Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Oct. 26, 1999

First Session

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Repts. of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority, 1997-99,
Hon. J. Chataway 904
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 299, Health - Cancer: PAP Test Awareness Week -
Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 904
Vote - Affirmative 904
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 300, PC Party (N.S.) - Hamm Plan: NDP (Sask.) -
Absence Legislative Prog., Mr. P. MacEwan 905
Res. 301, House of Assembly - Hallowe'en: Treats Only -
Availability Recognize, Mr. D. Dexter 906
Res. 302, Educ. - Adult Literacy: Reading Camps Estab. (1899) -
Alfred Fitzpatrick (Pictou Co.) Recognize, The Premier 906
Vote - Affirmative 907
Res. 303, Gov't (N.S.): Poetry - Avoid, Mr. R. MacLellan 907
Res. 304, Econ. Dev.: Small Business Week - Recognize Young
Entrepreneur (N.S. 1999) - Paul Wareham Congrats.,
Mr. F. Corbett 908
Vote - Affirmative 908
Res. 305, Kings North MLA - Advice (Cynicism in Politics):
Gov't. (N.S.) Members - Heed, Mr. D. Downe 908
Res. 306, Culture - Galleria (Gottingen St.): Re-Opening - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 909
Vote - Affirmative 910
Res. 307, Justice - RCMP (Pt. Hawkesbury): Peter MacIntyre
(Rich. Co. Native) - Training Congrats. Mr. M. Samson 910
Vote - Affirmative 911
Res. 308, Health - Cancer: PAP Test - Encourage, Mr. D. Dexter 911
Vote - Affirmative 911
Res. 309, Premier - Donald Cameron (Premier [1991-93]):
General Election (1993) - Consequences Note, Mr. R. MacKinnon 911
Res. 310, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Prospect Road: Plans - Reveal,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 912
Res. 311, Commun. Serv. - Disabled: Bdgs. Accessibility -
Funding Reinstate, Mr. D. Wilson 912
Res. 312, Lbr. - Min.: House of Assembly - Business Focus, Mr. H. Epstein 913
Res. 313, Econ. Dev. - Atl. Digital Media Fest. (Baddeck):
Organizers (Mediafusion) - Applaud, Mr. Manning MacDonald 914
Vote - Affirmative 914
Res. 314, Econ. Dev. - Camerons Gen. Store (Elmsdale): Restoration -
Rabahi Bros. Applaud, Mr. John MacDonell 915
Vote - Affirmative 915
Res. 315, PC Leader (N.S.): Real - Stand, Mr. D. Downe 915
Res. 316, Premier - Consultation: Promise - Fulfil, Mr. H. Epstein 916
Res. 317, Justice - Courts: Consolidation - Review, Mr. M. Samson 916
Res. 318, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 333: Roads Linking Repair -
Plans Reveal, Mr. W. Estabrooks 917
Res. 319, PC Backbenchers (N.S.): Trained Seals Award (1999) -
Accept, Mr. R. MacKinnon 917
Res. 320, Econ. Dev. - Job Creation: Unemployed - Sensitivity Increase,
Mr. D. Wilson 918
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 115, Health - Paramedics: Negotiations - Interference (Min.),
Mr. Robert Chisholm 919
No. 116, Exco - Session (Fall 1999): Agenda - Change, Mr. R. MacLellan 921
No. 117, Lbr. - Standards Code: Changes (Paramedics) - Introduction,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 922
No. 118, Health - Paramedics: Lbr. Standards Code - Changes,
Mr. D. Downe 923
No. 119, Health - EMC: Payment - Serv./Profit, Mr. D. Dexter 925
No. 120, Exco - Session (Fall 1999): Legislation - Shortage,
Mr. R. MacLellan 926
No. 121, Health - EMC: Contract - Incentives, Mr. D. Dexter 928
No. 122, Health - Paramedics: EMC - Contingency Plan, Dr. J. Smith 929
No. 123, Health - Ambulance Service: Budget Operating - Provide,
Mr. D. Dexter 930
No. 124, Health - Paramedics: Serv. Essential - Provision Contact,
Mr. R. MacLellan 931
No. 125, Health - Paramedics: Contingency Plan - Legislation,
Mr. D. Dexter 932
No. 126, Human Res. - Pub. Serv.: Contracts Future - Methodology,
Mr. D. Wilson 933
No. 127, Premier - Promise: House of Assembly Cooperation -
Abandonment, Mr. J. Holm 934
No. 128, Health - Reg. Bds.: Abolition - Plan Date, Dr. J. Smith 935
No. 129, Educ. - Elmsdale DS: New - Commitment, Mr. John MacDonell 937
No. 130, Justice - Annapolis: Court. Serv. - Reprieve, Mr. M. Samson 938
No. 131, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Crosswalks: Safety Advisory Comm. -
Status, Mr. W. Estabrooks 939
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 9, Ground Ambulance Services Act 941
Mr. W. Gaudet 941
Ms. E. O'Connell 948
Mr. D. Wilson 954
Mr. H. Epstein 968
Mr. M. Samson 981
Mr. J. Holm 1000
Dr. J. Smith 1011
Mr. R. Chisholm 1018
Hon. J. Muir 1030
Previous Question:
Vote - Affirmative 1034
Second Reading:
Vote - Affirmative 1035
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. P. MacEwan 1036
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Justice - Equality (Women): Anne Derrick & Dawn Russell -
Contributions Congrats.:
Ms. E. O'Connell 1040
Mr. M. Parent 1042
Mr. D. Wilson 1044
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1045
Mr. J. Pye 1046
HOUSE RECESSED AT 6:27 P.M. 1047
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:30 P.M. 1047
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY (cont'd):
Mr. D. Dexter 1047
Mr. B. Barnet 1050
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:59 P.M. 1054
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 11:01 P.M. 1054
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 2, Costs and Fees Act and Probate Act 1054
Hon. M. Baker 1055
Mr. D. Downe 1055
Mr. D. Dexter 1055
Hon. M. Baker 1055
Vote - Affirmative 1055
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 27th at 2:00 p.m. 1056

[Page 903]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the west gallery today, the Member of Parliament for Sydney-Victoria - he is a friend of all of the Legislature, I am sure - Mr. Peter Mancini. I would appreciate a welcome from this gathering. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

903

[Page 904]

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the audited statements and annual activity reports of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority for the years 1997, 1998, and 1999, as required under Section 66 of the Gaming Control Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 299

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

Whereas cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in Nova Scotia are among the highest in Canada; and

Whereas only about 40 per cent, or 4 out of 10 women, in this province are screened regularly; and

Whereas with regular Pap testing, cervical cancer is nearly 100 per cent preventable;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize October 25-31, 1999 as Pap Test Awareness Week and commit to informing Nova Scotians about the importance of annual Pap testing as a way of saving the lives of women who might otherwise suffer the devastating effects of cervical cancer.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

[Page 905]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 300

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

Whereas Bill No. 9 in this House is essentially a rewrite of Bill No. 23 introduced earlier this year by the NDP Government in Saskatchewan except that the penalties are only one-quarter as severe as those imposed by the NDP on the nurses of that unfortunate province; and

Whereas Bill No. 23 in Saskatchewan indicated how the New Democratic Party (Interruptions) Please, please.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, ho, ho, ho. What time did you go to bed last night?

MR. MACEWAN: Whereas Bill No. 23 in Saskatchewan indicated how the New Democratic Party . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I will have to start again if the honourable member will not let me proceed.

AN HON. MEMBER: Start again, Paul.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, whereas Bill No. 23 in Saskatchewan indicated how the New Democratic Party as a Party has declared war on the working class and has become the servile tool of big business; and

Whereas Bill No. 23 in Saskatchewan brought upon its sponsors international notoriety and the condemnation of all true friends of labour everywhere;

Therefore be it resolved that when the Tories in Nova Scotia published their vaunted Hamm plan, nowhere within it did they indicate (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I will just start again.

[Page 906]

Therefore be it resolved that when the Tories in Nova Scotia published their vaunted Hamm plan, nowhere within it did they indicate that their first priority would be to emulate and mimic the worst features of the Saskatchewan NDP platform.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 301

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

Whereas All Hallows Eve is but a few days off; and

Whereas traditionally the province's children will be going from door-to-door dressed as ghosts, goblins and such other wordly spectres as costuming will provide for; and

Whereas children will undoubtedly ask the age old question Trick or Treat;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that only treats will be available this year as all the tricks have been used by this government in their dealing with the province's paramedics.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 302

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

Whereas in 1899 Pictou County native, Alfred Fitzpatrick, overcame discouragement from government and business to establish the Canadian Reading Camps Association; and

Whereas under Alfred Fitzpatrick's leadership, this organization grew into what is today known as Frontier College, Canada's oldest adult education institution; and

Whereas in its century of operation, Frontier College has helped educate countless thousands of Canadians in railway camps, lumber woods, city streets and Aboriginal communities;

[Page 907]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the contribution made to education and adult literacy by Alfred Fitzpatrick - one of the great Canadians born and raised in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 303

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

Whereas John F. Kennedy once said of poetry, "When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."; and

Whereas the Speech from the Throne uses the poetry of Robert Frost, erroneously, to cleanse the corruptions of unkept Tory promises; and

Whereas the road less travelled is not an invitation to travel by, but a lament for the wasted time on a road without the benefit of experience;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government avoid the temptation of poetry to wash over the unkept promises of its road less travelled.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 908]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 304

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

Whereas October 25th to October 29th is Small Business Week; and

Whereas Small Business Week is also an opportunity to celebrate young entrepreneurs who are not only being productive, but innovative and making a strong contribution to their local economy; and

Whereas Paul Wareham, President of DynaGen Systems Inc., was the winner for the Province of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contribution of small businesses to the economy of Nova Scotia and congratulate Paul Wareham on winning the prestigious Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 305

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

[Page 909]

Whereas the member for Kings North said of cynicism in politics, " . . . unless we meet and respond to this cynicism and scepticism, it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy that will hurt us all, both young and old alike."; and

Whereas in the dying days of the last election campaign the Premier promised a fair deal for paramedics and legislation that would ensure their rights to decent working conditions; and

Whereas during the election campaign the Tories obviously did not tell the whole truth about their intentions towards paramedics, fostering the kind of cynicism and scepticism that the member for Kings North wishes to avoid;

Therefore be it resolved that all government members heed the wisdom of the member for Kings North and vote against this government's cynical legislation so as to avoid the kind of hurt he warned against in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 306

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

Whereas small business operators, Robert Selfe and Victoria Raine have reopened the Galleria on Gottingen Street following fire damage at an adjacent building; and

Whereas Mr. Selfe and Ms. Raine represent an excellent example of socially responsible entrepreneurs, who, to use a cliche, think globally but act locally; and

Whereas by locating their retail shop on Gottingen Street they join a small but growing group of citizens committed to preserving and promoting a more diverse and dynamic business culture than found at the Walmarts and the Price Clubs;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Mr. Selfe and Ms. Raine for their vision and initiative and wish them every success in their endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

[Page 910]

[9:15 a.m.]

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

It is agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 307

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

Whereas 23 year old Cleveland, Richmond County, native Peter MacIntyre signed the RCMP Cadet Training Agreement in a ceremony at the Port Hawkesbury detachment of the RCMP; and

Whereas the Isle Madame District High School graduate and St. F.X. University student was joined by his father Peter, mother Anna, and sister Crystal, at the ceremony; and

Whereas this ceremony represents the first time an agreement was signed by the RCMP at the local detachment, saving the long trip to Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Peter MacIntyre for joining the RCMP in Port Hawkesbury and commend the RCMP for bringing its recruitment activities back to the communities in which they serve.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 911]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 308

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

Whereas Pap Test Awareness Week is from October 25th to October 31st; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in Canada; and

Whereas only 4 in 10 women in this province are screened regularly;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage all women, young and old, to make themselves a priority and have a Pap test on a regular basis.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 309

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

Whereas authoritarian-style governments are generally noted for acting first, then listening to the views of its people; and

Whereas when it comes to premiership, our good Pictou County doctor emulates the same political characteristics as Pictou farmer and former Premier, Donald Cameron; and

[Page 912]

Whereas such neo-Conservative elitist governments do not reflect the fabric of Nova Scotia's people;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm take note of what happened to the former Conservative Premier, fellow Pictonian Donald Cameron, in the 1993 provincial election and adjust his actions accordingly.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 310

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

Whereas another recent unfortunate tragic accident on Prospect Road again proves ample evidence for a necessary upgrading of this busy highway; and

Whereas Prospect Road is no longer just a scenic secondary road on the way to numerous beautiful coastal communities; and

Whereas Prospect Road is now daily a busy commuter highway for the residents of the growing communities of Brookside, Hatchet Lake and Whites Lake;

Therefore be it resolved that the part-time Minister of Transportation tell the many travellers who use the Prospect Road of his department's plans for this neglected highway.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 311

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 Minister of Community Services rightly introduced a resolution congratulating Saint Mary's University's Liberated Learning Project; and

Whereas the liberated learning group actively seeks to make classrooms more accessible for students with disabilities; and

[Page 913]

Whereas this Tory Government has demonstrated its commitment to the disabled by cancelling a program to make buildings in rural Nova Scotia more accessible;

Therefore be it resolved that the Community Services Minister show some heart and assist the disabled in a more meaningful way, by reinstating funds to make buildings in rural Nova Scotia more accessible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 312

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

Whereas yesterday this House started debate on a bill that revokes the fundamental bargaining rights of employees in this province; and

Whereas during the debate it was imperative that the Minister of Labour follow the proceedings carefully and attentively; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour showed his lack of concern for the paramedics of this province by doing the daily crossword puzzle instead of listening to the debate;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind the Minister of Labour that this House is a place where the business of the Province of Nova Scotia, and very important business it is, should be his focus, not the daily crossword puzzle.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 914]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 313

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

Whereas the third annual Atlantic Digital Media Festival will be held this Thursday through Saturday in beautiful Baddeck, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas hosted by Mediafusion, a non-profit media association, the festival has doubled in size over two years, providing people in the industry with the opportunity to gather and exchange ideas; and

Whereas this year's event will bring together leaders in the digital media industry providing Cape Breton new economy businesses with global opportunities.

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts of Mediafusion in organizing the Atlantic Digital Media Festival and extend best wishes to all participants.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 314

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

[Page 915]

Whereas the old Camerons General Store is a historical fixture on the Elmsdale commercial scene; and

Whereas it is important that the heritage of villages in Nova Scotia be preserved; and

Whereas the Rabahi brothers, the present owners from Elmsdale, have seen fit to restore and preserve the old Camerons General Store as a place of doing business instead of simply tearing it down and replacing it with a modern structure;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Rabahi brothers for combining good business with a sense of community and history.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 315

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

Whereas the Minister of Finance appears to be the Tory choir leader but seems to be singing from his own song sheet; and

Whereas the Finance Minister added a sour note to the Tourism Minister's new cultural strategy; and

Whereas the Finance Minister also contradicted his Premier, who waffled by saying that the charity money grab could possibly be returned;

Therefore be it resolved that since the Minister of Finance is calling the shots for this government, would the real Leader of the Tory Party please stand up.

[Page 916]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 316

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

Whereas this Premier stated that his government would be a caring and compassionate government; and

Whereas the Premier stated "It will be the hallmark of this government to consult with the people of Nova Scotia before significant changes in public policy are made."; and

Whereas revoking the fundamental rights of workers would seem to be a significant change in public policy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier do as he said he would during the election campaign of 1999 and consult with the people of Nova Scotia and not just listen to the Minister of Labour who really is too busy doing crossword puzzles.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 317

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

Whereas in 1998, the Tory Party promised to"Put People First" in a cynical failed attempt to garner the support of the Nova Scotia electorate; and

[Page 917]

Whereas the cynicism is only now becoming apparent as their more recent promises of "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course" has given way to strong-armed leadership and a muddled course; and

Whereas it is becoming more apparent each day that Tory promises are meant to be broken and partisan interference has now reared its ugly head in the justice system of our province in the selection of jail sites and the consolidation of court services;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately take steps to independently review decisions made with respect to the consolidation of court facilities throughout the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 318

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

Whereas the beautiful coastal communities of Terence Bay, Prospect, McGraths Cove and East Dover are connected to Highway No. 333 on roads that have been neglected for far too long; and

Whereas these roads are used daily by residents of these communities; and

Whereas these roads are also used by a growing number of tourists;

Therefore be it resolved that the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works tell the travellers of these rural Nova Scotia highways of his plan for these roads.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 319

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

[Page 918]

Whereas John Hamm's Tory Government's move to limit debate on Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, raises the question of inadequacy by this Tory Government's members to defend its own legislation; and

Whereas this sense of inadequacy became more pronounced as no member of the Tory caucus would debate Bill No. 9 despite the Speaker's willingness to accommodate; and

Whereas the Premier, during the recent election campaign, told the people of Nova Scotia that Conservative MLAs would be allowed to participate freely in debate in this House;

Therefore be it resolved that John Hamm's Tory backbenchers accept the 1999 trained seals award.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 320

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

Whereas Marie Antoinette responded to the plea of the poor by saying, let them eat cake; and

Whereas the answer the Minister of Economic Development has for the unemployed is, let them create their own jobs; and

Whereas the Minister of Economic Development also blamed the unemployed for not thinking outside the box;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government become more sensitive toward the unemployed and start thinking inside the bread box.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 919]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 9:27 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the Premier and the Minister of Health, two key people for Question Period have just left the Chamber. I am wondering if we could recess for a couple of minutes until they return. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Oral Question Period will start at 9:28 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS:

NEGOTIATIONS - INTERFERENCE (MIN.)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. On September 18th, paramedics held a parade of concern in Truro, the riding of the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I was there.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The Minister of Health was there. He told paramedics that he believes in collective bargaining. He told paramedics that he wouldn't interfere in their negotiations. You may have heard him say the same thing in this House, Mr. Speaker, every day, I think, last week - that he would not interfere with negotiations in any way because it would be inappropriate. I want to ask the minister, why did you break your word to paramedics?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't really think I broke my word. What effectively happened, as the honourable member well knows is that the best information was that the negotiations were at an impasse and there was no potential for movement and that it was very

[Page 920]

likely, with the strike position that had been established, that we were simply protecting public safety.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is through you to the Premier. On the day before the election, the now Premier made a speech about health care and he talked about his commitment to paramedics. He said, and I would be happy to table that speech again, "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment . . .". Fair treatment . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . is what the Premier promised. I want to ask the Premier, why did you break your promise to paramedics?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can reply to the Leader of the New Democratic Party that this government is committed to a fair resolve of an impasse at the bargaining table. Members of both Opposition Parties have said this is an essential service. The resolution for essential services is binding arbitration, what this government is providing to the paramedics.

[9:30 a.m.]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier makes up a new promise every single day. He tries to rewrite history. It ain't going to wash. It certainly is not going to wash with paramedics.

My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. This government won an election on promises to be honest and compassionate to Nova Scotians. The Premier said he would get a fair deal for paramedics but now he says, there is no money.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: We have seen this government's particular brand of compassion for paramedics and it is not the same brand of compassion that they show for Scotiabank.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, why doesn't this government have the same concern for hard-working Nova Scotians who save lives as it does for forgiving casino fines and making loans to big business? Where are your priorities?

[Page 921]

THE PREMIER: There is probably one topic about which the Leader of the New Democratic Party cannot lecture me and that is the value of paramedics to the system, because I know the value of paramedics.(Interruptions) I also know the value of a bargaining system that allows a fair resolution without government intervention and that is binding arbitration. This member opposite is not prepared to accept that simply because he knows it will result in a fair result of this negotiating impasse.

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

EXCO - SESSION (FALL 1999): AGENDA - CHANGE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, before this session commenced the Premier was saying that this was going to be a long session. There was going to be a lot of good legislation introduced. A lot of meaningful work done. I think what we are seeing from the Premier now and from the House Leader is that this government isn't going to be making this a meaningful session, they are going to cut and run. I want to know from the Premier, why he has changed his policy, why this legislation that he promised, this good legislation, this meaningful work, hasn't been introduced to the Legislature? What is he going to do? Why has he changed his agenda?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was a Leader of a government that conducted 13 months of negotiations that went nowhere. We were left with a dispirited group of paramedics who had been dangling far too long. We said we would be fair and there is nothing unfair at this point about a solution that protects public safety and on the other hand, provides an opportunity for a fair resolution for paramedics that will result in a contract that allows them to have a career and to be confident that they are being adequately remunerated for the services they provide to the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the Leader of the New Democratic Party is allowed four answers to his three questions, because that certainly had nothing to do with the question that I asked. In fact, the government that I led last fall passed 39 pieces of legislation in a minority government. Bill No. 9 may be the first piece of legislation passed by this House. Why has this government cut and run? Why has this Premier changed his mind? Why isn't he applying his own agenda?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. One question.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the Liberal Party that those who have an interest can check Hansard and can look at the words of the Premier when he called the paramedic service in this province an essential service. It is in Hansard. Despite this, if the Leader of the Liberal Party is prepared to gamble with the safety of Nova Scotians and is not prepared to accept the fact that a binding arbitration is the way that many jurisdictions deal with essential services.

[Page 922]

MR. MACLELLAN: It is time for the good doctor to check his medication. I want to say (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to retract that statement, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Yes. This government is afraid of the House. We have debate today on Bill No. 9, Bill No. 2, on estimates, on the Speech from the Throne, sitting from 9:00 o'clock to midnight. This government wants to cut and run. If they are so confident . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . that everything is going the way the Premier would like to think it is, why won't he allow his members to have a free vote on Bill No. 9 and legislation before the House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it seems that having the kinds of sessions that it has become necessary to have, the long arduous sessions in the House, hardly meets the description of cut and run. I would suggest to the Leader of the Liberal Party that if he is determined to make sure that on Friday and Saturday and Sunday there is no guarantee that Nova Scotians have good ambulances services, then keep it up.

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

LBR. - STANDARDS CODE:

CHANGES (PARAMEDICS) - INTRODUCTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. The Premier has been saying that the reason for Bill No. 9 has to do with public safety. I think that was the same reason that he made a commitment to paramedics back in the election when he said that his government had changes to the Labour Standards Code drafted and ready to implement on the basis of public safety.

I ask the Premier, given his clear commitment and concern for public safety, which is appropriate, why did he not, as one of the first things his government did, introduce changes to the Labour Standards Code as a sign of his faith in the paramedics of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would have been interesting to see the reaction of the Leader of the New Democratic Party if, at a time when labour negotiations were at a critical point, this government had introduced a piece of legislation that would have clearly influenced what was going on around the bargaining table. Could you imagine the righteous indignation of the Leader of the New Democratic Party had we done that? (Interruptions)

[Page 923]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, sleep deprivation affects different people in different ways. (Laughter) It appears the Premier is having a bit of difficulty. We have a piece of legislation on the table right now that goes right into the heart of the collective bargaining process and rips the very principles of that process out. If that is not interfering in the collective bargaining process, I don't know what is.

I ask the Premier, if he was so concerned about public safety, why, upon taking office, upon being sworn in as the Premier of this province, didn't he do something to make sure that paramedics, who got his commitment during the election campaign, did get a fair and reasonable settlement? Why didn't you deal with that issue then?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, we made commitments to the paramedics. Yes, we made commitments to the people of Nova Scotia that we would look out for their interests. This piece of legislation does both.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, paramedics and Nova Scotians are wondering what this Premier and what this Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was trying to tell them during the election campaign when he said that he would provide a caring and compassionate government, when he made commitments to the paramedics that he would make sure that they got a fair and reasonable deal, that his government would bring in changes to the Labour Standards Code . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I ask the Premier, will he explain to Nova Scotians why they should have any confidence in anything that this Premier says from here on out, given the way that he has been breaking promises every single day?

THE PREMIER: It is obvious that the Leader of the New Democratic Party is being affected by sleep deprivation. The Leader of the New Democratic Party seems really to have lost his focus. The focus here is a fair settlement and public safety. These are being addressed by what we are doing here today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: LBR. STANDARDS CODE - CHANGES

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. On July 26, 1999, your leader and now Premier stated that our Party and caucus have drafted legislation that would provide for paramedics with fair treatment under the Labour Standards Code of the province and we will proceed with this legislation if elected in government

[Page 924]

tomorrow. My question to the Minister of Health is, when are you planning to bring this so-called piece of legislation forward, or is Bill No. 9 the real legislation that the Premier was talking about by taking away the rights of individual Nova Scotians in allowing them to have collective bargaining procedures go forward?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I think sleep deprivation, Mr. Speaker, is affecting the honourable member for Lunenburg West, too, because I could have sworn I just heard the Premier answer that question. (Interruptions) Since he got his hair cut.

The answer to that, Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member well knows, is that the legislation to which he refers, the hours of work were on the negotiating table and to introduce a bill which effectively took that out of the collective bargaining process, the bill wouldn't have done much good in the first place, as we subsequently discovered. It was on the table and they are still working that out, Mr. Speaker.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this is getting kind of ridiculous. I just want to table for the House some of the promises that the Conservative Government made during the election. It said, improve wages and benefits for paramedics, and I will table that. So, the question really is, if they were saying to the paramedics of the Province of Nova Scotia that they are prepared to bring in legislation that would benefit them, that would be able to compensate them properly and give them proper standards of work related activities, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. DOWNE: . . . the question really is that they had no plan, Mr. Speaker, no guts, no plan, no glory to go forward to represent the paramedics . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Is there a question? Order, please. Order. Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . again I ask him, will they table the legislation that this government has promised the people of Nova Scotia to bring in immediately upon election?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the items that would be covered by the legislation which the honourable member refers, are on the table in the bargaining process.

MR. DOWNE: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this government has misled many people in this province with all of their 243 promises because he isn't even prepared to bring in or table the so-called legislation he was afraid to bring in, instead bring in a more compassionate piece of legislation, Bill No. 9, in their view. It is clear this government doesn't have the legislation or doesn't have the guts to act on the promises that they have made.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 925]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Minister, your previous government, in 1991, commissioned a report, this particular report, which is entitled Emergency Ambulance Services and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . Inter-Hospital Patient Transport System in Nova Scotia: "Strategies for the Ninties":.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is there a question?

MR. DOWNE: This was brought forward, Mr. Speaker, in order to give a blueprint of what should be done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Either ask a question or I am going to turn to the next member.

MR. DOWNE: I am going to do that right now, Mr. Speaker. The question is, why has your government not acted on the promise and recommendation in this report that your previous government commissioned in 1991 which told you to legislate minimum standards? Why have you not acted on minimum standards for the paramedics in the delivery of the health care system in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am astounded that of all the members in the House that would raise such a thing as that, it would be that honourable member who was a member of a government for six years which did absolutely nothing.

[9:45 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - EMC: PAYMENT - SERV./PROFIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The paramedics who are fighting so hard for their rights and a decent wage are the employees of a company called EMC - Emergency Medical Care Incorporated. EMC runs the ambulance service under contract with the province. In exchange it gets a payment of over $30 million, more than the entire budget for four government departments. My question to the Premier is, how much of the $30 million payment to EMC is for the delivery of services and how much is for profit?

[Page 926]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to want to have the debate in Supply here in Question Period but I will refer the question to the Minister of Health since that clearly is part of his budget.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the EMC contract, they contract for the delivery of service. It would seem to me that how much they get from the contract as profit, I can tell you that the contract is performance-driven. They do not make a whole lot of profit because it is a non-profit corporation. He would have to direct that question to EMC because I have not seen their books.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we do know that EMC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maritime Medical Care Incorporated, also known as MMC, but we know hardly anything about the ownership of EMC even though that is a company that is now running an essential public service. My question for the Premier is, who owns Maritime Medical Care and who exactly is profiting from the paramedics' contract?

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. One question only, so I would ask the member again, what was the question?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a reasonable question. I will do some research as to who actually owns Maritime Medical Care and we will provide the member opposite with the information that we receive.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, one thing we do know about MMC is that they were given the ambulance contract by the previous government without a competitive process. My final question to the Premier is, when will you throw open the government's files on the contract with EMC so that Nova Scotians can finally learn the truth about this deal?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has made an inquiry that should lead to that kind of information and I will ask him to give you the details of what he has done.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in our election platform we called for an audit of the relationship between our government and Maritime Medical Care. As I indicated in the House the other day, I have written to the Auditor General already asking that that audit take place.

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

EXCO - SESSION (FALL 1999): LEGISLATION - SHORTAGE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. I asked him before concerning his statement that this was going to be a session of the House where there was going to be a lot of legislation and there was going to be a lot of good things done. So far we have had very little legislation. The Government House Leader seems to be cutting

[Page 927]

and running by stacking everything he can into the longest day possible to shorten this session. I want to know why this government has changed their position, why instead of meaningful legislation that they are going to get out of here as fast as they possibly can and do as little as they possibly can?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of this government to fully utilize this session of the House with the budget, the Speech from the Throne and legislation. We are going to make this a productive sitting of the Legislature.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, as I say, we have Bill No. 9, Bill No. 2 and the Throne Speech, estimates, all stacked in a day from 9:00 a.m. to midnight. It seems that this government wants to get out of here as fast as they can. They are afraid of the House. They are absolutely terrified of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: That wasn't what the Premier said initially. He said this was going to be a meaningful session with lots of important legislation. Where is that legislation? What is it going to be? When is the House going to receive it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that we have lots of time in this sitting to introduce and table legislation, and we will be doing it. The order paper will be filled. The Leader of the Liberal Party need not worry that there won't be enough to do.

MR. MACLELLAN: I haven't seen any of that legislation. There is no indication that any of it is going to come before the House. It seems that all we have is a statement every now and then that is dragged out by the Premier, without any meat on it at all. When is this legislation going to come before the House? When are we going to see it, and what are the bills the Premier is preparing to bring before the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has received my reassurance that legislation is forthcoming; I will now ask the House Leader if he would also reassure the Leader of the Liberal Party that legislation is coming.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member opposite. I was just going to check my list, I think we have approximately 20 pieces of legislation that will be forthcoming.

[Page 928]

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

HEALTH - EMC: CONTRACT - INCENTIVES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, paramedics are struggling for fair wages and reasonable hours of work, rights that we in the New Democratic Party feel should be extended to all workers. It seems to me that when this province signed a $30 million a year contract with EMC to provide ambulance services, the government neglected to protect the rights of workers. In the contract for ambulance services, EMC has promised incentives for achieving savings. They get to keep 70 per cent of the money they save on budget operations, which include wages. I ask the Minister of Health, are you giving EMC a bonus for keeping costs down, and what incentive is there for EMC to agree to decent wages and fair work hours?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a question about the relationship, the contract between EMC and the former government. I guess what I can say is just to repeat what I said a few minutes ago, that we are intending to proceed with an examination of that relationship, and it will be forthcoming.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that the Minister of Health hasn't read the contract with EMC. The answer is really that the contract contains no incentive for fairness to the worker; in fact, the contract goes into greater detail about the expected life of batteries and snow tires than it does into the rights of people carrying work for the benefit of the province.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: I ask the Minister of Health, do you consider it a safety risk, in other words a possible contravention of the ambulance services contract, for paramedics to be underpaid and overworked?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable member that the employer-employee relationship is between EMC and the NSGEU, not between this government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the government thought that savings were important enough to enshrine saving incentives into the contract; it thought that response times were important enough to include penalties in the contract. Workers' rights are just as important and directly related to EMC's ability to carry out its work safely and quickly. I ask the minister, will you use the provisions of the contract to amend the ambulance agreement to include incentives for the contractor to provide fair wages and reasonable work hours?

[Page 929]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I remind the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, it is my understanding the collective bargaining process between the EMC and the NSGEU is an attempt to do those very things that he speaks of.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: EMC - CONTINGENCY PLAN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week the minister indicated to all members that he, in fact, had seen and was comfortable with the contingency plan developed by EMC should the paramedics strike. My question to the minister is, how many times did he meet with EMC in the last three weeks to review and to make recommendations to that contingency plan?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there indeed was a contingency plan and my staff was certainly made aware of what it was and, as I told the House, I did see it. In our opinion, the contingency plan, when it became obvious that we may be in a position of a labour stoppage this weekend, that public safety would be compromised.

DR. SMITH: I think that is a no, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is a no. The Premier is on record yesterday here as saying that the contingency plan brought forward by EMC was inadequate but my question to the Minister of Health, given that it is that minister's responsibility to ensure that adequate contingency plans are in place, would the minister please indicate to all members of this House what has happened to the contingency plan over the last week that would alter significantly the course of action being taken by his government in the form of Bill No. 9 legislation that is currently before this House, what has changed within that period of time, the contingency plan and resulting in the Bill No. 9 legislation before this House?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we made it abundantly clear that there was a contingency plan in our opinion and those who know, medical services are more expert in that than I am, our collective opinion was that the contingency plan could not replace the paramedics and it was an issue of public safety.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we see this government strip the powers from the regional health boards, the free volunteers were stripped of their powers while the administration was left. Will the minister please advise the House that whether the tabling of the legislation, stripping the collective bargaining rights away from paramedics was yet another last minute rush like the regional health board changes to deal with yet another situation that has, in fact, slipped through the cracks for the minister within his Department of Health. Can the minister advise the House as to that?

[Page 930]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I will repeat what I said about three times earlier today, the piece of legislation that was tabled last Friday with regard to the continuation of ambulance services was a response to a concern about public safety should the paramedics enter a complete work stoppage.

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

HEALTH - AMBULANCE SERVICE:

BUDGET OPERATING - PROVIDE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, according to the contract between Emergency Health Services and Emergency Medical Care Incorporated, the province will be paying out more than $30 million a year to have our ambulance service managed. That money covers the operating budget for ambulance services across virtually all regions of the province. It was agreed to and approved by the Department of Health. I ask the Minister of Health, will you commit to sharing a copy of the detailed operating budget with the members of this House?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the detailed operating budget of the Department of Health is on the floor in estimates.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, he obviously misunderstood the question. The contracts for ambulance services also specifies that a fee of $975,000 is to be paid every year to EMC. I want to ask the minister, does the fee cover costs which do not fall under the $30 million a year operating budget or does the fee represent almost $1 million in profits going to EMC?

[10:00 a.m.]

MR. MUIR: I would have to ask, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, if he would be kind enough to table that question, I would provide the answer.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think everyone in this House is concerned to see a fair first contract agreement for the paramedics. I think even the Minister of Health would like to see that. I want to ask the Minister of Health, can he think of any reason that would prevent the company, EMC, from putting some of their saving incentives or fee towards a fair wage for paramedics?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the matter of the negotiations or the relationship with the paramedics group, as represented by the NSGEU, that is a matter for negotiation between the employer, who is EMC, and the employee group, which is the NSGEU.

[Page 931]

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS:

SERV. ESSENTIAL - PROVISION CONTACT

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health said that the reason we are into this debate on Bill No. 9 is because a strike would be a matter of public safety. Has the Minister of Health spoken to the paramedics about the possibility of them providing essential services during further negotiations and perhaps during a strike situation? Was that option discussed with the paramedics?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will go back and what I will say is that the people who are at the table are EMC and NSGEU. The best information that we had very late last week is that provision was not there and that was one of the things that led to the decision to continue the ambulance service.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is the obligation of the Minister of Health before he puts this province through this legislation to look at the options and the alternatives. He, by his own admission, says he never did. Why was that not an option to talk to the paramedics about providing essential service should a strike situation arise?

MR. MUIR: I am having some difficulty, Mr. Speaker. I think I am back in high school, trying to teach math again. The people at the table are EMC and the NSGEU and a conciliator. I am not at the table. I have made that abundantly clear. My staff is not at the table and I have also made that abundantly clear. The people at the table are EMC and the NSGEU plus the conciliator. So, have I gone to the paramedics and personally asked them? No, because I am not involved in that part of the negotiation process.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health can't play Pontius Pilate in this situation. Everyone knows that this is orchestrated by the Department of Health, that the Department of Health knows everything that is going on in these negotiations and if they don't, they should. Why did the Minister of Health not make it his business to determine as to whether the paramedics would be prepared to provide an essential service should a strike take place? It is a fundamental question. It is one that the Minister of Health should have asked.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will go back. The people at the table are the NSGEU and EMC. (Interruptions) The best information that we had, last week, that came to us was that there was no guarantee that that service would be provided.

[Page 932]

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: CONTINGENCY PLAN - LEGISLATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, with respect to this contract negotation, the buck stops with the Minister of Health. Last week the Minister of Health assured the House that he had a contingency plan so that Nova Scotia's ground ambulance services wouldn't be affected in the event of a strike by paramedics. My question to the minister is simple. Is this undemocratic, oppressive and Draconian legislation your contingency plan?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess technically, if I answered that question, I would be agreeing with his ramblings as he posed it. As a matter of fact, I was so caught up in his rhetoric, I forget what it was.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the EMC contract contains clauses to protect the fleet of ambulances and the employer, but it does little to protect the rights and welfare of workers. It really doesn't protect Nova Scotians either, and it does not require the government or the employer to have a contingency plan in the event of a legal strike by paramedics. My question for the Minister of Health is, why didn't the minister work with EMC to amend the contract and to develop a contingency plan, instead of taking away the paramedics' right to fair negotiations?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member in his previous life would well know - he did have a little bit of background in the law - he knows perfectly well that we couldn't do that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, during last winter's nursing home strikes, the members opposite were outraged that the government didn't have a contingency plan; they were outraged that the government wasn't committed to dealing fairly and openly with workers. My question to the Minister of Health is, does the philosophical change mentioned in the Throne Speech include turning your back on the past calls for fairness and compassion?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the House will agree, as did the public, there is probably not going to be any government in our history that is going to be proven to be more fair or more compassionate than ours. (Laughter) Clearly, in the case of last year, the previous government had no idea what to do to be fair and compassionate. In our opinion, this year it came down to being fair and compassionate for all Nova Scotians, including the paramedics group. As the Premier said very clearly earlier, paramedics basically provide a service that this province cannot do without. The standard way to solve those things when you get into a labour impasse is through binding arbitration.

[Page 933]

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

HUMAN RES. - PUB. SERV.:

CONTRACTS FUTURE - METHODOLOGY

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. The minister is aware that before this House we now have a big stick, called Bill No. 9, that will be used to bludgeon the collective bargaining rights of our province's paramedics who fall well below the Canadian average, with respect to wages. In the spring of this year, other contracts will be up for negotiation, and during the course of the next four years as well. Mr. Speaker, my question is, is the minister prepared to use the same tactics that are now being employed against the paramedics?

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the honourable member's question, the question being whether in the future we would consider doing this. We will certainly be meeting our obligations in the future, and I am sure that at time we will also remember that we have the safety and the health of all Nova Scotians to remember at the same time.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, we all know the minister's record when it comes to decent living conditions, right? (Laughter) (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

MR. WILSON: I am sure that the very presence of such a minister . . .

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

MR. WILSON: . . . has to be pretty frightening for those bargaining . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Would the member come to order please.

MR. WILSON: . . . unit employees who work so hard for this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the member come to order, please. It appeared to me that that would be a personal attack on the member.

MR. WILSON: Certainly not, Mr. Speaker, it was in no way personal. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the member to retract that, please.

MR. WILSON: Since I have no choice, Mr. Speaker, I retract that statement.

[Page 934]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, let me get to my question then. Will the minister explain to this House his future plans for labour negotiations with the NSGEU?

MR. CHATAWAY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I again thank the member opposite for his question. Our future plans with the NSGEU is to follow the collective bargaining process as well as we can.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, finally, again to the Minister of Human Resources, let me get right to the point, will the minister pledge today that he will not employ back-to-work legislation against provincial employees in future negotiations?

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, we will always be cognizant of the health and safety of all Nova Scotians when we go into bargaining, I am sure. With that, we also have a sense of fairness in that we do have a dedicated Public Service and we realize, of course, it is in everybody's best interest to treat them as fairly and as well as you can.

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

PREMIER - PROMISE: HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY COOPERATION - ABANDONMENT

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you, sir, to the Premier. As you and all members will know, during the election Dr. Hamm made a practice of promising to do things differently. He said that he wanted to develop a new era of cooperation in this House. My question to the Premier is simply this, when did he decide to abandon that lofty commitment to cooperate? Was it before or after you were sworn into office?

THE PREMIER: I can assure the member opposite that this government has not abandoned its intention to cooperate with the members of the Opposition Parties. What we are waiting to hear from the Opposition Parties are some sensible suggestions that we can act on.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, what makes it so sad, not only for members in this House but, more importantly, for all Nova Scotians is that we have seen promises from this government already, many of them have been broken, and we have seen platforms, we have seen ads, we have seen speeches and press releases. The Premier says he is still committed to that spirit of cooperation. My question to the Premier is simply this, was his Government House Leader operating independently when he imposed the Buchanan-style hours and tactics in this House; did he consult the Premier; and is that the Premier's view of how you start and instill cooperation in this Chamber?

[Page 935]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do not think any reasonable person would come to the conclusion after watching last night's extended debate - which will continue today on the bill - that no reasonable Nova Scotian would come to the conclusion that there will not be adequate opportunity for every member of this House to express their opinion on what it is this government is doing about this bill.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the public relations people in the Premier's Office are doing a good job in training him how not to come close to answering a question. My final question to the Premier is this; the Premier who said he wants openness, honesty, I want to ask him why did he not tell the people of Nova Scotia that the two politicians that he obviously admired the most were those two politicians who believed in trampling on the rights of workers, Donald Cameron and John Savage. Why didn't you tell Nova Scotians that they were the politicians you intended to try to emulate if you were elected Premier of this province?

[10:15 a.m.]

THE PREMIER: The Federation of Labour, which has a good working relationship with the New Democratic Party, has indicated and I believe it has the support of the New Democratic Party, that binding arbitration should be the way to go with first contract negotiations that lead to an impasse. We have followed that advice. We are providing what it is that labour seems to indicate is their preference, when there is an impasse on a first contract negotiation, and that is binding arbitration. We have followed the advice of the Federation of Labour in how to handle just this kind of situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - REG. BDS.: ABOLITION - PLAN DATE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question, is to the Minister of Health on the lack of planning with respect to abolishing the regional health boards, the volunteers. The question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister confirm to all members of the House, in what year of his Party's mandate did he plan to abolish the regional health boards?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the question is in what year of our mandate, and it was in the first year.

DR. SMITH: So you did mislead Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, that government and "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course", that we are all familiar with, the bible of the House of Assembly here. Your Party committed to abolishing the regional health boards in year two, in fact, I would like to inform the minister. I think that's why it concerned our Party so much when the axe was taken to the volunteers. (Interruptions)

[Page 936]

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that last week's Order in Council signing would cause concern to the Premier, the caucus and indeed the staff of the Department of Health in terms of being ready to deal with the situation.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, is it true that when you found out that our Liberal Caucus had possession of the signed OIC, thanks to George Doucet, our ever-vigilant researcher, a hastily called meeting was held with officials from your department to deal with the chaos created by this government?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we made the announcement last week and I am pleased to report to the honourable member, as well as to other members of the House, the CEOs of the people who are affected are in Halifax this morning and the transition plan is being shared with them.

DR. SMITH: That's really great. I imagine you passed it in Cabinet on the Thursday; the OIC was signed on the 19th and they were called the following day or so, 48 hours later.

AN HON. MEMBER: What's your point?

DR. SMITH: My point is, you fired the free volunteers and you have kept the bureaucracy and you have not really addressed the issue of administration. You didn't have a plan.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A question please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. To the Premier I would say, were you, Mr. Premier, called to attend a quickly organized emergency meeting when the Minister of Health, in fact, found out that the OIC was signed, disbanding regional health boards, or was it you who hastily called this emergency meeting to deal with the issue that you had faced, the crisis and the chaos that you had created by centralizing decision making in downtown Halifax.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it must be tremendously embarrassing to the former Minister of Health to be dealing with a Ministry of Health and a minister and a government that are prepared, that have a plan and that can respond any day of the week to providing the kind of information that that government was never able to provide and that is a well worked out plan as to how we are going to re-orchestrate health care in this province to provide an effective health care system that Nova Scotians can afford. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 937]

The honourable member for Hants East.

EDUC. - ELMSDALE DS: NEW - COMMITMENT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the Elmsdale District School had an oil leak a year ago that required part of the building being torn down. Students lost classrooms and the gymnasium. The building was cobbled together with students doing physical education in the hallways, and this year the Grade 5 students have been moved to the new Lantz school which has led to overcrowding in that school. My question is to the Premier. The Premier was there during the election campaign and personally assured the community that they would get their new school by September 2001 as approved. Does the Premier still stand behind his commitment to build the new school for Elmsdale?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question and I know it is a question generated to assure the people whom he represents that the new school is coming. First of all I will say to the member opposite, yes we are keeping our commitments but for a definitive answer, I would defer to the Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVIS: Mr. Speaker, there has been no change of plan on the priority for new schools.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the Elmsdale District School is nearly 40 years old and does not warrant money spent that could be better spent on the new facility. Will the Premier commit to the community now, then, that the new school not be axed even though the funding is being reviewed?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, a reasonable question. I would ask the Minister of Education to give a reasonable answer.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the financing for the new schools is being reviewed. The need for the new schools is plain and is not being reviewed.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I think probably it would be wiser for me to go directly to the Minister of Education, so . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You may as well. She is going to get it any way. (Interruptions) Go to the source.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: . . . I ask the minister, has she any idea when this review will be completed?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we expect this review to be completed by January.

[Page 938]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - ANNAPOLIS: COURT. SERV. - REPRIEVE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. It never ceases to amaze me or Nova Scotians how many new and different ways this government is mismanaging the affairs of the province and how politics is back in the decision-making process. We see now that the decision to move court and prothonotary services from the Town of Annapolis has been delayed by the Minister of Justice, yet at the same time the minister has moved with breakneck speed to move the co-located forensic and corrections facility to Dartmouth from Bedford, at a cost to taxpayers of at least $1.2 million to assist his friend, the Minister of Community Services. How does the Minister of Justice justify his action with respect to services in Annapolis when no such reprieve has been granted elsewhere in this province?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question from the honourable member. You know when I became Minister of Justice, I was faced with the situation in Annapolis and there was a community there and members of that community in Annapolis County who asked me to give a serious look at a decision made by the former government to close the Annapolis courthouse and prothonotary office. What I am doing is I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I am looking at the information, making sure that the right decision is being made. I am not going to just knee-jerk react and do what the former member did. (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, he was asked to do the same thing for Glace Bay but, obviously, the Liberal seat in Glace Bay is not as important as a Tory seat over in Annapolis. The minister is moving full speed ahead to add to the collection of government offices by moving them to Sydney from Glace Bay, where there they will leased to the government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: . . . by a prominent Tory businessman in Sydney. Will the minister show some integrity and delay the decision with respect to Glace Bay, so that the people of Glace Bay are treated on an equal basis with the people of Annapolis?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question; a bit of amnesia here. The Sydney courthouse was leased by his government from that individual. (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is also looking at removing all court services from Arichat in Richmond County so that former disgraced Tory minister Billy Joe MacLean can build a super-justice centre in Port Hawkesbury. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit today to showing the same respect to the people of

[Page 939]

Richmond County as it showed to Annapolis by delaying this decision ensuring that people have the proper opportunity to discuss this decision with the minister and his staff?

MR. BAKER: I can assure the honourable member that if representatives of the people of Richmond County wish to meet with me to discuss that, I can assure you that I would be glad to meet with those representatives, because I am very interested in hearing from his community.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - CROSSWALKS:

SAFETY ADVISORY COMM. - STATUS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the part-time Minister of Transportation. On April 8th, in the last session of this Legislature, your predecessor in the Transportation Department announced a road safety advisory committee to review all dangerous crosswalks in this province. Recently I have been made aware of a number of close misses in dangerous crosswalks in my community. What is the status of this committee and who have they talked to?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Obviously, pedestrian safety is paramount in any consideration as to where crosswalks should be located. I haven't the knowledge at hand but I would certainly take that under advisement and get back to the member with the answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Five seconds.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I point out that there are numerous school principals who want to talk to that committee. Give them a call.

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, on an introduction.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, today in the Speaker's Gallery, observing Question Period and some of the debate are three members from LEO, the League for Equal Opportunities, Elsie Chollette, Linda Stiles and Bill Crawford. Maybe they can stand and receive the recognition of the House. (Applause)

[Page 940]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order which I raise has to do with procedure. Mr. Speaker, you will know that last night, just before 2:00 a.m., we were advised as to what the hours for the sitting of the House was today, being 9:00 a.m. You will know that the rules require that late debate topics have to be submitted an hour in advance. That, of course, would have required us to have kept staff in the office until 2:00 a.m. so that they would have been notified or call them in around 6:00 a.m. to get in there in time to be able to send over what our request was.

So my point of order, Mr. Speaker, now that we are into these slightly long hours and, of course, the government members only now have 13 and one-half hours left that they have to listen to us so far today, I am wondering if you could make a ruling that the topics for late debate will still be accepted up to the normal hour, when we are in these somewhat lengthy discussions. It would make it easier for all caucuses therefore to be able to have better working arrangements for their staff.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the House Leader for the New Democratic Party had simply asked if that could be done, the answer would have been yes. It is still yes.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding is that it will require unanimous consent of the House.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

So the three Party Leaders will submit subjects to the . . .

[10:30 a.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the moment of interruptions will be at 6:00 p.m. this evening for 30 minutes. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, so we are going to take a recess from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.?

[Page 941]

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, the late show.

MR. SPEAKER: The late show, okay.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the adjourned debate on second reading of Bill No. 9 now be commenced.

Bill No. 9 - Ground Ambulance Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: I believe the honourable member for Clare has the floor.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, earlier this morning when I adjourned the debate on Bill No. 9, I was talking about how this Tory Government had interfered with the process of negotiations and threw that whole collective-bargaining process out of balance. So why bother with exercise, I say. The bottom line is that this Bill No. 9 is taking away the paramedics right to strike. Clearly, the employer must see themselves as the winner in this. The employees, paramedics, must feel demoralized. Will they be upset? Well, this legislation ensures that this will likely be the case.

Mr. Speaker, there is still time for this government to restore the collective bargaining process. Many issues have already been resolved through negotiations but this legislation clearly demonstrates a lack of faith in this process by this government.

The Minister of Health, in his opening comments on this piece of legislation, talked about the about the reason for bringing this bill forward; and that was to protect public safety. Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that safety is the issue here. I believe money is the issue here. These paramedics don't want to get rich, they just want to earn a decent living. They love their job, they love their work, and the devotion they continue to show all Nova Scotians is greatly appreciated, but I can't believe the money that these paramedics are making.

[Page 942]

Most of these paramedics are making $7.00, $8.00 or $9.00 an hour. Yes, some are making $10 or more, I say some, and when you look across Canada, you will find paramedics who have a Level I training making $17 or more in Ontario and in Calgary. So when you take what paramedics are making, with the responsibilities that they have - and I know a lot of people back home are making much more than what paramedics are making with a lot less responsibilities - and so when you take into account their responsibilities, their dedication to their job, the many years of training and upgrading, paramedics don't want to be in the position that this bill is putting them in, paramedics are just asking to be treated fairly.

Mr. Speaker, when the Tories were sitting on the Opposition benches, they were demanding fairness for paramedics. I have a copy of a resolution here that the honourable member for Hants West, the Honourable Ronald Russell, made on December 1, 1997. I am not going to read the whole resolution, although the therefore clause certainly is interesting. "Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health meet with representatives of the NSGEU and representatives of rural paramedics not presently members of the NSGEU to discuss work-related concerns and, further, that he urge the Minister of Labour and the Chief Executive Officer of the Workers' Compensation Board to move quickly in extending the rights and protection afforded other Nova Scotian workers to Nova Scotia paramedics.".

So, Mr. Speaker, I can't really understand. Back then the honourable member for Hants West wanted the former government to move quickly in extending the rights to the paramedics. Now, when that honourable member is sitting on the government benches, it is always amazing how soon they forget.

I have another one here that was done by the honourable member for Kings West, George Moody, who was certainly a very good member of this House, and I might add, Mr. Speaker, a former Minister of Health under the old Tory Regime. Mr. George Moody made this resolution on Thursday, March 25, 1999:

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

Whereas despite seeing an improvement in their living conditions, paramedics across Nova Scotia are still faced in some cases with 100 hour work weeks, paying less than $7.00 an hour; and

Whereas ambulance service at the present time in many regions of Nova Scotia has plenty of questions that need answering; and

Whereas unless over 800 paramedics are able to reach an agreement with their employer on a new working contract in the coming weeks, Nova Scotians will see more than 800 paramedics on strike and ambulance service in a state of chaos;

[Page 943]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health, knowing that job action by paramedics is not too far off, move to ensure an adequate contract agreement is reached between the two sides, and in the process ensure Nova Scotians that in the event of an emergency, an ambulance is hopefully only a phone call away.".

Mr. Speaker, again I have a hard time to believe that this honorable member and, quite often, especially in the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to talk to this honourable member again. He has been visiting his colleagues here at the House. So it is very strange, after they leave these benches and they cross the floor and they sit in government, how soon do they forget.

Mr. Speaker, let me take you back to Monday, July 26, 1999, John Hamm, the now Premier, said in a speech at the Yarmouth Hospital, " . . .we have committed to a clinical and financial audit of the government's contract with Emergency Health Care. We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standards laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.".

So, Mr. Speaker, where is the commitment? Is this the legislation they promised? The now Premier made a commitment to the paramedics of this province the day before the election. They were desperate for a majority government so they promised everything to everybody. Now, in government, we see the Tories for who they are. They don't believe in collective bargaining, they are truly the Harris-Hamm Government. Look out if you belong to a public sector unit in this province. If you don't negotiate the way the government likes, they will bring in legislation - the big stick approach to contract negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, I find it strange, not long ago when some of those Tories were sitting on these benches on this side of the House, they were demanding fairness for the paramedics and now that they are sitting across the floor on the government benches, how soon do they forget. Many pundits are saying that this is just the beginning, that this is how they will treat all of their employees. So I guess everyone is now wondering who is next. Is it the teachers? Is it the nurses? Is it the guards working at the correctional centres? I am sure we will not have to wait long to find out.

Now in government, we see the Tories for who they are. They do not believe in collective bargaining. They are truly, Mr. Speaker, the Harris-Hamm Government. All I can say is look out if you belong to a public sector union in this province. If you do not negotiate the way that this government likes, they will bring in legislation; again, the big stick approach to contract negotiations.

[Page 944]

Mr. Speaker, you have probably seen in the local paper the announcement from the NSGEU Paramedics Local 911 saying, Code Blue Countdown - Our personal and professional commitments as paramedics to respond to all citizen requests for aid is strained to the breaking point. The failure of Emergency Medical Care Corporation to offer us a fair and reasonable contract will leave us no choice but to exercise our right to strike and withhold our services. We will be in a legal position as of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, October 29th. This goes against all our personal and professional instincts. Yet we can no longer allow our concern for the well-being of strangers to outweigh our duty to provide the best life we can for our own families and loved ones. Going on strike is our last resort. It is not what we want to do. It may be what we have to do and the countdown is on.

Mr. Speaker, yes, the countdown is on, but I think there is still time for this government to sit down with the paramedics.

AN HON. MEMBER: If they had the political will, they would find a solution.

MR. GAUDET: That is right. That is exactly right.

AN HON. MEMBER: They do not have the political will on that side of the House to find a solution for the paramedics. (Interruptions)

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government does not need to use the big stick approach. This past spring during the strikes in 41 nursing homes across this province, our former government did not use the big stick approach. We did not control the negotiation process and we did not interfere with the collective bargaining process.

The question this government should ask itself is, what endangers the public safety more - underpaid, overworked health care providers or a strike, Mr. Speaker? Nobody wants to see a strike but it is the government who misled the paramedics when they said in the dying days of election 1999, and I quote, "We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province.".

Where is the legislation? Is this the legislation, Bill No. 9? This bill goes completely, Mr. Speaker, against the pledge of the Premier to the paramedics, the people in the front line of medicine, much like the front line of volunteers of charities, the same volunteers who the Premier praised so highly in his election platform, who had their funding ripped away from them as the first act of this government. Now the first substantial piece of legislation of this government is what, Mr. Speaker, a Draconian back-to-work law. Now we have a government who has completely lost any semblance of morality with the introduction of this bill. Where is the government you promised last July, Mr. Premier? Where is the strong leadership?

[Page 945]

[10:45 a.m.]

This bill is not strong leadership. It represents the iron-fist approach to leadership. That is not strength; that is weakness. This is a serious situation that requires cool heads. Unfortunately, the government has inflamed the situation; it has not given collective bargaining a chance to work.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, why then would this government insert itself in the middle of a process during such a crucial time? There has to be a reason. This government had choices; they could have put more money on the table. We heard this government tell Nova Scotians that all programs and all services are under review, but yet they were able to find some dollars for Scotiabank. Also they were able to find a few million - and that is still being counted - to move a jail from Bedford to the Burnside Industrial Park. So, Mr. Speaker, this same bunch over there can find a few more dollars for the paramedics in Nova Scotia. They could have allowed the negotiating process to continue after all. There was a contingency plan in place; that is what we were told in this House by the Minister of Health.

One paramedic, Mr. Andy Boutilier, told Premier Hamm yesterday that they would never have left anybody to die on the street, strike or no strike. Mr. Speaker, I believe Mr. Andy Boutilier. I think from what I have seen throughout this province, the service the paramedics provide Nova Scotians, and especially from the gang that I know back home in Clare - 15 paramedics who provide an emergency service to the people from home. These are individuals who are committed. Yes, the commitment that they have shown to the people of Clare is certainly nothing that people can be ashamed of.

Mr. Speaker, my question is why would this government get involved now with this process? They were unwilling to get involved one week ago. There has to be a reason. Let me say a few words about our emergency medical care system. Nova Scotia's emergency medical care system is one of the best in the country. When the Liberal Government took over in 1993, Nova Scotia's ambulance fleet was old and prone to breakdowns. I know, especially the units that we had at home in Clare, we had three vehicles, actually two were probably very close to being taken off the road actually, so technically we had one unit to serve the people from Clare.

I remember talking with some of the staff back then. They were really nervous to hit the road, especially when they had to transfer a patient from Clare or Yarmouth to Halifax. They certainly didn't have the vehicles that they have today to work with. So today we have left those old ambulances aside and I know one of my colleagues yesterday made reference to these old vehicles as meat wagons. Well, I can honestly say that these vehicles certainly were in very bad condition.

[Page 946]

Today, Mr. Speaker, we are exporting our ambulance technology around the world. When our paramedics arrive on the scene of an emergency, they are driving world-class ambulances. Our paramedics are saving lives because they are better trained and better equipped than ever before. The emergency medical response system in Nova Scotia is a huge success story and our paramedics deserve the highest praise. They put themselves on the front line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are part of a success story that all Nova Scotians can be proud of.

Mr. Speaker, as an MLA from southwestern Nova Scotia, I am particularly proud of the work our paramedics do. Yarmouth, which borders my constituency of Clare, is home to Tri-Star Industries. Tri-Star is another success story for our province. Nova Scotian ambulances and emergency health expertise are now being used in Cuba, the Middle East, Trinidad and Tobago. Tri-Star recently signed a $1.3 million contract with Cuba and shipped six refurbished ambulances to Cuba, following a visit by Nova Scotia's paramedics to provide training to Cuban doctors, nurses and paramedics.

The province recently agreed to extend the contract with Tri-Star Industries to continue providing new ambulances for Nova Scotia. The former Liberal Government, Mr. Speaker, worked with Tri-Star as part of its commitment to provide top quality emergency medical care. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the site of Tri-Star Industries in Yarmouth. They have many people from not just the Town of Yarmouth, County of Yarmouth, but there are people from Clare that are working there as well. So this industry certainly is a success story in this province.

The former government was also committed to providing our paramedics with the best possible working conditions and the best possible equipment. Tri-Star was an established operating for over 20 years in Yarmouth. So if you speak to the President, Mr. Keith Condon, he will tell you about the success of his company and his company's partnership with the Nova Scotia Government. Mr. Condon credits the former Nova Scotia Research Foundation and Innovacorp with playing an important role in Tri-Star's development. Several years ago, Tri-Star expanded to incorporate new elements such as engineering into its business and Innovacorp helped the company ease into a new era. So the point is, Mr. Speaker, the former government was always exploring new ways to improve our health care system.

So in closing, Mr. Speaker, I hope there is still time for this Tory Government to reconsider what Bill No. 9 does to the paramedics of Nova Scotia. They deserve a better deal from this Tory Government after having been misled during the election campaign and led to believe that they would be treated fairly by a Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I will not be voting in support of Bill No. 9, and I certainly invite, before I take my seat . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, those members over there.

[Page 947]

MR. GAUDET: That is right, members from the opposite benches, on the government side . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, I agree . . .

MR. GAUDET: . . . to rise in this House . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . speak on behalf of your constituents.

MR. GAUDET: . . .let us know what the people back home are telling you. I am sure they are saying lots. Mr. Speaker, last weekend at home I can tell you, people from Clare and the paramedics are waiting to see what this government is going to do. I can honestly say from what we have been seeing, especially in the last 24 hours, it doesn't look too promising. It doesn't look promising for the paramedics and the Province of Nova Scotia.

So, when you look back before the election and what this now Premier promised them, misled these people and here we are after the election, it seems we are now operating on a different set of rules. Yet, they are the very same people, Mr. Speaker, while they were sitting on this side they were asking the former government for the paramedics to be treated fairly. They are not asking for anything more; they just want to be treated fairly.

I hope that this government will, in the last several days leading to this countdown, do what is right. It is not too late to withdraw Bill No. 9. I am sure the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Tory Government can come up with a better deal for paramedics. We have seen it.

In the last several weeks - this is interesting - when I look at many questions Nova Scotians are asking of this government, it is a standard answer we have been hearing from the Speech from the Throne, from the Budget Address. All programs and all services are under review, yet, I am amazed, all of a sudden they keep coming up with more money.

They had to make promises to the people of Bedford, you know "vote for us and we will move the jail out of Bedford.". Well, they were able to find $2 million and we are still piling up those costs. I am sure that by the time the jail is up and running in Burnside, it is going to be very interesting what the cost is going to be. Let's not forget that we have to go back to the original site, and I am sure there will some environmental costs to close down that site. I know there will be costs; we have to provide sewer and water to this new jail in Burnside, so we are going to have to add up those costs to this new project and I am sure along the way there will be more that will be coming forward.

It is really strange, when I think back several days ago, when the Minister of Justice actually told our Justice Critic during Question Period that it would be cost-neutral to move the jail from Bedford to Dartmouth, yet they cannot seem to find new funding, a little bit of

[Page 948]

funding to help the paramedics. The crowd over there, Mr. Speaker, seems to be able to find some money when the need is there. They were able to find some money to move a jail. Last week the honourable Minister of Economic Development made a statement in the House, and they were able to provide Scotiabank with more money. It is always amazing to see what these people over here will come up with next.

[11:00 a.m.]

So I guess in closing - and will take my seat - I hope that this government, this Minister of Health, this Premier, will reconsider Bill No. 9, and deliver on the promise they have made to paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia. They want to be treated fairly so let's see where they stand on this issue. We have heard all kinds of stuff but now is the time, we are down to the countdown, let's see if they can't provide them with a better deal. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise to oppose Bill No. 9, to give it its fancy title, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. I would like to add my voice to the other voices on this side of the House who have spoken eloquently - and some at length - about their concerns on behalf of the paramedics; on behalf, too, of the general public; and on behalf of that endangered species, the political process in Nova Scotia.

In order to frame my objections I would also like to add my voice to that of the many who have cited their own experiences, or experiences of those they know, with the great speed, skill and compassion of the paramedic service.

I can say in this place that we get all kinds of problems in our constituency offices, I think, Mr. Speaker. Even the new members by now will have experienced the range of problems and the range of difficulties that come to us as we work in our constituencies; in my case, in the constituency of Halifax Fairview. We are all familiar by now - even the new members - with the problems that come to us around student aid or EI problems, poverty problems, or any other range of difficulties. Recently in Halifax Fairview, within the last month, we had a crisis on the phone in Halifax Fairview that I had never experienced in my three years as the representative for Halifax Fairview.

We received a phone call at lunch time one day and my constituency assistant was eating her lunch and, because she never gets a moment's peace, I said to the caller that she was out to lunch and would return her call shortly. Now, Mr. Speaker, the problem that the person framed his distress around an issue with Revenue Canada. Some bell went off in my head, he didn't sound quite right; there was something wrong and I didn't know what it was. So I said had the minimal good sense to say to this man, stay by the phone, she will call you

[Page 949]

when she gets back. Well, when she called him, his voice was deteriorating. He was still discussing his problems with Revenue Canada but then he said that he had taken 45 pills and he had 700 more that he was prepared to swallow because no one would help him.

Mr. Speaker, this was my first professional encounter with 911 and with the paramedics. I have to tell you that they were truly wonderful. At one point the Police Department was on the second line with me while my constituency assistant was on the first line with this deeply distressed and rapidly becoming comatose constituent. The police were on my line in aid of the paramedic service. What they wanted to know was could we possibly find out what the man had ingested so that their work and the work at the hospital could continue unbroken and with great speed and efficiency.

Mr. Speaker, I was a little shaken. We joked a little bit afterwards, my constituency assistant and I, that maybe we had to go shopping. Maybe we needed a break. We were quite shaken by it because we had not had that kind of life threatening distress come to us in our office. These people, whoever they were, on a Monday morning or a Monday noon, they were speedy. They were efficient. They were knowledgeable and they were professional.

So, Mr. Speaker, when I speak on opposing this bill, I think it is very important for us to understand the concrete specifics and how we all experience the paramedic service. We all experience it, anecdotally, as they say, but each anecdote adds to the accumulated knowledge base that we have of the skill, compassion and abilities of the paramedic service.

Mr. Speaker, I add my voice and I also want to say that having experienced that, I feel even more confident that the constituents of Halifax Fairview, a great many of whom are seniors, a sufficient number of whom are disabled, I have an increased feeling of confidence that should constituents in Halifax Fairview need the paramedic service, that they will receive the same kind of treatment, swift, efficient, professional and compassionate that this person on the other end of the telephone received at our request. I also feel that, personally, because we are not just representatives, I feel more comfortable, safer in my own life and I am sure that my family does too, given this increased knowledge of what it is our paramedic service does.

As I have said, Mr. Speaker, other people have cited specifics, told their stories and, indeed, the story that the member for Halifax Needham told last night was about someone else that I knew, someone who has since been lost to us, but who, in her need, was receiving swift, compassionate care. So the question arises, it doesn't seem to be in question in this House, on either side of the House, there doesn't need to be any question about the people who work in the paramedic service. We have heard accolades. We have heard reports. There doesn't seem to be any question that times have changed since the bad old days and, over the course of time, we have developed, in this province, a professional, skilled and technological service.

[Page 950]

I heard some member refer yesterday to the old concept of the meat wagon, which was an expression I had never heard, but which kind of turned my stomach. We know we don't have that, Mr. Speaker, and we know it has taken a certain amount of work. It has taken investment, and it has taken investment not just by the ambulance service or by the government, it has taken a huge investment of the time and, I presume, the cost, the money involved in the 650 paramedics in this province, upgrading their skills so that they can become even more skilled at the highly technical operations that they seem to be called upon to perform day in and day out in this province.

Another member of this House, and it struck me because I hadn't thought of it, pointed out, Mr. Speaker, that an ambulance when it was a meat wagon was simply a transportation device to get you as fast as you could to the hospital. Of course, the concept is totally different now and that is why you need these highly-skilled, highly-trained people so that they can perform functions that are indeed or can be life-saving when they come to the scene of illness or accident of any sort, and may indeed save lives by the actions they perform on the site of whatever catastrophe has occurred.

Now, Mr. Speaker, today may be a better day than yesterday to talk about the problems that paramedics are having. These are problems that this government can fix. Today might be a better day than yesterday to talk about the word exhaustion. I have been in this House for only a little more than three years. That is a minute in the history of this province, in the history of this beautiful Chamber. It is a very short time in the history of my life and an even shorter time in the history of my own political life. But in the three years I have been here, in fact, in my very first sitting of the first session when I came to this House, there was a filibuster and we sat in this Chamber for 18 hours a day, as I recall, for a substantial period of time.

What I remember is the unutterable fatigue of doing that. Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't suggest for a minute, I don't suggest for a nanosecond that sitting in a well-padded chair in this House is comparable to what the paramedics in this province do. I don't suggest it for a minute. But I do suggest that the interminable waiting that is so significant in their jobs because if they are not awake and alert, they can't perform their jobs when a call comes to them. The interminable waiting we have indeed some of us experienced, and I don't suggest for a minute that one long day - I don't even say a hard day - sitting around as I said, in these comfortable chairs is in the same universe as what these people do.

But I have to tell you I heard a lot of people moaning this morning. I heard them saying they were beat to their socks. They were, and some of them couldn't sleep when they went home because they were sufficiently wide awake by 2:00 a.m. that they just couldn't get to sleep. So maybe this is the day to say to the government, multiply that by 1,000; multiply that by 100,000; get the picture. I cannot imagine, Mr. Speaker, working 100 hours or 120 hours a week. MLAs work a lot of hours a week, you know that. We have a lot to do. It is not a

[Page 951]

five day a week job, it is not a 9 to 5 job, but let us see if we have the empathy and imagination for one minute to imagine first of all those incredibly long hours.

Let us take a step further, Mr. Speaker, and try to imagine trying to perform those highly-skilled operations at the end of a huge number of hours. Now I am not scared of them, but I have to tell you that anybody who has worked long hours knows that skills deteriorate at the end of a long spell at work. So, the whole question of public safety, which has been raised over and over again here, I raise again.

Now the government says this is what this is all about. This is all about public safety. Well, Mr. Speaker, I trust these people. I don't believe for a single minute that they would have left the public without sufficient coverage. I don't believe it would happen and I don't believe it would have happened. How can 650 people, on whom Nova Scotians may depend for their life with the training they have had, be so callous and so unfeeling as to not support the needs of Nova Scotians? I do not believe what the government says when they say it is all about public safety.

[11:15 a.m.]

I do believe that it is about public safety, Mr. Speaker, in the sense that public safety can be encouraged, inspired, by adequate wages, decent working hours, fair overtime pay and a climate in which employer and employees feel that they are partners in some kind of worthwhile enterprise. I have been in a union for many years. I have been in a union for 21 years. I have never been asked on behalf of my union to sit down at a bargaining table. I have been a union representative for my school. I have voted diligently. I have voted to strike in the past. I have voted not to strike. I have participated to the full level that I could in my union but I have never sat at a bargaining table.

My understanding from my union and other unions was that when you sit down at a bargaining table, you have two parties and you negotiate, and the reason it works is that both sides have something to offer and something to give. Now, as I said, I am no labour historian, I am not even an historian, but I have this rudimentary understanding of what my union was doing when it went to the table for me. One side sits down, the other side sits down across from them, and they decide together by hammering it out what will be best for management, for the union and for the people served by both the management and the union.

Mr. Speaker, I have got to tell you, I do not know one single thing, I cannot imagine one single thing that this bill, this piece of paper, contributes to labour peace, labour democracy, or labour functioning and management functioning in this province. I cannot see a single thing. In fact, I have to tell you, and other people have said it, but it bears repeating because it is so important and because the paramedics said it. On the news last night I saw one of the paramedics say this is it, they have taken away our bargaining power.

[Page 952]

So what is it that we have done, Mr. Speaker? This government in its wisdom has said we are going to make our own special contribution to the miserable labour history that we have in this province. As Yogi Berra said, it is deja vu all over again. We have been here in this province, just in the last 10 years, well, in the last 20 years, the first time I ever sat in the gallery of this House, as a member of the public, was the Michelin bill. That was the first time I ever came here.

It was the first time I was significantly distressed by the government of the day which I may say, Mr. Speaker, was the same people who sit over there in their smugness, having just won a majority government in this province. I experienced as a teacher the hammer coming down on teachers, on collective bargaining, on substitute teachers, on public sector workers, and that was the responsibility of the other gang that we have to share this side of the House with now.

What is it about this province? There are countries in the world where labour and management trust each other enough to get the job done. They sit down, they negotiate for the good of the people they serve, whether it is by making a product or providing a service. In European countries there are huge benefits to the economy and to the people in labour because the government, management and labour have the good sense to sit down together and do the best for the people. Social democratic parties have done that for years.

Here we have this sad and sorry latest episode in the sad labour history of Nova Scotia. I am not proud of it, Mr. Speaker, and I have to tell you that there are times in this country when Nova Scotia is ridiculed as some kind of political backwater. When the Premier or one of his henchmen over there used that phrase, speak outside of the box, I have to tell you that this is the box and the box is sealed. This is the same old box, it is not even a new box, and it is not only sealed, it is sealed with duct tape. There is no getting this box open because the lack of imagination over there that has brought these people to this House and the labour movement once again to heel, this box is the same old box. We are all familiar with it, it is not new, it is not creative, it is nothing that is worth having in this province.

I can't resist. The people who sit in the House are not the most important people in the universe. Sometimes we get confused about that because people bring us cups of coffee and so on and the press comes here. We are not the centre of the universe, that is for sure, but we do have a role to play, we are legislators. Our job is to come here and do the best, work together and struggle to come up with the best that can be done for the people of Nova Scotia. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I echo the sentiments of the previous speakers. The rhetoric was there during the election campaign. There were warm fuzzies everywhere, we were all going to work together for the benefit of Nova Scotians, not for our own benefit. What happened? It is gone; within two weeks of coming into this Chamber to cooperate with one another to make this province a better place, down came the mallet, down came the hammer. Here we

[Page 953]

are once again in this particularly distasteful position with regard to democracy. We find ourselves not only unable to improve the bill, at least at this stage, and there are things that could be improved if this bill had to be swallowed. I say that because they have a majority and they are going to make these people up in the gallery swallow it, they are going to make them eat it.

If they do, it seems to me that every opportunity should be provided to make the kind of improvements to this bill that are so necessary when the majority brings its hammer down. I can't believe that a bill would say, in a clause, that management would have two representatives on an arbitration board. Two to one, count them, Mr. Speaker, two against one; that adds up to management being able to outvote labour. It doesn't make sense, it is supposed to be an independent arbitrator.There are other things wrong with this bill. There are restrictions placed on what can be arbitrated

Mr. Speaker, I can't imagine that when people have been without a contract since, what is it, 1997?

AN HON. MEMBER: 15 months.

MS. O'CONNELL: For15 months? That a bill would restrict retroactivity until October 1, 1999, that strikes me as not just absurd, but totally insulting, Mr. Speaker. I cannot be emphatic enough about the disappointment that we feel. There is a certain cynicism about politics in this province. We know the score. We know we went out there on the election trail to do our very best and to come back with as many seats as we could, whatever that meant. We came back here, in good cooperative spirit, knowing that the other Party over there had won the election, and they had won it decisively. We came here to cooperate and we were ridiculed and abused early on for saying that we are willing to cooperate. Well, for crying out loud, Mr. Speaker, how can anybody on the Opposition side cooperate with Bill No. 9? Take it back.

What would be wrong with this government standing up and saying to Nova Scotia, all right, we meant it. We came in here to cooperate. We came in here to be responsible. We came in here with a sense of fairness and a sense of equity and we will take this bill back because as long as this bill is either in this House or passed, these people don't have a hope or a prayer for a fair resolution to a reasonable attempt at a first contract. I know it was complicated, and it may or may not be - I have no way of knowing that the previous government could have made sure this happened fairly, I have no way of knowing that - but I have to tell you, now that it is here, this minute, in this configuration, what would be wrong with the government, instead of saying, okay, folks, this is the hors d'oeuvre, wait until you see the main course, let the Minister of Health, who brought this bill in, stand up in this House and look up there at those people and say, we were wrong. We are not the Mike Harris Government. But at least Mike Harris ran on it. He didn't run left and govern right, the way both these Parties do consistently in this province.

[Page 954]

Why doesn't he get up and say, no. This is not going to contribute to democracy. It is not going to contribute to labour peace. It is not going to contribute to goodwill and it is not going to put any food on your plate so that you can feed your family, pay your bills for those courses you took, live a minimally decent life, which, in the view of our Party, people are entitled to do. Take it back. Start again and say to these people, yes. We want labour fairness. We care about public safety. So do you. We care about adequate incomes. So do you. We care about reasonable workloads. So do you. We are just going to say to EMC, our alter ego there, get down to it. Put some money on the table and clear this thing up with a sense of decency and fairness, instead of adding to the sorry labour record that goes on in this province and seems to go on forever. Thank you. (Applause)

[11:30 a.m.]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, we have sat here for some 14 hours plus, starting yesterday and now, again today, we will be here until 12:00 midnight. I am tired and I am sure a lot of other honourable members are tired here today, but having said that and knowing how tired I am, I can't even fathom how you would expect me at this time, with all the training that I could possibly have, to go out on the streets of this province and save someone's life. When you think for a moment that to most of the professionals, paramedics who are in our galleries today and were here yesterday and are outside walking up and down in front of this Legislature, the day that we put in yesterday and this morning and currently, right now, sitting around for 14 hours and debating, that would be a cakewalk. They would actually consider it a rest.

Take just a moment, think about it, 36, 48, 60, 100 hours, and then couple it with the stress the paramedics work under, and just ask yourself, could you do it? I couldn't do it. Not only ask yourself if you could do it, because paramedics have training, protocols to follow and again the stress they work under, but ask yourself, would you do it for just over $7.00 an hour? Let me ask the honourable members in this House, would you be a politician for $7.00 to $8.00 an hour?

Pick another health-related profession, a nurse, doctor, they would certainly know the stress that is involved in the health care industry. They certainly would identify with paramedics. But you know, maybe they are not a good example, because they don't work for substandard wages. One question on my mind right now after all of this debate is why is this happening? Why is this government shoving Bill No. 9 down our throats? I don't have the answer. I don't know. I have tried to come up with a reason but I can't.

I know one thing, it defies common sense, and sometimes that is all you need to settle disputes, common sense. In my opinion, that is currently lacking on the other side of this House. It is never too late for common sense to prevail. It can prevail at any time. Indeed,

[Page 955]

part of a common sense approach is admitting that you have made a mistake and then saying, I am sorry.

Mr. Speaker, if all of the members decided, on the other side of this House right now, that they had made a mistake and said, I am sorry, I am sure the paramedics would accept that and get back to the bargaining table immediately to try to resolve this dispute the way it should be resolved, at the bargaining table.

Let me take a moment to tell you about a paramedic I met in the hallway last night. The paramedic spoke very eloquently with the Health Minister in the lobby at approximately 10:30 p.m. last night. He told a reporter that he had just finished a 36 hour shift and he came here because he personally feels what is happening is wrong. He drove here in hopes of meeting the Health Minister and he did.

He told the Health Minister, while I was listening, that they had not been consulted on the issue of public safety. Indeed, if they had been, a compromise could certainly have been achieved. He also told the Health Minister that paramedics have been stripped of the right to collective bargaining. He and several other of his colleagues very succinctly, not rudely, made their points to the Minister of Health.

His reply? Silence. In some cases, silence is certainly golden, we know that. In this instance it gives a message of guilt. Guilt because there are no answers. Mr. Speaker, the paramedic I have been making reference to told the minister, as I just made reference to, that it is not too late. There can always be a solution, even if it is at the eleventh hour, and again I agree, it is never too late.

This government had choices. It could have put more money on the table. It could have allowed the negotiating process to continue. After all, there is a contingency plan in place, isn't there? Well, we are not sure about that either.

Today in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, The Daily News and so on, letters to the editor clearly are all in support of paramedics and their fight for a just and fair wage. The headline on a story from Saturday, October 23rd House heads to OT, "Marathon sessions planned to try to pass paramedics bill". That was a cute way the reporter had of saying that we are going to deal with something very serious.

There certainly are new overtime rules as well, in the NHL, for example, if anyone watches. As you may know, in the NHL - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know you are a hockey player and a hockey fan - the new rules allow for a tie or a win. The winner gets an extra point, am I correct? I can guarantee that this government will not end up with an extra point. After this overtime you won't even get a tie. In fact, the people of Nova Scotia will declare this government the loser. In the end, when this foolish game that you are now playing is over, they will fire the coach and the players.

[Page 956]

There are a couple of key issues, Mr. Speaker, as I see them in this controversy. First of all, essential service, and then we deal with the items of low wages and long hours. Our Health Minister says paramedics are essential to health care delivery. Well, if they are essential to health care delivery, are they not an essential service? I am confused. I am also upset that this government would be so callous as to introduce a piece of legislation such as Bill No. 9, which amounts to nothing more than a slap in the face to one of the most highly regarded professions in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, you seem to be in competition with some music, and I am just curious as to where it is coming from. Perhaps we could find out where it is and when the people are kind enough to shut the music down, honourable member, we will certainly permit you to continue.

MR. WILSON: I will be glad to repeat that last paragraph, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I have been told, honourable member, that it is outdoors and, if that is the case, you are more than welcome to proceed.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Let me quote at this time, and I mean this in no way to be flippant, Mr. Speaker, it is a tongue twister. Little kids say it sometimes. Maybe if we wanted to wake up the members of the House - at this moment, we could all repeat it. You know the one. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

This one is easier, and perhaps, Mr. Speaker, again, I noticed no one joined in on that one. Perhaps they would like to join in on this one. The Hamm plan is a sham.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The Hamm plan is a sham.

MR. WILSON: And not worth a - I didn't say it, Mr. Speaker. Please let the records show that I did not say that. Perhaps during the course of my address to the House, we will repeat that at a later time because participation was somewhat lacking.

Let me get serious for a moment. I grew up in Glace Bay. As a high school student, I worked a few hours here and there part-time for an ambulance company in Glace Bay. Mr. Speaker, at that time, the ambulance company could be considered - and I mean this with no disrespect - not much more than a meat wagon. I was employed as an extra driver; no medical training, never had any.

[Page 957]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I want to be fair to the honourable member for Cape Breton East and I would ask the honourable member, I know he is in competition with Chumbawamba here, but I am hoping we can give the honourable member the floor and provide him with the same decorum that all members enjoy.

MR. WILSON: I appreciate your quick action, Mr. Speaker, in turning that down. Where was I?

AN HON. MEMBER: Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: As I was working with the ambulance service in Glace Bay, again no medical training whatsoever, the person who would be seated alongside me, driving that ambulance, maybe if we were lucky on that particular night, would have a first aid course. We would respond to accidents, heart attacks, it would run the gamut. Our response would be, put someone on a stretcher, hopefully they didn't die before we got to the hospital.

Well, things have changed tremendously. In that time, back in the early 1970's, from when we did that, to what we now have, and classify rightly so as paramedics and highly-trained professionals in this province.

Again another personal example, Mr. Speaker, and this one is about as personal as I can possibly get. When I was 16 years old my father died. The people who responded to my father's death at that time - because of the fact back then, again in the early 1970's, we did not have professional people in the service that we now enjoy in this province - were police officers equipped with an oxygen tank at my house. I would dare say, that if that had been today, and the people who responded with the training and equipment that they have, I would now be celebrating my father's birthday in the month of August at the ripe old age of 80.

Again, thankfully that system that existed then no longer exists now. Mr. Speaker, paramedics are more than just paramedics, as we well know. They are also human beings. Some of them have lives, what is left of them, after they finish their shifts. When they respond, they are not only paramedics, they have to be social workers, they have to be psychologists. Sometimes they have to be cops, as first responders. They are the closest thing to a doctor that you will have arrive at your doorstep, all rolled into one and all for $2.00 more than the minimum wage in this province.

[11:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, again, a personal experience. It just happened last year. My oldest son and my daughter, six years old, were involved in a car accident in Glace Bay. Within minutes, highly trained professionals were on the scene. Fortunately, my children suffered only a few bruises but I am sure these people respond to many more accidents that are much more gruesome than the example that I have chosen here. I as a Nova Scotian and a Cape Bretoner,

[Page 958]

- which I may add - am ashamed right now that the very people who should and could have, if necessary, saved the lives of my children and have saved countless others, are paid what they are right now.

We can go home tonight and we can all sleep comfortably in our beds knowing that if you need it, these dedicated professionals would be there at a moment's notice. They would not hesitate, despite the stress that they are put under and the additional stress that they are now under by bringing this regressive bill before this House.

Another personal example, Mr. Speaker. I have a brother-in-law who was, for some time, an EMT and worked under a similar system as to what I told you for myself, although he was an experienced medical technician back in the 1970's who told me stories, the same stories I heard here today and yesterday, of endless hours and poor pay. At one time in his career he decided, I am going nowhere financially with this profession and decided to apply for a job with the Cape Breton Development Corporation or what we commonly refer to as Devco. Luckily enough, he was hired as an EMT in the mines and went to work there. He made almost three times as much as an EMT in the mines as an EMT out on the street doing the same work. Now I ask you, is that fair? No, it is not.

Mr. Speaker, I have spent over 20-some years in the profession of being in the media. I am quite proud of it, as a matter of fact and I, like some of my former colleagues, and indeed the members of this House, will tell you one thing we don't take lightly and that is the issue of freedom of speech. When I came here, and I stand here today as a rookie, I look at this great Chamber where we sit and look at the walls and see all these great legislators who have come before us. I happened to be looking yesterday, as this bill was introduced, and I swear, that the heads on those pictures were shaking. Some of them, I think, even bowed their heads in shame.

The government says this bill is needed. It is needed to protect the well-being of Nova Scotians. Well, what about the well-being of paramedics? Are they not Nova Scotians? The respect, if I may digress for a moment, Mr. Speaker, for the collective bargaining process, or should I say lack of respect, currently. The Minister of Health said he would not interfere in the contract talks. Well, what is this? What would you call it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Total interference.

MR. WILSON: Of course you would call it interference. Mr. Speaker, with that in mind, perhaps it is time we tried my tongue-twister again; the Hamm plan is a sham and not worth a - as I continue. I have seen the same people, and when I say the same people I am talking about paramedics, and some of them are now here in this House. I have seen how long they worked but I have also seen these same people, despite the length of hours they work, go out into their community and volunteer their services. It happened in my community.

[Page 959]

Again, an example; in 1998 the Canadian Little League Championships were held in Glace Bay. The paramedics who had been working night and day brought their rigs to the baseball field to set up just in case - because we had a large crowd at the field at the time - any of the Little Leaguers were injured on the field, or if anyone took ill within the large crowd, and there were many that did. It happens in large crowds.

At the same time, their rig, and I suppose this was on purpose, was strategically placed at the field in case it had to respond to an emergency. They asked nothing for this service. Some of them slept in the back of their rigs to catch a few winks while the game was on. They certainly were not there to see the game, they were too tired. They did it because of pride of the community. That is what they have, a pride in their community and in their profession and what they do. What they don't have pride in is what they are being paid. They certainly don't have pride in how they are being treated today.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable members across from me today have all had calls from their constituents, I know they have. Deep inside their hearts I know they care - I would make that assumption. You want to say something, I know, I can see it in your faces, you want to speak out. Don't let this regressive Progressive Conservative legislation stop you. You may not be able to speak out in this House but surely (Interruption) Well, I am proud to be doing it for him, too. Surely you can stand up in your own caucus or in a corner with your Premier or your Health Minister and tell them that you are mad and you are not going to take it any more and you want something done about it.

Mr. Speaker, for a moment let me comment on the conduct of the paramedics who have been with us for the last few hours, in the gallery and, again, as I mentioned, outside. In my opinion we are putting them through a very unnecessary debate. They have behaved like the professionals they are. No one is shouting, no one is interrupting. You can see it in their faces, too; they are upset, they are frustrated. I think it is because of the professional training they have already received that they have shown the restraint so far and still hold out a glimmer of hope in the system, the hope, Mr. Speaker, that this will finally work to their advantage and that the government will finally wake up and come to its senses and put this bill where it belongs, in the trash.

Mr. Speaker, we want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. These are the words in that plan, that plan that now has paramedics protesting here at this Legislature and looking for our support, that plan that has punished the poor and taken work away from those who need it the most. Perhaps it is time for another tongue twister. The Hamm plan is sham and not worth a - hopefully, by the end of my address, the members will all have it down pat.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I feel it is time that we let the process work, as the Leader of my Party so eloquently stated yesterday. We have, in this province and, indeed, in this country, the best ambulance service that you could possibly have. We have the best paramedics that

[Page 960]

you could possibly have. This legislation will force paramedics into binding arbitration and it will suspend their right to strike and, believe it or not, it will impose large fines if paramedics and their union ignore this legislation. That takes away that last chance, that possible eleventh hour or, as members of the media often refer to it, that last-ditch effort to negotiate and reach a settlement. On that note, if it happens to paramedics, one would wonder who is next? Who is next, would be the question?

Again, I get back to the point of the minister indicating that there was a contingency plan in place with this legislation. I can come to no other conclusion, after having listened to hours of debate in this House, that the contingency plan is Bill No. 9. It would have to be. If there was a contingency plan, the minister claimed, in the tabling of this bill that removes the rights of paramedics before they even have the opportunity to exercise them, that it would be necessary.

The minister also expressed his desire to see both parties negotiate. That desire is somewhat misplaced at the moment, Mr. Minister. Why would EMC have any incentive to negotiate? EMC knows that by the end of this week - and we have referred to it before and I will refer to it again - that stick that is being provided to them by this government, held over their heads, can be used to the benefit of EMC. So where is the fairness in that?

We have also made reference to negotiating a first collective agreement. I have been involved in negotiations myself for a first collective agreement on behalf of the bargaining unit at the time that I represented. It is never easy. The collective bargaining process is not an easy process by its nature.You bring together a group of workers to try to negotiate a wage and you take a set of rules and you take contract language with regard to overtime and training requirements and vacation time. It is never easy and I am sure the government knows that. I am sure that the paramedics know that. They demonstrated their end. They bargained in good faith, to my knowledge they did.

[12:00 p.m.]

This government has shown that they cannot hold up their end. The Premier said back in March that all Nova Scotians want a strike avoided. The workers want a strike avoided. So I would ask the Premier, will your government fulfil its commitment and avoid a strike as well? We do not want to see paramedics go on strike. Nobody in this province wants to see that. It goes against everything that they believe in. It goes against everything they have trained for. It goes against the people that they save out on the street every day and every night. They cannot go out there and save lives, they cannot help children when they are not there, they know that. They have not taken this training, they have not worked these long hours because they wanted to go out on strike and not do their job.

[Page 961]

They have done all of that, Mr. Speaker, because they want to help, they want to be there when they are needed. That is what they are there for. This government should give them a chance to do exactly that. Not only that, this government should pay them the fair and just wage that they deserve for doing that. When it came time for this government to treat these workers with respect and pay back these hardworking women and men for all the things they did, what have they done? They introduced Bill No. 9.

Clearly in this case, Mr. Speaker, the employer sees themselves as a winner in all of this. Who else would be? Not only do they have to not come up with a contingency plan because the government has already introduced that contingency plan with Bill No. 9, they also do not have to come up with any bucks. That is a solution for them, at least for now. So what will happen to paramedics after all of this? Do you think they will be demoralized? Do you think they will be upset? Do you think they will have more time to spend with their families? Do you think those long hours will cease to exist after this legislation? The answer to that is no. This legislation ensures that indeed that will not be the case.

The employees, the paramedics, they lose and that bargaining chip that they had that is so important to the collective bargaining process, and they believe that was the only course of action they had, again they bargained in good faith, they are willing to bargain in good faith right now. They are willing to bargain in good faith tomorrow or the next day if need be because it could possibly lead to a fair solution to this dilemma. Now that course of action has been totally 100 per cent blocked by this government and its introduction of Bill No. 9.

Negotiations have been ongoing for some time. Paramedics and EMC even negotiated an essential service and the union committed to ensuring that public safety would be adhered to, the very question the government says we are supposed to be dealing with in this legislation. They agreed that would be taken care of. They agreed to rotating strikes so why, I ask again, not meaning to repeat myself, but why is this piece of legislation here when both parties have already agreed to ensure public safety?

Mr. Speaker, I refer to the fact that I am a rookie and by no means do I know everything about being in government, or being in Opposition, or for that matter just being in this Legislature, but I do know that government is about making choices. I know that because that is what you are put there for - in government - to make choices.

Well, this government had lots of opportunity to make some choices, Mr. Speaker. They could have put more money on the table. I referred to that before. Again, they could have allowed the negotiating process to continue and, again, because there was a contingency plan in place, am I right? There was one in place. So why would the government circumvent the process, a process that they were willing to get involved in one week ago? These choices would have yielded a result that would have been much more productive than this current piece of legislation.

[Page 962]

You know, as a people in this province, we are very proud of our paramedics because of the fact that, as I mentioned before, where the system has come today from where it used to be back in the early 1970's. Ambulances today, they are the same in every part of this province, Glace Bay, Halifax, rural Nova Scotia. The same level of care is offered to every Nova Scotian.

Mr. Speaker, I said before, I am a little bit upset and I have taken the time, as many other members on this side of the House have taken over the past 48 hours or so, to talk with paramedics in the hallway. I am upset because what I am seeing is just not fair. I can't think of any other way of putting it except to say it stinks. (Interruption) We have the opportunity to make things right. If I had a copy of the blue book, I would show him myself. But I took the opportunity to throw the blue book away, Mr. Speaker, some time ago because it is not worth anything.

So when I said that I am angry and disappointed and confused about this legislation, it is the most confusing piece of legislation that I, in my short career, have ever come across in the Legislature. Paramedics last week, they joined us in this House to share their thoughts and feelings on negotiations and they were here to voice their concerns. So they were willing to negotiate. The government is not willing to listen. That is confusing to me. I thought the government and its members were elected to listen to the people of Nova Scotia.

As Opposition members, we have acted kind of predictably here. We asked questions because, as I understand it, the job of Opposition is to ask questions because we are concerned. We also, Mr. Speaker, would like to have some answers to that question. Opposition members are always searching for answers, very seldom getting them, but always in the quest for the right answer that they are looking for. So we had a couple of questions as a caucus last week that were brought to the attention of the Health Minister. We had asked whether he has, as minister, met with EMC to discuss wages and whether the minister had seen that elusive contingency plan.

Now ironically, Mr. Speaker, the minister said that since that was an issue between the employer and the employees - get this next line - he said he was not prepared to interfere in the process. That is what he said. Again, if this is not interference, I am not sure exactly what it is.

Mr. Speaker, I have made reference to a great number of personal cases in my speech here today. I guess that is what brings the matter home most of all in situations like this. As I stood in the hall yesterday listening to paramedics and I apologize because this time, I did not catch the name of the paramedic who was telling his story at the time. He did say, and I think it brought the point home to me, that within the past few weeks, he had arrived on the scene of what was supposed to be a domestic dispute.

[Page 963]

One of the things, as I understand it, the paramedics had asked for would be a form of flak jacket, that should be supplied by their company; the reason being, because as I said, they are first responders. In many cases, ambulances and paramedics are at the scene before police officers are at the scene. So when they enter a home or a situation, they have no idea what they are coming up against. The same as a police officer would have no idea what is behind that closed door.

In this case, the paramedic said they haven't been given the opportunity to get those vests. The company wouldn't give it to them. I guess you have a choice, do you have a vest that would save your life or do you get a decent wage for working the hours that they work, or in this case, does the company give you neither a decent wage nor a vest that would save your life (Interruption) When you should have both, indeed.

At the same time, I heard yesterday, and again a paramedic in the hallway talking about how he had arrived on the scene expecting to have what they thought at the time was just a child sick. When he arrived on the scene, they found a five month old baby suffering from respiratory arrest. The paramedic did everything he possibly could to save that baby's life. He transported the baby to the hospital. Unfortunately that five month old died.

Now if we take a moment and think about the traumatic experience that it would be - and at the same time this paramedic had to deal with the mother and the father who had just witnessed their five month old baby, dying and being put onto a stretcher, into an ambulance and rushed to hospital. Did that paramedic have time off? Did that paramedic have counselling to get over that situation? Did that paramedic have anyone to talk to? Did that paramedic have a company that cared enough to do any of those things for that paramedic?

Mr. Speaker, no, that paramedic did not have that opportunity because that paramedic had to go back out on shift, and for the rest of his shift - and I forgot how long, he mentioned it at the time, how long it was - he had to deal, maybe with the same thing over again, but surely he had to deal with many stressful situations for the rest of his shift again. Certainly no time to sit down and reflect on what is happening in that sort of case.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton East who has the floor permit another member to make an introduction?

MR. WILSON: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cape Breton East for yielding the floor in the middle of what was obviously a very good and passionate point that he was making with respect to the bill. I thank him for that. I would like to introduce to you, if I can, the members of Tuesday Morning Co-op group who are here in the

[Page 964]

gallery with us today. Their leader is Janice Cruddas, who is a resident of my riding. They are here as part of a home-schooling experience, where they help provide information to their children. I just wondered, if they would like to stand, if they can, then we would like to get the House to welcome them here this morning. (Applause)

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I join in that welcome certainly. Again in the paper today, this is from the Daily News, the headline reads, "'Ripped out our heart' Paramedics confront Hamm, say strike wouldn't have threatened public.". That is what a group of paramedics told the Premier yesterday and this government is now pushing that legislation through to prevent paramedics from walking off the job at midnight Friday and forcing them into binding arbitration.

Paramedics say they are professionals, Mr. Speaker, and they would not let any citizen or person in this province suffer. Again, personally, I do not know many of the paramedics who are here today, but I do know a lot from my constituency of Cape Breton East and from the Island of Cape Breton. I know them in some cases to hold other jobs because they cannot exist on the wage that they are currently being paid. I cannot imagine, as I made reference to how tired we are today, how tired they are after a regular shift, how they could possibly find the energy to work another job. I cannot imagine it, but I can imagine the need that they have because they have families and they have to feed those families. As we all understand, or I hope we would understand, feeding a family on just over $7.00 an hour would certainly not be an easy chore.

Mr. Speaker, as you have heard in some cases here, if I can find the figures, paramedics in a lot of other provinces make considerably more money than the paramedics in our province do. Again, as I listened to some of the debate yesterday and early this morning, some of the figures that were tossed around went from a low of $19.67 an hour, to a high in Vancouver, I think it was, of $23.77 an hour.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a 35 hour work week.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I ask you is a life in Toronto, is a life in Vancouver, is a life in Regina, worth any more than a life in Halifax, or in Glace Bay, or in Pubnico? I would think that life would have the same value placed on it; so I would ask you, is a paramedic who shows up at a doorstep to save that life in Vancouver, in Toronto, are they not deserving of the same wage if they are based in Halifax, Glace Bay, or North Sydney? Do they not deserve to be paid the same amount of money for the same service that they provide in those areas as they provide in this province?

[Page 965]

Mr. Speaker, again let me get back to the collective bargaining process. During the process, as I mentioned, the union committed to cooperating with EMC should a strike occur. They made a commitment, as I mentioned before, to adhere to rotating strikes. Is that not good enough for this government if that commitment is there? Do they not have the respect that is necessary for these professionals to allow them that leniency to say, of course, we trust you, of course, will provide that necessary care because you are professionals and we know. I would question whether or not this government right now trusts anyone in this province. They have done a lot of things in a very short time that would make us ask the question, should they be trusted to, indeed, act as government in this province and lead this province into the future?

Mr. Speaker, again I appeal to the government. We want paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. It may not sound familiar to some government members over there so let me repeat it; we want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. Do you know why it should sound familiar? Because those are their words. They are the ones who spoke those words. They want that for the paramedics of this province; they want that for Nova Scotians, but we all know that actions speak louder than words. This action of introducing Bill No. 9, this regressive piece of legislation, will certainly speak louder than any words any member on the government side can speak to paramedics in the days to come.

Mr. Speaker, I can guarantee you that it is not only paramedics, but other people have been affected by government decisions to date, such as charities. Food banks in my constituency not only lost the money that would have come to them from the charity fund, but lost the two Winter Works Program workers who helped them distribute food because this government cut the Winter Works Program as well. This government has the nerve to ask people to trust them when they introduce Bill No. 9 because it is needed in the interests of public safety. Well, the 100 children who go to the Glace Bay Food Bank on a daily basis would have a few problems trusting this government. When they step up and their plates are empty, I don't think they trust them very far.

As I mentioned, this government plan - and I have forgotten in the last few minutes, because I have been getting upset, my tongue twister - the Hamm plan is a sham and not worth a - please make note, Mr. Speaker, I have never mentioned that word in this House. That plan has now punished paramedics, it has punished the poor, it has taken work away from the people who need it most at this time.

Furthermore, let's strike out at the disabled as well. Everyone on that side of the House knows that government buildings in this great capital are already accessible, for the most part, to disabled people. It wasn't government buildings you took it away from, it was the lobster suppers and the community halls in rural Nova Scotia that will not get access for the disabled now. That is who you took the right to accessibility away from, not anyone in government.

[Page 966]

Mr. Speaker, I know you have been kind enough to allow me extra minutes for that loud music that was out there. I may or may not take you up on that opportunity, I am not sure right now, but I certainly appreciate the offer anyway. For me to sit down at this point in time, I think would be a sign of weakness and a sign that I actually might agree with that piece of legislation you have introduced, so I won't.

Again, I would appeal to the many members of the backbench on the government side. I know that contrary to popular belief, you have consciences. I know that you care very much about paramedics. So I would ask that in the times ahead, while you are not watching how many are in the seats, that you would think about just how regressive this legislation actually is. Just give it a moment's thought, in passing. If you think about paramedics who are here watching you in this Chamber, if you think about, just for a minute, how much they actually put into their work, how they have been trained for the profession that they so dearly love.

I am not sure if they get paid for that training. I don't know. If anyone can tell me, please feel free, if they get paid for that training. I would take a guess, with the way things are going, Mr. Speaker, that, no, they don't get paid for training. Why would they get paid for training when they can't get paid a decent wage for working? I have just gone back to that common sense approach that I talked about almost one hour ago. The common sense approach that I told Opposition members to use. I just used it myself. I used common sense to say, wait a minute. How would they pay them for training if they don't pay them to work properly?

When they go out for that training, Mr. Speaker, and they put those hours into receiving the training that they take, because they know that that very training they have to have, they have to have that training to save lives. They go out, they put in countless hours taking that training and then they put in endless hours working on the streets of Nova Scotia saving lives. Again, this is your reply.

Well, I guess there is a chance for government members to be a little bit smug and we have seen it over the past little while. I guess if you are 29 members sitting over there and you have all the power, you can be as smug as you want to be. But that smugness will only take you so far. Am I right? Blaming the previous government will only take you so far. People are going to get tired of hearing that. You can only rely on, oh, it was their fault, for so long. Then you are going to have to come up with some ideas of your own. You all know that. Eventually, you will have to come up with one and I can say one thing, you have. I am very thankful that this side of the House didn't come up with that piece of legislation. Thankfully, we never even considered it. Why would we? It just doesn't make any sense to come up with a piece of legislation that is going to strip people of not only their right to strike, but their right to a fair wage and their right to working conditions that not many other Nova Scotians are forced to work under in this day and age, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 967]

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, in a lot of cases today, if you have had a chance, although some of us haven't because we have been here so long. We haven't had a chance to sit down and read newspapers and whatever, but on the way into the Chamber this morning, I did happen to catch a glance of a few and, as I mentioned, most of the editorials, all of the editorials I read, were coming out in favour of the paramedics. They are, in some cases, disgusted at the arrogance of this decision and the arrogance of this government to try to possibly prevent a strike by paramedics.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I know I have only a few minutes left.

MR. SPEAKER: Three minutes.

MR. WILSON: Actually three? I think it only appropriate that it would be time for another tongue twister. If we can, in unison, please, Mr. Speaker, feel free to join in. The Hamm plan is a sham and not worth a . . .

[12:30 p.m.]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Darn.

MR. WILSON: We are getting close, Mr. Speaker, to actually making it rhyme. Again I go back, for the final few minutes, to my personal experiences. When I mentioned, much earlier in this speech, that I at one time - I would never call myself a medic, I wouldn't even call myself an ambulance attendant at the time - back in the early 1970's, I was an extra driver and thought I was doing some good for the general public. As a matter of fact - paramedics can relate to this - one of our big jobs at the time was actually carting around caskets and corpses because we worked for a funeral director. (Interruptions.) Those were the bad old days, not the good old days.

If we can think how far we have come from those days to now and again, one last appeal to the government members, think about it. Common sense will tell you that what is happening here is not right. What is happening here is not fair and what is happening here is not just. You have a responsibility as a government, and I am sure your ministers and your members take it very seriously, to do what is right for the people of Nova Scotia; 650 people are telling you (Interruption) And hundreds of others, thousands of others, are telling you that what you are doing is not right. It is never too late, again, to say, I made a mistake, I am sorry, I apologize, let's move on from here and make things right and sit down with the paramedics in this province and negotiate a fair and just settlement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause.)

[Page 968]

MR SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Bill No. 9 is not a piece of legislation. Bill No. 9 is a piece of theatre. Let me explain what I mean. (Interruptions.) The attempt is being made by the government, to put in place, in the minds of the public of Nova Scotia, a scenario in which they are pretending something akin to that old 1930's movie, The Perils of Pauline. You remember that? There was the evil villain who is putting into dangerous situations the fair maiden, and the rescuer would come in an help the maiden, Pauline, escape. That is exactly the kind of theatrical scenario that the government is trying to have the people of Nova Scotia keep clearly in their minds, but let me tell you, it is wrong.

In that scenario, poor Pauline is supposed to be the vulnerable public of Nova Scotia, and the evil, moustache-twirling villains are supposed to be, apparently, the hard-working paramedics. The hero is supposed to be the Government of Nova Scotia under Premier Hamm, who is rushing in with Bill No. 9, this piece of theatre, to try to pretend that the maiden who is in danger will be rescued by means of this piece of legislation. Let me tell you, no one over here is fooled. No one believes it for a moment over here. Speaker after speaker has pointed out to the government that they are not buying it. Do you know what? The people of Nova Scotia are not going to be buying tickets, even if they are cheap tickets, to this particular play. They are not fooled either.

You have to ask yourself why it is that the government is trying to put this picture in the minds of the people of Nova Scotia. I think it is pretty obvious why they are doing that. They are trying to do that not just because they do not want pay the money to the workers who we call paramedics, they are doing it because very rapidly they got into big trouble after this election. I have never seen a shorter honeymoon period for a new government, but given the mean financial approaches of this government and the huge amount of negative reaction, they felt undoubtedly that they had to come forward with something that they could use to distract the public of Nova Scotia and to try to show themselves in a better light. So they hit on the idea of trying to legislate back to work a group of workers who haven't even gone out on strike, let alone gone out on strike in a situation in which there is any danger to the poor Pauline, the public of Nova Scotia.

No one is fooled by this. It is quite obvious what the government is doing. They are looking for something to try to make themselves look good. This is not legislation, this is spin, this is a theatre script, this is an attempt to try to manipulate public opinion. It is not going to work. It simply will not work because the public of Nova Scotia is sufficiently sophisticated to understand when it is being manipulated, and nobody likes to be manipulated.

When an attempt is made to use a transparent device like this, the public becomes insulted, with good reason. Let me tell you that the public of Nova Scotia seems to have a great deal more sophistication about labour relations matters than that government sitting across the floor here. I don't know who over there can possibly claim to have any kind of

[Page 969]

expertise in labour relations matters, especially with respect to this issue of essential services and public sector bargaining, especially bargaining in the broad hospital or health sector.

What do they know about it? It is quite evident that they know nothing about it, and even given that the members over there don't seem to know anything about it, you would think they might have been able to take advantage of some expertise inside their department. If they had troubled to ask anybody inside their department, they would have found out that this whole question of bargaining in the public sector, particularly in the hospital sector, has been the subject of a detailed report that was done by labour arbitrator, Bill Kydd in 1991, for the Tory Government of that day.

This has been researched, and let me tell you Nova Scotia, faced with the possibility, and I say the possibility, of job action by paramedics is not the first jurisdiction in North America to have ever encountered the possibility of some kind of interruption of what is seen as public sector essential services. There is plenty of legislation that has tried to deal with this in the past, and here is what I am going to do, I am going to quote to you from what Bill Kydd had to say in his report, and I am going to table this. When a Page comes in, I will table the extracts that I am going to quote from.

Let me remind you that the first piece of legislation in Canada to deal with this was in 1965 in Ontario. It was called the Ontario Hospital Dispute Arbitration Act of 1965. This was an attempt to put in place binding arbitration in the broad hospital sector in Ontario. This has a history. It is not as if this was the first time anywhere in North America that suddenly there was a realization that there might potentially be problems with services to the public if people who worked in hospitals went out on strike. I see we have a Clerk back, I am going to table the extracts that I am going to quote from.

After Ontario passed that legislation, quite a number of other provinces also passed similar legislation, but there are at least three provinces that never have. Nova Scotia is one of those provinces that has never passed this type of broad-based health sector binding arbitration legislation. There are reasons why our province has not done it. The last time there was panic and a government wet itself in the face of concerted efforts in the hospital sector was precisely their predecessor government in 1990-91 when there was broad-based bargaining coordinated, cleverly enough, by nurses in hospitals all across Nova Scotia.

As a result of this, there was an industrial inquiry. This was headed up by Bill Kydd, a local labour lawyer. He often acts as an arbitrator. I have sat on panels with Bill Kydd; I have sat there as a union nominee. Bill Kydd is a respected, knowledgeable, local person who has written a report for the government, a report to the Minister of Labour, "Industrial Inquiry into Collective Bargaining in Nova Scotia Hospitals Falling Within the Jurisdiction of the Trade Union Act.". This was early in 1991.

[Page 970]

What was happening was that the government was afraid that there might be joint action taken, by way of strike, by nurses and perhaps other hospital workers, not just at one hospital, but at several hospitals around the province. After the bargaining was concluded and the immediate danger past, they appointed an industrial inquiry to try to give the government some advice as to how to proceed. Was it desirable, the inquiry was asked, to have legislation in place to deal with collective bargaining in the hospital sector? What about peril to the public, Mr. Kydd was asked. Tell us about it, they said. He told the government about it. He did the research. He received submissions from the NSGEU, from the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, from the Federation of Labour and, most importantly I would think from the government's perspective, from the Association of Health Organizations.

The Association of Health Organizations is basically that group which has been formed by the hospitals to conduct their collective bargaining all across the province and that is what they do, they do collective bargaining on behalf of the management side of the hospitals all across this province. You know what? The unions and the AHO agreed that a legal regime that mandated binding arbitration in the hospital sector was not desirable. Let me give you some details and why it is that they all said that. This is why the union said it and this is why management said it. Believe me, it is not possible for a government that understands one thing about labour relations to have brought forward this disgrace of a bill.

I am going to quote from what Bill Kydd had to say, and this has been tabled. "Although the parties were unable to reach a final agreement on how to improve the current bargaining process, the hearings revealed a number of areas where there is a strong consensus or common interest shared by all of the parties." I am going to interrupt the quoting here to remind you that all of the parties includes management and labour here. "This Commission is of the opinion that these areas of consensus or common interest are broad enough that they can provide the framework for negotiated bargaining process that can improve the system that is currently in place." - and here is the first point, according to Bill Kydd. "The Nova Scotia system has worked quite well when compared with systems in place in other provinces.".

Now let us consider that. What he is meaning is that the system of the Trade Union Act in which unions can be formed, they can freely bargain and, if the bargaining doesn't work, it goes to conciliation and it may possibly go to lockout or strike. That is the system that Bill Kydd is endorsing at the request of the government of the day after conducting a very thorough industrial inquiry commission. There is another point he concluded, "Any changes to the Trade Union Act should, therefore be minimal if there are to be any at all.". Now listen to this next point, "All parties are very much against a system of compulsory binding arbitration. There is a strong consensus in favour of voluntarism, with free collective bargaining recognized as the best means of ensuring good labour relations.".

[Page 971]

[12:45 p.m.]

Here is one other point, ". . . all of the parties recognize that they have a responsibility to provide essential services in the event of a strike.". That emerged unanimously from all sectors; that emerged from the union side and from the management side and there was no discontent with that. No parties were discontent with it. If there is any dispute at all about this question of provision of essential services in the health care sector, it has to do with the details of the mechanism by which that is to be devised. Let me be clear to you that what Bill Kydd said and what history showed elsewhere is that the best way to arrive at a system of determining what services are to be provided in the event of a strike or a lockout is to let the parties freely bargain over those. It is not to step in with legislation and to tell the parties what to do.

All of this is in a report which has been on file with the Government of Nova Scotia since Bill Kydd wrote it in 1991. The Department of Labour has it and anyone who has been active in labour relations throughout the last years in Nova Scotia knows about this report and the contents of this report.

In the section on binding arbitration, Bill Kydd said as follows, "Both the unions and the hospitals . . .", and here by the hospitals he means the management of the hospitals, ". . . in their submissions to this commission strongly opposed binding arbitration as a means of settling collective agreements.".

Do you know what? Mr. Kydd goes out of his way to point out that the reasons the unions didn't like binding arbitration was not because they had not done well under it historically. When binding arbitration has been used, the result has tended to be, in general, that unionized employees tend to be the ones who get more, in terms of wages, than management had been proposing. They tend not to have complaints with respect to that. Do you know why the unions don't like binding arbitration? They don't like it because they prefer to fashion a collective agreement across the bargaining table talking with management and working out the details themselves.

Furthermore, not only is this healthy in terms of building a working relationship between management and its employees, it allows the bargaining process to go on in an honest, free-flowing fashion that we know as free collective bargaining. As soon as the parties know that there is going to be a system in place that results in compulsory binding arbitration at the end, the nature of bargaining changes because everybody, both management and employees have their eyes on what is going to happen at the end of the process. They look at it and say, I am not budging, I am going to take my position, I am going to stick to it and I am not going to trade something off; I am not going to move down in terms of my money position because if I do, when it goes to binding arbitration at the end and the baby is split by the arbitrator, then if I come low but the other person doesn't come up, then I am going to lose out because the split will tend to favour them, it won't favour me.

[Page 972]

That is what happens when you get a system of binding arbitration in place that the parties know is coming. It is an interference with the free flow of collective bargaining; it runs counter to the best interests of both sides of the bargaining table. This is exactly what all scholars and practitioners have found out.

I mentioned earlier the 1965 Ontario legislation which was the first experiment with this kind of hospital-sector, compulsory binding arbitration. Five years after that legislation went into place in Ontario, Professor Harry Arthurs, one of Canada's leading labour lawyers, labour scholars and labour arbitrators, wrote a book on the subject. It was called Labour Disputes in Essential Industries. It was published by the Industrial Relations Centre at Queens University. Harry Arthurs, who later went on to become Dean of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and then President of York University, made the observation at the time that on the whole, this system tended to skew the collective bargaining process and every scholar who has looked at this matter since has reached the same conclusion; this includes active practitioners of labour law and that extends to labour arbitrators.

Let me quote to you from Mr. Paul Weiler. Paul Weiler is one of Canada's leading labour arbitrators. The reason I am quoting from Paul Weiler is that the Association of Health Organizations, that is to say the NSAHO that represents management in bargaining at the Nova Scotia Hospital, cited the following passage from one of Paul Weiler's speeches in their submission to Bill Kydd's industrial inquiry. Here is what Paul Weiler had to say, and his is the statement that was adopted by management at the hospitals in 1991 with respect to binding arbitration.

Paul Weiler, "'I hope I am not being disloyal to my brethren in the arbitration fraternity if I confess that the rationality of that process is an allusion. Arbitrators do not have, they do not obtain, anything like the wisdom of Solomon. Typically they do split the baby down the middle! Then the arbitrator can blithely depart the scene, leaving it to someone else to pick up the pieces from an unhappy award.'". That is what Paul Weiler had to say and that is what management at the hospitals agreed was a fair statement of the reality of binding arbitration and why it is that they did not want it. Management did not want it. This is not just a new entity that deals only with paramedics. This is not some johnny-come-lately, small-time entity. This was a statement adopted on behalf of the NSAHO which has a longstanding history of labour expertise in this province broadly based in the health care sector, and that was their conclusion.

So far as I know, it has not changed. I think that is still their view. You do not get the NSAHO jumping up and down and saying binding arbitration is what we want. As I said, if there is any area on which there might be some residual discussion, it is not about whether essential services ought to be maintained during a strike or lockout in the hospital sector. The issue is how you devise the details of that, and the recommendation that seems to have emerged is that it is best left to the parties to work that out. That is the way. There should be essential services left in place, but you do not impose binding arbitration to settle a labour

[Page 973]

dispute, not even in the hospital sector and, in any event, you leave it to the parties to decide the details of what kind of essential services should be put in place. That system works and there is nothing to show that it does not work. It works very well.

Let me remind you of something else the Association of Health Organizations said, because they pointed out just as the unions have their reason for not liking binding arbitration, the NSAHO had a very good reason for not liking binding arbitration and here is what it is. This, according to Bill Kydd in his report, is a direct quotation from the submission of the NSAHO, "' . . .quite possibly the most convincing argument against binding arbitration is the fact that it does not eliminate strikes. It simply makes them illegal.'". Now, do you know what that means. It means that if you make strikes illegal, what you will get are illegal strikes. Now, listen, it is not as if you had to remember back to 1991 and Bill Kydd's report. It may be that your memories do not go back that far, but what about last June? I mean has everyone forgotten? It was just in the Western Provinces, Saskatchewan, that we saw illegal strikes in the health care sector. If you make strikes illegal and the employees are mad enough, they will strike regardless, they do not care. That in the end, they do not care about whether you make it illegal. If they judge that they have the right to withdraw their labour, they will do it.

Let me be clear that they care about their patients and the ill and they will make sure that essential services are left in place, but like NSAHO says, the simple fact is that if you make strikes illegal, all you will get is illegal strikes - if they are mad enough. Could anything be clearer than that? Now, I ask you to try to think back and remember Bill Kydd's detailed report in 1991, but apparently they didn't bother to do that. All they had to do was look around the rest of this country in the health care sector and see what the bargaining history was. That isn't hard to do. This is recent history, this is easy to remember, this is something they should have read in the newspapers, even if it was election time.

The result, in the words of Bill Kydd is, ". . . there is a consensus that the best way to resolve disputes in the hospital sector is to continue with the strike/lockout mechanism. All the parties made it quite clear that none of the current problems in the system were serious enough to warrant abandoning the strike/lockout option in favour of a system of binding arbitration.". Nothing could be clearer than that, if you were paying attention.

I hope that now that some of the details of this very good report by an industrial inquiry commissioner who was appointed by the previous PC Government, have been brought to the attention of this government that they might take them to heart. They might take the time to read the sections of the report, which I have tabled, and have a look at this.

I want to be clear that when I quote from this report that all parties, the management and unions, were clear that essential services in hospitals must be provided in the event of a strike. Here is what Mr. Kydd says, "The unions say that in fact they have always provided such services and will continue to do so.". There is no reason to doubt that kind of statement, why should there be?

[Page 974]

We know that in the end there is a strong consensus among management and employees in Nova Scotia that unfettered collective bargaining is the best route, it is the best thing to do and that that bargaining should be unfettered even with respect to the provision of essential services. Again, here is what Mr. Kydd said in his report, "There is also a general consensus from them that it is better to discuss and come to an agreement on the provision of such services well in advance of any crises so that decisions can be reasonably negotiated across a bargaining table. Postponing any such arrangement until a strike occurs invites negotiations through the press and the temptation to provoke public anxiety to promote government intervention.".

Now I went through the details of the report of Bill Kydd exactly so that I could reach that particular statement on Page 49 because that is the key of the matter. This is why I described Bill No. 9 as a piece of theatre, not as a true, useful piece of labour relations legislation. It is a piece of theatre because it is designed to provoke public anxiety. It is designed to portray the government as the hero of the peace. It is designed to pretend to people that they are in danger. It is designed to distract public attention from the many early- appearing failings of this government.

No one is fooled. Now if the government had seriously wanted to do something about the paramedics or about hospital sector bargaining generally, they had lots of opportunity, and not only the PCs because they were the government for two full years after Kydd's report was received in 1991. They could have done something about it then. The Liberals could have done something about Bill Kydd's report, anytime during their tenure as the government. Instead, what they prefer to do is wait until the last minute in the hopes that they will be able to gain some credibility and public profile as the heroes of the piece.

[1:00 p m ]

Dealing well in advance, years in advance preferably, with these kinds of questions is not the only alternative that has been available to the government. They have all kinds of other things they could do besides introducing something like Bill No. 9. Never mind that they could have introduced general legislation years ago or their predecessors could have or the Liberals could have. The other thing they can do is negotiate. I have heard lots of members say that on this side of the House. They shouldn't be legislating, they should be negotiating. There should be negotiations. I don't know if I can state this any more simply so that it can be understood on the other side of the floor.

You don't legislate, you negotiate. You don't try to panic or frighten the people of Nova Scotia. They are not fooled, we are not fooled, and you will get no credit for this, let me tell you. There are other things that you could do. You could pay them, there is another thing; there is another item. If you think that, as we have heard, the paramedics deserve justice, if the paramedics deserve better rates of pay, if the paramedics deserve to have better working conditions, pay up. Don't sit here pretending that you have nothing to do with it, that

[Page 975]

these negotiations are somehow wildly at arm's length and that it is not you, the government is the payer here.

Not only is the government the payer, the government is really the ultimate employer here, and I don't think there is any member on this side of the House or any member of the public who is fooled when a Minister of Health gets up and says, it has nothing to do with us, we are innocent bystanders, we are really at arm's length from this, we have an independent employer here. Let me tell you, this doesn't work. This doesn't work. This sort of silliness I saw go on even at the municipal level. Do know what? It does you no good.

You can't sign a contract, for example, with the people who collect the garbage and then as a municipal councillor, when people call up with complaints say to the public, it has nothing to do with us, we signed a contract with these people, it is their jobs. Political accountability is what the public demands. You are their elected official, you are the one who is in charge of these services.

We have a Minister of Health in this province, not someone who just passes the buck. That is the job. The job is to accept responsibility, and we see a Minister of Health and a Minister of Finance who together could have strong influence on these negotiations. All they have to do is stand up and say, we are prepared to pay the freight. That is it. It is not as if there were no alternatives.

Three alternatives I have set out to this legislation. One is dealing with it years ago. The other is continuing to negotiate. The third is giving up and paying up. We hear lots of people saying that is the just thing to do. These are straightforward options. It is not as if it is so difficult. There are other options. You can ask the parties to come up with a detailed contingency plan. This would be a useful step, and it is possible to do this. You could wait until, perhaps, there is a strike or a lockout rather than simply waving your arms in the air and trying to frighten the public. I think we are up to five or six alternatives at this point. These are all alternatives to Bill No. 9, and every one of them is preferable to Bill No. 9.

Why is it that the government thinks that it can bring in this kind of silliness? I have suggested that there is a direct reason, in that it is an attempt to distract the public's attention from the government's many other failings. I think that that is a serious reason. I think the government is abysmally ignorant of how labour relations is truly carried on. That is another reason why they chose the worst of the possible options. I think that, unfortunately, what we are seeing is a demonstration of how it is that people are able to carry inconsistent ideas in their minds at the same time. The two inconsistent ideas that the government is trying to suggest to us are with respect to the paramedics.

On the one hand, the paramedics in the theatre script that I talked about at the beginning are characterized as the evil villains who are victimizing the poor public of Nova Scotia. In the same minds of the government, we hear statements that paramedics are hard-

[Page 976]

working, honest, dedicated, well-trained people doing important work in this province. Are these consistent ideas? Are these well-trained, dedicated, hard-working people, who have as their central concern the health and well-being of all of us as members of the public of Nova Scotia, are these people, about whom we are at the same time to believe that they are villainously plotting to victimize the public of Nova Scotia? I don't think so.

I don't know how it is that people can hold in their minds completely inconsistent, contrary ideas about the same group of people or the same subject, at the same time. But I do know that this is a commonly-met-with phenomenon. You often meet people who carry around ideas that are completely inconsistent about things. Even when you draw their attention to it, they find ways to try to rationalize. I am sure that some brain physiologist one day may be able to find some organic explanation for how it is that people are able to hold inconsistent ideas at the same time.(Interruptions.) I suppose the problem will be, what do you call it, at that point. Once it has been discovered and identified. (Interruptions) Maybe it will be Muir's syndrome, I don't know. But some day I am sure that there will be a rational, physical, organic-based explanation for how this can happen. The happy news is that the situation is not incurable. If it is possible to have your attention drawn forcefully enough to the inconsistency of the ideas, maybe they will be abandoned. That would be a treat.

Now I want to turn to one of the consequences of this bill that I have not yet heard discussed. This consequence flows directly from what I said about the industrial inquiry commission report from 1991. Labour relations is an ongoing process with a history. Here are the consequences of Bill No. 9. If this bill is not withdrawn, if this bill is passed, there will be consequences not just for the paramedics, there will be immediate consequences throughout the hospital bargaining sector in Nova Scotia from one end of this province to the other. Do you know why? It is precisely because of what emerged from Bill Kydd's study. Every bargainer in the hospital sector, sitting down, will say to themselves, the context within which I am bargaining is a context in which the employer is going to bring in legislation for binding arbitration right at the end.

What that means is that neither management nor the employees will be prepared for the free flow of collective bargaining at the nurses' table, at the support workers' table, at any table at any hospital around this province because they will be saying, why should I budge from my highest and best position when I know at the end, when the sledding gets tough, the government is going to bring in legislation for binding arbitration.

You, by bringing in Bill No. 9, have set up a situation in which you have thrown a monkey wrench into all public sector bargaining, certainly into the health sector public bargaining that is going on in Nova Scotia right now. Every union and every employer is going to look at this and say, it can happen to us and, given the mindset of this government, it probably will happen to us. This is a serious situation. The government has blundered badly by bringing in this bill. Simply bringing it in has done harm in the labour relations sector, particularly in the hospital bargaining sector.

[Page 977]

I cannot understand how anyone over on the government side of this House could not have thought of that. Now, either they did it out of ignorance or they did it deliberately. You can take your choice. I don't care which it is; whether you did it because you didn't think about it or you did it because that was your intention, but the result is the same. The result is that you have messed up health sector bargaining in Nova Scotia this year and, probably, as long as you are the government and as long as you don't repudiate this kind of approach. If you go on the public record and say, we are sorry, we made a mistake, we take it back, we won't do it again, then you might stand a chance of correcting this mess. But, at the moment, you have made a tricky situation worse by your blunder. You can look forward now, not only to tough sledding at the bargaining table with nurses and other health sector workers, you can probably look forward to coming right up to the end in very difficult negotiations.

I don't know what audience the government thinks it is playing to when it tries to do this kind of silliness. It seems clear that it is trying to take the Ontario/Mike Harris anti-union line early in its days. Let me tell you, I don't think that is going to play well in Nova Scotia. It isn't even going to play well in rural mainland Nova Scotia, which is maybe what the minister's thinking is.

I think that when Nova Scotians hear the word union, they don't wet themselves, they think a union is the teacher who lives next door and they know that a union is the nurse who is married to the unionized policeman who lives across the street. They know a union is the municipal employee. This is not something that has the kind of hot button impact in Nova Scotia that you seem to think it has. Let me tell you that you are sadly mistaken if you think that this kind of model of anti-union legislation is going to play well in Nova Scotia. It won't. It is simply a bad idea. I think that the public in Nova Scotia is more large-minded than that. If the government is intent on picking up rhetoric from other provinces, they have picked the wrong models.

Let me also tell the government that if the government is so dedicated to dealing with emergencies, there is no shortage of emergencies that we could be debating and that the government could be bringing in legislation to deal with. If the government wants to deal with emergencies, perhaps it can turn its mind to thinking about the difficult economic circumstances in Cape Breton. I would regard that as an emergency. If the government wants to bring in legislation, they could do that. They could try to deal, either by way of legislation or some organized program, with an emergency in Cape Breton. Or if they want to think about polluted waste sites, there are emergencies that could be dealt with and it would be good to see the government bring in legislation or a program to deal with those. Perhaps the government will turn its mind to the poorest in Nova Scotia and remember that the poorest are chiefly families with children and they might want to deal with that emergency.

[Page 978]

[1:15 p.m.]

I don't know who the government thinks they are fooling when they bring in this kind of bill and they try to pretend to us either that it is a serious piece of labour relations legislation or that it is a serious attempt to come to grips with emergencies and be a responsible government. It isn't, it doesn't fool anybody over here and it doesn't fool the general public. No one is going to pay the price to buy the seats to watch the show. They have heard this kind of silliness before, they don't like it, it is not going to work.

It is not going to work as well with employees. Paramedics, like all employees who are unionized, know that they have limited numbers of options. They know that in labour relations situations they don't like to withdraw their labour power. They know that a strike is not a picnic. Just think about what it means for an employee, particularly a low rate of pay employee, to withdraw their labour power, to go on strike and lose $1,000 of income, to lose $2,000 of income. That is devastating, in terms of the families of those employees.

Do you think that a strike is something that employees take on lightly? Absolutely not. It is a major decision for the individual, for the family, for the group. With someone who is making only $20,000 or so a year or less, to go out on strike for one week, two weeks, three weeks, a month, for however long the government might hold out, it is very difficult. So they come to that very reluctantly. But, do you know what? Given the choice, generally, between mandatory binding arbitration and a strike-lockout situation, they will choose to continue negotiating and maybe use the one tool that they do have. The question is whether the binding arbitration is mandatory to that. If the employees and the employer together come and say that they want to go to binding arbitration, they can do it. There is nothing to prevent them doing it, that is up to them.

Employees suffer when they go out on strike. It is very difficult and they don't come to it easily, but let me tell you, if the climate of labour relations that is suggested by this bill prevails, we will be running the danger of creating serious problems with bargaining in Nova Scotia. There are particular provisions in this bill that make it worse than parallel legislation elsewhere. Others have observed the problem with respect to the composition of the board that is proposed to be built, a board in which the employer gets to nominate two members out of three. How can any government pretend that such an arrangement is fair? How can any government pretend that this is an appropriate way to deal with labour relations and call it, in the words of the Minister of Health, an independent arbitration board.

I do not know who the minister thinks he is fooling faced with such provisions, certainly not anyone here, certainly not the affected employees, and certainly not every member of the labour relations community who will be watching the government's activity and are watching the government's activity through Bill No. 9. We know that they are watching it because they were just outside demonstrating.

[Page 979]

We know as well that there are provisions limiting the retroactivity of the wage provision and limiting the range of issues that could be sent to binding arbitration. When you take those three items together, this bill can have no credibility on its own grounds. How can it? How can anyone pretend that this is a fair piece of labour legislation? In the words of the Minister of Health, "What the government respects is the concept of free collective bargaining.". The minister may respect the concept, but he clearly has no intention of doing anything about it.

The concept of free collective bargaining does not exist in the abstract. It has to be manifested concretely; it has to be manifested in good faith at the bargaining table. It has to be manifested in the willingness to actually pay people what they deserve to be paid, and it has to be manifested in legislation that comes forward even when it does interfere with collective bargaining because, let me tell you, even if the government decides that it is going to take the risk about messing up other parts of hospital bargaining, and even if the government decides that it has distain for the paramedics and is going to bring in compulsory binding arbitration, and even if the government decides that it is going to ignore the lessons of history and the advice of experienced labour arbitrators from all jurisdictions around Canada, and even if the government decides that it is going to ignore the advice of its own industrial advisory commission from 1991, this bill could have been a lot better.

It could have omitted all those provisions that are prejudicial to fair collective bargaining; in this case it would have been fair binding arbitration. There is no way that this bill on its own terms can produce a fair result. You cannot produce a fair result if you set up the ground rules in an unfair way. Do you know what happens when you set up the ground rules in an unfair way? You do not get what the social psychologists call closure. What you get is people who are just as mad after as they were before, because they know that they have not been dealt with in a fair fashion.

It may be that the government has the numbers to force this legislation through.

AN HON. MEMBER: For now.

MR. EPSTEIN: It is always for now. It may be that the government will be able to force binding arbitration on this group of workers and some result will emerge from this unfair panel but, let me tell you, it does not matter really what the result is going to be because the workers who continue in their jobs will eternally carry a chip on their shoulder. They will look at it and they will say we were not dealt with fairly; they did not do right by us. The government had a chance to let us negotiate our own settlement, or if they were going to force binding arbitration on us, they could have done it properly. They could have done it in a fashion that did not make it so obvious that they were going to try and manipulate the results; they could have tried to devise something that really was some kind of imitation of fair binding arbitration. This is not it.

[Page 980]

Bill No. 9 is certainly not it and if you do not do it that way, if you insist on coming up with procedures that are manifestly unfair, the results will not be accepted. You will have people going back to work still feeling, even after their contract has been established, that they have been ill done by. That is not an appropriate method of collective bargaining in any fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I wonder, with the indulgence of the member opposite, a matter which he has been referring to a number of times in his comments, I would make a statement about, if he would allow me the time to do it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think that is necessarily appropriate.

MR. EPSTEIN: I wonder, does the minister have a question?

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think in second reading, unless you are posing a question, no, I don't think that is appropriate at this time.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity of reading the remarks of the honourable minister when he brought forward the bill for second reading. Let me assure him that I have read them in detail, I have paid attention to each and every word. I have marked them up, circled the words that I didn't like, lots of circles on this page. If he has more to add, I would be interested to hear it sometime when he gets to it.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot think of one good reason to support this bill. I have tried to be fair about this in my own mind. I have thought about the whole history of public sector labour relations, and this is something I have been involved with. I have been a labour lawyer, working for unions, for many years. I am not without experience here. I have thought about it, I have read the precedents, I have looked at what the scholars had to say, I have read the relevant Nova Scotia report, I have tried to imagine what could be in favour of bringing forward this legislation.

There is nothing there. There is nothing that can convince me that the principles that are embodied in this bill are sufficient to allow me to support it. I can't. I simply cannot support it. I am driven to the conclusion that there is no good explanation for this bill having come forward. I am driven to the conclusion that this bill is not an honest attempt to deal, in a straightforward fashion, with a labour relations problem. I am driven to the conclusion that there is no other rational explanation for this bill except an attempt to distract the public of Nova Scotia from the many other failings of this government that began to appear so very early in their mandate.

[Page 981]

I am sorry. It may be that there are others in this House who have more creative imaginations than I and can actually think of a rational explanation for this bill. I have been listening to the debate, I have been reading the transcripts. I have yet to hear it. I have yet to hear anyone come forward and really explain what on earth could possibly have been going on in the minds of those opposite when they brought forward what I have said isn't really a bill but is the script for a little piece of theatre. I stand by that description. There is nothing I have heard, especially from the minister who sponsors the bill, that could convince me otherwise.

He suggested a minute ago that he might have more to say, that maybe he will come forward with another explanation. If there was another explanation or more facts, maybe he should have included them in his speech at second reading. Maybe he thought of an extra reason now. I guess a person could be cynical when a minister comes and says that he has thought of two more reasons several days into the debate, but I think we could be generous enough to hear, at some point, if the minister has a chance to speak under these restricted rules, what it is that he thinks is so important that we take away with us when we consider our votes. I will be very surprised if there is some explanation that could come forward that can put a better light on it.

I am driven, as I say, to the conclusion that there was no good motive, that there was bad motive in bringing this legislation forward. I stand by my conclusion that the public of Nova Scotia will not be fooled by this. The public of Nova Scotia will not be distracted by this attempt on the government's part to characterize itself as the hero of the peace. The public of Nova Scotia knows better. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it is a privilege to stand here and speak on this but I don't consider it to be a privilege, because today is probably the day I am most embarrassed to be a member of this Legislature. Earlier today, about 20 minutes ago, I witnessed something that I never thought I would witness in this House. This House became completely unaccessible to any member of the Nova Scotia public; the gates were locked, a chain was put on them and people were kept out, almost like a farmer trying to keep wolves away from his sheep.

Mr. Speaker, this is not my House, this is not the Tories' House and this is not even your House. You are the keeper of this House. This is the House of Nova Scotians, the taxpayers, the people who pay our salaries, the people who elected us. This government, in its utmost gall, locked those people out of their own House and denied them access to their own House. I have to ask myself, they have been in power only three months, what can we expect in four years from this government, who lock out the very people they claim to

[Page 982]

represent, the very people whom the Minister of Justice so proudly says gave them a mandate on July 27th and said that we want the Tories to govern us, they will lead us down the golden path. Well, that is the reward Nova Scotians get from this government, a lockout, kept out like barbarians who are coming here under the Tory belief that they would try to destroy or harm this House or any of its members.

That is what the Tories have done in three short months of office. They did it yesterday. When I arrived yesterday morning we were on lock-down, and they did it again today. Who is it we are locking out? The paramedics, the people who we rely on - as my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes spoke about so eloquently last evening, to protect our children, to protect our families. These are the people we lock out because you never know what the paramedics are going to do, you know they might storm this place and try to save someone's life, so we had better lock them out.

AN HON. MEMBER: To see if the government still has a pulse.

MR. SAMSON: Oh no, because with a pulse you need a heart, so we have already established that. You can't have a pulse when you don't have a heart, so that is a given. I am sure all the paramedics here tonight can tell us that from the gallery. They don't need to come down and check anyone's wrists on the government side.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, this has the day that I have been most embarrassed to be a member of this House; first for that action and second, for Bill No. 9. This is a disgrace to the people of Nova Scotia, this is a disgrace to the decency, the compassion and the good-will that so many members of that government got up and spoke about in their Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, speaking of their constituencies and of the good people. Where are the good people behind Bill No. 9? This is not a bill which is based on goodwill or on compassion or on justice. It is mean-spirited, it is ill-conceived and it is setting a most dangerous precedent for this province.

I want to tell the members of the government, and especially the backbenchers who are listening to the House Leader, the honourable Minister of Labour/Environment and to the Premier when he tells them that this is just a one-shot deal, guys, don't get too upset, this is an emergency, it will never happen again. Don't be fooled. In three months, the first sign of labour dispute, we get Bill No. 9. We haven't seen anything yet, it has just begun. What we are about to see is a sad legacy in Nova Scotia, when a Minister of Labour brings forward a bill and pushes for a bill which tramples on the rights of the people he has been appointed by to protect their very interests.

In committee I had to remind the honourable Minister of the Environment that he was not the Minister of Finance, he was responsible for protecting the environment of Nova Scotia, not for being a bean counter. Obviously I will have to remind him again that he is the Minister of Labour and to remember those people he has been appointed by, those people

[Page 983]

who he took an oath to protect; he swore he would protect their interests. What a sad day, to see that minister today pushing forward this bill.

Democracy has left the Province of Nova Scotia and this House of Assembly. What debate there was, where we could have sat down. The government could have come and said, look, we are very concerned, we are bringing forward Bill No. 9. We are more than open to hearing your suggestions, any amendments you might have, anything different we can do. Let's work as a team. This is a province-wide problem. It crosses all political boundaries, all racial boundaries, all religious boundaries. It affects all of us. What can we do? Right away the Minister of Labour stands and he puts an end to that.

What we have here is a farce. It is a farce to Nova Scotians because the democracy that they believe sitting at home tonight is working has come to a grinding halt. It is no longer working. The people watching at home tonight, and the people who will read these transcripts will know what this government has done at such an early stage in its governance, not only to limit debate but then to deny any amendments, any proposals, any resolutions. What a shame to see this House so early in this government, strong leadership they claimed, a clear course, democracy has already come to a grinding halt. What do Nova Scotians have to console themselves with? At least four more years of this type of government. What a sad day.

Mr. Speaker, where we stand in here, if members do not know it yet, is the oldest House of democracy in Canada. When I look, how ironic, to see that the picture of one of the most revered people who ever served in this House, Joseph Howe, stands and looks directly down at this Tory Government. I ask myself, what would Joe say today, what would he think of this government, a man who stood and fought for the rights of the press, who stood on his feet for what, six hours at least.

Thank God he was not here now because the Minister of Labour would have had closure after one hour so we could not have even had or enjoyed his historic speech. I wonder what he is thinking when he looks down and he looks down at the Minister of Labour and he sees the tactics that have been taken by this government on this bill. What a shame. I hope the government reflects and looks at Joe Howe and maybe pick up a book and read about him if they are not aware of him and then reflect on what they are doing here. In 50 years from now, when their constituents or historians reflect on what they have done for the province as compared to what Joseph Howe did, one can only hope, if I was a member of government, that they will not write a chapter on Bill No. 9.

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness and with humbleness that I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to the paramedics in Richmond County - Ritchie Martel, J.C. Benoit, Jason Doyle, Kevin Boudreau and many others. I want to apologize because I have misled them. I have misled them at least on two occasions. When I first presented myself for office in March 1998, they met with me. They told me their concerns as many other paramedics did,

[Page 984]

speaking with candidates. I listened to them and I told them I would fight for them. I told them that we would work towards getting a collective agreement for all paramedics, especially coming from a rural area, to give them fairness for their counterparts in metro and in other parts of this province.

I said we would work towards that and we did. We put a process together that for once they stood united from one end of this province to the other, fighting for the same cause rather than be all sorts of different units fighting on their own. We gave them unity. We gave them power and we gave them strength and we put them through a process. That process was well on its way and was working.

Yes, it is a long process, you know yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having worked in the legal profession, the first collective bargaining agreement for a unit which has never been together before, which is together for the first time bringing everything to the table, it is very lengthy. It is very difficult and it is very challenging but under democracy we must allow it to take place. We must allow it to go forward. Both sides must be able to bring their chips to the table and negotiate an agreement which they feel is in their best interests. We did that.

This last election I met again with the paramedics from Richmond County and I told them, we are well on our way. They were frustrated and I agreed with their frustration, but I said, you must have patience, this process is working, we are getting there. After the election when a new government was formed, again they said, what now? Again, I misled them, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize for that because I too was fooled by this government. I, like many Nova Scotians, was fooled into believing this was going to be a new government, a new way of doing things, honesty, integrity, open, accountable. I believed that and I told them that. I said, no, believe in the process. The process will continue. The honesty and the integrity of John Hamm is going to make sure that you have a proper agreement which is fair, and the process is going to work.

I was misled, Nova Scotians were misled. The member for Dartmouth South says I have not been. We will see the reaction he gets when he meets with his paramedics in Dartmouth South, if he has the nerve to do so. I apologize to them because they were led to believe that they would be able to use all of their chips to bring to the table and if needed, the threat of a strike or strike action would be available to them. Today we are on our way with Bill No. 9, which will take that away from them. That is not going to happen.

The member for Dartmouth South said he was going to talk to his constituents and I heard a few Tories - one from Kings West, I believe - said he never got a phone call. No one is upset about this. This is good Tory legislation. No one is upset about the paramedics. They get paid enough. Yeah, they got a couple of complaints - no one is worried. Boy, are you in for a surprise. Today was just a glimpse of what you are going to see of the support that paramedics have throughout this province.

[Page 985]

The fact is that Nova Scotians cannot help themselves. They are compassionate, they are honest, they are full of integrity and when they see one sector in our society who are finally on their way to getting justice and getting a fair deal suddenly be taken away from them by a government - and these members think that they are going to be popular for that? What a shame.

I wonder if that rates higher than taking away the charity money on their scale of popularity. Or what about cancelling that access program for mobility disabled people? We are going to have to have a Tory popularity poll to see which issue they feel is most popular. Nova Scotians are the losers. They are the losers today and in four short times as the member for Halifax Chebucto said they have the numbers today. But another day will come and they will be made to answer for what they are doing today.

The member for Dartmouth South said they are not here to be popular, well, I hope he enjoys his time in this House and I hope he gets a picture or something as a memento, because there is a good chance he is not going to be back any more after the next election with that kind of attitude. What a disgrace to hear that kind of attitude coming from this House. It is a shame.

It is not about being popular, Mr. Speaker, it is about being honest. It is about being open with people and it is about being accountable. We have not seen that from this government. They led Nova Scotians to believe they would deliver that in the election. They ran their campaigns on the honesty and integrity of their Leader. What a shame.

Their Minister of Health, to hear him try to say that this is an issue of public safety, it is not anything against the paramedics. Last week he said, we have a great contingency plan, don't worry, we are all set. That is what he led this House to believe. All of a sudden this week, Bill No. 9. This is how good our contingency plan was - we bring in Bill No. 9. It is a sad day, Mr. Speaker.

Not only do I want to apologize on my own behalf, I want to take this opportunity because of the fact that the backbenchers in the government have been gagged by the front benches, I want to take this opportunity to speak on their behalf because they cannot speak. That is quite clear. They have been ordered not to speak. Again an infringement of democracy. (Interruptions.) And to see the member for Kings North sitting there, unable to even stand on his feet in this House of democracy to speak his mind, because of the oppression of his government, what a shame.

So I want to apologize. I want to start and I want to apologize to the constituents of Halifax Bedford Basin. I want to apologize to them.

[Page 986]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Richmond has been continually casting aspersions here this afternoon. He has said that other members in the House don't have a heart. I would suggest that every member in this Legislature has a heart. We all have paramedics working in our constituency, we all have ambulances running through our constituency, (Interruptions) I would venture to say, Mr. Speaker, do I have the floor? (Interruptions.)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Is there a point of order to this?

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Then I would suggest you get to the point of order.

MR. TAYLOR: The point of order is simply this. The honourable member has indicated that members on this side do not have a heart. He has also indicated that members on this side have had some gag order placed on them, which is absolutely false. What I am saying is there is not a member in this Legislature, irrespective of your political stripe, irrespective of what level of government you represent, that does not support ambulance - and ambulance service is a priority in this province and so is public safety. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. That is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, and this better be a point of order.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Well, I certainly hope it is, Mr. Speaker, but my point of order is quite simply this. The Deputy Speaker, who just stood up and used up time on the floor of debate, would have stood up knowing that surely, as the Deputy Speaker, that the point he was making was not truly a point of order and, therefore, I think that the time he wasted should be added on and given to the speaker whose time he is wasting trying to debate this very important issue.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When a member rises on a point of order, it is up to the Chair to make the decision as to whether or not it is a valid point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: I found that it wasn't a valid point of order. There will be two minutes added to the time for the member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: If I have done nothing else in this session, Mr. Speaker, I have shamed the shameless today. If they want to speak, I challenge them to get to their feet and I will get back to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley a little later on in my speaking notes. There is no need to rush.

[Page 987]

I just want to touch on some of the statements from the member for Halifax Bedford Basin during her reply to the Speech from the Throne. On Page 18 of the Hansard, she said, "It is time for governments at all levels to put aside paternalistic policies, dismantle the bureaucracy of turf protection, and get down to work in an open, cooperative manner, one which benefits the people of Nova Scotia.". What a sad hollow statement today. But further on, it gets better. She says, "The steps just outlined by the Honourable Mr. Kinley will begin the process of providing the necessary support for our doctors, nurses, paramedics and other dedicated health care providers as they work faithfully to deliver health services to the people of Nova Scotia . . . I applaud the direction that this government is taking in ensuring that communities will have a real say in this and in other important decisions affecting the everyday lives of Nova Scotians.".

I apologize to the people from Halifax Bedford Basin because, like myself, they probably took that to heart and they thought it was meant with sincerity. But the silence on Bill No. 9 shows how hollow those words really were.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a brief question. I hear him apologizing for statements made by government members. My question to him is, don't you think it would be more appropriate for the member who made those commitments, and didn't follow through on them, to have to apologize, rather than you apologizing for the government member?

MR. SAMSON: I fully agree with my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, that that would be the appropriate thing in a democracy. That would be the way to do it, because, in this House, everyone can stand and speak their mind, at least until the Minister of Labour starts cutting off debate. Everyone has an opportunity to stand and I have issued a challenge to those government members to stand in their place. I am talking about the statements that they have made and if I am wrong in my statements, then stand and indicate so. Don't rely on the House Leader to do that for you.

When you go back to your constituencies, the House Leader is not going to be there for you, the Premier is not going to be there for you, and the spin doctors are not going to be there for you. You are on your own to explain your position, but more importantly to explain your silence. When your constituents say, what did you do, honourable member, on this issues to defend our interests and to defend this constituency? What did you say? Silence. Silence, that is what these people said.

I want to continue with my apologies. I want to apologize for Bill No. 9 to the good people from the riding of Kings South. Once again, we listened to that member speak on his reply to the Speech from the Throne, we heard his comments, we heard how he would act on health care issues. He said, "We are all charged with conducting ourselves in a manner that earns the respect of the citizens we are sworn to serve, a responsibility we should not take lightly. The expectation that we represent our constituents' wishes in the appropriate forum,

[Page 988]

whether here on the floor or to our respective caucuses, is critical to how Nova Scotians will judge us in carrying out the trust that they have bestowed upon us.".

Once again, that member's silence shows how hollow those words were when he gave his reply to the Speech from the Throne. He said, "Mr. Speaker, I am happy to offer my complete cooperation in trying to do not only justice to the traditions and history of this Chamber, but to be congenial and respectful of all the other honourable members. I share and welcome what I believe to be all the Leaders' common wish that the people of Nova Scotia see our conduct as worthy of this office and one our children would want to emulate.". I can't think of any child who would want to emulate this.

I am really happy today because we often get visitors into this House and I am happy there are no political science classes here today. What a shame it would be for them to see how democracy really works under a Tory Government in Nova Scotia. If this is the conduct you want your children to emulate, I just ask you to look up at the people in the gallery in the blue and look up in their faces and say that this is the conduct that you have been elected to do and the conduct that Nova Scotians deserve and the conduct that paramedics in this province deserve. They are the ones you should look at.

One member was on the news last night telling the Premier, sit down in your chair, look up, see the sea of blue and look at what you have done to us. I would suggest that the rest of the government members, ministers and backbenchers look at the sea of blue and look at what they have done and what their silence says to the members sitting up there.

I want to apologize to the constituents of Sackville-Beaver Bank. (Interruptions) He said a few words here. Let me see. You said, "Mr. Speaker, I will always strive to uphold the best interests of the constituents that I represent and the province as a whole.". (Interruptions) He hasn't said a word on Bill No. 9. He said, "Again, Mr. Speaker, the only way that I know we can accomplish this, is to ensure that, as a Party, we fulfil our commitments, but as a government, we are responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians and that we are responsible fiscally and respectful of the desires and the wishes and the direction the people of this province have set for us.". What a sad day.

I apologize to the people of Sackville-Beaver Bank because they also believed this was sincere. They believed that that member during his time on HRM Council had proven himself to be a man to defend the interests of his constituents. Yet in this House, his silence from this Tory Government is what we get from that member. (Interruptions) I want to apologize to the people from Kings West because they too believed that their member would work in their best interests.

Mr. Speaker, I believe with so many new people elected to this House, we have a tremendous opportunity to serve the people of Nova Scotia by encouraging and supporting good ideas from all members regardless of political affiliation, working to improve the lot of

[Page 989]

Nova Scotians. I believe the people of Nova Scotia are fed up with the pettiness and bickering prevalent for so long that compares best to a kindergarten mentality. They elect people to office that hold their very futures and that of future generations in their hands. A privilege that deserves in turn our respect.

Where is the respect today? The member for Kings West. It is a shame because he is following in the footsteps of a member that if he were here today, he would not be proud. He would not be proud because he spoke his turn. He spoke his mind. No one bought his silence. No one kept him quiet. He stood during his turn. Democracy worked when he was here and it is unfortunate the current member does not see fit to stand in this House and speak on what his beliefs are on Bill No. 9 and what his constituents' concerns are on Bill No. 9. Instead we are treated with silence.

Mr. Speaker, one of the most ironic ones, and one of the ones most ironic which I must apologize to, is the good people of Preston who are the last people I thought I would be apologizing to for the silence of their member. That member made a career out of expressing himself, saying what he thought. When he thought there was a wrong, he spoke against it. When he thought there was a right, he spoke for it, but in politics and in life it is all about priorities. It is all about priorities in life and you have to establish that on your own. No one can do that for you.

We ask ourselves, what are the priorities of this member? We saw that when he was on Halifax Regional Municipality Council, he declared war on the mayor over his frustration with how he should address the mayor. He was ready to do battle because he felt that there was an injustice. He was going to correct that and he was ready to go all out and wage a war. Yet, today, on the fundamental rights of his constituents, when a bill which tramples on the rights of citizens in his constituency, what does he do? Silence, he was more concerned about what shirt he was allowed to wear on the Halifax Regional Municipality Council than about the future of paramedics in this province. The good people of Preston will determine his priorities next election when they see his silence today.

If it was not silence and if he was permitted to speak, I challenge him to stand on his feet. I challenge him to defend Bill No. 9 or, more appropriately, to speak against Bill No. 9, to say that this government I ran for, this Party, said that there would be free and open votes in this Legislature and I am going to hold them to that. I am going to speak my mind. I am going to vote as I wish and no House Leader, no Premier and no Minister of Health will dictate to the member for Preston how he should act in this House, but his silence answers my question. His silence tells the paramedics whose side he is on. Is he independent? Is he free? Can he speak as he wishes? No, not under this Tory Administration.

The good old days are back, the good old days that he fought against, even his own Party, he fought against the oppression in his Party. He stood up. He did not care. He put his political future on the line to speak against what he thought was oppression in the Tory Party

[Page 990]

and he made changes to that Party, or at least perceived changes in his mind because, today, silence is what we get from that member.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, I cannot believe that I have to apologize to that member's constituents for his silence. The last one, when he was elected to this House, I thought I would have to apologize for because he could not speak his mind and he did not represent his constituents on the floor of this House. He did not speak on such pertinent legislation. He remained silent and what a shame. Again, priorities.

I apologize to the good people of the Eastern Shore because they too were led to believe that they had sent a member to this House who would never hesitate to stand on his feet and defend his constituents. I have respect for that member because when he was on Halifax Regional Municipality Council, when he felt his constituents' interests were not being served, that member was prepared to start a movement to remove his area from the city. That is priorities. That is a member representing his constituents. That is a member saying, I will go to whatever lengths necessary to serve the best interests of my constituents. We would have thought that on the floor of this House that would have continued but, again, on Bill No. 9, even that member's silence has been obtained by the Premier of this province.

He said, I am running for this Party because under John Hamm it will be free and it will be accountable, and I will be able to vote as I wish, speak as I wish and do what is in the best interests of my constituents. That man believed that, I honestly believe he believed that because he said that, yet today, once again, I apologize to the people from the Eastern Shore because their member has silence. (Interruptions) Throw him out.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: If an honourable member in this House wishes to speak, he should rise and address the Chair and ask to be heard.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSOM: Once again the members of this House and the people in the gallery, we have managed to shame the shameless. We have shamed the shameless. I will speak for the people from the Eastern Shore. He can remain silent. I would be more than happy to speak for the people from the Eastern Shore. (Interruptions) Obviously their member is going to remain silent. I will speak for them on this bill. If they need further representation, they can call me any time, they can call the Liberal caucus any time because we held to our word. When I ran, I told the people of Richmond that I would represent them and I would speak in their interests. That is what the member for Eastern Shore said, but today his silence says it

[Page 991]

all. He can jump up, he can wave his finger, he can holler but he won't stand on his feet when that little red light comes on, to speak because he can't - silence.

I will speak for the people from the Eastern Shore and I will speak for the people from Preston. I will say that this bill is terrible. It does not represent the best interests of the people from the Eastern Shore. They are not in the crowd today saying, hey, member, we are so happy that you are supporting this bill; we are so happy that you are sitting there silent because we fully support this and we have no concerns. We are happy and we are going to re-elect you because you have been so silent and you have been so effective in your silence that we will elect you another time. They will say the same thing for the member for Preston. They will say to the member for Preston, wait a minute, you waged a war battle with the Halifax Regional Council if you could wear a shirt with a beer logo, yet on this bill, which trashes the fundamental rights of his constituents, he remains silent.

What priorities and what a disgrace to see that in this House, members who said they were supposed to be the mavericks, they were the rebels, they were the ones who were going to change the way this House works because they were going to speak freely, they were going to vote freely, never again would the people from the Eastern Shore have a silent voice. They would have a voice that would be forever heard, a voice that would be forever represented, their views would never go unheard on the floor of this House. The silence today says it all; what a government, what a Party, open and accountable. What a shame.

I will put it on the record that I am quite familiar with the Eastern Shore, Mr. Speaker, it is a beautiful area and once again, any members on the Eastern Shore who feel they are not being properly represented, of which I believe there will probably be more after they watch this this evening, they are more than welcome to call me and I will do my best to represent them. I will speak for them on the floor of this House. No one will buy my silence on the floor of this House. I will do for the people of the Eastern Shore what I have been elected to do, what they are paying me to do, what I have been entrusted to do. I won't break that trust, no matter what. No one will buy my silence.

It is unfortunate that does not apply to that side of the House. What a disgrace, that that member does not even have the ability, even with everything I have said, to stand there and say, no, that is not true, member for Richmond, I can speak, I will speak, I will say what my people think, I will talk of their concerns. He can't even do that. What a democracy. (Interruptions) He said that if I keep going, it will happen. Well, only the good people of the Eastern Shore must ask themselves how long it will take him before he can finally stand and speak on their behalf and do what he has been sent here to do.

I want to apologize to the people in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who also, over the years (Interruptions) Oh, bring Brooke in, that is no problem, that's fine. Let him come in here and be accountable for once. Once again we saw his silence. He sat for six years in Opposition, he fought against oppression, he fought against what he thought was wrong, he

[Page 992]

spoke freely, he spoke whatever he wanted. He would say whatever he wanted about his own Leader, that is how determined he was to speak as he wanted to speak.

On Bill No. 9, when I spoke about Bill No. 9, he jumps on his feet on some silly point of order because he is so ashamed and he is so angry that he cannot speak on behalf of his constituents that he felt it was necessary to make this silly point of order just to let out that frustration, similar to the member for Eastern Shore jumping up and pointing his finger at members across. (Interruptions) It is a boiling pot over there. A boiling pot, and the losers are their constituents, and they are the people of Nova Scotia who sent these people here thinking they would represent them, thinking they would do what was best for them.

For the new members, that is understandable. They are new at this place, but the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, for him to be silent. Maybe I don't know everything about area of the member for Eastern Shore but if he stood on his feet and actually represented his people, maybe this House and all Nova Scotians would learn more about his area. He has been sent to this House to tell us about his area, to tell us about his constituents, so that we learn. It is a learning process in here, but you don't learn from silence. That is representation, that is Tory representation, and Nova Scotians will remember that. When they go door-to-door the next time, that is when they will be made to answer for what they are doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is not allowed to speak on the bill.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9 is one of the most oppressive pieces of legislation ever to come before this House. Only three months after this government has taken office, the first sign of labour problems, this is their response. This is what you call a government flying by the seat of its pants. No plan, don't know what they are doing; let's just do whatever we can to keep going and try to stop these speed bumps, because we have no plan. We have made 242 promises, some spin doctor wrote them for us, and now, my God! What are we going to do? We actually have to try to live up to these. This is the kind of legislation that we are seeing, Bill No. 9.

I want to tell you. One of the most disappointing constituencies I must apologize to again is Kings North. I think when the members walked into this House and we heard all the replies to the Speech from the Throne, how everyone was speaking about their constituencies, representing them, I think the member for Kings North probably gave us one of the most eloquent speeches of them all. Most of us who know his background as an ethicist, I believe a minister, I, as one of the younger members of this House, certainly was quite confident that he would bring a new outlook to this House, a new way of doing things, a new openness, integrity, and honesty.

[Page 993]

He would bring that to us; I honestly believed that. I honestly believed that that member wanted to do that, that that was his intention. When he spoke, that he meant what he said. When he said that he wanted to assure each and every person in Kings North that he will serve them, regardless of political stripe, to the very best of his ability, where are the paramedics in that, member? Where are the paramedics? What political stripe are they that they cannot be represented? What political stripe are they that they don't have a voice from their member on such important legislation?

What have they done? What have these paramedics done that is so bad that he has decided that, after that statement, he cannot represent their interests? Why? What have they done? How have they wronged him? How have they done him wrong, that he cannot speak for them, that he cannot do what he has been sent to this House to do and that instead we receive his silence?

He went on to say, "For while the Throne Speech has focused on and the upcoming session will focus on the budget and on the issue of fiscal responsibility, behind those numbers is an attempt to meet this concern, and to meet it by restoring confidence in government and confidence in the political process as a whole.". Well, silence doesn't restore confidence; it doesn't restore confidence.

Members have an opportunity when they see a wrong - which that member has clearly indicated he has seen in how our democracy works and how this Legislature works - each one of us has the opportunity to do our own best efforts to right that wrong yet, once again, that member's silence speaks volumes of what he is going to do as a member of this House.

He went on to say that this is what lies behind open accounting practices, behind attempts to be honest and forthright, to say what we mean and to mean what we say. Honest and forthright, I don't know how many paramedics feel they have been treated honest and forthright by this member or by that government.

MR. MARK PARENT: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would be willing to speak for a few minutes, if the honourable member is willing to take it off the time allotted to him. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member, obviously, has expressed some interest in entering this debate. I would suggest that he, like other members of the House, can enter the debate any time this afternoon after the honourable member opposite is finished.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member for Kings North has indicated more courage, certainly, than we have heard from any of the other backbench members. Maybe what would be more appropriate is for the member for Kings North to approach the Government House Leader and ask for permission, may I please speak on this

[Page 994]

bill so I can bring forward the views of the constituents. I am sure that the Government House Leader, who pretends that he wants to cooperate anyway, would grant that permission.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting because not only have we shamed the shameless, but we have shamed them so much that they have now come to the absurd. For a member of this House, who knows full well (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MARK PARENT: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I repeat my offer. I would be very happy to speak to Bill No. 9 if the honourable member allows it off his time allotment. If he is serious, he could take it off his time allotment, but I don't think he is serious.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering, in dealing with procedure here, is the member for Kings North trying to do some negotiations on behalf of the government and is he trying to do the job of the Government House Leader, which is to try to negotiate that, somehow or other, Opposition members give up the right to their full hour of time and share that with government members who already have their own hour and they want to add that on? Is that what the member for Kings North is trying to do, to carry out the negotiations on behalf of the Government House Leader?

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. SAMSON: Again, Mr. Speaker, when you shame the shameless, that is how you get these absurd statements. That member knows full well that he has a right under this democracy to one hour. He has it theoretically, but we know, in reality, that his silence will remain on Bill No. 9. I am quite confident in saying in this House, and I would be more than happy to eat my words, that his silence will remain on Bill No. 9, such as the silence of the members for Preston, Eastern Shore, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Dartmouth South and all the other members of that government. Their silence will be maintained.

The member for Kings North went on to say, and this was one of his better statements, I really like this one, we can all relate to this one, "You see, behind these attempts, Mr. Speaker, is a commitment of this government to respond in a constructive fashion to the cynicism and scepticism concerning politicians and the political process which exists in this province. This is an extremely important task, a vital task, for such scepticism and cynicism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we are not careful.".

AN HON. MEMBER: All the more reason to be quiet.

[Page 995]

Well, how self-fulfilling is silence? With this great statement which he declared to be vital, crucial, we get silence from that member. I apologize to his constituents because I believed that. I thought that was a great statement. Again, I say, that because of the member's background, I thought he meant that, and I thought he would do everything he could when he was permitted to stand in this House and to speak his mind, that he would do so. (Interruptions.) I honestly believe that. (Interruptions.)

[2:15 p.m.]

I am chagrined, particularly in light of the experience that I had going door-to-door during this last election campaign, because I heard comments at the doors that politicians were not trustworthy. (Interruptions.) I had comments at the doors that the political process was flawed. I had comments at the doors that people were not going to vote because it made no difference and I was distressed by the cynicism and the scepticism concerning the political process. (Interruptions.)

So, with all this concern, all of these great words, these eloquent words from the professor - silence. The democratic process which was so flawed, is the process he now applauds, which he now supports. He supports this flawed process; he supports the denial of democracy; he supports the infringement of the rights of paramedics in this province and of constituents in his own riding. Again, I would invite the constituents of Kings North, if their member won't speak for them, again they can call the good member for Richmond and I will do my best to speak for them. Because no one will buy my silence like what has been done for the member from Kings North. (Applause)

Again, looking at the footsteps that that member is following in, what a shame. What a sad day. Because when that member was in this House, no one bought his silence, no one kept him quiet. He spoke out for the farmers; he spoke out for paramedics; he spoke out for health care workers; he spoke out for charities; he spoke out for the poor. No one had his silence. But that silence is here today and we hear it from the government benches. (Interruption) We have managed to shame the shameless today, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

While I do not know the full reasons for this growing negativity, these are just some reasons I came up with as I was campaigning. I do know that as political leaders we need to meet and respond to the cynicism and the scepticism, for unless we meet and respond to the cynicism and the scepticism, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy that will hurt us all, both young and alike. He said this twice. That is how he meant it. That is how serious this was to that member, he said it twice; to emphasize his commitment to change; to change what was wrong with our democracy; to change what was wrong with this House - yet today the professor, the ethicist, the minister, is silent; silent in the House of Nova Scotians; in the House of Joseph Howe. (Interruptions) Silence. That is unbelievable.

[Page 996]

What I am calling for, though, is the rebirth of a realistic and a healthy optimism. He must have gotten that from the Minister of Health because everything he plans to do, he is optimistic it will actually work. No actual plan. What I am saying to myself, to you in this House, and to all Nova Scotians is this: Let's recognize the crisis, yes, but let's approach this crisis, as I believe our government intends to do, as an opportunity rather than as a danger. (Interruptions.) There is approaching a crisis - that is how we deal with crisis under the Tory regime. We don't negotiate, we don't talk, we pass a bill to buy your silence. We pass a bill to take away the last thing you had to bring to that bargaining table.

Yet we stand here and the Health Minister tries to convince Nova Scotians, you are going to get a fair deal. Who believes that? Who believes that, other than the Tory members, who are silent on that side of the House. Nova Scotians don't believe that. Paramedics don't believe that. (Interruption.) No one with any conscience in this province believes that; but yet, we get the silence. We get the silence from the member for Kings North and from the rest of his colleagues in this House.

In one of his last little paragraphs he said, "I call upon us to act and to behave, not only in this House but in our ridings, in such a manner that confidence and trust in politicians and in the political process will be restored, not so much for our sake, but for the sake, of the citizens of this province, which we have the great privilege of serving. So that as we move into a new millennium, we will do so with energy, with enthusiasm and with faith needed to seize the day, to take the crisis of change and to turn it into the opportunity of a new and of a far better tomorrow.".

Well, I don't know how those members plan to enact change through their silence. They are certainly not going to do so on the floor of this House because the House that Joe Howe built is today not doing what it intended to do. We have a majority Tory Government which has forced silence upon its members, upon the members of Eastern Shore, of Preston, of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, a member who never hesitated to speak his mind. Today, when challenged, the only thing he could do was rise on a silly point of order to try to let out the frustration that is building inside him because of the silence forced upon him by the Premier, the House Leader, the Minister of Health and by this entire Tory Government. (Interruptions)

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Could you please tell us, or ask the honourable member for Richmond to tell us, what the relevance of this is to the bill under discussion? What I am hearing is a lot of very thinly veiled personal attacks on other honourable members of this House and I would bring that to your consideration, sir. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

[Page 997]

MR. SAMSON: Once again, one at a time, we have shamed the shameless and the absurdity just gets more absurd. That member knows he has one hour to speak on behalf of his constituents and he remains silent. Again, I would tell him and I would tell his constituents in the good riding of Kings South, that if their member refuses to speak on their behalf on the floor of this honourable House, they can call the good member for Richmond and I will speak on their behalf. (Applause) I might need a few more assistants.

Mr. Speaker, it is really a sad day. I think in the limited amount I have read of the members on the government side who have actually been able to give their Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, it is unfortunate there are not more of them who gave their Address in Reply so that I could have reviewed them while going over their statements.

The one statement that probably stuck most with me, and I remember that I was sitting with the member for Cape Breton Nova, a long-time colleague here, when this statement was made, I sat next to him and we looked at each other. It was an ironic statement, it was one we don't often hear in this House. Again, it was from the eloquent speech of the honourable member for Kings North, after he had given his great speech about the cynicism and how he would change it and how he wanted to work together to make these changes. His final statement, his closing statement was, may God guide us and bless us in this great task.

It is unfortunate today that a member who would make such statements with such conviction, was so determined in what he has said in his beliefs, today we have silence. Democracy has come to an end in Nova Scotia under this Tory Government. They can't even talk, yet we sat for 14 hours yesterday, today we are sitting for another 15 hours today, probably more on Thursday and more on Friday. That is fine, Mr. Speaker, because we can sit 24 hours a day.

This caucus will speak on behalf of Nova Scotians and on behalf of those paramedics who are sitting up in that gallery today and who are throughout this province. We will speak for the constituents of the members on that side of the House whose voices are not heard, who are no longer represented in this House, who get silence from their members, who on July 27th said, thanks for the vote, see you later, thanks for coming out, I am on my way to Halifax to sit down, to be silent, to be told by the House Leader when I should speak, when I should not speak, what I am permitted to say, what I am not permitted to say, yet I am a rebel, I sat on HRM and when my constituents were not being served I was going to yank them out. But, up here in the House of Assembly, you get silence from me. That is what the people of the Eastern Shore are getting.

I know many people in the Eastern Shore and how sad the people from the Eastern Shore are who are watching tonight at home, saying why won't our member jump to his feet, after what that member for Richmond said, why won't he prove to us that he is independent, that he speaks for his constituents, that he speaks when he wants, on what he wants in this House and he will represent us no matter what and no one will buy his silence, no one will

[Page 998]

keep him quiet. That is what they are saying. Yet what do they get - silence. If the people in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley are watching, they are saying, where is our member? The good people from the Eastern Shore, if they are watching, they get silence. The good paramedics here who come from the entire province, from one end of this province to the next (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the sad part (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor and we certainly should be able to hear him in this House.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the sad part is that you cannot stand and speak in this House when you have been told not to stand, when you have been told, we are ramming this bill through; we have already cut off democracy; the Government House Leader has already cut off debate. Do not dare stand on your feet and take any more time in this House or even try to speak on behalf of the constituents who elected you. You are not permitted to do so. Let that Opposition finish its time. When it is done, we will ram this through.

When the paramedics are here and we introduce them, we will clap and make them think we are on their side when the Opposition criticizes us, you know. The member for Kings North clapped for every presenter last night. Yet he refuses to stand on his feet, in front of the paramedics who are waiting to hear what he is going to do. Does he agree? Is he going to represent us?

MR. MARK PARENT: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member is not allowed to reference people in the gallery except on an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond is asked, when he speaks, to address the Chair, please. (Interruption)

MR. SAMSON: They are getting so desperate in their shame, Mr. Speaker, because they are so ashamed right now. The other day we watched the Premier on the news. We watched him when one of the paramedics challenged him and he walked away with his head bowed down because he was shamed, as all these members are shamed because they do not want me to speak to the paramedics behind me because they do not even want to look up at them because they are ashamed. They cannot look them in the eye.

The member for Kings North cannot do it. They heard his papers. I can make a copy for all of them in case they did not pick it up when I was reading it. They can hear his eloquent speech. They can hear how much he was going to represent his constituents, how much he was going to change the cynicism and how much cynicism do you think exists now

[Page 999]

with these paramedics after this Bill No. 9? Yet, it is silence, the silence from the front benches, the silence from the backbenches, the silence from this government - but the paramedics will not forget. Nova Scotians watching today will not forget. The people from Preston will not forget. The people from the Eastern Shore will not forget. The people from Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley will not forget, but the people in ridings throughout this entire province will remember the silence of these members when it came to fundamental rights, the fundamental rights which this House was built to protect, which was built to enhance, which was built to create; when they arrived at this House, their silence speaks volumes of their commitment to their constituents.

When they go back home and their constituents say, honourable member, what have you done? How have you tried to change this legislation, amend it, make it better? How have you represented us; the phone calls, the letters to the editor, what have you had to say on this? My silence is what I had to say because I was not permitted to speak in my place. Under democracy I was permitted one hour as a member to speak on behalf of my constituents, yet that has been taken away from me.

As I said earlier, the Government House Leader will not be there with you, the Premier will not be there with you, the Minister of Health will not be there with you. Their spin doctors are not going to be there to tell you how to answer that question. You are going to be on your own. You are going to be one on one and when those paramedics get you in a corner and they ask you, how have you represented us with what you have told us during the campaign, with what you have told us over time, what did you do? You will have to say, I had to be silent. The member for Kings North had to be silent. The member who came to this House with a will and a desire to change the process for the better, to make this place a better place today, sits with his head bowed down in silence. What a shame.

[2:30 p.m.]

Earlier, we locked the gates to keep Nova Scotians out. We don't want to see them. We don't want to see these paramedics. We have to look at them in the eye and we are too ashamed to be able to do that so we put chains on the gates of the House of the Nova Scotian taxpayer. That is what the Tory Government does. When we try to debate and to speak and to make amendments, the Opposition is silenced by this government. We know that these government members will not speak on behalf of their constituents. When we attempt to do so, we can't, because our silence has been bought by the House Leader, who has denied the fundamental rights that Joseph Howe fought for in this province that many legislators throughout this province sat here and did their best to protect the interest of Nova Scotians, which we have now been empowered to do.

I hear the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank making a little bit of clucking back there, but it is unfortunate that he doesn't stand on his feet and he doesn't speak on behalf of his constituents. But unlike all of his colleagues, he can feel comforted because the shameful is

[Page 1000]

amongst the shameless. So he should feel he is with good company and you don't need to feel out of place, because none of the others will stand on their feet. So don't feel any pressure to stand up or try to be the big shot or anything, because none of the others is going to do it. So you can feel comforted in that.

Today, before I take my place, Nova Scotians are the losers in Bill No. 9. These government members who have been led to believe that this is a one-shot deal, you will never have to do this again, we will never invoke closure again, we will never force compulsory binding arbitration on any negotiating group in this province, you are being fooled. This is just the beginning and we are here for a very sad legacy of Tory rule in Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was a little slow trying to get to my feet to see, after that entertaining speech that has just taken place, whether or not some members from the government bench would actually find a little bit of solid material in their spines and would be actually willing to get to the floor of the House and actually speak on this bill. Maybe, before the debate finishes, that backbone will appear.

However, Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I also have to say that the member who spoke previously did an excellent job of apologizing for everybody else, but, unfortunately, did a very poor job of apologizing for himself and for the caucus that he is a member of and which sat on the government benches and, for over 13 months, did nothing to resolve the issue.

Mr. Speaker, we do know, and I am not, for one moment, pretending that all of the problems that are facing Nova Scotia, all of the problems that are facing the health care system and, certainly, not all of the difficulties and injustices that the paramedics are now enduring are as a result of this Tory Government. Truthfully, they inherited the problems and when I went door-to-door during July, I spoke with many paramedics. I spoke to the families of many paramedics and I also spoke to residents in my community, who were very upset and concerned that they did not feel, under the former Liberal Government, that they, the paramedics, were being properly treated, properly valued, by the government.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is reality. But let's move on. I am not going to be asking for because I wouldn't get it anyway, an apology from the former Liberals who occupied the government benches. People really don't care about the apologies right now. What they really want is for this government to pick up the ball as they promised they were going to do and to do the right thing.

Let's put some things into perspective here. Now picture this. This is what one of the speakers outside said earlier today, and I think that it is a very sobering point. I had the situation last winter where on a couple of occasions my car would not start. It was a cold day

[Page 1001]

and that car would not turn over. I picked up the phone and I telephoned a garage and somebody came and jump-started my car. That person who appeared and jump-started my vehicle was paid probably in the range of $10 an hour, which is more than most of the paramedics in this province are paid when they are called to jump-start your heart.

You are paid more to jump-start a vehicle than jump-start a heart. The person who came to start my vehicle would be covered by the Labour Standards Code, but the women and men who often put their life at risk to save others, they don't have that same benefit.

Quite truthfully, I have been around this House long enough to know that those of you sitting on the backbenches - whether you come from Yarmouth; whether you are the new member, by the luck of the draw, from Shelburne; whether you are my long-time colleague, who I have known for a long time and call a friend from Sackville-Beaver Bank; and the others who are sitting on the backbenches - had no say in this legislation. You didn't draft this legislation.

You would have been told about this legislation. You would have been told that your job is to be in the House to endure - today, 15 hours; yesterday, 14 hours - Opposition members like myself standing up to speak about this. Your job is to maintain a quorum so that I, for example, if I am looking around - and I do keep track of the numbers - don't call a quorum. They do, because if the quorum is called, the House would have to adjourn. They did not have and wouldn't have had a say in the drafting of the bill, but by voting for it and supporting it and maintaining your silence, you are being co-opted into support of this bill.

That is what is happening. I am told by the member for Cape Breton West, they are not allowed to speak. Maybe that is the case. It would appear to be the case, but I don't want to prejudge. Like most Nova Scotians, even though my Party did not form government, I still was optimistic. Most Nova Scotians are very hopeful, they are very hopeful that the first number of weeks of mistakes of this government were just bungling that resulted from inexperience. They were hopeful that this government was going to actually do things differently.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about what this is all about. We hear the Premier talk all the time, and the spin doctors, their lines are very predictable and aimed at trying to grasp the so-called victory in the media. So who is going to get their message out to the general public so that they look like they are on the side of all that is right and proper?

The spin from the government, every chance you get, is that they say that this is about public safety. This is very much about public safety, but it is also a lot more about other things, but I want to talk about public safety. Despite the fact that the government claims this is about public safety, it would appear from every signal, everything that is happening, that for the government it is more about the bottom line for this government and for their partner, Maritime Medical, that is running the operation.

[Page 1002]

If this was about public safety, I ask the government, why did you not approach the paramedics and ask them what would happen on the 29th of this month? If this was about public safety, why is it that in this legislation that is before this House the government has imposed all kinds of conditions that have zero to do with public safety and all to do with financial matters affecting this government?

I was talking yesterday to a paramedic from Yarmouth - haven't heard from the member for Yarmouth yet - this paramedic was in this House trying to talk to MLAs, but I am sure if he had spoken to the member for Yarmouth, the member for Yarmouth would have been able to get to the floor in the House and bring forward the concerns. That paramedic was telling me that he has worked in the industry for 27 years. He started working, working actually in one of the businesses of a former Cabinet Minister of the Liberal Government for the Huskilsons.

When he started 27 years ago - and I believe it was 27 years ago - I think he said that his salary was 75 cents an hour. Of course, in those days all that was required, because then you were an ambulance operator, was a chauffeur's license and a strong back. We have progressed a lot since that point, and paramedics have progressed tremendously to become the highly skilled, front-line emergency health care providers. There are many in this province who owe their life to the quick and capable response of those paramedics.

This paramedic was telling me that when he first started he made 75 cents an hour, plus if he went out and picked up a body he was paid $2.00 for that call. If he did an ambulance call, I think the figure was $2.50. If he transported somebody from Yarmouth to Halifax, the round trip, he would be paid $8.00. That of course was before the days of the improved highway, still bad as it is.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that paramedic at much expense to himself has upgraded his training to the point that he is a Paramedic Level II, given up his weekends, paid for his own training, and is now after 27 years up to the grand total of $9.10 an hour. Like so many other paramedics, that gentleman is extremely committed to what he has chosen to do in his life. He is committed to saving lives, to helping individuals and families in crisis, and he wants to go on for the next level of training so he can become a Paramedic III and do all of those other crucial on-site life-saving actions and measures. To do that, of course, it is going to cost between $20,000 to $30,000. What would be the expected wage increases? Maybe $1.00 an hour.

Here we have a government that says that they are concerned about public safety. Yet, Mr. Speaker, it is forcing paramedics to work extremely long hours because there is no labour standards which means that their safety and those of others, quite truthfully, are at risk. Just imagine somebody racing down the highway in a snowstorm on treacherous roads, racing to

[Page 1003]

get to hospital to save somebody's life, somebody who has already worked 100 hours in a week under extremely stressful conditions. Government members may think that it is very painful to have to sit here in the House for 14 hours listening to Opposition Members lecture you. Just imagine, paramedics are used to 14 hour days. They are used to 16 hour days and sometimes longer, but they are not just having to sit and listen to people talk.

Mr. Speaker, they are going into buildings where they are finding an extremely traumatic situation, where a member of a family is in a state of crisis, maybe that person had just passed away, maybe the person has had a heart attack, maybe they had a stroke, a severe accident and under the stressful situation of an understandably excited family around them, loved ones who are concerned, they are trying to save the life of an individual, then to console the family at the same time and to get that person to hospital where they will be able to get the treatment so that their life can be saved.

Those same people a little bit later may be appearing at an accident scene. They have to jump into a ditch half full of water, cold water, or mud, or ice, working to pull a person from a vehicle, a child, a loved one of others who are driving in that vehicle, and this government, like the one before them, does not think that they deserve to be covered by the labour standards laws in this province, as the person who comes to jump-start the battery of your car, and thinks that they deserve less in the way of wages. Look in the mirror.

Mr. Speaker, I did some very quick calculations. A normal work week is 40 hours, overtime begins after 48 hours for most people, not for paramedics of course, because they aren't protected by that legislation. But let's say that a normal work week of 40 hours, you take 40 hours multiply that by $7.50, you multiply that by 52 weeks for the year. You come up with a gross figure, this isn't the take home, gross of $15,600. They would make as much, or more, if they went to work at Tim Hortons. And this government can't understand why these people feel undervalued by this government. Give it a break. Public safety is important. It is crucially important. If you want to ensure public safety, then you start to value and you start to treat, with respect, those people who are often risking their lives in extremely stressful situations, stress that most of us would never even begin to understand or know, to help their fellow Nova Scotian.

They don't ask questions, they just do it because they are committed to their job. It is something a lot more compelling to them than just money. Surely you understand that. I can't believe for one minute that there is so much cold water running through the bloods of members on the government benches that you don't see the injustice in that. I can tell you, I am awfully grateful to those who carried me out from just a couple of seats over here a few years ago and took me to the hospital when I had my brain aneurysm in this House. I am extremely grateful to them. I will tell you, I value them, as do residents in my community who have had the good fortune, and I say good fortune, to have received the kind of excellent service that they have gotten from the paramedics who arrive.

[Page 1004]

Mr. Speaker, I have heard complaints about the emergency medical system in this province, there is no question about that. I have heard complaints, it is not about the quality of the service, it is about the fact that we do not have enough ambulances and we do not have enough paramedics to do the jobs that they are being asked to do. If this Premier, and if his government, was concerned about public safety, he would have addressed that issue, rather than having a piece of legislation that is brought before the floor of this House saying that this arbitrator that they are going to appoint can only make retroactive pay adjustments back to the very beginning of this month.

I was outside when the Premier was speaking with a number of the paramedics. The Premier heard how there were some ambulances down and unable to operate because there were insufficient paramedics available to have them on the road. I heard the Premier being told that there are times in parts of this province where there is no coverage because the manpower isn't there. I heard the Premier being told by one paramedic that after working four long days, when they were called in to replace somebody who was sick the next day they just couldn't do it because they were physically exhausted.

If the Premier and this government is concerned about public safety, you will address those issues. Those issues, rather than putting in a piece of Draconian legislation that says, we are going to remove your rights to bargain. This legislation, Mr. Speaker, even limits those items that can go to arbitration. The government has precluded all those other items that the workers, through their democratic right, voted down in the offer that had been there. But this government, this Premier has said, you can't arbitrate those items.

Mr. Speaker, through you, to the Premier, I plead with him for public safety's sake, do the right thing: announce; tell us; tell the workers; tell all Nova Scotians that your legislation was short-sighted; that you are prepared to say that if you can sit down with the paramedics in a meaningful way, not just stand and listen and hear them, I mean truly listen to them, make a commitment of your government - a solid, hard commitment - that you will address those public safety issues.

Who in here wants a paramedic in their 119th hour of their 120 hours that they are going to work that particular week, to be arriving to provide the emergency service to a loved one or to a constituent? That is putting those paramedics in an extremely stressful situation. It is not as if their job is not stressful enough, but when you are fatigued to that extent, it makes it all that much harder for you to be making those snap, right, critical, life-saving decisions. Why isn't your government addressing that instead of taking away collective bargaining rights?

The Premier was outside, was asked by the media in a scrum a number of questions like: Who did you talk to? How did you know that things weren't going well? How did you know that there couldn't be a resolve? Well it was quite evident, although the Premier didn't do it himself, that members of the government side - maybe the Department of Health - had

[Page 1005]

spoken with the employer. But there was no indication whatsoever, none, that they had spoken to the employees. (Interruptions.)

Mr. Speaker, this is a critically important issue, nobody knows that more, nobody. You and I and others in this House can only imagine what it would be like to arrive on those accident scenes. I have and I don't know if I will go into some of them later on before I sit down today, some of the testimonials that some of the paramedics have given; verbatim transcripts about some of the kinds of circumstances that they have run into in your community, in my community and in every community across this province. Unless we are one of them, we can't begin to understand and to fully feel what they feel. But you know, they are extremely dedicated and committed women and men because why they would do that job for the kind of remuneration that they get, and for the kind of time off and benefits they don't get, for the impact it has on their family life. There is only one reason that they are doing that job and that is because they love their work, helping other Nova Scotians. You all know that. You have to know that; there is no other logical reason for them doing it.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have and I am sure you have, or other members of this House have, who bothered to spend any time listening to the stories of the paramedics telling you that it is not uncommon for a paramedic to fall asleep from just total exhaustion and fatigue. It is not just the hours of work, as bad and as heavy as that is, but you know when you are in a very stressful situation that that takes a lot more out of you in terms of energy than when you are just sitting around listening to speeches from somebody like me.

Mr. Speaker, that is a public safety issue. Why isn't the government addressing that issue? Instead, they want to, in this legislation, impose the length of time this contract is supposed to last. You tell me, if it is about public safety, what is the duration of this contract here for at all? It has nothing to do with public safety, nothing whatsoever but, of course, that won't stop the spin doctors for the government or for the elected representatives to go out and plead their pitch that what they are trying to do is for public safety.

Earlier today in Question Period, I didn't know whether I should be laughing or crying to some of the responses that were being given by the Minister of Health to my colleague for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour in a couple of the questions he was asking. My colleague was asking some questions about the contract - very good questions - answers were a little bit iffy because there weren't any. The minister didn't know anything about it. It sounded like he didn't read the contract, he had no idea what was in it.

He was asking questions about things like, is it true that, under the contract signed by the former government, if there are to be savings incurred in the costs of delivering this emergency service, 70 per cent of those savings would revert back to the company and 30 per cent would then go back to the government? He was asking the government, the Minister of

[Page 1006]

Health, what is in it for workers? If they are able to be affecting those kinds of so-called savings, why are they doing them? They are doing it for the bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that to the reasonable person, it might be possible to conclude that that company is trying to maximize their bottom line on the backs of the workers. That is a public safety issue. Do you know, I could start ranting and railing and mocking the backbenchers as a previous speaker had done for not getting up to speak, and that is very tempting. I see that my remarks are having a real impact. I see the reading continuing, but I also hope that people are taking a real sober second look at what you are doing.

I really and truly hope you were looking inward and you are asking yourself, is this what I, as an elected representative, whether that be from Halifax Bedford Basin, whether that be from the Eastern Shore, whether that be from Inverness County, whether it be from Pictou County, Kings County, Digby, Yarmouth, you name it, is that what I stand for? Is that what my constituents expect of me?

I would suggest, and I am going to be presumptuous here, that if you were to honestly ask yourself that question, you would answer no. I believe each and every one of you in here, I certainly want to believe each and every one of you on the government benches believe that the paramedics, those women and men who are saving our loved one's lives and the lives of our constituents, I believe each and every one of you would say that they have been poorly treated and undervalued.

If you don't believe that, I think you should go out and tell people. If you do believe they are being undervalued, why are you preceding with this kind of legislation which is just rubbing salt into the wounds that have been inflicted by the former government and now by your government? Do you have to compound it?

Other speakers have raised points about commitments and I am sorry, but I am going to return to it again because I think that it is an important one, it cuts to the core of what is important. Trust. During the election campaign, trying to secure those last free votes that might be floating around out there, or so it would appear, I would like to be proven wrong, the now Premier, then Tory Opposition Leader said they want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. We want our paramedics, the women and men who have been filling the gallery for the last couple of days, who found out without any consultation whatsoever, last Friday morning, when they were in negotiations with their employer about this legislation, he said, of those very same people, that he wants them to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives.

Do you know what? I believe he was speaking truthfully. I believe he did want that. So, what has happened? What has happened since July 26th and October 26th? That is three months. Who is in charge? Is it some backroom people that we haven't seen that somehow

[Page 1007]

are pulling the strings and dancing their puppets in the government benches, some non-elected representatives who feel they have the ear of the government and the government will do their bidding? Even those at Scotiabank who were getting, what was it $2 million?

AN HON. MEMBER: Three.

MR. HOLM: Three million dollars, just about $3 million, and the shareholders may some day need the services of our extremely capable and well-trained paramedics. I hope not, but I know I feel a lot more comfortable knowing the calibre of the training and the dedication of the women and men, the 650 paramedics risking their lives around this province for the benefit of others.

But the Premier said he wanted them to be fairly compensated. So what does he do? He listens to the company that is interested in maximizing profits, and who will benefit by reducing the wages and costs for wages because that will maximize their bottom line profits. He talks to them. Then we get the emergency plan for health care, this legislation. This legislation, I think, was their plan.

Do you know, the government said that they looked at the emergency plan that was supposedly there, but that it wasn't good enough and that we didn't think that it would protect public safety? Did you speak with the paramedics? Did they talk to the paramedics and say, we do not think that the plan that is laid out there by the company will ensure public safety for those in positions of crisis? Did you broach that with them and say, is there something we can do? No. They talked to the company.

I would suggest that maybe that company is in breach of the contract with this government, because they are supposed to have, in place, an emergency plan that can cover it. But no, they talked to the company. The Premier, on that day, also said, "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them . . .", meaning the paramedics, ". . . fair treatment under the labour standard law of this province - and we will . . .", not may, ". . . proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.".

When he said, we will, he gave those paramedics and all Nova Scotians who are fair- minded and who depend upon those paramedics, his word. He gave them his bond, his commitment. You might say as they would do in the olden days, they shook hands on the deal. Trust is crucially important.

[3:15 p.m.]

Where in the Government Throne Speech, where does it talk about that trust? Where, in that Throne Speech that some members of this House spoke so eloquently in support of from the government benches, where is there one indication that you have any intention of honouring your commitment to those paramedics?

[Page 1008]

It might have been very important for building some of that trust. If the paramedics had seen the government announce in their Throne Speech that they are in fact going to proceed with the legislation, because they were elected with a majority government, I might add, they sold their pitch well, and I am sure that they even received a goodly number of votes from paramedics. Why wouldn't they?

The Tories promised to treat them fairly and to compensate them fairly for saving Nova Scotians' lives, promised that they will proceed with legislation that will provide them with fair treatment under the Labour Standards Code so that they would no longer have to work 60, 80 hours a week to provide just the very basics for their family. So why wouldn't they vote for them?

You go back and you ask this question about trust. I also looked up in the Webster's dictionary last night the definition for honesty; fairness and straightforwardness of conduct, freedom from subterfuge or duplicity. Trust is extremely important in moving forward. Government pretends that this is about public safety, yet the bill is filled with all kinds of clauses and conditions that have zero to do with public safety but have all to do with restricting what kind of benefits those workers can even arbitrate, restricting how far back, limiting to less than one month from now the amount of retroactive pay that the arbitrator can award, even though many of those workers have trusted the government over and over again in their commitments that they are honourable men and women on the government benches and that they will do what they said they were going to do.

They have been without contracts, many of them, for four years. This contract would even see some of those paramedics making less per hour than they are making now, with more expensive benefits than otherwise. I am not trying to get in any kinds of debates on individual details or clauses and contracts, but my point is, there are a number of issues, a number of issues that are not agreed to well beyond those that the Premier, his Minister of Health and whether you realize it or not, each and every one of you on the government benches is saying, cannot go to arbitration if this bill, as we have it here, passes. Is that what you want? Is that what the people in Dartmouth South expect from their member? Do you realize what you are doing? Have you really even examined this?

The Premier said - and this has been said by others, it was a question I was going to ask the Premier one day in Question Period, about how he is planning to proceed, or how he has proceeded on it; so far he doesn't seem to have gone down the road very far - under Making Government Accountable, he said he was going to give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents.

Freedom was a right that I thought as a New Democrat I always had. I don't know, my colleagues, maybe they have a different view, but I already thought I was elected first and foremost by the good people in the community of Sackville-Cobequid. I already figured that my first loyalty was to the residents of Sackville-Cobequid. The Premier is absolutely right,

[Page 1009]

they do need ambulance service. They need more than ambulance service, Mr. Speaker, because what they need to have is not only an ambulance arrive on the scene in times of emergency, they also have to have a staff that has not been abused in terms of the number of hours they are forced to work, that is respected and treated fairly in terms of wages they are paid. Those who have had those paramedics respond to them, they know, Mr. Premier, what they need. It is about public safety.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know - going back to the point that I was talking about before - what steps he has taken to ensure that his MLAs have greater freedom to speak, greater freedom to speak to represent the views of this constituents. That is implying, first of all, that Tories didn't have that right before. That is what it is saying, that if you have to tell them that you are going to give them that freedom, that is an admission that they never had it before.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I want the honourable member to explain to me what that has to do with the principle of the bill.

MR. HOLM: Yes, I am happy to, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I would appreciate it.

MR. HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I always welcome your interventions. I think it is always very encouraging. It shows, when you asked that question, at least there is one person in this House who is paying attention.

Mr. Speaker, my point is quite simply this. We have a piece of legislation, Bill No. 9, before us. Bill No. 9 is going to be imposing very severe restrictions on the paramedics who serve the constituents of all 30 members on the government benches. I believe it is extremely important that you have a full debate on issues and through that full debate we can improve legislation. Obviously in the last sitting of the House, Tories didn't have the freedom to speak, to represent the views of their constituents, but now we are told they do have that freedom to speak, to represent their constituents.

There are a lot of important principles in this bill, because this legislation, like most like legislation, isn't a bill with only one principle. Every clause almost has principle. I could spend another hour talking about the principles in each clause with not too much difficulty, but a fundamental principle here is, are you going to represent any of those views? Senior citizens in this province, members who have life-threatening illnesses, certain kinds of conditions that can cause them to take a bad turn quickly, rely upon the services of our highly trained, extremely professional, dedicated paramedics in this province.

Surely, Mr. Speaker, members on the government benches should not have to rely only upon members of the Opposition to bring forward those concerns. Maybe government members were given a freedom that they did not have before. That is quite possible. Maybe

[Page 1010]

they are now allowed to speak more freely behind closed doors in caucus, but speaking behind closed doors in caucus, if that is where you are allowed to be silently aggressive, does very little to advance the cause.

Mr. Speaker, it is not too late. It is interesting, when you throw down a gauntlet, people will normally rise to that challenge. The Government House Leader introduced his motion yesterday to cut off debate. We had not introduced any second reading amendment and we had made no decision to do that, none. In fact, we had one on our desk, the Leader had one, but did not introduce it then. We wanted to see what the government might do and we saw very soon. They threw down the gauntlet and they challenged us, trying to stifle debate, no approach, no discussion, no asking is there anything we can do to protect public safety and work together cooperatively to solve this matter, none, not a word, down goes the gauntlet.

John Buchanan did that before, in fact, the current Government House Leader was a Government House Leader for John Buchanan when we did this before. The member will remember that at that time there were six members on the Liberal benches and three on ours. When you throw down that gauntlet, trying to back them into the corner, trying to use bully tactics, people react, and we still do that because we are not going to roll over.

If the Premier is truly committed to do things differently, if the Premier truly wants to work in a cooperative fashion, if the Premier truly wants to respect all members of this House and to have a free exchange of ideas and to be able to find ways that we can collectively try to move things forward in this province, then he has a chance to show that. To date, I honestly have not seen it and that to me truthfully, is a major disappointment. I really did not expect, from a government led by this Premier, that we would go back to the tactics of John Buchanan, courtesy of the Richie Mann rule when the Liberals were in power. You were opposed to it then. You did not believe in legislation by exhaustion. You talked about cooperation.

[3:30 p.m.]

I can understand why the women and men who have been put through so much, who feel yet again betrayed after watching what has been going on in here, are feeling even more frustrated and upset. I do not see how they could have come to any other feeling. There has been zero willingness, no signal whatsoever of this government willing to bend, of this government being willing to look for a kind of compromise that will indeed ensure public safety and that the women and men who put their lives on the line making sure that that exists are treated in a fair and respectful manner. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1011]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude some comments on Bill No. 9 - An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province. I had the chance earlier to make some comments. I would like to review some and I think the debate here on second reading is followed with interest.

Mr. Speaker, essentially, as I listened to the debate, I have come to several conclusions and certainly one is that this legislation is introduced as a last resort and a desperate measure on behalf of the government in a very inappropriate manner because, personally, I can't believe that the government has exhausted all its means before they resorted to such a drastic measure. We can say it does not matter really, it is just a small group and it is not really taking away many rights and all the other issues, but all these rights have been gained millimetre by millimetre and we can't afford to lose any. I just feel this was sudden. It was interfering with the process and it was an intervention.

We would have liked to have seen the process continue. There was every indication that it was working, there was every indication that in fact, it would work, could be made to work, but whether it was panic and inexperience on behalf of this government that they denied the rights within legislation and within the fair practices and the moral and ethical issues really surrounding the function of an essential service and the professionalism of that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

DR. SMITH: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, to members present and guests in the gallery, I would like to point out in the Speaker's Gallery two of my constituents and a friend of this Legislature, from the Terence Bay Coastal Cooperative, Bruce Holland and Bert Rayner. (Applause)

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am sure if some of those people were here today, they would be echoing the same sort of sentiments, I hope so. As I was just introducing my comments, I was speaking in terms of the extreme last resort of this bill, the drastic measures and the intervention of the government and railroading the due process that was in place. Earlier this week the minister said he did not want to be involved in this process and now certainly he has jumped in with both feet and we know where that can lead sometimes.

[Page 1012]

The government has a majority and they will win the day eventually. I would just like to make a few comments in summarizing my thoughts. Despite the promises of this government during the election campaign to deal with the paramedics fairly, we see that these promises were hollow. They were hollow, Mr. Speaker.

We are grateful that the paramedics have taken the time to join us these many hours these last few days in the House of Assembly. They have taken their free time, their precious time from their families and communities, to share with us their frustrations with Bill No. 9. On behalf of our Liberal caucus, I would like to thank them for not only respecting the traditions of this House, that they have conducted themselves in a very professional manner, but also representing themselves in a very professional way. Not only do they go about their duties and jobs on a day-to-day basis exhibiting true professionalism, they have handled themselves extremely well when faced with a government that is willing to strip away their basic rights. As the earlier speaker said, people do react when they are forced into a corner and react they must.

Their very presence here in the House, Mr. Speaker, reminds us that what we do as legislators does, in fact, have an impact on people's lives. It does make a difference. The decisions that we make here really affect the lives of many Nova Scotians and perhaps all Nova Scotians.

Last week we brought a couple of very crucial questions before the government and particularly to the Minister of Health. We asked two very simple questions of the minister and those questions were whether he had met with EMC about the issues of wages for paramedics and whether he was satisfied that a contingency plan was in place. Those were the two very basic simple questions. Ironically at that time the minister said that since this was an issue between the employer and the employee, he was not prepared to interfere in that process.

Mr. Speaker, many times government has to make choices. They must be accountable and sometimes it means becoming involved in the process in the best interests of all parties involved. But never did any member of this caucus ask government to involve themselves in the process by stripping away basic collective bargaining rights from individuals especially at a time when the employer and the employee were at a crossroads, a very sensitive time in very important negotiations.

I lost count of how many times this current government asked me to get involved in the negotiating process when I was Minister of Health and in other ministries, how many times they asked me to contribute more financial resources in the interest of fairness. I think this government is finding out very quickly in their mandate that making these choices and making decisions that impact so significantly on people are not easy things to do.

[Page 1013]

When we were in government, Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, we were faced with a very similar situation in that 41 nursing homes across the province were ready to strike. We had some very heated and difficult Cabinet meetings, challenging, but I think what happened was, we stayed a steady course. Like the situation that this current government finds itself in, we were not the employer either, but that wasn't good enough. However, unlike this government, we remained committed to a process that we saw was fair. There was temptation. We had the legislation ready. It was there.

I fail to understand why the Premier gets so upset over the issue of fairness. Perhaps he is upset because he thinks he has the market cornered on fairness. He certainly seemed to during the election campaign. Perhaps he or even the New Democratic Party would have liked to have seen our government treat the nurses in the long-term care sector like they were treated in Saskatchewan by the NDP Government with back-to-work legislation and threatening to throw them in jail if they did not return to work. I would just remind the NDP House Leader of that when he made his comments earlier regarding the performance of our previous government.

Our caucus is proud of the record that we as a government had in dealing with our employees through negotiations. We are proud of how we treated our employees, and we are proud of how we treated those individuals who may not have been employed by the government directly.

Mr. Speaker, in treating our employees with respect and treating them with fairness, we were able to negotiate contracts without taking away the dignity of workers, without taking their basic collective bargaining rights. I also recall the minister indicating that he had viewed the contingency plan. He was satisfied that should a strike occur, that service, albeit not full service, could be provided for Nova Scotia. I heard recently that they were making offers in the Moncton area, and I don't know whether it was EMC or a delegate from the Ministry of Health here - for $20 an hour plus expenses for paramedics to come from the New Brunswick communities. Perhaps that was part of their plan. It never did seem to develop. We never saw it, we never heard it, there was nothing shared with us.

The next day the Premier came out after that, and said that the contingency plan was not adequate. The question remains to be answered at this hour, what happened in that 24 hours that changed the contingency plan so drastically? It is not just me that is asking the questions here. As recently as this morning, a letter to the editor in the Chronicle-Herald asked the very same question.

Mr. Speaker, this government waffled on the issue of contingency plans. One day it was good enough and the next day, it was not. This begs the question, was Bill No. 9 the contingency plan? I know others have asked that question, and I am adding my voice to that question. Was Bill No. 9, this restrictive of the process of bargaining rights, was that their

[Page 1014]

contingency plan? I think that is the conclusion that fair-minded people have to make here today.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very important question to ask, for if Bill No. 9 was the contingency plan, where will this government stop in its treatment of people who are affected by its legislation? Where will they stop in yanking away anyone's collective bargaining rights? Government requires more thought, more compassion, more attention, than reacting to a situation by tabling a hastily put together piece of legislation, legislation I am sure that the government will amend before the Law Amendments Committee, realizing the mistakes they have made already in those few pages of legislation, but to speak so loudly, the attitude of this government toward the people that they have responsibilities to.

This government took the easy way out. Government is elected to represent all the people. There is no question that people have been hurt by this government's bill. This minister also expressed a desire to see both parties, both the employer and the employees, negotiate. He expressed a desire not to get involved in the negotiation process. The tabling of this legislation, the tabling of Bill No. 9, forces the government to be smack-dab in the middle of the negotiating process.

Why would EMC have any incentive to negotiate after that? EMC knows that by the end of the week, the stick that is being provided to them by the government, the very stick that is now being held over the heads of our paramedics, can be used to the benefit of EMC. Where is the fairness? Negotiating a first collective agreement is never easy. To bring together a group of workers to negotiate one wage, one set of rules with regard to vacation time, overtime, and training requirements is never easy. We all know that. Our government knows that full well and we knew that full well when we were government. This government is now learning that. The paramedics know this very well.

The paramedics have demonstrated their end of the bargain in good faith. This government, when crunch-time comes, has shown that they cannot hold up, they cannot hold up under pressure and they cannot hold up their end of the bargain. We, as a government, had the opportunity to introduce this type of intrusive legislation, we did not and the process worked. The process worked for us in long-term care because we held our powder, we kept our powder dry. We held our fire and we treated people with fairness and they responded in kind.

[3:45 p.m.]

The now Premier said back in March that all Nova Scotians want a strike avoided. Will your government fulfil its commitment to fairness and equity? Nova Scotians don't want to see paramedics strike, obviously. Likewise paramedics don't want to strike. It goes against everything they have been trained for and everything that they believe in. When it comes time

[Page 1015]

for this government to treat the workers with respect and to pay back those hardworking women and men for all the things they do, they pay it back by holding a stick over their heads.

This government says thank you for your service, thank you for negotiating in good faith for 13 months, but now with one week to go, we can no longer keep this bargaining process in your capable hands anymore, and it is yanked away, the rights of these people. This government has interfered in this process. Just last week, this government was committed to the bargaining process that was ongoing. They were committed to seeing the process through.

Mr. Speaker, it was just a few short months ago the current government was demanding that we treat the workers of long-term care facilities with fairness when we were in government. They demanded that we get involved by putting more money on the table, stating that these health care professionals deserved nothing less. I ask, where is the government's commitment to do just that now that the roles are reversed?

The collective bargaining process is a fragile process, it involves an employer putting an offer on the table with the employees looking at it. It involves give and take on both parts. In the end of the process, the outcome is one where both parties see that they have reached a compromise. To inject this government into the middle of this process throws the whole collective bargaining process out of balance. Who wins when government injects itself right in the middle of a process such as this?

Clearly the employer sees themselves as the winner in this. Not only does EMC not have to execute a contingency plan, which they were responsible for through the minister, they also don't have to commit any more dollars to the solution, at least for now. I hope that the paramedics will win on this one, arbitration often does we know. But there are other principles involved here, wages and money are important, but there is a process of principle here and fairness and ethics and morality that has been taken away and the rights of these people have been taken away, and that is the problem.

I hope they do well under arbitration. I think they will. But they are here voicing other concerns as well. EMC can sit back and watch as basic rights are stripped from their workforce. What will happen to the workforce as a result of this government's action? Will they be further demoralized, will they be upset? I would think so. I would expect so. This legislation ensures that this will likely be the case.

There is no question that the paramedics lose. Their bargaining chip has been taken away from them. They believe that there was a course of action that they could take that could possibly lead to a fair solution, and they did that in good faith, they pursued that course. This course of action has been blocked. We as a government could have taken the easy way out with long-term care nurses as well, we have been there. I know the position the government found itself in. We didn't, however, because we believed in the bargaining process.

[Page 1016]

We believe that at the end of the day both sides would negotiate an agreement that all parties saw as fair. At the end of the collective bargaining process, people on all sides can say, at least I have treated you fairly, at least I had the opportunity to air all of my concerns, at least my basic rights in the collective bargaining process were respected.

Mr. Speaker, this has a lot to do with respect, and respect for people. All of the 41 nursing homes could have gone on strike and they did not, because they felt they were being treated fairly, and everyone involved in the bargaining process was doing their part in good faith, without interference. Negotiations with paramedics have been ongoing for some time. Paramedics and EMC even negotiated essential services should the time come when they reach such an impasse that the only option for paramedics was to strike.

The union committed to ensuring that public safety would be adhered to and they agreed to rotating strikes. Why then do we have this piece of legislation when both parties have agreed to ensure public safety?

We were assured that a contingency plan was in place by the minister earlier. Why then would the government insert itself into the middle of a process during such a crucial time? Why would they see this as being necessary? Government, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, is about making choices. This government had choices: one, they could have put more money on the table; two, they could have allowed the negotiating process to continue; after all we were assured there was a contingency plan in place. Why would government circumvent the process, a process that they were unwilling to get involved in, just one week ago? These choices would have yielded a result that would have been much more productive than this piece of legislation here today, Bill No. 9.

As a caucus we are pleased with EMC in many ways, but we are particularly proud of our paramedics. Ambulances today in rural Nova Scotia are the same as those in metro Halifax-Dartmouth. There are clear standards of training and there are now opportunities for paramedics to receive ongoing training right here in Nova Scotia within our province. This legislation tabled by this government clearly demonstrates a lack of faith in the bargaining process. Had this government spoken to us and the paramedics and were able to tell us and them that this is the last and only resort, then perhaps our response would have been different.

But this is not government's only option, as I indicated earlier. There are other ways to protect safety. A good, proper, contingency plan, that is well monitored by this government, would have had the same effect. Government does not belong in this process. This government admitted that last week. Now they find they have no choice. They find that they can no longer stand by and watch a process that was working, they must somehow get themselves right in the middle in order to make this process right. Well, they have not made it right. They have made it wrong and they have perverted the due process of justice.

[Page 1017]

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing right. There is nothing that this government should take great pride in. There is nothing good to say about a government that strips the rights of workers at such a crucial time. The members of this caucus are not in support of this legislation. It deals with essential services, professionalism, binding arbitration and parity across this country. It deals with wages, the flexibility within the budget. All of a sudden, on introduction of the budget, there was miraculously found another $200 million with no plan to pay it back but the money seems to be there. There must be flexibility within the budget to address the demands of the paramedics.

There is a balance, Mr. Speaker, between the safety of the public with the rights of the paramedics. As many members spoke, I have been touched and struck by the sharing of personal experiences. It is hard to believe that the MLAs themselves have had that many experiences with the work of paramedics and seen first-hand, as some of us who have been privileged and had the opportunity within the health care system, to know for many years. There have been some good things done over the years with the delivery of ambulance services but they needed direction and they needed to be treated with respect and professionalism and take their place on the health care team.

This is really what this is about when we speak of essential legislation and the recognition of the professionalism of these people. We have a team, not only of doctors, physicians and social workers, but we also have trauma teams and new initiatives that have come along with the paramedics, the improvement of the ambulance service, the training of the paramedics. They need this level of professionalism. They need to be treated that way, to take their rightful place on the health care team within the health care system within this province. I think it is important, that primary part of the team.

I will conclude my comments at this juncture. I do not believe there is much necessity in repeating again and again, but I just want to say, quite simply, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion and in the opinion of our Liberal Party, Bill No. 9 - An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, is the wrong legislation and it is tabled at the wrong time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the next speaker, I just want to announce that the subject for the late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Anne Derrick and Dawn Russell on their outstanding contributions to women's equality.

That will be debated at 6:00 p.m.

[Page 1018]

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to wrap up debate on second reading for our caucus on Bill No. 9. This has been an interesting debate. As usual, it has been a very one-sided debate in that the government introduced this legislation and the Opposition gets up and talks about what they think about it. The government does not say much about what they think about it. When you have a majority, they do not have to. They just sit on their hands and wait it out. They know that at the end of the day the vote will be held and their will will be recognized.

It is unfortunate, but that is how this system works, Mr. Speaker. Other speakers who have been here a lot longer than I have, said that it used to be different. There used to be a lot more give and take, a lot more exchange back and forth. It would be interesting to hear from members of the government side what they thought of the implications of a particular piece of legislation like this.

I say so because people outside this Chamber look at us, listen to us, and they think this is all partisan rhetoric, that the Opposition says what it says because it is the Opposition, because it is here to oppose, and it is almost to discount the arguments that we put forward. Sure, there is probably a bit of partisan rhetoric intermixed and interspersed in some of the wisdom that comes out of the Opposition benches, but I think too we are trying to articulate the concerns of people that we represent and people who have talked to us about the impact of a particular piece of legislation. We are trying to share our insight into a particular piece of legislation from research that we or our staff have conducted and add our personal experience to it.

I am sure members of government have similar personal experiences that they could bring forward. I am not suggesting that in this case members opposite would get up and say that they are going to vote against the government, or the minister who introduced the bill, I do not expect that, but even if they were to get up and sort of share their experiences, in this case about paramedics, maybe even about collective bargaining. I think there are people on the other side who have some experience with collective bargaining and what this means to them.

They may be able to argue, as the Minister of Health has, that this needs to happen. I think it would be helpful to the overall perception of how debate takes place in this House if it was not just Opposition members who spoke on bills, but if all members spoke on bills, for or against, just to share their experiences and bring some balance and help the perception that goes out there that people are not just saying things because they are in Opposition or because they are government, but that they bring something to this House other than the colour they wear that represents the political Party, or that particular mantle that they enjoy as a Cabinet Minister, or whatever, but that they do bring their experiences to this House and that those experiences are important.

[Page 1019]

[4:00 p.m.]

I think it would benefit all members of this House and Nova Scotia generally if our debates could involve all members, members from all sides of this House. I think that would be helpful, but I don't think we are going to see that today.

This has been an interesting debate, Bill No. 9, for a couple of reasons. Number one is the whole question of the impact that this bill has on the collective bargaining process, and the collective bargaining process that has been under way between Emergency Medical Care and the NSGEU to reach a first collective agreement. Those negotiations have been ongoing now for some months, 13, 14, 15 months, and have yet to be resolved; they began under the former administration and they have yet to be concluded.

This government decided that they would intervene in the collective bargaining process, not by responding in any way that would be helpful or constructive, but they have put a frame, or maybe to be as clear as possible, put a bag over the collective bargaining process and changed it. It has important implications in collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia for public sector workers and for workers generally who bargain collectively, so that has been part of the debate. I will talk a bit more about that.

The other part of the debate which I found most interesting and most illuminating, and perhaps rewarding to some extent, is how members have entered into the debate the experiences of the people who are actually involved in this. When we talk about members of NSGEU or when we talk about paramedics, we are talking about women and men who perform a job, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, members of communities, members of volunteer agencies, people who are out there working and living and making a contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia.

What I have found most exciting about this debate is how members have brought the experiences of many of those paramedics to this floor and made what paramedics do very real to me, and I have appreciated that very much. I have had contact and I have shared some of my contact with paramedics, but I have been truly interested and moved by some of the experiences that other members have shared here in this place.

I think of the member for Timberlea-Prospect who talked about the time when he assisted someone in a car accident, and he was assisted by paramedics who came on the scene. He talked about the professionalism and the maturity, the stability that they brought to the scene, as well as the important skills that they brought to him. The Government of Canada awarded him the Medal of Bravery for what he did. It is something that he should be very proud of, there is no question about that.

[Page 1020]

The point he was making, the point that I took out of his story was that he said these paramedics, these people who came and attended the scene, they just do this every day, they do it day in, day out; they do it in the course of their job. Sometimes they don't get any thanks, they don't get any medals for bravery. They are just expected to do that. He was taken by that and I think knowing the member and understanding a bit about the member, I was quite taken with his sincerity when he thanked those paramedics for the job that they do. I took his intervention here in this House as that member again thanking those paramedics and other paramedics. I appreciated hearing that story and I think it added a lot to our understanding of what paramedics do.

I have had the opportunity over the last couple of days, as we have debated Bill No. 9, to meet some of those paramedics and to hear their stories. I am going to add a little bit. I have talked a bit about what some of those people do and I am going to add a little bit more, because they have told some of their stories to me. I think those stories are important and should be shared here. The point is that we are not just talking about a piece of legislation. We are not just talking about a piece of law that stands by itself and doesn't affect anybody. We are talking about a piece of legislation that has an impact on people, on people who live and breathe and make a contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia. I think we need to recognize that.

Mr. Speaker, on occasion you have said to members in debate, focus on the principle of this bill. I think that is extremely important. That is why second reading on bills is a very important stage. It is where we bring that piece of legislation to life, where we explain what that legislation means to us as Nova Scotians, as women and men, as people, from our different experiences. That we give it life, that we give it some meaning, rightly or wrongly. You have heard all the different interpretations of different pieces of legislation and this one as well. But the point is that it is our job, as we discuss the principle of a piece of legislation, to bring that legislation to life and make sure that as much as we possibly can, in our own way, as articulate or inarticulate as we can be, that we share those stories and that we make it real as best we can by talking about the impacts and the weaknesses and the strengths and how they affect Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to spend more time, I think, in my final intervention on this bill at this stage of the House, talking more about the people who are affected by the principle of this legislation and try as best I can to impress upon members opposite and the five or six members of the public who may be paying attention that this is important. What we are doing here with this piece of legislation is really important and we need to think through the impact it is having. Whether I am able to be convincing, I think we have heard a number of important interventions from both sides over here that hopefully will contribute to the government understanding that they have crossed the line, they have gone the distance and there may be an opportunity to correct, to repair some of the damage that has been done.

[Page 1021]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Health have been outside this House over the past day, in particular, especially this day. Yesterday, they talked about how they were introducing this legislation because it was a matter of public safety, and they believe that. I don't question that they believe that it is a matter of public safety and this is the only thing that they have available to them. This is the only alternative, the only instrument.

What I think members in this caucus have tried to say to the government is that if you were truly concerned about public safety, as you have suggested, in other words, as the Minister of Health said when he introduced the legislation at second reading, the right of Nova Scotians to have an ambulance appear when they call for them, I would suggest that there are other alternatives, that this government could have proceeded in different ways.

When they were on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservatives talked about the unfairness of the then government in not dealing with the concerns of paramedics to get a first contract and to get changes to the Labour Standards Code as it affected paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia, the whole problem there. In fact, if you go back to that speech that we have talked about a few times, the July 26th speech that was done in Yarmouth by the soon-to-be Premier, I quote from that speech again, not the point that has already been made about the specific promise that the Premier made then to paramedics, but a little bit of content that was in prior where he took a full and fairly vigorous swing at the then government.

With respect to the paramedics, he said - and let's not forget what the Liberals were telling Nova Scotia's paramedics 16 months ago - that he issues of wages and long hours, sometimes as much as 100 per week at less than minimum wage, would be worked out.

AN HON. MEMBER: And they would have been.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, they have not, said the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. He then goes on to smack away at the Liberals on a number of other issues. He talks about this and he talks about fairness. He talks about bringing some stability to the health care system and he made the commitment that we have heard referred to here on a number of occasions, committed to a clinical and financial audit of the government's contract with Emergency Health Services, something that the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, I think, in Question Period today raised some very important questions about that very contract between EMC and EHS.

Why is it more important for the government to have provisions in their contract about the state of the batteries, or how many batteries there are, or other equipment, than it is to ensure that the paramedics, who actually do the work, do not get any protection whatsoever? There are no standards there or there are no standards to the wages and working conditions negotiated in that contract whatsoever. Why are tires, batteries and that kind of equipment more important than the people who drive the vehicles upon which the tires operate, who

[Page 1022]

operate those vehicles, operate that equipment, and who are trained to do so? Why are they not included in that contract?

I think the member has raised some important questions that we need to have answered and maybe if the government had initiated the clinical and financial audit of the government's contract with Emergency Health Services soon after they were elected, they would have that information today and they would be in a position to put more money on the table so that they could fulfil their other commitment which was a fair and reasonable settlement for paramedics and we would not be at a point where we are coming up on the eleventh hour of a possible work stoppage.

[4:15 p.m.]

We want our paramedics to be reasonably and fairly compensated for their efforts to save lives. The other point, which I am going to get to now, is the commitment that this government made and it was in the speech on July 26th where the Premier said, "My Party has already drafted legislation that would provide them fair treatment under the labour standard laws of this province - and we will proceed with that legislation if elected as government tomorrow.". So I am talking about this now. I will just remind members I am talking about this under the heading of public safety. The government has said that this is all about public safety.

The Premier acknowledged in this speech the concerns of public safety with trying to deal with paramedics being asked to work overtime and employers, managers, sending paramedics out needing to work overtime, being able to afford that because they didn't have to pay them time and one-half instead of going out and hiring more full-time paramedics. It wasn't good enough from a public safety point of view to have paramedics on the road that were working 60 hours, 80 hours, 100 hours a week. It didn't make any sense from a public safety point of view. That is what some of those legislative changes would begin to get at.

That is not the be-all and end-all by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a commitment that was made by this Party, when they were in Opposition. It was a commitment made by our caucus. It is something that we continue to push for. It is important; it is not everything, and in fact, we would rather see this stuff freely negotiated. But in the absence of that, there needs to be legislative provisions and protections because the Labour Standards Code certainly sets a minimum standard in the Province of Nova Scotia for workers, Mr. Speaker, and then when they organize and bargain collectively, they build on those provisions and build up to get whatever it is they are able to negotiate with their employer.

On the whole question of public safety, if the government was as concerned as they said they were in Opposition, and when they were campaigning about that public safety point of view, in terms of ensuring that the paramedics were in a position that their working conditions were such that they were able to perform their job and live good healthy lives, I think they

[Page 1023]

would have started as a starting point, as a signal sent to paramedics, and would have brought in those changes to the Labour Standards Code.

I think there should have been other things done too right off the top. We knew this dispute was pending. I mean, we knew it was coming, Mr. Speaker. They talked about it during the election. Everywhere I went I was met by half a dozen, at least, paramedics. I remember being in Yarmouth, in fact, a couple of days before that fateful July 26th when the Premier said the words that he has had to eat since, tried to forget them first and now he has had to eat them, I was there and the paramedics got me. I remember being at an event and being on the way to the airport, being in a rush and briefly talking to them, but that wasn't enough, they said we are going to be at the airport for a little while, can we see you there. They came out and we sat and talked about what was going on, as we did in New Waterford, the member for Cape Breton Centre's riding, and in Sydney, and in Kentville, and everywhere else I went around the province and I am sure the Leader of the Liberal Party dealt with the same thing.

The paramedics were looking for commitments from the political Parties, the Leaders in particular, on their position relative to public safety, as it related to the working lives of those women and men who do the job. The commitment that was made by this Party, who are now government,was to correct what was happening at negotiations by ensuring that there be a fair and reasonable settlement, surely they said that, understanding that what was already on the table wasn't fair and reasonable, otherwise why would they have said it. They didn't say to the paramedics, listen, what's on the table now guys is fair and reasonable, that is the best they can do. That is not what they said. They said, we will ensure a fair and reasonable settlement.

They gave those members, I would suggest, some sense of hope that this government, if elected, would sweeten the deal and would ensure that some of the demands that they have put on the table would be dealt with, and that they would make the required changes to the Labour Standards Code. Again, the Labour Standards Code doesn't deal with everybody, it deals with a lot of paramedics in rural Nova Scotia and some others, but it is a commitment, a recognition, a concern for public safety and the lives, the working lives, of these women and men.

Did the government do that? No. They didn't do that. I don't know why they didn't do that. The Premier stood here and he stood outside the House in front of the cameras, and he said it is all about public safety. Why in the name of Heaven did you wait until the last minute to be concerned about public safety? Why did you wait until the eleventh hour to be concerned about public safety? It doesn't square with me, I don't think it squares with many paramedics, in fact, I don't think it squares with many Nova Scotians.

[Page 1024]

I want to ask the Minister of Health, it has been made public that the tentative agreement that was reached, I believe it was back in September, was rejected by a vote of 78 per cent by the membership, that is the way it works, in other words, it is gone in terms of it has to be improved, it is not good enough. The membership says to the negotiating team, go back and try again. Given what the Minister of Health says now and has been saying for awhile, at least in the last month, he thinks it is a fair and reasonable settlement, and he is concerned, as he says now, for public safety, has he ensured, as the minister responsible, that EMC and the NSGEU have worked out a contingency plan as it deals with emergency medical services?

The people and the paramedics that I have talked to have said that they are not going to put public safety in jeopardy. But what has the minister done, this minister who is so concerned about public safety, what has he done to ensure that the employer and the union fulfill their obligations to ensure their is a contingency plan for emergency services?

Do you know what the answer to that is? As I understand, they have done nothing. If they have done nothing, then how can they say that this dispute is going to jeopardize public safety? Why haven't they done something about that? Why has this government sat on its hands? I couldn't believe it when I was told this morning or yesterday, whenever it was, the Minister of Health attended a parade of concern held by paramedics in his constituency in Truro on September 18th, and he said, I support you, I am with you, you deserve a fair and reasonable settlement. I am there for you, but I can't get involved in the collective bargaining process. That is what he said. I couldn't believe it.

In debate under Question Period in this House the past two weeks, when we have raised concerns - the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, in particular, raised concerns - about the state of negotiations with the paramedics, the Minister of Health says, nothing I can do, I can't involve myself in the collective bargaining process. We believe it can't be touched. There is a word, which I don't think I can probably pronounce right now, so I am going to leave it alone, but it deals with the sacredness of the collective bargaining process and he said, I can't touch it.

We asked him about a contingency plan, did we not, in the case of a disruption? He said there was one, Mr. Speaker. Then on Friday of last week the government introduces a bill which effectively suspends collective bargaining and imposes on the parties a process which they have rejected. The minister has said, my goodness, I don't understand why the Opposition is concerned about this, binding arbitration is part of the collective bargaining process. You are right. It has to be agreed to though. It has to be agreed to by both parties. It can't just be imposed the way this government is imposing it in an arbitrary fashion. It is not good enough.

[Page 1025]

What they are saying, I think, in effect, to 78 per cent of the membership of the NSGEU Paramedics Local is that you were wrong when you rejected binding arbitration and the items that were to be appear by arbitration. So we are going to take away your right to decide, and we are going to tell you how you are going to go, Mr. Speaker. They say it is because of public safety but it is interesting that within this little bill is also a matter of retroactivity the government slipped in. I don't know what retroactivity has to do with public safety. I think it has more to do with the government having enough money to be able to give to Scotiabank than it does anything else really. I think that is what it is all about. There are some workers here who have been without a collective agreement for upwards of three years.

Already they have negotiated a retroactivity deal of some amount which is far in excess of what this government is trying to impose. So public safety on the one hand but then we are going to determine some of the terms like retroactivity. They also slipped in there a few paragraphs saying the term of the collective agreement, public safety, what does that have to do with public safety that this Premier and his Ministers of Health and Labour are so concerned about?

I guess the final point, and there are others and they will come out when we go into the Law Amendments Committee, but the other point, of course, is the appointment of a chairman of the arbitration board and the fact the government is going to do that themselves instead of letting the parties agree to that. It is somewhat shocking in that the parties have already agreed to the appointment of one person. They have already agreed and do you know what? I think some of those things we are going to be able to resolve. I think this government, let's suggest being maybe a bit clumsy, you know, just threw that stuff in there. I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but the point is, it mainly had to do with public safety.

One last point I think I want to make on the public safety question as it relates to this bargaining process is that now the government introduced a bill on Friday, they called it for debate on Monday, they want it through the House on Thursday night. Right? They knew when they introduced the bill on Friday that they were going to jam it through by Thursday night at midnight. That was their answer to what they saw as a process of collective bargaining that wasn't working.

[4:30 p.m.]

Did they call the House to sit for the weekend? No. Did they work with the employer and the union to try to deal with this problem over the weekend? No. Have they been working with them in order to try to get this put together over these last two days while we have been in the House talking at some length? No, they haven't. They have been over here and they have been out there in front of the cameras talking about how it all has to do with public safety. Now they even have the nerve, the gall, what was it we were saying before?

AN HON. MEMBER: Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their gall.

[Page 1026]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Their hypocrisy is exceeded only by their gall. To say that the whole question of public safety, which was in the bill, which I hope I have provided sufficient arguments to have members agree that it is somewhat fallacious, now they are saying that it is the Opposition that is putting public safety into question. First of all, it was the paramedics, and now it is the Opposition and the paramedics, or maybe it is just the paramedics, I don't know. The point is that it doesn't wash.

I want to, if I may, share with you and members of this House why I am so upset, why members of my Caucus are so upset with the way these workers are being treated. We have talked to them to gain some appreciation for the work that they do and why they are so upset, why they feel they have been so badly treated, why they are looking for some justice and some dignity in all of this, and why they just feel that this government has thumbed their nose at them and is treating them in a way that is just not justifiable, it is shameful.

I know last night there was a gentleman who was so upset with the kind of response that he has heard from the government in the past day or so in this House that he had his badge in his hand and he was ready to throw it on the ground and walk away. You could tell that he was so fed up, a young man who has put a lot into this business, a lot into this profession - give me a little respect, he is saying; give me a little respect, quit yanking my chain, quit telling me that I am important and then giving me a pittance. The paramedics get paid less than the people who fix their ambulances. (Interruptions)

There is nothing wrong with paying the mechanics fairly, the member for Kings South. (Interruptions) The member for Kings South is rightly trying to defend mechanics and that is good and I commend him for that. But why is he on his feet trying to defend paramedics? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, paramedics do a dirty job, too. Go and talk to some of these women and men about what gets on their clothes in the run of a shift. Talk about not what gets on their clothes, but what gets embedded in their souls. I talked to some people here who have trouble sleeping at night because of what they see. I have also had people say that they will never forget other experiences that are much more positive. One paramedic told me about the time he delivered a baby and how that was clearly the best thing that has ever happened to him as a human being and he will never ever, ever forget it, but he also has an awful lot of shifts and an awful lot of nights where it is not very pretty.

I don't want to be unfair to the member for Kings South, but he jumped to his feet so quickly - or he jumped to his mouth, whatever you want to call it - to defend the rights of mechanics when I suggested that paramedics don't get paid as much as mechanics and somehow slighted mechanics. Where is that passion, member? Where is that passion for these

[Page 1027]

women and men who have been here and parked their vehicles outside of the location in New Minas, work hour after hour, travelling and trying to respond to the accidents and injurious situations that happen on our highways, in our homes and in our communities? Where is the passion for those people?

How can we, as member of this Legislature, sit here year after year as these women and men work their guts out to provide emergency health care services for Nova Scotians, the people we represent, and we let them get paid $7.00, $8.00, $9.00, $10, $11 an hour? How can we do that in all conscience?

We wouldn't let doctors, Heaven forbid!, get paid $10 an hour. These people save lives, too. They also experience tragedies when some people don't get saved. They are an important part of the medical profession. They get the good and the bad, but they are there, they are on the front lines. They are giving it everything they have, because they care and they don't deserve to be treated like this, and they don't deserve to be treated the way they have been treated by the Governments of Nova Scotia for as long as I can remember, Mr. Speaker.

I will say this, I applauded the move to the emergency health care concept system. I think that was a good idea, I really do. I knew paramedics in the old system and a lot of them were just as dedicated as the people who are here now; a lot of them are still in the system. Standards weren't always equal and the pay was as bad then as it is now, if not worse, and we needed to do something about that. We needed to upgrade the equipment; we needed to upgrade and standardize the skills and training of these people and we did that. We went out and bought shiny new ambulances and we outfitted those ambulances with the greatest new equipment, and we said to these ambulance operators, these EMTs - soon to become something else - get out there and get your training, get your courses. People went to Moncton, spent $5,000, $10,000, went to the United States . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty and thirty . . .

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . went here to school and spent $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 some of them, to get that training on their own time. So we gave them the equipment to work with, we demanded that they raise their skill levels and their training to a standard but we forgot one thing. We forgot their working conditions.

We asked them to do more. We put greater responsibility on them but we forgot the fact that they are still working under the same archaic conditions that they had 20 years ago. Not good enough. It is like the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour said when he asked questions today in Question Period. This contract with EMC has got all this stuff in there, with all of the equipment, and this and that and making sure that EMC gets their percentage of the take, everything is in there down to batteries and tires, but they forgot the workers. That is how the paramedics feel today, once again, we have been forgotten, that is how they feel.

[Page 1028]

Last night I was talking to a young woman who is extremely dedicated to this field. There were some members talking about the old TV program, Emergency, and having a great laugh about it and I was thinking about her and what she told me. She said, she has still got a kit, a toy, that came from that TV program that she had when, I think, she was three years old. She still has that. She is dedicated to this profession. She wants it so bad, she has told me what she has done in order to get it, Mr. Speaker.

She told me about this incident that happened recently. A young woman in the back of her ambulance was seriously injured in a car accident, she was dying right in front of her. Basically her lung had collapsed and the paramedic was squeezing her heart so it couldn't pump anymore. From her additional education, she was able to recognize the problem. She put a needle into her chest, in the lung, and let the air out so her heart could start beating properly again. She was able to see her dramatically improve. If she had not done that, the young woman would have died.

The paramedic goes on to talk about seeing that woman later and seeing her family and how much it meant to her. She went on and said she does everything she possibly can to provide the best service, to help her fellow human being. She just wants to be recognized for the work she does. These were her words, that wages had only changed by a few dollars in the past 5 or 10 years but their skills and education has changed tenfold - I talked about that a second ago. Ten years ago, paramedics picked up the patient and drove fast to the hospital with minimal care. Now, we have many, many lifesaving skills and many, many skills that can prolong life or make our patients more comfortable. We just want to be recognized with other services similar to those across the country.

This woman is 25 years old, she is a Paramedic III, Mr. Speaker. She spent $10,000 getting her EMT and has given up other opportunities and made other sacrifices in order to get that kind of education. This woman says, I just want to be treated with a bit of respect and I don't think that is asking too much.

[4:45 p.m.]

There is another gentleman who has been in this business for 12 years. The situation I was talking about, about how the government decided to upgrade the equipment and so on, he was involved in taking night courses and so on, he says the government decided ambulances were not equipped well enough and started supplying new gear, but he said still they forgot about the women and men who staff the ambulances. He talked about a particular incident that has marked his soul. It is again another car accident; a car hit a child. He says he could do nothing but kneel beside him and sadly tell his mother, I could do nothing, all this as she stroked her fingers through his hair, sobbing. He says, I would have given my own life to let this young man survive. He says, is this worth $7.29 an hour?

[Page 1029]

There is another guy, Paramedic I, 60 hours to 70 hours a week, does not have much left over after paying the bills. This is the guy who told me about how he helped with the birth of a child. He delivered a child. It was one of the best moments of his life. He talked in his story about how he is exposed to all sorts of risks in his job, all types of hazards in his job. He never thinks about it. He says, we don't think about it, we just get the job done because that is what we do. That is our dedication to this profession.

I was going to say, that is what you get paid for or you say, you know, I do this because that is what I get paid for. These people do not get paid to do this stuff. I mean how much longer can we expect these people to continue to do this? This is exploitation, surely it is exploitation. We are preying on these people's commitment to their fellow human beings, to their community, to their province, and they just keep doing the job and we do not recognize them. We do not pay them. Don't pat them on the back and then not pay them. They deserve to be patted on the back, but they are sick and tired of being patted on the back from what I can tell.

This one worker talked about - I will not even go there - how they tried to meet with the Minister of Health, but the problem is that some of these people are leaving. Some of these people have had it up to here and they are going down the road. That has been so well described by members earlier about how it is like the young fellow I was talking about outside last night who was ready to throw his badge in the garbage can. Somebody talked him out of it and said to him, think about it, leave it, wait, sleep on it, think about it tomorrow morning. I do not know how much sleep this guy had last night. Heaven knows, he was probably on call again and he was out all night.

Nonetheless, I think his friends were able to pull him back and say, hang in there, right, hang in, talk to your family, recognize what this is to you and don't do anything drastic, but surely, as has been the case with other professionals in this province, nurses, teachers, doctors, pipefitters, that you keep treating them poorly here and they are going to head off down the road, and go somewhere else where they can earn a decent living to provide for their families. Mr. Speaker, do we want this?

Let me just for a second talk about this. We talk in this House and we talk on the campaign trail about creating jobs. We talk about supporting companies either locally or from outside to create jobs, to come here; Scotiabank, we gave them $3 million to help them provide some jobs here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Why don't we invest a little bit of that money in our own? Why don't we invest a little bit of that money, instead of going off and trying to get somewhere else? I almost think sometimes we do it so we can have a ribbon- cutting opportunity. In fact, one of the off-the-cuff campaign pledges that I made back in 1998, was, if elected, I would prohibit Cabinet Ministers from attending ribbon-cutting.

[Page 1030]

AN HON. MEMBER: Replace it with sod turning.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Or sod turning. Why are we giving money out to a company to come in and create $7.00 telemarketing jobs, but at the same time ignoring and treating with utter disrespect such essential employees as public sector workers like paramedics, emergency health care workers? It doesn't make any sense to me, Mr. Speaker, and I don't think it makes much sense to many Nova Scotians.

My time is winding up, Mr. Speaker, and I have so much more I want to say. I have so many stories that I want to tell about the women and men who make such a contribution to this field, to this province and to the people of my community and communities of this province. I ask this government to reconsider their decision on Bill No. 9, to look in the faces of the paramedics as you see them outside, and tell them that you are going to treat them with the respect that you promised in the election campaign. You are going to ensure that they get a fair and reasonable settlement. You are going to bring in changes to the Labour Standards Code that would mean something to their working lives and that is the way we can settle the dispute so that all these workers, all members of this House, all Nova Scotians can be proud of something that a government has done.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to engage in this debate and I look forward to listening to presentations at the Law Amendments Committee stage. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, when I rose to move second reading of Bill No. 9, I made some comments which I would like to reiterate now. This bill deals with an issue of enormous public significance. When Nova Scotians fall ill or are injured in an accident, they expect their emergency health care system to respond. While respecting the concept of free collective bargaining, Nova Scotians nevertheless feel there are certain issues that can never be compromised, and emergency health care fits into that category.

I repeat that the government did not take the decision to introduce this legislation lightly. We respect the commendable efforts put forth by the province's paramedics. These workers, Mr. Speaker, deserve a fair and reasonable contract. But they are currently involved in a dispute with their employer that has dragged on far too long. This dispute has reached the point where the bargaining agent for the paramedics, the NSGEU, has informed the Minister of Labour that they intend to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The risk to public safety posed by a work stoppage in the province's ground ambulance service is undeniable, Mr. Speaker. But as a government, we have an obligation to intervene in the dispute in a way which is fair to both employer and employees. Settling the dispute through an independent arbitration board is a reasonable compromise.

[Page 1031]

Mr. Speaker, before closing debate on second reading of Bill No. 9, I would like to make a few points in response to comments made in this House over the past 24 hours.

As late as this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, Opposition members have made uninformed comments about the union's position with respect to providing essential services and a full-scale walkout by paramedics. In this regard, I had officials in my department check with the employer, Emergency Medical Care, to see precisely what the union has been saying. The union has not committed itself to providing essential service. In fact, the union refuses to discuss the issue at all. As a result, the government is obligated to proceed with the passage of this bill in order to prevent a strike.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder why the Minister of Health didn't talk to the union?

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, carry on.

MR. MUIR: A strike poses a very real threat to public safety. The Opposition has also spent a great deal of time denouncing the government for failing to amend the Labour Standards Code. According to the Opposition, amending the code would guarantee the union membership overtime. However, I would inform the Opposition that the offer currently on the table gives the paramedics a better deal than could be provided by the Labour Standards Code. But to apply the proposed changes to this current labour dispute would, in fact, penalize paramedics. We fully intend to honour our commitment to amend the Labour Standards Code later in this session but, I repeat, to amend it now would not assist in the current negotiation but actually end up costing paramedics money.

Membership complained that the legislation limits retroactivity to October 1, 1999. The explanation, Mr. Speaker, is that that date was agreed to at the bargaining table and is linked directly to a $3,000 signing bonus. This bonus amounts to about 15 per cent of the average paramedic's salary. The legislation puts no other limits on the jurisdiction or other powers of the board and the board is free to do as it wishes after that.

Arguments have been made about the fact that Bill No. 9 legislates a contract with an expiry date of March 31, 2002. The proposal for a three year agreement will, in the estimation of government, provide for greater stability in the emergency health sector. More importantly, it will mean that public safety is guaranteed for the next three years.

That is what this legislation is all about, Mr. Speaker; the risk to public safety posed by a paramedic strike is real. Binding arbitration will help settle the dispute in a way which is fair to both the employer and the employees. An independent tribunal will allow both sides to put their best cases forward.

[Page 1032]

With regard to the proposed legislation process, today I received a letter from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and Emergency Medical Care asking us to amend Bill No. 9 to allow the chair of the proposed arbitration board to be appointed jointly by the two sides rather than by the Minister of Labour. After consulting with the Minister of Labour, I have agreed to recommend to this House that we accept the proposed amendment. Acceptance of course is contingent on both sides being able to agree on a chair, and if not, the government would obviously have to appoint one. It is significant that both sides were able to reach mutual agreement on this issue. Hopefully this process of joint bargaining will continue. It is important to note that Bill No. 9 provides the two sides with an opportunity to resolve any outstanding contract issue through mutual agreement right up to and including the arbitration process.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members of the House for participating in this debate. I would also like to thank the paramedics who have spent many long hours at this Legislature putting their case directly to us. With that, I close debate on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion we will be voting on is that the question be now put.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells for 30 minutes. Return at 5:31 p.m.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We hope that we will have our members in by the time you stated, but I think it is only fair that we ask the three Whips if they are satisfied . . .

MR. SPEAKER: At that time.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . before we proceed with the vote.

MR. SPEAKER: At that time.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: At any time within an hour, I am led to understand.

MR. SPEAKER: We will ring the bells for 30 minutes, and then we will check with the Whips at that time to see if they are satisfied. We will recess until 5:32 p.m.

[Page 1033]

[5:02 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

For the members who do not understand, the motion on the floor is to be voted on first, that the question now be put. The second vote will be subsequent to that on second reading if it passes in the affirmative.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[5:34 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Chataway Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Baker Dr. Smith

Mr. Russell Mr. MacLellan

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Downe

Mr. Muir Mr. Manning MacDonald

Miss Purves Mr. Holm

Mr. Fage Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Balser Ms. O'Connell

Mr. Parent Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Ms. McGrath Mr. Corbett

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Epstein

Mr. Olive Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Deveaux

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Dexter

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Brooke Taylor Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Dooks Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Langille Mr. Samson

Mr. Morse Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Carey Mr. Wilson

Mr. Hendsbee Mr. Pye

Mr. Morash Mr. MacDonell

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

[Page 1034]

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before the votes are counted, according to our rules, those who are voting are able to answer either yea or nay, yes or no, but votes where there are adjectives or other expressions included with them, as we heard from the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and from the member for Preston, it has been ruled in the past that if you do that while you vote, your vote actually does not count. I would ask you to rule on whether their two votes, because of their failure to follow the rules of proper voting procedures in this House, ask if their votes do count, and they should, I believe, be discounted from that vote count.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think in the case of the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, his vote was indeed a yea.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I may, on the Government House Leader's comments, I clearly heard him answer yea the third time around. The first two times he made reference quite clearly to whether it was a free vote or not, and I again point out that those votes, because of those comments that have been placed, violate our rules and I believe are out of order and do not count, according to our rules.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that the rules of Beauchesne should apply here. The rules of Beauchesne simply state, yes or no on a vote.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or aye or nay.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Or aye or nay, yes.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I understood that the Clerk did not hear the vote from the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and that was repeated. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In regard to the point of order raised by the member for Sackville-Cobequid, since my coming into this House, I have heard all different types of answers in regard to votes (Interruptions) Order, please. I have heard different types of answers, I have heard members stand up and say negative, I have heard it from different sides of the House. We have new members in this House at this time. The Clerk recorded those votes as such. The Clerk will give the results please.

THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 22

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The motion now is for second reading of Bill No. 9.

[Page 1035]

A recorded vote is being called for. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The motion on the floor is for Bill No. 9. If the members would respect the House and listen and pay attention, maybe the Clerk could hear what the vote is being said. We are voting on Bill No. 9, second reading. The Clerk will call the roll please.

[5:41 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Chataway Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Baker Dr. Smith

Mr. Russell Mr. MacLellan

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Downe

Mr. Muir Mr. Manning MacDonald

Miss Purves Mr. Holm

Mr. Fage Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Balser Ms. O'Connell

Mr. Parent Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Ms. McGrath Mr. Corbett

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Epstein

Mr. Olive Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Deveaux

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Dexter

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Taylor Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Dooks Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Langille Mr. Samson

Mr. Morse Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Carey Mr. Wilson

Mr. Hendsbee Mr. Pye

Mr. Morash Mr. John MacDonell

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

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

[Page 1036]

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: It would be appropriate to comment on the unfolding political scene, which reminds me of the opening lines of Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities, comparing conditions in London and in Paris at the time that, I was going to say the NDP was in power in Paris, but anyway, the Committee of Public Safety was conducting the government. Dickens wrote it was the best of all times, it was the worst of all times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable member rising on a point of order?

MR. MACEWAN: I am speaking on the motion to go into Supply, Mr. Speaker. There is a 45 minute debate on this motion.

MR. SPEAKER: I realize that.

MR. MACEWAN: Speakers are permitted 15 minutes to raise topics if they wish.

It was the best of all times. It was the worst of all times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the season of light. It was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair. We had everything before us. We had nothing before us.

So it is, Mr. Speaker, as we witness the unfolding political situation in Nova Scotia and look back retrospectively at just a few short months ago, prior to the advent to power of the crowd now ensconced in office across the way.

Mr. Speaker, I would not be so presumptuous as to claim that the era of the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government was the best of all times but, comparatively speaking, already they look pretty darn good. I would not be so presumptuous as to claim that the present government at this early stage in its backsliding represents the worst of all times that have ever occurred in human history, but it is already starting to look pretty bad.

I would not claim that our government, when it was in office, actually had implemented the age of wisdom but we were heading in that direction I think, Mr. Speaker, relatively speaking. Compared to the crowd that is across the way, we were doing the right thing. We were making a go of it. We were able to get through labour difficulties without imposing

[Page 1037]

repressive legislation. We were undertaking a program of new school construction - the greatest in the history of Nova Scotia. We were undertaking a program of stabilization in the vital health care sector. We were doing many good things.

Now we have entered the age of foolishness in which all the good that we were doing is being undone, systematically devastated and destroyed. That makes the time when we were in power look, relatively and comparatively speaking, like the season of light. Surely, we have now entered the season of darkness. The spring of hope, well, hope is the vital element, Mr. Speaker, in political life. I think that the fine art of politics has to do with the bringing about feelings of hope and optimism and looking forward to the future and the elimination of worry and concern.

That is the ultimate in statecraft and our government was working towards that end, Mr. Speaker. I think that most people had a pretty good feeling when they got up in the morning when the Liberal Government of Russell MacLellan was in office as compared with the winter of despair that lies just around the corner now as we slip down the slippery slope that this Tory Government has put before us.

Back then it seemed that we did have everything before us and today, indeed, it does seem that we have nothing before us, nothing except the prospect of more cuts. Can you imagine setting up a blue ribbon panel to recommend to the government where it might be best to make more cuts? Yet they have done it. They have already attacked the disabled. They have attacked those who were dependent upon the profits of the casino, charitable undertakings. They have attacked the paramedics. Some say the volunteer firemen are to be next. I wonder where those free licence plates were that were contained in the last budget, the budget that they voted against, for all volunteer firefighters in the province. I do not think they are still in there. I think they, too, have disappeared as this government attempts to take away from the people everything that they can.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, looking at the budget before your House, I note that the budget for the Priorities and Planning Committee is increased. More money for that; more money for bureaucracy, for bureaucratic proliferation. More money for committee meetings and for office staff and for proliferating. A growth industry has developed, you might say, as the Priorities and Planning Committee is forced to work overtime to engineer the vast program of the elimination, the withering away of the state, I suppose, to draw on Friedrich Engels, the withering away of the state that this government proposes to implement.

I note, too, that the budget for the Protocol Office is up. Now that shows something of their priorities. Priorities Planning, and Protocol, spending for those functions, up. Spending for things like disabled facilities and for volunteer firefighters and for paramedic services and so forth is down. So, sir, I say the Dickens' comparative phrases comparing conditions in London and Paris in that time long ago well apply to the current age, well apply to the current time.

[Page 1038]

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that as time passes people are going to look back on our government that we had in office until just three-odd months ago - I think the election will have been three months ago the day after tomorrow, or is it tomorrow? Today is the October 26th, the election will have taken place three months ago tomorrow - in that short time, there has been a tremendous turnaround in the fortunes of Nova Scotia, and I think that as people look back, as time passes, and as this government delivers more and more blows to the public of Nova Scotia, they will come to appreciate the good things that this government was trying to do and would be prepared, in my view, to give it a second opportunity to provide better government than we have now here in Nova Scotia.

I was recalling with the Premier just the other day - I should say the former Premier, the Leader of this Party - the career of Robert Bourassa when he was Premier of Quebec and how he was defeated in 1976, and was held at that time by the pundits in the press gallery to supposedly be the most hated man in Quebec. Well, the most hated man in Quebec made a comeback and was re-elected as Premier of his province two elections later because after a taste of what the other crowd had to offer he didn't look so bad at all in comparison. Politics is full of those types of experiences.

I was recalling the presidential career of Grover Cleveland who served a term as President and was then defeated in the 1880's. Four years passed under the other Party and lo and behold! Four years later, Grover Cleveland came back, was returned as President of the United States to serve a second term in office because the people of that country, having tasted the alternative medicine and given it a try, came up with the conclusion that it wasn't any better than what they had removed from office and they were glad to have Grover Cleveland back.

This government will not last beyond a single term, Mr. Speaker, unless it effects a 360-degree turnaround, or at least a 180-degree turnaround, I believe that constitutes a complete reversal. This government will not last beyond one term. Unless they think that that can't happen, I would recall for their consideration the unhappy experience of the Rae NDP Government in Ontario who thought they had all the answers. They didn't last more than one term. In fact, the backlash from the Rae experience in Ontario was so great that ever since that time the NDP in Ontario has been a very small, third-place Party with barely a corporal's guard of members at Queens Park in Ontario because the people of Ontario, having given the NDP medicine one try, one turn at bat, and seeing the complete strike-out that followed, were only too happy to have the traditional main Parties continue to govern that province and to relegate the NDP to a very weak and almost marginal third-place position.

The same thing can happen to the Tory Party in Nova Scotia, and it won't hinge so much on what the Opposition says or what kind of speeches are made from this side of the House, it will hinge on what that Party delivers during the time that they are entrusted with the reins of office, and certainly in what they have demonstrated so far, we certainly see much to be very, very afraid of and I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, for the short term, for the next three

[Page 1039]

and one-half years. I come up here from Sydney, representing a community whose future right now is on the very brink, on the very precipice and at the tender mercies of this crowd across the way. I am pessimistic, I am fearful as I look ahead, because the fate of the community that I represent is in some very, very irresponsible hands.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that this is a theme that we are going to increasingly be focusing on in the months ahead, the comparison between what this crowd is doing and what this government was doing and would still be doing if it had had the opportunity to carry on. Certainly, political decisions once made, of any kind, can be reversed. In fact, it is one of the very few decisions in life that can be reversed. Many things once done cannot be undone. Life carries on. But in politics, because of the democratic system, which I trust the crowd opposite won't completely eliminate before the next time of voting, because of that democratic system it is possible, every four years or at regular intervals in any event, to review and reflect and, if necessary, reprove and remove a government that is in power.

Now, they don't have any vast majority. There is no overwhelming reservoir of good will for that Party. They did not receive 50 per cent of the vote in the recent provincial election. The vast majority of Nova Scotians did not vote Tory. They didn't. They voted either Liberal or NDP, you add the two together and you get 60 per cent of the vote that was cast in round numbers. It might be 59 per cent, it might be 58.8 per cent, but it is somewhere in that vicinity. More than half of the voters of Nova Scotia did not support the Conservative Party in the last election, so they do not have any overall majority to coast along on saying that the majority of the people are behind us. They are in office because of the permutation of the votes that were cast that translated into 30 members being elected. It could have translated into 24 had those votes, the same number been cast a different way in different constituencies. But they won the luck of the draw. Indeed, in one of their seats, that is quite literally so.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Would the honourable member entertain a question, Mr. Speaker? The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova is very kind to remind the House what percentage the government received during the last election. I wonder if the honourable member would again tell the House what percentage his Party received?

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in my constituency I received 54 per cent of the vote, sir. (Interruption) Good for you. Let's see if you can do it next time. The way your government is going, you are not going to. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated at beginning, there are 15 minutes allocated to honourable members, three members usually getting the recognition from the Chair on this motion to go into Supply, so I take it that my time is coming to an end. But I wanted to say before I take my seat that as we go into Supply daily, it is an opportunity to remind the government and to rebuke the government, if necessary, and I trust that we on this side of the House will continue to take advantage of that opportunity when it presents itself. When the Government

[Page 1040]

House Leader moves that the House now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider Supply unto Her Majesty, that there will be members on this side of the House who will rise from time to time to address the House on the concerns of the day.

I think that we will be moving now to the moment of interruption. So, I will conclude at that point, Mr. Speaker. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption, the time for the late debate. The resolution this evening reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Anne Derrick and Dawn Russell on their outstanding contributions to women's equality.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

JUSTICE - EQUALITY (WOMEN):
ANNE DERRICK &

DAWN RUSSELL - CONTRIBUTIONS CONGRATS.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion to honour two women who have recently been honoured by their peers in the Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law. Now, there is a little bit of a history here. This resolution came before the House on Friday, at my hand, seeking waiver and waiver was denied, so that the notice was tabled. I brought it back on Monday and again the waiver of notice was rejected.

[6:00 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, there are only two possibilities here; one is that the member who nayed the resolution is extremely anxious to have it debated and wants to know more about these two outstanding women who have contributed so much to their field, the legal profession. There is another possibility, however. There is a joke that says behind every successful man there is a surprised woman. Now, it is a joke, but I would hate to think that behind every successful woman there is an uncharitable man. I would be extremely bothered by that and a great many men and women would be.

Now Dawn Russell and Anne Derrick were honoured on Thursday night, as I said, by their peers, at the Women Lawyers Achievement Awards 1999. This Awards Dinner was presented by the Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law. Now, Mr. Speaker, these awards are named after a woman named Frances Lillian Fish. It may interest the member, and I do hope he is listening intently, to know that Frances Lillian Fish was a woman who - I

[Page 1041]

guess you could say she was a woman ahead of her time - became on September 10, 1918 the first woman admitted to the Bar of Nova Scotia. In order for that to happen, there had to be changes to the rules because as we know from the resolution on Persons Day, in 1918 Canadian women were not considered persons under the law.

So, Mr. Speaker, in anticipation of her application for admission to the bar, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed an Act amending the Barristers and Solicitors Act to add a section declaring that women were eligible for admission. This woman, whose name is attached to these awards, went on to have an extremely illustrious career at the Bar. She practised for 40 years. She became the first woman deputy magistrate in New Brunswick in 1947 and was appointed a Q.C. in 1972, three years before her death. Now when she was interviewed in 1963, she revealed and I will quote right from this program, "I had a real hard time when I started out here. There was a little prejudice.". Well, blow me down.

Frances Fish spent a great deal of her career working on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Now, Mr. Speaker, the two women who were recognized on Thursday night, could not have been more fitting recipients of this award. It is interesting to me that when women honour their peers, and I am sure when other groups do it, as well, they frequently recognize those who have had to fight against the status quo, those who have had to be what we might call oppositional in some sense, and the reward for that is frequently the betterment of everyone in the whole society. Both of the women who were honoured on Thursday night were honoured for significant public contributions, sometimes oppositional to the status quo.

So, Mr. Speaker, since the member who rejected this resolution so clearly wanted it discussed at greater length, I would like to put on record a few of the significant achievements of these two fine women who are recognized by their peers. Anne Derrick is known to many of us in this province through her significant action in public interest litigation. She has worked on human rights and equality issues. She has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on a number of occasions. She has acted on behalf of a coalition of equality-seeking groups which includes LEAF, the Legal Education and Action Fund. She has intervened in the Seaboyer case about the rape shield law, the L.L.A. case regarding the production of a complainant's records from a sexual assault crisis centre. She has represented Donald Marshall, Jr., she has represented Henry Morgentaler and Mary Jane Fogarty. This demonstrates the wide variety of people that she has defended, it demonstrates the breadth of her experience and her passion for social justice.

In her so-called spare time, she has been a board member for Stepping Stone, the Halifax Elizabeth Fry Society - and it doesn't say it here but I do believe that she was one of the founders of the Elizabeth Fry Society in Nova Scotia - and the Service for Sexual Assault Victims. Those are a very few of the achievements of this women who has put herself forward over and over again to defend people who have not been heard, to protect those who have needed protection and to change the law as it has been required in this country.

[Page 1042]

Mr. Speaker, Dawn Russell has a different sort of distinction, but as distinctive nonetheless. She is the first woman to be appointed as the Dean of the Dalhousie Law School. She is one of the first female law school deans in Canada, and one of the few who has served as President of the Canadian Council of Law Deans. If that isn't enough, she has been a member of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia for five years, co-president of the commission for four years, and in the last three years she has done international development work in a variety of countries including Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Nicaragua. She is a long-standing member of both Amnesty International and of Lawyers for Social Responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, what can be the problem here? What worries me around the small change, if you like, of our legislative business is the whole question of resolutions. The only other defence for not honouring deserving people, men or women of any colour, in this House would be that resolutions don't mean anything. If that is true, then what are we doing here? I would find that a deeply offensive argument, to say that the resolutions we bring to this House and ask our colleagues on both sides of the House to pass, if they are meaningless, then there are a great many Nova Scotians who ought to be deeply insulted today.

They have no legislative force, but they express the will, and frequently the goodwill, of the members of this House towards the people in public life and sometimes not so public life and the community groups that we want to acknowledge our respect for because they have contributed so much to our society. Just in the last few days, I wrote down just a small number, one whole page is just a small number, and I will just name three or four of them.

The people that we have honoured, the groups, the outstanding members of the community that we have honoured in the last few days in this House, we have honoured a triathlete; four volunteer fire departments, including a ladies auxiliary; the Kentville Wildcats, twice, and so we should, they deserved it both times; the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club; the dragon boat winners; Ledwidge Lumber; the Metro Food Bank; and the leatherback turtle taggers.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that if we can honour these other people, we can also honour the distinctions and the contributions of these two women who have not finished their careers yet, but thus far in their careers have done so much for Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to stand and speak in support of this motion to honour these two women. I am glad that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview persevered in honouring Dawn Russell, the Dean and Associate Professor of the Dalhousie Law School, and honouring Anne Derrick, a well-known Halifax lawyer and a graduate from Dalhousie Law School.

[Page 1043]

The Dalhousie Law School is a very important law school in this country. It recently received the Emil Gumpert Award from the American College of Trial Lawyers, an award which recognizes law school excellence in trial advocacy training and in teaching. This award is given to these two individuals and they are well worthy of the award but also behind them, in a sense, it is given to Dalhousie Law School which now employs Dawn and which graduated Anne. So I am glad to speak in support of this motion.

As the honourable member for Halifax Fairview noted, the award is given in honour of Frances Fish who was the first female law graduate from Dalhousie University. It is sort of sad in my opinion that these firsts are so late in coming in our collective cultural and social history. When I reflect on the fact that women did not get the right to vote in Canada until 1918, and in some provinces within this country until 1940, it makes me sad. Women were not allowed higher education for a long time and I have the privilege of having taught at the first institute of higher education in Canada that admitted a woman to higher education, Mount Allison University, which did so in 1858.

It is also sad to think that for the longest time in the history of this country women were not allowed to own, to administer, to sell, to keep property, and it was not really, Mr. Speaker, until 1872 in the Province of Ontario that this was changed. So we want to congratulate these significant winners of this award and the memory of Frances Lillian Fish in whose name the award is given and, again, support the honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

I just want to say one word in response to a question about resolutions, I am not terribly sure why this resolution, why there was a nay to it. I, myself, voted in the affirmative to it and I have no idea who yelled out nay and I can't imagine why anyone would want to do that. Nonetheless, there are some resolutions that are frivolous that come before the House and I think the honourable member for Halifax Fairview would agree with me that although the bulk of resolutions are good resolutions and ones like this should get passed and accepted, quite a large number of them are rather frivolous. There is a passage in the Bible about wild asses braying at the wind and sometimes I think some of the resolutions brought by the Opposition . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And on that side of the House, too, I should add.

MR. PARENT: Yes. Sometimes I think some of the resolutions brought are resolutions that really do lower the tenor of this House and so I am not supporting in any way the actions of any members who did not vote in support of this motion. It was a very good motion but there are lots of resolutions that are really resolutions that probably should not be brought to this House. This was not one of them and so I am glad to stand and to speak in favour of it, to speak in favour of the two recipients, in favour of Dalhousie Law School, which helped train and employ them, and in the memory of Frances Lillian Fish, the first law graduate from Dalhousie.

[Page 1044]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, as I understand it, the original resolution, perhaps there was a mistake there as I have been reading some information that has been given to me. As I understand it, the person named originally, one of the people named was a person by the name of Dawn Black who was, indeed, not the first female Dean of Dalhousie Law School, as the honourable member for Halifax Fairview well knows. It has been changed now to read Dawn Russell who, indeed, is the person that you are talking about.

So the information in the resolution, Mr. Speaker, as submitted today is correct, unlike the one the member tried to submit previously. It is listed, confirmed by Hansard, former NDP Member of Parliament, Dawn Black, I think is the person that was listed originally, right, in the first one as . . . Well, oops, is all I can say, Mr. Speaker. Mistakes can happen, typos or whatever.

[6:15 p.m.]

I would at this point in time, Mr. Speaker, like to add my personal congratulations to the two recipients of this award. Indeed, the Frances Fish Women Lawyers' Achievement Award and according to the member for Halifax Fairview, the award is presented to female lawyers in this province who demonstrate a high level of excellence and leadership in their field, a dedication to service and a demonstrated commitment to the advancement of women's equality in and through the legal profession. They are certainly, Mr. Speaker, no doubt an outstanding representation of the criteria of the Frances Fish Women Lawyers' Achievement Award. Again, I would add my personal congratulations to the two recipients of this award.

Mr. Speaker, if I may though, I am a little surprised that the New Democratic Party chose to recognize Anne Derrick, certainly not because of her legal achievements or not that she didn't deserve the award, but in light of her position on the location of the jail in Burnside, in the riding of the member for Dartmouth North. At a public meeting she felt the jail should be built as quickly as possible and that people opposed to the jail were leaving a false impression with the public. I wonder if the member for Dartmouth North would agree with that assessment of his efforts to have the jail relocated back to Bedford?

In closing, Mr. Speaker, again I would like to add my personal congratulations to both Dawn Russell and Anne Derrick, the two recipients of this award. Thank you very much.

[Page 1045]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution. I would like to thank the members from the other Party across the way for leaving some time for me to do so. It was very nice of them and I know they planned it this way.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of working, for a number of years, with Anne Derrick on a number of different occasions and know the work that she does and the dedication that she has to the various organizations that she becomes involved in. I also have had a fairly long affiliation with Dalhousie, particularly through the Dalhousie Legal Aid service on Gottingen Street and know, of course, that the Dean, Dawn Russell, has made an extraordinary contribution to Dalhousie Law School and indeed to the relocation of the legal aid clinic from its home on Cunard Street into what was the former Royal Bank Building on Gottingen Street.

Both of these women, although their areas of expertise - Dawn, actually has expertise in corporate law and securities, I believe, and Anne tends to work in the area of human rights and public interest, administrative law and criminal law - are actually quite different. I think their work is a testimony, as well, to the law school and to the tradition of Dalhousie Law School in terms of the quality of graduates who come through that school and the contribution that Dalhousie Law School graduates make to their communities and to the profession.

So I think it is very fitting that these women, these female lawyers and feminist lawyers have been recognized in this way by their peers and I think, Mr. Speaker, there is no better way to be recognized than to be recognized by your peers because your peers are often the people who are also the most critical of your work and the people who are closest to your work and have the opportunity to really bring the kind of scrutiny that members of this Legislature, including the members who weren't prepared to support this resolution, were unable to bring as they looked at this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we in this House have a very open mind about the work that people are doing to improve our province, and the kind of sacrifices that they make in doing this work, the kind of dedication that they bring to taking on, in Anne Derrick's case, often causes that aren't all that popular. I was associated with Pandora, which was a feminist newspaper that was here in Halifax for a number of years, and this was a very small newspaper that tried to offer a different perspective than what you would get in the weeklies and the dailies, The Chronicle-Herald, that basically has no feminist content at all, and the Daily News, which is even worse if that is possible.

[Page 1046]

So the attempt of Pandora was to fill some void, and also to allow women who were interested in writing about their own issues to have an opportunity to develop those skills. Certainly there was quite an interesting human rights case, and Anne Derrick was the lawyer who represented Pandora and the women who were involved in that publishing collective. She did a brilliant job and she won that case as she is known to do in quite a few of the cases that she takes up.

I think that we have to recognize that it is not easy sometimes to affiliate oneself with groups that are on the margins in society, it is much easier to affiliate oneself in the mainstream, to support the status quo. It is a very comfortable position to take, it is one for which people in our society will get very little criticism for doing because it seems to be a very normal thing to do.

However, people who are visionaries and who are ground-breakers, people who have the courage, such as Frances Fish, the first woman to graduate from Dalhousie Law School back in 1918, I believe, have the courage to go into places where it is not comfortable, where people haven't understood that it is possible to look at things differently and to actually live and exist differently in the world. It takes a lot of courage to go those routes. To use the words of the Minister of Education, to think outside the box.

Certainly, both of these women have demonstrated that capacity, and I think that it is very important that we in this Legislature recognize the contributions of people who break new ground and leave this world then, I think, a profoundly better place, a place that has been altered for our children, for our nieces, for our daughters, and for our sons as well. I would just like to say that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to set the record straight, since there has been some mention with respect to the comments made by Anne Derrick at a public meeting, regarding the jail and forensic hospital in Dartmouth North. I want to let this House know that I had spoken with Anne Derrick vis-à-vis her comments with respect to the jail and forensic hospital in Dartmouth North and told her that I wished that she would have made such comments to the residents of Bedford as well.

Anne Derrick, of course, in her professional way, acknowledged those comments and concerns that I have brought to her. I want to tell you, like all professional people who come through this Legislature by way of resolution to acknowledge their performances in our society, Anne Derrick is no different. I want to tell you that I have known Anne for a number of years and because I have known Anne and her involvements in organizations and her right to defend individuals who normally otherwise would not have been defended, certainly gave me the opportunity to support the resolution that was brought forward by my honourable colleague for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1047]

Mr. Speaker, I have done that time and time again in this House. Even though the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice have made their final decision as to where the jail and forensic hospital will be located, when they brought resolutions before this House worthy of support, I have supported their resolutions as well, and I hope that I will not refrain from that kind of action in this House and give justice where it is duly noted. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in a lively debate this evening.

We will stand recessed until 6:30 p.m.

[6:27 p.m. The House recessed.]

[6:30 p.m. the House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, who finished off, had one moment left.

[6:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity this evening to address matters of concern on the motion to go into Supply. As you know, we are presently considering, in this House, Bill No. 9 which is of particular concern to the paramedics. As you know, at the same time, we have the Law Amendments Committee considering that bill. I think it is worth restating for the benefit of the Opposition members and for the government members who have stayed for the debate on going into Supply.

The reality of the bill that is before the House today and is presently before the Law Amendments Committee is that what it does is it takes away a basic human right. I know I spent some time on this before, but I think it is worth reiterating, it takes away a basic human right, the right of individuals to bargain collectively. I have said it before in this House and I will say it again, this is not to be taken lightly.

This is a right that people have fought for over many years and sad to say in this very province, people have died over the right to bargain collectively. That has happened because of the inequities that exist in the system, because the reality is that the labour movement, the trade union movement has not always been as generally accepted as it is today. Today, people regularly look to the trade union movement on issues of fairness and in fact, many unions, and I know in particularly the CAW Union, not only consider themselves to be a union for their particular membership, but they consider themselves to have an issue that is a social policy

[Page 1048]

arm to the union that allows them to speak out on matters of concern on public policy issues wherever they arise in this country, in every community and in every province.

The reality is that the union movement today is very broadly based and they are consistently raising issues of equality and fairness. They are consistently trying to improve the lot of working people in this province. When the union movement sees bills like this, bills which arbitrarily take away one of these fundamental rights, the right to bargain collectively, I don't think it is any wonder that they react in a very negative fashion.

The reason why you see the demonstrations that you see outside this building, certainly over the course of today's events, and I say this hesitantly, what I am afraid of is that as this government continues down its course that we are going to see more and more of those kinds of demonstrations. People don't take the restrictions on things like collective bargaining rights easily, and they shouldn't. They understand that these rights were things that were fought for almost generationally. In fact, I know that in some communities, families have been split because of differences of opinion over strikes that happened in particular communities. People take these issues very seriously.

When we look at Bill No. 9, and we see the way in which it takes away - I think that one of the paramedics described it as ripping the heart out of their negotiations, ripping the heart out of their opportunity to gain a better life for them and for their families. I don't think it is any wonder, Mr. Speaker, that they are annoyed, that they are upset. I have heard this time and time again, they say they are disgusted by the fact that the government would intervene in such a ham-fisted way - no pun intended - that they would intervene so arbitrarily with what is essentially an unimaginative and stale, definitely in-the-box thinking, to try to resolve an issue that really was the subject of a set of negotiations that were ongoing.

Mr. Speaker, they tell me, the one particular facet of this bill that they don't like is that they consider it to be premature, that this bill didn't need to come forward at this time, that nobody has a greater concern for public safety than the paramedics have, that they were prepared to talk about the provision of emergency services. Do you know something? They say they were not even contacted by the minister's office. I have to say, I think that is a terrible injustice to those people, not even to consider them. You cannot depend on the information that you are getting from the employer. You have to go right to the people who are directly affected.

At law, Mr. Speaker, if you will allow me a bit of digression, it is called hearsay. You can't depend on hearsay in these matters, you have to go right to the people who are affected and hear it right from them. If you tell me that they have spoken directly with the union leadership and if you say that they were not even prepared to discuss with you, then I would like to hear that. I certainly haven't heard that from the minister so far. In fact, I have heard quite the opposite that all of his information came via a third party and I think that is unfortunate.

[Page 1049]

Mr. Speaker, you know the reality is that in this country - I remember very well from my days of studying labour law, the stories about strikes like those that took place in Winnipeg, like the instance that took place in Estevan, Saskatchewan, where people lost their lives trying to simply promote the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively, the right for working people to try to control their own destiny. That is what this is all about. It is all about the right of people to be able to negotiate on their own behalf and to strike the best deal that they can.

Mr. Speaker, governments rush in all too often to control negotiations on behalf of the workers. They never rush in to control them on behalf of the employers. We see this happen all the time. The people who always are on the poor end of these decisions, the people who are most directly affected by them, are always the workers. You know, working people out there, they look at the decisions that are being made, they look at money being taken from charities, they look at programs that benefit the disabled being done away with, they look at bills like this and then they look at decisions that put money into the hands of big banks, billion dollar companies, in many cases multinationals, that are clearly benefiting as a result of the policy of the government. Is it any wonder they are left scratching their heads and saying, gee, who is on my side? Who is on the side of the ordinary Nova Scotian? That is what is happening again here.

I think, quite frankly, that on July 27th, the people of Nova Scotia thought that they had voted for a new kind of government, people who were going to do business differently in this province. They thought that they had - I think they were led to believe - elected a group of men and women who were coming here to change the way that politics was done in this province, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, I think they are sorely disappointed with the direction that this government has taken and the indications that the government has made that it intends to continue down this road. That is why I say that I don't believe the demonstrations you saw out in front of this building are anywhere near the last; in fact I believe that in the spring of this year, when the government brings forward its next budget and shows just exactly which programs it was prepared to review - and let's not forget review in my estimation is just a code word for cut and that is what they intend to do - we are going to find out just what the priorities of this government are.

I am afraid that the people who are again going to suffer are those who are most vulnerable in this province, who are least able to afford the kinds of cutbacks that this government has already indicated that they are prepared to make. I still marvel at the unmitigated gall of the government to take away $2.5 million from charities. It reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge, and it reminds me of those Dickensian characters that represented all that was wrong with society in the United Kingdom at that time. That is exactly what we have going on in this province today. That is a sad commentary on the quality of leadership.

[Page 1050]

We were told that it was going to be, "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course", well it is anything but that. In fact, strong leadership I think brings to mind for people the idea that it is going to be thoughtful and innovative, that what we are going to see is a dynamic kind of Legislature that is going to take the province and move it forward in a new direction. The new direction is not backwards, it is not back to the 1970's, it is not back to the electric toilet seats, it is not back to the Buchanan years, and that I am afraid is actually where this government is headed.

Mr. Speaker, what we really need from this government is the kind of innovative leadership, the spark that is going to encourage the people of this province to reach new heights in all of their endeavours; whether it is in education or business or sport, the government plays a lead role. People ask, what does the government have to do with things like sport? The reality is the government is a dynamic generator; the government shows the way. A government can create a spirit in a province, and a government can encourage people. It can tell them more than life is tough and you are just going to have to learn to live with it.

That doesn't have to be the message of government.The message of government can be hope. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening with this government, and it is not what is happening with the likes of this bill. That is why Bill No. 9 is a travesty. As I said before, it is a stain on the reputation of this province, and what we really ought to be doing is finding ways out of the box that this government has now placed us in.

I suggest to you that the best way to do that is to have them withdraw the bill, and to do the things that they promised to do over the course of the campaign, but if they are not going to do that - and it appears that they are committed to this course, as foolish as I think it is then our job here is to try, through this amendment process, to make the amendments to that bill that will at least give it some semblance of relevancy to the lives of the people who are going to be most affected by the bill itself. Mr. Speaker, that is what we are going to do over the coming hours, try to instil in the government members the confidence to change their own legislation for the betterment of the people who are going to be directly affected by that legislation, the paramedics in this province. I see you are signalling, Mr. Speaker. I take it that is the end of my time. I want to thank you very much for this opportunity.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised that after 20-some hours of discussion, we can still get 15 more minutes.

Mr. Speaker, to bring the topic, a little bit closer, I guess, to the constituents that I represent, I would like to share with the members of the House the accomplishments of one particular school in my constituency. Certainly there are a great number of schools that have accomplished a great deal over the last number of years, but there is one school that I have a particular interest in and that is Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School. My interest is

[Page 1051]

actually personal. I have a son who goes to that school and a son who used to go to that school, but it is something that certainly in my opinion all members of this province and particularly the community of Sackville-Beaver Bank should be quite proud of the accomplishments of that school.

Mr. Speaker, for those who may not know, the community of Sackville was the host of the landfill for the Halifax region. As a result of hosting what was one of the worst-run landfills probably in Atlantic Canada, the Halifax Regional Municipality's predecessor, the Metropolitan Authority, deemed it appropriate that compensation be made to that community to offset some of the negative impact as a result of hosting that landfill.

We were fortunate, Mr. Speaker, that the school came forward with several good projects, including some natural environmental projects and that is exactly what I would like to speak to today. Harry R. Hamilton's school staff, the faculty, the students and the parents, have combined to create what I believe is one of the most innovative school environmental projects right now in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This school has created projects that include a butterfly garden that was built by the entire school community. This garden, Mr. Speaker, is the size of a large house, 40 feet by 60 feet. It is maintained in the summertime by the surrounding neighbours. The plants that grow in that garden are planted by the children. Each grade and each class in each grade has an opportunity to plant a square in that garden. The intent is to encourage insects so that the insects can be studied by class. We all know what the value of that is.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, the school has had the opportunity to take what was a dried-up barren wasteland, through the assistance of local companies, and develop it into a vibrant wetland and a pond. They have taken some of their funding and they have fenced this pond area. They have made a boardwalk. They have made an outdoor classroom at the pond and they are able to study the aquatics, the frogs, the bugs, the plants and all of the wildlife that is in that particular area. They have turned that into a classroom.

Mr. Speaker, they have also made several outdoor classrooms. They have taken wooded areas and turned them into seating arrangements where students can leave the school and leave the ordinary classroom environment and go and learn outside. It is used on almost a daily basis, weather permitting.

Mr. Speaker, the reason that I bring this school and their projects to the attention of this House is the fact that they have become the subject of great attention, not just here in the Province of Nova Scotia, not just by the Nova Scotia teachers, the students and the parents in our community, but right across this country. In fact, recently the National Film Board had the opportunity to visit this school and did significant filming at the school. They actually videotaped the students. They videotaped the projects and it will be the subject of a National Film Board film at some point in time in the near future.

[Page 1052]

The school has had the praise and accolades of its many projects written in many of the local newspapers, written in national magazines. It has been the subject of many visits from members of this House. The Leader of the Liberal Party has had the opportunity to visit Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School and I am certain he would agree with members of the House that the projects that were carried on at that school were worthwhile.

Mr. Speaker, a great deal of the commitment and funds to support this project come directly from the community. Each year annually they hold a fun fair. I suspect it is not unlike what you would find in most schools across the Province of Nova Scotia. The difference is they turn that money right back into the classrooms and they make a great deal of money at this fair. In fact, annually, they raise on this one-day event over $10,000 and they have used this money to supply plants, fencing, materials, to help with clean-ups.

This school celebrates, like many schools, Grounds Day, each and every year, but they go beyond that. They take Grounds Day off their school grounds and go out into the community. Last year there was a suggestion that they host a walkathon to help fund some of these projects. The suggestion was changed to a clean-up-a-thon. Each student, parent and teacher was given bags and they went out into the community, off the school grounds, and they picked up litter and debris one entire night. They brought it back and a local garbage hauler was gracious enough to take it away.

These types of projects and events like this at Harry R. Hamilton School, as I said, are probably not unique to this school. They likely exist across the entire province. The uniqueness here is the fact that this school has focused. They have taken what was a small idea in 1991, focused to a larger idea; included a new pond; a fenced area with a classroom; a butterfly garden; an outdoor classroom; what was once an annual event clean-up is now twice, sometimes three times a year; and they have encouraged their students to take that home with them, away from their school.

Mr. Speaker, in 1991 when this school began its process, I suspect it was likely a humble idea by one staff person who thought they could make a difference. What I submit to this House is the fact that they did make a difference. In fact, they have taken this idea and it has grown to the point where nearly an entire community participates in this school and the environmental effects. Many members from metro are aware of the fact that over the last number of years we have rolled out compost carts in our area as a result of the solid waste strategy. Well, this school was composting before composting was in. This school was recycling before any and many schools were recycling in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the contributions and the model that have been developed at Harry R. Hamilton School, as I said earlier, are a result of the hard work of many dedicated students, teachers and parents. One teacher, Mrs. Jill Grandy, who teaches Grade 5 or Grade 6, I believe, has taken this project and built it from where it began to what it is now. It is something that this community takes great pride in. The parent committee that works on this

[Page 1053]

project recently met with members of our staff, the Department of the Environment, to talk about ways and methods they can take their project and leave the school grounds that will have a positive impact on not just their school but the entire environment around it, and any future development that might go on in that community and neighbourhood.

The example of Harry R. Hamilton School and the Sackville Landfill, I think, clearly shows how a community can take what was a huge negative, a burden, a bother, to many of the neighbours and residents who surround that landfill and take some of those funds and some of that money and redirect it back to a positive. That school and that community is certainly a source of pride for myself and many of the people who live in the general area and that neighbourhood.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the fact that the school has had national recognition. There have been teaching publications and trade magazines that have featured this project, and have encouraged other schools in other areas right across this country, right across this province to move in this direction.

As I said from the beginning, there are other schools in my riding and I believe in the constituency of every member here that also do similar sorts of things. One of the things that I would certainly like to see in the future is that schools take projects like this, like Harry R. Hamilton's environmental project, emulate them, and help encourage, support and grow a clean and healthy environment.

Mr. Speaker, the environmental project at Harry R. Hamilton goes beyond the classroom. What I spoke to you about here was surrounding the outdoor environment; they have also done a great deal of work on the indoor environment. They have created environmental art. Many members have been to schools, they have seen the hallways lined with pictures. This school has a particular focus on environment, and it is something that those students and those teachers have taken a great deal of pride in.

Mr. Speaker, the community of Upper and Middle Sackville where this school lies - by virtue of the fact that we have done a good deal of education, we have done a good job, I believe, of teaching our young people - has one of the highest waste diversion rates in all of the Province of Nova Scotia. We have talked about targets and waste diversion in this House. In fact, the target for the Province of Nova Scotia of waste diversion, I believe, is 50 per cent. It is my understanding that this community diverts somewhere in the vicinity of 70 per cent.

I think a great deal of the accomplishments are as a result of the efforts of this school over the last seven or eight years. The students who have gone through this school have now moved on to junior high and high school and in some cases, on to college; they have been involved in these projects. As a result of this in the classroom-type approach where we teach the children young, we have seen the benefits in our community that will have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.

[Page 1054]

Mr. Speaker, it is my belief that the answer to many of our problems in this province and in this country, lie clearly in the hands of our young people. They are the ones who will provide us the answers. They are the ones who will be the solution to many of our problems. This is a prime example of where the young people have taken and developed and worked an initiative that will certainly go a long way into the future. (Interruption) Hands-on active learning, as my honourable colleague says, and that is absolutely true. (Applause)

These young people certainly learn by experience and the experience that they have gained at Harry R. Hamilton School over the past eight years, in my view, has been certainly positive for the environment, it has been positive for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, and it is something that I believe should be emulated right across the province. I am finished. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[6:59 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[11:01 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 2.

Bill No. 2 - Costs and Fees Act and Probate Act.

[Page 1055]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak very briefly on Bill No. 2.

AN HON. MEMBER: Be very brief.

MR. BAKER: My colleagues are exhorting me to be particularly brief and I will do so. As was indicated before on second reading, it is critical that this bill be passed, as the deadline legislated by the courts is approaching. It is an important bill, one that will guarantee the financial integrity of the justice system and one that I think has received general approbation from all Parties and I appreciate that support. Thank you. I move third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal Party, we too support third reading and would ask that this bill go forward and be supported on third reading.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on this bill. We support it. Thank you. (Applause)

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

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I close debate, Mr. Speaker, and move third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 2. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, I believe, is Liberal Opposition Day. I would ask the honourable member for Clare to give us the order of business for tomorrow.

[Page 1056]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the hours tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. After the daily routine, we will debate Resolution No. 162, Resolution No. 113, and Resolution No. 50.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

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

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 11:04 p.m.]