minimum wage job in a dry-cleaning service. She is an African-Nova Scotian. The dry-cleaning service changed ownership. The new owner was, according to my constituent, a racist. He harassed her and she had a nervous breakdown. After 26 years of good employment service in this one particular place, this woman had a nervous breakdown and she has not been the same since.

She went on employment insurance sick benefits and when they expired, she applied for social assistance. She has been on social assistance for three and one-half years. She has been on social assistance in the Income Assistance Program, not the Family Benefits Program if you have a persistent disability, she has been in the Income Assistance Program. In the Income Assistance Program she was getting $328 a month because she lives in subsidized housing. That is what she was getting. She was getting $153 for personal allowance and $175 for rent.

Some time ago when I first encountered this lady, I went to her caseworker and I requested that other things be built into that budget. Could we not look at her need for a telephone? She lives by herself. She is very isolated, and she had special dietary needs. We

[Page 9276]

were able to get a small amount of additional money plugged into that budget, but she still lives on less than $435 a month, she gets $431 a month. Now she is extremely depressed. A large part of her depression is what they call situational depression. She in all probably will never work again, will never return to full-time employment.

The Minister of Health will find this very interesting. In the last year, this woman has had five ambulatory trips to the emergency department of the hospital suffering from either suicide attempts or serious anxiety attacks. Now, you have to ask yourself, where is the financial common sense in what we are doing in these situations? How are we saving any money by not providing adequate assistance to people in poverty like this lady, and allowing then their needs to be shifted into the health care system at a much greater cost, at an extraordinary cost to the taxpayer of Nova Scotia?

If all this government can understand is dollars and cents, if they don't have the human compassion to understand why it is important that people should be able to live by going to a grocery store and getting adequate nutrition like everybody else in the society and not going to food banks where there is no guarantee of adequate nutrition - although the food banks do a great job, there is lots of research that will tell you, there is no way people will get anywhere close to an adequate nutritional diet by using a food bank or by using breakfast programs or feeding programs either. So where is the financial common sense in leaving people in these situations where they just transfer their needs into a much more expensive health care system? That is one case, but there are many situations that are very similar to this.

This bill doesn't only lack details in terms of the regulations and what is really going to occur for people on assistance, I think it lacks some basic common sense in terms of a framework that provides a vision for where this government sees itself taking this province and how it will deal with poverty.

We have heard other speakers and I have heard the minister speak on more than one occasion around this bill. This bill sounds an awful lot like workfare. The government has used all of the language of workfare around this bill. When you use that term, that triggers for people a lot of different ideas. I said earlier when I had a chance to speak on Bill No. 62 that there are different forms of workfare. There are carrots and there are sticks essentially in workfare programs. There are workfare programs that are very punitive, and there are workfare programs that lack adequate support. There are workfare programs that blame people for their own poverty, and there are workfare programs that lack incentives that are meaningful. We have seen, in this country, a fair number of workfare programs.

One of the things I am not sure if members of the government understand about workfare programs is that workfare is actually extraordinarily expensive. The federal government did a large workfare program in New Brunswick that is often referred to as New Brunswick Works. Quite a large number of people on social assistance went into the New

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Brunswick Works Program but, in the final analysis, when they looked at how many people who had been in that program actually were able to leave welfare and get into the labour force, it wasn't that many. When they worked out the approximate cost of getting one person off assistance and into the workforce on the New Brunswick Works Program - are you ready for this? - what was the cost of that program, Mr. Speaker? It was $1 million per person on social assistance. It was an astronomical disaster.

[7:45 p.m.]

I sometimes wonder why we haven't heard - we hear a lot of stuff about the HRDC scam around putting job creation money into the Prime Minister's federal riding to build a fountain and do all kinds of things like that, but somebody should be talking about the $1 million per person on welfare from the New Brunswick workfare program.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member yield the floor to an introduction?

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw your attention and the attention of the House to visitors we have this evening in the gallery. With us this evening are 22 cubs with the Second Woodland B Pack Scout Troop. They are here to observe the proceedings of the House. They have been through the tour. With them is George Makhoul, Bob Warren, Barbara Fortune, Fergus Francey, Russell Sketchley, Stan Thomas and Steve Hines. I wonder if you would welcome all of them to the House this evening. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome these young people and their leaders to the House this evening to watch the happenings on the floor of the Legislature.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I sat in on quite a few of the presentations at the Law Amendments Committee. All of the presentations were excellent, they were thoughtful, they were often provocative. I want to refer to one presentation in particular, from a woman who lives in my constituency because I think she was the only person who when presented raised the issue of maintenance enforcement as a piece of an anti-poverty strategy.

This bill talks about putting people to work. We have heard all the critique of what is problematic about the lack of incentives, the lack of support for child care and what have you, by other members. One of the things we haven't really talked about is what it is like to be a single mother, raising children in a situation where you have inadequate support.

[Page 9278]

This lady said my name is Elizabeth Dekker-Dakins and, first of all, I am not lazy. I never intended to be a single mother on welfare. Mr. Speaker, you know if we looked at, if the department ever got its act together enough to provide the actual empirical information, the demographics of what has been going on in the department with respect to welfare over a period of time, we would be able to ascertain how many single mothers on social assistance are women who have been married, separated or divorced. A fair number of people who are single parents are not single parents by choice, so to speak, they are single parents because of circumstances that occurred and certainly this woman, Elizabeth, is in that situation. Her husband has left her and she outlines the difficulty that she has had attempting to get child support. She has been in to court many times and she has been unable to get any child support from her husband. Her husband is almost $42,000 in arrears in terms of his support payments. Her husband has regular contact with their children, however, and has told her children that he has horses, he has several computers, in fact he sent a computer he didn't want any longer to one of the children. He has been successful in hiding his assets and she has been unable to secure any maintenance whatsoever from him.

In her submission to the Law Amendments Committee, she talked about the difficulties she has been having as a single mum, trying to raise her children who are now teenagers, a boy and a girl. I ran into her, actually, on the weekend and we had quite a long conversation about how much difficulty her kids are having in school and they are repeating their school year. She is so worried that they will be unsuccessful in life if they don't get a good education but she recognizes that her anxiety around not being able to pay the bills and how she is going to provide for them is a big feature of the difficulties that they are having in school.

She told the Law Amendments Committee that both her kids are asthmatic and she finds it very difficult just to pay the $5.00 prescription co-pay to get their prescription drugs. Social assistance and Pharmacare, they don't address all of the antihistamines and nasal sprays and what have you that the doctors tell her to have for her children that aren't prescription drugs, that aren't covered by the Pharmacare Program. She told us when she came to the Law Amendments Committee that she makes lots of trips to the IWK. There it is again, Mr. Speaker, there is the connection between people living in poverty and the inadequate amount of assistance that this government is prepared to provide and the pressure on the health care system. There it is, it is cause-effect, it is lineal, it is plain, it is crystal clear, it is not deniable.

She told us when she came to the Law Amendments Committee that a year ago she took a job delivering newspapers just so she would have money for groceries because she was unable to buy food for her household, for her family because she had to pay the bills first. This job is between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. while her kids are sleeping. This is what she does, she gets up between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. while the children are sleeping.

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Mr. Speaker, I wonder how many members in this House, and how many people in this province who think people on welfare are just having an easy go of things, understand when they get up in the morning at 6:00, at 6:30, to get ready for their work day and they go to the front step and they get their newspaper, how many people think, who was it that delivered that newspaper to my door? What kind of income do they get for providing that service? I can tell you because I have worked with lots of people on social assistance in the past 10, 15 years. The people who are folding the flyers and putting them inside The Chronicle-Herald and The Daily News and delivering newspapers around this city are often on fixed incomes, often on some form of fixed income. They do this work to try to provide some little way of supplementing what are basically inadequate social benefits.

When that minister talks about how he is taking the route to assisting people into self-sufficiency, let's be absolutely clear what he is talking about. He is talking about delivering as many people who are social assistance as possible in this province into that kind of employment. That is what he is talking about and there is no denying it, there is no way around it, that is his idea of employment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate for this evening, please?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Certainly. I move adjournment on Bill No. 62.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 62.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn to meet on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit until 5:00 p.m. The order of business will be third reading of Bill No. 62, and we will do some work in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, probably on Bill No. 70. Depending on the progress, we would adjourn the House before 5:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. on Friday.

[The House rose at 7:57 p.m.]

[Page 9280]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3530

By: Mr. John Holm (Sackville-Cobequid)

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

Whereas the Premier promised that this government would introduce a whole new level of accountability to the Legislature; and

Whereas today, November 23rd, the Premier and four of his colleagues are expected to be absent for most or all of Question Period; and

Whereas this is indeed a whole new level of accountability;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier owes Nova Scotians an explanation for planning to have 5 of the 12 Cabinet Ministers absent during the hour when Question Period normally takes place on Thursday.