Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Oct. 27, 1999

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 1058
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Fin. - Casinos: Gaming Corp. - Legal Action, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1059
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 321, Fin. - Expenditure Add.: Health/Lbr./Transport./Tech. & Sc./
Restructuring - Approval, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1061
Res. 322, Fin. - Expenditure Add.: Education/Debt Serv./Health/
Benefit Plans - Approval, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1061
Res. 323, Health: Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Oct.) -
Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 1062
Vote - Affirmative 1063
Res. 324, Culture: Beacon Conf. - Support, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1063
Vote - Affirmative 1063
Res. 325, Econ. Dev. - Businesses (Small & Medium): Ingenuity -
Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1064
Vote - Affirmative 1064
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 10, Farm Practices Act, Hon. E. Fage 1065
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 326, Marc Patrone (ATV Leg. Reporter) - Home Fire Loss:
Return - Welcome, Mr. B. Taylor 1065
Vote - Affirmative 1066
Res. 327, Agric. - Hall of Fame (Atl.): Inductee (T.C. MacConnell
Dec'd. [Pictou Co.]) - Recognize, Mr. D. Downe 1066
Vote - Affirmative 1067
Res. 328, Commun. Serv. - Pub. Bdg.: Disabled Accessibility -
Funding Reinstate, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1067
Vote - Affirmative 1067
Res. 329, Health - S. Shore Reg. Hosp. Health Serv. Fdn.:
CAT Scan Fund-Raising - Congrats., Hon. J. Chataway 1068
Vote - Affirmative 1068
Res. 330, Exco - Poor: Survival Diet - Chastise, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1068
Res. 331, Rec. (N.S.): Healthier Future Through Recreation Conf. -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1069
Vote - Affirmative 1069
Res. 332, Commun. Serv. - Child Care Connections (N.S.):
Anniv. 10th - Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 1070
Vote - Affirmative 1070
Res. 333, Fish. - Lobster Fishery (N.S. [S.W.]): Peaceful Solution -
Chief Deborah Robinson Congrats., Mr. R. MacLellan 1070
Vote - Affirmative 1071
Res. 334, Lbr. - Min.: Bill No. 9 (Prev. Qu. Motion) - Past Feelings
Remind, Mr. F. Corbett 1071
Res. 335, Fish. - Lobster Fishery (N.S. [S.W.]): Resolved Peacefully -
Commun. Efforts Recognize, Mr. R. Hurlburt 1072
Vote - Affirmative 1072
Res. 336, PC MLAs - Health (Paramedics): Priorities - Re-Evaluate,
Mr. M. Samson 1072
Res. 337, Health - Paramedics: Bill No. 9 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 1073
Res. 338, CFB Greenwood - Phase-Out (Sq. 434): Commun. Comm. -
Gov't. (Can.) Cooperation Urge, Mr. J. Carey 1074
Vote - Affirmative 1074
Res. 339, Health - Paramedics: Essential - Explain, Mr. D. Wilson 1075
Res. 340, Federation Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse - AGM
(Cheticamp): Hosts - Acknowledge, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1075
Vote - Affirmative 1076
Res. 341, Veteran Affs. Comm.: Postcard of Thanks Project -
Appreciation Express, Mr. W. Langille 1076
Vote - Affirmative 1077
Res. 342, Sports - Canoe Champs. (VIII World Marathon):
Dart. (Summer 2000) - Support, Mr. T. Olive 1077
Res. 343, Youth - CHA-PERD Conf.: Focus - Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 1078
Vote - Affirmative 1078
Res. 344, Sackville Knights of Columbus: Fund-Raising - Support,
Mr. B. Barnet 1079
Vote - Affirmative 1079
Res. 345, Remembrance Day: Wave of Silence (2 Min.) - Support,
Mr. W. Langille 1079
Vote - Affirmative 1080
Res. 346, Culture - Country Woman (Recipe Contest - 2nd Prize):
Cathy Lavers - Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 1080
Vote - Affirmative 1081
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 132, Health - Paramedics: Contingency Plan - Legislation,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1081
No. 133, Health - Paramedics: Concerns - Address, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1082
No. 134, Health - Paramedics: Contingency Plan - Implementation Costs,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1084
No. 135, Health - Paramedics: Legislation - Public Safety, Mr. J. Pye 1085
No. 136, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Marine Atlantic HQ: North Sydney -
Contact (Transport [Can.] Min.), Mr. B. Boudreau 1086
No. 137, Health - Paramedics: Working Conditions - Address,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1087
No. 138, Health - LEO: Attendant Health Care Prog. - Funding,
Dr. J. Smith 1088
No. 139, Health - EMC: Contract - Contravention, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1090
No. 140, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Jail (Burnside): Hwy. Changes -
Cost, Mr. P. MacEwan 1091
No. 141, Health - EMC: Contingency Plan - Development, Mr. D. Dexter 1092
No. 142, Econ. Dev. - Yarmouth: Rink - Funding, Mr. W. Gaudet 1093
No. 143, Health - Paramedics: Training Levels - Increases, Mr. D. Dexter 1094
No. 144, Lbr. - Occupational Health and Safety Regs.: Delay - Explain,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1094
No. 145, Health - EMC: Payment - Serv./Profit, Mr. D. Dexter 1096
No. 146, Human Res.: Civil Service - Hiring Freeze, Mr. R. MacLellan 1097
No. 147, Commun. Serv.: Accessibility Progs. - Funding, Mr. K. Deveaux 1098
No. 148, NSLC: Election Promise - Privatization, Mr. D. Wilson 1099
No. 149, Commun. Serv. - Disabilities: Accessibility - Funding,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1100
No. 150, Commun. Serv.: Foster Family Prog. - P.R.I.D.E., Dr. J. Smith 1102
No. 151, Health - Cancer: Rates (Sydney) - Address, Mr. F. Corbett 1103
No. 152, Justice - Prostitution: Vehicles Forfeiture - Legislation,
Mr. M. Samson 1104
No. 153, WCAT - Chronic Pain: Compensation - Assurance,
Mr. H. Epstein 1106
No. 154, Educ. - P3 Schools: Project Steering Comm. - Members,
Mr. W. Gaudet 1107
No. 155, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Gas Prices: Difference - Justification,
Mr. D. Dexter 1108
No. 156, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Reg. Housing Authorities:
Rural Areas - HRM Different, Mr. B. Boudreau 1109
No. 157, Justice - Gun Control (Bill C-68): Court Case -
Involvement (N.S.), Mr. H. Epstein 1110
No. 158, Commun. Serv.: Programs - Review Process, Mr. D. Downe 1111
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 162, Fin. - Charities: Monies - Restore, Mr. D Wilson 1113
Mr. D. Wilson 1113
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1115
Mr. K. Deveaux 1117
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1120
Mr. T. Olive 1122
Res. 113, Health - Plan: Funding - Reveal, Dr. J. Smith 1122
Dr. J. Smith 1123
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1125
Mr. D. Dexter 1128
Mr. D. Morse 1130
Res. 50, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Safety - Prioritize,
Mr. B. Boudreau 1133
Mr. B. Boudreau 1133
Mr. R. Hurlburt 1134
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1136
Mr. B. Boudreau 1138
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Justice (Can.) - Gun Registration (Bill C-68): Concerns - Represent:
Mr. B. Taylor 1140
Mr. H. Epstein 1143
Mr. K. Morash 1146
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 28th at 8:00 a.m. 1148

[Page 1057]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject for the late debate tonight was submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House work together to represent the concerns of thousands of Nova Scotians regarding the gun registration component of Bill C-68.

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

The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to welcome to the Legislature 25 students (Interruption) Are you going to let me welcome them first? Twenty-five students from Kingstec (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Kings North has the floor.

1057

[Page 1058]

MR. PARENT: Twenty-five students from the Broadcast School of Journalism at Kingstec College in Kentville, Nova Scotia, along with their instructors, Dave Bannerman and Jan MacKinnon. We are delighted to have them here and they have had a tour of the place. I would ask them to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: In the Speaker's Gallery today, the Clerk of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, Mr. John Noel. John is a classmate of our Clerk, Rod, and also a classmate of the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. (Applause) With John today is Wayne Guzzwell who is a media consultant for the Newfoundland House of Assembly. (Applause)

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 9 - Ground Ambulance Services Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As past chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, I want it to be perfectly clear to all members of the House that while reporting back, the minister is limited, as Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, as to the wording, but by coming back to the House, this Bill No. 9, by no means means that we are in favour of that bill as it stands and I want all members of the House to understand that. We moved a motion for a hoist and it was defeated in the committee. I want that to be perfectly clear. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I realize that that is no point of order but I would just like to comment on the fact that I have never heard anybody come back from the Committee on Law Amendments and describe the fact that it was a minority situation.

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

[Page 1059]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform members of this House that the Gaming Corporation will be initiating legal action against the operators of the casinos in Nova Scotia.

This action is being taken because the operators have refused to live up to their legal obligations. More than 12 months ago, the Metropolitan Entertainment Group signed a contract that said they would pay $10,000 a day if they failed to complete the new Halifax casino on time. Construction is well under way, but completion is still months away, and the operators have notified the corporation that they will not pay the late completion fee.

Mr. Speaker, this refusal to abide by the terms of the contract is totally unacceptable. I have discussed the province's position with the Chair of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, Dara Gordon. The corporation, on behalf of the province, will initiate the legal process, as outlined in the contract, to collect the $10,000 a day. The operator of the casinos, the Metropolitan Entertainment Group will be notified shortly.

Mr. Speaker, the contract was finalized before we came to government, nevertheless, this government and the Gaming Corporation are prepared to abide by the terms of the agreement and we demand that the Metropolitan Entertainment Group do the same. On September 9th, a little more than a month ago, officials for the casino operators publicly stated that they would honour the contract. Today, they have abandoned this commitment.

This government believes that the contract is clear and we will defend Nova Scotians' interests. It is my intention and my duty to do everything within my power to ensure that Nova Scotians receive any and all benefits to which they are entitled under this contract. The Gaming Corporation does not intend to waive the $10,000 a day, required under the contract, and in any case, this government would not allow them to do so.

We made a commitment to the people of this province. We will use every avenue possible under the legal process to meet that commitment. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to start off my response by saying, again today, we were not able to receive the ministerial statement prior to the House. I can understand this happening once or twice to a new government, but it seems to me that we have seen this happen repeatedly. It seems to be the tone and the tenor of the group, that they

[Page 1060]

just don't care to allow the Opposition critics to have an opportunity to at least assess what is being said or being done by the government.

We have seen press releases come out at 4:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m. at night. In the House, after repeatedly asking ministers to at least have the courtesy to come forward to bring it out, they haven't done that.

In regard to the statement by the minister, I am glad he is following through with exactly what we said. They have a binding agreement. They signed a binding agreement that stated very clearly that $10,000 a day would be paid to Nova Scotians. I am glad that the minister is standing up for that, and maybe in light of the last two weeks of the government looking very weak and very out of control, they are trying to put the image out there that they are in control.

What they are doing is what they should be doing, and that is putting their feet against the fire, that of Sheraton and everybody else, to make sure that the contract is lived up to, as all of us have agreed to. I am glad that the minister, in fact, is doing that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for making the announcement today. It is unfortunate that this corporation thinks it is above the law and that its contractual agreement means nothing. I am pleased to know that the minister has taken a different route of action, and he is prepared to take legal action if necessary.

Our Party has said all along that this Sheraton corporation should pay up and it should pay up now. We believe that not only should this corporation pay the $10,000 a day penalty that it should have, but it should also pay the daily interest rate, since it has reneged on its responsibility. We also believe that they should pay the legal damages that are required as a result of this province taking them to court.

Also, I would say another course of action that you, Mr. Minister, should think about and consider taking back is the concessions that they earned such as the 24 hour gambling, the 24 hour drinking establishment, and also the high rollers table, as well as any other concessions that may have been brought forward.

Mr. Minister, I thank you very much, and I think it is the right course of action to take and your government can move further.

[Page 1061]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West on an introduction.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like, at this time, to introduce my sister, Lee, and her husband, Alex MacDonald, from New Glasgow. Would they rise and accept the welcome of the House, please. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 321

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

Whereas the Expenditure Control Act was enacted by this House as Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1993 to limit government expenditures to a specific predetermined level; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas the net program expenditure and net debt servicing cost that exceeds the level authorized under the Expenditure Control Act and may only be made after a resolution has been passed by this House authorizing such an expenditure; and

Whereas the net program expenditure and net debt servicing costs exceeded the amounts authorized by the Expenditure Control Act for fiscal year 1997-98;

Therefore be it resolved that a sum not exceeding $184,335,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect to the following matters: Department of Health, $140,916,000; Department of Labour, $13,307,000; Department of Transportation and Public Works, $7,340,000; the Technology & Science Secretariat, $15,000; restructuring costs, $22,757,000; total - $184,335,000.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 322

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

[Page 1062]

Whereas the Expenditure Control Act was enacted by this House as Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1993 to eliminate government expenditures to a specific predetermined level; and

Whereas the net program expenditure and net debt servicing cost that exceeds the level authorized under the Expenditure Control Act and may only be made after a resolution has been passed by this House authorizing such an expenditure; and

Whereas it is necessary to exceed the net program expenditures and net debt servicing costs authorized by the Expenditure Control Act for the fiscal year ending 1998-99;

Therefore be it resolved that a sum not exceeding $376,592,000 be granted to Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the following matters: Department of Education, $69,137,000; debt servicing costs, $130,507,000; Department of Health, $176,940,000; government contributions to benefit plans, $8,000; total - $376,592,000.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 323

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

Whereas breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women and each year more than 18,000 Canadian women will develop breast cancer; and

Whereas regular screening leads to early detection which in turn leads to significant improvements in survival; and

Whereas hundreds of volunteers have shown continual support to creating awareness of this important cause;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and thank those individuals who are committed to making this campaign a great success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1063]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 324

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

Whereas the 3rd Annual Beacon Conference on the topics of support, preservation and alternative uses for Maritime lighthouses will be held this weekend in Digby County with representatives from community groups, the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and the provincial government working together for solutions; and

Whereas our seacoast and marine heritage are significant tourism attractions and lighthouses are a proud symbol of both, Nova Scotia having more lighthouses than any other province in Canada; and

Whereas the federal government should be supporting Nova Scotia's efforts to promote tourism and preserve our rich maritime history;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House support the efforts and goals of this conference and continue to urge the federal government to take measures to protect and preserve these cultural icons.

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.

[Page 1064]

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 325

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

Whereas the owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses foster prosperity in every region of our province through local economic activity and by creating 95 per cent of new jobs; and

Whereas this being Small Business Week, as Economic Development Minister, I will be attending the annual dinner of the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce this evening to join in honouring the efforts of three long-time business owners being inducted into Club 25 and to assist in presenting the Excellence in Business Award to outstanding members of the business community; and

Whereas the Department of Economic Development actively supports the efforts of small businesses across this province through a network of 11 business service centres which provide business and financial advice;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate small and medium-sized businesses across Nova Scotia on their ingenuity and service and wish them continued success and growth.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I bring to the House's attention in the gallery we have seven students and their instructor, Sandy MacDougall, from in the Flexible Learning & Education Centre. I would ask them to rise and receive a warm welcome from the members of this House. (Applause)

[Page 1065]

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to make a special introduction, if I could, in the Speaker's Gallery. I would like to introduce Major Harold Long, the retired native of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, a Canadian veteran. He was a Sergeant-at-Arms for this House of Assembly from 1957 to 1989. He was the longest serving Sergeant-at-Arms in Canada and he is accompanied by his son Richie Long. I would like to have them receive the warm welcome of this House. (Extended Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, if I may, on an introduction first, in the gallery opposite, I would like to introduce to the members of the House two well-respected members of the agricultural community in Nova Scotia. First of all Laurence Nason, the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and secondly, Jim Burrows, a member of the executive representing the federation here today. I might also add, both are residents of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. If they would rise to the approbation of the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today of tabling the draft Farm Practices Act. I would like to note that this is a proposed legislation that is being tabled for consultation and discussion purposes.

Bill No. 10 - Entitled an Act to Protect Farmers Engaged in Normal Farm Practices From Being Sued in Nuisance or Negligence. ( Hon. Ernest Fage)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 326

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

Whereas yesterday, Marc Patrone returned to Province House to resume his duties as an ATV legislative reporter; and

[Page 1066]

Whereas members from all sides of this House are grateful that Marc and his family emerged unscathed from the fire which destroyed their home; and

Whereas the deep concern demonstrated by members, political staff and Province House staff sends a positive signal that we can put our partisan differences in perspective;

Therefore be it resolved that this House welcomes Marc back to the legislative beat and convey to him our hopes and prayers that he and his family will be able to overcome this recent adversity.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 327

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 late Thomas Cumming MacConnell is a 1999 Nova Scotia inductee into the Agricultural Hall of Fame; and

Whereas Mr. McConnell of Meadowville, Pictou County, was nominated for the Hall of Fame by the Scotsburn Credit Union for his many contributions to the industry, his community and province; and

Whereas his career spanned 44 years with Scotsburn's Cooperative Service Ltd. where Mr. McConnell began as a butter maker in 1927 and retired as CEO in 1971;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House honour the late Thomas Cumming (T.C.) MacConnell and congratulate his family on the occasion of his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

[Page 1067]

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 New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 328

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

Whereas prior to the July 27th provincial election, the budget contained $350,000 a year to improve accessibility for disabled persons; and

Whereas this new Tory Government withdrew the $350,000 before any program review was conducted; and

Whereas throughout this government's Throne Speech, they consistently used the phrase, "making Nova Scotians self-reliant;

Therefore be it resolved that this government allow disabled persons to become self-reliant by immediately reinstating the $350,000 for improving disabled accessibility to public buildings.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1068]

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 329

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

Whereas on October 14th, the South Shore Regional Hospital received a new CAT Scan; and

Whereas this CAT Scan, a Picker MX8000, has the most advanced scanning technology available and is the first of its kind to be installed in Canada, and one of only 20 in the world; and

Whereas the South Shore Regional Hospital's Health Services Foundation raised more than $250,000 in eight months towards the $1 million cost of the CAT Scan;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Health Services Foundation, its honorary Chairman, Mr. Ozzie Stiles, and the people of the South Shore for working so hard to improve the health services in their region with their CAT Scan fund-raising efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 330

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

Whereas the Tory Government has committed more than $2 million to the Bank of Nova Scotia, despite a nearly $1 billion profit; and

[Page 1069]

Whereas the Bank of Montreal is slashing 1,450 jobs despite a third quarter $398 million profit this year; and

Whereas John Hamm's Tory Government is content to take from the poor and give to the rich while doing little to protect Nova Scotian jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that this government be chastised for forcing Nova Scotia's poor to survive on wishbones, soup bones and Hamm bones.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 331

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

Whereas Recreation Nova Scotia is holding their 2nd annual conference entitled, Healthier Futures Through Recreation from October 28-30th; and

Whereas this conference will focus on the important themes of healthy public policy, healthy organizations, healthy environments and healthy residents; and

Whereas the multiple benefits of recreation regarding health and well-being are well documented;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Recreation Nova Scotia and organizers of this conference, and wish them a productive and successful conference.

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 Minister of Community Services.

[Page 1070]

RESOLUTION NO. 332

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

Whereas all Nova Scotians benefit from quality child care; and

Whereas Child Care Connections Nova Scotia is, this week, celebrating its 10th anniversary; and

Whereas Child Care Connections Nova Scotia is a valuable partner with the Department of Community Services in promoting early childhood education across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in congratulating Child Care Connections Nova Scotia on this milestone.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 333

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

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas after weeks of rising tension in southwestern Nova Scotia, violence among native and non-native fishermen has been averted; and

[Page 1071]

Whereas a good deal of the credit for this peaceful solution can be attributed to Chief Deborah Robinson of the Acadia First Nation; and

Whereas on Sunday past, Chief Robinson received a standing ovation from a gymnasium full of non-native fishermen in Yarmouth when she announced that her people have agreed to fish only during the regular lobster season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chief Robinson for her part in negotiating a deal based on goodwill and good faith, and thank all of those involved in the fishing industry in southwestern Nova Scotia for working towards a peaceful solution.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 334

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

Whereas the Minister of Labour introduced a Previous Question Motion on Monday after just three speeches; and

Whereas in January 1995 Terry Donahoe, who was the Progressive Conservative House Leader, was thrown out of the House for protesting this type of motion; and

Whereas the other Tory loudly decrying this type of mistreatment by the government was the now Minister of Labour;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour be reminded of his past feelings on cutting off debate and allow this House to continue debating Bill No. 9 without deadlines that the minister himself has previously denounced.

[Page 1072]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 335

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

Whereas a peaceful resolution was achieved late last Friday in the dispute between native and non-native lobster fishermen in southwestern Nova Scotia; and

Whereas thanks to the leadership of both sides within our community, six licences will be given to the native fishermen who Acadia Band Chief Deborah Robinson committed will fish within a regulated winter and spring season; and

Whereas one lobster fisherman modestly summed it up best when he said, "We accomplished a lot. It's a start, and you've got to start somewhere.";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the tremendous efforts which brought our community together on a very difficult issue setting in place a cornerstone upon which to build, and urge the federal government to also recognize this progress, progress that is hoped will help them move forward toward a peaceful, positive, long-term resolution.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 336

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

[Page 1073]

Whereas the paramedics of this province have been diligent in their pursuit of fair and equitable treatment by this government; and

Whereas these paramedics have conducted themselves in a manner of dignity and respect for the rules and traditions of this House as they listen to debate by Opposition members; and

Whereas government members like the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Labour, the members for Kings North, Kings South and Halifax Bedford Basin in particular, seem too busy with their newspapers and magazines to pay attention to debate;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the government re-evaluate their priorities, realizing that on Friday the crossword puzzle will be there, but the paramedics may not.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 337

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

Whereas yesterday in The Chronicle-Herald Dale Willman of Mahone Bay wrote, "The recent announcement of the Hamm government's intention to deny the paramedics of Nova Scotia the right to strike makes me wonder when Nova Scotia was declared a dictatorship"; and

Whereas Sheralee MacEwan of Carroll's Corner wrote in The Chronicle-Herald, "A recent phone call to EMC and the Health Department reassured me there was a satisfactory contingency plan in place to ensure the safety of the public. What happened?"; and

Whereas Elizabeth Munro of Windsor is quoted, also from The Chronicle-Herald, as writing after expressing her disgust with the Tory Government's move to force binding arbitration on the paramedics, "All I can say is I am trying to figure out why I ever voted for the Progressive Conservatives";

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Health listen to the people of Nova Scotia as they claimed they would do and withdraw this shameful piece of legislation from this House.

[Page 1074]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 338

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

Whereas CFB Greenwood is being faced with the phase-out of the 434 Squadron over the next two years; and

Whereas since 1994, Nova Scotia has received 16 per cent of the reduction in overall federal spending despite the fact that our province has only 3 per cent of the country's population; and

Whereas the approximate 225 jobs - the 225 men and women of the 434 Squadron - directly contribute at least $19 million to the local economy, they figure it doesn't even focus on the human impact the cuts will have on the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the federal government to work with the community-based committee set up to address this pressing issue if it will not reconsider its decision.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

[Page 1075]

RESOLUTION NO. 339

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

Whereas there is no essential services Act in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Hamm Government's abandonment of the collective bargaining process, before the process had enough time to produce results, demonstrates a lack of respect for the parties involved; and

Whereas if this legislation is passed, paramedics will be the only employees in the Province of Nova Scotia without the right to strike;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, in between crossword puzzles, explain to paramedics why they say they are essential but pays them like they are expendable.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 340

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

Whereas the community of Cheticamp hosted the annual general meeting of la FANE - Federation acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse - on Friday, October 15, 1999, which was the first time the federation held its annual meeting outside Halifax in an Acadian region of the province; and

Whereas Jacqueline Farvacque and Stan Surette have been elected President and Vice-President of la FANE respectively; and

[Page 1076]

Whereas Father Anselme Chaisson, a native of Cheticamp, as honoured by la FANE for his contributions to Acadian culture, particularly for his role in the development of Societe Historique Acadienne, created to preserve and promote Acadian history; and his role in the founding of Centre d'Etudes la mode Acadiennes, the main repository for Acadian archives;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the community of Cheticamp for their hospitality in hosting this successful event, Father Anselme Chaisson for his valuable contributions to Acadian culture, and wish both Jacqueline Farvacque and Stan Surette success in maintaining and enhancing the Acadian culture of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 341

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

Whereas the Legislature's Veterans Affairs Committee has undertaken its second Postcard of Thanks Project, a project the committee is hoping will benefit future generations through a simple thank you; and

Whereas the project initially undertaken last year involved stamped postcards being sent to all Grade 6 students who, if participating, will send a note to a veteran living in Nova Scotia while also offering thanks to that veteran's service that he provided to both our province and our country; and

Whereas some 13,000 postcards are being distributed to Grade 6 students across Nova Scotia thanks to Veterans Affairs Canada and sponsors: the Royal Canadian Legion; Nova Scotia School Boards Associations and their educators; the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union; Sobeys; and Labatt's-Olands Canada;

[Page 1077]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature express their appreciation to the Veterans Affairs Committee for their work on this project once again this year, while thanking the Grade 6 students throughout Nova Scotia for doing the right thing while always remembering the sacrifices made by those dedicated Nova Scotians who served our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 342

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

Whereas the 8th World Marathon Canoe Championships are being hosted in Dartmouth next summer; and

Whereas the Canoe to the Sea 2000 Society, under the direction of President Rudy Vodicka are preparing for up to 1,000 participants in 35 international teams; and

Whereas this event will serve to provide world exposure for Nova Scotia and substantial economic spin-off for this province, as well as highlight our tremendous recreational capabilities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature join me in acknowledging the success of the organizing committee in expressing our sincere support of this prestigious event, and in wishing all participating local athletes the best of luck as they compete here at home at this world-class event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1078]

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

Is it agreed?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Mr. Speaker, his timing is inappropriate.

MR. SPEAKER: [The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 343

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

Whereas Kings County was recently host to physical education, recreation and health professionals from across Canada at the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; and

Whereas the theme of this year's conference was Healthy Youth: A Community Investment; and

Whereas the conference was sponsored by CHA-PERD, the Teachers Association for Physical and Health Association of Nova Scotia, and the Nova Scotia Family Studies Teachers' Association, and was open to all those who deal with youth or health issues on a regular basis;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature join me in extending congratulations to all organizers and participants of this year's CHA-PERD conference and in recognizing the significance of this year's theme, focusing on our youth.

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.

[Page 1079]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 344

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

Whereas on Saturday, October 23rd, the Sackville Knights of Columbus held their annual volunteer night for groups that they sponsor; and

Whereas they provided over $2,400 of fund-raised money to these groups to help enhance programs and projects in the Sackville and Beaver Bank area; and

Whereas their hard work and effort goes a long way to help the youth involved in Scouting, Guides, Girls and Boys Club as well as team leadership;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all the Knights of Columbus for their continued support of the young people in our community.

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 Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 345

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

Whereas this coming Remembrance Day, November 11, 1999, will mark the last such Remembrance Day of the 20th Century; and

[Page 1080]

Whereas Nova Scotians and all Canadians owe a debt to the 116,000 brave young men and women who gave their lives during this century, during the First and Second World Wars and in other conflicts such as the Korean War and even in peacekeeping duties; and

Whereas the Legislature's Veteran Affairs Committee recognizes the significant importance of everyone working to help secure peace for future generations, while remembering the extreme sacrifices, especially of our young people who were always the first called in times of strife;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature proclaim our support for the 2 Minute Wave of Silence, and further pledge that we will participate in a two minute silence at 11:00 a.m., November 11, 1999, while also encouraging all Nova Scotians to participate in that 2 Minute Wave of Silence wherever safety and practicality permit.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 346

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

Whereas a local elementary school teacher was recently awarded $200 for winning second prize in the Country Woman's Flavourful Florets Recipe Contest; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas Cathy Lavers had a recipe for broccoli orange salad printed in the July/August edition of the American magazine; and

Whereas it is a rarity for a Canadian resident to be featured in this magazine;

[Page 1081]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cathy Lavers on her recent accomplishment and wish her success with her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:45 p.m., Oral Question Period will end at 4:15 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: CONTINGENCY PLAN - LEGISLATION

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. We have repeatedly asked the Minister of Health whether there was a contingency plan in place in the event of a strike by the paramedics. We heard today from a labour leader in Nova Scotia that no contingency plan was ever discussed by the minister or by the government with him or his union. Now, it is unprecedented that if the government had a contingency plan that it wouldn't discuss that contingency plan with the union.

So I want to ask the Minister of Health why he just doesn't come clean and say that the only contingency plan he had in the event of a strike by the paramedics was to ram Bill No. 9 down their throats and take away their legal rights?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will go back and thank the honourable member for the question. As I have said before, the contingency plan was that of EMC not the government. It was required to have one under the terms of its contract.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about public safety. I would imagine, and most people would agree I think, that public safety would demand a contingency plan in the event of a strike by paramedics. It must be that Bill No. 9 was the only plan that

[Page 1082]

this government had. Why didn't this government have a contingency plan ready? Why is this government so completely powerless that it would not have a contingency plan ready in the event of a strike?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I will go back to reiterate my first statement that the contingency plan was developed by EMC. But as the honourable member, perhaps, knows, in the initial negotiations, the comments by the union indicated that they would, indeed, provide essential services in an event of a necessity. It became abundantly clear during the course of negotiations that that position had changed.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I find this line very difficult to accept, because we now know that the government and EMC stopped negotiations with the union a week before Bill No. 9 was introduced.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Now, it must have been, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Yes. That EMC knew that this legislation was going to be introduced. Why would this government stand back, tell EMC that they were going to introduce Bill No. 9, allow them to cease negotiations at a time when the most meaningful progress could be made in negotiations . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I explained when I introduced the bill, it appeared and the word from both sides was that meaningful negotiations had broken down and that public safety would be at risk if there was a province-wide strike of all the paramedics.

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: CONCERNS - ADDRESS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has been doing his best to avoid his responsibility for public safety. He has argued that the paramedics are jeopardizing it. He has argued that Opposition Parties are jeopardizing it. Last night, a long night at Law Amendments, my colleague from Halifax Chebucto, myself and the five Tories - and I hope they were listening - and the two members of the Liberal Party, we heard of some impossible situations. We heard of a paramedic that answered the call of a little girl who lost her fingers and an arm . . .

[Page 1083]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . trying to save her little brother from a train.

MR. SPEAKER: Can we have your question, please?

MR. ESTABROOKS: The little girl was saved and the little boy was lost.

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

MR. ESTABROOKS: My question for the minister is, how can the Minister of Health look this paramedic in the eye and refuse to act on her concerns?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I think this government, Mr. Speaker, has acted on their concerns. As I said earlier, I don't know if the honourable member wants me to, all of a sudden, get involved in negotiating nuts and bolts on the floor of the House, which I am not going to do, but certainly I want to tell you that as the Department of Health we are very aware of the concerns of the paramedics and very much appreciate their service.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Last night we heard the story of three paramedics in the minister's own riding. After working their shift they have to go work and work in night clubs as bouncers to make ends meets. John Rossiter holds down five jobs. Before he was appointed as the Minister of Health, the member for Truro-Bible Hill agreed that these paramedics . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . .had valid concerns about amounts of time that they were working. Since then he has refused to meet with them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Can we have your question?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Why has this member, since becoming the Minister of Health, decided that he has no responsibility to deal with the concerns of paramedics such as John Rossiter?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, obviously, as Minister of Health I have heard their concerns and I am concerned about them. Our position in the Health Department was that we wanted to see a fair and equitable settlement reached and we have done everything in our power to see that that happens.

[Page 1084]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Last night the paramedics argued convincingly and I hope those Tories over there were listening. Those stories hurt. It was a long night and a long drive home and earlier this morning we had to go through it again. That is one committee that we don't expect to go and listen and hear tears and feel tears ourselves. When will this Minister of Health accept that his government is jeopardizing public safety by refusing to address the serious concerns of these paramedics and really listen to their stories?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the employer of the paramedics is Emergency Medical Care. We encouraged both sides to try and get to the table to work out a settlement which was fair and equitable.

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS:

CONTINGENCY PLAN - IMPLEMENTATION COSTS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health knows that the government has a contract with EMC to provide medical services. The government has complete control over this contract. It knows the obligations it must fulfil; it knows what EMC has to do. If the government is in control of the contract, the minister must know who would have to bear the costs of any contingency plan. Could the Minister of Health tell us who would be responsible for the costs of implementing a contingency plan?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The employer would, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the government is ultimately responsible for the costs of the contingency plan, I would suggest. Yesterday, the minister indicated that he reviewed the contingency plan and that it would provide province-wide coverage in the event of a strike. I would like to ask the Minister of Health if he would provide to this House a breakdown of the costs of the contingency plan?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the contingency plan was developed by EMC and if the honourable member wishes to address that question to EMC, they may or may not respond to it.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows very well that he reports for EMC to this House and he is ultimately responsible for the ambulance service to the people of Nova Scotia. I would suggest to him that he is hiding behind EMC. What I would like to know is, why will the minister not admit that not having a contingency plan for Bill No. 9 is not about public safety, it is about costs, that he would do anything to keep the costs down, not provide the contingency plan that is necessary and, in fact, jeopardize the role of the paramedics and the safety and the health of the people of Nova Scotia?

[Page 1085]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that sounded more like a statement than a question, but let me go back and say our government's sole interest in presenting Bill No. 9 was in the interest of public safety.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: LEGISLATION - PUBLIC SAFETY

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. This government said it would rebuild eyeball to eyeball the health care, but it is failing miserably in its first true test. Last night in this building we watched as a paramedic threw down his ID badge and quit his job. His action certainly moved me. I want to ask the troubled Minister of Health, why did you not consider your bill would have the effect of jeopardizing public safety by causing front-line health care workers to quit their jobs?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member for Dartmouth North, I am not sure if it is the same case to which he was referring, but I did speak with a gentleman who indicated that he had some difficulty with the bill. I very much regret that, but I want to tell you our bill was based on public safety for the larger good.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is to the Minister of Health. I read a letter from a paramedic who says her partner got sick of stalled negotiations, quit, and went to Ontario. My question to the minister is, I want to ask the minister if he will explain why he has allowed conditions for paramedics to become so intolerable that the people are leaving Nova Scotia to work elsewhere - going down the road?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised at that statement because they may not be optimal and there is a lot of room for improvement, as recognized, in working conditions for paramedics and working on a new contract, Bill No. 9 is intended to foster just that.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the Minister of Health is, the President of the NSGEU said publicly there may be mass resignations of paramedics due to the action of this government. When will the troubled Minister of Health come to realize his incompetent handling of this matter is driving paramedics to quit their jobs?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think we have handled this matter very well. As I said before, I regret if somebody felt that they had to leave their job.

[Page 1086]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - MARINE ATLANTIC HQ:

NORTH SYDNEY - CONTACT (TRANSPORT [CAN.] MIN.)

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In August of this year the federal Minister of Transport visited Marine Atlantic, the facility in North Sydney. During his visit he snubbed local municipal leaders. I have also learned that he snubbed this government. It is common knowledge throughout the Northside community that Newfoundland is pushing to relocate the entire Moncton headquarters to Port aux Basques. My question to the minister is, will he tell us what contact he has made with his federal counterpart to make sure that this does not occur?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of the location of the office for the ferry unit in Sydney, or Port aux Basques has been one that has been of concern for some time. We have had discussions as recently as last week around the intentions of whether or not they are going to relocate. My understanding is that there is no plan at this point in time to relocate that office.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this issue has come up before. My Leader and former Premier Russell MacLellan fought with the Newfoundland Premier and went to the Prime Minister directly and met with the federal minister, the Honourable David Collenette, and made a deal that provided security for the employees at North Sydney. Now the issue has come up again, obviously. My question for the minister is, what assurances have you given the Cape Breton Regional Municipality that your government is working on this issue?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as I said, there seems to be some misinformation. One of the questions is the fact that they are looking for a new CEO so the two issues kind of overlap. It would be our intention to watch very carefully any move to relocate the head office and react at that time. One does not want to be precipitous in terms of rising to an occasion that currently doesn't exist.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, every job is vital to industrial Cape Breton, that's obvious, but this government is hostile to jobs in the steel industry and jobs that could come with the new provincial lottery operation. During the election the Tories said they had a plan for Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1087]

MR. BOUDREAU: What is the plan to protect the jobs at the Marine Atlantic Terminal in North Sydney?

MR. BALSER: We are concerned about jobs, not just in Cape Breton, but all over Nova Scotia so obviously any time that a job is in jeopardy in any part of the province, particularly Cape Breton, we watch very carefully to see how we can intervene successfully and when it is appropriate. So, to that honourable member, certainly we are watching and we will keep an eye on things.

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: WORKING CONDITIONS - ADDRESS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Health. The minister introduced a bill in this House last week, Bill No. 9, on the basis of trying to protect public safety. Yet over the past few days, we have been hearing from paramedic after paramedic about the dangers, the problems they face, the working conditions of their job that very much relate to public safety. I want to ask the Minister of Health if he can tell us, since he was sworn in as the Minister of Health, what has he done to deal with the well-known problems facing paramedics and their working conditions? What has he done to address those things?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I think, Mr. Speaker, one of the first things I did when I became Minister of Health - as honourable members may, indeed, realize, negotiations were not ongoing at that time, there had been a recess for some reason - was encourage both sides to get back to the table.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is clearly very concerned about the issue of public safety as it relates to paramedics and the emergency work that they carry out. I would like to ask the minister, given that concern, why is it that he decided to intervene in the collective bargaining process only at the last minute and only when it has meant the complete stripping away of the rights of these workers to free and fair collective bargaining?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the intervention of government was done, I guess, to quote the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, sort of late in the game. We did not wish to become involved until public safety became an issue. When it became a matter of sides saying that it is not likely that we are going to be able to reach an agreement and keep our people on the jobs, in the interest of public safety to Nova Scotian, introduced appropriate legislation.

[Page 1088]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the concerns of these paramedics is well-known. Concerns have been raised for at least the last 10 years, 11 years, 12 years. The minister knew the problems when he was in Opposition and, in fact, during the election campaign, he and his Party made some commitments to paramedics that they would resolve

this labour dispute by ensuring they had a fair and reasonable settlement, by ensuring that their working condition problems were dealt with . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . and by ensuring that there would be an analysis done of the way EMC runs its business. I want to ask the minister, why has he not proceeded to fulfil those commitments, and why is it that his only response has been to take away the rights of these workers here in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think he asked two questions. The first one, and as I have said this in the House many times, it was the government's belief that there was sufficient money allocated to EMC to put a fair and reasonable offer on the table, and we still believe that was the case. Secondly, he asked with regard to working conditions, and that is a matter of negotiation. It was in negotiation between the employer and the employees' representative, the NSGEU.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - LEO: ATTENDANT HEALTH CARE PROG. - FUNDING

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. LEO, the League for Equal Opportunity, has a long-standing history of advocating for and on behalf of people with disabilities to ensure that they may function as equals in our society. In year one of Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, the Tory election platform, there was a commitment made to introduce, on a province-wide basis, the self-managed attendant health care program. My question to the minister, given that your government has indicated that programs will be cut, will the minister please indicate whether it is his government's intention to honour this promise? If so, when can people with disabilities expect this program to be in place?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think there were two questions, and I regret but could the honourable member please repeat the operative part of that for me, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, to summarize, the self-managed attendant care program, the promise in year one would be to accomplish the province-wide expansion of that program. When would that be up and running, and what is the plan with that program, given the government's commitment to cut programs for disabled persons?

[Page 1089]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is still our intent to honour that commitment.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that commitment, and we will be watching that program. My supplementary question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. If I can look through you, I think he is in his seat, thank you. Last week, we all learned of the decision made by this government to cancel the Liberal program known as the Community ACCESS-Ability Program. The minister will be well aware of that. Will the minister please indicate to the House today whether this program is to be included in the program review that his government has announced, or whether your government will indeed stand by your commitment to cancel this program?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I can indicate to the honourable member that we as a government are committed to persons with disabilities. The program to which the honourable member referred, which was an item in the budget that was tabled in June, is a program which is subject to the review, as indicated by the honourable member. The program, sir, had not reached the stage where the guidelines were fully developed. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I agree to answer the question. I make no guarantees that the honourable members opposite will necessarily like the answers to the questions. (Interruptions) I want to say, sir, that as I indicated at the beginning of the answer, the matter of persons with disabilities is a priority, and will continue . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Community Services, in his role as Minister responsible for Disabled Persons' Commission. There is grave concern throughout this province that the proposed program review of his government is a means to justify cuts to programs for disabled persons. Will the minister, on behalf of all disabled persons in Nova Scotia make a commitment to go back to his Cabinet colleagues and ensure that all programs that assist and support disabled persons are exempt from that program review given the widespread concern that this is a program that will review to justify cuts to disabled persons?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member I would say that we have made a commitment to the disabled community. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHRISTIE: If they want to look at the budget, they will see that we have increased the programs this year. We have been working with the Disabled Persons Commission on a lot of programs and they have my commitment we will continue to work with the Disabled Persons Commission on a lot of programs.

[Page 1090]

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

HEALTH - EMC: CONTRACT - CONTRAVENTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health, within the contract between the Province of Nova Scotia and EMC there is a clause, Clause 9.4, entitled no involvement in labour affairs. It reads, very briefly, as follows:

"EHS emphasizes that Contractor is responsible for supervising its employees, including managing personnel and resources fairly and effectively in a manner that ensures compliance with this Agreement. Neither EHS nor the Medical Director will involve itself in Contractor's labour/management relationships.".

It appears, Mr. Speaker, that Bill No. 9 is in contravention of this agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, are they in fact in breach of this agreement and have they sought legal advice in that regard.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 9 was introduced as a matter of public safety and it is not in contravention of that agreement as I understand it.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think the interpretation of this clause is pretty clear. I would suggest to you that the only way that the Province of Nova Scotia would not be in contravention of this clause is if the Minister of Health and his government notified EMC and got their agreement before he tabled Bill No. 9.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I would like for the minister to explain whether, in fact, that is exactly what happened, that before Bill No. 9 was tabled in this House, EMC were consulted?

MR. MUIR: I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that EMC was informed of our plans to introduce the bill on the day it was introduced, as was the NSGEU.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have raised concerns in here about this government's unwillingness to try to resolve this issue in a positive way by dealing with the public safety issues, the working condition issues. We were concerned about the fact that they did not ensure that a contingency plan was developed and now it appears that the government advised EMC about this contract and about this bill in order to ensure they . . .

[Page 1091]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the minister to explain to Nova Scotians, explain to the paramedics who are affected by this bill, why it is that he and his government moved in this way to strip away the collective bargaining rights of these emergency health care workers, in complete contravention of this agreement and of their very rights?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated to members of this House on a number of occasions, Bill No. 9 was introduced in the interest of the public safety of all Nova Scotians.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - JAIL (BURNSIDE):

HWY. CHANGES - COST

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works with reference to the jail and forensic facility that has been taken from the constituency of Bedford-Fall River and given to the constituency of Dartmouth North. This gift is going to add a great deal to the traffic problems in the Burnside Drive area in the range of some 800 additional cars per day coming and going, estimated. The Burnside Industrial Park's office is already dealing with a heavy traffic load, and have asked twice and been refused twice by the Department of Transportation and Public Works for the addition of a fourth exit and entrance complementing the existing three. The minister has advised the House that additional highway costs are not required for this new facility. I would like to ask the minister, through you, sir, does he stand by this statement that there are no additional entrance and exit facilities required, considering that the Burnside Industrial Park's office saw fit to ask his department for an additional exit to be constructed on two occasions to date?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly, the need and location for any interchanges is one that requires a great deal of preliminary work. On the two previous occasions when the need or the issue was brought forward, the department reviewed it, as they do, and determined that it wasn't required at that time. At this point, based on the projections, we are not in the process of reviewing. Should traffic volumes change and should the need occur, then it will be reviewed.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, it seems that their story is changing somewhat. I would like to ask the minister, as a supplementary, has the Burnside Industrial Park's office requested or given notice that it will once again request a fourth exit in the near future?

[Page 1092]

MR. BALSER: Not to my knowledge.

MR. MACEWAN: The final supplementary then, would the minister be prepared to undertake to the House to table any correspondence between the Burnside Industrial Park's office and his department, let us say, since August 16, 1999 to the present, on this topic?

MR. BALSER: Yes.

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

HEALTH - EMC: CONTINGENCY PLAN - DEVELOPMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The contract between the province and EMC recognizes that sometimes extraordinary occurrences happen. These include bad weather, multiple crises, labour disputes or strikes. The contract forgives EMC any penalties for failing to meet prescribed response times in the event of an extraordinary occurrence. I want to ask the Minister of Health, if your department had the foresight to let EMC off the hook for response times in the event of a strike, why did you fail to ask for and approve a contingency plan if a strike were to happen?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member is aware and I am sure he has looked at it in some detail now, it is a performance-based contract; you are absolutely right.There is some forgiveness, simply when things happen that the response times can't be those that are desirable. However, I will say that the company did prepare a contingency plan, and I have seen it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that rather than getting out in front of this issue, the minister always seems to be playing catch-up. The fact is that even Bill No. 9 is not a contingency plan for the delivery of emergency services. I want to ask the minister, other than back-to-work legislation, what contingency plan have you developed to ensure the delivery of emergency services?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member is well aware, the development of that contingency plan was part of the contract with EMC not the government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has said on a few occasions now that he will be reviewing the EMC contract at some point in the future. We have identified some very specific shortcomings including the lack of any contingency requirements. Will the minister commit to amending the contract to require a contingency plan that requires departmental approval?

[Page 1093]

MR. MUIR: That is an interesting question. As I mentioned, I have written to the Auditor General and asked him to do a clinical audit and, indeed, take a look at all of our relationships with EMC. Yes, I would be prepared to ask the Auditor General to include that in his assessment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

ECON. DEV. - YARMOUTH: RINK - FUNDING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Could the minister tell the members of this House if he is or does he know which minister is responsible for administering the funding for the proposed two-ice surface

facility in Yarmouth?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. I don't know that right off hand but I would take it under advisement and get back to him.

MR. GAUDET: The Minister of Finance has indicated that everything is on the table. All programs are under review. Every initiative proposed by the former government is now in danger of being cut. Our former Premier, Russell MacLellan, announced the money for the new Yarmouth facility in June to great fanfare. Could the Minister of Economic Development tell the people of Yarmouth if this funding is in danger of being cut?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that that funding is in place.

MR. GAUDET: My final question to the Minister of Economic Development is, as the Minister of Finance and the MLA for Yarmouth both know, former Premier Russell MacLellan worked closely with Skate Yarmouth on this project.

AN HON. MEMBER: And John Deveau.

MR. GAUDET: And John Deveau. The people of southwestern Nova Scotia have been waiting for this project for many years. My final question to the minister is, could the minister tell me what assurances he has given Skate Yarmouth that this government will continue to work with the community on this project?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of the Skate Yarmouth Program and the facility that would be constructed is of benefit to that community. I know the member opposite and the member for Yarmouth now and before worked very hard to ensure that would take place. When it comes to be constructed that will be a very good thing for everyone involved and so it shall move forward.

[Page 1094]

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: TRAINING LEVELS - INCREASES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the province's contract with EMC states the number of Level II and Level III paramedics in the province must increase over time, but the training can cost as much as U.S. $10,000 and some paramedics have to leave the province to find a position that pays well enough to pay off the training. My question for the Minister of Health is, will the Minister of Health tell us how he is going to ensure Nova Scotia increases the number of Level II and Level III paramedics working in the province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member does, I believe, understand that there have been training programs set up in the province through the community college system and EMC obviously is encouraging its employees to take it. I understand that those courses, and the preliminary course, the P1, would be open to other people who wish to get into that field.

MR. DEXTER: Many paramedics are forced to work second jobs in order to make ends meet. One paramedic told us that he worked 32 hours as a fire truck operator in addition to more than 40 hours as a paramedic that week. A big part of the reason why paramedics are so overworked is because of the high cost of training. I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, what plan, if any, does he have for offsetting the high cost of paramedics' training?

MR. MUIR: I think one of the things, Mr. Speaker, that the government has done, and quite frankly, we can't take credit for this, it was done by the previous government, was to set up training programs in Nova Scotia at community colleges.

MR. DEXTER: The EMC contract calls on the company to provide regular in-service training programs for all employees to be paid for by EMC. Mr. Speaker, will the minister tell us how much is the in-service training costing the company and would that money be better spent offsetting the paramedics' high cost of training?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my department does provide money to EMC. Exactly how that is distributed, as you understand, they have a management contract and I would suggest that he refer that question to EMC.

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

LBR. - OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY REGS.:

DELAY - EXPLAIN

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. The occupational safety and general regulations that were approved on April 28,

[Page 1095]

1999 and were to become effective on October 1, 1999 were put on hold by the Minister of Labour. The reason for the delay stated by the minister was to allow for some additional consultation by individuals who raised objections with this. Ironically, these regulations are now on the government's website and there appears to be no justifiable reason for their delay. Would the Minister of Labour, as he has indicated that a number of individuals have objected to the implementation, please table a list of those individuals or parties who have objected to the implementation of these regulations and explain to this House and to all Nova Scotians why the safety of Nova Scotian workers is put at risk, without any apparent justification?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is supposing that all these statements that have come forward from various individuals and businesses were objecting to the occupational health and safety regulations. Many of them, as I understand it were asking for changes to those regulations.

I do not have the list of those who have submitted requests for review. Those are in the hands of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel and, if the honourable member wants to get a copy of those, I would suggest that he contact the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, when the minister met with the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel a little over a week ago, they questioned the minister as to why he was putting these regulations on hold. They wanted to know. He didn't give them an answer, despite the fact that he says there were concerns about the implementation from organizations. They don't know who it is.

My question to the minister is, will the minister finally admit that at least one of the major reasons for the delay in implementing these safety regulations is to give companies such as EMC a financial competitive advantage at the expense of employees' safety?

MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely untrue, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, these regulations that took almost two and one-half years to articulate, with the support of labour and industry across Nova Scotia, are quite self-evident. If Bill No. 9 becomes law before these safety regulations are enacted, the EMC would not be required to provide safety training for paramedics on a number of work-related issues.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is quite simply, why is money, instead of workers' safety, the number one concern with this minister? Does he want to become known as the minister of slavery?

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

[Page 1096]

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Does the minister want to be known as the minister of harsh times for the workers of Nova Scotia?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member, as I have in the past, that the occupational health and safety regulations will be enacted in the very near future. I cannot give him an exact date but there are people working on the occupational health and safety regulations at the present time, not to destroy the regulations but to improve them.

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

HEALTH - EMC: PAYMENT - SERV./PROFIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House, and again in estimates, I asked the Minister of Health questions about the province's contract with EMC. He said at one point that EMC was a non-profit company. Well, I have news for the Minister of Health; EMC is very much a for-profit company and all the minister has to do is ask them.

My question for the minister is, the province pays over $30 million a year to EMC, how much of the amount paid to EMC is for services and how much is for profit?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think I should correct the honourable gentleman. I thought it was a not-for-profit company about two days ago and yesterday in estimates, I did indeed recognize that EMC was a for-profit company and its parent company, MMC, was a not-for-profit company. I believe it is only fair that I get that on the record and we did say that. I see him nodding his head, so okay, yes.

Anyway, the management contract - Mr. Speaker, is this an appropriate question or is that a matter for estimates? I know the answer. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The estimates for Health are concluded. (Interruptions)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: The answer, Mr. Speaker, is, as he well knows, EMC is given a $975,000 stipend as an administration fee, that is a straight fee. In addition, if there is money left over from its operation it is shared in proportion at 60 per cent to the company and 40 per cent to the government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we revealed that the EMC contract contains bonuses if EMC can save on costs, including labour costs. The contract also contains no provision for an increase in the fee in the event that labour costs go up as a result of a wage settlement. To put it bluntly, this contract gives the private, for-profit company every

[Page 1097]

incentive to keep the paramedics' wages low. My question to the minister, when will he open negotiations with EMC to remove these atrocious incentives?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I kind of object to that statement and question from the honourable gentleman across the way. He knows perfectly well that the wages are rolled into the base funding for EMC and it is impossible for it to make a profit off the wages.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister also said yesterday there was a detailed breakdown of the EMC budget in the contract between EMC and the province. Well, the minister is wrong. There is not. My question for the minister is, will you, today, table a detailed breakdown of the EMC budget and its financial statements?

MR. MUIR: The financial statements would be obtained from the company and I have no problem, Mr. Speaker, releasing that and I apologize for my hesitation. I am trying to think back to what was in my Estimates Book and I would be pleased to show you what is in the Estimates Book and give you a copy of that page.

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

HUMAN RES.: CIVIL SERVICE - HIRING FREEZE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. The treatment by this government of the paramedics through Bill No. 9 and the taking away the bargaining rights of the paramedics has caused a lot of concern in the Civil Service, that, along with the Speech from the Throne, which really implied that there would be layoffs. I want to ask the Minister of Human Resources, is the government going ahead with its hiring freeze, and will he tell us as to whether all departments are a part of this hiring freeze.

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party, I think there is a misnomer there, the word freeze. The government has said that they are looking at all new hirings and have to be vetted. If they are absolutely needed then they would get hired.

MR. MACLELLAN: So, the minister is not saying that there is a hiring freeze, you are just looking at each one you take on. Mr. Speaker, I want to know too, if there is an attempt to maintain the level, does it work both ways? Is the government assuring the Civil Service that the numbers in the Civil Service will not be reduced?

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the honourable member, I think the honourable member is well aware that the government is looking very carefully at all programs across all departments. So we haven't reached the point of guaranteeing anything in that regard to the best of my knowledge. (Interruptions.)

[Page 1098]

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, if there is an investigation going on of all departments and the minister is not going to guarantee anything, then certainly the people doing the investigation have been given certain instructions. I would suggest to the minister that those instructions are, where can we cut civil servants in the Civil Service of Nova Scotia? Will the minister tell us, what instructions he has given to his people dong this investigation, and to what end? (Applause.)

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, again through you, and I thank the honourable member for his question. I don't know if the member exactly understands the Department of Human Resources is not really directing the program review. It is, I think, more properly through the P & P and things like that. We have issued no instructions to do that. (Interruptions.)

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

COMMUN. SERV.: ACCESSIBILITY PROGS. - FUNDING

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services and the Minister Responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission.

Mr. Speaker, just before the House opened, I think it was the Premier who said that this government hoped to accomplish a lot in this particular session. In the last three weeks I think we have seen really what they are trying to accomplish. They have taken away the democratic rights of paramedics and they have removed an access program for those people who are disabled. They said it is because they cost too much but, at the same time, they always have enough money for companies like Scotiabank. So my question to the minister is, when you have no money for an access program for people with disabilities, why can you have millions of dollars in handouts for corporations and to move a prison out of your own riding?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I would return back to what I said earlier. If the member would look in the estimates he would see that we have increased the amount that is going to disabled persons and to people, in the Community Services' budget. We have made a commitment to help people in this province. It was in our platform and we have committed to working with the disabled.

MR. DEVEAUX: I hope the minister does not choke on those words because I can't believe he actually can get them out of his mouth. The Premier, yesterday, Mr. Speaker, in front of paramedics and members of LEO said we hope someday to be judged as the fairest government in the history of Nova Scotia. If this government thinks that they are fair-minded, I must ask this minister, why are they returning to the Buchanan-like practices of handing money out, hand over fist, to corporations while taking it away from the disabled?

[Page 1099]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I will repeat - perhaps he missed what I was saying - the amount that we have put in the budget shows our commitment to working with people in community services and working with the disabled. We have a lot of programs that we are working with the disabled people, programs in terms of a whole number of ranges that they are working with, and so we are working on it.

MR. DEVEAUX: I find it hard to believe that this minister can stand there and say that we are giving more money to the disabled when you have cut a program that is going to have a dramatic effect on accessibility for people with disabilities. What I find so hard to believe is that what you guys call program reviews, Mr. Minister, is an Orwellian term for cuts and more cuts to people who are disabled, the most vulnerable people. It is your duty to protect them as the minister responsible for disabilities.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEVEAUX: My question is to the minister, why are you letting these people down?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, I guess when he talks about letting the people down, I guess he is particularly thinking of some programs that have not come in. What he is forgetting is that there are a lot of programs that are in place, that there is a lot of commitment that we have in our budget, and we are going forward with those as we indicated we would.

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

NSLC: ELECTION PROMISE - PRIVATIZATION

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. The Liquor Commission brings about $130 million into provincial coffers each year and employs 500 full-time, 178 part-time and 300 casual employees. In the Speech from the Throne your government committed to meet its commitment to the reasonable and orderly divestiture of public business enterprises in favour of private sector involvement. My question is simple, is the government now in the process of divesting itself of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission as per its promise?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the honourable member for the question. The honourable member is well aware that this government has all programs under review and it is simply put as that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1100]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear that the right-wing agenda of this province includes the privatization of all government-owned business, and I assume the liquor stores are no exception. Will the minister explain to this House then what his plans are for the sale of the Liquor Commission with respect to the protection of its employees?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the honourable member for the question. The fact is, as the honourable member knows, all programs are under review so there is no plan at this time to sell anything. We will have to wait for the program review.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, no answers there, so I will switch to another minister. My final question is to the Minister responsible for the Part II of the Gaming Control Act. This government has committed itself to reducing red tape and reducing the regulatory burden on business. Clearly, the hours of operation of the Liquor Commission would be of concern to a private sector liquor interest as well. Will the minister explain to this House if reducing the regulatory burden on liquor stores would allow for Sunday liquor sales?

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question from the honourable member. To the best of my knowledge, the closing and opening hours of liquor stores is not under the purvey of Part II of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority. We are responsible for regulating licensed premises not for the sale of liquor. I am afraid that if his question was talking about the hours that liquor stores are open, it would be proper to direct that to the minister responsible for the Liquor Commission.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - DISABILITIES: ACCESSIBILITY - FUNDING

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the Minister responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission, and hopefully we will get a straight answer this time. In this province, more than 20 per cent of the people are recognized as being disabled but only half, less than half, of the public buildings provide proper access for those people with disabilities. Many people with disabilities can't even go to church, can't use a library, and we even see today our own legislative gallery has problems with regard to accessibility. The first thing this government does is it cuts a $350,000 program that would have at least made a dent and moved in the right direction.

My question to the minister is, why did this government let down people with disabilities and eliminate that one program that would have moved things in the right direction?

[Page 1101]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I will direct that question and indicate to the member that we haven't let down disabled people. We are working with them. On the specific question of that program, I would refer that to the Minister of Housing who administers that program.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again thank you for the question. I want to let the House know that when a program is under review the objective of that review is to take a very objective look at the program, a program which was not up and running, a program whose guidelines had not been clearly written, not been completed. When the program review (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it is up to the members if they want an answer. (Interruptions)

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I will address this to the Minister of Community Services, unless he decides to fumble the ball and pass it to someone else. More access and more accessibility for people with disabilities means more self-reliance for them, in the end, it means, indirectly, more construction trade jobs, and it also probably means a better tourism industry for this province.

My question to that minister is, without that accessibility money being provided in the budget, do you intend to increase social assistance for those people who are no longer going to be employable because this government is sanctioning barriers against the disabled?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I would like to indicate to him that there are a number of things that the disabled people want. Access is one, there are programs with employers, the ability to have flexible hours, the ability to have employers work with them. Those are some of the programs that we are working on. Those are some of the programs that we have been working with the federal government on, and we will continue to work on those.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, people with disabilities, including LEO, have been fighting for years and lobbying Nova Scotia Governments, both Liberal and Tory, for both accessibility and equity in this province for all Nova Scotians. What we see with the cutting of this program is that maybe some Nova Scotians are respected more than others and I have a real problem with that.

[Page 1102]

[3:45 p.m.]

Given the fact that this government has passed a resolution today saying that they are going to re-institute this accessibility program, my question to the minister is, is that just blarney or is this government actually going to reinstate it and, if so, when?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member is well aware that there are program reviews going on. The Minister of Housing indicated to him that the program was going on and that will continue and those programs will be reviewed and done as they can be.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

COMMUN. SERV.: FOSTER FAMILY PROG. - P.R.I.D.E.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister of Community Services. I don't like to take my questions from the media, but there is a story today that caught my attention in acknowledging that last week was Foster Family Week. All of us in the House probably saw the tragic story of the 14 year old girl from Nova Scotia who had fled from a foster home in Toronto. Foster parents in Nova Scotia deal equally with difficult young people, youth and children every day. The type of care that these children need has changed dramatically over the years. I think we would all acknowledge that. This, of course, has placed a greater demand on the foster family. My question to the Minister of Community Services is whether he is committed to the tier-rate system, the tier-rate system incorporated under the P.R.I.D.E. model relative to foster families?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that member asked that question because it is a very important thing in this province. As he has indicated, the Foster Family Program is one of the programs that we strongly support and we want to encourage. Yes, we are very committed to the P.R.I.D.E. model of getting people trained, getting them so they have more resources to work with, with the more difficult cases of children that are coming along and we are committed to having them get better training and working under that program.

DR. SMITH: I thank the minister, Mr. Speaker, because I think that is an important group that does need great support. This tier-rate system is very important for foster families, as you have acknowledged. Foster families see this as a recognition, of course, of their difficult challenges, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My question to the minister is, will you confirm whether your government will commit to the $2.00 per day increase for each foster parent who has completed the core training, the $2.00, not the basic increase of 4 per cent, but the $2.00 increase per day for the completion of the core training program?

[Page 1103]

MR. CHRISTIE: That is something with the increases to the foster plan, as the member knows from looking at our estimates, that the 4 per cent has gone on this year. We are, indeed, in discussions with the foster groups in Canada to look at those other things. We have talked about rates. We have talked about the escalation of that program and how they are going to be. So I would say to the honourable member, it is a work in progress.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that foster families perform invaluable services for the 950 some children, youth and young adults, actually, in this province. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, will he guarantee, to the foster parents of this province, that this program will not be included in the government-wide program review? There is an extreme growing concern that anything contained in the program review will be vulnerable for cuts. Will the minister guarantee to the House today that this program will not be included in that review and vulnerable to cuts by this government?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, what I will indicate, as I did before, we will commit to working with the foster groups. We will continue to work with them. We will continue to look at ways, not only to look at what we might do, but how we can improve that. Our commitment is to give them as much support as we can, in the best way we can.

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

HEALTH - CANCER: RATES (SYDNEY) - ADDRESS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, a new study has found that Sydney has a much higher rate of cancer than the rest of Cape Breton County. Last year a study found higher rates of birth defects in Sydney, also. Now the Tory blue book contained a promise to focus on, ". . . preventing environmental or life-style inducements to poor health that cost untold millions in costly medical intervention;".

My question is to the Minister of Health. Your Throne Speech made no mention of addressing high cancer rates in Cape Breton, neither did your budget. Will the minister explain to the people of Sydney why his government, like the previous government, has let these people down?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I am surprised, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable member doesn't know a lot more about medical services that are serving his community, including Cancer Care in Nova Scotia, which has put oncologists in the Sydney hospital. In the last year there has been a cancer centre at the regional hospital which serves his community.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about here is prevention, and he doesn't seem to realize that. I would like to table this article from just one short year ago, in which the Tory Health Critic said the province needs to show leadership and stop blaming high cancer rates on lifestyles. My question is for the Minister of Health. Since your Party

[Page 1104]

called on the former government to show leadership for the people of Cape Breton, why haven't the people of Sydney seen this leadership from you?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that one of the goals of our health care platform was to emphasize health as opposed to health care. We will honour that commitment.

MR. CORBETT: Last year, Mr Speaker, the Tory Leader urged the government to take action to address these factors, especially the high cancer rates in Cape Breton. But it seems this government's change in philosophy means it doesn't have to practise what it preaches. Will the minister commit to taking immediate action to address the environmental factors leading so many people in Sydney to becoming ill and eventually dying from cancer?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think one of the things that we are doing is we need to see, as the honourable member mentions, some real changes in the personal health habits of Nova Scotians. (Interruption) I am sorry, maybe I missed the question.

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

MR. CORBETT: Address the environmental problems within industrial Cape Breton. What is your Party going to do to alleviate and help people in Cape Breton live a longer life and get rid of some of these environmental problems?

MR. SPEAKER: I am not so sure that is a question for the Minister of Health. (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can say that our government is aware that there are environmental problems in some areas, particularly the Sydney area. Indeed, I visited them last week. I was down on Frederick Street and I was by the tar ponds. I want to assure you it is our intent to cooperate with the federal government in every way possible to see that those environmental concerns are addressed as soon as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - PROSTITUTION:

VEHICLES FORFEITURE - LEGISLATION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. This government made numerous promises during the recent election campaign with respect to justice issues. We have to ask ourselves if much thought went into these promises because there appears to be a number of issues associated with them that the minister has not considered. For example, the Tories have promised to enact legislation introduced in the

[Page 1105]

spring which called for the forfeiture of john's vehicles in prostitution-related offences. When does the Minister of Justice expect to reintroduce this legislation?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for this question. Our Party is very deeply committed to justice-related issues and I think the member will be very pleased with the initiatives that our department and government will be bringing forth in this session of the Legislature.

MR. SAMSON: The Government House Leader's commitment of 20 pieces of legislation, I am hoping this will be one of them. There is no question that prostitution is a serious issue that has to be addressed. The goal is to ensure that we don't make knee-jerk reactions to serious policy issues. For example, we have to ask if this government has even looked at the effect that this proposed bill would have on the families of these supposed johns.

Mr. Speaker, my question is, will the minister explain to this House what other pitfalls he may see in this proposed legislation that should be addressed?

MR. BAKER: With all due respect to the member, I don't intend to debate with him today the merits of legislation which has yet to be introduced. Having said that, I would caution the member of the importance of the issue of dealing with prostitution in this province. The untold heartbreak that it brings to the families of those folks involved in that issue is tremendous and also the untold hardship it brings to communities in which prostitution occurs in great numbers is very great.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Tory Party committed itself to a number of pieces of legislation in campaigning, including punishing parents for the acts of their children, allowing landlords to evict tenants expected of criminal activity, et cetera.

This government repeated in its campaign promises the adage that justice delayed is justice denied. The Tory Party has promised numerous bills that have not yet been tabled.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister; in keeping with the theme, justice delayed is justice denied, will the minister tell the House today when he will table his government's lengthy justice agenda?

MR. BAKER: As I indicated to the member earlier, this government is very committed to justice issues. I can assure the honourable member that this government will be bringing in justice-related legislation in this session of the Legislature. I can tell the honourable member that he can look forward to that legislation in the near future.

[Page 1106]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

WCAT - CHRONIC PAIN: COMPENSATION - ASSURANCE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I also have a question for the honourable Minister of Justice in his capacity as Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. There are about 500 people who have claims for compensation, based on chronic pain, who were cut off from eligibility by Bill 90 earlier this year but Section 10B of that Act is being challenged in certain test cases. Will the minister give those others, not the few in the test cases, his government's assurance that they will all be paid for their chronic pain if the test cases are won by the injured workers?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for that question. In fact, the question he has asked deals with the Workers' Compensation Act and not with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal. The Appeals Tribunal is a quasi-legislative tribunal which deals with adjudicating the matters and I will defer that question to the Minister of Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess I will have to ask the honourable member to repeat the question.

MR. EPSTEIN: The essence of the question is that there are test cases with respect to chronic pain. If the test cases are won, that is decided in favour of the injured workers, what about all of the other people who are similarly placed? Will the minister give his government's assurance that payments will be made to other injured workers who are similarly placed?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't make decisions for the Workers' Compensation Board but I can certainly put the question to the Workers' Compensation Board and get the information for the minister.

MR. EPSTEIN: Now one of the problems - I don't find that an adequate response - the problem is that in order to preserve the claims, one of the things that individuals will have to do is start court cases of their own. I wonder if the Minister of Labour is prepared to say that he will make the Workers' Advisers who work in his department available, in order to start those court cases, because Heaven knows the individuals can't afford it on their own?

MR. RUSSELL: As I said, Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, it is the Workers' Compensation Board's policy, if I can find the policy on the existing 10 test cases, well then I will know whether or not they apply to all the cases.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that circumstances may vary a little bit in the individual cases. Will one of the ministers at least give their assurance that all the individual cases of claimants with chronic pain cases will be referred back and no jurisdictional

[Page 1107]

questions will be raised in objection if the test cases are won - referred back either to the board or to the tribunal?

MR. RUSSELL: I can't answer that question either, Mr. Speaker. I would have to take that question to the Workers' Compensation Board because we are speaking about Workers' Compensation Board policy and as the honourable member knows, the Workers' Compensation Board operates at arm's length and it certainly should operate in that fashion.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: PROJECT STEERING COMM. - MEMBERS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Government recently announced that an independent, comprehensive review of the P3 process will take place. It is my understanding that the request for proposals for this undertaking closes on November 1st and that a project steering committee will evaluate the proposals. My first question to the minister is, can the minister tell the House the names of the members of this steering committee?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I do not know the names of the members of the steering committee, but when I do know, I will supply that information to the House.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, when is the successful candidate for this project expected to report back on the results of the review?

MISS PURVES: I believe the Minister of Finance may have the answer to that question. The RFP went out through that department.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, just to ensure that I give the exact date, I think he is asking for specifics. I will take that under advisement. I will get to my department and get that answer to him in short order. I would rather not give him an improper answer. I think that would be prudent for me to take that approach.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I suspect it is going to be a short time, referring to earlier questions that I asked the minister. When I look at the tender call, there is absolutely no way that such a short time-frame for the successful tenderer to report back. It would seem that the results of this review are already preordained. A thorough review, such as that that is being proposed by this government, will need a much longer time-frame. My final question is, will the results of the review be made public?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, the results of the review will be made public.

[Page 1108]

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

BUS. & CONS. SERV. - GAS PRICES:

DIFFERENCE - JUSTIFICATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Business and Consumer Services, so that he is aware that it is coming to him. I am tabling a letter from my constituent, Mr. O'Reilly, and it contains two receipts for gasoline two days apart. The price in New Minas was 59.9 cents a litre and the price in Bedford was 69.9 cents a litre. The question that Mr. O'Reilly asked and my question is, is there any justification for the price difference, or are we just being gouged by the oil companies in metro?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows, and I think that all members know that there is a considerable difference in prices across the province. I go back to when we brought about deregulation, I believe it was in 1991, the prices in this province were considerably higher and, subsequent to that event occurring, I think all Nova Scotians realize that the prices in this province went down considerably. Now that is not the case today. I realize that there has been considerable outcry by people, especially in regard to the prices that have gone up and there have been different prices across the province. However, in the recent weeks, that has not been the case, as prices have basically come across the board.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that 10 cents a litre is a difference of $200 annually on the wallets of our citizens. The Premier undertook, in this House, to review the Newfoundland system of gas pricing regulation. My question for the minister is, when will this review be completed?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, obviously, this is something that we said that we would review. We are weighing our options. I would like to say that, for ourselves, in this regard, we did indicate that we would be reviewing the policy of the Province of Nova Scotia, however, that we felt that deregulation is the way to go, but we will have an open mind. I would like to state that our preferences is to have a deregulated market, but if there are options out there that we feel that could make a difference, that we are more than open in listening to them and this is something that we, as a government, are trying to review to, basically, put the best case forward to ensure that Nova Scotians enjoy the benefits of whatever prices they should be enjoying in regard to gas prices.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Mr. O'Reilly is asking the question that is on the lips of many of our citizens, both in metro and in rural Nova Scotia.They want to know, for example, why P.E.I. has cheaper gas than us despite transportation costs. Will the minister commit today to protect consumers from price gouging with legislation outlawing predatory pricing by big oil companies?

[Page 1109]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my answer previously to the member, I am open to suggestions and I have said that before. That is why we are reviewing the situation. I really feel that the members should be aware that almost, I think every province other than the Province of P.E.I. is unregulated. This is not something that is unique to Nova Scotia. It is something that is across the country.

However, I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that obviously when we do the review, I feel that hopefully all the options will be put in front of us and the best decision will be made for the Province of Nova Scotia.

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

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - REG. HOUSING AUTHORITIES:

RURAL AREAS - HRM DIFFERENT

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has indicated that his department is thinking about having regional housing authorities in the Department of Housing in rural areas administered under the same umbrella. This is not the case in the Halifax Regional Municipality. My question, why is it different in the Halifax Regional Municipality?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I missed a part of the honourable member's question. Would he mind repeating it again?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes repeat the question, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has indicated that his department is thinking about having regional housing authorities in the Department of Housing in rural areas administered under the same umbrella. This is not the case in the Halifax Regional Municipality. My question, why is it different in the Halifax Regional Municipality?

MR. MACISAAC: I want to thank the honourable member for the question, Mr. Speaker. I can indicate to him through you that he is correct. We are attempting to find ways of delivering services for housing to people in rural parts of the province under a single roof so that people do not have to travel distances in order to receive that service. The metro situation perhaps is different in that people are not faced with the same distance problems that people in rural parts of the province are faced with.

[Page 1110]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I understand that regional housing authorities are responsible for doing assessments on people before they go into public housing units. How does the minister and his staff make sure that regional housing authorities are properly assessing potential residents, especially seniors?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I can indicate to the House that the regional housing authorities, through their boards and with the assistance of the department, establish criteria and based on that criteria, individual applicants are evaluated and based on the evaluation, decisions are made with respect to the applicants.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there are concerns that one of the two women who died in the tragic New Year's fire at Sunrise Manor in Halifax should not have been placed in that particular unit. If this is so, will the minister please tell the House what action his government is taking to ensure quality control at the Halifax Regional Housing Authority?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that is a question that was discussed in my estimates. I can tell the honourable member and members of the House that the criteria which is put in place is one which attempts to evaluate applicants based upon their need and the available housing. It is not one which has the capacity to make value judgements with respect to lifestyles of individuals, but certainly the overall safety of all individuals within the housing units are taken into consideration. The housing authorities are very diligent with respect to their responsibilities in that regard.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - GUN CONTROL (BILL C-68):

COURT CASE - INVOLVEMENT (N.S.)

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Justice, your government has decided to participate in a constitutional law case that is before the Supreme Court of Canada. This is the Alberta case that has to do with Bill C-68, gun control. Will the minister tell us how much it is costing the Government of Nova Scotia to participate in that Supreme Court of Canada case? I am asking for all costs, the costs of the Ottawa agents, and if you are using an outside lawyer, how much it is in total.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I believe that question is really one for the estimates. In any event, I can indicate that I don't have the exact figures with me here today, but I would be glad to provide that information to the honourable member. I can indicate, though, that I think it is a very worthwhile participation by this department, because this is an issue which concerns many Nova Scotians. (Applause)

[Page 1111]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this case is actually being litigated by the wealthier provinces. The case arose in Alberta. No doubt, the Alberta lawyers and those who are being supported by the wealthier provinces will present their case very well. Can the minister explain to us why Nova Scotia is participating in this case at all?

MR. BAKER: First of all, not all the parties involved in that case are wealthier provinces; the Province of New Brunswick is also a party in that case. On top of that, this raises the most fundamental question, is the Government of Nova Scotia standing up for the interests of Nova Scotians or are they not? We did not become involved in the Marshall case, we should have become involved in the Marshall case. We are involved in the Bill C-68 case, and we intend to be involved in all cases where the interests of Nova Scotians are at stake. (Applause)

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am shocked that there is applause, including applause from the Minister of Finance, who should have been listening to this because what he heard from his colleague in Cabinet is that he is spending money without knowing what the amount is, purely to strike a political posture. Can the minister tell us how that is consistent with the desire to save money in this new government?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, our government is very deeply committed to cost reduction, however our government is even more committed to making sure that fundamental programs and the interests of Nova Scotians are protected. The most fundamental basis on which this province can protect its interests is to make sure its voice is heard in the courts. This is a fundamental issue which is based on the Premier's own commitment to make sure that Nova Scotia's voice is heard. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

COMMUN. SERV.: PROGRAMS - REVIEW PROCESS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my first question is to the Minister of Community Services. We know that the fact that the Community ACCESS-Ability Program has been cancelled by the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, saying that it was under program review; we heard a week ago that they have cancelled programs to help those who are less fortunate, those individuals who were able to access money through the Cape Breton casino profits for community non-for-profit organizations; and I have heard you talk about process review or a review of government on every policy. As the Minister of Community Services, a minister who knows the plights of those who are less fortunate in the Province of Nova Scotia, the plight of the individuals in this province who . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1112]

MR. DOWNE: . . . have access problems in Nova Scotia, how can he sit back in the Cabinet Room and allow those programs to be taken off the review process in the light of what is happening to the people in the Province of Nova Scotia? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I know that the honourable member opposite is very concerned about these programs, and I know all of the people in the Legislature are very concerned about . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in this House to introduce members of the disabled community. I would like to introduce to this House: Gerald Fredericks, Chairperson of Cumberland Equal Rights of the Disabled; Scott Fitzgerald, a member of that same organization; Chester Kaye, President of Amherst and Area Mobility Assistance for the Disabled Association; Gail Kaye, Treasurer for that same organization; John Neary, a member of the Transition to Work Association of Amherst; Linda Stiles, Chair of the League of Equal Opportunities, from Amherst; David Stiles of Amherst; Tony Lovette of Amherst; Bill Crawford of the League of Equal Opportunities,Yarmouth; Jim MacNeil, League of Equal Opportunities, New Glasgow; Lloyd and Peggy Brown, the same organization, of Halifax; Karen Willcott, the League of Equal Opportunities; and Elsie Cholette, the League of Equal Opportunities, Provincial Coordinator in the metro area.

Mr. Speaker, since these individuals, because of their disabilities, are unable to rise to receive the warm welcome of this House, and since they are unable to come forward to see their warm welcome, as a matter of fact, some are on the first floor of this Legislative Assembly, I would like this House to acknowledge them by giving them their warm applause for making their attendance here today. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 162.

[Page 1113]

Res. No. 162, re Fin. - Charities: Monies - Restore - notice given Oct. 18/99 - (Mr. D. Wilson)

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, this resolution speaks to a very important issue. As a matter of fact, the Sydney Casino Charities Profits Trust Fund was a fund set up for charity and the profit from the Sydney casino to be divided 50 per cent for charities and 50 per cent for native bands. There were no additional tax dollars that were needed for this program, so it would have been self-sustaining. Instead, this money is being put into general revenue, as the Tories did with the automotive fuel tax and instead of dedicating that money to roads, as it was intended, the Tories at the time put the money into general revenue. Instead of fixing the Tory mistake, as they had promised, they moved first to abscond with $2.2 million destined for charities.

Mr. Speaker, it is an intellectually inconsistent policy that makes no sense other than to punish the poor and underprivileged. For instance, the Glace Bay Food Bank was among many organizations ready to receive funding from the charity trust. As I mentioned yesterday in the House, that worthwhile and unfortunately necessary organization, has been hit by a double whammy now because the cancellation of the Winter Works Program on which it was counting for two additional employees.

Mr. Speaker, in support of this resolution, if we can't appeal to this government's mind, if we can't appeal to the government's sense of common decency, then maybe we can appeal to this government's bottom line. Charities must have money to sustain themselves and a little bit of money for a charity goes a long way; $2.2 million could have provided 2,200 charities with $1,000 each. With volunteers, the charities would have made that money go at least 1,000 times further than the government can. In fact, volunteers contribute nearly $2 billion to the provincial economy.

In a 1998 study by GPI Atlantic, it found that 81,000 jobs and 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product is a direct result of volunteer charitable work. Mr. Speaker, the real value of volunteer work is $2,500 for every man, woman and child in this province. If the Finance Minister has no heart, he must at least recognize that money for charities means money for the economy and money for his bottom line. Of course, he cannot tax charities, but I am sure he might try to find a way.

The $2.2 million could have gone a long way, even though it is a small sum compared to the $100 million on average that Nova Scotians commit to charity each year. In fact, Nova Scotians give more of their time to volunteer work than any other Canadians; and that is 134 million hours helping those in need, caring for the environment and contributing to their communities. The $2.2 million which was so crassly taken away from charity goes against any common sense argument.

[Page 1114]

Mr. Speaker, regarding the deficit or debt, there are two deficits that have to be addressed. True accounting principles would recognize that a social deficit has the same validity as a fiscal deficit, and that fiscal deficit is a numbers game. A social deficit is about people. It seems Nova Scotians have contributed to a social surplus on the volunteer side. There is no excuse for the government to put volunteers and charities in a deficit situation.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is obsessed with accounting methods and principles. The genuine progress index is a factor that our provincial bean counter has not considered in the way he does not give the whole picture. The Sydney charity trust fund has to be restored. You see, this is the first swipe against the values of Nova Scotians.

Something happened to this government between the election and now. In their campaign book they stated, on Page 23, "We recognize the particular knowledge and understanding of people who work, both as volunteers and as employees, with community-based agencies and non-profit organizations that are on the front lines of service delivery. Because they are close to the action, they see, firsthand, the needs and have a unique appreciation of the requirement to make every dollar count, as an investment in 'quality of life'. They must be properly supported.". So ends the campaign book statement. Very noble, yet hollow words.

We are not allowed to use the word lie or liar when referring to people, so I won't; that is not parliamentary and it makes one stoop to a lower level. We will leave it to the government backbenchers and their constituents to judge the morality of their actions when compared to their election platform. Before 1999 and the Strong Leadership . . . . clear course pledge by the Tories we had the 1998, Putting People First. In that document they promised to dedicate $12 million in Sable royalties to establish core funding for community non-profit services to children and Nova Scotians with disabilities. Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how times change.

The Premier has a chance now to redeem himself as a man of honour and integrity. He has a chance to show he is a man who lives up to his word. He also has a chance to re-take that moral high ground or, at the very least, he has a chance to show some heart. It is time to do the honourable and just thing, Mr. Speaker, it is time the Premier put the money back.

Mr. Speaker, to end, I picked this quote up. Perhaps this will sway some to do the moral thing. I notice the member for Kings North, as a minister, is fond of quoting from the Bible. I am not a man of the cloth, so I may be a bit out of my league, but I will try. Woe to those who enact evil Statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of my people of their rights in order that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans. Now, what will you do on the day of punishment and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? Where will you leave your wealth? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1115]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on Resolution No. 162, I have read the resolution. I was absent the day that this was read and I was reading it with great interest because it talks about Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham and the fact there is no Robin Hood. I would like to say first of all, as I commence my comments, that volunteers and charitable organizations across this province are, indeed, the backbone of many of our communities and I think that is known by every member of this House. We have all worked within our communities, and whether they be legions or organizations for disabilities, such as HOPE in my area, and I can go on and on, they serve a need in all our communities. A lot of us have been involved with them personally either on a volunteer basis or involved in financially supporting them or giving of our time.

I listened with interest to the member's comments. He said something that caught my ear - this is the member for Cape Breton East. He talked about social debt and fiscal debt. He mentioned there is a difference. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't argue that there are social issues in this province that have to be addressed but I also want to say that there is another one that is facing this province and that is the fiscal debt. I think it was creative accounting that he made mention of.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are in a situation where we find ourselves in this province with a deficit in this fiscal year of $496.6 million and our accumulated debt at the end of this fiscal year will be over $10 billion. Those are facts that face us right in the eye. We are in a situation where we are going to be making some decisions and we set in place a process which, I believe, will allow us to make the right decisions that will bring about some credible solutions to the problems we face.

Now I don't for one minute, stand here and say that those decisions will be easy, as was this decision and most decisions that we make as a government and as a minister. I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that over the years - and I go back to even when I was in government and followed suit by the government that is across, that has introduced this resolution - we have lived beyond our means. I think the fact of the matter, every Nova Scotian will probably look in retrospect and agree with that. We are where we are, and we have to face the truth. We are into a situation where even yesterday the Canadian Bond Rating Service brought forward a warning on our credit rating. Now most people may say that has no effect on this province. Mr. Speaker, it does. We have to become accountable for what we are doing and we have to start making some plans.

Now this program that the honourable member makes reference to is a program that was started four years ago by the Party opposite. He bemoans the end of a casino proits program that they had four years to start, but never did, Mr. Speaker, and it came forward in September of this year. Now this is a new program, it is new money. I would like to say that before I go too much further in the program, it does not include operational funds. This

[Page 1116]

was for a multitude of different projects that will be put forward and it could be for many things. Some of the members in the House have brought us some examples, and I think, there was one individual from Sydney who was involved with a burn unit who said it would be used for some of the offered programs in the summer and they would like to apply for funds in that. I have even heard some of the organizations that wanted to apply would even use it for ballfields and so forth, Mr. Speaker. I don't argue that those are projects that could also help our communities. But, I will say, as a government, that we are going to make some decisions, especially in the next year, that will put this province on solid footing.

Mr. Speaker, I look at this resolution that was brought forward by the member. He said here, "Whereas the modern day version of the tale has no Robin Hood to save the day for the poor subjects of Nova Scotia;". I think those are very important words because it brings up the point of the fact that someone has to be the Robin Hood, someone has to bring some sanity to the way that we spend in this province. If we don't start making the decisions now, there will be no Robin Hood. There will be no one there to ensure that the people that he is referring to will have the services that they require. That is the reason why we are making the decisions that we are today and why we have set in place the process that will allow us to make rational decisions to lower the expenditures of the Province of Nova Scotia.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if we don't reduce those expenditures, what will happen in this province is that the very same people that they are referring to who will be served by this program and others will not have the funds there, whether they be Community Services or whether they be in Education or in Health. This is a much bigger picture than one program. It is how we, as a province, will proceed. I have said many times that this is a new program that has not yet been launched. It is something that has not been put in place. The Opposition has always said that, somehow, this was taking food from the people at food banks and it was, somehow, operational funds. That is not the case.

I want to say here today that this is not operational funds for programs. If the members think otherwise, they should read the terms of reference and I am sure their caucuses have that, if they so choose to read it, Mr. Speaker. We are in a situation now where I believe it is unfair to the people of Nova Scotia for us to be launching new programs when we basically have a deficit of approximately $500 million in this province. Instead of fairy tale resolutions, I think we have to face up to the realities. If the Party opposite doesn't want to do that, that is their prerogative. We live in a democracy and they are entitled to say what they see fit.

I will say that we are making decisions and they especially in the latter part of the previous administration, Mr. Speaker, lost control. They lost control of expenditures and we are now into a situation where we are facing a major deficit and that is going to have an effect on how my children will receive services in the future. If I did nothing other than to be responsible, I would be remiss in my duties as Minister of Finance and as a member of this

[Page 1117]

Assembly, in whatever role I play, whether it is a member of Cabinet or whether it is a member of our caucus. We have a job to do and it is not easy. If they didn't make their choices, that is their decision.

I stand here today and will be accountable for the decisions that I make and everyone is our caucus will be accountable, also. But we have to remind ourselves, Mr. Speaker, of the consequences if we don't make those decisions. Do we want to be governed, as a province, by people in New York and Montreal and Toronto? I say, no. Let's make the decisions here. Let's have a government that is accountable and that will make those decisions. I have no intention of allowing people outside this province to dictate to me or to my family how we will run our province. If I do anything other than that, I would be remiss. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, you indicate to me that my time is winding down, but I will say this. The members opposite are quick to say what is wrong with some of the decisions we make. I look back at the decisions that they made in the past and, obviously, we are into a situation of dealing with that. No matter what happens, the past is the past and what we have to look forward to is the future. I want my children to have a future. (Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. [Deputy]Speaker, I found out the other day that your riding's name has only a few more letters than mine. I think it is the longest one in this House. (Interruption) Beautiful, that is right. It has the word beautiful in it, that is why, beautiful Musquodoboit Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise on this particular resolution and say a few words with regard to the resolution. There are a couple of points I want to make. I think the Minister of Finance had noted one of them that I want to address, which is, are there modern day Robin Hoods? Are there modern day people who are willing to do what it takes to ensure that the proverbial Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John do not take the money from the poor and give it to the rich. At the same time, I think it is important to look, as well, at some of the things that the Minister of Finance said with regard to choices. So I want to touch on both those issues.

Mr. Speaker, I live in the riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. I live in a place called Cow Bay.

AN HON. MEMBER: Beautiful Cow Bay.

MR. DEVEAUX: Beautiful Cow Bay, yes. I think what is important to remember, and I don't think this is any different than any of the other 51 members of this House. We can probably all identify people who are the modern day Robin Hoods, the people who win whether it be the government or whether it be businesses that are gouging consumers, are

[Page 1118]

willing to go out either as volunteers or as people who are paid very little money to do the Herculean effort of going out and actually doing the work for the people who do need the services.

We do have money that is provided through the Department of Community Services that does trickle down, to some extent, to people who may be on social assistance or family benefits. I think what we have seen over the last 10 years is that that is no longer the case, that that meets their needs. I think since 1994, food bank use has gone up something like 50 per cent in this province. That is not necessarily because people are earning less - though maybe if they have lost jobs that is the case - in many cases it is because we have stretched the money that is being provided to them through Community Services in a way that does not allow for them to be able to buy the food they need through what used to be a decent standard of living.

As prices have gone up, as costs have gone up and inflation has gone up, people are unable to do that anymore. What we have seen since 1994, because that is really when the Liberal cuts started coming in, in fact, this is in many ways the agenda of the right, that isn't government's job to provide for the poor, that should be done by the charities. It should be done in the old Dickensian way of having charities that are willing to do the job.

I don't disagree that charities do have a role to play, but let's not keep burdening them and burdening them with more and more that is going to force them eventually to collapse, and then, in the end, that little bit of paultry money that is supposed to be set aside for them is taken away. We are again asking them to do more and more. We saw this for five years, we saw what they were asked to do, and now what we see is sort of turning back the clock five years. We have a new government, supposedly, a new way of doing things, supposedly, but all we are getting is similar things; asking charities to do more and more with less and less.

Some of those people in my riding that I particularly would note for the work that they do and I would hope that a government, even if it is something as little as $2.2 million, I would suggest that is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but charities could use every little bit. Some of the people who could use that money for the work they do, I think of Nancy Kelly of the Eastern Passage Food Bank. I think of the Harbourside United Church in Cole Harbour that also operates a food bank. They are doing this through the Metro Food Bank, they are trying to provide a little service to the community and that little bit of money could have helped them in a way that could have ensured that they were able to do their job a little better.

I think of someone like Ed DeYoung, and I think particularly of this weekend where there is going to be a food drive in Eastern Passage. This is something that wasn't heard of when I was a child. When I grew up in Eastern Passage, people didn't have food drives. We didn't have to put food into baskets and put them out on our steps so people could collect it

[Page 1119]

so people could have a decent Christmas. This is something that has changed in the past 10 years, fundamentally, and how we look at how this province operates.

It is the Lion's Club in Eastern Passage that is operating that food bank, and they have stepped in in the past five years to fill the void that has been created because of a lack of concern for the poor. They have done their job. Now we are asking them again to redouble their efforts, to put another ton of bricks on their back and go out and drag it along and do the job that shouldn't have to be done the way they are doing it. I think of the Eastern Passage Benevolent Society that provides for medical help to residents of Eastern Passage and Cow Bay, again with very little or no help from the government, but they are a charity that does great work. This government should reflect a little bit of support for them through this particular program.

Mr. Speaker, I think the other angle with regard to this particular issue is dealing with the choices, as the Minister of Finance would suggest. I will say I was here in Opposition in 1998 when it was a Liberal Government, and at that time I probably stood up and said, this government is not willing to make choices, it is not willing to stand up and make decisions, which is what politics is really all about. I don't disagree with the Minister of Finance, that tough decisions are required. But the Liberal Government was unwilling to make those decisions. They kept trying to bury their head in the sand, or sweep problems under the rug without ever really having to deal with them. They did that for 18 months.

They did that really for two years when you look at the time that Mr. MacLellan actually became Premier, but I think what really bothers me is that the Tories seem to get half that right. They said, well, I guess we have to make decisions. It is about choices. You are absolutely right, but the fact is the choices you make are just as important as to whether you make the choices or not.

This particular government, Mr. Speaker, has made choices so far that are not only detrimental, as I think the member for Cape Breton East said, to the social deficit and in the long term to the economic deficit of this province, but they have also done it in a hypocritical manner. How can this government one day say they are going to remove $2.2 million from charities, they are going to slash and eliminate a $350,000 a year access for disability program, and then on the other hand they are paying $1.2 million at least, maybe as much as $2 million, to move a jail that was probably in a decent location in the first place. They gave $2.2 million to Scotiabank to do something that Scotiabank clearly has the funds to do and that is the hypocrisy of it.

Yes, it is about choices, but you can't say it is about choices when it is tough decisions and say that we had no choice when it is the easy ones, handing the money out to the big corporations and appeasing people with rich promises so that you can win one seat in Bedford-Fall River. That is not correct. It is not appropriate and that is what the real problem is with this government, Mr. Speaker. This government has said over and over again it is

[Page 1120]

about choices, but they have to make the right choices and they have to be consistent in how they are making those choices. That is the problem with this Tory Government. That is why this resolution is important.

It is not just frivolous as the Minister of Finance might state, Mr. Speaker. This resolution clearly is laying on the line that this government, much like in the old days of medieval times in Nottingham, is making wrong choices, just like Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Until they begin to make the right decisions, the decisions that are not hypocritical, clearly they are not going to be able to gain the respect of this House, at least on this side - or this province. They are on a slippery slope towards something which I am very sad to see. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to draw to the attention of the House, the honourable Minister of Finance raised his new-found concern for the economic well-being of the province. I would also like to draw to the attention of the House, this is the same minister in a previous life, when he was a minister in the John Buchanan Government, which ran up one of the most horrific debts that crippled the economic and social well-being of this province for generations to come, so let's not be under any illusions about the new-found road to Damascus that the Minister of Finance has found. He was part and parcel of a regime that ran this province to the brink of financial disaster between electric toilet seats, roads to nowhere, bridges to nowhere and just untold waste of immeasurable proportion.

Mr. Speaker, when the hundreds of millions of dollars came for the so-called offshore oil program back in the early 1980's, this member was a member of that regime that squandered over $200 million of the taxpayers' money when it could have been better spent to ensure the proper infrastructure and development of that program here in the province and he has the audacity to stand up here and chastise people for asking for the social benefits that they are so rightly deserving.

Mr. Speaker, I think he should do nothing less than stand up and apologize and accept the responsibility for the damage that he was part and parcel of in this province. I can't believe that he would stand up knowing that the Rambo Justice Minister is wasting thousands of dollars on his political missions to try and get on the right side of public opinion, whether it be on the gun issue or anything else that would make him look good. It is political optics. As I said yesterday, perception can sometimes become reality and this minister seems to thrive on that. He seems to be on the leading edge of trying to make people believe the non-reality and at the same time we spend $1 million, which certainly appears to be buying a seat, in Bedford, Mr. Speaker, while people in food banks are going hungry. How can that Minister of Finance stand with any sense of strong face and say to the people of Nova Scotia that the resolution from the member for Cape Breton East is not a worthy resolution. The evidence speaks for itself.

[Page 1121]

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, Tory times are hard times; any which way you cut it. They are repressive, oppressive, compressive, suppressive and downright nasty. The first thing they couldn't wait to do was go and pick on the indefensible, the weak, the poor, the disabled, those who would be least able to stand and defend themselves against this government. How can they in any conscience? We see what is happening in Antigonish with the blue route-red route scenario, just to try and protect the political hide of the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. How crass. Does he still think he is back in the Stanfield and Buchanan Eras?

We are not going to roll back the hands of time to buy a few seats in this province any more. The Tories have to get it through their thick skulls that that day of politics is dead and the people of Nova Scotia will not tolerate it. That is why we have had so many protests here, Mr. Speaker, by the paramedics, the disabled, by anyone and everyone who has a conscience about what is happening here in Nova Scotia and they have the audacity to stand up and say we are going to protect this province from the brink of disaster. That is like putting a weasel in charge of the chicken house and expecting fresh eggs in the morning. Give us a break. Unbelievable. (Interruptions)

We will see in the front row of this government, Mr. Speaker, the majority of the decisions are made by a small group of Cabinet Ministers, who by even the most naive recognition will come to realize that these members have never been without. They have never been to a food bank. They have probably never seen a food bank. The Premier says, when we get elected, everybody go on vacation, go to the cottage, relax, but he forgot to say, go to Hope Cottage because that is about the only hope you are going to get when it comes to this government. They are not going to get social justice. They are not going to get the support. They are not going to get the much-needed assistance to keep people from literally begging on the streets because there is not even enough money to help the workers give to the poor.

Mr. Speaker, they talk about volunteers, volunteer fire departments. The Minister of Labour - I am afraid if we were going to depend on that honourable member to protect the rights of the workers in the market place in Nova Scotia, well, if what is happening with the paramedics is any indication, God forbid - now they are going to expect the volunteer firefighters to do fire investigations because they will not hire sufficient staff in the fire marshal's office to protect the people of Nova Scotia. It is unacceptable. What kind of a repressive regime do they have going already?

Does he not realize that living back in the Buchanan and the Stanfield Eras is gone? We cannot turn back the hands of time, Mr. Speaker, but they would rather have the people come here on bended knee. They will throw them a few crumbs and say, how great thou art. People are not fooled like they used to be. The government can't editorialize communication like it once did. The spin doctors of the John Buchanan Era are gone. Remember that famous theme,

[Page 1122]

Honest John? Trust me, the future is here. Well that future is here and it is gone. I am just absolutely amazed that the Minister of Finance, who was part of that repressive regime, would stand here and say, I am going to take on those big guys down on Wall Street, those bonding agencies. We are not going to let them tell us what to do. Well, well, Mr. Speaker, I ask that this question be put and I ask for the vote to be put, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South. (Interruption)

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak on Resolution No. 162. I find it quite incredible that the Opposition finds it necessary to discuss in detail one particular segment of the Sydney casino profits program when the monies coming from this Sydney casino were, in fact, stated for other activities as well such as: sport and recreation, heritage, cultural matters, resource management and many other areas that would do wonders to help the economy in industrial Cape Breton.

I think it is important to note that the Opposition has decided to bring up just one issue, and it is a very important issue and I commend them for that. What they do forget is that when you are going to take money like that and put it into resource development, cultural programs, sport programs in industrial Cape Breton, that, in fact, it does help the economy. In fact, it might even help generate income within the economy, through the development of small business programs. If small business is successful in industrial Cape Breton, there will be a lot more money for people to spend in the economy. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Resolution No. 162 has expired.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, did you take three minutes off that particular resolution?

MR. SPEAKER: Pardon me?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The time for that resolution to be over with was 4:55 p.m. in my notes.

MR. SPEAKER: For the benefit of the honourable member who placed the question, the speaker took time off because of an introduction. There was an introduction and we deducted it from the time of the speaker, who was the honourable Minister of Finance.

We are now ready to deal with Resolution No. 113. Do we have any honourable members who wish to rise?

Res. No. 113, re Health - Plan: Funding - Reveal - notice given Oct. 15/99 - (Dr. J. Smith)

[Page 1123]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the debate on Resolution No.113. It essentially deals with the government budget and no plan for health care. For the benefit of some members of the House I will just read the resolve.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government come clean and bring forward their promised plan, including their plan for payments.".

Mr. Speaker, for close to 40 days this summer Nova Scotians heard the now Premier John Hamm and the now Minister of Health state time and time again that we have a plan for health care and it will only cost $46 million. They said the Liberals broke the health care system over six years, borrowed money to fix it and now their plan was going to correct all this for $46 million and they were going to get it from administration. That was the theme. It was very effective, as I mentioned last night in Health Estimates. I thought it was a brilliant strategy to peddle the big story. Probably in the House I can't call it the big lie because that might be unparliamentary language but it was a very effective program. I think Nova Scotians in some way bought that and so be it. I stand by that judgement.

Mr. Speaker, there were vague commitments to providing an adequate number of nurses, a commitment to attract physicians to rural communities, there was a complete and comprehensive review of the health care system promised and, in addition, the promise to reduce administration in the Department of Health particularly. That is where the savings were going to be made that would be reinvested into the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, this is not a plan. It was a series of thoughts that were pieced together in the election campaign, because this is what this government thought the people of Nova Scotia wanted to hear. Then as the campaign went on, a few more details were flushed out and a few matters added. They were saying in addition that they would commit to hire 100 full-time nurses, that they would invest in wellness promotion and disease prevention, and that they would spend $30 million on information technology and medical devices. Never once did this government say how it was going to pay for it. The Minister of Finance today was concerned about the negative impact that the Canadian bond rating agency has been looking at, they knew the details of our budget. They were quite aware of that, but we are seeing the concerns expressed at this juncture.

Then, Mr. Speaker, surprises in their plan just kept happening, like Topsy. This government eliminates regional health boards without having legislated community health boards. So we have now the lack of that connection between downtown Halifax and the communities and that was being built, it was not perfect, the regional health boards, we all agree there. The Goldbloom report mentioned changes that were recommended and we agree that communication was a bit of an issue and had to be improved, but I would ask, is this a plan, a plan to eliminate the regional health boards without telling them that they have done

[Page 1124]

so, to take decision-making back to downtown Halifax, back to the Buchanan days? This is not a plan. This is meeting a promise no matter what the cost to the taxpayers. Damn the torpedoes, keep the promises no matter what the cost to the health care system.

Last week when it was announced that this government was going to eliminate regional health boards, that was no big surprise to anyone. The surprise is that this government has no plan to replace it with. Even I, who tends to be sceptical on many occasions, was really surprised that they did it that way and I ask you, where is the plan? If there was indeed a plan, then the minister would have responded to last week's announcement with his government's intention of how they would continue local decision-making and it was quite obvious that there was no plan. That would have been the time that I would have anticipated to see a plan.

Mr. Speaker, our Health Investment Fund that was tabled in this House, and for those people who may not have been here at the time, I think they should go through that again and just carefully look at that. There is a lot of detail in that plan. We were criticized and it was a difficult task in communication, how to communicate the various investment parts of that plan, the operating part of it, but looking at information technology, the information management system, $75 million was designated for that. It involved a patient information system, it involved computerized home care records, re-establishing data collection, and a reporting network where doctors in hospitals in Yarmouth and Sydney could communicate effectively and accurately with Halifax and the tertiary care hospitals, there are other initiatives, and that was spread over a three year program. There was a plan to pay this back, Mr. Speaker. That is what is lacking within this government's initiatives at this juncture, so-called initiatives.

[5:00 p.m.]

Our health investment plan, in my opinion, was a sound health care plan. It did involve, no question, a major investment in health care. But without this major investment, we as a government would never be able to control costs. We see that this government is willing to continue to sink money into the same old system, and that is the point that I am trying to make - the same old system. Without telling us how they will pay for it or how it will improve the health care of Nova Scotians. All of a sudden, there was over $200 million available for the health care system, with no plan to pay it back. We heard about the debt that has accumulated under the previous government. It is starting again.

I ask the minister now, where is his plan to replace that community-based decision-making for health care? The minister was also asked last week, what were the cost implications of removing decision-making from the local communities and bringing it to downtown Halifax? The minister did not know the cost to take the decision-making process from the communities, from the regions into downtown Halifax again. He did not know. And if he had a plan, don't you think that he would have known that important part of the information?

[Page 1125]

It is like the contingency plan. I actually believed there was a contingency plan to address Bill No. 9. I really thought that, and I find now that there has not been. This minister and this government did not have a plan during the election and quite obviously, Mr. Speaker, they do not have a plan now.

Mr. Speaker, this government has made a commitment to invest in information technology. A good idea, as I said. A three year plan within our Health Investment Fund, and one that was included in that Health Investment Fund. Here is a major budget item, included in their health care plan, that they liked so much that they put it in their budget, or at least part of it. It is like trying to fix an engine, if you only have some of the parts, that engine is not going to run very well. That is what this government has done, stolen a little bit here - cherry-picking - and a little bit there. It is not making a complete system and it is not going to address the issue of continuum of care that people in Nova Scotia need.

The government has not explained to the people how this technology will work or how it will benefit them. They have not explained how much this investment will cost. And, most importantly, they have not shown us how they will pay for it. One could draw a long bow, perhaps, and say that the complete and the comprehensive review of health care facilities could mean that this government perhaps may be planning to close hospitals in the future. Certainly this plan did not come forward during the election.

Mr. Speaker, we heard during the campaign that this government wanted to hire 100 full-time nurses. Now we see that they want to hire 100 full-time nurses or equivalent. What does that mean? LPNs? RNs? One could say that it did not take too long for the so-called plan to hire nurses to change. Now they are hiring 100 full-time nurses or equivalent. This government committed themselves to attracting physicians to rural Nova Scotia by promising them that they will reimburse their tuition if they agree to practice in rural Nova Scotia. And what happens to this so-called plan when the physician leaves after he or she honours their end of the bargain? Have they invested money in paying for tuition instead of investing money in equipment, in technology and making rural practice more attractive, along with building a health care team in those communities to address the needs of those communities? No physician is going to go in those communities and practice alone for the long term.

Then, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the campaign materials from various government candidates during the course of the election, it becomes even more obvious that there is not a plan. I stand in this House and clearly ask, where is the plan? After all, the Premier during the campaign said his health care plan was sensible, practical, affordable and doable. Now let's have a look at it. Let's see it and bring it to the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the previous speaker and the former Minister of Health of the previous government that we do, indeed, have a plan.

[Page 1126]

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to share the details of the government's plan for health care in Nova Scotia. Our plan is a careful plan. It is a thoughtful plan and, because of these factors, work is in progress. We cannot and will not rely on guesswork to improve health care delivery to Nova Scotians. We will not come up with a plan blindly. We will not pull a figure from the sky and throw resources at services without knowing. Our decisions are in the best interests of Nova Scotians. We have not come with a predetermined notion of what is right for the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is developing a responsible, accountable plan, built on evidence and based on input from health care professionals and consumers. We are listening to Nova Scotians. Within our platform, we made a number of commitments to address the challenges facing health care in this province. From day one, we have been working with Nova Scotians to set priorities to move forward in these important areas.

One of the biggest concerns we have had is when we heard from the people of this province that there have been inefficiencies and inappropriate service delivery with too much focus on acute care and not enough on continuing care services. During the election campaign, we promised to complete a review of our health care facilities with these concerns in mind, Mr. Speaker. We are now undertaking a comprehensive assessment of all Nova Scotia's health care facilities, in order to ensure that Nova Scotians are receiving the right care in the most appropriate facility. Throughout this month, all health care facilities, with support and direction from the Department of Health, have been assessing their patients in order to determine whether they are receiving the most appropriate type of care. The aim is to identify these patients in hospitals who might benefit from an alternative type of care, such as home care or long-term care.

We want to get a sense of how many Nova Scotians are in hospitals waiting to receive home care or placement in long-term care facilities. This review is necessary and it is extremely valuable. In order to better our plan, our future health care needs, we must have up-to-date information on how beds are currently being used, Mr. Speaker. Our review will be completed very soon and we expect to have a final report from that review sometime in December of this year. Once we receive that report, we will be able to implement changes as quickly as possible. This will help ensure patients needs are properly met, while delivering services in the most effective way.

What is remarkable is that this is the first such review in five years, Mr. Speaker. This point raises one very important issue. How can any government, responsibly and adequately, invest in the future of the system without fully knowing the current status. Clearly, there is no reasonable answer.

Mr. Speaker, this government has recently fulfilled another promise to Nova Scotians. Clear disenchantment with their regional health board structures. We have initiated the transition to a new care health delivery system, which is more responsive to community needs.

[Page 1127]

We have begun meeting with officials from the regional health boards to explain the transition process, to establish a timetable for the creation of the new health care authorities. Nova Scotians must have access to a health care system that is focused on patients, community-based and delivering an appropriate range of services. This transition will ensure they do, Mr. Speaker.

Another significant and ongoing concern in this province has been the retention of nurses and the strains and career limitations which have been placed on these important care givers. This situation requires urgent attention and we have given it the attention it truly deserves. Recruitment efforts are under way to fulfil our promise to hire a full-time nursing policy advisor. This individual will provide to the departments the nursing perspective of health policy issues and all programs and policy issues relating to or affecting nursing.

Our nursing policy advisor will also work with members of the nursing community to develop effective strategies, to retain and recruit nurses. Since we came to office health boards have also created 130 new, full-time nursing positions. (Applause) These have been mainly in the western and northern regions of the province. There is money within the increased acute care budget to pay for these positions. Our hospitals have received $140 million over last year's estimates, to cover such additional costs as hiring more nurses.

As part of our review, which I mentioned previously, Mr. Speaker, we are also attempting to discover where the additional and most pressing needs are. We will work with the various hospital boards in funding these additional positions. It is too early to tell where and how many additional positions will be required, but, as a government, we are committed to meeting those needs as best we can.

Nursing training is another key area; more than $800,000 has been invested in additional seats at Dalhousie Medical School, St. Francis Xavier and the St. Francis Xavier satellite at UCCB. We know the nursing profession is becoming increasingly complex and that nurses need to continually upgrade. They have to upgrade their skills to meet the new challenges as well. To help defray some of those additional training costs we have allocated $50,000 towards professional development. An additional $50,000 has been put aside in this year's budget to get our nursing bursary program up and running. The intent of this program is to pay 50 per cent of tuition costs for nursing students who agree to practice in Nova Scotia after they graduate. We have also committed $60,000 to initiate a similar program for medical students.

Mr. Speaker, I have touched briefly on some key aspects of our plan. Each of these areas has been identified as a priority action area, using feedback and input from Nova Scotians. We will be relying further on the input, knowledge and experience of caregivers, volunteers, communities. We continue to unroll our plan.

[Page 1128]

This system belongs to Nova Scotians and we will work with them to ensure it is meeting their needs. Mr. Speaker, these words equate to focused, evidence-based, accountable, cost-effective, responsible care. This is our commitment, this is our plan and there is no other way. The previous government was going down a road that had no end. It would have ended in disaster for the taxpayers of this province. (Applause) The debt has gone far beyond the imagination of most Nova Scotians. The time has come, thank you.

[5:15 p.m.]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to join this debate. I must say I am pleased to participate in the debate on Resolution No. 113, the operative clause of which reads, "Therefore be it resolved that this government come clean and bring forward their promised plan, including their plan for payment.".

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some amusement to the undertakings and the performance made by the former Minister of Health, and I must say I don't want to spend very much time on it because that is not the subject of the resolution, but we are all well aware of the results of the administration of the Liberal Government and the chaos that that one-trick pony wreaked on this province.

I was also pleased to hear from the member for Pictou East because I hadn't heard from him for so long, I thought perhaps he had suffered some terrible accident and been struck silent, like many of his colleagues. (Interruptions) It has been so long since I had heard from him I wasn't even sure it was him.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make my position on this really clear, right up front, about the so-called plan. It is really clear that there is no plan. We sometimes refer to it as a plot, a conspiracy, the tenets of an evil cabal, perhaps sinister palaver, but it certainly is not a plan. That is the one thing it is not, because a plan would have costing, it would have implementation targets, it would have identifiable goals. A plan contains much more than a collection of rhetorical statements that the group opposite have no intention of keeping.

We have seen them deny, time after time, the commitments that they have made, whether they have been at the hospital in Yarmouth, or whether they have been in documents like their Priorities for People, whether it is with respect to the elimination of Pharmacare premiums, or whether it is with respect to the restoration of the Children's Dental Program. They made those commitments and now they are breaking them one at a time. That is what they are doing. They are breaking them one at a time. (Interruptions) That is what it is. It is a betrayal of the trust that was reposed on them on July 27th.

[Page 1129]

I want to speak specifically about the Department of Health, because as you know, the budget for the Department of Health is now some $1.7 billion. If I believe the Minister of Health - and I believe him on this point, at least - it is a 13 per cent increase this year in the cost of the Department of Health. I sat here in estimates last night and I listened to the minister brag about saving $6.75. It was hard for me to believe that when they were taking money away from charities, when they were doing away with programs, that they had to do it with the disabled in this province, that he thought he had done some great deed by saving $6.75.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the budget now for communications in the Department of Health is $419,000. Do you know what that is for? That is for the propaganda of the government with respect to their so-called health initiatives. That is what it is for. I have seen a little document that they have put out called the Transition News. I have asked repeatedly for the minister to demonstrate what it is that the transition to their so-called new health plan is going to cost, and he can't answer that question because he doesn't know. There is no plan whatsoever.

They are doing away with the regional health boards, doing away with four regional health boards and they are going to replace them with nine district health authorities. (Interruptions) This is what they are quoted as saying in the newspaper, nine district health authorities. Instead of four CEOs, I guess there will be nine; instead of four regional health board administrations, there will be nine. I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that all of this extra administration is going to cost and yet they have the temerity to try to tell the people of Nova Scotia that doing away with the regional health boards is going to evoke some kind of cost savings. Well, that is just untrue.

Mr. Speaker, over and above the 13 per cent increase this year, the previous government projected growth of the health budget at 11. 2 per cent annually. Have they come up with some kind of a plant to deal with the escalating increase? No, sir. No, they haven't come up with any kind of plan. They certainly haven't laid it out for us in any way. There are not enough nurses, doctors. How are they going to pay for them? Have they settled on a plan for that? No, of course not. They can't even negotiate a decent contract or have negotiated a decent contract on their behalf with the paramedics. They have to resort to heavy-handed ham-fisted tactics - no pun intended - to deal with the paramedics.

We know, that more information technology is required. Where is the plan to deal with it? It doesn't exist. We know one thing for certain and when it comes to health care, if there is one service where you can't do more with less, it is in health care. That is the problem. They keep talking about savings and they talk about program review. Where is this heading? Well, I will tell you where it is heading. Review is some kind of double-speak for cut, that's what it is. Look, Mr. Speaker, I can hear them over there braying. They have taken their heads out of their papers long enough (Interruptions) So, I finally got their attention. Did I hear them during the debate on paramedics? Not at all, not a word. (Interruption)

[Page 1130]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I want to know where this government is going and what they are going to continue with. They are talking about program review, but my bet is what they really mean is out-sourcing and contracting-out. At what cost to the health care workers? There is a facilities review under way, and do you know what that means? That means the closure of rural facilities, that's what it means, and you mark my words, you write it down, today's date, I said it; facilities in this province will close under their program review. That is their intention and it is clear.

Mr. Speaker, right across this province the destruction of the regional health boards and the replacement with district health authorities will ultimately turn out to be more cumbersome, more expensive and will not deliver the same quality of service as we would have gotten if they had simply mandated the community health boards and allowed the regional health boards to continue with the job that they were set up to do. That is what they ought to have done, that is what they should have done. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise one other item, a small item, but nonetheless. They are enforcing arbitration with the paramedics but that cuts two ways because it may well be that the arbitrators will decide to double the wages of the paramedics and I hope they do because they deserve it. That will be a cost that will come raining down on this government because they wouldn't allow the collective bargaining process to go forward . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask for a stay in this decision.

MR. DEXTER: . . . undoubtedly ask for a stay in the decision because any decision the court makes that they don't like, they want to do away with. That's right, Mr. Speaker. You can't turn a $1.7 billion budget for the Department of Health on a dime and that is a fact. Where is the plan? Nowhere to be found. No plan by this group. They have themes. You may remember themes, eerily familiar to the previous government, but no plan. Frankly there is nothing here except for incomplete and incoherent campaign rhetoric. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: I just want to thank the members opposite for giving me this chance to get up and be heckled by you. It is very kind of you. There is a lot of talent over there, Mr. Speaker. I want to tell you, it has been quite an experience coming into this House. To be gracious, I would say that, truly, there are a lot of abilities there. Some excellent questions by times, incredible filibusters, although that can get a little dull by times and talent that would cause the actors on This Hour Has 22 Minutes to shake in their shoes, lest any of you depart, for truly you have a talent.

[Page 1131]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought we were debating a resolution here. The honourable member opposite is not within light years of talking about that resolution. Would he save those kinds of comments for his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South knows full well that today we are allowing a lot of leeway and latitude to all honourable members. The honourable member for Kings South has the floor.

MR. MORSE: I would thank the honourable member for Cape Breton South because this is my chance to talk about something that is of utmost importance to Nova Scotians. Since this subject is on health, we are going to talk about healthy drinking water. You see, one of the great challenges of the next century is going to be a good source of good groundwater. Absolutely. Since the member for Cape Breton South has pointed this out, we should be cognizant of our responsibility to inventory the supply of groundwater in Nova Scotia to determine who is tapping that groundwater.

Thank you, honourable member for Lunenburg West. I can see that as a gentleman with deep roots in the agricultural field, he appreciates what I am talking about. You see, ladies and gentlemen, the past three years have been difficult years in my area. We have had a drought and the surface water has not been sufficient. So it is important for us to map the groundwater so that we can all have healthy groundwater.

Now, as long as we are talking about health and the burgeoning health budget, which has to be brought under control (Interruption) No, this is more important. We should talk about fiscal accountability.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would all honourable members please extend to the honourable member for Kings South the same type of respect that they hope to receive when they are on their feet. He has the floor.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, these members opposite are a hard act to follow. It would be hard to be as entertaining as these ladies and gentlemen. I thank the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, the Leader of the New Democratic Party. (Interruption) Yes, you are absolutely right. P3 is a concern because we should remember that if we are diverting dollars into expensive P3 leases, then that takes dollars away from other areas, such as giving a decent wage to the paramedics. So your point is well taken.

Now that we are getting quite specific about health care, we should talk about the cost of not scrapping the regional health boards, because that was a promise that we made in our campaign platform. As politicians, we should be concerned about how the public perceives us as government. To not scrap those regional health boards would be a breach of trust with the 40 per cent of Nova Scotians that elected the 30 members on this side of the House. So

[Page 1132]

it was imperative that we followed through swiftly and it was so good to see the paper from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union which spoke on the last page, and spoke well of how this government was proceeding forthwith with its agenda to tackle the deficit.

[5:30 p.m.]

We take that as encouragement from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union because, Mr. Speaker, without tackling the fiscal problems in this province, there will be no health care system, there will be no education system. As long as we are talking about education, it was so good to be here this past Wednesday night when my colleague, the honourable member for Kings North, got up and he spoke so well about public education and he was so well received by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova and the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, because indeed it was unanimous. Everybody agreed in public education. I also support public education.

As long as we are talking about public education, let's talk about community colleges. I think it would be good if this government was to invest more into community colleges. By golly, you know what might happen, some of them . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would caution the honourable member to go back and perhaps just look at the resolution. I will try to rein you in. I have been very flexible, but we should try to stick to the resolution.

MR. MORSE: Absolutely. You see, the community colleges graduate people like, I believe, paramedics. They also graduate people who just might work in call centres and lo and behold and heaven forbid that the Bank of Nova Scotia might want to hire some of our children who come through our publicly-funded community colleges, and heaven forbid, if they do well and, heaven forbid, if they end up paying taxes, they end up paying income taxes, and they end up paying HST, that grows our revenues which helps to fund our health care system.

So you see, Mr. Speaker, we are unanimous. It is important to properly fund community colleges so that good, solid employers, like the Bank of Nova Scotia, can come here and hire properly trained employees. I see my time grows short and I regret this. I do look forward to again talking about things that are most critical to the health care system, such as finances, such as the economy, to set up some sort of system, unlike what has been there. How shocking it was to find that there was no control in our health care system at a recent meeting of the Western Regional Health Board. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes debate on Resolution No. 113.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

[Page 1133]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 50.

Res. No. 50, re Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Safety - Prioritize - notice given Oct. 12/99 - (Mr. B. Boudreau)

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Resolution No. 50. This is a very important resolution. It is important because it talks about a number of very serious issues. This resolution talks about road safety, it also talks about the respect for rural Nova Scotia. Resolution No. 50 goes as follows:

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

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent the people of Cape Breton The Lakes, but this resolution is not just about Cape Breton; it is about safe roads for all Nova Scotians. This Tory Government had a lot to say about roads when they were in Opposition; the Tory Transportation Critic was never at a loss for words on this issue. Why that former Transportation Critic never made it into Cabinet is beyond me. Maybe if that Tory MLA was a Cabinet Minister, roads would have received more attention from the government in its Speech from the Throne and in the budget.

Instead, the condition of the roads has barely been mentioned since the election. Before and during the election, the Tories could never say enough about rural roads. In the Tory platform, there are 243 promises, and only seven promises deal with roads. In those seven promises, the word safety is only mentioned once and it was only mentioned in relation to education programs in cooperation with the Trucking Association of Nova Scotia.

This is very surprising, especially from a Party that was elected as the government of rural mainland Nova Scotia. According to this government, fixing roads should only be done for two reasons; to improve tourism and for economic growth. Not one word about fixing roads to improve safety. Not one.

[Page 1134]

I think this is irresponsible, especially since there is hardly any new money for roadwork in the provincial budget for the Department of Transportation. The fact that there is hardly any new money for roadwork must come as a disappointment to many of the backbenchers on the government side of the House. I know several Tory MLAs campaigned on a promise to improve rural roads, so I think that their constituents must be very disappointed in this government. I know in Yarmouth, the Tory MLA worked with a group that is pushing for more roadwork in their area. This group even had a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Transportation a week or so ago, and I would be interested to find out what the results of that meeting were. I hope they came away happy, because people in my riding are not happy.

Safety is a major concern and a major problem on our highways. The Minister of Transportation himself said safety is a major concern of his government, yet they won't spend the money to do anything about it. Fatal crashes on Nova Scotia's highway are up by over 20 per cent. According to the Department of Transportation, as of mid-August, there were 58 fatalities, fatal collisions, compared to 48 during the same period last year. This is a shocking number.

The good news is that deaths caused by drinking and driving are down by 25 per cent. That is the good news. In the face of these numbers, you would think the Tory Government would put more emphasis on road safety. In fact, I had an opportunity to ask the question of the Minster of Transportation about road safety in my riding. It was in relation to work being done on Highway No. 125, Trans Canada Highway, and Route 223, the Barrachois Mountain. These two projects are very important for tourism and businesses in my riding, Cape Breton The Lakes.

The company that received the government tender for this work has a leased a quarry from a small, local operator in the Leitches Creek area. Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear I am happy that this work is being carried out. People in my riding are happy that these roads are receiving the attention from the Department of Transportation and Public Works. The company doing the work is making a terrible mess. I personally have witnessed huge trucks speeding at 115 kilometres an hour in a 70 kilometre zone. I have heard the noise . . .

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

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I find this kind of comical to hear the member opposite complaining about roads, when in dear old Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, we do not even have a Trans Canada Highway coming into our lovely town and in Cape Breton, outside of Sydney, they are having Highway No. 125 twinned. I would love to have the highway finished to Yarmouth.

[Page 1135]

Mr. Speaker, over the last five years the previoius government cut and slashed the Department of Transportation's budget and there were only selected ridings that received anything from the slashed budget. Guess what - Yarmouth was not one of those ridings.

Last year in the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, in which we have 1,019 kilometres of roads, we acquired $15,000 from the previous government for road work in the Municipality of Yarmouth, and that was only because it was cost-shared with the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth. They cost-shared on the road, $15,000. (Interruption) That is not the town, that is the municipality, I will let the honourable member know, which he should know. Maybe we should know how much money we are spending in Lunenburg West last year and this year. Mr. Speaker, I am informed that Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has received absolutely nothing in the past six years of the previous administration.

Mr. Speaker, if you recall back in August, the new Premier of the day went to Quebec, to the First Premiers Conference. A top priority for our new Premier was to get a deal with the federal government for transportation. He was the one who brought it to the table and I applaud the Premier of the day for doing that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, October 19, 1999, Joe Clark demands national highway policy. I applaud the Right Honourable Joe Clark for doing that. We need that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has raped the Province of Nova Scotia, they have robbed their railroads; they have taken their airports and they have dumped them on the shoulders of the municipalities - Yarmouth, for example. Now they are dumping the ports on the shoulders of the property taxpayers of the municipalities. I think that is a disgrace and a shame. What that is doing is putting a heavier burden on our transportation system, our roads. We need money put into our transportation. I think it is only fair that every member in this House, lobby the federal government to get them to put money back into the transportation system in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, approximately $130 million was taken out of the Province of Nova Scotia last year. (Interruption) Thank you, and I am sure the honourable colleague will correct me if I am wrong. I would like to know how much was brought back into the province for our transportation. To my knowledge, it was approximately $14 million.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think it is a great plan for this new government to have a 10 year road plan. I spoke to our minister last evening and he assured me that that plan will be tabled in this House no later than the spring of the year 2000 and I look forward to that. (Applause)

[Page 1136]

Mr. Speaker, travelling our great province and going over some of the ridings, I see road work going on in ridings, but it is funny, I did not see any road work in Yarmouth, but I did see some in my sister neighbourhood, Shelburne. I saw them cut a right-of-way in Shelburne County. They cut the right-a-way, but they forgot to build the road. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand in my place this evening and make a few comments on that wonderful topic so near to my heart and maybe the seat of my pants - roads. I want you to know that, on many occasions, we have sat, stood, listened and spoken on this topic. I hear the issue, how do we prioritize roads? How do we tell our constituents when a road is going to be paved? Prior to this we had P3s for schools. We believe it should be P4s for roads. You should prioritize and make public your paving projects. Prioritize them. Make them public. Tell people when we are going to turn attention to certain roads.

I hear the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes talk about safety and it is an important factor. Safety is an important factor in determining the prioritization of roads. I have heard Ministers of Transportation stand in this House, one in particular, who used to tell me, it depends upon volume. It depends upon RCI, road condition index. Then he told me how important the Welshtown Road was to him. If you know where the Welshtown Road is in Shelburne, it suddenly received one ton of attention. I used that word ton to the degree of what was the condition of that road? What was the volume of that road? What was the tonnage on that road or was that road in none other than the Minister of Transportation's riding? Oh, no. That wasn't the case at that time, was it? (Interruption) It is so.

I want to point that there are other factors when you prioritize the roads, Mr. Speaker, and let's talk about some of them. Let's talk about the fact that it is important to turn our attention to roads because of the economic factor in a particular community. When was this road last worked on? When did this road last receive upgrading? Is that road part of the economic plan for a particular community? Tourism, for example, and the importance in a particular road? More importantly, I look at the factor of roads and I can take a quick tour, and I don't want to get into using props, but there is a certain road I heard about from the past member for Pictou West many times. He told me about the Durham Road. Do you remember that one, Mr. Speaker? I will tell you, I haven't heard the current member, and I don't know if the current Minister of Transportation has heard about the Durham Road yet.

The member for Cape Breton Nova told me, as a rookie, if you want attention when it comes to matter in your constituency, you have to speak up. You have to make your views known and I want to use a perfect example for the member for Yarmouth. I recall the previous member for Yarmouth who took me and my Leader on a tour of the Canaan Road. The Canaan Road was in such bad shape, Mr. Speaker, that part of that road, the bridges, were repaired with old road signs. But do you know what? The Canaan Road is up to scratch

[Page 1137]

today. Do you know the reason? The MLA for Yarmouth, John Deveau, got that done. (Applause) John Deveau went after that road. He pressured in this House, he introduced resolutions, he met and he persuaded the Minister of Transportation at the time, the Honourable Clifford Huskilson to take care of that road.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you have heard me speak numerous times about the need in my constituency for various roads. I have followed the example of the member for Cape Breton Nova. His 30 years have told me that in politics the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Have I made a resolution about the Prospect Road? Yes. Members opposite, have you ever heard of Porcupine Hill? Yes, because that is part of our job, making sure that whether you are a backbencher, hidden back there, or whether you have the opportunity over here to make your voice known, that you lobby the Minister of Transportation. You make sure those prioritized roads are well known and then you publicize it. You tell your constituents, yes, I am pressuring for attention to a particular road and I am going to find out from the Minister of Transportation when that road is going to be on that list.

Many times you will hear reference to roads over here. You will hear the member for Hants East talk about Route 215 and Route 315. I hope you will hear the member for Chester-St. Margaret's talk about the Peggy's Cove Road. It got done as far as Indian Point and there hasn't been a thing done to it since. Now if you are sitting on the government side and you have the chance to sit around the Cabinet table, I would hope that you could say to the very busy part-time Minister of Transportation, could you please tell me where my completion of the Peggy's Cove Road sits on that prioritized list? That's the business we are in.

We are making sure that we are getting attention for the needs in our constituency. I can tell you, and I was speaking earlier to the member for Victoria about this and it would be important for new members to look around, and not just within your own caucus. You should consult members like the member for Victoria, the member for Sackville-Cobequid and ask them, as veterans in this House, how did they accomplish some of the things that they have done? They accomplished them because they made sure that the squeaky wheel got the grease. When it comes to things such as Ingonish; such as Second Lake in Sackville, the credit has to be done to the fact that the MLA represents his constituents.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I see a certain member over there who was renowned as a straight shooter, who had his say day in and day out on issues in that wonderful constituency of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Guess what? I haven't heard one single road resolution from that member. Do your job. Make sure the Minister of Transportation knows you are there and you'll succeed in having your road prioritized.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 1138]

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I only have four minutes left so I will continue on my notes. I have heard the noise created by this operation. Residents are complaining about dust and dirt. So I asked the Minister of Transportation about this during Question Period a few weeks ago.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I haven't been around this House perhaps as long as I should have been, but I was just wondering if an honourable member can get up twice to speak to the same resolution?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious he hasn't been around here for very long because that is the practice in resolutions.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, I wasn't in here, but actually no, you cannot speak twice to a resolution. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.The ruling is that the honourable member can close debate. Carry on, please

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I asked the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about this during Question Period a few days ago, a couple of weeks ago. (Interruptions)

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

MR. BOUDREAU: I told him the residents were worried about their safety while these trucks zoomed back and forth, to and from the quarry. Do you know what his reply was, Mr. Speaker? The minister said you can't have it both ways, and if you want roadwork to be done, there is going to be some discomfort. Are these the words of a government that is concerned about road safety? Well, I know the people of Cape Breton The Lakes have experienced plenty of discomfort. I have since learned that safety experts have been to the site and confirmed that there are very serious violations happening and I am afraid . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: . . . there is going to be plenty more discomfort. (Interruptions)

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

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I suggest there are plenty of roads throughout rural Nova Scotia that are not safe. Unfortunately, I have seen nothing in the budget or the Speech from the Throne, and I have heard nothing from the minister that would make me think that these roads are going to get the attention they deserve from this Tory Government. According

[Page 1139]

to the Tory election platform, a road will only get the attention if they think it will help tourism. Well, I am glad that our Minister of Tourism happens to be a Cape Bretoner because maybe he will make sure that we will receive the same benefit as other areas in the province. That would be a good start.

So far the Minister of Tourism refused to defend Nova Scotia when we were dishonestly criticized in the American media over the seal hunt. I think one area the Tory Minister from Cape Breton can focus on is Kellys Mountain, Mr. Speaker. As everyone knows, there could have been a tragedy last week when a truck carrying 18 kilograms of explosives turned over. I suggest probably nothing will ever be done as long as this government is in power, but I hope the department is considering looking at improving road signs in that area.

I think the best example yet of how this government does not have its priorities straight is the scandal with the new Antigonish bypass. Members of the Liberal caucus have asked the Minister of Transportation and Public Works many times if the Premier ever asked him to interfere in the selection of a route for the bypass. Members of the Liberal caucus have asked the Premier if he ever talked to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about changing his department's recommendations. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? We are still waiting for a straight answer.

Over the weekend, 500 people met in Antigonish to talk about the red route or the blue route and their own MLA, the Tory Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, did not even bother to show up. Does this mean the Tory Government has made up its mind about which route they will build? The truth is that experts at the Department of Transportation and Public Works said the blue route will be cheaper and safer. The cheapest and safest route would naturally be the way to go but, since the Tories took power, the more expensive and risky red route seems to be the only one they support. This gives the impression that the Tories are caving in to pressure. This lack of leadership could cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia up to $15 million.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about this important resolution. I hope we can get some real answers from this government. They seemed to have all the answers during the last election, but they have been awfully quiet lately; they never say anything. Rural Nova Scotians deserve good roads for more than just tourism. They deserve good roads so they can be travelled on safely. Safety should be the government's number-one priority when it comes to spending money on road repairs. Thank you, sir. (Applause)

[Page 1140]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., and the hours will be until 2:00 a.m. Friday morning. The business will be Committee of the Whole House on Bills, Bill No. 9, after the daily routine and Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until 8:00 a.m.

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

The motion is carried.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for the late debate this evening is submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. It reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House work together to represent the concerns of thousands of Nova Scotians regarding the gun registration component of Bill C-68.".

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

JUSTICE (CAN.) - GUN REGISTRATION (BILL C-68):

CONCERNS - REPRESENT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this resolution this evening. I realize my time is quite limited so I want to say right at the outset that I was extremely disappointed this afternoon during Question Period when the member from the NDP raised the concern that this government was standing up with its colleague provinces in opposition to this regressive piece of legislation that has been shoved down the throats of Canadians thus far. There is a saying that politics are almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times. That was said by Sir Winston Churchill. (Interruptions.)

[Page 1141]

We all know the results of the last federal election that was held in 1997. Up until that point the tenure of the previous Liberal Members of Parliament had been going along quite comfortably. They seemed to be quite smug in their positions in representing the Province of Nova Scotia. I point this out time and time again, that in rural Nova Scotia, those former federal Liberal Members of Parliament would not listen, they would not listen to their constituents and when the Writ was called, they were looking for new jobs.

This afternoon I have the pleasure of speaking again on this - I shouldn't say pleasure but I guess somebody has to stand up for Nova Scotians since the previous Liberal Government would not stand up and speak for rural Nova Scotians. They would not. (Interruptions) The former Premier of Nova Scotia, Allan Rock's parliamentary secretary, was part of the author that crafted up that regressive piece of legislation now called the Firearms Act. (Interruptions) And the member from Lunenburg West knows full well that many of his constituents, whether they live in Wileville, Lunenburg, Bakers Settlement or anywhere down along the South Shore, are opposed to this regressive piece of legislation called the Firearms Act. (Interruptions)

Now, to get back to the point. This afternoon in Question Period, the member for Halifax Chebucto raised concerns relative to the cost, legitimate questions. I might have been concerned and perhaps a little bit annoyed that the honourable member would raise those types of questions, but I think what the honourable member was trying to say was that we are throwing good money after bad. I don't mean to cast an aspersion, the honourable member certainly represents his constituents, and I am sure he feels that he is representing some of the concerns Nova Scotians have; but what I am hearing Nova Scotians say is, we want to have a say. We want to keep our firearms, particularly our long arms; our rifles and shotguns, things that are heirlooms, things that our ancestors perhaps had before us. With this type of legislation already we have seen a number of firearms prohibited, a number of firearms restricted, and we don't believe that that is right.

My colleague from Colchester North - and he was successful in the election campaign - my colleague from Pictou West; my colleague from Preston; my colleague from Queens and of course my colleague from Shelburne, they have concerns about the government coming in and taking firearms and telling law-abiding citizens, we know what is best for you. The member opposite was quite correct this afternoon when he said that these wealthy provinces, they have actually made application for intervenor status in the hopes of changing the government's mind. They have applied to the Supreme Court and I am sure our learned colleague would have it in legalese regarding that particular type of initiative.

There also have been challenges put forward by the Province of New Brunswick, by the Province of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories. I believe Nunavut has also put in a challenge. So I guess the point is, this is not so much, as far as I am concerned, about the economic consequences as it is the social consequences. People in my riding, particularly those out in the rural areas of my riding, and I represent some 63 communities, including the

[Page 1142]

Town of Stewiacke, people raised it on the doorstep. When you opened the door, they would say, now, Brooke, I know there are a number of provincial issues out there, like roads, health, education and transportation that we are very concerned about, but I am concerned that I am going to have to pay this registration tax for an FAC, a firearms' acquisition certificate, and I feel that a piece of paper, quite frankly, will not stop a bullet; and he raised a very good point.

Mr. Speaker, I recall when you were in Opposition, and you still do and you did represent Cumberland South and always have the best interests of your constituents at heart, many times I know that you have heard from your constituents saying that they are in opposition to this regressive piece of legislation called the Firearms Act. I think that the federal government did a very poor job in trying to sell this piece of legislation. There are interest groups and special interest groups that think if you register a firearm, look, it can't commit any type of atrocity, it can't commit any type of homicide or suicide but, you know, what is really disturbing to me is that the federal government in Ottawa spends under $5 million on breast cancer research which claims some 5,400 lives across this nation each year, but to date the feds are known, to the honourable member opposite, and to all members who are listening, and to all Nova Scotians, the federal government is known to have spent already some $475 million on Bill C-68. That cost, I am told, could quickly exceed $1.5 billion.

I think, Mr. Speaker, it is in the best interests of this government to try to support efforts and join in attaining intervention status in hopes of stopping this Firearms Act. There are going to be provincial costs associated with the Firearms Act. There already is a lot of unknown costs. We have seen advertisements in the provincial newspapers for firearms inspectors. We know that the RCMP has had to indulge itself in the registration process. We know that those RCMP should be out fighting real crime instead of having to take valuable time and valuable resources to register law-abiding citizens. They should be out fighting real crime.

Mr. Speaker, I also heard that the RCMP has had many of their valuable programs cut and some even eliminated because of the cost and the additional money that has to go into this Bill C-68. We believe that that is wrong. This government believes that that is wrong. I am very proud of this government, I am very proud of the Minister of Justice, that they recognize that this is an issue that grabs right at the heart of rural Nova Scotia. It grabs right at the heart. It may be difficult for some honourable members to understand that, but you have to have the experience, you have to go out into Harmony Ridge, you have to go down to Queens County, you have to go up to Tatamagouche, you have to get out and talk to the people in Shelburne. Mr. Speaker, go into Springhill and talk to the people. Ask them some night, perhaps at one of the Nova Scotia Legion Branches, go in and talk to the veterans and ask them how they feel about the potential to lose their firearms. We all remember what Hitler did before he committed the atrocities that he committed across Europe. We all remember, and I know that member certainly is aware of the atrocities that Hitler committed after he disarmed the law-abiding people in his country, so let's not fool ourselves. This is an

[Page 1143]

infringement on the fundamental rights of Canadians and in this case I am very concerned about it.

I congratulate any province, any government that will stand up to Ottawa. Mind you, this is something I can't quite understand, Mr. Speaker, the majority of provinces in this great country of Canada are opposed to this legislation, the Firearms Act, but yet the Chretien Liberals, I guess we can go further, I guess a logical extension, where the honourable member raises the question, the Chretien Liberals and the NDP support this sort of thing. I can't, for one minute, understand that.

We do have trouble with this legislation. We have trouble with the whole registration system. The fact that there is some 800 to 1,000 public servants working in the registration system, Mr. Speaker. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have heard the details of the speech of the honourable member who submitted this resolution for late debate, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. When I read the resolution, it struck me as one of those very generally-worded resolutions, the details of which are crucial if we are to understand what is actually intended. That is why I am glad I heard the details of what the member had to say.

I think the member will be happy to hear that, in fact, we have much common ground in our understanding of the nature of the problem. It is interesting that only two Parties are represented in the House for this debate. I think the two Parties who are represented here for this debate are the ones who have taken a fairly critical view of the Firearms Act as presented by the federal government. I note, of course, that it is the registration component of Bill C-68, now since it has been enacted, the Firearms Act, that the member has asked us to focus on and he is right to ask us to focus on that part of it and he is right to not really raise criticisms about other parts of either the Firearms Act or its predecessor legislation that controls hand guns, automatic weapons, submachine guns and weapons of that sort. Because it is clear that that form of registration and police-administered control is exactly the kind of control over dangerous firearms that Canadians, almost universally, support. It is one of the those things that sets us apart as a society from the United States. I think, and poll after poll shows, that the vast majority of Canadians support that kind of restriction of acquisition and use, of course, of those kinds of firearms.

What is at issue here is something different. What is at issue here is what is called long-barrelled firearms, that is to say, shotguns and rifles. For the most part, of course, shotguns and rifles are found, more commonly, in rural areas than they are in urban areas. But, naturally enough, of course, there are urban dwellers who have them, as well. But they are much more common as a part of the way of life in rural areas. Rural areas across Canada vary quite a bit.

[Page 1144]

In some of them, for example, Nunavut in the Northwest Territories and in the Yukon, the use of long-barrelled firearms is crucial to making a living for many people who are there. It is something that is commonly met with and used at an early age. Now that is not quite the situation in our province, but it is not unmet with either. There are instances of people and communities where the use of long-barrelled firearms is, if not the mainstay of income, at least part of the income of people.

To a certain extent, the regulations that have been drafted and put in place by the federal government take some account of that. But there is still a problem and there are several problems associated with the ownership, storage and use of long-barrelled firearms. However much I agree with the mover of this resolution that the particular solution that has been hit upon by the federal government, in what was formerly Bill C-68, probably isn't appropriate, I don't think I can agree with him if he means to suggest that nothing needs to be done about the ownership, storage and use of long-barrelled firearms in rural areas. I think that something does need to be done.

There is also another part, and I will get back to that in a moment, of course, which is the cost; cost to the individual, cost to the taxpayer and this is a central concern and I agree completely and that is the reason I raised those questions with the Minister of Justice today. I agree completely that unnecessary expenditures ought not to be made, and they ought not to be imposed upon individuals, and they ought not to be made by governments who in the end can only get their revenues from individuals.

[6:15 p.m.]

The problem on the money side, if I can just deal with that, is that as the member correctly says, this is turning out to be a very expensive registration exercise for perhaps disproporationate benefit. The difficulty I have with respect to the litigation is that it is not clear that it would be a desirable result to win this litigation. It is constitutional law litigation; the argument that is being made by the provinces that have objected to Bill C-68 or more accurately to the registration component of Bill C-68 can only be framed in terms of a constitutional attack. If they didn't have a constitutional attack, they wouldn't be able to go to court.

Now the nature of the constitutional attack is they raise the question of whether the proper exercise of this power is a federal power or a provincial power. The argument is, is it a federal power like criminal law, or is it a provincial power like property and civil rights in the province? This is a very traditional kind of Canadian constitutional law debate. Which level of government gets to exercise the power?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, would the presenter entertain a question?

MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, I certainly would.

[Page 1145]

MR. TAYLOR: Could the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto tell me, should we lose this court challenge, would it be possible for the Nova Scotia Government to enact the notwithstanding clause?

MR. EPSTEIN: In my understanding, the use of the notwithstanding clause would not be available to the Province of Nova Scotia or any other province at that point, because the province would not be the entity that was passing the legislation. The notwithstanding clause, in any event, applies really with respect to the Charter of Rights, it doesn't really apply to this kind of constitutional law question. This isn't a question of the Charter of Rights, this is a question of division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. The notwithstanding clause doesn't really enter into it.

The problem that we are faced with is that if the provinces win this litigation, winning would mean that the courts, in this case, of course, the Supreme Court of Canada - because the provincial position has been rejected by the Alberta Court of Appeals - will have agreed that the gun registration system falls within property and civil rights and is therefore a provincial power not a federal power.

That may be fine with respect to long-barrelled firearms, but do you know the problem? The problem is that if it is true with respect to long-barrelled firearms that a registration is a provincial power, it is going to be equally true with respect to all other kinds of firearms and the existing federal registrations systems will be right out the window and the litigation that will follow immediately will be litigation by people who have an interest in promoting sales of automatic weapons, handguns and so on. That is going to be a big problem.

I have to say that although the Alberta Court of Appeals split 3 to 2, three judges saying it was a federal power and two saying maybe it was a provincial power, I think the odds of the provinces winning at the Supreme Court of Canada are pretty remote. That is why I just drew the members' attention to a couple of things: one is, I think it is not desirable for the province's position to prevail here; and second, the point has already been well argued by all the other provinces. We had to come along as a late applicant for intervener status in Nova Scotia.

I know we had to spend money to hire an Ottawa agent to advance that position of requesting to be granted intervener status, so we are already spending money there. We are going to be spending money and perhaps hiring outside counsel, the Minister of Justice wasn't able to tell me, to present our case in the Supreme Court of Canada when it comes forward on December 16th for hearing. This is an expenditure of money that I think we could live without. I don't have complete sympathy with the member's government's approach to money savings but here is an example where we really could save probably $50,000 or $100,000 and I would respect that.

[Page 1146]

I wanted to go back to another part just briefly. I know I have very little time left. I was happy to hear the member mention suicide because a lot of this argument is framed in terms of criminal activity and criminal law but you know, the hard reality is that what guns are used for, including long-barrelled guns, is for suicides, for family violence and last, they may be used in criminal offences.

I am sorry, my time has expired but, as I say, there is much common ground between myself and the honourable member. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: I guess when you have to make a debut it is good when there is not a lot of pressure in the House. I guess I would like to talk on this and thank the members for their points of view. It has been very helpful and educational from my point of view. I have to confess, I guess, that prior to running in this election, I really had not paid a lot of attention to this legislation. I kind of thought it was legislation that was coming in, it is going to be a little more restrictive, it is really not that big a deal, I will live with it, I have some guns home so I will register them at one point in time.

However, as I was knocking on doors, it became pretty evident, as well as with some debates that we had, that even though people realized this was a federal issue, that it was very near and dear to the hearts of constituents in Queens County. That really surprised me so I had to start doing some homework and didn't really think that people would be that emotional or concerned with regard to registering guns. I knew, because of a hunter safety course that I took 15 or 18 years ago, that there were some rules in the province with regard to hand guns and that hand guns were well regulated and they had to be registered and you had to be a member of a gun club in order to purchase. So I guess that satisfied me that things were pretty well in hand.

Then I realized that we had a lot of people who were concerned with regard to the costs of the registration. I guess the possibility of the government infringing on what they considered were their rights to be able to own these firearms without a lot of imposition with regard to ownership or transfer of ownership.

I guess the other thing from a rural community point of view that I found was that people have heirlooms that belonged to their grandfather and they are really worried about being able to pass them along to their grandson. That is a very small part of this overall concern, I know, but it certainly was of considerable concern to some of the people I talked to and I guess it surprised me that it was as much of an issue as it actually was.

One other thing that surprised me during the campaign was that I realized that local RCMP officers were not in favour of this registration. I assumed that all police everywhere in Canada would say this is a good thing, let's do this, this will help us out. They brought to

[Page 1147]

my attention the amount of money it was going to cost and the amount of things that were being cut out from an RCMP point of view or other enforcement agencies that would be better in the line of preventing crime than registering these guns.

Again, I guess I got a little more of an education and realized if the police or the enforcement agencies don't see this as really good legislation, there is a good possibility that there are some flaws there that we need to take a look at.

I guess the other part that probably surprises me and it may be ongoing but I went a year ago and took the training for a Firearms Acquisition Certificate in the event that I might want to purchase a firearm at some point in time in the future. I had one some years ago which expired and it was sort of a grandfathered one. This one required, I guess, an eight hour course where we had to be tested on how to handle a firearm and you weren't allowed to make any particular type of mistake or you failed the course. So there was an eight hour course, plus an exam, plus a practical. It was good, it really dealt with firearm safety. I would recommend that anyone who had children who are interested in getting into hunting or anything like that certainly did that. It was something, I guess, that I thought once I took this course that it would be an automatic type thing; if I wanted to purchase a firearm that I could do so.

I found out that now that I have the certificate and everything I need, I am under the impression now that I still need to fax information to Ottawa and fax it back. I think it is probably about a month's process for me to purchase a firearm now. I guess I find that a little bit surprising. It is not a real issue in my particular case but it is quite surprising when I consider it is going to take a month of paperwork. I don't know how many hands are going to actually touch or handle the paperwork, but it is going to cost a lot of money for me to purchase something after I know I have had two or three police checks done on me.

I used to be a member of Crime Stoppers, and I guess I was involved in security at my last place of employment. I believe that the local RCMP can vouch for me one way or the other - I hope positively - but with all that, it is still going to take a great deal of time in order to get the registration. It just seems like we are doing an excessive amount of paperwork and I can understand why the $1.5 billion would creep up because it really shouldn't have cost near that, I guess, to do what they wanted to do.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was $85 million.

MR. MORASH: Well, $85 million is a tremendous amount of money, but to go from $85 million to $1.5 billion is just exceptional, and at some point in time you have to stop throwing good money after bad and look at other things and other ways to reach your goals. I am not going to talk a heck of a lot more. It seems like the big issue . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Fill your boots.

[Page 1148]

MR. MORASH: Fill my boots. The last issue, I guess, would be gun safety; the one point would be the storage, use, and actual gun safety. During the debate that I had during the election campaign - it shouldn't have come up during a provincial election, but it certainly did - you needed to make sure that you got across to the audience that when it comes to gun safety, everybody is for gun safety; making sure that guns are stored properly, that they had their trigger locks, that they are in sealed cabinets, and that the ammunition is in a different place. Any of those types of things are certainly essential and we certainly know that accidents can happen with experienced hunters and with people cleaning guns. I guess, and to quote my mother, she said hunting accidents happen to somebody with an empty gun.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Would the honourable member permit a question? You mentioned the public debate. I would be very interested in you just telling me what were the stands of the other two candidates on this issue. Was the debate just on this particular issue or was it a far-ranging one?

MR. MORASH: The debate was on schools and on money for education. For some reason, this was a question that came in, sort of snuck in from the floor. I guess there was agreement amongst the three candidates that we really were concerned about gun safety. We knew there had to be a lot more education. We supported the FAC and the hunter safety courses and the gun safety courses, but we didn't really agree that the legislation was going to stop people from getting hurt. That is really the whole issue, to stop people from being shot with firearms.

My wife and I have had some debates because she certainly is not in favour of having firearms in the House. It takes some good discussion before you can reach common ground that you can agree that signing up, documenting, registering, will not guarantee that fewer people are injured in Canada or Nova Scotia. If it would, then I would certainly be in favour, but there is really no evidence that registration is going to reduce the number of fatalities that occur in our province or country. That is very unfortunate, but that is the fact, so therefore spending the $1.5 billion just seems like a waste of funds and it could be better directed in other areas. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the members for the debate this evening.

We are adjourned until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]