Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD
01-17

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 17, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cape Breton: Roads - Repair, Mr. F. Corbett 1101
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health/EMO - VIA Rail: Derailment (Stewiacke) - Response Teams Thank,
Hon. J. Muir 1102
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 477, VIA Rail - Derailment (Stewiacke): Residents -
Response Commend, The Premier 1104
Vote - Affirmative 1105
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 31, Agriculture Administration Amendment (2001) Act, Hon. E. Fage 1105
No. 32, Livestock Health Services Act, Hon. E. Fage 1105
No. 33, Scalers Act, Hon. E. Fage 1105
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 478, VIA Rail - Derailment (Stewiacke): Victims' Recovery -
Best Wishes Convey, Mr. J. MacDonell 1105
Vote - Affirmative 1106
Res. 479, Volunteers - N.S.: Efforts - Thank, Mr. W. Gaudet 1106
Vote - Affirmative 1107
Res. 480, VIA Rail - Derailment (Stewiacke): Commun. -
Efforts Praise, Mr. B. Taylor 1107
Vote - Affirmative 1108
Res. 481, Hamilton, Sylvia - Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies (MSVU):
Appt. - Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1108
Vote - Affirmative 1108
Res. 482, Bridgewater Elem. Sch. - Pratt & Whitney Film Fest.:
Prize (1st) - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 1109
Vote - Affirmative 1109
Res. 483, Roache, Jonathan - Death of: Family - Sympathy Convey,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 1109
Vote - Affirmative 1110
Res. 484, Americas, Summit of - Protestors: Safety - Ensure,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1110
Res. 485, Prince Andrew HS - Fame: Production - Participants Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 1111
Vote - Affirmative 1111
Res. 486, Furneaux, Karen - Paddling: Gold Medals - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 1112
Vote - Affirmative 1112
Res. 487, Hatcher, Shawn - Death of: Family - Sorrow Express,
Mr. F. Corbett 1112
Res. 488, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Five Island Lake Cleanup:
Info (Misleading) - Min. Apologize, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1113
Res. 489, Middleton Commun. Access Proj. - Opening: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1114
Res. 490, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Five Island Lake:
Commun. Liaison Comm. - Efforts Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1114
Res. 491, LeFort, Charlie/MacDonald, Karen - Boston Marathon:
Participation - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 1115
Vote - Affirmative 1116
Res. 492, Health - Curl for Cancer: Pictou Co. - Participants Congrats.,
The Premier 1116
Vote - Affirmative 1116
Res. 493, Miles, Johnny - Boston Marathon Victory: Anniv. (75th) -^^
Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1117
Vote - Affirmative 1117
Res. 494, Ludlow Family - Home Rebuilding: Participants/Volunteers -
Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 1117
Vote - Affirmative 1118
Res. 495, Elder Transcript Web Site - Digby: Participants - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1118
Vote - Affirmative 1119
Res. 496, Swain, John: CD Release - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 1119
Vote - Affirmative 1119
Res. 497, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Harvest - Sustainability Ensure,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1120
Res. 498, Mira Two Rivers Wildlife Pk. - Commun. Members:
Fundraising - Congrats., Mr. R. MacKinnon 1120
Vote - Affirmative 1121
Res. 499, Health - Autism: Treatment - Funding Distribute,
Mr. D. Dexter 1121
Res. 500, Educ. - C.B.-Vic. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Funding - Provide,
Mr. B. Boudreau 1122
Res. 501, Slow Learner - Terminology: Unparliamentary - Consider,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1122
Res. 502, Environ. & Lbr. - Schools: Public Health - Inspect,
(by Mr. W. Gaudet), Mr. M. Samson 1123
Res. 503, Green, Marie: Tom Miller Award - Congrats.,
(by Mr. B. Boudreau), Mr. P. MacEwan 1124
Vote - Affirmative 1124
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 155, Health: Environmental Illness [Lisa Comeau] - Solution,
Mr. D. Dexter 1125
No. 156, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Payment Schedule - Explain, Mr. D. Downe 1126
No. 157, Commun. Serv. - Environmental Illness [Lisa Comeau]:
Housing - Options Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1127
No. 158, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Surpluses - Allocation, Mr. D. Downe 1128
No. 159, Fin. - Taxes/User Fees: New - List Table, Mr. K. Deveaux 1129
No. 160, Health - Budget (2001-02): NSNU - Funding Adequacy,
Dr. J. Smith 1130
No. 161, Health - Kendrick Report: Implementation - Time Frame,
Mr. J. Pye 1131
No. 162, Educ. - Loan Remission Prog.: Student Loan - Defaults Effect,
Mr. Samson 1132
No. 163, Americas, Summit of: Protestors - Premier Support,
Mr. H. Epstein 1134
No. 164, Environ. & Lbr. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Schools -
Inspections Status, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1135
No. 165, Educ. - Pictou Co. School: Original Agreement - Honour,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1136
No. 166, Environ. & Lbr. - Auld's Cove: Coal Dust Runoff -
Investigation Confirm, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1137
No. 167, Educ. - C.B.-Vic. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Funding - Teachers Effect,
Mr. F. Corbett 1138
No. 168, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Payment Plan - Premier Confirm,
Mr. D. Downe 1140
No. 169, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Non-Resident Landownership:
Meetings - Input, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1141
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1142
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1145
Mr. B. Taylor 1149
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 4:27 P.M. 1152
HOUSE RECONVENED AT6:00 P.M. 1152
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - Taxes/User Fees: Rise - Election Promises Contravention:
Mr. D. Downe 1153
Mr. K. Deveaux 1156
Mr. M. Parent 1159
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 1162
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 8:57 P.M. 1162
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 30, Financial Measures (2001) Act 1162
Hon. R. Russell 1163
Mr. K. Deveaux 1163
Mr. D. Downe 1173
Adjourned debate 1180
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 1180
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 1180
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 18th at 2:00 p.m. 1181

[Page 1101]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 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 subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth East:

Therefore be it resolved that contrary to election promises the government continues to raise taxes and user fees.

This 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 Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with over 1,500 names, to which I have attached mine. The operative clause reads, "We the undersigned want to register our protest regarding the deplorable conditions of the roads in the Lingan, Scotchtown, River Ryan area. These roads are not only in need of immediate repair but represent a safety hazard for the citizens and emergency equipment such as fire, police and ambulance."

1101

[Page 1102]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as both the Minister of Health and as the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. We were shocked to hear about last Thursday's passenger train derailment in Stewiacke. I want to wish all those passengers and crew who were injured a speedy recovery. Our thoughts are with them and their families. The response to this crash was quick and effective and no doubt helped minimize the injuries and perhaps even save lives.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank everyone involved in Thursday's response for their help. This includes ground and air ambulance crews, ambulance dispatch staff, fire and police departments as well as the Special Hazards Response Unit from Truro, the Red Cross, the Department of Community Services and CN Rail and VIA Rail for their efforts at the scene.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank staff from the Colchester Regional Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and the IWK for their work in providing speedy and compassionate care for those injured.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of the volunteers and local businesses in Stewiacke and surrounding areas. The citizens of Stewiacke responded in a multitude of different ways, whether it was providing food to passengers and emergency crews, providing space for paramedics to triage patients or opening up work spaces for VIA and CN crews on Thursday and throughout the Easter weekend.

Mr. Speaker, I thank them all. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his statement ahead of time and on behalf of my caucus colleagues, I want to say that we echo his words. For sure, when accidents like the one that happened in Stewiacke occur, in places that are far away, the tragedy certainly seems real to us but not as real as it does when it is in our back yard. I think that the minister appropriately recognizes all those who were involved in the speedy recovery of victims in that accident. Certainly, I think everyone had a guardian angel

[Page 1103]

looking over them on that trip and it can only be, if we can say luck, or whatever, to have that many people involved in that accident and the injuries be as minimal as they were.

Certainly, appreciation to all those involved, condolences on behalf of our caucus to those who were injured and their families and certainly to the families who were on the other side of the country perhaps or far away who couldn't instantly be at bedside to help out the injured members of their family. I think the strain and stress put on everybody was minimized by the efforts of all those who showed up to offer a hand. Certainly, I think all of us here in this House can recognize the volunteer efforts of Nova Scotians every day and the compassion by which they offer a helping hand. I think the minister chose his words appropriately and carefully. On behalf of our caucus, we would like to say how much we think they would be appreciated. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for sharing his statement with us today prior to the sitting of the House. I certainly would agree with him that injuries were minimized and probably lives were saved last Thursday when support was given to so many injured and their families. I would like to make a brief statement on behalf of our caucus.

Mr. Speaker, once again, last Thursday, Nova Scotia's Emergency Health Services, support groups plus volunteers were called to action. On behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to all of those involved in the quick emergency response required as a result of Thursday afternoon's passenger train derailment in Stewiacke. We have a world-class emergency response system, and all parties involved in response to Thursday's crash once again showed Canada and the world why it is so. We had shown the world what we were capable of doing at the time of the Swissair disaster. It was comforting to see a similar response again last Thursday.

To all the staff who mobilized so quickly at all the hospitals involved, thank you on behalf of our caucus. Our caucus is very appreciative of how so many people can mobilize so quickly in times of need, especially volunteers in the community who quickly and willingly provided so much to comfort the passengers and emergency crews. There are no small roles played in times of disaster, only important roles. To all the residents and volunteers, in addition to all the businesses in Stewiacke, thank you. Thank you for playing such an important role last Thursday during times of human need and tragedy. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable members who spoke previously about this very unfortunate incident that happened in the Town of Stewiacke. When I was leaving here on Thursday at approximately 3:30 p.m. I received a call

[Page 1104]

from our Communications Coordinator, Lisa Manninger, informing me that, in fact, a VIA Rail train, The Ocean, had derailed in the Town of Stewiacke. You can imagine what thoughts go through one's mind upon learning that. When I arrived in Stewiacke the first thing I noticed was a train car that was mangled and tangled and residing on what used to be the Clarence feed store in the town. The first thing that immediately comes to one's mind is, how many lives were lost, how many people were killed in that tragedy?

Mr. Speaker, I want to say it was a modern-day miracle that no lives were lost. I was told by folks from the town that the response of all emergency services was expeditious and impeccable. Previous to the first responders getting there, there was a few moments - I was told, again, that the young people from the community of Stewiacke responded quickly and assisted many of the passengers who were trapped in the vehicles. I would like to say that Stewiacke is a very quiet, peaceful and caring community that includes people of all ages in the community. We are very grateful for the support we received from our first responders, but also from the community volunteers. There were people there of all ages, there were seniors, there were toddlers in baby strollers, so to speak, and everybody just pitched in.

Although it was a tragedy and most unfortunate, it was extremely gratifying to see that community, that small town come together and assist people who, for the most part, were strangers, but, unfortunately, had been somewhat victimized. We are grateful for that. Also, I would thank the other caucuses, plus our Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization for taking the time to call. It would not be right if I didn't mention the hard work that was put in by the mayor and town council to deal with situations that came up, especially dealing with the media. I think Mayor Bruce Lohnes did yeoman service and also he deserves a big round of applause. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 477

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

Whereas this past Thursday VIA Rail's The Ocean experienced a terrible accident in the Town of Stewiacke; and

Whereas although there were numerous serious injuries, all passengers, crew and bystanders survived the accident; and

[Page 1105]

Whereas everybody who responded to Thursday's accident - including volunteer firefighters in the Town of Stewiacke, concerned Stewiacke residents, Emergency Health Services staff, medical employees at both the Colchester Regional Hospital and the QE II Health Sciences Centre, and workers for both VIA Rail and CN Rail - performed outstandingly in the face of fear and confusion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the people of Stewiacke and all those who responded so admirably to this horrible incident.

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. 31 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Administration of Agriculture. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

Bill No. 32 - Entitled an Act Respecting Livestock Health Services. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

Bill No. 33 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Scaling of Primary Wood Products. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 478

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

[Page 1106]

Whereas on April 12th the derailment of a Via Rail train in Stewiacke resulted in at least 23 injured passengers; and

Whereas Colchester Regional Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre reacted quickly and professionally in the immediate aftermath of this rail disaster; and

Whereas residents of Stewiacke, passengers, volunteers and professionals responded with compassion and courage to the plight of the derailment victims;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its condolences to the derailment victims and wish them a speedy recovery, and offer its heartfelt appreciation and admiration to those residents of Stewiacke, passengers, volunteers and professionals, including health care professionals in Truro and Halifax who responded so admirably to this tragic derailment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 479

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have always been known for their acts of kindness and community spirit; and

Whereas events like the train derailment in Stewiacke and the Swissair disaster remind us of how willing to volunteer the people of Nova Scotia really are; and

Whereas this spirit is particularly good to see and recognize during this, the International Year of the Volunteer;

[Page 1107]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in thanking all Nova Scotians who give freely of themselves whenever their community is in need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 480

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

Whereas the incredible caring nature of our Nova Scotia communities to pull together in time of tragedy was in evidence immediately following the derailment of the VIA Rail passenger train, The Ocean, on Thursday in Stewiacke; and

Whereas thanks to the valiant and swift efforts of the RCMP, EHS, the Stewiacke and District Volunteer Fire Department and nine neighbouring detachments, the Red Cross, community police, health staff and local officials and to the many random acts of kindness throughout the community; and

Whereas there are so many heroes whose quick action made a bad situation better; from Don Wood at the local feed store who evacuated customers moments before the train ripped through the building to those in the community who provided coffee, blankets and a kind word;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House praise the incredible efforts of our community, Stewiacke and surrounding neighbours for pulling together to assist those injured and frightened by Thursday's derailment and extend our best wishes for a full recovery to those passengers injured in the crash.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1108]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 481

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

Whereas Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University brings to campus distinguished scholars and activists who have contributed to the advancement of women; and

Whereas filmmaker and writer Sylvia Hamilton has been appointed to Nancy's Chair; and

Whereas Sylvia Hamilton, through her films and writing, has brought the life experiences of African Nova Scotians to the growing mosaic of Canadian arts;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Sylvia Hamilton on her appointment and applaud Mount Saint Vincent for its choice as Nancy's Chair.

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 1109]

RESOLUTION NO. 482

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

Whereas Grade 5 students at Bridgewater Elementary School captured first place in the 2001 Pratt & Whitney Discovery Film Festival; and

Whereas the film entitled Mysterious Matters focuses on the disappearance of the three states of matter; and

Whereas the film won the school a prize of $500 which was presented by Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the students and staff of the Bridgewater Elementary School for their hard work and their success in producing the winning film.

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 483

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

Whereas there was no greater reminder of the dangers associated with our province's lobster fishing industry than the loss Saturday of a young Lockeport man; and

Whereas 19 year old Jonathan Roache lost his life as he assisted his father in the business which has sustained this Lockeport family for many years; and

[Page 1110]

Whereas while heroic efforts were made by his father and local fishermen to immediately rescue him from the frigid Atlantic waters, he was unable to be revived;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House offer to the family of young Jonathan Roache our deepest sympathy, commend the local hospital and paramedics for doing all in their power to attempt to revive the young man and remember the incredible risk taken each season by our Nova Scotia lobster fishermen.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 484

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

Whereas the Summit of the Americas convenes in Quebec City from April 20th to April 22nd to discuss the Free Trade Agreement that extends across 34 national borders; and

Whereas a barrier has been erected around the summit site in Quebec City creating a sprawling security zone guarded by thousands of police officers to seal off the summit from protestors against undemocratic agreements; and

Whereas the security barrier and these police forces imperil the fundamental democratic rights of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly because they keep lawful protestors out of sight and sound;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the Prime Minister to ensure the safety of those protestors who will be engaged in principled and peaceful expression and civil disobedience at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1111]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 485

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

Whereas two weeks ago the students and staff from Prince Andrew High School performed the musical Fame; and

Whereas more than 60 students played a role in the musical, either on stage, behind the scenes or in the band; and

Whereas putting together high school musicals takes months of dedicated rehearsals on the part of the performers and staff;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the students, staff and all those involved in Prince Andrew High School's production of Fame.

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 Minister of Community Services.

[Page 1112]

RESOLUTION NO. 486

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

Whereas Karen Furneaux of Waverley, a kayak member of the CHEEMA Aquatic Club, has been competing since 1989, including internationally since 1993; and

Whereas Ms. Furneaux, this past weekend, won four gold medals at the season opening World Cup paddling competition in Gainesville, Florida; and

Whereas she claimed gold in the K-1 200 and 500, and also won the K-2 200 and 500 with her partner, Marie-Josee Gibeau-Ouimet of Lachine, Quebec;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Karen Furneaux for all of her hard work and dedication, and wish her all the best as she represents Nova Scotia and Canada during the World Cup paddling season.

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. 487

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

Whereas on April 14, 1999, Shawn Hatcher died on the Panuke-Cohasset oil field while doing a routine inspection in the engine room of the oil-storage vessel, Nordic Apollo; and

[Page 1113]

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour wished to press charges against the operator of the Nordic Apollo for its appalling safety practices, but admitted it had no jurisdiction to do so; and

Whereas officials of the Department of Environment and Labour, and the federal-provincial board that oversees offshore development warned as early as 1993 that the regulatory regime for safety is "unclear and deficient in some important areas";

Therefore be it resolved that this House expresses its deep sorrow and regret to the family of Shawn Hatcher and assures them and all working Nova Scotians that a strong regulatory health and safety regime will be in place for the offshore workers no later than this fall.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 488

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

Whereas in Question Period on Thursday, April 12th, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works stated the Five Island Lake cleanup project is on schedule; and

Whereas information available from the department's Web site showed that the project is, in fact, running behind schedule; and

Whereas the minister chose to ridicule an MLA rather than to address a matter of fact;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works apologize for providing misleading information to this House, and for not doing his homework on an issue affecting the health and safety of Nova Scotians and their environment.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 489

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

[Page 1114]

Whereas information technology plays a more important role in our daily lives than ever before, and has changed the way we share information, do business and interact with government; and

Whereas the Community Access Program, through the joint efforts of federal, provincial and community partners, has opened 200 CAP sites across Nova Scotia, to make public access to information technology a reality; and

Whereas through the special help of organizer, Charlotte Janes and the regional librarian, David Witherly, the Middleton Community Access Project has opened at the Annapolis Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate everyone who has worked to put Internet technology at the community's fingertips, and thank them for such an important addition to the communities of Annapolis.

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. 490

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

Whereas the Five Island Lake Community Liaison Committee has persistently worked over many years towards a final solution for the clean up and removal of PCBs from this area; and

Whereas according to local sources in the know, this process is "progressing nicely on schedule"; and

[Page 1115]

Whereas this steady progress is the result of the efforts of local volunteers and the co-operation of the Transportation and Public Works Department;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank the members of the liaison committee for their continuing efforts and knowledge of the local issues in Five Island Lake.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 491

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

Whereas two residents of Cape Breton, Charlie LeFort of Inverness and Karen MacDonald of Sydney, completed yesterday's running of the Boston Marathon; and

Whereas Charlie LeFort, competing in his third Boston Marathon, finished 118th in the Master's division with a time of 2 hours, 55 minutes, 52 seconds; and

Whereas Karen MacDonald, competing in her first Boston Marathon, finished 549th in the women's Master's division with a time of 3 hours, 59 minutes, 57 seconds;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Charlie LeFort and Karen MacDonald for running in and completing the historic and challenging Boston Marathon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1116]

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 492

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

Whereas on February 16 and 17, 2001, residents of Pictou Country participated in the Curl for Cancer bonspiel which was held at rinks in New Glasgow, Stellarton, Pictou and Westville; and

Whereas 146 adult teams and 75 children participated in Pictou County's Curl for Cancer, proceeds of which benefited the Canadian Cancer Society; and

Whereas the Pictou County Curl for Cancer raised over $71,000 for cancer research, $21,000 more than was raised in the year 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and thank all individuals who participated in and donated to the Pictou County Curl for Cancer for their generous support of a worthy cause.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1117]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 493

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

Whereas April 16th marked the 75th Anniversary of Johnny Miles' victory in the Boston Marathon; and

Whereas Johnny Miles is the oldest surviving winner of the Boston Marathon; and

Whereas Johnny Miles was honoured with a 75 year plaque in his nursing home in Hamilton, Ontario;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize Johnny Miles for his victory in Boston in 1926 and congratulate him on being awarded the plaque for the 75th Anniversary of that victory, which made all Nova Scotians proud.

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. 494

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

Whereas Mr. Mick Ludlow and his family of Broughton lost their home and possessions in a fire last Sunday; and

[Page 1118]

Whereas various contractors including MacPherson Mechanical, Gillis Timber Mart and Yates Trucking are currently rebuilding this structure for the Ludlow family, along with community volunteers; and

Whereas this fundraising effort, spearheaded by Mr. Tom MacPherson of Glace Bay, shows the spirit and kindness of the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all those people helping to rebuild a home for the Ludlow family.

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 Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 495

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

Whereas a new Web site featuring interviews with 49 elders from the Municipality of Digby will be officially launched on April 28th; and

Whereas the aforementioned Elder Transcript project received funding from the Canadian Millennium Partnership Fund and the Municipality of Digby; and

Whereas more voices of Canadian elders deserve to be heard;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the project team and the students of the Annapolis Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College on launching the Elder Transcript Web site.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1119]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 496

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

Whereas Bridgewater native and musician John Swain recently released his debut CD entitled, Hear My Call; and

Whereas John not only performed on the CD but also recorded and produced the CD in his home; and

Whereas John, who works as an accountant, is moving to Bermuda with his wife to work for the Bank of Bermuda while he continues to pursue his musical talents;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate John for this accomplishment and wish him the best for a successful career in Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 1120]

RESOLUTION NO. 497

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

Whereas clear-cutting is the practice of complete felling and removal of a stand of trees and is the predominant harvesting method in the forest industry; and

Whereas clear-cutting may be completely out of control, claiming over 500 square kilometres of Nova Scotia's forests and adversely impacting the fish and bird species throughout the province; and

Whereas the Ecology Action Centre has launched its own Web site offering harvesting alternatives to those engaged in the practice and alerting the public to the long-term ecological and economic costs associated with clear-cutting;

Therefore be it resolved that the government stop being apathetic to the clear-cutting issue, listen to the 84 per cent of public opinion calling for this practice to be regulated and take action to have our woodlands harvested only on a sustainable basis.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 498

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

Whereas every year tens of thousands of people visit the Mira Two Rivers Wildlife Park at Marion Bridge; and

Whereas community groups, businesses and individuals throughout industrial Cape Breton have pulled together to raise over $60,000 in recent months to wipe out the wildlife park's debt; and

Whereas some of the fundraisers included raffling on quilts, cookie sales at Tim Hortons and penny days at local schools;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate all those community members who joined together to save this vital part of our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1121]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 499

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

Whereas the Hamm Government promised to commit $2 million towards efforts to reduce assessment wait times and to provide early treatment for children believed to have autism or pervasive development delay; and

Whereas Rebecca Lake is a single parent of Virya, a child with a rare form of autism in which language skills deteriorate rapidly; and

Whereas Nova Scotia does not currently provide adequate autism treatment;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Health reassess how its funding for autism treatment is distributed so that the $2 million goes to hiring clinical experts in early intervention programs.

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 Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 1122]

RESOLUTION NO. 500

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

Whereas the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is meeting today with senior administrators to look at ways to prevent teacher cuts for the next school year; and

Whereas without assistance from the Department of Education, the board could see layoffs in the range of 60 to 80 teachers; and

Whereas the Minister of Education has stated that there would be sufficient funding for all school boards in this year's Education budget to prevent layoffs of teachers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education live up to her commitment and provide the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board with the necessary funding to prevent the proposed teacher layoffs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 501

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

Whereas use of the dismissive term "slow learner" has crept into the vocabulary of some of the legislators of this historic Assembly; and

Whereas slow learner is no better than such terms as "retarded", "dumb" and "stupid"; and

Whereas everyone learns at his or her own rate;

[Page 1123]

Therefore be it resolved that all members agree to relegate the term "slow learner" to the garbage heap of inappropriate, unparliamentary expressions.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 502

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the honourable member for Richmond, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas two two-member teams of Public Health inspectors visited 10 metro schools last Tuesday and Wednesday; and

Whereas as a result of these visits it was announced that none of the schools posed a risk to students and staff; and

Whereas the team of public health inspectors visited only 6.6 per cent of the 152 schools in the Halifax Regional School Board;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour immediately dispatch the public health inspectors to inspect the 142 schools that were not inspected last week.

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.

[Page 1124]

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 503

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the 2001 Tom Miller Human Rights Award was presented last Tuesday evening at the Cedars Hall in Sydney; and

Whereas the Tom Miller Award is named in honour of former Sydney alderman and community activist Tom Miller; and

Whereas this year's recipient - chosen by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's Affirmative Action Committee - is Whitney Pier resident Marie Green.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Marie Green for helping to build a better community for 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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:42 p.m. and end at 3:42 p.m.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[Page 1125]

HEALTH: ENVIRONMENTAL ILLNESS

[LISA COMEAU] - SOLUTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Lisa Comeau is a 40 year old woman with acute sensitivities to environmental pollutants such as perfumes, paint and smoke. The minister is very well aware of her situation. Because of Lisa's illness, she cannot live in what most would consider to be a normal house. While most of us can get a good night's sleep, Lisa's nights are frequently marked by severe chest pains, a swollen throat and choked breathing in reaction to pollutants in the air. Lisa has begged the government to help her find suitable shelter. Two weeks ago Lisa moved into her car. My question for the Minister of Health is this, why is Lisa living in her car?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, it is not the practice of departments to deal with individual cases on the floor of the House.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, he is not dealing with it here, and he is not dealing with it in the department; he is not dealing with it, that is the problem. The minister has not provided any meaningful solutions to this problem, unless you consider as a solution living in an oxygen tent for a month or more, as suggested to her by his department, or purchasing a sub-zero sleeping bag for the car, again as suggested to her. My question for the minister is, is this the kind of treatment persons with environmental illness should come to expect in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the province recognizes that environmental illness is something that exists here in Nova Scotia, and among the commitments that the department made and carried out was a review in the environmental health clinic last year.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Lisa's health is deteriorating. She is increasingly having to rely on oxygen to get her through the day. She has spent the last two years living on people's decks, on floors, on couches, and in parks. Now, for the fourth time, she is living in a car. What will the minister do to ensure that Lisa is no longer a prisoner in a car, but has a safe roof over her head?

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to my first answer. It is not really appropriate to discuss individual cases on the floor of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Page 1126]

FIN. - DEBT (N.S.): PAYMENT SCHEDULE - EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. I want to table some information I received from the Department of Finance, some disturbing information with regard to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Despite the surplus projected for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia continues to rise. The Premier has planned for surpluses, while posting debt repeatedly during his tenure. Can the Premier explain why not one payment will be made to the debt over the entire time he is in office?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must have information that I don't have, because we haven't indicated where surpluses will go. What I can say to the member opposite is, the reason the debt has been growing exponentially since we came into power is because that government, of which he was a very prominent member, failed to record, on the books of the province, the true debt that this province is carrying.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that Premier wants to live in the past. Nova Scotians and the Liberals want to build for the future. We want to build for the future. I find it hard to believe the Premier could actually run a surplus each and every year, at the same time running up the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. In the last election, the Premier said - and I want to table The Chronicle-Herald article - "A Progressive Conservative government is committed to reducing the provincial debt." At the same time, he makes promises he won't keep. This is a promise that he will not keep and has no intention of keeping. Why doesn't he plan to start reducing the debt, and when? My question to the Premier is, when are you going to start reducing the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is one thing with which I do agree with the member opposite, and that is that we must live for the future. That is why the government, today, is making the very difficult decisions that it is making. Some of those decisions are very uncomfortable but they are necessary. The whole issue is - and the member opposite as a former Minister of Finance should be able to figure this one out - you can't make a payment to the debt until you have a balanced budget.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, they had a chance in the last budget to balance but they refused to do so because they were weak in making the decisions they needed to make. The bottom line is that this Premier and this government have mismanaged the public purse of Nova Scotia, and is again planning surpluses at the same time he is posting debt. Will the Premier confirm that the debt will continue to rise during his term as Premier of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no longer grow.

[Page 1127]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - ENVIRONMENTAL ILLNESS [LISA COMEAU]:

HOUSING - OPTIONS EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services because the Minister of Health has failed. Let me review for you some of the options that the Housing Division has offered Lisa Comeau: a unit near an oil refinery where she would be exposed daily to pollutants that are toxic to her; a storage area that used to house cleaning products and paint solvents that are also toxic to her. These so-called solutions run dangerously close to government approval to allow Lisa to become ill. Why are you giving Lisa options, Mr. Minister, that you know in advance will make her sick?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Community Services has the floor.

MR. CHRISTIE: . . . I will say to the honourable member that we work with all the people who come to the Department of Housing to try to find them appropriate and safe housing.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, these issues have to be dealt with here because that government is trying to sweep them under the rug and pretend they don't exist. They should be ashamed of themselves. Lisa's doctor has written to the minister that Lisa must live in a detached home because off-gassing of products used by other persons in their daily lives will affect her health. I have a subsequent letter here from the minister's department that states that it is not the policy to offer detached homes to single individuals. The letter lists seven public attached units she should review but each unit has a cost associated with it. When Lisa asked whether or not these monies were available, the answer was no. If she applies for the housing subsidy, she will lose the health care subsidy. My question is - this woman is too ill to work - where do you expect her to come up with the money she needs to fix the units that you believe will work?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member I will say, as I said before, the department works with all individuals who come to try to find them safe and satisfactory housing and we will do so in this case also.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have here a log book which covers a four month period of Lisa trying to find herself a home. Page after page, hundreds of searches, all of which have yielded nothing. At the end of this month, the car she is living in will be moved to a busy apartment parking lot where she will become exposed to more fumes and will become even sicker. My question for the minister is, what will it take for you to find this woman a home?

[Page 1128]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has brought this case and other cases to my attention on numerous occasions. What I would indicate to the member is what it will take is for the client to be working with the department to find satisfactory arrangements, as we do with all of our clients.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - DEBT (N.S.): SURPLUSES - ALLOCATION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question, again, is to the Premier. During a speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, the Premier stated, "Our choices and our children's choices are diminished by the cost of our debt." The Premier has planned for surpluses but he continues to post debt. My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier limiting the choices of Nova Scotians by failing to devote even $1.00 of those surpluses to paying down the debt?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a confusing line of questioning because this government has gone to consolidated accounting principles which does not allow it, unlike the previous government, to report a surplus when one doesn't exist. What it also does not allow the government to do is to make an attempt to pay down the debt until we have a true balanced budget and a true surplus, which we will have 12 months from now.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, you can tell when you are getting to this government's mismanagement. The Premier lives in the past. During the PC annual meeting in February, the Premier stated that eliminating the deficit is a means to a new beginning. Given that the Premier is planning for a surplus while continuing to post debt, what kind of new beginning is this Premier talking about to Nova Scotians at the same time growing the debt?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what we mean by a new beginning is a balanced budget in the year 2002, the very first balanced budget that this province has had in over 30 years. I think that is a tremendous new beginning. It is a fresh start and it will give the people of this province the kind of future that I believe they deserve, which has been denied them up until this point in time.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the straight question to the Premier and he refuses to answer. During the AGM, the Premier expressed concern for the debt and its impact on the future of a Grade 4 student from Kings County named Ronnie. The question is straightforward to the Premier, I ask the Premier, how will the Premier explain to Ronnie how he dropped the ball and left him and his classmates with an ever-increasing debt to the tune of $11.8 billion? The question to the Premier, why haven't you come into the program to eliminate the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 1129]

THE PREMIER: The member opposite will remember clearly that we indicated in the weeks leading up to July 1999 that we would balance the budget and we would bring in a balanced budget in the spring of the year 2002. We are on schedule to do exactly that. The member opposite continues a line of questioning that would indicate that governments, while posting deficits, can pay off a debt. I fail to understand how that can be done.

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

FIN. - TAXES/USER FEES: NEW - LIST TABLE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: My question is for the Premier as well and I find it interesting that he refers back to some promises and commitments he made in the July 1999 election.

What we talked about on Thursday, Mr. Speaker, was the fact that this government has, in hidden taxes and user fees, raised over $94 million a year in new taxes that Nova Scotians are unaware of. Now that number is increasing on a daily basis. We did not even mention the other day about $20 million extra in cigarette taxes and where that extra revenue will go; new fines and where the extra money from the new fines for speeding is going to go; new user fees with regard to farmers and their impact. My understanding is today that the number is actually closer to $115 million in new taxes and user fees that this government is imposing on an annual basis. So I will ask the Premier today, will he table a list definitively of all the new taxes and user fees his government has imposed on Nova Scotians since they were elected?

THE PREMIER: I would like to remind the member opposite that during the election campaign in 1999, I indicated publicly that this government would not guarantee that tobacco taxes would not be increased. They have been increased and it is the only tax that we have increased.

The interesting thing is, the member opposite would have you believe that increasing the fines for speeding has something to do with revenue generation. What it has everything to do with is reducing the speed on the highways.

MR. DEVEAUX: I guess the Premier is not willing to table these, but let's be clear that if this was money actually being put into smoking cessation or into actually addressing speeding on our highways, maybe people would believe these were not just user fees. The fact is, this Premier is increasing taxes on Nova Scotians.

The problem is, this Premier will not table these documents, which means he either is not prepared to provide us with an answer or he has lost control of how his government is raising revenue. My question again is, will this Premier table the information today with regard to the details of all the new taxes and user fees he has imposed or will he admit that his government has been doing a real tax grab on Nova Scotians?

[Page 1130]

THE PREMIER: We would have a lot more in common if the member opposite could sort out the difference between a user fee and a tax. The only tax that has increased is the tax on tobacco. The government has made no secret that as new or better services are implemented that if it is appropriate, a user fee would be the way in which that would be paid for. The members opposite do not seem to realize that government does not generate money on its own. Government simply collects the money from the people of Nova Scotia and returns it in the form of services. Government in itself does not create wealth.

MR. DEVEAUX: On that point I can agree with the Premier. This government is collecting money on behalf of Nova Scotians, but the sad fact is, it has been hiding $115 million in new taxes. Yes, a tax is a tax is a tax. So, my question to this Premier is, how will he explain that he is raising $115 million in new taxes, when in July 1999, during the election, he said he would not be part of any government that was increasing taxes on Nova Scotians?

[3:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite would think back, just a very few minutes, I have already answered his question; it revolved around the difference between a tax and a user fee. What really boggles the mind is the member opposite, as he sees government revenues increasing, suggesting to government that that should not be allowed to happen; at the same time, during the same Question Period, by way of question, will no doubt suggest to government that it should spend more on all sorts of programs. Now, you can't have it both ways. Either government has to increase revenues, if it is going to increase services, or we have to cut services even further, to the bare bones.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - BUDGET (2001-02): NSNU - FUNDING ADEQUACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last Thursday, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union filed for conciliation over frustrations that they were experiencing around the negotiating process. My question to the minister is quite simple, Mr. Minister, have you allocated enough money in your budget to cover a fair and decent wage settlement with nurses in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the NSNU represents more than 5,000 RNs and LPNs in the province. Like other health care workers, they are currently at the bargaining table. Asking for a conciliator is a legitimate part of the bargaining process. They did put in that request last Thursday that the honourable member mentioned.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I will await, maybe, an answer in the supplemental. This minister and his government promised that they would find savings in administration in order to invest in front-line workers in health care. Nurses are front-line workers. Given that this

[Page 1131]

minister should have these administration savings by now, almost two years, my question to the minister is, why did the minister not budget enough money to pay nurses a decent and fair wage settlement?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, obviously in a collective bargaining process, the province, as the Premier has made clear and I have made clear, wants the negotiations that the health care workers are currently engaged in with their employer to result in a fair outcome, not only for those health care workers but also for the province. I am confident one can be reached at the bargaining table.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is simple. Health care spending has increased this year by over $68 million. Registered nurses are the lowest paid (Interruptions) Wait for the rest, Mr. Minister of Justice, Mr. laughing stock, Mr. Justice. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, registered nurses are the lowest paid in Canada, and LPNs are the third lowest paid in Canada. My question to the minister is, why does the minister not have enough money to pay nurses a fair and decent wage here in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think I answered that question, the province does believe that negotiations are going to result in a fair and reasonable outcome for nurses and other health care workers, one that is affordable to the province. What I can say, perhaps just as a concluding comment, is that the province, over the past 20 months, has been able to reach collective agreements with other unions that are deemed to be fair and affordable. We expect to do that in the case of the health care workers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - KENDRICK REPORT: IMPLEMENTATION TIME FRAME

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, in the spring of 2000, that government used tax dollars to commission a study, among other things, of community-based programs and services for disabled. The government chose a well-respected and acknowledged expert to conduct this report. The report was completed some time ago, yet this government now finds it necessary to review the review. My question is to the Minister of Health. When will his department stop second-guessing the findings of the Kendrick report and implement its recommendations?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that not only is the Kendrick report out there, but there are some other studies that have been done. I can assure the honourable member, and I know that the Department of Community Services as well as my department and the Department of Justice, other agencies that are affected, we will begin the implementation of those things which are deemed to be appropriate as soon as we can. On

[Page 1132]

the other hand, I will tell the honourable member it will not be possible to implement all recommendations just straight overnight.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this government is very much aware that those reports were long-standing reports with solid recommendations that should have been addressed a year or two ago. The problem is, while this government studies the Kendrick report to pick and choose the recommendations that support the misguided Tories' agenda, the disabled are going without the needed services. Families worry about their disabled children turning 19 and losing their services. Many disabled adults can't even get on a waiting list for the support they and their families desperately need today, not tomorrow, not the next day, but today. I ask the Minister of Health, when are you going to stop reviewing and start producing?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, like the member for Dartmouth North, I share his concern. I can tell him that we are working through that report as quickly as we can, and the recommendations that we can implement will be implemented as soon as it is practical to do so.

MR. PYE: I guess that lacks the kind of spine that the Premier has said that was needed to govern this province. You need the spine, the backbone, to deliver those programs and services, and the heart as well. I wonder if the minister is aware of the many disabled who are forced to remain in unsatisfactory and unbeneficial living arrangements because there are simply no funds available to assist them. I wonder if the minister has any idea how many elderly parents are forced to maintain homes for their disabled adult children, beyond what is beneficial to the family, because this government doesn't consider them a priority.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that I, as a disabled person standing in this House, find that rather humiliating that the minister can only stand before us and tell us that they are reviewing study after study after study. Can the minister explain to the disabled community why he doesn't consider their needs to be worthy and to require immediate action?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we do consider the needs of the disabled community to be a priority, and indeed if you take a look at the actions this government in the response and support we have given that community in the past 20 months, I think you will find that our record is better than most preceding governments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - LOAN REMISSION PROG.:

STUDENT LOAN - DEFAULTS EFFECT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has told us that even though she was the one who cut the program, she plans on reintroducing a loan remission program for Nova Scotian students. This weekend there was a report that the province will be

[Page 1133]

absorbing up to $10 million in defaulted student loans in the upcoming year; there has even been a reserve fund created within the Department of Education to deal with this possibility. Can the Minister of Education tell the House whether or not there would be fewer loan defaults if students had access to a loan remission program?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the $10 million fund for student loan defaults was discussed during estimates so it was hardly news, but it is impossible for us to say, it is comparing apples and oranges to compare the previous situation to this because until now we did not have to fully absorb the cost of defaulted loans. We paid a premium to the bank. That situation no longer exists. We are dealing with a new situation, but I can say there always were loan defaults and I am sure there always will be.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is really reassuring for Nova Scotia students for the Minister of Education, rather than say she wants to see no more student loan defaults, to hear her say in this House so gleefully that there are going to be loan defaults for ever and ever as far as she is concerned. What a disgrace.

Mr. Speaker, the report of dedesignation that was discussed in this House not long ago contained several recommendations to the Minister of Education. One was to bring the banks back to the student loan program in which the province would have to guarantee every dollar that the banks lent. This is just what the minister has done for the banks. Will the minister tell the House when she plans to turn the Nova Scotia Student Loan Program over to the Royal Bank of Canada since they already seem to be the ones calling the shots in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the bank is lending the money to the students now. The province may have to pay up to $10 million in loan defaults. The member opposite perhaps fails to understand that in providing loan remission, plus paying a premium, the province is paying regardless. The taxpayer is paying. The issue is how we can make sure that all the programs are the highest quality so that we have the minimum number of defaults and that is what we are working on.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, she has had 600 days to work out a program and a solution and we have not heard a word from her yet. All we hear today is there will continue to be default of student loans under this minister. The Minister of Education is, once again, putting the interests of the big banks ahead of the interests of Nova Scotia students. While the minister said that she did not have any money for students under a loan remission program, she has suddenly been able to create a $10 million reserve fund for defaulted loans in her department. Will the Minister of Education commit to the House that she will introduce a new loan remission program this year in order to not only lessen the burden on students, but now on the Province of Nova Scotia as well?

[Page 1134]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite fails to understand that this government is interested in prudent financial management. It is also interested in helping students and there will be a new debt relief program for students within this mandate. It may or may not be in the form of loan remission.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

AMERICAS, SUMMIT OF: PROTESTORS - PREMIER SUPPORT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A question addressed to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, in Quebec City an international conference is about to get under way to discuss the establishment of a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. Thousands of Canadians, including an estimated 1,000 from the Maritimes, are travelling to Quebec City to speak up for their concerns, but they will be met by a 10 foot high concrete and steel fence and police in full riot gear, all designed to keep their concerns from being heard by the delegates to the conference. Does the Premier support this criminalization of legitimate dissent and debate? Will he speak up for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the democratic process?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the great things about Canada is that people have freedom of speech. People have freedom to demonstrate. On the other hand, if there is to be a meeting, then there has to be some way in which the meeting can occur and I believe that what you are seeing is a balance of people being able to demonstrate to make their views known and, as well, for those who are involved in the meetings to have their meeting.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is so imbalanced that lawyers in Quebec are going to court to try to get that fence taken down. The way forward is being led by our young people. This is the next generation, those for whom the leaders say they are working. But that generation of young people are profoundly cynical about agreements such as NAFTA, the FTAA and the GATTs. They want to make sure that our negotiators respect democracy above profits. But do you know what? The draft of the FTAA agreement is not available for public examination. Will the Premier release his copy so Canadians can see what is on the bargaining table?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I actually was discussing that issue this morning and was informed, and I assume correctly, that we still do not have a copy of the FTAA.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, that worries me even more now because there is no one standing up for Nova Scotians. One of the threats presented by agreements such as the FTAA and the GATT is to the continued independence of such essential public services as health and education. What steps is the Premier taking - apparently not many given that he hasn't taken the trouble to see the document - to make sure that health and education will not

[Page 1135]

become, in any way, areas of activity opened up to commercial competition through the FTAA or the GATTs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite has a legitimate concern for these issues, as we all do. We are all wanting to protect what is unique about Canada. However, it would be ridiculous for the member opposite to suggest that in any way, shape or form that this government can take a position on the FTAA before it sees the document.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD:

SCHOOLS - INSPECTIONS STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Would the minister please confirm with the House or explain to all members of the House as to why his department saw fit to inspect only 7 per cent of 152 schools that are being affected by this strike at the Halifax Regional School Board?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for his question. This is an arrangement that has been worked out between the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Labour through the Department of Health's medical officers. They requested us to conduct certain inspections and we carried out those inspections.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the minister is aware or not, but he is not a subservient agent of the Department of Health. He is the minister responsible for occupational health and safety in this province and he, as minister, has a responsibility to ensure the safety and the well-being of the students in those schools. So my question to the minister is, why isn't he showing the responsible leadership as a minister for his department on the issue of occupational health and safety and inspecting the other 142 schools in the Halifax Regional School Board?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again, I thank the honourable member for the chance to stand up here and concur. I am the minister responsible for occupational health and safety and, as such, I do have an obligation to the staff who work in the public school systems.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if this minister is in the real world. He has an obligation to all the students in these schools. He has an obligation to all the teachers, all the teachers' aides. He has an obligation to everybody in those schools, not just to a select group or to his staff. He has an obligation to make sure each and every one of those schools are safe. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, will he undertake to request his staff to do an inspection in each and every one of those schools during the course of this strike?

[Page 1136]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, actually, there were a couple of questions there. One was with regard to responsibility for the students, and the other was the number of inspections. Since he was concerned about responsibility for the students, I am going to pass that on to the Minister of Health, who is responsible in that area.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, public health is very concerned about the conditions in which students and staff work in schools, not only in metro Halifax but also in places like up in Cape Breton West. I can tell you that . . .

MR. MACKINNON: The strike is in Halifax District School Board, and that is where the concerns are. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about students up in Cape Breton West as well as those in Halifax. I want to tell you that if there is concern and we are contacted, we are prepared to go in with the Department of Environment and Labour inspectors and make such investigation as is deemed necessary.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - PICTOU CO. SCHOOL: ORIGINAL AGREEMENT - HONOUR

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The changes proposed by the Minister of Education in the specifications for the new school being built in Pictou County are underhanded and unfair. These changes were drawn up months ago, but only recently was the school board told. This is inexcusable. This lapse in communication happened because public knowledge of the new plan would ignite opposition. What little trust remains between the Department of Education and our school boards is being eroded by this government's political manipulation and spin-doctoring. My question is, will the Minister of Education instruct her department to honour the initial agreement and stick to the original specifications for the proposed new school in Pictou County?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, last year when we announced publicly that we were getting out of the P3 school business as soon as present contracts were completed, we also announced there would be new design standards that were not as rich as those that existed under the P3 regime. There is no need for our schools to be palaces; they are going to be good schools, with good equipment, and that remains the case. Our intentions to change the design standards were made public, and every school board was made aware.

[Page 1137]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, new schools should not be dysfunctional. People in the Pictou County area are concerned that this school, in fact, will be dysfunctional. There are a lot of people who are feeling deceived by this government. When the new school project was first proposed, there were many questions and objections, and it is fair to say that the board worked hard to come up with a plan that would address many of those objections. Now the minister and the department have pulled the rug out from under this school board. I want to know, how does this minister plan to regain the trust of the parents and the school board of Pictou County?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, any reasonable request by any school board for any school will be entertained, but it would seem to me that it is irresponsible to do as the member opposite suggests, and that is to regain the trust of school boards by simply handing over millions and tens of millions and perhaps billions of dollars that we don't have. We are constructing very good schools, schools that are infinitely better than the schools that the kids are in now, but we cannot continue to build more and more Horton Highs.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that school board entered into agreements with the former government in good faith, and to break that faith now destroys the trust with that school board and that is a shame. What the minister is proposing is substantial changes for this school. Smaller classrooms, smaller gymnasium, less technology, narrower hallways, no performance space - this list goes on. Why does this minister feel she can shortchange the students of Pictou County?

MISS PURVES: The member for Halifax Needham is well aware of the need for new and renovated schools in Nova Scotia. I repeat my previous answer. We do not need palaces in order to build excellent schools. We are determined that the worst of the old schools will be replaced as quickly as possible. In order to do that, we need a balanced approach to building schools and that is what we have.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - AULD'S COVE:

COAL DUST RUNOFF - INVESTIGATION CONFIRM

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. I have been advised that over the last several days and possibly weeks, coal and coal dust has been running into the rich lobster grounds of the Canso Strait as a result of Nova Scotia Power's coal stockpile activities along the rail line at Auld's Cove which is carried from the freshwater run-off from what they call Porcupine Mountain. My question to the minister is, can the minister confirm whether his department has visited this site to investigate these particular activities?

[Page 1138]

HON. DAVID MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for the question and I will endeavour to get an answer. I appreciate his bringing that up on the Legislature floor and I will get back to him.

MR. MACKINNON: That is a little disappointing that the minister would not even have some background on this particular issue since it has been quite active for nearly two years. In fact, I will table for the minister's benefit pictures that show the (Interruptions) no, these are actual photos, they are not aerial. I will send some over for the minister's benefit. These photos show quite clearly extensive run-off carrying the coal dust via the fresh water from the mountains, down Porcupine Mountain - into Canso Bay. I would ask the minister if he would confirm as to whether he will take immediate action based on the evidence that is brought before him today and ensure that either corrective measures will be forthcoming or this operation will be shut down immediately?

MR. MORSE: Again, I want to thank the member opposite. In fact, I am informed that this is not a new problem in this area and it predates this government. Unlike the former government, I will follow up on this and I will get back to the member.

MR. MACKINNON: First he said he did not know anything about it, now he is saying he will follow up on what another government did. So, which is it? The fact of the matter is, Brian Mulroney privatized the railroad, Donnie Cameron privatized Nova Scotia Power. Now we are forced to buy cheap, imported coal while this government sits quietly and turns its back to the unemployed coal miners and to the environment affecting the two members around the Canso area. My question is, when will the minister and this government stop putting money and big business ahead of the environment and the lobster fishery at the Strait of Canso?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for his question and what he is asking me about is setting government priorities. While I appreciate his question, I wonder if perhaps another minister would be the more appropriate one to answer.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

EDUC. - CB-VIC. REG. SCH. BD.: FUNDING - TEACHERS EFFECT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as if Cape Breton has not suffered enough under this current government, now they are faced with more cuts. This time the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is being faced with the prospect of cutting 60 to 80 school teachers. Cape Breton already suffers from high outward migration, high unemployment and now our schools are under attack, schools that educate our children and could potentially lead them into careers that would keep them in Cape Breton. I want to ask the Minister of

[Page 1139]

Education, what is she prepared to do to see that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board does not lose any teachers this year?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have told this House previously, the board and my department are in discussions about how the board can best deal with its budget. I feel I should remind the House that the board did receive an increase in funding this year.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, she also knows then that that increase was inadequate. How much more does this government expect Cape Bretoners to bear? Our greatest resource is our children and even they are now under attack by this heartless government. The school board needs more than $2 million just to maintain existing levels, just to maintain that. I want to ask the minister if she will guarantee that not one teacher in Cape Breton will lose their job as a result of her budget allocation to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons the department this year consulted so frequently with school boards was to make sure that the pressures they were facing were dealt with in some fashion. We have recognized those pressures. All school boards received an increase in funding and all school boards have told the department that they did not want their budgets mandated and micromanaged by the department.

MR. CORBETT: So I guess we will go on the record as no on that one. I will now move to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, because as he very well knows, Cape Breton has already lost the Cape Breton Development Corporation. They have lost Sysco and one of your famous quotes from Sysco, Mr. Premier, is you promised you would help steelworkers and their families and their families are their children in case you have not realized that. As we know, many young people are leaving Cape Breton. Hasn't Cape Breton suffered enough, Mr. Premier? So I want to ask you to intervene in the education cuts faced by Cape Bretoners and will you ensure that Cape Breton children receive a quality education and not allow their teachers to lose their jobs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite can be assured that this government will on a year-by-year basis improve the quality of education that is available in the public school system, but the government has to deal with a reality that the member failed to mention in that the number of students in Cape Breton-Victoria is dropping annually very precipitously and we simply cannot maintain a system that was generated and developed and created when there were many more students in the system down there. As the student population drops, then there has to be a reallocation of funds around the province based on the student population.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Page 1140]

FIN. - DEBT. (N.S.): PAYMENT PLAN - PREMIER CONFIRM

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier said earlier today in Question Period that the government would make payments on the debt once the government balanced the budget. My question to the Premier, will the Premier confirm that in fact this is their plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have placed a great deal of emphasis on the harm that the size of the debt of this province is creating for the people of Nova Scotia. One of the reasons for balancing the budget is to allow that very thing to happen that the member suggests by his question and that is the orderly repayment of the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Once we have the budget balanced, and once we have kept the commitments to the people of Nova Scotia that we articulated very clearly prior to the election in 1999, we will proceed with the orderly reduction of the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is clear by the statements by the Department of Finance that the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is growing each and every year to the year 2004-05, even though three of those years are years with surpluses that are projected by this government; in other words, projected surpluses and growing the debt. My question to the Premier is simple. As the Premier, why are you allowing the province to grow the debt when you, yourself, have promised repeatedly before, during, and after the election that the debt will not grow?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have introduced in this province the consolidated method of accounting, which has now been reported by many that we have the most accurate accounting of the affairs of this province compared with any other province or any other government in Canada. What that allows us to do, each year, is to look at the end result, the surplus or the deficit on any one year and you can therefore extrapolate the effect of the finances of the province that year on the debt. It is a very, very simple approach; it is very, very accurate. The people can understand it, and I believe with a little bit of concentration and time spent the member opposite will be able to understand it.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is clear. The Auditor General stated in this Chamber that government does not have a plan to deal with the debt or the deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia. So it becomes very evident, either this Premier can live with the fact that he has broken promises repeatedly stated in this House today, or he simply doesn't have a clue how the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is going to be dealt with . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It could be both.

MR. DOWNE: Or probably both.

[Page 1141]

Mr. Premier, with the projected surpluses and a growing debt, my question to you is quite simple. How are you going to allow the debt to continue to grow to the year 2005 without a plan to deal with it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the government will proceed on the very clear plan that it brought forward to the people of Nova Scotia. We said that this spring the deficit of the province would be $91 million and, sure enough, this year we brought in a budget that estimates the deficit will be $91 million. Next year there will be a surplus somewhat in the order of $8 million; that will be the first surplus that any government has been able to introduce in this province in over 30 years.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - NON-RESIDENT LANDOWNERSHIP:

MEETINGS - INPUT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the Voluntary Planning Board review of non-resident ownership of land in this province. I have received a copy of the meetings scheduled from April 30th to May 15th, and I would like to table that. I want to ask the minister responsible, did you have any input into the locations of these meetings?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly, the task force and the work that they are going to do is going to be very important to the people of Nova Scotia. We have asked Voluntary Planning to do that work because they have a tremendous amount of experience in consulting with Nova Scotians, and we are very pleased that they have agreed to do it. I can tell you that they have been kind enough to keep us informed with respect to their intentions and I have been able to make the odd suggestion to them without in any way interfering with what they are doing.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, from St. Margarets Bay through to the Head of Jeddore is some of the most sought-after coastal properties in this province, and the member for Eastern Shore will testify to that. Yet, there is not one single, solitary meeting scheduled to take place in a coastal community along that shore. The only meeting taking place for this vast coastal area is at the Nova Scotia Community College, Bell Road Campus, in the shadow of Citadel Hill. I am not aware of anyone buying up land around the Citadel to cut off access to this historic site, but I am aware of many residents who are concerned about losing access to their coastline. My question to the minister is, why have you not acted to ensure even a single meeting takes place in coastal communities such as Terence Bay, Seabright and Musquodoboit Harbour?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the last time I consulted a map of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Port of Halifax, I believe, was a coastal community. (Laughter)

[Page 1142]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this is not a laughing matter. Access to the coastline of Canada's ocean playground is a growing concern. The word is out, Nova Scotia's coastline is for sale, and this government is doing nothing about it. They are not listening to Nova Scotians, and they really don't care.

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 that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to spend a few minutes talking about a concern that is very important to people in my riding, and that is a concern about the vacuum that exists around the lack of social planning in any jurisdiction now - provincial, municipal or federal - that seems to have the responsibility for social planning that can play a leadership and a coordinating role with respect to social planning.

Essentially what has happened is there was a time when the municipality here in Halifax and in Dartmouth, before amalgamation, before the service exchange, when local government had a social planning department, these departments took and showed a lot of initiative for working with local residents associations and various groups and organizations to address the very serious, real and ongoing problems associated, particularly in an urban area, with a fair amount of growth and development and all of the issues that occur when you have fluctuation of population, a growing population, a fair amount of migration, in and out of an area. This now is an area of government responsibility that has been essentially sidelined, and I believe it is an area of responsibility that the provincial government needs to take more seriously in the role it has assumed as the provider of community services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1143]

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes at the outset to recognize some of the very important work that is being done in my constituency by residents and others who work very hard to improve the community and the quality of life in the community in spite of the obstacles they sometimes face and in spite of the policy vacuum that exists with respect to social planning.

[3:45 p.m.]

I am very privileged to represent a part of central and all of north end Halifax. In this constituency there are numerous residents associations that have come together to address various concerns and issues in their particular geographic area, for example the Novalea Concerned Citizens Association has been meeting now for approximately two years. They arose out of a concern about crime and the need to address the incidents of crime in that community; some common assaults, some vandalism that was going on, break and enter and just a lack of personal security, a sense of increased crime happening in the community and particularly crime that was aimed at either people who were older or people who were younger, incidents of swarming and bullying and theft.

This group has been quite successful in mobilizing the community into Neighbourhood Watch Associations and secured a federal justice grant, which they are using to develop a survey which they will administer in the area to determine what the perceptions of people are in the area with respect to crime and the kinds of things that people in the area would like to see done in relation to the enhancement of our community and in preventing crime. This work of course is very important work and it is done primarily by volunteers who have full-time jobs or part-time jobs and many family commitments and they do this work in what little spare time they can find. They are a very dedicated, fine group of people and they have been working under the leadership of Ann Dunnington, who is an outstanding example of civic citizenship and an active participant in the community, someone who knows her community very well and is committed to improving the circumstances of everyone who lives in that community.

There is another residents association, the Central Halifax Residents Association, and the number of people who are involved are numerous, probably too numerous to all name here. Some of the people have been involved in this association right from the outset probably a year, year and a half ago: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Downey, Sharon LaFramboise, Mrs. Cain and Anne Perry, as well as a couple of workers from the Metro Halifax Housing Authority, John Flemming and Natasha Jackson. On Saturday they will be organizing a public meeting at the Alexandra School in the north end of Halifax and at that time it will be an opportunity for people from the community, particularly from central Halifax, to come and really have a dialogue with the Chief of Police, the local municipal councillor, myself and some other people to talk about some of the concerns that residents in inner-city Halifax have with respect to crime, with respect to incidents of dog attacks in the area, with respect to concerns around personal security and property security and just the basic health and social development of the community.

[Page 1144]

Now I raise this here today because it is very much my view that the inner-city Halifax, to use as an example, requires a provincial government initiative that is specifically targeted on the issues that communities such as this part of HRM experiences.

This is a wonderful community. This is a community that often has a negative stereotypical kind of label placed on it because of some of the problems in the community. Nevertheless, it is a community. It is a strong community, a community of many fine people. Most people in this community are law-abiding citizens. Quite a few of the people in this community just happen to have low incomes and because of the availability of public and other social housing in this community, it tends to be a community where housing is affordable for people with low and marginal incomes.

For that reason, it is a community where a social planning approach would be very important, one in which government is instrumental. I question myself every day what exactly the Hamm Government has done or is doing for this community, and unfortunately the answer to that is not very much. I can look to what the federal government is doing with respect to this community and I can see the interjection of some federal monies with respect to housing and homelessness and I can look to the municipal government and I can see the commitment that has been made by HRM to policing and recreation. But really, when I look to the provincial government, I cannot find the same kind of commitment in terms of the things that are required in this community.

If you talked with residents in the community, the very first thing they will tell you that is required is a greater commitment by the provincial government to investment in education. There is a group that has been looking at developing an Africentric learning institute. I believe that such an institute would make a huge difference to our children and would really address many of the issues of inequality in the education system and the need to enhance and support and further the education of children from our community, specifically African-Nova Scotian learners.

I would urge this government to make a commitment and to allocate and earmark some of the greater funds that this government seems to be amassing through the kinds of incredible taxes and user fees that we are learning about as this budget process unfolds. My colleague, the MLA for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has calculated that approximately $115 million in new revenue into this government is being amassed, albeit in ways that are not the ways this Party would choose, through user fees and hidden taxes.

Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is, this government is amassing this incredible amount of money - $115 million - in additional revenue through tobacco taxes and new fines for traffic violations, additional user fees from not passing along the tax benefits to lower income people that would be the result of the federal tax reductions announced by Mr. Martin in his mini-budget. If some small portion of these monies were to be allocated for an institute such as the Africentric Learning Institute, this would go a long way, I believe, to addressing

[Page 1145]

the very important educational requirements of African-Nova Scotian communities, issues that they experience in the education system with respect to race relations, equity and affirmative action.

I also think, Mr. Speaker, the Hamm Government would be well advised to consider reversing its decision that those on social assistance are no longer able to get a university education. I say this because, in particular, women and single-parent mums are people for whom a university education will in fact allow them to have an employment income that approximates what men with a high school education make in Nova Scotia. This information comes to us via the report from the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I think we would be well served if this government would consider looking at establishing some seed money for community development corporations in communities such as Preston, North Dartmouth, Spryfield, and inner-city Halifax. These corporations could be incubators for small business and regeneration in these communities.

Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to rise and make a number of interventions going into Supply. First of all, one issue that is quite timely today, an issue that the government seems to be taking kind of a laid-back, let-somebody-else-handle-it approach, and that is obviously the strike that is occurring at the Halifax Regional School Board with the employees who have been on the picket lines for several weeks now.

What I find - particularly after Question Period today, Mr. Speaker - rather disappointing, if not disturbing, is the fact that the Minister of Environment and Labour does not seem to think that this issue of occupational health and safety for our children in the school is really an issue that comes under his purview, or within his jurisdiction to which he has the ministerial responsibility by legislation. What does he do during Question Period? He passes it off to the Minister of Health who, on an earlier question seemed to indicate that he was somewhat of a subservient agent to what appears to be a senior minister in this particular government.

That is quite disappointing, Mr. Speaker, and what is even more disappointing is the fact that the Minister of Education seems to be taking a hands-off approach to this entire issue as well. So what we have here is a government in many respects abdicating its responsibility by its silence. I am starting to come to the conclusion that the Minister of Environment and Labour really doesn't know what is going on in his department. He doesn't know his issues. He is not well briefed, and if he is being briefed then somebody is not getting the message through to the serious issues that are his responsibility. As recently as today we received calls in our office, children complaining that they refuse to use their washroom facilities at the respective schools because of the unsanitary nature of these particular facilities.

[Page 1146]

Mr. Speaker, why is the Minister of Health and the Minister of Environment and Labour taking such a nonchalant, kind of a lackadaisical approach to this very serious issue? I am quite disappointed with that, but it doesn't surprise me given the fact that the Minister of Environment and Labour, I would conjecture, has not even taken the time to visit any of these schools that have not been inspected, or in fact even those that have been inspected. It would certainly be an issue and an opportunity for the Minister of Environment and Labour to be sensitized to really what is happening there.

Even more disturbing, Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, is the way that the school board is treating the employees. In Opposition debate last Wednesday we raised what I felt was one of the focal points, or the sore spots, within the Halifax Regional School Board coupled with the fact that the recent news media reports, as late as this morning, indicating that elected officials would be quite pleased to get back on track with the staff and the senior administration and be provided the information that would allow them to make the conclusion as to what schools they should support on the closure issue or, in fact, Mr. Speaker, I would conjecture, as well, that perhaps what is happening here is that the Halifax elected officials are not fully briefed. I believe that is by design. They are not fully briefed because senior administrative staff are keeping vital components of information from these elected officials to be able to come to a conclusion as to what labour/management relations are all about.

[4:00 p.m.]

Also, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Labour, at no point in time, has given us an update as to what is happening through his conciliation services. What is happening in terms of conciliation, mediation or binding arbitration or whatever have you? This is a very serious issue. This is the largest school board in the Province of Nova Scotia and what is the Minister of Labour doing? He is saying, well, because it affects children I am going to turn that over to the Minister of Health. Well, is the Minister of Labour saying that he is not responsible for children in this province? Well, I would say that is very disappointing, but not surprising coming from this minister who still kind of has not taken his head out of the clouds about the fact that he is sitting at the Executive Council level.

Mr. Speaker, there is more to it than just sitting at the table and being a partner. You have to be a real active agent on behalf of your department. This minister seems to have failed. He has failed with occupational health and safety because what do we have now with the occupational health and safety officers of this province? They cannot even go out and do their job for fear of ministerial interference or that somebody at the ministerial or the deputy ministerial level is going to come and cut the ankles from under them. That is what is happening. If you were to talk to any of the inspectors within the Department of Labour today, they would have great apprehension on going out and doing their job without fear of political interference. That is one division within the Department of Labour and Environment.

[Page 1147]

Another department is within the fire marshal's service. The Minister of Labour and Environment stood in this House last week and placed a resolution before the House, asking for the approbation of the House, to set up a select committee to travel the province on a dog and pony show, on a piece of legislation that has already gone through a two and one-half year venting process, Mr. Speaker. Why would the Minister of Labour even come to the slightest of simple conclusions that that would be necessary? Why delay it for another one to two years? What is the driving force? I know, from experience in sitting in that particular office, that there was a lot of pressure put by certain business interests to politicize the Fire Marshal's Office. What does the Minister of Labour and Environment do? Of course, he capitulates and that is very disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, in the next day or so, I will even demonstrate to this House that that political interference has even extended into the public safety division of his department. That is very disappointing again. Politics has now become the order of the day. We will table evidence in the next day or so that will show that inspectors from the Public Safety Division within the Department of Environment and Labour are now fearful of going out and doing their jobs because of political interference. Let's be a little fair-minded for the existing Minister of Environment and Labour, because his seatmate, the previous Minister of Environment and Labour, did a lot to undermine all the progress that was made post-Westray. He did a lot.

I will draw your attention to the Stationary Engineers Act that was approved by this House last fall. There was a motive, because all you have to do is follow the track record of this government and this ministry and we will find that this particular department will be so politicized that people will be injured, they will be maimed and, yes, they will be killed on the job site. They will be given very minimal, if any, protection.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is so disturbing about what is happening over at the Department of Environment and Labour. Maybe in some ways this junior minister doesn't really know what is going on. There are a lot of seasoned individuals, both within and outside that department, particularly over at P & P and in the Cabinet level of this government, as we would refer to as old war horses. They know how to turn the system around to their own advantage. I know that would be quite concerning for a new member in the House.

Mr. Speaker, a very honourable member like yourself would find that quite disturbing. (Interruptions) Absolutely, a good Speaker, and he would find it absolutely unsettling to see what is happening at Amherst Fabricators, the politicization within the Department of Environment and Labour on that particular issue. I know you wouldn't agree to compromising the occupational health and safety laws of this province.

What do we get from the Minister of Environment and Labour? Well I don't know; no, that is not my responsibility; no, it involves children, I am going to give that to the Minister of Health; no, I don't know anything about it, but I think somebody else might have had

[Page 1148]

something to do with it. That is the type of babble we get from the Minister of Environment and Labour. We wouldn't expect much more because he was so wrapped up in trying to cover up that secret deal that took place down in Kings County with the landfill. I wonder if he would extend the same benefits and good will from the Department of Environment and Labour, and the Department of Health to other municipal landfills, other municipalities, as he did for his own constituency.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Labour says the particular solicitor who is handling that particular file is not from my constituency. Well, he would be now because the Minister of Environment and Labour moved from his constituency into another constituency. Now, perhaps what we will have are two Tory members running against each other in the next provincial election. We will have a showdown. He is really confused, I know, but that doesn't surprise me. There was a movie at the local theatres called Dazed and Confused. I would implore this minister go and watch it.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is happening in the Department of Environment and Labour. The minister appears to be in a daze and he is totally confused every time you ask him a question. Who are the political elements that are politicizing the Department of Environment and Labour? The Minister of Environment and Labour was quite cautious in his two hour dissertation at the opening and closing of his budget to explain why they combined the Public Safety Division and the Fire Marshal's Office in the Department of Environment and Labour. Well, that sounds pretty neat. We are going to rationalize, we are going to become more efficient, but what was the underlying factor?

I would invite the Minister of Environment and Labour to stand in his place today and say there was an underlying reason that is not before the people of Nova Scotia yet, that there was an attempt to cover up political interference in the Public Safety Division, that division of the Department of Labour, and the evidence will be forthcoming. It is very disappointing because maybe the minister doesn't have that in his briefing booklet; he didn't have anything on the coal issue in Port Hawkesbury today despite the fact that that operation has been there for nearly two years. He will take a rather light-hearted, flippant, psychological, glasses-off-the-end-of-your-nose approach like Dr. Spook.

This is serious business, this is the health and safety of the people of Nova Scotia and he is not doing anything. Mr. Speaker, this is shameful. He is doing nothing for the students and the parents and the teachers of the Halifax Regional School Board. He is doing nothing within his own department, in Public Safety, Occupational Health and Safety, the Fire Marshal's Office. What is he doing over there? Maybe he is spending most of his time down on the fifth floor where the Department of Environment used to be. What has he done there? He has taxed people who would like to put a septic system in; he has taxed people who would like to dig a well. If that is the best he can offer, please stay home. That's all I can ask.

[Page 1149]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate and welcome the opportunity to say a few words going into Supply today. If I may, I would like to recall some of the events that transpired on Thursday, April 12th, relative to the train derailment in Stewiacke. I would also like to speak about the incredible caring nature of the Stewiacke community, and of course the surrounding area. Immediately following the derailment a number of emergency response teams, be they RCMP, volunteer fire services, ambulances, et cetera - I guess I should mention our own emergency measures team from the province - responded very quickly, and it was really, in the face of a disaster, comforting to know that. In Nova Scotia as a province I believe we have a lot of volunteers and, this being volunteer week, I don't think any other example would be any more appropriate than that derailment of VIA train, The Ocean, that was involved in the tragedy in the Town of Stewiacke.

My first reaction upon the viewing the derailment was, as I indicated earlier, my gosh it is a modern-day miracle. The reason I feel that is because there were no lives taken. I have talked to my colleague from Sackville-Beaver Bank who indicated that he has a friend who was seriously injured in that train derailment, and we certainly want to extend our very best wishes to - if I might indicate the gentleman's name - Mr. Fougere and his family because he did get quite severely injured. We can't lose sight of the fact that there were a large number of passengers who were injured. Also, it would be safe to say the 123 passengers and crew on the VIA Rail's The Ocean were severely shaken up.

I also had an opportunity to speak to my daughter's father-in-law, who is a retired VIA Rail chef, and he had an opportunity to visit some of the patients who are currently at the Halifax QE II and from his discussions with the patients, they are very thankful to be alive, but they are especially thankful and grateful to the volunteers that so quickly replied and responded to that very serious accident that happened last Thursday on April 12th.

[4:15 p.m.]

I also would like to, on behalf of the residents in Stewiacke, say thank you to the 52 members of the Nova Scotia Legislature that have offered their support and kind comments about the volunteers that provided such valiant and swift efforts and, again, I was very pleased to observe the RCMP, the Emergency Health Services, the Stewiacke and District Volunteer Fire Departments. I believe there were nine other volunteer fire departments from neighbouring detachments, the Red Cross, community police, health staff, local officials and on and on it went (Interruptions) And Community Services, absolutely.

[Page 1150]

It was pointed out to me early on Thursday, in the aftermath of the crash, that Stewiacke youth responded very quickly and they offered to provide whatever service and assistance that they could to help the people out. In the Town of Stewiacke, it should be pointed out that we do have a very active junior fire brigade that works very closely with Chief Ronnie Colpitts and the Stewiacke Fire Service. Also in Stewiacke and area, there is a very active 4-H Club. In the Dennis Park itself, there are opportunities for young people to go skateboarding, participate in various types of sport, be it soccer, ball hockey and also, besides those activities in the Town of Stewiacke, I think it is worth mentioning that there is also a very fine - and I am told, skilled - karate club that meets quite frequently.

I guess I would like to say where sometimes one or two youth in any given community can unfortunately paint all youth by the same brush if those one or two participate in some undesirable activity, the vast majority of youth, not just in Stewiacke but in all Nova Scotia communities, are very fine, law-abiding, upstanding citizens and we should never lose sight of that. We should never, never lose sight of that.

As the crash has been cleaned up and cleared up, we are very grateful to our volunteers. I have a little note here that indicates, the headline is, and actually comes out of it, I hope I do not have to table it, this is the only copy I have, but I will just refer to it, I will not read from it extensively. The document is called Church Chat and this little community publication is produced by the Middleton-Musquodoboit Valley United Church and one paragraph in the publication says: Volunteers, we can't live without them; Canadian volunteers contribute $16 billion - yes, not million - annually to the Canadian economy or 8 per cent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product.

I think it is very important that we do recognize our volunteers in this, our Volunteer Week. (Applause) Yes, thanks for our volunteers. Volunteers contribute 1.1 billion hours of their time yearly. That is the equivalent of 578,000 jobs. Canadian youth between the ages - this survey apparently was carried out and it is authentic - of 15 and 24 are more likely to volunteer than any others. So, I think it is important that we do recognize our youth in this Volunteer Week. Also, I would like to commend the youth that so readily and quickly volunteered to help with the Stewiacke accident that happened on Thursday.

I do have, and I know you cannot use props, but with your approbation I do have a couple of pictures I will pass along to my colleagues if they want to perhaps have a look; perhaps even you, Mr. Speaker, would like to have a look at that picture of the train that went through the feed store in Stewiacke, but I know I should not use props or things of that nature. (Interruptions) Yes, on occasion it has been done in the past.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for not using those. Maybe the honourable member would allow the Page though to take a copy of that publication that you had for the record. It would be great to have that on the record anyway.

[Page 1151]

MR. TAYLOR: I would be very obliged to comply with your request. Also, Mr. Speaker, just shifting gears now slightly, I would like to speak about the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is made up of 63 communities, including the Town of Stewiacke. I want to point out how important our resource-based industries are to Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: forestry, agriculture and mining.

Forestry continues to be the cornerstone of our provincial economy, not just in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, but as far as I am concerned it is the cornerstone of our provincial Nova Scotia economy. It employs between 21,000 and 22,000 Nova Scotians and is worth $1.4 billion. We know that the industry is under serious threat due to the expiry of the Maritime Accord, along with the Canada-United States Softwood Lumber Agreement, and I understand that the softwood lumber agreement may not be as glitzy and glamorous as some other topics, but it is very important to the Province of Nova Scotia. I was very pleased that back on March 28th of this year, the Nova Scotia Legislature unanimously supported a resolution that I was honoured to submit:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature, this House, urge the Government of Canada in its negotiations with the United States, to ensure that the current exemption from trade restrictions and trade actions for Atlantic Canada lumber be extended and protected beyond the April 1, 2001 date."

Again, I would like to thank all honourable members for supporting the resolution. I do know that the Atlantic Canada Premiers have been strongly advocating and supporting the continuation of the agreement and with eight sawmills in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - and I use that Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley as an example, Mr. Speaker - you could appreciate how important the softwood lumber agreement would be to businesses like Sproule Lumber; J.D. Irving Lumber, just outside of Truro in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley; Blaikie Lumber in Upper Stewiacke; Brookfield Lumber Co. Ltd. in Brookfield, Colchester County; Julimar Lumber Co. Ltd. in Brookfield, Colchester County; Ledwidge Lumber Co. Ltd. in Enfield, in the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley; MacTara in Upper Musquodoboit; Taylor Lumber Ltd. in the beautiful community of Middle Musquodoboit, the community that I reside in and my family. (Interruption) My family and I is more appropriate English, I am told by my colleague, the honourable member for Eastern Shore.

I know my colleague, the member for Eastern Shore, a councillor at one time, Councillor William Dooks, used to represent the Musquodoboit Valley and he was very conscious of the farming community and the forestry industry that is so important and so valuable to my constituency. I encouraged my honourable colleague and suggested to those appropriate that, where he was such a fine representative and continues to be such a fine representative, that probably he should venture into provincial politics and he did. I think he deserves a round of applause. (Applause) He has done a great job, yes.

[Page 1152]

Councillor Dooks used to hold town hall meetings throughout the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley and down through the Eastern Shore. (Interruption) Yes, I used to give it to him when I got an opportunity to go to a meeting but, no, actually we had a good working relationship. Bill is working very hard in representing the folks in Eastern Shore, but back to the softwood lumber agreement, it is without question an important undertaking that we have again recognized and appreciated and supported by the United States of America. I know my colleague, the honourable member for Queens, spoke going into Supply, or maybe it was during late debate about how important the softwood lumber agreement is to the constituency of Queens.

Although I don't have the text of Mr. Morash's speech, I want to tell all honourable members, if you have an opportunity, go back and look in Hansard and get a copy of what the honourable member for Queens had to say about the softwood lumber agreement. He is certainly much more well versed on the topic than I am. But we do have to remember that 21,000 to 22,000 Nova Scotians work directly in the forestry industry. If we don't have the softwood lumber agreement, then we would be in very big trouble.

One fact that we hope the United States will continue to recognize is that, in Nova Scotia at least, the vast majority of our geography is owned by the private sector. I think it is something like 73 per cent to 75 per cent. I stand to be corrected and probably my honourable colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, knows the figures more accurately than I do, but I think it is something like a 75 per cent to 25 per cent split. It is extremely important to Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and important to Nova Scotia that we do recognize that forestry continues to be the cornerstone of the provincial economy.

Let's talk a little bit about the farming industry in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Mr. Speaker, did you know that Colchester County has the most dairy farms in the whole province? Yes, another plus for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Most of those cows, although we have a number of Guernseys and Jerseys and Ayrshires, the majority of cattle, the best milkers so to speak, are Holstein and the Holstein breed. Yes, my honourable colleague, the member for Pictou West, has heard that too. However, the Jersey breed of cattle does provide quality milk . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion is carried.

[4:27 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. David Wilson in the Chair.]

[Page 1153]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject of tonight's late show was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth East who wishes to debate the following:

"Therefore be it resolved that contrary to election promises the government continues to raise taxes and user fees."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - TAXES/USER FEES: RISE -

ELECTION PROMISES CONTRAVENTION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to enter the debate, the so-called late debate this evening, for a few minutes to give our concerns and comments with regard to this resolution by the honourable member for Dartmouth East. The promise this government makes that they are not going to increase taxes, they are not going to increase costs to Nova Scotians, is false. The reality is very clear in this resolution, that the government's promises, really what they do promise is to continue raising taxes and user fees in Nova Scotia.

I am here today to talk about this government's mismanagement. This is a theme that we have heard time and time again. It is familiar to most Nova Scotians. We have been hearing it for a long time, probably as long as there have been governments in this province. But today in Nova Scotia the mantra is particularly important. Nova Scotia is at a fiscal crossroad: on one side of that crossroad we have an opportunity, that fork of the road for a path of prosperity and life as a have province; on the other side, we have the opportunity to go back to the Buchanan era of government when we had repeated 25 per cent deficits and no more idea how to balance a budget than how to build a highway.

Last month, the Hamm Government tabled its second full budget and in that budget it presented an opportunity for this province to send itself in the right direction. The economy has been good and we have all applauded the industries and the federal government for many of the initiatives that have gone on so that this province is in better shape. The economy has been good and we acknowledge that. The federal government has transferred over $0.5 billion dollars to this province over the last number of years in additional revenue. In fact, this province received last year $249 million of additional revenue, a windfall revenue that the province did not really anticipate receiving.

[Page 1154]

I might point out, Mr. Speaker, that the bulk of that, about $150 million of that, came from the federal Liberal Government in Ottawa. So when the Minister of Finance and the Premier stand up and say we still will have an operating deficit in the year going forward, we have said why. You have had a windfall profit. You have had an opportunity to balance your budget and you refused to do so. Instead, they prolonged that decision to go forward in a strategic way and, in fact, we are saying - as well as other organizations have said, and we have said this probably starting two and one-half months ago - that this province could be able to balance the budget. Not only could they have balanced the budget, but they could have also added to strategic investments in health and education and still been able to balance the budget. But this government, without a plan, in fact, decided not to.

People ask, what are budgets all about. Budgets are all about choices, a series of choices by governments, a series of priorities. A government exists to make those choices on behalf of the people they represent. That is why we get elected. The LeBlanc budget chose not to continue the direction that they originally said they were going to take, but instead to continue with the deficits and continue with growing the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. This government is projecting to grow the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia each and every year they are in power to the year 2005. The reason I can't go any higher than that is because this government doesn't give any projections beyond 2005. Even with repeated surpluses by their new accounting procedure, they are still showing the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia continuing to grow.

We have all seen, in the last 12 months, the amount of debt that this province can ramp up. For example, this minister said you can only declare the budget year that I really had full year control of. Okay, the last fiscal year, Minister LeBlanc in his mismanaged ability, has said that was his year. Well, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, during that tenure, increased by $1.3 billion. That is a lot of money. That is an average $3.5 million a day that the debt grew in the Province of Nova Scotia. During that time, this same minister received $249 million of new revenue, over and above what they had projected for the Province of Nova Scotia. With that windfall profit they still have a $91 million operating deficit, and the debt grew by $3.5 million a day, 365 days of the year to the tune of $1.3 billion.

This government is out of control. The Auditor General said so. A lot of people glaze over when you talk to them about debt and deficit and finances in general, and I can understand that. The effects are very real to the people of this province and to the opportunities of this province. I will give you an example. The $1.3 billion in the last fiscal year that the Minister of Finance, Neil LeBlanc and Premier Hamm grew the debt, that will cost Nova Scotia's taxpayers about $70 million to service that particular growth. Out of that poor mismanagement or poor management this government has shown, that $70 million could have hired approximately 700 teachers, 800 nurses and still paved 20 kilometres of highway in this province.

[Page 1155]

Instead, the Tories promised they would do something about the debt and the deficit; they didn't. In fact, the debt has continued to grow. We heard today, the Premier said - he is confused, obviously, he didn't understand the question even though it was posed to him three different ways, he still didn't understand that the debt and net debt of the province is growing. The debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is growing, and he was surprised at that. He promised, repeatedly, to the public of Nova Scotia, he promised during a PC annual meeting that the debt will not grow; he promised the Chamber of Commerce in Halifax, that the debt will not grow; he promised in the election, he will not grow the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Clearly, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia not only grew the first year and the second year, but it will grow each and every year they are in power to the year 2005.

It is clear that this province and this Minister of Finance and this Premier do not have a plan. I asked him and challenged him today, do you have plan for reducing the debt? Do you have a plan for debt reduction? It is clear they don't have a plan for reduction. The Premier is saying, well, when we balance the budget, we will start paying down the debt. Well, they are going to balance the budget next year. In fact, they are projecting three surpluses to the year 2005, and the debt will still grow. They don't have a plan.

I challenged the Minister of Finance to come forward with a plan. They will not do that. But they do have a plan of some sort, and that is the ability of this government to hide their taxing powers and their taxing of Nova Scotians in the way they have approached this budgetary process. I will give you an example. We have been saying, for over a year, that bracket creep, the lack of indexation in that, will mean that this government will be receiving millions of dollars a year, taking money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. A year ago I brought this issue forward; a year ago I was interviewed on the fact that this government, by decoupling from the federal tax and by taking away and not flowing through the federal reduction and by bracket creep, they are taking millions and millions out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

It goes on, because user fees are now a major part of that process. We are saying that user fees are in the tens of millions of dollars, and we will quantify some of those numbers a little later. The reality is this province is receiving tens of millions of dollars every year by the fact that they are taxing Nova Scotians unfairly. The Auditor General says any time you are charging a fee over and above its cost, it means that you are taxing. The Minister of Justice disagreed with the Auditor General. Well, I happen to believe that what the Auditor General is saying is true, that they are, in effect, taxing Nova Scotians. This government is doing all in its power to be able to do one thing, and that is increase the tax revenue to the province from Nova Scotians to the tune of 10 per cent so when they give their tax reduction in the year 2003-04, they are only giving back part of what they took out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

That is what we are going to see, and we are going to expose that over the next number of months and over the next year, this government's inability to manage. Their only ability to manage is to do one thing and that is to tax and secretly claw out of the pockets of Nova

[Page 1156]

Scotians the hard-earned pennies and nickels and dimes that Nova Scotians work so hard at trying to acquire. Only for one thing, so they can sit around and say, look at us, we are giving you back the money we stole from you, aren't we good people? Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Outside, earlier today, my friend, the member for Lunenburg West, who put forward this resolution, and myself were having a good conversation about this very point, which is exactly what this government is doing to the people of Nova Scotia. Are they pulling the wool over the eyes of Nova Scotians? That we can agree on, and I agree with this resolution, I think it is a very good resolution and it clearly identifies what I think goes to the heart of the deception that this Tory Government is playing on the people of Nova Scotia.

They have tried over the past almost two years now, they have talked about how good they were at saving money, how they were so frugal with regard - and it was tough, but it was those tough times that would pay off in the end because we are going to give you a tax cut. That was their promise.

They have talked about, we are going to cut costs, we are going to cut the fat out of the system. While at the same time they were going to make sure that Nova Scotians were going to get their money's worth and in the end they will even get that tax cut. That is what they have tried to tell Nova Scotians. But it is a deception, it is wrong and I think it is important that now we begin to tell Nova Scotians what exactly is happening. There are several pieces of that deception that I want to clarify and I think the member for Lunenburg West has also talked about.

One of them - I don't think I had a chance to table this during Question Period the other day, so I will table a copy of it - talks specifically about what we talked about and that was the $94 million in new taxes that this government has imposed on Nova Scotians. The Premier today in my question to him said, well, these are user fees and how can you call all this a tax. Well, the fact is, the Supreme Court of Canada has said a user fee is money that is basically just a cost recovery for a program. So, if a program cost $1 million or $10 million, the user fee will match that cost, no more, no less. The problem is when we talk about fines for speeding the government can't even tell us how much money they are going to bring in. It is clearly more than they are actually going to be spending on programs related to motor vehicle education.

When we talk about $20 million in new tobacco taxes, the government is only going to spend $5.7 million with regard to actual increases in smoking cessation programs. The other $15 million, they can't tell us where they are going to spend it. These are clearly taxes, and the Premier can continue to try to click his heels together and claim that this is not a tax, but this government, as of last Thursday, we counted $94 million in new taxes. As of today, it is actually up closer to $115 million in new taxes. I would suggest to you over the coming days

[Page 1157]

and months and years we will continue to see that number increase. Let's be clear, that is on an annual basis, as of today we know of $115 million in new taxes that this government is imposing on Nova Scotians. Next year it will be more and the year after that even more.

That is the first part of that deception. They are trying to tell Nova Scotians that they have been very good, they are very wise at controlling spending and that they will not increase taxes. He said that, the Premier said it himself during the 1999 election. The problem is the facts are different. They have increased taxes over $100 million per year and Nova Scotians will soon begin to hear a lot more about exactly what this government is doing with regard to the taxes in this province. Let's be clear, that is money coming out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. When the province doesn't increase its basic personal exemption in the tax system when the federal government increases theirs, that means that people, particularly at the low end of the income scale, are paying taxes when they don't have to. That is a problem. We are asking people to keep digging into their pockets for this government. I would suggest that eventually the people of Nova Scotia are not going to be duped anymore. They are going to say, this is wrong, this is not the right way and our government must be doing something different.

[6:15 p.m.]

The second side of this equation is that they claim that they are actually being very frugal with regard to spending. You know, there are two sides to that as well. Let's look at some of the waste this government spent that extra $115 million a year on: $3 million for a PR agency to help sell a botched Sysco deal; $500,000 for a consultant they claimed they would never hire in order to deal with some clinical footprint; and $37,000 on coffee in the Department of Education. The list goes on and on. In the Supply debate we have been able to identify some of them and there are probably just as many, or more.

It is like the old saying: if you can see one cockroach when you turn the light on there are probably 1,000 more under the fridge. For every wasteful spending we have caught this government doing, I'm sure there are many more that we are not going to be able to ferret out. So there is a lot of money that this government is wasting on things that are not helping Nova Scotians. They are paying money to consultants; they are paying money to PR agencies; and they are paying money for coffee.

The problem is the things that Nova Scotians want money spent on - reducing waiting lists so elective surgeries don't have to be cancelled at the last minute; food for cancer patients; and paper for their schools - these are the things that Nova Scotians, when they pay their taxes they want to know that their taxes are going to go to ensure that their children have an opportunity to get a decent education, have the equipment and the facilities there that they need. They want to know that the health care system will be there to protect them and their loved ones when they need it. The problem is that this government isn't spending money on those things. It has raised an extra $115 million in taxes per year and that money has not gone

[Page 1158]

to ensure and protect our health care system; it has not gone to ensure and protect the health and safety of our children in buildings that are crumbling around them. That money has gone to friends and cronies of the government so that they have consultants fees and PR jobs, and that is a shame.

This government has been wasteful with regard to its spending and it has been wasteful with regard to how it has collected taxes. It has deceived Nova Scotians with regard to how it is collecting taxes and how much, and that has all resulted in a government that has revenue generation out of control, wasteful spending out of control, and the only spending that this government has been able to control, has been able to put a tight rein on is the spending that Nova Scotians desperately want them to spend more on: the health and safety of their children; safe schools; a health care system that works for them; and knowing that if they are going to need a doctor, if it is two o'clock in the morning on a Saturday, they know they can call a doctor to get some help.

Instead this government is wasting that money in areas that aren't helping Nova Scotians. They're collecting taxes in a deceptive way, and in the end Nova Scotians are paying the price with a health care system that's collapsing and with an education system that they can't trust any more. These are problems this government is not willing to address and that is a shame. You know, they talk about, well we're doing this, and you hear the Premier say these are tough choices, you've got to have a spine because in the long run Nova Scotians will be better off. Well, Nova Scotians could buy that, Nova Scotians would accept that as a truth if they knew that these tough spending decisions, with regard to essential services, weren't being compared with wasteful spending on consultants and PR and coffee, if they weren't being compared with out-of-control revenue generating from user fees and taxes.

The problem is that the people of Nova Scotia aren't going to believe this any more because they know this government is not being tough with regard to the things that they should be tough with: wasteful spending; and increasing taxes behind Nova Scotian's backs.

Only when this government begins to show that it is truly not willing to increase taxes, particularly on low- and middle-income Nova Scotians, only when they announce and explain how they are going to stop the wasteful spending in areas that Nova Scotians have no care about, like PR firms and coffee for friends, when they can say they are going to address those things and that money can go into things that will truly help all Nova Scotians to make this province better - not only for today but for tomorrow and next year and a decade from now - will Nova Scotians believe that this province and this government has a plan that in the long run will make us all better off. But they don't see that, all they see is a government that is deceiving them with regard to the taxes that they've increased, is deceiving them with regard to the wasteful spending in different departments, and at the same time tells them they have to be tough. They have to weather the storm with regard to essential services.

[Page 1159]

The people will no longer believe this, Mr. Speaker. They are beginning to see that this government is not doing its job. It is not doing what it promised to do in 1999 and, over the next two years, I think they will continue to see that and, basically, the people are going to start to say, the emperor has no clothes. This government is what they said they were and it is about time we did something about it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, this resolution put forward by the Liberal Party is similar to one that they put forward on April 5th and I responded to it at that time. I am tempted to repeat what I said at that time. I had just finished the book, The Savage Years - The Perils of Reinventing Government in Nova Scotia, written by four academics, three from St. Francis Xavier University and one from Acadia.

As I noted at the time, the book is unevenly written, but it is quite fascinating, nonetheless. The Savage Government, according to the book, was a reformist government, which was overwhelmed by the financial crisis which the province faced at that time. Their response to that crisis, along with other policy initiatives, resulted in Savage's resignation and the subsequent election of Russell MacLellan as the Premier, Leader of the Liberal Party, who undid many of the cost-cutting measures, according to this book, at least, initiatives of the Savage Government in an attempt, according to this book, to appease Liberal Party faithful and to get re-elected, something which they failed to do, obviously.

What is interesting in reading through this book, as I noted at that time is that there are two very important conclusions that come out of it; two lessons - if anyone can take lessons from the Savage years, a very interesting period in Nova Scotia political history - and they are, number one, you have to have a plan and, number two, you have to stick to that plan. The present government, Mr. Speaker, has a plan and the present government, as I noted back on April 5th, is sticking to it. The plan is clearly articulated in the blue book and it has been stated and restated in this House, time and time again, the plan is to bring down the deficit, have a balanced budget next year and to provide roughly $130 million worth of tax cuts in the year 2003.

However, rather than repeating myself, I want to deal with a more substantive issue behind this resolution. I am being charitable at this point because late debate, Mr. Speaker, is an opportunity, in my opinion, to debate issues of wide-ranging importance in a relatively non-partisan fashion. This is not, in my opinion, a substantive resolution, but it is more of a partisan resolution whose motive, as I read it, is simply to try and trick and to embarrass the government. It is disappointing for me that this opportunity to debate issues of substantive importance is not used as fully as it could be. I think citizens across, not only this province, but citizens across Canada, if the papers are any indication, are calling for reformation of the political process. Particularly this is true on the federal level. We have seen a lot of this going

[Page 1160]

on federally. They are calling for statesmanship rather than partisanship, for representation rather than rhetoric.

So this resolution, designed to embarrass the government rather than to bring forward issues of importance, is rather disappointing. Unless, of course, Mr. Speaker, this resolution is part of what is becoming, it seems, a Liberal plan to disassociate themselves from the co-operation they had with the Official Opposition, the NDP last year in the last budget and to disassociate themselves from the MacLellan Government and try to paint themselves as the fiscally frugal Party after their record and that, of course, will be very difficult for Nova Scotians to believe.

What is clear though and what has been interesting about this present session of the House is that the Official Opposition, the New Democratic Party, criticized the government for not spending enough and the Liberal Party, the Third Party, criticized the government for spending too much. That is a very interesting position in which to find ourselves. As an historic Tory who is sort of convinced that the labels of left and right don't really capture the Tory history that I come out of, this is not a terribly uncomfortable position in which to find oneself. I speak personally of that stage. But it is also a position that if anyone wants to study Canadian political history, which will result in a very long-term electoral success for this present government.

Let me turn now to the more substantive issue that I think is behind this resolution, even though it is phrased in rather frivolous language, in my opinion. The Honourable Bob Rae, as I mentioned back then on April 5th, noted - and I think a very astute observation that is worth repeating time and time again - that Canadians want American-style taxes and Scandinavian-style programs and the result is Canadian-style debt. It is this debt which provinces across Canada and which the federal government have had to deal with and they have taken various tacks and approaches to deal with it; unfortunately, we are one of the last provinces that is dealing with this and that is unfortunate, that we are so late on in having to deal with this.

This is the real issue that this government is facing, this is the real issue behind this resolution in a sense. How does one deal with this debt that is not unique to Nova Scotia but which we have to deal with? Is the government on track in dealing with the financial problems of the province? Mr. Speaker, I could get up here and I could say, yes, of course they are, and the Opposition would get up and say of course they are not.

I think it is probably better to turn to a reputable newspaper, The Globe and Mail, for third party endorsement that this present government is on track in dealing with this problem. I turn to Saturday's Report on Business, a semi-annual report put out by The Globe and Mail. In this Report on Business, if you will remember, Mr. Speaker, after our budget last year in the Report on Business, the Province of Nova Scotia ranked ninth out of the provinces. In this present Report on Business we rank sixth. We have jumped from ninth to sixth place.

[Page 1161]

This report is based on five factors, total employment - and I am happy to table this, Mr. Speaker - because . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a brief question? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Kings North, reply first of all, please.

MR. PARENT: No, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just have a few minutes left.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member is misleading the House. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Let's just remind . . .

MR. MACKINNON: The point of order being that if the honourable member wants to set the record straight, he will concur that when his government took power, we were rated number three in performance of all 10 provinces. Since this government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Kings North has the floor.

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, last year we were ninth place, this year we have jumped up to sixth place, a jump of three places. It is based on five factors and that is the absolute truth according to The Globe and Mail. I think this increase, this jump, is third party confirmation that this government . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member is one who likes to deal on the basis of fact. Is it not a fact that the Auditor General has stated quite clearly that this government is on the wrong track and will not balance the budget based on its present government policy?

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Kings North has the floor.

MR. PARENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I will just jump over what the factors are behind this Report on Business because my time has run out. Nonetheless, we have jumped from ninth place to sixth place, which is third party confirmation that we have a plan, that we are sticking to it and that it is showing some success. It is showing the results that Nova Scotians want. For that, Nova Scotians, I think, are thankful.

[Page 1162]

MR. SPEAKER: The time for debate on the adjournment motion has expired.

The motion is carried.

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

[8:57 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to a gentleman in the east gallery. It is Paul Pettipas. He is from the fine community of Fall River and I would like to ask the members to give him the traditional greeting of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome the visitors to the gallery this evening.

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. 30.

Bill No. 30 - Financial Measures (2001) Act.

[Page 1163]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 30 on behalf of the Minister of Finance. Bill No. 30 is essentially the same bill as Bill No. 11 which we will no longer be debating. We will be debating Bill No. 30 which contains certain amendments to the Revenue Act respecting tobacco and fines for improper implementation and sale. So with those few words, I would move second reading of Bill No. 30.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I guess this is my second time to get up on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. I had an opportunity to talk about this back on April 3rd - what was that, two or three weeks ago now? - a couple of weeks ago. I am glad to have another opportunity because even though this is a minor change and it is a technical change that this government had to make, it is symbolic of a couple of things.

First of all, the change made by this government - I am going to get into this in more detail over the whole problems of this particular piece of legislation - but the specific change that this government is making is symbolic in two ways. First of all, it is $20 million in extra revenue that they forgot to put in their budget, which I find quite interesting that this is something that - you know, $20 million is a significant amount of money and on top of that, the whole question of where that $20 million will be spent. The tobacco tax is being increased. No one will disagree that if the tobacco taxes can help ensure fewer people start smoking, or promote people to stop smoking, I think it is a good idea, but there needs to be more money invested in smoking cessation; something that this government, I think, is only going to put $5.7 million into that program when, in fact, it is going to be bringing in $20 million in revenue.

It has not said where the other $15 million is going to go, Mr. Speaker. It has not said how it will spend that money and it has made no commitment to spending it with regard to stopping smoking and encouraging people to stop smoking. On top of that, you have the whole issue of general health care costs because of smoking. I think the Premier has been quoted as saying it is around $178 million a year. If that is the case, then that extra $15 million could go into specific health care initiatives, primary health, to help try to eliminate some of the costs.

[9:00 p.m.]

The other reason this is symbolic is it is my understanding that the government had to bring in legislation because this is a tax and a tax must be approved by the Legislature. Now, whether that is the reason for the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Eurig or whether it is a longer tradition, I am not sure, but it has been made quite clear to this government and governments across Canada, Mr. Speaker, that they cannot impose a tax, not a user fee,

[Page 1164]

without ensuring that it has legislative approval and that seems somewhat of an irony in all this because there are many government user fees, as they would call them, taxes, as we would call them, and other various forms of taxation that this government has imposed; $115 million worth as of today's count. I am sure it will be higher as the days move on, that this government has imposed without nary a bit of legislation or changes that would ensure that we would have the people of Nova Scotia aware of what is happening.

That is a problem that this government has racked up new revenue of over $100 million that Nova Scotians are unaware of or being chiselled away from them $1.00 at a time, one user fee at a time, one change in the tax code as the federal government makes their changes and we decide not to match that change. Subtle, small, hidden changes that have resulted in an extra $115 million in revenue that this government doesn't want the people of Nova Scotia to know about. That is a concern.

The irony is that this bill has come back, Bill No. 30 - which was originally Bill No. 11 - because this government suddenly has the belief that legally they must bring back legislation that says this is a tax that they are imposing. There are so many other taxes this government has hidden from Nova Scotians, has imposed without any real debate or democratic review that I think, in the end, Nova Scotians are not even aware of.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about some of the issues surrounding the general principles of the Financial Measures (2001) Act. I think what is most galling and most obvious when you read this piece of legislation is the fact that this piece of legislation lacks any vision. A financial measures Act is sort of the counterpart to the budget. The two of them go hand in hand in defining over the next year financially, and let's face it, finances are a key component of a government's ability to implement a policy or a vision. But the Financial Measures (2001) Act in the budget is a key indicator, if not the indicator, as to where a government plans to take the province. It is sort of their vision. It is a fiscal vision, but in many ways it is also a broader vision.

If you remember the words of the Minister of Finance when he addressed his budget he talked about spending; he talked about other issues that he wanted to address; he talked about he was proud of the fact, as he would say, that they were addressing the deficit in order but that they were also beginning to spend money on programs that Nova Scotians wanted them to spend money on. That is his vision. That is what he would like people to believe. I will talk a bit more about why that isn't a real vision, why that is only words on his part.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I am having difficulty hearing, Mr. Speaker.

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

[Page 1165]

MR. DEVEAUX: I will speak up then for the honourable Government House Leader. Mr. Speaker, what we have is a situation where this government has - let's think back to 1999, let's think back to that election. (Interruption) The people of Nova Scotia had some choices in that election, like they do in any election. Well, the honourable Government House Leader says they made a wise choice. At the time the people of Nova Scotia made a choice. What did they make a choice on? At least 39 per cent of this province voted Tory, and they voted Tory because they were sold a bill of goods. They were told that this is what would happen if they elected a Tory Government, their platform. We had a platform. The Liberals had a platform. You had a platform. Maybe the Nova Scotia Party had a platform for all I am aware of. The fact is that your government spelled out 243 promises and a vision of what they would do for Nova Scotia.

I remember specifically, in the case of my riding, Mr. Speaker, they put an ad in the local monthly paper where they said, we will spend more on health care, we will invest in our children's education, we will reduce the deficit and the debt. Those are words people believed. They believed that this Tory Government was going to address the debt that Nova Scotia was building up, and they would strategically invest in those things that Nova Scotians wanted: a good education program for their children, health care when they needed it, clean drinking water and so on.

But the other point is, they said they would also provide a tax cut to Nova Scotians; they said they would do it all. They gave them a huge wish list and said vote for us. Nova Scotians voted for it, 39 per cent of them anyway. The problem is that Nova Scotians over the last two years are beginning - almost two years - to see exactly what this government is actually doing and that is nothing like what they said they would do in 1999.

Indeed, I would suggest to you most Nova Scotians would probably support this government. They would probably put them higher in the polls if they actually thought this government was doing what they said they would do, to invest strategically in core, essential government programs, reducing the debt, and, yes, they did promise a tax cut, if they provided that tax cut.

But what this government is actually doing is none of that. It is not providing a real tax cut in the end. It is not investing strategically in essential services in core government programs and it is not reducing the debt of Nova Scotia, and those are the three components of why they got elected. Yet none of them are being done and none of them will be done before the end of this term. The people of Nova Scotia are being hoodwinked, they are being deceived, because this government truly has taken a different agenda than it promised the people of Nova Scotia.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: That's nonsense.

[Page 1166]

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, the honourable Government House Leader says that is - I do not know if he said monstrous or preposterous.

MR. RUSSELL: I said nonsense.

MR. DEVEAUX: Oh, nonsense. He said nonsense. Let's take a walk through . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I suggest the honourable member used the word deceived. That is unparliamentary and I would ask you to retract that please.

MR. DEVEAUX: I will retract that, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for pointing that out. The point I am trying to make in all this is that this government spelled out what they said was their vision of how they would lead this province over the next four or five years, in 1999, what they said they would do in order to make life better for Nova Scotians. In the end, that is the question. That is the question that people ask when they go to the polls the next time: is my life better off now than it was in 1999? That is the question they are going to ask and this government will have to live with the answer.

It is funny, I was just looking through Hansard from back when I made almost this same speech back on April 3rd and the Minister of Health reacted to the same exact question, so I am glad to see that some things do not change over a period of a couple of weeks. The point is, that is the question, and Nova Scotians may say that yes they do feel their life is better off and therefore they will vote Tory again and that is democracy, but I suggest to you that the answer to that question based on this budget, based on this Financial Measures (2001) Act and based on what this government has done for the last two years, is quite the contrary. It will be an answer that they have not made their lives better, that the people of Nova Scotia are not better off than what they were in 1999, and there are several reasons for that and I will try and get to them.

What this Financial Measures (2001) Act identifies as its vision, as how they will lead this province, is very limited. What I do see is quite a negative vision and it is one of downloading. Downloading on municipalities with regard to user fees and costs - equalization for an example. Downloading on school boards - we see this government on an ongoing basis trying to blame the school boards, making cuts in financing, not keeping up with the rate of inflation with regard to their spending increases which will result in the school boards having to make cuts that they can then blame on the school board. The Minister of Education will say I had nothing to do with those cuts, that was the school board who did that.

We have a Minister of Health who will be doing the exact same thing; in fact, he was doing it even in the last week. Whenever asked about specific issues around food for cancer patients at the Point Pleasant Lodge, his answer is I didn't make that decision, it was the Capital District Health Authority. That is a problem, because again, the tough decisions this

[Page 1167]

government is not afraid to say they made, they are trying to pass the buck to bureaucrats and lower-level elected officials in school boards and district health authorities.

This is a real problem because this government clearly does not have an agenda of trying to actually take credit or to try to admit that it has made tough decisions, but tries to pass the tough decisions on to others, blames someone else.

Mr. Speaker, that is not a vision of leadership, that is not a vision of a government that is actually trying to show Nova Scotians that they are making life better for them, it is a government that is trying to pin the blame on others, it is a government that is trying to point the finger at other government organizations that are under its thumb, so that they are then given the responsibility for making the tough decisions. That is what is really wrong with this government, it is that they have downloaded their decisions on school boards, on district health authorities, on municipalities and on individuals.

Instead of talking about tough decisions around tax increases or spending cuts or revenue issues, they passed on user fees and tax increases to the people of Nova Scotia behind their backs, $115 million worth; instead of talking about addressing the waiting lists that Nova Scotians said they wanted addressed; instead of talking about the fact that we have people who have elective surgery cancelled at the very last minute while they are in the hospital being prepped, they blame the Capital District Health Authority or some other district health authority; instead of addressing the fact that we don't have enough paper in our schools for our children to be able to learn, they blame it on school boards; instead of addressing the fact that we have people on strike in this very city, because we have a school board that is trying to address the cuts that this government has passed on to them, they blame a school board instead of recognizing the fact that it is their decisions that are creating these problems.

Instead of trying to reflect the fact that as a provincial government it is their job to represent all Nova Scotians, that it is their job to ensure that Cape Bretoners have an opportunity to succeed and invest in Cape Breton properly, they try to pass it and download onto municipalities through an equalization plan that pits one part of the province against another. That is not leadership. That is not a vision. That is about a government that is afraid to take blame when they are the ones at fault. I don't call that courageous, I don't call that anything but a government that is trying to avoid making tough decisions and trying to blame someone else.

Mr. Speaker, it is this kind of downloading that this government really has as a vision. Let's try and deny that we made any tough decisions, let's blame it on someone else, but when there is an ounce of extra good news, we will take credit for it. Well, leadership is more than about taking credit for the good news, it is making tough decisions and being willing to stand behind them, which this government, clearly, is not willing to do.

[Page 1168]

I want to talk a bit about - it is actually in this piece of legislation - municipal downloading. In the budget they have eliminated grants for snowplowing. In the last year, we have had huge weather problems. We had money being spent over and above budgets for snow clearing, ice clearing and for salting roads. This government is actually cutting its grants, with regard to that very issue, to municipalities, to towns and villages and cities. That is a problem. We also have the government downloading the cost of their assessment process onto the municipalities, another cost that will be borne by municipalities. Then, of course, Nova Scotians will pay the cost, probably through higher property taxes.

In the end, there is only one taxpayer, and this government may try to download onto municipalities, but there is one taxpayer and that taxpayer will end up having to pay the price eventually. This government will claim that it cut the costs, when in fact that same taxpayer is going to have to pay the taxes to cover those costs.

Mr. Speaker, schools are a very important issue in my area, as they are across this province. I think it is important that we reflect on what Nova Scotians voted for in 1999, they voted for a government that said, as they said in my area in local advertising, they would ensure our school system, our education system is working by investing new funds. That is what they said. The problem is that the people of Nova Scotia, when they go to the polls next time, will know what exactly has happened in our schools. Our schools are still unsafe, they are still unhealthy. A third of the schools in Nova Scotia are sick buildings. That is a problem. A problem this government has not even begun to address.

In this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, they say nothing about how they will address that problem. In their budget, they put in a paltry amount of money for capital investment, and almost no new money for maintenance. That is a recipe for creating greater problems in schools that are already unhealthy, that are already sick. Mr. Speaker, that won't change until this government recognizes, through part of a vision and leadership, that it must do more. It isn't doing that.

[9:15 p.m.]

Let's talk about the fact, as I said earlier, that we have schools that have no paper. That is just a symptom of a bigger problem but it is one this government is not addressing. Let's talk about the fact that in my area and in other areas in suburban Halifax-Dartmouth to be specific, though there may be other parts of the province as well, we have schools where the children are crammed into classes.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber and it is very difficult to hear the honourable members on the floor, so I would ask the members to take their conversations outside, please. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

[Page 1169]

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was saying, you have a government that talks about leadership in 1999, particularly around the issue of education, that said they would invest in education. Truly, whether they said these words or not the people of Nova Scotia believed that the Tories, if they were elected, would help resurrect the education system in Nova Scotia, would help protect the education system that people have grown to trust, and would improve upon it, yet we see none of that. Again, this is the mid-term budget, the mid-term Financial Measures (2001) Act of this government and we see nothing with regard to how they intend to address these issues.

There is no leadership, there is no vision, there is no identification of the problem, let alone how they will solve it. This has resulted in the people of Nova Scotia beginning to truly see that this government is doing nothing. The Premier can talk about, we have a tough task ahead of us, we have to have a hard, tough spine, big backbone in order to be able to address these problems, when, in fact, what we have is a government that is doing nothing and blaming others for their mistakes.

I want to talk a bit about the fact that they are downloading on individuals, Mr. Speaker. We have a government, as I said, that has imposed, as we know of today, $115 million in new taxes every year. By year four they say they are going to give Nova Scotians a tax cut which they say will cost the government $130 million. The fact is that by the time that is imposed this government will have already raised taxes well beyond that, I predict. They are at $115 million a year now. They have two more budgets to go over $130 million. That is not very hard. I suggest we may able to hit the $130 million mark before the end of this week in hidden taxes and user fees of this government.

That being the case, this government is not giving a tax cut to the people of Nova Scotia. It is over three years through hidden taxes and sleight of hand, increasing revenue taxes on Nova Scotians, and then it will turn around in the fourth year and then reduce those same ones. That is not really a Santa Claus, it is more like trying to entice people with their own money. That is what this government has done. They continue to download on Nova Scotians.

That is the obvious cost that we talk about. Let's talk about some of the other costs. I remember mentioning this last time as well. Think about every fall, how often we see children coming around, children six, seven, eight, nine years old selling candy to raise money for their schools; chocolate bars, M&Ms. How many PTO auctions, like I have been to in the recent past, or how many fundraisers and spring fairs must we go to and shell money out? These are good organizations, they are working hard because this government has failed the people of Nova Scotia to do the work that this government should be doing. That money is going into things like computers, it is going into things like capital costs for schools. Things that should be provided by this government as the government that funds 83 per cent of education, but they are not. The people of Nova Scotia have to do that fundraising, they have to buy the candy, they have to provide the money. Mr. Speaker, that is a real problem. That is one of the

[Page 1170]

costs that we don't even talk about when we talk about user fees and downloading on individuals.

Let's talk about - I was joking about this before - wheel alignments. The other day I had an opportunity to go to the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley. I went up to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley's riding. I went up to Dean for a maple syrup festival. Lovely time. Good people up in Dean. Took the back road from the airport to Elderbank, up to Middle Musquodoboit and then out to Dean. I will tell you, the roads were appalling. All I could think through that whole trip was the fact that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, because of this government's vision, because of this government's hard decision-making and vision of the province, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is going to get an extra 194 metres of roads paved this year.

Well, do you know what, 194 metres would not get you very far on the road from the airport to Elderbank or on the road from Elderbank to Middle Musquodoboit or the road from Middle Musquodoboit through Upper Musquodoboit to Dean. Those roads were in very bad shape and the 194 metres of paving that this government has promised is a drop in the bucket when what the people truly need are a lot of paved roads. How many wheel alignments are the people in rural Nova Scotia having to pay for because their cars keep going through potholes? How much damage are we providing to the economy because the people of Nova Scotia aren't able to convince people to come here and set up business because the roads are in such bad shape. These are all issues of downloading the hidden costs that we haven't even begun to calculate.

Then we have our health care system. Again, this government actually said for $40 million it could save the health care system in Nova Scotia. I'm still waiting to see that. At least the people of Nova Scotia, when they voted in 1999 for the Tories, were expecting waiting lists in hospitals to go down. Where they didn't have a doctor in rural Nova Scotia they could get a doctor; not only rural, Dartmouth has the same problem. These places would get doctors, they would have access to the health care system when they needed it, when their children needed it, when their parents or grandparents needed it.

They wanted to believe that when they voted Tory in 1999 that this government was going to be providing them with a health care system that was second to none, not a Cadillac but a good solid Chevrolet system, one in which there wouldn't be waiting lists for surgery; one in which elective surgeries wouldn't be cancelled at the last minute; one in which there would be doctors when you needed them; one in which there would be a system in place to ensure that people weren't lined up in stretchers in the hallways of hospitals or that hospital beds would be closed or that hospitals would be closed. That is what we're getting from this government and that's not what people voted for. They voted for a medical system that would be there when they needed it and this government has failed them on every count with regard to that.

[Page 1171]

Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, was an opportunity for this government to begin to explain how they will meet that promise that they kept in 1999. It is another failed opportunity, another time in which this government has failed to explain to Nova Scotians that they have a vision beyond the end of their nose, that they are doing more than just trying to balance the books and issue a tax cut, that they actually have a vision for investing in long-term strategic ways to help promote and improve our health care and education systems. None of it is there. They're not even keeping up with the pace of inflation. Cuts will still have to be imposed on the district health authorities, on our school boards, our municipalities will have to deal with less funding and individuals will have to pay more taxes and pay more user fees so that this government can claim that it actually achieved something.

These are the things that this government has done in almost two years. This is its third budget, the first one was in 1999, last year in 2000 and now in 2001. There are probably only going to be two more budgets in this government. They are over halfway through the budgetary process. We still have not seen from this government where it intends to go. To go back to my original question, what will Nova Scotians vote on in the next election? They will ask themselves if they are better off than they were in 1999. More specifically (Interruptions) the Minister of Health seems to think they'll still say yes.

I guess the Minister of Health hasn't been talking to Nova Scotians. I guess the Minister of Health hasn't been in his hospitals lately; hasn't been to the schools lately; hasn't had an opportunity to truly see what Nova Scotians are seeing around them. Whether it be a school that is sick; a school that is crumbling because of a lack of infrastructure investment; whether it is a school that lacks paper; whether it is an education system that is not ensuring that the essential services we need are there when we need them; if it is a school system that is not ensuring that the people have a decent number of children in each class. These are all issues that Nova Scotians are talking about and these are all things this government is not addressing.

With regard to health care, the same thing. The waiting lists have not gotten shorter; the number of nurses hasn't greatly increased, if at all, there may be some casuals who have turned into full-time but this minister and this government have never really spelled out the fact that they are actually increasing the number of nurses. This government has not addressed the issue of doctors in rural Nova Scotia; it has not addressed the issue of waiting lists; it is only recently that we've had problems with elective surgery. These are all problems that Nova Scotians expected to have addressed in 1999 and when the next election comes I predict they will still need addressing and people will say, why did I vote for the Tories in 1999? They promised me and yet they did not deliver. They will think long and hard as to whether their life is better off than it was in 1999.

Mr. Speaker, this government has had another opportunity and another missed opportunity with this budget to truly spell out what it would do, how it would begin to ensure Nova Scotians have the quality of life that they want, how they can ensure Nova Scotians have the environment that they want. One thing Nova Scotians have been hearing, particularly since

[Page 1172]

Walkerton, but even before that, is about the quality of our drinking water. We have communities from Glace Bay to Garland to West Chezzetcook that have drinking water problems and this government has done nothing - Goodwood, I am told. These are all communities that do not have good, safe drinking water, something Nova Scotians and Canadians have always taken for granted. This government's answer is silence. There is no real commitment with money or policy that will truly address that.

We have a septic discussion paper for those of us who have septic tanks. That is a good thing to talk about, but that doesn't go far enough to addressing the bigger problem of guaranteeing that the people of Nova Scotia have safe drinking water. I see nothing in this government's Financial Measures (2001) Bill or in this budget or halfway through its term to tell me that this government intends to address that. People of Nova Scotia expect a quality of life here. They don't expect this to be Toronto or New York or London, but they do expect this to be a beautiful, safe and healthy province where they can live, raise their children, retire and know that there is going to be safe drinking water, healthy schools and a health care system when they need it. Mr. Speaker, it is not there for Nova Scotians and that is why this government continues to fail the people of Nova Scotia.

I want to talk a bit about one of the other issues this government doesn't want to address, which is the fact that it has raised taxes $115 million, as of today's count. It has not been investing in those things that need to be invested in. I have talked about that. But there is the other component of this. This government tries to convince Nova Scotians that they are being very frugal with money because it is tough times. Yet, we have a government that is quite wasteful with regard to its spending, in some ways, whether it is $37,000 for coffee, whether it is $3 million for a PR firm to help explain away the botched Sysco deal, whether it is $500,000 for outside consultants they said they wouldn't hire for a health care footprint. Mr. Speaker, these are just the tip of the iceberg of the cost that this government is incurring, providing money to its buddies for PR fees, consulting fees and for coffee when the real problems aren't even getting the money they deserve.

Some people say these are nickel and dimes. These are the ones we found out about. I said earlier tonight, it is like cockroaches, when you see one, you know there are another 100 of them under the fridge, Mr. Speaker. The fact is, these are the little fees that we found. I think there are a lot more fees that this government is hiding and a lot more waste this government is hiding that we haven't even found. If we can find, within a few days, several million dollars in wasteful spending, I can only begin to predict exactly how much money this government is actually wasting. They are not spending it on health care, not spending it on reducing waiting lists, not spending it on paper for our schools, not spending it so our children don't have to go out and sell chocolate bars in the dead of night in order for the schools to have basic services, but putting that money into coffee, putting that money into consultants and PR firms, to name a few. This is a problem and, again, Nova Scotians will judge this government accordingly come the next election.

[Page 1173]

So we have a government that has convinced Nova Scotians that it will get a tax cut, convinced Nova Scotians that it will be frugal in how it spends it money and that it will invest strategically in the things it cares about - health care and education. That is what the 1999 election told us. What we really have gotten is a government that has actually increased taxes $115 million, as of today's count, a government that has been wasteful in spending to help its buddies and to help cover its butt with regard to some of its mistakes like Sysco. We have a government that has not invested $1.00, in real terms, in such programs as education and health, yet blames others and downloads the problems on others.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the opposite of what this government said it would do. Until this government begins to spell out a vision and a plan that Nova Scotians believe will address what they voted for in 1999, it will continue to get a rough ride from this Opposition. It will continue to get people who are opposed to what it has been doing and it will continue to hear from Nova Scotians until the next election as to whether or not their lives are better off than they were in 1999.

[9:30 p.m.]

This is like a book, Mr. Speaker. Chapter 1 was the 1999 budget. Chapter 2 - it was a doozie - was the 2000 budget. Chapter 3 is the 2001, and we are coming around to the climax. I am sure there will be election goodies in the final budget but, the question is, will people have already judged this book before this government has an opportunity to explain to them why they deserve another chance? We have now finished Chapter 3 when this bill is dealt with and people are not happy with what they are reading. They don't like what is in this book and unless this government begins to talk about and deal with the problems of Nova Scotia and how they will honestly address them, the people of Nova Scotia will judge them accordingly in the next election.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me by my colleague for giving me a few minutes this evening to speak on Bill No. 30. As the member has already indicated, this is our second time, another kick at the cat as it were, on Bill No. 30. I want the good Minister of Health and the ministers in the front row to understand one thing. (Interruption) Well, just the Minister of Health then, he is not a good minister if that is what he wants, but I want the members opposite to know a couple of things that are important to this side of the House.

Number one, this bill is going to be debated for a long time. This bill will be discussed and debated in this House for a long time and they better be ready for that because they deserve to have this bill debated for a long time. I am sure that my colleagues in the Official Opposition will probably be doing the same thing, because they too understand that what this government is trying to do is hoodwink Nova Scotians. What this government is trying to do

[Page 1174]

is reach around into their back pockets and claw the hard-working dollars out of Nova Scotians. What this government is trying to do is charge seniors to the extent where seniors no longer are respected by this government in the Province of Nova Scotia. The list goes on and on, and we will bring those issues to the forefront.

I want this government to also know, as we draw the line in the sand tonight, that there will be amendments to this bill and there will be amendments by this Party coming forward over the next number of weeks. So if this government is wanting this particular bill to go forward, then they should listen to what is being said, because what we are bringing forward are the concerns of Nova Scotians.

This government has gotten to the point where, I believe in their own mind, listening to their own spin doctors, that they are not to listen to Nova Scotians. I think they have become arrogant. I think they have become smug. They have distanced themselves from the reality of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians. They want to live in the past as we, the Liberal Party, want to build for the future. They want to live in the past as Nova Scotians want them to start focusing on the future. They want to live in the past as all Nova Scotians are hoping that they have plans to lead the province into the future. Instead we have seen a government without a plan, a rudderless ship, with no captain at the helm; a ship that is going to run into a shoal at any time, I am sure.

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that these characters on the other side of the House just don't want to pay attention to the fact that Nova Scotians are saying to them we want this province to be governed by a group of people who have a determination of where they want to bring this province. They want a government that is actually going to live up to the commitments that they gave to Nova Scotians only a few short months ago. They want a government that is prepared to make the tough decisions. We have a government that has missed opportunities. We have a government that has made it very clear that they have no real direction where they want this province to go. It is interesting, in polls that we have seen, poll numbers - not that it is the end of the world - are indicating that Nova Scotians are losing faith in this government that is without a rudder, without a captain in the ship.

When we start running into turbulent weather, in high seas, you are going to see this government and this ship really start taking on water in a big way. When they start taking on water in a big way, hopefully Nova Scotians will send a message to them that we wanted a government that stood on principle, on values, and a vision and a direction.

Mr. Speaker, today in this House, we had a chance to ask the Premier a couple of very simple questions. The Premier, this is the so-called captain of this rudderless ship - this ship without a map of where it wants to go, it has no compass, it has no map, no charts of the waters it wants to go to - this captain of this ship was asked a couple of very basic questions. In those questions, he was asked today about the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. Instead, this Premier said, well, I don't know what you are talking about. The questions were posed to

[Page 1175]

him. He said before the election, he would not increase the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. As he went forward to the chamber of commerce, we are going to get the debt under control. As he talked to his AG, annual general meeting, about a young person in Grade 4, I believe his name was Ronnie, that he will not grow the debt - get the debt under control.

And yet we have seen, out of material that came out of his own Department of Finance that, in fact, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is growing each and every year that this government is in power, and they only go up to the year 2005. It might have been an omen by the Department of Finance. In the projections they have, it goes up to the estimates of 2004-05, where the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia will be $11.765 billion.

This is the Premier who was asked some very basic questions; either the Premier does not understand what he has been saying to the public or the message he is giving to the public is different than what his Minister of Finance is actually doing. Either he has no control over the Minister of Finance or the Minister of Finance won't allow him to understand the reality of what is going on in the Province of Nova Scotia; either way, this captain of the ship has lost direction and lost course. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, you can tell when you get to them, because they just like to heckle away, but they haven't got anything substantive to stand up and talk about. They can't talk about the fact that they struggled to the ground the operating deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia, at a time when they received almost $0.5 billion in additional revenue in that two year period. In fact, in the last fiscal year alone, they received $249 million of additional revenue than what was projected. Did they wrestle down that giant deficit they talked about for so long? No, they didn't. Did they try to bring down that debt of the province in that time of a windfall of $249 million? The answer is no.

The Premier got up and said today that we are following his plan, but in his plan it didn't show that there was going to be a windfall of $249 million. I am sure that the Minister of Economic Development in this province, if he had a windfall, any business that he deals with, if they had a windfall of $249 million, those companies would have changed their fiscal plan. Any company that I know that ever had a windfall of $249 million, like this government had in the last year, would have changed their fiscal plan. I might point out about $150 million of that came from Jean Chretien's Government and Paul Martin's Government in Ottawa, the Liberal government. This is the Liberal Government that the tin cup Premier is going around the provinces begging for more. When he gets it, what does he do with it? We don't know. And yes, during that time the Minister of Finance grew the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia at a rate that is unprecedented.

We have seen in the last fiscal year alone the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia increase by a rate of $3.5 million a year - $3.5 million a year. I would like to know if the good Minister of Transportation and Public Works had $3.5 million a day to spend and he had good weather all year long, we could have a lot better highway system than we currently have. He

[Page 1176]

would have every bush cut in Nova Scotia and every pothole filled, and as many roads paved as possible if he had $3.5 million a day to do that.

But, instead, the Minister of Finance, another member without a plan, this Minister of Finance who wants to be a Teflon kind of guy (Interruptions) now the backbencher threatening my riding, not getting asphalt because I am picking on the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Shame on that government over there. Shame on that government. Shame on that backbench for them to ever do that.

That type of intimidation might work for some, but I will stand firm and tall on the issue that government will be accountable to Nova Scotians, and whether they threaten me that I will not get anything in my riding for the good people of Lunenburg West, I will stand up and fight for the rights of Nova Scotians against that government any day. (Applause) (Interruptions)

I want to say . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I realize the hour is getting late, but the honourable member for Lunenburg West still has the floor for approximately another 15 minutes.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Obviously they are coming off a chocolate high over there, and you can see that there is a deficiency for some of them.

I will continue my debate on Bill No. 30. As I said earlier, this is a bill that will be debated for a long, long time in this House. This is a bill that this administration, this Liberal Party of Nova Scotia will bring in amendments to this bill (Interruptions) - your turn is coming, Ernie, do not worry - that I think will represent the concerns of Nova Scotians. We will approach the issue on the debate with a lot of interest.

Before I was so rudely interrupted, we were talking about the $3.5 million a day that current government spent in growing the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. They grew it to the extent of $1.3 billion - $1.3 billion last year alone. This is a government that said to Nova Scotians that they are the ones that are going to bring stability to the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia. They are the Party that will build self-reliance, standing on our own and making the tough decisions. At the same time, they are growing the debt at an unprecedented rate and will continue to grow that debt each and every year they are in power to the year 2004-05, even when they are projecting a surplus. Now, you are projecting a surplus and you are growing the debt. Anybody can have lots of surpluses if you are going to continue to grow the debt.

You know, even their friends, the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce that applauded them in the beginning are saying that the chamber is alarmed with the budget spending spree, another missed opportunity. It sounds like the Buchanan era if I ever heard it.

[Page 1177]

They knew this government had an opportunity to put its house together. They knew that that $249 million could have made a big difference in where this province is today.

[9:45 a.m.]

We are all hopeful that the economy will rebound in this province, in this country, in North America. I don't think there is one member in this Chamber who would not want the economy to strengthen up. There is a lot of uncertainty about where the economy is going over the next period of time. One minute you hear an economist say it is going to rebound right away and another economist will say, it is still experiencing bad numbers. You are seeing corporations coming with projections that are way off and they are losing money. This government here had an opportunity to balance at a time when the economy is hot. If the economy goes into a further downward spiral, then the budget estimates by this Minister of Finance could be in jeopardy. They projected, I believe, a 2.3 per cent growth in the economy. That could change. I hope it doesn't. I hope, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, it doesn't. That could change. If it does change, then their opportunity of finding balance will be in question. Then they will have to make some very serious cuts to make it happen, at a time when it could have been done without a lot of pain.

That $1.7 billion, just so the good members of the House who are paying attention on the opposite side would realize, it costs about $70 million to service that $1.3 billion that they squandered last year. That $70 million to service that could have, in fact, Mr. Speaker, hired 700 teachers, 800 nurses that the Minister of Health wished he could have had. It could have paved 20 kilometres of highway in the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley's riding. He talks about wanting asphalt in his riding. That could have been done if this government was prepared to live up to the commitment that they said they were going to give Nova Scotians just a few short months ago when they ran a campaign, a government that said, we are the ones that are prepared to make the tough decisions to go forward.

There is nothing tough about these guys. There is nothing tough about them at all. The minute there is a little bit of heat in their riding, they went screaming. Did you ever see a time in your life where you had so many people threatening this government in their own caucus to either leave, have a riot or go across the floor or sit as an Independent because something is going to happen in their riding. It is unprecedented the lack of discipline in that caucus. But you know, I respect those members for standing up. The problem is, without a captain in a rudderless ship, you are going to have anarchy. That is what you are seeing across the way. You are seeing people become anarchists in their own caucus because they are frustrated and they are mad because what they thought was going to be the resolve is not the answer at all.

I believe some of those poor backbenchers believed the mantra, the discussion of the government, when they said, we can fix health care for $46 million - a few administrative changes, no big deal. We are not going to affect anything in Yarmouth, we are not going to have any effect in Digby; it is not going to affect anybody in Colchester County; it won't have

[Page 1178]

any effect up in Lunenburg; $46 million and some tweaking with the administration, we can have this problem go away. In fact, they said all the problems are simple to resolve and it won't take much. We can do it overnight. We can do it in a very short period of time. Well, they haven't and they didn't and there is some question whether they will be able to do that in the future.

So we pointed out, very clearly, that the chamber is condemning this government on their inability to manage. (Interruption) I have lots of stuff to say, Brooke. Just hang on. There is another group, the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, not impressed with the Tory Government's new budget. The Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, now who lives in the eastern Kings area? What member is from there? Who would that be, Eastern Kings? Look at that, they are pointing fingers in six different directions there. Let's face it, there is a Cabinet Minster and there is a backbencher from that area. That is the group who says, we are not impressed with the Tories new budget. The budget does not go far enough to reduce the deficit, the chamber president went on to say the Friday that the budget came out. This is the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, now that is a rural chamber of commerce and they are saying to their members, we are not happy, we trusted you, we believed you and you failed.

We have another group who were very disappointed. This is Ian Thompson, President of the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce and I have mentioned that they were very disappointed. We also have Mr. Peter O'Brien from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and they are saying they are very disappointed in this lack of leadership, in this rudderless, captainless ship with no plan, they have no charts, they have no compass where they are going. I use that analogy because they are without a plan, they are without a direction. They are prepared to mismanage and stumble their way to the next election. Well, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, we are serving notice that come next election day Nova Scotians will be ready for this team that has no plan, no leadership, no compass and no direction. They will be telling them in spades how frustrated they are at the missed opportunities that that government has presented to the Province of Nova Scotia.

I note, Mr. Speaker, that you are in a non-partisan position as Speaker of this House, sitting in the Chair. I know you are not partisan and I think you are doing a very good job.

AN HON. MEMBER: A very good Speaker.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, you are. (Interruption) That is right, if you mention anything good about somebody they go after them. I appreciate that it is going to be difficult. I get a kick out of it, talk about the anarchy that is over there. We have one member over there whose idol is Stockwell Day. I am sure that the guy every night says somehow or another, Stockwell, good night, we will see you tomorrow. Just loves this guy. (Interruptions.) We have an indivdiual over there who thinks the world of Stockwell Day. In fact, we have a number of them who show up to meetings for Stockwell Day. (Interruptions.)

[Page 1179]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Lunenburg West that the topic is Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act. The honourable member has about four minutes left. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: The point is, Mr. Day is talking about fiscal stability, Mr. Stockwell Day talks about tax reduction. Mr. Stockwell Day talks about making the tough decisions. At the same time, members over there praise Stockwell Day for all the problems that he has created for the Party that he is in, the reality is that they are opposite of what the Stockwell Days of the world are saying. They talk about a right-wing agenda, those guys over there are more socialist than the Official Opposition in many ways. That is the same guy over there who says, I think the world of Stockwell Day, I love him. It is just unbelievable.

This bill, this Minister of Finance - and I don't know how, when I talked about it before - before I go into the substance of the bill (Interruptions.) I want to (Interruptions) this is just the introduction, this is just the beginning of what they are going to get a lot more of, and they better hang on. The more they want to heckle, the more they are going to get, because that is the only thing they seem to understand.

It is just like what they are promising Nova Scotia the so-called stick-and-carrot routine. They are promising a carrot to Nova Scotia about future tax cuts, the reality is a stick today. The stick they are giving is taking money out of pockets of Nova Scotians, only to give some of it back to them in the year 2003-04. That is the reality of what this government is all about. It is smoke and mirrors. It is a shell game. It is a big facade. It is a government without design. It is a government that doesn't understand a design. It is a government that has no idea where it is planning to go. Shame, shame on that government.

Then they have the gall to threaten the poor member for Lunenburg West, who is standing up and fighting for his people, that if you say a word (Interruptions) I want to go on about the fact that this government (Interruptions) talks about, in their election platform, a full 10 per cent cut by the year 2003-04. We have been saying, on this side of the House, for a long time - since last year, we started going after this government on the issue that they have been doing nothing more than clawing money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. Bracket creep was the very beginning of that. A year ago, I remember doing interviews that this government has not flowed through the federal reductions, they did not flow through the opportunity of bracket creep, they did not flow through the indexation within that, that the federal government did. So, they started the process of going after Nova Scotians by taxing them.

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

MR. DOWNE: So moved, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1180]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the concurrence of the House, I would like to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 1 - Land Registration Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 13 - House of Assembly Act.

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

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

[Page 1181]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment and would request that we turn the affairs over to the Liberal House Leader for tomorrow's business.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, following the daily routine tomorrow, we will be calling Resolution No. 373 and Resolution No. 315, in that order. I move that we do now adjourn.

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 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:59 p.m.]