Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD
01-18

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

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 504, Environ. & Lbr.: Car Free Day - Celebrate, Hon. D. Morse 1184
Vote - Affirmative 1185
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 34, Social Workers Act, Hon. P. Christie 1185
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 505, Agric. & Fish.: Nat'l. Soil Conservation Week (15-22/04/01) -
Applaud, Mr. J. MacDonell 1185
Vote - Affirmative 1186
Res. 506, McNabs & Lawlor Islands - Oral History Proj.: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1186
Vote - Affirmative 1187
Res. 507, Sports - Hockey: Antigonish Bulldogs - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1187
Vote - Affirmative 1188
Res. 508, Mouzar, Mary - Queens Co. Times: Internet -
Creation Commend, Mr. D. Dexter 1188
Vote - Affirmative 1188
Res. 509, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Mismanagement - Prem./Cab.,
Mr. D. Downe 1188
Res. 510, Campaign for Fairness - Mun. Co. Of Inverness/Warden/
Council: Support - Recognize/Thank, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1189
Vote - Affirmative 1190
Res. 511, Milley, Ellen - Forum for Young Canadians: Selection -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1190
Vote - Affirmative 1191
Res. 512, Sports - Baddeck Acad. Broncos: Prov. Hockey Tournament -
Victory Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 1191
Vote - Affirmative 1191
Res. 513, Campaign for Fairness - Mun. Co. of Annapolis/Warden/
Council: Support - Recognize/Thank, Mr. F. Chipman 1192
Vote - Affirmative 1192
Res. 514, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Haliburton Hills: Paving -
Min. Inform, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1193
Res. 515, Campaign for Fairness - Antigonish Town/Mayor/Council:
Support - Recognize/Thank, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1193
Vote - Affirmative 1194
Res. 516, Campaign for Fairness - Canso Town/Mayor/Council:
Support - Recognize/Thank, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 1194
Vote - Affirmative 1194
Res. 517, Sweeney, Edna - Clare/Yarmouth Commun.: Contribution -
Recognize, Mr. W. Gaudet 1195
Vote - Affirmative 1195
Res. 518, Campaign for Fairness - Acadia Univ. [Exec. Comm. Bd. of
Governors]: Support - Recognize/Thank, Hon. D. Morse 1195
Vote - Affirmative 1196
Res. 519, Campaign for Fairness - So. Queens Chamber of Commerce:
Support - Recognize/Thank, Mr. K. Morash 1196
Vote - Affirmative 1197
Res. 520, Acadians - Econ./Culture: Contribution - Recognize,
Mr. M. Samson 1197
Res. 521, Campaign for Fairness - New Glasgow Town/Mayor/Council:
Support - Recognize/Thank, The Premier 1198
Vote - Affirmative 1198
Res. 522, Fishermen's Mem. Hosp. - Auxiliary: Anniv. (25th) -
Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 1198
Vote - Affirmative 1199
Res. 523, Campaign for Fairness - OTANS: Support -
Recognize/Thank, Mr. G. Balser 1199
Vote - Affirmative 1200
Res. 524, Campaign for Fairness - Liberal Party (N.S.): Support -
Demonstrate, Mr. T. Olive 1200
Res. 525, Campaign for Fairness - Shelburne Co. Women's Forum:
Support - Recognize/Thank, (by Mr. J. DeWolfe),
Mr. C. O'Donnell 1201
Res. 526, Puff the Magic Dragon - Drawing: Cape Breton West MLA -
Present, Hon. J. Purves 1201
Vote - Affirmative 1202
Res. 527, Campaign for Fairness - Bridgewater Town/Mayor/Council:
Support - Recognize/Thank, Hon. M. Baker 1202
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 170, Fin.: Gasoline Prices - Action, Mr. J. Holm 1203
No. 171, Educ. - School Closures: Tory Ridings - Protection Explain,
Mr. W. Gaudet 1204
No. 172, Commun. Serv. - Transition Houses: Funding - Adequacy,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald ~ 1205
No. 173, Health: Home Oxygen Program - Details, Mr. D. Wilson 1206
No. 174, Fin. - Spousal Tax Credit: Revenue - Amounts,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1207
No. 175, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Growth - Continuation, Mr. D. Downe 1208
No. 176, Educ. - School Closures: Dept. - Reasons Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1210
No. 177, Econ. Dev. - Sobeys: Gov't. Assist. - Job Transfers,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1211
No. 178, Educ. - Northbrook Sch.: Closure - Min. Stop, Mr. J. Pye 1212
No. 179, Health: In-Home Support Prog. - Availability, Dr. J. Smith 1213
No. 180, Environ. & Lbr. - Whitney Pier Res. (Anne Ross):
Test Results - Release, Mr. F. Corbett 1215
No. 181, Agric. - Fed. Of Agric.: Meetings - Attendance, Mr. D. Downe 1216
No. 182, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Coke Ovens Site (Frederick St.):
Pollution - Containment Assure, Mr. F. Corbett 1218
No. 183, Justice - Pub. Pros. Serv.: Director - Recruitment,
Mr. M. Samson 1219
No. 184, Econ. Dev. - FTAA: Consultation - Confirm, Mr. H. Epstein 1220
No. 185, Pet. Dir. - Petrochemical Ind.: Opportunities (N.S.) -
Equality Ensure, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1221
No. 186, Health - Valley Reg. Hosp.: Overload - Plan, Mr. D. Dexter 1222
No. 187, Fin. - Casino (Sydney): Charities - Cutbacks Rationale,
Mr. D. Wilson 1224
No. 188, Nat. Res. - Exploration: Onshore - Royalties Value,
Mr. J. Holm 1225
No. 189, Environ. & Lbr. - Maintenance Workers Strike: OH&S -
Standards Assure, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1226
No. 190, Environ. & Lbr. - User Fees: Water Withdrawal -
Farmers' Percentage, Mr. J. MacDonell 1227
No. 191, Commun. Serv. - Secure Treatment Facility: Truro - Details,
Mr. D. Wilson 1228
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 373, Educ. - Janitorial Strike: Student Safety - Ensure,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1229
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1229
Mr. K. Morash 1233
Mr. B. Barnet 1235
Mr. D. Dexter 1238
Mr. F. Corbett 1240
Dr. J. Smith 1242
Mr. W. Gaudet 1246
Res. 315, Fin. - Debt Reduction: Min. - Method, Mr. D. Downe 1247
Mr. D. Downe 1247
Mr. J. Carey 1251
Mr. B. Taylor 1253
Mr. H. Epstein 1255
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1259
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Volunteers: Contributions - Highlight:
Mr. B. Barnet 1264
Mr. J. Pye 1267
Mr. B. Boudreau 1270
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 19th at 12:00 p.m. 1272

[Page 1183]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 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 Sackville-Beaver Bank:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House use the opportunity this week to highlight the significant contributions of our volunteers within our own communities and throughout the province 365 days a year.

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

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, in our west gallery I have the pleasure of introducing a person who has been here before, but it is always nice to see him come back when there is a break at Parliament, the Member of Parliament for the beautiful Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore riding, Peter Stoffer. If he would please stand and receive a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the honourable Member of Parliament to the House today.

1183

[Page 1184]

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 504

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

Whereas tomorrow, Thursday, April 19th, is the first-ever Car-Free Day around the world; and

Whereas people using their cars, trucks and motorcycles, account for approximately 30 per cent of Nova Scotia's harmful greenhouse gas emissions; and

Whereas using motor vehicles contributes to smog, climate change and some hazardous air pollutants which increase the chance of asthma attacks and respiratory infections especially for the very young, the elderly and those with existing respiratory disease;

Therefore be it resolved that to reduce greenhouse gas emissions I will be walking to work tomorrow, and I encourage all members of this House and all Nova Scotians to use an alternative means of transit as we celebrate Car-Free Day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1185]

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, if you would permit me an introduction before I introduce this bill, I would like to draw to the attention of the House, in your east gallery, Mr. Harold Beals. He is the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers and he is here today because he has had such a significant involvement in drafting this bill. He is here today to observe the process. I would invite the House to extend a warm welcome to him. (Applause)

Bill No. 34 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 12 of the Acts of 1993. The Social Workers Act. (Hon. Peter Christie)

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

The honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure through you and to members of the House to introduce in the west gallery, students and teachers from Bridgewater High School. I would like to introduce the 35 students who are here and with them are three teachers: Mrs. Sandy Bergeron, Mr. Charles Williamson and Mr. Chuck LeCain. Mr. LeCain has been here a number of times with his class. I would ask the House to give a warm welcome to these great students and teachers from the Bridgewater area. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I welcome our visitors to the gallery today.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 505

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

Whereas April 15th to 22nd is National Soil Conservation Week in Canada, a time to reflect on the importance of protecting our natural resources; and

[Page 1186]

Whereas our agricultural soils are subject to excessive soil erosion by water, excessive runoff, soil compaction, loss of soil organic matter, soil degradation and consequent loss of productivity, losses that total millions yearly; and

Whereas National Soil Conservation Week has been proclaimed each year since 1985, and it is designed to promote public awareness in the important area of soil conservation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud National Soil Conservation Week and the importance of adopting and improving upon soil conservation practices.

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. 506

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 Friends of McNabs Island Society is a non-profit community group committed to the preservation of McNabs and Lawlor Islands for use as a nature park; and

Whereas Saint Mary's University Professor, Jim Morrison and Parks Canada Historian, Ron MacDonald have undertaken an oral history project to collect stories from people who lived or worked on the harbour islands; and

Whereas the 11th annual general meeting to be held on May 1st, at Findlay Community Centre, will feature a presentation of sample interviews and provide an opportunity for those who have information or personal experiences to share with others;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the McNabs Island Society, Dr. MacDonald and Professor Morrison for the Collection of Oral History Project and for their efforts in preserving this significant part of the history of our province.

[Page 1187]

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 Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 507

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

Whereas the Antigonish Junior A Bulldog hockey team represented Nova Scotia in the Maritime Junior A Hockey Championship series; and

Whereas the Bulldogs rebounded from a first-game loss in the series to win the next four games; and

Whereas Lou Robicheau and Danny White scored two goals each and Jason Lang had three assists, with Danny Bowie turning aside 26 shots to lead the Bulldogs in their double-overtime win last evening, with Lou Robicheau scoring the game winner;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to the Antigonish Bulldogs and their Head Coach, Blair MacIsaac, and wish them every success as they represent the Maritime Junior A Hockey League at the Fred Page Cup Tournament to be held in Coaticook, Quebec later this month.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1188]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 508

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

Whereas Mary Mouzar of Hunts Point has created an on-line publication called Queens County Times; and

Whereas Queens County Times brings human interest stories about Queens County to about 4,000 readers per month; and

Whereas members of this Legislature may read the Queens County Times on the Internet at http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/mouzar/queenscountytimes;

Therefore be it resolved that Mary Mouzar be commended on her initiative to laud the merits of Queens County to the world at large.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 509

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

Whereas this year the debt of the province is expected to grow by $175.4 million, almost double the $90.7 million deficit; and

[Page 1189]

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas the Premier seems unaware that he will continue to grow the debt despite running surpluses, which goes completely against his election promise that the debt would not grow during his mandate; and

Whereas senior officials within the Department of Finance said the debt might start to be paid down by the year 2007;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Cabinet are guilty of gross mismanagement of the province's finances and that he is remiss in his duty to the taxpayers because the debt continues to grow with no end in sight.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. (Interruptions)

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We certainly wouldn't want the young people in the gallery today to think we are noisy everyday.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 510

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas Inverness Warden A.J. MacDougall and members of Inverness County Council recently expressed their support for the Premier's efforts on behalf of all Nova Scotians;

[Page 1190]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Municipality of the County of Inverness, Warden A.J. MacDougall and county council for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

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. 511

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 Forum for Young Canadians has been educating young people since 1976 with a week-long intensive study of government in Ottawa; and

Whereas this year's Forum for Young Canadians will be held in Ottawa, beginning on April 28th; and

Whereas Ellen Milley of Timberlea, a student of Sir John A. Macdonald High School, will be one of Nova Scotia's representatives this year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ellen on her selection to the Forum for Young Canadians, with best wishes to all participants for a successful week in Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1191]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 512

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

Whereas the Baddeck Academy Broncos hockey team won the Division III Provincial Hockey Championships; and

Whereas the Broncos defeated the home team, the Digby Ravens, 3 to 2 in overtime; and

Whereas the victory marked the first time the Broncos have won a provincial hockey tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate these fine young athletes and their coaches for an outstanding performance.

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 Natural Resources, on an introduction.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the House today a number of distinguished people from the Amherst area and officials from the Town of Amherst. In your gallery, I would like to introduce His Worship Mayor Jerry Hallee, from the Town of Amherst; as well as Ed Childs, Town Manager; Roger MacIsaac, Economic Development Officer; and Ron Patterson, Town Engineer for the Town of Amherst. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

[Page 1192]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development, on an introduction.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery today we have with us Mr. Hal Snider, Chief Executive Officer of Sempra Atlantic, here in Nova Scotia. I would ask the members of the House to give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome these gentlemen to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 513

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas Annapolis County Warden Peter Terauds and members of Annapolis County Council recently expressed their support for the Premier's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Municipality of the County of Annapolis, Warden Terauds and county council for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 1193]

RESOLUTION NO. 514

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

Whereas area residents throughout the growing constituency of Timberlea-Prospect have conscientiously collected the signatures of homeowners on petitions requesting paving; and

Whereas the residents of Windsor Drive and Cheshire Lane in the community of Haliburton Hills have submitted these petitions for attention to their roads; and

Whereas these taxpayers have agreed to pay their share of this road paving;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works state clearly for these residents of Haliburton Hills when their roads will be paved.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 515

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

Whereas in January the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas Antigonish Mayor Kay Chisholm and members of Antigonish Town Council recently endorsed the Premier's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Town of Antigonish, Mayor Chisholm and town council for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1194]

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 516

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas Canso Mayor Frank X. Fraser and members of Canso Town Council recently expressed their support for the Premier's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Town of Canso, Mayor Fraser and town council for their support for the Campaign for Fairness.

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.

[Page 1195]

RESOLUTION NO. 517

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

Whereas Edna Sweeney is an active community volunteer in Clare and in Yarmouth; and

Whereas recently she organized a talent show that raised over $2,100 for the Memorial Clubs at Maple Grove and Yarmouth High Schools; and

Whereas because of the generosity of people like Edna Sweeney, several Memorial Club members from Clare will visit Ottawa this May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize the contribution Edna Sweeney has made to our communities in Clare and in Yarmouth.

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 Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 518

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

[Page 1196]

Whereas the Executive Committee of Acadia University's Board of Governors recently endorsed the Premier's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Executive Committee of Acadia University's Board of Governors for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 519

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas the South Queens Chamber of Commerce became one of the first organizations in the province to express their support for the government's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the South Queens Chamber of Commerce for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1197]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 520

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

Whereas last week members of Nova Scotia's Acadian community met with members of the House of Assembly; and

Whereas the purpose of the meeting was to inform members of the House of Assembly of the role played by the Acadian community in the everyday affairs of the province; and

Whereas the members of this House were made aware of the important worldwide reunion of Acadians which will take place in this province in August 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the important contribution made by Acadians to the economy and culture of this province and immediately allocate the required funding for the 2004 world reunion of Acadians.

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 Premier.

[Page 1198]

RESOLUTION NO. 521

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

Whereas in January, the Nova Scotia Government launched our province's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas New Glasgow Mayor Ann MacLean and members of New Glasgow Town Council recently expressed their support for the government's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Town of New Glasgow, Mayor MacLean and town council for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 522

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

Whereas the Auxiliary of the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg operates a gift shop at the hospital; and

Whereas this year marks the 25th Anniversary of the hospital auxiliary; and

[Page 1199]

Whereas the gift shop committee recently donated $25,000 to the hospital, fulfilling its 25th Anniversary commitment made by the auxiliary;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations and best wishes to the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital Auxiliary for their 25 years of dedicated and loyal service to the hospital.

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 Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 523

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas OTANS - the Offshore/Onshore Technologies Association of Nova Scotia - has been among the strongest supporters of the government's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank OTANS for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1200]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 524

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

Whereas contrary to the 1986 Offshore Accord, cash-rich Ottawa takes 81 cents of every dollar generated through Nova Scotia's offshore, leaving just 19 cents for cash-poor Nova Scotia; and

Whereas on March 23rd all members of this House unanimously approved a resolution supporting Premier John Hamm's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas Liberal MLAs will have an opportunity this weekend to bring this important matter to the attention of federal Finance Minister Paul Martin;

Therefore be it resolved that the Acting Leader of the Liberal Party, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, once again demonstrate his Party's support for Premier Hamm's Campaign for Fairness by urging the federal Finance Minister to do the right and fair thing and live up to the 1986 Accord.

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 Pictou East.

[Page 1201]

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 525

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas members of the Shelburne County Women's Forum have expressed their support for the government's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Shelburne County Women's Forum for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 526

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

Whereas CBC Radio Information Morning runs a weekly contest asking listeners to identify a mystery voice; and

Whereas last week's question featured the honourable member for Cape Breton West, referring to Puff the Magic Dragon; and

[Page 1202]

Whereas the winner today was Ken Moors, an employee in my department;

Therefore be it resolved that this drawing of Ken's, which I table, be given to the honourable member for Cape Breton West so he can puff on it. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. 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.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, I would like to thank the honourable minister, and I do graciously accept her gift.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think that is a point of privilege that requires a decision on behalf of the Chair.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 527

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched our Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are expressing their support for this campaign to secure for our province the same tools used by others to achieve economic independence; and

Whereas Bridgewater Mayor Ernie Bolivar and members of the Bridgewater Town Council recently expressed their support for the government's efforts on behalf of Nova Scotians;

[Page 1203]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank the Town of Bridgewater, Mayor Bolivar and the Bridgewater Town Council for their support of the Campaign for Fairness.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The Oral Question Period will begin at 2:33 p.m. and will end at 4:03 p.m.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

FIN.: GASOLINE PRICES - ACTION

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we heard an awful lot about the Campaign for Fairness today. The Premier, of course, will know that despite the fact that crude oil prices today are less than they were last November, big oil companies have cranked up yet again the prices they are charging Nova Scotia consumers at the pump by 8 cents per litre. We are now at the highest level ever. So even the Premier will now know what Nova Scotians have known for a long time and that is that they are getting gouged at the pumps.

I want to ask the Premier, how much more gouging of Nova Scotians are you going to tolerate before you take some action to protect them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the recent precipitous rise in gasoline prices at the tank is of concern to all Nova Scotians. On the other hand, the member opposite must realize that, in general, a free marketplace will provide, in the long run, the best prices for Nova Scotians.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, from the Premier's response, one would think that he is more concerned about the 50 per cent increase in profits that the oil company is getting at the refineries than about the Nova Scotia consumers and small businesses in this province. Every 1 cent that the price of gasoline goes up takes approximately $12 million out of Nova

[Page 1204]

Scotians' pockets on an annual basis. Therefore, this latest increase is going to cost Nova Scotians approximately $100 million more at the pumps on an annual basis. I want to ask the Premier, do you think that it is all right for the oil companies to be gouging Nova Scotians and if you don't, what are you going to do to protect them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if history repeats itself, which it has a habit of doing, the prices will drop as precipitously as they went up. What the member fails to realize is what the best approach is to all of this overall. We are always concerned when prices go up; on the other hand, the members opposite are always very silent when prices go down.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that most Nova Scotians would join me in saying that they wish the Premier put half as much effort into defending and protecting Nova Scotians as he does into trying to deflect from his responsibility. I want to ask the Premier quite simply, doesn't he realize that his spineless approach is sending a very clear message to oil companies that it is okay for those companies . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would suggest that the word spineless - I ruled before in this House - is unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will substitute weak-kneed.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Weak-kneed, it has the same meaning, Mr. Speaker. Doesn't the Premier recognize that his weak-kneed approach is sending the very clear message to the oil companies that they can gouge Nova Scotians at will because this government is too weak-kneed to defend and protect the consumers that it was elected to represent?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter. It is costing Nova Scotians more to fill up at the tank. I believe that the member opposite would have to agree that overall, since deregulation - and statistics back this up - Nova Scotians have actually saved money at the tank. I believe in the long run they will continue to do so.

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

EDUC. - SCHOOL CLOSURES:

TORY RIDINGS - PROTECTION EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, last night the decisions regarding school closures in the Halifax area were made. They were four schools closed. Strangely enough, no schools were closed in the ridings of Halifax Citadel, Halifax Bedford Basin, Bedford-Fall

[Page 1205]

River, Preston, Sackville-Beaver Bank or even Dartmouth South. There were, however, schools closed in Halifax Atlantic, Dartmouth North and Dartmouth East. My question to the Minister of Education is, can the minister tell this House and the parents of HRM why it is that only schools in Tory ridings are safe?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite realizes full well that only certain schools were under review. There were no schools in Halifax Citadel under review at this time. There have been schools closed in the past; Tower Road, for example.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that this cold comfort to the parents and students who just lost their school will not cut it. Dartmouth South is particularly interesting to me because the Alderney School is one that was being considered. Can the minister tell this House if she knows why that school was not considered and three schools in neighbouring Opposition-held ridings were cut?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well the position of the Minister of Education in the matter of school closures since he is a former Minister of Education. He knows the minister is not involved in the school closure process.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the minister tells us that the decision was made by the school board and that there was no interference from her. Well, the minister can plead all the ignorance she wants, Nova Scotians know how this government really works. Some of the students losing their elementary schools will be sent into the very different environments of junior high schools. When will the Minister of Education commit to take the politics out of education and do what is right and in the best interests of students and teachers?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, my suggestion to the member for Clare is that he should apologize to the Halifax Regional School Board for such remarks.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

COMMUN. SERV. - TRANSITION HOUSES: FUNDING - ADEQUACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Yesterday in this House, the minister stated that there was no increase in this year's funding to transition houses because they didn't require it. Today I learned that Harbour House, a transition house on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, in Bridgewater, has been carrying an accumulative deficit for the past few years. A year ago this government loaned Harbour House part of the money they needed to deal with their deficit, and now the Tories are calling in the loan. I ask the Minister of Community Services, in the face of these facts, how on earth can you say that transition houses do not require additional funds?

[Page 1206]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, in discussions in the budget estimates, I did not indicate that the transition houses did not or were not looking for increased funds; what I indicated to them was that the funding was remaining constant. The member raises a question about one of the transition houses, and we have a number of transition houses that are looking to us to work with them on a long-term plan, and we will continue to do that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as the minister full well knows, calling in that loan has forced Harbour House to issue layoff notices to 2 of their 13 counsellors - one a child care worker and one an outreach counsellor - and the loss of this staff is going to result in the immediate reduction in services to abused women and children who have nowhere else to turn, Mr. Minister. So my question is, how can you jeopardize the safety of the women and the children in the South Shore communities who need these services?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, in meeting with the transition houses and the women's centres around, there are a lot of areas that are looking for increased services. We have met with those groups, and we will continue to work with the transition houses that have specific problems to try to make it so it is a sustainable development.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have never heard so much gobbledegook out of a minister in this House in my entire life. Last year the minister stood in his place and he abolished the Family Violence Prevention Initiative, and he said the funds would be redirected to front-line services. I want the minister to either admit it was never his intention to improve front-line services, or commit today the funds that will prevent layoffs and a reduction in services for women in the Bridgewater and South Shore area.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right, we talked about the family violence last year, and we indicated that the government departments would be taking a more active role, departments would be working, becoming aware and acknowledging the family violence. I indicate to the member again, we will be working with the transitional houses to help them make them sustainable and to provide their service.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

HEALTH: HOME OXYGEN PROGRAM - DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week, Mr. Minister, my office was contacted about the home oxygen program. When the individual receives oxygen at home and assistance for a portable tank, this individual is unable to have that portable tank filled with oxygen without incurring a cost. My question for the minister is very simply, does that make any sense to him?

[Page 1207]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't have any direct knowledge of the incidents to which the honourable member refers. If he would like to provide some details, I will have staff look into it.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister should have details of the home oxygen program; he is the minister, after all. It simply makes no sense what is happening here. This individual who is able to receive assistance for everything except the oxygen that goes in the portable tank, which she needs to get out of her house, which she needs maybe to go visit, which she needs to go to a hospital for treatment, perhaps, and this government said that they had a health care plan. They have just wasted $0.5 million on absolutely nothing.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: My question to the Minister of Health again is, why will the minister honour this government's commitment to invest more money on direct patient care and not less?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as is very well demonstrated in the supplement to the estimates, the Supplementary Detail - and members had the opportunity to examine during the estimates process - this government has put a tremendous amount of more money into direct care and in carrying, I believe, $14 million additional into home care.

MR. WILSON: This particular constituent of mine, Mr. Minister, is a prisoner in her own home and you don't care. That is what you are saying here today. You spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire deputy ministers but you won't see to it that a measly $20 to fill a portable oxygen tank is taken care of. Will this minister immediately right this wrong and fix the home oxygen program in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that the home oxygen program in this province is broken. I indicated to the honourable member that if we could get some details on this we would certainly be willing to look into it.

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

FIN. - SPOUSAL TAX CREDIT: REVENUE - AMOUNTS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it is another day and we are finding more hidden taxes from this Tory Government. According to the Department of Finance's own documents, this province's spousal credit or equivalent-to-spouse credit was reduced, from 2000-01, by $614. My question is for the Premier. This government, last week, admitted that they are getting an extra $12 million from the basic personal exemption tax grab. My

[Page 1208]

question to the Premier is, how much extra money is he getting from this deliberate reduction in the spousal or equivalent-to-spouse tax credit that his government implemented?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would realize that I wouldn't have that kind of a number at hand, but I will take it under advisement and have it researched.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will tell him what the number is. It is $9,377,636.80 in extra tax that this government is grabbing from single-parent and single-income families in Nova Scotia. This reduction means that single-income and single-parent families are each paying an extra $60 in taxes more than they did last year. I want to ask this Premier, why is your government singling out lone-income families and single-parent families for tax hikes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, the tax burden in Nova Scotia is too high. Yes, we are very aware that the tax burden is affecting many Nova Scotians. That is why we have included as part of our mandate tax cuts for all Nova Scotians, income tax cuts two years from now. So that is part of our mandate and we will deliver that part of our mandate.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing this Premier can stand in this House and say the tax burden is too high when he is the one who has increased taxes in this province by over $100 million a year since he got elected. Now we see an extra $9 million that we were able to ferret out today that this government is grabbing from the low- and middle-class families in Nova Scotia. So I want to ask the Premier, why are you misleading Nova Scotians with regard to the fact that you are actually increasing taxes for Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: I think the question that really bears asking is, the members opposite criticize the government when they get revenue, they criticize the government because they don't spend more on every program that the government brings forward. Now, you cannot have it both ways. What do you want, more services or less taxes?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - DEBT (N.S.): GROWTH - CONTINUATION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting the Premier is asking what do we want. While they were asking for money from Ottawa and last year, they received $249 million of surplus revenue of which over $100 million came from Ottawa and they still were not able to manage it. Yesterday in the House the Premier stated in Hansard that once this government balances the budget, the debt of the province will no longer grow. My question to the Premier is simple. Was your statement yesterday factual, will the debt continue to grow after next year?

[Page 1209]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member opposite that the government made very specific commitments on a number of issues. I will read for the member's interest what we said we would do about the provincial debt. This comes directly out of the blue book and I will quote exactly. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier has the floor.

THE PREMIER: "Establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Although we have lots of those on file, I will ask the honourable Premier to table that, as he referred to it.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, senior officials of the Department of Finance stated yesterday that the debt will, in fact, continue to grow under this administration through to the year 2007. In fact, it says it might start going down after the year 2007. Last year the Finance Minister, Mr. Premier, your Finance Minister, stated in his Budget Address that he would introduce a surplus management plan this year in this budget. Clearly this government does not know how to manage its surpluses. Why does the Premier have no plan to pay down the $11.5 billion debt that is borne by the children of the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, for the information of all members of the House, the figures that our Minister of Finance tabled indicate very clearly that in the current fiscal year the provincial net direct debt will increase $175.4 million. I would also like to point out that the member opposite, who just asked the question, for one year was the Minister of Finance of this province and during that one year the net direct debt of the province increased $1.207 billion, six times more than the current year. (Interruptions)

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Government and Nova Scotians are trying to build for the future. They don't want to live in the past, but this government under the Buchanan era, when we took over in 1993, had a $1.8 million operating deficit.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: He just wants to live in the past, it is evident. Why is this Premier mortgaging the future of our children by not dealing with the debt of the province before the year 2007? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1210]

THE PREMIER: The government is committed to addressing the financial situation in which we find ourselves. We have set ourselves clear targets and we have met those targets. We will continue to meet those targets. They are very difficult. There is a long history of overspending that has driven this province deeply into debt. The decisions we are making are not easy, but we will continue to meet them, make the decisions, meet our targets and we will do what we said we were going to do in the election. We will balance the budget and we will bring forth practical targets to address the debt of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - SCHOOL CLOSURES: DEPT. - REASONS EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. Last night the Halifax Regional School Board voted to close four schools. The board is taking this extraordinary measure to cut costs. Why, you might ask, are they cutting costs? Let me explain why. This minister knows very well that she has given an insufficient increase to school boards that doesn't come close to keeping up with inflation. She also knows that she is forcing on boards teacher cuts again this year. I want to ask the minister to explain to the House and to the parents and children affected by these school closures why is her department forcing school boards to close schools?

HON. JANE PURVES: I would like to remind the House that all school boards this year got an increase in funding. Last year, there was also an increase in funding. That does not alleviate the responsibility of the boards to make decisions, sometimes difficult decisions, about where to spend and not to spend money. That is part of their job. Sometimes I wonder why they want the job, but it is part of their job, as it is part of our job in government, to manage the money they have in the most responsible way and that is what they are trying to do.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, we hear this tune over and over from this minister, don't we, laying the blame elsewhere. It is going to become clear pretty soon what is really going on here. This fall there are four feeder schools slated for review in my riding alone. Students at St. Stephen's, St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay, St. Patrick's-Alexandra, and Joseph Howe may face the same fate as the students at Northbrook, at Notting Park, at B.C. Silver, and at Mary Lawson now do. I want the Minister of Education to commit today that she will not allow another metro school to close because of her department's underfunding of schools.

[Page 1211]

[3:00 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this province has a situation of declining student enrolment. The member opposite is aware of that; all members of the House are aware of it; and so are members of the school boards. I am not sure if the member for Halifax Needham is suggesting that we should only close rural schools.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the minister sees as a negative should actually be viewed as a positive. Lower population doesn't have to mean fewer schools; some of us see lower population as meaning smaller class size and more personal attention where it is most needed. My final question to the minister is, as Minister of Education, if you are not going to fight for the students in our schools, if you are going to only fight for cost-cutting and school closings, who can parents and students turn to to help them improve public education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I know who the parents can't turn to, and that is they can't turn to empty space and expect that empty space to educate their kids.

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

ECON. DEV. - SOBEYS: GOV'T. ASSIST. - JOB TRANSFERS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. Last August, the Minister of Economic Development gave Sobeys $3.5 million to maintain 328 jobs at the Stellarton head office and create another 140 jobs. It is pretty bad when a company with greater sales than the province collects in taxes requires $3.5 million to keep 238 jobs in the province while there still exists 125 jobs at the former Oshawa Group headquarters in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, could the minister indicate to the House whether or not those jobs will be transferred to Nova Scotia as a result of government assistance?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in response, the investment in Sobeys was to create the opportunity to have an international company with their headquarters in rural Nova Scotia, to show that you can be in Nova Scotia and do business anywhere in the world. In fact, they do have to have a presence in Ontario to ensure the operations there continue.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that they are not going to try to entice any jobs back to rural Nova Scotia. There are over 700 jobs at the Mississauga, Ontario, head office at the present time. Just last weekend a citizen, who dealt with Sobeys in Nova Scotia, had the opportunity to try to register a complaint about products at a particular store in Nova Scotia and they were given the address and the phone number

[Page 1212]

for Mississauga, Ontario, to call with their complaint about a Sobeys problem here in Nova Scotia. Given that the taxpayers have shelled out $3.5 million, how many employees are currently working in Stellarton and why do complaints have to go to Mississauga?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that there is an EDS call centre in Sydney that handles calls from all over the world as well. So the very fact that they have to refer calls to Ontario may be a function of where that processing centre is located.

In terms of how many jobs will be created at the end of the day, Sobeys is here for a long time and will continue to increase employment opportunities.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is and what the minister is not saying is that Sobeys are concentrating their future corporate efforts in Ontario and not here in Nova Scotia. That's what is going on in the Sobeys' empire. It is a disgrace that this minister is oblivious to the fact that the Ontario head office of Sobeys is bigger than the, supposedly, main head office here in Stellarton. After giving away $3.5 million - and I will table the corporate address that we were given when inquiring about matters affecting Sobeys, it is Sobeys Ontario, 6633 Viscount Road, Mississauga, Ontario - 700 employees in that particular office of Sobeys, compliments of the Government of Nova Scotia. My final supplementary to the minister is, why are there more corporate jobs available for Sobeys in Ontario than in Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Again, the fact that Sobeys has been able to grow is because they have acquired a large part of their operation in Ontario. It would be premature to think that they would have no presence at all in Ontario. The head office is located right here in Stellarton. There are branch offices in many parts of the country, Ontario is just one.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

EDUC. - NORTHBROOK SCH.: CLOSURE - MIN. STOP

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Students and parents in Dartmouth North are angry. They are angry the Halifax Regional School Board voted last night to close Northbrook School. They are angry that the students will be split up next year between different schools. Most of all, they are angry that this Minister of Education has chosen to sit on her hands and ignore their concerns. Northbrook School was not slated for the review this year. The Halifax Regional School Board has clearly acted in violation of the Education Act regulations, and I want to ask the minister, will she do her job and step in immediately to ensure that the proposed closure of Northbrook School is stopped before it is too late?

[Page 1213]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the feelings of the parents in this situation, and I sympathize with them. Under the Education Act, school closures are the job of the school board, and the school board has been doing its job in the best way it can.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I expected that kind of a response. I am having a hard time figuring out whether I am more saddened or sickened by the minister's response. The minister is attempting to abdicate her responsibilities, despite the fact that this school round of closures was forced on the school board by underfunding from her department. Again, I ask the minister, when is she going to step in and stop this closure and uphold her responsibility to the students and parents of Dartmouth North?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are very clear responsibilities under the Education Act. The school board has its responsibilities, the minister has his/her responsibilities. I will not be intervening in this case.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, let me apologize to the minister. It is pretty obvious, to the minister, that I am speaking over her head today. Allow me to table a copy of the relevant section of the ministerial Act and regulations for her to read, because it is obvious she hasn't done the job. I am going to table those regulations. I want this minister to commit today to a meeting with the parents of Northbrook students within a week, and to immediately report back to this House what action she will be taking on this issue. Will she make this commitment here in this Legislature?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have read the Act and the regulations a number of times. If a citizen has a problem with the law, then they have remedies. The Act and the regulations are clear, if someone has a dispute with the law, there are avenues people can take.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: IN-HOME SUPPORT PROG. - AVAILABILITY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Originally our office heard from an individual who has taken on the role of primary caregiver for her 82 year old mother. Last year she applied for the in-home support program and she was placed on a wait list. After waiting for six months, she was finally told by Home Care Nova Scotia that the program is no longer in effect for new clients. My question to the minister is, yes or no, is the in-home support program still available for new clients in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, last year when the in-home support program between the Departments of Health and Community Services was combined, we found that there were 30 programs across the province. One of the things that was important was to try to standardize that type of program for the province and to develop some policies that would

[Page 1214]

apply to all people, all Nova Scotians who need those services. The policies have now just about been in place and there will be new admissions.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there will be but there are not now. He didn't really fully answer the question but I am assuming that the staff were correct in informing the client and therefore the answer is that there is no more in-home support program for new clients, for new applicants.

This government talks about providing quality health care to Nova Scotians. They have no plan for long-term care. They are punishing seniors $50 a day that we know well about. They have wasted over $0.5 million on consultants from out of province. So given that the services for Home Care Nova Scotia are meant to support clients and their families, my question to the minister is simply, why is the minister helping existing clients but refusing to help those now entering the system in in-home support?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, when we became responsible for all of the in-home support, we found that there were 30 different programs across the province. We felt that, for obvious reasons, there was some need to review the situation to come up with a standard set of policies that would apply across the province. In that interim, there were no people discharged from the program. The people who were in there were basically grandparented. The policies have now been established and we will, if we are not right now, very soon be admitting new clients to that program.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, they have had that person home, who was in hospital, for over six months and they have been managing them at home. There is no plan for health care in this province. They are tearing it down brick by brick and they have taken precious resources from the health care system and wasted them on such things as I mentioned, like the $0.5 million report that tells us nothing. My question to the minister is, when is he going to take all the excess resources he seems to have and reinvest them in the health care system that will provide hands on care and support people, not jobs for consultants?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government has probably done more to improve hands-on-support health care for Nova Scotians than any government for the past number of years. Just two weeks ago, a very hands-on thing that we did, which we hope is going to pay dividends - which was actually endorsed by all members of this House as well as all health care providers - was our nursing strategy.

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

[Page 1215]

ENVIRON. & LBR. - WHITNEY PIER RES. (ANNE ROSS):

TEST RESULTS - RELEASE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to take you to a house in the Whitney Pier area of Sydney. When you walk into this little house, in the basement area you are confronted with a terrible scene. Inside Anne Ross' basement, you see puddles of orange goo, blue-tinted black sludge, a white substance and a foul odour. Outside of Anne's house is a test bed drilled to determine if toxins are in or around her property.

Anne also sits on the JAG Committee and was recently told that test results from her well exceeded acceptable federal limits for residential exposure to deadly chemicals, but they would not give her that information directly. She was told to sit tight and not worry; sit on this toxic pit while it seeps into your home. Eventually you will get around to telling what is in your home and maybe, just maybe, we will fill you in on the health risks involved. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, will you release today the test results of Anne Ross' home?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: I would refer that question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I presume the honourable member is referring to the area that is north of the coke ovens, and there are tests ongoing in that area at the present time. Both federal and provincial health authorities have examined the results and they do not believe that there is any threat to people's health. However, they have invited a gentleman who is a renowned expert in North America - I believe he is coming up from Florida - who will be carrying out an independent review of the tests. (Interruptions)

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I know they like to make light of this, but there is health involved here. In one breath the minister says that the tests are within the range and then the next they are calling in an expert from Florida. It has been suggested that these test results show four times the acceptable levels of arsenic in this house. Every day that Anne and her daughter have to wait, could this endanger their well-being? I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour again, will he commit today to remove the family from their home and order compensation for them immediately?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, this should properly be answered by the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we are certainly aware of the situation that the honourable member refers to. Indeed two years ago that property was tested and there were some, we will say abnormalities, elevated levels. At that time it was determined by federal

[Page 1216]

and provincial authorities that there was no health risk. They tested again and they thought it was okay. I understand there was some ooze that came up out of the basement and I think that is what you are referring to; that has been tested. As the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works has said, an expert has been engaged to analyze that data and determine what steps should be taken.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it started off as a very simple question to the Minister of Environment and Labour: will you tell Mrs. Ross what the results of the tests are? He could not answer, so he hands it off to another minister who could not answer, and he hands it off to a third minister who could not answer. So I am going to go directly to the Premier. Mr. Premier, I want to appeal to you as a doctor and a health care provider. The health of Mrs. Ross and her daughter is being seriously jeopardized. Will you intervene personally in this case, remove Anne and her daughter from this toxic house, and start the compensation process today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there are environmental problems in Sydney. The NOCO problem is one that the government is paying a lot of attention to. The provincial health officer went up and he reviewed the results. He did a scientific analysis and he came to the conclusion, based on science, that there is no imminent danger to the residents of that area and that particular resident of Nova Scotia. If the member opposite is suggesting that we make decisions based on other than the best information available, then he is going to have to look to somebody else to follow up, but this government will make its decision based on the best evidence possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. - FED. OF AGRIC.: MEETINGS - ATTENDANCE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture. In the press release that was put out this afternoon, the Federation of Agriculture is very frustrated, and the press release talks about the industry burning while the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries officials fiddle the budget figures away.

My question to the minister is, the Federation of Agriculture requested the department's senior staff to meet with the council of leaders on Monday and Tuesday of this week. My question to you is, why didn't the staff go to that meeting and answer the concerns and the questions of the farmers of the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. The meeting was held on Monday, the holiday, and Tuesday and made it very difficult for staff to appear. The request by the federation's president was made on Monday afternoon to my executive assistant when no one was available to meet. That is the long and the short of

[Page 1217]

it. If their request had been made last week, certainly staff could have been there, but it was very difficult to receive a request on Monday, the holiday, for staff to meet that same day.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Federation of Agriculture is over 100 years old. It represents 82 per cent of all farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia which produce in excess of 95 per cent of the agriculture production in the province. That particular meeting was requested to answer serious questions that this department has not been able to answer up to this point. In fact, a representative of CFIA was there on Monday, which is a government holiday, was there to answer their questions, yet our own department, under the minister's officials, were not able to go and answer their questions. My question to the minister is, these three or four points that they brought out in the press release are clear. They are asking for immediate answers - the farmers of the Province of Nova Scotia - to these very serious issues of safety net and other support mechanisms. Why will the minister not admit that he is not prepared to represent the farmers of the Province of Nova Scotia and he should have been there - why wasn't he there?

MR. FAGE: Again, when the request is made on a holiday, for the first time, to appear on that day it is very difficult to have staff come forward. Certainly any time a request is made and answers given, our staff does meet and it is unfortunate that at their meeting Monday and Tuesday that the president of the Federation of Agriculture had not made his request the previous week so staff could be there. An oversight does occur with every individual or organization. The Department of Agriculture and the federation work very closely on a number of issues. As far as the safety net issue that the member opposite raises, the member opposite knows that we are currently in discussions with the federal government on what programs are applicable.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister can blame the farmers of the Province of Nova Scotia all he wants, but the reality is, they are very frustrated with this minister and the lack of respect that government is giving to the Federation of Agriculture and the farmers of Nova Scotia. In fact, they had made a motion, unanimously supported by the farmers of the Province of Nova Scotia, and that resolution was a resolution to the Premier and it goes on to state that if this problem is not dealt with immediately, will this Premier do the right thing and replace the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in Nova Scotia? I will say . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is that the question?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in the history of the Federation of Agriculture, over 100 years - these people laugh at the Federation of Agriculture, the New Democrats laugh at the Federation of Agriculture - an organization of over 100 years has never requested, ever requested, a government to take a minister out of his position. My question to the Premier is, if this problem is not resolved, will the Premier do what the Federation of Agriculture requested and replace the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries?

[Page 1218]

THE PREMIER: The Minister of Agriculture, I believe, is performing his duties with the interests of all farmers at heart and will continue to do so. I am a little bit dismayed that the member opposite would suggest that the minister would be able to respond at such short notice to attend a meeting and I just think that is unreasonable. I think the minister handled the issue very, very well.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - COKE OVENS SITE (FREDERICK ST.): POLLUTION - CONTAINMENT ASSURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, a few years back a different government was in power and they were dealing with the problems on Frederick Street. At that time, we heard the stories of homes polluted with toxic ooze believed to have come from the coke ovens site. Now, a few years later, a different government, and two streets over from Frederick Street the toxic ooze has reappeared. So I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, what kind of assurances can he give that the pollution stopped at Frederick Street and did not continue to move downhill towards the homes on Laurier Street?

HON. DAVID MORSE: That would be more appropriately answered by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the rationale for purchasing the homes on Frederick Street was not because of the risk involved but because of the fact that we needed to delineate the area to which the toxic substances from the coke ovens site had penetrated. So we delineated an area which included Frederick Street.

MR. CORBETT: One thing we got admitted out of this, Mr. Speaker, is that the substance is toxic. What we are trying to find out here, and I am going to make this very clear, it is the Minister of Environment and Labour, I will say it up front so he can hear it, what is he going to do to stop that ooze moving forward or downhill towards Laurier Street? They put up a fence, we all know that a fence is not going to do anything to stop this. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour what assurances he can give the residents of Whitney Pier that slowly but surely their homes are not being polluted by the downward flow of this toxic sludge?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, share the concern about the toxic sites up in Sydney. As the member opposite would well know, and I would have thought might have clued into by the previous referrals to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, this falls within the area of Public Works, so again I would refer to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 1219]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, so what we have then is maybe sometime the government across the way can tell us where the responsibility for the Department of Environment ends, is it at the causeway, is it at the County of Cape Breton line, we don't know, it is so fuzzy here. The JAG process is doing the best they can in that area. Its volunteers are working very hard to provide this government with realistic solutions to the problems. Then when they give this government an estimate of what it will cost to clean up this mess, the government says it is too high, it is too expensive. I want to ask the minister, whichever one wants to answer, why is your government's main priority saving money and not people's health?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the cleanup of the tar ponds and the coke ovens site clearly falls under the jurisdiction actually of JAG and the support unit within government to support JAG is the Department of Transportation and Public Works. The Department of Environment and Labour is the regulatory agency only.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - PUB. PROS. SERV.: DIRECTOR - RECRUITMENT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it has been 608 days since this government has been in power and yet we still have no Director of the Public Prosecution Service here in Nova Scotia. Last night during the Justice estimates the minister gave some curious information about the cost of recruiting for this position to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. My

question to the Minister of Justice is, can you confirm for this House that the Department of Justice has spent in the range of $50,000 to Thompson Associates on recruiting for this position which they have yet to fill?

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as was indicated last evening during estimates, the matter is a question for the Department of Human Resources, because the Human Resources Department has been handling the hiring. I would refer that to the minister.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, no surprise there. None of these ministers seem to want to take responsibility for their own departments today, and would rather pass it off to anyone they can. Last night I asked the Minister of Human Resources if he could provide me with that exact information. He could not provide me with that information last night. I was assured I would get it this morning. A phone call to the deputy minister this morning also did not give us the information we were looking for, in fact we did not have the courtesy of getting a phone call in return. My question to the Minister of Human Resources is, how much has this government, through your department and the Department of Justice, paid to

[Page 1220]

Thompson Associates since they were first contracted out to find a Director of Public Prosecutions for Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the member for Richmond is absolutely correct, I did assure him last night that I would attempt to get that number from the Department of Human Resources. Unfortunately, I was involved in other things this morning, and I never got across to that department. However, the offer still stands, I will attempt to get that number for the honourable member, but I don't have it offhand.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is just becoming a joke, what this government does. Open and accountable. You are the laughingstock of the country when you stand here and say you are an open and accountable government. When you have a Minister of the Crown who makes a personal commitment and then a phone call to the deputy minister this morning and, yet, still no answer on such a basic question is an absolute disgrace. This government continues to waste money and throw money at Thompson Associates to try to find a Director of Public Prosecutions, when the Minister of Justice himself said that in his own opinion, yesterday, the guidelines they have in place mean that they will never be able to fill that position any time soon.

My question to the Premier is, when will you finally take charge, show leadership, and show that this government is committed to the Justice system in this province, and if you can't find a new Director of Public Prosecutions, do the reasonable thing and make Martin Herschorn the permanent Director of Public Prosecutions in this province?

THE PREMIER: To the member opposite, filling that position has been a challenge. It has been a challenge for many months. I believe that very soon we will be in a position to answer definitively the question that was brought to the House by the member.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ECON. DEV. - FTAA: CONSULTATION - CONFIRM

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said he has not had the opportunity to read the draft text of the FTAA document. At the same time, Pierre Pettigrew, the federal Minister responsible for International Trade, has said repeatedly that the provincial Premiers are being consulted and kept informed. Here is an extract from the federal Hansard for February 19th, " . . . we have a web site, a protected site, through which an ongoing dialogue is carried out daily with all provincial governments . . ." I will table that extract. Mr. Pettigrew does not actually say that the Premiers have copies of the draft agreement, but clearly this daily ongoing dialogue has to be based on some specifics. Mr. Premier, has Pierre Pettigrew misled the Canadian public on this matter? Is the province being consulted daily, like he says?

[Page 1221]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will not malign Mr. Pettigrew and what he said until I have had an opportunity to research what it is the member brought to the House. I am not aware of any daily dialogue.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we read today that the Premier has expressed concern about protecting provincial sovereignty over some provincial services like health and education. I would expect, therefore, that he and the other Premiers will be taking steps to become involved in the FTAA. Now since Minister Pettigrew apparently is not inviting the provincial Premiers to share inside information, what will the Premier and his First Minister colleagues be doing to take part in the process? It is getting pretty late in the day.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do share the member's concern that a number of issues of provincial interest will be addressed at the negotiation process that is being undertaken. With that in mind and in recognition of the fact that we do not feel we have had a suitable opportunity to have input, this morning I did send a letter off to the Prime Minister, with a copy to the federal minister, asking for an opportunity to become involved, particularly on those issues of provincial interest.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have heard, and I think we all have, of firewalls being designed into computer systems to protect sensitive information. It seems that the Premier has been put outside the FTAA firewall by Pierre Pettigrew, just like the protestors who have gone to Quebec City have been put outside the FTAA security wall. Now the Premier says he has written to the Prime Minister but you know, if the Premier cannot gain immediate access to the FTAA text, will he go to Quebec City to join the protestors outside the FTAA security wall?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, while I congratulate the member opposite for his interest, I think one can accomplish a lot more being inside the wall than outside.

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

PET. DIR. - PETROCHEMICAL IND.:

OPPORTUNITIES (N.S.) - EQUALITY ENSURE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. During the last election, the Tories promised to maximize offshore benefits including the creation of a petrochemical industry. Off Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico, gas pipes come ashore at one common area creating a critical mass required for a petrochemical industry. Will the minister tell the House what steps this government is taking to ensure we have the same type of petrochemical opportunities here in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1222]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in ensuring that at the right time, and when the opportunity presents itself, we do have the ability to grow a petrochemical industry. At this point in time, we don't have the liquids necessary to make that happen but as we move forward and as new projects move along, we will be ensuring that when the time is right and when we do have the critical mass, we will be able to do that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is this. PanCanadian will go ahead with a new project but what is not clear is where the pipe will come ashore. Will the minister instruct PanCanadian to make sure that gas comes ashore in the Goldboro area where Sable gas is now available?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the gas that PanCanadian will be bringing ashore does not have a great deal of liquids in it so it is not going to be of great benefit in terms of growing a petrochemical industry. As to where that location will ultimately be, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in terms of environmental impacts and so on. The final determination as to the landfall of that particular pipeline has not been taken.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we know that. We are asking the minister to make sure it comes ashore at Goldboro. My final supplementary to the minister is, it is clear the minister sees no value in creating a petrochemical industry in Nova Scotia. It takes three to five years to get one PanCanadian-style project going. My question to the minister is, will the minister ensure jobs for Nova Scotians by making sure a critical mass of ethane is available for the petrochemical industry in the Goldboro area?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite is well aware, we have placed in regulation the ability for the province to ensure that the petrochemical industry can grow here because we will have the ability to direct that to happen.

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

HEALTH - VALLEY REG. HOSP.: OVERLOAD - PLAN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We have learned that the Valley Regional Hospital is full. There are no beds available right now and in the past when this happened, the Valley Regional Hospital would call the QE II Health Sciences Centre and ask them to take the overload. The problem right now is that the QE II Health Sciences Centre is full. My question to the minister is, where should the doctors send their patients when the beds are full?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to hear that the Valley Regional Hospital is full and that the QE II Health Sciences Centre is full. That does, unfortunately - or probably fortunately - happen from time to time. It does not happen all that often. What

[Page 1223]

I can assure the member is that if somebody needs critical care, they will receive it here in Nova Scotia, and if it can't be delivered here in Nova Scotia it would be delivered elsewhere.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the real problem is the minister and his government closed 152 acute care beds last year alone. That is the problem. We are seeing the results today. Yesterday the Valley Regional Hospital had to cancel three surgeries because of the situation. The QE II Health Sciences Centre used to have enough flex in their system to assist these hospitals. Demands on the QE II Health Sciences Centre are now so high that this is no longer possible. The ER is chronically overloaded and the rescheduling of elective surgeries, two or three times, is becoming the norm. I want to ask (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health, is this what Nova Scotians should come to expect when they seek health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has a good health care system, and it is getting better. I notice that the honourable member said it was elective surgeries that were cancelled. Unfortunately that does happen from time to time, because in Nova Scotia those who need the care the most urgently receive it first.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, people in Nova Scotia are tired of excuses and rationalizations that mean absolutely nothing. The lack of beds means that front-line health care staff are having an increasingly difficult time caring for their patients. They have been told by this minister to hang in there. Well, they can't wait any longer. Yesterday we heard about two doctors who are moving to P.E.I. because they are tired of the heavy workload. This government is pushing physicians to the very brink. I want to the ask the minister, how much longer do doctors have to hang in there before you are going to provide them with some relief?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess what the honourable member has done is just reinforced this government's position in the clinical planning process which talked about things based on evidence, best practices and benchmarks. In the case of the physicians to whom the honourable member is referring, the problem with that is that in the situation where there is one specialist trying to deliver service, that means on-call 7 days a week, 365 days a year - we talk about critical mass, benchmarks and best practices - you will find in that document it says that if a service is to be sustainable, one person can't do it.

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

[Page 1224]

FIN. - CASINO (SYDNEY: CHARITIES - CUTBACKS RATIONALE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier certainly likes to go back in time and try to blame others for what his government is doing. Well, let's take a little trip back in time to, let's say, last year when the Premier and his government lifted $2.2 million in Sydney Casino profits destined for charities. Since that time, profits that would have gone to charities increased by $1.6 million; that would bring the total to $3.8 million. Despite over $0.5 billion in additional revenue since coming to office, the Premier still feels the need to impoverish these charities. My question for the Premier is, how can he justify stripping charities of $3.8 million?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up a good point because, you know, the previous government had created a myriad of programs, none of which were particularly supportive of each other. One of the challenges that government had to undertake was to rationalize what government is doing and to make sure that every dollar that comes out of the public purse is being utilized to its maximum. We made that decision and certainly the way that that charity disbursement was set up was very confusing, would have led to a lot of projects being undertaken that we felt were not necessarily the highest priorities in the province.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, you know, that is so confusing, that is almost laughable, Mr. Premier. How can you justify, anybody with a conscience, how can you possibly justify taking $3.8 million away from charities and then trying to justify it? The Premier says he did it because he had to make some hard decisions. Well, that is not good enough. It is not good enough. He can give $3.5 million to all his buddies at Sobeys, but there is no money for charities.

I am asking, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier do the humane thing here? Will the Premier restore the $3.8 million that he lifted from charities across this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what is very difficult for the government to do is field questions from an Opposition Party when one member criticizes the government for spending too much money and another member of that same Party criticizes government for not engaging in a new program. The member opposite made a mistake because we did not take money away from the charities, that program had yet to begin and no disbursements had been made out of those funds.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Premier, take that halo off your head because it is not there. You are only imagining that. You did not give those charities that money. You took that money away from them, Mr. Premier, and you know it. It was a cold, calculating move to take money away from charities.

[Page 1225]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May I ask the honourable member to direct his questions through the Speaker's Chair, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, why won't the Premier do the honourable thing, admit you were wrong, admit you took that money away from charities and restore that $3.8 million in casino profits to the charities and the people who deserve it in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the initiatives undertaken by government after we took office was to examine new programs and that was exactly that, a new program. We felt at that particular time there were other priorities which took precedence over that one. That is why that particular initiative was abandoned.

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

NAT. RES. - EXPLORATION: ONSHORE - ROYALTIES VALUE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, yesterday, of course, we learned that Osprey Energy announced that it is going to begin seismic work, along with Beacon Resources, on the 88,000 hectares they have licensed around Parrsboro and Debert. If the exploration pans out, they will in that area recover approximately 75 million barrels of oil and more than 345 billion cubic feet of natural gas and for that, at the government's current rate of 25 cents a hectare, the Province of Nova Scotia will have received the grand total of $22,000. That is not even enough to have paid the Minister of Education's coffee budget for last year.

So I want to ask the Premier quite simply this question, why is your government giving away the rights to onshore exploration in Nova Scotia essentially for nothing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. GORDON BALSER: I did notice the member opposite used the qualifier, if, in his question, that means if they are successful. I would remind him that there have 1,000 test holes drilled since 1860, there has not been a discovery. What we are attempting to do here is grow an onshore industry.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister is still back in the days of the divining rods; we have come a long way. The government continues to talk about the need to have these low fees in order to attract exploration. But the fact is that the industry recognizes the Maritime Basin is, in fact, an excellent prospect. If, in Nova Scotia, we were just getting approximately 10 per cent of what Alberta gets on an acre basis that $22,000 would have turned into over $2.5 million. So I want to ask, not the minister, but the Premier, who talks about growing revenue, who talks about fairness, will you ensure that you will have tabled

[Page 1226]

in this House before the end of the week the evidence that you and your government have compiled that shows that increasing the licence fees to even a modest rate will be driving away exploration here in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister responsible to explain to the member opposite how these opportunities present themselves to the oil and gas industry.

MR. BALSER: It is highly likely that if the member opposite were responsible and if that Party were the government, there would be no oil and gas industry in Nova Scotia. We are attempting to grow an industry here.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, you can't help but do some comparison. Here we have a government that will get tough with senior citizens and will charge them $50 a day to occupy a long-term care bed in the hospital but when it comes to having a little bit of backbone, a little bit of spine to stand up to the oil industry, oh no, 11 cents an acre is more than fine.

So I want to ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, with as much respect as I can muster, to the Premier, will you at least order that a review of the onshore leasing fees be done before you give away any more exploration rights at the grand total of 11 cents an acre?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the member opposite is, if the current activities are successful, the price next time will be higher.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - MAINTENANCE WORKERS STRIKE:

OH&S - STANDARDS ASSURE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. My question quite simply is, what assurances can the minister offer this House that occupational health and safety standards are being maintained in all 150 schools of the Halifax Regional School Board during the current maintenance workers strike?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Working with the Department of Health, if the chief medical officer of the area requests my department to provide environmental inspection officers we will provide them and would be happy to continue to work with the Department of Health.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, it appears, Mr. Speaker, the minister is not the lead agent in this at all. It is quite concerning, there have been a number of complaints about violations of occupational health and safety in various schools. I will give you one that, as a result of a press release that was put out by students at Haley and Chris, Queen Elizabeth High

[Page 1227]

School, and I will quote because it is very concerning. With regard to one female student who had to attend the ladies' washroom, her concern was because of a male replacement worker who continued to lurk around the ladies' washroom for extensive periods of time. Her question was whether there was a proper background check done on this particular individual.

My question to the Minister of Labour is, would he be kind enough to secure the JOSH Committee reports from all 150 schools that are supposed to be maintained on a regular basis through his department - not through the Department of Health or Department of Education, but through his department - would he be kind enough to ensure that all 150 of those are ensuring that all OH&S regulations are being complied with?

MR. MORSE: I thank the honourable member for bringing that concern to the House; that is a distressing story that he has shared with us. Occupational Health & Safety is responsible for the health and safety of staff in the public school system and I would be pleased to request the obtaining of those reports.

MR. MACKINNON: The minister yesterday indicated - in conjunction with the Minister of Health - that 10 out of 150 schools were inspected. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, concern is the fact that those 10 that were inspected were given advance notice of the Department of Health and Environment officials attending the school. In fact, as recently as Thursday of last week, J.L. Ilsley's administration had an announcement on their PA system advising all the students that the Department of Health and Environment would be in the following day to do an inspection. Is this the normal process that the Department of Labour and Environment now provide when doing on-site safety inspections?

MR. MORSE: What I would like to say is I can talk a little bit about the policy of the Department of Environment and Labour in terms of carrying out occupational health and safety inspections. We use a number of criteria to target them, one of which is we work with the Workers' Compensation Board if a particular employer seems to be having an undue number of accidents. That would perhaps make them a target for possible OH&S inspection. A number of them are done on a random basis. In this particular case, my understanding is that the request came from the Department of Health and we worked with them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable Leader of the Opposition.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - USER FEES:

WATER WITHDRAWAL - FARMERS' PERCENTAGE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: This government has drawn the ire of farmers across the province with the endless list of user fees. One of the government's latest user fees is for $250 for water withdrawal approvals. It does not end there however; farmers must now pay not only a $250 fee for a licence, but a further $200 annually in administration charges. The

[Page 1228]

province will collect $79,500 per year in new fees as a result of these charges. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, how much of this money will come from the pockets of hardworking farmers in this province?

HON. DAVID MORSE: The honourable member has asked a very specific question as to what percentage of potential fees are going to come from a certain segment of the economy and I would be pleased to endeavour to try to get that answer for him.

MR. MACDONELL: This may prove to be a heavy burden on some farms which require multiple water withdrawal licences and who live in the areas of drought that may require them to apply annually for new licences. My question again to the Minister of the Environment and Labour is, why won't you admit that these new fees amount to a tax on food and announce today that you will cancel this latest farm user fee?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for drawing attention to a very serious matter, not only in Nova Scotia, but right around the world. There is a global concern about water supplies and more attention has to be focused on not only quantifying, but also securing those water supplies. It costs money to do this and I am sure that that is a cost that Nova Scotians would agree is well spent.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the only thing well spent here is Nova Scotians to date. Farmers are very concerned that this new fee will be charged on each permit rather than each individual farm and I wonder if this is the water strategy that the government has announced earlier. This is a concern because some farmers will require five approvals or more. Farmers in the Valley are worried they will have to apply for the permits each year rather than every 10 years because of drought conditions. Will the minister commit today that farmers will only have to pay one licence and administration fee each and that those living in the Valley won't be required to apply for licences more often than those living elsewhere?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing that concern forward here in the Legislature. We are always concerned that we work with the people who are impacted by our regulations and I would be pleased, as always, to hear the concerns of the affected party.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - SECURE TREATMENT FACILITY:

TRURO - DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last fall the minister announced the construction of a secure treatment facility in

[Page 1229]

Truro and that announcement was made before a rather sceptical crowd. They were sceptical because many of them had a hands-on experience dealing with their children who has behavioural and emotional problems. They were also sceptical because of a 90 day treatment program that they thought would not be enough. My question to the minister is, would the minister please indicate for all members of the House what kind of secure treatment facility is being planned for Truro?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services, you have about 15 seconds.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member indicated we did make an announcement last fall. What our announcement was is that we would work with the community towards developing the project of the secure treatment facility. That facility, when it is completed later on this year, will house 30 people.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 373.

Res. No. 373, Educ. - Janitorial Strike: Student Safety - Ensure - notice given Apr. 9/01 - (Mr. R. MacKinnon)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution because it is not only timely, but it is of critical value as far as I am concerned. I am extremely distressed given the mounting evidence that is coming in terms of occupational health and safety issues and given the fact that the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health and indeed the Ministry of Education are doing very little to address these concerns.

Mr. Speaker, the first question you have to ask is, what are the effects of this strike on the students, the staff, the parents, all stakeholders within the Halifax Regional School Board. First of all, let's look at the schools. All the extracurricular activities have been cancelled because the evening staff, the replacement workers who are now doing work, don't

[Page 1230]

have security checks. All the cleaning staff who are employed by the Halifax Regional School Board have to have security checks and because these replacement workers do not have security checks, you can't allow the students to be in the schools in the evenings when the cleaning staff are in there, notwithstanding the fact that now cleaning staff are going in during the daytime when the students are attending school.

So you can well imagine what it is like. If you have a school with over 100 students,

travelling up and down, and fast paced, from one class to the next on a wet, slippery floor. That, in itself, is a health and safety issue.

Notwithstanding the fact, Mr. Speaker, that because these extracurricular activities have been cancelled - school plays, the music programs, the band practices, all the sports activities, basketball, volleyball and what have you - have all been cancelled. They have all been cancelled except for a rather interesting gentleman who decides he wants to play in a band at Oxford Street School on Wednesday, April 11, 2001. This particular individual, who is a replacement worker, takes it upon himself to go into the band room - and I will table the pictures showing this very distinguished gentleman with his hat on and a cigarette, smoking full bore - and play with the students' band equipment. Is that the type of environment that we want our children to be allowed to sit in? I don't think so. Yet, the Minister of Labour kind of slushes it off to the Minister of Health, that it is a health issue, it is not an occupational health and safety issue.

Well, let's go right into that. I will table pictures upon pictures showing overflowing toilets, garbage, desecration of the walls, on the floors. Mr. Speaker, the evidence is mounting. I am very suspicious about those 10 inspections. I am very suspicious particularly when you have the school administration giving a PA announcement that the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Labour are going to come in and do an inspection the day before and advising the students to do their best to clean up the school and make sure that everything is in place.

Mr. Speaker, I will even go as far as tabling a report from a joint occupational health and safety committee in one of our schools, the A.J. Smeltzer Junior High School, and this is less than a week ago. The violations of occupational health and safety in this school are very concerning. The Minister of Environment and Labour, what does he do? Well, no, that's not my responsibility, the Department of Health is the lead agent. Well, he has a responsibility. He is minister. I would invite the minister to stand in his place right now and apprise the members of this House as to how often these committees are required by law to meet. I will bet you that he can't tell us. I would invite the minister, if he has the answer, please stand right now and I will yield my seat.

No, Mr. Speaker, he won't do it, because he doesn't know the answer. He doesn't know what is going on in his department. He doesn't even know the rules and the laws for the occupational health and safety of these students that protect our most precious resource.

[Page 1231]

This particular occupational health and safety committee reports that the filters for the ventilation system are due to be replaced. Just about every school in the Halifax Regional School Board have these filtration systems. Are they being regularly maintained? My information says, no.

What about the chlorination systems? We now have, Mr. Speaker, school administrators now trying to monitor the chlorine levels within the water systems. They are now taking the responsibility for the chlorination of water in the schools. Where is the Minister of Environment and Labour? He has a responsibility for the safety of these children and what is he doing?

Mr. Speaker, in this particular report, and I will quote the very first thing, we have had several complaints from parents indicating that their children's asthma conditions are being aggravated by the amount of dust in the building. Where is the Minister of Environment and Labour? Again, he passes it on to the Minister of Health. Where is the Minister of Health? Why isn't he doing something?

HON. JAMES MUIR: We are.

MR. MACKINNON: The Minister of Health says he is doing something. Is the Minister of Health going to stand in his place and give us assurances that all these filtration systems are being regularly monitored and the filters are being regularly changed?

Mr. Speaker, do you know what happens when these filters aren't replaced on a regular basis, we have this microcosm buildups, and you know what happens there, they start to spread, they build, they germinate. In the worst case scenario, God forbid (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, we know. I know it may sound a little far-fetched for some of these members but, yes, that is how Legionnaires' disease is spread. That is how it is spread, through sources like this. What are they doing? They are sitting over there, they are letting the CEO for the Halifax Regional School Board beat the living daylights out of these employees for absolutely no reason at all. There is no reason for this strike to continue. I have even heard suggestions that he is going to be up for a bonus. He is even going to be up for a bonus, a reward for holding the line on the finances, unsubstantiated as it may be.

Well, let's look at some substantiated material. We know, in his report, he doesn't seem to like the Auditor General's assessment. He thinks that the Auditor General has an ulterior motive to accountability. My heavens above, where is it going to stop? This is the type of paranoia that went on during the Buchanan days, it is everybody's fault but our own. That is their philosophy.

[Page 1232]

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to school officials, they say morale is extremely low there. Can you imagine the impact that has on the teaching environment? Let's look at all these employees who are being brought in. No security checks. All the regular employees with the Halifax Regional School Board have to go through these CPIC security checks, but not the replacement workers, because the time frame alone would never have allowed for it, it would take one to three weeks at best, and that is, hopefully, if there isn't a backlog.

That is why they have shut down all the extracurricular activities, to accommodate the vanity and the single-mindedness of one CEO who is only looking at one issue, numbers, at the Halifax Regional School Board. Given the fact that it is becoming quite evident that not even the elected officials at the Halifax Regional School Board have a full handle and full knowledge of all the number crunching that is being done by the CEO. That is scary that we don't have that type of accountability. Again, when these employees go into the schools they are supposed to have security checks. They are supposed to have a check on the Child Abuse Registry, they are supposed to be run through that. Is that being done? Not to my knowledge.

Mr. Speaker, what about the WHMIS training, one of the most basic and fundamental requirements to have these employees, replacement or not, in the schools. If it is a requirement for all these employees who are now on strike, why isn't it requirement for all the replacement workers? Why the double standard?

We heard what Reverend Gary Burrill, from the Upper Musquodoboit Pastoral Charge, had to say on the issue. You would be, I am quite certain, familiar with Reverend Burrill from the lovely Upper Musquodoboit Valley. Here is what he says, "The employment of replacement workers, particularly during regular schooling hours . . ." said presbytery spokesperson Gary Burrill ". . . betrays a lack of understanding of the close relationship between students and striking custodial staff, especially in smaller schools. It creates situations where children are drawn into the current labour dispute in inappropriate ways."

Mr. Speaker, I have tabled clear evidence that the children in these schools could very well be in a vulnerable position. Earlier today I tabled and I made reference to the press release that was put out by the students. The young lady at the high school who had concern about one of the replacement workers hanging around the girls' washroom for an extended period of time pretending he was replacing the toiletries and looking out the window and doing a little dusting around the window sash. There is something wrong when officials at the Halifax Regional School Board are not doing anything about this. Is this what we want for our children? I do not think so. I believe the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and certainly the Minister of Labour, if he would take a few days just to sit down and get some officials in his department who know what is going on and brief him so he would at least know the basic rules of engagement and understand what his responsibility is.

[Page 1233]

[4:15 p.m.]

Yesterday he stood in this House and said his first responsibility was to his staff - it was not to the children, it was not to the teachers, it was not to the stakeholders at the Halifax Regional School Board. Then he says that because it involves children, he will pass it along to the Minister of Health. Well, if it involves children, why didn't he pass it on to the Minister of Education? It is rather perplexing that the Minister of Education is sitting quietly on this issue.

Almost a year ago, the Minister of Finance issued a directive to the Minister of Education advising that all school boards in the province come in under one master computer system for better accountability, and that is fine. Why hasn't the Halifax Regional School Board done that? Is Mr. Reid and his cohorts, or whoever is within his family circle, too busy manipulating numbers? Maybe what we should be doing is putting that on-line computer system, that common computer system, into the Halifax Regional School Board and getting rid of some of these high-priced CEOs who are not being accountable. Maybe we are paying too much money out on that end and not enough to our custodial staff who have a very special relationship in this educational system and in particular have come to know the students almost as if it were a family and the students trust them. They do not trust the environment that this government has put them in.

MR. SPEAKER: Time has expired.

The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the motion today. I will also be sharing my time with the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. Resolution No. 373 on the labour dispute, janitorial staff:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government do its utmost to protect the best interest and safety of students and teachers while janitors are engaged in labour negotiations."

First I would like to say that safety and security of Nova Scotia students and teachers is of paramount concern. There is nothing more important to the future of our province than the students that are in our schools today.

Throughout this strike, the department has been in constant contact with the Halifax Regional School Board to ensure that the safety of the students and staff is not compromised. Last week Dr. Robert Strang sent public health inspectors from the Department of Environment and Labour to conduct random inspections of 10 schools in the HRM. They found that although the conditions in these schools were not up to normal standards of cleanliness, they did not constitute a health or safety hazard to students. Dr. Strang also said he would not hesitate to order a school closed if it posed a threat to students or staff. Over

[Page 1234]

the Easter weekend, the school board made extra efforts to clean these schools. Dr. Strang reports that if necessary he will send inspectors into more schools next week. It is obvious that these schools are being inspected to ensure that they are safe and sanitary for the students and for the teachers of the schools.

While we all agree that this is a challenging situation, there are rules and roles and responsibilities. I know that there have been calls for the minister to become involved. But you cannot have it both ways. For the minister to insert herself into this strike would bring cries of interference from all sides.

The Education Act is very clear on responsibilities. Section 64 of the Education Act defines the General Responsibilities and Powers of School Boards. Section 64(2) clearly places the responsibility for the hiring and paying of superintendents, principals, teachers and other staff with the school board. School boards in bargaining with their employees must adhere to the provisions of the Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act in the case of teachers, and the Trade Union Act in the case of other staff. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, the responsibility in this labour dispute lies with the Halifax Regional School Board.

It appears that after some negotiations with the aid of a conciliator, the two sides in this dispute have gone to the Labour Relations Board to air their grievances. There are four applications before the board, Mr. Speaker: two by the school board questioning the propriety of the January 14th strike vote, and two by the union charging unfair labour practices. The union has gone to the provincial Supreme Court to quash two subpoenas, ordering its members to appear before the Labour Relations Board. The Supreme Court is not expected to deal with this matter before May 3rd.

In the meantime and until the strike is settled, our concern is that students and staff are not unduly affected by this action, Mr. Speaker. In this regard, the Education Act clearly says that the minister has a role to play.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a point of order?

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Well, actually just a short question to clarify a particular statement he made with regard to the Supreme Court. Would he entertain a short question?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Queens entertain a question?

MR. MORASH: Certainly.

[Page 1235]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for accepting the question. Is the member not aware that the Labour Relations Board has twice issued interim orders dismissing the complaint against the union on this particular issue to which he now refers?

MR. MORASH: No, I am not aware of that.

Under Section 68(2)(a), the minister has the authority to issue directives in accordance with the Education Act, when things like ". . . the health, safety or educational welfare of the students of a school are endangered . . ." Certainly the department will monitor the situation, just as it has been monitoring the school board's use of replacement workers. The issue of security checks for replacement workers is something that certainly is needed, and all replacement workers have had security checks. Very few work during the day and they are always accompanied by board staff. Most cleaning is done currently at night and board staff are there as well.

The department regularly checks with the school board to ensure that replacement workers in the schools are doing proper jobs and doing good jobs to ensure the cleanliness. Replacement workers are accompanied by school board members at all times when they are in the schools, whether that is during the day or in the evening. So far, we are satisfied that the board is carrying out its responsibilities in this area and that the students and teachers are safe.

The department is having daily discussions with the school board, Mr. Speaker, because it wants to stay on top of the issue and have awareness of the current situation. But the department is not prepared to micromanage this situation. If there is clear evidence from Dr. Strang that the health of students is at risk or there is a physical threat of some kind, the department will take an even more active role than it has. But for now, the department and minister are confident that the health and safety of students and teachers is not in jeopardy.

We all hope that the two sides will get together soon to resume talks, because in the end this strike will be settled. Until that time, we will do our utmost to ensure that students and staff are not unduly affected. Thank you for giving me the opportunity today to comment during debate on Resolution No. 373.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, last week we debated a similar resolution, and unfortunately the time that I had to address the House was simply not long enough for me to express some of the concerns I have had with respect to this ongoing dispute, this labour issue that's been going on for the last couple of weeks. At the time of the closure of my opportunity to speak I was about to talk about an issue that quite frankly disturbed me as a parent as well as a legislator in this Assembly and that was a letter that was sent home by Mr.

[Page 1236]

Reid to parents at the school where my son attends. I assume it probably went home to all parents of all students. In that letter it expressed, from the school board's point of view, some of the rationale as to why they are forced to this labour issue.

What it said is that part of the reason that the school board is in this dispute is because it had to deal with an accumulated deficit of $23 million and an annual operating debt of $10 million. All members of this House know very well that in last year's budget the accumulated deficit of the Halifax Regional School Board was wiped out, in fact was brought in with the accumulated deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia. There is no accumulated deficit so the reason put forward by Mr. Reid at the time is more of an excuse than a reason.

As well, members of this House would know that last year, after considerable debate in this Legislature, the budget was reflected so that the school board received additional revenues and again the minister has indicated this year the same thing has happened. So quite frankly what's happened is the CEO for the school board has used the opportunity to try to use this as an opportunity to lobby for additional revenue when in fact the additional revenue came forward. It is unfortunate that they continue to espouse the rhetoric that they have. It doesn't do one thing to help resolve the issues that are before both the union and the school board.

I also speak as a parent of students in both junior high and high school and I have asked my sons to report back to me whether or not they thought the school was clean or not clean. Unfortunately, it is not a good reporting process because if you gauge their ability to determine what's clean and what's not clean by looking at their bedroom from time to time, they don't have a good sense of that sometimes. I will say this, that both my sons have indicated that the school has not been a problem. One of my sons, my older son, has indicated that the janitors who are striking, picketing at the school had been very co-operative with the students and they have not disrupted any of the activities of the school. I must say that I've met with those janitors as well and I commend them for the co-operation that they have shown and for the concern they have shown for the students and parents as well.

There was one issue that was brought up during Question Period that disturbed me. The honourable member for Cape Breton West indicated to this House that the school at J.L. Ilsley was given advanced warning that the inspection was done. He said there was an announcement made at the school that the next day the inspector was to come forward. What I did was I immediately went out and asked our researcher to call the principal of the school to determine whether or not that's the case, because if it is the case it is disturbing. In fact, what it would show is that these inspections are really a farce.

Our researchers called the school and spoke to the principal of Halifax West who is sharing that school at the same time. He indicated to us that that in fact was not the case, they knew nothing about any advance notice. He also indicated that they didn't even know that

[Page 1237]

there was an inspection, they weren't aware of that. The principal's name is Mr. Young and he indicated that to our staff no more than a few minutes ago.

So, I don't know where the honourable member got his information from but I will say that although it is a valid concern that these inspections be done, the most important concern that has to be addressed is the concern for the safety and well-being of the students and the concern for the janitors who need to get this resolved so they can get back into schools and do the kind of work they are accustomed to doing and provide the service that the students and schools have seen over the past number of years. We all know the good work that these janitors and maintenance people have done over the past number of years. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Dartmouth North must have a question. He is espousing something there, so if he has a question I ask him to stand up and ask the question and I will answer it.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This is not Question Period and the honourable member is not a minister so I can't ask him a question. On the point of order though I would like to know just exactly how concerned the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is and if in fact he walked the picket line with those particular janitors who have been on strike now for over 30 days.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would advise the honourable member for Dartmouth North that that is not a point of order, it is in fact a question. The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is more than welcome, I guess, if he would like to answer the question.

MR. BARNET: I simply was providing him an opportunity to ask his question on the public record and I would be more than happy to respond on the public record as well, Mr. Speaker.

I have had the opportunity to go out on the picket line and meet with those strikers, and quite frankly I clearly sympathize with them. I know, and I have watched in the media some of the public relations jargon that has been going on from the school board and quite frankly I am disappointed with the communications officer. When he is shown pictures of replacement workers playing the drums and he uses the excuse du jour, Mr. Speaker, where he simply comes up with, well that might have been taken any time. That is not at all helpful in terms of trying to resolve this labour dispute; that is not helpful in trying to get these two sides together.

[Page 1238]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, two points. One, to address the honourable member's concern that the PA announcement was unfounded. The fact of the matter is, I spoke with a parent of a child attending that particular institution. Secondly, if the member had taken the time to look at the photos, he would have noted that they were dated on the back, it is dated, when the photo was taken. Rather than as usual get up and spew off verbal diatribe, perhaps he could even comment on the $20,000 worth of computer equipment that was stolen from QEH around the same time frame. This is what he doesn't seem to want to address.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again I would suggest that that is not a point of order. It is again a disagreement between two honourable members. I cannot verify which honourable member is providing the most accurate information but it is not a point of order and the honourable member has a little less than a minute left in his contribution to the debate.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank has the floor.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite obviously wasn't paying attention to what I was saying because, quite frankly, I agreed 100 per cent that those photos were taken during the time of the strike. The part that I was trying to point out was the communications officer's ability to just offer any sort of excuse to excuse these types of actions is not productive to this labour dispute. I believe that the two sides need to get together so they can resolve these things. I believe that the janitors have been honourable in their pursuit of resolving this issue in a fair and reasonable manner.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise this afternoon to speak to Resolution No. 373. I have sat here through the debate so far and I wanted to note, first of all, that I listened closely to the member for Queens when he was speaking because I believe he was a safety officer at the Bowater Mersey mill and has a great deal of expertise in this area. I know and he knows that if that site were allowed to go week after week without being cleaned that it would have been closed down a heck of a lot faster than those schools are being closed down. He knows that and he knows that it is an unacceptable situation not to have them properly cleaned.

It was with great interest that I listened to what he had to say. I also listened with great interest to what the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank had to say and I must say it always disturbs me when we use euphemisms to talk about replacement workers. We are talking about people who are taking other peoples' jobs, that is what we are talking about. To use euphemisms like replacement workers, I think, does the people who are out on strike a disservice. The question is not whether you visited the picket line, but what did you do after you visited the picket line? Did you go back to the ministers in your own government? Did

[Page 1239]

you tell them that leaving those workers out on strike is unacceptable? That it is your responsibility to intervene? It is your responsibility to . . .

MR. BARRY BARNET: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member asked a question there and there is not really an opportunity to reply. I will say that after I met with the striking picketers I did go and meet with a number of school board members and expressed my concerns and their concerns they expressed to me. I believe that those people have the ability to resolve this issue. I believe that this government has provided them with the appropriate amount of money to do that and I believe that they have the legislative authority to do that. They ought to do that because it is not fair for the people that are on that picket line and it is not fair for the students. Yes, in fact I have gone and taken the initiative

to do what I could.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Once again, I would caution all members, if they have an opportunity to perhaps review the House of Commons Procedures and Practices, it points out that many times members stand on their feet to offer points of order but rarely do true points of order occur. For all honourable members, a point of order is supposed to deal with primarily a breach of proceedings and practice in the Nova Scotia Legislature. In this case that is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think that went without saying. The point that I wanted to make to the member opposite is he should have gone back to his minister. Do you know something, do you know where the root of this lies? It lies right in the Minister of Education's office. That is where it lies. Some of the lowest per-student funding in the country, that is what underlies these kinds of labour difficulties.

I went out and met with the custodial staff who are out there on the lines, some of whom I have known for many years. They tell me, what we are asking for is just to have the jobs and the work we do respected. We do our jobs with a great deal of pride, and all we are asking is that the school board respect the work that we do.

Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable to me, as a person who has a great number of schools in their district and who has taken the time to go out and meet with the custodial staff, that the custodial staff could be asked to solve the budget woes of the Halifax Regional School Board. And they are not alone. Next it is going to be the secretaries, they are the people who are going to be asked to pay the price for the minister's inability to deliver a proper budget to the school boards. This is inexcusable.

Mr. Speaker, over and above what I have already said I want to draw a few particular instances. One of them is, I know that there is a student who attends one of the schools who is environmentally sensitive. She can't put up with mould and dust and those kinds of things

[Page 1240]

in the air. She has not been able to attend school since the strike started. It is not her fault, it is the inability of the school board to take a reasonable approach to resolving this issue, because the Minister of Education has failed to properly fund them. That is the problem.

I know that the custodial staff at these schools don't only do custodial work. Let me tell you this, I know that in one of the schools the custodian is also the local computer expert. In fact, he took the time, on the weekend, to go in and install the computer lab, put the software on, and four or five times a day is called by the office staff, down to the office, because they have problems with their computers. It is not in his job description. It is something he does because he loves his job, because he cares about the environment that he works in.

These people are being mistreated. They are asking simply to have job security and to have the work that they do respected. Unfortunately, we don't have enough time to go through all of this. I asked to be able to speak first on this, because it deals with occupational health and safety and my colleague from Cape Breton Centre, who is our critic in that area, is going to be speaking on this. So I am going to turn it over to him now, and I want to thank him for having the opportunity to speak briefly on it.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this is the second consecutive Wednesday I have gotten up to speak on this labour dispute. There is a saying we often stand in our place here and say - it gives me pleasure to speak. Well, today it doesn't give me pleasure because, quite simply, this labour strike could have been averted if, and this is a pet peeve of mine, there was a proper Trade Union Act in this province. If this minister could only see the hardship - I am sure he can see, he just doesn't want to get past it - the problems an inappropriate and inadequate Trade Union Act are causing.

One of the largest problems with our Trade Union Act, Mr. Speaker, is the allowance of the employer to use scab labour. You can coat that all you want and call them replacement workers or whatever, but that is what they are, they are scab labour. They come in and these very people, as the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour mentioned, the same custodians who do yeoman service, who go above and beyond, when they sit down with their employer they hope that they are both playing with a level playing field and that one side isn't favoured in a labour dispute over the other. They hope that they can come to an agreement, but failing that ability to each agree to a negotiated settlement, there are other steps to be taken.

But, when you hit that point, what happens? We see here in this province, Mr. Speaker, that this process is heavily weighted in favour of the employer. We have seen the documents tabled today. We have seen them in the media about replacement workers, the scabs who are in there, they are playing the drums and they are doing this. The member for Queens told us that they are being followed around, they are being guided, if you will, by supervisory staff

[Page 1241]

from the school board. One has to wonder what these school board supervisors are really doing. I am sure that if any of the members of SUPE were doing that same thing your head would spin. How quick a grievance would be filed against one of those members.

As we have already seen, frivolous - and I have to say frivolous in the most emphatic way, Mr. Speaker - charges are being brought before the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board over what most people would consider internal union affairs and no business of the employer. All that employer should have to worry about is negotiating the agreement. How a trade union conducts a strike vote, as long as it conducts it in a manner that gives every member a vote, an opportunity to vote, should be of no concern to the employer, but yet this employer wants to drag this union through frivolous proceedings because it does not have a leg to stand on.

Other speakers - and I will leave it to them to speak about the role the Department of Education does or doesn't play in this strike - they are not even here, but the Minister of Environment and Labour told me in estimates just a few weeks ago, oh, the system works great in this province. Well, it doesn't work great in this province, Mr. Speaker, and do you know what? As members from the other side of the aisle will even tell you, the fear of this strike is not to do with dollars and cents. Do you know what the reality of this strike is? It is to break the union. It has no other means in it, whether it is the superintendent on an ego trip, or it is some crazy rationale that if you get rid of the union prices will drop through wages, and therefore we can compete better.

Well, whatever the rationale is, I am sure that if you ask members across the way that is what they will tell you, that the whole idea is to break that union, and what I am going to say is that the government, by allowing scab workers to do the work of the legitimate workers in this province, are participating in strikebreaking.

So if this government wants to do anything at the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board, what they should do is go there as a witness on behalf of the union, and say - do you know what? - we are not only going to support you at this hearing, we are going to support you in legislation and we are going to go and we are going to tell the people of this province that this is a place where work and workers' rights are valued. We are going to tell people if you have a job, we are going to protect your job. You have the right to collective bargaining, and we are going to support that right. We are not going to let some Third World-style dictator come in and give you below minimum wage wages. We are going to support you and you are a valuable person in this province. You should be respected for that and no dictatorial person, such as the supervisor of the Halifax Regional School Board, is going to take that away from you. You work in this province, and your work needs the dignity and the salary accumulative with that.

[Page 1242]

[4:45 p.m.]

This government has a responsibility whether it is through the Department of Labour or whether it is through the Department of Education. It has to get involved. I stood in my place last week and said we are coming ever closer to graduation time and grading day for the children and that is exactly what this school board is hoping for - out of sight, out of mind. Eventually the schools will close for the summer and leave these people out there for a long, hot summer to stew about this.

What we, as a government, have to do - this government has to get in it. Whether it is an industrial inquiry as to the shenanigans that the school board is pulling off. You know when they have their flak in the media denying the existence or the validity of pictures - we have to be vigilant and that means the government has to be vigilant. They have to protect the rights of these Nova Scotian workers. And, do you know what? They have got to respect the rights and the health of these children who are in these schools, the people who continue to work in these schools legitimately - the teachers and the clerical staff and so on - their rights have to be protected.

This government is abdicating its role every which way. They are not taking any responsibility and they have to. What are they going to do? What is the Department of Environment and Labour going to do? What is the Department of Education going to do? It is mum all the way through. They have not done one single, solitary, worthwhile, tangible thing to help these workers, to help the children, the pupils in those schools, the teachers. We all know last week that NSTU had to put a grievance in against the school board because they were pressing the principals of some of the schools to do basic custodial work. That is not a matter of saying that their work is not fitting for a principal to do.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there is a line of responsibility. We do not ask the custodians to be the principal of the school so vice versa. Why is that being allowed to go on? Why won't this government show some real courage and say - the labour laws in this province do not work. They are weighted in one direction. With just one stroke of a pen, we could have anti-scab legislation and I will assure you that within 48 hours, the rightful people will be working back in that school, doing the work, keeping the schools safe for our children. That is what has to be done. It has to have some intestinal fortitude by this government to show some leadership and help those workers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you for the opportunity to speak on Resolution No. 373 this evening. Certainly, this is a topic of great importance, I want to thank my colleague the honourable member for Cape Breton West for introducing this resolution. There are concerns. While the resolution itself in the therefore portion said that janitors and maintenance and custodial staff are engaged in labour negotiations. We know that those talks

[Page 1243]

broke off on April 11th and I think, as the legal person representing one of the unions mentioned it is so important to be at the table, speaking and that these talks go on, because we are talking about the issue of personal safety, personal health for staff and students for which this government has responsibility. At the end of the day, whether it is a hospital or a school or factory, as other speakers have mentioned, the government is responsible. The Minister of Education, the Minster of Labour have direct responsibilities here today on this resolution that we are debating.

We are looking at a learning environment, this strike involving 152 schools in the Halifax Regional School Board district has been ongoing now for 30 days or more and that has created a lot of situations. We have had photographs, anecdotal stories. We have had e-mails and press releases by students, particularly one here that I though was very informative - Students Occupy School, Demand Extra Curricular Activities. That was dated April 4th and was at Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did it say?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the member asked, what did it say? I may refer to it a little later on for my honourable colleague, but I think his point is well taken because there certainly was some good information. The students were concerned about their extracurricular activities such as school musicals, this is the time of year they are putting these on; debating, I know our daughter still debates in university, she had very active debating in school and I know how important that was to her; sports practice, to say the least. They feel the government and school board are being unfair to the janitors, and they want to see an end to the strike. That was the press release that was released on April 4th by students of Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax. (Interruption) Yes, where equipment has disappeared.

So I use the term personal safety because we are looking at maintaining an environment of safety and learning for young people and highlight in doing so the responsibilities of the Department of Education, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Environment and Labour. We are not talking now; that is the issue before the various participants now who are involved. We look at the 152 schools and it is very clear that 10 schools have been inspected recently. We are finding out that J.L. Ilsley High School in the Spryfield community, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker, I think that has been confirmed, that this would be taking place. I think it was done the day before - the alerting of the inspection. So, obviously, someone in that school in authority knew that that was going to be taking place. So really I think that does question the effectiveness of how the system is working and how the two ministers are discharging their responsibilities, not only to the staff, but to the children as well.

[Page 1244]

Our concern with this resolution is for the health, safety and personal safety of the teachers and the students. We have had reports, as I mentioned, from several different people on the conditions, and some schools are becoming extremely unsanitary. Yet all we see are the random samplings.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education, school boards are very convenient for a minister, sort of like the health authorities for the Minister of Health. They are over there sitting together. He has probably given her ways to manage, like: anything good, have the big press conference and a great announcement; anything bad, push out to the regions, okay. This minister is learning from a very - I almost used the word crafty, I don't know if that is parliamentary. (Interruption) Mischievous, okay.

So we look at the level of funding which is always an issue, Mr. Speaker. Last evening, an evening I would not want to repeat too many times, when I sat in at the Halifax Regional School Board with the parents' group who I have been involved with at the Mary Lawson School, and they heard that that school would be closed. You can argue whether the junior school they are going to, in turn, will be closed, that may be for another day; but we have junior students moving out of that school to make room for the elementary students coming in. So we are seeing a lot of this disruption in the community, and the schools that have been announced to be closing last evening, Northbrook School, particularly, I think the parents in that community were extremely upset. The member for Dartmouth North mentioned that earlier today.

So there are tough decisions that are being forced on the school boards. I must say I was impressed that with so many of the school board members - I cannot speak for all of them - certainly there were some who were very sensitive, some were in tears at the time they had to make these decisions and render these decisions and hear the verdict on these schools. I know they are taking it very personally and they are doing as well as they can under the circumstances, but this government is really forcing those types of decisions on a very caring group of people who are concerned about the students and the staff who they are responsible for.

When the strike comes by, then people do often act differently, and sometimes the right thing isn't being done. We heard about one elementary student who was so scared to use the washrooms because of the state of sanitation and disrepair that he waited until the end of the day and he ran home before going to the washroom. It is not healthy, I think it is symbolic, I don't want to be too anecdotal, but that is the situation that we are facing here. That is why it is so important that both parties are at the table to resolve this.

The Minister of Environment and Labour, particularly, said he is responsible for the teachers, he acknowledged that, but several times in this very House, seemed to be very intentionally leaving out the students. I would really just point out to this House that I don't think that is right and I don't think it is fair, and I think, in fact of law, that that is probably

[Page 1245]

not true. The fact is that students in a school are just as much affected as the employees for the purposes of occupational health and safety as teachers are, perhaps not by the letter of the law, Mr. Speaker, but certainly by any possible logic and compassion and certainly by the intention of the legislation. The Minister of Environment and Labour, in my opinion, is shirking his duties if he doesn't recognize those particular responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker, I know I don't have a lot of time. It is a broad subject, but I think one would have to be responsive to the e-mails that we have received with children, for instance, who are asthmatic, chronic asthmatic children; I know other members have shared in this House one such child from Dartmouth High School. The other ones, even the members of the Upper Musquodoboit pastoral charge, you may be quite familiar with some of those people, Mr. Speaker. I would quote from that, the employment of replacement workers, particularly during regular school hours, said presbytery spokesperson, Reverend Gary Burrill, betrays a lack of understanding - betrays, that is a very strong word - of the close relationship between students and striking custodial staff, especially in smaller schools. I think we are talking about those vulnerable children, particularly in the elementary and junior high schools. It goes on to say, it creates situations where children are drawn into the current labour dispute in very inappropriate ways. I think it is so important that that is understood.

These children do not operate in a vacuum. I know the Minister of Education, the other day, I was very distressed to hear her say, well, the parents get upset about school closures but the children don't get as upset as their parents. I think it is a reversal of that. Those children are very dramatically impacted, and I am glad to hear Reverend Gary Burrill speak out for those children - particularly in those smaller schools - who are so vulnerable.

The practice exposes students to the moral ambiguity involved with conducting oneself towards a person doing the work of those custodial staff members with whom students have a continuing in-school connection. This connection they have of personal safety and trust, and why it is so important, and why the issue today, about security checks not being done on replacement workers, is really so important. That must be addressed immediately.

I would thank the Minister of Environment and Labour for his commitment to bringing evidence before the House that those checks have been done. At least that is what I understood was the request and response, in a positive way, that that would be done, that no people would be allowed in that school under circumstances that would be in any violation of personal safety, without proper checks being done. We require that, whether it is boys or girls clubs, foster homes, all of those areas.

I certainly think that even though the strike is on, let's not lose sight of the impact here on children, the students, particularly the vulnerability of the young students in small schools, as has been pointed out by the reverend in this communication.

Mr. Speaker, I gather my time is up.

[Page 1246]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately three and one-half minutes.

DR. SMITH: Okay. It is probably best that my time is up, I would defer to our Leader and a past Minister of Education. He would like to make a few comments.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Resolution No. 373. I think, for the record, I just want to read what Resolution No. 373 calls for.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government do its utmost to protect the best interest and safety of students and teachers while janitors are engaged in labour negotiations."

Mr. Speaker, this labour strike is between the Halifax Regional School Board and its janitorial custodian staff, but ultimately the Minister of Education is certainly responsible for this as well. I think we need to recognize what exactly is the source of this labour problem. I think we heard earlier this afternoon that school boards in Nova Scotia are not properly funded. School boards in Nova Scotia are the least funded in this country. We just have to go back to last year. Last year when the budget was tabled, school boards were faced with a $53.3 million cut and that meant that school boards were forced to cut teachers, teachers' assistants, support staff, secretaries, library clerks, bus drivers and janitors.

[5:00 p.m.]

Again this year, school boards are not provided with the level of funding that they need in order to do the job. So the Minister of Education and this government are forcing school boards again to lay off workers. We have heard, especially in recent weeks, school boards around the province - yes they are - are receiving some additional funding. Are they receiving an adequate level of funding in order to do the job that they have to carry out? No, they do not have the proper level of funding.

So school boards are forced, in order to meet their budgets; when they are forced we have again to look at what exactly school boards are in the process of doing. Again, coming back to this labour strike, you have to wonder what the real day-to-day conditions are in the schools throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality.

As our caucus raised this matter last week, that safety inspections were being carried out in some of our schools here in metro. It was reported that safety inspections were carried out in 10 schools, 10 schools out of 152 schools. As my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth East indicated, what happened at J. L. Illsley the day before this safety inspection was carried out, an announcement over the PA just to advise students and staff that an inspection was going to be carried out the day after.

[Page 1247]

As I see my time is coming to an end, I will take my seat and I will return on a future day. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes debate on Resolution No. 373.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 315.

Res. No. 315, Fin. - Debt Reduction: Min. - Method - notice given Apr. 5/01 - (Mr. D. Downe)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today and enter into discussion on Resolution No. 315. The resolution reads in part:

"Whereas since then, the Finance Minister is projecting that the net-direct debt will grow each and every year of the mandate despite projecting surpluses in the next two years; and

Whereas this magical feat of growing the debt with surpluses is about as amazing as David Copperfield's Hurricane of Fire;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remind the Finance Minister that reducing the debt when the government is in a surplus position is not a magic act, it is only good management."

That is the basis for which I stand here today to talk about a number of fronts: Number one, the lack of management or the no management approach to government that this Party seems to be talking about; secondly, the impact with regard to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is clear in this House today and to all Nova Scotians over the last number of weeks, we as the Liberal Party have brought to the attention of Nova Scotians and to this House that, number one this government has no real plan: no real plan in regard to fiscal stability; no real plan in regard to grabbing hold of opportunity when it knocks; no real plan in regard to the debt reduction strategy; and no real plan with regard to a strategy for surpluses in the Province of Nova Scotia.

In fact, it is quite clear, and we've brought this forward over the last, I believe, three weeks, that this government in regard to the revenue side has had windfalls of profits in the province of Nova Scotia and has very little, if any, ability to take full advantage of those numbers. I look across the room and I see business people, not very many but the odd one.

[Page 1248]

The odd business person understands all too well that when you have a windfall of profit the best thing to do is to pay down any debt that you have or pay off the debt that you have and to find out plans with regard to making strategic investments to reduce costs long term. This government did neither. This government is out of control. It is going to become the laughingstock of all Canada when not only Nova Scotians but all Canadians realize that this government has had a windfall of some $249 million this year alone and what did they do with it? Gosh knows.

At the same time, this government grew the net debt of the province of Nova Scotia to the tune of $1.3 billion in one year. Since last year the debt of the province grew $1.3 billion. In fact, since they have been there, some 500 or 600 days, the debt of the province of Nova Scotia grew by over $2 billion. Less than two years and the net debt of the province grew by over $2 billion. That is the government over there that is the first one to take a look in the rear-view mirror and try to blame everybody else, but they are scared to look in their direct mirror to see themselves and the inability for them to manage the affairs of state.

It has been evident to Nova Scotians, not only does this government not know what it is doing, sad to say, this Premier doesn't even understand that the debt of the province of Nova Scotia is growing. It is sad to say the Premier of Nova Scotia, the Premier of this Progressive Conservative Party in Nova Scotia, does not even understand that the debt of the province of Nova Scotia is growing each and every year they are in power. Every day since they have been in power, certainly in the last year alone, the last 365 days of their mandate, the debt of the province of Nova Scotia grew at a rate of $3.5 million a day.

I wonder what the Minister of Tourism and Culture, probably the only minister in the whole front bench - he's got the best portfolio as far as workload. I am sure that the Minister of Health would love that minister over there to take over some of his responsibilities for about six months; just think what $3.5 million a day in his budget could do. Or the Minister of Community Services, what programs could he develop for $3.5 million extra in his budget a day? Or the Minister of Justice, or the school boards or the Minister of Transportation, the very fine gentleman that is the Minister of Transportation, what would he do with $3.5 million a day?

Yet the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, the head of this ship, didn't even realize that the debt of the province of Nova Scotia is growing at a phenomenal rate. In fact, the Premier stated, once we balance the budget, we will not grow the debt. His first issue was before the election, we will not allow the debt to grow - we have seen the effects of that. Now he goes on to say we will wait until we balance the budget and our debt will not grow. Our debt in the Province of Nova Scotia will not grow, according to the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, the Conservative Government that is supposed to know fiscally where they are headed. What a joke. What a joke on Nova Scotians.

[Page 1249]

This Premier went on yesterday with frustration and insecurity by trying to go on about some personal attack on me. Well, the issue was, Premier, a simple question, is the debt growing or not? He was afraid to answer that question or he just didn't know the answer to that question. Then he goes on to say that it will be stopped once they balance the budget. Well, Premier, the budget will be balanced, according to your Minister of Finance, next year. It could have been done this year, by the way, but they didn't want to do that so it is going to be done next year. Well, what is going to happen next year? It is knock, knock, who's there? Premier. Knock, knock, is anybody there? Did the staff not brief you properly, Mr. Minister or Mr. Premier. The reality is that you are still projecting the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia to continue to grow. What do you mean? I am having a surplus. I made a mistake before, the Premier says, before I didn't really understand that the debt will continue to grow under our administration, so I goofed, I made a mistake. All right, Premier.

Your next statement was, once we balance the budget, we will not make that mistake again, and the debt will stop growing. Well, whoops, Mr. Premier, less than 24 hours later, senior staff are telling us that the debt will continue to grow, not only in the years 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, it almost sounds like an auction, 2006-07, bingo. Maybe in the year 2007, the debt will stop growing.

I asked the question to the Premier today, and what did the Premier of Nova Scotia, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia say? He said nothing. He tried to take another attack, looking in the rear-view mirror instead of looking at the mirror of his own incompetency in regard to what they are doing and what they saying. What I take exception to is when the Premier says one thing in this House and one thing to Nova Scotians, only to change his mind in 24 hours. This is a Premier and this is a government that do not understand what is going on with the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia.

What a joke. It is a sad state of affairs. How many times have we heard this government saying, we are going to try harder, and we are going to make the tough decisions that need to be made? I remember that. I remember, they were saying, pounding their chests, we are prepared to make the tough decisions and to go forward. As I indicated in the House before, and I was told that I could never use the term spineless, so I retracted that and apologized to the good Speaker, so I ended up saying that they are, in fact, a back without a spine. It seemed to be fine to say that.

They had a chance to make some tough decisions, but they didn't. In reality, Mr. Hamm turned chicken. Mr. Hamm turned chicken on the issue of resolving the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West knows full well not to call members in the House by their name, all honourable members here are by the constituency or by the position. I would ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to stick to constituencies or positions of the government, please.

[Page 1250]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have been listening to the honourable member rave on for some time now. I fail to see how he and his colleagues can stand up in Question Period every day and criticize a government for not spending, and now stand up and say that we are spending too much. I wonder if perhaps that could be explained to me.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. It is a point by the Minister of Health, not a point of order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think I have been very consistent in my message in this House. I think the problem is that the Minister of Health is confused, as normal. He is probably referring to the Official Opposition's comments, but the reality is that I have been straightforward on this issue. I think I have been consistent every single day that I have stood up and spoken on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, the reality here is that particular government did receive windfall profits in the last 20 months. In fact, since they have been in power, they have received $512 million in additional revenue in the Province of Nova Scotia, about $0.5 billion. It is a huge amount of money, and yet the debt won't be paid down, even if we follow the plan of 2007, the debt won't start slowing down and starting the process of paying down for another six years.

What are this Premier and Finance Minister doing with the state of affairs in Nova Scotia? What happened to the talk of the 1999, 2000, 2001? What happened to the rhetoric that was mentioned many times by these members across the way? They lost their direction. They lost their compass. They lost their map of opportunities for Nova Scotians.

[5:15 p.m.]

As early as February, the Premier stated that he was going to control the debt of Nova Scotia and I believe he made that comment at the Progressive Conservative Party's annual meeting in Nova Scotia; the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia that really is concerned about the fiscal affairs of the Province of Nova Scotia, and he went on to mention a student in Kings County. The student's name was Ronnie. He used it in his speech and he said we will not allow the debt to continue to grow and to you, Ronnie, I will give my commitment to deal with that. I paraphrased, I realize, but I believe that is generally what the Premier was saying. Well, this Premier is letting Ronnie down. In fact, the Premier is mortgaging his future and our children's future in regard to the fact that he is not dealing with the rocketing debt.

[Page 1251]

This isn't complicated, I am sure the front benches across the way can figure this out, that you cannot continue to grow the debt without coming up with a plan to deal with it. The Minister of Health, although he is not a doctor, he has been in that portfolio long enough now that he should realize when a patient is in critical condition, you have to stabilize him and then you have to deal with him immediately. This government has done neither. This government has already received $512 million since coming to office. In addition, the province will receive $636 million from Ottawa in an additional transfer from the federal government, from the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin Government, $636 million additional money. That is $1.1 billion in new money and still the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is growing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time allotted for this portion of the debate has expired.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with another colleague, but I want to thank the House for the opportunity to say a few words and participate in the debate on Resolution No. 315. The resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remind the Finance Minister that reducing the debt when the government is in a surplus position is not a magic act, it is only good management."

We can look back and see many things and I know that people who have been here before and have had past experience would, and probably at times don't want to look back and see what they have done. I can understand the concern of a former minister and that he would want to keep in touch with what is going on, but the former minister now stands and criticizes the financial policies of our government and our work to get this province on a firm financial footing. This did not start today and it did not start with this government, but if the former minister wants to debate indebtedness, he should look in the mirror.

Under his watch the indebtedness of this province grew by a whopping $1 billion, in excess of $1 billion in one year. That is almost five times the increase we expect to see this year, the increase he has shown such a concern for. Of course, at the same time his caucus colleagues have asked for more spending and they want us to spend on health, on roads in various areas, and when we don't do that, then we are callous and hard-hearted and lack compassion, but when there is a balance and when things are done in a good, proper order, then we are criticized for not paying off the debt as quickly as possible.

Our government has found a balance with this year's finances and a journalist, Ralph Surette, said the following of the latest budget on the CBC Radio broadcast on April 5th. He said, the first budget since my journalistic youth to give me real cause for optimism. The

[Page 1252]

prospects of a real balanced budget finally is also a signal that we are pulling away at last from the legacy of all that other stuff. Time alone would have got us to this point sooner or later. How much credit should we give to the Hamm Government? Well, there, too, I am somewhat cheered. Their government is now attacked by business for spending over $100 million instead of balancing the budget this year. A year ahead of schedule. The spending, however, is well chosen and direly needed after years of hacking - a much needed sign of moderation. (Applause)

As Finance Minister Neil LeBlanc puts it, we are sticking to our schedule. We are going to do what we said we were going to do. I cannot argue with that. In fact, isn't that what we have been looking for for a long time, a politician who actually does what he says he is going to do and actually does it. We ran on a blue book, we are sticking to the plan and now we are criticized for doing that. This is a far cry from the comments coming the way of the former minister across the floor.

I have just a few here that we have seen of the Grit budget - immaculate misconception and the $1 billion boondoggle - and I can table that. This is the same former minister who also in his term simply gave away Nova Scotia's right to the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a point of order?

MR. MACKINNON: No. The honourable member made reference to his blue book platform, would he be willing to take a small question on that point?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member for Kings West be open to a question?

MR. CAREY: They always say that we do not get an opportunity to speak and that I do not say anything and now when I am trying to say something, he wants to take my time. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, the answer is no.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It is quite simple. The honourable member has made a pronouncement about living up to his commitment. All government policy - according to the blue book - and I am just curious as to why he is not willing to defend that?

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Again, it was a question. The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.

[Page 1253]

MR. CAREY: Well, we will deal with that another time. This is a former Finance Minister who said that NSRL made him want to hurl yet he did nothing to advance its sale or contain its debt. I have already said, and it appears he did not know the difference between a surplus and a deficit, but now he is an expert on debt. (Interruptions)

We are not using the Liberal's smoke and mirror tricks while they were in power. We are reducing the deficit and we are slowing the pace of growth of our deficit. In fact, the department estimates by 2004-05 the debt will have been increased by over $1 billion, as in the days of the former minister. It will be down to somewhere in the area of $14 million. I could go on and on, but I have another colleague who would like to speak and so I will give my time to the member. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to rise and say a few words on Resolution No. 315. I have been around this Legislature for a little while and I came to the Legislature by way of a by-election in 1993. The good citizens of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the people's constituency, sent me to Halifax and kindly and fortunately for me, they have done that three times.

I have to say that I have listened to some of the left-wing spew from the NDP and some of the left wing spew from the Liberal Government of the day and they said that under the Savage swarm - remember the Savage beast? Well, they said we will balance the budget. Well, you know what? They did not have the courage of their convictions and they are disappointed over there. The NDP is disappointed and that Liberal rump is disappointed that we have the courage of our conviction. I am proud to say that finally a government has come into this Nova Scotia Legislature and is going to do what they said they were going to do and that is eliminate the deficit. Eliminate the deficit, yes. Yes, we know that there are education, we know that there are health, we know that there are community services, transportation, agriculture, forestry needs in the Province of Nova Scotia and we are taking a balanced approach to those needs. Yes. We are not going to be sidetracked and derailed by the bafflegab and claptrap from the members opposite. No way.

Mr. Speaker, now it was interesting, very interesting that the honourable member for Lunenburg West, the former Finance Minister of the Province of Nova Scotia, got up and gave us a great dissertation about all the good things that we should be doing and all the good things that they were doing when they were in power, but when he was Finance Minister, do you remember it was disclosed in the Public Accounts Committee of this province that he even tried to hire his own accountant who does his work on the turkey farm, to look after NSRL? Do you remember that? NSRL. He tried to hoodwink Nova Scotians into believing that his friend would be a good keeper of NSRL assets and do the chartered accountant work. That member there tried that very trick. Remember the tax credits? Yes. Nova Scotians said enough is enough, and they turfed that crowd opposite.

[Page 1254]

Now we are doing exactly what we said we would do. Their federal cousins in Ottawa, let's not let the Chretien Liberals off so easily. Now, do you remember 1995? I know the honourable Health Minister remembers how they swiped away the CHSTs, the Canadian Health and Social Transfers. Do you remember? Well, that government had some money to work with and still they floundered and squandered. Yes. What did they do? They made Nova Scotia afraid. They made Nova Scotia afraid of that crowd, and the Savage swarm was turfed out. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a short question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley entertain a question?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would take a question from the honourable member after this debate is over. I will be more than willing to do that.

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

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the prospect of a balanced budget in Nova Scotia is finally something that can be appreciated by everybody, from one end of this province to the other. Finally a government has the courage of their convictions. Do you know, last year the honourable members opposite, the Liberal Party opposite, their federal cousins in Ottawa siphoned off and looted, if you will, $137 million from the Province of Nova Scotia via the federal fuel excise tax. They gave us back less than $2.5 million a year.

Mr. Speaker, that is a disgrace. What we are trying to do and the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works is trying to do is be fair and take a balanced approach to improving the roads, the deplorable roads that have been neglected and neglected and neglected by that crowd opposite. We are doing the best we can.

Another dastardly deed that the Chretien Liberals carried out was in 1996, they put in place a 2 cent increase on the federal fuel excise tax. That 2 cents equates to roughly 8.9 cents a gallon. Anybody who remembers the old Imperial measure, 8.9 cents a gallon. The Chretien Liberals and Finance Minister Martin told us, when the federal deficit is eliminated, we will claw back, if you will, we will remove that 2 cents that is on the fuel excise tax. Now do you know what? They didn't do it. That dastardly deed is still in place today, and Nova Scotians and Canadians, the trucking industry, the motorists travelling up and down our

[Page 1255]

highways are still paying. Ten cents on every litre of fuel that is purchased goes to Ottawa and nothing comes back. That is absolutely disgraceful.

Well, you know, it is too bad that the honourable member from Wileville didn't come down to Bridgewater when he had an opportunity. I think it is Wileville, out in that neck of the woods somewhere, a very scenic part of the country. I don't know how he operates his business on the turkey farm. A balanced budget should be employed at his business, as a regular standard feature in any business. I don't know if he is operating, it is none of my business whether he is receiving loans or grants or things of that nature. That is none of my business. I would like to ask the honourable member, on the turkey farm, does he not believe in a balanced budget on the turkey farm?

Mr. Speaker, everybody believes in a balanced budget and, in fact, that crowd kept putting us further and further into debt. Nova Scotians said, in July 1999, we have had enough, we gave you an opportunity and you betrayed Nova Scotians. You didn't stick to your guns. We are going to stick to our guns. A balanced budget. (Interruptions)

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, well, let's speak about the gun registration. Again the federal Chretien Liberals, they can't find any money to fight cancer but yet 54,000 Canadians lost their lives through cancer last year. You know what? It is so ironic that the federal Chretien Liberals, the Liberal rump here, their cousins in Ottawa, found $500 million to spend on a very ineffective, inefficient, and questionable gun registration system. Now who has their priorities screwed up?

The Savage Government, to make this worse, when those scoundrels were in government, their Premier Savage put on a gag order. He said don't you guys say one word about that federal gun registration, and that gag order I think is still in place because they're still not saying anything. Mr. Savage is gone. Speak up honourable member for Cape Breton West; speak up honourable member for Lunenburg West; speak up honourable member for Dartmouth East. Speak up against the Chretien Liberals. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley your time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: It has been a long time since the people of Nova Scotia have been treated to such a lot of nonsense; I wish that in fact it has been longer. My notes show that the last time this topic was actually debated was last June 7th when a motion by the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank came forward by way of an Adjournment

[Page 1256]

debate, and we were prompted to the exhibit that we've just seen yet again here today of having to listen to the Liberals and Tories blaming each other for the debt of the province.

Every Nova Scotian knows that the bulk of the debt that the province carries is Tory debt. Now what prompted the motion last year was the observation that the debt on the books of the province had been restated and at that time the government went back and restated the debt for the previous two or three years and that prompted the motion from the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. But, in fact, I've been back through the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia until back to 1978, and 1978 of course is when the Buchanan Government first came to power.

At that time the total debt of the Province of Nova Scotia was no more than about $500 million. Over the ensuing 15 years during which the Progressive Conservative Government was in charge of the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia, they added $6.3 billion to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is to say every year that the PC Government was in place for 15 years they added $423 million to the debt of the province. What that means is that every year they overspent by $423 million.

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

MR. EPSTEIN: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Cape Breton North on an introduction.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery this afternoon we have three guests. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce them to the House. They are speaking with the honourable Minster of Tourism and Culture. It is important that they are here because they are on the preamble of a very important month. May is Hearing and Speech Month in Nova Scotia. It is my pleasure to introduce the Chair for Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres, Harold Sanford as well as Lynn Fraser, and the past chair, an icon of Richmond County, Eva Landry. I give them a warm welcome to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today.

MR. EPSTEIN: Although the bulk of the debt is Tory debt, the Liberals did themselves proud during the years of their government as well. In the six years of their administration they managed to add at least $2.1 billion to the debt, that's an average of $355 million of overspending each and every year, and I have not yet had the opportunity to go back and recalculate those figures on the revised basis as advised by the Auditor General.

[Page 1257]

But there's no doubt in my mind that when I look at the figures that would go up. That means that the Liberals and Tories have pretty well an equal record in terms of abusing the poor taxpayer in the Province of Nova Scotia over the last 21 years in which they jointly formed the government and the situation is not getting much better. So I don't see that it edifies anyone to have to listen to representatives of either of these two Parties talking about who has the better record. They both have abominable records when it comes to managing the debt or the general finances of this province.

The question is though, what is it we are going to do, what is our priority, what is and should be the public priority of the province right now? Do we have any realistic expectation of being able to pay down the accumulated debt of the Province of Nova Scotia? In fact, is the total debt something that we ought to be in a panic about? Do you know what? The measure is not whether we have debt or what the dollar value is, the question is what is our debt compared to our Gross Domestic Product? In other words, what is our debt compared with how rich we are.

We are carrying around debt at about 50 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product. Our Gross Domestic Product is about $22 billion a year and our debt is about one-half of that. I wish it were a lot less. At the federal level they are carrying around debt which is 60 per cent or more of the Canadian Gross Domestic Product. In that comparative basis the federal government is carrying more debt than the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the relevant question. There is no point about getting into a panic about it, but do you know what, it would be wonderful if we were in a position to pay down on that debt, but when could we possibly be in a position to pay down on that debt and, more importantly, how could we get there?

If the important thing is the ratio of debt to GDP, then we have to grow the economy. That is an important thing. If we grow the economy, then the ratio of debt to GDP will be less and our ability to manage it will be even greater. Will we still be in a position to pay down on that debt? It isn't realistic, and do you know why? Because a much higher priority is as our revenues grow to reinvest in the services that Nova Scotians need. The only time we are likely to be able to pay down on the debt is when we do something extraordinary like sell an asset.

If in this year or next year, we actually sell off Nova Scotia Resources Limited, it might make sense to take that money and pay down on debt. There are other things we might do with that money. We might look at it and say this is an extraordinary piece of revenue. Instead of paying down on debt, what we might do is take it and build some capital assets, fix up some of our capital assets - the schools, the universities, the hospitals - which have deferred maintenance costs. It might make sense to take an extraordinary piece of revenue like that and invest it in capital assets. It might also be equally reasonable to pay down the debt with it, but do you know what, once we sell Nova Scotia Resources Limited, we are

[Page 1258]

fresh out of assets to sell. That is it. We are not going to have any other big windfalls coming in that we can use to pay down debt.

So the other route, the only other route, that makes sense is to pay attention to how it is that we change our overall financial picture and getting the deficit under control is entirely commendable. Not the way this government has done it. Do you know what? Anyone can eliminate a deficit by stopping spending money on different government departments and services. That is no art. There is no art of government in that. Let's just stop spending money. Of course, if you stop spending money, you can get the deficit under control. That does it in an instant. The key question for any government is, what are you doing to help the economy grow to help us be more productive citizens in our province so that we can have a greater Gross Domestic Product and things like debt will no longer be so much of a problem? That is the art of government, but what they are doing, the route they have chosen is to erode public services. What that means is that with eroded public services, any increased revenues that we get from natural growth in the economy are spoken for. Those dollars are spoken for because we have to reinvest them in building up the public services that have been eroded over the years and until we do that, there is no point thinking about something like a tax cut or paying down on the debt.

My order of priority and our Party's order of priorities is reinvest in services; second, if you can through extraordinary revenues - then it might make sense - pay down on debt; and the bottom of the list would be a tax cut. The bottom of the list would be a tax cut. That government has the wrong sense of priorities. So I think we need to have a little common sense brought to this debate because, believe me, we have not heard any common sense from what it is that the government has told us so far.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you about something that I worry about when it comes to selling off our assets and paying down debt or whatever else it is that the government might think to do with that extraordinary amount of revenue that might come in later this year. You know my worry? My worry is that when the province gets around to selling Nova Scotia Resources Limited, they are not going to get the right price for it. I am very worried about that and every Nova Scotian is worried about that. This is not the question of whether it is right to sell that asset or not. That is a separate debate. But what is, in fact, problematic is whether we get the right price for it.

The one precedent, the major precedent we have in Nova Scotia for the PC Government selling off an asset is when they sold off and privatized the Nova Scotia Power Corporation back in 1992. I am telling members of this House, I said it at the time and I have said it regularly since, that asset was sold off under value. The people of Nova Scotia were done out of at least $140 million in the selling price of that asset. This is not so difficult to calculate. If anyone looks at the profits made by Nova Scotia Power Inc. in the years following privatization, even if you just limit it to the first four or five years following

[Page 1259]

privatization before it had begun to diversify and move into other activities, every year it generated $100 million of profit. That is money that belonged to the people of Nova Scotia.

In fact, for the last eight or nine years of privatized life for Nova Scotia Power Inc., it has generated $100 million of profit, most of which has gone to pay dividends to shareholders. That is $1 billion that could have gone into keeping down the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia but it didn't. To my mind, when you sell off a company and it starts making $100 million of profit each and every year, you have sold it off under value. That is highly problematic and I don't think we can take the risk of seeing one of our last major public assets, Nova Scotia Resources Limited, sold off if it going to be sold off under value.

During estimates, I said to the Minister of Finance he had better be prepared to come with the detailed estimates that show how he arrived at the figure that he is asking and expecting to be paid for Nova Scotia Resources Limited. Key to that is going to be projections for what the value of our offshore natural gas is worth in the marketplace. Everyone knows that since last summer, when the evaluators came up with their figure of $400 million or so for the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, the price of gas has gone up enormously. The question is going to be, what projections did they do long term and how reliable are they on the price of natural gas to make sure that we arrive at a reliable figure that tells us we are getting the right price for Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

I am very mistrustful about how it is that this government comes to selling off an asset. I am worried that they are philosophically so oriented toward selling off assets and privatizing them that they won't get the right price. If we don't get the right price, the people of Nova Scotia will be missing out on a major opportunity. This is common sense about debt. That is where the focus has to be. That is the only thing that makes sense in order to make sure that as a group we manage the province's finances properly. There is only one logical way to do it and you have to keep your eye on the bottom line at all times. I am worried that the government opposite is so caught up with its rush to try to sell off an asset that it is getting blinded by their desire to sell it off and may not be serving the people of Nova Scotia properly. The only way that that can happen is if they get the right price for our natural gas company.

Now, what is it that Nova Scotians, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. You are telling me that we are out of time? All right. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) In short, a Tory is a Tory is a Tory. (Interruptions.) Well, Mr. Speaker, the member for Preston, he has good history in this House. Look what that honourable member did when he was executive assistant to the minister in the Buchanan Government. (Interruption) Yes, the honourable member for Preston brought such honour and glory to this House; he was part and parcel of

[Page 1260]

that regime that bankrupted this province and some of the political chicanery carried on by that honourable member when he was an executive assistant to the minister, a senior member of the Buchanan Government, and he expects us to forget.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite is attacking a member over here. I would suggest that he stick to the subject, not this member.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order but, however, the point has been made.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the honourable member for Colchester North for that important intervention, because you know what? They are related. Because of that type of chicanery, that's why the province is as bankrupt as it is today; because of that lot, because of that mismanagement. That crew, when they were in power for 17 years, they couldn't balance the budget on a fudge sale. That's how bad it was. Now who is driving the engine, who is driving the choo-choo? The Minister of Finance, who was part and parcel of that Buchanan Regime. (Interruptions) Yes, it is almost like he was cleansed in a great big jar of Javex; he is now new and clean and improved, the new Mr. Clean. But when you get beneath the facade, it is just more voodoo economics; that's all it is. I don't know if he is seeing some kind of craft doctor at night or what; he certainly has lots of spin doctors, but they aren't resolving the issues.

Let's just look at this year alone: $29 million in user fees from last year's budget. Let's look at them this year, in the 2000-01 budget: a 20 per cent to 30 per cent increase on Seniors' Pharmacare Program co-pay, averaging $5.00 per prescription. And the Minister of Health stands here and says that he is living up to the blue book promise, to the Premier's promise from when he was campaigning in the election, that they were going to fix all of the problems in health care for $47 million. Now, almost $400 million later, he is still saying we are going to get some more nurses; we have a nursing recruitment plan. Well, why didn't he have it when he came to power? Why didn't it come in under the $47 million magic figure?

Mr. Speaker, they have essentially adopted the blueprint plan that we had for health care, the Health Care Investment Fund. That is exactly what they are doing, but they won't admit it. They would rather have their spin doctors make everybody believe they are going to do things differently. The fact of the matter is, the $47 million, the Premier during that debate, we have to question whether he was sincere or whether he had sufficient knowledge. He should have; he was in the House long enough. He was the one who supported the budget the year before, so he had to have had a good working knowledge for him to say, mea culpa, I'm sorry, they misled us. If anyone misled the people of Nova Scotia, it is the Premier, by

[Page 1261]

saying that he was going to correct all of the health care problems for $47 million. (Interruptions)

The member for Halifax Bedford Basin says shame; yes, it is shameful, and she should put her head down in shame. Look at the dismal job she did on Halifax West. That's right. The only thing we can expect from her is milk and cookies. Let's leave it at that. We are not going to argue, let's bring it back to finance.

The 911 tax. What taxes did I increase with the Department of Labour when I was there? We saw a reduction of over 10 per cent in the expenditures in the Department of Labour when I was minister. (Interruptions) Yes. A groundswell of support. That is important. A groundswell of support from all corners. That is appreciated.

The driving test handbooks, $950,000 in increased taxes; prescription drugs for welfare recipients, $700,000; $300,000 for the Little Narrows and Digby Neck ferry increases and so on and so forth; insurance agents' licences, $200,000; $200,000 for environmental approvals; notwithstanding the $1 million that they are robbing out of the Resource Recovery Fund Board to subsidize . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I understand that the honourable member certainly is quite taken up by his debate here this evening, but I would suggest that saying robbing would be unparliamentary and I would ask you to retract that, please.

MR. MACKINNON: I am afraid to say my light is still not on. It is still not on, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Anyway, I will continue. My light does not have to be on, I will continue anyway. We have been in the dark since this government came to power, so we will have to continue . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I asked the honourable member to retract that statement, robbing. Please.

MR. MACKINNON: Robbing?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, they have taken it unfairly.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

[Page 1262]

MR. MACKINNON: Is highjacking illegal? That is why my light was held off. Okay, let's go on. What about the new user fees? Seniors in hospitals waiting for long-term care beds - $50; $70 for the Registry of Deeds, the new fee up from $40 - almost an 85 per cent increase. Another $1.00 from industry for every ton of sulphur dioxide you leak; $6,500 for industries obtaining environmental permits; anywhere from $75 to $300 for large fuel storage tanks at service stations, factories and farms; $20 to search the Child Abuse Registry; $416 for a course at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, up from the $400; $100 for well drillers' permits.

We cannot even get the Minister of Environment to stand up on his own two feet - I hope he has two legs over there because he hasn't been standing up long enough to answer a question. In Opposition debate, he can't even stand up and defend his own department. Is it that shameful? Have the Jim Meeks of the world done that much of a gag order job on him? What kind of spin doctor should we have there? Stand up and show some leadership. Show some financial accountability in that department. Stop hiding and saying, I am going to pass it on to this one, I am going to pass it on to that one. This is not Ouija board day.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does Jim Meek work for the Department of Labour?

MR. MACKINNON: I am not sure. Fifty dollars for propane fuelling stations; $2.00 per wet ton to harvest marine plants. Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on. The honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, if we were to listen to all his pronouncements, he would be Premier. He would be Premier. He would certainly be minister without portfolio because they won't give him a portfolio.

Let's go to the blue book that the honourable member for Kings West would not even dare to address when issued the challenge to defend his government's blue book, his commitment.

What about, "Dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to highway construction and maintenance to provide a solid base for highway spending . . .", will be dedicated for that particular reason in year two of its mandate. This is year two, and they haven't fulfilled that. So the honourable member for Kings West has not been in line with the blue book. The government is not doing what it said it was going to do. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, well, well, little Rollie is on the roll. (Laughter) Let's take up the challenge from the member for Dartmouth South. Let's take up the challenge. What has this member done to contribute to this situation that we have here before us? He was a great advocate of the previous members in the Buchanan Government. Yes, he was. Yes, he was raising that flag, I am sure, when he was still walking around in his preschool shoes. (Interruptions)

[Page 1263]

Mr. Speaker, we don't want to start digging up too many bones but the fact of the matter is, no matter which way you paint it we are back to where we started, when Buchanan first took over. They are going to do a great job spinning the message out. Remember when the offshore started. What happened to the $200 million? What happened to it? Down on the Eastern Shore, roads to nowhere, bridges with no roads. They wasted $200 million of federal dollars to help with the infrastructure of Nova Scotia for the offshore development; and they say they have done a great job. The member for Eastern Shore, he must find it very frustrating to drive up that bridge and find that you can't get to the other side. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it would pay well for the honourable member for Preston to start reading some of the journals of the Legislature of what happened during the Buchanan years. Even a senior Department of Finance official, as recently as yesterday, said there is no way . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member opposite, the member for Cape Breton West, is providing a lot of bafflegab to honourable members in the House this afternoon about federal dollars and things of that nature. I think he should clarify what his position was on the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works from Richmond, and that guy, Mr. Dingwall, I think it was, when they siphoned away millions and millions of dollars (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West, you have about 10 seconds.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, let's be realistic, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows very well I am not on their Christmas card list. So, let's be clear. That money wasn't spent in Cape Breton West, let's be clear on that, too.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Unfortunately, the time for this debate has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business after the daily routine will be Question Period, then into Supply, and then Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1264]

The motion is carried.

[6:00 p.m.]

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank:

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House use the opportunity this week to highlight the significant contributions of our volunteers within our own communities and throughout the province 365 days a year."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

VOLUNTEERS: CONTRIBUTIONS - HIGHLIGHT

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that I can bring the level of debate back to a level of civility that warrants the resolution. I will repeat the resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House use the opportunity this week to highlight the significant contributions of our volunteers within our own communities and throughout the province 365 days a year."

As members of this House are aware and Nova Scotians are aware, this is the International Year of Volunteers, as dedicated by the United Nations. As well, this week is the week that we in Nova Scotia celebrate the volunteers throughout the province. There are many events that will happen over the next couple of weeks that will recognize and celebrate the great contribution that many volunteers have contributed to their communities, the Province of Nova Scotia and their country. The intent of this resolution is to highlight, particularly in my constituency and hopefully in others, some of the great contributions.

Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up where the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley left off yesterday. He stated for this House a number of very interesting facts. In fact, what he indicated to this House was that there were 578,000 full-time jobs consumed by volunteers. Those are jobs that otherwise communities would have to pay to have done. People are out there actively doing that work on behalf of their neighbours, their friends, their relatives and their fellow Nova Scotians and countrymen. It means a net saving across this country of $16 billion annually that those people are able to contribute.

[Page 1265]

Mr. Speaker, he also indicated and brought to my attention the fact that there are 7.5 million Canadians who volunteer throughout this country and that is a significant number when you consider the fact that we are less than 30 million Canadians in total. Well over one-quarter of Canadians actually contribute back to their community, to their country, and to their province.

Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting facts that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley pointed out, it was pointed out to him that the largest group of volunteers are actually the group of people between the ages of 15 and 24. I was quite surprised by that. I expected that the age group was considerably higher. I think it speaks volumes for the young people in our province, for the young people in Canada, that they contribute so greatly to better the life of people in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, volunteers in the communities of Sackville, Lucasville, Hammonds Plains, Upper Hammonds Plains, Beaver Bank, Kinsac and part of the Town of Bedford that I represent, are a valuable asset. They are something that we could not do without and when I talk about volunteers tonight, I am going to talk about all aspects, or try to anyway. One of the important areas where we receive a great deal of assistance from volunteers is through our volunteer fire departments and as a former municipal councillor, I gained a great deal of respect for the hard work and the dedication of those men, women and young people who contribute daily and risk life and limb for the safety and the well-being of others. Often we take these services for granted. I think it is important that we take some time to recognize the hard work of those dedicated individuals.

I want to talk to you a bit about the people in my community. Mr. Speaker, the fire departments in my community, the volunteer fire departments, include a composite department in Bedford which serves the part of the riding that encompassed the former Town of Bedford that I represent. It includes a fire department in Hammonds Plains and I want to point out that Rob Cohoon, the chief, and the firefighters at the Hammonds Plains Fire Department, along with the Upper Hammonds Plains Fire Department, were called upon by our constituents last year to fight a very serious forest fire. It burned several hundred acres out of control for a number of days and the work that they performed over that last summer was something that was invaluable. It saved not only life and limb, but virtually not a single house was damaged as a result of that fire.

It very easily could have been catastrophic and the hard work and the dedication of the Hammonds Plains Fire Department and the Upper Hammonds Plains Fire Department and all those fire departments, including the provincial fire service that came in to help, is something that the people of Hammonds Plains have certainly benefited from. It is without any trepidation that I say that those people who worked hard and long hours did a yeoman's job for the people of Hammonds Plains and I am sure I speak on behalf of all those people, in Kingswood subdivision particularly, and Blue Mountain subdivision, who nearly saw all of their life go up in flames with a near catastrophe. It is not with just good luck, it is with

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good management that they were able to control that fire and to bring that fire under control and save not only lives, but the property of the people of Hammonds Plains.

Mr. Speaker, Upper Hammonds Plains has been well served. For those of you who don't know Upper Hammonds Plains, it has the only black volunteer fire department in North America. In fact, we were saddened to report to this House that over the past year we lost a very valuable member of the Upper Hammonds Plains Fire Department. It certainly is one of those types of jobs that often people will take for granted, and I want to say that Daniel Norton has done a fantastic job over the 22 years he served as a volunteer, and chief for a period of that time. His community misses him and certainly his shoes will be hard to fill. Mr. Norton was a solid community man in Upper Hammonds Plains and did a great job for the Upper Hammonds Plains Fire Department and we'll miss him greatly.

We have, in the community of Beaver Bank, a volunteer fire department that has been underway since 1970-something. We have members of that volunteer fire department who were there when it started; they are inaugural members. George Hall for example was one of the very first founding firefighters. He still fights fires today and people like George Hall should be commended, along with Chief Stone and others.

I want to move on to other aspects of life in Sackville and the surrounding communities - the area I represent - with respect to volunteers. I want to point out a couple of things. There's a movement across North America that started 100 years ago, the scouting movement. Scouts and Guides are a very valuable component of life in the community that I represent; in fact, they've had Scouts and Guides in our communities for many years.

One individual however has been involved in the scouting movement - and this is going to astound members here - for over 75 years. Mr. Ken Margeson, who was a former county councillor and is a vibrant part of the Kinsac community, has been involved in the scouting movement for over 75 years. He started out as a scout and worked his way up as a junior leader, and then a leader, and now sits on the executive and helps to plan the activities and helps shape and mould the young people of Beaver Bank and Kinsac. Mr. Margeson's hard work and dedication to his community go beyond the fact that he served publicly as the councillor for Beaver Bank in Halifax County a number of years back. Mr. Margeson is certainly what we consider the ambassador of Beaver Bank and his hard work needs to be commended.

As well there are other groups. I talk about the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre Foundation. It is sort of a hospital that serves the community of Sackville and the outlying communities. I highlight the hard work of Tony Benson, who is the Chairman of the Foundation at the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre. Tony Benson's work helps to raise money to contribute towards the community's share of the new Cobequid Multi-Service Centre that we expect to see under construction in the near future.

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There are groups like the Beacon House Interfaith Society that operates a food bank in Middle Sackville. Now the Beacon House Food Bank sells used clothes, takes the money from the used clothes and buys groceries, and they collect groceries on behalf of those who need them and distributes them to needy families. I just want to mention one particular person, Ann McCulloch who works hard as a volunteer and asks for no thanks, but simply the opportunity to give to her community. I want to thank, on behalf of the people I represent, Ann McCulloch for the work that she does, as well as all the people who work there at the Beacon House Food Bank.

The Lake District Recreation Association was formerly the recreation association that looked after the recreation and leisure activities in all of Sackville; subsequent to that they became a body that operates the Sackville Sports Stadium and a number of other facilities. They are a volunteer group that has recently undertaken an expansion to the Sackville Sports Stadium of over $10 million, and they have seen that stadium that they built themselves, with money they've earned and raised, grow three times. The community just keeps growing larger and larger and the people who use that facility are very pleased with what they've done. I want to take the time to congratulate Glen Slauenwhite, who was the past president, Glen is now convalescing in the hospital as a result of an operation and I am told he is doing very well. Also I want to congratulate Steve Craig, who is the new incoming president.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Five seconds.

MR. BARNET: Unfortunately I have about 20 more minutes worth of stuff to say, but, Mr. Speaker, at some other time in the near future I would like to come back and talk about this, and I want to say to all honourable members of this House that volunteers are a valuable component of Nova Scotia. On behalf of the people that I represent, I want to thank those people for the jobs they do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise on the resolution; the gist of it is the significant contribution that volunteers provide to our communities. I want to say that there is not a single community that is not touched by volunteers throughout the entire Province of Nova Scotia. In every single community there is a group of individuals that volunteers their services for the betterment of that community. Volunteerism has consistently grown over the period of time and it has consistently been one of Nova Scotia's most valuable resources with respect to not having to pay one single penny for that volunteerism. Even though governments across this country have, in fact, been reducing and cutting services and programs to many citizens, people who have volunteered have actually come forward and picked up the slack of governments with respect to cutting particular programs.

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Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that in the very constituency I represent, there are many citizens who volunteer; as a matter of fact, the constituency that I represent - Dartmouth North - within the Halifax Regional Municipality boundaries, is one of the largest areas with respect to volunteerism. It has the highest rate of the number of non-profit charitable organizations in the entire HRM. It also has the highest number of volunteerism within the entire HRM. I want to tell you, it is indeed a pleasure to see the number of people who actually contribute their services, free of charge and not only do they contribute their services free of charge, but often what they do is they take money out of their own pocket to provide for people they are actually doing volunteer services for.

Mr. Speaker, about a year and a half ago, I attended Kings College - and we all know about Frontier College. Frontier College is a volunteer organization that offers a tutoring program in communities where people are having difficulty with their education and some other areas. I want to tell you that I spent one day signing 123 application forms for proof of identification through the police services; 123 applications of individuals who volunteered in this metropolitan community of Halifax to tutor young people who needed that kind of service.

Most recently I attended, just about one week ago, on a Saturday, the 25th Anniversary of the Dartmouth Seniors' Service Centre on Ochterloney Street. The member for Dartmouth East was, in fact, present; also the member for Dartmouth South, along with a number of other Members of this Legislative Assembly and from the Halifax Regional Municipality. The contribution had been stressed time and time again of the significance of those individuals who had contributed to the well-being of the Ochterloney Street seniors' centre. I want to tell you that they consistently said, time and time again, that that centre would not be there and it would not be in the financial position it now finds itself in if it had not been for volunteers.

It doesn't matter where we walk and whatever building we walk into - government institutions, government buildings, hospitals - you will see people volunteering their services. You will see women's auxiliaries in hospitals not only volunteering their services in canteen facilities, but they are also fundraising for significant medical equipment that is needed in that hospital. You will see people who volunteer for the Mental Health Services and take people to particular sporting events and activities that they would never be involved in had it not been for those volunteers.

The time, the money, the measurement of volunteer contributions can never be measured. I know that the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank indicated that at the federal level there were over 520,000 persons - actually it would be measured into about 520,000 full-time jobs with approximately $16 billion, I believe he said, that would be the cost of that. Even that cannot be truly measured because the contribution does not exist on a full-time job of an eight hour day. Many of these people do 14, maybe even 24 hours a day

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and they are actively involved in more than one organization. It is a very hard issue to calculate and it is a very hard contribution to measure.

[6:15 p.m.]

I will tell you that no matter where we go, no matter how involved we are, always behind each and every one of us will be a volunteer. I can tell you in the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club, where, again, the honourable member for Dartmouth East received a national award for the Boys and Girls Club, knows exactly within the metropolitan area the contributions of volunteerism to individuals and Boys and Girls Clubs across this country and even in this province, the contribution that people make and they take the time to drive and they volunteer their services to transport people back and forth.

Mr. Speaker, there is a problem that is now raising its ugly head. That is the problem with respect to liability. A lot of people who volunteer are being faced with liabilities with respect to the onus of liability for people who are transporting. As a matter of fact there are three disabled persons accessible transportation projects in Nova Scotia. Each one of those has individuals who volunteer their services, maybe even in your community who volunteer their services for disabled people.

Now there is an onus of liability to make sure that they are insured and they are well covered with respect to making sure that there is no liability placed on them. Sometimes the individuals have to cover that, sometimes the individuals can't cover that because their insurance agreements won't satisfy that particular volunteer. That is a serious problem. There is also the issue of how much time a volunteer puts in and often people who want to volunteer can't afford to volunteer; there is that problem as well.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to you before we close that, in fact, I was interested in the Tory blue book because the Tory blue book recognized some of the problems with respect to the commitment of volunteerism. It said in the Tory blue book, it states under social concerns, that we will "Meet with representatives of the volunteer community to identify ways government can encourage and support volunteers throughout the province;", of Nova Scotia. That, I believe, the government is doing.

Also on volunteerism, and I know that the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank spoke about volunteerism with respect to volunteer firefighters, here is another introduction. The government was supposed to introduce this in year one of their year in office, "Introduce a Volunteer Benefits Act which will provide liability, accident and death insurance benefits for volunteer firefighters injured on the job, a $500 tax credit for volunteer firefighters and will provide a waiver for Motor Vehicle registration fee for volunteer firefighters and members of the volunteer search and rescue organizations;". There are no more significant and important individuals. The derailment of The Ocean in Stewiacke will attest to that. Many of the individuals who probably had gone there first-hand were, in fact,

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volunteer firefighters. They were probably individuals actively involved in emergency rescue operations and so on. Many of those individuals probably volunteer their time.

I don't believe that the government has, in fact, introduced or enacted this bit of commitment that they made in the Tory blue book with respect to that. However, I want to say that it is important that the government recognizes and acknowledges volunteerism. I can tell you the number of volunteer organizations is too large to mention and I don't want to leave out any organization in my community by virtue of what I might say so I am going to be very careful and recognize each and every one of the organizations, particularly in Dartmouth North, that have contributed so generously of their free time to the act of volunteerism which each and every one of us must appreciate. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would just like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity on behalf of my caucus to rise this evening to speak on this resolution and I want to recognize the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank for submitting the resolution for tonight's debate.

It is an honour indeed for me to stand this evening to speak about one of our most treasured resources. The impact, of course, that volunteerism has on our province is basically unmeasurable. I have many volunteers in my own constituency that I could stand and shout about tonight and perhaps send it back home and make myself look good, but I think it is very important that we recognize the efforts of volunteers right across this province.

To begin with, we just have to recognize the efforts of fire departments in rural Nova Scotia. It shows the true value we place upon volunteers who put themselves at risk to help protect our homes and our properties. All of us who enjoy the outdoors would know, our volunteer search and rescue groups, for instance, involve thousands of Nova Scotians who volunteer to help those lost or whatever the case and whether it be in our woods or anywhere. Their primary purpose is to rescue and help Nova Scotians who are in trouble.

Even political Parties, to a certain extent, the groups around our own democracy which is built, could not survive without the acts of involvement of hundreds of volunteers who give generously of their time to participate in the democratic process.

Our natural and constructed environments are preserved, protected and improved by countless volunteers: organizations such as the Clean Annapolis River Project or the Sackville River Association, and heritage groups right across the province, cemetery commissions, anglers, hunters and other pursuit groups.

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One in three Nova Scotians volunteer their efforts and the fact is, virtually every Nova Scotian is either active as a volunteer or is someone who benefits from the activity of volunteers. Think of the seniors who receive a hot meal every day thanks to those who volunteer for Meals on Wheels.

Nova Scotia companies are important to recognize, like MTT, a sponsor of volunteer groups like the Telephone Pioneers. This group has made the lives of Nova Scotians with disabilities better and more active through the work they do with technical devices like TDD, or telephone devices for the deaf.

I believe it is especially important to recognize the efforts of our youth organizations, particularly in the sport and recreation fields, like minor hockey or bantam baseball, which provide leadership training or physical education to children and young adults right across this province. Youth groups, churches, recreation groups, community clubs and other volunteer groups provide a way for our youth to become the best citizens that they can possibly be while learning lifelong habits of physical activity and health promotion. Adult volunteers, like tutors, help their peers learn to read and help Nova Scotian students gain mastery of their school studies.

Nova Scotians volunteer to help immigrants and new Canadians learn and appreciate our strong and unique culture through groups such as the Metropolitan Immigrants Settlement Association. There really is no aspect of our public or private lives that does not benefit in some way from the generosity of volunteers, who quietly and with determination make a real and meaningful contribution to our lives and to the prosperity and humanity of our country, of our province on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated prior, one in three Nova Scotians volunteers on a daily basis in this province. Approximately 1.1 billion hours of volunteer efforts are provided by Canadians right across this great country of ours. Imagine the impact on our social and economic situations throughout our communities because of the efforts of our volunteers. Tomorrow, of course, there is a banquet and award ceremony down at the Westin. I believe it is important to recognize the organizers and congratulate the award winners on their efforts.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, volunteers are really a very treasured resource, and the impact is immeasurable that they have on our daily lives. April is, of course, Cancer Month, and volunteers, on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society and the Nova Scotia Division of the Canadian Cancer Society, all month, in April, each and every day, are out in our communities going door to door in pursuit of trying to win the battle against cancer. Their efforts are vital to health in this province and not only in the country but across the world. Their efforts should be recognized.

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Mr. Speaker, without the efforts of our volunteers, I wouldn't mind going on record myself saying I certainly wouldn't be here but for the efforts of many volunteers throughout the communities in Cape Breton The Lakes. I have a great deal of respect, and obviously they have made my job as an elected member of the community much easier.

Mr. Speaker, we can go to the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, we can go to almost any volunteer group in this province and the contribution is the same. Our volunteers are committed, they are dedicated, they go forward in a very professional, well-mannered manner. We should be and are proud to have such dedicated volunteers. As I indicated before, our communities really are benefiting a great deal from those efforts. As my honourable colleagues from the other two caucuses indicated, throughout their communities the efforts of volunteers are second to none.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is short. I think it is important to note that one in three Nova Scotians, that is probably a little over 300,000 Nova Scotians volunteer their time and efforts over the course of time. But, as I indicated before, each Nova Scotian benefits from the contribution these volunteers make within our communities, in our great Province of Nova Scotia. For their efforts, I believe that we should take our hats off and say thank you; thank you for not only contributing to the way of life, but for showing our younger people in the community that volunteerism is alive, well and growing, and God bless them.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for bringing this very important subject forward this evening, and the members for taking part in the debate. I don't think any of us could underestimate the value of volunteers in this province. Thank you.

We are adjourned until tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]