Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Oct. 12, 1999

First Session


Justice - Jail Site: Burnside - Oppose, Mr. J. Pye 93
Housing - Seniors: Building (20 Circassion Dr., Dartmouth) -
Elevator Install, Mr. D. Dexter 94
Culture - Lee Harvey Cremo: Death of - Condolences Extend,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 94
Reverend Donald Skeir: Death of - Sympathy Extend, The Premier 96
Res. 42, Rev. Donald Skeir - Death of: Outstanding Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. Robert Chisholm 99
Vote - Affirmative 99
Res. 43, Gov't. (N.S.) - Throne Speech: Bureaucracy - Costs Table,
Mr. R. MacLellan 99
Res. 44, Fin. - HST: Deal Quit - Welcome, Mr. Robert Chisholm 100
Res. 45, Gov't. (N.S.) - Leadership Strong: Promises -
Overstated Recognize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 101
Res. 46, Agric.: Value - Recognize, Mr. B. Taylor 102
Vote - Affirmative 102
Res. 47, Fish. - Seniors: Licence Fees - Eliminate, Mr. D. Dexter 102
Res. 48, Devco - United Families (Edna Budden & Beverly Brown):
Work - Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 103
Vote - Affirmative 104
Res. 49, Econ. Dev. - Atl. Entrepreneur (1999): Michael Duck
(Lr. Sackville) - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 104
Vote - Affirmative 104
Res. 50, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Safety - Prioritize,
Mr. B. Boudreau 105
Res. 51, Culture - N.S. Museum of Nat. History & Confed. of
Mainland Mi'kmaq: Exhibit - Commend, Ms. E. O'Connell 105
Vote - Affirmative 106
Res. 52, Health - Cancer: Patients-Skills for Healing Retreat -
Best Wishes, Dr. J. Smith 106
Vote - Affirmative 107
Res. 53, Educ. - World Teachers' Day: Postage Stamp - Support,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 107
Vote - Affirmative 107
Res. 54, Econ. Dev./Fish. - Scotia Rainbow (Rich. Co.): Support -
Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 108
Res. 55, Sports - Baseball (Senior [N.S.]): Kentville Wildcats -
Winners/Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 108
Vote - Affirmative 109
Res. 56, Sysco - Closure: Policy - Explain, Mr. P. MacEwan 109
Res. 57, Cape Breton-Bras D'Or MP (Michelle Dockrill) - Rich. Co.:
Enemy - Declare, Mr. M. Samson 110
Res. 58, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 103: Twinning
Continuance - Plans Clarify, Mr. W. Estabrooks 110
Res. 59, Econ. Dev. - C.B.: Talk Stop - Need Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 111
Res. 60, Sports - Dart. Boys & Girls Club: Nike Play Canada -
Contribution Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 111
Vote - Affirmative 112
Res. 61, Sports - Dragon Boat Festival (Internat.-China): Winners (Can.) -
Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 112
Vote - Affirmative 113
Res. 62, Agric. - Export Award (Can. 1999): Rainbow Farms
(Upper Rawdon) - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 113
Vote - Affirmative 114
Res. 63, Econ. Dev. - C.B.: Interests - Protect, Mr. P. MacEwan 114
No. 1, DFO - Lobster Fishery: Aboriginal Rts. - Negotiation,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 114
No. 2, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Antigonish - Bypass Route,
Mr. R. MacLellan 116
No. 3, Fin. - HST: Unfairness - Remove, Mr. J. Holm 117
No. 4, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Antigonish: Bypass Route - Costs,
Mr. P. MacEwan 118
No. 5, Gov't. (N.S.) - Throne Speech: Civil Servants - Future Options,
Mr. J. Pye 119
No. 6, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Antigonish: Bypass Route - Impact,
Mr. D. Downe 120
No. 7, Exco: Min. ( Housing & Mun. Affs.) - Vetting Process, Mr. J. Pye 121
No. 8, Econ. Dev. - Links of Inverness: Funding - Commitment Honour,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 122
No. 9, Health - Hepatitis C: Compensation Pkg. - Status, Mr. D. Dexter 123
No. 10, Justice - Jail (Bedford/Burnside): Cost - Compare,
Mr. R. MacLellan 124
No. 11, Econ. Dev. - Scotia Rainbow: Loan - Justify, Mr. F. Corbett 125
No. 12, Justice - Jail (Bedford/Burnside): Site Change - Cost,
Mr. M. Samson 126
No. 13, Lbr. - Occupational Health and Safety Regulations: Delay -
Explain, Mr. W. Estabrooks 127
No. 14, Justice - Correctional Facility & Forensic Hospital: Construction -
Time-Frame, Mr. M. Samson 128
No. 15, Justice - Jail (Burnside), Mr. J. Pye 129
No. 16, Fin. - HST: Changes - Information, Mr. D. Downe 131
No. 17, Educ. - Statistics Canada: School Computer Tech. - Report,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 132
No. 18, Health - Throne Speech: Nurses - Funding Clarify, Dr. J. Smith 132
No. 19, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Automobile Accident
(Mr. Steven Jenkins) - Investigate, Mr. D. Dexter 134
Mr. H. Epstein 135
The Premier 142
Hon. A. MacIsaac 145
Mr. J. MacDonell 156
Adjourned debate 156
Fin. - HST: Unfairness - Change:
Mr. J. Holm 157
Mr. P. MacEwan 160
Hon. R. Russell 162
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 13th at 2:00 p.m. 165

[Page 93]


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Murray Scott


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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the draw for the late debate tonight was won by the honourable member for Dartmouth North, from the New Democratic Party. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that this government enunciate its plans to effect changes to eliminate the unfairness of the BST.

That debate will be heard at 6:00 p.m.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by more than 800 residents of Dartmouth North opposed to the provincial government locating the proposed jail and forensic unit in Burnside Industrial and Business Park. I have affixed my name to this petition for the purposes of tabling.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.


[Page 94]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the following petition from eight residents of the senior residence of 20 Circassion Drive in Dartmouth. The petition reads, "For an elevator to the second floor of the Senior Housing Building at 20 Circassion Drive Dartmouth, N.S.". I have affixed my signature to the face of the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I share news about the loss of a most talented musician and a vital member of the Eskasoni community. With the recent passing of Mi'kmaq fiddler Lee Harvey Cremo, Nova Scotia has lost one of its greatest musicians and I, like many, have lost a colleague and a friend.

Mr. Cremo's musical talent was well known here at home, throughout the rest of Canada and in the United States. Learning to play the fiddle from his father at the age of five, Mr. Cremo went on to record more than seven albums.

His ease under pressure enabled him to win many top fiddling competitions, including the Maritime Old-time Fiddling Championship three times. He came in fifth in a North American fiddling championship in Nashville and for 10 years in a row, Mr. Cremo won the major fiddling contest in Western Canada.

In 1996, he won an East Coast Music Award for the best First Nations recording, Return of the Champion, and most recently, he performed at the launch of the Aboriginal People's Television Network. He was generous with his talent and once said that the best pay for him was if someone enjoyed what he was doing. The accolades he received and his many fans are a testament of his success.

Mr. Cremo was a vital member of his community in Eskasoni. He was an active member of an Eskasoni elders committee on the Mi'kmaq language. He was also very proud of his roles in the community as a school bus driver for more than 25 years and as a godfather to over 40 godchildren.

[Page 95]

To his wife Nellie, his son Timothy, his daughter Elizabeth and his extended family, I extend deepest condolences and sympathy of the people of Nova Scotia. Mr. Cremo will be sadly missed and his music will forever be a vital part of our province's musical heritage and pride.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of my Party to express the sadness that we feel as well, on the loss of Mr. Cremo to the people of Nova Scotia.The minister has iterated some of the awards and achievements of Mr. Cremo and the contribution that he made not just to the music world but to his community, and has been fairly exhaustive and extensive in doing so.

One thing that not all Nova Scotians might know is that in his lifetime of fiddling, he played with many famous musicians such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton, and Tommy Hunter. In fact, he was described in Nashville as the best bow arm in the world and was the subject of a movie entitled, "Arm of Gold".

Mr. Speaker, I join with the minister, and on behalf of my Party would like to express our regrets to his wife Nellie, his son Timothy, his daughter Elizabeth, his family and community on the loss of Mr. Cremo to Nova Scotians. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal Party I would like to express our condolences, not only to Mr. Cremo's family but to members of Eskasoni, the Mi'kmaq First Nations and to all people of the Province of Nova Scotia for the loss of a great individual to our community, to our province and to our cultural and historic way of life.

As was mentioned by the minister and by other speakers, Mr. Cremo's history is quite well depicted in the number of people he has touched with his music, with his talents and with his interests in everything from Gaelic to Mi'kmaq to music. He also won several top fiddling championships, for example, The Maritime Old-time Fiddling Championship and he was renown for the work that he has done.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, we too want to express to the members of Mr. Cremo's family and to the First Nations peoples, the Mi'kmaq, to the music community and to all Nova Scotians, our deepest condolences to them for the loss of a great Nova Scotian. Thank you.

[Page 96]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, on Sunday our province lost another great Nova Scotian, Reverend Donald Skeir. Reverend Skeir served his community in a multitude of roles, as a spiritual leader, dedicated volunteer, human rights activist.

Although he had been an employee of the Canadian National Railway, the HMC Dockyard, the federal Department of Transport, and the Halifax County School Board, Donald Skeir was first and foremost a servant of his faith. For over 40 years he served as pastor of the East Preston United Baptist Church, the Cherry Brook United Baptist Church and the St. Thomas United Baptist Church. He had also pastored churches in Guysborough, Windsor Plains and Africville.

Many organizations and societies also benefited from Reverend Skeir's experience and work ethic. He was a past moderator and clerk of the African United Baptist Association. He was a board member of the Black Incentive Fund for Black students. He was a past master of the Mount Messiah Masonic Lodge. He was a charter member of the 100th Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society - Preston Branch. He was a charter member of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. He was a former chairperson of the East Preston Day Care Centre Board of Directors. He was a member of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, the Black Learners Advisory Committee, the Advisory Board for the Black Educators' Association of Nova Scotia. He was also a member of the first incident review committee established by the former Halifax Police Department in 1991.

Not only was Reverend Donald Skeir a tremendous leader for Nova Scotia's Black community, but he was also someone who worked for the betterment of all Nova Scotians. For when we fight discrimination, as Reverend Skeir did, all Nova Scotia benefits. When we work to promote equality and racial harmony, as Reverend Skeir, all Nova Scotia benefits.

On behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia, I offer my deepest sympathies to Reverend Skeir's family, friends and community. His many contributions will not be forgotten. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his statement; respectful words about the life and the work of Reverend Donald Skeir. I would like to add the condolences of my caucus and the New Democratic Party in Nova Scotia to the family and community of Reverend Skeir and just say that we remember him, as many Nova Scotians will, as a progressive leader in the Black community, someone who set a true and noble example for his community and for many Nova Scotians.

[Page 97]

I know that members of our caucus and Party join with other members of this House in sending our deepest condolences to his family and to the many members of his community. All Nova Scotia will surely miss the role and example that he has played in this province. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I personally want to thank the Premier for initiating this tribute because it is very much worthwhile. This is a gentleman that I think would do all of us in Nova Scotia a great deal of good to know of better. He was not only a leader in his community but had people throughout this province listen to what he had to say and watched as he administered to the people in his congregations, we throughout this province would get a great deal of inspiration. We must remember that Reverend Skeir administered and helped and counselled people in his communities for many years in times when racism was difficult to explain to the young people and to other members of the community. The work that he did in bringing forward his philosophy, I think, would stand us in good stead everywhere in this province.

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that there are statistics that point out the young people that become children at risk, that run afoul of the law, but there are no statistics that show the number of young people who are prevented from becoming children at risk and Reverend Skeir was instrumental in doing that for so many young people. I want to say to his family and to the whole communities which he administered and to the Province of Nova Scotia, this was truly a remarkable man in which we can all very much be proud. Thank you.

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the kind words of Premier Hamm, Mr. Chisholm and Mr. MacLellan. Reverend Skeir was dearly beloved and will be a missed constituent of Preston as well as the province. I hereby give notice and request waiver of notice and I wish to adopt the following resolution:

Whereas the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia as well as all Nova Scotians have lost a true leader over the Thanksgiving Day weekend with the passing of East Preston resident, Rev. Dr. Donald Douglas Skeir; and

Whereas Rev. Dr. Skeir served over 40 years as a pastor for the East Preston-Cherrybrook and North Preston Church, St. Thomas United Baptist Church; and

Whereas, while pastoring other churches in Windsor Plains, Africville and Guysborough; and

[Page 98]

Whereas Rev. Dr. Skeir was involved in a wide array of community and provincial organizations which included being a member of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, former President, Board Member and Treasurer for the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children, former Chairperson of the East Preston Day Care Board of Directors as well as a Director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and served as a moderator of the African United Baptist Association;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize the dedication and effort put forth over many years by Rev. Dr. Skier and the significant roles played by him as an historian, minister and leader in the Black Community and all the Province of Nova Scotia as a whole. Rev. Skier's voice may be silenced but his message will live on.

May I ask this House to stand for a moment of silence in honour of this great Nova Scotian.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

I would ask all members to rise immediately for a moment of silence.

[A moment of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we are going to be carrying on our business today under the intense scrutiny of a Grade 9 Class from Oxford School located in my district. I am happy to welcome today to the Legislature some 23 students, along with their teacher, Madame Louise Arsenault and they are accompanied by a couple of adults who are also along to assist them today. I would ask the group to rise and to receive the recognition of the members of the House. I would like, however, to particularly point out to the members of the House that one of the Grade 9 students is my daughter HannahEpstein so that if the members think that they are having trouble with this generation of Epsteins, they ain't seen nothing yet. (Laughter) So, let us welcome the class. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River on an introduction.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Mike and Faye Slayter who have joined us in the gallery. They were in town today to meet with us on the Parent Find Group that they are working with. Interestingly, they took the opportunity last week to get married so they interrupted their honeymoon to come join us. So I would ask to have them receive the recognition of the House. (Applause)

[Page 99]




MR. SPEAKER: 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 on Sunday, October 10th, the Black Community of Nova Scotia, as well as the entire Province of Nova Scotia, lost a well-known advocate, historian, community leader and minister, Rev. Donald Skeir; and

Whereas Rev. Skeir was a former Director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and a former moderator of the African United Baptist Association; and

Whereas Reverend Skeir devoted his life to enriching the lives of others;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the outstanding contributions of Reverend Skeir and offer the heartfelt sympathy of its members to his family and community.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.


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

[Page 100]

Whereas the Progressive Conservatives campaigned on a promise of smaller government; and

Whereas the Tory election platform and Throne Speech seem to be of two different minds on the definition of smaller government; and

Whereas the 13 page Throne Speech contains nearly 10 new advisers, advocates, councils, committees and commissions;

Therefore be it resolved that the Progressive Conservative Government immediately table the costs associated with each new level of bureaucracy as outlined in the Speech from the Throne.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

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 the Premier has, in news reports published October 12th, confirmed his government's intention to change the BST deal; and

Whereas the BST deal forces three of the Atlantic Provinces to impose the unfair GST scheme without any specific relief or improvement; and

Whereas at the very minimum, seniors and lower income Nova Scotians expect relief from the BST on home heating and other family essentials;

Therefore be it resolved that this House welcome the government's plan, stated by the Premier, to quit the existing unfair and restrictive BST deal.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

[Page 101]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.


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

Whereas despite Tory promises to change the focus of the Department of Economic Development, they continue to follow the good policies of the former Liberal Government; and

Whereas this clearly contradicts the Harris-like tone of the Throne Speech in which Nova Scotians have been led to expect generous helpings of slashing and burning; and

Whereas the constant contradiction of this government carries on the waffling tradition of its Leader who has brought indecision to a new art;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the Tory promises of strong leadership and a clear course have been greatly overstated.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 102]


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

Whereas farmers in Nova Scotia have a capital investment of $1.4 billion and they continue to invest in our economy at a rate of $60 million a year; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's agricultural economy directly and indirectly employs some 17,000 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas farms in Nova Scotia, for example, produce on an annual basis 219,000 hogs, 42,000 beef cattle, 17 million dozen eggs, and 65 million pounds of chicken;

Therefore be it resolved that as National Farmers Day is recognized across Canada today, members of this Legislature do appreciate the value and strong economic engine that agriculture is in Nova Scotia while working towards enhancing opportunities which exist for Nova Scotia's agriculture industry.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.


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

Whereas the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and other members of the Progressive Conservative Caucus introduced no less than a dozen petitions and notices of motion in this House respecting fishing licence fees for seniors; and

[Page 103]

Whereas the motions read that it is unfair to gouge these seniors $17.25 each for dangling a line; and

Whereas petitions requested the Minister of Fisheries to eliminate the charge for fishing licence fees levied against seniors and the House agreed by resolution;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Fisheries honour the resolution which was unanimously passed in the House to exempt seniors from this unfair tax grab.

I am seeking waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton 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 situation facing Cape Breton Island with the closing of the Cape Breton Development Corporation is the biggest crisis ever to hit Cape Breton; and

Whereas the layoffs of over 1,500 coal miners will have an impact on all families in Cape Breton, not just those of the miners; and

Whereas the efforts of Edna Budden and Beverly Brown with the United Families has helped all of those involved in the future of Devco that there is more at stake than just a coal industry;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognizes the selfless work being done by these two outstanding individuals as they continue to remind us all of the tragic effects the closure of Devco will have on all Cape Breton families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 104]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas Michael Duck of A.C. Dispensing Equipment Incorporated of Lower Sackville was named 1999 Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year at ceremonies held on October 7th; and

Whereas after starting his business in his basement, Mr. Duck's entrepreneurial knack has enabled him to grow his company to the point he now employs 25 people within the community; and

Whereas as Atlantic Regional winner, Mr. Duck will be an entrant in the national competition to select the Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Michael Duck on his achievement of being selected the 1999 Atlantic Entrepreneur of the Year and wish him well as he enters the national competition.

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.

[Page 105]

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 Progressive Conservatives wrote off Cape Breton in the last election to become the Party of rural mainland; and

Whereas people in rural areas are very concerned about the condition and safety of roads; and

Whereas in the Throne Speech roads were mentioned as a way to help tourism, with no word about improving safety;

Therefore be it resolved that the PC Government get its priorities straight and understand the safety of Nova Scotians must always come first in all new initiatives.

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 Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas on September 30, 1999, the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq officially opened their travelling exhibit, Let Us Remember the Old Mi'kmaq; and

Whereas the exhibit includes 80 photographs taken in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in 1939 by American anthropologist Frederick Johnson and provided by the Peabody Museum of Massachusetts; and

[Page 106]

Whereas the exhibit reveals Mi'kmaq communities on the cusp of change;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the staff of the Museum of Natural History and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq and urge all Nova Scotians who can to view this interesting and significant exhibit before it closes on December 31, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


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

Whereas on Friday, October 14, 1999, a second Skills for Healing Retreat will commence for cancer patients; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas this retreat being sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society, the QE II Health Sciences Centre and three pharmaceutical companies, focuses on the challenge of living with cancer as opposed to treatment; and

Whereas this weekend's retreat will include such topics as the chemistry of cancer, dealing with medical staff and lifestyle choices;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our appreciation to the Canadian Cancer Society, the QE II and the pharmaceutical companies for their support of this retreat and extend our best wishes and support to the participants for a successful weekend.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 107]

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 the United Nations declared October 5th as World Teachers' Day; and

Whereas more than 100 member states around the world observe World Teachers' Day; and

Whereas a move to have nations of the world issue postage stamps on the occasion of World Teachers' Day has been endorsed by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the request of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union that a stamp be issued in honour of World Teachers' Day.

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 Richmond.

[Page 108]


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

Whereas the former Liberal Government made strides toward establishing a healthy and viable aquaculture industry here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Scotia Rainbow, a Richmond County-based company which employs over 200 people, has gone on to become the largest finfish aquaculture operation in the world; and

Whereas the major funding announced by the new provincial government on Friday for Scotia Rainbow clearly indicates this government's support for the Nova Scotia aquaculture sector;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations and thanks to the honourable Minister of Economic Development and the honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for their strong support of this emerging industry which has helped revive the economy of rural Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.


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

Whereas the Kentville Wildcats of the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League recently ended the reign of the Dartmouth Moosehead Dry by defeating Dartmouth four games to three in the provincial finals; and

Whereas this is the third time in three years these two great baseball teams have thrilled fans in both communities and across the province by battling to the last inning of the seventh game before deciding the champion; and

Whereas Kentville will now represent Nova Scotia at next year's national championships, replacing Dartmouth which had won a gold, two silvers, and a bronze medal in the last four years;

[Page 109]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the players and coaches who make up the great Kentville Wildcat baseball team for their perseverance and dedication and, further, wish them luck as they represent Nova Scotia at the national championships next year in Windsor, Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas Progressive Conservatives in the constituency of Halifax Citadel circulated a postcard on the eve of the recent provincial election stating, "A John Hamm Government will close SYSCO once and for all". I have a copy of that here to table, Mr. Speaker; and

Whereas this postcard further stated "Priorities Matter stop pouring $$ into SYSCO . . . (vote) Jane Purves of Halifax, Progressive Conservative Party"; and

Whereas Cape Bretoners are a generous people and find it difficult to understand the kind of politics that would advocate massive unemployment in an area that already suffers from one of the highest rates of economic deprivation anywhere in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory oracles opposite should explain why their Party would seek to harm the depressed economy of industrial Cape Breton and why a John Hamm Government would not seek to deliver economic opportunity to all regions of Nova Scotia on an equal basis.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 110]


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

Whereas on Friday the new Progressive Conservative Government announced major funding for Scotia Rainbow, a company based in Richmond County which is now the largest finfish aquaculture operation in the world; and

Whereas, as expected, socialist NDP members, Michelle Dockrill and Peter Stoffer, have criticized the support given to this growing company which will soon exceed 300 employees, in a press release filled with half-truths, untruths and overall ignorance; and

Whereas the good people of Richmond County, who have been applauded for their success in community economic development, have come to expect these attacks from their socialist MP who has a sad legacy of attempting to destroy all attempts to rebuild our devastated economy;

Therefore be it resolved that Michelle Dockrill, MP for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton, be immediately declared an enemy of Richmond County and that the members of this House ask the Prime Minister to call a federal election as soon as possible so that the NDP misery in Bras d'Or-Cape Breton may come to a quick end.

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 car accidents, unfortunately, continue to happen on the busy Highway No. 103 at an alarming rate; and

Whereas rumours continue to persist that the twinning of this highway will not proceed beyond the Otter Lake landfill site; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation had earlier given assurances that this twinning project would be extended to Exit 5 in Tantallon;

[Page 111]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works clarify for the motoring public his department's immediate plans for the twinning of this busy stretch of Highway No. 103.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 in the Speech from the Throne the Tory Government has indicated that it plans to establish a committee on Cape Breton's economic future; and

Whereas this would seem to be a duplication of services already provided by the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority; and

Whereas the people of Cape Breton are sick and tired of having bureaucrats do study after study on the problems facing Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the need for this government to stop talking about economic development in Cape Breton and actually put forth policy that will help the people of Cape Breton.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

[Page 112]

Whereas Nike Canada is a national program which contributes over $700,000 annually to Boys and Girls Clubs and youth clubs across Canada for improvements to their facilities; and

Whereas this year Nike Canada chose the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club to be the recipient of a Nike basketball court costing approximately $70,000; and

Whereas Nike Play Canada also recognized local hero, David Beaton, for his commitment and dedication to the children of that club;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate Nike Canada for their wise selection and contribution to a truly deserving Boys and Girls Club.

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 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 on Saturday, October 9, 1999, Canada claimed the gold medal at the International Dragon Boat Festival in China; and

Whereas six Nova Scotians, three of which are from Dartmouth, were members of the Canadian team; and

Whereas this past week's race attracted entries from 19 countries and was viewed by 150,000 spectators;

[Page 113]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our congratulations to David Gallant, Jason Rodgers and Mike Scarola of Dartmouth as well as all members of the team for their outstanding victory in international competition.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.


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

Whereas on October 7th, the federal government presented the 1999 Canada Export Award to Rainbow Farms of Upper Rawdon, Hants County, and will showcase the firm in a national promotional campaign; and

Whereas Rainbow Farms specializes in the growing, harvesting and freezing of wild blueberries it exports into the ever-growing United States and European markets; and

Whereas Rainbow Farms employs upwards of 40 persons year-round and 200 during the harvesting season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Rainbow Farms on being a recipient of the 1999 Canada Export Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 114]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas the Cape Breton economy stands to lose $30.6 million in personal income in each of the next 10 years on account of the pending loss of the Cape Breton Development Corporation alone; and

Whereas a report prepared for Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation notes that if both Devco and Sysco were to go down simultaneously, the resulting loss would, in their words, stall the Cape Breton economy; and

Whereas the Progressive Conservative answer to these realities is to circulate postcards assuring that "A John Hamm Government will close down Sysco once and for all";

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Party be called upon, now that they are government, to protect the interests of all Nova Scotians, which happens to include the residents of industrial Cape Breton as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:42 p.m.. We will finish at 3:42 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer my question through you to the Premier. Nova Scotians have watched as controversy has raged in the lobster fishery in Nova Scotia as a result of the Supreme Court decision, which came down on September 17th, with respect to Aboriginal fishing rights in the Province of Nova Scotia. It would suggest that most Nova Scotians agree that these problems have been created because

[Page 115]

neither the federal or provincial government prepared for the possible decision. I want to ask the Premier, will his government agree that it is time to negotiate with the Aboriginal community on these and other issues rather than go to court?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for the question. The Leader is absolutely right, this is a subject that should be negotiated. We talk about a shared cooperative fishery, that is what I have said publicly. I believe that most non-native fishermen also agree that this is the proper approach. That is the way in which we will be moving.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the commitment by the Premier on behalf of his government to handle these issues in a different way. I want to then put to him that the questions with respect to logging, harvesting of logs, in the Province of Nova Scotia is in court. There are a number of individuals who have been charged with illegal logging. I want to ask the Premier, in light of the commitment that he just made, will he agree to suspend the logging charges and negotiate a settlement on the whole question of logging and native rights?

THE PREMIER: The issue that the Leader of the New Democratic Party brings to the House is one that is before the court, and there are certain aspects of that of which I won't discuss. On the other hand, one of the difficulties that all of us are having is the interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling. It is vague, and unfortunately has not allowed enough time for study or proper implementation. The matter that is before the courts, it would not be proper for me to make a specific comment on that.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think what most Nova Scotians are looking for is an indication that this government is prepared to do more than change their tune, that they are going to change their tone on issues as important to the future of this province as Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights. I am referring specifically to the current issues that are before the courts, that is logging and matters of native claims for offshore oil and natural gas. I want to ask the Premier if, in fact, his government is in the process of working with the Assembly of Aboriginal Chiefs to develop contingency plans to make sure that if the courts make a decision which they are not prepared for, that they will be ready and that this kind of disruption and threat to the economy of this province will not be allowed?

[2:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would expect that we will be looking at all of the possibilities that the Supreme Court decision puts before us. There is no question that at all levels there was an ill-preparedness to deal with the Supreme Court decision. So there is a lesson in all of that and certainly this government will be looking at measures that it will take to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

[Page 116]

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


MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. There is a new bypass being planned for the Town of Antigonish, outside of the Town of Antigonish. There are two prime routes which seem to be the favourite contenders. One is designated the blue route, which is much safer and much less expensive and which is favoured by the minister's own department. Then there is the red route which is closer to the town, favoured by the MLA for Antigonish and some high-powered Tories. What I want to know is, why is the minister leaning toward supporting the red route in defiance of the people in his own department?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. The issue of the three routes has been with the department for some time and before a decision is taken, one must carefully analyse all the factors that contribute to whether or not a particular route would be selected. There are, in fact, three routes commonly known as the brown, red and blue. Before the decision is finally taken, you must weigh all of the information, including costs, safety factors and environmental issues. When that has been determined, and only then, will the department make its choice.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister has just listed all of the things which favour the blue route. He hasn't mentioned anything which would favour the red route. I want to know why he would go against his own department. Has he talked to the Premier about this and has the Premier asked him to reconsider the recommendations of his department?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again I would like to thank the honourable member for his question. No decision has been taken. When you review the situation, you have to weigh all of the factors. There are environmental issues to be considered. There are also the long- and short-term economic impacts. The department has made no recommendation. All they have done at this point is put forward information in a safety report.

MR. MACLELLAN: Well, I would disagree with the minister. The department has made a recommendation to him. The question has been considered for some time and I would want to know why the minister would defy the department's recommendations on questions on safety and why a government that pretends to be so interested in doing what is right fiscally for the Province of Nova Scotia would lean toward a route that would be much more expensive than the one that this department is recommending?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, no decision has been taken. There are many factors that must be weighed and when those factors have been weighed and a determination made, then an announcement will be made. There has been no announcement to date and none pending.

[Page 117]

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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question through you, sir, to the Premier. First I would like to applaud the Premier for reaffirming his commitment to address the problems with the unfair BST. Like our Party, the Tories are on record opposing the additional tax burden that the BST places on essentials like the home heating oil and children's clothing and essentials. So I ask the Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker, does he stand by his commitment to ensure that the unfair tax burden that the BST places on essentials like home heating oil and children's clothing will, in fact, be removed?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville-Cobequid brings up an interesting topic, one that has been debated many times in this House. This House remains committed to fair taxation; that is what we have been talking about all along. It remains committed to the principle that the province controls its own taxation, something that the current BST arrangement ignores. It was with these things in mind that we took our position on the blended sales tax and that position has not changed.

MR. HOLM: I think the Premier answered in the affirmative, that he still stands by his commitment, Mr. Speaker. The Premier also promised that he would be establishing an all-Party committee to examine possible alternatives to that BST. My question to the Premier is a very simple one, when will the Premier be establishing that all-Party committee to look at replacements for the current BST?

THE PREMIER: The member for Sackville-Cobequid will have to refresh my memory as to which speech exactly he refers. I have made a number of commitments that you have already made comment on, but that was not one of them. (Laughter)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Premier just a few weeks ago, made as many as 243 promises, so I can understand why he might have difficulty remembering all of the commitments that he and his government have made. Maybe I can help the Premier by just suggesting that he refer to the newspaper as recently as this morning to refresh himself to the commitments and quotes that are attributed to him.

My final question that I will put to the Premier - because I know if he has made the commitments, of course he will be honouring those commitments and all of those promises will be fulfilled - is he prepared to assure that all Nova Scotians will have a fair opportunity for public consultation and participation in any changes or replacements that are to be made to that BST?

[Page 118]

THE PREMIER: I thank the member for his question and I look for his assistance as we move forward in delivering our commitments. It will be the hallmark of this government to consult with the people of Nova Scotia before significant changes in public policy are made. We have made a number of commitments by way of our platform, and we have received from the people of Nova Scotia a mandate to deliver those commitments. On the other hand, when we are talking about issues that have not had full public discussion, this government will follow its commitment and that is to involve the public each step of the way as we move forward in changes in public policy.

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



MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to follow through with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in the matter of the routeing of the Trans Canada Highway and the 100-Series through, around, or past the Town of Antigonish. I would like to ask the minister, who appears to indicate that this is not an urgent or imminent matter notwithstanding has been considerable media, discussion and community concern about this matter, could he inform the House, in round numbers, approximately the cost of the various options involved, red, blue and brown? Is the minister prepared to indicate what those numbers might be?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, the three routes in question are fairly comparable in terms of cost, in terms of expropriation, issues to be considered, so in terms of actual numbers it will depend on which route is selected and the types of properties that have to be expropriated.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder would the minister be prepared to table here in the House the relevant information considering the very high level of interest that this subject has aroused?

MR. BALSER: Certainly I will commit to do that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MACEWAN: A final supplementary to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I would like to ask the minister if he could indicate to the House when a decision might be made in this matter and would it be made by him or would it be made by Cabinet as a whole?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again, to the honourable member, the decision on which route will be the selected route will be made once the information has been fully compiled. We have had meetings with each of the proponents of the three routes, met with people in the department, talked to a number of people in the RCMP around what route would be the best

[Page 119]

one. So, the decision as to which will be the appropriate route will be made at the appropriate time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.



MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In the Speech from the Throne we hear that civil servants may be given, ". . . options to improve their family lives . . .". George Orwell would have been proud of that part of the Throne Speech. But because it is pretty obvious that the government has something quite different in mind, my question to the Premier is, could the Premier explain what options are being considered by this government for the improvement of civil servants' family lives?

THE PREMIER: The whole issue of what has to be done in this province is a very serious one. This government has made a commitment that it will explore all options. In terms of the public sector, this government is committed to the public sector, but this government cannot be committed to things remaining the same if in fact things have got to change and I believe things have got to change.

MR. PYE: The Premier is quoted as saying that one of the options being considered is a four day work week, that is one less day of pay, that is one less day of service to the public. My question to the Premier is, what assurances will the Premier give this House that all options for cutting hours of work will be on a voluntary basis?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Dartmouth North that all issues that are relevant to the relationship of this government with the public sector will be negotiated with the public sector of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not my intention to carry on negotiations across the floor of the House. But through you, I can assure the public sector of Nova Scotia that this government is committed to that public sector and that any changes that will be coming about will certainly be discussed fully with the public sector.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has, in a sense, answered my final question with respect to, they are committed to the collective bargaining process. My question to the Premier is, when is this going to take place, now, soon or before the next budget?

THE PREMIER: There will be no significant changes in our relationship with the public sector before those discussions occur.

[Page 120]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.



MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, today we have heard a fair amount of discussion with regard to the government considering three options for the Antigonish by-pass. One of the individual areas that is considered now is the red route. In fact, if that is chosen that could mean a fair amount of congestion because the highway would be built literally on top.

My question to the Minister of Tourism, if in fact the red route is chosen and congestion is there for traffic and in light of the fact that we have just now gone past the 1 billion tourism dollars to the Province of Nova Scotia, has the Minister of Tourism been consulted with regard to the impact of such a route in the area and the effect it would have on Cape Breton and eastern Nova Scotia?

[3:00 p.m.]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, whenever a route is selected, there is careful consideration given to a number of factors, that being costs, and routeing in terms of economic impact. So, obviously, when we review that, we take into consideration such things as impact on existing businesses, future business and tourism.

MR. DOWNE: My question is to the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister of Tourism inform the members of the House that he, in fact, will review the impact on tourism in eastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton with regard to if that route is chosen on the red side and not the Minister of Transportation because I want to know what the Minister of Tourism is going to do about it, whether or not he is going to contact TIANS and other people to see what the negative impact could be?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the process will be duly done by the Department of Transportation and Public Works and the honourable member will be informed at the time when it is done.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is probably one of the most busiest ministers anywhere in the current Cabinet as minister responsible for almost everything. I do not think he needs to have the Ministry of Tourism added to his portfolio list. To the Minister of Tourism, will the Minister of Tourism

[Page 121]

indicate to the members of this House if he is prepared and his department is prepared to do a study with regard to the impact on tourism if the red route is chosen?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is a government that will consult with Nova Scotians and we will be doing so in the process which is followed by the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my questions again will be to the Premier. We are all aware of the controversy that erupted over the former Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, specifically the record of a residential landlord. The minister's activities were deemed by the Premier to be unfortunate enough to warrant his removal from the Housing portfolio. My question to the Premier, will the Premier please give details of the vetting process he used to check his minister's holdings and potential conflicts of interest?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth North has a great deal of interest, it would appear, in what is going on when we are going through the process of determining who will become a minister of government. The process that we went through, while not perfect, was very complete and was one that I believe will prove to have provided the people of Nova Scotia with an excellent government, an excellent Executive Council, and I stand behind the appointment of each and every one of these ministers.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the Premier that it is not just me, but all Nova Scotians. Whatever process was used, it clearly failed. Either the Premier knew of the minister's record of residential landlord and found it acceptable or he just did not know. Whichever it was, there was a failure of the vetting process. My question to the Premier - assuming we do know that the Premier was simply aware, or unaware of the minister's record as a landlord - what assurance will he give this House that the vetting process has been tightened up?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Dartmouth North for his question. The whole issue of how it is we select members for the Executive Council is one that we have worked on for some considerable length of time. It is a work in progress and I would like as well to remind the member opposite that in the very near future, and I underline and highlight the word very, that we will be coming forward with a code of conduct, something that the members to my left talked about, and it is something that we, in fact, are going to deliver.

[Page 122]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the Premier, what inquiries, if any, has the Premier made to ensure himself that the person to whom the former minister sold his property holdings is at arm's length from the former minister?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite from Dartmouth North has any information that he wishes to share with me, in other words if he has any suspicions that an improper minister has been appointed, I would appreciate that member making the information available to me, but I stand behind my statement. I stand behind the members that have been appointed to the Executive Council. They were appointed to do a good job. They will do a good job for the people of Nova Scotia.

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



MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Members of this House would agree that support for projects to grow rural Nova Scotia should be a priority for this government or any government. The previous Government of Premier Russell MacLellan agreed with this policy and in July 1999 announced $1 million in support of the Links of Inverness project. The current member for Inverness caught the spirit and agreed the project should go ahead. Indeed, I want to table this document, the Inverness Oran on June 30th, among the many promises that the now Minister of Tourism makes in this, one of them is, "Rodney ensures that The Links of Inverness golf course will become a reality.". I will table this.

I would ask the minister, is your department prepared to honour this commitment of $1 million to the Inverness project?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, we had a recent meeting with proponents of that particular project to review the status, to get an update. It is one of the many that we are considering. As to whether or not we are going to negotiate on the floor of the House, as the member opposite well knows, it is not the place to negotiate deals.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Economic Development. This particular commitment was made by a Cabinet of the previous Government of Nova Scotia before the provincial election and was passed on to the new Cabinet. I want to know from that minister, is the new Cabinet through his department going to honour the $1 million commitment to the Inverness people?

[Page 123]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, each business plan and proposal must be reviewed on its merit. We inherited a number of outstanding business proposals that are being reviewed. On the strength of that particular plan or any other plan, that is how the decision will be made.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary concerns the present Minister of Tourism and what his reaction would be to the answer from the Minister of Economic Development. I want to know from that minister and through him to the Minister of Tourism - this particular agreement with the people of Inverness was approved by the previous Cabinet and sent to that Cabinet for ratification during the transition period - if they are going to honour that commitment or can we expect the resignation of the Minister of Tourism?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, each business plan will be considered on its merit and the choice of whether or not to support it will be taken based on that.

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


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Minister of Health. On March 6, 1998, Premier Hamm wrote to Mr. Bruce Devenne indicating that the Progressive Conservative Caucus was committed to finding a fair and just settlement for the victims of hepatitis C. The Premier, in his letter, which I am tabling, said there was a moral obligation to resolve this issue without further delay. The Premier promised to look after these people. Will the minister tell Nova Scotians what progress has been made on this moral obligation?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member well knows the position of Nova Scotia in the hepatitis C compensation package is the one which most of the other provinces have endorsed. It is the one presented by the federal government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am having a hard time with that.

Again, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health. The Premier said in his letter that he would demonstrate leadership by negotiating unilaterally a compensation package. Can the minister tell this House when these negotiations began?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, once again to the honourable member, thank you for the question, but I will revert back to my previous response, which is that Nova Scotia has acted in concert with most of the other Canadian provinces in dealing with hepatitis C compensation.

[Page 124]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in light of the answer by the Minister of Health, my final question is to the Premier. I would ask the Premier through you, Mr. Speaker, does the Premier no longer stand by the commitments that he made in his letter of March 6, 1998?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question, we stand behind all of our commitments and, as you are aware, we had encouraged the federal government to take a course other than the one that they ultimately took and we have not abandoned that particular initiative. On the other hand, a previous government in this province took a leadership role in the compensation awarded to those who contracted HIV infection through the blood system and we will continue to work towards an equitable settlement for those who contracted hepatitis C through the blood system.

We are not going to let the federal government off the hook, for we feel that they should play a significant role in all of this.

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


MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier says that things have to change and, boy, they are changing all right. The government is spending additional millions of dollars, just throwing it out there, to move a correctional centre and forensics unit from one area where the people are not happy to another area to where the people are not happy. I want to ask the Premier, how much is it going to cost over and above what has already been made known, to build this forensics unit in Burnside as opposed to building it in the former Jack's Lake site?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the minister responsible, the Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Very simply, our commitment is to get the best deal for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Part of our commitment in doing that is to make sure that we have a site that is appropriate and cost-effective. We are very hopeful that the site, wherever it is, will be a site which is cost-neutral, or very close to that.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, what the minister is telling us is that if someone built the correctional centre and forensics unit for nothing, that if someone else charged $14 million, he would build it for $14 million because it was a good price for building that centre. It is absolutely ridiculous; millions of dollars more for that changed location. I want to ask the minister, is the Burnside site the site on which this government plans to build this centre?

[Page 125]

MR. BAKER: No decision has been made as to the site location for the correctional facility and forensics hospital. Secondly, with respect to the site that is being considered in Burnside, that site is a site that offers many positive advantages that were not available from the cost of infrastructure. It is not a simple yes or no; there are obviously cost factors to be weighed on both sides, and we are hopeful that the cost of moving to a new site will be very little.

MR. MACLELLAN: Speaking of both sides, there are both sides of the mouth here. The honourable Minister of Justice told a group in Dartmouth that they have no right to argue because the Burnside site was that site and that is the site where it was going to be built. I want to say as well, Mr. Speaker, that the delay in this choice of where the centre is going to be built is costing this province $11,000 per day. I want to ask the honourable minister, when is he going to make this decision, when are we finally going to get some accountability from this government as to where this site is going to be built?

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Well, first of all, the honourable Liberal Leader must be hearing things because at no time did I ever tell the people in Burnside, or any other community in this province, that a decision had been made. Second of all, unlike the former government, we are determined to put the site in the right place and not to just make decisions without listening to the people. Thank you very much.

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. During the election, and since, the Tories have promised a more open and accountable government. Will the Minister of Economic Development be open with us today by sharing the business plan which justifies a $4 million loan to Scotia Rainbow?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, the decision by this government to support Scotia Rainbow was a wise business decision, especially based on the fact that Cape Breton is reeling under the closure of Devco. So it was a decision based on good investment and in fact the taxpayers' money will be repaid with interest.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Economic Development, one of the things we do know, as a condition of the loan the head of Scotia Rainbow, Mr. Serge LaFreniere, was asked to provide a personal guarantee for $4 million. What assurance does the minister have that Mr. LaFreniere has the personal assets to back this $4 million guarantee?

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MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, when Economic Development chooses to support a business the decision is based on two factors: one, the soundness of the business case; and secondly, how secure the taxpayers' dollars will be. In this instance, we saw an opportunity to grow and consolidate one of the largest aquaculture producers in this province. It was a good investment.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again to the same minister, the Department of Economic Development was an Achilles heel for the former Liberal Government. The current minister experienced first-hand the frustration of vague answers. My question to you, Mr. Minister, will this minister take steps to demonstrate he really is going to do things differently by sharing with us, the Opposition, the expansion proposal and business plan of this group?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, the business plan is treated as any other business plan, and that is confidentially until such time as it is made public. I give the House the assurance that this investment is protected and, in fact, will create 200 jobs in the Arichat area.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Nova Scotians are outraged at the mounting costs incurred by this government in keeping an election promise to move the new correctional facility and forensic centre out of Bedford, a site selected after extensive consultation. Will the Minister of Justice today inform this House how much money Nova Scotians are on the hook for, following this blatant political decision?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for this question, but unfortunately there is an underlying misapprehension. The underlying misapprehension was that the other site, the former Bedford site, had been chosen based on wide public consultation. In fact, they had ignored the community in choosing the Bedford site and we are committed to making sure that the site for a correctional centre is a site that is appropriate for zoning. We are not going to run roughshod, like the former government, over municipalities and put it in a place where it is not properly zoned.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the residents of Dartmouth have clearly spoken out against the proposed Burnside site and the heavy-handed tactics used by this government in choosing this site. The costs being incurred by this government for this new facility are alarming, with Minister of Community Services now being referred to as the most expensive MLA in the history of our province. (Laughter)

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Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Justice respect the wishes of Dartmouth residents, admit that the Burnside selection process was flawed, and confirm today that the Burnside site is no longer being considered by your department?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier in response to a question by his Leader, all sites are still being considered. No decision has been made.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, during the election you promised an open and accountable government for Nova Scotia, yet your government carried out a back-room deal to move the jail out of Bedford to a Burnside site and then called for community consultation. I want to know today if this is the Premier's version of an open and accountable government for the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, this government is open and accountable. Yes, this government is consulting about the site and yes, this government will site the institution after appropriate consultation and after there is an opportunity for all of those with a vested interest to have their say.

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



MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. The day before they were going to go into effect you delayed the implementation of the Occupational Health and Safety General Regulations from October 1st to March 31, 2000. Two weeks earlier, the minister's own Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Safety was assured the regulations were going ahead as scheduled. Will the minister please explain why he is following the former minister's tactic of delay, delay and delay on the topic of Occupational Health and Safety Regulations?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect understands regulations and understands that this was a huge amount of regulations, approximately four inches or approximately five pounds, whichever way you want to measure regulations by. I had not had the opportunity to vet those regulations, but I had lots of people out in the business world and in the labour world who also approached me about the regulations and I thought that time to review those by the proper persons was quite in order.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect is amazed by the fact that labour and workers groups were not consulted, so I would ask the minister if he could table for us, as soon as possible, these requests for delays? Can you please table those

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requests because they are saying they would like to have them put into effect as soon as possible?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as a courtesy, I phoned Mr. Rick Clarke, but unfortunately, he was away out West so I wasn't able to get hold of him until he got back from his travels.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I go once more to the Minister of Labour. Stakeholders have waited for years to have these regulations implemented. Workers need protection in the workplace now. Why not implement the regulations, Mr. Minister, and then review the performance in the next six months so that workers will be protected on the job site?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it may be the natural way for the New Democratic Party to put the cart before the horse but we don't intend to do that. We intend to come forward with regulations that are viable, regulations that can be carried out and regulations that will ensure the safety of workers in this province. I can assure you that this government will take every effort to get those regulations out in the workplace before March 31st. However, it may not be possible but I have the Occupational Health and Safety Committee - I am meeting with them, I think Wednesday of this week, tomorrow morning - and I will be addressing that very matter with the Occupational Health and Safety Division.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.



MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice in an earlier question indicated that there was a need for more consultation and no decision has been made yet as to the site selection for the new correctional and forensic facility for Nova Scotia. It is clear that Nova Scotians and experts in these fields have said it is absolutely necessary for us to have this facility. I would like to know what timetable does he, and his department, have for the construction of the correctional and forensic facility for metro given that no site has been chosen?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: We are hopeful that the site, when it is selected, will provide for a correctional facility approximately within two years.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are well aware that this process has been under way for quite some time and now the minister tells us yet another two years before we have this facility. My question is whether the minister is aware of the fact that patients are being shipped to Quebec because of the lack of a facility here in Nova Scotia, and could the

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minister indicate to this House and table for us exactly what it is costing the Nova Scotia taxpayer to send a patient to Quebec?

MR. BAKER: By the way, I agree with the honourable member, we need both a correctional facility and a forensic hospital in this province and this government is committed to doing both, but we are committed also to the people of Nova Scotia to make sure the decisions that are made when siting these facilities are the right decisions. Unlike the former government, we are not prepared to just bulldoze over people in an effort to do that. So, I can tell the honourable member that we are committed to making the right decision, we will make the right decision and part of making the right decision is to make sure that Nova Scotians that are presently being sent out of this province for medical care can receive that medical care in Nova Scotia.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign this current government campaigned on a promise of tightening the fiscal belt and doing what was fiscally responsible for Nova Scotians. Now we hear of cuts to the Civil Service and the Minister of Justice now tells us yet another two years before we have a proper forensic facility here in this province. The fact is, it is costing approximately $11,000 a day to the Nova Scotia taxpayer for sending patients outside of this province. Will the minister answer this question, what other Justice programs will you be cutting in order to pay for the high cost of this facility?

MR. BAKER: I find it truly ironic that the member should be attacking the present government for the high cost of a justice facility under a contract that his government signed. The honourable member should learn to suck or blow. Your government signed a contract for $58.5 million to build this facility; this is the facility that is being looked at. The honourable member should realize that what this government is doing, is simply looking at where this facility should be sited.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. Earlier today I tabled a petition with over 800 signatures opposing the location of the new jail in north Dartmouth. Many residents have spoken out against this particular site. The Minister of Justice told one meeting of residents that he would take their concerns back to Cabinet, but they are skeptical. My question to the minister, in light of the history of this facility, why should the residents of Dartmouth North believe that the location of the new jail site isn't just a foregone conclusion?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the honourable member has a legitimate concern for the community that he represents. I want to assure the honourable member that before any decision, or when any decision is made, those concerns will be taken

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into consideration. I also wish to point out to the honourable member that this facility is over three kilometres away from the nearest dwelling house, if it is to be constructed in the Burnside area. It is a long way away from any residence.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to question the minister's geographic status with respect to Dartmouth North but he is totally wrong and I will take him for the drive to the nearest residential community.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary to the minister is, in the news release today, the correctional officers union has proposed another solution to the issue of location. These people who know the facility better than anyone are recommending renovations to the existing correctional centre. My question to the minister, what instructions have you given your staff to ensure that this proposal receives full consideration as an alternative to the north Dartmouth site?

MR. BAKER: Well, the honourable member raises a truly good question, which is the question of why we cannot renovate the existing Sackville site. The reason is very simple. First of all, we would have no place to put those prisoners while we renovated the facility, but even more importantly, the facility itself will not permit the renovations. The facility that is constructed in Sackville is outmoded and unsafe. The facility that we need to build in this province is one that will protect the community in which it is situate and will protect those individuals while they are inmates.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I have a problem and the problem is this. The guards say that the expenditure on the new jail is not needed and, in fact, that $1 million has just been spent upgrading a part of the existing facility. When will the minister sit down with the guards and listen, I mean really listen, to their ideas? Someone is wrong.

MR. BAKER: I have been out to that site, Mr. Speaker, and when I was out to that site, I had correctional officers coming up to me, unsolicited, begging me to build a new correctional facility in this province because the existing correctional facility is unsafe, unworkable, outdated and outmoded. We have a duty to those officers to ensure their safety, the safety of their community and the safety of the inmate by building a modern facility. Unfortunately, the views that were expressed by some people are obviously not the views of the people who work in that facility.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.


MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Recent news reports indicated that the Premier is considering tinkering with the HST. I remember very vividly the discussions in this House where the now Premier is indicating that there should be changes to the tax on clothing, home heating fuels and things of that nature.

The concern I have, Mr. Speaker, is that now the business community, residents, Nova Scotians, are all wondering what exactly this so-called tinkering with the HST is all about. I ask the Premier here today to inform this House of exactly what type of changes he is referring to with regard to reviewing the HST to the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question because it gives me an opportunity to reassure the business community that I know that they support the single collection system that the blended sales tax has brought to this province. When I talk about negotiating change to the blended sales tax, it is not about changing the collection system. What it is about is taking the ability away from other provinces to control our provincial taxation system.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, so members of this House have it clear and all Nova Scotians have it clear, in fact, the Premier is stating here today he will not change or not increase any taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia for anybody under the HST, is that correct?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would hope perhaps the member opposite would listen a little more carefully this time. What I said is that we, by way of the arrangement that the previous government signed with the federal government, have given up control of our provincial taxation system. We have put the control of our taxation system clearly in the hands of our neighbouring provinces. I think this is inappropriate and I do not think that Nova Scotians think it is appropriate. We are looking for changes in the arrangement that give us again control over our provincial taxation system.

MR. DOWNE: I heard the Premier make that statement. That is fine. I understand what he wants to do. My question to him, are we going to increase the HST or are we going to lower the HST? The question to the Premier is quite simple. Will he answer to the House, business community and all Nova Scotians, are you planning to increase the taxation and HST, or are you going to lower it, or do nothing with taxation changes in the Province of Nova Scotia? Be honest with Nova Scotians.

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THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I said in answer to the question is we want control of our taxation system. I made no commitment as to what is going to happen to taxation. You are going to have a budget in two days and I think perhaps the member opposite might be prepared to wait 48 hours to listen to the Budget Address.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.



MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a report released today by Statistics Canada on computer technology in schools, specifically the number of computers per pupil. My question is for the Minister of Education. According to this report our province is not doing very well. In fact, when compared to other Canadian Provinces, we are either tied for last or we are last in all categories. My question is whether the minister is aware of these findings and does she consider them to be a problem?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, no, I was not aware of this particular report. I would like to say that our schools are being supplied with many new computers. As to this particular report, I will ask staff to investigate it, and I will give this information to the House.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the former government liked to announce the same dollars over and over again for their computers for school programs. I think what this report does is it confirms that those announcements were a shell game. My question for the minister is, what plan does she have for computers in our schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have told the member, I will prepare a report for the House with that information.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for her response and I would like to ask her, when will she have this report available to us?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, within the next two weeks.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health would know his government's Throne Speech indicated that within six months of taking power that his government would be providing funding for 100 full-time nurses or equivalents. Can the minister inform the House today of the meaning of equivalent? Are we speaking in terms of funding for part-time nursing positions or is it a substitute for

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nurses? Could the minister inform the House, because I wasn't quite clear from the wording within the Throne Speech.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, for the actual financial implications of this, the honourable member is going to have to wait until Thursday with the other members of the House. As he knows, since our government has assumed office there has been roughly about 130 full-time nursing positions added here in Nova Scotia. I think we are doing fairly well at this point.

The question of whether we are talking about full time or equivalent, it would be full-time positions and, as well as I understand it, for the member for Dartmouth East, the last part of his statement about putting pieces together to fill the positions would apply as well.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope it doesn't mean increasing part-time nursing positions because that is one of the issues that the nursing profession has and I don't know if they have been consulted on this. Also, for the western region and the northern region, while we were in government we carried out a recruiting program. I would like to point that out. Don't get too anxious about taking credit for those positions. At least 80 or more of them were actually in position. The figures that he is announcing today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: . . . is he taking credit for those northern and western nursing positions that were recruited prior to taking power?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think everybody in the House would welcome the announcement that there were more than 100 new full-time nurses added to the system, and whether they were a direct result of us assuming office - which was probably so - or under the previous government, I believe is irrelevant. I believe the important thing is that those positions are now in the province.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, let it be noted that there is a shared taking credit for those positions at this juncture. Seriously, though, I would like to ask the Minister of Health if he feels assured that in addressing the issue of part-time nursing, that 100 positions will be adequate? Is the Minister of Health comfortable that that number is the target and that it will meet the requirements, that it will not involve closing beds and maybe even closing hospitals to pay for the nursing . . .

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to that, it is not necessarily that 100 is the answer, it was a number that we thought was achievable in six months. I could tell the House, as well, that there has been a task force on the number of health care professionals, including nurses who are needed in Nova Scotia. That report has not been fully completed. I have met

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with the people who are putting it together. It is in progress and an optimal number will be determined.

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works. On last Wednesday, a constituent of mine, Steven Jenkins, travelling on the Highway No. 107 bypass entering Burnside, hit a 55 pound, 13 inch piece of cast iron which was apparently part of a drill rig operation doing geotechnical work for the gas pipe line lateral. The result of this collision was almost $4,000 worth of damage to Mr. Jenkins' car. Will the minister undertake to carry out an investigation into this accident and to assure Mr. Jenkins that all highway safety standards were complied with?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for that undertaking. As we know, foreign objects on the road are an unfortunate part of life for those who travel the provincial motorways, however the entrance way to Burnside Industrial Park because of its nature, is . . .

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.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: 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 Halifax Chebucto.

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MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: These remarks, Mr. Speaker, are my very first Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. If all parliamentary traditions had been complied with and observed by the previous government, this, in fact, would have been my first speech in the Legislature, but we know, of course, that all parliamentary traditions were not complied with by the previous government which not only did not continue with the full Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, they did not call the Speech from the Throne for a vote.

Because this is my first Address in Reply, I think I have to follow those traditions which call upon us to introduce ourselves to our fellow members. Now since this, of course, is not my first speech in the House, there may be those who think they know me, know my opinions and background, but I have to say that I want to elaborate on some of these matters about which they might have some assumptions. I have noticed that other members speaking already have followed this tradition and given us some very interesting details about their lives, and if I may say so, where they have come from and where they intend to go.

I welcome those remarks, it was interesting to listen to them. I welcome those who are new members in the House. I, myself, have now been elected two times by the voters of Halifax Chebucto and I am very grateful and happy about that - I give them my thanks. In looking at those new members who have arrived in the House, it is interesting to hear what they have to say. Not all of them are strangers to me. There are some that I have known on previous occasions.

AN HON. MEMBER: In another place.

MR. EPSTEIN: Indeed, in another place. I want particularly to welcome the three new members of the Legislature with whom I was colleagues at Halifax Regional Municipality Council. Many of you will know that there has been intense scrutiny of certain remarks that I made on election eve. I would like, especially those three new members, to know how much I welcome them to this House and how much I am looking forward to working with them. (Applause)

[3:45 p.m.]

After the election I took some time for vacation; my family and I visited Israel. While I was there I observed something I had not known before. It is a symbol that is quite common throughout the Middle East; it is a hand. This is a symbol that is designed to ward off the evil eye and is commonly used by people throughout the Middle East. I thought of my former HRM colleagues and new Legislature colleagues at the time. Indeed, I think if each of them looks inside their desks, they will find that I have brought them individually a souvenir from the Middle East; they will find a key chain in the form of this hand designed to ward off the evil eye, which they may find some use for in their years in the Legislature. I wish them all well.

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Not only do I wish them - and all of us together - well, in our endeavours, it seems to me that however difficult it may be, for me particularly, to think back upon the controversy that surrounded my remarks on election eve, that it would be useful if we actually drew some lessons from them. I say particularly to my former colleagues, some of these lessons are worth remembering. One is that, indeed, on many occasions, the press in its reportage can be quite inaccurate. They will know that if they have seen the one short article that did contain longer excerpts from what I had to say, that they were not especially singled out. That is a lesson worth remembering, that the press, especially in short reports, is not always to be believed.

The other is that the storm of controversy that surrounded what I think should otherwise, in perspective, have been a relatively minor incident, must have had a good reason. I have thought about this a lot, of course. It seems to me that probably the main reason is that the public observed that the comments I made were personalized comments rather than comments that stuck to the issues. I think that is fair criticism; it is fair criticism of what I said and I think it is an important lesson that I have learned, that we can all learn. (Applause) In this process together in the House, we are engaged in a difficult endeavour and there is always the opportunity for each and every one of us to learn, improve, make changes and go on.

Having said that, I wish now to turn, not ignoring personal observations completely, to personal observations about myself and where I have come from in order to arrive here in this House. I entered this building twice with very serious intentions. By twice, I don't mean the two occasions on which I was elected. The second of the two times was when I was first elected to the Legislature in 1998; the very first occasion on which I entered this House with serious intentions was 20 years before that in 1978. I entered the House at that time with an eye firmly fixed upon effecting an introduction to the Assistant Legislative Librarian, to whom I am now married. It seems to me that if on the second occasion when I entered this House with serious intent, if I am able to accomplish things that have been as interesting and as successful, then I will be very happy, but certainly in the last year and one-half have been extremely interesting. Whether they are ultimately successful is for the future to say.

I am a native of Halifax. I was born here. I have spent most of my life here. At the same time, like many Maritimers, I have sought employment in Upper Canada on a couple of different occasions. I worked once in Ottawa with the Department of Justice. It was my very first job as a lawyer. I worked in Toronto when I taught law school. I returned to Toronto between 1984 and 1988 when I was executive director of the organization that represented all the university professors in Ontario. I have had a number of interesting positions, including one that I see frequently referred to, my tenure as executive director of the Ecology Action Centre for three years. I have a longstanding association with the Ecology Action Centre dating back to the early 1970's.

Of my parents I will say this. My father is a retired children's dentist. He is now 76 years old. He was in the Air Force during the war. His plane went down over Germany and he spent a year in a prisoner of war camp. He, by the time he was 22, had lived through

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difficult times, the likes of which many of us will never see. My mother is no longer living. She has been dead about 12 years. She was well known among her friends as one of the nicest people to have ever existed. Interestingly, she roomed at university with the mother of the new member for Kings South. When he introduced his parents to us, or pointed out his parents to us the other day, these were people that I had known all my life and it was a pleasure to see them here. On both sides of their families, my parents grew up at either end of the province. My father grew up in Yarmouth where his father was in a variety of businesses, including the coal and wood business. Earlier he was a manufacturer of soda pop. My father's parents are buried in Yarmouth. My mother grew up in Glace Bay and at no time do I forget that intimate connection with Cape Breton, let me assure you.

My family is a Jewish family. I am not, however, the first Jewish member of the Legislature. There have been two others - Mr. Martin Kaufman, who was a Liberal. He was elected in the 1950's. He was a former Mayor of the Town of Amherst. The other was Mr. Percy Gaum who is a PC. He was elected in Cape Breton. He was a Cabinet Minister. It has been more than 30 years between the time, I believe, he left the Legislature and I was elected in 1998.

The Jews in Nova Scotia are a small percentage of the population. We have been active in politics, active in a variety of things. It is interesting that our Legislature has in the past, and I am sure will again in the future, have represented in it a diversity of people because Nova Scotia, once seen as a place of relatively little ethnic diversity, is becoming a place of greater ethnic diversity and we will see more of that represented in public life.

What I think is of interest about all of our personal histories is not just where we might have come from. In and of itself this does have an inherent fascination. What is more important is ultimately where it is we think we are going, where it is we hope to go.

It is that part in particular that I want to try to begin to address. For no matter what our backgrounds, we are now engaged together upon a very difficult enterprise: passing laws; reviewing government activity; or, in the case of the members opposite, forming and being the government. It is extremely difficult and it is something that we all have to take seriously. We all have to take seriously each day the responsibility that has been given to us by those who voted for us. They are looking to us to do their work.

To do public work is a very high calling. It is not easy. It is something that each of us should remember every time we come to this House. When we go to our offices, when we speak with our constituents, the obligation is that we have to deal honestly and fairly with each and every one of the people of Nova Scotia.

At the same time, of course, we are in different Parties and we have somewhat differing views about what is important, what ought to be emphasized first, what parts of the agenda ought to be taken up and given prominence. Those differences, in some respects, might be

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slight; in others they might be major. It is only fair and appropriate that each of us say what it is we believe are the appropriate agenda items.

I said something briefly about my own employment history. It has moved me back and forth not only between Ontario and Nova Scotia, but it has moved me around in a variety of positions which viewed on the face might seem a bit puzzling. I have been a lawyer in private practice. I have been a law teacher. I have been a lawyer working for the federal government. I have been executive director of a variety of different organizations. To the extent that I see a consistent theme in the work that I have done over the years, is that I believe that I have attempted to take positions - that is employment positions and policy positions - that I believe were progressive and that advanced social change so that in each and every one of the jobs that I have ever had, I have come to those positions attempting to move the world forward, according to my likes. This not an easy matter.

Probably the strongest manifestation of that with which I have been preoccupied over the years has been the need for sustainability to be the key to change in the world. I use the word sustainability rather than environment or ecology, because sustainability allows for the possibility of transformation and it looks forward to the future. It promotes intergenerational equity. It essentially says, don't forget that you have inherited a world that you only temporarily inhabit and which it is your obligation to pass on to the future generations. At the same time, although it is easy to say this, it is not always easy to agree on what the specifics of this might be.

[4:00 p.m.]

As early as 1973, I was a volunteer for the Ecology Action Centre in some of its first cases. I have continued an association with the centre over the years, including a three year term as its executive director. In the 25 or 26 years in which I have practised law on and off, I have to say I have never won a case. I am not moved to say this simply in recognition of the fact that confession is good for the soul - I certainly believe that confession is good for the soul - but I want to point out something, that there is a lesson. One of the lessons is not that my skills as an advocate are inferior to those of my classmates at law school, those with whom I graduated, what this tells us is that in the cases that I took on, particularly those environmental cases, it was very difficult for anyone to win, and this tells us something about the nature of the structure of environmental laws in this country.

At the same time one should not think that the use of the legal instrument was always the tool of choice of those who were involved in the environmental movement; indeed, over the years it has tended to be a tool of last resort. Public education and advocacy have tended more to be the tools of choice. This is on the faith, as any schoolteacher knows, that repetition is the basis of education. You keep saying things and sooner or later the penny does drop.

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On occasion the legal tool is a useful one. Although I have never won in court, I think I have often won in the court of public opinion. In each and every one of the instances in which I or the Ecology Action Centre, or both of us together, have been to court there has been resulting change in public opinion, resulting change in government regulation, resulting change in how it is that we as a society carry on our business. I have to tell you that, after 25 years of active involvement in sustainability issues, I have concluded that the problem, the chief barrier to change, is not absence of knowledge. In virtually any area of our lives, be it agriculture, be it forestry, be it mining, be it fisheries, be it energy, be it how we structure our cities, in virtually any area of our lives we either know a much better way to do it or a better way to do it.

I do not want to be misunderstood as suggesting that there is no more scientific or technological advance to be made. Of course there is, and we will continue to learn a great more. The barriers to change tend not to be lack of knowledge; the barriers to change tend to be adherence to the status quo. The barriers to change tend to be small "p" political barriers to change because people who profit from the status quo tend not to want to change the status quo. My hope is that that change will take place. I will continue to use the energies I have to advance that agenda.

In Nova Scotia the opportunities are enormous. We have the chance to make changes in each and every one of those sectors of our economy that I mentioned. Each and every one of them is in desperate need of serious transformation towards sustainability. For each and every one of them we know already much better ways to go about living our lives than we have now chosen.

In some areas it is too late to make changes that will avoid serious negative change, and I think particularly about impact on the atmosphere. We know that there are going to be major changes that are already upon us, whether it has to do with holes in the ozone layer or global climate change, this is a problem that is already upon us and unless we move expeditiously, we will not be able to even moderate those changes that are already fast advancing.

What this means to me is that there is a serious role for government to play. This is an opportunity that none of us can afford to pass up. It is a little disappointing therefore, and discouraging to find missing from the Speech from the Throne, a plan that will take us into the next millennium in a way that would, in fact, address these serious problems. We see tinkering, we see an attitude to government that essentially suggests that government should be a minimalist government.

Now it is certainly the case that people in their private lives can do a great deal to effect change but everyone runs up against barriers and the barrier that we most often run up against is the limitation of individual action. Unless we work together through the government, solid change will not take place. So I am concerned when I see a Speech from the Throne that

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starts to implement a suggestion that was made in the election by the Premier, that he looks forward to making 5 per cent cuts in each department every year until the budget is balanced. That is hardly an appropriate way to go about dealing with the serious problems that we have in Nova Scotia.

I will tell you one hard economic fact, however much I support and our Party supports the restatement of the books that we saw last month when the new Minister of Finance issued his consolidated statements, however much we supported that measure and have spoken in the past years in favour of it, Nova Scotia does not owe any more money as a result of restating the books the way they were restated than we did the day before. Not one penny more. (Interruption) Certainly not one penny less, that's right. We already knew the money that was owed because we knew about Nova Scotia Resources and we knew about Sysco, we knew all about that.

Now, it does not set the stage for wholesale cuts to government departments to restate the debt or the deficit the way it has been restated. No one should be fooled, I don't think anyone is fooled. It is not that we don't have a problem in Nova Scotia on the financial side, we certainly do. Year in and year out Nova Scotia governments run deficits, but you know the problem is not so much on the spending side as it is on the revenue side. Again I don't want to be misunderstood, It is not that there aren't programs that couldn't be run more efficiently and it is not that there aren't programs that are wasteful. There are. We have been quick to criticize, and the government when it was in opposition was quick to criticize, particularly focused, for example, on the Department of Economic Development. When any of us found instances of the waste of money, we pointed it out. But the problem is much more on the revenue side.

Here is a simple piece of arithmetic: the Nova Scotia Government spends about $4.5 billion a year and there are about 1 million Nova Scotians. You do the arithmetic. Your government is going to spend, this year, about $4,500 per person to deliver health care and education, to deliver roads, to pay on the debt, to do all of the things that are needed, including protection of the neediest programs in community services, to administer justice. This is not an excessive amount. When you look at cross-Canada comparisons, the amount of money spent is not out of line at all.

Again, I want to repeat, because I do not want to be misunderstood, it is not that there are not some particular programs that could be delivered more efficiently and it is not that there are not some that are wasteful. Find them, deal with them and bring them here for discussion, bring them forward for discussion in the budget; that is fine. But the obligation is more on the revenue side, which means we join you in looking to those who generate wealth in the economy to do a better job. What we have is a mixed economy in Nova Scotia. We have an economy which has a thriving private sector. The government is an actor in the economy, of course. It is major player as an employer. It is a major player as a centre of policy. We have a volunteer sector. All of this together generates our economic wealth.

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The fact that it is a mixed economy should never be overlooked. To my mind, it would be unfortunate if cuts were uniform; that makes no sense. What are we going to cut, the mine inspectors? If it is a four day work week, are we going to put the doctors on a four day work week? I don't think so. The teachers, the nurses, those who work in emergency health services and work on the ambulances? I don't think so. Occupational Health and Safety? I don't think so. Environmental inspectors, Crown Prosecutors? I don't think so.

I worry if the only preoccupation is one of making economies. There has to be a vision and that vision has to be one which respects the basic principle of sustainability and it also has to be a vision which thinks, unceasingly, about the neediest. Those who are in the worst position in our society to protect themselves need help from a government, they don't need a government that is going to continue to give them difficulties.

What I worry about is a lack of balance in the document that has been given to us. At the same time, I recognize that the document is only the first statement of a new government. Words on paper are very important because they tell us what the current thinking is, but thinking can change over time. Indeed, I hope the thinking of the government does change over time.

As the government goes forward, the real measure of its accomplishments will actually be what it does; like all of us individually with our backgrounds, the question isn't where we came from or what we might have had to say in passing as we get there. The real question will be, what do we do? For those of you who are in government, the obligation is much weightier than for those of us now in Opposition. For those of you in government actually do get the decision making. You have the decision-making power and the responsibility that goes along with it so to all of you I say that when I consider the Speech from the Throne the judgement to be made upon it, I can tell you that my best opinion can be summed up as saying, we will see, we will see. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. (Applause)

[4:15 p.m.]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery of the House is Dr. Marilyn McKay of our history department for the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, her son Benjamin McKay and his wife and a new citizen of Canada, Leah Jormicskaya. I just wanted the House to recognize them and maybe they could stand and accept the recognition of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier. (Applause)

[Page 142]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I trust all of the members of the House have had an opportunity to share Thanksgiving with those nearest and dearest to them. It was a welcome break after getting the House started at the end of last week.

This has been my third election, not as many as the member for Cape Breton Nova, the member for Hants West or the member for Sackville-Cobequid, but nevertheless, my third election, my third time to rise in the House at the first sitting and make a few remarks. I, like the member for Halifax Atlantic and the member for Cape Breton North, have an extra debt to thank those who worked on the local campaign. Those of us who participated on the provincial level were very much in the hands of those who were back home working on our behalf. It is obvious that the three organizations did a good job because despite our inattention to the local campaign, we ended up back here.

In previous responses to the Speech from the Throne, I had an opportunity to speak at length of the area which I represent, the area to which I owe a special debt of gratitude for sending me here for a third time. In previous responses to the Speech from the Throne, I talked about the political history of Pictou County and I reminded members of the fact that so much of responsible government started actually in Pictou County and the teachings of Thomas McCulloch at Pictou Academy and the writing and the speeches of Hiram Blanchard.

I had an opportunity to talk as well about the history of coal mining in Pictou County and the legacy of coal mining beginning approximately in 1823 with the General Mining Association and the long history of that tradition in our communities.

I had an opportunity, on another occasion, to talk about the history of the steel industry in Pictou County, Trenton Works, where the first pour of steel was actually done in North America, the very first steel-making industry in all of North America. Fortunately, with the decline of our traditional coal mining industry, we were fortunate in our community, in 1965, to have Scott Paper come on board, now Kimberly Clark. In 1970, Michelin came to town and made a tremendous difference to the prosperity that we experienced in our part of Nova Scotia. I know the other two communities that have, as well, benefited from Michelin plants are thankful for the foresight of a government of a past time that was able to bring such a significant contributor to the economy of their area.

I am privileged to address the House today because I want to share a vision of this province with members of the House. I also want to take the opportunity, because I did make mention of those who had served here before, to welcome all of those who are sitting for the very first time. I can remember in the fall of 1993 when I sat for the first time following the election of that year sitting in wonderment and trying to begin the process of understanding how this place works. I, like many, had not paid a lot of attention prior to that as to how the House of Assembly works or perhaps even how the political system in this province works, but necessity has dictated that I, as all of you, will be on a sharp or steep learning curve over

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the next number of months as you get more and more familiar with your new responsibilities and the new environment in which you find yourselves.

I want to make a commitment to all members of the House, a commitment I know that we all share, and that is the commitment that we all join together in helping Nova Scotians shape a future for this province, a future for their children, meaning opportunities for economic success and lives of personal fulfilment. I understand and respect the fact that we will have disagreements founded in the difference of our personal beliefs, and that is appropriate and apt. It is fitting that each and every one of us demonstrate, in deeds as well as words, that our actions are guided by the desire to promote the best interests of the majority of Nova Scotians. That is my commitment and I ask for no more than I am willing to offer.

We need only look at how the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Leader of the Liberal Party were able to put aside partisan differences to form an all-Party approach to the pressing issues surrounding Devco. Some said such an all-Party approach could not be done, but we made a constructive approach happen and we will try and allow it to continue. I look forward to that spirit of cooperation continuing through the special committee formed to pursue the issue.

There are many decisions to be made in the months ahead. No doubt some will be difficult and others will be obvious. What is crucial is that the responsibility for making these decisions, where possible, will be a shared one. This is the only way we can succeed, and I have no doubt that we will succeed.

It is important that Nova Scotians know that their government is being honest with them and there are no tricks or surprises. There are some who would suggest the direction of the Speech from the Throne is in itself a surprise and, quite frankly, that is a bit of a surprise to me. As most independent commentators have noted, the tone and content of the Speech from the Throne are quite consistent with the commitments that this government made to Nova Scotians. (Applause)

There will, over the coming months, be many opportunities to discuss philosophy. I look forward to that, but it is not my purpose for rising here today. Today I want to take a few moments to look at the record, or perhaps I should say review the plan that we presented to Nova Scotians in our election platform. That platform is the backbone of this government and we intend to deliver on it.

That plan spoke to the need for more nurses; it spoke to the need for a truly balanced budget; it spoke about extra seats to our community colleges; and it spoke of a review of all government services. That was the plan and we are following through on it. There has been no shift away from those commitments or those goals. The plan spoke of keying on

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infrastructure, marketing and training as the way to foster economic development, and we will follow that plan. Real change takes some time, but time will not dull our resolve.

I want to make it clear that the reason we offered a four year plan was because we knew it would take time for smart and sustainable decisions to be made. We knew that Nova Scotians would want some time to consider their options so we are allowing for that. There is no doubt that the time has come for serious change but this change must be made in a rational, fair and deliberate manner. Nova Scotians don't want a revolution but they want to be part of a process that finds solutions.

Our plan promised Nova Scotians they would be part of the decision-making process, they would be part of the solution. That is the most important part of the plan and that is why we are sticking to it. (Applause) We are sticking to it because we have faith in Nova Scotians, faith in their dedication to their children, to their communities and to their province. It is just as important that they learn to have faith in their government. Faith must be built on trust and honesty and that means keeping your commitments. That is why we are sticking to the plan that we outlined. The by-product of doing so will eventually be, greater faith in government. That concept of putting your faith in government has been challenged over the past decades. Our job is now to meet that challenge.

We will meet it by pushing for better packages for Devco workers, by securing physicians to work in rural areas, by providing municipal property tax rebates for seniors who need them. That is our plan. It is not rocket science, it is just plain talk and keeping commitments.

While keeping our commitments is a duty, it is one we take very seriously, and it is not a vision for the future. Without a vision there are no goals to be met and no focus for our activities. This government's vision is clear, it is contained within the plan that we submitted to Nova Scotians, especially young Nova Scotians. The youth of this province are perhaps the most important reason for sticking to our plan. It is our duty in this House to pass on a better society to young Nova Scotians than the one which we inherited. We have a plan for their future and we are sticking to it.

The next century must have solid health care in place, quality educational opportunities in a society that cares for those unable to care for themselves. That is enough work to keep government busy for quite some time, providing these services at a high quality. This government is dedicated to doing just that, providing a few critical services and doing it very well. It doesn't matter what business you are in these days, quality is the key. People can shop world-wide at the click of a button or talk to and see people half a world away in a microsecond. It is time for quality government as well.

I would question those who suggest that we have veered to the right. Is quality of service, a neo-conservative ideal? I hope not, but quality also depends on the ability to be

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responsive. This is another challenge government must meet. We must be responsive to the people. It is our job to turn their ideas into actions. That is another reason why we are dedicated to following the plan. It represents the ideas of hundreds, no perhaps thousands, of Nova Scotians. They trusted us to take those ideas and make them reality. In short, it is a plan for Nova Scotians by Nova Scotians.

We told Nova Scotians that if they gave us the chance, we would do that. They did their part on July 27th and now we will do ours. (Applause) It may not be easy but our commitment wasn't to do just the easy things, it was to follow them all through. We will need help from every quarter of this House and every quarter of society, including our public servants, business and the health and education sectors and, today, I am asking for that support.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we can accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves and by that I mean all Nova Scotians. Some may criticize us because our focus is too much on the future and not enough on the present. I am sensitive to that point and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that we do not lose sight of the challenges immediately in front of us. That is why we have established a special committee to deal with the economic problems that persist in Cape Breton, to provide a secure treatment facility for youth and deal with the remediation of the coal and steel industries. That is why we will create an energy council and a Premier's council on technology, productivity and quality, to ensure that government has access to an independent, knowledgeable voice in these two emerging industries, which are a key to our province's future prosperity.

This government is concerned for the future of this province. We are not so star-struck that we can't see the realities staring us in the face. Our plan recognizes and addresses these realities. That is why we will be sticking to it in the months to come.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise in the House today. Through you, I want to thank Nova Scotians for the opportunity to contribute to this province. Now, we will do what we said we would. Thank you. (Applause)

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that it is good to be back. (Applause) (Interruption) I don't know what you use to measure time, but it is not the same thing I use. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, other than the deluge of notices of motion, not much has changed, on the surface at least. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova is still here, but it has been so long, I am not sure he even recognizes me. We were not seat mates and we could hardly

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have been described as soul mates, but we did sit in close proximity to one another. The relationship we developed was interesting and slow. We were able to exchange grunts of acknowledgement early on, but eventually those grunts became friendly exchanges.

Mr. Speaker, I want to salute his political longevity. I know that he has worked very hard to maintain his seat for all of those years. (Applause) But his is the only face that is familiar. However, I also want to acknowledge the career of the Government House Leader. Not only do I want to acknowledge the success of his career, but I want to thank him for his guidance and assistance, not only to myself, but to all members of this caucus and, I am sure, members opposite have been the beneficiary of his experienced wisdom as well. (Applause)

I reference these accomplishments of political longevity, Mr. Speaker, to underline the exception to the rule. Most of us will not be here for as long as we think we should be here. The process of coming here is a tough one. I liken an election campaign to the interview process and all members know that it is the toughest of interviews. The people usually have a list of well-qualified candidates to consider, their résumés are varied, and the political background and affiliation is diverse. We are the ones who survived the interview intact, whether it be by a dozen, a five note or the luck of the draw, or the massive majority of the member for Kings North, we are all here and in your eyes, sir, we are equal representatives of the people of Nova Scotia.

But what of those other Nova Scotians who offered their services and were denied? I am sure that for many of us, we wound up running against friends, and without those people, there would be no sweetness of victory, there would be no sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, Mr. Speaker, there would be no democracy. I am sure that all members would want to join me and salute their contribution to our society. (Applause)

As we individually consider our journey in this place, it is apparent that our stay here will be judged by the people at home. Most who failed to return after the last election were not judged to be individually unworthy but were swept by a tide of change they were powerless to stop. I will never forget my deep sense of disappointment following the 1970 election. I won my seat, Mr. Speaker, but we lost the government. It took me a long time to come to grips with the fact that the people of Nova Scotia decided to turn their backs on Ike Smith and turf his government from office. That disappointment stemmed from a deep respect which I held for G. I. Smith, but also because I saw my opportunity to play a bigger role in his government caucus, perhaps even the Cabinet, come to a sudden halt.

Sir, while I enjoy with my colleagues on this side of the House our electoral success, I feel I am able to relate with members opposite with respect to their disappointment. In time I came to terms with the right of the people to make the change they wanted in 1970 and on three other occasions, I accepted the will of the people when they rejected my application and I suffered electoral defeat. In the past, when I wanted to put my political career in its best light, I would often joke that my record was two gold and three silver. I have now evened the

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count. (Applause) Sir, while the political rhetoric of this place will at times be emotional and seem excessively critical, in my experience it should never be personal.

We have heard a great deal about the two Georges who have made such an outstanding contribution to this place. I have fond memories, sir, of two Georges who were in this place when I first arrived in 1969. George Lohnes was the member for Lunenburg Centre from 1956 to 1970. The late Mr. Lohnes took me under his wing when I first arrived and proceeded to pass on his wisdom on how to get things done. He took me on a tour of government offices and introduced me to key officials in each department who were helpful in getting things done for his constituency. It is interesting, sir, that he was well ahead of his time in thoughts about government organization. He was the first person I ever heard espouse the notion that deputy ministers be shuffled. That today, of course, is a common practice.

The honourable member for Halifax-Bedford Basin spoke of her humble background as she so eloquently moved the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. George Lohnes was a genuine man whose humility and humble background was balanced by a salt-of-the-earth wisdom that I have seldom seen matched in my lifetime.

The other George of an earlier time was George Snow, the member for Yarmouth from 1963 to 1970. He also exhibited great wisdom and was a genuine person. I shall always remember, sir, his comment as he introduced me to Opposition members; there were not a lot of them then, but there were a number. George would take me around and introduce me, and when we walked away he always had a very positive, complimentary comment to make about the member that I had just met. He had the ability to think positively about the other members of the House, especially political opponents. George Snow was quick to sense my surprised reaction to all these positive comments he made about our political opponents. Of course, being a wet-behind-the-ears-25-year-old, I viewed these people as the enemy and thought there should be no discourse with the foes. Sensing this view that I held of the political world, George Snow began a teaching process that altered significantly how I perceived political life.

The first thing George taught me was that you had to be a good person just to get to this place. He then taught me that the respect you show for your political foe was more than a personal thing. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, George Snow understood well that personalities do conflict and no amount of discourse or discussion can alter the clash of personalities. The great lesson, however, that he taught me was the need to respect the decision of other Nova Scotians in selecting their member of the Legislature. From that time on, I understood the use of the term "honourable member". To me, the term signifies respect for the people who send us here. From George Snow I learned that this place is not about the individuals who occupy these seats, it is about the people who send us here, and to those people we all have a sense of responsibility to demonstrate our respect, both collectively and individually.

I want to congratulate the Speaker on his election. I know that as I come to know him both personally and professionally, I feel confident that this place is in good hands. I also want

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to congratulate the Deputy Speakers who have been selected from each of their respective caucuses and I look forward to their participation in keeping the House in order throughout the session and the coming sessions.

I often thought of the dilemma that the Speaker faced when he had to make the decision about who would be the Official Opposition. When I thought of his decision-making process, a phrase often used by the New Democratic Party to describe the difference between Progressive Conservatives and Liberals often came to mind, and that phrase, sir, was Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

I have already referenced the fine speech of the mover of the Address in Reply and I want to salute the contribution of the member for Kings North. I remember well my first speech in this place. I wish I had had the opportunity to hear the efforts of these members before my maiden speech. It would have made a great deal of difference to me and it would have helped me considerably.

I want to congratulate my Leader who just spoke, for his steady leadership and his accomplishment in becoming Premier of Nova Scotia. I want the Premier to know, Mr. Speaker, that I would not be back here if it were not for his leadership. Obviously I could not have amassed such a massive plurality on my own. It is the leadership of the Premier that attracted me to consider a return to politics. It was not an easy decision to leave the majestic maples of Giant Lake to return to this place. So far, I haven't had second thoughts; hopefully I won't. (Applause)

I have lived my life since my departure from here with a profound sense of gratitude to the people of Guysborough for the privilege they afforded me to represent them here. I am again privileged this time to represent the people of Antigonish in their Legislature. (Interruptions) Well, you never know, I am going to Richmond in two weeks time. I trust that when I return I will not be the subject of a notice of motion to have me expelled from the Island.

The honorable member need not fear that I will embark upon any personal attack against him but certainly we will scrutinize his record very carefully. If he has the teapot on, I will certainly be very glad to drop in, too, Mr. Speaker.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, little did I think as I played ball on the yard of Saint Ninian Street school or played hockey in Memorial Rink, nestled in the heart of the campus of St. Francis Xavier University, or swam at Mahoney's Beach in the waters of St. Georges Bay, that I would one day represent the people of this beautiful part of Nova Scotia.

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Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to attempt to win the argument that Antigonish is the most beautiful constituency in Nova Scotia. We have already heard other members make that claim. However, I will invite you to join me on a journey of sorts through Antigonish and you can draw your own conclusions, you certainly know what my sentiments are.

We would begin, if members join me, on beautiful Beaver Mountain Park, situated high above the Trans Canada Highway as it weaves its way between the highlands of Browns Mountain and the Keppoch Plateau. Sir, at this time of year, the colours you will see from that vantage point will not be matched anywhere else on earth, except perhaps for some other constituencies represented by members of this House. From that vantage point one can see stretching beneath them the expanse of a county rich in resources and populated by a people of historically varied backgrounds. Visible from this position are the high points of the cathedral town of Antigonish which is nestled in the valley of the Brierly Brook, West River and Wrights River, as they make their way to the harbour which is a naturalist's delight and one of our richest resources and it is an attraction for visitors. The harbour's meander to St. Georges Bay is also discernable from this viewpoint.

Mr. Speaker, we could leave that point and journey down the highway to Havre Boucher Hill. If, from there, we were to look to the northwest, we would see the deep blue expanse of St. Georges Bay. The bay's boundaries would reveal magnificent Cape George and the distant highlands that separate the communities of St. Georges Bay from the North Shore along Northumberland Strait. If we were fortunate enough to encounter this sight at sunset, we could not help but pause and ponder the Creator's imagination. As impressive as we might find the sights witnessed from these two locations, they would do no more justice to Antigonish than the cover of the best book you have ever read did to its contents. Most good books reveal a landscape and illustrate the influence of that landscape on the people who populate it, as well as revealing the influence of a people on the landscape.

When you leave the Trans Canada Highway, Mr. Speaker, you begin turning the pages of a story that will rival any book written, the story of the people of Antigonish - its history, its land, its water, its struggles, its aspirations, its achievements. I invite honourable members to enjoy its beauty, whether it is the scenes I just described or the Acadian communities rich in their history and culture, the lands settled by the Scots along the Northumberland Strait, at the foot of the Keppoch, around Loch Harbour where the Irish joined the Scots in building strong communities, or from Southside Harbour to Loch Katrine along the South River, from Bayfield to Glassburn and Black Avon to Merland and Monastery. All these journeys will reveal a people who, like most Nova Scotians, have relied traditionally on the resources of the land and the sea to support their lives here in this province.

If honourable members were to join me in such a journey, they would be comforted, sir, by the similarities to their own ridings and react with appreciation to the diversity presented by Antigonish. They would conclude, as would I, if I were to join them in a similar journey

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throughout their part of Nova Scotia, that we are blessed to live in one of the finest landscapes on earth with a people deserving of such an environment.

I want to point out that the 58th General Assembly owes a great deal to Antigonish. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview hails from West Street in Antigonish, where her mother still resides with her younger sister. Members who have served with this honourable member in the past will attest to the contribution she has made to this place and we all look forward to her continued contribution throughout the duration of this 58th General Assembly.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham comes from Linwood in Antigonish County. I know that she also has gained the respect, not only of her colleagues in the NDP, but of all members who have served with her in the past. I also wish her well throughout the remainder of this Assembly. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of the 58th Assembly, I will cease to wish them well, however, that will be a political wish and not a personal one.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is a native to Summerside in Antigonish County and I look forward to his contribution to our work. Mr. Speaker, when you have a plurality of 12, there are many people who attempt to lay claim as being the reason you were elected. The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has not laid such a claim, but he, perhaps, might be entitled to it. The members of his family who reside in Bayfield were not able to vote for him, but in order to vote for his Leader, they had no choice but to vote for me and that is not a beneficiary I would normally receive, or I am so told. It came at the expense of people opposite. So, for the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, I want to thank him for being a candidate and I can say that he has made a great deal to my presence here today. (Applause)

I might also point out, if I may, that the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is not with us today because he was a pall-bearer at a funeral of a man from Goshen in Guysborough County who has made a tremendous contribution to the life of eastern Nova Scotia. Merritt Feltmate lived in that community for 75 years and he conducted a business situated at Goshen and he was one of the most enterprising individuals that I have ever had the opportunity to know. Among his many accomplishments was a candy making factory, which was situated there at one time. He ran a general store that served the interests of southern Antigonish County and that part of Guysborough County and St. Mary's Municipality. He was a contractor who did excellent work. When he built a road, it was one people knew would last. But he was very innovative when it came to the Christmas tree industry. He had the ability and the knack to go to the woods and select young seedlings, take them to areas where nothing was growing and plant them and produce some of the most natural and beautiful Christmas trees that have ever come out of this province.

Perhaps his final accomplishment exhibited the great love that he had for the animals and the world around him, especially the animal life. He developed what became known as

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Merritt's Bird Farm. He had birds from all parts of Canada, all parts of North America and, indeed, strange birds from various parts of the world. He looked after them continuously and it kept growing year after year, to the point where, on one occasion, when I had conversation with him, he told me and he asked me not to tell anybody else - and here I am telling it, but I think it is a part of the contribution and demonstrates the love that he had for animals - that he was spending over $35,000 a year out of his own pocket in order to keep that enterprise going and that, sir, is the kind of person who was extremely unique, the kind of person that has helped build the character of this province and has through his own efforts, in his own community and beyond that community, strengthened the lives of hundreds of Nova Scotians. He was a tremendous employer and somebody whose respect will always be held by the people in that community and those who came to know him.

I can tell you, sir, at his wake last night you had to wait outside for upwards of three-quarters of an hour just to get in the funeral home and that is an indication. They were from all over Antigonish, Guysborough and Pictou Counties and there were even those from Cape Breton who were in that line-up last night that I recognized. I apologize, sir, for having gone on that bit of a tangent, but my memory of Merritt Feltmate goes back to when I was three years old, when I first visited his store with my uncle, and I have known him ever since that time. His loss is going to be felt by everyone, especially by myself. (Interruption)Yes, thank you very much.

At any rate, sir, there is another relationship between the member for Halifax Needham and myself. The way the press is these days one has to be careful in how you use the term relationship, but I think I can explain, sir. I want to point out that the honourable member for Halifax Needham and I have roots in the community of Giant Lake, Guysborough County. Her grandfather and my father were both born in Giant Lake. A further note is that the home my father purchased when he moved back to Giant Lake after being elected to this House in 1960 was located on the same property as the log cabin in which her grandfather was born.

So, Mr. Speaker, there is that relationship and I felt the fact that four members had their roots in Antigonish County (Interruption) At least that. I am at the stage in life where if I can add a year to my age, it makes me very happy. I am never worried about that. (Interruption) That is right.

At any rate, Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier of the influences of industries on the economy of the Town of Antigonish and County. It was good to see the references in the Speech from the Throne to the initiation of discussions with the federal government to secure an agreement on sustainable forestry practices. I hope that paramount in these discussions will be the inclusion of landowners as being an intricate part of this agreement. The reference to assisting young farmers and drought assistance is welcome. The reference to the future of the oil and gas industry provokes optimism, but also underlines the need to educate so that our traditional industries can live in harmony with these new opportunities. The reference to tourism is welcome and the appointment of the honourable member for Inverness as Minister

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of Tourism is well received. His leadership and enthusiasm will be important in helping the government achieve its objectives.

No discussion of Antigonish County would be complete without reference to highways, as the Question Period noted today. In last year's Speech from the Throne debate my predecessor said that 63 per cent of Antigonish's highways were unpaved. He blamed this intolerable situation on the years of neglect and yet earlier in the same speech he praised his predecessor for his long record of achievement on behalf of Antigonish. One must wonder, Mr. Speaker, is that long record of achievement from 1970 to 1998 inclusive of the years of neglect experienced by the highways of Antigonish and referenced by my predecessor. Antigonish's highways were second to none when I was first elected in 1969, thanks in large measure to the capable representation of the late W.F. (Bill) MaKinnon, who represented Antigonish from 1950 to 1970. The years of neglect were from 1970 to 1999, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister of Transportation has heard me say in the past that Antigonish has a great deal of catching up to do. Obviously it will not catch up to the provincial average overnight, but the process must begin one road at a time.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if there is one honourable member who may wind up accepting my invitation to do the tour of Antigonish County, it could well be the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, the Minister of Economic Development.

The people of Antigonish were pleased to the hear the reference in the Throne Speech to the government's commitment to review existing school board boundaries. The entire process of school board amalgamation was carried out without any consultation. That in itself created a negative atmosphere toward the process. The conduct of the school board senior staff in our area has been such that there is little confidence in their leadership among parents and staff. Parents find themselves facing fait accompli decisions made by distant administrators who have little knowledge of the communities affected and seemingly even less desire to learn. Teachers have been placed under a gag order and I am sure the officials concerned will take issue with the points I am making here, but I have just concluded one of the most extensive surveys ever conducted on the topic, an election campaign, and the perception held by parents and teachers is as I describe.

Confidence in the process must be restored. (Applause) Participants must feel that their school boards exist to serve the interests of their communities and the students living in those communities. Teachers will never be able to contribute their maximum potential if they must evaluate every thought before it is articulated for fear of banishment. Hirings and promotions must appear to be fair. Such is not now the case.

AN HON. MEMBER: And be fair.

[Page 153]

MR. MACISAAC: And be fair, also. Mr. Speaker, I want now to discuss two institutions in Antigonish that play an essential role in the economic and social life, not only of Antigonish Town and County, but of all of eastern Nova Scotia. I speak, sir, of St. Martha's Hospital and St. Francis Xavier University. The history of both institutions is rooted in the Catholic Church but sir, both institutions have served all citizens of their community equally since their inception. Much could be said of the history of both institutions but time suggests that I focus on the future, this afternoon.

The commitment to provide additional nurses referenced in the Throne Speech is welcome. The shortage of nursing staff is of crisis proportions at St. Martha's. Recently I had occasion to visit the Outpatients Department of the hospital. Friends of ours were visiting from Alberta and the wife of this couple had to be admitted to hospital to receive emergency treatment. When I entered the Outpatients Department I could immediately see that if it were not for the high level of professionalism of the attending medical and nursing staff, that chaos would have ruled the day. All available beds were full, all outpatient observation beds were full, patients were in the hallway and the waiting room was full and the stress level of the medical and nursing staff was full. They survived that weekend by closing day surgery for the next day to make available the day surgery recovery beds to accommodate those patients treated in the Outpatients Department who required hospitalization.

If what I described were an occasional event, the professionals in hospital administration would cope. But when the scene I described is commonplace, we are putting too great a strain on our professional health care givers and hospital administrators.

The positive side of that story is that my friend recovered without surgery, thanks to the professional care provided by the staff of St Martha's. When staff apologized to her for the long wait in getting a bed, their response was, we understand. It is the same way in Alberta. I spoke with them on the weekend after their return to Alberta and they were very pleased with the health care provided by St. Martha's health care providers, and wanted me to convey their thanks and appreciation to them.

Mr. Speaker, I am using this occasion and the official record of Hansard to express the appreciation of Bill and Marg Highet of Brooks, Alberta, to the doctors, nurses and all the staff of St. Martha's Hospital for the wonderful care provided them when sickness interrupted their holiday in Nova Scotia. I was pleased to hear in the Throne Speech the reference to long-term care beds, because that will provide a great assistance in relieving the pressure found at St. Martha's and other hospitals in this province.

St. Francis Xavier University was founded in 1853 and has grown into one of Canada's finest universities. Measured in today's standards, St. F.X. is first-class; measured in historical standards, St. F.X.'s contribution has resulted in it being measured as a world-class institution. The contribution of the Antigonish Movement, under the leadership of Dr. Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins, to the improvement of life in the Maritime Provinces

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resulted in the principles of this movement being carried forward to the world stage through the Coady International Institute.

Sir, institutions do not survive by clinging to their past accomplishments. The current leadership of St. F.X. is dynamic and responsive to the competitive world in which we now live. The university is currently facing the challenges of a changing world without sacrificing the values that have enabled it to grow into one of Canada's best universities. The evidence of the success of St. F.X.'s values is the loyalty and strength of its alumni. The attachment to the X ring is a unique bond that unites the spirit of the X grads throughout Canada and the world.

My purpose today, Mr. Speaker, is to relate the contribution of St. F.X. to the community in which it is located, Antigonish. I will focus primarily on the economic contribution of St. F.X. to Antigonish Town and County. St. F.X. generates employment for almost 700 families in the community; that represents 9 per cent of the jobs in Antigonish Town and County. In 1998-99, there were 3,724 full-time equivalent students at X. The payroll for 1999-2000 is projected to be $24.3 million; that figure is double what it was 15 years ago. Adjusting for inflation, there will be a real growth of $5 million to $6 million per year in wages since 1985.

Directly the university accounts for about 11 per cent of all employment income earned by residents of Antigonish Town and County. Some examples of spending by family employed at St. F.X. might illustrate the reality of the institution's economic impact on the area. On food alone, the families of St. F.X. would spend $3.1 million a year; for shelter, $4.3 million; transportation, $3.1 million; and recreation, $1.3 million. These are but a few examples of spending and its impact on the economy of Antigonish. In total this year the university employees will spend over $18 million and that, sir, does not include what they will contribute through taxes.

The student population spends significant amounts of money in the community in the course of an academic year. The 1,400 on-campus students spend $350,000 a month or $2.8 million per academic year, while the off-campus students will spend $760,000 a month or $6.1 million in an academic year. If you add this figure to that spent by employees, you have an amount of about $27 million a year being spent in the local economy. If we factor in the visitors who come to the university and are attracted to the university because of the facilities there, then the annual figure of money that is spent through the university in the local community is in the vicinity of $35 million a year.

These figures do not account for the impact of the multiplier in the economy, nor the capital expansion program of $52 million, which is currently under way, is not included in this assessment. If we were to add the multiple effect of the spending on the university community and the construction spending, we would come to realize the tremendous impact St. F.X. has on the community of Antigonish.

[Page 155]

I think that citizens, businesses and government sometimes take the university for granted. We are all very dependent on the leadership of the university and its employees to ensure that it continues to be a vibrant institution capable of competing for the students of tomorrow. A recent example that illustrates the opposite of my concern is the reaction of the community to the Millennium Centre, which will be built to serve the needs of both the university and the community. All levels of government and the community-at-large will participate in financing this project. This is an example of the university, the community and all three levels of government participating in a project that will provide both students, staff and community services. This level of cooperation between the university and the community is possible because of the excellent track record of the university in sharing its facilities with the community.

This has been evident for years in the operation of Memorial Rink. I enjoyed this facility as a youngster growing up in Antigonish and, more recently, as President of Antigonish Minor Hockey, I came to appreciate the excellent cooperation between the university and minor hockey over the years. The university shares the facilities of the Oland Centre and Aquatic Centre with the community. The operation of the Millennium Centre will allow that cooperation to continue to flourish.

The Town and County of Antigonish are fortunate to have St. F.X. as part of our community and in future remarks I will update the House on the expansion program currently under way at St. F.X. During this first weekend of October, St. F.X. opened two state-of-the-art student residences on campus. They were named after a former president of the university who led the university through a major expansion during his term of president from 1954-64, the late Dr. Hugh J. Somers and named after a former chancellor of the University, Bishop Emeritus Most Reverend William Power. I want to congratulate the university on this major accomplishment.

Another event that occurred on campus at the homecoming weekend was a testimonial to Senator John B. Stewart, who will soon be retiring from Parliament. Dr. Stewart, as he was known on campus when he taught political science lives in Bayfield, Antigonish County, was a former Member of Parliament for Antigonish-Guysborough and served in the Senate of Canada with distinction. I am sure all members of the House would want to join me in wishing Senator Stewart well in his retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I will have occasion, through Question Period and the estimates, to discuss with honourable members matters relating to my ministerial responsibilities. However, I do want to say that I would welcome all members if ever they feel our office could be of assistance to them as they attempt to serve their constituents. I want to thank the Premier for the opportunity to participate in the government. For the history buffs in the House, the last Conservative member for Antigonish to serve in the Executive Council was Sir John. S.D. Thompson in 1882.

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Much will be said in the coming months about moving to the right in government. Mr. Speaker, I do not consider putting our financial house in order as a move to the right, the centre or the left. It is common sense. (Applause) A move to a smaller government is not necessarily a move along the political spectrum. It is a realization that with scarce resources we must make choices. It makes little sense to do many things poorly and inadequately when, with wise choices, we can provide essential services effectively. We cannot redistribute wealth unless we first create wealth. The more wealth created, the more we can serve the needs of the disadvantaged. (Interruption) You can't spread it if you don't have it. Priorities become the essence of government in these times of scarce resources.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my family for their support and encouragement. My campaign team did a great job and I congratulate them. Winning a constituency for the first time in 32 years deserves a major compliment and I am pleased to offer that here today.

I want to thank the honourable members of the House for their patience and I look forward to the remainder of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move to adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, before adjourning perhaps the honourable House Leader of the Liberal Party would like to outline the business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, following the daily routine, it will be Liberal Opposition Day. We will be calling Resolution No. 6 on the impact of the closure of Sysco; Resolution No. 32, Justice - the jail/forensic hospital location; and, if time permits, Resolution No. 20, Health - full-time nurses.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. and we will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The order of business will be Opposition Members' Business.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

We will now move to the late show.

The resolution for the late show is:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government enunciate its plans to effect changes to eliminate the unfairness of the BST.".



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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker. I also want to welcome you back in the Chair. I used to tell you that you were my favourite Liberal Speaker when you were in that position. Now you are in a tie for Deputy Speaker but it is, indeed, good to see you back in the Chair.

As I begin today I am reminded of some of the remarks that were made by the Premier a few short minutes ago in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I am not going to recite exact word for word what the Premier said, but in essence the Premier said, I believe, that one of the things he is looking forward to is all-Party cooperation in this House for the benefit of all Nova Scotians because, in essence, what the Premier said in part, is that is what the people had voted for.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it would come as any secret to yourself that we in the NDP caucus are more than prepared, and we have indicated that to this government as we had to the former government, that we also would like to see all-Party cooperation for the benefit of Nova Scotians. But, if we are to have true all-Party cooperation, that means that all three Parties, including the government, must be cooperating. That means that the government also must be forthright with the information about what their intentions are and be willing to share with members of the Opposition and the public as a whole.

[Page 158]

Mr. Speaker, the resolution that is before us today is "Therefore be it resolved that this government enunciate its plans to effect changes to eliminate the unfairness of the BST.". That was brought forward today as a topic for debate. It was something that certainly was a very hot topic of debate in this House and throughout Nova Scotia a number of years ago. It is a position, or it is a topic I should say, that members of our caucus and members of the Tories who, when they were sitting over here, also spoke about at great length when the Liberals imposed unilaterally their BST deal upon the people of Nova Scotia.

At that time, Mr. Speaker, the now Government of Nova Scotia, the Progressive Conservative Party, recognized that BST was very unfair, that it did not affect the people in this province equally. I heard the honourable member for Antigonish speaking a moment ago also in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and as he was wrapping up he talked about how we have to, if we are going to have the monies, the resources to do different things, grow the wealth of this province because unless we grow the wealth of the province, we have no money, no wealth to spread around to meet those needs.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is right now, wealth is not shared equally in this province, but people equally do have some basic needs. People, whether you are a millionaire, whether you are making $100,000 a year, or whether you are making $10,000 a year, have to heat their homes. That is not equal if you are trying to pay your heating bills, buying your home heat fuel from a very modest and middle income compared to those who are at a higher income level.

It is also not equal, Mr. Speaker, when parents send their children to school, when they have to pay that BST for their school supplies and children's clothing. It is not equally distributed when those who are in the lower and middle incomes also have to pay that tax compared to those who have very deep pockets, or at least the impact upon those families is not equal. The Premier in Question Period today, when I asked him about his intentions, the Premier came back with kinds of comments like, well, you will have to remind me of what I promised because I do not remember some of these commitments.

I am now trying to get a copy - and I had hoped to have it before the late debate began, but we started about 40 minutes earlier so it has not arrived yet - of actual quotes from the then Leader of the Opposition back in 1998 in his speech, I believe it was in Truro talking about this very topic, where he talked about the injustice of the BST tax deal, where he talked about how it affected families unequally and how he even said he wanted to scrap the tax. He even talked about, and this would be in keeping with the Premier's comments in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne this afternoon, about cooperation, at that time the Premier said that he would like to have an all-Party committee set up to evaluate and look for alternative ways, alternative means of collecting the revenues to replace the BST.

Mr. Speaker, we all in this House recognize that there are certain advantages to the blended sales tax or the harmonized sales tax, the HST, as its new name was changed after

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people did not like it being referred to as a BS tax. The reality is the Premier, as recently as remarks that were attributed to him as of today, was again very evasive about what his intentions are with regard to the tax. He has said that he wants to change so that the province gets control because he does not like this system where other provinces can dictate what the tax structure will be in Nova Scotia. I share that concern. I spoke when that bill was introduced, I think that was before the rules in this House were changed, I think I spoke three or four hours on the title of that bill alone.

AN HON. MEMBER: It just seemed that long.

MR. HOLM: Just seemed that long, well no, in reality it was that long, Mr. Premier. On the title of a bill, in the old system you could speak as often as you wanted for an hour at a time. I think, on that occasion, I managed to find at least four occasions to speak and to express my views on the title for an hour.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is the injustice of the system has not changed. It is easier to have, yes, in one central point, collection, but we share the views now as we shared them then. We spoke at length at that time saying how we resented the fact that other provinces could control what the tax structure would be, that we could not change it without their approval or that they could increase the tax structure without our approval. All of that has been said, but it goes beyond that.

What is the reason that you want to change the tax system? Does this government still recognize the inequity and the basic unfairness of a blended sales tax that charges families the tax on essentials that they need. The Minister of Education surely will know and has learned by now that one of the major stresses that teachers and children face as they start to school are the demands for the new school supplies, the new sneakers and books and clothing, and that those children who go to school in September who come from families that are disadvantaged and can't afford those items, that those children have a very difficult time at the start of the year. Many teachers fork out their own money to assist those children.

Mr. Speaker, this government is profiteering on the backs of those children. And that is shameful. I hope that the Premier will take part in the debate this afternoon. I hope that the Premier, in the spirit of the cooperation that he talked about during his Address in Reply will lay on the table what his objectives are, what he hopes to achieve in opening up the discussions and the negotiations with Ottawa on the BST. Is it simply to get more power for yourselves or is it to bring about some social justice and a fairness in the tax system that a few years ago you recognized was unjust, or Mr. Speaker, and yes, you are telling me that my time has expired so I will stop there. I am sure that we will have an opportunity to talk about this again on a future occasion. (Applause)

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

[Page 160]

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I had expected the honourable Minister of Finance or a representative of the government to respond to the comments that have been made, but possibly they may be saving their thunder for a later time. I don't know really how to respond to this particular proposition. It indicates that the government had indicated when in Opposition that they would want to effect changes in the taxation system of the province and to eliminate alleged unfairness, but the specifics of that claimed unfairness are not explained.

I think that we all need to appreciate the very delicate nature of changes in taxation. We have achieved in Nova Scotia a system that has its blemishes and has its faults, as do all human institutions, but there is a climate of stability that exists with the single-tax system that is advantageous and beneficial to business and promotes stability in the economy. While it may on occasions perhaps cause distress to some, which we regret, I think that the government should tread cautiously in terms of effecting any major changes in the tax system, because the cure may prove to be worse than the disease.

Having said that, I certainly do welcome any relief that can be provided through ingenuity on the part of government to find a more equitable tax system in general and in specific application. I am not here today to recite a litany of proposed recommendations; I don't think that I have done the research necessary to outline such a thing.

[5:30 p.m.]

I would say that we hear from the NDP that they are more than prepared to offer all-Party cooperation. Well, Mr. Speaker, when we in this Party sat over where the government now is, a short time ago, I recall having heard those offers of being more than prepared to offer the friendly hand of cooperation, and while that hand of cooperation was being extended around us on one side, the other hand was very busy applying the knife. So I would caution my friends opposite to be careful lest they take that group up on their offers on cooperation and friendship. Sometimes it pays to have the right enemies. It helps in terms of survival, and I pass those remarks on for what they may be worth.

To achieve all-Party cooperation in terms or consultation and input prior to the enactment of legislation, that to me, Mr. Speaker, sounds like a different system of government from the system we have here in Nova Scotia. It possibly might be the system of government Mr. Romanow has in mind in the Province of Saskatchewan where, I note to save his political hide he has now entered into a coalition with a Party that prior to that time was the Liberal Party. Indeed they tell us when it is convenient for them that everything done in Saskatchewan is done right; Saskatchewan is a model of perfection. They are not particularly fond of references to the Bob Rae experience in Ontario or to Glen Clarke and company in British Columbia. They don't want to hear about that stuff at all, but they do insist that Mr. Romanow in Saskatchewan has it right and that is the province that we should emulate if we want to get our government done properly.

[Page 161]

Well I know that Mr. Romanow has now moved in a new direction in terms of establishing his continuity in government, in plain language, in staying in office. No doubt, in that context he is now sharing with his former opponents the inner secrets of government, and is involving them in all-Party cooperation and in consulting with them prior to the enactment of legislation and, possibly, if they want to go the distance following the Romanow-Saskatchewan model they can achieve those things that they advocate by entering into a coalition with the existing government, if such can be negotiated to their satisfaction, which would mean to make them all Cabinet Ministers or Speaker I suppose. In any event, again I would caution the government and urge them for what little wisdom I might be able to offer them, not to go that route. The cure might be worse than the disease.

Now, having said all that, I would presume, sir, that the government's taxation measures will be indicated in the form of legislation that will be introduced and which we can debate and examine when it is tabled, and further in the budget which I understand is but two days from being presented here in the House. So possibly at that time our questions may be answered. If the government is indeed thinking of tinkering with the BST legislation, I would certainly urge that any such changes as are made be done in fullest possible consultation with the stakeholders that are involved lest we cause grief by hasty action that may, perhaps, not be adequately thought through in advance and may lead to difficulty.

Having said that, I want to say that there are two things that are certain in life:death and taxes. Neither is pleasant, but neither is avoidable. We have achieved a certain system of taxation in this province. I realize that they don't have it in Prince Edward Island. In Prince Edward Island, they have two taxes. It was believed, especially with the opening of the Confederation Bridge, that that would cause many people on the Island to leave the Island and go over to Moncton or some such nearby place and buy farm implements or machinery or cars, trucks, whatever, and then take them back home. Whether that has actually happened or not, I don't know, but I do know that there are different taxation systems in different provinces and what we have here in Nova Scotia, while imperfect, at least provides a climate of stability within which investment decisions can be made, and that certainly helps to promote economic development and that is something that we all need desperately.

People come to this House and they say we need jobs, and we need them in the worst way, especially where I come from, Mr. Speaker, but I wanted to say that if the economy is destabilized by continuous change in taxation programs, and investors and businesses having no idea what tomorrow may bring because there will be some new drastic change, it certainly doesn't help to promote economic growth and it certainly doesn't help to create jobs.

Without any specifics in this particular resolution, it is hard for me to know what to address, Mr. Speaker. In attempting to address this resolution, I don't really find anything in it to address. I was asked by my House Leader to consume 10 minutes to see that the motion was given appropriate rebuke and I trust that I have done so in the course of these brief remarks.

[Page 162]

Now having said that, there may perhaps be other honourable members who want to get involved in this exciting debate and I wouldn't want to prevent them from having that opportunity so possibly I might take my seat at this time, Mr. Speaker, and invite other honourable members who wish to, to participate in this discussion. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker. I am rather reluctant to get to my feet. The people who I usually rely on to heckle a little are not here. This whole resolution is actually a laugh. The Premier made the intimation that he was going to take a look at the BST - popularly known these days as the HST - and that is not surprising because I would like to take this House for a little walk down the garden path, the garden path that we were led up by the former Minister of Finance, Mr. Bernie Boudreau, when he came forward with the greatest boondoggle ever put across the people of Nova Scotia when he decided, all of a sudden, that he was going to enter into an agreement with the federal government to combine the GST with the HST that we had in this province before we came to the HST, the combination tax of provincial and federal taxation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Senator Boudreau got his award.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Senator Boudreau certainly got his award. You are bang on; he is the only one who got a reward.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is in the Senate now.

MR. RUSSELL: He is in the Senate now. Well, God bless him. Let us hope that he stays there because if he ever comes back to run in this province, my friend, he is going to have a great time.

Mr. Speaker, the argument put forward by the government of the day when the HST was first instituted was that this was going to lead to an increase in taxation for Nova Scotia but, however, a betterment for the consumers of Nova Scotia. Now, it is very difficult, first of all, to find where the benefits of this taxation have made things better in this province but it certainly has not helped those who heretofore, before we had the HST, in the lower income brackets, where they had certain advantages which they no longer have.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government, as part of the carrot for the introduction of the HST, offered this province, and all four provinces in the Atlantic Region, a transition allowance. In the case of Nova Scotia I believe it was something in the order of about $236 million. (Interruption) $275 million - well, I am close, what is a few million here or there in the eyes of the Liberals who were running the province at that time. It is one of the things that is really amazing that during the years when the Liberals were able to run up a deficit of about $750 million and still showing a balanced budget for three years, and also taking in

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approximately $500 million in additional taxes during that period, as well as the normal taxation. What I am talking about is in transfers made to the provincial government by the federal government under equalization, prior years' adjustments and a transitional allowance all added up to $500 million additional money that the Liberal Government was getting during those years in power.

Mr. Speaker, they were bringing the money into Mr. Boudreau's office across the way by the truckload. Money was just pouring into that department and any prudent government would have applied that to the deficit and would have made sure that his departments remained on-line with regard to their expenditures. It did not happen, as I say; in spite of receiving $500 million additional funding, they also went $750 million in debt.

Mr. Speaker, what a great history of financial management. (Interruptions) Greg Kerr did a fine job. The Liberal Government across the way loves to talk about the debt incurred by the Progressive Conservative Government during their tenure from 1978-93. When we came into power in 1978, this province was already $1 billion in debt. One billion dollars in debt. When we went out in 1993, the province was approximately $5.5 billion in debt, there was indeed an increase of $4.5 billion over our 15 years tenure. This bunch across the road here, they ran up the bill and today it is approaching $10 billion and they managed to do that in six years. (Interruptions)

They had the greatest opportunity since Confederation to set this government on the path of recovery, but they didn't take it. They squandered the money. There wasn't a department within that government that came in on budget, including the Minister of Health's department, which during Bernie Boudreau's tenure went back . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He has got more nerve than Dick Tracy. (Laughter)

MR. RUSSELL: The honourable member for Dartmouth East does not understand what his government had done prior to his taking over the Department of Health. I can tell you quite honestly that the Department of Health was underfunded, that wasn't the fault of the former Minister of Health, it was the result of the former Minister of Finance starving the Department of Health but squandering money everywhere else.

Mr. Speaker, this initiative that the Premier has announced will be forthcoming sometime in the next 12 months and we will be taking a look at the BST. It is not our intention to destroy the present system of one payment at the cash register into a . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That is all we want to know.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I am telling you. Pay attention. (Interruptions) There will be changes, there be structural and managerial changes, because at the present time, we in this province have lost our ability over taxation at the retail level.

[Page 164]

AN HON. MEMBER: Will there be rate changes?

MR. RUSSELL: Will there be rate changes? We are not talking about rate changes, we are talking about the system at the present time that says New Brunswick and the federal government and Newfoundland can dictate to us as to what our tax shall be, whether it be greater or less. At the present time, we have lost that ability to exercise our own taxation system.

AN HON. MEMBER: So, will you then lower the taxes on essentials?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about what the tax is on, we are talking about the control of that part of our taxation system. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, we have put upon the people of Nova Scotia a system, as I have said, that denies us the right to make changes. (Interruptions) That gentleman sitting opposite from Sackville-Cobequid was one of the persons who stood up in this House and agreed essentially with the HST. The gentleman over there essentially agreed with the HST. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: A question, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Government House Leader would be kind enough to table, wherever it is he has any kind of assertions, that I agreed with the HST?

MR. RUSSELL: The honourable member was opposed to the legislation that was brought forward, but however, I can remember distinctly the honourable member making the statement that he agreed that there should not be two taxes on purchases, that you should have a unified tax on material, which is what the essence of the HST is all about. (Interruptions) Beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: But you said you are not going to change that.

MR. RUSSELL: We are not going to change that, we are leaving that in one place. What we objected to when the HST went through was; number one, that the transition allowance went directly into the consolidated fund of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you oppose tax on children's clothing?

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: We opposed taxes on children's clothing, we opposed taxes on fuel oil. We opposed those things. (Interruptions)

[Page 165]

Mr. Speaker, they are asking me questions what we are going to do with the taxation, I am not speaking to that. I am speaking to the fact that the structure of the HST is wrong and we will be looking into that situation in the forthcoming year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time has elapsed for this evening's debate and I want to thank all honourable members for taking part in this interesting debate this evening. (Laughter)

There has been a motion to adjourn.

The House will now rise and return tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 5:46 p.m.]