Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-77

















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/legislature/hansard/



Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.





Second Session



THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2002





TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 2820, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. N. LeBlanc 7811
Hon. N. LeBlanc 7811
Mr. G. Steele 7825
Adjourned debate 7828
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
MTT - Clare Community: Mpowered PC Service - Provide,
Mr. W. Gaudet 7829
Health - Care: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 7829
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2865, Doers and Dreamers Guide (2002): Production Staff -
Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 7830
Vote - Affirmative 7830
Res. 2866, Educ. - PanCanadian Students' Choice Awards,
Hon. J. Purves 7831
Vote - Affirmative 7831
Res. 2867, Nat. Res. - Fire Prevention: Importance - Recognize,
Hon. E. Fage 7831
Vote - Affirmative 7832
Res. 2868, Atl. Journalism Awards: Nominees - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 7832
Vote - Affirmative 7833
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2869, MacDonald, Ann-Marie: Successes - Applaud, Mr. F. Corbett 7833
Vote - Affirmative 7833
Res. 2870, Hamm, John - 2002 Glen Clark Achievement Award,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7834
Res. 2871, EDS Can.: Port Hawkesbury - Job Fair, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 7834
Vote - Affirmative 7835
Res. 2872, Budget (2002-03) - Health Care: Anna./Kings North/
Kings South/Kings West MLAs - Scrutinize,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7835
Res. 2873, Sports: Colleen Jones Team - Scott Tournament of Hearts,
Mr. B. Boudreau 7836
Vote - Affirmative 7836
Res. 2874, Sports - 2002 Atom AA Hockey Championship: Organizers -
Commend, Mr. W. Dooks 7836
Vote - Affirmative 7837
Res. 2875, Educ.: Sir John A. Macdonald HS - Long-term Plans,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7837
Res. 2876, DeAdder, Michael/Dunlop, Scott: Atl. Journalism Awards -
Nominations, Mr. D. Wilson 7838
Res. 2877, Snow, Vincent Greeley: Death of - Tribute, Hon. G. Balser 7838
Vote - Affirmative 7839
Res. 2878, Ecol. Action Ctr. - Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals:
Proceedings - Publication, Mr. Robert Chisholm 7839
Vote - Affirmative 7840
Res. 2879, McGee, Doug/C.B. Post: Atl. Journalism Awards -
Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 7840
Vote - Affirmative 7841
Res. 2880, Ross, Joyce: Order of Canada (Officer) - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 7841
Vote - Affirmative 7841
Res. 2881, IWK - Helipad: Contributors - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 7842
Vote - Affirmative 7842
Res. 2882, MacLeod, Dr. Greg: Order of Canada (Member) - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Clarke 7842
Vote - Affirmative 7843
Res. 2883, ECI Medical Technologies: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 7843
Vote - Affirmative 7844
Res. 2884, Sports: St. F.X. Women's Hockey Team -
AUS Championship, Hon. A. MacIsaac 7844
Vote - Affirmative 7845
Res. 2885, Educ. - Loan Remission Prog.: Gov't. (N.S.) - Reinstate,
Mr. M. Samson 7845
Res. 2886, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Budget: Fin. Min. - Explain,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7846
Res. 2887, Rhoddy, Leah: Death of - Tribute, Mr. F. Chipman 7846
Vote - Affirmative 7847
Res. 2888, Tory Trumpeter (C.B. North MLA): Music Academy -
Return, Mr. P. MacEwan 7847
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 814, Budget (2002-03) - Balance/Fairness: Prem. - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 7848
No. 815, Prem. - Tax Increase: Commitment - Explain, Mr. D. Downe 7849
No. 816, Commun. Serv.: Prog. Cuts - Consultation,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7850
No. 817, Fin.: Gov't. (N.S.) - Debt, Mr. D. Downe 7851
No. 818, Educ. - Budget (2002-03): Univ. Students - Effect,
Mr. K. Deveaux 7853
No. 819, Gov't. (N.S.): Debt - Legacy, Mr. W. Gaudet 7854
No. 820, Health - Cost: Downloading - Extent, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7855
No. 821, Econ. Dev.: Seagull Pewter - Status, Mr. Manning MacDonald 7856
No. 822, Prem. - Campaign Promises: Breach - Justify,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7858
No. 823, StoraEnso - Power Rates: Increase - Effects, Mr. M. Samson 7859
No. 824, Environ. & Lbr.: Mining Permit - Frame, Clifford,
Mr. F. Corbett 7861
No. 825, Environ. & Lbr. - Int'l. Pier: Meeting - Min. Attendance,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7863
No. 826, Nat. Res. - Dept.: Survey Division - Cuts, Mr. J. MacDonell 7864
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 101, Fire Safety Act 7866
Hon. D. Morse 7866
Mr. F. Corbett 7868
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7870
Mr. P. MacEwan 7877
Mr. B. Boudreau 7879
Adjourned debate 7885
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Nat. Res. - Coal Mining (C.B.): Private Sector -
Gov't. (N.S.) Sincerity:
Mr. D. Wilson 7885
Hon. E. Fage 7888
Mr. F. Corbett 7891
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 5th at 10:00 a.m. 7893
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2889, Atl. Journalism Awards: Nominees - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 7894
Res. 2890, Atl. Fire & Water Restoration: Bus. Dev. Award - Congrats.,
The Speaker 7894
Res. 2891, Ship's Company Theatre: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
The Speaker 7895
Res. 2892, GJDE Ent.: CNTA Giftshop Award - Congrats., The Speaker 7895
Res. 2893, Sports - Advocate Dist. HS Lady Coyotes:
Basketball Championship - Congrats., The Speaker 7896
Res. 2894, Wood, Cole: Prov. Elite AAA Team - Congrats., The Speaker 7896

[Page 7811]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Jerry Pye, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

[Res. No. 2820, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred - notice given April 2, 2002 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to notice of motion given by me on April 2, 2002, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, which is:

7811

[Page 7812]

"I hereby transmit Estimates of sums required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 2003, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them, together with the budget address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures, to the House of Assembly.

Signed,

Myra A. Freeman

Lieutenant Governor

April 3, 2002"

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to:

(1) table the message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House;

(2) table the Estimates Book;

(3) table the Consolidated Fiscal Plan for the government consisting of the Government Business Plan and other information contained in the budget;

(4) table the Crown Corporation Business Plans;

(5) table the Estimates and the Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions;

(6) deliver my Budget Speech; and

(7) move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, for 40 years Nova Scotia has been living beyond its means. For 40 years, successive governments have been running back and forth to the bank to pay for day-to-day operations.

[Page 7813]

Mr. Speaker, government started out by borrowing small amounts that grew and grew - and that continued to grow and grow, year in and year out - to the point where this year Nova Scotia taxpayers will hand over $865 million to distant bankers. That's almost $2.4 million every day, almost $100,000 per hour. In fact, this year, like last year, we will spend more paying interest on the debt than we will educating every Nova Scotia student from Primary to Grade 12. The ramifications of 40 years of borrowing are clear. The debt is not only robbing all Nova Scotians of opportunities today; if left unchecked, it will rob our children of the kind of hope, opportunity, choice and prosperity we all want for them tomorrow.

I know, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have grown tired of hearing about the deficit. I'm sure they're even more tired of living with the uncertainty that comes with every budget. The simple truth is, the more we borrow, the more uncertain things become. Our creditors become more uncertain. Potential investors become more uncertain. More importantly, the more uncertain we become as parents and grandparents about the services that will be there for us, the more uncertain we become about the services that will be there for our children and grandchildren.

Mr. Speaker, there is no magic, mystery, or uncertainty in this. Stubborn, successive, unrelenting deficits stymie growth, restrict investment, kill new jobs and limit the new revenue needed to respond to the priorities of Nova Scotians. And that is why today this government is embracing our collective responsibility to all Nova Scotians - particularly our children. That is why today I am proud to rise and present Nova Scotia's first truly balanced budget in 40 years. (Applause) And let there be no mistake, this is an all-in budget, reflecting all of our current spending commitments - something previous governments in past budgets failed to do. Since coming to office, we have ensured that the books of the province follow the most transparent accounting practices in the country.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line for 2002-03 is a truly balanced budget.

It has taken 40 years to get to where we are today. During that time we have built up a huge debt. The burden of debt we carry as a province will be with us and with our children for many years to come. But that is no excuse for inaction. On the contrary, Nova Scotia's debt, now at $11.6 billion, demands that we act now. Over the past decade, just the last 10 years, Mr. Speaker, that debt has cost Nova Scotians more than $7 billion in debt-servicing costs. It amounts to a long list of lost opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make something clear, something that I believe is often misunderstood. We can't deal with the debt until we deal with the deficit. It is impossible to start paying down the debt - it is impossible to begin to ease the burden on our children - until we end the costly practice of spending more money on programs and services each year than we collect in yearly revenues. Let me use an analogy. We've been paying for the groceries by taking out a second, third and fourth mortgage on the house - a house in desperate need of repair.

[Page 7814]

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, more of the same will result in one of two things. The house will either collapse around us or eventually be seized by the banks. In either case, the kids move out. Most Nova Scotians understand we cannot continue down the same path. In fact, I believe every member in this House agrees that we need to end deficit financing. Where this government differs from the Opposition is that we believe 40 years is long enough. This government will live within its means. This budget does not fudge our commitment with empty assurances, like "We will balance the budget . . . but only when the time is right." No, Mr. Speaker, this government made a commitment to present a truly honest and truly balanced budget in the third year of our mandate. And this budget honours that commitment. (Applause)

As well, this budget, along with every other budget we have presented to this House, honours our commitment to protect the priorities of Nova Scotians. Contrary to what many Nova Scotians have been led to believe, we have not cut health care spending. We have not cut education spending. We have not cut the amount of money we spend to support the disadvantaged. Nor have we cut the budget for road or highway improvements.

Again I repeat for the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, we're not balancing the budget by cutting. We're balancing the budget by focusing on Nova Scotia's priorities; by getting out of money-losing industries; by investing in new efficiencies; by basing decisions on evidence; and yes, Mr. Speaker, by calling on those who benefit from government services to pay more. In fact, the record shows that in the first two years of our mandate we added tens of millions of new dollars to respond to the priorities of Nova Scotians. During this same time we expanded front-line services to rural Nova Scotia, provided unprecedented assistance to Nova Scotia's farmers, and directed millions of dollars into sustaining our forests.

And, Mr. Speaker, we did all of this and more and still met our commitment to present a balanced budget today that eliminates the $500-million deficit we inherited the day we took office. We did all of this without increasing provincial income tax, without introducing new toll roads, and without forcing wage rollbacks or mandatory unpaid leave on the Public Service. And we did all of this despite reduced federal transfers for health, education and social services that are only now returning to 1994-95 levels. In fact, the cumulative reduction in federal transfers to Nova Scotia over the past eight years amounts to almost $1 billion.

Mr. Speaker, this year we are once again increasing funding for health, for education, to support the disadvantaged and to improve the condition of our roads and highways. We are once again fulfilling our commitment to protect and invest in the priorities of Nova Scotians.

[Page 7815]

Mr. Speaker, while this government set the course and stayed on course to arrive at a balanced budget, the credit for achieving this milestone rests with Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians have shown incredible patience. They've shown great tolerance after more than a decade of unkept promises to balance the budget, after seeing the list of pent-up demands grow and continue to grow as debt-servicing costs cut deeper into the next year's budget.

Mr. Speaker, this budget begins to put things right by our children. It respects but it also responds to Nova Scotians' collective desire to see that they have opportunity for success and enjoy a quality of life second to none - right here at home. This budget says it only makes sense that we spend every available dollar on things that are worthwhile, such as buying books for Nova Scotia's students instead of Bentleys for New York bankers. This budget respects and responds to Nova Scotians who work hard to live within their budgets and who expect nothing less of their government.

Mr. Speaker, this budget is about our children. It's about common sense. It's about respecting Nova Scotia values.

The number one priority of Nova Scotians is health care. And like most Canadians, it's also their number one concern. It's also the number one concern of this government. An aging population, rising drug costs, expensive new technologies and heated competition for scarce health care professionals means that health care is eating up more and more of Nova Scotia's available program dollars. Fully 44 per cent of government's program spending now goes to meet the health care needs of Nova Scotians. And because health care costs are growing at a faster rate than our economy, there is less new money to respond to the growing demands we see in virtually every other area of government. There is less new money to respond to the needs of our students, less new money to maintain our roads, less new money to invest in public safety.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we are making the kind of decisions that will better control those things that unnecessarily drive up costs - things like unhealthy lifestyles, lack of good information, outdated practices and duplication of services.

Mr. Speaker, to address unhealthy lifestyles we are continuing to support Active Kids . . . Healthy Kids, a multi-year initiative involving community-based sport and recreation organizations across the province. The goal is to provide more young Nova Scotians with the opportunity to become more active and, in the process, Mr. Speaker, more physically fit.

As well, we are increasing the cost of cigarettes by $5.00 per carton, effective midnight tonight. Mr. Speaker, this is one of the most effective ways to encourage smokers to quit and one of the most effective ways to stop young people from picking up the deadly habit.

We are also stepping up efforts to ensure that our drinking water, and our child-care centres are safe.

[Page 7816]

Mr. Speaker, good health information is vital to good health care decisions. This budget includes $7.8 million to ensure our health care providers have the information needed to provide the best possible care to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, we are making decisions based on evidence and best practices. That is why we are asking Nova Scotians to accept that we can provide more efficient health care - and in many cases better health care - by consolidating a limited number of services in hospitals that have the best technology and the best mix of health care professionals to meet patient needs. It is simply no longer practical to think we can provide every service in every community. In fact, the evidence shows that in some cases it's not in the best interests of patients.

Mr. Speaker, this budget increases health care spending by $134 million, bringing the total Health budget to $1.98 billion. Budget to budget, funding for district health authorities is increasing by $87.5 million: $65 million for wages, with a further $22.5 million directed to front-line health care. After funding their 2001-02 year-end deficits, the amount of new dollars for the DHAs is $61 million. This budget also includes an additional $23 million to meet the long-term care needs of Nova Scotians and almost $7 million more to respond to Nova Scotia's growing home-care needs.

Despite the difficult financial times we are in, we are investing in many other health care priorities:

Again, the year-over-year increase in health care spending - as substantial as it is - won't address every new demand. But make no mistake, this government is providing all it can to ensure that health care is there for Nova Scotians today. We are doing everything possible to ensure that it is there for our children tomorrow. (Applause)

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Ottawa. When medicare was first introduced, the costs were split 50/50 between Ottawa and the provinces. Today, Ottawa contributes just 14 cents of every dollar.

[Page 7817]

Mr. Speaker, at the same time as Ottawa was cutting back on paying its fair share of the health care bill, costs were going through the roof. The result is that Nova Scotia has been forced to contribute a larger and larger share of its program dollars to health care. And, because we have some of the highest chronic disease rates in the country, our per-capita health costs are well above the national average; again, something Ottawa ignores.

It's been difficult for all provinces, Mr. Speaker. But it's been particularly difficult for smaller provinces like Nova Scotia. We simply don't have the same fiscal capacity as the larger, richer provinces to absorb massive cost increases. And because of this, we have less revenue than Alberta or Ontario, for example, to take advantage of federal-provincial cost-shared programs, to fix outdated infrastructure, to cut taxes, or to create new jobs. These are the things that generate the revenue needed to sustain health care and other vital services. These are the things that Ottawa seems to believe Nova Scotians can do without.

Mr. Speaker, Ottawa likes to talk about one Canada. The fact is, it makes policy and funding decisions that contribute to an even greater divide. This is wrong.

Mr. Speaker, here's something else that's terribly wrong. Nova Scotians have a once-in a-lifetime opportunity - the opportunity presented by our own offshore resources - to narrow the gap. Unfortunately, Ottawa is standing in our way. Despite a signed agreement saying that Nova Scotia would be the principal beneficiary from the development of its offshore, Ottawa continues to take 81 cents of every dollar the offshore brings in. This limits the amount of new revenue we have to invest in better health care, a better education system, and a stronger economy.

Mr. Speaker, Ottawa is taking away Nova Scotia's best chance to narrow the gap. It continues to take Nova Scotia's best chance to leave our children a legacy of real prosperity instead of lost potential. And it's wrong Mr. Speaker, it's dead wrong.

Mr. Speaker, this budget speaks loudly about the need to begin eliminating the burden of debt on our children. But, that burden will not be lifted if we rob them of a good education today. From day one, this government has said there is a need to focus more on the fundamentals of all learning - reading, writing and mathematics.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we have remained true to our word. We have invested millions of new dollars to help our youngest learners become enthusiastic readers through Active Young Readers, Reading Recovery and Read to Me. In fact, Active Young Readers alone has put 425,000 new books into the hands of our youngest students.

And this year, Mr. Speaker, the Writers in Action program will help ensure that our children learn grammar, writing and speaking skills - skills that can make a world of difference, the difference between success or failure.

[Page 7818]

Over the past three years, this government has provided the funding to give every student from Grade 7 to Grade 12 a mathematics textbook. Mr. Speaker, something as basic as this shouldn't be remarkable or even noteworthy, but it is. Why? Because it hasn't always been a priority with past governments. It is with this one. This government believes that math matters. We are therefore building on our earlier investments by expanding foundation courses to help struggling students learn the value and benefits of a good understanding of math.

[2:30 p.m.]

These are just some of the new efforts government is making to ensure that our children have the reading, writing and math skills they need to continue to learn throughout their lives. These are just some of the educational priorities we continue to support through this budget.

Mr. Speaker, over the past five years student enrolment declined by more than 10,000 students, while the number of teachers remained relatively constant. It is anticipated that the decline in student population will continue for some time to come, with a reduction of more than 2,200 students again this year. Despite the drop in student numbers, this government has increased funding to public school education by nearly $28 million over the last two years, resulting in a significant increase in per-student funding. Public school education funding will increase again this year by another $19 million, from $792 million to $811 million.

Mr. Speaker, the Education budget also includes $76 million for new schools and $13 million for renovations, bringing the total amount to be spent this year on new schools, schools under construction and renovations to over $89 million.

Au cours de l'année 2001-02, on avait remis en question l'utilisation des fonds fédéraux envers l'éducation en français langue premiére. À ce moment, la Province a pris l'initiative de former un comité qui regroupait tous les intervenants dans le domaine des services éducatifs en français.

Je suis content d'annoncer que le comité est arrivé à un consensus que les fonds fédéraux destinés à l'éducation en "français langue premiére" avaient effectivement servi la communauté acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Mr. Speaker, I repeat, in the last fiscal year, the use of federal funding marked specifically for French educational services had been the subject of some controversy. The province decided at that point to form a committee bringing together all parties involved in French educational services. I am very pleased to say that the group arrived at a consensus that the federal funding marked for educational services to the Acadian community was used exactly for that purpose.

[Page 7819]

This budget also increases funding for Nova Scotia's first school of adult learning, bringing this year's funding to almost $2 million. This successful new initiative is giving literally hundreds of Nova Scotians the education they need to do better and the confidence they need to set and achieve higher goals for themselves and their families.

Let me point out that the bulk of the increase in school board funding includes a 2 per cent wage increase for teachers this year, with an additional 2 per cent in each of the following two years.

The Education budget also includes $21 million to meet government's existing contractual obligations with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to fund 100 per cent of the life, medical and dental premiums for Nova Scotia's teachers - something currently under negotiation.

Mr. Speaker, wages and benefits for our public school system cost in excess of $600 million. Every 1 per cent increase in salaries means we need to find an additional $6 million from somewhere else. We believe that the amount budgeted is reasonable, fair and affordable. Again, let me repeat: funding for the public school system is going up, not down. The level of funding we are providing to educate our students is more, not less.

Mr. Speaker this government expects, and we will ensure, that every dollar meant for the classroom goes to the classroom. Where accountability or proper spending controls are not already firmly in place, they will be shortly.

As well, new spending restrictions will be introduced to ensure that school boards focus squarely on the classroom and never again on the boardrooms of private sector ventures. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, last year, this government increased funding to the community college system by over $5 million, creating hundreds of new opportunities for young Nova Scotians to pursue careers that are in demand. To protect this investment, funding for community colleges will once again be increased - by another $4 million. The additional money will relieve funding pressures resulting from wage increases, enabling the community college system to continue to deliver its current range of course offerings. In addition, $1 million has been paid from the 2001-02 budget for the community college system to identify future needs and future opportunities to help more young Nova Scotians get the skills they need.

As with the public school system and the community college system, this government increased funding to universities in the first two years of its mandate.

M. le Président, en ces temps de grandes coupures et de réductions, alors que l'argent se fait rare et que demandes augmentent, nous avons réussi à maintenir l'aide financière à nos universitiés aux montants de 201$ million. En plus de cette assistance, une somme de

[Page 7820]

500,000$ est destinée au fusionnement de l'Université Sainte-Anne et du Collège de l'Acadie - une initiative vitale qui protègera et rehaussera les chances d'éducation et de formation pour les Acadiens et les Acadiennes de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat, at a time when dollars are scarce, demands are high and other program areas are being eliminated or reduced, we have managed to continue to fund our universities at current levels of $201 million. In addition to this amount, $500,000 has been set aside to allow for the merger of Université Sainte-Anne and Collège de l'Acadie - a vital initiative that will protect and enhance educational and training opportunities for Nova Scotia's Acadian students across this province.

Mr. Speaker, at the same time as many businesses and industries are either experiencing or predicting a shortage of skilled workers, Nova Scotia is losing too many of its best and brightest to other jurisdictions. Government has a responsibility to lead the effort to ensure that Nova Scotians are the first in line to fill every new job - whether it's in the oil and gas, tourism, or technology sectors; whether it's in the construction trades or a job on the farm.

To that end, we will be proceeding with the Nova Scotia Skills Agenda. This will be a joint initiative involving government, business, industry, labour, school boards, the community colleges and universities. The aim is to better match educational needs with future job demands. The goal is to provide every young Nova Scotian with the knowledge, skills and training he or she needs to land and keep a job here at home.

Critical to the success of this initiative is a commitment by all of our partners to take a more co-operative approach in responding to existing as well as emerging labour market needs. Critical to the success of this initiative is the need to remove some of the institutional barriers that drive up costs for both students and taxpayers. We expect all of our education partners to make system-wide changes and to demonstrate to young Nova Scotians that their future is here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, despite increasing funding to our universities over the first two years of our mandate, tuition continued to go up. We know that more and more Nova Scotians are becoming increasingly concerned about the cost of a post-secondary education. It's also a concern of this government.

Officials from my department and the Department of Education are presently developing a program to help those Nova Scotia students most in need, with the high cost of a university or college education. The details of this program will be released over the course of the next 12 months.

[Page 7821]

Again, Mr. Speaker, the total budget for education is going up, not down: $23 million more will be spent on education this year. As with health, the increase in education funding won't satisfy every want or every demand. But again, it speaks to our commitment to protect, and where possible enhance, the quality of education we provide our children - particularly our youngest children.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians rightfully expect their government to assist those among us who are disadvantaged by poverty or disability. They also expect that government will put in place the proper supports to help as many Nova Scotians as possible achieve a greater level of independence. This government recognizes that if given the choice of a life on welfare or a future with hope, Nova Scotians will choose the latter. That is why we are maintaining and making new investments in programs to support those who need it most.

Mr. Speaker, one of the most positive changes this government has made is to provide an integrated child benefit - a combination of the National and Nova Scotia Child Benefit programs - to all low-income families making $20,921 or less.

Mr. Speaker, we have demonstrated our commitment to help children living in poverty. Some 35,000 Nova Scotian families and approximately 60,000 children receive this benefit. These changes, combined with a stronger economy, helped more than 3,000 Nova Scotians find independence in 2001-02. We expect another 3,000 Nova Scotians will gain employment this year as our economy continues to grow and more social assistance recipients participate in employment support programs.

Mr. Speaker, this government continues its commitment to give our youngest children a good start in life. This year $12 million, an increase of $3 million, will be provided for early childhood development, with another $2.7 million dedicated to maintain support programs for children. We are also working to ensure that the victims of domestic violence are not further victimized by being forced to leave their own homes. Over $500,000 will be spent by the Department of Justice to put in motion a new approach for helping victims of family violence. This government wants the abuser to leave . . . not the victim to flee.

As well, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Community Services will be taking steps to better serve its clients through enhanced technology and more efficient program delivery. This investment will ensure that every client receives the support they are entitled to, no one receives more than they should and no parent waits to feed or clothe their child. As in every year this government has been in office, the budget to support the disadvantaged is going up.

Mr. Speaker, the capital budget for road and highway improvements increased by $23 million over the first two years of our mandate. But as practically every person who drives a car in Nova Scotia will tell you, our roads and highways are still in desperate need of repair. In fact, it would take more than $3 billion over 10 years to address all of our road and highway deficiencies.

[Page 7822]

Obviously, we do not have that kind of money. And, Mr. Speaker, we simply can't afford to wait. It is for these reasons that I am announcing that, effective midnight tonight, there will be a two-cent increase in motive fuel taxes - every cent of which will go toward our roads, bridges and ferries. In fact, every cent and more will go to improving our roads and highways.

The increase in gas taxes will bring in over $23 million. In addition to this, government has allocated over $62 million in capital spending for the Department of Transportation and Public Works, bringing the total amount for capital improvements for our roads, highways, bridges, and ferries to over $85 million - $32 million more than was spent last year. This amount won't mean that every road will get paved or every bridge will be fixed - far from it. But at a time of severe financial restraint this investment is a clear indication of this government's efforts to address a pressing need, particularly in rural Nova Scotia. All told, capital spending to address many of Nova Scotia's urgent priorities will amount to $219 million.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, government recently announced a new plan to support municipalities, based on a fair and long-overdue increase in what Nova Scotia Power Incorporated should be paying in taxes. The new municipal equalization plan will ensure that no matter where you live in Nova Scotia you will continue to receive vital local services. It will also ensure that struggling communities are given a much-needed lifeline to help them rebuild their economies.

As well, Mr. Speaker, municipalities benefit from government taking over an additional $6.6 million in social assistance costs, the final step in the province assuming full responsibility for that program. Despite some budgetary measures such as a reduction in discretionary grants, an additional contribution towards education and the elimination of restricted license plates, municipal governments realize a net benefit from the actions of this government.

Mr. Speaker, this government has made the difficult but necessary decisions to ensure we achieved balance. Let me give you one example. We closed Sysco. Today, instead of adding to the slag piles and scrap heaps, instead of piling more and more onto the deficit, the Sysco site is being cleaned up and is generating modest revenues for the province.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to make the difficult but necessary decisions to ensure we remain in balance. While Nova Scotia is benefiting from a growing economy, the demands in health care, education and social services exceed expected new revenues. That is why we have taken steps to increase fees and revenues. I have already announced, prior to this budget, measures totalling $22 million. Other measures included in this budget will provide another $51 million to respond to Nova Scotia's priorities.

[Page 7823]

In addition, contributions from gaming and liquor Crown Corporations will increase by $28 million. Recently I announced that the Large Corporations Capital Tax, due to end this year, would not. Today, I am announcing that it will continue until March 31, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, even with these additional revenues we had to find savings elsewhere. We had to make some tough decisions.

In making our decisions this government asked a number of important questions:

In some cases, the reductions in this budget are reflected in a cut to discretionary grants. In some cases, they are reflected in program reductions. In some cases, it is a reduction in the number of funded positions. In some cases, it is the need to find better ways of achieving better results. In other cases, it is simply because we can't afford the existing program at a time when other important priorities need to be addressed. But in all cases, Mr. Speaker, we kept our focus on what is most important to Nova Scotians.

We kept our focus on their priorities - with more money for our hospitals, schools and roads. We kept our focus on the economic health of Nova Scotia by providing for greater fiscal certainty. We kept our focus on what we need to do today to ensure that our children grow to be healthy productive adults, with children of their own, who travel on good roads, who go to good schools and who, when the need arises, get top-notch health care.

Tomorrow, we will need to look beyond our borders and focus on new ways to ensure greater co-operation with the other provinces. We must look for every opportunity we can to reduce costs so that we can deliver what is important to all of us as Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's economy is doing well - 3,800 new jobs were created last year. This year another 3,000 new jobs are expected to be created. These jobs are being created because the Nova Scotia economy is forecast to grow by 1.9 per cent.

[Page 7824]

Mr. Speaker, continued economic growth means that Nova Scotia is paying more of its own way. Three years ago the split in provincial/federal revenues was about 62/38. In 2002-03, 64 per cent of the province's revenue is coming from provincial sources and only 36 per cent from Ottawa.

While growth this year will be positive, the indicators for 2003 are even better. Economic growth is forecast to rise to 3.7 per cent next year. Nova Scotians will continue to benefit from investments in our offshore. More jobs will be created in our construction, business services and transportation sectors. And, Mr. Speaker, these jobs are being created where they are needed most. Cape Breton was one of the leaders in employment growth this past year.

Mr. Speaker, while the private sector must drive economic growth, government can take focused actions to establish the climate for growth.

Mr. Speaker, creating employment opportunities is a priority of this government. That is why I am pleased to announce today an extension of the Film Tax Credit to December 31, 2005.

This government also understands it must manage its affairs properly, bringing greater certainty to the public finances. That is why I am pleased to announce today that this government will soon release a debt and surplus management plan. A plan that should give confidence to Nova Scotians that this government will follow the right path to financial stability and chart the right course for our children.

That path is already paying dividends. This year our debt-servicing costs will decline by $44 million year over year. This is partially the result of lower interest rates and partially the result of this government's aggressive efforts to limit our exposure from foreign borrowing. Since this government came to office, foreign exchange exposure has dropped from 51 per cent to 29 per cent and will be below 20 per cent by 2004.

Mr. Speaker, let me attempt to summarize this budget. We are benefiting from increased revenues, driven by a strong provincial economy and new fees and recoveries. We will spend millions more on health, education, social services and other priorities of Nova Scotians. We made the difficult decisions and, through prudent management, we balanced the budget.

Mr. Speaker, it comes down to choices and priorities. This government believes that our children's future is a priority - that is why we made the choice to balance the budget and still invest more in education. This government believes that reliable, predictable and sustainable health care for all Nova Scotians is a priority - that is why we made the choice to balance the budget and still spend more on our hospitals, nurses and doctors. We believe

[Page 7825]

that growing our economy is a priority - that is why we made the choice to balance the budget, help more families achieve independence, and invest more money in roads.

Mr. Speaker, the budget we are sharing with Nova Scotians today begins to put things right by our children. It ensures that more of Nova Scotians' hard-earned tax dollars will be spent on them instead of wasted on the banks. It says to Nova Scotians, just as you work hard to live within your means, so too will your government.

Mr. Speaker, this budget is all about our children, common sense and Nova Scotia values. Thank you. Merci. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, with this budget Nova Scotians will be paying more to a government that is delivering less of the services that governments are elected to deliver and all for the sake of a budget that will be balanced for a day.

Mr. Speaker, it is an abdication of leadership. It is an abdication of what they were elected to do. Their number one priority, they said, was to fix the health care system. They have abandoned that idea. Since the day after the election they have tried to get Nova Scotians to believe that they were elected to do something else. They promised to fix the health care system. That was their number one election promise. This budget is a triumph of public relations over substance. It is a sign of a government that is out of ideas except for one, and they couldn't even deliver on that one idea, the idea of a balanced budget.

No reasonable person can say that a budget is balanced when it adds $100 million to the debt. This is a government that, over the last two years, has added $300 million to the debt. They project another $100 million this year and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that. They stand in their place today and claim that this budget is balanced. This so-called surplus of $1.3 million is about the most razor-thin surplus that one could imagine. It is very much reminiscent of the $1.6 million surplus that the Liberal Government tried to claim and they lost that surplus from the Red Room to this Chamber, and that Minister of Finance knows that he is going to lose his surplus by tomorrow morning.

Mr. Speaker, more importantly than these number games that the Minister of Finance is playing today is that this government has failed to address the underlying issues that generate the deficit. They'd like to talk about a deficit dragon, but the deficit dragon is not dead; this government is simply hiding it. They are hiding it in places that accountants don't look. This government is hiding the deficit in the homes of our senior citizens who are enrolled in the Pharmacare Program. (Interruptions) I do wish that the seniors in my constituency could hear and see what I have to listen to and see across the floor from me. I am talking about the seniors in my constituency who have seen their Pharmacare co-pay and premium go up. I was talking to a pharmacist last week who told me that the seniors who are

[Page 7826]

her customers are making choices not to take prescribed drugs because they can't afford them. That's where the deficit is being hidden by this government. She told me that seniors are making choices not to enrol in the Pharmacare Program at all because they would rather take a gamble that their costs this year are going to be lower than the new co-pay and premium. They are taking a gamble on their health. That is where this government is hiding the deficit.

Mr. Speaker, the deficit dragon isn't dead, they're hiding it in the homes of people who are on surgical waiting lists, because tomorrow morning those people are still going to be on those lists and those lists are going to get longer as a result of this budget. Mr. Speaker, is it me saying that as the Finance Critic for the Opposition? No, it's the former Chief Executive Officer of the Capital District Health Authority, who told us all that waiting lists are going to get longer as a result of this government's budget. That is where the deficit is hiding, because this government is doing nothing to deal with that. They're doing nothing to deal with that because the only objective they had today was to stand up and say that they had a balanced budget.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that Minister of Finance doesn't care about tomorrow. The people on the waiting lists are going to get up tomorrow, and do you think they're going to jump for joy? Do you think they're going to jump for joy because the minister claims a razor-thin surplus? No, they won't, because they're still going to be on those waiting lists, and those waiting lists just got a little longer today.

Mr. Speaker, this government is hiding the deficit in the schools where our children go every day, and those schools are falling apart. I wonder if the members are going to go home and tell people in their home constituencies to jump for joy because they claim a balanced budget when the Barrington Municipal High School is closed, closed indefinitely because more kids are getting sick because the schools aren't getting fixed. The Sir John A. Macdonald High School is closed. The Halifax West High School is closed because of environmental problems. Our schools are not being kept up, and something that no one will find in the budget documents, and already today we ferreted it out, is that the budget for school renovations this year over last year is going down. It's going down. They're cutting the amount of money available for school renovations. That's where the deficit is hiding, in schools that are falling apart. But they don't care about that because all they wanted was for their Minister of Finance to stand up today and claim that he has a balanced budget. They don't care about tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, probably the cruelest cut of all is the cut to transition homes and women's shelters, a cut of nearly $1 million, and the government has the nerve, the gall, to claim in their budget documents that the reason they're doing this is to make transition houses more effective. Those are the words that are used in the budget background documents, that this

[Page 7827]

is being done in order to make the transition houses more effective. They're making them more effective by cutting $1 million out of their budgets. In the homes of the people who are prone to being the victims of family violence, almost 100 per cent women and their children, there is less to look forward to tomorrow. They may have further to travel. They certainly have more uncertainty. That's where the deficit is hiding. It's in their homes; today those women and those children have a little bit less hope because the minister wants to stand up today, on April 4th, and claim that he has a balanced budget.

Mr. Speaker, this is what happens when you have a government that has only one idea left. They're not interested in tackling the fundamental issues. They're not interested in solving the problem. All they're interested in is standing up today and saying they have a balanced budget, but you're never going to balance your budget as long as you don't address these issues. As long as you don't fix up our schools, as long as you don't tackle the reasons why our waiting lists are so long, as long as you don't tackle why we have family violence in the first place, you're never going to balance your budget.

What about children born in poverty? Six children every day are born into poverty in Nova Scotia. Do you think that they, or their parents, are going to jump out of bed tomorrow morning and say, hurray, we have a balanced budget. No, I don't think so, because they have more fundamental things to worry about - like what they're going to eat; their parents will wonder if they have enough money to pay the rent. And all this government has to offer them today is a fictional balanced budget. You can't eat a balanced budget, and that's what this government forgets. Then they have the nerve, their public relations people have the gall and the Minister of Finance has the nerve, to read that somehow this budget is about children.

What about all those children born into poverty? What about all the children who are now living in poverty? What do they have to look forward to tomorrow morning? What about people who just want clean water? What do they have to look forward to tomorrow? The people in the Annapolis Valley who worry about the contamination of their wells - are they going to jump for joy tomorrow? I don't think so - because there aren't enough inspectors. It seems the Department of Environment has almost lost the will to enforce our environmental laws. Because you can't drink a balanced budget, you can only drink clean water. This government forgets that as long as they don't tackle the fundamental reasons why people fear for the quality of their drinking water, we'll never have a balanced budget.

What about people who want safe workplaces? What about people who don't want another Westray in Nova Scotia? - on a day that we hear that one of the leading lights in the Westray mine is coming back to Nova Scotia. The people who want a safe workplace - what do they have to look forward to tomorrow morning? They're still going to be there, they're still going to be in the same workplace, still fearing for their safety because the government doesn't care enough to really tackle the fundamental issues, doesn't care enough to bring forward violence in the workplace regulations, doesn't care enough to have enough inspectors. That's the deficit; that's where the deficit is hiding.

[Page 7828]

What about people in the agricultural sector? What did the minister say to them today? What are the farmers and the foresters going to say to themselves tomorrow? Are they going to jump out of bed and say, hallelujah, we have a balanced budget? I don't think so. I don't think they're going to say that, because the Minister of Finance didn't say one solitary word to them today; didn't even mention them.

Until this government realizes that they have to tackle the fundamental issues, the reasons why we have a deficit, there won't be a balanced budget because all they're doing is closing their eyes and pretending that deficit dragon has been beaten. But all they're doing is hiding it and doing it in a way that is, well frankly, offensive, the way they do their public relations spin around the transition house cuts and the women's centres, the way they say that cutting $1 million is actually going to make them more effective. This is a government that's more concerned about public relations and getting themselves ready for the next election than they are in actually doing the right thing for the people of Nova Scotia.

I think with today's budget we now know the date of the next election - it will be next spring. It will be before this House has to look at the next budget, because with a surplus of $1.3 million, that kind of surplus vanishes in the snap of the fingers; $1.3 million is one quarter of one-tenth of 1 per cent of the overall government budget. The Canadian dollar just has to go down a little bit and the surplus is gone; interest rates just have to go up one-quarter of 1 per cent and the surplus is gone. The Department of Health habitually overspends its budget. Last year they were over by $40 million and the year before that it was $70 million. The Minister of Health loses $1.3 million between here and his office just walking back and forth, and the government says, look, we have a balanced budget.

Mr. Speaker, after today's budget Nova Scotians will be paying more and getting less from a government, getting less of what governments are elected to do and all for the sake of a budget that will be balanced for one day. With that, I would move adjournment of the budget debate. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member, just for the record, has used about 15 minutes today.

Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Glace Bay:

[Page 7829]

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia is not sincere in their commitment to having the private sector mine coal in Cape Breton.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice on an introduction.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise today to make an introduction of two people who are in the gallery with us today, who have travelled today to be here on this historic day. Those people are very fundamental to doing my job in my riding. They are my constituency assistants, Virginia Penny and Dale Keddy Dumulié. Both of them are here today to hear the proceedings of the House. I would ask them to rise and receive the greetings of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of the community of Clare. The aim of this petition is to convince MTT to provide high-speed Internet via their Mpowered PC service to the local area. MTT Mpowered PC is currently available in over 25 communities throughout the province, with the exception of Clare. Dial-up service is growing more unacceptable to most PC users in the local area, and a better or faster service would be very much appreciated. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition consisting of 65 petitions signed by people of the Annapolis Valley. The operative clause of which reads,"I joined the bus convoy to the Legislature on Wednesday, April 3, 2002, to protest cuts by the Hamm Government to essential health care in the Annapolis Valley." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

[Page 7830]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2865

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

Whereas 750,000 copies of the 2002 Doers and Dreamers guide have been printed and are being distributed around the world; and

Whereas this 400-page guide offers information on our accommodations, festivals and events, museums, attractions, restaurants, and outdoor and nature experiences; and

Whereas this guide is one in a series of publications that encourages people to visit and stay longer in the province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the people involved in the production of this guide, from department staff to area tourism associations and individual operators.

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 Education.

[Page 7831]

RESOLUTION NO. 2866

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

Whereas six teachers from Nova Scotia have received the PanCanadian Students' Choice Award; and

Whereas this award provides the opportunity for students to express their appreciation for a special teacher; and

Whereas teachers are recognized for their hard work, dedication and personal commitment that they bring to the classroom every day;

[3:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Elaine Bishop, Makiko Chaisson, Sandy McLeod, Anne Mosher, Madeline Patton and Bruce Piercey for their accomplishment.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 2867

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

Whereas the month of April is the beginning of fire season in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas burning permits are required immediately in the Counties of Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Lunenburg and, by April 15th, in the remainder of the province; and

[Page 7832]

Whereas we need to work together to spread the word that prevention is the best way to ensure that the number and size of forest fires are kept to a minimum this year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the importance of protecting our forest resources from fires caused by human error.

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 Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2868

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

Whereas the Atlantic Journalism Award nominees were announced yesterday; and

Whereas JoAnn Sherwood of The Chronicle-Herald and Paul Withers of CBC Television were nominated for their continuing coverage of the controversy at the Strait Regional School Board; and

Whereas their talents and contacts were so good that they sometimes got information on the board's finances faster than we did;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate JoAnn, Paul and all nominees in this year's Atlantic Journalism Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7833]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2869

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

Whereas Ann-Marie MacDonald's book, Fall On Your Knees, was selected in February for the Oprah Winfrey's Book of the Month Club; and

Whereas Ann-Marie MacDonald spent part of her youth in Cape Breton's lovely New Waterford area, upon which much of the book is based; and

Whereas Ann-Marie MacDonald will be interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud author Ann-Marie MacDonald's successes and for putting the Town of New Waterford on the world literary stage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 7834]

RESOLUTION NO. 2870

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

Whereas Glen Clark is not universally popular these days, except among some unrepentant New Democrats; and

Whereas when Glen Clark was Premier of British Columbia he brought in a budget containing an imaginary $600 million surplus; and (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACEWAN: Whereas after this, Clark dissolved the House, called an election, got re-elected and then had to revise his budget to instead proclaim a $600 million deficit;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier John Hamm should be awarded the 2002 Glen Clark Achievement Award for having mimicked Glen Clark so successfully on his 2002 fudge-it budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2871

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

Whereas EDS Canada will be holding a job fair this Saturday at the Strait Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College in Port Hawkesbury; and

Whereas the job fair is being held to allow Port Hawkesbury and area residents a chance to learn more about 300 new jobs being created by EDS Canada; and

Whereas a wide variety of jobs including everything from technical help-desk associates to supervisors to administrative secretaries will be available in Port Hawkesbury;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly commend EDS Canada for their steadfast confidence in the economy of the Strait region and wish the company and its 300 new employees considerable success.

[Page 7835]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2872

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

Whereas the member for Shelburne needs to teach his colleagues from the Valley about electoral duty and responsibility; and

Whereas it should now be clear to the members for Annapolis, Kings North, Kings South and Kings West that residents of the Valley do not support their government's health care funding; and

Whereas the members for Annapolis, Kings North, Kings South and Kings West should also note that petitions were tabled in this House yesterday containing thousands of Valley residents signatures, decrying Tory health care funding for the Valley;

Therefore be it resolved that the members for Annapolis, Kings North, Kings South and Kings West should now know that the people of the Valley who elected them want them to scrutinize this budget for its impact on the Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 7836]

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2873

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

Whereas Colleen Jones made Canadian history winning her unprecedented fourth national women's curling title at the Scott Tournament of Hearts; and

Whereas Ms. Jones and her team third, Kim Kelly; second, Mary-Anne Waye; and lead, Nancy Delahunt defeated Saskatchewan 8-5 and is the first team since 1994 to win back-to-back titles; and

Whereas the team currently holds the world title and will be defending that title in Bismarck, North Dakota, U.S.A. beginning April 6th;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Colleen Jones and her team Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Waye and Nancy Delahunt on winning the Scott Tournament of Hearts and wish them luck as they defend their title at the world championship.

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 2874

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

Whereas the Eastern Shore Minor Hockey Association played host to the 2002 Atom "AA" Provincial Hockey Championship 10 days ago in Musquodoboit Harbour; and

[Page 7837]

Whereas the Eastern Shore Atom "AA" Mariners won this year's provincial championship, much to the delight of the home audience at the Eastern Shore Community Centre; and

Whereas a championship of this stature doesn't come without the commitment of coaches and the guidance of parents;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs commend all local organizers of this provincial Atom "AA" hockey championship and applaud the sportsmanship and hospitality shown towards out-of-town guests the weekend of March 23rd to 24th.

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. 2875

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 growing areas of Timberlea, Prospect and Hammonds Plains are looking to the Department of Education for leadership on the solution to the problems at Sir John A. Macdonald High School; and

Whereas Sir John A. needs answers about its notorious environmental and current overcrowding problems; and

Whereas students, staff and the communities have been greatly inconvenienced by the split shift;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education clearly state to all involved what are the immediate and long-term plans for Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

[Page 7838]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 2876

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

Whereas two Daily News staffers are nominated for Atlantic Journalism Awards to be presented on May 4th during the 21st annual awards here in Halifax; and

Whereas cartoonist Michael de Adder is up for an award for editorial cartooning for his cartoon entitled Hamm and Patronage; and

Whereas photographer Scott Dunlop is nominated for his shot of a helicopter fighting a forest fire near Fairview last August;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Michael de Adder and Scott Dunlop on their nominations and wish them luck at this year's awards.

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.

Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It is very difficult for me to hear the speakers.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 2877

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

Whereas the Town of Digby has recently lost a very distinguished citizen, Vincent Greeley Snow, who died on Saturday, March 30th; and

[Page 7839]

Whereas he was the owner and manager of Snow Bros. Reg'd and was actively involved in key facets of town life, including the Digby and Area Board of Trade, Grace United Church and the Admiral Digby Historical Society; and

Whereas he was a prolific writer and was very proud of the 1996 publication of his book, A Treasury of Digby Memories, which was a collection of his remembrances of Digby and his letters to The Digby Courier;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the valuable contributions the late Mr. Snow made to the community in which he lived for more than 90 years and extend to his family our sincere condolences.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2878

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

Whereas from July 30th to August 3rd, 2000, the Ecology Action Centre held the First International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals; and

Whereas at this historic event the scientific community pointed out the need to conserve deep-sea corals as a key element in preserving the richness of our oceans; and

Whereas the proceedings of the symposium have been published, and a copy signed by organizers and participants is being donated to the Legislative Library; and I have a copy here which I will put on the Table;

[Page 7840]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Ecology Action Centre for organizing and subsequently publishing the proceedings of the historic First International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals.

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2879

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 Cape Breton Post is the only Atlantic newspaper to be nominated for a national newspaper award; and

Whereas Associate Editor Doug McGee, the lead editorial writer, is one of the finalists in the editorial writing category; and

Whereas Mr. McGee was cited for editorials covering ethics and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the issue of welfare limiting education options and the connection between economic factors and the poor health of Cape Bretoners;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Doug McGee and the Cape Breton Post on their nomination and wish them luck when the winners are announced in Calgary on April 26, 2002.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7841]

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2880

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

Whereas the Order of Canada is awarded on behalf of all Canadians to recognize people whose life's work has made a significant impact on this country; and

Whereas Joyce L. Ross of East Preston, a dedicated social activist, has recently been made an Officer of the Order of Canada; and

Whereas as part of her extensive community service, she founded the East Preston Day Care Centre and started education programs for children and adults in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joyce Ross, newly appointed Officer of the Order of Canada, on this national honour and thank her for her steadfast dedication to the well-being and improvement of her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 7842]

RESOLUTION NO. 2881

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

Whereas on Tuesday, March 19, 2002, the IWK Hospital held a very special event when it officially opened its helipad; and

Whereas Ms. Crystal DeLorey of Windsor raised $10,000 in memory of her son, Luke, so that others could benefit from even speedier access to emergency care; and

Whereas Abbott Laboratories donated $1 million to ensure that "Luke's Landing" became a reality;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend our thanks to Ms. Crystal DeLorey of Windsor, Nova Scotia, Abbott Laboratories, the staff of the IWK Hospital and members of the community for this new addition which will further improve emergency care for infants and children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2882

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

Whereas Dr. Greg MacLeod, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Tompkins Institute at the University College of Cape Breton, has been named Member of the Order of Canada; and

[Page 7843]

Whereas Dr. MacLeod is a leading authority on rural community development and known for putting ethical principles into practical action; and

Whereas amongst the vanguard of community development, Dr. MacLeod's innovative business methods have become models for rural community development;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dr. MacLeod on receiving this prestigious Canadian honour and applaud the work in rural community development which has earned him this recognition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[3:30 p.m.]

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. 2883

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

Whereas in early March, 2002, ECI Medical Technologies of Bridgewater won a $1.8 million contract with Managed Healthcare Associates in New Jersey to supply latex-free surgical gloves; and

Whereas this three year contract is the first group purchasing contract won by ECI Medical Technologies; and

Whereas this contract will maximize exposure and opportunities to even more companies in the lucrative American market;

[Page 7844]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate ECI Medical Technologies President Mr. Keith Boulter and his entire staff for their recent success, and extend to them our best wishes in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 2884

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 St. Francis Xavier women's hockey team recently clenched its fourth consecutive AUS championship in a tournament played at the Charles V. Keating Millennium Centre, the first of many such championships to be won in that centre with a hard-fought victory over the St. Mary's Huskies in a game that was a credit to both teams; and

Whereas the team coached by Frank Isherwood had forward Michelle Fortier, defence Gayle MacDonald, and goalkeeper Amy Handrahan, named to the AUS first All Star team; and

Whereas the X women went on to face the best in Canada at the CIS championship in Regina, Saskatchewan;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate coach Isherwood and the X women on their impressive accomplishment and wish them every success next season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7845]

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. 2885

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

Whereas the Hamm Government told students of this province that his government would assist students with high debt loads; and

Whereas Nova Scotia university students face the highest tuition in the country and are the only students without a grant or loan remission program; and

Whereas university students can't afford any more increases without the opportunity to have some of their debt reduced;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately reinstate the former Liberal Government's Loan Remission Program so that all Nova Scotians can have access to a university education.

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.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might make an introduction?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

[Page 7846]

MISS PURVES: In the gallery opposite are two visitors from the Halifax Regional School Board - the Chairman, Mike Flemming, and staff member, Communications Officer Doug Hadley. If they would rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We would like to welcome our guests to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2886

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

Whereas today the Minister of Finance announced that a two-cent-per-litre increase in fuel tax will provide $23 million more for capital road improvements; and

Whereas the overall Department of Transportation and Public Works budget for the 2002-03 fiscal year shows a total increase of $7.3 million over the previous fiscal year; and

Whereas this clearly shows once again the Minister of Finance's ability to effect a sleight of hand to the detriment to the people of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance please explain to all members of this House and to the people of Nova Scotia where the $15.7 million disappeared in less than one minute.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2887

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

[Page 7847]

Whereas the education community in the Annapolis Valley lost a true friend and supporter this winter with the sudden passing of Leah Rhoddy; and

Whereas Mrs. Rhoddy served as a member of the school board for 20 years and was the Nova Scotia School Board Association's only elected representative on an Education Department committee that developed a template for school discipline handbooks; and

Whereas Leah was active in the Girl Guide movement and was described by many as a compassionate and caring person;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend our deepest sympathies to her husband, Everett, her three children and grandchildren, while understanding the void in leadership that will be felt for awhile in the Annapolis Valley education system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2888

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

Whereas the honourable member for Cape Breton North sounds a loud Tory line and appears to fit the role of the Tory trumpet; and

Whereas the honourable member's declamation in the late show yesterday reminded one of Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine shouting, "Laissez-les manger du gateau!"; and

Whereas the honourable member is so dedicated to his Tory trumpeting that he cannot find time to think of the poor user of the Little Narrows ferry who now has to pay $5.00 to get across the strait;

[Page 7848]

Therefore be it resolved that the honourable Tory trumpeter should be sent back to the music academy to take up a softer instrument so that he might regain some sense of perspective and feel a little sorrow for the Little Narrows ferry users and other such victims of this terrible Tory Regime.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period will begin at 3:37 p.m. and end at 4:37 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

BUDGET (2002-03) - BALANCE/FAIRNESS: PREM. - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we have just seen a budget that adds $100 million to the provincial debt this year and for each of the next four years. The Premier has brought in a budget that hikes taxes and fees to more than $223 million annually. He brought in a budget that ensures crumbling health care services and skyrocketing tuition. How can the Premier possibly claim that this budget is balanced and fair when it adds so heavily to Nova Scotia's provincial debt and when it adds so heavily to our tax burden and when it fails to address crumbling services?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians indicated to the government very clearly they had three priorities: health care, this budget has more money; education, this budget has more money; and roads, this budget has more money.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today the Premier picked the pocket of Nova Scotians for another $102 million: ambulance fees, gas taxes, license fees, death certificates, the list goes on. That brings the total taxes and fees the Premier has introduced to more than $223 million and in return, what do we get? Health care chaos, crumbling roads, skyrocketing tuition fees.

When the Premier ran for election, he said that Nova Scotians were already overburdened with taxes and fees. Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you can remember the scorn in the Premier's voice. I want to ask the Premier how he can say that more than $223 million a year in new taxes and fees, combined with crumbling services, has made life in Nova Scotia any better?

[Page 7849]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the greatest challenge that Nova Scotians have is on a daily basis paying $2.4 million in interest on the provincial debt. That really is at the centre of our problem. This government is determined to fix that problem.

MR. DEXTER: It doesn't matter, Mr. Speaker, what he told Nova Scotians because he told Nova Scotians that he couldn't stand tax and fee increases and now he brings in $223 million in those revenue estimates. Not once did he tell the people that his government would lay off nurses and would cut basic health services. Not once did he say, during his time in office, that he would add a staggering $700 million to the provincial debt. My question to the Premier is this, why won't he admit his provincial budget ensures that household budgets will be less balanced, health care budgets will be less balanced and that our debt will grow by hundreds of millions of dollars?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would be much easier to field questions from the Leader of the Opposition if he would decide, in his own mind, whether government has spent too much or too little. Obviously he can't make up his mind. It has to be one way or the other, either we have spent too much or we have spent too little.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

PREM. - TAX INCREASES: COMMITMENT - EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. On June 30, 1999, the Premier said that his plan didn't include tax increases. He went on to say, our goal is fair taxes. Given the fact that tonight this government is increasing fuel tax by two cents a litre - another $20 million or $30 million to the coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia - how can this Premier contend that he is living up to his word, his commitment, to Nova Scotians on the basis of a fair tax?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the honourable member for Lunenburg West to the fray. I believe that Nova Scotians have a real understanding of what is going on. I believe that Nova Scotians understand that government does not manufacture money. Government can simply be an effective spender of the taxpayers' money and we are doing that. Nova Scotians have said, make health care a priority, make education a priority, make roads a priority and this budget does that.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this Premier talks about effective spending. This is a Premier who has had a $600 million windfall from Ottawa in the last three years and still isn't able to balance the budget. This is a Premier who has increased user fees and taxes to Nova Scotians in excess of $100 million this year. This is a Premier who is also increasing the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, over $100 million this year alone. My question to the minister is, when he talks about effective management and leadership, why is this Premier piling up

[Page 7850]

$273,000 a day or $100 million more into the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia when he talks about better management?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the measure of any community, any society is, the kind of life it leaves for those to follow. This government is doing today, by providing this kind of effective management, by providing this kind of service, a guarantee that those good things we experience today can be carried on tomorrow.

MR. DOWNE: Two years ago the Premier said he would stop piling up the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. He also said that he was going to do what Robert Stanfield did 40 years ago, and that is balance the ordinary and the capital debt. Well, I want you to know that this Premier is no Robert Stanfield, nor is that Minister of Finance equal to the Minister of Finance of that day. He has raised taxes, added to the debt, cut the budget and he has also cancelled programs such as cancer care for Nova Scotians. My final question to the Premier is, how can the Premier stand up . . .

[3:45 p.m.]

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

MR. DOWNE: . . . and look them in the eye, and honestly say that he is living up to the commitment and the contract he made with Nova Scotians in 1999?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Lunenburg West will remember very clearly that one of the commitments of this government was to bring in a balanced budget in the spring of 2002. The Minister of Finance, to his credit, has just done that on our behalf. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

COMMUN. SERV.: PROG. CUTS - CONSULTATION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services knows well that transition houses in this province have been struggling to make ends meet with the inadequate funds provided by this government. He knows they faced increased pressure because this government cancelled the Family Violence Prevention Initiative. Today the government says that transition houses in rural Nova Scotia are a problem because they're not full every night. Today this government is taking away nearly $1 million from domestic violence emergency services and counselling programs. I want the minister to explain why he did not consult with the women of Nova Scotia before his government dropped this bombshell today?

[Page 7851]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member makes the assumption that we haven't consulted. In fact over the last year and, in fact, last session that honourable member brought to the House that Bryony House and other houses had funding needs and they wanted to expand into their outreach programs. We have told them we're going to redesign, and they are looking forward to doing that as we move forward now.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister's nose is growing. It's very brave of this government to sit here in Halifax and say that abused women and their kids in small towns and rural areas should be the ones who don't have to flee, but it isn't the Minister of Community Services who'll have to wonder if the next knock at the door is an estranged partner bent on control, and it isn't the minister who has to face a violent man and try to get that person out of the family home in the first place. I want to ask how the Minister of Community Services can provide safety from violent attack if he proceeds with this plan to shut down transition houses?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the question that she raised is how is it we are going to ensure? The fact is, as the honourable member knows, those transition houses and centres have been asking for more outreach programs. She also knows that we've been working with the Department of Justice on the initiatives to enable those people to stay in their homes so they can (Interruptions) I would like to just make a comment, I would like to comment to the reports we have had from our people talking to the transition houses. They say they understand the need to redesign. That's from them, not from me.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, women and children at risk in this province from family violence don't need to be threatened by this government, they live under enough threat already. Why won't the minister agree to withdraw this reckless plan and put his attention where it more properly belongs, and that is increasing the security of women and children in the province, not reducing it?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I just pointed out the honourable member, that's why we've been working with the Department of Justice in looking at the Family Violence Program so that people can stay in their homes. That's why Community Services has added a trainer. That's why Justice is adding a school in Truro so that we can do it, because we believe education and safety to those people is the priority of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN.: GOV'T. (N.S.) - DEBT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. On June 26, 1999, the Premier said he would ensure that the true debt of the province would not increase in the first four years in office. The budget tabled today means the debt will grow by $100 million this year and next. That's $273,000 a day this debt is going up this year, or

[Page 7852]

$11,000 every hour. My question to the Minister of Finance is, how can this minister say that we've reached a turning point when he's still borrowing $100 million a year to pay his obligations? (Interruptions)

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I can say that is that we're not going to be borrowing $500 million which is what the case was when we first took over from that same member who was the Finance Minister for the previous administration. I will say that we have brought in some of the strictest accounting policies in the Country of Canada and the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. We have covered our current expenditures with our current revenues and those expenditures include $865 million in interest. We are paring our way, and for that all of that Nova Scotians really should recognize that this is a turning point for the province.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister; the minister better have more detail in his explanation than what he has been giving. The minister has spent tens of thousands of dollars on ad campaigns and filming around the province telling people that this will be a balanced budget. Nova Scotians are being asked every day from now on to dig deeper in their pockets to pay for that minister's mismanagement. My question is, could the minister tell this House when the debt (Interruptions)

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

MR. DOWNE: Could the minister inform this House, inform all Nova Scotians, when the debt of this province will finally stop growing? (Interruptions)

MR. LEBLANC: I'm biting my tongue on that one. Mr. Speaker, back to the question, the issue is that the honourable member fails to realize that we have balanced the budget. The Auditor General says that we have balanced the budget because we have covered our expenses with our revenues.

Mr. Speaker, the first step in reducing our debt is to balance the budget. That is what we have accomplished today. The next step is, first of all, to maintain this year which we, as a government and as a caucus, will do. Then we will move forward. For 40 years we haven't done that. This is the first of those steps that we had to take.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General makes it very clear and he says in his last sentence, ". . . I express no opinion as to whether they will be . . .", able to achieve what they're trying to achieve in regard to the budget. The bottom line, and everybody in this House knows it and every Nova Scotian out there understands it all too well, is that the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is growing under their mismanagement by $100 million a year. The

[Page 7853]

minister has got to stop borrowing and he's going to stop borrowing money some time in the foreseeable future. We don't know when it's going to be. It could be 20 years from now.

Mr. Speaker, this government is also turning its hand to increasing taxation in Nova Scotia and going after user fees for those who can't afford it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is, why can't this minister and this government manage the resources better instead of borrowing more money and taxing Nova Scotians to death?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, as I stated before, the first step we had to do was to stop spending more money. The honourable member opposite is saying that we should not have increased fees and revenues this year. The first thing I would ask him is to ask his honourable colleagues across his benches to stop asking government to spend more. You can't have it both ways. This budget balances by having additional revenues and reduction in expenditures. That is what Nova Scotians told us to do and that is what we did.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2002-03): UNIV. STUDENTS - EFFECT

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I hope that university students throughout Nova Scotia are listening very carefully to what the Minister of Finance announced today because it is going to have a very big impact on their lives and the lives of their families. The minister has told university students that their budgets are about to become very unbalanced to suit his purposes. This government's budget does nothing to address Nova Scotia's skyrocketing tuition fees and, in fact, by freezing university funding for the next fiscal year, he has made certain that university students will face staggering tuition fee increases. My question is to the Minister of Education. How can the Minister of Education stand by and allow the Minister of Finance to temporarily balance the books of this province on the backs of university students in Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as a member of this government, I have to say that balancing the budget is the first step towards the survival and sustainability of our universities and our university students.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, there is a much more real and direct sustainability and need to survive that the students in this province are going to be facing over the next year when they see the tuition increases that this province is going to impose on them. Finance officials confirm that $36 million from the frozen university funding budget is going to go to increased salaries and costs for universities. Of course, that means in real dollars, a cut in

[Page 7854]

university funding. Of course, that also means that the budgets of the families in Nova Scotia are going to be directly impacted for those who have university students. I want to ask the Minister of Education why she has delayed for yet another year, as the Minister of Finance noted, her government's promised student loan relief when she knew that tuition was going to go up as a result of this budget?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the first part of that question should be directed towards the boards of governors at the universities. Towards the second part of that question, I would say that this is a promise the government made coming into power and it is a promise that will be kept.

MR. DEVEAUX: The real sad fact about this, Mr. Speaker, it is the families and it is the children with great talent in the lower and middle income families that are the ones that are really going to suffer because of this budget and they have been suffering for years, particularly under this Tory Government. They are the ones who have been hit hardest and they are the ones who have been targeted directly by this Premier and this Minister of Finance. So I want to ask my final question to the Minister of Education. Why is she pursuing a policy that will close the doors to higher education for anyone who isn't wealthy in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the honourable member might take a look at what is happening in B.C. to look at the doors being closed on higher education and what happened to tuition fees in B.C. after 10 years of an NDP Government.

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

GOV'T. (N.S.): DEBT - LEGACY

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on November 19, 2001, the Premier said, that together we can get there and once we do, we will be able to begin leaving our children a legacy of opportunity instead of borrowed money. The only problem with that is the Premier didn't mean that. Given that the debt is growing by $273,000 a day, or $11,000 per hour, why is this Premier continuing to leave our children with a legacy of borrowed money?

[4:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question from the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Clare. The honourable member for Clare knows that until revenues and expenditures balance, there is no road forward. The legacy that this government will leave to the young people of this province is one of fiscal responsibility with enhanced services and a future that heretofore was not available to them.

[Page 7855]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this Premier's government is borrowing $11,000 every hour to pay for capital commitments this year. On top of that, taxes are going up at an ever-increasing rate, including fuel taxes. So if that were not enough, the Premier is taking money away from Families in Crisis and Cancer Care Nova Scotia. This legacy of debt, tax increases and spending cuts is definitely not what this Premier promised during the last election.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, try as I could, I didn't get the question, but what the member has provided me is an opportunity to say to him that, relative to his comments about capital expenditures, this government has done something that hasn't been done for 40 years. We have covered all of our operating costs and we covered all of the amortization costs of the capital expenditures to which he made reference, and that is something that hasn't been done for 40 years. It's being done today.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have never been here for the last 40 years. Health care is a mess, schools are crumbling, the debt is increasing, and taxes are growing. My final question to the Premier is, why is this Premier so blind to the fact that he has been a disaster as a Leader in this Province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the Leader of the Third Party at some time will temper his assessment of this government when he finally sits back and realizes that for the first time government in this province, for a very long time, is doing the right thing, and that is being fiscally responsible. I make no apology to the Leader of the Third Party for being fiscally responsible.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - COST: DOWNLOADING - EXTENT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today this government announced they will no longer be the primary insurer for dental care for children under 10. Instead, families who have private insurance will have to bill their insurer for the cost of dental care. The change in government policy will most certainly drive up premiums for health care plans for Nova Scotian families. I'm asking the Minister of Health, how much more cost burden is he willing to pass off onto Nova Scotian families so the government he is a member of can claim a balanced budget?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, having a balanced budget is the start of not having to pass more costs on to Nova Scotians. In reference to the dental plan, we have moved, really, to the insurer of last resort, or the last payer. My understanding is, to be quite frank, people are paying for dental plans anyway. Actually the dental profession is going to like it.

[Page 7856]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the dental profession may very well like it, but we are here to represent all Nova Scotians and especially families and children.

Mr. Speaker, proper preventative dental care at an early age is a key element to overall health later in life. If government makes cuts that drive up the cost of dental insurance, the overall impact will be that fewer Nova Scotians will be able to afford insurance, meaning fewer people will seek out this dental care. Will the Minister of Health explain how this step backward for health care fits into his government's promises to emphasize preventative medicine?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the honourable member understands what has been done. The Children's Dental Program continues unchanged except for who's going to be paying for it all.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I don't think the honourable minister understands the implications of the change in policy, Mr. Speaker, to families and children. I can't seem to get that through to him.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that Nova Scotians are taxed to the teeth. I guess the government is proving it today in this budget. Insurance rates recently went up and now they are sure to go up again with this program cut. My question to the Minister of Health is, what other prevention programs will be cut?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Children's Dental Program has not been cut, that's for sure, it remains unchanged. In the initiatives that we have taken are sure to strengthen our health care system and to see that it is sustainable. There are no preventative measures that have been reduced, they've been strengthened.

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

ECON. DEV.: SEAGULL PEWTER - STATUS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The part-time Minister of Economic Development.

AN HON. MEMBER: You were part-time too. (Laughter)

[Page 7857]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: If my socialist friend is finished, I will continue. Mr. Speaker, they have two Opposition Parties over here, one is trying to outdo the other all day and that's their problem.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. Seagull Pewter is a major employer in Pugwash and in Cumberland County. Last month it was unable to pay its bills and it closed its doors. Thirty employees at Seagull Pewter have been working without pay for some time now. They are doing this hoping that the company will be sold and they will be able to regain their almost one month loss in wages. The 170 employees only heard rumors of a sale and want to know what is happening with the company and with their jobs. My question to the minister is, what is the current status of Seagull Pewter and what are you doing to ensure that the jobs so very necessary for Cumberland County stay there?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. This is a clear case of an issue in rural Nova Scotia. The province takes it very seriously. We have been working closely with the current owner of the company trying to find a way to go forward. At this point, it's in receivership but we are hopeful that we will be able to find a buyer who will continue to operate it.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we heard the plant was sold, today we learn that it's in receivership. I will pursue that in a moment. But the minister states that they are moving forward. Moving forward, the plant is closed. The workers don't know where they are going to be from day to day in Cumberland County. The workers are hearing rumors, they don't where they're at. My question, again, to the minister, does the minister know if there are any companies other than Asian companies that are interested in purchasing Seagull Pewter for the express purpose of operating Seagull Pewter in Cumberland County, and if he does, can he inform this House who they are?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the company is very close to finding a new owner which will continue operation. There are agreements in place, but they are not finalized. We're taking this very seriously, but it's an issue between the current owners and a potential buyer.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia has a tremendous interest in this particular plant, not only due to the fact that the government has invested in the plant in the past and hopefully will continue to do something to keep this plant open, but there also are two current members of this House who should be very concerned about what happens to Seagull Pewter in the future. I'll inform the minister, if he doesn't know or is unwilling to tell this House, that there was a company from Montreal called FAF Design International interested in purchasing the assets and operating that plant in Pugwash.

[Page 7858]

Obviously the minister didn't know that, so I'll just tell him in case he wants to go and give them a call and maybe ask them if he can help them out in this regard.

They do have - and I'll table this letter - a letter addressed to the Vice President of FAF Design International, Mr. Samuel Ralph. It's from Ernst & Young, which is the receiver. Obviously Ernst & Young doesn't communicate with the minister in this regard. Anyway, I'll table this. My question to the minister is, what is the government's role here in dealing with a Canadian company which is interested in operating Seagull Pewter in Cumberland County so that the people of that part of Nova Scotia will have jobs to go to next week?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the role of this government and this minister is to find a deal that works. Unlike the former minister, we want a deal that will last, that will be sustainable and that works.

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

PREM. - CAMPAIGN PROMISES: BREACH - JUSTIFY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, among this government's new fees and taxes is a $23 million increase in gas taxes. This tax increase actually breaks two of John Hamm's promises at one time. It shows that this government had no intention of applying current gas taxes and vehicle permit fees to roads, as was said during the election. It is also one of the many examples of how this Premier is breaking his promise to reduce the burden of taxation. My question to the Premier is, how can you justify such a blatant violation of your summer campaign promises?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will ask the Minister of Transportation to respond and to tell the member opposite how those funds are being allocated. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The members know full well: no specific questions with regard to budgets which will come out in estimates. So if the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works wants to answer in principle, I guess it would be okay. Obviously, if the Premier has made a decision . . .

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is well aware of the fact that we face a horrendous infrastructure deficit in this province with regard to transportation. Our deficit is about $3.5 million. As a matter of fact - I don't know if I have a copy of the 10 year program here that we put out last year. If the honourable member doesn't believe that we have (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind both members to save their props for another time, please.

[Page 7859]

MR. RUSSELL: The honourable member opposite is anxious to get his hands on some of these dollars for the roads in his particular area, which I think would probably encourage him to support the program of this government that is the first serious attempt to tackle the road system in this province, which has been, quite frankly, left in deplorable condition by that previous crowd, who did not provide sufficient dollars for the transportation system.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my office received an e-mail today that points out that the residents of northern Nova Scotia who use the infamous toll highway are "triple-taxed for using that road". They pay their original gas tax, they pay the tolls and they are now paying the new gas tax. I want to quote from it, and I'm going to table it. "I am also disappointed in the user fees . . . This is a bunch of BS.", I am quoting. Now, Minister of Transportation and Public Works, my question to you is, how can you justify triple taxing the people who use Highway No. 104?

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Highway No. 104 actually has been a financial success. Highway No. 104 is a good highway. The people who use that highway give glowing reports of the condition of that highway particularly year round when they have to travel on some of the other roads in this province which are not tolled.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government's new vehicle fees and taxes are hardest on the provincial truckers of this province. Many independent truckers - and there's one right over there sitting behind the Minister of Transportation. He knows that these new taxes, this new gas tax, is going to hurt that slim profit margin. So I would like to know from this minister, who did you consult when it came to members of the trucking industry before you went ahead with these new fees and taxes? Did you ask the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that is a question that applies to the budget debate and secondly, I didn't consult anybody simply because I am not the person who made that decision. You have the wrong minister.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

STORAENSO - POWER RATES: INCREASE - EFFECTS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, at a time when the market for supercalendered and newsprint paper is failing, the Tory Government's decision to increase power rates is a slap in the face to StoraEnso, one of the largest employers in eastern Nova Scotia. Unlike other paper mills located outside of Nova Scotia, power represents StoraEnso's single largest expense with an annual power bill of over $60 million per year. Nova Scotia Power is now seeking an average 16 per cent rate increase. My question to the Premier is, what plan does

[Page 7860]

your government have for the 800 employees of StoraEnso to ensure that their jobs will not be lost as a result of the escalating power cost in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite correct. StoraEnso is a very important part of the economy of Nova Scotia and particularly the part of the province where the member opposite resides. But I don't think the member opposite wants me to say anything that would prejudice today the URB which is dealing with that very issue which is power rates in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is of concern to the people of Nova Scotia, it is of concern to the Government of Nova Scotia, but right now it's before the URB and it would be inappropriate to comment.

MR. SAMSON: On March 26th StoraEnso called together wardens, mayors and MLAs from eastern Nova Scotia to discuss the challenges they face and the possible workforce reductions they need to make if the province doesn't take action. Ironically, while the municipal representatives from as far away as Pictou County and even the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality recognized the importance of any possible job losses at StoraEnso, the Tory MLAs from Antigonish, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and Inverness were all no-shows at the meeting. (Interruptions) My question to the Premier is, will the Premier explain . . .

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

MR. SAMSON: My question to the Premier is, will the Premier explain to this House if his government considers StoraEnso such an important employer, why did his own members of his government not deem it important enough to attend the meeting to discuss the future of the workforce at StoraEnso?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Municipal Relations. (Interruptions)

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the House that, first of all, we're not increasing power rates. Secondly, the honourable member fails to inform the House of two important facts. Number one, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, myself, and the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury were represented at that meeting. Number two, prior to that meeting I had a full and complete briefing on the issues by one of the members of the Board of Directors of StoraEnso, a meeting that lasted for over two hours, and I also was briefed by the press secretary of StoraEnso on the issues relating to that, as was the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

Mr. Speaker, we take our responsibilities seriously and we will ensure that that operation continues in that part of the province. (Applause)

[Page 7861]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, for two Ministers of the Crown who represent the Strait area to not show up at this meeting and to send their executive assistants, had they sent flowers, it would have been less of an embarrassment than sending their executive assistants to such a meeting.

Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words, but the workers at StoraEnso need look no further when they say "Et tu, Brute"? Who than to look at the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, it was he who announced a municipal equalization plan which will guarantee power rate hikes in this province and jeopardizes the jobs of the workers at StoraEnso. No one other than the minister himself, the honourable member for Antigonish, will be held responsible for that.

My question again to the Premier is, will you finally show leadership and will your government immediately withdraw your municipal equalization scheme that sees Nova Scotia Power pay more money, until you've consulted with industrial customers, municipal representatives but, even more importantly, the people of Nova Scotia who will pay for this?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to inform the House that, first of all, the taxation of Nova Scotia Power was an issue that that crew was never prepared to tackle on behalf of the municipalities of this province. Number two (Interruptions) They don't want to hear the truth, Mr. Speaker, that's why they're making so much noise. They don't want to hear the truth. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACISAAC: They will find in there an item of $31 million of municipal taxation that Nova Scotia Power anticipates paying in fiscal 2003. Mr. Speaker, the fiscal year of Nova Scotia Power and the fiscal year of this province are different and we have made an offer to Nova Scotia Power to allow that (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: MINING PERMIT - FRAME, CLIFFORD

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we see once again this Tory Government is gambling with the health and safety of Nova Scotia workers. They're taking risks that could

[Page 7862]

prove fatal once again. The latest example of this laissez-faire attitude of this government is Clifford Frame; the infamous Clifford Frame is back in the mining business in Nova Scotia. Just 10 years ago 26 men died at Westray, and a Tory Government paid for that mine and it was developed by their good friend, Clifford Frame. Yet, he may get his hand on a zinc mine just a mere 60 kilometres from where we sit today. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, your department plays a key role in the mining permit process, what are you going to do to make sure that the workers safety comes first, not Mr. Frame's profits?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I would be delighted to answer the questions about health and safety, but before anybody is able to consider opening a mine, they are going to have to deal with Natural Resources. So perhaps it would be more appropriate for the Minister of Natural Resources to field that question.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a question that is pure speculation at this point. The Department of Natural Resources has regulations, obligations that would be imposed on any situation in Nova Scotia. There has been no application come forward, so how can we deal with a hypothetical issue?

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, maybe he should check with his department. It is clear through Judge Richard's Westray public inquiry findings, that appalled Nova Scotians, but it appears this government only has a selective memory when it comes to those regulations. The inquiry showed us the gross mismanagement and that safety issues surrounded the Westray disasters. These findings shocked all of Nova Scotians. We know mining tragedies from one end of this province to another, yet this government fails to want to act upon them in any real way. They certainly will take council from a man like Clifford Frame. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, what are you going to do to stop your government from playing Russian roulette with workers safety?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for the opportunity to point out that in the last few years we have increased the number of labour officers by approximately 50 per cent. The number of inspections has almost doubled in that time. The successful prosecution has increased from the low 40's to the mid-80's. There are all kinds of good things that are going on to protect workers with their Occupational Health and Safety Division. I want to thank the member opposite for the opportunity of making those points here today.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that is a hollow comment from a hollow minister, when they'll fight families of that tragedy. (Interruption) The Minister of Tourism and Culture is cackling in the corner there while the relatives of those 26 people who were killed in Westray are still looking for some kind of recompense from this government and they will take them to court after court after it. We know all too well about the mining tragedies in this province and this government shouldn't be laughing about it. My question to that minister is, will he

[Page 7863]

approve a mining certificate that allows Clifford Frame to operate a mine in this province? Will he allow that?

MR. MORSE: The Minister of Natural Resources is looking forward to answering your question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The Minister of Natural Resources has the floor.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that it was an extremely tragic event. There was an inquiry. There were many recommendations and those recommendations have been incorporated and splitting the duties between Labour and the department and they have been implemented by the Government of Nova Scotia.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - INT'L. PIER: MEETING - MIN. ATTENDANCE

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, another question to the Minister of Environment and Labour concerning a matter that I have given him notice of and quoting a newspaper clipping from Monday's Cape Breton Post, the provincial Department of Environment and Labour is quoted in this clipping as having lifted the restriction on the amount of coal allowed at the former Devco coal pier, known as the International Pier, at Whitney Pier, during the unloading of ships.

[4:30 p.m.]

It goes on at considerable length. I can't recount the entire contents of the newspaper article in asking my question, but it concludes that there is concern in the community of Whitney Pier about the amount of coal that is going to be shipped. This is foreign coal that is being brought in to be burned at the Lingan and Point Aconi thermal power plants of Nova Scotia Power; it is not local coal, it is coal being shipped in. There is going to be a meeting on Sunday afternoon coming at 2:00 p.m. at the Whitney Pier Memorial Junior High School. I want to ask the minister through you, Mr. Speaker, if he's going to be there so he can give the people the straight goods on this matter.

HON. DAVID MORSE: I thank the honourable member opposite for sending me the notice. While I was being asked a previous question, the information was being delivered to me. I am aware of the fact that the department is scrutinizing the situation with regard to enforcing the terms and conditions of the environmental approval at that pier. The specifics of this matter, I've not had a chance to read them. It is not my intention to be in Sydney this Sunday, but I would be pleased to make sure that a member of the department is there to listen to the community's concerns.

[Page 7864]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that his department could be represented at that type of meeting, because I think it's important that the people have an opportunity to hear the best evidence and answers available. I've sent the minister a copy of correspondence I have from Peter Weaver, engineer with the Department of Environment and Labour, on this matter. I wonder if the minister, if he's not able to make that meeting on Sunday, might undertake to include that package of material in his weekend reading list and bone up on this, so that maybe next week he could give us a more complete answer to this question?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite. I will not only read the material that he's given me, but I would also be looking for comments back from staff who attend that meeting.

MR. MACEWAN: My final supplementary. I would like to ask the minister - this is one of the consequences of our losing the coal industry in Cape Breton by the closure of the Prince Mine and the abandonment of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. He knows, if he checks with his friend, the Minister of Natural Resources, that I'm after that minister over there almost every time I see him, about the Donkin Mine; he knows that. We want to get that mine going so that this problem will be abated, but in the meantime while coal has to be shipped into keep the electricity on and to keep the power rates from going sky-high - I wonder if the minister could undertake to do everything possible to see that this operation is done properly so that the community is not flooded with a lot of coal dust, but that the thing is kept under reasonable wraps, if I may, and done in a way that will be acceptable to surrounding residents?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I commend the member opposite for showing concern for his community. I am aware that there are very strict stipulations in the terms and conditions that attach to that environmental approval. I know there was a breakdown in the system for, I believe, about an hour some number of weeks ago, and as a result of that there was some concern expressed by the community. Again, the reason the terms and conditions are there is, in fact, to protect the residents from that very adverse effect, which was so well articulated by the member opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES. - DEPT.: SURVEY DIVISION - CUTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Crown Lands Act says the minister shall ensure that the boundaries of Crown lands are surveyed and kept maintained. Yesterday seven positions were axed in the Survey Division of the minister's department. I want to ask the minister, can he explain to Nova Scotians how this department will protect Crown lands when the boundaries of those lands become unclear after there is no one to survey and maintain those boundaries?

[Page 7865]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is correct, there were a number of positions eliminated in the survey crew across the Province of Nova Scotia. Those decisions are some of the difficult budgetary decisions one is required to make to balance. In connection with survey crews and the work carried out, this does not eliminate any survey crews at any depot across Nova Scotia, it reduces the size of the survey crews.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister certainly could use a surveyor; he doesn't know where to draw the line on cuts. I want to say that what he is talking about is still a reduction in staff to do the work.

Mr. Speaker, nature is relentless; without diligent maintenance, survey lines and markers rapidly disappear into the bush and undergrowth. Without significant staff we can expect 60 years of careful survey work to disappear. All the government projects on Crown lands will require survey work started again from scratch. Has the minister considered the great expense that will be added to future government projects because he has cut a handful of positions today?

MR. FAGE: I would emphasize again that no crews were eliminated at any depots, so the work can continue. The size of the crews is smaller, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, 12 years ago the Auditor General warned that the boundaries of Crown lands need to be marked on a more regular basis. Twelve years ago another Tory Government was told that it was cheaper to keep up existing survey markers than it was to remake them. So will the minister admit that the decision to cut essential survey staff performing cost-effective work was made for a short-term political goal, to balance a budget for one day, rather than a long-term goal of protecting Crown lands and keeping costs down to a minimum?

MR. FAGE: Thank you. I would also like to point out to the honourable member that techniques and technologies changed through the years on surveying, and GPI and other technical services available to our department allow us to maintain an adequate set of services . . .

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would like to table a document called A Blueprint for Success. It was tabled by the Honourable Don Downe, who was the Minister of Finance, in 1998. Just for information purposes, you talk about moving to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, talking about tangible capital assets, the obvious question is, if he would have believed that this would present a balanced budget if he did what I did today, then why doesn't he believe (Interruptions)

[Page 7866]

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

MR. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do appreciate the fact that this government realizes how important the Liberal Government has been to the Province of Nova Scotia. Secondly, this minister also realizes that under the changeable capital assets, if you don't manage cash flow, your debt will grow. That's exactly what this minister has done, has grown the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order as well.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 101.

Bill No. 101 - Fire Safety Act.

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on the Fire Safety Act. This legislation was prepared by our provincial fire marshal, Bob Cormier, and his team and I thank them for their work. Thanks should also go to the Select Committee on Fire Safety, an all-Party committee which the government established last fall. This committee has recently completed a thorough review of the Act, after receiving input from a variety of interested parties through meetings that were held in 10 communities throughout the province, from Sydney to Yarmouth. The committee has provided some valuable changes which I believe further strengthen the Act. For example, they suggested changes that both clarify and serve to increase the accountability of institutions and power utilities that are required to conduct self inspections for fire safety, among other improvements.

This bill was originally drafted in response to recommendations made by the Nova Scotia Fire Prevention Advisory Council and its external stakeholder group, which included representatives from municipalities and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, fire

[Page 7867]

departments, engineers, architects, building officials and provincial government departments. All these groups are thanked for their participation in this process.

The law currently covering fire safety in Nova Scotia is the Fire Prevention Act, which hasn't been updated for over 20 years. This bill adopts risk-based principles as the foundation for refining government's role in delivering effective and efficient regulatory management. It also adopts the principle of shared responsibility, making industry accountable for activities that fall within its responsibility and control. This bill changes the fire safety system from a reactive to a proactive regulatory system that responds to the province's fire safety issues. It is about making buildings and other properties safe from fire and it is about empowering fire officials to perform their duties.

Key changes include bringing Nova Scotia's fire safety regulations for property up to date by adopting the Canadian National Fire Code as the provincial fire code ensuring that every municipality has a fire inspector who regularly performs inspections; empowering fire officials, when life is threatened, to enter buildings, order evacuations and take other actions backed by the full force of the law making negligent property owners responsible by making them pay for fire safety services; and subjecting them to legal penalties for violations of the Act; enabling the fire marshal to assist organizations involved in fire safety; and, finally, enabling the fire marshal to charge fees for services.

One of the most important changes this bill implements is the adoption of the National Fire Code. This legislation is a companion piece to the National Building Code which this province adopted in 1987. Both codes involve the fire safety of buildings, with the building code covering fire safety during design, construction and renovations and the fire code covering maintenance of fire safety after the building is completed.

This bill will recommend harmonizing responsibilities of fire and building inspectors. It will enable the building inspector and the owner to receive the fire marshal's advice on fire safety elements as part of the building inspector's decision for issuing a building permit. The result is clearly a preventative and cost-effective approach, since fire safety issues can be addressed at the planning stages instead of after construction has been completed.

The bill will expand representation to the Fire Prevention Advisory Council's membership. It will formalize representation of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, which currently only has observer status. New voices on the council will include fire inspectors and school board associations, and representation from unionized professional firefighters and the insurance industry will both be broadened.

This bill will allow the Fire Marshal's Office to coordinate and co-operate with other agencies to provide educational programs and training for the fire service, fire inspectors, fire investigators and critical incident stress providers. This is a critical amendment that allows us to partner with others to get the public safety education job done.

[Page 7868]

This bill expands the compulsory list of the types of buildings for which municipalities must provide fire inspections while changing the frequency of inspections to a risk-based system. Each municipality must have a system of inspectors for assembly buildings such as community centres and residential, office, mercantile and industrial buildings. New facilities requiring an annual inspection will include bed and breakfast accommodations. Municipalities will have the flexibility to have their own staff carry out the inspections or they may choose to share services with another municipality. The person appointed by the municipality to carry out the inspections must maintain inspection records as part of their system of inspections which will continue to be monitored by the Fire Marshal's Office.

Through this bill, the Fire Marshal's Office will continue to review building plans to ensure compliance with provincial fire safety regulations. This applies to both high-risk structures and occupancies that are not buildings, such as oil tanks and used tire storage operations. The Electrical Installation and Inspection Act will be amended to change compulsory inspection of all electrical contractors' inspections based on their record of safety.

[4:45 p.m.]

Finally, in cases where there is an immediate threat to life, this bill defines in detail the powers of the fire marshal, fire inspectors and other fire officials to close and evacuate premises, make emergency repairs, post a fire watch and file charges against those who don't comply. The essence of this bill is protecting human life. I believe the new Fire Safety bill is a strong regulation that can reduce the number and destructive impact of fire on human life and property. I move the bill be now read a second time.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to introduce in the gallery, the Fire Marshal for the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Bob Cormier, who is no stranger to many of us. Welcome, Mr. Cormier. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, welcome indeed to Mr. Cormier this afternoon and we would thank the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre for bringing the introduction to our attention.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak long on this bill today because one of the few things about this, I agree with the minister, is that it was vetted for a long time. Where I do find fault is the fact that it was a process that certainly could have been done within the department. It is a process that certainly could have been done here in the Legislature through the Law Amendments Committee. Yet, what we ended up having this time last year was a make-work project for the backbenchers. We had an expensive tour across this province and that is what it appeared to be. If you look at the responses, by and large, most nights if you had two people turn out, it was a big night. That is why in our

[Page 7869]

caucus, which is obviously much more busy than the government backbench, we had to trade off many times in order to get the two people there.

Mr. Speaker, that's the reality of what we did here. That is why this House is here, to enact laws. We saw this government, during Bill No. 68, its fear of public input into a bill when it cut off debate in the Law Amendments Committee over in the Red Room. So, by and large, what could have been resolved or accomplished that way was accomplished in a much more expensive way and it seems odd on this day when the government brings down its budget and cries about having to spend money wisely, it went on to this fairly expensive process.

Mr. Speaker, I have to go back and say many of the points within this bill we agree with and it would be hypocritical for me to stand here and say there is a large part of this bill I disagree with because we signed off on it. It would be tantamount to saying your word is no good. So as long as this bill reflects the document we signed, we agree with it. Getting down to the closing arguments on this bill and the short strokes in the bill, there appeared to be a kind of tug-of-war, if you will, between some of the building inspectors and some of the fire inspectors. I hope that can be resolved if that problem is existing because there are two vital components in the safety of Nova Scotians here. It would be awful if this bill doesn't satisfy all parties adequately so that nobody is at jeopardy, not saying that either one of those groups would ever do anything purposely to put our residents at risk, but sometimes we have, in many areas, jurisdictional problems and I hope that doesn't happen here. I believe any little problems that exist certainly can be ironed out by these groups.

So, Mr. Speaker, anytime in this House when we have the ability of improving the health and safety of the individuals in this province, whether it is in schools, in the workplace, whether it is in their own home, we applaud that and we applaud the fact that we are now in line with the federal building code and such things. The one thing I will say about the little tour around the province, the one thing that really was probably most glaring is the role volunteer firefighters play in this province. It is huge.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to really plod over too much old ground but the vast majority of our firefighters in this province, as we all know, are volunteers. When you start talking to them and you realize the stuff we never imagined; we see them primarily as firefighters and getting called out, but we also see the chain of command they have when called out to a fire scene or a hazardous spill, the amount of training these people have to go through. I would hope some day that we're sitting in this House coming forward with a bill that will encourage participation in volunteer fire departments because one of the things - and I know I am not really speaking on the bill here, Mr. Speaker, if you allow me a little bit of leeway here, but if there is anything we can do to encourage Nova Scotians to involve themselves in their volunteer fire departments because they do so much good work.

[Page 7870]

All of us, especially any member who represents small towns and rural areas, have many volunteer fire departments in our ridings. We know these people are the leaders. They do this for little or no financial gain to themselves. We know about the hours they get called, getting called out to fires at all hours of the night. As I talked about training, we have come a long way from the fire truck with the ladder on the side and five or six firemen hanging off the end of it. We know all those things have changed because of safety rules, we know about transportation, we have gone some way in the licence plates and so on, which I think we can go further but, again, it was a good idea and it's a little help, it's not the whole bale but it's part. So, Mr. Speaker, that's what I would like to talk about today, the role they play and that whenever this type of legislation is pondered or thought about that that's one group that we must always include.

Now, I realize that some of these meetings they were getting a little confused over what this bill was compared to, some of the other aspects of what is going to be put on their plate vis-à-vis training. That was good because we heard, and I think the municipalities heard and so on that if we are going to be calling upon these people to go to that level then someone has to be willing to pay the freight on that. These people are giving up enough of their own time, time with their families and, indeed, it is almost a negative time because we don't know how much that is really scaring potential volunteer firefighters who say, I don't mind going and I don't mind going to fires but I can't give you two weekends a month to do extra training. So I hope we continue to respect those people who build our communities that a lot of time are the only public hall in a lot of small communities in this province. So, we know, as I started out with, the breadth of what they do in the community is immeasurable.

Mr. Speaker, I will be taking my place and seeing this bill moved on. Indeed, if there is the remaining friction between the building inspectors and some of the fire service people, if that is a problem, I hope it's not, but if it is we hope that can be ironed out and we can certainly move forward to the passage of this bill that is long overdue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular piece of legislation. I guess in many regards all members of the House can take some ownership to this particular piece of legislation. Essentially, I believe it's a good piece of legislation. I believe it's certainly worthy of support and it's certainly a piece of legislation I believe will do a lot of good things on the issue of fire safety in Nova Scotia.

That having been said, Mr. Speaker, I think I would be remiss if I didn't follow up on the point that was made by the previous speaker with regard to the Select Committee on Fire Safety. I think that committee - at the time that motion was put here on the floor, I did not support that motion. The reason being because I thought that travelling across the province once again after having travelled for several years and taking the advice of the Fire Safety

[Page 7871]

Advisory Committee, the minister's Fire Safety Advisory Committee, it was nothing short of a taxpayers' loss. In other words, we spent in excess of $70,000 to go on a road show to bring a piece of legislation back to the House under another number, when in fact the minister had already done that back in June 2000, and that was referred to at that particular point in time as Bill No. 58.

Now we have the same bill, with a few minor adjustments, back before the House of Assembly after we delayed this particular piece of legislation - the passage of this most important piece of legislation - by two years, against the advice of the minister's own advisory council, against the advice of all the volunteer firefighters and the paid service in this province. That government wasted more than $70,000 and delayed a rather critical piece of legislation to satisfy a political commitment.

So yes, Mr. Speaker, we in our caucus will support the legislation, but we are equally committed to pointing out the irresponsible act of the Premier and the Minister of Environment and Labour. I would certainly like to congratulate the members who did sit on the committee. And, yes, I did sit on the committee. Why wouldn't I? As a former Minister of Environment and Labour - or Labour at that time - plus being the critic for the portfolio, it's only incumbent to do due diligence, to watch how profound the irresponsible action was from the minister and his department on this issue, and the government, the Premier leading the charge because he had made a political commitment.

We wasted $70,000. We could have hired several fire inspectors. We could have put money to help volunteer fire departments in this province. What about the issue of workers' compensation, their liability premiums? Because of the downloading on the volunteer firefighters, that $70,000 could have been very easily used to help some of the poorer fire departments, if nothing else, in addressing the escalating costs.

If you look province wide, with the 320-some volunteer fire departments - I'm going to take a round figure there, it could be a few more or a few less, but I think it's pretty close - and you take the total liability that is incurred upon their shoulders annually to cover workers' compensation premiums, which in many cases is covered by the local municipality - for example, it's pretty good in Halifax, where we have HRM and they have the paid fire service, and I'm sure there are some volunteers sprinkled about as well. They have the capacity to be able to cover those costs, but the poorer municipalities, Mr. Speaker, we saw even in your own constituency in the last session of the House, where we had to deal with the issue of having the local volunteer fire service being able to come back and have the ability to raise revenues through a betterment charge - for the lack of a better expression - and that did receive the approbation of the House, with some considerable debate.

But see, those inequities are right across this province, Mr. Speaker, and they are not being addressed, and it's putting such tremendous pressure on the volunteers of this province who are struggling not only to continue to provide this service as a volunteer because it costs

[Page 7872]

them money for their clothing, their footwear, their training sessions, the time they give of their families, the sacrifices they make because they may have to go for a training session or a grass fire, or a house fire, or for the lack of understanding, the complete dynamics. It could be just about anything that they have to make a sacrifice for, you know, and it's costing them out of their own pockets. That's the amazing part about it. So you know they're not doing it for the money. You know they're not doing it for the glory. They're doing it because they are citizens genuinely committed to improving the health and safety of their communities.

[5:00 p.m.]

We, as a government, should be doing as much as we can to encourage that. Why hasn't the Minister of Environment and Labour brought in the piece of legislation that was introduced by the then Leader of the Third Party who is now Premier, and has the power and the authority and the numbers to be able to achieve his objective, back in the year 1998 when he introduced a Private Member's Bill asking for a $500 tax credit for volunteer firemen and women? What happened to that?

When they got on that side of the floor, Mr. Speaker, they forgot about the volunteer firefighters. (Interruptions) We did because we listened to volunteer firefighters, not like that lot who said they listened, but when they got over there, they became deaf. The Minister of Health should put an allotment in his budget for hearing aids for all members of the government, because you're not listening to the people of Nova Scotia. I'm sure all members of the House would give special consideration to that appropriation. So it begs one to wonder what consultation they did, or was it just another political gimmick to try to ingratiate themselves with the volunteer firefighters - some 8,000, plus their families and their children, their friends and their families - just so they could get on that side of the House? That's very disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, these issues, as we speak about the principle of this particular piece of legislation, allow us the opportunity to address the principles of fire safety and how we, both individually and collectively, respond to it. What has the Fire Marshal's Office - and the Minister of Environment and Labour more so, what has he done on the issue of arson in metro? I realize that HRM has its own paid fire service, and it has a very capable service, but one has to wonder why there's so much silence on the issue of arson, not only in metro but across Nova Scotia. Recently we've witnessed more media reports on arson than we ever have in recent memory, and what's the Minister of Environment and Labour saying? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, is it any wonder that the Auditor General for the province would take considerable umbrage with the way this minister is running this department - and, yes, it speaks to the issue of fire safety, and it speaks to the Fire Marshal's Office and a whole lot of other issues. I will highlight just a few of the points that the Auditor General has raised in

[Page 7873]

his report. Only, hopefully, through this particular piece of legislation will we be able to ensure the framework is in place to deal with some of these issues.

Mr. Speaker, on Page 170 of the report on the Fire Marshal's Office, the issue of deputy fire marshals who have received the training but haven't been tested, they haven't been given the examinations. Why not? Is it because of all the cutbacks in the department? Is it because the government has politicized the department so much that it's putting in an extraordinary strain on the Fire Marshal's Office and his deputies and all those who become involved on the issue of fire safety?

Mr. Speaker, we could go on for a whole hour just on that topic alone, but I think the point is made, and the minister knows full well what I'm referring to. Also, the deputy fire marshals and all volunteer fire service and paid service in this province have to have occupational health and safety courses. So that opens up another scenario. We just saw what happened with the budget today, where the government is now going to go back and increase the clawback from the Workers' Compensation Board against the very wishes of that Tory caucus when they were on this side of the House when they insisted on an amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act that I sponsored and the government sponsored when we were on that side. They said, no, no, we shouldn't be taking a 100 per cent clawback on the occupational health and safety from the employers. Let's share that. So it went - I am going by memory - 19 per cent for the taxpayers and 81 per cent for the employers. With this budget, it goes up to 91 per cent again. So all of a sudden the wisdom on this side of the House seemed to have evaporated on that side and that does have an impact on this particular piece of legislation whether we realize it or not.

When people hear the issue of occupational health and safety, when that whole concept and that whole issue, particularly on the issue of due diligence, came to the forefront, post- Westray, it was Greek to many people, it was Greek because they really didn't understand the full dynamics. Unless you're working with it everyday, unless you're an employer or an employee synchronized right into the centre of it at that particular point in time, it was very difficult to grasp the full dynamics of what was happening.

Mr. Speaker, it was an educational process and so on and so forth. So why has the government, why has the Minister of Environment and Labour turned his back on the employers of this province? Why has he sold out the employers of this province by now going back and trying to purge this no-fault insurance program that they were so adamant about moving back and sharing the responsibility through general revenues in the department. That does have an impact on this bill; absolutely.

Let's look at a couple of other issues. The issue of annual reports; 12 to 19 months after an annual report is prepared before it's tabled for members of this House or for the people of Nova Scotia to have an opportunity to review. Now if that's not bad enough, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General goes on to say that further to our review of the Office of the Fire Marshal,

[Page 7874]

its annual report revealed "Certain statistics in the report of the Office of the Fire Marshal are untimely, incomplete and inaccurate." I heard the minister in his presentation, the opening remarks to move second reading, indicate that the Fire Marshal's Office will now have the ability to start implementing user fees. Now if that's not a tax, a sneaky hidden tax, what is?

Do we have any measure, any comfort level as to how many user fees, how much, who will pay, how it will be paid? Has the minister not even given any consideration to that or is he, again, as this report would suggest, oblivious to the realities of what's happening in his department, ergo, relying on the goodwill and the energy level that was put forth by members of the select committee.

Mr. Speaker, certainly, I congratulate other members of the select committee chaired by the honourable member for Kings West. He did an excellent job; he ran it very professionally and in the most non-partisan manner that I have ever witnessed on any committee in this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: A good member.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, perhaps he should be the Minister of Environment and Labour, and we would get this job done a lot quicker and we would get it done succinctly, accurately and, most importantly, we would get it done with the confidence level of all members of this House and the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, also the fire marshal goes on to say that information on uninsured monetary losses is sometimes obtained from persons who do not have the expertise to accurately calculate it. Well, it would be very easy to just beat up on the fire marshal, but he is an employee and he reports to, and the minister is ultimately responsible. I'm sure the fire marshal, whom I know, is a very able fire marshal; he does an excellent job given the tools that he has at his disposal. There are times that I will agree with him, and I'm sure he has disagreed with me in the past. We've certainly taken issue on different issues.

Mr. Speaker, the lines of accountability - the buck stops at the top. This bill that the minister has introduced here today to speak on is as much about confidence building as it is anything else. The minister has failed to do that. He has failed to do that even just the other day on the issue of occupational health and safety on the offshore. Just look on the order paper, we have the Minister of Economic Development introducing a bill on occupational health and safety which comes under the purview of the Minister of Environment and Labour. Then the minister stands in this House and says occupational health and safety in the offshore is not our responsibility, and yet occupational health and safety is a major component to this particular piece of legislation. Volunteer fire service, paid fire service, the inspectors, the deputy fire marshals, they all have to have that training, and he can't even identify the relationship.

[Page 7875]

That's why people are nervous. It's a good piece of legislation, but they're nervous about the stewardship, or how we will proceed. Perhaps the minister should table the regulations before final reading so we'll have some comfort level that what's being promoted here and what we were led to believe at the select committee level is, in fact, going to be a reality.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of downloading on costs was also raised. How are the municipalities, particularly the smaller, poorer municipalities going to be able to pay for this additional responsibility? Yes, it's a responsibility that has to be addressed, and to a certain extent the municipalities now have that responsibility under the present legislation that's already been approved, some 20 years ago as the minister has stated.

Mr. Speaker, I'm quite concerned that the government has not made any provision for this additional cost, whether it be in Antigonish, in Cumberland County, Cape Breton County, down in Barrington, rural mainland Nova Scotia where there's a tremendous volunteer service. We saw just shortly after this government took power what happened in the Truro area and through certain parts of Colchester County when one volunteer fire department wanted to fold altogether. They just wanted to throw in the towel because there was so much downloading and pressure.

[5:15 p.m.]

The Minister of Health is asking, where? All he has to do is refer back to Hansard on a previous day when the issue was addressed. Certainly, if he doesn't have the propensity or the desire to go to the Clerk's office and get it, I will give him an undertaking, I will go do it for him. He wants me to do it, he doesn't want to do his own job - sure. That's what the people of Nova Scotia are recognizing. The government doesn't want to do what it was hired to do. So we'll help them. Then the people will judge when the day comes. It's about confidence. Read the minister's own memo on the departure of his deputy minister. You wonder why we would be concerned on a bill that should have nothing but positive connotations. It's quite apparent that the minister didn't even know his deputy was being dismissed until after the fact. That's the way I read it and I will table this for all members to read. It's from the Honourable David Morse dated March 8, 2002 at 11:53 a.m.: On a personal note, I am feeling the same sense of loss I know you are in accepting the difficult decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know, honourable member, yesterday you drew a very long bow and I would suggest that you still have that same bow employed here this afternoon. I would wonder if in fact you could make the correlation between that letter and the Fire Safety Bill for all members of the House. Quite honestly, privately, some members and even, I trust, some of the learned members and maybe even former Speakers of this House are having some difficulty making the correlation. In that context, honourable member, we're not trying to impinge on your time, but perhaps you could make it more clear that you are speaking to the principle of the bill before us. Thank you.

[Page 7876]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will make it very clear for you. It's about confidence and trust and knowing that the people who are in charge of fire safety in this province know what's going on in their department. If they don't even know that their deputy minister has been fired, how would they know how to look after fire safety? That's the issue. It's about confidence. The minister himself has stated it's about confidence-building. That was the issue that we addressed at the select committee. This is very concerning. That's why I raised it.

Yes, we'll support the bill because I have ownership to the bill as well. Thank heavens most of it was drafted before this honourable minister and government decided to kind of skate around the field and waste taxpayers' money rather than implement it. Yes, Mr. Speaker, that's why I raised the memo. If you have the person at the top in your department not knowing what's going on, much as the Auditor General has stated. The Auditor General has pointed it out. I don't know if they used the deputy minister as the fall guy for all the problems in the Fire Marshal's Office or why certain things weren't being done.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have already addressed that particular issue. But that's why we are concerned about fire safety. That is why I believe that the minister should table the regulations. I believe if you check the record of Hansard, I have never asked on a previous day for the regulations on a particular piece of legislation to be tabled, because we always had enough confidence. Sure, various members would say that it would be a good idea to have them. This is very serious, when you have the sponsor of a piece of legislation not knowing what is going on with the issue of fire safety. His number one lieutenant has been severed from the department and he didn't know about it. That is common sense; we should know about these things.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that perhaps there are other members who would like to speak on this particular issue. It is certainly an opportunity that I once again reaffirm the commitment to the volunteer service in this province; it is outstanding. I would encourage the government - they just missed, through their third budget, an opportunity to do something for the volunteer firefighters. The only thing they did was ratify what we introduced in the spring budget of 1999. They were too embarrassed to try to pull that off the order table, but they didn't live up to their own commitment. There are a lot of things that could be done for the volunteer fire service in this province.

That having been said, I am not sure if we are getting through on some of these issues with the minister. I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that there are senior members, even in the government, in the Executive Council, who have served in that department. I know there were five in one year who served as Minister of Environment and Labour, five ministers in one year. Surely to heavens they must be all able to get together, have a little round-table discussion and decide how they are going to effect and carry out the intent of this particular piece of legislation.

[Page 7877]

Mr. Speaker, I realize that some of my comments were not exactly glowing towards some of the activities in that department, but I guess I am not alone. The Auditor General is an independent voice. It would be well-advised for the minister and for the government, and particularly the Premier's Office, to stop this Stalin-like purging every time they're looking for a fall guy. After awhile everybody is going to be at fault, except for the Executive Council. Even the backbenchers on the government team will be at fault. That is what happened in the dying days of the Buchanan-Donnie Cameron era; everybody was at fault but themselves. You can see that.

It is ironic that it is happening in the first mandate. Usually it takes two or three mandates for that frustration level to build. This government managed to do it in less than three years. So yes, Mr. Speaker, I felt it was incumbent to raise that. I could table some other documents, but I will save them for a future day. Maybe the minister will want to comment on how he sees that this new legislation, this particular bill, is going to be implemented from the Fire Marshal's Office.

Mr. Speaker, I make note of the fact that back in the fall of 1999 I tabled a document from the Fire Marshal's Office where the fire marshal himself was expressing his concern about the ability of his department, to meet the demands put on his office. Three years later, two years later, there it is. The Auditor General confirmed what we were expressing at that particular point in time. So I am hoping that the minister will be well-advised on listening to some of the issues that are being raised and trying to address them before we bring closure on this particular piece of legislation. Thank you.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I was motivated to want to join the debate by the remarks of the last speaker. During his tenure as Minister of Labour, he came to learn the workings of that department in a way that I think certainly made him one of the most noteworthy Ministers of Labour this province ever had. Whenever he gets up to speak, I know it is the voice of experience and so I listen. It sort of stimulates you sometimes to want to get up and follow afterwards and say, me, too. But I am not ever content to say, me, too. That is just for a beginning.

I remember the attitude of this group opposite and their friends to my right, who are very much to my right, that coalition, Mr. Speaker, and their attitude to free license plates for volunteer fire department members that was contained in the Russell MacLellan budget of 1999 that they combined to defeat because it had free license plates in it for volunteer firefighters. That is why they defeated the MacLellan Government, so anti fire department they were. I realized that after the Tories got into power as a result of that escapade, they repented themselves. They said, no we are not listening to that NDP nonsense any longer, we are going to do the right thing. So they inserted the free volunteer fire department license plates for their members in their next budget and revived it and that is now in effect today,

[Page 7878]

thanks to the foresight and leadership and wisdom of the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government of which this honourable member was Minister of Labour and pioneered that measure. So I just want the record to note those facts.

Moving on to this bill. It, too, is a product of the MacLellan era. It, too, was drafted in those times. It, too, reflects the wisdom of those days. Now as an end, unfortunately, but in various manifestations, their deeds continue because this government knows that they were not all wrong. This government knows that the Liberal Government had good ideas and was on the right track and was trying to make Nova Scotia better and had ideas and they reach into those ideas and come up with bills, such as this one here. So I am speaking in support of the bill, Mr. Speaker, in a roundabout way.

This is not the first time they have introduced this bill. They introduced it a couple of years ago as Bill No. 58 and now it has advanced upwards up the ladder to Bill No. 101. So maybe the next time they go through this, it can be Bill No. 250 or maybe Bill No. 385 or who knows.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or Bill No. 762.

MR. MACEWAN: Why not? Let us continue the recycling process. So that reflects the fact that although they introduced this bill and they presented it as being their thoughts and ideas which it isn't, it is not the first time they have done it. It is the second time and who knows, they may well do it again because it illustrates that with Bill No. 58 back in 2000, they weren't really sincere. They introduced the bill and they carried it forward to a certain level here in the House, but they never saw it all the way through. It died on the order paper and now we are doing the same thing again two years later and this, too, may die on the order paper, I don't know. They certainly didn't say two years ago when they introduced Bill No. 58 that they didn't intend to see it through and get it passed. They introduced it as government legislation, as a government measure designed for passage from the Legislature. But for some reason, I guess, we on this side were making too much sense and they couldn't stand it any longer so they had to go home and they went home without passing Bill No. 58.

[5:30 p.m.]

Now, I just wanted to make those few points, Mr. Speaker. Bill No. 58 was called for first reading, but got no further and although this one at least has gotten to second reading, maybe the next time we do this, it may get to third reading. Who knows? It might even this time around, I don't know. If they're diligent and they stick to the agenda that they've set and if they call bills for second reading, get them put to a vote, send them down to the Law Amendments Committee and then bring them back and put them to third reading, they might even be able to get it through. But that depends on their agenda, not on ours. We can't call it on Opposition Day to help them put it through. It's their job to get it through before the House adjourns.

[Page 7879]

So having offered those words of wisdom and guidance to the government, Mr. Speaker, I don't think I will go on for the entire hour. There are other honourable members I can see just waiting to get at it. I see the member for Cape Breton Centre there wants to speak.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: I have already spoken.

MR. MACEWAN: Oh, you've already spoken. All right. Well you can speak again, just like the government introduces the bill again. So you, too, can speak again on third reading and other stages of the legislation.

MR. CORBETT: I will.

MR. MACEWAN: Committee of the Whole House on Bills affords ample opportunity for those who want to speak at great length over and over. So I won't provide any more coaching along those lines, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to raise mischievous ideas that might prolong the consideration of the bill to the point that they give up again and go home without passing it. I think we should try to pass it this time around, and to that extent I will take my seat now so that it might pass and not be held up.

MR. SPEAKER: I'm sure all honourable members are pleased that the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, the venerable member, is engaging in debate; it's a pleasure for all of us to see.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise, particularly since I had the opportunity to serve on the committee that went across this province and reviewed the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was it a waste of money - $70,000?

MR. BOUDREAU: It was $70,000 to go about, and all the presenters told the Tories what they should have done in 1999 was to pass the bill. The bill, Mr. Speaker, was introduced by this government first on April 2, 2002, and it's essentially the same legislation that was introduced in 2000. At that time it was listed as Bill No. 58 and it had its first reading on June 6, 2000, but it died on the order paper. Now it died on the order paper and we would have to ask the minister why, because nobody seems to understand why, but there must be some type of theory over there on that side of the House to kill it because it obviously died.

Amendments to the Nova Scotia Fire Safety Act certainly will adopt national fire codes as a provincial standard and has been introduced in this House by the minister, David Morse, who happens to be the Minister of Environment as well as the Minister of Labour. The bill

[Page 7880]

was originally drafted in response to recommendations made by the Fire Prevention Advisory Council. I think it should be noted too, particularly me being a rookie MLA in this House, I think the fire marshal and his staff should be commended, Mr. Speaker, for the advice, direction and opinions that they provided to the committee, the all-Party committee that went from community to community in Nova Scotia,.

I think the fire marshal proved to be a very capable and knowledgeable authority on these matters. I, for one, would like to thank him, and his staff, for the contributions that they made to this committee because they certainly pointed me in the proper direction on many of the issues that were raised by both the committee and the presenters who made presentations to the committee. So I think it's important and I would hope that the minister in his closing comments would recognize the ability of the fire marshal and his staff in regard to the creation of the bill.

After having said that - I wanted to make sure I said that, Mr. Speaker, while I was on the record of course, before I forgot because it is too important to forget, I think it's important to recognize that when staff plays an important role, it's vitally important to recognize their efforts on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. At least I, for one, and I know my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, are very grateful for the staff.

Mr. Speaker, this bill proposes adoption of the Canadian National Fire Code as the provincial standard, and it recommends harmonizing responsibilities of fire and building inspectors to clarify duties. The new Act expands representation on the Fire Prevention Advisory Council to include municipalities and the insurance industry, among others. I believe it's very important to include the municipalities, especially since this government is now dumping the cost of fire inspections on top of the municipalities, and that's on top of the $8 million they got dumped on them today during the "fudge-it budget" that the Finance Minister presented here in the House today.

Although I support the Act and I support the fire departments and all the fire services in this province, the one thing I have a great deal of difficulty with - and I will be supporting the bill, I'll make that very clear, and I believe the caucus will be supporting the bill as well. I think it is important to note that the municipalities, and being the critic for the municipalities, it is a very grave concern, because of course this is a dark area for the municipal units. They don't know how much this will cost. They don't have a structure in place to deal with the issues. They're not sure what kind of support this government is going to provide them after the law comes into force. They're kind of nervous about this, and rightfully so.

We feel and made recommendations, the committee made recommendations to the minister because the committee obviously didn't have the authority to deal with the money issue in regard to the bill, but we did make the recommendation to the minister, that the minister not downsize, not download the cost of incorporating this new Act. Now that'll be

[Page 7881]

interesting, when the minister rises at the end of the debate, to see, in fact, if he has accepted that recommendation on behalf of the municipal units in the province.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister keeps in mind that the municipalities were already dumped on by approximately $8 million today, and it will result in property tax increases in many of the municipal units across the province. They've basically had enough, they're strained - really. This is supposed to be a compassionate government. Some compassion they're showing.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this new bill expands the representation on the Fire Prevention Advisory Council, as I indicated, with the municipalities and the insurance industry, and I believe that's a good step, and I believe the fire marshal provided the strong recommendations that were agreed to by the committee. It also allows the Fire Marshal's Office to coordinate and co-operate with other agencies to provide educational programs and training for the fire service, the fire inspectors and fire investigators. Again, I feel this is an important step forward, but there's a cost associated with this. The cost is what brings concern, and it brings concern from the municipal units and from me as well. I know there are other members here who are former municipal politicians. I don't think some of them forgot where they came from yet. Maybe some of them will even be going back there after the next provincial election. Maybe they have plans to go back, maybe that's why they sit over there and they don't say too much.

Mr. Speaker, it is a legitimate concern when we look at the cost. This really is a money issue. Although it's important, as I indicated, it's a very important step forward for the fire service, but who pays the bills? I mean, it's obvious they're going to dump it on the municipal units. Again, I am going to say, I hope the minister is listening and that he will accept the recommendation from that committee not to download the cost of these services on the municipal units. I don't feel too optimistic that the minister will hear because I am here now two and a half years and they just simply don't want to hear Nova Scotians. I don't suspect that will change anytime soon. So I guess the municipalities can expect some more downloading costs in the near future from this minister and from the Minister of Finance and the Premier.

Remember the commitments? No downloading to the municipal units, no downloading. That was a commitment. Now all of a sudden it's okay now that they are over there; when they are over here it was a different story. Over there, they've reshaped themselves. Instead of having how many they had over there in third place, they have 31 of them over there now. So they feel they have their numbers, they can push and bully their way through their first mandate and Nova Scotians are going to just forget about the damage they have done in the first four years they are here, or the first term, however long that will be. Nova Scotians won't forget any time soon.

[Page 7882]

This bill, Mr. Speaker, expands the list of the types of buildings which municipalities must, must, must provide fire inspections for. They really don't have a choice after this bill passes. They must provide the service. (Interruption) Absolutely, I agree with public safety 100 per cent, but I am just concerned why you guys don't pay for it over there. If you believe in it, why don't you pay for it? Why would the property owners in this province be responsible to pay for something they have no control over? But you do. You have a choice and you are making your choice and you are making your choice right across the board with your votes over there and everybody knows where you stand on these issues.

Mr. Speaker, the bill expands on the types of buildings which the municipalities must provide fire inspections for while changing the inspections to a risk-based system. The Fire Marshal's Office will continue to monitor the system of inspections performed by the municipalities. That does provide some comfort. However, an important question to be asked is, will the municipal units or the various individuals receive a bill with that advice? When the Fire Marshal's Office does monitor, when they send the report, do they also send the bill? The minister hasn't indicated one way or the other whether he's going to start sending out bills on an individual basis, case to case. There are some questions we are looking for answers to from the minister, now that he has accepted the report from the all-Party committee and, hopefully, he's accepted all the recommendations that they've made.

Under this new legislation, the Fire Marshal's Office will continue to review building plans to ensure compliance with provincial fire safety regulations. This applies to both high-risk structures and other facilities such as oil tanks and used tire storage operations. Mr. Speaker, we all know that these are important structures and the offices should be reviewed from time to time and, of course, given the abilities, as I indicated before, the fire marshal and his staff, there should be a good process in place to ensure under the bill that the fire marshal will continue to review these on a proper basis.

[5:45 p.m.]

The bill also provides standards for fire officials and personnel who install and service fire protection and control devices and services. Overall, Mr. Speaker, the bill is a good bill; it is basically the same bill introduced in 1999 by the previous Liberal Government, turned down by those so-called - I don't know what to call them today, anyway, we will just call them the governing Tories. The bill is a good bill, it should have been passed in 1999. I think the majority of the people I spoke to during the meetings held in various communities, expressed amazement, disappointment, they were baffled as to why this process was prolonged as long as it was because they recognized, and I believe it is fair to say that the fire marshal and the previous minister recognized the need to make these changes to ensure that the fire service is among the best in our country. Today they are among the best in the country but they should and must be provided the proper tools to ensure that that service continues.

[Page 7883]

Overall, Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a good bill since it puts the responsibility where it should be. I do have some other concerns, with your permission, of course. How much did it cost this government to reconsider Bill No. 58. I hope the minister indicates that when he rises at the end of debate on this bill, and indicates to this House. Come clean with all Nova Scotians, tell them how much this process cost Nova Scotians. After blundering the first process, they turned around and created another mess, with a much higher price tag to it. Maybe somebody should tell those Tories some day that they should start visiting flea markets. I didn't say fee markets, I said flea markets because then maybe they will understand what a bargain is. It is obvious that this government is out of financial control, coming in here with the type of budget that was presented here today, a balanced budget that is a "fudge-it budget" and what we believe is a "fudge-it budget", that the budget being balanced, you borrow $11,000 an hour and basically you can balance almost anything.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It seems as if the honourable member has had an opportunity to grasp onto the bow that his colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton West, had during debate on this. The budget, honourable member, will be debated on subsequent days. We are debating Bill No. 101, the Fire Safety Act. I would ask the honourable member if he would try to bring himself back into focus.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can assure you that the budget will be debated in this House and I will be on my feet to debate the budget at the proper times. This bill also enforces the requirement that the municipalities hire fire inspectors. Who pays? As I indicated before, Mr. Speaker, who do you think is going to pay the fire inspectors? How will this practice of downloading affect the smaller, cash-strapped municipal units in this province?

If you look at the smaller units, especially with the equalization plan that is on the table that the minister presented just a couple of weeks ago, that is a disaster. But there was no help for smaller municipal units in this province. Now they're going to have to hire fire inspectors at a direct cost to the property owner who pays taxes to that municipal unit. That's the government that made the commitment not to increase taxes in 1999.

Since I have been sitting here in this House I have witnessed property taxes being increased in municipal units all over this province. They're at it again this spring. It must be a spring thing with this government. I know a lot of recreation associations have a spring fling thing; well, this must be a spring thing for the government. You know, knock knock, Mr. Mayor and council. There, go out and hire fire inspectors; here are the qualifications that they must have. But how will we pay for these, Mr. Minister? Who cares? The government obviously doesn't care because if it did, it wouldn't be downloading the cost of hiring the inspectors on the municipal units.

[Page 7884]

Maybe some of those honourable gentlemen over there - looking across here at the rich guys from Bedford and Truro and all those areas - maybe they should know what it's like. Maybe they should feel what it's like not to have the money in your pocket to buy a bus ticket, like some of the people I represent on a daily basis. Maybe that's where those individuals should be for awhile. Maybe they should try driving trucks for a living and see how tough that is.

It's very clear to me, as a former municipal politician, that those honourable members over there forgot where they came from. They forgot where they came from, especially those honourable members who pretend they used to be municipal councillors. But I think, as I said here in this House before, sooner or later - and it's going to come soon - they're going to have to knock on the same doors that they knocked on the last time, in 1999. I will almost assure you that Nova Scotians are more intelligent than they give them credit for.

There's a silence about the lambs over there, because they go silent. You can see the fear, because Nova Scotians will not be fooled a second time. When they call their municipal councillors after their taxes are increased, the municipal councillors will provide correct and true information when they explain to them, we had to increase your tax rate because we had to hire fire inspectors at the direction, or the demand, of this government. But they don't seem to care over there today. They're right tough over there today because they're protected by the walls of this great House. But the real world is a-waiting. It's a-waiting. I am certainly looking forward to the results after the next election. I can just imagine how many of these guys knocked, vote for me, I'm going to protect you, don't trust those other two Parties, we're going to do this for you and we're going to do that for you. Now, gentlemen, you have a record to ride on; in 1999 you had nothing.

Well, when the writ is called this time, there will be a record, and it will be a failed record, a failure. They failed on all aspects, not only in regard to the fire service and downloading the costs. Pretty soon, if they keep increasing taxes, there'll be no buildings left. Nobody will be able to live in them. Go down and ask the people in Canso if they want their taxes increased because they have to pay for fire inspectors, downloaded on top of them by that minister and this government. Go down and ask them, Mr. Speaker. Don't take my word for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hurry up, we have to go gas up.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my honourable colleague, the member for Richmond, reminded me I have to fill my tank today. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, this bill puts an onus on schools and universities, among others, to provide their own system of inspections, with a need to meet this new responsibility for school boards to take money from its school budget. These are questions that the minister has the responsibility to reply to before he puts forth the vote on this bill. Residents in municipal units

[Page 7885]

in this province deserve the respect that they've earned over the many years of struggle in this province, and they earned more respect than that government over there is showing. Perhaps they should recognize the ability of the municipal units in this province and accept the fact that they could be a very handy tool, a mechanism to help this province move forward in a responsible manner.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes wish to adjourn the debate, as we are now approaching the . . .

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I will make a motion to adjourn the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. The House will sit from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The business of the day will be the completion of the remarks by the Finance Critic for the Opposition and the remarks by the Finance Critic for the Liberal Party. If that should be terminated before 1:00 p.m., at that time the House will adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do adjourn to meet tomorrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[The motion is carried.]

MR. SPEAKER: The resolution tonight for the adjournment debate was submitted by the honourable member for Glace Bay:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia is not sincere in their commitment to having the private sector mine coal in Cape Breton."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

NAT. RES. - COAL MINING (C.B.): PRIVATE SECTOR -

GOV'T. (N.S.) SINCERITY

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to, at this point in time, take the opportunity to comment on this resolution, that indeed this government is not being sincere

[Page 7886]

in its commitment to having the private sector mine coal in Cape Breton. The opportunity exists right now to create and foster economic development in Cape Breton on a rather large scale. In other words, the coal industry in Cape Breton is not dead, far from it. What's needed right now is some action from this government, indeed, to turn the coal industry into a thriving industry once again.

Mr. Speaker, I must point out at the beginning of this discussion to say that this past week our caucus met with the United Mine Workers Union of America, District 26, and two representatives, the co-administrators, Bob Burchill and John MacLeod who gave us a presentation that outlined exactly where coal is today and where it could be tomorrow. I must point out that the two co-administrators of the UMW of A indicated to us that indeed, the Tory caucus did not meet with those co-administrators, although they did ask. They did request a meeting with the caucus, however, they were sloughed off to a minister who cares nothing about the coal industry in Nova Scotia. That minister is now, of course (Interruptions) the member from Dartmouth is saying that's not true. If that's not true, the caucus chair must be calling the co-administrators of the UMW of A liars; if that's not true.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Honourable member for Glace Bay, please refrain from the usage of the word to undermine or demean an individual, even if the individual is not present in the House and I would ask you for a possible retraction.

MR. WILSON: I will retract that comment, Mr. Speaker, but again, the member from Dartmouth indicates that two of the members whom I have met with and have told me this is true is indicating that they are not telling the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you honourable member for the retraction.

MR. WILSON: So that indication has been made here today, regrettably so. As I said, what has happened is that the meeting that should have taken place with the Tory caucus and did take place with our caucus, was sloughed off to a minister who cares nothing about the coal industry in Nova Scotia. The fact is that the coal industry, the resource belongs to this province; coal belongs to this province. We are missing an opportuntiy here for economic development, a big opportunity. We are missing the chance to put hundreds of coal miners back to work primarily in Cape Breton - that's the opportunity that we're missing right now. Of course, we know that the coal industry - Devco no longer exists, we know that.

I am not standing here being hypocritical. I am not dealing with the past. I am dealing with the future. I am dealing with the future of the Cape Breton coal industry - not what has happened in the past. What I would like to see, what can be done is that hundreds and hundreds of people and a great number of people from my riding in Glace Bay could be put back to work with good paying jobs in an industry that is needed right now in this province and is needed throughout this world.

[Page 7887]

Nova Scotia Power should and can burn Cape Breton coal. That has been proven. There are approximately 300 million tons of recoverable coal in Cape Breton coal fields right now that is waiting there for Nova Scotia Power to burn. Nova Scotia Power now pays more for the coal that it's importing than it would for domestic coal for Cape Breton coal that could be brought to the surface and burned in its power plants in Nova Scotia. Three of those power plants, as we know, are located in Cape Breton. They employ people on a large scale.

We know the state of the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. We know what has happened. We also know that the future, for instance Prince Colliery has a projected life expectancy of 10 to 15 years of that coal mine if it's properly mined. Donkin Mine, the resources there that have yet to be tapped - as I said, in all, approximately 300 million tons of recoverable coal. What is happening is that we have groups: we have the United Mine Workers Union of America, we have Donkin Resources Ltd., we have the Cape Breton Miners' Co-operative Ltd., just to name three that are actively pursuing those coal leases and the mining of coal in Cape Breton. So we know the interest is there, we know that private enterprise of some sort wants to get involved with the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. What we don't know and what we haven't heard is from this government, from the Province of Nova Scotia, what role they're going to play, what role will they play in returning coal to where it should be.

Mr. Speaker- and I am sure the minister knows this and all members know this - right now in the United States of America, the President of that great country, George W. Bush, has said we will burn all the coal we can get our hands on. Nova Scotia Power is saying we need coal. Drive over the Canso Causeway where it is stockpiled and see the coal that is being burned by Nova Scotia Power there. That coal could be coal that comes from Nova Scotia. This is not just Cape Breton coal, this is Nova Scotia coal. This is coal that built Nova Scotia, by the way. Absolutely.

Go back to the 1600s, Nova Scotia was built from day one on the backs of miners in this province. Mr. Speaker, we can get back there, we can return to those glory days of coal. It won't employ 4,600 people, as it once did. No one expects it to do that, but hundreds of people, as I said, with well-paying jobs in an area that is hard hit right now and suffering waiting for economic development.

We have had some incredible successes in Cape Breton. We don't get credit for them. We have call centres in Cape Breton right now which are employing thousands of people. I am not going to stand here and say that call centres are the answer to all of the problems; they are not. They employ people. I am very proud to have a call centre in the riding of Glace Bay that employs 1,000 people right now. The other day it registered its one-millionth call, which is a record for Stream International. Those are Cape Breton workers doing that job and they are proud of it; indeed the history of coal is one of pride as well, and one of pride that built this province.

[Page 7888]

Mr. Speaker, what groups are telling us - and as I have said, including the UMWA, who we met with the other day - they are looking for the province to take a lead role in supporting coal be revitalized, the industry being revitalized in this province. Nova Scotia Power, if it were to work with prospective coal producers in this province, could revitalize a coal industry in Nova Scotia that would generate that much-needed employment, and it would eliminate Nova Scotia Power's dependency on imported coal.

Mr. Speaker, based on current coal prices, with the exchange rate that Nova Scotia Power pays right now, you pay more for imported coal than you would for domestic coal, as I pointed out to you. Now, all of the benefits that go with the coal industry of course, the spin-off jobs, the economy and how it benefits, how can one possibly argue that that is not good for Nova Scotia at this point in time if we have those extra revenues that would be generated, the employment that is created in Cape Breton alone, not to mention in other parts of Nova Scotia, and the fact that it is there, it is ready.

We sit here and we argue about gas discoveries off the coast of Cape Breton, off the coast of Nova Scotia and there we are, look out, 300 million tons of a recoverable resource that we have the expertise to mine and bring to the surface and burn. There are those who would question whether or not we should be burning coal, and that is understandable, but there are also those who are working on burning technologies, clean technologies that will burn coal cleanly. They are in the process right now. It can be done, and by doing so we can create the much-needed employment that is necessary in this province and put people back to work.

Mr. Speaker, what happened to coal miners in Cape Breton, most of them would be approximately of the age, in the vicinity of 45 to 55 years of age and I understand what they have gone through because I went through the same thing myself, to be put out of a job, to be put out of work and all of sudden you are retrained at that age. Retrained for what employment? You don't know. Severance packages that you certainly can't depend on. I understand what coal miners have gone through, but I also understand that the coal miners that I know in my riding, in New Waterford, in North Sydney, in Sydney Mines, and from throughout that Island, are waiting to go back to work. They want to go back to work. We have the opportunity, if this province and this government co-operates and supports privatizing the coal industry we will put them back to work. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has elapsed.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening and talk a few minutes about some facts and some opportunities, particularly in the coal mining industry in the Province of Nova Scotia that for hundreds of years has produced coal and was the original backbone of industrial development in this province. As the honourable member opposite

[Page 7889]

mentioned, I had the pleasure to meet with a number of officials from the United Mine Workers of America District No. 26, and it was an exceptionally good meeting. They were very positive and looking for opportunities so that private enterprise could re-enter the coal business in Cape Breton. This government shares that same optimism, that there is opportunity for coal and coal mining in Cape Breton, especially in the industrial area.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about those opportunities and how we get to them. First of all, I think it's important to inform the House and Nova Scotians of the same discussion that I had with the members of the United Mine Workers of America. We are in a process, since the federal Liberal Government decided to shut down the coal mines in Cape Breton, where the province is the holder of the leases and the province will be accepting those leases back from the federal government. But before we accept those leases back, there are a number of situations that have to be satisfied, not only for the Province of Nova Scotia but especially for the citizens of Sydney and industrial Cape Breton.

When we look at a number of those priorities, obviously there are a huge number of old mine sites working and a number of environmental and remediation concerns. It is the obligation of this government and of myself, as minister, to ensure that the federal government honours the obligation to provide enough money to ensure that those situations and environmental concerns are properly taken care of so that the health, well-being and environment of the people of industrial Cape Breton are protected for the long term. We can't ignore that to accept the leases early so that we can quickly try to develop something on an ad hoc basis, as the member opposite seems to be suggesting. We have to ensure that we have those concerns addressed and taken care of first. Then we can move on to an open process and we are on record as stating that there will be an open process, that will deal with opportunities for the private sector to become re-engaged in the mining industry for coal in Cape Breton.

Obviously, there are a number of opportunities with surface mining, as well as proven reserves in several locations that could possibly, if the right private developer comes along, develop underground, and not only for local or domestic consumption with Nova Scotia Power. As members of the United Mine Workers and other groups expressed, there's an opportunity that they could ship offshore. We have to, in that, acknowledge some of the environmental concerns with high-sulphur coal, with NOx and mercury. As we go forward into the future, clean coal technology will help address them and make it even more viable I believe, for coal production in this province. But those are parameters we have to deal with as we do go forward, and it will be a very open process for business interests to develop those deposits here in Nova Scotia once we've accepted the leases back from the federal government and those concerns over environment and remediation have been addressed.

[Page 7890]

[6:15 p.m.]

Also, I would like to add that the opportunity extends for all Nova Scotians, not only the people of industrial Cape Breton. Coal, as the member opposite properly pointed out, has been here for many centuries as an energy source and industrial driver. Certainly gas will play a very definite role, as we deal with greenhouse gas emissions. I believe technology and how coal is handled, it will still be a major player in this province, in other provinces in Canada and across the globe. It is still the cheapest source of energy we have out there to deal with, there is no question about that. Our challenge, as a province and the challenge with the industry and as countries will be dealing with the technology needed to remove it before you burn or consume the energy, or how do you remove it, the stacks or scrubbers or those types of situations; that research and that drive is on.

Americans, under their Cheney report or energy report, rate coal very highly on their scale of consumption and energy source. They are also, at the same time, developing and working on the technologies to look at that cleaner coal. Nova Scotia Power, in the strategy here in Canada, is also playing a role on behalf of the industry here, doing their part in those talks, discussions and evaluations of how clean-coal technology can be incorporated so that we can continue to use the cheapest, most efficient energy source out there yet. I think the members opposite who know the coal business and know prices, would have no dispute that this is still the cheapest form of energy out there.

The challenge for us is, let's make sure that (a) we do the right thing for the environment and the health of the people of the greater industrial Sydney, Cape Breton area, making sure the federal government honours their obligation to clean up and rectify those mine sites and the environmental concerns there; (b) let's do it properly when we re-initiate the coal industry back into the private sector in this province by accepting the leases, that it is an open process, that it is a private-driven process and that we are there to license, support and make sure we do, as Nova Scotians and as a government, to encourage that development and that production, Mr. Speaker. After those points are achieved, then we can move on to the greater issue of the long-term viability again and that is again an opportunity to Nova Scotians, involving that clean-coal technology.

I would certainly also like to point out to all members present that I, as minister on behalf of our caucus and government, have met with the United Mine Workers, have met with many other interested parties and groups, have received submissions from a number of businesses, private, individual consortiums, all looking for the opportunity and all of them, although anxious to begin, fully realize that it is extremely important that we do this process right. That brings us again back to ensuring that we get through this short-term phase on the negotiations with the federal government and after that occurs, I think we have a real opportunity to promote a coal industry for domestic consumption and, as many proponents have said, there appears to be opportunity for offshore exports.

[Page 7891]

The infrastructure is in place to handle that and it is key that those opportunities are preserved so that those opportunities can be exploited not only for the work force in Cape Breton, not only for the good of the people of the Sydney area, but also for the good of this province. This industry, this resource, has benefited all of Nova Scotians for hundreds of years and we are firm believers in private hands, with the right guidelines and right technology, can benefit all Nova Scotians for many years to come. It is a pleasure to rise and point out those few facts, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am very proud to rise tonight. I will be taking a little trip down memory lane, unlike the member for Glace Bay and talking about the federal government's retreat from coal mining, and how it retreated without giving the due respect and the due wages and other conditions that should have been afforded the workers who were in that industry. They retreated by giving inadequate severance packages. They retreated by giving inadequate pensions. They fought the workforce every step on the way. They fought the workforce. At one point, people working or the Cape Breton Development Corporation actually took over a mine to bring the federal government to the table to try to negotiate decent pensions and benefits for those people.

AN HON. MEMBER: They called on Russell MacLellan to help them.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and we saw what help they got from Russell MacLellan. If you take the theory that was espoused by a member before that members from the New Democratic Party caused the shutdown, if you use that premise, then it is the member for Cape Breton Nova's fault because he wasn't on the government side when the steel plant closed. That's his logic.

AN HON. MEMBER: The NDP Government closed the steel plant.

MR. CORBETT: The NDP Government closed it. So, Mr. Speaker, that's the type of rhetoric that gets us nowhere with the coal industry, when you continuously want to pretend that the past didn't happen. We were the first ones, our Party, the New Democratic Party, to acknowledge the United Mine Workers when they asked for a meeting with all the caucuses. As a matter of fact, that's a quote from Bob Burchill, who is the Administrator for District 26. He said, we contacted you that day. The chairman - I happened to be the chairman of our caucus - contacted them the day we got it and we arranged that day, and we were the first caucus they met with and he was pleased to say that. So we met with him first. (Interruptions) So we are talking about how the Liberals saved the coal industry, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about where the coal industry is today. I heard the minister talk about, well, we're really not going to do anything until negotiations are over with the federal government when it comes to the coal leases. Well, that would give you some comfort if it

[Page 7892]

wasn't for the fact that Devco is being hived off now as we speak. Devco went and sold off a major portion of its infrastructure, the coal piers, the wash plant and its railway to Emera, better known as Nova Scotia Power. So if they can hive that off, which has large tracks of land that I would say have environmental concerns, to say the least, yet, the provincial government did not stop in any way and say, look, we should go to court or something to stop the sale of this very important piece of this infrastructure for the same reason it purports to say that we don't want them to hand back the coal leases.

If we could take a snapshot in time, and the provincial government said, okay, here is where we are at environmentally, rather than make work for people who really want to work today, we can move forward with the leases; now that has been said by previous speakers. Without a whole lot of fanfare, there have been at least three groups identified as being interested in operating submarine mining of some sort in industrial Cape Breton. One is the miners co-op, another is Donkin Resources and another couple of international companies, UMW have said they would support them in their endeavor to open those submarine mines.

Without getting too deep into those negotiations, I think what's interesting is we stand here today and look at coal as a commodity for generating electricity and so on. Mr. Speaker, back in November, I forget who the gentleman was, but he was head of an energy company from Wisconsin and he was at an energy meeting in Washington and he was speaking to people about clean coal-burning technology and how it was advancing. His one primary point was that it was imperative that we do this and do this quickly because one thing for sure, natural gas is too important to burn. We shouldn't be burning it. We should be using it in other sectors, in manufacturing in particular. Yet, we sit with a resource that we could be using. I can't disagree enough with the minister over this, I can only describe it as a game of waiting to get everything in a neat, tidy package before we start distributing these leases. We need those leases to be done up quicker. It's not going to be a matter of okay, we've decided what we're going to do environmentally with the federal government, now we'll sell this block to this group and they can mine tomorrow morning.

We all know, as it should be, that when you open a mine or any kind of mineral resource, there are certain steps you have to go through, and not the least of which are the environmental aspects of it, and we agree with that. What we're saying is we're putting on a whole other line of delays here, that really don't have to be. We can go in and say we'll assess them. This is the same group, when they unsuccessfully tried to sell Sydney Steel, that was quick to try to draw a boundary around the old workings of Sydney Steel and move forward for the group they were trying to sell that to. That legislation existed, so why not try to do the same thing here? Say, okay, here's what we recognize as responsibilities and let's move it forward.

Let's try to get two very important things done here: get a steady energy supply for Nova Scotia, then get on with cleaning up the remnants of the old coal industry. Thirdly and probably the most importantly, provide employment, employment that can range, depending

[Page 7893]

on the amount of mines that are opened, anywhere from 400 to 600 jobs. Those jobs are well-paying jobs. Everybody knows that the mining industry, traditionally the job focus is 6 to 1. For every job within the mining industry there are six ancillary jobs in the community, whether it's in the commercial sector in downtown New Waterford or whether it's on the supply side. Those things are there. It's known, it's a base used by financiers, that it's a 6 to 1 runoff. That's the type of effect you have.

By and large you have well-paying jobs, in the area of $14 to $20 an hour a job as your base salary. Those things are there. Another thing, all important, about clean coal-burning technology is that this coal is fairly clean. When they buy coal on the international market, it's bought by BTUs, British thermal units, and that's the one thing about Cape Breton coal, its BTU value. What you're doing is you're getting more energy per ton of coal from Cape Breton than you are from Columbia or Venezuela, a lot less handling and it's right there. So that should be looked into.

We're sitting on the edge, always. We're being told all the time that tomorrow will come. You're worried sometimes that these things are left aside for announcements, for political purposes around elections and all that. I'm asking the minister today, to do the right thing and sit down with the federal counterparts, square off the area that they want to see done and reconfigured for environmental purposes, but then also allow the bidding process to start. Allow the bidding process to start so that we'll know and we'll be in a position sooner than later to capture this.

Mr. Speaker, I do agree in essence with the motion that the provincial government is not doing all that it can to help Cape Bretoners realize the vast resource that would help them with employment, and would indeed help Nova Scotians with their energy needs, and allow this industry that was fired by the French when they first mined coal in Port Morien to continue, and that we would take our rightful place again in turning the engines of the economy of this province. I would ask the minister to move forward with these recommendations that we put forward in late debate tonight, and we would see this industry grow again as we would see other industries within the province.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable members. The time allotted for the adjournment debate has concluded.

[The House is adjourned.]

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

[Page 7894]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2889

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

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

Whereas competition is tough among the many excellent journalists in Atlantic Canada with over 300 entries for the 2001 Atlantic Journalism Awards; and

Whereas since their beginning the AJAs have honoured close to 400 journalists and have encouraged continued journalistic excellence in all fields; and

Whereas every category is well represented by many Nova Scotian journalists and this year the newsroom of the Cape Breton Post and Paul Pickrem of ATV, Sydney, are among those nominated for the 2001 AJAs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer their congratulations on these nominations and acknowledge the excellence in journalism which Cape Breton has come to enjoy.

RESOLUTION NO. 2890

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas at the Annual General Meeting of the Springhill Chamber of Commerce in February 2002, the Business Development Bank award for Business of the Year was handed out; and

Whereas the award for Business of the Year went to Atlantic Fire and Water Restoration, owned by Bob Henwood, whose work deals mainly with water cleanup after fire damage; and

Whereas Mr. Henwood's business is based out of Springhill and services all areas of Cumberland County, employing 16 people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Henwood and Atlantic Fire and Water Restoration on their receipt of the Business Development Award for Business of the Year and wish them all the success in the future.

[Page 7895]

RESOLUTION NO. 2891

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Ship's Company Theatre recently received the Attraction of the Year Award from the Central Nova Tourist Association during the association's annual banquet in February 2002; and

Whereas the Ship's Company Theatre was nominated for the CNTA award by a long-time supporter and volunteer, Kerwin Davidson; and

Whereas winning the award gives the theatre the recognition of excellence in the national theatre community it deserves, having, just last season, broken its own box office records;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Ship's Company Theatre on the receipt of Central Nova Tourist Association award and wish all associated great success in all future productions.

RESOLUTION NO. 2892

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas GJDE Enterprises received a Giftshop Award from the Central Nova Tourist Association during the association's annual banquet in February 2002; and

Whereas GJDE, called the Alphabet Store by local children, is well-known around Oxford for its window displays and wide selection of quality gifts and products; and

Whereas the award was accepted by George and Eric Mosher on behalf of their family and GJDE Enterprises;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate GJDE Enterprises on the receipt of the Giftshop Award and hope this deserved recognition furthers the company's business success.

[Page 7896]

RESOLUTION NO. 2893

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Advocate District High School Lady Coyotes have been crowned the 2002 Northumberland Regional Division IV basketball champs; and

Whereas to gain this victory, the Lady Coyotes defeated Oxford High School in the final game; and

Whereas the ladies team is comprised of Mallory Ross, Jessie Ross, Lesley Ross, Carrie Nuttall, Joanna Reid, Katie Spicer, Jeanna Fletcher, Amber Strong, Ashley Collins, Helen Ross, Melinda Ells and Deanna Esch, and are coached by Pat and Peter Spicer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Advocate District High School ladies basketball team on their triumph as the Division IV champions.

RESOLUTION NO. 2894

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas nine year old Cole Wood of Oxford has been called up to play on the Provincial Elite AAA hockey team and to compete in the Atlantic AAA Cup at the Halifax Forum this coming May; and

Whereas Cole, one of two local players who made the cut to the elite team, is currently an assistant captain with the Cumberland Atom A Cougars and plays the position of defence;

Whereas Cole is extremely thrilled to be asked to be a part of this elite team and says that the tryouts didn't make him nervous, it was the waiting for the phone call to let him know if he'd made it;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate this young Cumberland County star on his spot on the Provincial Elite AAA team, and wish him the best of luck in the tournament and with his future hockey endeavours.