Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

La Chambre s'est ajournée le
26 octobre 2017

Hansard --Tue., Nov. 2, 1999

First Session


No. 13, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
Mr. H. Epstein 1345
Res. 426, Elected Prov. Officials - Remuneration Comm'n.:
Letter Circulation - Apologize (Premier), Dr. J. Smith 1346
Res. 427, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Funding
(Gov't. [Can.]) - Secure, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1346
Res. 428, Justice (Can.) - Firearms Act (Bill C-68):
"Home Invasion" Bill - Alt. Title, Mr. B. Taylor 1347
Res. 429, Tourism - C.B. (Northern): Season (1999) Success -
Operators Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 1348
Vote - Affirmative 1348
Res. 430, Culture - Music: African-N.S. Assoc. Awards - Adrien Gough
(Saxophone) Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1348
Vote - Affirmative 1349
Res. 431, Health - Paramedics: Fairness - Efforts (Lib. [N.S.] Caucus)
Commend, Mr. D. Downe 1349
Res. 432, Sysco - Plan: Failing - Recognize, Mr. F Corbett 1350
Res. 433, Transport (Can.) - Hfx. Internat. Airport: Agreement
(Hfx. Airport Auth.) - Involvees Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 1350
Res. 434, Exco - Human Res. Min.: Stand (Premier) - Reconsider,
Mr. H. Epstein 1351
Res. 435, Educ. - New Germany ES: Violence Verbal End -
Initiative Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1351
Vote - Affirmative 1352
Res. 436, Exco - Mins.: Comments (Caucus [PC] Quality) -
Mindful (Premier), Mr. R. MacKinnon 1352
Res. 437, Lbr. - Fuel Safety Regs.: Announcement - Priority Explain,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1353
Res. 438, Commun. Serv. - Second Story Women's Ctr. (Bridgewater):
Interest (Women Lun. Co.) - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1353
Vote - Affirmative 1354
Res. 439, Lbr. - CBRM: Strike - Negotiation Encourage, Mr. D. Wilson 1354
Vote - Affirmative 1354
Res. 440, Commun. Serv. - Adoption: Records Access -
Legislation Introduce, Mr. J. Pye 1355
Vote - Affirmative 1355
Res. 441, Educ. - Glace Bay & Dominion Elem. Schools:
Skip For Food Event - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 1355
Vote - Affirmative 1356
Res. 442, Environ. - Sydney Tar Ponds: Clean-up - Action, Mr. F. Corbett 1356
Res. 443, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Route 376 (Durham Rd.):
Plans - Reveal, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1357
No. 174, Fin.: Prog. Review - Status, Mr. R. MacLellan 1357
No. 175, Justice: IBM Prog. - Compliance, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1359
No. 176, Fin.: Prog. Review - Reports, Mr. R. MacLellan 1360
No. 177, Justice - FOI (Info. Release): Investigation - Report,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1361
No. 178, Exco - Code of Conduct: Introduction - Date,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1362
No. 179, Justice - FOI: Code of Conduct - Assurance, Mr. H. Epstein 1363
No. 180, Justice - FOI: Act Amendments - Timetable, Mr. M. Samson 1365
No. 181, Justice - FOI: Report (Jobb) - Implementation, Mr. H. Epstein 1366
No. 182, Communications N.S. - News Releases: Partisanship -
Policy, Mr. D. Wilson 1367
No. 183, Fin. - Taxation: Tobacco - Increase, Mr. D. Dexter 1368
No. 184, Health - Taxation: Tobacco - Increase, Dr. J. Smith 1370
No. 185, Sysco - Sale: Progress - Info., Mr. F. Corbett 1371
No. 186, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Secondary Roads: Maintenance -
Plan, Mr. P. MacEwan 1372
No. 187, Sysco - Rails: Production - Unwillingness, Mr. F. Corbett 1373
No. 188, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Englishtown (Victoria Co.) Ferry -
Replacement, Mr. K. MacAskill 1375
No. 189, Fin. - Sysco: Closure - Costs, Mr. J. Holm 1376
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1378
Mr. R. MacLellan 1381
Mr. T. Olive 1384
Mr. B. Barnet 1387
Mr. F. Chipman 1389
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1392
Adjourned debate 1400
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 3rd at 2:00 p.m. 1400

[Page 1345]


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

11:00 A.M.


Hon. Murray Scott


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

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







Bill No. 13 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

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


[Page 1346]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


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

Whereas the Premier distributed a copy of a letter he sent to the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Remuneration of Elected Provincial Officials to each member of this Legislature; and

Whereas this political grandstanding is a blatant attempt by this government to win back some of its lost credibility with the people of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this letter being distributed in the Legislature not only shows a contempt for this House but also compromises the chairman's ability to carry out the board's work in a fair and equitable way;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier apologize for the disrespectful manner in which he used this Legislature in an attempt to win back credibility his government has lost with the people of Nova Scotia.

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 New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas another accident occurred yesterday on Highway No. 101; and

[Page 1347]

Whereas 47 people have died on Highway No. 101 since 1993; and

Whereas the federal government has offered to pay for any work on the highway in advance of a national infrastructure program;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government contact the federal government immediately to secure the necessary funds to start work now on Highway No. 101.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the federal Chretien-Rock-MacLellan Firearms Act represents legislation which violates constitutional and Charter rights in that it invades an area of provincial jurisdiction, namely property and civil rights; and

Whereas since the Firearms Act allows police to search your home, without a warrant, on grounds of suspicion alone; and

Whereas the Edmonton Journal's reporter, Lorne Gunter made headlines with a story entitled, "Lies my Government Told Me";

Therefore be it resolved that it is no small wonder that in many circles, including some police departments, the Act is now known as the costly "Home Invasion" bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

[Page 1348]


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

Whereas tourism operators in the Cape Breton Highlands area are reporting another record-breaking year for tourism; and

Whereas statistics from the Highlands National Park indicate that the shoulder seasons have seen a significant increase in tourist traffic; and

Whereas increasing numbers of visitors wishing to view fall colours are taking advantage of the Leaf Watch Line, which was established by the former Liberal Government;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the tourism operators of northern Cape Breton for their hospitality and contribution to the growing tourism industry in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.


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

Whereas Nova Scotia continues to enjoy one of this country's most vibrant music scenes; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's Black music industry continues to grow and reach new heights; and

[Page 1349]

Whereas the extraordinary talent of many artists was recognized at the second African-Nova Scotian Music Association Awards on Saturday, October 30th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the very talented 13 year old saxophonist Adrien Gough for winning the Up and Coming Award at this event.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.


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

Whereas all Liberal MLAs recently received a letter from Ms. Sheralee MacEwan, of Milford Station, thanking them and especially their Leader, Russell MacLellan for their strong stand during the debate on Bill No. 9; and

Whereas the letter went on to say, "I spoke with several members of the PC Party and my own MLA, Mr. Brooke Taylor, and I know that there were PC members who did not agree with this Bill, but felt forced to vote in favour regardless of their own opinions and those of their constituents and then try to justify this with some fast talk"; and

Whereas Ms. MacEwan's letter is reflective of the feelings of the majority of Nova Scotians toward the Progressive Conservative caucus which has displayed a total lack of concern for the paramedics of Nova Scotia by introducing this piece of legislation which was totally inappropriate;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Liberal caucus for its unceasing efforts to bring about justice and fair play for the dedicated, hard-working paramedics who give unselfishly of their time to look after the safety of all Nova Scotians.

[Page 1350]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.


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

Whereas Sysco recently turned down an order from a Mideast rail buyer; and

Whereas the damaging comments this Tory Government made during the 1999 election campaign are now seriously affecting the viability of Sysco; and

Whereas this Tory Government appears not to be interested in the serious effects that closing Sysco will have on the economy of Cape Breton and therefore all of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government recognize its so-called plan for Sysco is failing and making the plant unattractive to potential buyers.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.


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

Whereas the federal government has signed a $75.4 million deal to transfer operation of the Halifax International Airport to the local authority; and

Whereas the agreement is one of the richest of its type since Ottawa started getting out of the airport business; and

Whereas former Ministers of Transportation and Public Works, Don Downe and Clifford Huskilson, along with Nova Scotia's representative in the federal Cabinet, Senator Al Graham were instrumental in the achievement of this long-awaited agreement;

[Page 1351]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the Halifax Airport Authority on reaching this agreement with the federal Department of Transport and extend their thanks and appreciation to Don Downe, Clifford Huskilson and Senator Graham for their dedication to the task of getting this landmark agreement for the Halifax Airport.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.


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 Tory Government campaigned on a promise of an open and honest government; and

Whereas this Tory Government said it would have a code of conduct for its Cabinet Ministers; and

Whereas this Tory Government seems to think it is all right to violate the Freedom of Information Act by revealing inquiries to Cabinet Ministers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier reconsider his stand on the Minister of Human Resources and when showing him the door out of Cabinet and on to the Tory backbenches, he say, thataway Chataway. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: [The notice is tabled.]

The honourable Minister of Justice.


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

[Page 1352]

Whereas the students of New Germany Elementary School have pledged not to use their voices for violence; and

Whereas the entire school recited a pledge, not to use my voice to hurt, ridicule, belittle or bully anyone; and

Whereas this important principle must be reinforced through behaviour at home, on the playground as well as at school;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the work of the students and teachers of New Germany Elementary School for their initiative in helping to end verbal violence.

I seek waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.


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

Whereas Premier John Hamm wants Nova Scotians to think of his government as being frugal and self-disciplined by publicly opposing MLA pay increases; and

Whereas several of his Cabinet Ministers have publicly stated that MLAs' salaries are insufficient to attract quality candidates to serve in this Legislature; and

Whereas these statements by certain members of the Premier's Cabinet must be reflective of their thoughts on the present composition of their caucus;

Therefore be it resolved that our misguided Premier be mindful of the old saying which states that, "He who has a thousand friends does not have a friend to spare.".

[Page 1353]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas yesterday it was announced that the Tory Government had approved new fuel safety regulations; and

Whereas this same government has been incapable of passing health and safety regulations for the workers of this province; and

[11:15 a.m.]

Whereas these new regulations govern safety in the fuel industry;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government explain why the health and safety of a few workers is a priority but not the health and safety of the majority of workers in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.


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

Whereas the Second Story Women's Centre in Bridgewater offers a warm welcoming environment to all women in Lunenburg County; and

Whereas the goal of the Second Story Women's Centre is to assist women to make their own decisions; and

Whereas the centre has plans for a new slate of programs for the upcoming year;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Second Story Women's Centre for its interest in the women of Lunenburg County.

[Page 1354]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


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 strike by workers of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has paralysed municipal services leaving many areas without garbage collection; and

Whereas the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has braced himself for a long strike; and

Whereas it is imperative that both sides come to the bargaining table for the benefit of all citizens so that the strike may be concluded in a fair, equitable and timely manner;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage both sides in this dispute to get back to the negotiating table and find some common ground so that services are restored to the residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1355]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas this month is National Adoption Awareness Month; and

Whereas the celebration must be tempered, however, by our continued failure to provide easy access to adoption records for adoptive children who seek closure and harmony in their lives by knowing their birth parents; and

Whereas this government campaigned on giving greater access to adoption records;

Therefore be it resolved that this government carry through on its commitment to the adoption community to provide easier access to the adoption records by bringing forward legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


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

Whereas 2,000 students from seven elementary schools in Glace Bay and Dominion will skip class on Friday; and

Whereas the students will jump rope in support of the Glace Bay and Area Food Bank; and

[Page 1356]

Whereas this is the second year for the Skip for Food event, which collected seven truckloads of groceries last year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students and teachers from Bridgeport, John Bernard Croak, St. Anne's, Brookside, Glace Bay Elementary and MacDonald Complex for participating in Skip for Food and thank them for teaching us all a lesson about serving our communities.

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.


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

Whereas it is obvious to all that the clean-up of the Sydney tar ponds is a political problem and not a technical one; and

Whereas study after study has shown the abnormally high rates of cancer in the area; and

Whereas studies have also shown that high levels of cancer causing chemicals have been found in the sludge in the tar ponds;

Therefore be it resolved that this government stop the numerous studies under way and act now to clean up the tar ponds.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 1357]


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 previous member for Pictou West, during the last sitting of this Legislature, pressed the then Minister of Transportation about his department's plans for the Durham Road, Route 376; and

Whereas this road continues to be a popular route for tourists and truckers coming off the Prince Edward Island ferry; and

Whereas this road, like many in rural Nova Scotia, badly needs upgrading;

Therefore be it resolved that the current member for Pictou West attempt to follow in the exceptional footsteps of the previous member and ask the part-time Minister of Transportation to tell travelers who use Durham Road of his department's plans for this neglected road.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 11:20 a.m. and it will end at 12:20 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.


MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On Monday, September 20th of this year, the Director of Communications Nova Scotia sent a memo to all Communications Nova Scotia staff outlining a program analysis of approximately 1,000 programs, costing $4 billion. The memo, basically, is a condensed version of the one sent to the deputy of the Premier's Office. Today, November 2, 1999, is the end of Phase 3 of that program. Priorities and Planning should have been briefed this morning as to the war game results. I want to ask the Premier where that stands and is this program review going to be the basis of his spring budget?

[Page 1358]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): The Leader of the Liberal Party has asked two questions. Where is the program review? It is a very exciting prospect in that what is happening is that all of these programs have been identified, have been computerized and a process has been identified in which the review can take place. The information coming from that, along with other information including the information of the task force and the public consultations that will be part and parcel of the report of the task force, all of this information will be brought to bear in developing the budget that we will bring forward next spring.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this plan is to be reported on by December 7th of this year, as I understand, yet with the Voluntary Planning Fiscal Management Task Force, they are not going to be asking for submission until November 22nd of this year, just two weeks before this report will be finished. Why are we putting the people of Nova Scotia through this public exercise when it seems the Government of Nova Scotia will already have made up its mind as to what it is going to do with respect to cuts in the provincial government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the member opposite is getting a little bit confused. The two processes which are part and parcel of an analysis of what can be done to balance the budget will, in fact, go along in concert. In reality, as you know, the budget is not due until the spring, so there is time for that to occur. The whole issue of how we approach this I think is very, very key, because the task ahead is a monumental one. It is one that must go forward, it is one that Nova Scotians are demanding go forward and we are going to make it go forward.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I honestly don't feel that the Premier or this government knows what they are doing. They have two processes going. One seems to be in contradiction with the other and yet, they haven't taken advantage of the opportunities that exists right now to reduce costs in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I want to know from the Premier, Mr. Speaker, again, I ask him, why is he doing this public study and if there is a disagreement, as there most certainly will be between this in-house program that will report on December 7th and the Voluntary Planning program, which one is going to take precedence?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There are two or three questions there. If the Premier could care to answer one.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the question would have a lot more credibility if it came from a side of the House that had demonstrated when it was in power that it was prepared to initiate cost-saving measures but, time after time, the members opposite when they were in government identified cost-saving measures, talked about them and never ever initiated those programs that would result in cost-savings. This government is prepared to do what the

[Page 1359]

previous government neglected to do and that is to deliver 100 cents of value for every taxpayer's dollar.

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you, to the Premier. Late last year the former Premier made some unfortunate remarks about the Indigenous Black and Mi'kmaq Program at Dalhousie Law School. To correct this error, in the spring the Premier pledged to use the government's purchasing power as a lever to improve the hiring and retention rates for minority lawyers; in other words, develop a contract compliance process. Now the new Minister of Justice is quoted in the law school's student newspaper as saying that contract compliance is not on this government's agenda as it refers to minority lawyers. I ask the Premier, will he advise us why he didn't tell Nova Scotians during the campaign this summer that his government is opposed to employment equity for minority lawyers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to want to read something into the words of the Minister of Justice. I will allow the Minister of Justice to explain to the member opposite what exactly he was talking about.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly don't recall saying those kinds of things; that was certainly never my intention to say such a thing. Quite frankly, I think the story is being misread.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will table this article. In this same article the Minister of Justice dismisses the committee simply because it was, and I quote, "established by the previous government.". I want to ask the Premier - I want to say to him that now members of the committee are wondering whether there is any point if they don't have the government's support - what does he say to members of the Ruck committee who are asking if they have this government's support?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the member opposite continues to want to put his interpretation on to what it is the Minister of Justice has said. I will ask the Minister of Justice to respond to the member opposite.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the issue here is quite simple; the issue is very simple indeed. We want to take an opportunity to look at the committee and the general parameters of the committee to make sure that the committee is looking at everything it should be looking at in this area.

[Page 1360]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It sounds to me like the support has waned already, Mr. Speaker, and this government is not committed to making sure that minority lawyers get jobs in downtown Halifax. I want to ask the Premier my final supplementary. The graduates of this program have to leave the province to find work. The downtown Halifax law firms are not hiring them, yet this government continues to talk about the need to keep our young people at home.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I ask the Premier, how does he square his commitment to try to find jobs for young people when he won't support a hiring program for minority lawyers in this province that will ensure that they get work right here where they belong?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have the Leader of the New Democratic Party putting his interpretation on to what is going on. I would ask the Minister of Justice to give us the correct version of what is going on.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the issue is quite simple. This government is absolutely committed to fair hiring practices. We have always been committed to fair hiring practices and that fair hiring practice includes minorities of all types, including those individuals in the IBM Program.

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


MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier talks about cost cutting and that is all he does is talk about it except when it applies to the disabled and charities and nickel-and-diming paramedics. They wrote out of their budget an opportunity to save $60 million and yet he has two commissions, two studies out there which are going to come and bang heads with one another. If one report contradicts the other, I ask the Premier again, which one will take precedence?

[11:30 a.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the biggest worry that the Leader of the Liberal Party has is that we are going to succeed where he has failed.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the biggest fear that I have and this Party has is that this government is going to make a shambles of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) This is just a reincarnation of Tory Governments in the past who talk about fiscal responsibility, but don't do anything. We saw that with the Donald Cameron Government.

[Page 1361]

I ask the Premier again, for the third time, if one report contradicts the other, which one will take priority?

THE PREMIER: May I assure the Leader opposite that this government has established a priority, and the priority is the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACLELLAN: This government has established a priority, but that priority is to try to bamboozle the people of Nova Scotia. I ask the Premier for the fourth time, if one report contradicts the other, which one will have priority?

THE PREMIER: I will not ask the Speaker to rule on what Beauchesne says about repeating the exact question over and over again in Question Period. What I will say to the Leader opposite is that this government is committed to doing what it has set out to do. It was very clear in articulating to the people of Nova Scotia what it would do if in fact it became elected. We have become elected, we are determined that we will follow the course that we set during the election campaign, and we will do it. (Interruptions)

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. Last Thursday, we questioned the government about a serious breach of the Freedom of Information Act committed by the Premier's office and a Minister of the Crown. At that time, the Premier agreed that it was not a trivial matter, and he pledged to investigate and report back his findings. He has now had five days to investigate.

I want to ask the Premier what his investigation has turned up, i.e. who did they speak to, and what are the results?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome that question because it isn't a trivial matter. It is a very serious matter. We are treating it as a serious matter to the point that we are going to bring in the legislation that actually clarifies the unclear nature of the Act. I would remind the member opposite that the Freedom of Information Commissioner said that we have not broken the law, the law is unclear, and he agrees with us that the legislation should be changed. Within a very few days, you will see the amendments that we are tabling to the legislation.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has again taken the position that no laws were broken. That just isn't true. I want to quote a brief excerpt from a decision of Darce Fardy, the FOI Review Officer, "The name of the applicant is irrelevant and should be known only to those public employees who process the application and/or must contact the applicant. Human nature would suggest that knowing the identity of an applicant could

[Page 1362]

influence the reaction of a third party notified of the application, as well as influence a public body's response to an application. Applicants have a right to protection under Section 20.".

I ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, given this clear ruling of the review officer, when will you finally admit that your office broke the law?

THE PREMIER: The Leader of the New Democratic Party is a hard person to convince that despite evidence brought forward by the Freedom of Information Commissioner that the law has not been breached, he continues to try to create the impression that somehow, because he thinks so, the law has been breached. In fact, what everyone has acknowledged is that the law is unclear and is subject to interpretation. We are going to bring in an Act that clarifies the unclear clauses in the Freedom of Information Act that deals with the uncomfortable situation that we have now with the current Act.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think most Nova Scotians are shocked with the way this Premier hides behind obfuscation in this respect. Last Thursday the Premier said in this House that it was not his government's policy to circulate applicant's names within government, yet that is exactly what happened in this case. There was no reason whatsoever for the applicant's name to leave the Premier's office. My question to the Premier is, why will he not admit that what he and his staff did, and what the minister did, was wrong?

THE PREMIER: The Leader of the New Democratic Party understands that the law is unclear. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: The Leader of the New Democratic Party understands that the procedure that we followed was the same procedure that was followed many times by the previous government who did release the names to Cabinet Ministers. (Interruptions) It was for that very reason that we made the determination that in fact the law should be changed. I believe that this government did make one error, and the error is that the appellant for the information should have received notification that in fact his name may be released under the current application that has been used for the law as it now exists. (Interruptions)

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


MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I take great exception to the Premier lumping us in with that crowd that he represents. (Interruptions) I have a difficult time with the government trying to distinguish ways around the law that it broke, particularly when the two members of his staff who violated the law are both lawyers. I also want to relate that to the Premier's undertaking many months ago to bring in a code of conduct for Cabinet

[Page 1363]

Ministers and senior public servants. We have seen breaches again and again by his government in the first few months, yet, there is no code of conduct. Is this a mythical prophecy from the Premier or does he really intend to bring in a code of conduct? If so, when?

THE PREMIER: Very soon.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to get in on this too, you know. (Laughter) the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on your final supplementary, I think.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think you should be associated with them either. We have had this code of conduct and time after time, there are breaches of the ethical procedure and processes by members of this government. When is the Premier going to give us some information as to how he is going to change the way his office acts to stop violations of Freedom of Information applications and when is this code of conduct going to be brought forward?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable the Premier, that was two questions again, if you would like to answer one.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government will continue to apply the law as it currently exists and where the law is inappropriate, it will make changes to have the law changed. That is really where it is and I know that must be a disappointment to the Leader opposite but on the other hand that is the way this government is going to operate. I would hope that, in view of the evidence that we had, the Leader of the Liberal Party is not suggesting that the protocol we followed was not the one that was followed by his government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.


MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A question to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, one of the more revealing aspects of this freedom of information affair is the way the Premier's most senior officials were involved. According to the Premier himself, the name of the applicant was circulated among his chief of staff, his deputy minister and a secretary to the Cabinet. In fact, it was the secretary to the Cabinet who gave the name to the Minister of Human Resources and each of these people was handpicked by the Premier. My question for the Premier is, what assurances can he give that the code of conduct he talks about will also apply to his senior handpicked officials?

[Page 1364]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, while it is difficult to answer the question in the context in which it was asked, taking it out of context, what I will say to the member opposite is we are developing a code that will apply to senior officials as well.

MR. EPSTEIN: The government provides internal training for freedom of information administrators. We are told that this training deals with the issue of the release of an applicant's name and the administrators are told the rule is quite simple, except in unusual circumstances do not release the applicant's name. Yet the Premier's most senior officials seem to have been operating in blissful ignorance of the simplest and most straightforward instructions. My question to the Premier is this, what assurances can he give us that there will not be one set of rules for his officials and another set for everybody else?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that the responsibility for doing exactly what his question asks falls under the Minister of Justice and I would ask him to answer the question.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: The Premier has indicated earlier, and it is the commitment of this government, to bring in amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to remove the ambiguity. I can assure the honourable member that this government is committed to making sure that the same rules apply to everyone in the Public Service.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, one of the more disturbing and perhaps telling aspects of this affair is the fact that the Premier specifically named the staffer who he is blaming for the mistake. He also walked by as a staffer was being scrummed in the hallway outside this House. I wonder if the Premier can explain how these actions are in keeping with the idea that the Premier is responsible for the actions of the Premier's staff?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can respond to the question this way, that I take full responsibility for any action that is taken by those who are responsible to report to me. I accept that. We are faced with on one hand Opposition members wanting to know each and every move that happens in the office and on the other hand we have a question that indicates that when you hear the information, that it is improper that you give the information. You cannot have it both ways, either we are going to be open or we are going to be closed. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 1365]


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Premier stood in this House on Thursday and read a mea culpa about the flood of confidential information from his office. This allowed the Minister of Human Resources to question a member of the media on a confidential request. On Thursday the Premier was hiding behind the Freedom of Information Act, an Act he told this House was flawed. Ironically, up until Thursday the Tory Government had given no indication that this Act was flawed in any way. My question is to the Minister of Justice. What is your timetable for introducing changes to the Freedom of Information Act?

[11:45 a.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, I believe it was last week, it is the intention of the government to introduce changes very shortly.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, one of the Tory's 243 promises deals with the Freedom of Information Act. This promise deals with information around P3 schools and the appointing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Officer on a full-time basis. My question to the Minister of Justice is how do these promises help correct the supposed flaws in the Act as indicated by your Premier?

MR. BAKER: First of all, to the honourable member, it is our intention to carry out the commitments in our platform. Secondly, with respect to the question, they are two different issues, but we intend to carry out the commitment on both.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is clear to Nova Scotians and to the members of this House that the spirit and the intent of the Freedom of Information Act was broken by the Premier's office, yet the Premier is still hiding behind the flaws of this Act to justify the action of his staff and the Minister of the Crown.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is for the Premier. Will the Premier assure this House and Nova Scotians that until the Act is amended to his satisfaction that all Parties responsible for this leak will be suspended or removed from his office?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it really points out the lack of imagination by members on the opposite side when, halfway through Question Period, they resort to a ridiculous question such as that.

[Page 1366]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.


MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A question to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, over three and one-half years ago, that is in March 1996, an advisory committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act released its report. The report had 65 recommendations. The Liberal Government acted on only one or two of them but the Conservatives are on record as supporting the advisory committee's recommendations. Will the Premier tell us what is the government's position on the advisory committee's 65 recommendations now that it is in a position to put its words into action?

THE PREMIER: That is a good question. I will refer to the Minister of Justice who has actually been reviewing those recommendations, in developing the new piece of legislation.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's question, I can assure you that the Jobb report has been considered and that many of the recommendations in that report will be included in the draft legislation when it is presented.

MR. EPSTEIN: Again to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, last year, the NDP introduced a Private Member's Bill to amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That bill was based 100 per cent on the advisory committee's recommendations. Today that same bill was reintroduced. Now, look, there is no need to wait for the government to draft amendments because a bill previously endorsed by the PCs has now been introduced. It was on the order paper in the last session, so there is nothing in it that is a surprise.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: Will the Premier tell us, when will his government call the bill that was introduced today for debate and passage?

THE PREMIER: It will appear that there will be broad support across the way for our bill when it comes forward shortly, because the member opposite is clearly interested that this issue be resolved with fairness, but I would ask the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for drafting the legislation and presenting it, to answer your question.

MR. BAKER: In answer to the member's question. I know that the member is very anxious to see the legislation. As I indicated earlier, the legislation will be coming forward shortly and I would be glad to work with the honourable member and the members opposite to make sure that the bill that is produced is the very best bill.

[Page 1367]

MR. EPSTEIN: Again to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, this government has, in only a very few months, developed an unfortunate reputation for breaking its promises, for saying one thing before the election and then doing the opposite. Our bill includes a provision that establishes, once and for all, that the identity of an applicant is confidential and that is a position that the Conservative Justice Critic stood in this House last November and specifically endorsed.

My final question for the Premier is, you said you wanted to amend the Act, we put an amendment on the floor, what are you waiting for?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are anxious that the bill comes forward. The member opposite is anxious that the bill comes forward. I think you should perhaps grant the government a little slack, in that if in fact you want it introduced on Tuesday, we may prefer another day, maybe a Thursday. Who knows?

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



MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. Could the minister please explain the Communications Nova Scotia policy on partisan references in government news releases?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the news releases put out by Communications Nova Scotia are in response to departmental demands.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me table a page from the Government Communications handbook. It is kind of an older copy, but the policy, I am sure, has not changed. To paraphrase, government communications resources are not to be used as a partisan propaganda tool. Since taking power, the Tories used Communications Nova Scotia to announce caucus plums for backbenchers and as a forum for a personal statement by the Minister of Education, which had nothing to do with her department.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: My first supplementary is, the budget for Communications Nova Scotia has been increased, is this because the Party changed the mandate of Communications Nova Scotia to become a partisan mouthpiece for the Progressive Conservatives?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is simply not true.

[Page 1368]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, government communications officers, as I am sure we are all aware, are very uncomfortable with being forced to work as Tory flaks. My question is, why is the minister breaking one of the 243 election promises by spending taxpayers' money on politically motivated government PR?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is living in the past. He is reflecting on the previous government.

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


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, every year, over 1,400 Nova Scotians die as a direct result of smoking. The other Maritime Provinces are considering increasing the tax on tobacco products as a means to reduce the number of people smoking and to decrease the cost both to society and to the health care system. I would like to ask the Premier, since discouraging tobacco use among youth was one of the 243 promises this government made during the election campaign, why is the Premier now shying away from increasing taxes on tobacco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is quite correct in that I do appreciate the seriousness of tobacco use, particularly among young people in Nova Scotia. The question is really a taxation issue. I would ask the Minister of Finance to respond.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the reason the Premier is referring to me, he is asking whether or not the province is considering a tax. As I said outside this House yesterday, speculating on whether or not taxes will be increased is completely inappropriate, and the only time that the government will make an announcement on tax is the day that it occurs. That is the same thing with any tax, and I think to do other than that would be to pre-empt it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, with respect, it is not a tax issue, it is a life and death issue. (Interruptions) Since tobacco taxes were cut five years ago, the number of young people who smoke has climbed almost 10 per cent. It is obvious that a higher tax on tobacco products is a good way to keep youth from smoking, but this government seems more worried about how it would look to go back on its word about no tax increases. I want to ask the Premier, which promise are you more comfortable breaking, your commitment to no tax increases or your commitment to reduce the number of youth who risk their health by smoking?

[Page 1369]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, the first part of his comment is one with which I totally agree and that is the seriousness of the issue of tobacco use. Unfortunately, the member's research is not very good because he didn't really focus in on a statement that I made several months ago, specifically about tobacco taxation.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this article from June 1st, just five months ago. The Conservative Health Critic said that his Party supported increasing taxes on cigarettes as a way to discourage young people from smoking. The Premier is quoted as saying that this province has not done enough to stop our youth from smoking and that Nova Scotia's anti-smoking programs aren't working. My question is, since reducing the number of youth who smoke was one of the government's campaign commitments, will the Premier share the details of his comprehensive strategy to deter youth from smoking?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour brings up an important initiative and a commitment of this government. We will be discussing more fully our approach as to how we will, as a province, address the epidemic of tobacco use, particularly among young people. So it is a good question. You have simply pre-empted when it is we are going to be discussing this publicly but on the issue of the taxation, I will pass off to the Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, no one argues the fact that taxes on tobacco is a deterrent and I think that is a fact of life. I offer to the members opposite that they are being irresponsible. They would be the same ones who would make mention if we were to talk about (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party is not allowing me to answer the question and I guess that is his prerogative but I will answer the question. They would be the same bunch, if I were to talk about something in advance of making decisions in Finance, they would say that I would have been irresponsible and I basically should resign. The practice of this government and governments before is that taxes are not discussed before they are announced. That is the procedure that has been followed in the past and I take my responsibility very seriously. That will be the practice that will be followed into the future. To do anything other than that, I would be remiss in my duties and I submit that they are grandstanding here today and they know very well . . .

[Page 1370]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. As all members would know, there has been an informal agreement with several provinces, including Nova Scotia, with the federal government to work together against smuggling and to work on the taxation of cigarettes. Recently all of those governments, except Nova Scotia, agreed to the hike of cigarette taxes by $1.20 per carton. The Premier of this province then indicated that perhaps the government will take part and perhaps the government won't. My question to the Minister of Health is, could the minister please advise all members of the House whether he has had or will have any input in the decision made by his government not to increase cigarette taxes or will this decision be made by the Premier and the Minister of Finance?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Dartmouth East for that question. He is asking a question about taxes and like my colleague, the Minister of Finance, I am not going to comment on tax issues but programs for cessation of smoking or to prevent youth from smoking, clearly is something my department is concerned about. Our staff members are working on it and we, indeed, are in contact with the other Ministers of Health in the country to talk about this very serious problem.

[12:00 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't answer the question. He speaks in terms of speaking with other Ministers of Health across the country, but he doesn't seem to know whether the Minister of Finance and the Premier are going to talk to him about this important issue that kills 1,400 people each year, smoking does.

Mr. Speaker, the program that he mentioned - and I will try to come to my question - is obviously the tobacco control unit within the department that plays such a role, but yesterday, the Premier said, and I quote, "I've actually had some discussions on that issue, but with so many things happening in the House, there really isn't time to address that through the kinds of consultations that a program would require.", the type that the tobacco control unit would do.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: My question to the minister is, could he indicate whether this comment by the Premier yesterday means that your government plans to disband the tobacco control unit, a unit that would do consultations, including the teen smoking program?


[Page 1371]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to comprehend why a government has no problem taking money away from charities but is being so wishy-washy on an issue of participating in a tax increase plan on cigarettes, given that tobacco-related illnesses are putting such a strain on the health care system. My question is, will you discuss with your Minister of Finance, who is on your immediate left, the possibility of participating in the tax increase plan and redirecting these dollars into the tobacco control unit so that you can do the consultations and implementations of plans that the Premier doesn't seem to have time for?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have a section, as the honourable member well knows, (Interruption) Our tobacco control unit, I guess, is what I am trying to say, yes, thank you, is reviewing all current data about smoking and ways to curtail smoking among youths and indeed among older people, including some people who are actually in this Legislature. We would like to work on them, too. If the Minister of Finance, as he gets into his budget preparations is talking about taxes, I am sure we will discuss it then.

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Sysco. The Minister responsible for Sysco assured the Opposition that he would keep the Opposition informed about the progress of the sale of Sysco. The minister from his time on this side of the House is all too familiar with the frustration of government keeping everything secret. Yet he asked Hoogovens to cancel all meetings with Opposition Parties. Mr. Minister, why did you tell us that you would share the information, then go behind our backs to Hoogovens and ask them to keep us in the dark?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Of course, keeping everyone informed is important because the sale of Sysco is important, not only to the people of Cape Breton and the employees of Sysco, but to every Nova Scotian. We have to ensure that process goes forward. We did, in fact, make arrangements for ABN Amro to consult with the Opposition Parties to keep them informed. We will, as appropriate, keep them in the loop and ensure that they are knowledgable as the thing progresses.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, he knows what we are speaking of, and that is the cancellation and telling Hoogovens not to meet with us. It is important for the Opposition to stay informed so we can determine whether the government has really given Sysco a fair chance to be sold, a fair chance. Right now, it appears this isn't happening and maybe that is what the government doesn't want us to know. Mr. Minister, will you commit to a private briefing with the Opposition Parties to go over Sysco's current operations and the state of the order books?

[Page 1372]

MR. BALSER: Again to the honourable member, certainly we have been keeping them informed. As recently as today, I apprised both critics as to what was happening at the plant, and that is my intention. There are things that are appropriate to present to the Opposition Parties and there are things that need to be dealt with in confidence in relation to the ongoing efforts to sell the plant.

MR. CORBETT: What a transformation one side of the House can make when a minister has to answer a question as opposed to asking it. The minister is trying to assert control over this situation. He has his deputy minister making decisions about orders. He is asking Hoogovens to cancel meetings with the Opposition. He is refusing to share information. These actions are leading to a fire sale of that plant.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: My question then is to the Premier. Are you trying to sell that steel mill, Mr. Premier, or are you just trying to kill it to keep a campaign promise?

THE PREMIER: I am sorry, I didn't pick up the question. Would you repeat it, please?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre repeat the question only please.

MR. CORBETT: Question only. Can I ask the one about cigarettes too? (Laughter) Are you really trying to sell this steel plant, Mr. Premier, or are you just trying to kill it to keep a campaign promise?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that question is beneath the member opposite but I will overlook that. This government will do what it has to do to come to the best possible solution for Sysco, bearing in mind the tremendous importance that Sysco has for the people of Cape Breton Island and to all Nova Scotians.

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



MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question through you, sir, to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. On Friday, October 29th, the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne stated that the government would be establishing a comprehensive, non-partisan, multi-year plan for maintenance and upgrading of the province's secondary roads. Therefore, my question to the minister would be, would he be able to indicate when this comprehensive plan will be unveiled and tabled here in the House?

[Page 1373]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Certainly that was a commitment in our platform and we have been working within the department to bring together information that had been compiled over the past number of years around how best to put that information in a package that could be presented. What we have to look at as well is the amount of monies that will be available. So it is a plan that incorporates not only need and priority but also the financial implications as well.

MR. MACEWAN: I did not hear when the plan was forthcoming, Mr. Speaker, but further the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley went on to state that all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales were going to be dedicated to highway construction and road maintenance. So my supplementary question would be, would the minister be prepared to indicate the effective date for the implementation of those measures?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the implications financially, to the campaign promise that was made in our platform, have to be incorporated in the first budget that we will develop as a government. What happened in this budgetary process is that we have inherited many of the expenditures so we will be putting that into the next budget year.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the short answer I heard there was next year. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley further went on to state that the government is going to demand that the federal government return to Nova Scotia a significant portion of the $130 million they collect each year through the fuel excise tax. So my final supplementary would be, would the minister be able to indicate details of his contacts with the federal government in Ottawa concerning this matter and disclose to the House the federal government's response?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, of course we have had discussions with the federal minister about the national highway investment strategy and we are very confident that in the next budget year the federal government will be contributing to that plan so that all provinces and Nova Scotia will have an infrastructure fund.

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Sysco. The Sydney Steel company is not operating anywhere near full capacity. The mill should be employing more steelworkers and putting out more product but it needs to build up its order books. Rail, as we all know, is the mainstay of production at that mill but yesterday, Mr. Minister, you indicated that the board you sit on is turning away rail orders. My question to you is, how is Sysco supposed to get its level of production up if you are turning away orders?

[Page 1374]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The history of production at Sysco has always been a disappointment. Certainly in the Hoogovens' business plan that was put forward in the last year, they were optimistic in the production levels that they thought they could attain and that has not happened. The order book is on target with previous years, which is a good thing, and what we had to do as a board of directors is to take some hard decisions about profitability. You can build and sell things at a loss but at the end of the day all that does is add to the deficit. So in that particular instance the decision of the board of directors who are, in fact, tasked with making real decisions, felt it was not in the best interest of the plant to produce product and sell it at a loss.

MR. CORBETT: He carries this action out on the advice of his deputy, it seems the minister is turning business away. This is a very serious decision, Mr. Minister, and is affecting many lives in Cape Breton. So in the interest of transparency, will the minister make full details of this order available to the Opposition and/or at least to an independent analyst so we can get a second opinion?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the decision was made by the board of directors, after consultation with the management team at the plant, and the minutes of those meetings are available after they have been approved by the board. So we will make those minutes available.

MR. CORBETT: When it comes to transparency, it just stops over there, halfway across this floor, they will not do anything. Your government said it would give Sysco a fair chance at being sold, yet we now find that you are doing everything you can to scuttle the deal. You have cancelled orders, you put a gag order on and you are scaring off buyers. Will the minister now admit that he has no intention and has never had any intention of selling off Sysco and that he and his government just want to shut it down? Aren't you just making good on your own election promises?

MR. SPEAKER: Two questions, again.

The honourable minister responsible for Sysco, if he would like to answer one.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, our first commitment is to try to find a buyer for that plant, a buyer who will run it as a profitable, ongoing operation. To that end we have honoured the commitment to ABN Amro and interestingly enough, in spite of the recent media attention, it is my understanding that there are, in fact, people at the plant today.

[Page 1375]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.



MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The government has stated that tourism considerations take priority when it comes to money for improving our highway infrastructure. Everyone knows that the Englishtown ferry, while it does create a great bottleneck, it is a short cut to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park from Sydney and many areas of the province.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, if tourism plays such a major role in determining road improvements, can the minister please tell the House what his department is doing to explore the possibility of replacing the current Englishtown ferry with a permanent bridge structure?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. He is absolutely right that tourism does figure very prominently in the strategy to develop and improve highways in this province. In fact, for the first time we are including economic development impact studies in road locations and where, in fact, improvements should occur. The need for a ferry or, at least, the replacement of the ferry with a bridge is a question that has been around for some time. We are looking at it but it has to be put in place in the context of priorities and the level of finances that we have available for such projects.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister. Previous Tory campaigns have mentioned an Englishtown bridge for many years. The first one that I remember was back in 1964; at that time construction was supposed to begin the next spring. Back in 1991, we met with the then minister and he said construction would begin the next spring. Now, could the minister tell me if this present government has written off the possibility of a permanent crossing at Englishtown or have they written off northern Cape Breton as they did industrial Cape Breton?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in determining what projects should go ahead we look at the priority list, we look at the monies that are available. Has that project been written off? No, it has not.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, as we said in the beginning, a permanent crossing would have an impact on traffic volume. But I want to ask the minister, is he aware of a credible consortium of Nova Scotians who would like to put a proposal forward to his government on the possibility of a P3 arrangement? His department seems to be dragging its feet on this issue.

[Page 1376]

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the question, I am not aware of a particular P3 consortium, but I am aware of the issue of the Englishtown ferry. It is one which we are watching very closely to determine when in fact we can go forward, if in fact we can go forward. There are many priorities; in fact the highway needs in this province are a $3 billion issue and we just don't have the money to address all the problems at this point in time. (Applause)

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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the applause from the government members in anticipation of my question. My question through you is to the Minister of Finance. Of course the minister will know that if the Sydney Steel Plant is shut down at the end of the year, the province is going to be facing horrendous costs, and the Minister of Finance, of course, will have been calculating what the cost will be for closing the Sydney Steel Plant. My question is, will he share with us what information he has, what will be the costs of closing Sydney Steel?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to say that the member asked the question as if it is a done deal that the plant will close. I want to say that it is our intention, as much as possible, that we will be able to sell the plant. I think that has been clearly stated by the minister responsible that that is our first priority, whether we can find a buyer for that facility.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, any objective observer who takes a look at it would come to the obvious conclusion that this government is doing everything that it possibly can to make sure that in fact it does close. There are 60 days left. Now the government members are repeating, like trained parrots, their line that they have no money for programs or new expenditures, but the minister must understand that the one political promise that they made, this one alone is going to cost many tens of millions of dollars for clean-ups, pensions, remediation and so on.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: My question to the minister is, how much of Nova Scotia taxpayers' dollars are you prepared to spend to keep this one political promise? How much taxpayer money are you prepared to spend to keep that one promise?

[Page 1377]

MR. LEBLANC: I am always amazed what people will say. I know the honourable member for Cape Breton South used to say that we can't afford to shut it down because of the reclamation. I would like to have people do research and to say whether reclamation costs have gone down over the last 10 years. Anyone who has done research on this one point that he brought up in his question will know that it has far exceeded the cost of inflation, and perhaps multitudes of factors, two or three times.

So when they are saying it is somehow going to be cheaper in the future, Mr. Speaker, if there are reclamation costs to the site, we as Nova Scotians are responsible for that. We know where we stand. For them to say that somehow it will be cheaper in the future, I say look at the experiences of people who are performing reclamation. We all know that it has gone up tremendously, far in excess of inflation.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure who is learning from whom, whether the Premier from the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Finance from the Premier, but they are both very good at not coming within a country mile of answering the questions that are asked. (Interruptions) Nova Scotians have some right to have straight-shooting answers.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: Straight answers.We want the goods. This government also promised . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: . . . and the minister, of course, will know that in addition to the costs of the shutdowns, there are going to be revenue losses as a result of the jobs that are lost, to say nothing of the horrendous social cost. The Premier promised that he was going to be taking care of the steelworkers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. HOLM: My question to the Minister of Finance. Sixty days left, what is your plan . . .

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

[Page 1378]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to make a few remarks about an issue that I think is of much importance to many Nova Scotians. That is the state of the voluntary sector organizations, not-for-profits, charities, non-profits, non-government organizations, however you want to label these groups. The context within which I want to make these remarks, of course, is the recent controversy that has sparked a fair degree of public debate, and that is the government's actions of taking money from charities and cancelling programs that would have promoted accessibility to public buildings for persons with disabilities.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is really important that members of the Opposition Parties take some time to direct some remarks toward the government benches with respect to the message that their actions have sent to both the voluntary sector and indeed to the public sector with respect to their actions because these messages I think, based on this action, are very troublesome.

We have quite a diverse and rich voluntary sector in Nova Scotia. We have a voluntary sector that dates back to a colonial period in Nova Scotia when there were not public services, when government did not provide health or social services. Most of the services that were provided were provided by church-based organizations or clubs and organizations that were shaped around ethnic identity, like the North British Society or the Charitable Irish Society, and these groups, in fact, provided things like burial plots for people who were so poor that they were unable to afford a decent burial or a place for burial.

Over time it became apparent that charities, while they had a very important role to play in the society, they could not in any way meet the need and ameliorate the conditions that people were experiencing as a result of the labour market being unable to provide employment, good wages and all of the conditions that people needed to have a decent standard of living.

I think my concern, and it is a concern that is shared by a lot of people who work and who volunteer in charities and volunteer organizations, is that we have forgotten, Mr. Speaker, the lessons of history and we are on a downward slope now to a time that is better left in the past than one that we would return to.

[Page 1379]

I think it is important that we understand the complexity and the diversity of the volunteer sector, who they are and what they do. The volunteer sector is made up of, if you would like, small, medium and large kinds of organizations. There are some very big charities in this sector. If you look in Nova Scotia, I think you would have to say, for example, that foundations like the IWK-Grace Foundation is a rather large foundation. They raise an enormous amount of money on an annual basis.

Many groups and organizations in our province participate, and rightly so, in the activities of this particular charitable foundation. They have at their disposal a huge, paid staff who coordinate and carry out much of the voluntary activity that then results in very effective fund-raising campaigns. That is sort of one end of the spectrum in the voluntary sector, and

on the other end of the voluntary sector you can find very small, non-profit organizations that struggle to raise maybe $4,000 or $5,000 in a year. It may be a small food bank in a rural community, Mr. Speaker, that has a limited ability to raise large amounts of money, but nevertheless the work they do is enormously important and the contribution they make to their community is just as important as a large, charitable foundation.

There is a debate in the non-profit organizations, and there always has been a bit of a debate about the role of non-profit organizations. Are they service providers? There are those who will take the position that that is the proper role of non-profits, to provide services. There are also people who see the role of non-profit organizations as the promotion of a point of view that non-profit organizations provide a very important role in society in terms of advocating for groups and individuals who are often left out of the mainstream of economic, political and social decision making.

A really good example of why it is important, I think, to have non-profit organizations in our society is the example of when governments take away programs that would promote accessibility for persons with disabilities. Where is the organized voice? Where is the outlet and the possibility for people who have disabilities to participate in a public debate that has a direct impact on them? Where they have this opportunity has been in the not-for-profit sector, it has been through the important work that charities and non-profit organizations do as they represent the people for whom they exist, so that there is an interconnectedness, quite often, between services and advocacy and I think we shouldn't forget that.

Now there are some very interesting facts that have been brought out more recently about volunteer work in Nova Scotia. It is an area, to a certain extent, that has been under-researched but, increasingly, people are interested in knowing more about civic and volunteer work. Quite recently, the people who are part of the genuine progress index have done some research on the economic value of volunteer work in Nova Scotia and I think their research is quite interesting, and it is very enlightening in terms of trying to quantify what exactly the status of charities is, and not-for-profit organizations, as well as Nova Scotians' sort of altruism in terms of participation in charitable giving and volunteering in comparison to the rest of the country.

[Page 1380]

In 1997, this group found that Nova Scotians contributed more than 134 million hours of their time to civic and volunteer work, including helping people in need, caring for the environment, and contributing to society and local communities in a variety of ways. This work was worth $2 billion annually to the economy, an equivalent of 81,000 jobs and nearly 10 per cent of GDP that actually is not accounted for in our measurements of economic activity.

[12:30 p.m.]

The generosity of Nova Scotians is in the vicinity of $128 million annually in non-reimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses to perform voluntary work; using your vehicle to bring meals to senior citizens who are unable to come out to the seniors meal programs, for example. Many volunteers use their own vehicles and they receive no remuneration of any kind for this work. Nova Scotians, in addition, contribute $100 million in donations to registered charities annually. On average, each adult Nova Scotian devotes about three and one-half hours a week to volunteer work which is the highest rate of participation in the country, the Canadian average being 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I think these statistics and this study indicate the esteem, the importance that Nova Scotians attach to volunteerism, to charitable work, to programs, and developing services, and meeting needs in their communities, and the importance that Nova Scotians place on charitable work, and the real commitment they have. I think that this government needs to take heed of this situation to implement public policy that undermines in any way charitable and non-profit organizations, I think is to take your political fate for granted in a way that you may not like the outcome of what it is you are doing.

Mr. Speaker, I have an interesting paper that I would be happy to table when I finish my remarks, done by a local employee of a non-profit organization, who recently went to a conference in the U.K. that was dealing with the future of voluntary organizations. This paper is called, We can't fundraise any more and other realities of small community-based non-profit agencies, the Canadian context.

I would just like to read briefly a small section from this paper, called the View from the trenches. She says, "Small nonprofit agencies today are between a rock and a hard place. Fund raising is erratic. Needs are escalating. Budgets are a hope and a prayer. Jobs are tentative. Staff are exhausted. Programs are insecure. Funding is a crap shoot. Volunteers are burnt out. Costs are increasing. Contract requirements are onerous. Volunteer hours are decreasing. People needing services are more desperate, frustrated, hopeless. Less is less:".

We have heard this over and over again, I think, in some of the community forums that have happened in the last year, organized by organizations in the voluntary sector. It is not a surprise, I would think, to most members of this House that this is the situation. Every day, as members, we participate in some fund-raising activity for some very important cause. I

[Page 1381]

think that we need to be very mindful of what we do in terms of providing support for this sector and what we do that will undermine the significant crisis that many of the small community-based organizations are facing after 15 years of pretty significant cutbacks in our communities, not just to these organizations but to people who depend largely on public sector services and services from voluntary organizations. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on what took place in Question Period today regarding Sysco, and to talk about another very important situation that is taking place in Cape Breton and that is with respect to the Cape Breton Development Corporation. We are now, I think, in the final days before the federal government comes down with its final decision on what benefits it will be offering to the employees of the Cape Breton Development Corporation.

Right now there are two separate aspects to Devco and what is transpiring in regard to Devco. The first is the $68 million that the federal government has put in for economic development, and for which the provincial government has added another $12 million, making a total of $80 million. There are now meetings throughout Cape Breton Island as to how this money should be spent. I have to tell you, I have a certain trepidation on the way this is unfolding, because of the need to create jobs in Cape Breton. To say that money should be put into infrastructure, of course, is important, but there has to be a linkage between that infrastructure and the jobs that would be created.

Most of all, I want to talk about the other aspect, and that is relating to the benefits of the employees, particularly the miners, of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. I think without any hesitation that this provincial government has fallen down badly in representing the mining community in Cape Breton. I say that because it is true, but I say it because it need not have happened. This government should be well aware of what the community and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are facing.

We are talking about 1,700 people with Devco. We are talking about a Cape Breton Regional Municipality now that has about 117,000 people, and in that 117,000 people, there is probably an unemployment rate of 30 per cent; that is before the lay-offs at Devco. So you have a very serious economic problem; not only a question of unemployment, but a question of, literally, the possibility quite shortly of a collapse of the economic base in that area of 117,000 people.

You add to that the closure of Lingan-Phalen. There will be hundreds put out of work as a result of that. There is also the Prince Mine. The federal government is going to be selling the assets of Devco, which would include the Prince Mine and the rights, of course to the Donkin Mine. With regard to Prince, if it is sold to a private sector company, of course, it will employ significantly people and the wages will be considerably less, because they are selling

[Page 1382]

the assets so the collective agreements will not hold; that is if Prince is sold and that is if Prince will continue operating after 10 East and 1 North have been mined out.

I think what you have to look at is the shutdown of Devco completely within the next few years, and the loss of those jobs. With what miners make, you will need essentially two jobs for every one that is lost at Devco. You add to that situation the possible closure of Sydney Steel. Now, Mr. Speaker, I think a lot of attention has to be given to this. I am really amazed that the provincial government hasn't given that attention and that the federal government is really coming forward with offers that are far under what need to be brought forward.

I say that and I talk to people in Nova Scotia and they say, why should the federal government offer more? I am a taxpayer and those are my tax dollars. That's true, they are tax dollars that will be used to compensate the employees of Devco. But they are tax dollars of the federal government of a country of 30 million people. If the tax dollars are not put in to compensate and to give a pre-retirement package to miners who are 45 years of age or 46 years of age, worked for over 20 years, then they will have no income. What will be required will be Community Services dollars of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I ask the provincial government, what are in more short supply, the federal tax dollars for the package for the miners or provincial dollars for community services, which really aren't there, but will have to be there. There will be no choice whatsoever. What you have are miners, under the package that has been offered so far, who are well over 40 years of age. Some of them have worked 25 years, 26 years or 27 years, who will get a severance package which will be eaten up, about 50 per cent of it, in the first year because Revenue Canada will take it back. There will be no other income otherwise, because right now there are no jobs in Cape Breton. They will be competing with their own children for jobs that do exist.

Now what are these people going to do? Well, some would say they should go to western Canada, Alberta, the coal mines there. Well the coal mines there are laying off. They say, well, they should be going to Halifax or Mississauga. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, with the economic condition in Cape Breton right now, a home that would be worth $28,000 in Glace Bay would be worth five or six times that in the Halifax Regional Municipality right now. How are these people going to move from one area to the other, one without the money to buy the home, without the training for the skills of the new job without uprooting themselves after all of those years?

The federal government has it within their means to offer a proper compensation package. There has to be a voice from this province that will require that and necessitate that from the federal government. You cannot sit back as a government and just let this happen. Without a proper package, it is the province's revenues that are going to suffer and most assuredly it is going to be the people of Cape Breton who are going to suffer.

[Page 1383]

You have a situation there where you just don't have the income. Look at the municipality. This is the first tip-off. You have a municipality, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is $12 million in debt. They have a strike that has gone on for two weeks. I don't know how it is going to be resolved, I have no idea whatsoever. You have a community of that size that has lost its industrial base, losing its commercial base, and depending almost entirely on individual homeowner taxes. Those homeowner taxes are deleted further by the fact that so many of the homeowners are senior citizens and have a senior citizen reduction. A lot of them, of course, are children in school, and a great many are unemployed.

The whole of the economic base, now, of the tax structure of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is, to a larger degree than anywhere else in Canada, depending on homeowners who aren't working to a large extent. You also have the situation where there is infrastructure that has to be maintained. Infrastructure which is older because it hasn't been able to be repaired and will break down more often. The boundaries of the communities in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality aren't shrinking. They are the same size. So the actual dollars are not going down because the incomes of the population is going down. The necessity for expenditures are going up.

[12:45 p.m.]

This government is saying that it will not hold onto the leases of Devco, that they do not see how holding onto the leases can leverage a better package for the miners and their families. I differ quite strongly from the position this government is taking. The lever is there with the leases. It may not be a great lever, but it is a lever and if this government does not do what it can to increase the incomes and the compensation for the miners, then these families are going to suffer tremendously because they are not going to have the income. The communities are not going to have the disposable income that will be spent in those communities and this government is going to have to pay a tremendously large amount of money for community services because these people cannot be allowed to go without some kind of sustenance.

You have in this age group of miners and employees a lot of young people who are at university. These young people have to be able to stay in university. There has to be a program to allow them to do that, otherwise, they lose their opportunity to achieve a career that would allow them to get into a financially sustainable position. If that is not going to take place, then they are going to have to give up university. There are a lot of these miners and their families with mortgages on their homes. Many of them have taken the mortgages for the very reason of sending their children to university.

Mr. Speaker, I find it really intolerable to listen to this government's attitude, to hear people say, well, so much money has gone into Cape Breton already. That is not the fault of the people. If governments do not manage their Crown Corporations properly, that is not the fault of the people. The people cannot be punished and you cannot tell me, even though well

[Page 1384]

over $1 billion, maybe even up to $2 billion has been spent on Devco over the years, that if Devco continued to operate, that the federal government would not spend hundreds of millions of dollars more in that operation to keep it going, that there would be continuous losses, losses that have taken place since 1968. Over 30 years there have been losses in Devco and no one in the federal government has sought to make a major change in the way it was operated, but allow the people who work in the coal mines to go without jobs, to be without financial compensation, to have income for themselves and their families and all of a sudden the federal government is fiscally responsible with respect to Devco.

I just find that intolerable. For over 30 years money has been just poured down the drain and it was not until they got to what is going to be an income for people who will have no other source of income, that the federal government decided to get prudent about how money was spent.

Mr. Speaker, I tell you and I tell this House, you have not seen the tip of the iceberg in Cape Breton. This is part of Nova Scotia regardless of how you look at it. It has to be addressed and this is happening because people had confidence in what the federal government told them, that there would be jobs in the mines, that there would be a career in Cape Breton if they stayed there and worked and developed businesses and raised their families.

Mr. Speaker, that test is going to come very shortly. It is going to come when Devco is finally closed and over the years we have to be very careful to monitor. We do not want the federal government, through the sale of assets, like the Prince Mine, to give people the impression that coal mining is still feasible in Cape Breton because it will not be once the federal government gets out. We have seen the federal government work in that direction. We saw what happened to Route Canada where Route Canada was sold by the federal government to private owners in Toronto. Within a year it was closed and the workers were left without anything. We have to guard against that happening to the miners who still will be able to work for a short period of time in the mines.

Mr. Speaker, there is a responsibility here by the provincial government and it has to be fulfilled, it has to be honoured. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on an issue directly related to jobs in the economy. I find it somewhat disturbing when I listen to the honourable member for Cape Breton South really reiterate what has been a policy for the 22 years he was in Ottawa - and I am not quite sure why it is still the policy - but while he was there, working within the system, it was the same policy and he mentions that the federal government offers far lower monies toward Cape Breton, toward Sysco, toward Devco, than should be allotted. He makes that statement and it is almost like it is a so-what issue; so, they don't offer enough,

[Page 1385]

that is the way it is. Yet he was there for 22 years and that obviously causes me some concern.

I guess the other thing that causes me concern when you talk about jobs in the economy, particularly Cape Breton Island, Sysco and Devco, is that on one hand the federal government is trying to convince Canadians that they are doing such a wonderful job managing the economy - and they have these billions of dollars in surplus and all these different accounts - and yet they still don't recognize the need to take some of that money and find alternate ways to improve the Cape Breton economy and what is happening at Devco and Sysco. I don't understand why the left hand in Ottawa doesn't understand what the right hand is doing. Yet the member for Cape Breton South stands up and makes a statement, yes there is money there and they are not doing what they should do.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite keeps referring to the honourable member for Cape Breton South. That is incorrect.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to refrain from that please.

MR. OLIVE: I certainly will and I apologize to the honourable member for Cape Breton South. It is just that I am so used to the member for Cape Breton North living, I believe, in Cape Breton South. I am not sure, maybe I am wrong there, but . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a good constituent.

MR. OLIVE: He is a good constituent, that's great. I apologize to the member for Cape Breton South because (Interruptions) The member for Cape Breton South, had he been in Ottawa, perhaps we wouldn't be in the state we are in in Sydney, with Sysco. He certainly does work hard for his constituents in Cape Breton South. But yes, certainly, the member for Cape Breton North is the member to which I refer. It does give me a lot of concern that he is so nonchalant about the fact that, yes, there is money there and it hasn't come and what a shame. Like who is supposed to pick up the ball if the feds aren't paying attention and he was there, supposedly to have been hammering on his desk for the rights of Cape Breton and Devco? I would suggest his desk is probably pretty clean up there in Ottawa right now. They probably thought it was brand new when somebody else took it over.

Nevertheless, I will get back to jobs in the economy. It was an important part of our campaign in the past summer's election. It is extremely important that people do understand that government doesn't create jobs, government creates the environment for jobs. In creating the environment through reducing personal income tax, to put more money in peoples' pockets to spend, by ensuring that the costs imposed by government for the cost of running businesses are the lowest in the region.

[Page 1386]

Business people in Nova Scotia have just about had it. They told the government, both the government in power at the time and they have told this government, it is time to cut the red tape. It is time to readjust the tax base, to make it easier to do business in Nova Scotia. That's our platform, that's a very important part of our platform, and that's why the business community in Nova Scotia swung behind and threw their support behind our platform because they could see some light at the end of the tunnel. So we are going to be proceeding along those lines. We have to make Nova Scotia the most attractive tax structure area in Atlantic Canada if we are going to succeed and I think we are well on our way to doing that. I think in our next budget the people of Nova Scotia and members of the Opposition will clearly see where that avenue is taking us.

Mr. Speaker, we had a meeting of the caucus with a group down through the Valley awhile back, the Western Valley Regional Development Authority, probably one of the most efficient and proficient RDAs in Nova Scotia. Something that caused me a great concern during that meeting was examples they were giving us of where they have pulled together a number of private sector individuals, whether they were engineers, environmentalists, business people, investors, people who have certainly placed money in the region promoting their livelihood and trying to expand, where they were developing programs for the Valley region only to find that when they got all the t's crossed and all the i's dotted, they would send this through to our Department of Economic Development.

In some cases they were over a year getting approvals back for something that made perfectly good sense to all of the volunteers involved and to those who had actually provided services on a cost-recovery basis to develop the programs, that they were tied up in the red tape of our provincial Department of Economic Development. I understand that that kind of thing happens across the province, that we have people - we have said all along it is time to let the private sector get involved. It is time to let the private sector prepare the proposals, tell us whether it works in their region. No one is in a better position to know whether these things will work or will not work, than the people in the local area.

I am pleased that in our platform we are going to streamline the Department of Economic Development so it can focus on infrastructure and training rather than simply passing out grants and becoming a sober second thought. I do not think we need a sober second thought as much as we need to get things going and spur the private sector on. We certainly have to transfer the resources and decision-making authority from the provincial level to the RDAs. That is where it is. That is where it should be and I am very pleased that our government is going to fully support the RDAs.

I would like to finish off by saying, and it is a local observation, if you look at gypsum, gypsum is mined in Nova Scotia. It is shipped to Dartmouth. It is put on boats and shipped down to the United States. They pay next to nothing for it. They make gyprock. They send it back here and we are probably paying about 1000 per cent on the value of that gypsum when it left. What scares me is the same thing is going to happen with Sable offshore. We are

[Page 1387]

going to bring it ashore. We are going to ship it all to the United States and then they are going to make by-products and bring it back in.

The previous government signed deals with Sable Offshore Energy Project that I, personally, think some of them were less than adequate because we are not protecting the right of Nova Scotians to have access to those by-products, to manufacture them here in Nova Scotia, and I hope that we will do that. I hope we do not get into another gypsum situation with that company. Let's get the gas here. Let's get it ashore and let's develop some industry in Guysborough County, in the Canso region and in the Strait region that will help that area of the province.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to pass some of my time over, if I may, to the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. (Applause)

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, in keeping in the same vein of discussion, certainly jobs and the economy obviously are of great importance to every single Nova Scotian. I listened with intensity to the words of the Leader of the Liberal Party and I suspect that all members of this House certainly agree that circumstances surrounding the Cape Breton economy and the potential closure of coal mines and steel mills is of great importance to everybody and we understand the conditions that exist there and will exist in the future.

There have been discussions in this House surrounding call centres and this government's continued support of funding training for call centres. There have been discussions outside of this House as well. I guess what I would like to do is take an opportunity to set the record straight. Obviously, it is one thing to spend taxpayers' money on projects and programs, but it is another thing to create jobs.

[1:00 p.m.]

There has been some discussion, some consideration and some insinuation that this government is simply funding the Bank of Nova Scotia or subsidizing its employment program. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, what this government is doing is creating investment opportunities and investing in the constituents that we all represent by training them, no different than what we do for mechanics who work at garages and other trades that work in other sectors of the economy.

I would like to table with the House some articles that appeared in recent newspapers, and to quote some members of this House over the past couple of months. One that I find particularly disturbing, in The Daily News, I believe the date was July 22nd, the Premier at the time, the Leader of the Liberal Party said, "Nova Scotians without jobs isn't all bad thing . . . because the large pool of skilled workers helped attract a major new business to the

[Page 1388]

province, said Premier Russell MacLellan . . .". He goes on, "There was a time when governments looked at high unemployment levels as a problem. I believe that time has passed,". It is somewhat disturbing that the Premier of the time was thinking that high unemployment is a good thing for this province. I don't think any member of this government or any member of this House should be feeling that way. The headline simply says, High unemployment brings jobs.

The headlines over the past number of months, were particularly surrounding call centres. A call centre in my community, Staples, opened up this summer. We saw the political leaders at the time, front and centre, standing there accepting the congratulations of the public for bringing jobs to a community and taking what was a derelict, nearly empty mall in the heart of the community that I have lived in all of my life and turning it into a vibrant, active community base.

If I can quote from another paper, July 22nd, same day, and this is actually from The Mail Star, I believe. ". . . Mr. Chisholm did say he welcomes any initiative that creates jobs. 'We like to see jobs created in Nova Scotia. And we hope that this isn't the kind of deal that has all sorts of loopholes.'". Well, as government, we certainly hope that deals that help create jobs don't have loopholes as well, but one thing that we have to be mindful of is that there are some 44,000 or more unemployed people in this province today.

Whether they are working tomorrow at a call centre or any other initiative, whether it is funded 100 per cent by the private sector or has some sort of help from a level of government, we have to be mindful of the fact that those 44,000 people deserve every single opportunity they can get.

I spoke during my Reply to the Speech from the Throne about the time that I left school and the fact that the opportunities in my community were limited to part-time or minimum wage jobs or moving West. I know that in the part of the province I represent, that the people have better opportunities than in the days when I was leaving school, but as I said in my Reply to the Speech from the Throne, that isn't the case and it isn't the same right across this province.

Certainly, we heard the Leader of the Liberal Party express some deep concerns about the closure of the Sydney steel plant, about the closure of the mining industry. I want to assure the Leader of the Liberal Party and all members that it is my belief that each and every member of this House wants to assure that the economic vibrancy of this region of the province is shared by those people in Cape Breton, that the things that have benefited us will also benefit the Island of Cape Breton.

It has been mentioned in this House that this government has no members representing Cape Breton, there is nothing further from the truth.

[Page 1389]

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

The motion is carried.

[1:05 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[5:08 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the adjourned debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be now resumed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and humbled to rise today to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of the constituency of Annapolis. At this time I wish to extend congratulations on your election as Speaker of this House and also to the three Deputy Speakers. I know you will all serve this House in a fine and exemplary manner.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend best wishes to the Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. Kinley, and I also extend congratulations and best wishes to the other members of the House. As veterans and newcomers alike, we must serve the citizens of this fine province with pride and dignity. I would also at this time like to extend best wishes and gratitude to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk and to all the others who make the sacrifice to serve the citizens of our fine province. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to extend my thanks to the people of Annapolis who gave their support and worked on my behalf in the recent provincial election. To the best of my abilities, I will carry forth the faith and trust the people of Annapolis have entrusted in me.

[Page 1390]

I have every intention of serving them in a fair and equitable manner. Many fine citizens have served in this Chamber in years past, people with a strong work ethic, a sense of commitment and pride in Nova Scotia. We have so much to be thankful for in this humble province of ours. We enjoy a way of life that is second to none. We truly do live in God's country.

Mr. Speaker, I can boastfully say that within my constituency lies the oldest European settlement in North America; I refer of course to Port Royal. Preparations for the celebration of this unique event are well under way. The eyes of the world will be looking on Annapolis when this major celebration occurs; I refer of course to the 400th Society and a celebration of Port Royal. The dedication and hard work of those individuals involved in this event will not go unnoticed.

Mr. Speaker, the constituency of Annapolis encompasses a vast area, north from the Lunenburg County line to the Bay of Fundy, west from the Kings County boundary to Delaps Cove and Victoria Beach and west of Annapolis Royal lies the riding I represent.

Mr. Speaker, normally I am a person of few words, and most of the members here on this side of the House can attest to that. When the opportunity arises to speak of Annapolis, I find it hard to contain myself. We have within our boundaries a diverse economic structure. Fishing, farming, forestry, the traditional mainstay of the county, has seen dramatic changes occur in the past decade. Some of these changes were inevitable, others were beyond our control. We must, as a government nurture and preserve these proud ways of livelihood. Small business, craft industries, manufacturing and resource-based activities are the lifeblood and character of rural Nova Scotia. As a government we must not, and will not, lose sight of this fact.

That importance was specifically recognized in the Throne Speech. However, also stated in the Throne Speech, was the comment Nova Scotia is enjoying an economic renaissance as it enters the 21st Century. Government also must capitalize on new industries and economic opportunities. Mr. Speaker, for as long as I can remember, we have had it engrained in our minds from central Canada that we are some sort of have-not province. This sort of message can leave people losing pride in themselves and pride as a community. We must demolish this mindset. We must believe in ourselves, we must believe in our people and we must believe it is possible. We must nourish a pride in what we have, cultivate and promote what it is that makes Nova Scotia so unique. If you do not believe in what you are doing, there is no reason why anyone else should either. If you do not know where you are going, you will never get there.

Mr. Speaker, the migration of our youth is a major concern of Nova Scotia today. We must stem this flow and try to find ways to make Nova Scotia an attractive alternative to them. Recent trends in tourism have been an example of a growth industry in this province and training our youth as goodwill ambassadors could be a fine starting point. In addressing this issue, I believe we can accomplish this by pursuing north-south trade routes. On the

[Page 1391]

eastern seaboard of the United States lies a market potential waiting to be tapped. We must aggressively pursue this avenue if we are to endure now and in the future. One only has to stroll down the aisles of their local supermarket to see another great potential in the waiting. When you glance at the brand names, you will see products that are either manufactured in central Canada or abroad, products that could be produced competitively here in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotians. If these products have not been produced in central Canada, they have been redistributed from there. The potential is there, we just have to pursue it.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to address another matter that must be recognized and is justly deserved, and that is in regard to volunteerism. Whether it be firefighting, community health boards, Lions, Rotarians, Kinsmen, recreation groups, local community halls, the arts, 4-H, Women's Institute, hospital auxiliary and many others, their efforts should always be recognized, for without the efforts of these fine people, many community projects would never come to fruition. (Applause)

One project that is under way that comes to mind is the kick-off held recently in Bridgetown for a new medical centre. Our hats off to all of you. I would just like to comment at this time that I think the full amount of the campaign has been reached in a very short time. I would also like to, at this time, personally thank all those individuals and organizations who contribute to the way of life we so enjoy, not only in Annapolis but throughout Nova Scotia.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will soon conclude my address, so if you could just bear with me a while longer, I would like to share with the House a story that was told to me some years back which truly reflects the character and proud heritage of Nova Scotians. A citizen from a far away city, one of the largest cities in the world, was visiting rural Nova Scotia. He stopped to ask a local directions and the conversation soon got around to the local asking the visitor where he was from. The visitor told him that he was from a large city in North America that was inhabited by several million people; the name of that city, I will not mention here. The proud Nova Scotian thinking of his humble Nova Scotian roots shook his head in dismay and replied, pity, I can't imagine all those people living so far away from everything. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would just like to say that whichever Party we serve in this House, Nova Scotians should rest assured that we all have their best interests at heart. It fills me with great pride when I realize that any citizen of this country, whatever their race, creed, gender, religion or walk of life can aspire to and achieve the highest office in this land.

Someone once said that the membership of every organization is made up for four bones: there are the wishbones, who spend all their time wishing someone else would do the work; there are the jawbones, who do all the talking but very little else; next there are the knucklebones, who knock everything that everyone else does; finally there are the backbones, who get under the load and do their work. I have no author to credit for this candid

[Page 1392]

interpretation, but whoever he or she was had great foresight into the workings of plenty of organizations. I ask everyone in this House, which kind of bone are you?

Mr. Speaker, in your seat in the north, you have been able tell in the last week where the backbones and the jawbones were. When we passed Bill No. 9 in this House, it should have been very clear to the members of this House. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham. (Applause)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to say what a pleasure it is to rise in my place to say a few words on behalf of my constituency, Halifax Needham. I want to start first by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, and the Deputy Speakers, the Premier, Cabinet, government members - new and returning - and new and returning members of the Liberal Party and my own colleagues.

I would like to take a moment to express regret at the loss of defeated colleagues who worked so hard alongside me and my other colleagues in the previous Legislature, and brought the concerns of their communities before this House. I think the member for Antigonish said it well, earlier in his reply, that electoral change is seldom personal. We need to remember that. I know that the men and women who were here alongside of us were here because they were very active and contributing members of their community. I know that they will continue to be active and contributing members of their communities, although they are not working in this capacity.

In particular, I would like to thank the voters in Halifax Needham for the privilege of being their representative in this Legislature. I was struck by the presentations, the remarks that were made by other members of all of the Parties to date in reply. It is a very interesting process, this process where people get up and they share a little piece of themselves, and they talk about, really, their identities and how they identify. I couldn't help but think what a very Nova Scotian thing to do. It is kind of like saying, well, what is your father's name? It helps us locate where we are from, where we came from, how we see ourselves, what brought us to this place, and what it is we hope to achieve here.

When I look at the constituency I represent, I am truly gratified, Mr. Speaker, for the faith people in that constituency have placed in me as their representative because I am not from the North End of Halifax in sort of the Nova Scotian way. I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, in Antigonish County, and I feel very comfortable in the North End of Halifax. It is a community that has adopted me as if I have been there all my life and I feel very much at home there and it is a privilege to work with people who live in the North End of Halifax.

You know Halifax Needham is a wonderful constituency, Mr. Speaker. We make ships and beer in Halifax Needham - ships at the Halifax Shipyards, beer at Olands and Propeller Brewery and Garrison Brewery. We make music and art in Halifax Needham. We make music

[Page 1393]

with Four the Moment and with Adrien Gough, the 13 year old who just won the Up and Coming award at the African-Nova Scotian Association Music Awards on the weekend. Jimmy Rankin lives in our constituency. So many people with so many talents.

We make video and film in Halifax Needham. Salter Street Films has a location in Halifax Needham. Lulu Keating, originally from Antigonish, that fiery red-headed film-maker, lives in Halifax Needham. We make Jamaican patties in Halifax Needham.


MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Jamaican patties and if you haven't had a Jamaican patty, let me take you to meet Stella Thomas.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Finance is interested.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: We make baklava in Halifax Needham at Phoenicia Foods. So Halifax Needham is a wonderful constituency of diverse people and backgrounds and talents.

Before I talk further about my constituency though and the issues and the expectations that people have of me as their elected representative, I want to say some thank-yous, Mr. Speaker, to some very important people who make it possible for me to come here and do the work that I do. First of all, I would like to thank Phyllis Larsen who was my constituency assistant for the first year and a bit after I was elected and now my constituency assistant is Leon Thomas and he does a wonderful job. We have a very heavy amount of case work in my riding and he is always on top of it.

I want to thank my excellent campaign team. Paulette, a good union woman, who works for the CLC, ran my campaign. I am very proud of the fact that she not only was my campaign manager but is my friend. Brenda, Laurel, Kelly, Bill, Gilbert, Shirley, Cindy, Lee, Matt, Clive, Raj, what a team. Many of these people have slugged it out for many years in the trenches. I want to thank particularly the unions of which many of these people are members, well trained, very capable of running a strong electoral campaign and it is something that I am proud of, not defensive about, not embarrassed by and definitely want to acknowledge.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the history of the Party that I belong to is embedded in the history of the labour movement in this country. The trade union movement is a founding member of the New Democratic Party and, as such, we have a very strong partnership. Just in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, I think, last week, Dean Jobb was talking about the unfortunate lack of good history courses in the curriculum in Nova Scotia. I will tell you, there are journalists in this province who could use a good history course so that they would understand what the historic relationship between the New Democratic Party and the trade union movement in Nova Scotia is all about.

[Page 1394]

A very large group of people in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, are seniors and I would like to start by talking about the elders in the community.

During the election, and between elections, it is a joy for me to go and spend time with the seniors in my riding, for a number of reasons. First of all, because they have such interesting stories to tell about their own lives and they have very good advice to give to someone in my position. But one of the things that I particularly like about the seniors in my riding as a New Democrat is the fact that they value government.

The seniors in my riding have lived through periods of time when there were no social programs. The seniors in my riding have lived through periods of time when there was inadequate health care, when they, and members of their family, had no access to health care because they didn't have the financial means to get access to health care. They understand that we have a universal health care system today because of the collective pooling of our common wealth that results in a health care system that is there for everyone.

When right-wing politicians talk about intrusive government and government that has entered into the public domain, providing programs that are unnecessary, the seniors in my riding have lived the vision of the neo-conservatives and they don't like it one little bit. They have been there. They don't want to go back there and I am absolutely delighted when I have the opportunity to sit down with these fine men and women and have the opportunity to learn from them and listen to them in terms of what life was like prior to government programs, a social welfare net, the welfare state, if you will, that was a vehicle to pool the common wealth and deal with the serious problems that cannot be dealt with equitably in the market place.

I have, I think, Mr. Speaker, in my constituency, probably more senior citizens who live in public housing than any other constituency in the province. I have five manors, Richmond Manor, Doctor Samuel Prince Manor, Acadia Lodge North and South, Sunrise Manor and Gordon B. Isnor Manor. The seniors who live in these manors have a number of issues and concerns that they expect me, as their representative, to bring here. These issues are with respect to maintenance of their buildings, fire prevention and safety in their buildings, the prevention of crime and security in their homes, the availability of home care and the availability of the kinds of supports and activities that one would require to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible.

To that end, Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest to the government that, at some point in the not too distant future, this government think about a province-wide symposium on seniors issues, particularly in the public housing sector. There are many seniors who are living in accommodation, owned and operated by the Province of Nova Scotia, and they have particular issues that are not necessarily dealt with in terms of some of the housing initiatives that have been undertaken by government over the years with respect to seniors. I am thinking here about initiatives that, generally, are focused and targetted on seniors who are property owners, living in their own homes.

[Page 1395]

[5:30 p.m.]

In addition to the seniors who live in the manors in my riding, there are many seniors who, in fact, live in their own homes throughout the riding. I would like to say that I was very pleased to see in the Speech from the Throne some indication that the government will be expanding the tax deferral or the rebate program for seniors in their own homes. I think this is a very important approach for seniors who are living in their own homes. Income has in many cases declined, in some ways it hasn't kept pace with the cost of living.

For many seniors, the assessments have continued to go up, taxation has followed suit, and at the same time they have more maintenance issues in terms of taking care of their homes and upgrading them quite often to deal with particular changing situations that relate to their age; perhaps putting in a ramp, putting in particular kinds of fixtures in bathrooms and bedrooms, dealing with security issues. So I think that we really need to be creative and sensitive to the needs of senior citizens in our constituencies. They have made an enormous contribution to our society and they continue to make an enormous contribution to our society. Therefore we have an obligation, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that their well-being is always something that we consider as we look at whatever our legislative agenda is.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the large numbers of senior citizens who live in my riding, my constituency also is a constituency that encompasses the former Africville. Although many people live all over the country and outside of Canada, many former residents of Africville and their descendants remain in the north end of Halifax and live in my constituency. In addition to the Africville community, there is also an indigenous African-Nova Scotia community within the North End, in the Creighton-Gerrish area, and people who live in this community, African-Nova Scotians, have particular issues. They want these issues dealt with in this Legislature. They want them to be front and centre, visible, and taken seriously. They don't want us to be here to talk about these things because they feel we have talked these issues of race and racism to death. They want action. They want to see concrete steps taken to improve the position of African-Nova Scotian people in our province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in the African-Nova Scotian community, we all know that there are unacceptably high rates of unemployment and early school leaving. There are a number of groups and organizations in my constituency that have been working on these issues. This year the Black Educators Association celebrates 30 years. This is an association of remarkable men and women who are primarily drawn from the teaching professions who have dedicated their lives to teaching African-Nova Scotian children and youth primarily throughout Black communities. It is amazing, really, if you think about just how recent it has been in Nova Scotia that we had segregated schools. I think that there were segregated schools in Nova Scotia until the mid-1960's.

[Page 1396]

So really we haven't left the period of segregation behind by very much in terms of time-frame and there is a lot of work to be accomplished, a lot of things to be done if we are truly to achieve racial equality in Nova Scotia. It is a great shame, Mr. Speaker, that we have not been able to do that. The enormous human potential of significant numbers of people in our province is lost to us and this is something that we really do have to grapple with, I think, with some sense of urgency.

In addition to the seniors who live in public housing in Halifax Needham, there is also a very large community of families and individuals who live in social housing in Halifax Needham. Halifax Needham is home to probably nine or ten co-operative housing projects: Anatov, Seaview, Jim MacDonald, North Mews, Rocky Road, Harbour View, Kabuki, Long House, and there are probably some others that I have left out. The Halifax Women's Co-op, I believe, is also in the riding. The co-operative housing program was a federal government program which ended - a situation which I frankly find to be unacceptable, however it occurred several years ago - the responsibility now for dealing with co-operative housing lies with the Province of Nova Scotia in the Department of Housing.

I have met with many members of my constituency who live in co-operative housing and they are very concerned about the situation they find themselves in in co-operative housing. They feel that the principles on which co-operative housing rested have been undermined and there is a real need for regeneration of co-operative housing in terms of developing leadership and organizational activity and ability within the co-ops, as well as just basic, fundamental maintaining of co-operative housing. So I would urge this government to place the issue of co-operative housing, and the need to be much more active in this regard, on their agenda. I was somewhat disappointed to see that there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne with respect to co-operative housing.

In addition to the co-ops in my riding, there are significant numbers of non-profit housing units and I would like to take the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association, for winning two prestigious awards recently, financial awards which will allow them to go on and develop some very specialized housing for low- income people and people who have had mental health problems.

The Metro Non-Profit Housing Association has been recognized by CMHC for its innovative programs with populations that generally find themselves homeless and on the street. They do a remarkable job. I think if we were to recognize the work of this organization, if we could give them a gift, Mr. Speaker, that gift would be to do something

about the measly $225 a month shelter allowance that we provide single people on social assistance. If you take the Thursday classified ads in the Chronicle-Herald when the rooming house directory changes, you would be hard-pressed to find anything that would come anywhere close to that shelter allowance.

[Page 1397]

The consequence of that, Mr. Speaker, is that people live two, three and four people to a room in really deplorable situations, often in rooming houses that are operated by unscrupulous landlords who are in the business for one thing, they are in it for the welfare cheques of those people. It is unbelievable and it is invisible to the public. I used to think that the Minister of Community Services should call these people down on the steps of Province House one day a year and give them a cheque, because essentially that is what is happening here and some people are making an extraordinarily large amount of money from the public coffers at the expense of the poorest people in our society, so I think we really need to think about this.

In addition to the cooperatives and the non-profit housing areas, I have other large public housing developments in my riding, Mr. Speaker, specifically Mulgrave Park and Uniacke Square. I want to tell the members that the issues in these particular areas are issues that relate to maintenance, as well, into safety, into recreation, into these kind of things. I am very pleased to say that recently, a couple of students from the Maritime School of Social Work, who did a field placement in my constituency office, were able to help tenants at Mulgrave Park become organized into a tenants' association.

What they have been doing, Mr. Speaker, is quite interesting. There is no playground or play space that is usable for young children in the Mulgrave Park area. The students and the Mulgrave Park Tenants' Association were successful in acquiring a small grant from the Central Regional Health Board to do a needs assessment of the play needs for children in the Mulgrave Park area and actually that project is under way today. I think they were going door-to-door collecting information for their needs assessment today with the plan that by late winter or early spring, they will have a concrete proposal for developing some playground spaces and possibly a parent resource centre in that area, something that is very much needed. I think this is a very important thing.

In addition to the seniors' housing, public housing, co-op housing and non-profit housing, my constituency also houses a number of quite interesting emergency shelters and a specialized kind of group homes. Halifax Needham is the home of Phoenix Centre for Youth. Phoenix Centre provides a long-term residential facility for young people, supervised apartment programs for young people, and it has branched out to provide a drop-in service for youth in Halifax that I believe is in the riding of the Minister of Education.

In addition, Halifax Needham is home to the Metro Turning Point which is the emergency shelter for homeless men. The Metro Turning Point is in the process of moving. They were in a sick building, a very dilapidated building, and they are now, soon, hopefully before we have snow - the drive is on to finish the construction of the new Metro Turning Point. You can see that if you are driving into the city, on Barrington Street, between Barrington and Brunswick.

[Page 1398]

[5:45 p.m.]

Halifax Needham is also home to Halifax's only emergency shelter for homeless women and children, Adsum House. It is on Brunswick Street. As well, we have the emergency shelter at the Salvation Army, and several halfway houses. You can see that this is a constituency that has provided a home for a lot of transient people. I am not the only transient who has made his or her way to Halifax Needham to find a pillow and a bed and a comfortable place.

In addition to these concerns, the constituency I represent has a very large amount of residential development, middle income people. I think sometimes it is somewhat appropriate that this particular constituency has all of this sort of socialized housing, because there is a residential community in the north end of Halifax that some people may know, it is called the Hydrostone area. The Hydrostone area today is held privately by individual property owners, however, it was built as the first social housing project in Canada. It was built, probably around 1920, a little bit after 1920, over a period of years. It was built by the Halifax Relief Commission to house the families who were displaced as a result of the Halifax Explosion.

It is a very interesting community. It has its own sort of Hydrostone folklore, and the people who live in this constituency are, I suppose, in some ways the sandwich generation, who have a particular set of concerns that they would like to see this Legislature deal with. Middle income groups have increasingly been squeezed in these mean times. Although the popular view is that we labour under high taxes, and this is why there has been difficulty with respect to disposable income, the reality is that income in this country has stagnated tremendously for a 10 or a 12 year period. At the same time, the cost of living has gone up and at the same time, there has been a shifting of consumption tax burdens onto individuals and away from corporations.

All of these things combined have placed the middle class under an enormous amount of stress and strain as they attempt to maintain a standard of living that they assumed - I think we all assumed - was to be part of our common heritage or our common wealth. If you want to find a group of people in our society who are, if I can use the terms, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, then it is probably the middle class and the middle income groups. And who can blame them? These people are hard-working people who are very community- minded, and they are finding that they get very little respect in this society, very little consideration. There is a fair amount now that is being written about what is called the declining middle and, in fact, there is this race to the bottom and more and more members of the middle class are falling into the bottom stratus of our society.

Among this group of people are people whose concerns, once again, are with the health care system, whether or not it is going to be there to provide the services that their parents quite often require, in terms of home care and other medical services. At the same time, they are concerned about their children, and not just their children's future, but their present. What

[Page 1399]

are the tuition rates going to be like in the universities? How are they going to afford to put their kids in a university or a community college and these kinds of considerations. I think we have a duty to be very aware of the way in which the middle class has been hammered by the various structural adjustment types of approaches to public policy that we have seen across this country and, certainly, in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I see my time is starting to run short for tonight. But I would like to, before I close this evening, say a few things about some other sectors of my constituency that are a very important pillar in our community, and that is the non-profit organization sector. When I say non-profit organizations, I somewhat irreverently, I suppose, include in that the church organizations in the North End of Halifax. I would like to start by saying a few words about the North End Council of Churches. In my view, I have been in many parts of this province and this country and outside of the country, I have never had the privilege of working with a finer group of clerical people than the people who are at the churches in the North End of Halifax. I think, specifically, of people like Reverend Gus Pendleton and Lorna Pendleton at Brunswick Street United Church, Gus says the irreverent Gus Pendleton and, if you have ever met him, you will know why; Reverend Gary Thorpe at St. George's Anglican Church; Reverend Moriah at Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, his daughter has actually just joined us here as a Page; and Reverend Sue Moxley at St. Mark's Anglican Church; as well as my friend George at St. Pat's Catholic Church.

These people are so involved in the life, not only the ecclesiastical life of their church, but of this community. It is just wonderful. They are people whose basic motivation is humanity, but social justice. They see what is occurring around them and they act on it. They have developed quite a strong area council of churches and, quite recently, they were awarded a rather significant sum of money through a federal government initiative to do crime prevention work in the North End of Halifax, taking a very pro-active approach to working with young people in the inner city. I feel extremely privileged to be the member for a riding that have these churches involved in the projects that they are involved in, that have made the commitment to the community that they make and to actually have an opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with them on many projects. They are truly a wonderful group.

They are not the only people doing good work in the North End of Halifax from the non-profit sector, Mr. Speaker. There are organizations like Hope Cottage - which unfortunately had to expand to meet the needs of homeless and hungry people this year - they did a remarkable job of fund-raising and providing a facility that is really very functional and very comfortable for the homeless.

The North End Community Health Centre, one of the few community health clinics in Nova Scotia, is a true model of community-based health care, primary health care and one, I think that we can learn a great deal from. In addition there are other organizations in the north end - Dalhousie Legal Aid, that has been, for many years, a program of both education and outreach on behalf of Dalhousie Law School. I believe that the Legal Aid Clinic is the

[Page 1400]

oldest community storefront law clinic in the country and, Mr. Speaker, it certainly has had its ups and downs, it has survived periods of political attack and it remains strong and solid and in that community.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member like to adjourn the debate?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes, I would move the adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Tomorrow being Opposition Day, I defer to the honourable House Leader from the New Democratic Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the hours will be between 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and the business of the day, hopefully we will be able to deal with three items: an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that was tabled today; Resolution Nos. 415 and 404 that were introduced on Monday. That is the business that we hope to deal with tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. and sit until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn to sit tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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 House rose at 6:00 p.m.]