Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD
01-9

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://www.gov.ns.ca/legi/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - College Rd.: Colchester County - Repave,
Mr. W. Langille 558
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Health - Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy, Hon. J. Muir 558
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 234, Sydney Acad.: HS Debating Championship - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 559
Vote - Affirmative 559
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 14, Energy Resources Conservation Act/ Pipeline Act, Hon. G. Balser 559
No. 15, Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act, Hon. J. Purves 559
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 235, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Downloading: Premier -
Mysterious Force Explain, Mr. J. MacDonell 560
Res. 236, Educ. - Harbourview Elem. Sch.: Dental Clinic - Resume,
Mr. W. Gaudet 560
Res. 237, Mendez, Dr. Ivar - Exhibition: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 561
Vote - Affirmative 562
Res. 238, Educ. - Children: Interests - Priority, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 562
Res. 239, Col.-Musq. Valley/Shelburne/Kings West - MLAs:
Acting Tips - Learn, Mr. Manning MacDonald 562
Res. 240, MacMillan, Christopher: Medal of Bravery - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Clarke 563
Vote - Affirmative 564
Res. 241, Sports - Bowling: East Coast Championship -
New Waterford Girls Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 564
Vote - Affirmative 565
Res. 242, Tourism & Culture - Bell Bay Golf Club: Mgrs./Operators -
Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 565
Vote - Affirmative 565
Res. 243, Harding, Marcia - Atlantic Writing Comp.: Award - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 565
Vote - Affirmative 566
Res. 244, DND - Military Bases: Rent Increase - Min. Revisit, Mr. J. Pye 566
Vote - Affirmative 567
Res. 245, Educ. - Maintenance Workers: Strike - Resolve, Mr. M. Samson 567
Res. 246, Megann, Adele - Atlantic Writing Comp.: Recognition -
Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 568
Vote - Affirmative 568
Res. 247, Rotary Club (Amherst) - El Salvador: Donations - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 568
Vote - Affirmative 569
Res. 248, Cape Breton North MLA: Cabinet - Promotion, Mr. B. Boudreau 569
Res. 249, Fitzgerald, Brian - Brew Pub: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 570
Vote - Affirmative 570
Res. 250, Nat. Res. - Prospect High Head: Volunteers -
Commitment Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 571
Vote - Affirmative 571
Res. 251, Gov't. (N.S.) - Glace Bay: Water Situation - Correct,
Mr. D. Wilson 571
Res. 252, Nat. Res.: Volunteers - Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 572
Vote - Affirmative 573
Res. 253, MacCarthy, June: PanCanadian Student Choice Award -
Congrats., Mr. H. Epstein 573
Vote - Affirmative 573
Res. 254, Col.-Musq. Valley/Shelburne/Kings West - MLAs:
Cdn. Alliance Meeting - Performance, Mr. D. Downe 574
Res. 255, Sports - Hockey: Straight Pirates - Junior B Title Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 574
Vote - Affirmative 575
Res. 256, Health - Bone Densitometers: Purchase - Min. Prioritize,
Mr. J. Pye 575
Res. 257, Educ. - School Bds.: Budget (2001-02) Impact -
Min. Ascertain, Mr. W. Gaudet 576
Res. 258, Deveau, Adam - Summit of the Americas: Participation -
Commend, Mr. M. Parent 576
Vote - Affirmative 577
Res. 259, Hale, Derek: Accomplishments - Commend, Mr. W. Estabrooks 577
Vote - Affirmative 578
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 54, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Tax Cuts - Time Frame,
Mr. K. Deveaux 578
No. 55, Health - Heathcor: Footprint Consultation -
Min. Awareness, Dr. J. Smith 579
No. 56, Health - Health Boards: Payment - Justification, Mr. D. Dexter 580
No. 57, Health - Clinical Footprint: Recommendations - Release,
Dr. J. Smith 582
No. 58, Health - Seniors: User Fees - Imposition Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 583
No. 59, Nat. Res. - Softwood Lumber: Exports - Details, Mr. W. Gaudet 584
No. 60, Health - Nursing Strategy: Attitude - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 585
No. 61, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Health Allotment - Adequacy,
Mr. D. Downe 587
No. 62, Educ. - Budget (2001-02): Univ. Funding - Cuts Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 588
No. 63, Fin. - Election Promise: Breach - Explain, Mr. D. Downe 589
No. 64, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Citadel Hill: Tax Assess. -
HRM Effects, Mr. G. Steele 590
No. 65, Justice - Escapee: Threat - Criteria, Mr. M. Samson 591
No. 66, Educ. - School Const. (Elmsdale): Tech. Cuts - Rethink,
Mr. J. MacDonell 592
No. 67, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Harvesting Practices - Safety,
Mr. K. MacAskill 594
No. 68, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Farm Bus.: Fuel Fee - Justification,
Mr. J. MacDonell 595
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. K. Deveaux 596
Mr. M. Samson 600
Mr. B. Barnet 605
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:17 P.M. 610
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 610
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Neighbourhood Schools: Closure - Reassess:
Mr. J. Pye 611
Dr. J. Smith 613
Mr. W. Estabrooks 616
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 619
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:48 P.M. 619
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 11, Financial Measures (2001) Act 619
Hon. N. LeBlanc 619
Mr. K. Deveaux 620
Mr. D. Downe 636
Adjourned debate 640
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 4th at 2:00 p.m. 641

[Page 557]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the submission for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview:

Therefore be it resolved that this government must reassess the closure of small neighbourhood schools in low and middle income communities so that the best interests of children take priority over the Minister of Education's cruel fascination with the bottom line.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester North.

557

[Page 558]

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the good people of Valley in Colchester County, the operative clause of which reads, "Due to its deplorable and dangerous condition, we the residents and users of College Road in the County of Colchester hereby request that the County of Colchester and the Province of Nova Scotia rebuild the roadbed and repave College Road within the first eight months of the calendar year." There are 605 names on this petition and I have signed this petition for tabling purposes.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy for the year 2001.

Just in doing that, Mr. Speaker, it would be my privilege, with your permission, to introduce some of the key players from the Nova Scotia nursing network who were involved in developing this strategy, including Barb Oke who is the Provincial Nursing Policy Advisor; Evelyn Schaller who is the Vice-President of Patient Services at DHA No. 8; Carolyn Moore who is the Executive Director of the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia; Albert MacIntyre who is the Executive Director of the Licensed Practical Nurses Association of Nova Scotia; Heather Henderson who is the President of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union; Mary Ellen Gurnham who is the Director of Oncology Services, the QE II Cancer Care Program; Pam Reid who is the Dean of Health and Human Services at the Nova Scotia Community College; Heather Bishop who is the Curriculum Consultant with the Nova Scotia Community College; and Janet MacLean who is a practising nurse at the IWK and member of the Provincial Nursing Network.

As I table this document I would ask that the House welcome all of these people and thank them for their hard work. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled. We welcome the guests to the House today.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 559]

RESOLUTION NO. 234

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

Whereas Sydney Academy has won Nova Scotia's High School English Debating Championship; and

Whereas the debating team composed of Rory Gillis, Emilie Pottle and Dominique McMahon defeated debaters from 12 schools; and

Whereas Mr. Gillis retains the Gold Gavel Award, as best individual debater and best Grade 11 contestant and has been named for the Canadian team for the next World Schools Debating Championship;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate members of the 22 debating teams that participated in the competition and particularly members of the winning Sydney Academy team.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 14 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 147 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Energy Resources Conservation Act, and Chapter 345 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Pipeline Act. (Hon. Gordon Balser)

Bill No. 15 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 460 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act. (Hon. Jane Purves)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

[Page 560]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 235

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

Whereas in an April 2nd news release the Premier said, ". . . the province does not want to repeat past mistakes of unilaterally forcing any service exchange proposal on municipalities."; and

Whereas the unilateral downloading of property assessment costs onto municipalities is a repeat of the past mistakes; and

Whereas there is renewed interest in the Shag Harbour UFO;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should explain whether a mysterious force from Shag Harbour is forcing him against his will to unilaterally download provincial costs onto municipal property taxpayers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 236

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

Whereas Dalhousie University Dentistry School has temporarily closed the clinic at Harbourview Elementary School in Dartmouth; and

[Page 561]

Whereas this free clinic, staffed by dentistry students and a supervisor, serves students who do not have a family dentist; and

Whereas this closure has been caused by a lack of cleanliness in the school, as a result of the janitors' strike;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take the necessary steps to have the dental service provided at Harbourview Elementary School resume without delay.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 237

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

Whereas the Multicultural Art Gallery is now presenting an exhibition of 30 photographs and 8 sculptures by Ivar Mendez depicting the culture and spirit of the Andean people; and

Whereas Dr. Mendez, Division Head of Neurosurgery for the QE II Health Sciences Centre, takes visitors to his exhibit through the Bolivian Andes with his colour photographs and bronze sculptures; and

Whereas his aptitude for intricate detail and precision is employed in both his work as a surgeon and as an artist;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate Dr. Mendez on the opening of his tremendous exhibition and applaud his capacity to devote time to both fine art as well as to his field of expertise in medicine, and his excellence in both.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 562]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 238

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

Whereas this heartless Tory Government ripped millions of dollars out of the Primary to Grade 12 education system in the first year of its mandate; and

Whereas one of the results is a review for possible closure of several small schools in the communities of Spryfield and Dartmouth; and

Whereas the minister will no doubt try to absolve herself of any responsibility in this shameful situation by blaming the school board in hopes no one will notice her own fingerprints all over this charade that masks as public consultation;

Therefore be it resolved that our children's best interests must take priority over the Minister of Education's cruel fascination with the bottom line, which is resulting in the closing of small neighbourhood schools in low and middle-income communities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 239

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

Whereas the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the honourable member for Shelburne were recently featured as the opening musical act for a Canadian Alliance meeting hosted by Stockwell Day in Bridgewater; and

Whereas the yodelling and guitar twosome were cheered on by their fellow backbencher and biggest fan, the honourable member for Kings West; and

Whereas the trio could use some more training if they want to sing the praises of the Canadian Alliance Party in this province;

[Page 563]

Therefore be it resolved that the honourable members stop yodelling and start learning acting tips from Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day to help them convince Nova Scotians that a right-wing Party like the Canadian Alliance has a place in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, on an introduction.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to introduce our guests who are here with us this afternoon. I am introducing them on my behalf, as well as on the behalf of the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, because many of the students, of course, come from both ridings. We are joined this afternoon by the Flexible Learning and Education Centre students, I believe there are approximately 12 students, accompanied by their leader, Sandy MacDougall. They are here to watch the proceedings of what is going on in the Legislature this afternoon, find out exactly what we do, have a tour of the facility, and meet with MLAs who will have an opportunity to go out and speak with them for a few minutes. I would like to ask all members to give them a very warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome these young guests to our gallery today.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

[12:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 240

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

Whereas Christopher MacMillan of North Sydney is 1 of 5 Nova Scotians recently awarded the Medal of Bravery; and

Whereas in 1998 Christopher MacMillan took part in a dramatic rescue of boaters from a burning vessel in North Sydney Harbour, rescuing seven boaters, including two children; and

[Page 564]

Whereas the Medal of Bravery awarded by the Governor General of Canada is one of the highest honours for bravery in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Christopher MacMillan on his Medal of Bravery and salute the Nova Scotians whose courageous acts set them apart and bring pride to us all.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 241

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

Whereas Tammy Basker, Gail MacDougall, Michelle Odo, Melanie Bradbury, Heather Young and Margie Chicarella formed the championship team at the East Coast Ladies Bowling Championship on Sunday, April 1st; and

Whereas out of 16 teams the New Waterford Girls won the East Coast Ladies Bowling Championship on Sunday at the Heather Lanes in Sydney;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate these New Waterford Girls on a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 565]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 242

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

Whereas Bell Bay in Baddeck is among the top-rated golf courses in Canada and has added greatly to the influx of tourism in Cape Breton because of its close proximity to the Bras d'Or Lakes; and

Whereas Bell Bay and the people of Baddeck have the ability to attract prestigious events; and

Whereas The Wayne Gretzky and Friends Invitational Golf Tournament takes place this summer on July 1st and July 2nd at Bell Bay Golf Club;

Therefore be it resolved that the managers and operators of Bell Bay be congratulated for their ability to attract high-profile competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 243

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

[Page 566]

Whereas this past Saturday Marcia Harding received honourable mention in the Atlantic Writing Competition's novel category for Sable's Spirit; and

Whereas the Atlantic Writing Competition is one of the country's oldest and most respected writing competitions; and

Whereas the Atlantic Writing Competition, a product of the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia, is unique in that the contest also offers each entrant constructive feedback so necessary for new, unpublished writers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Marcia Harding, who is also a teacher at the Dr. John Wickwire School in Queens County, on her award and offer her best wishes in her future literary 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.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 244

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

Whereas we have seen the awful situation where some of our military personnel have had to resort to using food banks to feed their families; and

Whereas some have argued that the recent 2.5 per cent pay raises granted to the Forces staff are clearly inadequate; and

Whereas rents are now rising on military bases just as the pay raises become effective;

Therefore be it resolved that this House ask the Minister of National Defence to revisit its policy of rent increases at a time when military pay is inadequate.

[Page 567]

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 245

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

Whereas the current school janitors' strike in the Halifax Regional School Board is causing unsanitary conditions in the schools, threatening the health of teachers and students; and

Whereas the strike has caused cancellation of school dances, graduation fundraising events, and after-school sports and clubs; and

Whereas these extra-curricular activities are the main ways that school spirit and pride are developed in students and teachers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take immediate action to bring about a resolution to the maintenance workers' strike at the Halifax Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

[Page 568]

RESOLUTION NO. 246

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

Whereas Adele Megann, this past weekend, received an honourable mention in the Atlantic Writing Competition's novel category for Something Else; and

Whereas her work was recognized through the Atlantic Writing Competition, one of the country's oldest and most respected writing competitions; and

Whereas the Atlantic Writing Competition, a product of the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia, is unique in that it offers each entrant constructive feedback which is vital to new writers;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Adele on this recognition and offer her encouragement on any future literary pursuits.

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 Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 247

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

Whereas a recent devastating earthquake in El Salvador took many lives and left hundreds of people homeless and destitute; and

Whereas the Rotary Club of Amherst started a campaign in the town and surrounding area to assist the impoverished people of El Salvador; and

[Page 569]

Whereas this campaign was successful in obtaining clothing, bedding, medical supplies, toys and cash donations, all of which were sent to El Salvador;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge and extend thanks to the citizens of Amherst for their thoughtful, generous donations to those less fortunate and commend them for their successful campaign and for making all of us proud as Nova Scotians.

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 248

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

Whereas Tory backbenchers have been sitting in this House wanting only to some day make it into Cabinet; and

Whereas those Tory backbenchers are fighting amongst themselves trying to prove to the Premier that they deserve a promotion; and

Whereas the Premier already knows who his next Cabinet appointment will be;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory backbenchers stop the bickering and forget it . . . the Premier will promote the member for Cape Breton North and send one of his current ministers to the backbench.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 570]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 249

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

Whereas public houses are traditionally places where you meet your friends and make new ones to take in good cheer; and

Whereas Middleton native Brian Fitzgerald's first Irish brew pub, Paddy's, opened in Kentville nearly a decade ago and is now a successful popular establishment in the town; and

Whereas Mr. Fitzgerald opened a new Paddy's in Wolfville last week creating 40 full-time and part-time jobs in the town;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House raise a glass and toast Brian Fitzgerald for opening another establishment that will make a substantial contribution to the local economy in addition to the fun-spirited nature of the Annapolis Valley.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 571]

RESOLUTION NO. 250

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

Whereas 112 hectares of land in the Prospect High Head area have been transferred to the Nature Conservancy of Canada; and

Whereas the Prospect High Head is a unique piece of Nova Scotia's coast, treasured by all; and

Whereas local community volunteers have worked diligently on this project for many years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank the residents of the Village of Prospect and the Prospect Peninsula for their commitment to the High Head and its transferral to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 251

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

Whereas the Tory Government's Budget Speech says wise governments are redoubling efforts to ensure the safety of water supplies; and

Whereas that same Budget Speech says we need to make sure we have an abundance of safe, clean water; and

[Page 572]

Whereas nothing is more important than government protecting the health of its citizens;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government simply put its own words into action and move immediately to correct the water situation in Glace Bay and surrounding areas.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 252

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

Whereas the province annually benefits from more than $8 million of volunteer time provided by community and river associations and dedicated individuals; and

Whereas 2001 has been designated globally as the International Year of the Volunteer; and

Whereas the department wishes to acknowledge the contribution of several individuals to the conservation and protection of aquatic resources of Nova Scotia through their work at both the community and provincial level;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House recognize that the department will honour six volunteers, one at each of the six Recreational Fishing Advisory Council (RFAC) meetings to be held throughout the province and additionally honour five volunteers representing members of the Inland Fisheries Advisory Council (IFAC).

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 573]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 253

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

Whereas the PanCanadian Student Choice Award recognizes a teacher's special relationship with their students based on the students citing the teacher for consideration for this award; and

Whereas June MacCarthy, a mathematics and resource teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax was recently nominated for the award by one of her students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate June MacCarthy for receiving this prestigious award and recognize that she has been cited by her students, a rare honour afforded to teachers.

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 Lunenburg West.

[Page 574]

RESOLUTION NO. 254

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 member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley recently spoke at the Canadian Alliance meeting in Bridgewater; and

Whereas that same member was joined by the members for Kings West and Shelburne to go and bow before Stockwell; and

Whereas one of those members went as far as to serenade Stockwell Day by yodelling:

Therefore be it resolved that yo da lay who who - who let the dogs out?

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 255

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

Whereas the Strait Pirates defeated the Windsor Royals 6-5 in overtime last Saturday to capture the Nova Scotia Junior B Hockey League title; and

Whereas the hard-fought series went the full seven games; and

Whereas Nick Muise was named Most Valuable Player for the Pirates and Jason Murphy was the Royals' MVP;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Strait Pirates on the provincial Junior B Hockey League title and wish them continued success.

[Page 575]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 256

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

Whereas approximately 35,000 women and 15,000 men in Nova Scotia suffer from osteoporosis; and

Whereas bone densitometry is a simple, cost effective means to make an early diagnosis of osteoporosis and possibly prevent through early treatment devastating fractures that result from this disease; and

Whereas Nova Scotia lags far behind all other provinces in its access to bone densitometers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health make the purchase of bone densitometers a top priority for his government and Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 576]

RESOLUTION NO. 257

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

Whereas school boards in the province have said they need $35 million more in order to maintain the status quo; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance is only providing them with $12 million more in funding; and

Whereas the impact of this budget in the classroom and on the public education system is unknown at this time;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education meet with the school boards as soon as possible to find out what impact the budget will have on students throughout Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 258

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

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas Adam Deveau is a Grade 11 student at Kings County Academy; and

Whereas it is important and desirable that young people take an interest in issues of political, social and economic import; and

[Page 577]

Whereas Adam will be travelling to Quebec City to make his concerns known by taking part in protests concerning the Summit of the Americas;

Therefore be it resolved that Adam Deveau be commended for his willingness to get involved and make his views known concerning important issues facing his community.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 259

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

Whereas Derek Hale, a 17 year old Grade 12 student at Sir John A. Macdonald, was recently selected to receive an award for leadership, sportsmanship and community service; and

Whereas this outstanding young man from Shad Bay wears many hats including running a successful landscaping business, an active member of his local church, a star Midget A hockey player, and junior golfer; and

AN HON. MEMBER: You must have some good teachers out there at Sir John A.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, he was one of my students.

Whereas furthermore Derek was chosen last summer as one of the eight volunteers to sail the Polish tall ship from Boston to Halifax, and attended the World Youth Day in Rome;

[Page 578]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Derek Hale for his dedication and commitment to community service, his drive and ambition as an entrepreneur while continuing his academic studies and for being such a positive role model for young people in our province.

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: Oral Question Period will begin at 12:32 p.m. and end at 1:32 p.m.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

FIN. - BUDGET (2001-02): TAX CUTS - TIME FRAME

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, last year this Minister of Finance in his budget of 2000 announced that Nova Scotia was going to uncouple its income tax system from the federal system; we would move to a tax on income system. Now, last year he also told us that he would not be following the federal lead and indexing our tax rate and therefore preventing bracket creep. He said that Nova Scotians would have to wait.

My question to the Minister of Finance is, it is one year later, it is another budget, when can Nova Scotians, middle-and-lower income Nova Scotians, expect to have their income tax indexed and get a tax cut from this government?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will receive the tax break as we have said from the very start, in the fourth year. That will be 2003-04.

[Page 579]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I don't think Nova Scotians are going to buy that line. Taxes go up for three years and then suddenly there is a tax cut and in the end they will probably end up paying more than they were before this government came in. It sounds to me that for this Minister of Finance no time is good when it comes to tax fairness.

This Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, is charging Nova Scotians a tax on their increases in cost of living; that has resulted in $25 million to $30 million more in tax revenue that is not related to any real increase in income. So my question to the Minister of Finance is, will the Minister of Finance end the practice of profiting off lower-and-middle income Nova Scotians' cost of living increases?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I find the opposite member's comments very confusing, because he seems to give the appearance that there are only low-and-middle income earners who pay taxes in this province. Everyone will be treated alike whether they are in lower or middle. (Interruptions) The situation is we have a deficit in this province and we are going to deal with that. We have told people upfront when they would get their tax cut and we will meet that commitment.

MR. DEVEAUX: Maybe I will make this a little simpler for the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is overtaxing lower-and-middle income Nova Scotians; they are the ones who are hit the hardest by his tax system. At the same time, this minister and his government can pay out $12 million in loan write-offs to profitable corporations. When, Mr. Speaker, is this Minister of Finance and his government going to put, as first priority, the interests of lower and middle-income Nova Scotians?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this is the same member who told me last week that we have the ability to tax more. Today he is saying that we should change the tax system. We said when we would do it. This is the government that put $10 million this year in increasing the child tax credit which deals with the same people that he is referring to. This is the same government that is increasing many programs to children across this government, especially in early intervention, also in learning to read, and especially in Grades 4 to 6. We are doing many things that the honourable member across the floor is saying that we are not, and that is obviously not true as I have articulated here today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - HEALTHCOR:

FOOTPRINT CONSULTATION - MIN. AWARENESS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Just over a year ago, March 29, 2000, I asked who was involved in the development of the clinical footprint, to the minister. The minister stood in this House and told me, "I would like to point out that the Liberal trend would have been to bring somebody in and pay them a salary to do

[Page 580]

that, we are using existing resources." I would like to table Hansard for that time. My question to the minister is, when the minister said that, did he or did he not know that he was paying the Ontario firm, Healthcor, $170,000 in the month of March for work on the clinical footprint? Did the minister know or not know that that is what he was doing?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member's question, the clinical services process was headed up by Dr. David Rippey, as he well knows. The Healthcor service did provide some specialized data analysis which simply wasn't available here in Nova Scotia.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, to date, Nova Scotian taxpayers have paid Healthcor nearly $0.5 million, and I would like to table some information we had from freedom of information. In addition, Bristol Communications have been paid nearly $40,000. I would like to table that. My question to the minister is, how much longer will Healthcor be on the government payroll and what does the minister expect the final bill to be?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things about having Healthcor support this project, and I want to emphasize it was support, it was two things. It was, one, to help us get to a conclusion to analyze data and we didn't have the capability here in the province, but secondly, it was a teaching experience. The fact is, that among the things that Healthcor did was to basically train our own people so we won't need their services in the future for that particular type of document.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the answer was, if it was a no or yes that they are still on the payroll. The very first role in the Ministerial Code of Conduct states, "Ministers must not deceive or knowingly mislead the House of Assembly, . . . " and that is well known. I don't have to table it, but I have read from it so I will table it. My question to the minister is, why has the minister violated the Premier's Ministerial Code of Conduct by misleading the House about outside consultants?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it certainly would not have been my intention to mislead the House. In that particular instance, clearly, Dr. Ruth's services would be a matter of public record. The answer to the question asked is, I would have taken it as, who was heading up the study, was the study being conducted by Nova Scotians? The answer to that question is clearly yes.

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

HEALTH - HEALTH BOARDS: PAYMENT - JUSTIFICATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health and the Premier went far and wide during the last election telling everybody who would listen they were going to fix the health care system by cutting administration and by investing in front-line health care.

[Page 581]

Instead, the minister has cut from front-line health care, increased administration and now, it appears, has paid $0.5 million to develop the clinical services footprint, money that came right out of patient care. I want to ask the minister, can he explain how he can justify paying the health boards $1,000 a day per employee when he is taking it out of patient care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, I think, is exaggerating when he says that money came from patient care. The fact of the matter is that there was not a plan, really, for the development of acute care here in the province. There were no benchmarks, there was no established best practices. Clearly, now that we have this, it is the first step, we will be doing more of a clinical services thing. It will enable the district health authorities to make decisions based on evidence, which is something that honourable member doesn't seem to think is a good thing. It is obviously (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is this minister who said he was going to develop the clinical services footprint out of their own resources, and it is this minister who has paid $1,000 a day per employee to health care to develop that footprint. At the same time, they are taking $50 a day out of the pockets of seniors, money that is going to be used to pay for this. I want the minister to explain, pure and simply, why he did this.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, we have approximately a $1.82 billion budget for Health. I am not sure what his question was, but he did raise the issue of the $50 a day. I would like to tell him that long-term care is not an insured service in Nova Scotia for people who can afford to participate. If you were medically discharged from a hospital and you are there in long-term care, then you should participate, like someone who is in a nursing home.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my last question for the minister is simply this, what is the minister going to tell senior citizens in this province about the reason why they have to spend $50 a day to stay in a bed in a hospital in this province, when instead he spent $0.5 million on public relations for the department?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I will repeat my statement, people who are medically discharged from the hospital and are being kept in, not acute care service but in long-term care service, I think it is reasonable. Just to give you an example, one of his counterpart governments out in the far West Coast, for that type of service, charges $500 a day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 582]

HEALTH - CLINICAL FOOTPRINT:

RECOMMENDATIONS - RELEASE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health seems to be learning on the job today, because he is giving different answers in the House here than he gave outside a few minutes ago. I would like to compliment his staff for the quick briefing they have done. We have learned today that this minister knowingly misled the House by saying no outside consultants were paid to develop the clinical footprint. When you spend $0.5 million, the minister has to know, P & P has to know, it really just cannot be that all of a sudden he gave a bunch of money to a committee and they went out and did their own thing.

My question to the minister is, are there any recommendations in the clinical footprint on the designation of specific hospitals or allocations of beds that were not released to the general public?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the official report of the Clinical Services Planning Committee is the document which all members of this House have seen.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of an e-mail from the Chairman of the Clinical Services Planning Steering Committee to the other members of that committee. It says that the report that was made public, ". . . does not contain the detailed scenarios in terms of bed allocations and hospital roles that you . . . ," the committee members, ". . . are familiar with." I would like to table that today. My question to the minister is, are these detailed scenarios that are mentioned in that memo being kept from the public because they contain bad news for some community hospitals?

MR. MUIR: Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. The reason for that is that the clinical services plan was intended to be a guide for the district health authorities. We have made it abundantly clear that the decisions about facilities, in particular district health authorities, would be made by those authorities. We have attempted to establish best practices and provide best benchmarks so that they can make their decisions based upon evidence and that is what that document does. The department by virtue of doing that was getting out of that business.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say is there must be an awful lot of information in that department available to that minister because if that is what he got, that skeleton of a report on the clinical footprint for $0.5 million, that is certainly not value for money. That is not based on any evidence of decision-making that would lead to a good consultation process. When the clinical footprint was released on February 15th, it was promised that it would contain details on hospital designations within four to six weeks. My question and observation to the minister is, Mr. Minister, your time is up. Where are the details that you have been hiding from Nova Scotians on the clinical footprint?

[Page 583]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have been hiding nothing. What that clinical services plan does is exactly what we said it would do. We have distributed it to the district health authorities, to those who are making the majority of the acute care decisions and it did deal with acute care and there is more to come on long-term care and the Emergency Health Services. It will enable those who are charged with making those decisions now to make better decisions because they will be based on evidence.

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

HEALTH - SENIORS: USER FEES - IMPOSITION EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is now clear that this is an outrageous breach of trust to the people of this province. In the face of this outrageous breach, this government has imposed another user fee on seniors and their families in this province; seniors who are occupying acute care beds, but who have been medically discharged, will now have to pay $50 for that bed even though they have nowhere else to go. We know that low-income earners use hospital services more than any others. Will the minister explain why he is picking on the poor seniors of this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: To be flip, Mr. Speaker - and probably I should not, but I will - the poor seniors are free.

MR. DEXTER: He is right, Mr. Speaker, it was flippant and it is shameful. The minister continues to point to the Cape Breton experiment where they are charging seniors the full per diem rates for hospital beds, $120 per day; 65 beds were converted to long-term care beds this past year. So I want to ask the minister, will you reduce the fees that Cape Breton seniors are expected to pay for their use of long-term care beds so that it is the same fee everywhere in the province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member, now that he agrees that this is a perfectly legitimate fee and one that the province is entitled to charge and should be charging . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He has changed his mind.

MR. MUIR: He has changed his mind but, Mr. Speaker, I would say that that particular decision, by and large, would be made by the district health authorities. The fee that was charged in Cape Breton last year, because effectively what they did was set up long-term care sections in some of their hospitals, we will be reviewing that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, while the minister is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in outsourcing contracts to companies to develop clinical services footprints, Nova Scotians are spending hours in waiting rooms and on stretchers in ER holding areas because

[Page 584]

all the beds are full. The minister says they are being blocked by seniors, and that this government's response is to start charging them for those beds when they have nowhere else to go. When will the minister be honest with Nova Scotians? When will he tell the truth that this budget is about meeting the bottom line and not about giving people access to the services that they need?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the budget, as the honourable member will have the opportunity to examine in more detail during the estimate process, is about the delivery of health services and improved health services to Nova Scotians. As he well knows, the situation that existed could not continue. We have to have a sustainable health care system; we have to provide the services for those who need the services most. We can't just do everything on a whim because the government writes a cheque, like that member would have us do.

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

NAT. RES. - SOFTWOOD LUMBER: EXPORTS - DETAILS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier met with his Atlantic counterparts to discuss the pending problems with softwood lumber exports to the United States. This morning the Premier is quoted as saying, "We have played by the rules and we expect to benefit from the rules." My question to the Premier is, can the Premier tell this House and tell the Nova Scotia lumber industry what they should expect in the coming weeks?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all of us were relieved yesterday when we found out that the petition that was brought forward did not include the Maritime industry. We are not, therefore, going to be part of the countervail challenge that is being brought forward by the softwood industry in the United States. What we will be doing now is directly encouraging the federal government to act quickly and to reinstate the Maritime Accord, because clearly the American industry agrees with the Maritime industry. We are free traders, we do not subsidize and there should be free access by our lumber to the American market. The American industry agrees, and we now need the co-operation of the federal government to re-establish the Maritime Accord.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is developing a bit of a reputation of a crusader. He went across the country with his cup in hand on the Campaign for Fairness. (Interruptions) I guess I will rephrase that.

Mr. Speaker, this Premier basically felt he needed to add his two cents to the province's legal counsel of the Laurentian Sub-basin boundary dispute, but on the softwood lumber, which is worth close to $240 million and we are looking at close to 23,000 jobs to Nova Scotia, the Premier has been relatively silent on this. When the Premier was on his

[Page 585]

cross-Canada adventure, did he speak with other Premiers or federal officials about the softwood lumber exports?

THE PREMIER: Before answering, thank you for that great moment. (Laughter)

I had an opportunity in Washington to discuss this at length with the embassy there and of course they are playing a role. I certainly had an opportunity to discuss it with federal officials. West of Ottawa, I chose not to make it an issue.

MR. GAUDET: I think part of the problem here is what the Premier is telling Nova Scotians, that he will fight for potential jobs and possible revenue but he will not go to bat for real jobs that are in danger of disappearing today. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit today to fight just as hard and as publicly for softwood lumber as he did for either equalization or for the boundary dispute?

THE PREMIER: I do thank the member opposite because he is growing awareness for what is a very serious problem in Nova Scotia. If we were ever to lose the economic benefit of our forestry industry, then any government would be very hard-pressed to provide alternative opportunities.

Having said all of that, the minister has worked tirelessly with the Maritime Lumber Bureau. There has been constant communication between members of this government and the Maritime Lumber Bureau and other officials to ensure that what happened yesterday would happen. That is, there would be enough information brought to bear and made available to the U.S. softwood interests that they would understand that we are free traders, that our industry without approximately 70 per cent of our product coming from private lands very closely mirrors what goes on in the U.S., allowing them to come to the conclusion that we trade as they do, as free traders.

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

HEALTH - NURSING STRATEGY: ATTITUDE - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The minister unveiled, this morning, a $5 million nursing strategy, and the minister said that part of the strategy in this province would have to be adopting a positive attitude. He said that everyone could play a role in this. My question to the Minister of Health is, what is positive about being the lowest paid in Canada?

HON. JAMES MUIR: This is a very good and positive day for nursing and the nursing profession of Nova Scotia. I find it shocking that the Health Critic for the NDP would stand up and criticize what was a very positive thing. We had seven representatives from the

[Page 586]

nursing professions here to watch us table that document. For that member to stand up and make insinuations that we are not progressing is irresponsible.

MR. DEXTER: Right in the heart. Last Friday I went to a nursing recruitment fair at the Sheraton. There were recruiters from Canada and the U.S. and they said they were meeting a lot of unhappy nurses who were very interested in moving elsewhere. This morning I heard the province is going to start actively attending recruitment fairs like this one on Friday. I heard that part of the recruitment strategy is going to be positive imaging.

My question to the minister is, how can you put a positive image on the lowest pay in Canada, long hours, mandatory callback with no time off for overtime? Put a positive image on that.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: It is always rewarding to have a member of the Opposition encourage people to come to Nova Scotia, and support the province, by such rhetoric. Anyway, I would say two things. First of all, I know we are on the bottom rung of the salary scales in the province, but unlike that member, I think Nova Scotia happens to be a good place to work and live and to raise kids. This is a place where the province that is supporting the nursing profession has introduced the first strategy in Canada and we are going to move ahead and make it a very attractive place for nurses not only to train, but to come home and practise again. I want to say that the numbers you are quoting, as everybody knows, we are right now in negotiation with some of the health care professions and obviously there may be some adjustment in those numbers.

MR. DEXTER: One of the recruiters from Louisiana was a nurse from Cape Breton. She left Cape Breton six years ago to find permanent work because she was not content being a casual. She says what she heard at her booth was that nothing has changed since she left. Mr. Speaker, 20 per cent of the nurses in Nova Scotia are still casual. I want to ask the Minister of Health, when will you make a commitment to make more casual positions permanent and to give nurses a real reason to stay in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, we have converted more than 150 positions this past year from casual to full-time and we think that is a good start. The other thing you should understand - and the fact that he doesn't probably says something too - is that in a nursing workforce, you have to have a mix of casual as well as full-time. What we have to do is to get that optimum mix. We have people who wish to work casually and work on a part-time basis. We also have peaks and valleys in acute care and long-term care, like other sectors of the health system. We have to have some flexibility so we can use our health care dollars . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 587]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - BUDGET (2001-02): HEALTH ALLOTMENT - ADEQUACY

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. On June 25, 1999, the Premier gave a speech while he launched the Tory blue book. At that time, the Premier stated, "Health care providers have told us that $1.5 billion dollars is enough money to run a quality system in this province if it is used properly." My question to the Minister of Finance is, now that $1.8 billion has been allocated by this minister, does he think that amount is enough?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, that is a health-related question and I refer it to my honourable colleague, the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, health care costs have been escalating at a very rapid rate. One of the things that this government was charged with was trying to make the health system in Nova Scotia sustainable. Clearly, there is never enough money for health care. You could spend virtually every cent that this province takes in on health care. Is there enough money to deliver a quality health care system in Nova Scotia? The answer is yes.

MR. DOWNE: The Minister of Finance wants to duck any tough question when he, in fact, is the one who gave the budget. My question is again to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker. This minister belongs to a government that promised to improve health care and not add to the debt. So far he has done neither. My question to the minister is, given that the minister added $1.3 billion to the net debt last year, what is being done in health care that will control the $1.8 billion in health care costs?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find those statements rather misleading. The minister said that we are not going to add to the debt as we dealt with the health problems. We clearly said we had a three year plan to balance the deficit and when the honourable member is saying that we added to the debt, what he seems to forget, the first year that we took office, we basically inherited a budget that was prepared by that very same member who said he had a $1.5 million surplus, Mr. Speaker, which is a $0.5 billion deficit over and above. The majority of the addition to the debt refers to year one and the figures prove that out.

MR. DOWNE: Interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, this is a minister who says don't ask him any questions about his past, the $1.8 billion that the Liberals inherited when he left government back in 1993. Given the minister has no strategic plan to control health care costs, will the minister admit failure to his simplistic election platform pledge that $46 million was not enough to ensure that affordable, sustainable and predictable health care would be in place? That minister misled Nova Scotians, will he admit to that here today?

[Page 588]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we told Nova Scotians when we would balance the budget, we told Nova Scotians when they would get tax breaks. I can stand here today without any reservation and say that is a much more meaningful plan than the one that was presented only a month or so before we took office.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2001-02): UNIV. FUNDING - CUTS EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. In the Budget Address, this government said it was increasing funding to universities because it recognizes the important role that universities play in Nova Scotia's economy, knowledge economy and in research and innovation. But in reality there is no funding increase to universities. This government is actually cutting university funding by $2 million this year. My question to the minister is, why is the minister saying one thing to Nova Scotians while doing the exact opposite? Why is she cutting university funding?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member is not quite correct. We are increasing university funding. The operating grants to universities are going up by $1 million over the increase last year. Commitment for capital to St. F.X. was paid in the last fiscal year and a $15 million fund for CFI, which did not previously exist, is being made available to universities.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it must be the new math, the Tory math. University grants are increasing by $5 million but universities say this falls short according to what they need to avoid cuts. The minister is taking away $7 million in capital grants, $7 million minus $5 million is $2 million, do the math.

Nova Scotian universities are facing upwards of the need for $300 million in capital construction costs so I ask the Minister of Education, why, when universities are facing enormous costs to sustain and improve university infrastructure, is this government turning its back on our universities?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, another correction, the capital grants for last year were $4.8 million not $7 million. The universities are facing very similar problems to what this province is facing. In point of fact, we have increased funding to the universities and the universities, if not ecstatic, realize that our funding to them this year is fair and they are not complaining.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, not only are the universities not ecstatic, Mr. Speaker, they are feeling betrayed, because this government has failed to keep their commitments. So my final question to the minister is quite simple, why is your government

[Page 589]

not prepared to live up to its commitments to improve the quality of education in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this government is increasing funding to all areas of education this year within the limits of what we can afford. Money to all sectors - public education, the community college and the universities - is up.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - ELECTION PROMISE: BREACH - EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. On June 26, 1999, in The Chronicle-Herald the Premier stated, "A Progressive Conservative government is committed to reducing the provincial debt. Over our first four-year mandate we will ensure the debt . . . will not increase." Not only did the debt rise by $1.3 billion last year, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is going to grow each and every year over the Tory mandate. My question to the Minister of Finance is, why is the Finance Minister breaking an election promise?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member can read different sections and interpret them any which way he may want to, but we told Nova Scotians that we would balance the budget over three years and then we would give a tax cut in the fourth. Any reasonable Nova Scotian knows when you haven't balanced the budget, in those years, you will add to the debt. So I don't know what the honourable member's line of reasoning is. Perhaps in his second question he could elaborate, because I think Nova Scotians know exactly what we are going to do, and we are doing it.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians were told $46 million would fix health care and we would be out of trouble. The debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is out of control. By the time that minister leaves office the net debt of the province will grow by over $2 billion. That is going to add an additional $140 million to debt-servicing costs even with the $512 million additional revenue that this minister has seen since he has come into power. My question to the minister is simple, what went so horribly wrong?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member can make the assertions that there would not be additional debt when we are in the process of balancing the budget. Clearly to bring about an about-face to a very difficult situation, when I tabled the first budget, that was basically a continuation of the one that the honourable member himself had tabled, this province was facing a $500 million deficit; that is an enormous task for any government to bring about a balanced budget. We brought in a four year plan and are we on target, the answer is yes. (Applause)

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MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister who was part of a Party that left this province with a $1.8 billion operating deficit is what reckless is all about. This Party and this minister said that they would not add to the debt. That was their word. That was their promise to Nova Scotians. It is absolutely outrageous that this minister has no plan to tackle the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Will the minister stop this reckless path that he is taking and implement a debt-reduction strategy before it is too late?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I cannot be any clearer. We have brought in a debt-reduction policy. It is reducing the deficit. I find it somewhat amusing that the honourable member goes on the radio with the NDP Finance Critic and says that we should have slashed and burned and balanced the budget, while his Health Critic on the same day is saying the sky is the limit, it does not matter what it costs, spend. The Liberal Party should learn to prioritize itself and speak with one voice. (Interruptions)

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please! Spring must be in the air. (Laughter)

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - CITADEL HILL:

TAX ASSESS. - HRM EFFECTS

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. At the heart of Halifax is Citadel Hill and what very few citizens know is that it is also at the heart of a tax squabble between the province and the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, I want to table documents showing the assessed value of Citadel Hill is $37.5 million, which the federal government felt was an outrageous assessment and so they came back and said that they would value it at zero. Meanwhile, the taxpayers of HRM are out $1 million a year while this squabble continues. My question to the minister is, how did your department let it come to this that while the provincial and federal governments squabble, the HRM taxpayers are out $1 million a year?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I can tell the honourable member that this is a matter which I have asked our department officials to resolve as quickly as possible, because it is something that has been outstanding for some time. The principles that have been applied are the principles of assessment. I can assure the honourable member that we will work diligently to try to bring this matter to a resolution.

[Page 591]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that the principles of assessment are being applied because there is some suggestion that it is nothing more than a petty personal squabble between a senior official in that minister's department and an official in the federal Department of Public Works.

Mr. Speaker, HRM is so concerned about this matter that they had to step in themselves to try to broker a deal with the federal government to go around the intransigent provincial government. My question to the minister is, why is the municipality being forced to do your department's job?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, the department is working on this matter and we intend to have it resolved as soon as possible.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, meanwhile, while the minister fiddles, the taxpayers are out $1 million a year for the last three tax years. My final question to the minister is, what steps is the minister going to take to make sure that this matter is straightened out so that the taxpayers of HRM get the $1 million a year that they are owed by the federal government? What exactly is the minister going to do?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and the House that I have already indicated to the department that this is a matter that needs to be resolved and needs to be resolved rapidly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - ESCAPEE: THREAT - CRITERIA

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on Sunday night an inmate escaped from the Halifax Correctional Centre by simply walking out of the front door. The Department of Justice dismissed the escape saying it was not a serious occurrence and went on to inform the public that the inmate in question was deemed to be a low risk to the community. Today, we learned that the same inmate was serving time for theft and has previous convictions for assault.

My question to the Minister of Justice is, will the minister explain to this House what criteria are used by his department to determine if an escaped prisoner poses a threat to the community?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the inmate in question was in the low security trailer area that is part of that particular facility, and as a result of that was able to exit through the gate when the gate opened to admit a vehicle. With respect to the inmate's assessment, the inmate was assessed on a number of criteria, obviously including the

[Page 592]

offences for which he had been convicted, which were theft and, therefore, property related and not related to assaults on persons.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the information we have obtained also shows that this inmate has previous convictions for assault, including an assault on his common-law wife, which included grabbing her by the throat and kicking her with steel-toed boots 20 to 30 times, yet this same individual was allowed to simply walk out the front door of the Halifax Correctional Centre. My question to the minister is, how can this minister possibly claim that this inmate is of low risk to the community?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, staff had assessed the individual in question and made an assessment that he posed a low risk to the community. I can also indicate to the honourable member that the new Burnside Correctional Facility, when it is opened, will eliminate any possibility of this kind of thing occurring, as a result of the fact that the facility is a far more secure institution.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, basically what the minister has just told us is that he and his department have been negligent in the placing in incarceration of prisoners in this province. To state that this is not a serious issue is shame. In their blue book, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, the Tories stated, "We believe our justice system is there to protect all Nova Scotians." My final question is, how should Nova Scotians have any faith in this minister or his government to protect them when such a dangerous inmate is declared by the minister to be of low risk to the community?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I haven't declared Mr. Francis to be low risk or high risk; staff at the correctional facility do the assessment. With all due respect to the honourable member, I don't remember their ministers doing staff assessment. It is very interesting that the members opposite forget that this government continued with a plan that has put up a facility in Burnside, which is a state-of-the-art facility which will guarantee that those people who should be in custody remain in custody.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC. - SCHOOL CONST. (ELMSDALE): TECH. CUTS - RETHINK

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Education. I certainly hope that the minister will remember our conversation a few days ago regarding the Elmsdale School construction. The parents in Elmsdale are willing to accept the changes in the design of the building, but they were promised the appropriate state-of-the-art technology for their children, and for them that was the buy-in; they refuse to accept all the proposed cuts to the technology allocation.

[Page 593]

The minister stated that the school board knew about the cuts in the technology 10 months ago, and her department has already confirmed to the principal at the school that they made a mistake, that they failed to inform the school board, and they failed to inform the contractor as well. Will the minister admit that in light of this information not getting to either the contractor or the community that her department will rethink the cuts in the technology budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have indeed confirmed that there was a lack of communication there, and I have apologized for that. There are six other schools who are operating under the same principles as the Elmsdale School. The new standards for design and technology and equipment will stand in all our new schools, so that we may be able to afford more of them.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister says that there are six more schools and that they are not complaining. Well, it would be a strange thing, since two of those schools are in the Chignecto School Board as well and they didn't know about the cuts. Also, the coordinator of technology for the Chignecto School Board had met with his counterparts with the other boards as well as staff from the department last week and the counterparts at the other boards that are expecting new technology, they were not aware. No wonder they are not complaining if they are not aware that the cuts are coming. My question to the minister is, how can the minister justify comments that the six other schools are not complaining when it is obvious they do not even know about the proposed changes to the school design standards and in particular, to the technology changes?

MISS PURVES: Our new standards for our new schools that are not built in the P3 process were made public 10 months ago. I would like to explain something, Mr. Speaker. We are talking not about cuts here, we are talking about kids going to a brand new school with a new gym and bigger classrooms and all kinds of new technology. We are talking about LCD projectors going from one classroom to one every two classrooms in an elementary school. If I may add, a school like Moncton High School in New Brunswick with 1,500 kids has four. What we are talking about are really great new schools.

MR. MACDONELL: Far be it for me to say that I think the minister does not know what she is talking about. I think that this technology, it is going to be a little while but the teachers that are using it today feel quite assured that the benefits that their children are receiving cannot be measured by this minister.

My question to the minister is, would she be willing to allow staff at the school board who have the expertise and the technology that they need, if they could sit down with department staff with the department's budget and hammer out what they think would be best for the school? I know that the Minister of Health - sitting beside the Minister of Education - would certainly know about the competence of the people at the board level and I think this would be an appropriate way to come to some conclusion in this situation. So, would the

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minister be willing to let her staff sit down with staff at the school board with the budget that she wants to allocate for technology and let them hammer out what the best deal would be for the school?

MISS PURVES: Certainly there has been a lot of communication between the two since this project started and certainly, there is no problem with the two talking about the issues of technology in the schools. But, I have to say that what we are talking about here is not just one school, we are talking about new standards for all the new schools we will be building and any arrangement would have to be worked out within those parameters.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - FORESTRY: HARVESTING PRACTICES - SAFETY

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources and it is relative to harvesting practice in the province. My question to the minister is, the minister is well aware that the practice has moved from power saws to skidders to large machines such as harvesters and forwarders, so I want to ask what the minister is doing to make sure there is appropriate safety training for the operation of havesters and forwarders?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his question. Obviously, safety when operating any type of heavy equipment, whether it is in the forestry industry, is certainly a prime concern of the Department of Natural Resources.

With the contractors involved in operating machines, they take the time and the due diligence and it is their responsibility to ensure that safety procedures and proper operational protocol for those machines is achieved.

MR. MACASKILL: My question again to the Minister of Natural Resources is, are there any plans by his department to confirm that commercial forestry harvesters and forwarders are registered with the Workers' Compensation Board?

MR. FAGE: I am not understanding the honourable member's question directly, but if his question alludes to whether those people are covered by compensation and under the purview of the Workers' Compensation Board, yes, they are.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MACASKILL: So the minister is telling me today that all foresters and all harvesters operating within the province are registered with the Department of Labour and the Workers' Compensation Board? Is that what the minister is telling me?

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MR. FAGE: What I am telling the honourable member is, that the rules, the procedures and the regulations from workers' compensation that apply to all workers in Nova Scotia apply to the forest industry and the people who work in the forest industry as well who would operate them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition, you have one minute.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - FARM BUS.: FUEL FEE - JUSTIFICATION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the government did a clever thing recently. It implemented a user fee just before this budget came down, charging farm businesses $25 per year for the right to purchase fuel used in the production of food. It has never once stated whether the costs of administering this program bears any relationship to the fee and I bet it will not. Will the minister admit that this fee is just another way to squeeze bucks out of rural Nova Scotians?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I thank the honourable member for his question but, again, the honourable member is slightly confused. The administration of the fuel tax is under the purview of the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations I would direct the honourable member's question to the appropriate department.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

[Page 596]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a few moments to speak as we debate the motion to go into Supply. I want to take a few moments to talk a bit about education, but also I think it is important to talk about the day-to-day impacts of what this government's cuts in education have done. You sometimes hear about it in the classroom and other times, I mean in the last couple of weeks we are beginning to see it on the picket lines in HRM.

We are seeing janitors, we are seeing custodians, we are seeing plumbers and carpenters on strike because this government, through its lack of funding for school boards, is causing the squeeze on our school boards that is then resulting in them trying to cut back on benefits and wages for workers. First it was the bus drivers. They did settle, although if you talk to any bus drivers in HRM who are employed by Stock Transport, they will tell you that they were not very happy about the settlement, but they felt that there was a proverbial gun to their head, that they had no choice. If you talk to the janitors, the custodians and the maintenance staff, they will tell you the same thing. They feel that this is something that is being trickled down from this government's inability to ensure that we are investing in education properly.

Mr. Speaker, the real irony of this is, if I recall, the Minister of Education last year talked about cuts and she rationalized them as trying to address administrative costs, as trying to address costs that truly needed to be addressed administratively, the fat so to speak. I don't know if she used those exact words, but trimming the fat. What is really happening here is that we have a school board now, in Halifax anyway, the Halifax Regional School Board, that first of all has not been very open in how it has been addressing its finances and then turns around and has been trying to not cut fat, but cut the meat from the bone. It is trying to actually cut services that are not only essential to the efficient operation of the school board and our schools and, therefore, essential to our children's education, but also is very cost-effective.

I am going to talk for a minute about that as well, about some of the maintenance staff I have talked to and some of the concerns they have had about how things are being done and how they feel that their jobs are actually a cost-effective way of operating our school system when, in fact, there are others in the school system who are attempting to use ways, particularly outsourcing and contracting out, that actually cost much more.

Mr. Speaker, this all started when this government came in. Education has been an ongoing issue, we know that. The Liberals before them wanted to spend their money on new shiny buildings, and we are still seeing the impact of that. The Leader of the Opposition just asked a question about the whole issue of lack of technology; it is because the Liberal Government decided it wanted to spend money on beautiful buildings without trying to increase the debt, and tried some smoke-and-mirror way of doing that through P3, and we are all paying the price and will continue to pay the price.

[Page 597]

Mr. Speaker, God only knows what will happen in 20 years when we actually have those leases up. In communities like mine or the member for Timberlea-Prospect's or the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank's, where we have new and growing young families and communities, those schools are still going to be needed. We won't be able to lease them or we will have to renegotiate those leases. I don't know what is going to happen along that line.

Technology, now, is something that is being cut back on in order to save money as we build these schools. In fact, we even have, as a hangover from the Liberal agenda of P3, the whole situation - talking about my community - a local individual who helps organize soccer; he coaches, he organizes, and soccer is a growing sport in many communities throughout Nova Scotia. In Eastern Passage, particularly, there is a limited number of soccer fields, and one of them is not going to be available this year because of renovations. They have a scheduling problem. They wanted to use the field at the new P3 junior high school in Eastern Passage. They are being told, no, they cannot.

I am glad I brought this resolution forward yesterday. The members on the other side agreed to waive notice and to endorse the resolution that said we need to be working with those P3 schools to try to open up those fields. I am glad to hear that. I will be sending that back to the people in my community, and maybe the member for Timberlea-Prospect will be doing the same thing, to let them know that we are able to at least work together from time to time and encourage those P3 schools to really open up those fields. I understand a year ago maybe there was a problem because the sod needed to set, but now we have a situation where those fields should be accessible, and not at a rate that is exorbitant or a rate that is going to cause fees for all children and families to go up. That is not what we need. We need accessible, recreational services, and the P3 schools have fields that should be part of that access, economically and physically. But I digress.

Mr. Speaker, the point is that this government came in, and I will admit it was left with headaches and hangovers from the Liberal agenda of P3, but what it has done has compounded the problem not helped it. We need an injection, an investment in education. This isn't a blank cheque. I don't believe that the government is wrong in saying that we need to address the fat in our education system. I don't disagree that we need to have truly clear and open accountability so we know where the money is being spent in our school boards. I agree with that.

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that what is happening is the trickle-down; this government has this way of doing it: it downloads on municipalities, it downloads on individuals - I will talk a bit more about that when we do the Financial Measures (2001) Act later today, presumably; but for now - they download on school boards. They passed a budget that has cuts in Education, or in the case of this budget in real dollars, less money. Then they expect the school board to transfer and pass on those cuts, much like the federal government,

[Page 598]

I guess, has done to provinces for years. It has downloaded, and the provinces download further.

Well, this Minister of Education and this government have downloaded cuts from last year and this year onto school boards. The school boards have said, we can't do it. The minister said, I would like it addressing administrative costs. Maybe we don't need so many teachers seconded or maybe we don't need as many consultants. Great, I would agree; let's take a look at exactly where the money is being spent. But what is happening is those cuts are being directly felt by those that our children rely on: the bus drivers, the janitors, the custodians, the plumbers, the carpenters. Quite frankly, when you think about the state of our buildings, when you think about what type of state our buildings are in, they are falling down, they are unhealthy, they are unsafe. Someone said the other day one-third of all the schools in Nova Scotia are either unsafe or unhealthy; sick schools or sick buildings.

Yet, what is happening is the cuts of this government are forcing a school board to make cuts, and those cuts are being felt by those who are maintaining the buildings. Quite frankly, they are doing miraculous work with the funds they have been provided with, as maintenance and with capital. I have seen some of that work. There is one in my own riding,

South Woodside. About five years ago that school was in desperate shape, it was a sick school. They were so sick that they were addressed before other schools and before the cost cutting started, and they have actually been able to maintain that school. A lot of investment by the carpenters, by the plumbers, by the maintenance people and by the custodians have turned that school around and it is now a healthier school for it, and it is going to be able to be maintained as a good school for the children of South Woodside for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, there are many other schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality and throughout this province that are in bad shape and we rely upon the staff who help maintain those schools on a day-to-day basis, or when there is a major problem they come in and deal with it. Those are the people we should be helping. Those are the people we should be giving extra funding to to ensure they can continue to invest in maintenance and in capital so that we can protect our schools, make them safe, make them healthy for our children. Instead what we have is a school board, because of the cuts of this Tory Government, that is now trying, on the backs of the maintenance workers, on the backs of the carpenters, on the backs of the plumbers and on the backs of the janitors and custodians, to balance its budget. That is wrong, and they are the people who are on strike and I think that that's a shame.

They don't need to be on strike. If you have talked to any of them, maybe the ones in HRM have talked to some people in their riding who are members of that local who are on strike, they will tell you that they are not looking for pay increases, they want the status quo, but they are being told that the school board is trying to turn back the clock, is trying to roll back benefits, trying to roll back wages. That is wrong. These workers are working hard, they are sort of the unsung heroes of our school system; many are, but these are the people who keep our schools running. They are the ones who ensure that we have a warm building when

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we drop our children off. They are the ones who ensure that we are going to have schools, that as much as possible within the funding provided by this government, healthy and safe buildings.

The problem is that they are bearing the brunt of the cuts. This isn't waste, this isn't fat, this is the meat of our school system that is being cut, and they are fighting. They want to try and prevent their portion, what they do to protect our children, what they do to help ensure our schools are safe and healthy, they want that to continue. They don't want to quit their jobs, they don't want the benefits rolled back so they have to go to other jobs or maybe part-time work to help supplement the income. All they want is what they have had. When you're not part of the fat in the system but you are part of the meat on the bone that ensures that our schools are working, we should not be trying, whether it is this government with its education cuts or the school board with its attempt at trying to balance its books, to do it on the backs of those who are essential.

That is truly what this is about, Mr. Speaker. This is what we need to be talking about in this House more. This budget is a good example when we get into debate in Supply on Education. How much has this government ensured that we are going to be cutting the fat, we are going to be investing in the essentials of our education, whether it be maintenance; whether it be capital; whether it be classroom investment; whether it be investment in teachers and custodians and maintenance staff and school buses and school bus drivers. I haven't even mentioned the teachers' assistants or the secretaries who are also in a very precarious situation with the Halifax Regional School Board and could very well be on strike before we, this House, closes this spring.

Further problems, all permeating down from this government's lack of vision with regards to education and investing in what is essential. I agree that this government must have a strategy, must have a vision of where they want education to go, I would applaud that. All I see is bureaucratic fiscal cutting and then allowing someone else to do their dirty work, do the heavy lifting, when you don't have control over that that results in decisions being made that are quite frankly hurting those who truly are part of the solution when it comes to our education system, not part of the problem.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, before I wrap-up, I have been talking to some of the people in my riding who are custodians and maintenance people. They particularly note that they have seen, in the school board and in the education system, how they can be effective. There are people in the school board, at least in HRM, the Halifax Regional School Board, whose job it is to go around and try and outsource - they are called facilitators, I believe - work and they go in and they bid - they are estimators I presume - and they say they can do this work for $2,000. One person told me about one job where these facilitators quoted $1,800 if the work was contracted out. The maintenance people can come in and say they can do that work for $300,

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yet we still continue to assume that outsourcing and contracting out is the proper way of addressing the problems in our school system. We did it with transportation, and we are doing it to a lesser extent to maintenance. We have already seen that ServiceMaster in the old Halifax School Board was a disaster when they contracted out maintenance and custodian work.

When will we learn that these people are not wasteful, they are not a way of spending money? They are a way of actually saving money for the government, saving money for the school boards. The custodians, the janitors, the maintenance staff are a vital and essential part of our school system. This is not just a school board issue, it is an issue for this government and for all Nova Scotians, because they are the tip of the iceberg, they are the canary in the coal mine.

They are the ones who are being forced to deal with the cuts of this minister and this government first, and many more will come. Many more will be after them and many more who are essential to our children's education will be affected unless this government begins to have a vision of investing in education for all Nova Scotians. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: It is truly an honour to have the opportunity today to rise in my place and to speak on an issue which is near and dear to the hearts of my constituents from one end of Richmond County to the next, and that is the issue of the deplorable state of the roads in Richmond County.

The issue of roads is one that all members of this House have been grappling with and it has gone through different government administrations and through different Parties. It is certainly not a problem which started recently, but it is one that we have been grappling with for some time.

In the last provincial campaign, you will remember yourself, Mr. Speaker, especially, when the Tories and their blue book heralded their platform saying that they were going to start a new process in which all revenues from gasoline and fuel tax, license registration and car registration would be dedicated solely to the issue of roads, road maintenance and new paving.

You will recall, I believe the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley was one of the first to stand in his place and say that he was proud to be a member of a Party which would finally dedicate and manage the roads in this province as they needed to be managed. I remember him saying that. You will remember that member who was involved in the trucking industry of this province - which employs many Nova Scotians - for a great deal of his life heralded this Tory policy as something which he stood for, he fought for, and that this government was going to do.

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I am sad to say, as I stand in my place, that in the two years that this government has been into their mandate, they have yet to even talk or acknowledge that they made this commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. I hear the Minister of Finance stand in his place and say we have a four year plan, a management plan, we are managing this province. What happened to the management of the roads? Where did that go? There are a number of backbenchers and even ministers in that government who got elected and got votes because of that very commitment, Mr. Speaker. You know it yourself. Nova Scotians were desperate. Finally, here were the Tories saying all of this money, which I believe one of the Chambers of Commerce said that it was in the range of $260 million - Mr. Speaker, you would know that yourself having fought for this very provision - yet this government once again, the budget for the Department of Transportation is in the range of $70 million.

Once again, they have misled the people of Nova Scotia. They said whatever it took to get elected and now that they are in office, the Minister of Finance is laughing all the way to the bank and has completely abandoned the roads of this province.

We hear the Minister of Economic Development say the people of Cape Breton have to think outside the box and they have to look at new ways of economic development, and the Minister of Tourism is pleading with people to raise the tourism numbers which have been dropping ever since he became minister of that department. Yet we all know that economic development and tourism in this province will never occur until we have an appropriate transportation system in this province.

That is all the people ask for. They are not asking for roads paved with gold, they are asking for roads that are safe for travel, and we can expect tourists will be coming to this province . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am sure the member would not like to mislead this House. To suggest that tourism numbers have been going down since this government took office is inaccurate and I would ask him to table the document showing that that is true since July 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't believe that is a point of order, but it is in fact commentary with a question and I would indicate that the honourable member for Richmond does have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, not only have the numbers fallen in his own department, he is not even aware of it and stands in his place asking for others to point him in the right direction, knowing that the tourism numbers clearly dropped last year. Cape Breton is one of the places that was hit the hardest and because of that drop last year his own constituency, which relies so heavily on tourism, would know about that drop in numbers. That the minister would stand in his place saying I don't know, what is he talking about, is a pretty sad state and gives a good indication of where this government is going.

[Page 602]

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to drive through the County of Inverness about two months ago and for that minister to interrupt me while I am speaking on roads, I would think he would sit in his place and cheer on and say, yes, please, help convince the big, bad Minister of Finance to put more money into transportation because my roads are deplorable in Inverness County.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, again the honourable member had suggested that road spending had gone down since our government took office and, as that honourable member well knows, road spending in this province has actually gone up since this administration took office. It was his administration that underspent on roads and I believe that is a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. I would say that while it is not a point of order, it is certainly a point of validity and, again, I would point out that the honourable member for Richmond does have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I encourage that minister and the Minister of Tourism to go back to their ridings and to herald how much money this government has invested in roads and to travel on their own roads and to see. The blue book was quite clear. All revenue from fuel, from oil, from license registration, from vehicle registration, will be put on roads. You remember that, Mr. Speaker. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley cheered on and said that is why he was proud to be a member of the Tory Party. Maybe that is an indication why he is speaking at Alliance meetings because he is no longer proud to be a member of the Tory Party. He now realizes this government said whatever it had to to get elected. He was duped himself and he is already starting the process of getting rid of the Tory Party in this province and to start moving towards the Alliance, but I must say with all due respect to that member, he is jumping from one sinking ship to a ship that has already sunk. So that is an unfortunate bit of strategy on his part.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, in the range of $250 million is what this government took in under that and could have put it to transportation. Yet the Minister of Finance said no, no, I am not going to do that, no. Are you going to use the money to eliminate the deficit? No, not this year, I would rather add $91 million more to the burden on our children and our grandchildren. Yet he has the gall to stand in this House and say I am investing in children. Well, what little comfort it is to these children that the minister throws a few dollars and cents at them, only to know that what he is doing is adding to the debt which has risen $1.3 billion since this Minister of Finance took control.

There is an absolute need to invest in our children today, Mr. Speaker, and to also invest in our children's future because what the minister invests in today is what is going to burden them at the end and hurt them in the future. That minister could have avoided that. He could have said I am investing in children today and I am also investing in their future by eliminating the deficit this year. I am not going to stick to that plan because all of a

[Page 603]

sudden I have got a windfall of money. I am not going to say, you know, here was our plan. Back when they first started their plan, that minister had absolutely no idea what revenues he would have this year.

Anyone with any intelligence in business, Mr. Speaker, who starts a business, puts a five year projection, when all of a sudden their sales are increased by 100 per cent and says, well, no, I am not going to make the necessary investments or pay down the necessary loans, I am on a five year plan. There are also some different words that we would use to describe that businessman, and I would say that those apply the same logic used by the Minister of Finance in saying, I am sticking to that four year plan, I am going to continue to add to the burden of the children here in this province, a debt which is now growing at a rate of $3.5 million per day.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister to give me one week - seven days - of that $3.5 million per day, and I assure you we would make a big dent in addressing the road concerns in Richmond County, if we had that seven days of what this government is doing right now. That minister had a choice; that minister made a decision. This government was faced with a situation where they had unexpected revenues - which they had absolutely no responsibility for, I should add - yet all of a sudden it was in their laps. They had a choice. The Minister of Finance had a choice. It is their government that all of a sudden got this windfall of money, and yet we see what their priorities were.

Mr. Speaker, they told you, when you were a candidate for them, and the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, we will put all this money in roads, we are going to put you there to be able to say I am proud to be a government that has addressed the road concerns, that has managed the roads, as the Minister of Finance likes to talk about managing so much. You know yourself, Mr. Speaker, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley must be very depressed these days as he drives home, to see the state of roads in this province. A Party for which he put his name forward to get elected, that he was on the news defending their platform, and then he has to look at his colleague sitting in front of him, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, as he throws up his arms and blames everybody else but himself for the state of the roads here in this province.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very sad day. The Minister of Economic Development, who also used to be the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works, we would think that he would have an understanding of how important our transportation system is to economic development in this province, especially in the rural areas. Yet he has no idea, doesn't say a word. He just goes along with what the Minister of Transportation and Public Works says, and he is happy to sit there while his department continues to get depleted, so there is basically nothing left around him. He has actually even asked some members of the private industry to come run the department for him, because of his own mismanagement and inability to do economic development in this province.

[Page 604]

Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia will not soon forget how they have been misled by this government. Then the Minister of Transportation and Public Works comes out and says, look, poor Nova Scotians, please drive carefully, big bad Mother Nature is to blame for all the problems with the roads here in this province, not my own mismanagement, not the fact that I didn't live up to the pledge I gave you in 1999, not the fact that people continue to get killed on Highway No. 101, although I said during the campaign that we would twin it with the federal government or not. No, it is big, bad Mother Nature, and on Highway No. 101, drive a little slower. What a disgrace.

Mr. Speaker, an issue that affects every single Nova Scotian in this province, an issue which they thought this government was serious about when they said they would work to address it, and to see today the silence on that side, they are looking down in shame, knowing that they have abandoned the people of Nova Scotia, the people throughout rural Nova Scotia. Those members from the rural ridings, sitting on the backbenches, the member for Colchester North, when he is driving through Tatamagouche and driving through Cape John and some of the other roads in his area, thank God he drives a large car, because if he had any sort of compact car it would probably be in pieces right now from travelling on those roads or might have gotten lost in one of the potholes out there. That applies for members throughout the entire government backbench. No one needs to tell them about the state of our roads.

The thing is, it is all about choices. Your government said they would invest all that revenue from fuel, oil and license registration in roads. Today they have chosen not to do so. They said they would do it, now they haven't done it. The Minister of Finance sits there smugly and refuses to put in the necessary amount of money which should go in Transportation and Public Works. It is bad enough the minister says, I am not going to do that plan to invest in transportation, but I am going to spend money and I am also going to have a $91 million deficit, again, for this year. Thanks for coming out. This is my contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia. This is the legacy that he will leave behind for his children, our children and even our grandchildren.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day, and to simply say that an addition of $10 million is how this government is managing our roads, is how it is addressing the situation that we have, is very shameful. The people in the transportation industry are the ones who know this most, the ones who make a living travelling on these roads. I had a whole list of roads I was going to go through, unfortunately I was distracted by a few of the ministers who aren't given the opportunity to speak very much in this House and felt the need to stand up on their feet.

Mr. Speaker, you look at the roads throughout Richmond County, from one end to the next, and the people are just asking for basic service to be provided, basic safety because our roads are no longer safe. People are swerving over the yellow lines to avoid potholes, they are driving on the shoulder to avoid great big craters in the middle of the road. Huge trucks, which are travelling on rural roads, are doing the same. It is only a matter of time before

[Page 605]

pedestrians get hit, that cars start colliding together because of the mismanagement of this government and its complete abandonment of the roads throughout this entire province.

[2:00 p.m.]

The people of rural Nova Scotia are committed to seeing their economies develop, they are committed to being self-sufficient, they are committed to seeing their communities be prosperous, proud, self-reliant. Unfortunately this government forgets so when the Minister of Economic Development says, think outside the box, the people in rural Nova Scotia say, Mr. Minister, you think outside the box. If you are going to do economic development, put a transportation system in place that is going to address the needs commercially and residentially of our residents and together we can grow with the economy of this province, not just here in metro, not just in Cape Breton, not just in the Valley, not just in Colchester, but from one end of our great province to the next. If this government puts the necessary commitment to transportation, I am confident, with the talented people we have in this province, Mr. Speaker, with the members of this House working together, we can achieve the economic and social prosperity that the people of Nova Scotia have so longed for.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on debate going into Supply. I want to use my time to carry on with a topic that was brought forward by the member for Cape Breton East yesterday concerning the need for clean, safe, drinking water.

I was pleased, as well as were other members of this Legislature, with the Budget Speech and the issues that were brought forth by the Minister of Finance concerning the need for Nova Scotia to protect its clean safe drinking water. The communities that I represent, including Beaver Bank, Middle Sackville and Hammonds Plains are part of the communities that host the Halifax Regional Municipality water supply. The water for most of Halifax Regional Municipality comes from a lake in my riding, Pockwock Lake. It is treated in Upper Hammonds Plains and is distributed through a complex distribution system that provides tap drinking water for about 70 per cent of the Halifax Regional Municipality that is on municipal services including this building and all of peninsula Halifax, including Bedford, Sackville, parts of Hammonds Plains; those areas that are supplied through the main part of Halifax.

The interesting point that I would like to raise and bring to this House's attention is the fact that although the constituents that I represent supply, or host the water supply for metro, many of those constituents don't actually have access to that very water. In fact, the community of Upper Hammonds Plains only two years ago - although it was abutting the community that actually surrounded the water supply - were they able to access municipal services. I would say that the community through the hard work of community volunteers

[Page 606]

and activists, lobbied hard the municipal government, the water commission and other levels of government to provide the necessary funding so that they could get connected.

It is ironic that for 20-some years, a four foot pipe, pumped water to downtown Halifax and to Fairview and to those communities and completely bypassed that community altogether. Those people suffered long and hard with water quality, quantity, malfunctioning septic systems and it is very gratifying now for many of them to turn on the tap and know that something that many of us take for granted, the supply of clean, safe drinking water, is there simply when they need it.

Mr. Speaker, however, unfortunately there are still communities and parts of the riding that I represent, like Beaver Bank, where people are still forced to bottle water, bring in water from outside, ration showers and make other life changing alterations to get by.

In 1980 or 1982, the Province of Nova Scotia through the Department of Environment at the time, conducted a survey of homes in Beaver Bank and what they did was, they actually went out into the community and they tested the water, the quantity of water and they actually tested the septic systems. Interestingly enough, what they found was that about 70 per cent of the homes in the community of Beaver Bank either had a malfunctioning septic system, a water supply that was not fit for human consumption, or did not have enough water in their well for a family the size of the home that the people lived in.

Over the past 10 or 12 years, governments have tried to address the issue and residents have tried to address the issue. They have drilled new wells to no avail, and they have installed new septic systems only to have them fail because soil conditions in the area would not warrant septic systems. A lot of the people who live in Beaver Bank and those communities were reluctant to talk about it because if they actually came out and spoke about the fact that the homes they were living in had malfunctioning septic systems and wells that were running dry, they would have a hard time selling those properties.

It wasn't until the community came together and rallied to try to lobby government to resolve this issue that people started to come out with their stories. I will tell you that some of the stories that I heard from members of the community that I represent were incredible. Some of the things that they have had to do to get by included collecting the rainwater from their drain spouts and funnelling it back into their wells.

It spawned a whole new industry in our community; there are several operators who actually provide water to people with wells. The interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, if you have ever had a well, you will find that you can fill up a well one day with 2,000 gallons of water and the next day - knowing very well that you have only used a few hundred gallons - the 2,000 gallons of water is simply gone, it has drained back into the soil and people have spent $50 to $75 or $100 trying to resolve their issue by buying a load of water only to have to do it again two days later.

[Page 607]

The important point that I want to raise here is that the community of Beaver Bank has made a gigantic leap forward in trying to resolve its issues. A couple of years ago the infrastructure works program, jointly funded by the province, the municipality and the federal government, was able to help move municipal services up through Beaver Bank so that many of those residents who had problems and were forced to deal with these on an ad hoc basis now are connected to municipal services.

However, not all of the residents were able to do that immediately. Many of the residents who live in subdivisions like Greenforest, Barrett Woods, Shunamon and Tucker Lake still manage their water supply and look after their septic on a day-to-day basis, hoping every day that they will have water when they turn on the tap.

This future upcoming infrastructure works program that the Minister of Finance spoke about in his address to the budget is something that the people of Beaver Bank and Hammonds Plains, and those peripheral communities of metro, are very hopeful will help them resolve some of their issues.

I was very pleased when the federal government announced, along with the provincial government, that they wanted to focus this upcoming infrastructure works project on green programs; in other words, sewer and water-type services. I was very pleased because, quite frankly, the people in the community that I represent deal with these issues on a daily basis and they looked at this as a golden opportunity. The last program was able to bring the spike services up through the Beaver Bank Road and they are hoping this next program will help bring it into the houses along the subdivisions that spawn off of the Beaver Bank Road.

That is why they have contacted me and other members of government to try to put forward a case to move on a phase-by-phase basis to try to resolve the issues of sewer and water in Beaver Bank. As well, that is why the people in Hammonds Plains, particularly in the Maplewood on the Lakes Subdivision, have put forward an application through the municipality to have their water services provided as well.

I will tell you about one resident who contacted me. His name is Ron Jefferson and he is the chairman of the environmental committee for Maplewood on the Lakes Subdivision and he contacted me on behalf of his neighbours. They have actually developed a very good committee that lobbies government for different services and programs, and what he told me was there are a number of residents in Maplewood on the Lakes who drilled a well when they built their houses and five or six years later realized that the quantity of water was not sufficient. They chose to drill deeper, only to find out that they were getting no more water, and he said there are other residents who abandoned their first well and went on to a second well and then abandoned the second well and went on to a third well.

Mr. Speaker, what has happened is that there is no water in the ground in many of these cases. The amounts of money that individual residents have been forced to pay out of their

[Page 608]

pockets to try to resolve some of these issues very easily could have paid for betterment charges and their share of the contribution towards municipal services two and three times over. So that community, as well, is looking for water. They certainly don't have a problem with sewer at this point, but they simply need the water that runs by their house.

The subdivision, Maplewood on the Lakes, is cross-sectioned by the four foot transmission line that runs from Pockwock right through to Halifax, and those constituents badly need a small spine to come off that four foot pipe so they can receive the water that runs right by their homes and down to Halifax. It is my hope they will have successful applications under the infrastructure works program that will see the badly needed water and sewer that many of these constituents are looking for.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I raise this is that I represent one of the fastest growing constituencies in the Province of Nova Scotia. Many of the homes being built there are being built on well and septic. The need to provide municipal service is a growing need in the community I represent. Many of the homeowners simply on their own would not be able to afford to provide the amount of money necessary to pay the betterment charges without the infrastructure works program. That is why they look forward to this program and they see this as an opportunity to help offset some of the costs.

As well, the municipality has had a tough time dealing with these type of capital projects itself, Mr. Speaker. We all know that municipalities across this province are having a hard time dealing with these things and I think it is incumbent upon other levels of government, even though it is not necessarily the responsibility of the Province of Nova Scotia to fund capital projects like this, it certainly is incumbent upon us, as elected officials, to try to help those people who need help.

In the communities of Beaver Bank, Middle Sackville and Hammonds Plains, those people desperately need help, Mr. Speaker. They need the services that many of the people in the urban core take for granted. The people of Sackville-Beaver Bank (Interruption)

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the honourable member would be kind enough to, because of the complexity of some of the points he has raised, entertain a short question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank entertain a question?

MR. BARNET: Well, Mr. Speaker, if it were not for the fact that the debate going into Supply is only 15 minutes and certainly it does not leave me enough opportunity to express the views of the constituents I represent, I would; otherwise, there may be another opportunity for the member to bring that question up to me and I would be more than happy to talk to him later.

[Page 609]

Mr. Speaker, the issues that I was trying to raise were with respect to the need for funding to provide municipal services.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize to the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank for interrupting. I rise on a point of personal privilege. During my speech I made reference to the Minister of Tourism and the fact that since he has taken office the numbers in tourism have dropped. The minister questioned me on that and indicated I was misleading the House.

I would like to table with the House right now a release from Tourism and Culture, dated November 7, 2000, which says, "Last year's record-breaking tourism growth was a tough act to follow with this year's revenues representing a one per cent drop over last year's $1.256 billion performance." This was announced at a joint Tourism Partnership Council. It says, ". . . Rodney MacDonald, Minister of Tourism and Culture, to share the news at this year's 23rd annual Tourism Conference held at the Westin . . ." It goes on to indicate, "Factors that may be playing a role in the slight drop in tourism traffic include the price of gas and cooler, wetter weather compared to 1999." Mr. Speaker, my statement was that the numbers had dropped. This clearly shows it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please table the document.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I know it takes the member and members from his Party a while to realize that they are not in government any longer. In fact, we have been in government longer than 12 months. We have been in since July 1999. I am glad to report that we are ahead. If he looks at the statistics from July to December and the three months this year, we are well ahead of that. In fact, we are well ahead of where they were when they were last in government.

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, just on the original point of order, I would like to point out that I will have to take that under advisement. I would caution all honourable members in the House that it is unparliamentary to accuse another member of misleading the House.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You kind of cut me off before I had a chance to finish there. As you pointed out, I would ask you to make a ruling. The minister clearly indicated that I had misled the House by saying the numbers had dropped since the minister has been there. I have now tabled the information from the minister which clearly indicates the numbers have dropped. I would ask you to direct that minister to apologize to the House for indicating that I misled the House, when he knew clearly . . .

[Page 610]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I understand the point you are trying to make. We will take it under advisement and render a decision at a later date.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I wish I had taken the question now. (Interruptions) How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about 45 seconds.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, well, at the risk of trying to go faster than the member for Preston on a resolution, I will say that many of the residents that I represent live a short distance from the end of a water pipe, and this infrastructure works program might help them bring that water pipe to the front of their homes. I look forward to the day when those people who badly need both sewer and water or simply water alone are able to get that. Quite frankly, unless you have lived without one or the other or had a problem with one, you really don't understand the issue that the people are faced with.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to commend the minister and the Department of Environment and Labour for the $850,000 contribution to long-term . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time is up.

The motion is carried.

[2:17 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government must reassess the closure of small neighbourhood schools in low and middle income communities so that the best interests of children take priority over the Minister of Education's cruel fascination with the bottom line."

[Page 611]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

EDUC. - NEIGHBOURHOOD SCHOOLS:

CLOSURE - REASSESS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this resolution, not pleased that this resolution must come to the floor for late debate, but pleased to at least speak to this resolution. This resolution is also a resolution that was put forward by the member for Halifax Needham.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that the fascination with the bottom line was signalled when the minister took control of the Southwest Nova School Board, in effect telling all school boards to fall in line or you will be the next for takeover. Also, last Thursday when I put a question to the minister whether she would intervene to stop this flawed and unfair process, the minister implied with an emphatic no, again signalling her cruel fascination with the bottom line instead of thinking about the children and the quality of education.

Mr. Speaker, because of this minister's funding to the Nova Scotia school boards, particularly to the Halifax Regional School Board, it has not kept pace with the operating costs. The minister knows that this is not only the lowest funded school board per student population in Nova Scotia, but this is also the lowest funded school board for student population in all of Canada. As a result of the Department of Education's funding the HRSB has had to find every possible avenue to reduce its budget.

Mr. Speaker, in many cases some of the only options left to the school board was to close schools even if the process was flawed and unfair. I want to tell the minister that the process was flawed because it did not provide the Parents Advisory Committee on School Closure Review with the technical or the financial information to prepare a fair and accurate assessment of the individual schools for closure.

Mr. Speaker, it was also unfair because the targeted communities were communities that could least afford the school closures because of their socio-economic status. The Halifax Regional School Board thought this position would take one path and that was a path of least resistance because it felt the communities were unable to organize themselves. I want to tell you that the school board was truly surprised when they met with a strong opposition of well-organized parents representing schools like the Northbrook Elementary School, the Notting Park School, the John Martin Junior High School, the Rockingstone Heights Elementary School and the B.C. Silver Junior High School.

[Page 612]

Mr. Speaker, the parents, who are hardworking parents, every single evening had to prepare reports upon reports to justify to the regional school board why their local community school ought not to be closed. Many of those parents stood before the school board night after night bestowing the virtues to the school board of small, neighbourhood community schools; the virtues of each and every parent and their children and how they respected the teachers in each and every one of those small community schools and how their students and their children were able to adapt to that environment and bring home the message that they were getting a quality education from the teachers in those schools because the teachers cared. The teachers looked at them as individual students who required special attention, and guided them through the education process.

Mr. Speaker, the minister is very much aware that school closure is not an option for communities like Spryfield and Dartmouth North. Indeed, it is not an option for any small neighbourhood schools. I want to assure you, and the minister is well aware that there are studies that emphasize the virtue of small schools and education, both here in Canada and in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to some of those studies, particularly in the United States, because they are now identifying problems with large schools and are reverting back to small neighbourhood schools as part of the government's commitment to quality education.

Mr. Speaker, if I can, I am just going to cite some reports, particularly to justify small community schools. There have been numerous studies done between the 1980's and 1990's that firmly establish the benefits of small schools. In fact, in the United States, where they went from small community schools to larger inner-city schools, they are now scrambling to get back to smaller schools. There is a reason for so many studies being carried out regarding this topic.

I will just quote a few of these studies, and I am sure most if not all of these studies are available on the Internet, and you could reach them yourself. However, this should be considered as a very important issue tonight, and it should warrant the minister's response. This should be considered a very important aspect of the minister's job, which is keeping small schools, with all of their benefits, open. One of the quotes is "'A large body of research in the affective and social realms overwhelmingly affirms the superiority of small schools.' That is Cotton, K. (1996b).

Also the findings overwhelmingly support that there is a strong association between social class and achievement and that poorer students who attend smaller school outperform poor students who attend larger schools." That research has been done by Craig Howley, Ohio University, and the Appalachia Educational Laboratory.

[Page 613]

"In a two year study Small Schools: Great Strides, conducted by the Bank Street College of Education and funded by the Joyce Foundation, it was noted that student achievement was greater in the small schools than in the larger schools. Students, parents, teachers, and community volunteers reported greater satisfaction because they felt more connected to one another. 'Teacher satisfaction went way up!' said Pat Wasley, one of the principal co-investigators of the study. 'Their report found that teachers expected more from their students because they knew them better and cared about what happened to them; students acknowledged this to the researchers.'

Going to a school where someone knows you and your name, being known by your teachers and peers makes a difference. Students take more responsibility for their behaviour and the behaviour of their classmates in small schools. Small Schools: Great Strides, conducted by Bank Street College of Education and funded by the Joyce Foundation. This study has support from the top educator in the United States. Richard W. Riley had this to say to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, 'And both new and renovated schools should be designed for the kind of education we know works best: smaller schools that create a sense of community and small classrooms in which teachers can provide lots of individual attention.'

The more you read on these studies the more you will see just how powerful the information is . . . You just have to listen when something speaks to you so overwhelmingly. Do not take away the small schools from our children. They need you to do what you do best for them. Please do not go backwards into something that has already proven to be so WRONG . . ." Please, and I say this to the Minister of Education, protect small neighbourhood schools by intervening in this school closure process. I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the House for the opportunity to speak on the Adjournment motion. It speaks in terms, that the government must reassess the closure of small neighbourhood schools, and the low- and middle-income communities - I would add all communities to that, I don't think that we have any homogeneous groups that are either totally low- or middle- or upper- whatever or however we want to designate that so for my purposes would include all schools. So, " . . . the best interests of children take priority over the Minister of Education's cruel fascination with the bottom line."

So, be that as it may, I would like to address the issues relative to small neighbourhood schools. I have had the opportunity to represent a riding where school closures have been a topic of concern for many years. The children and their families when they enter the school system - and many families interact with that school system for dozens of years, especially if they have two or three children - that will go on over long periods of time. This is a very

[Page 614]

important relationship. All children when they enter that system are vulnerable. Some are more vulnerable than others. That I believe is what society is trying to address slowly over a long period of time and still making very slow gains as to those children with special needs. All children have special needs, all children are our future but their needs are now.

In our area today in those schools of which we were speaking that have been reviewed recently for closure by the Halifax Regional School Board and the review committees that they have appointed, there are other matters happening as well and I am sure the children are very aware of the strike. I am getting calls today saying could I bring it up in the Legislature relative to the sanitation within the schools and the cancellation of programs such as the dental program in one of our schools. The extent of those cancellations I am not quite up to date with but I know it is happening and I am sure that impacts very dramatically on the children there. Sometimes I think they have some problems understanding that.

In our area particularly there was the closure of the Penhorn Elementary School; that was an area where I practised family medicine. A lot of young families moved into that area just to be close to that school; it was an excellent school. It was an older school for sure but it was good programming and great principal and staff, people that worked their. That was closed in the wisdom of the board and I can see the changes in that particular area now. More recently the possibility of closure of the Mary Lawson Elementary School in our area has certainly again caused unrest and upset in the neighbourhoods that are becoming a little more frequently used to this.

I highlight particularly these small neighbourhood schools. I think surely to goodness in our society we can provide those small neighbourhood schools. They don't have to be too spectacular. I know the one at Mary Lawson has a modest gym. In fact, that is used against the school but yet they have outdoor programs and other programs that adapt quite well. Many of the parents that spoke at the various public meetings have praised the school (Interruptions) and one of the honourable members says it is a great school and he is a teacher and I am sure he knows . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Good reputation.

DR. SMITH: And a good reputation.

It has been a good family school. The area that I have watched the development over the last few months, of the parents group that is gathered around the Mary Lawson School such as Michael Monk, Deborah MacLellan and others and how they researched and they learned the protocol and the procedures and how they would address the process that was certainly if not flawed, at least suffered many hiccups getting it underway, that was in the early review process. There certainly was a lack of information for those people that took their job very seriously and I certainly would like to compliment them, they have done their job with compassion and yes, even humour.

[Page 615]

I feel very strongly, Mr. Speaker, as a legislator and as a previous family physician, the value of the small neighbourhood schools that are in those communities that are within walking distance. I think if we want to bus out junior high school students or seniors we all did, I know I travelled 12 miles, to this day I don't know how far Port Mouton is from Liverpool, it is 12 miles but I don't know how many kilometres it is, I have never figured it out. It has always been 12 miles because I have walked it a few times. So that presented some challenges in order for extracurricular activities, particularly to participate; at least we were not five and six years of age, so I think that is extremely crucial.

These schools serve the children in their own community and they truly allow them to develop a true partnership between the community and the schools. We know now about early childhood development. We follow the work of Dr. Fraser Mustard, Dr. Paul Steinhauer, who is now deceased. Dr. Steinhauer was a great Canadian, a great psychiatrist from the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, very much an advocate for the rights of children

and the early development of children and that window of opportunity that you have for those vulnerable children particularly who are not maybe getting ideal parenting or supports, maybe some of the families who are mentioned in the resolution may be of a low socio-economic - whatever the situation, it could be mental illness in a family member, those are some of the situations that present with challenges to those children.

[6:15 p.m.]

The work of those doctors who I have mentioned, Dr. Mustard and Dr. Steinhauer, the work they have done shows the vulnerability of the children and that early age. Without parenting, and identity particularly with an adult, a positive role model, it can be detrimental for the relationships of that person for the rest of their lives. They arrive already with a great deal of experience and bring many challenges to the schools.

I think one of the parents, who was a teacher in the community, spoke the other evening in the Mary Lawson School area about the fear he saw in young children and almost all children who enter the school system. There is a real case to be made as a society. Not that this is something that this particular minister alone must meet, but I think as a society surely we can provide small community schools that are easily accessible. That school, in turn, when that child does go through that early window of opportunity and hopefully they have been a very positive relationship, they arrive at the school for further social and educational development. The busing out to me is really not an option.

Just touching briefly on the Throne Speech, it is indicated that Nova Scotians are concerned about the accountability of the education system. On February 13, 2001, I issued a press release on the issue of the Dartmouth school closure, asking the Minister of Education to ensure that the school review process was not window dressing, to see if decisions were not already made. The minister owes it to the people who are asking me, is the system being accountable. Are they assuring her that decisions were not made before the

[Page 616]

public consultations were held. I still await a response from the minister, after two months I have not received a response and a letter. Could the minister assure herself that the system that was in place was a fair process?

I do not think we can put a price tag on the value of a child's education who learns close to home. How valuable and enriching an experience it is for a child who learns in a home-like setting instead of being housed with other students, many who are significantly older? That is a real issue Mr. Speaker. We have that situation possibly developing in our community with the Mary Lawson School possibly joining the Admiral Westphal School.

I spoke earlier about the fear of children when they are dealing with older students. Parents realize the value of this school and they are prepared to speak out, and have done a great job in our community for speaking out for their small elementary community school. We have heard many reasons and some of them emotional, all of them emotional, all of them caring. They have done a great job for making a the case for the small elementary community school.

In closing Mr. Speaker, I simply want to ask the Minister of Education to assure all parents and all students that the decisions being made are being made for the right reasons. To assure them that the process is fair, open and transparent and that decisions are made after the public input. I do not think that there are too many other issues - I know health care always gets high up on the agenda here in this House of Assembly, but there is probably no other determinant of good health than a proper start for children in the early window of opportunity and in those early elementary years for their social and educational development. We have a responsibility to address that. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with a fair amount of pride that I stand in this place to add my few comments on the importance of the need for an open process in which the communities feel that they truly have had their say when it comes to the importance of their local schools, but I would be remiss before I begin my comments without offering a word of congratulations to my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth North. I know that from his previous experience as a municipal councillor and the time that he served on the school board, that out of the interests of his own area and because of the type of provincial politician he now is, he has taken the time to attend the community meetings, to speak up and, most importantly, and I know it is a quality that maybe at times we as elected officials don't show enough of, the MLA for Dartmouth North has taken the time to listen to his constituents, to listen to the parents and to listen to the young people who are having their say about frustrations with the process.

[Page 617]

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour of being a practising classroom teacher and administrator in the Halifax Regional School Board. We were actually called the Halifax County-Bedford District School Board for awhile. I have, and I am not prepared to table it but I can prepare one for you, although I am making reference to it and I am sure that my friend could get me another one, this is Students First. It is the annual report of the Halifax Regional School Board to the board.

Mr. Speaker, I happened to see one of the press reports about the frustrations of young people, the frustrations of parents. There was a young person who was captured on film and he or she was standing there with the placard which said, "Students First?". That is the concern that comes forth here time after time. I am standing in my place this day in support of my friend, the honourable member for Dartmouth North, and the MLA for Dartmouth East and his comments, and the member for Halifax Atlantic, who has concerns about a school in his area and in other areas, and the member for Halifax Needham. We don't have that problem in Timberlea-Prospect. We are bursting at the seams. We have portable classrooms. We have an elementary school in my community that numbers almost 800 students, shared between two buildings, and at one time there were portables outside of that school.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, and you will have to excuse the grammar, when it comes to schools and education, big ain't better. I have worked in schools as an administrator and a teacher and on graduation students have walked across the graduation stage and shook my hand. They have been in my school - the school, not my school, I should stop saying that - for three years and I did not know their name. Mind you, there were 1,600, at one time 1,800, students in that school. I might have known their face and I must tell you that there were days where I let on, I would say how are you doing today, bud, or it is nice to see you again, but I didn't know who they were. The ones that I, unfortunately, usually knew were the ones who I usually had to deal with in a negative manner - the nature of the job that I had at that time.

That is the concern that comes through time and time again in those big schools where you see those big problems. I know that the schools involved here are junior high and middle schools and elementary schools, but community-based schools must remain the heart of any kind of education whether it is in this province or any other part of the education system. Based upon common sense, young people benefit better in a comfortable, caring environment close to their home.

I am aware of the fact that because of the nature of the schools my friend has talked about that busing is not a factor. I am also aware, as members opposite who come from areas similar to Prospect Road, that it is necessary to bus students, elementary children, a number of kilometers. I know the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, at one time, asked me, what is the mileage that should be allowed? That is a question that I didn't answer that day because I didn't have the answer. My preference would be that every young person

[Page 618]

should be able to walk to the community elementary school. That, of course, is not the case when you don't have sidewalks.

But if I could, I would like to point to one small elementary school in one of the wonderful fishing communities that I am fortunate enough to represent, and that is the community of Terence Bay. Terence Bay has a wonderful school, a dedicated staff and a great principal named Bill Matheson and all kinds of moms and dads who regularly are in that school throughout the day. In that community, that school is more than just a place for the children. It is a place for community concerts, it is a place where they can use the community room for athletics, it is a place where the Scouts can meet. CAP, the Computer Access Program site, which is being funded across the country, is in that school.

I can tell you that I have been in some big schools. There is a school in Fredericton, New Brunswick, a high school that has an enrolment, I believe, of over 3,000. That is more students going to a public school than the university that I attended. Having visited that high school, and having visited wonderful, little Terence Bay Elementary, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, the feeling that you get by going into those small community schools makes it well worthwhile to visit. The people that come out of those schools have a great start when it comes to education.

I want to share with you that at the high school at which I was fortunate enough to attend, my daughters attend and the school where, also, I began my teaching career, there are a number of graduation awards. The graduation awards are tied into what elementary school you attended. These elementary schools have produced some wonderful graduates and this is Sir John A. Macdonald High School that I am referring to. Students at the high school level, Mr. Speaker, I believe, because of the nature of the number of courses and the selection process, they have to be able to handle, as they move on to other challenges, a certain size of school enrolment. If you go down to middle school or junior high school, there is that other problem of enrolment because of the specialty of courses, you have to bus people to those schools. Children get used to that, unfortunately, in some of the areas that I represent. But when it comes to elementary schools, elementary schools must be community-based. They must be as comfortable and as loving and caring as possible.

Mr. Speaker, we have all noted in the press, we have all received letters of complaint, we have all heard of the concerns that have been brought forward by parents. My good friends the member for Dartmouth North, the member for Halifax Atlantic, and the member for Halifax Needham, myself and other members of this House, on both sides, have heard of the complaints. The concern and the frustration comes down to the fact that there has been a lack of consulation, a lack of consultation on behalf of the decision makers who are, inevitably, going to make that proposal to the school board. The school board will have to make the decision as to whether they would wisely allow some of these schools to continue to remain open or whether they are going to close them.

[Page 619]

I say to these local school boards, if it is firm and this is the document which reflects the Halifax Regional School Board, and you put students first, then you must allow these schools to remain open. I thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the members for taking part in this very interesting topic this evening. The House will now revert back to Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[6:48 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott in the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made progress, and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 11.

Bill No. 11 - Financial Measures (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 11, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, is a bill that is brought in every year by the Minister of Finance to put into play certain measures which will have a financial impact on the budget. This one is rather short compared to the one I put in last year, a little shorter than that. There are

[Page 620]

numerous clauses to this bill. Clauses 2 and 3 are a major part of the bill; it is the provision whereby the assessment costs will be moved to the municipalities.

There is also a clause in there that permits for an alternate service delivery of assessment services into an agency. This is permissive - I want to clarify for the members here - this is an enabling clause whereby the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Affairs can have discussions and - if they can - come up with a different delivery method, whereby we are asking municipalities to pay. I know a lot of the members have been made aware of it. A lot of the municipalities are saying that if we are going to be paying the bill, we would like to have more say into this matter. I know my colleague, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Affairs, has said that he has an open mind and, obviously, will be having some discussions with UNSM.

I just want to clarify, first of all, that this is a vehicle, it is not a done deal by any sense of the matter. I just want to clarify that for the members' edification. There are other issues in here, such as extending the equity tax credit to 2003. There are other provisions in here that go beyond that one tax credit. Basically, what it is doing is it is putting in play things that I announced during my Budget Speech. Rather than go into a long list of details regarding the bill, I do want to say that I will be taking some notes by the members and I will be more than willing to take any questions in regard to it. So, with those very short opening comments, I would like to move Bill No. 11 for second reading.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, if I could, with the indulgence of the House, do an introduction prior to my . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. DEVEAUX: In the west gallery are members of the Nova Scotia Provincial Injured Workers' Association. I am sorry that I don't know all their names, but Wayne Coady, June Labrador, David Conahan and other members have come here, particularly, and they have had a chance to talk to the Minister of Environment and Labour. They are here to observe the House, but also to talk about some of the issues concerning them around workers' compensation and the recent review or terms of reference and announcement of the review of the legislation. I hope the House can give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I welcome the visitors this evening.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fitting that we recognize these individuals in this association because I think, in some ways, they are indicitive of a lot of other individuals in Nova Scotia, individuals who when they think of government are thinking of a group of people. They are thinking of the ministers. They are thinking of the MLAs. They

[Page 621]

are thinking of government as the bureaucrats and the department that, on a day-to-day basis, are going to do things to make their life better.

I can assure you, there are many Nova Scotians, indeed, more Nova Scotians - that is why you are over there - voted Tory than any other Party in July 1999. The problem is that they voted for you expecting certain things. Once a year, more than any other time, people focus on where a government is going, where it has been and where it intends to go. This is one of those times. This is one of the pieces of legislation that people expect to see government show where it intends to take Nova Scotia, where it intends to lead. You are all elected to lead, every one of you. You are elected to tell Nova Scotians, here is our dream. Here is our vision of where we want Nova Scotia to be in four years, in 10 years, in 20 years.

People said, well, it is in the blue book or it is in some of the press clippings or it is in the advertisements that you had. Based on that, they had a good feeling of you as a Party and they said, we are willing to vote for you. Not everyone, of course, but 39 per cent. Based on that, you were elected to government. You have a majority of seats. This isn't like it was even 10, 15 or 30 years ago where people voted Tory all their lives. If we have learned anything over the last five years, Mr. Speaker, it is that, in Nova Scotia, voters are willing to change their votes based on each election. There are no guarantees of people who were Tories because their fathers were Tories and their grandfathers were Tories or they are Liberal because their mother was a Liberal and their grandmother was a Liberal. That has changed. The fact that there are 11 of us sitting here in the Legislature as New Democrats is proof that in the last few years, Nova Scotians are more willing to take a look at each Party.

AN HON. MEMBER: With the Tory fathers.

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, that is right, with Tory fathers or Liberal fathers or, in my case, a bit of both.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Nova Scotians, as I say, elected this government because they believed there was an opportunity. They were unhappy with the Liberals. They had an opportunity to vote for them, to vote for us, but they voted, at least 39 per cent of them, enough to get them a majority, Tory, because they believed this was an opportunity for the Tories to show Nova Scotians what they can do for this province.

The fact is that in the last two years, people have begun to see exactly what it means to have a Tory Government. Unfortunately, I don't think they are very happy with what they have seen. Let's be clear. Some may be unhappy because of budget cuts. Many are unhappy because of budget cuts. Some may be unhappy because they, and we saw this in this budget and with this Bill No. 11, the Financial Measures (2001) Act. Mr. Speaker, we saw some people who clearly are unhappy because this government was not spending enough on the debt. Others said you are not spending enough on health care. But it really boils down to this one simple point. This government has no direction. This government is not spelling out to

[Page 622]

Nova Scotians what its vision is and where it wants to go and that is what is really the problem. I think Nova Scotians are crying out for leadership. They are crying out for the government to say this is where we want to take this province.

I know there are members who have gotten up in this House in the past and will in the future who will say, oh, yes we are, we are telling people where we are going to go, but the fact is, and this is what I want to talk about during my hour or so, truly this government has not provided a vision that goes any further than the end of their nose, has not provided any clear direction of where they want government to go other than the downloading of services and trying to wash their hands of tough decisions. That is not leadership. Whether it is downloading, cuts to school boards, to the district health authorities, to municipalities or to individuals through user fees, this government has tried to avoid making tough decisions and blamed it on someone else while at the same time not really showing any direction as to how Nova Scotians will be better off at the end of their term.

That is what is really a sin, Mr. Speaker, about this government. They were elected with a majority and had an opportunity, like any government that is elected as a majority, given three, four or five years - to show Nova Scotians why they are better off because they voted Tory. (Interruption) As I said, the Minister of Health seems to think they are better off. I think as we go through and discuss every one of these issues, we will see that truly they have not been.

That is the real problem, Mr. Speaker, if this Minister of Health, or this Minister of Community Services, or the member for Annapolis, or any of the other members over there, think that this province is better off because they elected Tories, because they have shown Nova Scotians that their lives are better because of the Tory Regime, then clearly they have not been talking to Nova Scotians. They have not been listening to what Nova Scotians have had to say about what they want in health care, what they want in education, what they want for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.

Again, if you look at the members up here from the Injured Workers' Association, or across the province, and these are people that I to some extent know because of my previous work, these are people who want to see something from government as well. One of them said outside to me today, you know, why is it that the government just can't apply legislation, why is it that they look at something like the Workers' Compensation Act and then they try and skirt the issue or avoid an interpretation that is so clear to everyone that would ensure that injured workers are treated fairly? I said, well, I may not have the answer to that, but one of the problems is that the government is afraid to lead and the government is afraid to make the decisions necessary based on how they can make everyone's life better off.

I want to start first with some polling, Mr. Speaker. Do you remember back, I guess it would be about a week and a half ago now, we released a poll that was done. It was a fairly big sample, 800 people. That poll showed that Nova Scotians overwhelmingly wanted

[Page 623]

investment in health care and education over tax cuts and debt payment. Now, don't get me wrong. Debt payment is an important thing. It is important that in the long run we are able to reduce our debt to GDP ratio. Our Party supports that. A lot of that will be done just through growth, but at the same time if the people of Nova Scotia believe that we needed to focus on the debt, we could recognize that, but what Nova Scotians clearly said was investing in health care, investing in education, investing in those services that we want from government is what we expect.

All that did was confirm what we have been hearing from Nova Scotians now for two years and what clearly they on the other side, Mr. Speaker, have not been listening to. This government has an agenda of balancing the books and giving a 10 per cent tax cut by 2003. That is their agenda. It does not go any further than the end of their nose. It is not about how our children's education can be better. It is not about how we can ensure that there are no waiting lists in hospitals or for surgery. How can we ensure that elective surgery is not, you know, at the last minute. I had a person in my riding, I think he was in the newspaper, his foot actually had been drawn on. He was prepped for surgery and they told him, elective surgery has been cancelled.

[7:00 p.m.]

You don't know how frustrating that is for the people of Nova Scotia. The lifestyle that we have here, the lifestyle that Nova Scotians have come to enjoy, the basic services that we think of when we think of Nova Scotia, doctors when you need them, hospitals that don't have people in stretchers, water that is clean and drinkable. Schools that are safe and healthy where children aren't crammed in with a crowbar because there are so many children in the class, an opportunity to succeed, and government to provide support, through Community Services, when they need it to help them to succeed.

This is what Nova Scotians want, among many other things. This is what they think of when they think of Nova Scotia. A province that has both reflected the fact that we are an industrialized nation, that has a strong work ethic and is trying to create jobs and good employment lasting employment, for all Nova Scotians, while at the same time having a quality of life based on our environment, based on our culture, that is being both preserved and promoted.

That is all Nova Scotians really truly want, that those basic services will be there when they need them, when their children need them, when their parents need them, and at the same time, ensure that they can have a quality of life where they can walk out the door and smell the salt air or be able, in the case of people in Halifax because that is where I live, to take a quick drive down in May to see the apple blossoms or in the fall to pick apples, or maybe Cape Breton in the summertime to go to a lobster boil, in Cheticamp, I make reference to the Minister of Tourism's riding, where I have relatives as well.

[Page 624]

I think it is important that we reflect - this is what Nova Scotians want. There is an old saying about Nova Scotians - people used to tell me - if you want to make money you move to Toronto, if you want to have a good quality of life, you stay here. The flip side of that is, you can take the boy out of the Maritimes but you can't take the Maritimes out of the boy. These are sayings people know. We know these in Nova Scotia, because in Nova Scotia we have a way of life that we want to preserve and promote because we are happy here. We should be because it is a beautiful province with such diversity.

At the same time, we have to know that when we live here there are jobs, there are opportunities to succeed, there are opportunities to have, whether it be through creating work of our own or being part of another job, whether it is volunteer service or whether it is just knowing that your government will be providing the hospitals and the schools and the good environment that we so depend on to ensure we can have a good life. That is all that people want.

They don't expect the government to fix all their problems. There is an old saying, people will put up with a government if they can make the trains run on time. The fact is that this government isn't making the trains run on time. People still have waiting lists. People now even have to pay user fees to stay in a hospital because this government hasn't been able to ensure that there are long-term care beds being built. Schools are falling apart around people, children are coming home sick or with the sniffles or with allergies, all because this government hasn't tried or attempted to do anything to address those issues either.

I know they can say they have basically provided a little bit of money. When people have wanted a bucket, they have provided a teaspoon full of water. That is not enough to change the problems that people have. This is not enough to ensure that Nova Scotians recognize that this is the place that they want to live. This is the place where they grew up. This is the place where they want to spend the rest of their lives, knowing that their parents will have a good nursing home to be a part of, knowing that their children will have a good school, knowing that they will be able to have good employment, knowing that they have water that they can drink. How can it be more basic than that?

This government can't even get that straight. These are the things people want. These are the things that people demand of their government. Again, making sure the trains run on time. This government has not gotten it right. What we see in the Financial Measures (2001) Act does nothing to address any of that. It does nothing to try and make our water more potable, it does nothing to make sure we are preserving land so that people have places to go, open spaces, an opportunity for good fresh air and recreation, it does nothing to ensure that our harbours are being cleaned up, it does nothing to ensure that people aren't getting cancer in Cape Breton because of the worst environmental hazard in North America and one of the worst in the world.

[Page 625]

It does nothing to address any of these issues and more. That is what is a shame about this budget. That is what is a shame about this Financial Measures (2001) Act, because it is a lost opportunity. As I said in my budget response, too, Mr. Speaker, this is the mid-term of this government. This is the middle of your opportunity to truly turn things around for Nova Scotia. This was pretty well your last opportunity before you start pandering to electioneering, for this government to start to say this is what we are going to do to make Nova Scotia a better place. There is an old saying - I don't know how old it is - my recollection is that it was Ronald Reagan but I am sure it has been used several times by different politicians, but Ronald Reagan back in 1980 when he was running against Jimmy Carter, he said, basic question, it is the same question that everyone asks any time they are running, if you are in Opposition, if you are not the incumbent, it is, are you better off today than you were four years ago?

Rest assured that is the question people will be asking themselves in 2003 or 2004 when people go back to the polls. That is the question, there it is, it is that simple. There are two answers: yes, I am; or no, I am not. Based on that, people will decide. Quite frankly, sitting over here, there is not a lot we really have to do about it. If you guys can make the trains run on time, so to speak, if you can reduce waiting lists, if you can prevent people from being on stretchers, if you can tell people that there are going to be nurses hired so that there are beds open and there are going to be long-term care beds so that my parents are not going to have to pay $50 a day to be in a hospital, Mr. Speaker, they will probably say, my life is better off.

This government has done nothing to address that and, in fact, it has made it worse and that is what a shame we have about this government and what they have failed to do; lost opportunities, lack of vision, no direction. That is the real problem.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I was talking a bit about what Nova Scotia as a society can be like, what it was like, what we all remember from our younger days. There is one I have heard more recently about the whole issue of the boiling frog. Maybe some of you have heard it, maybe some of you haven't. There is the old saying that you can put a frog in boiling water and it will jump out, but if you put a frog in water and you turn up the heat and turn it to boil, the frog won't notice and it will die.

That is what is happening in Nova Scotia and in Canada and in the western world to a great extent. This government hasn't done anything that has not been done by the Liberals beforehand or the Tories before that; that this government is continuing to slowly turn up the heat on the people of Nova Scotia, hoping that they don't notice, hoping that they don't realize that the water is boiling, that the lifestyle that they expect from Nova Scotia is crumbling, literally, in some cases, around them.

[Page 626]

If 25 years ago people of Nova Scotia were told that your Medicare system would be in trouble, that there would be long waiting lists in hospitals, that your schools would be crumbling around you, that your children would be coming home with asthma and allergies because of mould in schools, if Community Services would not be able to provide the basic services to ensure that people could have decent daycare and decent assistance to help them get work, if our water was not drinkable, if our harbour still had not been cleaned up, if people 25 years ago were given a budget that did all that to them, they would have revolted. Now, slowly but surely over the last 25 years we have turned up the heat on the people of Nova Scotia. We have really, slowly and incrementally convinced them that this is okay, this is the way it is, you have no other choice.

I think Nova Scotians are getting to that boiling point, a point at which they are going to recognize hopefully that this is something that will truly have to change. Our society as we know it, yes, it is changing and it will always change and I am not here to tell you that we want to turn back the clock but I do believe that Nova Scotians was some semblance of a society in which they grew up in to be the same society their children grow up in; yes, with technological changes, yes with environmental changes, all of that, that same culture that same sense of lifestyle, that same sense of some call it a laid back manner that Nova Scotia can be proud of, recognizing a work ethic but also recognizing that work is not our lives; recognizing our pride in whether we be Scottish or English or Irish or Acadian or Lebanese or Native Canadian or African Nova Scotian or so many others; recognizing that being part of Nova Scotia allows us to be that but also at the same time have an opportunity to truly prosper; knowing that our government is there with us when we need them for hospital beds, for long-term care, for nursing homes, for schooling, things that we as a society come together to do.

Pay our tax money in and hope that our government is going to provide the service; that is what they elected the Tories to do, to turn that tide, they had enough of the Liberals, they had enough of the Liberals' cutting. They had enough of what the Liberals had done to this province for 6 years and they said, enough is enough. The Liberals aren't our choice.

In some places, we were able to get those votes because we had an agenda and a vision of where we wanted Nova Scotia to go, but in many places it was the Tories, based on their 243 promises, based on their image of a Party that you can trust. Now that trust has been shattered and the members across the way don't even know it. In fact, they are the ones that are now having the water slowly turned up on them to boil and they don't even know what is going to happen in two years.

I want to get into a few of the details, not about the bill because I know this is in principle, but exactly what we are talking about with regard to the lack of vision and direction of this province. I should say there is one direction - downloading. It is going to be a theme I am going to talk about because there are four specific areas that this government has clearly been downloading on - various organizations and people in Nova Scotia.

[Page 627]

Municipalities, school boards, district health authorities and, through user fees, individuals themselves. This government has come in and tried to balance the books by downloading cuts, downloading services and downloading costs on those organizations and individuals.

Let me talk for a minute about the municipalities out there. What exactly do I mean? Well, let us start with equalization. Some of the members over there were given an opportunity to stand up and say they were opposed to it. In the end, if equalization passes in any form that relates to an increase in property taxes to the people of HRM or other parts of this province, the people who represent those people who have had their property taxes rise, will have to pay the price.

It is a form of downloading. It is a form of property tax increases that will have a major impact on the lives of the people of HRM or Bridgewater or Kentville or Guysborough or Richmond or many other parts of this province.

Equalization, of course, is important. Equalization is something all Nova Scotians support. It is part of our way of life that I have talked about, but not based on a regressive tax like property tax - based on the income tax system.

Let's talk about the assessment cost that this bill specifically mentions. Again, downloading on the municipalities. Let's save money. Why should we pay for assessment, the Minister of Finance will tell you, municipalities are the ones who benefit from it so let's make them pay. Again, instead of making tough decisions or even any decisions, this government cuts and assumes the municipalities will be covering the downloading.

Let's talk about a couple of other little things. One in here, capital grants have been eliminated to municipalities. Some will tell you that they are MOUs that maybe they have picked up somewhere else, but in the end the overall theme is that this government is spending less and forcing municipalities to spend more.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are they cutting out the capital grants?

MR. DEVEAUX: Hopefully, the Minister of Finance is taking notes as he said and might be able to answer that one.

The other one I noted is that snowplowing and ice-control grants given to municipalities have also been eliminated. After what a year we had - still having in some parts, particularly in Cape Breton - this province has decided to eliminate the money they give to municipalities and towns with regard to snowplowing. Another example - a small one, but another example of this government downloading on municipalities. We do not hear about it in the budget, but if you live in Halifax or Antigonish or Inverness County, when those municipal councils have to sit down and make their budget decisions in a month or two

[Page 628]

- these are all like little ticking time bombs. They will have to make decisions saying, well, I am not getting that money for snowplowing we used to get from the province - I am going to have to add a little more to my budget. Maybe that means our property tax goes up. All of those are problems, ticking time bombs, downloading services. That is their vision, Mr. Speaker.

[7:15 p.m.]

Let us talk about the district health authorities. We have seen major cuts in health services. Again, given the rate of 1 per cent increase in budgets for the district health authorities when we have almost a 3 per cent rate of inflation in the coming year, we will see more cuts. This government does not talk about cuts, they talk about spending increases. They talk about the fact they are putting more money in, when in fact in the great majority of cases the district health authorities in real terms are going to have less money this year than last year. They are going to be forced, when their budgets are approved by this minister, to make the tough cuts. They are going to have to come to him with cap in hand and say here are the cuts we want. Is this okay? If it is not, I will take out my eraser, I will fix that. Maybe we can change it a little, whatever you want, sir.

Mr. Speaker, the problem is again, this minister will say it is not me who is doing the cutting. It is the district health authorities. That is why we created them so we can say in our budget in March, oh, see we increased spending, when, in fact, cuts are going to occur.

We have a nursing shortage in this province. I know the Minister of Health will tell you how "irresponsible" we are for talking about this and maybe we have a nursing strategy now. Bravo to the people who worked on it. The fact is that we still have a shortage. This government has not highlighted how in the long term they are going to address that. How they are going to ensure that we are not only going to reduce the number of casual people but how we are also going to ensure that we have more nurses and we have front-line health care workers that are going to be there when we need them. Let us remember when we talk about a shortage of beds or a lack of beds it is not because physically there are not beds, that might be a small part of the problem. The problem is that we do not have the funding for the staff to ensure we have people who can be the personnel watching over those beds.

This government again has done nothing to show exactly where they want to go, $500,000 for a consultant, footprints, handprints, whatever you want to call them. There is still no clear vision from this province or a plan on how people again will have reduced waiting lists, doctors when they need them, nurses in their hospitals, long-term care beds. None of this is being talked about, none of this is being described in this Financial Measures (2001) Act.

[Page 629]

Let us talk about the school board, more downloading. We saw last year that this government, first of all, tried to make drastic cuts in education and then had to back off on a good number of them after a lack of consultation. This year it is a little smarter. It said we will increase spending but not at the rate of inflation. So in real dollars the numbers will go down but most Nova Scotians will not understand that because when we actually say the words we increase spending we are not misleading them. We are telling the truth. In real dollars the number will go down. You know what, by the time the budget is passed, by the time we are out of the House in May, school boards will not even have approved their budgets for the year. We will let them do the dirty work. Again, ticking time bombs, Mr. Speaker.

More ways in which this government does not make the tough decisions but instead changes numbers on a ledger and then hopes the school boards will make the decisions on their behalf. We see the problems with that, whether it is with janitor strikes or whether it is with negotiations with teachers, we are going to see the impact of that over the next months and years.

The education system is like a big ship. You cannot just stop it on a dime. Years and years of cuts cannot be turned around tomorrow. We at least have to start to move in that direction. We are still heading for the rocks. No one has even turned the wheel yet. This government continues to steer it towards the rocks. An education system that will not be there for our children, that will not guarantee that they will be able to compete in the global economy, buzz words that some people like to use, will not ensure that they will have the ability to either be critical thinkers or an opportunity to have the music or art education, to become artists or even just more creative people. This government has not shown a vision of how they will ensure Nova Scotians will have an education that allows them to continue to be able to get opportunities, whether their own or through other companies, for work.

Let's talk about the infrastructure. This Financial Measures (2001) Act does not talk one bit about the fact that we have crumbling infrastructure in our schools in Nova Scotia. One-third of our schools are sick schools. We have a problem with mould and with health problems in our schools and this government is doing nothing.

I talked earlier about how Nova Scotians would have been appalled 25 years ago if you had told them their children would come home with asthma and allergies from their schools. But that is a day-to-day occurrence now, and this government is doing nothing, and this Financial Measures (2001) Act says nothing about how we are going to address that. Maintenance on schools, the funding this government is providing has not increased one iota.

Mr. Speaker, capital funding has gone up $95 million, which probably gets you three good-sized high schools. That is not enough to truly ensure that we are going to turn around and be able to fix the schools that we have problems with now. At the rate at which our schools are being closed because of health and safety issues, $95 million won't get you to

[Page 630]

next week, let alone next year. This government, again, shows no vision, it has no fortitude, it has no direction with regard to how we are going to address that problem, which Nova Scotians have clearly stated they want addressed.

In some parts of this province, where I live, where the members for Timberlea-Prospect, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Preston, and Eastern Shore, we have overcrowding in our schools. We have schools that are busting at the seams because we have too many children, not enough classroom space. This province has done nothing to talk about how they will address that, how in the long term we will plan to ensure that we have, as development increases - Halifax's population - I will get to this a little later - is expected to double in the next 10 years. There could be as many 600,000 people in Halifax.

I look at the member for Eastern Shore, who now has what is basically a rural riding in many areas, in 10 years it could be subdivisions from Lawrencetown to Gaetz Brook or Musquodoboit Harbour, maybe even Ship Harbour. That is going a little far, I think, but you never know. He might finally get that No. 107 highway he has always wanted because the population will be so heavy. At the same time, there are recreational issues, there are educational issues, there are health care issues that aren't even being thought about. We are not even talking about managing the growth in metro that we need to talk about, that we expect our government to talk about. This government is still talking about cuts. But I digress.

We have literacy issues in our schools. I recently had town halls in my riding where I talked about this, people are concerned about ensuring that their children have an opportunity to read. I understand this government has provided, again, a drop in the bucket towards addressing literacy, but we need a war on literacy, we need a war on addressing how we are going to ensure our children can read and they are going to be able to take advantage. They say that if a child can read by Grade 3, they are much more likely to be able to finish school, the drop-out rate is substantially lower, they go on to university or community college or some form of post-secondary education. Then they are going to be healthier and they are going to be able to have longer-term work, they will be less of a burden on society for various different means.

Yet we are not even talking about it. Again, we get a drop in the bucket. We need to ensure we are truly addressing education and literacy, not only as an education issue but as a health issue, as a way in the long term of investing now to ensure we have money later and not major debts and deficits. The deficit and debt will never be stopped until we recognize there needs to be investing now so in the long run we can stop the bleeding, in Justice and in Community Services and in Health and in long-term Education. These things will always continue to rise because we are not addressing the issues in the long term. We have no 10 or 20 year plan, in which we are ensuring that we can stop the welfare trap, or we can ensure Nova Scotian literacy rates go up, or we can ensure more Nova Scotians are graduating from high school and going on to post-secondary schools.

[Page 631]

Again, no vision from this government on how any of this will be done. I also want to talk about how they are downloading on individuals. User fees are the most obvious one that we have been hearing about because of this budget, $50 a day for seniors and people who are waiting for a nursing home bed. Pharmacare increases last year. These are just two of the user fees that hit the people who can least afford it on fixed incomes, seniors.

Let's talk about, and it is in here, a $20 fee for a company or an individual or an NGO that wants to do a search of the Child Abuse Registry. What are we telling Nova Scotians when we say you are going to have to pay $20 to search a registry? How many people is that going to be a disincentive for to go out and actually do the search? There are a lot of community organizations that work with children, that don't have the money to be paying those kinds of fees on a regular basis. That could be going into something better, yet this government is going to ask them to pay a $20 fee. The fact is that this is downloading. The fact is that this is an opportunity, again, for the government to put on individuals costs, but, quite frankly, show a lack of vision and direction on their part to ensure that they are going to make Nova Scotia the type of place where we all have lived, want to continue to live and in the society and the customs we are used to.

Let's talk about some of the other downloading that Nova Scotians have had to face - I have to go to an auction for a PTO at Astral Drive Elementary School on Saturday. How many of us have to go to auctions to raise money because there is less money in our education system? How many of us had to buy M&M's or chocolate bars or popcorn or the Regal catalogue? How many of these things had to be done because our education system doesn't have the funding it had before, and this government has no vision of addressing how they are going to fix that problem.

Again, making the trains run on time. I would say that one of the ways we can make our trains run on time in this province, Mr. Speaker, is if this government recognized that people shouldn't have to be doing that kind of thing, children shouldn't have to go out and sell candy in October and November so they have paper in their school. Even then, we don't have paper in our school. We saw here in the Halifax region one month ago we didn't have enough paper in the schools and people were asked to send paper in. Another downloading on the people of this province. Again, it is a classic example of Nova Scotians saying, is this the type of province I want to live in, where I have to go buy reams of paper because my school doesn't have any even though I spent $200 on candy, or at that auction I went to. No, they don't want that kind of province. Yet, this government has done nothing to explain to them how they will make it different, make it better for them.

Let's talk about - this is one I was thinking about the other day - wheel alignments. Given the state of the roads in this province, given the number of potholes, given the fact that this government is only going to pave 194 metres in every one of the Tory ridings and there are still going to be a lot more potholes and a lot more bumps; all the wheel alignments Nova Scotians are going to have to pay for. Now that might actually help the HST because they

[Page 632]

will go in and pay that. But, in the end, Mr. Speaker, it is, again, more costs Nova Scotians are being asked to cover because this government doesn't have the fortitude or the vision or the direction to ensure that Nova Scotians are going to get the roads they need, to ensure they have the businesses they need, to ensure they are able to protect their way of life.

How much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have 23 minutes.

MR. DEVEAUX: We are at wheel alignments. The Speaker has been very kind. He has not asked for the relevance of wheel alignments and maybe I have been doing a good job of pointing out how a wheel alignments is actually relevant to this government's lack of direction. I guess it is a double pun there - lack of direction.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a bit about, again, going back to my point about Nova Scotians crying out for leadership. I have talked about specific areas that we have had downloading: in health care, in education, in municipal services and on individuals. These are impacting people on a daily basis. Let's also talk about what this government isn't doing. I talked a bit about population change in metro. There are population changes throughout Nova Scotia. Some places it is going down and some places it is going up, and this government is doing nothing to address that, to tell people - well, in smaller parts of Nova Scotia we saw some of the direct impacts of that under the Liberal Government. We saw them close schools, consolidate them and make people have to, in some cases, be bused a very long distance. Now they are getting beautiful schools, but, at the same time, it was affecting the way - people living in small communities throughout Nova Scotia were being told they were going to have to bus their children a very long distance for education.

That only encourages greater population changes in those places. People will leave. I will go somewhere where my children can walk to school or take a shorter bus ride. This government was elected in some places - and the Premier knows this and the member for Pictou East and Pictou West, particularly, and the member for Inverness, I might suggest - very specific places where they had a lot of problems with the consolidations of schools done by the Liberals. These members were elected, particularly Pictou West and Inverness, I may suggest because their government hummed and hawed and made it sound like they were going to do something to address it and in the end they have done nothing. What we have is a continuation of population changes that are dramatically affecting Nova Scotians. Schools are still being consolidated and no vision from this province on what we can do to ensure that our populations are stabilized.

[Page 633]

[7:30 p.m.]

In the Valley, in Kings County, in metro and in parts of Lunenburg even, populations are expanding greatly. What are we going to do about transit? We have major traffic congestion in metro now. We have considered this a great, small, little city and now we are going to have a bigger city, possibly as big as Hamilton, or Quebec City, or Winnipeg is now, in 10 years or 15 years. We are doing nothing to address the need for mass transit, for recognizing ways of ensuring that our harbour is clean, that our environment is better off and that we have opportunities to provide alternatives to the car. In the long run, Mr. Speaker, that is going to relate to even bigger congestion and bigger problems. We may very well have something here in Halifax in 10 years or 15 years that we thought we may never have and that is smog because of the great increase in population and the inability of this government to provide any vision on how they will deal on a provincial level with transportation and with population changes.

Let's talk about the fact that this government has done nothing to address the fact that if there is going to be that big a population change, going back to the honourable member for Eastern Shore, he is going to have major population increases in his riding. The honourable member for Preston will as well and in those ridings, how do we plan? I have seen recently, Mr. Speaker, where we have gone from having - it used to be I think about 30 years ago, a place like Forest Hills or Sackville - planned communities, where we had a lot of greenbelt space, where we had a lot of opportunity for people, where there were stores planned, churches planned, schools planned. What do I have now? I look at a place in my community like Heritage Hills, a lot of good people living there, no recreational space; a school that has been put up there is what they call a magnet school of some sort, a beautiful school, but at the same time no planning that ensures green space, no planning that ensures that people will have space to themselves.

Our communities are becoming more congested, crowded and no opportunity for people to believe that they are part of Nova Scotia, what Nova Scotia is all about. People go to Toronto to see buildings that are this far apart, Mr. Speaker, they don't need to come to Halifax for it. If we don't do something with regard to planning in this province and population change in the metro area in the next 10 years, that is going to be a reality. Nova Scotians are going to say in 10 years, is that what I voted for? Did I vote for this to happen? Again, turning up the heat solely on a province that is going to say I elected a government in 1999 that would make my life better, that would make things work for me and they are seeing that is not the case.

Here we are talking about an occupational health and safety environment with the minister. This province has worked hard in the last few years to build an image of being better at occupational health and safety and trying to have inspectors who are willing to do their job without political interference and now we see that is even going down the pipe.

[Page 634]

Mr. Speaker, that is what is truly wrong. This government was elected again to have some sort of vision of how to make Nova Scotians safe in their workplace, to make their water drinkable, to make their lives healthier, their environment healthier and safe, and all we have seen from this government are cuts and downloading; no vision as to how we are going to make our lives better, how we are going to make our health and safety better in our workplaces, how we can make people safe so they can come home to their children, their parents and their loved ones, none of that. All we have seen is a government without the vision, the fortitude or the direction to truly move us in any direction and this Financial Measures (2001) Act does nothing to tell Nova Scotians what the vision of this province is beyond downloading and blaming others.

Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2001) Act is more than just a bill to consolidate changes in the budget. It should also, in the details, talk about how this government, when you read between the lines, is changing Nova Scotia - how it is making Nova Scotia again a better place to live. How people can say - and you can almost read it like a book in different chapters and this is Chapter 3 since this is the third budget of a four chapter or maybe a five chapter book - where this government will say, see, here is our Financial Measures (2001) Act. This is how we made this province better. This is how we made things better for you. Go back to that question I said, are you better off than you were four years ago? That is what people are going to ask and this is a chapter in a book that explains how this government has answered that question. We are at Chapter 3 and this government is going in the wrong direction and is clearly not telling people anything other than, is your life better off? It is if you like downloading; it is if you like to have to buy reams of paper for your schools; it is if you do not mind waiting lists for operations or sitting on a stretcher in a hospital hallway; or, if you do not mind waiting five hours at the ER; or if you do not mind paying $50 a day while your mother or father or yourself is in a hospital because we do not have a nursing home bed for you.

If that is what people want when they say, is my life better off, then this government is answering that question. But I would suggest to you that most Nova Scotians want the way of life that they expect from Nova Scotia, the environment, the safety, the health, the education, the opportunities to succeed; the health care and the education, the roads, and yes, so that the trains run on time. That is what Nova Scotians want and that is what they are not getting and in Chapter 3 of this government, in this Financial Measures (2001) Act we clearly are not seeing any of that.

If people ask me what does this mean? I will tell you what it means. It means you are going to have to buy more candy next October from that six year old who comes to your door. It means you are going to have to buy more reams of paper for your school. It means if your child has allergies, or has the sniffles, or asthma, it is not going to get any better because your school is still a sick building. It means that if your folks are in a hospital bed because there is no nursing home nearby for them to go to, they are going to have to wait longer. It means that those bumpy roads you are driving on are not going to get any better

[Page 635]

unless you are one of the lucky ones that live on the 194 metres of roads that are going to be fixed in every riding - every Tory riding, sorry.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are they all getting that?

MR. DEVEAUX: That is what it works out to - 194 metres per riding. So, pick it. Maybe it will get some of your driveways done, but other than that it probably will not get much done.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought you said kilometres.

MR. DEVEAUX: No, metres. When people ask me about this government and about this budget and about this Financial Measures (2001) Act, I will say, it will mean that you will still have problems with your drinking water if you are in Glace Bay or Garland or West Chezzetcook. If you have problems with a school that is sick in Halifax or in another part of the province, you are still going to have those problems. If you have been hoping for a vision from this government that addresses the population changes, that stabilizes our population, whether it is decreasing in some parts of this province or whether it is expanding in metro or in the Valley or in Lunenburg; if you are expecting this government to tell you how in 10 years we are going to be able to address a doubling of the population in metro - if you are expecting this government to tell us how they can do all that while making the trains run on time, then you are sadly disappointed.

This government has done nothing to even send us in the right direction and this Financial Measures (2001) Act, is Chapter 3 of a four or five chapter book and I already do not like the ending. I would hope that this government would realize what it must be doing, what it should be doing, what it was elected to do.

The polling that we introduced and announced two weeks ago is just the most telling, objective example in the last few months of what people have been telling us, what I think they have been telling you, Mr. Speaker, and what they have been telling the members across the way, but what they have not been hearing.

This Financial Measures (2001) Act is your response. It is your answer to their cries for investment in the services that people are desperately in need of so that their way of life in Nova Scotia can continue. It is not here and unless there are some major changes in how this government intends to deal with things, unless there is a major change in how this government intends to ensure that there are no waiting lists in hospitals, that there are beds in our nursing homes, that there are schools that are safe, that there are enough teachers and our classrooms are not overcrowded; that there is money for children who have special needs so that they can have the dignity and the lifestyle that we so much want for them.

[Page 636]

If this government is going to have money for roads, they had better quickly change their ways. It is not in this - this is Chapter 3 of a five chapter book, as I already said. The ending I can already tell unless this government suddenly comes up with a change in the plot. They have opportunity, they have time but I can assure you that our Party will not be voting for the Financial Measures (2001) Act. This Financial Measures (2001) Act is not what Nova Scotians voted for in 1999. The honourable members are surprised. For the record, I did wait until I read the bill before I made a decision.

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping. I really thought this might have been it. I heard the Minister of Finance at the chamber of commerce two weeks ago, talk about more spending on health care and education. I thought, well, maybe he has changed. Maybe he has seen the light and realized that this is what they must do. All I saw were pennies when people wanted real money invested. All I saw, in real terms were more cuts. All I saw was a minister who was using words and crafting his words to try to convince Nova Scotians that he is spending, when, in fact, he is still cutting. That is Chapter 3 of this book of this government. I hope that Chapter 4 is better. I hope Chapter 4 is not just more window dressing, a facade of help when people are crying out for real change, a discussion of some sort of broad vision when, in fact, it is nothing more than a directionless attempt to please everyone while pleasing no one.

Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of this book are very bad for Nova Scotians. I hope that Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are better but based on Chapter 3, our Party will not be voting for the Financial Measures (2001) Act. We will be telling Nova Scotians exactly what it means to them as we go around and talk to them. I hope that you take heed of what you have done in the last three years and that this government begin to talk about - remember that question, is my life better off today than it was four years ago? I think Nova Scotians know what the answer to that is right now. Unless this government turns around this ship of state, they are going to know that answer when they go to the polls next time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: I am pleased to rise today to speak on the Financial Measures (2001) Act and to give my views on some of the aspects of the Financial Measures (2001) Act. I would like to go through more of the detail of the Financial Measures (2001) Act. My colleague was talking about broader issues with regard to the budget and the fact that the government should be spending more money. It is very clear that they were happy to see that the government had started to spend money and they want them to spend a lot more.

I can understand why they are a little bit confused about the current Progressive Conservative Party's position with regard to this budget when just a few short weeks ago we had the Minister of Finance standing up and speaking very clearly about the fact that the state of the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia are such that we might even possibly be using

[Page 637]

a user fee for health care delivery. At the same time the Minister of Finance was discussing with Nova Scotians and floating ideas about the fact that this is going to be a tough budget. This would be a budget of cuts. It would be a budget that would show how tough this government really is and its resolve to deal with the deficit and debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, only to find out that a couple of weeks later the minister must have been hit by a bolt of lightning. I do not know. Something happened to the minister in that short period of time that changed his whole vision and direction of where he was taking this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: It turned his hair white.

MR. DOWNE: Well that is all right. He has hair, it does not matter what colour it is. It is hair. This Minister of Finance is turning a lot of people's hair white right now, Mr. Speaker. In fact, they are wondering what happened to this Minister of Finance. Did he lose his nerve and the direction he was taking the Province of Nova Scotia? This Minister of Finance, who was pointed out by the Auditor General, does not have a plan on how he is going to bring the Province of Nova Scotia to a balanced position. The Auditor General, who this Minister of Finance and the Premier have stated time and time again is the Auditor General who they say has given them a direction to go. Now the Auditor General is saying this minister has no plan.

I am not surprised that they have no plan on the finances because they certainly do not have any plan on health care. This is the government that said, the Premier stated, the minister stated and other members have said, $46 million; we have spent enough money on health care, $46 million will fix the whole problem and we will not have any more problems in health care. Snip, snip a few administrations, this system will work a lot better. What we can do is go from four boards to nine regional direct boards; more staff and administration and we will save money in the long term, this system will work better. Well, that was wrong. That was a plan that really was not thought out. That simplistic approach to government does not work.

I remember being out one night with Terry Donahoe, a former member of that government, we were at a supper. The member at the time, Terry Donahoe, introduced me to a former Deputy Minister of Education. This former Deputy Minister of Education started to talk to me about what was going on in government today and he said, you know, Mr. Downe, before I became a deputy minister I had all the answers, all the answers to the problems in Education. The minute I became deputy minister I lost every one of those answers, maybe because I really did not understand, but I lost every one of those answers, but when I got out of being deputy minister I got them all back again.

That reminds me a little bit of how this government is trying to deal with Nova Scotia. Before they were in power they had all the answers, they were simple and it can be fixed, no big problem. Do you remember that? Now that they are in power the realization is that they cannot fix the problems, they are not simple, they are complex and they need a lot of

[Page 638]

planning. This government is short on one part of that and that is planning. They have no real plan of where they are going.

This Minister of Finance has no plan, this Premier has no plan. Even when the so-called plan they have, when they have $249 million of windfall profits basically coming out of Paul Martin, the federal Minister of Finance, and Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of this country, the Liberal Government giving them $177 million of the $249 million, they have not enough sense to take that money and apply it and fast-track the plan they were working on. No, they blew it.

I note with interest that we are having some comments by the other members (Interruption) The member from the New Democratic Party is talking about user fees and I would concur. This government does have a devious plan of how they are going to meet their 10 per cent personal tax reduction in 2002-03. The way they are going to try to accomplish that 10 per cent reduction is, one, they have decoupled from the federal tax so they are going to allow Nova Scotia's income tax as a percentage of the federal tax rise. In fact, we are now at 60 per cent of the federal tax, so we already have 2.5 per cent there. The bracket creep, which represents $25 million, this minister is saying, no, we are going to claw that back out of the pockets of working Nova Scotians. Then they go on about some more user fees where they are actually going to be taxing, an indirect tax on Nova Scotians.

This is the same government that said in their blue book, no new taxes. Do you remember that? The Tory promise - the Tory times are blue times. This is a blue time in Nova Scotia. A blue time is not a good time, because Tory times saying no new taxes, the reality is we are being taxed by this administration, big time. Shame on that Minister of Finance and shame on that Premier who misspoke when they told Nova Scotians, we will not increase taxes. Blue times are sad times in Nova Scotia; blue times are tough times for Nova Scotia; blue times are bad times in Nova Scotia.

I want to talk a little bit about some specifics within the Financial Measures (2001) Act. The amendments to the Assessment Act is in this document, and I am concerned about that. I am concerned with what the minister is trying to bring in when he talks about the amendments to the Assessment Act; it enables regulations to provide for cost recovery. Cost recovery, that is a code word for new taxes, I think, assessment service. Downloading on the municipalities, that was another one of the blue book promises, another one of the election promises; they were saying, we will not do that. We will not. I remember members across the way, former councillors in the HRM and, boy, I will tell you, they were so pure that none of this would ever happen under their administration. I see our Stockwell Day yodeller over there is clapping. (Interruptions)

They are downloading the assessment process on the municipalities and the towns, and I don't think the municipalities and the towns are supportive of that, the cost of that, they are concerned about that. In fact, the Minister of Health just indicated they are 100 per cent

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behind it. This is the Minister of Health who doesn't know if he is coming or going when it comes to the Department of Health; he doesn't know how much money he is paying for people to do evaluations of Health; he has no plan; he has a blueprint - a footprint that doesn't have a foot, doesn't have a print; all he has is paying outside people to tell him what to say so he can spin the story.

AN HON. MEMBER: People from Ontario on the payroll.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, he has Ontario people on the payroll. They know how to do it. I just wonder how that minister, when he goes back to his respective riding, after paying these Ontario people $1,000 an hour or whatever that figure was, when he goes to some of the seniors in his riding and says, I am going to soak you $50 a day there mister because you haven't got a place to go because I haven't put any places in the system to allow you to go anywhere; you are not well enough to go home but you are not sick enough to be here, and I am going to soak you $50 a day. Wait until he tries to sell that to the individual senior in his riding, while at the same time paying somebody from Ontario $1,000 a day. Shame on that Minister of Health. I wonder how the good people of Truro-Bible Hill will put up with that.

Anyway, I want to go on. Do you have another question, Mr. Minister? The minister is turning white because of guilt, but his hair is turning white as well and he is losing maybe a little bit, I can relate to that.

This goes on, it says about establishing regulations, making powers to provide for an alternative service delivery. Another code word, an alternative service delivery. Do you know what I think this government is doing? I think they are going to end up with a Crown Corporation, and they are going to put all the civil servants who have gone out and done the assessments in this Crown Corporation, and they are going to in turn say, well, now you have to apply for your job, and if you get your job, well, then we are going to pay you based on what the municipalities and the towns pay in that respective area.

Mr. Speaker, the civil servants are concerned. This government, in their cold ways of doing business with the Civil Service in this province, is sad. They are asking the question, will you be straight and straight-forward with us and tell us exactly what you are going to do about this particular amendment to the Assessment Act? What does it mean? What does it mean to the individual men and women who have spent their years in their careers doing assessments across the Province of Nova Scotia? They don't know if their salaries and benefits will be the same and what impact it will have on them, having to, possibly, reapply for a job. The uncertainty is unbelievable. That Minister of Health understands the traumatic impact it has on workers in this province. If the Minister of Health understands the concern it has on the productivity and efficiency of staff, the Minister of Finance should understand that; the Premier should understand it, as a former doctor, and shame on them. They are not forthcoming to Nova Scotians with it.

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Again, they have no plan. They are just going by the direction of whatever feels good at the moment. The municipalities should be part of the process in terms of granting the regulation power. Towns and municipalities should be involved, in my view, with the development of any regulatory powers or any changes in the regulation process. I am sure the good Mayor of the Town of Lunenburg - which, by the way, the good Mayor of the Town of Lunenburg is opposed to their equalization fiasco that they have going over there. You know where they are trying to charge property tax and they put those carrots out there for the communities that are in financial distress. So even the Mayor of Lunenburg is opposed to that.

These mayors and councillors understand these guys don't know what they are doing. I think what the minister should do and the Premier and the minister responsible, they should talk to some of their backbenchers, some of those backbenchers who understand all too well what is involved in the concerns of the municipalities and the effect they are having. The towns and the municipalities should be involved in the development of any regulation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Lunenburg West like to move adjournment of debate.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, I will move adjournment of debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of debate.

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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Opposition Day and I will ask you to recognize the Liberal House Leader to set the business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, following the daily routine, we will be calling Bill No. 13, which is the House of Assembly Act and, also, Resolution No. 214, which is about the $50 health user fee. I move that we do now adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]