Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Jun. 14, 2001

HANSARD
01-50

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.

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Environ. & Lbr. - Torbrook (Anna. Co.): Compost Facility - Oppose,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4555
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 68, Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act, Hon. J. Muir 4556
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1618, Health - Protection (Nova Scotians): House of Assembly -
Adjourn, Mr. D. Dexter 4556
Res. 1619, Nurses - "Dirty Tricks" Campaign: Prem. Gov't. (N.S.) -
House Condemn, Dr. J. Smith 4557
Res. 1620, McLaughlin, Audrey/Uhlman, Helen - Fred Weare:
Lifesaving Efforts - Salute/Commend, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4558
Vote - Affirmative 4558
Res. 1621, Health - Care Professionals: New England/Gov't. (N.S.) -
Value Differential, Mr. W. Gaudet 4558
Res. 1622, Nurses - Gov't. (N.S.): Respect - Acknowledge,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4559
Vote - Affirmative 4560
Res. 1623, Nurses - Overwork: Nova Scotians - Endangerment Condemn,
Mr. M. Samson 4560
Res. 1624, Health - Capital Dist. Health Auth./Mediator
(Bruce Outhouse): Tentative Agreement - Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 4560
Res. 1625, Nurses: Gov't. (N.S.) - Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 4561
Res. 1626, Health - Care Workers: Gov't. (N.S.) Trust - Loss,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4562
Res. 1627, Blue Book - Promises: Premier - Remind,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4562
Res. 1628, Environ. & Lbr. - Compost Site (Anna. Co.):
Environ. Assess. - Order, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4563
Res. 1629, Nurses - Gov't. (N.S.): Bargaining - Resume, Mr. D. Dexter 4564
Res. 1630, Gov't. (N.S.) - Commitments: Intentions - Admit,
Mr. F. Corbett 4565
Res. 1631, Health - Nurses: Recruitment/Retention -
Inability Recognize, Dr. J. Smith 4565
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 545, Health - Emerg. Serv.: Provision - Respect, Mr. D. Dexter 4567
No. 546, Health - Care Workers: Gov't. (N.S.) - Disrespect Explain,
Mr. W. Gaudet 4567
No. 547, Health - Nursing: Working Conditions - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 4568
No. 548, Environ. & Lbr. - Nurses: Mediator - Appt. Explain,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4570
No. 549, Health - Care Workers: Back-to-Work Leg. - Justify,
Mr. D. Dexter 4571
No. 550, Health - Nurses: Overtime - Fairness, Dr. J. Smith 4571
No. 551, Health - Nurses: Gov't. (N.S.) - Ads Remove, Mr. D. Dexter 4573
No. 552, Health - NSGEU Contingency Plan: Min. Comments -
Explain, Mr. Manning MacDonald 4574
No. 553, Health - Nurses: Working Conditions - Improve,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4576
No. 554, Health - Care System: PC Gov't. - Strike Impact,
Mr. M. Samson 4577
No. 555, Health - Collective Bargaining: Abandonment - Premature,
Mr. F. Corbett 4578
No. 556, Health - Raises: Senior Gov't. Staff/Nurses -
Differential Explain, Mr. D. Wilson 4579
No. 557, Health - Contingency Plan: Inadequacies - Explain,
Mr. H. Epstein 4580
No. 558, Health - Nurses: Recruitment - Importance Recognize,
Mr. B. Boudreau 4581
No. 559, Health - Nurses: Overworked/Overstressed - Min. Admit,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4583
No. 560, Environ. & Lbr. - Compost Facility: Proposed Site (Anna. Co.) -
Assess. Commence, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4584
HOUSE RECESSED AT 4:26 P.M. 4586
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 4:30 P.M. 4586
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., June 15th at 12:01 a.m. 4588
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1612, Health - RNANS Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards:
Jeslyn Hendsbee (C.B. Region) - Applaud,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4589
Res. 1613, Health - RNANS Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards:
Clarice Sampson (Anna. Region) - Applaud, Mr. M. Parent 4589
Res. 1614, Health - RNANS Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards:
Kimberly Barnhill (Cobequid Region) - Applaud, Mr. W. Langille 4590
Res. 1615, Health - RNANS Excellence in Nursing Awards: Peggy Wilson
(Atl. Region) - Applaud, Mr. T. Olive 4590
Res. 1616, Order of Canada - Volunteer Wk.: Carol Ann Cole - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 4591
Res. 1617, Health - RNANS Excellence in Nursing Awards:
Muriel DesVignes (Western Region) - Applaud, Mr. C. O'Donnell 4591
Muriel DesVignes (Western Region) - Applaud, Mr. C. O'Donnell

[Page 4555]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 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. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the residents of Torbrook, Annapolis County. The operative clause is whether they are, ". . . in favor of the construction and operation of a compost facility to be located near the construction and debris disposal site in Torbrook, Annapolis County . . .". I have affixed my name to the petition opposing such a compost facility with the names of over 340 residents.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

4555

[Page 4556]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 68 - Entitled an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. (Hon. James Muir)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1618

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

Whereas nurses and other health care workers have carried the burden of cuts in hospital beds and health services that this government piled onto the Liberal Government's own senseless cuts and health mismanagement; and

Whereas the Conservatives recognized that the result was poor morale and an unrewarding, negative work experience; and

Whereas nevertheless, the Conservatives have now launched a phony war on Nova Scotia nurses despite the dire consequences for health care;

Therefore be it resolved that to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, the government should adjourn this House and meet Nova Scotia nurses at the bargaining table, the only place where positive and lasting changes can be negotiated for Nova Scotia health care.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. (Extended Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We welcome, certainly, all the guests to this House today, but I would ask that you not either show your pleasure or displeasure with what happens on the floor of the House, please, just to avoid disruption of the proceedings. Thank you.

Was there a request for waiver? I couldn't hear.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

[Page 4557]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1619

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

Whereas there are over 30 nursing positions vacant in the Capital Health District and not enough applicants to cover the jobs; and

Whereas the severe nursing shortage will only get worse as the Health Minister and the Premier attack the credibility and integrity of nurses; and

Whereas these offensive and inexcusable attacks on these caregivers is one more sign that this government is without shame;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House condemn the Premier and his government for its dirty tricks campaign against the integrity of nurses and urge the government to finally recognize the true value of the nursing profession before it is too late. (Applause)

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 Halifax Needham.

[Page 4558]

RESOLUTION NO. 1620

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

Whereas nurses are the backbone of our health care system, caring professionals who go the extra mile for their patients; and

Whereas nurses, Audrey McLaughlin and Helen Uhlman showed what stuff nurses are made of this past weekend when they saved the life of a man seriously injured at a competition in Lawrencetown; and

Whereas their heroic efforts show the dedication of nurses to their profession, a dedication that gets played out every day in every hospital and health care facility in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House salute and commend Audrey McLaughlin and Helen Uhlman for their heroic efforts in saving the life of Fred Weare and acknowledges the dedication of all nurses to providing health care to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1621

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

Whereas according to the Springhouse Corporation, nurses in New England make on average $64,000; and

Whereas this pales in comparison with the $48,000 offered by this government; and

[Page 4559]

Whereas the United States is still in need of over 100,000 nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that New Englanders value their health care professionals and that the Nova Scotia Tory Government does not.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1622

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 Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia is conducting a poll that asks the public if they think health care agencies provide an environment that supports safe, competent nursing practices; and

Whereas the results show a resounding no to that question; and

Whereas the poll also indicates the public feels nurse practitioners would improve public access to health care services;

Therefore be it resolved that this government should follow the public lead and accord nurses the respect and acknowledgement they deserve as the linchpin of our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4560]

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. 1623

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

Whereas this Tory Government is claiming that a strike by nurses will endanger the public safety; and

Whereas the truth is there is no evidence that this is the case because Nova Scotians already have their safety put at risk by an overworked and underpaid health workforce; and (Applause)

Whereas each time a nursing professional is forced to work four or five 12 hour night shifts in a row, the public safety is put at risk by a government that will not improve working conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the government for endangering the lives of Nova Scotians by overworking our nursing professionals and driving them to seek work in the United States, Ontario and Alberta. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1624

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

[Page 4561]

Whereas negotiators for health care workers of the Capital District Health Authority toiled with mediator, Bruce Outhouse, for two days to negotiate a tentative contract agreement; and

Whereas the negotiators succeeded in hammering out a tentative deal in spite of having the gun of back-to-work legislation aimed at them; and

Whereas this tentative deal shows that negotiating, not legislating, is the only satisfactory way to resolve a labour dispute;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate negotiators for the health care workers of the Capital District Health Authority and mediator, Bruce Outhouse, on reaching a tentative collective agreement.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1625

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

Whereas there is a shortage of over 120,000 nurses in the United States; and

Whereas nurses in New England are offered generous salaries and flexible working conditions, unlike in Nova Scotia where nurses are forced to work shifts over and above their scheduled hours; and

Whereas for some reason the minister doesn't understand why he can't retain nurses in Nova Scotia;

[Page 4562]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House condemn the government for forcing nurses to work shifts that hurt their quality of life and drive more and more nurses out of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1626

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

Whereas morale for health workers was already low when the Tories took over from the Liberals; and

Whereas health care workers stayed in the system believing positive changes were forthcoming; and

Whereas this government has now completely lost the trust of all health care workers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn this government for being mendacious miscreants.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1627

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

[Page 4563]

Whereas the Tory blue book states a Tory priority would be "Working with the nursing profession to make sure the work-environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients"; and

Whereas the blue book further states "where they know" - (nurses) - "that they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing clinical practice outcomes"; and

Whereas we are left to ask what happened to these noble words which the Premier preached before being elected to government;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind the Premier of his blue book promises to nurses and likewise remind him that they are now being destroyed by his incompetent Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1628

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

Whereas residents of Torbrook, Annapolis County, overwhelmingly oppose the establishment of a compost site on the South Mountain in Annapolis County; and

Whereas this proposed compost site will be permitted to handle up to 6,000 tons of organic matter, 1,000 tons of pig manure and 499 tons of human waste; and

Whereas the Minister of Environment and Labour is ignoring requests by the residents of Annapolis County to meet with and address their concerns;

[Page 4564]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour apologize for selling out his colleague, the member for Annapolis, and order a full-scale environmental assessment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1629

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

Whereas this government launched a nursing strategy that failed to recognize the monetary concerns of nursing professionals; and

Whereas the past 10 years have witnessed an increased workload coupled with a substantial erosion in the earning power of nurses, as successive Tory, Liberal, and Tory Governments consistently undervalued the role of nurses in our health care system; and

Whereas nurses have advised that, after looking at their 1995 pay stubs, their actual take-home pay is now less than in 1995, because of the rising cost of benefits and professional fees;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon the government to go back to the bargaining table and in good faith redress the serious erosion in real income that continues to drive nurses and potential nurses away from the profession. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 4565]

The notice is tabled.

Order, please. I would just remind the visitors in the gallery one more time that I would ask you not to respond either positively or negatively to what is happening on the floor.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1630

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

Whereas nurses are the cornerstone of every effective and thriving health care system; and

Whereas this Tory Government promised it would address the critical shortage of nurses by providing, as our first priority, the core funding required to establish additional, full-time nursing positions; and

Whereas the Tory blue book stated, "In everything we do we will put the health care needs of Nova Scotians first.";

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government admit today it had no intention of keeping its commitments to nurses, but seeks only to balance the budget of this province at their expense.

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1631

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

[Page 4566]

Whereas the American Hospital Association says the United States needs 126,000 nurses immediately; and

Whereas the failure of this government to recognize the North American nursing shortage means Nova Scotia nurses are being undervalued by this government; and

Whereas the continental nursing shortage means Nova Scotia will not be able to retain nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize that Nova Scotia will not be able to retain or recruit nurses because of the nickel and dime policies of this government.

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.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, could you, through the Government House Leader, inform us if the Premier is going to be here for Question Period today? This is a very important Question Period and we have not been notified that the Premier is not going to be here.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the absence of the Premier today was notified to both caucus offices to the best of my ability. I personally notified the (Interruption) I didn't have the opportunity to get a hold of you up there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period will begin at 2:23 p.m. and end at 3:23 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 4567]

HEALTH - EMERG. SERV.: PROVISION - RESPECT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Hamm called this House back today because he does not trust the health care workers of this province. He and his Minister of Health say they don't believe nurses will keep their word to provide emergency services. So he called us here to restrict the rights of those workers who are demanding fair treatment. This kind of disrespect of nurses is shocking and it is shameful. I ask the Minister of Health, in spite of the deplorable working conditions that you have failed to improve, nurses come through for Nova Scotians night and day. How dare you suggest these women and men would turn their backs on their patients. (Applause)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, nurses are indeed valued members of our health care system. I would like to remind the honourable member that there are other people who perform valuable functions in our health care system too, which he seems to forget because of the audience here. We do indeed recognize the value of nurses to our health care system and their compassion.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government has no respect for nurses. Nurses have given their word that even in the event of a strike, they would commit to continue to deal with emergencies, but that means nothing to the Minister of Health. He said, on CBC Radio, that one of the questions we really have to ask is, will the workers do it. That minister, who never met a promise he wouldn't break, has the audacity to question the integrity of nurses who come through on the front line every day. I want to ask the Minister of Health to retract those statements and to make a public apology to the nurses for his shameful behaviour. (Applause)

MR. MUIR: The fact is that there have been no guarantees the service continued signed.

MR. DEXTER: This government and all of the government members who are going along with this show that they have no respect. They are showing such contempt for nurses that the Premier himself didn't even bother to show up here in the House today. My question to the Government House Leader is, I want to know why the Premier isn't here to answer for this draconian action; where is the Premier? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question is out of order.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - CARE WORKERS: GOV'T. (N.S.) - DISRESPECT EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Premier. This is the first time this Legislature has been recalled since 1986. This is the second time this

[Page 4568]

government has introduced back-to-work legislation in less than two years it has been in power. Again, this government has targeted health care workers and nurses. My question to the Deputy Premier is, if you are so concerned about health care in Nova Scotia, why do you continue to disrespect health care workers and nurses so badly? (Applause)

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: This piece of legislation that the member refers to, I would suggest that his question is out of order since he is referring to a piece of legislation that is presently before the House. However, (Interruptions) Do you want to hear a question? (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, this is not back-to-work legislation, this is the opportunity for the bargaining units to continue their negotiations in the fashion that has been in evidence in this province for the last 100 years. (Applause)

MR. GAUDET: Let's be honest here. We all know that this government loves polling and has made big decisions based on polling. That polling has probably told them that the Premier's failures are mounting. He needs to look stronger, but (Interruptions) That's right, he even failed to show up for Question Period. But, Mr. Speaker, if this Tory Government thinks they are going to do that on the backs of Nova Scotia nurses, then they had better guess again. My question to the Deputy Premier is, why does his government have so little faith in our nurses by believing that they would not make provisions for essential services? (Applause)

MR. RUSSELL: It is interesting that the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party would suggest that we are listening to polling numbers. I would suggest that he should look at polling numbers when the Liberal Party is decreasing and on this side of the fence, we are increasing. (Applause)

MR. GAUDET: . . . our guests in the gallery with what the Government House Leader is so concerned about. Nurses are in demand all across North America and we need more nurses right here in Nova Scotia. We only have to look at the blue book for evidence. Can the Deputy Premier tell this House how they think that the Premier's tough-guy stance would help with the nursing shortage here in Nova Scotia? (Applause)

MR. RUSSELL: The stance of this government is to attempt to reach an agreement with the nurses' unions in a fair and equitable fashion and at the same time, protect the health care of the people of this province. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NURSES: WORKING CONDITIONS - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have a short passage here that I think is appropriate for today. I will work, ". . . with the nursing profession to make sure the work-

[Page 4569]

environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued . . .".

[2:30 p.m.]

Now, some of the government backbenchers may not recall that passage, but it is one of the Premier's major health care commitments to Nova Scotians. So my question to the Minister of Health is this, have you abandoned any attempt to try to improve the work environment of nurses, and instead decided to force nurses to have a rewarding and positive experience through legislation?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the honourable member that no government in Nova Scotia in recent years has done and taken stronger and introduced more innovative things for nurses than this one.

Mr. Speaker, I indicated the issue of work-life issues when the negotiation process began. I invited the unions and the employers into my office and directed them to try to resolve workplace issues as part of the bargaining at this time. I think there has been some success in that. (Interruptions) Not as much as we would like, but there has been some.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier also made the observation that nurses will not stay in Nova Scotia unless they have a rewarding professional environment. Now, I don't think that telling nurses you don't trust them, ignoring their working conditions and then legislating away their rights to demand fair treatment is what you would call a rewarding professional environment. Nurses are telling us that they will leave Nova Scotia as a result of what is going on here. So my question, again, to the Minister of Health is this, you are making the work environment for nurses worse not better and that's the real threat to front-line care. Why do you claim to be protecting public safety when it is you who is jeopardizing front-line health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, just to refresh the memory of the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, do these things sound familiar: nursing co-operative education; the passage of the RN and LPN legislation; the nursing strategy - a $5 million piece of work done by nurses for nurses; the nursing student bursary program; $2 million in the purchase of equipment to help nurses in their daily work; and I can continue on.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier made the commitment that he would work with nurses to develop a comprehensive retention, recruitment and training strategy to ensure that we have enough nurses here in Nova Scotia. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, do you really think you can attract and keep nurses in Nova Scotia by legislating their rights away and publicly questioning their integrity?

[Page 4570]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to show you that a $5 million commitment of this government which moves ahead, it doesn't do everything that we would like to do and we don't say that it would. I am amazed (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please! I will again remind those in the gallery that if they continue to disrupt the proceedings I will be forced to clear the gallery.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - NURSES: MEDIATOR - APPT. EXPLAIN

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on Page 6 of the Tory blue book it says in John Hamm's plan for Nova Scotia on health care, "Reversing the trend to casualize the nursing profession by properly funding full-time nursing positions . . .". Obviously, our presence here in the House today speaks otherwise. So my question to the Minister of Labour and Environment is, would he be kind enough to apprise all members of the House as to why he appointed a mediator when, in fact, he is introducing back-to-work legislation?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Now, I am not able to speak to anything in the bill today, that would be against the Rules of the House. I will say that it was our department's opinion that there was a wish for a mediator to be appointed by both parties and we are very pleased that within 48 hours there was an agreement. We certainly hope that all parties to the agreement ratify it.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is probably the silliest answer I have heard from a minister in this session. (Interruptions) My question, again, to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, given the response that he has just provided, would the minister have the intestinal fortitude to admit that recalling the House today is to take advantage of this situation, so that his government can take away the nurses' right to strike?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the answer is no.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, obviously the minister didn't see the memorandum of agreement, the revised edition of May 10, 2001, entitled, Patient care services continuation plan between the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the respective employers, which certainly would have guaranteed quality care in our hospital and our health care system. Will the minister, at the very least, commit that if a settlement is reached before this House concludes debate on the bill that was just introduced today by the Minister of Health, that this bill will be yanked and the House will be closed? Will he at least show the courtesy of that?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I certainly encourage all parties to the collective bargaining process to continue on. We certainly would welcome a negotiated settlement.

[Page 4571]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE WORKERS: BACK-TO-WORK LEG. - JUSTIFY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, outside this Chamber the nurses, right now, are out there singing Farewell to Nova Scotia. At the same time that this government has admitted that it intends to proceed with legislation that is unprecedented in this country. This Cabinet will have the power enjoyed by no other, to dictate the terms of employment and wages to an entire health care sector. I want to ask the Minister of Health, just what is so different about health care workers in Nova Scotia that justifies this dictatorial measure?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the legislation was put in place to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, nurses and other health care workers expect this government to meet them at the bargaining table as equals, nothing more and nothing less. Why is this government afraid to meet these citizens, to meet these dedicated professionals at the bargaining table, and to bargain with them freely and equally?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that in the case of the nurses groups, the NSNU and the NSGEU, both will be going back to the bargaining table with a conciliator. I hope they will proceed and reach a settlement.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government knows that when they were in Opposition they were critical of how disastrous it was when the Liberals took away the right to free collective bargaining, yet today we see that this government is the greatest threat to health care. Why won't you cast your vote in favour of confidence in health care workers and negotiate instead of legislating them, instead of dictating to them? Why is it necessary for nurses to sing Farewell to Nova Scotia? Why won't your message be, we will respect you, we will negotiate with you?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again, I repeat how much our government appreciates the nurses and the rest of the health care workers we have in this system. There is nothing in that legislation that would prevent the collective bargaining process continuing. I would hope that what this group would do, instead of showboating, is to encourage the groups to get back to the table and to work it out at the table.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NURSES: OVERTIME - FAIRNESS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Nurses and all health care workers in our province are asking for a better quality of life. For

[Page 4572]

example, under the mandatory call-back system, after working a complement of 12 hour shifts in a row, nurses are being called back for yet another 12 hour shift. My question to the Minister of Health is, does the Minister of Health think it is fair to subject nurses to these additional shifts?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the number of nurses in the province has increased since our government came to power. The number of casual positions that have been turned into full-time positions has increased. I do admit we still need more nurses, but I want to tell you that the steps our government is taking to encourage nurses to come to Nova Scotia or to stay in Nova Scotia are the best probably in Canada.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the fact is the government imposed conditions, forced nurses to work consecutive gruelling shifts, which threaten not only themselves but also the health and safety of their patients. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister stop compromising the health and safety of nurses and patients by committing, here and now, to recruit more nurses to Nova Scotia? I would remind the minister that during estimates he made a promise to this House that he would advise us the exact number of new nursing positions this government created in this province and he has never done that.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat remarkable to me, knowing the history of that member when he was in government and the fact they had graduates sign contracts indicating they would not apply for work in Nova Scotia. That was the group that reduced the number of seats and it is amazing to me that they would stand up and criticize all of the positive efforts this government has put into recruiting and retaining nurses and trying to make their workplace conditions better.

DR. SMITH: I would remind that minister that we took responsibility for our actions and we are asking him to take responsibility for this type of legislation here today. The Premier of this province injected himself into this negotiating process with the nurses and health professionals in this province. The Premier injected himself by accusing nurses in this province of threatening the health and safety of their patients.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please! The honourable member for Dartmouth East has (Interruptions) Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think there is a member over there trying to chew this legislation because he has it stuck in his craw.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 4573]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the real threat to the health and safety of patients in this province is the lack of effective nursing recruitment and retention. I want to ask the Premier this question, but I will instead ask (Interruption) I know he can't refer it because the Premier is not here, it is pretty obvious . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on your final supplementary, please.

DR. SMITH: . . . what tangible evidence will the government and this minister take to improve nurse recruitment and retention here in Nova Scotia, now?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I happen to have a list of initiatives that we have taken. I showed him the nursing strategy. The fact that the baccalaureate schools of nursing expanded by about 30 per cent, the largest percentage increase in Canada. We launched a provincial nursing recruitment Web site. We have the nursing bursary program and we have the nursing education program, Mr. Speaker. We passed the RN and LPN legislation. I think that wasn't a bad start. It is not as much as we are going to continue to do, but it is certainly a lot more than they ever did. (Applause)

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NURSES: GOV'T. (N.S.) - ADS REMOVE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Health have made misleading statements to the public. They have said that the deal offered to nurses will make them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada. The government has even taken out an ad claiming this. What they haven't said is that nurses will be the highest paid in the region for only a few months. Newfoundland nurses are getting a new contract and expecting a pay raise of at least 15 per cent.

What they haven't said, also, Mr. Speaker, is the salary in the Premier's ad doesn't include LPNs, who were offered 40 per cent less than RNs and the RNs who will get the salary the Premier brags about are only a tiny fraction of the nurses in the province. The ads are misleading. Nurses are furious at this cynical attempt to win public support by misrepresenting their salaries and the government's offer. So when will the Minister of Health tell the Premier to order these misleading and damaging ads to be pulled from Nova Scotia's newspapers?

[Page 4574]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, indeed, the offer that the employers made to the nurses would see these nurses, at the end of the contract, be fairly compensated, as we had indicted. The immediate thing would see these nurses, as was indicated, to be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's ads brag about how this government will make nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada. But he knows and the Minister of Health knows that that is not the point. We are not losing nurses to New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland. We are losing them to the United States, to Ontario, to Alberta and B.C. My office spoke today with nurse, Donna Ferret, who calls the Premier's claims a smoke screen. Nurses are making $23 an hour here. They can make $33 an hour in other parts of this country and $40 an hour in the United States. When will the minister admit that this government has failed to address the nursing crisis in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think the government's record stand on its own. We have made the nursing issues a priority. We have had 31 initiatives dealing with nurses. I believe that the wage offer that was presented to them by their employers, which would make them the highest paid nurses in Atlantic Canada, was fair and reasonable. To compare Nova Scotia to Alberta in terms of the ability to pay is not reasonable and the honourable member knows that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, government ads are threatening increased waiting times and emergency room closures to whip up the public into a panic. This government is fear mongering. Strike contingency plans are in place and the nurses want to settle. All that is missing is a fair contract. It is not the nurses who are holding this province hostage and playing political games. When will the minister admit that it is his government and not the nurses who are placing Nova Scotians at risk and causing nurses like Donna Ferret to consider leaving the province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the total increase to health care spending this year, if the proposed increases to the employees were put into place, would be over $100 million, not all of that, obviously, in salaries. But to indicate that this government is not supporting health care and not committing additional resources to it implies something that is totally inaccurate.

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

HEALTH - NSGEU CONTINGENCY PLAN:

MIN. COMMENTS - EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health reached new levels of incompetency on Tuesday when he boldly proclaimed that the contingency plan offered by the NSGEU was inadequate. The

[Page 4575]

minister said, "It did not satisfy his concerns." Perhaps that would have been a fair comment if the minister bothered to read the plan. My question for the minister is, how can the minister say the plan was inadequate when he didn't even know what was in it?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the intricacies of the contingency plan are best understood by those people who have a detailed knowledge in that, but I can tell you we were advised by the Capital District Health Authority that they did not have confidence that the plan could be executed.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Too bad, Mr. Speaker, we couldn't ask the Premier whether he read it, too. Anyway, my first supplementary is to the Minister of Health. By saying no to the contingency plan without looking at it displays a degree of arrogance not seen in this House since the days of Donnie Cameron. By not even looking at the plan, the minister is not being honest with Nova Scotians. Nurses and health care workers demonstrate a higher degree of professionalism than this minister is even capable of.

My first supplementary to the minister is, Mr. Speaker, why is the minister demonizing nurses by saying they are putting patients' safety at risk when there is no proof that that's true?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the contingency planning operation, as the honourable member knows, was worked out, or is being worked out, or should have been worked out - however he wants to describe it - between the unions and the employers. The fact is that where there is a dispute between the union and the employer about the level of service to be continued, there is no dispute mechanism.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The only mechanism, Mr. Speaker, that we know is going to be employed around here in the future is Cabinet directive. That is what is going to happen there. The days of bargaining are going to be done. My final supplementary, if this minister cared about the health and safety of Nova Scotians, he would have passed a helmet law before the end of the spring session, at least that would alleviate some pressure on the emergency rooms. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary - there goes the Wal-Mart greeter again over there, the ex-member for Preston - my question to the minister is, how can the minister justify the defaming of our highly trained and highly skilled nursing professionals and health care workers in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our government has the utmost respect for the health care workers in this province.

[Page 4576]

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

HEALTH - NURSES: WORKING CONDITIONS - IMPROVE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you and tell this House about the working conditions at the post-anaesthesia care unit at the QE II. The nurses in that unit are required to work five days straight and then on top of that are called in regularly on call. That means these nurses on a regular basis are working 12 straight days or more and up to 80 hours in a week. The problem is these nurses have not seen a single improvement since this government was elected in 1999. So I want to ask this Minister of Health, why has he failed to accomplish one single improvement in the last two years that would ensure that these nurses' working conditions have improved?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our government has put in place more initiatives that help the work life issues of nurses than probably any government in the past 20 years.

MR. DEVEAUX: The problem is, Mr. Speaker, none of us believe the minister when he says these words. With the sincerity that he has, I don't even think he believes it. One recovery room nurse has worked for 17 years at that unit, 17 years of dedicated service, working long hours under great pressure, and what is her thanks for 17 years of work? Frozen wages, rollbacks and disrespect from this government. So I want to ask this minister - the nurses in that unit want this question asked, when will you stop your political posturing, Mr. Minister, and give nurses across this province the long overdue pay raise that they so desperately deserve?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable member that some institutions here, there was a tentative agreement reached between the employer and the NSNU that unfortunately was not accepted by the membership. I would have to say that those who were at the bargaining table thought it was a reasonable deal.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, clearly, in introducing this bill this minister doesn't understand what democracy in the workplace means, and that these nurses have the right to have a vote as to whether they are going to accept the working conditions, but clearly that is why we are here today. The truth is that this government is the real threat to health care in this province. This minister persists in making inane comments such as claiming that nurses are jeopardizing our health care system, yet he has done nothing to improve their working conditions since he became minister two years ago. I want to ask this Minister of Health to take a challenge, will he agree to work just one shift in the post-anaesthesia care unit and see exactly the conditions that these workers have to work under? (Interruptions)

[Page 4577]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our health care workers in Nova Scotia perform valuable services, and I know that they work long hours, and at times their job is stressful. Our government is committed to working with the employers and with the unions and with the nurses themselves to try to make their workplace better.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH - CARE SYSTEM: PC GOV'T. - STRIKE IMPACT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table an ad in today's Chronicle-Herald in which a government that said it would not use politically-motivated advertising is saying that a nursing strike would cause "emergency room closures, early patient discharges, bed closures, increased waiting lists". My question to the Minister of Health is, could the minister inform the House, based on the fears listed in his ad, how a strike by nurses would differ from the current state of our health system under this Tory Government?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I have to look positively at our health care system rather than negatively as that member and others do. (Interruptions) We practice some exceptional medicine in this province, and I am very proud of it. I have no hesitation in telling people about the good things in this province.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the sad irony is that the fear mongering used by this government through its advertising adequately describes the health situation in the Strait area, where the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital has been closed for months by this government. Today, the Minister of Health justifies his actions against the nurses by saying, we have a responsibility to act. At no time is this more critical than when the health and safety is in question. My question to the minister is, how can the Minister of Health have the unmitigated gall to say they have to act when health and safety is in question, when he is personally responsible for placing the health and safety of the residents in the Strait area at risk for over six months?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I empathize with the member and with the residents in that area who are served by the Strait-Richmond Hospital. What I have said is we are committed to try to find a physician to work the emergency shift there during the daytime. I am optimistic that working co-operatively with the community that position will soon be filled.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, ironically, that is the same answer he gave me about his optimism six months ago when the emergency room was first closed. So, we see how much his optimism has helped the people of the Strait area. Physician shortages in rural Nova Scotia are placing an increased burden on our already overworked nurses. The minister says they have no more money for nurses, yet they mysteriously find extra money in their budget when they have to, such as what we have seen in the last two Education budgets. My

[Page 4578]

question to the minister is, why won't the minister end this cat-and-mouse act and finally pay Nova Scotian nurses the salary they deserve?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, not only nurses but all those who work in the health care system, we would like to be able to pay them what everybody wants; the fact is that we cannot. What we committed to as a government was to make fair offers that would be competitive. Indeed, in the case of the nurses, an offer which would see them the best paid in Atlantic Canada I believe has to be deemed by most people as being very fair. (Applause)

[3:00 p.m.]

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

HEALTH - COLLECTIVE BARGAINING:

ABANDONMENT - PREMATURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, late last night the Capital District Health Authority reached a tentative agreement with health care workers and the NSGEU; that is an important step and a positive sign that mediation and collective bargaining are effective ways to resolve labour agreements. But even in the face of such recent progress, this government is still pushing ahead with his careless plan to interfere. I want to ask in the absence, I know I can't ask the Premier, I want to ask the Minister of Health, why are you abandoning the collective bargaining process before even allowing it an opportunity to succeed?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The collective bargaining process has been going on for some time and I am pleased to say that there have been agreements reached by health care workers. Two have signed on the dotted line, basically, and the third one reached a tentative agreement last night. I hope that the collective bargaining process will continue. Clearly, the steps that this government has taken encourages collective bargaining to continue through sitting down at the table, conciliation and mediation. I am hopeful that what happened last night will happen with the other two affected groups very soon. (Applause)

MR. CORBETT: Those are hollow words from a hollow minister. That minister has brought in one of the worst pieces of legislation seen in this House around labour in many, many years. The minister himself has been singing the praises of the mediator who was appointed. What I find astonishing about that is on the one hand he recognizes the process is working and then, when the progress is being made, he is disallowing it. Then he insists on moving forward with this legislation. Since I can't ask the Premier, I want to ask the minister again, why is your government deliberately undermining the progress at the collective bargaining table and interfering with that process? Why are you doing that? (Applause)

[Page 4579]

MR. MUIR: Clearly we hope the collective bargaining process will continue and will be successful. What we are concerned about is that if the collective bargaining process is not able to reach a satisfactory conclusion that is accepted by both parties, then there would be a health and safety risk to Nova Scotia and we are not prepared to accept that. (Applause)

MR. CORBETT: If he believes those words, he is the only one in Nova Scotia that does, because he knows what he is talking about reaches further than just the capital district; it reaches further than just the NSNU and he knows that. He is using the proverbial maul to kill an ant. This government is not interested in public safety, this government is the real threat to public safety, and this draconian legislation is further proof of that. This kind of legislation has no place in a positive work environment that will stabilize and improve conditions for health care workers throughout this province. I want to ask, since I can't ask the Premier, again I want to ask the Minister of Health, will you admit that your interest is not in the public safety, but in hammering out nurses, making them go to their knees so you can support your tax cut in two years' time?

MR. MUIR: Our interest in introducing that bill was the continuation of services in the health care sector, which Nova Scotians I believe would support in the spirit of continuation of health and safety. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay. (Applause)

HEALTH - RAISES: SENIOR GOV'T. STAFF/NURSES -

DIFFERENTIAL EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: This government, when it is convenient, has a history of crying poor, but then somehow they find the money when the heat is on; the Education Minister, for instance, comes to mind. Even yesterday, Statistics Canada showed that this government took in $51 million more than it spent last year, but they say they don't have money for nurses. I would like to table a freedom of information request response that we received and it in you will see that under a recent contract renegotiation the senior aide to the Health Minister has received a sizeable raise. How convenient, Mr. Speaker. My question to the Minister of Health is, can the Minister of Health justify to this House and to Nova Scotians why there is money to give his top adviser a decent raise but not so for nurses and health care workers in this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you quite sincerely, I don't know what the salary of the individual is working for. He has basically left my department and has gone to another section of government. However, I want to tell the honourable member, and he knows very well, that there is money to support and increase the salaries, wages and working conditions of health care workers in this province and those offers have been made.

[Page 4580]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Health doesn't know that one of his top advisers got a raise recently, he should know. The Minister of Health has the highest paid deputy minister in the history of the province, he has an assistant deputy minister, he has an associate deputy minister, he has a chief information officer and he has an executive assistant and he has a dedicated policy adviser, whose dedication seems to be that he holds the minister's hands when he is in press scrums to get him through it. Then this adviser gets an ample raise at the same time the minister says, no money for nurses.

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister responsible for the Treasury Board, you are the one enabling the Minister of Health to increase his staff and their salaries at a time when your government is crying poor. Why, Mr. Minister?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member is referring to the gentleman who has joined Treasury Board, we are delighted to have him.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's the arrogance of that government. That's the perfect picture of the arrogance of that government.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, you know that's the perfect example of the arrogance that this government shows not only towards nurses but to everyone in this province. Arrogance! Pure and simple arrogance. Again, my final question to the Minister responsible for the Treasury Board is, is it this minister's policy to take in former executive assistants that prop up incompetent Cabinet Ministers and pay them more and how many other political staff, Mr. Minister, have you added that Nova Scotians don't know about?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the honourable member for Glace Bay, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to address him as the honourable member for Glace Bay, the number of people employed by this government has decreased substantially since we took over from that crowd over there.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

HEALTH - CONTINGENCY PLAN: INADEQUACIES - EXPLAIN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we are all here today because that Minister of Health does not believe the contingency plan put in place by health care workers is adequate. Up to 50 per cent of nurses would remain at work under the contingency plan. The Minister of Health doesn't believe this is good enough, yet he has failed to offer any evidence at all to indicate what leads him to this belief. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health to explain why it is that he believes a contingency plan that will have up to one-half of the nurses remain on the job covering all emergencies is inadequate?

[Page 4581]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, if he knows that, he also knows that the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority indicated that he didn't have the confidence that the present emergency plan or contingency plan was strong enough to provide and guarantee the health and safety of the people who would normally use the facilities here.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, if that's all the minister has, I would like to see that in writing and maybe he will table it. This minister has tried to claim that nurses are jeopardizing health care in this province. The truth is that his government is the real threat to health care. The minister made an outlandish claim on CBC Radio that he believes that nurses will not honour the terms of the contingency plans. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health, what evidence he has that indicates nurses will not fulfill the terms of the contingency plan. Just what evidence does he have about that?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception with the honourable member reporting that I said that. It was certainly not in that context and he knows that, too. The fact is that contingency plans are contingency plans and in the Capital District, which we are speaking of at the present time, the CEO called a press conference yesterday morning and expressed that he did not have confidence that the contingency plan, as it existed, would continue to protect the health and safety of people who normally use these facilities.

MR. EPSTEIN: The minister said on the radio, "One of the questions we really have to ask is will the workers do it?", but the minister can produce no concrete evidence to back that outlandish claim. That is because there is no evidence. The truth is, this minister does not trust nurses and other health care workers. It is that simple and they don't trust him either. Will the minister explain how he could possibly introduce this draconian legislation without clear evidence that the contingency plans that are being put in place would fail?

MR. MUIR: I think the point is, Mr. Speaker, and I will go back to what I said in the case yesterday, where the Capital District Health Authority called a press conference and expressed that. I think all members know that there is no dispute resolution mechanism should there be a disagreement between the union and the Capital District Health Authority.

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

HEALTH - NURSES: RECRUITMENT - IMPORTANCE RECOGNIZE

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to table these postcards on behalf of the nurses at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, who want to ensure that the Minister of Health has access to them. Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province, has committed an additional $2.2 million this year to recruit nurses. I would like to table that information, as well. This year, Nova Scotia has allocated the grand total of $300,000 for recruitment and retention. This gives P.E.I. a very significant advantage over

[Page 4582]

Nova Scotia. My question to the Minister of Health is simple, when will the Minister of Health begin treating the job of recruiting nurses with the same importance as other provinces?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our government probably puts more effort into the recruitment and retention of nurses than most other jurisdictions. In addition to hiring a nurse policy advisor to deal specifically with nursing issues, I want to tell you that our nursing strategy, which involves workplace issues as well as recruitment and retention, carries a $5 million per year price tag.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have heard today from my colleagues in this House that there is a continent-wide nursing shortage and that the average salary for nurses in Massachusetts is $65,000, compared to $45,000 here in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is simple, how does the minister expect to attract new nurses when his department can't even compete with the recruitment efforts of P.E.I., Canada's smallest province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the number of nurses in Nova Scotia continues to grow, including recruiting people who left Nova Scotia and have come back here to nurse in their home province.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is this government must invest more money in our nurses and health care workers. The Minister of Finance keeps saying he is broke. Yesterday, the Liberal caucus revealed Stats Can and the Department of Finance figures would prove this government ended the fiscal year with a $52 million surplus. I will table that information. My question is to the Minister of Finance. Why is the Minister of Finance crying poor, instead of providing adequate resources for nurses in this province?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception to the member's comments. Obviously he should be getting another researcher, because this information is used for statistical purposes. I will give you an example. In those calculations all the tuition fees paid to universities are added as revenues to the province, which distorts the figures. If you want to talk apples to apples, we should. We could have used the same system that the Liberal Party used when they told Nova Scotians they had a balanced budget and a surplus of $1.5 million, when, in reality, they had a $500 million deficit.

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

[Page 4583]

HEALTH - NURSES:

OVERWORKED/OVERSTRESSED - (MIN.) ADMIT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Sue Wilson is an operating room nurse with 24 years experience. Sue talks to us about the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that has become a normal part of being a nurse in this province. It is not just that nurses are working excessively long hours, but they are working short-staffed as well. This drastically increases the demands put on them, both physically and mentally. Physical and mental exhaustion can lead to injury or illness that often results in sick leave, thus even fewer nurses are available. My question to the Minister of Health is, will you admit that nurses in this province are being overworked and, therefore, overstressed?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in any profession there are some times when the workload is heavier than others, the honourable member would know that. I believe that the conditions for nurses here in Nova Scotia, our government is making efforts to try to improve them. We specified that when the parties went to the bargaining table, we wanted that issue resolved. I think one of the things that would indicate that, at least certain leaders in the nursing profession thought there had been some progress in that, and some things in the proposed contract that did deal with that was the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union when they reached a tentative agreement and took it to their membership.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Sue Wilson says they are already understaffed, they are overworked. She's a nurse; she's a front-line nurse. She knows. The Minister of Health obviously doesn't. She knows personally of three nurses who are leaving this province to either go out West or to the United States, not just because the compensation is better, but also because working conditions are better. Sue has banked 160 overtime hours that she is supposed to be able to take time off for. The fact is she would be lucky to have a single day that she is not asked to go to work. I want to ask the minister, please explain to nurse Sue Wilson and others why her work is not valued by your government?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government values, in a very great way, the work of our nurses.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Sue Wilson has lived in Nova Scotia all her life. Her family is here; her elderly mother is here; family has kept her here. Sue has only six and a half years before she retires. She tells us that she would, if she had her way, leave Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) My friends in the Third Party want a question. Well, here it is. This minister has shown no respect, no trust in our nurses in this province. Will you admit, Mr. Minister, that your inability to deal with the nursing crisis in this province has become the biggest threat to health care in Nova Scotia?

[Page 4584]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are workplace issues with nurses in here and I believe our government has a program which is making progress or has seen the majority of them resolved and we will continue to make progress.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - COMPOST FACILITY:

PROPOSED SITE (ANNA. CO.) - ASSESS. COMMENCE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The minister is well aware of the overwhelming opposition to a compost site at Torbrook in Annapolis County. My question, quite simply, will the minister (Interruption) It is a good thing the nurses are here, a socialist may need some help. Will the minister agree today to a full-scale environmental assessment of the proposed compost site at Torbrook?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that the member opposite brought up that question. I understand that he has been down there meeting with the citizens and, in fact, he is suggesting that it is possible to have a full environmental assessment, but as a member of the previous government that put the Environment Act in place and the guidelines, he would know that composting facilities are specifically excluded for consideration for assessments. So following the legislation, the regulations and the guidelines that I inherited, of course, I will obey the law and I will allow it to go through the approval process.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the minister has the legal authority to order a full-scale environmental assessment and he is saying today, no, he is saying that he is selling his colleague, the member for Annapolis, down the river. That is essentially what he is saying. My question to the minister is, why is the minister allowing this permit to include the dumping of nearly 500 tons of human waste?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that there is no completed application in our possession and, therefore, we have not agreed to issue this permit at this time.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 4585]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again at one minute after midnight this evening, 12:01 a.m., and the House will sit until 23:59 hours or one minute to midnight on Friday evening. The order of business will be second reading of Bill No. 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[3:23 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A recorded vote has been called on the hours of adjournment. The Clerk will call the roll. Those in favour will say Aye. Contrary minded will say Nay. I would ask the members to keep the noise down while the Clerk calls the roll, please. (Interruptions)

The motion is on the adjournment and the hours for tomorrow. (Interruptions)

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[4:23 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Christie

Mr. Baker

Mr. Russell

Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Muir

Miss Purves

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

[Page 4586]

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: The House has a quorum and all who are present voted opposed, Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that we have a recess for approximately five minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: We will recess until 4:30 p.m.

[4:26 p.m. The House recessed.]

[4:30 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to see that we have some Opposition members in the House now and I can again put the motion to adjourn the debate. However, I would just like to bring to the attention of the members of this House that there was an opportunity for this side of the House to have carried out certain machinations that would have resulted in the bill passing through second reading today, but however we did not take that decision simply because of the fact that we felt that there should be a process and that the Opposition should be involved. (Applause)

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

[Page 4587]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I now move that the House do rise to meet again at the hour of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, that is one minute after midnight, and the House shall sit until 23:59, one minute to midnight on Friday evening. The order of business shall be second reading of Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

Order, please.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. I think what is important today is for Nova Scotians to realize just the depth . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader made a motion and (Interruptions)

Order, please. There is no debate on the adjournment. The honourable Government House Leader made a motion which we will have to address before we can address a point of privilege because it is a motion before the House at this time. (Interruption)

Order, please. So I ask if there is agreement of the House on the motion made by the honourable Government House Leader?

Is it agreed?

The answer is no.

A recorded vote is being called for.

[4:33 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[Page 4588]

[5:00 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Christie

Mr. Baker

Mr. Russell

Miss Purves

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

Dr. Smith

Mr. Boudreau

Mr. MacKinnon

THE CLERK: All present voting in favour of the motion.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We will adjourn until 12:01 a.m. Friday, June 15, 2001.

[The House rose at 5:02 p.m.]

[Page 4589]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

[Tabled Friday, June 1, 2001]

RESOLUTION NO. 1612

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Minister of Tourism and Culture)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas across the province, registered nurses make important and valuable contributions to their profession and to the health of all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas each year the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia (RNANS) recognizes the exceptional efforts of several of the province's registered nurses; and

Whereas the Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards recognize registered nurses from each of the RNANS' regions who have made outstanding contributions in one or more disciplines of the nursing profession - administration, community development, counselling, education, practice or research and Jeslyn Hendsbee of Mabou has been nominated by her peers as this year's recipient for the Cape Breton Region;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Jeslyn Hendsbee for her outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing and to the health of Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1613

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas across the province, registered nurses make important and valuable contributions to their profession and to the health of all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas each year the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia (RNANS) recognizes the exceptional efforts of several of the province's registered nurses; and

Whereas the Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards recognize registered nurses from each of the RNANS' regions who have made outstanding contributions in one or more disciplines of the nursing profession - administration, community development, counselling, education, practice or research and Clarice Sampson of Coldbrook has been nominated by her peers as this year's recipient for the Annapolis Region.

[Page 4590]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Clarice Sampson for her outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing and to the health of Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1614

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas across the province, registered nurses make important and valuable contributions to their profession and to the health of all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas each year, the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia (RNANS) recognizes the exceptional efforts of several of the province's registered nurses; and

Whereas the Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards recognize registered nurses from each of the RNANS' regions who have made outstanding contributions in one or more disciplines of the nursing profession - administration, community development, counselling, education, practice or research and Kimberly Barnhill of Belmont has been nominated by her peers as this year's recipient for the Cobequid Region;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Kimberly Barnhill for her outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing and to the health of Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1615

By: Mr. Timothy Olive (Dartmouth South)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas across the province, registered nurses make important and valuable contributions to their profession and to the health of all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas each year the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia (RNANS) recognizes the exceptional efforts of several of the province's registered nurses; and

Whereas the Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards recognize registered nurses from each of the RNANS' regions who have made outstanding contributions in one or more disciplines of the nursing profession - administration, community development, counselling, education, practice or research and Peggy Wilson of Dartmouth has been nominated by her peers as this year's recipient for the Atlantic Region.

[Page 4591]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Peggy Wilson for her outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing and to the health of Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1616

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Order of Canada recognizes people who have made a difference to Canada and represents our country's highest honour for lifetime achievement; and

Whereas Wilmot, Annapolis County native Carol Ann Cole, who lost her mother to breast cancer and who is herself a breast cancer survivor, was appointed to the Order of Canada today for her volunteer work and for raising $1 million for cancer research through her Comfort Heart initiative - the sale of small pewter hearts, a symbol of hope to countless Canadians whose lives have been touched by cancer;

Whereas through her initiative, hard work and determination, her contribution will help so many others in the fight against this deadly disease, a truly heroic act of kindness for her fellow Canadians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the incredible initiative and achievement of Ms. Carol Ann Cole and the well-deserved recognition for her efforts bestowed upon her by way of the Order of Canada.

RESOLUTION NO. 1617

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas across the province, registered nurses make important and valuable contributions to their profession and to the health of all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas each year the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia (RNANS) recognizes the exceptional efforts of several of the province's registered nurses; and

Whereas the Excellence in Nursing Practice Awards recognize registered nurses from each of the RNANS' regions, who have made outstanding contributions in one or more disciplines of the nursing profession - administration, community development, counselling,

[Page 4592]

education, practice or research and Muriel DesVignes of South Ohio has been nominated by her peers as this year's recipient for the Western Region;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Muriel DesVignes for her outstanding contributions to the profession of nursing and to the health of Nova Scotians.