Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-100

















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



TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2002





TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Tuition Fees - Legislate, Mr. D. Dexter 9651
Environ. - C&D: Proposed Site - Oppose, Mr. B. Taylor 9652
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3711, Sydney River - McDonald's Rest. Deaths: Victims/Families -
Remember, Hon. R. Russell 9652
Vote - Affirmative 9653
Res. 3712, Acadia Univ. - Honorary Degrees: Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 9653
Vote - Affirmative 9654
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 133, Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Act, Mr. G. Steele 9654
No. 134, Volunteer Fire Services Act, Hon. R. Russell 9654
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3713, Sydney River - McDonald's Rest. Deaths: Family/Friends -
Condolences Express, Mr. D. Dexter 9654
Vote - Affirmative 9655
Res. 3714, Sydney River - McDonald's Rest. Deaths: Victims/Families -
Reflect On, Mr. R. MacKinnon 9655
Vote - Affirmative 9655
Res. 3715, Dart. Sportsplex - Anniv. (20th): Staff/Supporters -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 9656
Vote - Affirmative 9656
Res. 3716, Neynens, Harry - Boston Marathon: Performance -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 9657
Vote - Affirmative 9657
Res. 3717, Samson, Todd - Powerlifting: Victories - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 9657
Vote - Affirmative 9658
Res. 3718, Moody, Harley & George: Efforts - Commend, Mr. J. Carey 9658
Vote - Affirmative 9659
Res. 3719, St. Patrick's HS Wellness Ctr.: Opening - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9659
Vote - Affirmative 9660
Res. 3720, C.B. Post: Atl. Journalism Award - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9660
Vote - Affirmative 9660
Res. 3721, Educ. - Touched by the Titanic: Cover -
Park West Sch. - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 9660
Vote - Affirmative 9661
Res. 3722, Battle of the Atl. - New Waterford Army Navy Air Force
Unit 217: Vets - Salute, Mr. F. Corbett 9661
Vote - Affirmative 9662
Res. 3723, Health - Nat'l. Physiotherapy Month (05/02) - Recognize,
Dr. J. Smith 9662
Vote - Affirmative 9663
Res. 3724, Bear Falls River Race (2002): Organizers - Applaud,
Mr. K. Morash 9663
Vote - Affirmative 9664
Res. 3725, Commun. Serv. - UN Convention on Rights of the Child:
Legislation - Introduce, Mr. J. Pye 9664
Res. 3726, Beresford, Dr. Patricia - Mar. Ctr. of Excellence for
Women's Health: Award - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 9665
Vote - Affirmative 9665
Res. 3727, Delta Airlines - Hfx. To Boston: Flights - Applaud,
Mr. B. Taylor 9665
Vote - Affirmative 9666
Res. 3728, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Waterfront Assess.: Fair Policy -
Concerns Respond, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9666
Res. 3729, R&D: Investment - Encourage, Mr. M. Parent 9667
Vote - Affirmative 9667
Res. 3730, J.L. Ilsley HS - Art Class: Students - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 9668
Vote - Affirmative 9668
Res. 3731, Lung Assoc. (N.S.): Efforts - Commend, Mr. J. Pye 9668
Vote - Affirmative 9669
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 999, Educ. - Two-Tiered System: Creation - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 9669
No. 1000, Educ. - French Immersion Prog. Comm.: Establishment -
Purpose Explain, Mr. M. Samson 9670
No. 1001, Justice - Elizabeth Fry Soc. (C.B.): Operation - Ensure,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9672
No. 1002, Fin.: Tax Cut - Implications, Mr. Manning MacDonald 9673
No. 1003, Environ. & Lbr. - Violence In Workplace Leg.:
Enactment - Details, Mr. F. Corbett 9674
No. 1004, Health - Caregivers: Tax Incentives - Details, Dr. J. Smith 9676
No. 1005, Health: Ambulance Fees - Fairness, Mr. G. Steele 9677
No. 1006, NSLC - Pres.: Employment History - Details,
Mr. K. MacAskill 9678
No. 1007, PSC: CSC - Women's Inequality, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9679
No. 1008, Health - Strait-Richmond Hosp.: Emergency Rm. -
Funding, Mr. M. Samson 9680
No. 1009, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Fees/Wages: N.B./N.S. - Fairness,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9682
No. 1010, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Real Estate Signs: Removal -
Explain, Mr. P. MacEwan 9683
No. 1011, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Emergency Rm. -
Plans Publicize, Mr. F. Corbett 9684
No. 1012, Environ. & Lbr. - Landfill (Old Guysborough Rd.):
Application - Deny, Mr. R. MacKinnon 9686
No. 1013, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Assess: Responsibility Abdication -
Explain, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9687
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 104, Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act 9688
Mr. K. Deveaux 9688
Mr. M. Samson 9692
Mr. F. Corbett 9701
Hon. J. Purves 9704
Vote - Affirmative 9704
No. 111, Motor Vehicle Act 9704
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9704
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9705
Dr. J. Smith 9710
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9714
Vote - Affirmative 9714
No. 107, Land Registration Act 9714
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9714
Mr. G. Steele 9715
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9715
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9716
Vote - Affirmative 9716
No. 108, Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act 9716
Hon. M. Baker 9717
Mr. K. Deveaux 9717
Mr. M. Samson 9718
Hon. M. Baker 9720
Vote - Affirmative 9720
No. 113, Agricultural Administration Amendment (2002) Act 9720
Hon. R. Russell 9720
Mr. J. MacDonell 9720
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9721
Hon. R. Russell 9721
Vote - Affirmative 9722
No. 115, Justice Administration Amendment (2002) Act 9722
Hon. M. Baker 9722
Mr. K. Deveaux 9724
Mr. M. Samson 9725
Mr. G. Steele 9728
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9736
Mr. J. Pye 9742
Hon. P. Christie 9745
Vote - Affirmative 9746
No. 128, Municipal Government Act 9746
Hon. R. Russell 9746
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9746
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9761
Debate adjourned 9762
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: C.B. Rail Service - Shutdown:
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9762
Mr. P. MacEwan 9764
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 9765
Mr. C. Clarke 9766
Mr. F. Corbett 9768
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 128, Municipal Government Act 9771
Mr. W. Estabrooks [debate resumed] 9771
Amendment moved "bill be read six months hence" 9785
Mr. W. Gaudet 9785
Adjourned debate 9792
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 8th at 2:00 p.m. 9792
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3732, Millbrook - Theatre Complex: Development - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 9793
Res. 3733, Forbes, Doug: Golden Goat Award - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9793
Res. 3734, Westchester FD: Pancake Supper - Congrats., The Speaker 9794
Res. 3735, Lorette, Bill: Peacekeeping Medal - Congrats., The Speaker 9794
Res. 3736, Smith, Neil/Francis, Sid/Yar. Lions Club - Earth Day:
Promotion - Commend, Mr. R. Hurlburt 9795
Res. 3737, Theal, Kelly/River Hebert FD/Ladies Aux.: Support -
Recognize, The Speaker 9795
Res. 3738, RBC - Port Hood Branch: Reduction - Refrain,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 9796

[Page 9651]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton West:

Therefore be it resolved that that Tory Government has effectively shut down rail service in Cape Breton.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition by 4,273 students from across the province. The operative clause reads, "Therefore your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to: legislate a tuition fee freeze at all Nova Scotia public post-secondary institutions; increase post-secondary education funding; restore funding to student financial assistance and implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants." I have affixed my signature.

9651

[Page 9652]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that is signed by approximately 400 Nova Scotians. The communities involved would be the Antrim/Old Guysborough Road area. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, are against the proposed C&D site near the vicinity of the Antrim and Old Guysborough Roads intersection." This is the same community that is now host to a slate/shale pit remediation project that has proven to be an environmental problem. This is the same community that successfully repealed efforts by Ottawa to establish a PCB incinerator at that location. In conclusion, this is the same community that successfully had an illegal explosives storage warehouse shut down. This is a community that works very hard on behalf of everybody. I have affixed my name to that.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3711

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

Whereas on May 7, 1992, a tragic crime occurred at the McDonald's restaurant in Sydney River; and

Whereas on this day 10 years ago, three young Nova Scotians lost their lives, with a fourth young person forever changed by this sad event; and

Whereas the victims' families, Sydney area residents, and all Nova Scotians were also forever changed by the tragedy of May 7, 1992;

[Page 9653]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remember the victims, their families and their loved ones, of the crimes committed at the Sydney River McDonald's 10 years ago today.

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. 3712

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

Whereas over 750 students will graduate from Acadia University at Spring Convocation; and

Whereas Acadia University will confer five honorary degrees at the ceremonies; and

Whereas the honorary degree recipients are Reverend Professor Alan P.F. Sell; J.R. Pat Ellis; Donald M. Gillis, Q.C.; Laurie B. Stevens; and Dr. Charles H. Read Jr.;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Acadia and these accomplished individuals on their achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 9654]

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 133 - An Act to Amend Chapter 38 of the Acts of 1996. The Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Act. (Mr. Graham Steele)

Bill No. 134 - Entitled an Act to Recognize Firefighters and to Protect Volunteer Fire Departments. (Hon. Ronald Russell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3713

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

Whereas 10 years ago, on May 7, 1992, the murderous attack on four McDonald's employees in Sydney River shocked the community, our province and our country; and

Whereas time can only do so much to heal the wounds inflicted that day upon the families, friends and neighbours of those four innocent victims; and

Whereas today is an occasion to remember the victims, console the survivors and renew our resolve to prevent such terrible crimes from happening again;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Neil Burroughs, Jimmy Fagan and Donna Warren and its respect and admiration to the family, friends and caregivers who have stood by Arlene MacNeil during these 10 difficult years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 9655]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3714

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 marks the 10th Anniversary of the horrible crime that killed three people and injured another during a robbery at McDonald's Restaurant in Sydney River; and

Whereas on May 7, 1992, Neil Burroughs, Jr., James Fagan and Donna Warren were tragically killed during a senseless act of violence; and

Whereas 30-year-old Arlene MacNeil, who was left permanently disabled with a brain injury after the shooting, is the only victim to have survived the robbery;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House take a moment to reflect on the victims of the McDonald's tragedy and their families and other tragedies, and that we offer our continued best wishes to the Arlene MacNeil and her family.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if it's appropriate, but perhaps a moment of silence for all those who have been killed in tragic crimes would be appropriate.

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.

I would ask all members to rise for one moment of silence, please.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

[Page 9656]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, please be seated.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3715

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

Whereas 20 years ago, the Dartmouth Sportsplex opened its doors to the greater Dartmouth community; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas 2002 marks two decades of the provision of recreational instruction, recreational activities - including swimming, skating, dancing, and weight training and fitness - conference facilities and its popular bingo; and

Whereas the Sportsplex only recently completed a new addition to its pool, as well as an expansion to it Lifestyle Centre, offering one of the best lifestyle and weight facilities in eastern Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the staff and supporters of the Dartmouth Sportsplex, as well as those with the vision to make the centre a reality back in 1982, for creating what is a tremendous community resource for Dartmouth.

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 Hants East.

[Page 9657]

RESOLUTION NO. 3716

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

Whereas the Boston Marathon is a historic and world-famous track event; and

Whereas 15,000 qualified runners are chosen to compete in this event each year; and

Whereas Enfield resident Mr. Harry Neynens, in his first appearance at the Boston Marathon, completed it just five minutes over the three hours, coming in 1,689th out of 15,000;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Harry Neynens of Enfield for his outstanding performance in his first Boston Marathon and wish him good luck in next year's event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3717

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

Whereas Cape Breton competitors won 11 provincial titles at the Nova Scotia Powerlifting and Bench Press championships held Saturday at the YMCA in Sydney; and

Whereas Richmond County native Todd Samson, a Cape Breton Regional Municipality police officer, highlighted the day's events by winning gold in the Open category with a total lift of 1,554 pounds; and

[Page 9658]

Whereas Todd Samson also won the trophy for the best overall lifter in the Open category, and the Mike Laroche Trophy as the best overall lifter in the competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Todd Samson on his victories and wish him continued success in all his 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 member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3718

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

Whereas brothers Harley and George Moody and family have worked long and hard over the last three and a half decades to build Moody Brothers Groceteria into a thriving Valley business; and

Whereas while the brothers will retain the operation of another Valley landmark, Bargain Harleys, they just recently announced that they were ready to get out of the business, selling the largest independent grocery store in Atlantic Canada to TRA Atlantic; and

Whereas while it is sad to see the transfer of a locally-owned business which has supported local producers and employees for so many years, it is hoped that these traditions will continue under the new management, which is also an Atlantic Canadian business;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the tremendous efforts of brothers Harley and George Moody and the support of their families over the last 35 years and wish them well as they enjoy some well-deserved time off.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9659]

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. 3719

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

Whereas today marks the grand opening of the St. Patrick's High School Wellness Centre; and

Whereas this much-needed centre provides confidential health information and services for students on, among other things, sexual health issues, mental health concerns and bullying; and

Whereas this centre is the culmination of much solid community work by the Halifax Peninsula Community Health Board, the Halifax Regional School Board, the Capital District Health Authority, the IWK Hospital and, of course, by the students, families, parents and staff of St. Patrick's High School;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all those involved in the wonderful community effort that culminated today in the grand opening of the St. Patrick's High School Wellness Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 9660]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3720

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Post was honoured during the Atlantic Journalism Awards on Saturday; and

Whereas the Cape Breton Post captured an Atlantic Journalism Award for its comprehensive coverage of the closure, under deadline pressure May 16, 2001, when the federal government announced plans to close the Prince Mine at Point Aconi; and

Whereas shared by the entire news department, the award was accepted by reporters Wes Stewart, Greg McNeil, and Chris Hayes;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Cape Breton Post on winning an Atlantic Journalism Award, and wish them continued success.

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 Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3721

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

[Page 9661]

Whereas an artistic collage created by a group of students from Park West School has won the honour of making the cover of a new book, Touched by the Titanic; and

Whereas this book is the brainchild of the Belfast City Council and commemorates the Titanic by connecting with children in three cities which featured in the ship's tragic story - Belfast, where the RMS Titanic was built 90 years ago; Cohb, its last port of call; and Halifax, which was integral to the rescue efforts; and

Whereas more than 1,000 students from several local schools participated in the Titanic Schools Initiative and undertook research of the ship's history prior to sending any submissions to the Irish judges;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend all participating students and congratulate the students from Park West School on the honour of having their collage featured on the cover of Touched by the Titanic.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3722

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

Whereas Sunday, May 5th, marked the annual memorial service for veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic; and

Whereas for many this is a day of great anguish as well as great pride, for in defeating the U-boat menace in the North Atlantic many veterans lost friends and family; and

Whereas the Army Navy Air Force Unit 217 vets in New Waterford received a large and respectful turnout for their memorial service on Sunday;

[Page 9662]

Therefore be it resolved that this House salute New Waterford's Army Navy Air Force Unit 217 vets of the Battle of the Atlantic with thanks that they now sail in calmer seas.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3723

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

Whereas this month has been designated National Physiotherapists Month; and

Whereas the theme of the month, Spring Into Action 2002 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. Honourable member for Dartmouth East, start over please.

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

Whereas this month has been designated National Physiotherapists Month; and

Whereas the theme of the month, Spring Into Action 2002, means that physiotherapists across the country will be informing the public about how to safely spring into action this gardening season; and

Whereas physiotherapy is the health care profession dedicated to enhancing and restoring mobility;

[Page 9663]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize this month as National Physiotherapists Month and realize the role physiotherapists play in health promotion and injury prevention as members of the health care team.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3724

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

Whereas the Bear Falls River Race 2002 invites challengers to test their skill and endurance in water and on land in an event which will become one of the most unique wilderness races in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the Medway River, where kayak and canoe enthusiasts will gather later this month to take part in team and individual triathlon races, boasts a Level 4 rating in the whitewater, which is quite rare in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas organizers, Y2 canoes, and Tim Conrad of Ripple Connection Promotions, are planning for 60 participants in this inaugural event, with the whitewater of the Mersey River providing a perfect backdrop for this outdoor challenge;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud River Race organizers on its upcoming event which promises to be an annual hit among canoe and kayak enthusiasts, Nova Scotians and visitors alike.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9664]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3725

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

Whereas Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario have passed up numerous chances to amend child welfare legislation, recognizing 16- and 17-year olds as children; and

Whereas, in 1991, Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which defines children as persons up to the age of 18 years; and

Whereas a recent study singles out Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Ontario for not complying with the UN Convention;

Therefore be it resolved that this House instruct the Minister of Community Services to introduce new legislation that will comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and protect children up to the age of 18 under child welfare legislation.

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 Dartmouth East.

[Page 9665]

RESOLUTION NO. 3726

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 February 28, 2002, 10 awards were handed out to Nova Scotians for their leadership in women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Dr. Patricia Beresford was recognized for her promotion of preventive medicine since the 1970s, especially in her understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome, environmental illness, and health and wellness programs; and

Whereas the awards were presented by the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Dr. Patricia Beresford and all other award recipients for their many contributions to women's health and recognize them as women's health leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 3727

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would mention that probably the honourable members for Preston and Timberlea-Prospect would be interested in this resolution. I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Delta Airlines Inc., a Delaware corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the largest United States airline in terms of aircraft departures annually; and

[Page 9666]

Whereas Delta Airlines has just increased those departures by announcing they will fly three daily round-trip flights between Halifax International and Logan International Airport in Boston, Delta's convenient gateway destination; and

Whereas the three Delta flights and the airline's operation from Halifax International Airport is a result of joint efforts between the Greater Halifax Partnership, the provincial Department of Tourism and Culture and the local business community;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly applaud the efforts undertaken to bring Delta Airlines to Halifax, which will enhance the growth of business between Atlantic Canada and the New England market.

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. 3728

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

Whereas radio station CKDH in Amherst reported yesterday that Cumberland South Tory MLA Murray Scott admits that he is not comfortable with the provincial government's proposed legislation to protect waterfront homeowners from sky-rocketing property taxes; and

Whereas no voice has yet to be heard in support of this government's misconceived legislation; and

Whereas Nova Scotians waited almost six months for a proper solution to this problem and this government hasn't given them one;

[Page 9667]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations clean out his ears and respond to the concerns about the lack of a fair policy on waterfront assessments that are being raised by his own caucus, property owners and municipalities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3729

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

Whereas in a world characterized by rapid change, the capacity to learn is central to economic success; and

Whereas in 1999, research and development spending in Atlantic Canada represented just 4 per cent of Canada's total; and

Whereas in that same time period, Nova Scotia itself ranked among the top provinces in research and development spending;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage and support strong investment in research and development necessary for increasing Nova Scotia's capacity for success in the knowledge economy.

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.

[Page 9668]

RESOLUTION NO. 3730

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

Whereas the Grade 12 art class at J.L. Ilsley High School in Spryfield have worked long and hard to create an imaginative and colourful work of art; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas this artwork sprang out of the students' study of shorelines and ranges from Adam and Eve's sandals to adorned brogues; and

Whereas their work has been described as whimsical, beautiful and shimmering and graces the walls of the Economy Shoe Shop;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate students of the Grade 12 art class of J.L. Ilsley High School and art teacher Bonnie Alders for their innovative and successful production of artwork.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3731

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

Whereas asthma has increased in Nova Scotia at an alarming rate of over 500 per cent since the 1970s, with recent research implicating indoor air quality as a leading trigger of asthma attacks; and

[Page 9669]

Whereas May 7th is World Asthma Day; and

Whereas organizations in countries throughout the world are working together to develop special activities to increase public awareness of the seriousness of asthma and the actions they can take to improve asthma care and management;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature work together to ensure that Nova Scotia's air is clean enough for everyone to be able to breathe and commend the Lung Association of Nova Scotia for its work in helping to make life easier for people suffering from asthma.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

EDUC. - TWO-TIERED SYSTEM: CREATION - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The warden of Pictou County has expressed grave concern that this government is creating a two-tiered education system by lowering the design requirements for provincially-funded schools. The best schools with adequate gyms and cafeterias will be in those municipalities that are willing and able to pay for them. Poorer areas will have poorer schools. So my question is simple, why is the Minister of Education introducing a two-tiered education system?

[Page 9670]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the member opposite is not advocating a return to P3, but I would remind the members that when we came to office we promised that we would stop building palaces and that we would have clear design standards for schools and we do, indeed, have that. We have adopted new design standards. They are not as rich as the P3 standards, but they are very good.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education should talk to the Premier. The Premier thinks there's a two-tiered system. While recovering from surgery, the Premier twisted the arm of the warden and every mayor to get local taxes raised to pay for proper gyms and cafeterias in Pictou County's new high schools. He said: I certainly was lobbying to make sure that young people in Pictou County have the same types of schools that I see in other communities. If the Premier, himself, says that the Conservative Government schools are not good enough for Pictou County, why won't the Minister of Education end her experiment with a two-tiered education system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the process is quite clear for those people involved. But for those not, perhaps I could explain. There are standard classroom spaces and there are standard size gymnasiums, standard size cafeterias, depending upon whether it's an elementary, junior or senior high and how many children are in the school. If the community wishes to pay for an enhancement to a school, it is quite free to do so. But for community enhancements, the Education Department will no longer be responsible. The community may add to its school if it wishes.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what you just heard was a complete endorsement of a two-tiered building scheme for education in this province. As they said in Pictou County, the students living in rich communities will have wonderful schools, and students living in poor communities will get something significantly less. This is a two-tiered policy. It's another unfair download on rural communities. It's an unfair download on pensioners who are trying to maintain their own homes. That's why they want the assessment bill that they have. My question for the minister is this, what does the minister say to families and homeowners in poorer areas who feel that their young people deserve the same as everyone else?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the educational program requirements of schools, in terms of gymnasiums and everything else that's in a school, all communities will receive the same.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - FRENCH IMMERSION PROG. COMM.:

ESTABLISHMENT - PURPOSE EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, parents and children are distressed over the Halifax Regional School Board's decision to close École Beaufort and relocate the 320

[Page 9671]

children to three different area schools. Some of these children will experience relocation to five different schools in the French Immersion Program, that is, if they and their parents choose to continue the program despite the inconvenience that has been caused with this closure. Parents have clearly lost faith in the Minister of Education, who also happens to be the local MLA, and this government. As a result, they are now seeking assistance from the federal government to resolve this issue.

My question to the Minister of Education is, can the minister explain the purpose of establishing a committee that will explore the French Immersion Program in Halifax when it has been ordered not to examine the decision by the Halifax Regional School Board to close the only single-track French immersion school in Halifax, which is École Beaufort?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the committee, as was clear from the press release, is to examine precisely the kinds of issues that the member opposite brought up at the beginning of his question, and those are, does it affect the delivery of the program to have children moved as often as they are, is the present way of delivering French immersion in the Halifax Regional School Board the best way or is there a better way? That is the whole purpose of the committee. The purpose of the committee is not to examine a school closure that is clearly within the purview of the Halifax Regional School Board.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, French immersion students in Grade Primary at École Beaufort will most likely live in the same house during their school years, yet they may end up attending three to five different schools before they actually graduate from the French Immersion Program. The Halifax Regional School Board has made a decision to juggle French immersion students from school to school in order to meet a directive of the minister's department to fill classrooms with "disposable" students at schools with decreasing enrolments. My question to the minister is, does this Minister of Education agree that the decision made by the Halifax Regional School Board - or any other school board, for that matter - to treat the students at École Beaufort in this manner should be authorized by the Department of Education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I think that it should be clear from the issues that have been brought up to do with what's happening to the kids after the closure of École Beaufort and to kids out in Park West School and that part of Halifax that people in the department are, in fact, concerned about French immersion in Halifax. That's precisely why we have the committee.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if this minister is concerned about French immersion, she will use her authority immediately to put a stay to the decision to close École Beaufort until that review is completed. To do a review through a committee to see if there's anything wrong and to allow a closure to take place before you do that review is completely incomprehensible. The French Immersion Program is unique in this province because it gets funding directly from the federal government. As a result, the Minister of Education clearly

[Page 9672]

has a role to play in ensuring that the money is properly spent and the program is properly carried out. My final supplementary to the minister is, will the minister finally act on the serious breaches to the Education Act that have been brought forward by her own constituents and order a stay in the decision to close École Beaufort until a thorough review of French Immersion Programs in Halifax is complete?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can but repeat that the whole issue of whether or not the public school program is being carried out properly in the Halifax Regional School Board is the whole point of the committee. We do have lots of courses in schools, French immersion being one of them, but maybe we could invent remedial listening for the member opposite.

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

JUSTICE - ELIZABETH FRY SOC. (C.B.): OPERATION - ENSURE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton serves women in trouble with the law and at risk of being in trouble with the law. In 2001, the Cape Breton Elizabeth Fry Society made over 6,000 contacts and serviced over 800 women in that community. But that work and its 28-year history are in jeopardy due to a $64,000 cut from the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia. My question to the Minister of Justice is, what is his department willing to do to help the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton so that they can keep their doors open?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The Elizabeth Fry Society certainly does valuable work. All I can indicate to the honourable member is that the changes at the Elizabeth Fry Society are not as a result of any cut in provincial funding; they were as a result of funding from another source over which the government obviously has no control.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Elizabeth Fry Society in Cape Breton gets $10,000 from the Department of Justice. That is less than 10 per cent of its entire annual budget. The Law Foundation money will be gone in 2003 and the women of Cape Breton need this valuable service. So I ask the minister, what alternative programs does his department have in place if the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton has to close its doors?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in the event that the Elizabeth Fry Society does decide to close its doors, the Department of Justice will obviously look at picking up the portions of the programming that it feels are beneficial to the province.

MR. DEVEAUX: Here's the rub, Mr. Speaker. The $64,000 that this government could replace, the money the Law Foundation is taking out, would be a bargain because that $64,000 invested in the Elizabeth Fry Society could save hundreds of thousands of dollars

[Page 9673]

that this government would have to spend on housing women in jails because they haven't had the services of the Elizabeth Fry Society help them stay out of jail. My question to the Minister of Justice is, why is his department abandoning front-line crime prevention services like the Elizabeth Fry Society in Cape Breton instead of making sure that that money is put into those front-line services?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we have not abandoned the Elizabeth Fry Society. Our commitment remains unchanged to that society. We will continue to fund them for the amount that we have funded them consistently over the past number of years. My problem is that they will obviously have to look for other funding sources, which I'm sure they will pursue.

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

FIN.: TAX CUT - IMPLICATIONS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The Finance Minister is still holding out hope that there will be a tax cut next year of 10 per cent across the board for Nova Scotians. Even though Nova Scotians have been asked to dig deeper into their pockets every year, the government still has that commitment to Nova Scotians on the table. I would like to ask the minister, will the minister table in the House any information prepared by his department that would outline what his tax cut would mean for average Nova Scotians?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I refer to the member's question in regard to that there is a commitment to give tax relief to Nova Scotians next year. It was part of the platform last year. The fact of the matter is that as we move forward in our budget preparation, we will prepare our budget for next year, but I want to point out to the member opposite that we said we will do this one year at a time and one commitment we made to Nova Scotians is that anything we would do into the future would not put this provincial government's budget into a deficit position.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, since the minister is obviously backing down from his original commitment and refuses to table any information, I will table it for him. It's on the government Web site, what this means to average Nova Scotians. So I would like to table this information for the benefit of the House. If this promise is still on, Mr. Minister, then surely you must have some idea what it means to Nova Scotians. We do, I just tabled what it means to Nova Scotians. For example, by taking information readily available or the Finance Web site - which I have just tabled - one would figure out that a 10 per cent tax cut for a single person making $40,000 a year would mean a tax savings of $350

[Page 9674]

per year or about 96 cents a day. Nonetheless, the government has promised a tax cut. Will the minister guarantee the promised 10 per cent tax cut will be implemented next year?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the member opposite is like the member for Richmond - he needs a course in remedial listening. I want to point out that I have stated that our commitment was to give tax relief in year four. The fact of the matter, the reason that we're talking about giving tax relief in year four was to make this province competitive with other provinces. We, as a government, came forward with a plan to eliminate the deficit. That in itself is one measure that we promised, but we did deliver on. The second one is regarding tax relief.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what the minister needs is a lesson in knowing what's on his own financial Web site. That's what that minister needs. I might remind Nova Scotians that this minister promised a 10 per cent tax increase and this minister, also known as the Sheriff of Nottingham, along with his boss, Prince John, has picked the pockets of every single Nova Scotian this year in trying to put a balanced budget together on the backs of the workers of this province. That's what they're trying to do, and it's still not even balanced because they borrowed $100 million to boot. My final supplementary to the minister is, why won't the minister simply calculate what the tax cut means and what are you giving back to Nova Scotians next year?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, what we're giving to Nova Scotians next year is a future, something that that member, when he was a member on this side, gave them nothing. When we took office we faced a $500 million deficit, while the previous Minister of Finance stated in this House he had $1.5 million surplus. We gave them the truth, something that member knows absolutely nothing about.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - VIOLENCE IN WORKPLACE LEG.:

ENACTMENT - DETAILS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Yesterday, the parents of 19-year-old Yancy Meyer were in this House and talked about the tragedy they lived through, the nightmare a few of us can imagine with the death of their young son Yancy at the hands of a robber. The Meyers spoke out about the need to protect people like their son Yancy who work alone late at night without the necessary security and protection. So, Mr. Minister, the answer to this question is clearly in your hands. Why has your government failed to enact violence-in-the-workplace regulations?

[Page 9675]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I would point out that those workplace regulations have undergone considerable scrutiny on the part of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council. As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, in fact, those have now come back from the council. They are in the department looking for a final review and I'm looking forward to the department's comments.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, those regulations are too late for Yancy Meyer, but they're not too late for other workers who work alone in small convenience stores. I may add, convenience stores that this government saw fit to sell booze from in rural areas where these people often work alone late at night. Many governments have dragged their feet on these regulations and this Tory Government seems to be continuing that same sorry legacy. Last week, the Legislature unanimously called upon the government to enact violence-in-the workplace regulations. Why have those anti-violence regulations not been adopted?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would point out that we're moving ahead with this. There are currently the general regulations which are in place, but indeed, the violence-in -the workplace regulations would enhance them. We're going through a consultative process and we think it's very important to include Nova Scotians in any decision that's made by government.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it's been a hallmark of these Liberal and Tory Governments when it comes to protecting workers in the workplace, is non-existent. These governments have failed workers time and time again, and it will be the 10th Anniversary of Westray. I think it would have been a show of good faith from this government had they come forward with these this week at least to show some semblance of moving forward and protecting workers when they go to work. This government has made a calculation, a political calculation, that they believe business interests are more important than workers' interests. So, what will it take before this minister, this government, find the wherewithal to go ahead, proclaim these long-delayed regulations to combat workplace violence? When will you do that, minister?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that this government has taken significant steps in the area of workplace safety. In the Occupational Health and Safety division, one would find that we have significantly more inspectors today than we had just a few years ago. They're doing significantly more inspections, there are significantly more orders being issued by the department and, indeed, the convictions ratio, percentage, the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MORSE: Successful convictions are up from 44 per cent to 83 per cent. I think there are a lot of good things that are happening with this government in Occupational Health and Safety.

[Page 9676]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CAREGIVERS: TAX INCENTIVES - DETAILS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In the Tory blue book it was promised that generous tax incentives would be provided to family caregivers who stay at home to care for a family member who would otherwise be classified as a candidate for a long-term care facility. I would like to table that document. This promise was to be enacted for year two of the government's mandate. Could the minister explain to family caregivers why this promise has not been met?

HON. JAMES MUIR: One of the things that we discovered when we assumed office was that there was a wide variety of conditions and standards of what would be acceptable or deemed as medical situations eligible for home care. One of the things that we have done in the initial stage of our office is to try and really find out what existed out there and then bring some sort of standardization across the province. Once that has been completed, we will be able to move forward with the rest of the plan.

DR. SMITH: They've had over 900 days to study the matter. I wonder when we will be hearing? It says very clearly, Mr. Speaker, in the blue book, that this promise would not cost any money because of the savings that would be realized by keeping people out of long-term care beds. Family care givers deserve a break and they deserve a reward for saving the health care system money. The minister has a moral obligation to live up to that commitment. My question to the minister, why is the minister avoiding a commitment that was clearly made during the last election over 900 days ago?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to just begin to say that I recognize the tremendous contributions of family members and other loved ones that care for people who need care in their own homes. I would also say - and I have said this during the debate on the estimates and in response to other questions in the House - that we are in the business of reinstating the in-home support program which is also part of the issue which the honourable member mentions.

DR. SMITH: I don't think that's good enough and we will come back another day when we have more time. It is an important issue, it's not only that it's not enhancing the program, the minister is dismantling the program and it's happening out there in family homes, homes that we all have visited during our travels.

As I said before, Mr. Speaker, this minister has been in government for over 900 days and had a long time to plan for this, and this was a clear commitment written down in the blue book. My final supplementary to the minister is, why has the minister reneged - tell us why - on his Party's commitment to families in need of assistance?

[Page 9677]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I mentioned in the answer to the first supplementary, both in-home care and, indeed, in the situation leading into long-term care there is a tremendous discrepancy in the conditions by which people might be admitted to one or the other across the province. Our first two years-plus have been devoted to trying, basically, to find out what was out there and introduce some province-wide standards. Once that task has been completed, then we will be able to move forward with the rest of the strategy.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

HEALTH: AMBULANCE FEES - FAIRNESS

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, for the Minister of Health I have yet another example of the unreasonable way in which ambulance fees are charged in this province. Jennifer Pucher was in a car accident recently while travelling in Sydney. Unfortunately, she was injured, an ambulance was called to the scene, and she was charged $500 to be transported to the hospital located less than five minutes up the same street where her accident took place. I would like to ask the Minister of Health, in what way is it fair to charge $500 for a five-minute ambulance ride?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on individual cases, but I will reiterate what the external evaluator said, that the way ambulance fees are established in this province are reasonable and they're fair. I should also like to remind the honourable member that I suppose if you wanted a reverse argument, is it fair that somebody who gets transported from Sydney to Halifax, from the hospital in Sydney to the hospital in Halifax, doesn't get charged at all?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, since the province is determined to force accident victims to pay $500 for medical care, the story doesn't seem unusual until you realize that the vehicle that struck Ms. Pucher's car was an ambulance. In spite of that she was still charged the $500 fee for her quick trip to the regional hospital. My question to the Minister of Health is, how fair is it for someone to be injured by an ambulance and then to be charged $500 to take another ambulance to the hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm not so sure whether if you have your vehicle insured or if a vehicle is insured, some other vehicle, they make much of a discrimination whether you get hit by an ambulance or a Volkswagen or a 22-wheeler, I don't understand the question.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it's very simple. Charging an accident victim $500 after she was in a collision with an ambulance is the most literal case of adding insult to injury. It isn't fair, it isn't reasonable, but this minister and the Department of Health don't want to listen. My question to the minister is, when will the Minister of Health start listening and acknowledge that the system of ambulance fees in Nova Scotia needs radical surgery?

[Page 9678]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have an extremely high-quality ground ambulance service here in Nova Scotia. On the instruction of the Auditor General, and according to our blue book promise, we had the fees examined externally and they were found to be very satisfactory. I don't know the characteristic of the NDP, but we have two ambulance chasers on that side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NSLC - PRES.: EMPLOYMENT HISTORY - DETAILS

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. The newly appointed president of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation has a background in retail pharmacy operation and in an oil company. He also worked with a co-operative in his native Alberta. My question to the minister today is, could the minister enlighten the House as to what pharmacy chain the new president of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation used to work for?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I understand, the gentleman worked with Drug Trading Company Limited, an independent pharmacy network operating under Guardian, IDA and the pharmacist banners.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary. The new president also has a Bachelor of Environmental Science and an honours Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources and Marketing from the University of Waterloo on top of his experiences. While Mr. Barker has solid education and experience, I believe the new president isn't exactly unique. In this day and age, many Nova Scotians have bachelor's degrees and a background in retail sales. Could the minister explain to the House why the new president is so unique that a person of similar quality couldn't be found in Nova Scotia?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the member is that a national search was held. The board came forward with this name and felt he was the best-qualified individual. I agree with that. We agree as a government. I'm sure that Mr. Barker will serve this province well in his new capacity and will also do a great deal for Nova Scotia in his new capacity.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, according to the 1996 Statistics Canada survey, 58,000 Nova Scotians have bachelor's degrees while another 23,000 have an education beyond a bachelor's degree. My question to the minister is, with so many well-educated Nova Scotians, what is so special about the new president of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation that makes him better qualified than similarly-educated Nova Scotians?

[Page 9679]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, a national search was held. The board put forward this name. We feel this individual is the best qualified for this position. The revenues generated from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation are very important for education, health care, roads and a number of other areas in this province. Indeed, this individual is very qualified. I don't know if the Liberal Party is suggesting that we should never hire anybody outside the province; perhaps that's what they're saying. Perhaps they have no faith in anybody else. I don't know. I can tell you that this individual is very well qualified. (Interruptions) I hear the chitter-chatter on the other side of the House, and I won't let that bother me, because this individual is qualified.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

PSC: CSC - WOMEN'S INEQUALITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of the Public Service Commission. Over the past few weeks, we have shown that inequality plagues the Civil Service in the areas of race and age, but gender inequality is also rampant. Demographics from 1998 to 2001 show that men still earn considerably more than women. Last year, in the under $30,000 per year range, 85 per cent of persons earning that category were women, but in the over $55,000 per year range, 71 percent were men. My question for the Minister of the Public Service Commission is simply, why has your government allowed women's inequality to continue in the Civil Service in Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the honourable member's question. We have much to be proud of in Nova Scotia with respect to our ability to promote women in the workplace. We have a very proactive policy in our Public Service Commission to encourage hiring based on affirmative action toward under-represented groups. The honourable member is trotting out the typical bunk, which suggests that we are in some way not being positive toward that, and it is simply not true.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the figures show that 81 per cent of persons in the Civil Service between 1998 and 2000 were women, and that number has grown to 85 per cent. So the gender gap is actually growing in this province, not being reduced. Last year, the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women released a report that showed that men in management positions in the Civil Service are paid more than $6,000 a year annually than their female counterparts. My question to the minister is, why hasn't your government adequately addressed the issue of gender inequality in the Civil Service?

MR. BAKER: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is that we have addressed the gender - and, frankly, the honourable member is a good illustration of the famous axiom - there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

[Page 9680]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable Minister of Justice to rise and withdraw that comment, because even to use the word "lies" in this House is unparliamentary, as I have ruled on past occasions . . .

MR. BAKER: Well, certainly I wasn't referring . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I understand that, but withdraw . . .

MR. BAKER: . . . I was just simply saying there was a phrase, but I will withdraw that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we know that most men employed by this government earn more than their female colleagues. What we need is a plan to improve equality that will get results. I will remind the Minister of Justice that even the Premier, when he hired his new assistant, increased that person's salary by $20,000 and considerably more benefits, and that was a man replacing a woman at the top of the apex in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: So, Mr. Speaker, time is running out for this government. I want to ask the minister, where is your plan to improve the inequality of women in your employ in this government?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we do have a plan, we are operating the plan, and we will continue to assure that Nova Scotia has a welcoming workplace for all Nova Scotians even though the honourable member wouldn't want to hear that in any event.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH - STRAIT-RICHMOND HOSP.:

EMERGENCY RM. - FUNDING

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the irony of the fact that this is Emergency Preparedness Week has not been lost on the residents of the Strait area, or Glace Bay, because once again their emergency rooms were manned by ambulances rather than emergency room doctors again this past weekend. In fact, the district health board has advised residents of the Strait area that the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital will remain closed during the daytime and weekends until further notice.

Mr. Speaker, the residents of Richmond County and the Strait area have simply lost patience with this government's inability to meet their basic health care needs. My question to the Minister of Health, as a result of the fact that this government's current strategy in

[Page 9681]

regard to the Strait-Richmond Hospital has clearly failed, will the minister commit to a new funding formula for the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate that the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital has been shut down. It's not shut down because of lack of money. It's shut down because of lack of physicians.

MR. SAMSON: Once again, Mr. Speaker, as I've told other ministers, if this minister sticks his head any further into the sand, we can only hope that he hits something useful and hopefully hits oil rather than hit solid granite because, at this point in time, this minister and the rest of this government are certainly more pleased sticking their head in the sand than dealing with the life issues facing Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, this is the government that told Nova Scotians in 1999 that they had a plan for health care in this province. Although the government keeps pumping more money into the health care budget, we continually hear of emergency room closures, especially in the Cape Breton area. My question again to the minister, is it this government's policy that emergency rooms throughout this province and at the Strait-Richmond Hospital will be replaced with ambulances?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if the emergency rooms are to be closed because of a lack of physicians, one thing Nova Scotians can be very reassured about is the quality of the ground ambulance service that will be there to serve them. This government has been the second best recruiter of physicians in Canada during the past two and a half years. Unfortunately, there are some areas, while we've been able to recruit physicians there, for one reason or another, they chose not to stay, and such was the case of the recently recruited person to the Strait-Richmond area who left because his wife decided to go to school someplace else.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows well from doctors in the area, from his own staff, that the major issue at the Strait-Richmond Hospital is funding. Maybe it wasn't for the last doctor, but it's been for those there before that. He knows that. He's admitted that here in this House. Why he continues to deny it and does nothing about it is baffling, not only to me, but to all those who rely on that hospital. The continual uncertainty around the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital is placing great strain on our local physicians and the St. Anne Community & Nursing Care Centre, which has been forced to pick up the emergencies that can no longer be handled at the Strait-Richmond Hospital. Nova Scotians elected this government on a promise to fix our health care system. My final supplementary is to the Premier. Mr. Premier, is this the quality health care system you promised Nova Scotians?

[Page 9682]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Strait-Richmond Hospital I know well. It was built to satisfy political needs rather than health needs and that is the reason why that hospital has had difficulty ever since it was opened.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - FEES/WAGES: N.B./N.S. - FAIRNESS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is apparently to the Acting Premier and to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. You know, this government raised fees for licensing and registering trucks in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Finance informed the Truckers Association that he and his colleagues raised the fees to bring them in line with those charged in neighbouring New Brunswick. But that province pays truckers 29 per cent more on ton mile work and $12 an hour more on the tandem hourly rate. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, how can your government decide it's fair to charge the same fees as New Brunswick while paying truckers so much less for their work in Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of differences in rates paid to various professions and occupations between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as there is between British Columbia and Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. In point of fact, the rates that the honourable member is quoting are very selective. Some rates are higher, some rates are lower. Certainly, Nova Scotia is competitive.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the Truckers Association of this province is looking for some straight answers. I want to table a May 3rd letter from the Truckers Association to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The association wants to meet with the minister right away to discuss this matter, but the Minister of Transportation and Public Works says he can't meet with them until the end of June. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, why are you waiting six weeks to meet with the truckers to explain why your government charges them so much in fees while paying them so much less for their services? Six weeks is a long time to wait.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the date that we're meeting with the Truckers Association is in June. It is not necessarily at the end of June. As a matter of fact, I believe that there were some discussions just a couple of days ago between my department and the Truckers Association and it was agreed that there would be a date, but it would be around June 10th, I believe. Secondly, the matter of meeting with the Truckers Association requires that we do some research on the rates that are charged on various types of delivery, whether it be asphalt or gravel or sand or salt, etc cetera, between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Province of New Brunswick because that forms the basis of the claims made by TANS.

[Page 9683]

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. ESTABROOKS: So the truckers have got to wait - according to my quick arithmetic here - 34 days for some straight answers. I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works if he will table his schedule for the next 34 days to prove that he doesn't have a spare hour or, better still, I will book the Uniacke Room, they'll come here and we'll give them an hour right here in the House - wouldn't that be fair, so these truckers could have straight answers on this issue?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the truckers will get direct and fair answers.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - REAL ESTATE SIGNS:

REMOVAL - EXPLAIN

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, this one relating to real estate signs which employees of the department have been removing from departmental property along the highways. These are directional signs pointing to where a property that is for sale is actually located. Now rural areas are often difficult places in which to find homes that are for sale, and without directional signs the property owner might never be able to sell because individuals won't know how to find the property or even know that it's for sale. My information is that if these types of signs are not permitted, homeowners will not be able to sell their properties. Therefore my question to the minister is, can the minister inform the House why his department's employees have been taking down real estate directional signs pointing prospective home buyers in the right direction?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that's a very good question from the member for Cape Breton Nova. In point of fact, what he is stating is true and it has resulted in a meeting being arranged between the Real Estate Association of Nova Scotia, the Department of Tourism and Culture, and the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I believe that meeting is for next week, or the week after.

MR. MACEWAN: I'm glad to hear that; perhaps the truckers can get their meeting, too.

My next question is also to the minister. It involves Sections 48 and 49 of the Public Highways Act, which states that advertising signs are not permitted on the department's controlled access highways, but the minister's department is tearing down directional signs, not advertising signs - that's the distinction. My question is, and perhaps this could be

[Page 9684]

addressed at the upcoming meeting, why would the department be taking down directional signs when the legislation refers to another type of sign, not that type?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that in the broad sense these are actually advertising signs because they are providing direction to a property that's for sale and certainly the Act does state that those signs will be removed; however, that matter will be discussed, as I say, at an upcoming meeting with the Real Estate Association of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my final point is that these signs are temporary and once the property is sold, they come down immediately.

AN HON. MEMBER: Something like election signs.

MR. MACEWAN: Something like election signs, exactly.

Directional real estate signs lead buyers to homes. The intent is not necessarily to advertise but to point out where the home that is for sale is located. My question, therefore, would be how the taking down of directional signs would allow rural Nova Scotians to sell their property if they are not able to let potential buyers know where the property is located?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact the honourable member opposite made reference to election signs and there was a stipulation within the regulations relating to signs of a temporary nature such as political signs and real estate signs. I haven't had any complaints so far, I don't believe, from the political Parties but certainly (Interruptions) I'm getting all kinds of advice here, but certainly the matter of real estate signs will be looked into. We do not intend to be an impediment to the sale of real estate in Nova Scotia.

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

HEALTH - NEW WATERFORD HOSP.:

EMERGENCY RM. - PLANS PUBLICIZE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: The community of New Waterford continues to live with the uncertainty surrounding the potential closure of the services in the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital's emergency room. In spite of several pleas for the Cape Breton District Health Authority to call a second public meeting, these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, the DHA refused to give out contact information for members of its board or the names of those who are on the committee making the decision around the closure of hours at the New Waterford emergency department. So I want to ask the minister, why is the decision-making process over the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital's emergency room such a huge secret?

[Page 9685]

HON. JAMES MUIR: I know that there was a Murray report talking about emergency services and the cost to the Cape Breton District Health Authority. Once the board received that, they went out and met with communities, including people in New Waterford. There is also a meeting scheduled, I believe in the next week or so - I can't give the exact date - where members of the community are welcome to come and present their views. The board has simply asked that they would know in advance and receive copies of presentations in advance. I expect that meeting is well in hand.

MR. CORBETT: That minister knows full well that that's the regular board meeting and it's not a public meeting with the people of the Town of New Waterford. He knows that full well; he knows that there are parameters put around that, as are put around most board meetings, that won't allow many residents to speak and have a say on this. Clearly, the chairman of the DHA told those people at the last public meeting that before anything was done, they would come back and have more public consultation. So, after that, it's anyone's guess what's going to happen in the Town of New Waterford. We know June is the drop dead date, if you will. We don't know what date they're going to pick. So I ask the Minister of Health, why have the citizens of New Waterford who use that emergency room been left outside of that decision-making process? Why don't you allow them inside to make that decision?

MR. MUIR: The decision-making around emergency rooms in the Cape Breton District Health Authority is a matter for those responsible for that authority. They have conducted, in my view, a very open process and the people of New Waterford have had the opportunity and, again, will have an additional opportunity to give input to the board before any decision is made.

MR. CORBETT: That minister knows that's not accurate. The residents of that town need and require a full-time emergency room. It's not a matter, as he answered in a previous question, of doctor shortages, so therefore, to use his own words, it's obviously funding from the Department of Health that's causing the closure of that emergency facility. To the Minister of Health, why won't he commit here and now to working with the DHA and the doctors to keep the emergency room at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital open 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Will you make that commitment, Mr. Minister?

MR. MUIR: The Cape Breton District Health Authority does a very fine job of running its own affairs. Clearly it is responsible for services to all of the residents served by facilities in that health authority, and it will make decisions in the best interests of all residents.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - LANDFILL (OLD GUYSBOROUGH RD.):

APPLICATION - DENY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. This time last year the contractor for the Old Guysborough Road landfill site was not in compliance with the regulations set down by his department, the Department of Environment and Labour. The minister went on to say that we will continue to work in conjunction with the community and the operator to see that it is brought completely into compliance. In other words, it wasn't in compliance. I think the residents of the Goffs area would agree that a year is long enough to bring everything up to proper regulation. My question to the minister, will the minister ensure the residents of Goffs that his department will not approve the proponent's application? (Interruptions) Goffs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West on his question. (Interruption)

MR. MACKINNON: I know exactly where it's at. I've been there. Mr. Speaker, will the minister ensure that his department will not approve the proponent's applications for a similar dumping site until all the problems of the Antrim site are completely corrected?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I would suggest to the member opposite that each application that comes forward is considered on its own merits. There are certain criteria and guidelines that are outlined and what the department ensures is that they meet those guidelines and if there are concerns, terms and conditions are put in to address them.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, when I raised this this time last year, the minister conceded that the proponent that we now have before us was not following the regulations. In fact, I know I'm not allowed to use this prop, but that's the ooze that's still on and about that site. Perhaps the honourable member for beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would be familiar with that. My question to the minister is, will the minister table all departmental reports and documentation that have been accumulated on the proponents previous remediation site, that's the Antrim site, so that the residents will be able to assess for themselves as to whether their well water, lakes, streams and the air were completely safe from harmful contaminants during the previous C&D operation?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite and indeed the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley both have an interest in this, as the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is in fact the member for that area and has brought this up to me on a number of occasions. I would be happy to endeavour to get those documents and table them for the benefit of the House.

[Page 9687]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, as well as myself, raised the issues with the minister but he's done absolutely nothing. He's done absolutely nothing and the residents are saying you've done absolutely nothing. Now you're sidestepping the fact that they want those pieces of documentation so they can ensure for their own protection and their own examination as to whether everything is on the up and up, although the evidence shows to the contrary. My question to the minister is, through you, Mr. Speaker, will the minister indicate where the compost and debris will come from that is contemplated to be dumped on this proposed Three Corners C&D site?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to correct the member opposite in that he seemed to have missed my second answer in that I would be pleased to table that information to him and he seemed to miss that in his response, although I thought it was fairly clear. As to any potential new C&D site, I think that we should go through the process and let HRM decide whether they want to zone it for that land use before we contemplate making any further decisions.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - ASSESS:

RESPONSIBILITY ABDICATION - EXPLAIN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As you well know, the assessment issue has not gone away, particularly for those Nova Scotians with coastal properties who are told by the minister that it's just a localized problem. Well, Nova Scotians now realize they have a whole new level of bureaucracy and a whole new method when they want fairness. They can't turn to this government and to this minister. My question to the minister is, why have you abdicated your responsibility and not addressed the crux issue of assessments that are not just simply based on one issue, real estate listings and market value?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. The facts are that I don't share the honourable member's assessment as to what the problem is. We do have a problem that's local to certain areas of the province and we've brought legislation that will deal with that.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Let me tell the minister, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians from one end of this province, from the Bras d'Or Lakes to Cumberland County to the South Shore to Terence Bay, share a continuing concern. Speculators continue to have their way by purchasing properties, subdividing the land, making huge profits, driving up the assessments and running off with the money. Henrich Tuttle of Private Dream Estate has taken the money and run because of developments such as on Feltzen South, while local residents like the Wentzells have owned land there since the 1750s and now face huge

[Page 9688]

assessments. My question to the minister is, why have you shown no leadership to help out Nova Scotian families such as the Wentzells in Lunenburg County?

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to say to you and to the House through you that the matter we're dealing with here is one which relates to, for the most part, shore-front properties. It's a matter which is driven by the market, and the major participants in that market, over two-thirds of them, are Nova Scotians and fellow Canadians. As a result of that market, there have been increases in property values. For those citizens who wish not to be participants in the marketplace, we have brought forward legislation that would enable them to seek redress through their municipal council.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I've heard from the mayor of Mahone Bay, a fair teacher of the past, and I've heard from other municipal leaders who've commented on that piece of legislation. I want to know what the government is going to do to help the Rufus Coveys in Seabright, to help the Terry Jameses in Riverport, to help the Slaunwhite family in Terence Bay, to help Eric Creaser. What is the answer that this government is prepared to lend to Nova Scotians?

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, 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. 104.

Bill No. 104 - Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, can you tell me how much time I have left? (Interruptions) Okay, that's fine. For the record, that was quite a bit. I'm glad to have more opportunity to speak on this piece of legislation. Maybe because it's been a little over a week

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now since we spoke on it I might reiterate a couple of the points, without getting too redundant.

Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of legislation that really shuts the door on any independent analysis as to what our universities need with regard to funding. It wasn't that long ago, maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago that the Maritime Council on Higher Education used to provide solid, independent advice on how much funding our universities needed in order to provide adequate - not only adequate, but quality education, post-secondary programs for our students. The problem is that that committee was doing its job too well I gather, because the previous Tory Government, under then Premier Buchanan, used to see it as a thorn in their side because the commission was always making recommendations on an annual basis and the government would have to explain why they weren't funding to the point that the commission suggested they should.

A similar organization used to exist with regard to public schools, Mr. Speaker, Primary to Grade 12, and that was the school funding review committee, I think, I don't have the exact name. They, as well, used to provide a relatively independent analysis of how much funding was required. When this government came in, I believe they did away with that as well.

So, no longer, on a post-secondary level, do we have an organization that provides independent advice as to when and what our universities need. Mr. Speaker, that's a problem, because now more than ever, more than 10 years ago, more than 15 years ago, more than 20 years ago, our post-secondary institutions need an independent voice that can tell the government and can tell the public how much money should really be going in. We have a government here today that has not increased a single dime the funding to post-secondary institutions this year.

They know full well what that means, that means tuition increases. We see that. The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design went up 9.5 per cent; I believe the Atlantic School of Theology went up 10 per cent; Dalhousie has gone up 8 per cent. I might note that these are all in the Minister of Education's riding. UCCB has avoided a tuition increase only because they have a board that's actually fighting to ensure that the budget is reasonable for the people of that area. We have not heard from Acadia, we have not heard from Saint Mary's, we have not heard from St. F.X., but I assume their rates will be fairly high as well, all because this government has chronically underfunded post-secondary education and, until that stops, we are going to be slowly destroying our universities and this government seems to not care. With this legislation they are shutting the door on the last organization that was providing independent advice on how much money should go.

Now, let's be clear, 10 years ago this stopped on a de facto basis, Mr. Speaker. In fact, back 10 years ago the government, three governments - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. - made an agreement to at least change the rules with regard to how the commission

[Page 9690]

worked, and this legislation just puts the final nail in the coffin, results in confirmation of what has already been happening, that the commission will basically keep its mouth shut and not tell the provinces how it should spend money and, as a result I might note actually, interestingly enough, in those 10 years there used to be in the last 10 years I think the statistic is - or 11 years - tuition increased over 125 per cent.

Now, maybe that's just a coincidence or maybe there's a connection between having an independent voice on an annual basis reporting that they believe there should be more funding in post-secondary institutions, and the fact that our tuition rates we were able to keep down, and now in the last 10 years over a 125 per cent increase in tuition rates and the only independent voice we had, this commission, has been silenced, has been gagged. This piece of legislation is the final nail in the coffin. It basically rips apart any powers of independence that this organization had and basically makes them do what this government and the other two governments in the Maritime Provinces want them to do, Mr. Speaker.

That's a shame because our students, our youth, need an independent voice to talk about post-secondary education, because surely this government won't do it and we not only see it in tuition increases, we see it in infrastructure. We see the infrastructure of our schools collapsing. I think Dalhousie is probably the one with the biggest impact on that - again in the Minister of Education's own riding - but in many places as well we see the devastation in the infrastructure.

We see the devastation in our ability to keep professors. We recently had a month-long strike at Dalhousie over this very issue, and many people will tell you the real crux of the matter was funding, and funding comes from this government, Mr. Speaker, and its inability to provide adequate funding could be stopped if we had a commission like the one in place here now that provided independent advice, but instead we have a Minister of Education who is able to do what she wants without any independent voice of specialists who are able to tell them how much money should be going into post-secondary education. That's a shame. So our youth, our professors, our entire ability to become a prosperous province are at risk because of this piece of legislation.

Now, that may sound a bit grandiose, Mr. Speaker, but let's be clear. If we are to build a prosperous society, if we are to build a province that is a have province instead of a have-not province, it will only be done by providing the skills and the research that will be necessary to promote both good business practices in this province and a highly skilled workforce that can ensure that we are able to bring jobs here that are both long-term and well paid. That won't happen if our universities are unable to provide that kind of education to our children, to our youth, and that is what is happening now, because tuition rates are skyrocketing - I think the average will now go over $5,000 a year. We will again have a situation where professors will be demanding more funding. They want to stay here, but they're being forced away because of part-time or sessional work that doesn't enable them to raise a family, and that all ties back into funding.

[Page 9691]

We have buildings collapsing, we have buildings that are not working properly because this government has underfunded our post-secondary education; all of this, Mr. Speaker, because the one independent voice has been silenced and this legislation puts that nail in the coffin and puts to bed that independent voice. All of that is a shame. It's unfortunate and our education system, our economy, and our society will suffer for years and years to come. This may seem to some like this is just a simple administrative change that makes into law what has been happening in fact for 10 years, but, in fact, this is the final nail in the coffin of a time and an opportunity in which we used to properly fund our post-secondary institutions.

There was a time only 13 years ago, when I was graduating, it was $1,500 a year for tuition, and that was for law school. Now it's $5,200 just for an undergraduate degree, a B.A. You want a science degree, chalk on a few more hundred. You want a law degree or a medical degree chalk on thousands more. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not what's going to create a just and fair society. Education is a great equalizer in our society and post-secondary education is really where that equality can come into play, but it will not and cannot as long as we are asking our youth to have to pay - and their families, let's be clear - over $5,000 a year for tuition. It has become the venue of the rich, and the poor and the middle class no longer have that opportunity.

Let's be clear about the middle class as well, Mr. Speaker. I see many people in my riding, middle-class families, a good home, a good community, and they cannot afford to send their children to university either. Why? Well, they're asset-rich and cash-poor and our student loan system does not allow them or their children to be able to get the funding they need to be able to get student loans. They're mortgaging their futures in order to pay for an education that, in the end, given the quality, given the fact that with the lack of funding we are chasing away good professors, because they cannot get full-time work, they have to get sessional work, our whole system is falling apart.

That is what is wrong with this legislation. In some ways it is just administrative changes but in other ways, this is the final nail in the coffin with regard to ensuring we have an independent voice on how much money our post-secondary institutions need. As a result, we see the devastation that has occurred in the last 10 years. We will continue to see the devastation because this government has not the vision or the leadership to actually try to ensure that we are going to provide a decent level of post-secondary education for our children; not only for children but for adults who want to return to school, who want to get that education so that they can better themselves for them and their children and their grandchildren.

Mr. Speaker, all of these things are possible - they were possible; they were done 15 or 20 years ago when we had post-secondary institutions that were accessible. It is no longer possible and as a result this legislation is something that cannot be voted on, cannot be voted for because what it does, symbolically if nothing else, it puts the nail in the coffin of an independent voice on funding for our universities.

[Page 9692]

Mr. Speaker, on those short words I will sit down. I want to say that I can speak for much longer on this but I think it's important to give others a chance. This legislation puts to bed independent financial advice on how much our universities need. For that reason alone, whether it's symbolic or not, I know for one I can't support it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to be able to rise and speak on Bill No. 104, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act. It is one of the few opportunities that it appears we're going to have this session to be able to discuss at length some of the issues facing post-secondary education here in this province. Through Question Period and through the estimates debates, we have certainly spoken at length about some of the issues that are being faced by students in this province.

I hate to tell you, students are extremely disappointed with the Minister of Education; disappointed with the fact that the minister, when she sits around the Cabinet Table, is not very clear whether she recognizes that her goal there is to try to fight for students and to try to get more money out of the Finance Minister and to be able to address some of the concerns there. She appears to be more interested in being the chief apologist for the Finance Minister while he takes credit for changes in her department rather than being a strong advocate for students.

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely shameful a Minister of Education has had to stand in this House for two years now and say that she is going to deliver a loan remission program and has still failed to do so. How ironic, once again, to show the interference of the Minister of Finance; it is in his Budget Speech where he promises he will give a loan remission program and not the Minister of Education. Once again, maybe students should be asking that the Minister of Finance be appointed as Minister of Education but then again, based on his most recent budget, I don't think so. I don't think we want to go down that road.

[1:45 p.m.]

Where we are with our post-secondary education in this province is, I believe it is safe to say we're at a crossroads; we're at an important crossroads. It is seriously questionable whether the Minister of Education or whether the Cabinet, especially the ministers who have gone through university and, not wanting to remark on their age, but it's been a significant amount of time for most of them since they've gone to university except the Minister of Tourism & Culture and I question whether they have a good appreciation of the costs being faced by students today. It's absolutely impossible that they appreciate that and yet not want to take serious action to address it.

[Page 9693]

We have a Minister of Education who's happy to stick her head in the sand and is just as joyful as can be as tuition continues to skyrocket in this province and continues to throw her hands up and say, well, they're going to go up no matter what I do so I'm just going to watch them keep going up. Where is the leadership in that? Are students supposed to take comfort and say, wow, what a wonderful Minister of Education we have who's showing great leadership, great concern, who just flippantly continues to say tuition rates are going to increase anyway, so I don't care. Students care.

We have heard the stories of the days gone by where parents who had large families had to choose which one of the children was going to go to school, which one or two of the children go to school; we can only afford to send maybe one, maybe two. We must choose amongst our children which one we will send. History is repeating itself. Those days are here again. Students in this province who are going to student loans to fund their education are unable to pay for their basic education with the amount of student loans currently available in this province. Therefore, they must be getting financial support from their parents and if they do not have that, they cannot attend university in this province. That is the reality.

The minister knows that. She admitted again in estimates this year that because of certain commitments of funding she had to do on the student loan program, there is less money available to go to students for student loans. She admitted that. She knows that. She knows tuition rates are going up, yet the maximum allowable amount for student loans has not changed. How can the minister claim that she's being responsible when she sits idly by while tuition rates go up, the cost of education goes up, yet the amount of money available to students individually for student loans has not increased to reflect the increasing tuition rates? How can one possibly say we're being responsible when that is the scenario ?

That is not responsible. That is what is happening in this province. Students can no longer afford to attend university in our own province and that's an absolute shame and that will continue to be a disgraceful thing for the history books as to the record of this minister and this government that they have allowed that to happen.

When the Minister of Finance or the Premier or anyone else stands on their feet and talks about economic prosperity for this province, they are hollow words, hypocritical words, when one looks at what they are doing to our post-secondary education system in this province. This province will not achieve fiscal prosperity, will not achieve economic independence, will not achieve the bright future we all hope to see if we do not invest and ensure that our Nova Scotia students have a proper post-secondary education in this province. The minister knows that; she knows that. Yet, what is her answer? She does absolutely nothing.

[Page 9694]

Now, is this Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Bill - is that going to solve all the problems of the funding issues here in this province? Clearly, it isn't. My understanding is they are merely there to make suggestions, to be a watchdog, to look over and make some suggestions. At the end of the day, it still falls upon the minister.

When we were in government, with the challenges being faced by universities, I'm pleased that one of the programs we put in place was a three-year, $24 million investment for infrastructure and capital projects at our universities.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that universities in this province, for the most part, are older universities, older campuses and, as a result, older infrastructure. We invested that money directly into that infrastructure to address the needs of students and the needs of those universities. What did this government do? The minute that three-year program ended, this government failed to renew it. This government did absolutely nothing. Therefore, what have the universities done? They said, well, naturally, if that's the case for our infrastructure projects and our capital projects, the cost of that will be passed on to students through higher tuition. The minister knows that yet she sits by idly and does absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, if we even had a hint from this minister that she was actually sincerely concerned or sincerely interested in this issue, we might be able to take comfort in that, and then maybe we would blame the Minister of Finance and say that the Minister of Education is trying her best but the Minister of Finance just won't listen. I can tell you, as the Education Critic, as a recent graduate in the last number of years, and having talked to students in this province, that there certainly is not that level of comfort that we have a Minister of Education who is fighting and lobbying on those important issues. All we've heard from her in this House is her being a chief apologist for higher tuition rates, higher student debt loads and the absolute reluctance of our government to be willing to address any of these important issues.

Mr. Speaker, I would argue to you that in the Finance budget, if you want to look at who was the big loser out of the ministries, well, the big loser was the Minister of Education once again for not being able to address, two years consecutively, any of the issues faced by universities in this province. That is the reality; that is the cruel reality. How interesting it is to hear the minister talk about a remedial listening program. There's no one better than the Minister of Education to be the first to enrol in that program to listen to the concerns of those she swore an oath to represent. I would hope she remembers that oath she swore, because it's questionable every day in this House whether she is aware that she's actually supposed to be fighting for education, not being the chief apologist for this government.

Mr. Speaker, since this minister has been in the Department of Education, repeatedly students and university leaders have complained about vacancies on provincial boards where student representatives were to be appointed; vacancies were left for months and for years without being appointed. Continually, the minister was chastised and told to appoint these representatives, to have student voices on these boards, and continually the minister dragged

[Page 9695]

her feet and refused to do so. This commission will have representatives from the student body. Are we to expect the same tradition of indifference toward students on provincial bodies as we have seen from this minister in the past? What level of comfort do we have that the minister will act any differently with this commission than she has with the provincial boards here in this province? There is no level of comfort.

Mr. Speaker, I know that on second reading we are not to get into specific clauses, but the language in the bill continues to say that the minister may fill in a vacancy. Well, it shouldn't be may fill in a vacancy, it should say she must fill a vacancy. Clearly, if this government is committed to this commission, to what its purposes are and what its goals are, then there should be no issue that once there's a vacancy they will do everything in their power to fill it as quickly as possible. Again, the language gives the minister the opportunity to continue the tradition that she has shown since she has been in that department, allowing vacancies and preventing students from being voices at the table when important decisions are being made.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues is the fact that in a previous Act it listed in the schedule all of the educational institutions that were to be covered under the Act. Under this new Act, they are not specifically listed. We have serious concerns that the Act may allow the minister to opt out certain institutions from the purview of this commission. We would hope that the minister would be willing to entertain an amendment down the road, as this bill makes it way through the House, which says that any post-secondary institution recognized under the Education Act will be an institution under the purview of this commission. That takes away any doubt as to who is covered.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues which causes great concern is the issue of de-designation of post-secondary institutions for the purposes of student loan eligibility. Yesterday, I asked the minister if she would table a freedom of information request, the documents requested, regarding that process. Would she allow for an open and transparent process? Once again, the flippant answer from the minister was, we will table the de-designation policy once we've done it. We will do it in the backrooms. We will do it on our own and once it's done, we will present it to you at that point and you can take it or lump it.

Mr. Speaker, that is the real face of this Conservative Government. That is the real way that this government feels that they have the right to govern, is to make these decisions in the backrooms, develop policy in the backrooms and then tell Nova Scotians here's the policy whether you like it or not. It is completely irresponsible of this minister to behave in such a fashion. Students are offering to be a part of this process, to make suggestions and to work with her and she slams the door in their face. That is what this minister does. Not only on the face of students, I would say her history shows that on the issues of education she slams the door in the face of average Nova Scotians. That is the arrogance we have seen coming from the minister and coming from this government.

[Page 9696]

If this minister is going to start to dictate to students which institutions they can attend and get a student loan, and which institutions they can no longer get a student loan in order to go there, students should have a right to be at the table to determine how that policy will work and what that policy should do. That is the least they should be able ask of this minister. Yet, again, we saw the arrogance yesterday in saying we will put forward the policy once we have it done in our good time, and we don't expect anyone else to see it or anyone else to be involved in that process.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, there are serious issues around the student loan program. As I pointed out, the amount of money currently available to students in this province, under this minister, has decreased. She admitted to that, that it has decreased. The cap for the maximum amount that students can get under the student loan program has not changed in light of rising tuition rates.

One of the other issues, Mr. Speaker, is that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia continue to send money to the Royal Bank to administer the student loan program in this province although the taxpayers of Nova Scotia are 100 per cent responsible. The minister has yet to tell us why we continue to pay money to the Royal Bank if we are 100 per cent responsible, when other provinces are administering their own student loan programs. Why do we continue to send taxpayers' money to the Royal Bank if we are 100 per cent responsible? The minister told us that this was being addressed and that we would take over administration. That almost sounds like the Minister of Health when he talked about the in-home support program and how proud he is that his staff could quickly take care of that program in two years to be able to review it. It is absolutely unacceptable and students in this province and Nova Scotians should no longer be expected to accept such answers from this government.

Mr. Speaker, student lobby groups have continually raised the concern about rising interest rates on student loans. It is my understanding now that it has reached as high as prime plus 5 per cent on loans. A $20,000 provincial loan, just the provincial portion, over a 10-year repayment under the 5 per cent, as high as that 5 per cent interest rate, would force students to pay $10,000 in interest on that loan. Yet, this government continues to sit back and do absolutely nothing on that.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member has quoted some numbers in his speech and I tend to think they're wrong. If he's going to speak in this House he should do research, because he stated that on student loans it would be prime plus 5 per cent. That's what you said. So you said okay - well, we will do a review on that and we will find out. I'm pretty sure that is not the case. The member opposite has been wrong so many times before that I wouldn't be surprised. (Interruptions)

[Page 9697]

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance does raise a point on behalf of his view of the dissertation and the comments put forward by the member for Richmond. However, it isn't a point of order. The honourable minister - pardon me, the member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: Soon, soon, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) Well, I would say I have a better chance of getting there sooner than the member for Yarmouth, but that wouldn't be a kind comment to make.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the Minister of Finance is the same minister who has had his budget corrected for him twice already. So I think we should take his comments about mocking another's ability to count, I think we should keep his own track record in perspective when we're making light of his comments, but it just goes to show you, and the Minister of Finance clearly pointed out the ignorance of this government on student loan issues when the Minister of Finance, who's in charge of the books of this province and the finances of this province, isn't even aware of what students face. There's the real picture. Now, one would think that when he got up, the Minister of Education could have hit him and said, no, no, no, no, he's right, he's right, and here are the facts. Well, she sits silently too because she doesn't know what students are facing here.

The ignorance of this government has been made readily apparent by the Minister of Finance today, by standing in his place and admitting to that. That is the reality, Mr. Speaker, of what direction and the care and concern that this government has for the students of this province, that they stand up and show their own ignorance publicly with their comments and that the Minister of Finance has to admit: I will go back and do my research now on this. I say shame on the Minister of Finance and shame on this government for the arrogance they have shown towards students in this province.

I'm pleased that he was willing to stand on behalf of his government and tell Nova Scotians of their ignorance on this issue. I'm pleased he's willing to take that leadership role and make sure all Nova Scotians were aware that the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education and the rest of them over there have no idea what university students face for debt loads in this province. I'm pleased but, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this government's motto for student education seems to be that ignorance is bliss because they're very happy to remain in their ignorance and do absolutely nothing about it. Students have had enough of this. Students are becoming disgusted by the day as to what this government is doing and what they're being forced to pay in debt loads.

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting today, I was informed by one of our hard-working staff of how Newfoundland had introduced even more funding for their debt relief program, had introduced some sort of regulations on tuition and on interest rates and how Newfoundland

[Page 9698]

was taking a leadership role in addressing the concerns of their university students. How unfortunate it is that this Government of Nova Scotia hasn't seen fit to take a leadership role as what we see Newfoundland taking.

I certainly commend Premier Grimes in Newfoundland and his government for showing their commitment to their university students in that province and one can only hope that the minister learns how and maybe even follows the example of Newfoundland because I think this government has seen on a couple of occasions where Newfoundland has kind of snookered the government on a few things. One can go with the Laurentian boundary and now we see with post-secondary education, two occasions where the Newfoundland Government clearly is showing better leadership and better direction than the Progressive Conservative Government here in this province. So there are some opportunities for learning by this government.

Mr. Speaker, when this government sent notice, they sent notice quite some time ago through the deputy minister to universities that said long before the budget, do not expect any more funding from the government. They said, in fact, there may even be a reduction. The response that came from university presidents jointly, as they told this government, if you do not invest more money, there could be as high as a 14 per cent tuition increase in this province. That was alarming then; it remains alarming now.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, at least of this coming university year, it appears that the tuition increases will not be that drastic. Why? Because the universities have looked within and they found as many savings as they could internally to try to make sure that the burden would not be passed on to students and one has to question what role the Minister of Education is playing to work with these universities and to work with these institutions to try to identify savings, to try to identify where costs can be cut and to try to show leadership on this issue? I'm not going to say she's not doing any of that, but I will tell you, if she is, she's doing it in secret because she certainly hasn't indicated anything in this House to give us a level of comfort that she is showing any leadership at all on this very important issue.

Mr. Speaker, we've seen from the different universities that tuition rates are going up. When it was raised by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage last week, when he asked her about rising tuition rates in Nova Scotia universities, to show you the arrogance of this minister, she stood and she said, not all tuition rates are going up, thank you, Mr. Speaker, and sat back down. How responsible is that? How responsible an answer is that to students? That's a slap in the face to students of this province from that minister and from this government to give such an answer when she knows tuition rates are going up. She laughs when she's told about that and when she's asked to comment about it, those are the types of answers that the Opposition gets from the minister in this House and she wonders why we get exercised on the issue of post-secondary education in this province when we see that sort of behaviour and that sort of attitude from this minister.

[Page 9699]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had a chance to check on how much they charge on student loans over and above prime. It's 2.5 per cent. It points out time and time again how that member stands up spouting anything he wants. The fact of the matter is that they need better researchers because if they're going to make speeches in this House, use the facts otherwise don't say anything.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Minister of Finance tells us that the rate is 2.5 per cent over prime and from the Speaker's perspective, it is more a dispute between honourable members about facts and in this case the interest rate that students are paying relative to student loans, I would have to say, is not a point of order. It is nonetheless a point.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Finance Minister rose in his place there on what you've determined not to be a point of order to chastise the minister for Richmond about his facts. (Interruption) Well, the soon to be minister for Richmond. I might remind the Minister of Finance that he has the same problem coming clean with Nova Scotians about a 10 per cent tax decrease next year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Once again, that is more an editorial comment by the honourable member for Cape Breton South and not a point of order.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again, it shows the ignorance of this minister and of this government. There are two sets of student loans in this province. One is a floating prime rate that is prime plus 2.5 per cent. The other one is a set rate that is prime plus 5 per cent. Again, what an opportunity for the Minister of Finance to show the ignorance of his government and the ignorance of his department and the Department of Education in not understanding the needs of students. If they sat down with students in this province, if they filled the vacancies on the provincial boards like they should do, they might know this. But, again, the Minister of Finance continues to show his ignorance on this and again the Minister of Education sits silently and lets him take the lead, once again, on education issues, just as we saw with the Strait Regional School Board, just as we saw in the loan remission speech and in the budget, just as we've seen on different occasions where she'd rather be the chief apologist for the Minister of Finance than to stand and be the chief spokesperson and the chief advocate for students in this province.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 104 will do nothing to enhance the lot of students in this province find themselves in at this current time. It will do nothing. Only the Minister of Education, if she chooses to show leadership, can actually start changing the direction in which we are going towards post-secondary education. Unfortunately, Bill No. 104 is not the way to do it. Bill No. 104 is merely window dressing. That's all it is. It's almost as if the Premier told us that we're going to take care of all the problems of the world through the Council of Maritime Premiers. We know that's not what the purpose of that body is. We know that council is not going to address the debt in this province. They're not going to address the issues facing Nova Scotians every day. They can provide some consultation,

[Page 9700]

provide some exchange of ideas, but they certainly are not in a position to show leadership and take direction on that, nor will this commission be able to do that for education in this province.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before when asked about tuition rates increasing - and the statement was made by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage that interest rates were going up throughout the province - rather than the minister answering and trying to explain what she would be doing or what her concerns were or what direction she would take, as I said before, her answer was, well, they're not going up in every university. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's a good imitation. I like that.

MR. SAMSON: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, that is clearly unacceptable, clearly unacceptable for a minister who tells Nova Scotian students that she is their chief advocate and she is the one ready to show leadership on issues facing Nova Scotia students. We've seen in certain institutions that it has come to the point where the board of governors will not even approve a budget. UCCB, for example, we've seen where twice the board of governors have rejected the budget brought down by the administration recognizing the devastating impact it would have on students and it would have on programs. On two occasions they have rejected it. They are well aware of how serious the situation is. They are trying to grapple with it. Students are extremely concerned, staff is concerned and I want to tell you that the economy of Cape Breton is concerned about the future of that institution. Again, what is the government's plan? What is the government's goal with this institution? They have none. Or, if they do, it's the best kept secret in town because they certainly haven't shared it with that institution or with any members of this House or with any students.

Mr. Speaker, it's interesting that we've heard so many times from this government how many times they've condemned the federal government and indicated that they haven't made investments. It would be interesting if one could add up all of the money that has been sent in the last number of years through federal research grants that have come to Nova Scotia universities, whether it be Dalhousie, whether it be Saint Mary's, whether it be UCCB, whether it St. F.X, whether it be Acadia, all of them have received significant investments towards research to try to enhance our post-secondary institutions to try to assist our students in pursuing the same opportunities as what is being seen in universities throughout this country. They have made strategic investments. Would we like more? Certainly, we would like more. But they have made strategic investments all at the same time while the provincial government has turned their backs on these institutions.

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill which causes great debate amongst the student community, amongst the education profession because, once again, it's an example of where the minister would rather do some window dressing than to actually address the real concerns faced by students. In that sense, we do look forward to the presentations at the Law Amendments

[Page 9701]

Committee to see what Nova Scotians have to say on this, any proposed changes. It's early at this point to indicate whether we will be supporting this legislation. Again, I would point out that my gut feeling now is that it's not so much because of the exact legislation but it is more of a willingness to send a signal to the minister of our disgust and our opposition to what she has been doing to the post-secondary education of this province.

How interesting today that the Minister of Finance stood in his place and said we are giving Nova Scotians a future. Well, I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, whatever future they have mind, if that future does not include post-secondary education, well they can take their future and I won't say what they can do with it because that would be unparliamentary, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure you would agree, that that's not a future you want for your children and it's certainly not a future I want for my children. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a few comments about Bill No. 104. I think it will be no surprise for the minister the direction my speech today will go. It primarily revolves around the University College of Cape Breton and the impact of Bill No. 104, what it will do, particularly the MPHEC. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission is really an arm's-length commission, I believe that this bill will be the final nail in its coffin. For the past 10 years or thereabouts, their powers by way of funding have eroded steadily and now we're going to see that. That's going to be a real loss to the higher education community, because we have universities in this province, particularly, at varying levels of where they're at both academically and more importantly, in their years of experience within the education process of this province.

That brings me to my thought on the University College of Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, because the mere fact of the uniqueness of that facility and what it means to the industrial Cape Breton area because it is a university college and offers courses not only in the liberal arts, if you will, and the sciences but in the technologies, which play a major role in future investment of the economy of industrial Cape Breton. As the previous speaker made note of, we're looking at a funding problem within that university. In less than a month there were two rejections of the budget put forward by the president of that institution.

Now, it is not my place to stand here today and debate the merits of that budget, Mr. Speaker, because, in fairness, I haven't seen it. But there are also other grave concerns round that institution, the way it has been managed and so on in regard to the amount of participation in that budget by the faculty and the students, and the amount of that budget that goes toward the administration as opposed to what goes toward the classroom. You will get arguments that will say that it's the direct opposite of the funding formula that the minister would like to see and subscribes to, which is basically a 65/35 split - 65 per cent toward students and 35 per cent toward administration. But, actually, if you listen to some opponents of the president of the University College of Cape Breton, the opponents will say that 65 per

[Page 9702]

cent of its budget goes towards administration and only 35 per cent goes to students or, in a more rounded way, classroom.

So any time we see an arm's-length watchdog, if you want to call it, or overseer of our universities, it concerns me because, you know, it's my great desire to see an institution like the University College of Cape Breton succeed, Mr. Speaker, because it is truly, as purported, the way out of some of our economic dilemmas that we're facing in that area. So when we see that and we see that there's an ability or a cause here that may cause a funding problem, and I will get back to high debt ratios in a minute and some of the signs around de-designation. But even in that campus, it's a little bit lucky, I guess, in the sense that most of its infrastructure is fairly new and new is relative when we talk about university structures. I know we probably have buildings in the city that are 100-plus years old, but at the University College of Cape Breton, the major centre of that facility is part of the former Nova Scotia Eastern Institute of Technology. Since then their campus has expanded out from there and now we even have to include, in the last seven or eight years, student residences, which it did not have up until that time, but again, even though those structures are fairly new, we're having problems there.

Students continually complain about poor water quality in those residences, to the fact that water in most taps is not potable, that they refuse to bathe in it, Mr. Speaker, because of high rates of certain elements in that water that would make it unusable for washing and doing laundry. So these are concerns, these are investments that that university needs to clean up.

We're at that time of year where many universities are graduating their classes for the year 2002, and we see them going forward, but many students this year will be going forward with rates of student debt that are insurmountable. We're seeing now, indeed across this country people graduating from medical schools with huge debts, which these young doctors are now telling some of their peers and some of their professors that what they're planning on doing to get rid of some of this student debt is rather than going into general practice and be a GP, they're staying on to become specialists because of the fact that they realize they can make more money.

Mr. Speaker, you can bet your boots they're doing that, because they're coming out with debts in excess of $100,000. One of the prime movers in this - and I realize that this is not the Maritimes per se, but it washes back - is the huge increases in tuition in Ontario. This is where the study came from. It has a residual effect, I'm sure. That's what many young doctors are doing now when graduating from Dalhousie, they're going right on to their specialities rather than going out and working. Obviously that has a double-barrelled effect. We're losing many of our general practitioners now because of age, and it's hard enough to attract doctors anywhere in this province, but to have them not going into general practice just because of debt is wrong. I think we have to look seriously at that and the effects of what debt is having, and that's just one of the areas.

[Page 9703]

Getting back, closer to home, we talk about student debt and what we're seeing is areas like Cape Breton, because of its high rate of unemployment, we're having what appears to be large numbers of defaults. So what happens is a large number of those students who can afford to go away to university see the attractiveness, and when they get there they realize it's a fine institution but they realize the attractiveness of staying close to home and going to the University College of Cape Breton. Because of the job market being what it is, we have trouble with default on those student loans; therefore what we're afraid of is we will see de-designation. One of the areas that really could be compromised is UCCB, because of that residual effect of high unemployment. There's really nothing in there.

I'm not going to get into a debate today, as we saw earlier, about the amount of percentage points over prime that's charged on student loans, obviously there's a difference between a couple of members. We have to get back into doing some serious rethinking around the fact of student bursaries and so on to help with student debt. Earlier today we saw a petition tabled in this House with well over 4,600 names on it, talking about student debt and the problems around it. We have to understand that these students - it's not a matter of having students coming before us, as we like to envision, like the 1960s protesting for the purpose of protesting - what we have is this group, what's bringing them here is a real economic concern. They're concerned about their ability to attain a post-secondary education. For this bill to come forward today and for us to debate it and for the minister to not, in any meaningful way I believe, to address these major concerns seems somewhat shameful and frightening.

We need to put our money where our mouth is. We need to make sure that we're telling these students that we want them to stay here, we're investing in Nova Scotia, all those kinds of key phrases we like to talk about, but when the rubber hits the road, we don't seem to really want to ante up. We have to help these students and one of the ways would be taking something like the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and instead of doing what we're doing in terms of gutting the funding and gutting the reality of that commission, we should be investing in it and applauding the fact that we have an independent body looking out and being able to advise government.

We're not talking about giving them the power to direct spending per se at all costs, but I think we need that independent third party. I know I've often asked the minister questions around the University College of Cape Breton and her position sometimes is it's an autonomous body that I will not involve myself directly with their concerns. Well, we agree to disagree on that. She could take the advice from the MPHEC and use that advice as an independent third body, which would be extremely helpful in this case.

It's a shame when you see bills like this come forward and it's so lacking. It's similar to yesterday's debate around the Minister of Health's smoking bill. While you realize that there's some good in it, you realize that it doesn't really address the concerns that the public and the citizens of Nova Scotia are looking for. I think this bill while it serves some

[Page 9704]

purposes, really lacks the substance it needs to help create a good learning environment for our students in this province that are going on to post-secondary education and I would have hoped to have seen something better and I'm disappointed. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close debate.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: I do appreciate the remarks of the members opposite even though most of them were not about the bill. The bill is really a housekeeping measure and it puts out in legislation what the MPHEC has been doing for a number of years and I would like to correct one misapprehension in that we do have an independent body giving us advice on funding for universities including capital funding and that is the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Colleges and Universities. There are 18 members on this board, they are very competent individuals of all political stripes, including five students. I would not like them to be forgotten about in this debate about the MPHEC, which fulfills quite another function.

That being said, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 104.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 104. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 111, the Motor Vehicle Act. We will return to Bill No. 107 and complete that bill - the Minister of Justice had to be absent from the House for a short period of time. So, Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 111.

Bill No. 111 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for the second time. I'm pleased to rise and speak in support of this bill. Through the following proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, we intend to continue this government's efforts to make our highways safer for motorists and pedestrians. Our government takes road safety, especially the reduction of fatalities and collisions across the province, very seriously.

[Page 9705]

Last summer we toughened license reinstatement rules for drunk drivers, last Fall we introduced subsidies for a safe driver program for seniors, and in March we increased fines and demerit points for unsafe drivers, and introduced graduated fines for speeders.

[2:30 p.m.]

Highway deaths declined by 30 per cent, and we want this trend to continue. In short, we want to make highways a safer way of life in this province. Our proposed change would allow the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to revoke the driver's license of a young offender convicted of an alcohol-related offence. The registrar already has this authority for adults convicted of similar offences under the Criminal Code. All jurisdictions in this country have similar legislation.

Mr. Speaker, if this bill is passed, an out-of-province youth whose license is already revoked could not obtain a Nova Scotia driver's license without first completing the same remediation program of a young offender from our province. In line with federal legislation, the department would begin providing safety ratings for trucking companies registered in this province. This amendment would enable the department to track at-fault collisions as part of this rating program. All jurisdictions are required to have this legislation. As well, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles would be able to revoke the license of a driver who uses a motor vehicle to flee from a peace officer. All Canadian jurisdictions currently have such legislation.

Our safety efforts are not restricted to motor vehicles alone. If this bill is passed, anyone riding a scooter, a skateboard or in-line skates in areas where this activity is permitted will be required to wear a helmet. Statistics gathered by legislators and the medical community across Canada and in the United States show that while injuries to limbs and extremities are more common, head injuries can have lasting negative effects. Mr. Speaker, we cannot legislate common sense; however, this legislation will highlight parents' responsibility to ensure their children are properly and safely equipped for this popular activity. The penalty for failing to wear a helmet will be $25.

Mr. Speaker, finally, the department would be able to introduce a new series of licence plates. These plates would support a future program of the Department of Natural Resources to protect various plant and animal species in the province. I look forward to hearing the comments of my colleagues, and I urge all members to support these important amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to a few moments of comments on this particular piece of legislation. I know that with you in the Chair, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, with your background, you too will pay your usual rapt attention on a

[Page 9706]

topic of this concern because, based on your previous career, it's of some concern. We're not talking about you as a skateboarder or the use of a helmet, we're talking about, of course, your career as a truck driver.

Let's look very carefully at the fact that safe highways and the safe use of roads across this province are of absolute importance to Nova Scotians of all ages. It's of some concern that I can say, as we move this piece of legislation through to the Law Amendments Committee, it will be of some interest to see who will appear at that important part of committee stage when it comes to Bill No. 111.

Mr. Speaker, let's face it, this is good legislation included, particularly, with some common sense when it looks at offenders of the youthful age and drinking and driving offences. To the minister and to his staff, I congratulate them on that particular initiative. I think it's important, however, that we draw attention to another member of this House, who with his own initiative introduced a Private Member's Bill. The good member for Dartmouth East, based upon his previous experience as a medical doctor, showed the initiative to bring forth a Private Member's Bill. Unfortunately, it didn't receive the proper treatment that day during opposition. I remember it well; as he stood in his place and made his case, particularly based upon his medical experience as he saw first-hand some of the unfortunate injuries that happen to younger people when it comes to accidents and the fact that if they had been wearing appropriate headgear, they probably - or definitely, according to that member - would have been a lot better off.

The concern that I come back to, and it's a concern that we will bring up at the Law Amendments Committee and it's of real relevance here when it comes to - and I know it's in your area in Stewiacke, Mr. Speaker. In your area - I'm sorry; I thought you were going to have an intervention.

MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps I will take advantage of the provision you have given me to ask the House for a little more decorum at this particular time. It is difficult to hear the speaker. Thank you.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Just like being a good school teacher, you talk above them, right? And I was prepared to do that. Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that in your community, I believe, you have a skateboard park. That skateboard park, I'm sure, is a magnet for young people from throughout the surrounding areas.

Just last week I had the opportunity to visit Madeline Symonds Middle School and at that time they were going through a young entrepreneurship program. Michael DeCoste was leading the Grade 9s through this process, and what was the number one thing that these young people wanted in their community? A growing community that has an arena, that has applied for a second ice surface at that arena, that has all kinds of other traditional resources, but these young people wanted a recreational facility that we had not provided for them. I had

[Page 9707]

the pleasure to table in this House a petition of almost 400 young people from that community of Hammonds Plains, Tantallon, and Timberlea; they would like to have a skateboard park. At that meeting that I had with the students - Mr. Speaker, I want you to know. I used your example. When you go into a junior high class and you're speaking to them, the most important thing you have to do as an elected MLA is sit down and listen to them. I've had enough; it's a 45-minute class; I'm going to speak for 5 minutes and then I'm going to listen to the class.

That class, to a person, brought up the need for this recreational facility, a skateboard park. Skateboarders are everywhere. The unfortunate thing, of course, is in-line skaters and there's a sport that you should take up this summer, Mr. Speaker. It would improve your style. You don't have to have a hockey stick to lean on; you can go out - although most often you should take a hockey stick to lean on, to be truthful, and have the proper helmet. You will be put in situations if you're in a parking lot nearby, heaven forbid you're out on the major highway, but you have to have that helmet on to protect you. I know, with your common sense, you do use a helmet. In fact it's been suggested to make sure that in your case you also have knee pads, helmets, elbow pads and perhaps full gear because you will be on your derriere more than you will be on your feet, usually.

This is a serious matter to be introduced because the concern that I'm bringing forth is that this piece of legislation insists that young people wear these helmets. But do they wear the helmets in a private skateboard park? Because our Lions Club has taken up the initiative that has been offered by the young people in the community and we're looking into the financing of a skateboard park; it's not a cheap venture, let me tell you. But what is our responsibility as a service club? Do we post the sign that they must have a helmet on? Young people willingly accept direction from adults, from service club members, even from teachers on occasion, and their parents and say that these helmets are necessary.

But, Mr. Speaker, I was just answering a phone call from a constituent earlier in the ante-room here behind me, and I saw, and I don't want to get into his age, he wasn't a teenager, a middle-aged man - and we could look at the time what was he doing out, he looked like a government employee out getting some exercise, but we won't go there - he had his in-line skates on and he had no helmet. He was on the sidewalk and at that particular stage it was a busy sidewalk, because, of course, there were a lot of people out on a beautiful day like this in downtown Halifax, and there is the example. It's not going to be the young people and I saw the provision in there that the people who are under 16 and what could happen if they don't have a helmet, it will be always, if I could use the expression, the old fogies that we'll have the difficulty with, the people who understand that, oh, that's okay for young guys, young women out on their skateboards or out on their in-line skates, but they should make sure the law applies to all of them.

[Page 9708]

So it will be with some interest that I will look forward to the comments at the Law Amendments Committee when it comes to this helmet legislation and I am sure that the member for Dartmouth East is going to have a few comments on this afterwards. It will be interesting - on this particular piece of legislation - how could it help out a private skateboard park put up by a service club, and after all would this piece of legislation be applicable in that sort of case? That's legislation we're looking forward to making sure that we will have some input into at the Law Amendments Committee.

Skateboarding is extremely popular as a sport and I think that, Mr. Speaker, is important to recognize. I asked these young people - what is the fascination with skateboarding? Now, of course, the answer that this young man gave back to me - what's the fascination with slapping a puck at a goaltender with a mask and pads on? You know I couldn't explain it to him because after all he took me up on the challenge. He said to me, Mr. Estabrooks, I will willingly go out and make sure that I can stand there in front of one of your shots, if you in return would get on one of my skateboards and give it a whirl.

Well, the dare hasn't been fulfilled yet, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, but it's something that I'm looking forward to doing. My concern, of course, comes down to the helmet that I would wear would be my hockey helmet, because I don't have a proper helmet for in-line skating or one that would be used appropriately on the streets. So that would be my defense at that time and, hopefully, that young man when we go try out his skateboard, at whatever location because you see that's the problem - where do these skateboarders have the opportunity to use this particular recreational activity?

If they live in Halifax, there's a popular skateboard park right opposite QEH and the Commons there. There are after all other areas in the HRM where young people all across the area have no place to use skateboards. so you see the complaints begin. They take over community tennis courts; they take over cul-de-sacs; and they build their ramps. They make sure that they are out there with the plywood structures and most of the people who live in my constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, they are good, they take those ramps away, they make sure that they're put off at the end of the cul-de-sac when they're finished, and the concern will not be about helmets, the concern will be that there is the proper place for these young people to be able to enjoy this popular sport.

Mr. Speaker, young people will listen to the common sense that's given to them because they know, based upon personal experience. So that's a piece of this legislation that I look forward to talking about further at the Law Amendments Committee. There's another section, if I may, and I know I'm not permitted at this stage in the debate to look at particular clauses, but it's with some interest that I look at these new special licence plates. Now, in this case my understanding of these new special licence plates are going to be used for conservation purposes and the Department of Natural Resources will have the opportunity to, I hope, not allow this money just to be allowed to be dropped into the deep black hole - or can I call it a red hole when it comes to deficit funding in this province?

[Page 9709]

Mr. Speaker, its of real concern that if we're going to have these licence plates for conservation reasons that these licence plates and the funding for them goes to conservation activities.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I can talk about volunteer licence plates for volunteer firefighters and the need to use that funding for various reasons. There are, after all, retired volunteer firemen - somebody must be watching at home on TV because I'm getting notes here to make sure that I talk about the skateboard park again, but I will come back to that in a few moments as I wrap up. When you have specialized licence plates, whether they're for volunteer firefighters, whether they're for retired volunteer firefighters, whether they're for a particular cause or not, it's of real importance that the administering of these funds goes directly to that particular cause - in this case the conservation programs of Nova Scotia.

There is a wonderful example to follow. I hope the minister's staff is paying attention to this. Our neighbouring State of Maine has very similar programs when it comes to conservation licence plates. Yet, in the State of Maine, they have very strict control over who is using the conservation funds. So it's of some consequence when we move ahead to the Law Amendments Committee that we look at this particular clause - and I'm not going through clause by clause, Mr. Speaker - but I'm pointing out that the State of Maine example on conservation licence plates is one that we should look at carefully.

Further to the note that I just received, I am aware of the fact that with early school dismissals, particularly in my growing community, Mr. Speaker - and I would like to congratulate the young people who are watching today, we're talking about Bill No. 111, and Bill No. 111, along with some suggestions to the Motor Vehicle Act, are good ones, as I pointed out to the minister earlier, particularly when it comes to drinking and driving and some of those types of offences. We are talking about licence plates for conservation funds, but we're also talking about a very important topic for young people in the community of Timberlea-Prospect and all across this province, and that is helmet legislation when it comes to in-line skaters and when, of course, it comes to skateboarders. After all, those two popular sports, those two popular activities are growing in popularity across this province as young people want to make sure that their sport is recognized.

I want you to know that young people will willingly accept this legislation because, after all, they are aware of some of the injuries that unfortunately perhaps they've seen first hand. But young people have no problem with helmets at all, they have followed the lead. They very carefully looked at the need for helmets, as you see them biking, as you see them using their vehicles around this province. Helmets are not a problem with young people. The problem with helmets will be, as the example - and I want to bring it forward again to make sure that people understand - the gentleman I saw on his lunch break today out having a skate

[Page 9710]

without a helmet on and on a sidewalk. There are some concerns. So, I mean, there's legislation that we just can't direct at young people.

Skateboarders have a reputation, an unfortunate reputation, because adults look at that activity and go, what's wrong with those kids? How come they're not out doing whatever? When I was their age we didn't have skateboarding. Well, skateboarding is here to stay, Mr. Speaker. It's an important activity. It's an activity that young people are going to continue to do because it is, after all, as the young man at Madeline Symonds Middle School told me that day - and the note that's here in front of me, the young man from Madeline Symonds Middle School very clearly wants it to be said that they welcome this legislation. They would welcome it based upon the fact that they could have their own skateboard park. They don't want to be on the streets and the highways. They don't want to be at the end of a cul-de-sac. They don't want to be taking over tennis courts because that's not what that particular piece of recreational property was designed for. They willingly would accept any use when it comes to helmets but, in return, they would like to have funding put in place by people such as myself, as the provincial member for Timberlea-Prospect, for skateboard parks.

I thank the young people of Madeline Symonds Middle School for having their say in this matter. It was a pleasure to table their petition of almost 400 signatures. It's with interest as we move ahead to the Law Amendments Committee, I look forward to this legislation and the progress it will make through this House. Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 111, an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Motor Vehicle Act. In the absence of our critic, I have been elected or nominated to speak on behalf of our caucus. I would like to add a few words. I would like to compliment the government on continuing in several areas of personal safety relative to mobility issues, generally, relative to drinking and driving, also the helmet use that they have expanded beyond the initial bicycle helmet use that we brought into this province.

I thought it was interesting today, an article arrived from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, that I had had and then somebody else gave it to me from the library. It has to do with a study here in Nova Scotia by Dr. John LeBlanc and Tricia Beattie and Christopher Culligan. It had to with a study relative to the use of bicycle helmets. It's very encouraging, and some of the issues that were addressed during the times of debate, their study has really shown that the negative concern, perhaps, that was expounded has not come to pass. The results are very positive, in the opinion of this article that's presented there.

[Page 9711]

It's good to see a piece of legislation in terms of drinking and driving as it pertains to young offenders. There's also a component of Bill No. 111 that permits the fees for conservation licence plates to be used to fund conservation. I certainly hope that the money finds its way there, and that happens and that the funds will not go to just general revenues.

With regard to helmets for those who use skateboards and scooters, all I can say to the minister is that I do appreciate that this came forward, and none too soon. Brain injuries are essentially what we're speaking of. You can speak about the rights of people to do what they want, but a brain injury is forever when that happens, particularly in the younger age group. We're seeing that some of these scooters are getting pretty sophisticated. Of course, skateboarders, anyone who has seen the activity, skateboarding, it speaks for itself.

I think this has moved forward. It's important that this minister and this government is a leader in this field and not a follower. They have not differentiated between age groups. I would like to compliment them on that. They've done that relative to children on the anti-smoking legislation, and some other provinces, in dealing with helmets, have specified that particularly for children. This Clause 3 requires a person, and I would like to compliment the minister for that. If this type of legislation is not comprehensive, then it just may pit one group against another, it may be used in a negative way and the full benefit may not be realized, if we differentiate between those who should or must and those who are exempt.

The awareness campaigns are important in these matters of helmet use, no question. It's very interesting that this study of Dr. LeBlanc's, although it's related to bicycles, I think a lot of things, we will see, they probably will do some studies later because he is based at the children's hospital and Dalhousie University. In fact, even without massive awareness campaigns by passing legislation, the compliances jump dramatically, and in this case in 1997 when the Act was proclaimed for helmet use with those using bicycles. It went to 36 per cent use in 1995, 38 per cent in 1996 and it jumped to 75 per cent in 1997 and continued to do that throughout, 86 per cent in 1998, 84 per cent in 1999. They did some studies after the Act was proclaimed that the continued use remained high. The proportion of injured cyclists with head injuries in 1998 and 1999 - after 1997 - was cut in half. It was just half that of 1995-96, prior to the legislation. Police have carried out regular education and enforcement, but there were no massive education programs carried out over the last several years. That study, I think it is fair to point that out, that the compliance rate was still very high. They have followed that further.

I don't want to dwell on this particular study. It's available in the library for anyone. Although it's a national medical journal, it's been done here locally by our own specialists in this area, people who are very supportive of this type of legislation. You can speak about all the rights of people, that people have the right to do this and that to themselves, but I think when it comes to matters of relative brain injury, particularly in younger persons, but persons of all ages, some of the worst bicycle accidents I've seen of people who live through

[Page 9712]

them have been actually in adults and very dramatic injuries that have significant long-term disability.

Looking more specifically, in a general nature, about the matters that are addressed in Bill No. 111, I want to compliment the government also for continuing to address the issue of the use of alcohol and operating a motor vehicle. I remember the time that we brought new values in and substantive legislation. The now Premier, the then Leader of the Third Party, also brought amendments in and we incorporated that into the Act that we brought in. We shared credit in the media. I remember those times. That was not an issue at all. It was very positive.

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

DR. SMITH: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Dartmouth East. The honourable member for Dartmouth North and the honourable member for Dartmouth East probably can take ownership of some of the students that we have in the gallery today. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and all members of the House, Mr. Don Houle and Claire Morash, who have brought a number of students from Dartmouth High School over here. They did listen to Question Period and I just had my own little Question Period in the Red Room with them. I can tell you that a number of these students will occupy places in this House someday and they've learned very quickly from the type of questions. (Interruptions) Yes, well, it may well be my seat, honourable member for Richmond; it may well be yours, too. But either way, members of the House, I can tell you that on the Dartmouth side of the harbour, we are turning out some wonderful students who certainly know how to ask questions and have a great interest in the political field in Nova Scotia. I would like to ask the House to welcome them to the House and I also welcome them. Please rise. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome all of our young guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy their stay with us during the proceedings of the Legislature.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my words of welcome to those from Dartmouth, as well, as the member for Dartmouth East. Anytime they want to get any advice from a seasoned veteran then, certainly, there will be others of us that will be available. If they showed that much improvement from the honourable member for Dartmouth South,

[Page 9713]

then there's really hope, I think, for the future of Dartmouth and I want to welcome them to the House today.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to be much longer on this bill. We will be supporting this legislation through, as far as I'm concerned. My knowledge is that, as a Liberal caucus, we support and commend the government on this and we will help move this legislation through. I will be looking forward to seeing it at the Law Amendments Committee and the various presentations. I just mention to the government that there will be people who will show up and they will be speaking about the rights of people and too much government in their face.

You know, I can remember the days, Mr. Speaker, of interning at the VG, before seat belts, and our neurosurgery rotations where we would be up all night with people coming in with all sorts of severe brain injuries, many of them dying but others living for long periods of time. I guess it was then that it really convinced me, when I saw the current Liberal Government, how timid they were to move on seat belts and with good reason, they were getting a lot of criticism and those arguments. Those arguments have now been settled. We know that if it's done properly, with an awareness and an education program explaining what you're doing, people will understand. We might say, well, the skateboards, you know, you're getting a little silly, aren't you? Aren't you moving too far? But I think you only have to see one child with a severe brain injury. These people often retain their intelligence, but they're disabled severely for a long period of time.

I would like to compliment the government for continuing to move forward where we had left off. I was very pleased that the bicycle helmet law went through. I have received a reasonable amount of criticism from some persons on the freedom to do what you please for yourself and to harm yourself in any way. Once in awhile one will still continue to find its way into my e-mail and whatever. I accept that. I try to treat them with courtesy; I don't agree with their position because I think most fair-minded people will support this type of legislation, but I'm just asking the government not to be timid if people show up at the Law Amendments Committee criticizing this legislation, particularly on this area of skateboarding and scooters. Some of these scooters are very sophisticated. I have had parents speak to me about their young children, that they hadn't realized the danger of it and had found them out of control; although this particular child had not received a severe injury, he realized the child really could have been either killed or severely injured.

The Brain Injury Association group has been very supportive of this type of legislation because they, Mr. Speaker, see the effects of this. We maybe only read a line in the paper or hear a story, but with severe brain injury, or even just some minor brain injury, these results are there for a long period of time. So I know I should be up and be critical of the government, but on this one I'm going to change my direction. I think all members of the

[Page 9714]

Legislature should commend the government for this action. We will be following it through the Law Amendments Committee and beyond.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close debate on Bill No. 111.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite for their contribution to the debate and the interest they have shown in the legislation. Certainly the honourable member for Dartmouth East is commenting on a topic with which he has had considerable experience, and I want to commend his leadership in that area. It is certainly deserved and we're very pleased to be able to carry forward policies that were started by the previous government. I hope we can claim that we have enhanced those policies very considerably, but certainly it's encouraging to hear the very co-operative nature of the discussion that took place with respect to this legislation, because it is about safety and it's about improving the quality of life for Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 111. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 107.

Bill No. 107 - Land Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for a second time. The bill is very much a housekeeping piece of legislation. As the land registry project proceeds, Registry 2000, it is important that we are able to improve and refine the legislation relative to the project, and that's what the bill does. I don't believe there's anything of any real contentious nature within the legislation - as I indicated it is all very much housekeeping.

[Page 9715]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I anticipate that the government will see the Official Opposition's support for this bill. It is housekeeping, for making a number of technical amendments, you might call them, to a bill that was passed only within the last year or two, the Land Registration Act, designed to change the system of land registration in Nova Scotia. It's understandable that in the course of a project that big and with such broad implications that it will come to the government's attention from time to time that there are some technical amendments that need to be made.

I do trust the government has consulted all the relevant professional bodies. I do believe it is working with the assistance of an advisory committee. So we will look forward to any representations that may be made at the Law Amendments Committee from those most directly affected and those working with the land-registration system every day.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, just a few comments regarding this particular bill. Let me say at the outset that we welcome the opportunity for this bill to go to the Law Amendments Committee, and suggest that if there is any interest shown in the bill it will be shown at that time by stakeholders.

The minister talks about this being a housekeeping bill. Well it's a little bit more than that, but there are some good things in the bill. I find it odd that here we are discussing an amendment, amending a bill to implement changes to a system that's not even up and running yet. The changes, which the minister indicates are of a technical nature, will truly be helpful in moving this project along so that Nova Scotians will finally see a system that the minister has been working on personally since 1999.

I know that when we discussed Bill No. 1, the Land Registration Act, the minister indicated the bill was subject to an extensive consultation process. I trust that the parties consulted on Bill No. 1 have been consulted and are aware of the technical changes that are taking place in Bill No. 107; I certainly hope that that is the case.

Mr. Speaker, I note that a tender call was called July 6th, where proposals were received by six companies interested in implementing services for the technology solutions component to the Registry 2000 project, which is to be implemented in 2003. I'm somewhat curious as to whether the tender was awarded and whether the timetable is still being met. At some point in the future that question may be addressed. It would also be interesting to know whether these changes were recommended by the company that received the tender, if indeed a tender was awarded.

[Page 9716]

I do recall that when we discussed the unamended Land Registration Act back in March 2001, the cost for a deed search had increased by $25 to $35. In the recent budget we see the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has created a new fee, a fee for searching civic addresses - another user fee. The minister anticipates raising $900,000, $20 per search, by implementing this new fee. Once again, we see the minister in the first instance increasing existing fees, and in the second case implementing a brand new fee, both of which are directly related to the issue of land registration.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus will be doing some further research into the specific clauses to ensure that what is being proposed is in the best interest of all Nova Scotians, and should we find concerns we will certainly bring these concerns forward in Committee of the Whole House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close debate.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank members opposite for their support in moving the bill forward to the Law Amendments Committee. I can say to the honourable member for Cape Breton South that the process is underway and it is on schedule and Colchester County has already been identified as the beginning site for this process and the work is underway in order to bring that about. The project is proceeding extremely well. The other matters that the honourable member raised, I will be quite happy to provide him with the details in time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 107. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker would you please call Bill No. 108.

Bill No. 108 - Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 9717]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to speak to second reading of the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. This legislation really is about protecting the rights and needs of children. The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act is designed to streamline the process which recognizes, establishes and enforces support orders in interjurisdictional cases. The legislation is part of a national effort to streamline and simplify the process to obtain and enforce support orders. In fact, all Premiers agreed to adopt this type of legislation at their meeting in British Columbia last summer. We are pleased to fulfill that commitment by bringing forward this bill in this session. This Act was developed by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Family Law Committee.

The uniform legislation is designed to streamline procedures regarding enforcement and to minimize delays in obtaining or varying support orders. In adopting this legislation we follow Manitoba, the Yukon and Ontario. It is our strong understanding that other provinces will follow shortly with their own uniform style legislation. While there is existing legislation in all provinces to deal with reciprocal enforcement, present procedures can sometimes be cumbersome.

In establishing support orders in interjurisdictional cases, a provisional hearing is required. That process may involve a number of court proceedings and a great deal of time and delay. In fact, it has been my experience that the need for multiple proceedings can cause undue delay and hardship to the applicant. The intent of this bill is to streamline the process, dispensing with the need of multiple hearings and making sure that orders are enforceable from other jurisdictions. The welfare of children must be first and in bringing forward this bill we are joining other Canadian provinces in supporting children.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading and ask for the support of all honourable members. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my caucus I'm glad to speak for a few moments on this legislation. As the Minister of Justice has noted, it's a harmonizing piece of legislation, it helps to clarify the rules and simplify the rules with regard to interjurisdictional support orders. Anything we can do to help streamline the process and make it more efficient for those involved from various provinces who may be coming to Nova Scotia or who may have an order here and want it enforced in another province, I think is a good thing. As the minister noted, it is something that was done through a conference and through the family division of the Ministers of Justice, all are good signs of legislation that I think, obviously, our Party can support without any problems. I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee to see if there is anyone who has any comments with regard to this legislation. If there are any concerns or there are those out there involved in family law, I would encourage them to take the time to read this as practitioners, as social workers who may be involved, court workers, if they want to take a look at this and then feel free to

[Page 9718]

come forward to the Law Amendments Committee and tell us whether there's anything that can be done to improve it, we will be glad to hear from them. Our caucus will be supporting this, in principle, at second reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise to speak a few moments on behalf of our caucus on Bill No. 108, An Act to Facilitate the Making, Recognition, Enforcement and Variation of Interjurisdictional Support Orders. What is the intention of this bill? This bill is meant to increase the speed of receiving support orders by eliminating the often cumbersome steps of going before the courts numerous times. When will it come into effect? Well, that's not known at this point in time, but it was clear that this legislation was discussed before a First Ministers' Conference on expediting support orders. One would hope that it will be passed during the Spring session. Where is this going to take effect? Well, clearly, it's for here in Nova Scotia.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the points, though, is that to be truly effective, this legislation will have to pass in other jurisdictions throughout the country, and to date my understanding is that Manitoba, Ontario and the Yukon are the only three that have addressed this. Why is this bill important? Well, if this bill is adopted as introduced by the Minister of Justice, the Act will allow those entitled to receive support orders to get the money they are owed in a more timely fashion. With more provinces needed to bring forward this legislation, a concern at this point certainly is how it will be enforceable up to the point when all provinces have passed this.

Mr. Speaker, as the minister pointed out, this bill was tabled during the Second Session of the Fifty-eighth General Assembly by the Minister of Justice. In 2001 all provincial Premiers agreed to bring this legislation forward, making reciprocal enforcement simpler and more effective for those applying for support. This new Act will repeal the existing Maintenance Orders Enforcement Act. As pointed out, this bill is part of a Canada-wide effort to streamline and simplify the process to obtain and enforce orders. The purpose of the bill, as the Justice Minister stated last week, was to strive for uniformity across the country and not to let provincial boundaries stand in the way of the enforcement of maintenance orders. The legislation replaces the current system for reciprocal enforcement. Currently there's a legal requirement for a provisional hearing, which can involve a number of court proceedings, before a final order is issued. With this bill, out-of-province maintenance recipients will be able to apply directly for a support order in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, as stated, if passed, the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act will make it easier and less costly for families to obtain or vary a support order when the payer and recipient reside in different jurisdictions. The proposed Act would streamline existing

[Page 9719]

procedures by, for example, reducing from two to one the number of hearings required to obtain or change a support order. If passed, the Act would recognize the challenges presented by an increasingly mobile population by allowing for greater coordination among provinces and territories.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, one of the concerns we have is that there will be a requirement that all the provinces pass this legislation before it can be truly enforceable. What this bill will do, as stated, is replace the current complex, two-stage hearing process with a single hearing process. Persons seeking to establish or vary a support order would complete the application package, which would be sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for a support determination. The court in the originating jurisdiction would not need to hold a provisional hearing, as currently required, and the receiving jurisdiction would then hold a hearing with notice to the respondent.

Mr. Speaker, the motivation behind the legislation is good as it is an effort to harmonize reciprocal enforcement across the country, from one province to another and into the territories. However, what this means, of course, is that for the legislation to work successfully, other provinces must follow and enact similar legislation. Admittedly, in reality this is less of a concern, as some provinces have already taken the lead. Manitoba has enacted the legislation and Ontario is in the process now. So at least these two provinces would be partners in the process should the Nova Scotian legislation pass. Also laudable is the main goal to be achieved from this Act, the acceleration of receiving support that a claimant is due. Prior to this legislation the status quo was that a provisional order had to be obtained in the originating province and submitted to the responding province, where yet another hearing takes place. This bill changes that delay in the time it takes for a matter to proceed through the court system.

Mr. Speaker, the efforts of the Justice Minister to bring this Canada-wide legislation forward are worthy. To say that this government is concerned with children, I would have to argue, is not entirely true. Indeed, one doubts the statement by the Justice Minister that this government truly cares about children when one considers that the government's current record with respect to children and women is pathetic and shameful given this government's decision to abandon or reduce necessary and affordable dental care. The same holds true for women, who are the main claimants for support orders, with the elimination or reduction in the funding of transition homes. In bringing forth this Act, this government stated that the welfare of children must come first. While we believe this bill is a good one, the current record of this government with its cuts to services for women and children remains abysmal. So when this government tells the public they're worried about children, we can only look at these actions and say that this government carefully selects what to be worried about when it comes to Nova Scotian children.

[Page 9720]

With that, Mr. Speaker, I certainly will be voting in favour of sending this bill to the Law Amendments Committee, where we look forward to the presentations and any possible further amendments which may come out as a result of those presentations. With that, certainly, I look forward to moving along Bill No. 108. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I recognize the honourable Minister of Justice, it will be to close debate on Bill No. 108.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their support and look forward to moving the bill on to the Law Amendments Committee and with that I would move second reading.

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 108. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 113.

Bill No. 113 - Agricultural Administration Amendment (2002) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I would move second reading of Bill No. 113. As I understand it from conversations with the minister, it is strictly a housekeeping bill; however, sometimes housekeeping bills have things in them and I'm sure it will be brought to my attention and I will take notes. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries may not be in the House this afternoon, but however he will be in tomorrow and I will pass on the information to him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable Government House Leader is correct. This is, for the most part, a housekeeping bill and it only would make sense that with the change from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing to Agriculture and Fisheries, that that change be made in legislation, and actually that's exactly what's being done here. This bill touches on some other areas, Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock

[Page 9721]

Act, as well. The one area that I think causes me just a little bit of concern. and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works alluded to the fact that sometimes bills have other components that may not be so straightforward. I am curious about Clause 25, which adds a new power to set ranges of licence fees, levies or charges within which the Natural Product Marketing Council or a commodity board may fix.

So, Mr. Speaker, if there's anything that we've seen plenty of from this government it's user fees or licence fees, or any fees. So to have this clause that gives this power to the council or a commodity board, I wouldn't mind if the minister was able to explain why he feels that that is necessary, and if this is an indication of a lack of support by the government to the Natural Product Marketing Council and, therefore, they need this ability to raise funds, then certainly the question of who is going to make sure that these fees are doled out in an accountable way.

We've seen with the Agriculture Development Institute, we can't even find out how that $2.2 million is being spent by the government, so I am worried about what these fees involve and the necessity for the fees. It would certainly be our hope that as this bill moves on to the Law Amendments Committee, those people in the industry who would have concerns with this legislation may come as interveners and provide some of their concerns. I certainly would hope that at some point the minister will try to account for this and I will certainly take opportunity to try to get clarification from the minister on it. With that, we look forward to this bill moving to the Law Amendments Committee so that we can get some questions answered there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our Agriculture Critic, I just want to inform you and the minister that we are pleased to move this bill along as well, to the Law Amendments Committee, and hope that our critic, at that stage of debate in the House, might have some comments to make at that time or when the bill comes back from the Law Amendments Committee to the Committee of the Whole House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable members opposite for their comments. With that, I move second reading of Bill No. 113.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 113. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 9722]

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 115.

Bill No. 115 - Justice Administration Amendment (2002) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to second reading of this bill. The amendments that we're putting forward will affect a number of Statutes, and our objective in all cases is to streamline operations in order to clarify the current legislative framework.

I will begin with changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. We are proposing that landlord/tenant appeals, which are presently being heard by the Residential Tenancies Boards, now be heard by the Small Claims Court. This way, Mr. Speaker, we can bring consistency to the process and ensure that legally-trained adjudicators hear these matters, which are always matters of appeal. Residential tenancy officers will still be able to mediate disputes, they can still hold hearings and issue orders. In fact, the process will remain unchanged for the vast majority of people who use the system. If, however, one of the parties is just not satisfied with the resolution contained in the director's order, an appeal can be made to the Small Claims Court instead of the Residential Tenancies Board.

I am told that only about one in five cases move on to appeal. Therefore, it is not a widely used process, because most people, at least, are satisfied to live with the decision of the director. As a result of these changes, Residential Tenancies Boards - that is the individuals appointed to those commissions - will cease to be existent and will be replaced by the Small Claims Court, who, in all cases, are legally-trained individuals.

Mr. Speaker, we are also making changes to the fines system in the province with this bill. Our current system is cumbersome and complicated, with fines for provincial offences dealt with in individual Statutes. This has created a lack of consistency in approach. This bill will streamline that approach. With proposed amendments to the Summary Proceedings Act and the Motor Vehicle Act, category of offences will be created. As a result of the proposed changes in this bill, all penalty provisions for motor vehicle offences will be contained in the Summary Proceedings Act. For example, a seat belt violation is a category B offence . . .

[Page 9723]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, seat belt violations are category B offences, it carries a fine of not less than $50 for a first offence, not less than $100 for a second, and not less than $200 for a third or subsequent offence. A speeding violation, 30 to 60 kilometres over the legal limit is a category D offence, as an example. It carries a fine of not less than $150 for a first offence, not less than $300 for a second offence, and not less than $600 for a third or subsequent offence.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it has been suggested by some that the changes in this bill were designed to increase revenues to the provincial government. That, in fact, will not be the way that it will work because, as honourable members may know, the present system, the police officers with the exception of the provincial highway patrol, whose offences for which they obviously charge, is a very high degree of which are invariably speeding offences, which have not been changed as a result of this. With respect to the other offences, they are charged by municipal police forces, either municipal police forces, as you would know, by a town police force, or by the RCMP acting as a contract police force for a municipal unit. The fine revenue that is generated in those cases does not go to the Government of Nova Scotia. The fine revenue goes to the municipalities. The municipalities obviously use that to defray part of the cost of paying for the police service in the first place. As well, they also pay, of course, for the cost of prosecuting that offence. So, in fact, the revenue enhancement that will occur as a result of this change will almost invariably go to municipal units and not to the Government of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to deal with another change and that is the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court from the current limit of $10,000 to $15,000. When we changed the limit, not that long ago, actually, to $10,000, we were at the front in the country. What has happened, of course, is that over the last year or two, the other provinces have moved to the $15,000 limit and we want to keep abreast of the national trend in this area to make sure that justice is as accessible as possible to people, whether or not people choose to have counsel. In any event, Small Claims Court certainly provides a much more cost-effective way of the dispute resolution for a wider range of legal consumers.

We are also amending the Juries Act to disqualify MLAs from sitting as jurors, Mr. Speaker. This clarifies the situation in the present Act. In fact, Members of Parliament, for example, have been excluded as jurors. I remember when I sat in the House at another time that in fact there was, I think, a misunderstanding by someone about the effect of a provision of the House of Assembly Act, which talks about this. This clarifies that Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly will simply be treated in a consistent way. I might suggest that it may not be appropriate in any event to have or when you think of the possibility of having an MLA on a jury, one of the odd situations would be that if you

[Page 9724]

were sitting on a jury and all of a sudden the House was called back in, for example for an emergency debate, you would be between a rock and a hard spot. (Interruption) Yes, that's right. Well we can all make our choice, but, in any event, I think that the public interest would be best served by having members here. We are also removing the two month time frame that has been specified in the legislation to create a jury panel. This was no longer necessary given the state of computerized jury preparation.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, there's a change to the Condominium Act, which I would describe as technical in nature. The proposed amendment clarifies that normal subdivision approval is not required when land is divided in a phased development condominium. These changes are in keeping with good land use principles and they are intended for the protection of individual unit owners. There will also be an amendment to the Municipal Government Act to recognize the same exemption. Additionally, the Trustee Act will be clarified. The proposed amendment will bring clear guidelines to trustees investing in trust property. As well, the changes will provide greater protection for liability for loss as long as the trustee has taken reasonable and prudent investment action.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, there are some minor adjustments to the Justices of the Peace Act, one to clarify that only the administrative justice JPs report to the Chief Judge and another to correct an incorrect reference to the Family Division of the Supreme Court. Thank you and with that, I would move second reading of this bill.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, there will be many in our caucus speaking on this omnibus bill, ones who have very specific critic areas related to residential tenancies or municipal or potentially transportation. But I wanted to get up as the Justice Critic to talk about a few points. This is something the government has done before and I'm sure it's basically an omnibus piece of legislation. They like to call it an Act Respecting the Administration of Justice. There are various components to it. I will only focus on a few.

Changes to the Juries Act that the minister has noted - I will be curious if anything comes forward in Law Amendments on this. I understand that someone could be called back to the House and I understand why we have barristers who are exempt, but I must admit when I heard the MLA one, I wasn't absolutely sure why we went with the consistency with other jurisdictions. (Interruption) I see, other jurisdictions have it so I guess that's why we're doing it. I don't know how often we get called into jury duty anyway (Interruption) Oh, the Minister of Finance says he's been called to jury a few times.

The changes around the Justices of the Peace Act I think are good changes; I think they will address some of the need for some of the changes that will help ensure that. Now that Justices of the Peace are taking on a broader role with the Justices of the Peace Centre in Dartmouth, I think there will be an importance to ensure that we clarify those rules. As I

[Page 9725]

noted, my colleague for Halifax Fairview will be talking about the Residential Tenancies Act; there is some stuff in there on the Municipal Government Act as well; and the small claims is, I think, a good change. I think any time we can reduce the bureaucracy and the amount of procedure involved in having to go to court to resolve matters, and in this day and age, whether it be commercial or even residential or personal litigation, quite frankly, $15,000 isn't a lot. I know many people out there will say that's a lot of money, but in purposes of litigation it isn't and if we can make the rules much simpler for the people who want to seek some form of redress in the courts, then I suggest that is a good move and I'm glad to see the government has moved in that direction.

It has move up quite rapidly I think. It was only $5,000 a few years ago, then to $10,000. I think we voted on it at $10,000 - I don't know if it was under this government or the previous one (Interruption) It was under this government and now the minister has decided to move it up to $15,000 and I think that's a good move.

There are some issues in here under the Trustee Act. The Summary Proceedings Act, maybe if there are staff people, they can point out to me what offenses category A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and I offenses are - I presume these are the default fines where there is no other fine noted. If there is an opportunity for the staff, maybe if they're listening over the Internet or in the audience, maybe they can provide us with a copy of which offenses fall under which categories.

At the Law Amendments Committee many different Acts are amended. I will be curious to see who comes forward to talk about it and, as I said, other colleagues from my caucus who are direct critics in the areas will have some comments. Having said that, with regard to the justice issues, our Party, in principle, doesn't have a problem with them, but our other critics might have comments on the other areas as well. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus and make a few comments on Bill No. 115, which has become a rite of passage in this Legislature. From the government it appears they've become quite fond of these omnibus bills, trying to package as much as they can together. I raised some concerns about doing that from the very first time we sat after this government was elected, and obviously they appear to have fallen on deaf ears and they continue to package up as much as possible in these bills. In fact, I was surprised at the changes to the Education Act. I figured they might actually throw them in the Justice Administration bill rather than the Financial Measures (2002) Act, but I guess it's just as odd for it to be in the Financial Measures (2002) Act as it would have been for it to be found in the Justice Administration - the minister laughs so I think he understands exactly the point I am getting to.

[Page 9726]

Once again, there are numerous Acts that are being amended under this. Mostly there are minor changes, a few are more significant changes, especially with the Residential Tenancies Act, and I must admit I'm not sure what impact these changes are going to have. I certainly was familiar with the old board system and how that system worked. Where the government is going with this and what the rationale is for this change, I'm not quite sure that I can understand that at this point. We may hear more of that at the Law Amendments process as to why they are going (Interruption) I hear one of the members saying it's a money decision, but only time will tell if that has anything to do with it or not.

I'm pleased to see that once again the monetary allowance for small claims is being addressed in this bill. I believe it was only last year that under another Justice Administration Act, probably the Justice Administration Amendment (2001) Act, if I had to guess, we moved the amount up to $10,000 and now with the 2002 version, we're now going up to $15,000. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, small claims is becoming more and more of a popular avenue for Nova Scotians to try to settle legal issues that they have without going to the rigorous structured process of our regular court system.

One of the concerns that was raised with me, and I'm not sure if the minister has considered this, the whole idea of small claims was to try to keep costs down and to try to keep smaller cases out and as we're getting into higher amounts, then one of the issues raised with me was that now you're starting to creep into the monetary amounts where people are going to want to, because there's more money involved, start to hire lawyers and start being more litigious in their small claims cases. I guess one of the concerns, and maybe this is not valid and maybe it is, is that as we keep moving the costs higher and higher, we're in essence creating a new Provincial Court which, unfortunately, rather than streamlining our current system, may start to become cumbersome and bogged down in itself which is a matter to be considered. Maybe that's not the case, but in one year we've moved from $10,000 - we started with $5,000, we went to $10,000, now we're up to $15,000. Are we going to continually keep going higher and at what point do we start superseding the intent of the Small Claims Court system?

I note with interest, Mr. Speaker, the exemption which is now provided to MLAs so that we are not required to be on jury duty, the aspect of being in a conflict of interest. I can't help but find it ironic that the government recognizes that there may be a conflict of interest in MLAs serving on juries, yet they don't appear to find the same conflict of interest of having certain individuals sit on provincially-appointed agencies, boards and commissions. In that sense, we've seen on a number of occasions where this government has tried to appoint constituency assistants of Conservative members to sit on appeal boards. Then we saw the case where they started appointing friends of the government in municipally-elected positions to again sit on the Social Assistance Appeal Boards, the Assessment Appeal Boards.

[Page 9727]

It took Justice Merlin Nunn in one case to tell them that it was a clear conflict of interest and in another case they continued, I believe it is the appointment of a friend of the Minister of Health in the Truro area who was a councillor appointed on a board which we argued was clearly a conflict of interest. So it's interesting how they recognize that MLAs being appointed on juries may be conflicts of interest, but it doesn't seem to appear to be extended to appointments on agencies, boards and commissions which are also conflicts of interest.

Mr. Speaker, the fine structure that we see here is of great interest. We've seen some significant increases in provincial offences under this bill. Now, one has to seriously question some of the fines and the amounts put here. Are they really to act as a proper deterrent for certain acts or are they meant more to try to raise more revenue for this government? I would argue that the rationale behind many of these fines and the amounts that were chosen were not based on social policy, were not based on being a deterrent, but were based more on trying to increase the amount of revenue the Minister of Justice can create through these fine structures.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I spoke at the time when the fine structure came through and I remember some of the offences. Unfortunately, I don't have the list in front of me right now which showed all the offences, but one of my favourite ones, to show you what's included in this new provision, in these new offences. It's a matter of very important social policy apparently to this government because on the books of this province there was a fine, or I shouldn't say there was a fine, there wasn't a fine, but it was an offence in this province to leave your horse unattended. So when this government, based on very pressing social concerns, they thought how they heard from Nova Scotians, thought it wise to impose a fine on leaving your horse unattended. The first time you leave your horse unattended, I believe it was a $25 fine. The second time you leave your horse unattended, it is a $50 fine and then if for the third time you leave that horse unattended, it's going to be a whopping $100 fine.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you know, it's of great concern to us here, as MLAs in this province, the amount of wandering horses that we have all around this province, and the need to rein them in - pardon the pun - and to address such important, pressing needs. Mr. Speaker, I guess that would be one of the more silly aspects of where this government is going with some of the justice issues in this province.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I should note with interest also, of interest to many of the members in this House, some of them who, in their younger days, may have partaken in this activity, I think it is important that they should know that this government has now made hitchhiking not only an offence but has slapped a fine on those who are caught hitchhiking. So, once again, a serious concern, a social, pressing need in this province is to get control of hitchhikers and impose a fine on them. Again, I believe it will clearly show, when one looks at some of the

[Page 9728]

fines that are there, the drastic increase some of has taken, I would again argue with you from a justice perspective that the increase and the fine does not match a pressing social need and that the fine is meant to act as a proper penalty for that actual offence. In the end, I would argue that it is meant more to address raising revenues for this government than for anything else.

Mr. Speaker, with that, as I pointed out, it is clear that this government again, as my colleague pointed out with the Land Registration Act, there are user fees, there are means throughout all of this legislation to try to squeeze as much money out of Nova Scotians as they possibly can. Now, how much revenue, or how much of a deterrent they are going to be able to achieve in having those unattended horses all around this province? Only time will tell.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I certainly look forward to this bill to go on to the Law Amendments Committee stage. Maybe we will see horse owners come in in great protests against the new fine structure for unattended horses. Maybe we will see hitchhikers in, I don't know. With that, I look forward to the bill going to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise on Bill No. 115, The Justice Administration Act, which, as the honourable member for Richmond has pointed out, is just another example of this government's habit of introducing omnibus bills where there is a whole raft of changes that are made to a number of different bills. There is no particular principle running through them all, but they throw them all into one bill to try and limit the legislative process. There is no reason why this bill couldn't have been split into smaller pieces, except I guess that the government has learned a lesson that they don't actually like being in the Legislature, they prefer to get out of here as quickly as possible, so one of their techniques for doing that is to throw a whole bunch of unrelated legislative measures into one bill and, because there is no principle, it is difficult for me to address the bill as a whole, so I won't.

I am going to address one particular part of the bill and that deals with the abolition of the Residential Tenancies Boards. It is something that I don't think is widely realized, but this bill abolishes Residential Tenancies Boards in Nova Scotia and takes their jurisdiction, their sphere of action and hands it over to the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court. Is that going to be a good thing for Nova Scotians? Is it going to be a good thing for Nova Scotia tenants? Is it going to be a good thing for Nova Scotia landlords? Mr. Speaker, the answer is, we have no idea; we simply do not know and I would venture to say that neither does the government.

Under the last Liberal Government, a review of the Residential Tenancies Act was started. Where is it? What happened to it? That government fell before they were able to do

[Page 9729]

anything about it. This government came into office almost three years ago, what happened to the residential tenancies review? What happened to the desire to deal with the very real issues faced by tenants in Nova Scotia and landlords and, in particular, what I will call small landlords - those are landlords who sometimes have only one or two units, oftentimes in the basement or as part of their own homes, which is very much in evidence in my own constituency of Halifax Fairview, where there are many homes that have been subdivided so that the owner of the home has one unit.

Believe me, those small landlords have some very substantial concerns about the way the Residential Tenancies Act operates, not to mention the concerns, of course, that the tenants themselves have. When I get a call on residential tenancies, which, believe it or not, after social assistance, is probably the second most common kind of call that I get in my constituency office, somebody dealing with some aspect of residential tenancies. As often as not, it's the landlords calling me, but, as I say, it's the small landlords who are working their way through issues with tenants. It's probably split about evenly with calls from tenants as well.

They have many serious concerns. They have many serious, long-standing concerns. They have many serious, long-standing concerns that this residential tenancies review is supposed to deal with, but it has disappeared off the government's radar. In fact, in Supply debates last year, over a year ago, on April 12, 2001, I asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, who's responsible for residential tenancies? Where is it? What's going on? His answer was that it was a very difficult issue. He says, "We are trying to find out and ascertain what is happening . . . It is not progressing as quickly as I would like to see it progress."

The minister did say at the time that consultation was still ongoing. Well, here we are, a year later. In that year, we haven't heard one word from the government about where that residential tenancies review is, and instead of that review progressing along to deal with the very substantial concerns of tenants and landlords, we get this. We get the Justice Administration Act, which really, out of the blue, comes along and abolishes the Residential Tenancies Board.

Where did this come from? Did it come out of the consultation? We have no idea because we don't know what's going on with the consultation. What's the motivation behind this? We have no idea because the government hasn't told us. Is it to save money? It certainly appears to save money, and I would venture to guess that the primary motivation behind this particular part of the Justice Administration Act is to try to save money. Will it save money? We have no idea. If the minister knows, he's not telling.

In fact, what's going on here is that it's just another example of downloading onto Nova Scotian families. That's what it is. They've taken the cost of the system and they are now going to make tenants and landlords bear that cost. It's another one of those hidden tax

[Page 9730]

increases, another one of those hidden user fee increases that I've been talking about, because you won't see anywhere in the government's documents around this change anything about the downloading of cost onto Nova Scotians, but it is.

There are several ways that that happens. The most obvious one, but only the most obvious one, is the filing fee. Currently, if you want to take your case, as a landlord or a tenant, to the Residential Tenancies Board, the fee is $10. But this government is abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board, and the filing fee in Small Claims Court is $75. Now, you may look through all the government's budget documents and all the government's announcements on this particular bill, and you will not find any reference to the fact that the fee for having a hearing on a residential tenancies matter has just gone up by $65.

That may not seem like a lot of money until you consider the fact that the vast majority of residential tenancies disputes are over a small amount of money. The vast majority, certainly the vast majority that I have had experience with in my constituency office, are over a few hundred dollars. If you now consider that the filing fee has gone up to $75, plus the normal sheriff's fees if, as a landlord or tenant, you're lucky enough to be successful and you want to collect and you have to get a sheriff, you can be looking at a couple of hundred dollars now just to make your claim. This, in a system where the vast majority of claims are very small. How much sense does that make? I don't think it makes any sense at all and if it does make sense, the government is very far from putting forward a compelling case.

Now in the estimates debate this year, I asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations why is the government doing this? We knew, of course, this was coming and so I asked him why is the government doing this? Why is it giving the jurisdiction over residential tenancies matters to the Small Claims Court? The best the minister could come up with, and he can speak for himself and I'm sure he will later on in this debate, is that it was felt that residential tenancies matters were of a nature where they really ought to be heard by a lawyer. I said to the minister, wait a second. There is no intrinsic merit in having lawyers holding hearings, Mr. Speaker. From my personal experience, I know that lawyers are not any better equipped than anybody else to handle matters like this because what these cases are about are very human relationships. It's about conflict on its most simple level. It is rarely or never about a legal point. It's about human relationships. That's what the Residential Tenancies Board is all about. Yet, as justification for this move for abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board, is to say well, maybe lawyers should hear this.

Now I can give an example from my own personal experience of a tribunal that was staffed entirely by lawyers. It didn't work. It was a mistake. Somehow lawyers managed to convince everybody that only they could hold hearings and make decisions in workers' compensation. I don't know how they convinced everybody of that. I wasn't convinced of it. I didn't advocate it. But the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal was and still is staffed entirely by lawyers. The problem is that most workers' compensation cases aren't about law. They're about medical issues. That's what most workers' compensation cases turn

[Page 9731]

on. So why would you get a bunch of lawyers to decide cases that are fundamentally about issues of medicine? It's a good question. I never heard a satisfactory answer to it. But I would pose the same question here. Why would you offer as your justification for abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board the fact that you need lawyers to deal with issues that are almost never about the law? Why would you do that?

If the government doesn't want to take my word for it, here's the Supreme Court of Canada in a case coming out of Nova Scotia five years ago. It says that residential tenancy disputes involve a high volume of repetitive and narrowly-defined matters of limited complexity. They are amply suited to resolution by laypersons applying the rules with fairness and common sense. That's from the Supreme Court of Canada in a constitutional case about the Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act. It's worth thinking about those words because what it says is the Residential Tenancies Board deals with a high volume of repetitive and narrowly-defined matters of limited complexity. When that's the nature of the caseload, it is best handled by a specialized tribunal that is able to turn over the high volume very quickly. The Supreme Court said it's amply suited to resolution by a layperson applying the rules with fairness and common sense. That's what you need in the Residential Tenancies Boards, people who come to it with fairness and common sense. You don't necessarily have to have a law degree. In that business, there is no magic to having a law degree. What you do need to have is fairness and common sense.

Now has the government offered one single piece of justification for getting rid of a board that at least in theory was staffed by people applying fairness and common sense and giving it instead to the bunch of lawyers who sit on the Small Claims Court? No, Mr. Speaker, they have not because it's not true. It is simply not true that the Small Claims Court is by its nature better suited to handle residential tenancies matters. It is not true and if the government thinks it's true, they haven't offered one scrap of evidence to support it. When I asked the minister, the only justification he offered was that it would be better for these matters to be handled by lawyers.

[4:00 p.m.]

I'm a lawyer, Mr. Speaker, and I will stand up and say here right now that that is not true. Lawyers are not intrinsically better suited to decide these kind of issues than anybody else who can exercise a sense of fairness and common sense. That's the truth, so why is it happening? I suspect it's because the government thinks they're going to save money, but are they? We don't have one shred of evidence that that's true. Is it really going to save money? Because what's going to happen to the residential tenancies caseload? It's going to move over to the Small Claims Court. Now, what does it mean? There are so many questions around this proposal. Does that mean the Small Claims Court will have to hire additional people in order to deal with the residential tenancies caseload? What are the government's projections of the effect of the fee increase on the caseload? What are the government's projections of the increase in the caseload of the Small Claims Court, and why does anybody

[Page 9732]

think that this major jurisdiction, which deals with hundreds or thousands of cases a year, can be dumped on the Small Claims Court with no increase in costs or no corresponding increase in costs?

Oddly enough, Mr. Speaker, Small Claims Court adjudicators are paid more than the people who sit on the Residential Tenancies Board. So you're getting rid of the lower-cost adjudicator and substituting for them the higher-cost adjudicator. (Interruption) I'm getting to that. The member for Sackville-Cobequid has jogged my memory about a topic that I did want to turn to and I will get to it, I promise.

So how does it save money to get rid of the lower-cost adjudicator and substitute for it the higher-cost adjudicator? Because let's make no mistake about it, the Small Claims Court, despite its name, is quite a bit more formal than the Residential Tenancies Board. I don't know if any of the members on that side of the House have had the pleasure of going before a Small Claims Court, as either a plaintiff or defendant or, who knows, maybe even some of them were adjudicators, although I don't think so because I think there's only one person on that side who's a lawyer. (Interruptions) I don't know if the Minister of Justice was ever a Small Claims Court adjudicator, perhaps he was.

But it is more formal than the Residential Tenancies Board, and what happens is often it's held in the evening because they try to hold it at a time when people aren't working. You can sit there for hours and hours waiting for your turn to come up because the Small Claims Court is basically first come, first served, and you go down the order on the list. Sometimes you try to do uncontested matters first and then you go to contested matters, but it can go into the small hours of the morning. This is a court that right now, as far as I know, doesn't have excess capacity, yet a whole new jurisdiction is being dumped on it. So where's the money saving? Where is the expertise? Because residential tenancies now is going to be just one among a whole variety of matters being heard by the Small Claims Court.

This bill puts up the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court to $15,000, which I guess in some theoretical sense is a good thing, but just think about $15,000 disputes. That's enough to break most Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, a dispute over $15,000. There are some very serious matters that are going to be decided in Small Claims Court; let's make no mistake about that. When I was a young lawyer, 10 years ago, doing litigation, the general rule was that if a case was worth less than $10,000, it wasn't worth hiring a lawyer because taking a case to trial would cost you at least $10,000. So now it's going up to $15,000 and most people still can't afford a lawyer, so they're going to be representing themselves in cases of up to $15,000.

What the Small Claims Court was supposed to be about was a very summary fact-finding process, and what I mean by summary is that it's all done very much on the fly. You have no idea what witnesses are going to show up for the other side. You have no idea in advance of what they're going to say. You have no idea what documents are going to be

[Page 9733]

produced. It's supposed to be, as the expression goes, quick and dirty. But now the Small Claims Court is going to be dealing with issues of up to $15,000. So, once again, it's going to favour people who already have the resources to fight $15,000 battles and it's going to work against people who do not have the resources to fight $15,000 battles. Let's make no mistake about it. Increasing the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court is going to make things better for those who already have and it's going to make things worse for the people who still don't have. Now, on top of that whole issue of the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, we're dumping the residential tenancies.

With that thought, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn to the issue of patronage. I think it's widely known that the other two Parties are wedded to patronage. They need it. I think it's safe to say there's no New Democrat that I know who ever joined the NDP in order to get stuff (Laughter) because they never had any assurance that the New Democrats would be in a position to give them a job. They never had any assurance that New Democrats would be in a position to offer them contracts. There was never any (Interruptions) Well I'm not sure why the other Parties are going in the direction of talking about appointments made by their Parties. At any rate, we know that the other Parties need patronage in order to hold themselves together because, certainly, in Nova Scotia, there's been no indication that there's any principle that binds them together. There's no principle coming out of those other Parties. It's about what's in it for them.

That principle has been carried through very consistently by the other Parties when it came to the Residential Tenancies Board. So I'm not saying Residential Tenancies Boards were perfect. They certainly weren't. Because for a long time, Residential Tenancies Boards have been prone to patronage appointments. As I have said over and over again, until they're tired of hearing it and I'm going to keep saying it, is that all of us in Nova Scotia pay for patronage because patronage by definition means that the people who are not best qualified for the job get the job. That means that the best decisions are not made and that means that Nova Scotians are not getting the government that they deserve. That has certainly been true in the Residential Tenancies Board. This board that was set up to deal with a high volume of small claims has suffered because of the quality of people who have been appointed to it.

Some of them, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, have not been up to the job. They have not been able to apply fairness and common sense because they were appointed on the basis of political affiliation. Now the problem here is that the same is true of the Small Claims Court. Historically, and not in every case, but historically, it too has had people appointed to it on the basis of their political affiliation rather than their ability. Now that's certainly not true of everybody. It's not true of everybody on the Small Claims Court. It's not true on the Residential Tenancies Board, but it is true in enough cases that it should be of concern to every Nova Scotian.

[Page 9734]

Now it wasn't that long ago that this government reached a settlement, what I will call an out-of-court settlement, although it was really an out-of-tribunal settlement, with Archie Kaiser, the Dalhousie Law School professor who complained to the Human Rights Commission about patronage in appointments to tribunals. Now the government made a settlement with Archie Kaiser and they publicly promised to reform the system of appointments to agencies, boards and commissions. The members in the other two Parties can howl all they want and they can make derisive comments, as they are and as they do, but if there is nothing wrong with the system I don't understand why their government felt it necessary to promise to completely overhaul the system.

Everybody knows that the system needed to be reformed but here we are four months after the Kaiser settlement and we still have had no indication from the government about what changes they're going to implement or what process they're following to implement those changes. No doubt it will happen just the way it seems virtually everything happens with this government, that they will call a news conference and they will announce to everybody what they've decided after zero consultation.

That's not the way to have good public policy, to have zero consultation. So before I'm convinced that abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board and moving it over to Small Claims Court is a good thing for Nova Scotians, I have to see that only the best qualified people are going to get appointed to the Small Claims Court - only the best qualified people. Where is the promise that's going to happen? It's nowhere. Since the Kaiser settlement, back in January of this year, we've been met with silence. There is no indication from the government about what reform is underway, if any. We have no idea what ideas are on the table, what proposals are being considered. We have a Human Resources Committee that continues to function as a rubber stamp and it wasn't just me who said it. Back when George Archibald sat on that side of the House he said exactly the same thing. He said the members of the committee needed to have more information. He said that the Human Resources Committee functioned as a rubber stamp, and still there's been no change.

So when the government proposes a change like this - and let's make no mistake about it - this is a substantial change, it is a meaningful change, it is a real change that will affect my constituents who are tenants and landlords, especially small landlords, and it's going to affect their constituents who are tenants and landlords, especially small landlords. Yet they offer no explanation, no justification. The one justification that a Minister of the Crown has offered, frankly doesn't hold water. So all that we're left to believe is that it has to be, if the government can't offer a convincing explanation, it's got to be about money. It's got to be at some level about their idea that by abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board they're going to save money. Where's the proof? Where's the study? Do they have internal studies showing that this is the case? What assumptions have been made in those internal studies? We need to know; we need to know before we can judge whether this is the right thing to do. Is it going to save money and if so, how much? We need to know, and the government's not being forthcoming at all with the answers.

[Page 9735]

Where is the Residential Tenancies review? If you're going to bring in this radical change to the Residential Tenancies Act, where are all the other changes that people have been crying out for for years? Where are they? I asked the minister a year ago and he said it was complex and he said his department was working on it. Where is it? How did this come up to the top, this proposal that I've never heard anybody propose before? How did this one bubble to the top and not real changes to the Residential Tenancies Act that will help owners of homes in mobile trailer parks, or small landlords who are having difficulty evicting a troublesome tenant from a unit in their own home? Where are those changes? And the government doesn't have an answer. Where are they? And all they come up with is this change that could very well be a huge step backward for residential tenancies in Nova Scotia.

Where is any idea about the issue that I get calls about, about the level of rents in my constituency, elsewhere in the city and, for all I know, elsewhere in the province, although, of course, people elsewhere in the province aren't calling me. Rents are high in Halifax. They're high and they're getting out of the range of affordability for people who are working at just above minimum wage, and there are plenty of people in that category. They can't afford the rents in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, where are the government's ideas on that? Where are their views on that? I wonder. I wonder if they realize that that's the real issue in residential tenancies right now. Instead they come forward with this proposal to abolish the Residential Tenancies Board. Where's the protection for small landlords, especially those who are renting out part of their own homes? I've had some very difficult situations in my constituency. As I said, up and down the streets in Fairview there are homes that have been subdivided, and people are renting out a basement or a side unit. If things go bad and the tenant turns out to be highly undesirable, for any of a number of reasons, these landlords have a great deal of difficulty evicting the tenant, an enormous amount of difficulty. Where are the government's ideas for helping them? Where are they?

Mr. Speaker, they have nothing to say about it. The only thing that has bubbled to the top is the abolition of the Residential Tenancies Board, which was a friend of the small landlord because it was quick, cheap, and easy. Now it's gone in favour of a much more elaborate court where there's no guarantee it's going to be fast or cheap - it's certainly not cheaper; it's more expensive, we know that - or easy. We have gotten rid of the expert tribunal that dealt with only one subject matter, that was fast, quick and easy, and we've handed it over to the Small Claims Court, where there is no guarantee of any of those things. Why are we doing that? There's no good answer coming from the government.

Mr. Speaker, that's what's really going on out in the real world in residential tenancies. That's what's going on out in the real world for the people who live in my constituency and in their constituencies. You take, for example, the member for Halifax Citadel. She has an

[Page 9736]

enormous number of renters in her constituency. Don't any of them call her? What are her answers to these questions that I'm raising? Is this going to be better for tenants and landlords, or is it just about saving money? (Interruptions)

Halifax Bedford Basin is exploding in growth, particularly on the west side of Dunbrack Street, which is almost entirely rental accommodation development. Even in my own constituency, where there's precious little room left to develop, the developments that are going up are mostly new rental units. What do those members on that side of the House say when people call them about residential tenancies? What is that crowd saying when people say, what are you doing for me as a tenant? What are you doing for me as a small landlord? What do they say? I would like to know. I would like one of them, at least, for heaven's sake, to stand up and tell me what you tell those people who call you or when you go knocking on doors, if you do knock on doors anymore, when people raise residential tenancies issues? What do you say to them that you're doing for them?

What you are doing is abolishing the Residential Tenancies Board, which was fast and cheap and easy. That's what you are doing, so what are you claiming that you're doing for them? Are you reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act? It's disappeared off the radar. Disappeared. What is this government doing for them? Until those kinds of questions are answered, it's very difficult for me to support this particular part of the omnibus Justice Administration Amendment (2002) Act. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise a make a few comments with regard to Bill No. 115, as is presented here today. I realize this is somewhat of an omnibus bill, this Act Respecting the Administration of Justice, because it covers everything from the Interpretation Act, Juries Act, Justice of the Peace Act, the Motor Vehicle Act, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Municipal Government Act, and on and on.

Mr. Speaker, I couldn't help but be somewhat taken with some of the clauses. I know it's not the desire to get in the clause by clause, but I couldn't help just taking a look at one of the clauses that is in this particular piece of legislation under the Motor Vehicle Act. It would beg you to wonder how user-friendly this government is making its legislation. In Clause 293 on Page 4 of the bill, it says:

"Any person who violates any of the provisions of Section 16, 28, 37, 38, 40, 50, 61 or 69, subsection (2) of Section 83, Section 90, 93, 113, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123, 126, 129, 133, 134 or 135, subsection (1) of Section 136 or Section 138, 139, 140, 141, 151, 161, 165, 174, 175, 178, 179, 181A, . . .", and so on. Then it goes on and on. There are still so many more and it says, " . . . is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to the penalties provided for a category C offence in the Summary Proceedings Act."

[Page 9737]

Well, it's hardly what you call a user-friendly piece of legislation. The government through its Red Tape Task Force was talking about streamlining things to make it more user friendly. Certainly not even in the explanatory notes or provisions of this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is there anything that would kind of comb that down to a layman's term or at least something a little more user-friendly.

There are many sections like that, Mr. Speaker, all through the bill. So it begs one to wonder really what the Minister of Justice was trying to achieve. Is he trying to make things more user-friendly or is he trying to put it in a more convoluted way so as to make it easier for the government to gouge money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians? That seems to be exactly what the Minister of Justice is codifying, because where things are a little easier to read in some of these sections and subsections, he has explanatory notes. Where it gets very complicated and a lot of detail that one has to dwell through several pieces of legislation to be able to analyze, there is absolutely no explanation. So much for simplifying things for the people of Nova Scotia. That seems to be the general format all through this particular piece of legislation.

I, too, have a little bit of a concern with the Residential Tenancies Act provision, that's Part VII, Mr. Speaker. The fact that the government and, in particular, the Minister of Justice seems to be intent on transferring this over into the Small Claims Court. Well, is that making it more user-friendly for the constituent, for those who have problems, whether they're a tenant or a landlord? I daresay it wouldn't appear to me that it is. It's actually raising the bar and, in effect, it's going to cost people more to enter into that process and it's not going to be as user-friendly as it used to be. Many people would find going to court, whether it be Small Claims Court or a County Court, Provincial Court, Supreme Court, or whatever, any type of a quasi-judicial body, and now getting into Small Claims Court, is very intimidating for a lot of people.

I have attended Small Claims Court in my previous life as a business person on a number of issues. I have actually had to go and give testimony, for a person or two and, Mr. Speaker, it's very intimidating. To take this from the residential tenancies process, as it now exists, and put it over into that process, it is going to be very burdensome for some individuals, despite what the minister (Interruption) And yes, Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly intimidated easily sometimes. I can assure you that some of the people I have seen go before these small claims hearings are not easily intimidated either, but when they get there, it sometimes becomes wrapped up on points of law. Maybe not intentionally, but it does.

Ironically, Mr. Speaker, what the Minister of Justice is doing is making a sharp turn on how the small claims process now functions. Presently in the Small Claims Court process, matters of real estate are not entertained, and that is a fact. If there was a boundary dispute or something of a real estate matter, that is not entertained at the Small Claims Court. So that could very easily complicate matters, when you get into matters of the . . .

[Page 9738]

AN HON. MEMBER: Mobile home owners.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, exactly, mobile home owners, condominium owners, those who are subletting condominiums and so on.

I guess I would be a little bit remiss if I didn't comment on the dissertation provided by the member for Halifax Fairview. That speaks to this particular piece of legislation as well. I feel bad for all those members of the Tory caucus and the Liberal caucus who, according to the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, have no moral ground when it comes to being able to make decisions as to who would be best able to serve on any of these agencies, boards and commissions. (Interruptions) Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a little bit of yelping down in the corner of the socialist block, but that is fine; I want to stick to the issue here. The issue is - I mean that is why we have a public consultation process.

This is an ad that was in the local papers just recently, advertising . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't choke on it.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will finish. I don't like to argue with an unarmed man, but if that need be, we will do it.

This is an application, an invitation for any Nova Scotian to apply to an agency, board or commission. Now I am sorry for the member for Dartmouth North, who feels that some of his socialist friends cannot get appointed to some of these agencies, boards and commissions. Well, his own colleague from Halifax Fairview says that they joined that Party because they are not interested in any type of agencies, boards or commissions; they are not interested in appointments and becoming involved in the process. These are duly-constituted agencies, boards and commissions that are approved by the Statute laws of Nova Scotia, upon which all members in this House have an opportunity to voice their opinions. If they don't take advantage of that, if they are so preoccupied with the high moral ground, then the reality of trying to get the best persons who are qualified, then that is their problem. We don't always have to agree with the way things are done, but we have a process to express our opinion. I would hope that the member for Halifax Fairview would bring in an amendment to improve the legislation, not just crow about how things are always so bad with the NDP. You know I never hear the NDP complain when someone who is highly identified with the socialist Party is being appointed to one of these boards or commissions. I saw clear evidence of that the other day.

Well, Mr. Speaker, let's look at the best qualified and the terms of reference. Let's look at the last meeting of the Human Resources Committee, when a Labour Board appointment was being made. Okay, yes, that person was highly qualified, but let's look at the terms of reference that the socialist and the labour communities use for appointing that particular individual, a total contradiction to their standard policy. The standard policy - and this was

[Page 9739]

expressed to me directly by the president and the executive director of the Federation of Labour - is that we want appointments who are active in the marketplace, not retired, but someone who is current so as to be able to function in the changing environments and to be able to keep pace with these changing issues on regulations and policies and Statutes and technologies, and all the arguments and the platitudes that everyone could make were made.

[4:30 p.m.]

Yet, when they contradicted their own policy last week at the Human Resources Committee, what did the member for Halifax Fairview do? He voted for it, because he knew that individual was a high-profile NDPer. Not a word was said. Not one word. (Interruptions) It is so, Mr. Speaker. I raise that as a matter of principle. (Interruptions) Well, the member for Dartmouth South shouldn't get too excited, because he's the one who supported it. (Interruptions) That's what they were advised to do on that committee.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get cut off too much. There is a process. If the member for Halifax Fairview or any other member of this House is not happy, bring forth legislation, bring forth amendments, exercise their democratic right. What is the principle of democracy here? What is it? Is it our fault that they don't get enough numbers to form a government? Is it our fault? Is it the people of Nova Scotia's fault? (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, they can't blame us. We didn't put them over there, the socialists did. The socialists were so hungry for power in 1999 they couldn't wait to get to the polls. What happened? Poof, they went up in smoke. That's the reality. They put the Tories over there and now they're crowing about it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Although I know all members are enjoying the debate, I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to second reading, the principle of Bill No. 115, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, thank you for your guidance. It's a clear indication that we are hitting some of the key issues that this bill speaks to. It speaks to the fact that the government has the right to bring this type of legislation before the House, and we have a right and, in many cases, a duty to test the validity, put it to the acid test, so to speak. Much the same as our socialist friends have the right to complain about the process, which is codified through law.

Mr. Speaker, democracy is a terrible form of government but all others are worse, to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill. (Interruption) The socialists are saying, how do you know? Well, if they like communism and socialism and utopianism and all that, well they can have it. But I like this process. I like this democratic process. I'm not always happy with

[Page 9740]

it. (Interruptions) Now we know what their true colours are. We know what their true colours are. They're pinker than pink. That's just the way it is. But this particular piece of legislation (Interruptions) Well, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview says, do you think it produces the best people? Well, I don't produce people. We try and judge the best we can when the information is brought forth that we are picking the best people for the job. When I was the Minister of Labour and I had to sign off at the end of the day who the best-qualified person for the job was, I had to do that. That was part of the due diligence. It's okay for the socialists to criticize and say you haven't picked the best person, that's patronage. But yet, it was the socialists who brought in that affidavit form that says you have to sign that's the best person. So what did we do? We signed it. But what do we do when we have to sign it? The least we can be expected to do in a form of due diligence is to check to find out if we do have the best people. They want us to sign off and accept the legal responsibility, but they don't want us to have anything to do with who's being hired.

If you run a business, Mr. Speaker, and you want to hire a manager of your operations, don't you think you should have some say in who's the best person to protect your business interest? Don't you think you should have the most qualified person that will make your business the best possible success? (Interruption) If the honourable member for Halifax Fairview can't distinguish between the public sector and the private sector, that's his problem. I drew an analogy of what it takes. The onus of responsibility on someone that signs his or her name on the bottom line saying that the person I appoint is the best person. Now I'm not going to get into this dichotomy about what's right or what's wrong because no matter what you do, it's like the previous socialist leader that sat in the House here, no matter what you did, it was never right. Yet, after 14 years, they came in with 14 per cent popular support and left with 12 per cent. What a success story that was. She had 14 years to prove herself. (Applause) Maybe that's what the honourable member for Halifax Fairview was aiming for. He wants to return to the dangerous duo, whether it be himself and the honourable member for Dartmouth North or the honourable member for Hants East, I'm not sure. It may be the two of them as the rest of them go off to greener pastures, I don't know.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, this legislation is an omnibus piece of legislation. (Interruption) The honourable member for Dartmouth North should know. He found out himself when they sent their Chief of Staff from the NDP caucus office to run in Cape Breton West because he had a distant relative that lived in Big Pond. Well that proved pretty fruitful with 2 per cent of the popular vote. So if the honourable member for Dartmouth North wants to come down, he's welcome as well. The people of Cape Breton West will make their judgment. If they think I'm the best person for the job, they will send me back. If they don't, well, they won't. You respect that but that's democracy. At least I appreciated this legislation being before the House. They only like democracy when the NDP numbers go up or they get something. When it goes down and they can't get an NDP supporter appointed to an agency, board or commission, well, it's terrible. This is a conspiracy.

[Page 9741]

The former leader of the NDP, he will have lots of opportunity in the next number of months and years ahead to apply for some of these agencies, boards and commissions.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well you can count on it.

MR. MACKINNON: He says I can count on it. Well, Mr. Speaker, may I recommend a few, the Labour Standards Tribunal, the Labour Relations Board, all those sorts of things that his background speaks to. I would venture to say, as happened in previous governments, both Conservative and Liberal Governments, socialists will be appointed if they're the best qualified people for the job. Speaking on this particular issue, the former leader of the socialists is saying he's glad he came back because he's hoping for an appointment. Well, I mean, it's too easy. I want to speak to the bill. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, you would think the honourable member for Halifax Fairview had enough. Some of the hare-brained schemes that he comes up with at some of these committee meetings you would almost have to rename him the member (Interruptions) There is a legal process to deal with a lot of the concerns that he has and he certainly (Interruptions)

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: There's not a principle among you.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview is saying there's not a principle amongst the Liberals and I would suspect he's saying the same about the Tories. I wonder if he would have said that when Bob Levy was appointed? I wonder if he would have said that when the former Governor General of Canada, Ed Schreyer was appointed? Must I go on? But he's saying that's not patronage. But when other people are appointed to a judgeship, that honourable member attacks them and says it is patronage.

Maybe when he's finished his thesis, he will be able to produce a document that will rationalize the inconsistencies of his logic. If it's that good, maybe we will be able to patent it so all members of the House, when we start to debate bills like Bill No. 115, we will be able to use it as a blueprint. Not quite like the blue book of promises that was brought forth by the Progressive Conservatives, but something rationally irrational, I guess, would be the only way to describe that type of logic. Speaking to the bill, we will certainly have lots of opportunity to raise some concerns as it goes on to the Law Amendments Committee, and it will come back to Committee of the Whole House.

Again, I want to emphasize my concern about the fact that the Minister of Justice stated in his opening remarks that he was trying to simplify things. Obviously, as I noted with Sections 293 and 294, essentially the same thing again and I don't want to get into it clause by clause, but just to read the first three lines to show you how user unfriendly it really is, it says in Section 294, "Any person who violates any of the provisions of Section 19, 23, 24,

[Page 9742]

26, 27, 29, 65 or 70, subsection (1) of Section 83, Section 94 or 96, subsection (4) of Section 103, Section 106 A, 110, 111, 112, 116, 117, 121, 124, 130, 132, 145 . . ."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows not to be reading the sections or read section by section in second reading. I ask him to bring his comments back to the principle of Bill No. 115, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is, just the mere fact of those three lines points out quite clearly that this is not a user friendly piece of legislation. It's designed to be complicated while the government is trying to gouge more money from the consumers and from the people of Nova Scotia because if you look at the back of the previous page, no explanatory notes at all. When you go through some of the simpler sections, there are explanatory notes - simpler in terms of layman's terminology. I'm sorry I'm not a Rhodes Scholar like the member for Halifax Fairview. He will have to bear with my limited educational knowledge and my ability to interpret it accordingly.

This is what I like about this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. It allows laypersons to be able to come and express themselves. This is the people's forum and this is the way it should be kept. Not everybody has to have a Ph.D. or a doctorate degree in the social sciences or on the complete analysis of the psychology of what makes politicians think certain ways when they're making certain agency, board or commission appointments, if you know what I mean.

I think the points are well noted. We do have some concerns about this legislation. I think in general there are some good components to this legislation. We will follow it through to the Law Amendments Committee and when it comes back to Committee of the Whole House, we would expect that there may be an amendment or two. We will guide ourselves by that. Thank you.

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: I had not intended to speak; however, Mr. Speaker, I will be somewhat brief in my comments. I certainly won't be speaking around political patronage and that particular area or environment, so you certainly won't hear conversations from me on that. However, what I do want to speak on on this particular Bill No. 115 is an issue of abolishing the Residential Tenancies. I don't believe that government recognizes the importance of abolishing the Residential Tenancies and making sure that these particular issues now become the domain of the Small Claims Court.

[Page 9743]

Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Fairview spoke quite eloquently on this particular issue, but I do want to say that there are a number of concerns I have with respect to appeals, particularly concerns and issues that are taken directly to the Residential Tenancies, which now will go the Small Claims Court. Many of the individuals who reside in apartment complexes are people who live on medium or moderate incomes and are obviously there because this is the kind of living accommodations they chose to accept and they accept them as good citizens.

The concern that I have, Mr. Speaker, is with respect to the fees. As you know, the fee is normally a $10 cost to take this issue to the Residential Tenancies, however it is now going to go from a $10 cost to a $75 cost to take this to Small Claims Court. Now I do know that people who are on fixed incomes or those who are on social assistance, usually that fee is waived, but in this particular case there are people on moderate incomes who are certainly paying a tremendous amount of their income towards shelter. For this particular reason there is a very real need to recognize that particular issue.

I recall, Mr. Speaker, back in 1998 when I first got elected to the provincial Legislature, that in fact there was a report that was brought forward by all the stakeholders, those people who, in fact, were tenants, tenants' associations, those people who were mobile home owners who, in fact, were stakeholders, and those individuals were investment property owners, IPONS in a particular case, Investment Property Owners of Nova Scotia. All were stakeholders around a report around amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. Those individuals had, in fact, presented their report and there were many recommendations which never did see the light of day. In 1998 of course the government then was a Liberal Government and they were going to bring it forward in the fall of that particular year.

Then again, in the fall of 1999, the newly elected Conservative Government said they were going to bring forward residential tenancies legislation. It certainly didn't happen, Mr. Speaker, and as the member for Halifax Fairview has indicated, we don't know where that is, we don't know where those recommendations are, we don't know if, in fact, the stakeholders have been informed or advised with respect to this particular change. We don't know with respect to the particular change on the abolition of the Residential Tenancies Board, to hear complaints and to listen to complaints - we don't know if, in fact, this is an endorsement by all those stakeholders out there who have had input with respect to the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I say to you, this is a very important issue. It is an extremely important issue in the constituency that I represent because the constituency that I represent has a high volume of multi-unit residential development. As a matter of fact, one could very well say that approximately 70 percent of dwellers are multi-unit dwellers in the constituency of Dartmouth North; that is an extremely high of multi-unit developments.

[Page 9744]

I received a number of calls from people concerned and intimidated with respect to the process that they now have to go through, through the Residential Tenancies Board. So I see this as another process whereby individuals will be somewhat apprehensive about appealing issues of concern with respect to residential tenancies issues. I see those particular individuals not wanting to go to Small Claims Court. I see those individuals not wanting to have to pay the $75 to take it to Small Claims Court so this may very well be in the best interests of those people who have huge investments into property investments in this province.

I think, Mr. Speaker, one has to recognize that people will feel that there's a need for representation. Although the Residential Tenancies Board was somewhat informal and people could go there in an informal setting and they could have their hearing on the appeal of their particular issue, I want you to know that the Small Claims Court is somewhat more formalized. There are individuals who feel somewhat intimidated by that particular process. The individuals then have to present themselves on their particular case. Not only that, the issue of the whole process of how one goes through the Small Claims Court. Now will it be up to the individual tenant if the individual tenant wants to take the landlord to Small Claims Court to go out there and file the writ or the affidavit or whatever the case may be, to make that personal contact with the individual landlord that he or she may be taking to Small Claims Court or will that be the case of the landlord as well?

In the case of the landlord, Mr. Speaker, it may be somewhat easier, but in the case of the individual tenant, it will be extremely difficult because some of those individual tenants will be on fixed incomes and they will have to go over. Even though they're on fixed incomes and even though this is waived, they still have to go through the process of the Small Claims Court. So there will be people who will be extremely intimidated, particularly those who are on fixed incomes and social assistance, rather they want to hear their particular appeals in this sort of an environment.

Mr. Speaker, one has to recognize that mobile-home owners come under the Residential Tenancies Act, as well. Mobile-home owners usually take their particular issues as well to the Tenancies Board to have issues addressed. Mobile-home owners now, in fact, will have to go through Small Claims Court, and some of those owners of those mobile home estates and so on may have some significant influence that will act as a deterrent to prevent those individuals from going to Small Claims Court. They felt comfortable in the environment of an informal setting of the Residential Tenancies Board, but may not feel comfortable in the setting of a Small Claims Court.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that there are a number of issues and some of those claims, maybe the cost of presenting yourself before the Small Claims Court, may be more than the claim that they want to receive. It might only be $100. Let's use an example, it might only be a claim for $100 damage deposit return, but yet they have to pay $75 to have the $100 damage deposit returned. That is somewhat of a major concern to me and I'm sure it's

[Page 9745]

a major concern to those individuals who, in fact, are tenants within a number of the multi units in the constituency that I represent.

There was also, Mr. Speaker, the intent to have rent controls. I know during the Liberal Government of 1993 that they lifted rent controls. There are many people now because of the low vacancy rate in the metropolitan area who are actually being squeezed out of shelter accommodations. You might find that difficult to believe, but I did tell you here in Question Period last week that the vacancy rate in the metropolitan area is 2.7 per cent. Rent increases are going up significantly to the point whereby there are a number of people in the constituency that I represent that can no longer afford to live in their neighbourhood or their community so are having to move out. There are no rent controls in an environment such as this. These are some of the recommendations in that particular legislation.

I wonder and I ask, is this some of the reason government has decided not to bring the Residential Tenancies Act recommendations forward? I'm sure they've had plenty of time to review and assess the Act. I'm sure they've had plenty of time to have input, and I'm sure there have been a number of stakeholders who have advised this government on many of the recommendations for it.

Mr. Speaker, I guess the concern I have is one that I will simply set here and watch intently as this bill goes before the Law Amendments Committee to see the number of presentations, if any, before the Law Amendments Committee and then have a greater opportunity to speak about this when it comes back to the House in third reading. Having said that, I think it's important that we emphasize the kind of significant changes that have been made to the Residential Tenancies Act, and we don't know who the government has consulted with respect to this particular change, the abolition of the Residential Tenancies Board.

Mr. Speaker, who did the government consult? We don't know who the government consulted. Was it those members of the stakeholders who, in fact, got together and made recommendations with respect to the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act? I would say to you, not likely. It's important for us to know who government has consulted with on this particular bill, Bill No. 115, with respect to the abolition of the Residential Tenancies Board. Having said that, I'm going to take my seat, and I'm certainly going to wait for this legislation to go through its proper course and then come back to this House for debate.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: On behalf of the Minister of Justice, we will pass on; he's had a chance to hear the comments from everybody. I would like to close debate on Bill No. 115.

[Page 9746]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 115. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 128.

Bill No. 128 - Municipal Government Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, I move second reading of Bill No. 128.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise on behalf of our caucus to say a few words about Bill No. 128, Municipal Government Act. You have to ask yourself, who is this going to affect? It affects property owners in Nova Scotia. It's going to affect all property owners in Nova Scotia at one point in time, and I will explain what I mean by that in a few moments. What it does is it downloads to municipalities the right to specify a tax rate for waterfront properties throughout the province.

Mr. Speaker, if the government proceeds with this bill, it should pass this House some time this Spring. I don't think it will pass the House as easily as some other bills that are going through this House at record speed here this afternoon. I believe this bill is going to be one that's going to deserve a lot of attention by both legislators and, indeed, citizens of Nova Scotia at the stage of this bill where it goes to the Law Amendments Committee and, in fact, when it comes back here for Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, what this government does - it doesn't do anything but download the responsibility for assessment onto municipal units. That's what it does. It's another downloading to municipal units. Under this bill, municipal units have the power to set lower residential tax rates for properties with frontage on or a view of an ocean, a river or a lake. The sudden increase in property taxes has created a financial problem for many Nova Scotians, but the government's solution doesn't come close - not even close - to fixing the problem. The problem, of course, is that the municipal units will only inherit the problem of dealing with the assessment issue. It will, in effect, create more problems, because it will create a patchwork of tax rates throughout the province. The fear is that other residents in

[Page 9747]

these coastal communities will be unfairly impacted with higher taxes by the suggested changes in rates. Failing that, the government's solution will force municipalities to run on less money, which will result in a lack of municipal services.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the government deflects its responsibility by seeing this issue in terms of a local issue; not as a municipal downloading, in terms of a local issue. Well, the minister has said, in introducing the changes: "This problem is not widespread across the province - it is localized. Therefore, it is best that it be resolved at the local level." That's an interesting statement. "After all, resolving local issues is what municipal governments are all about." Now, the translation in that is, municipalities, you're going to be stuck with the problem; we want to give somebody a tax break, so you find a way to make it up. It relieves some people of taxes; it charges other people more taxes to make it up.

More problematic to that, Mr. Speaker, is that the legislation only contains the word "may". That's interesting. It's not "shall", not "must", but "may", which in itself allows a lot of escape routes here. What this means is that even though the responsibility is on the municipalities, the municipalities are not bound to do anything with this issue; in other words throw it back in their laps, let them take the problems, take the hit from irate citizens, and then they will have to decide for themselves whether or not they can afford to appease this group of Nova Scotians or to simply incur their wrath because of their higher tax bills.

Does the problem get fixed? Maybe, maybe not; it depends on the financial abilities of the municipal unit. Because of the "may" wording in many of the bill's provisions, it may well mean that property owners will still pay higher taxes. Some municipalities will opt not to do anything; some will and charge it to other municipalities. The "may" is there; they may do anything they want; the problem is they don't have to do anything.

Another legitimate fear here, Mr. Speaker, is that while waterfront properties are looked after by the bill, the other residents in these coastal communities may be unfairly impacted with higher taxes by changes to address any financial shortfall. That stands to reason if you're going to relieve some taxpayers of a burden and you expect to provide the same services in that municipal unit, then you have to get the money somewhere. Is the minister going to give them money? I don't think so, so they're going to have to get it from within the municipal unit, and guess who is going to pay that? The rest of the ratepayers are going to make that up. There's no pot of money dropping from the sky, it's the rest of the ratepayers who are going to have to make that up.

The government's solution doesn't balance the interests of all the residents in a particular community. In essence the province, if it follows this path, will only seem to create more taxing problems for all concerned. One of the concerns, Mr. Speaker, is that a poorer

[Page 9748]

municipality might be unable to provide a lower rate to anybody, let alone transfer payment from one taxpayer to another.

There has been much public criticism of this particular bill over the past little while and I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that that criticism will start to grow as this bill moves through the process of this House. There is some criticism from members of this House on the government side on this bill already; some public, some not so public. The criticism has been there; I have heard it myself. Some members on the backbenches over there are uneasy with this bill, and rightfully so; particularly some of them who come from municipalities that aren't as well off as others and that have to make some adjustments in the way they tax their residents, their ratepayers. As I said, some are less vocal than others, but nevertheless the criticism is there and there has been some vocal criticism already from the government ranks.

Some of that criticism states that it is really a problem that the province should be addressing and not passing it off to municipalities. Some people would say there are no easy solutions but believe that each property should be assessed on its own merits, its own value. Mr. Speaker, I want to read an editorial from the Truro Daily News of Saturday, May 4th , a partial quote, "It would be an affront to the sensibilities of every Nova Scotian if public policy was dictated by a few wealthy people who look out over Mahone Bay or Bras d'Or Lake". I didn't say that, that was the editorial in the Truro Daily News just last Saturday.

Gerry Blumenthal, President of the UNSM, says the province made a big mistake by allowing municipalities to lower tax rates for people with skyrocketing waterfront properties. Blumenthal said it is just another download onto municipalities and many won't stand for it. He said that giving waterfront property owners a break means everybody else will have to pay more. That is what I said earlier - somebody has to make it up. Somebody gets a break, the municipality has to charge somebody else more to achieve the same bottom line - monies needed to provide services. To quote Mr. Blumenthal, "You and I are going to be paying for waterfront properties."

Mayor Mike Smith, Colchester, that is down in Colchester County, and the same as the editorial from the Truro Daily News, that is in the riding of the honourable Minister of Health. Mayor Mike Smith says that it is a short-sighted piece of legislation, it is going to create all kinds of division between taxpayers in all 55 municipalities in the province. Smith also stated that the bill will, after further debate, likely be repealed. Smith said that the new rate will become a logistical nightmare for municipal staff; "I don't expect my tax rate to be lowered because I can see my neighbour's pond." On top of that comment, Smith stressed the government's logic does not make sense. I am not following the logic at all, he states, the valuation of properties has historically been done by the province; if assessment is wrong, then deal with it, don't pass it back to municipalities.

[Page 9749]

Gerald Sampson, Victoria County Warden, said the province is forcing an impossible situation onto the hands of municipalities. He said the amendment to the Act is too ambiguous; how do you decide which break people will get? Another consideration raised Sampson, there is no place in Victoria County where you can't see the water; an interesting comment. So the municipality is going to have to deal with everybody in Victoria County, I guess, when they talk about trying to make an equitable situation out of this piece of legislation.

Brian Trask, Chief Administration Officer of Victoria County, said that while the government wants to treat the issue as only affecting the coastline of Lunenburg County and the Baddeck area, that is simply not the case. The minister is trying to make this look like an isolated issue, Trask said, but this affects people living near the Cumberland Strait, Yarmouth, Annapolis and Joggins.

Mr. Speaker, there are other solutions that this government could have pursued but chose to give the responsibility to the municipalities. We see a trend developing in that regard here with this government: get rid of this; download that; privatize this. In other words, take all the responsibilities that formerly were the domain of the provincial government and ship them off to somebody else. This is another good example of that.

Ideas that were expressed for consideration include such things as tying assessments to inflation; homesteading, grandfathering and retroactivity. Mr. Speaker, this bill only protects the waterfront property owners, it doesn't do anything to protect all property owners. I don't think it is fair that this government, this minister, should turn this matter over to a number of municipal councils in this province which simply can't afford to deal with it and they can't afford to make up the difference themselves. Somebody is going to have to pay here and I suggest it is the taxpayers of the municipality. Some municipalities are going to have to pay for it; in other municipalities there will be nothing done because the municipality will choose not to.

I refer back again, Mr. Speaker, to that word "may". That word is very prevalent throughout this whole bill; the word "may", not "shall", not "must", not "will", but "may" - may do this, may do that. I don't know whether that was a slip to put "may" in there instead of "shall" or "will", or whether it was something that you want to slip in there and hope nobody notices it so when the action time comes with the bill, the municipality will say, well, I don't have to do that because in this bill it only says "may": I may do this, I may not do that.

So really the bill is toothless unless people in municipalities, people who are governing municipalities want to take advantage of it and can afford to, and can afford at the same time not to bankrupt some of their taxpayers while they're doing it. What's more problematic than that is the fact that the government is relieving itself of the authority here or saying that it's not our problem, we don't want anything more to do with it. You solve your own problem down there. You municipal mayors, you municipal councillors, you people go out and you

[Page 9750]

tax your people. I mean, really, when you talk about that, this government can't tax anybody else anything more after they've already finished with the taxpayer this year. Now they're going to foist another tax on them by saying to the municipality, you go and now you tax them. If you're having a problem down there with assessment values, you solve it, you tax people, you relieve people of taxation on waterfront properties and then you figure out where you're going to make up the difference. Again, the bill only protects waterfront properties. It doesn't do anything to protect all property owners.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is one bill that should not clear this House in a hurry, it should not clear this House any time soon. I believe there are a number of stakeholders out there who want to have an opportunity to speak to this particular bill and I'm sure that when this bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee that that's exactly what is going to happen. I'm sure that this bill will probably have some amendments proposed by both Opposition Parties and perhaps even the government may see the wisdom of changing some of the clauses in this bill themselves because, as I said earlier, there are a number of people on the government side who are genuinely concerned about the impact of this bill on the property owners, the citizens of their respective municipalities they're representing here. Like I said before, some have said it publicly, others have said it very privately but, nonetheless, the concern is there.

Other concerns raised but not addressed are that people such as the people on the South Shore who are concerned they may lose their property, or won't be able to pass it down to family members. That doesn't seem to be addressed. Where does the bill address that issue? It doesn't. Again, leave it up to the municipalities. A common theme of this government - get rid of this, privatize that, downsize this, pass it off to the municipalities, that's what's going on here with this government. By the end of the first term this government won't be responsible for anything. Everybody else will be responsible for something in this province but this government. That's the way we seem to be heading here. I'm going to tell you there are a lot of nervous people in the municipalities who are concerned about this bill when, in fact, these municipal leaders are now going to have that heaped on them and say, well, you make the decision down there. You may do this, you may do that if you want, but you're going to take the heat, not us. That's what's going on here.

To quote the minister again, it's a local issue. Well, if you call an issue from Yarmouth to Glace Bay local, yes, it's a local issue. It's a local issue. If you call it from one end of the province to the other, it's a local issue. A local issue means that every municipality in this province is going to have to deal with this local issue.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know there are other people who are going to want to speak to this particular bill and I certainly know that when this bill moves on in the process through this House that this government is going to hear from municipal leaders. They want to hear what

[Page 9751]

the minister has to say about protecting their municipal taxpayers and he's going to say, I've got no responsibility for that anymore, that's yours. You do what you want. If you don't want to tax them, don't tax them. If you don't want to relieve them of taxes, don't do that either. If you want to take taxes out of one pocket and put it in another one, you can do that. If you want to do nothing, you can do that too. So really the bill says nothing.

What is telling in this bill, Mr. Speaker, is that it relieves this government of any responsibility and puts it on municipal leaders right across this province. For the minister to say it's just a local issue so the local people should look after it, that is probably the most irresponsible statement I've heard from a minister in some time here. This issue of taxation - well, I've heard some that may compare with it. (Interruptions) At least in the last hour, yes.

Mr. Speaker, every municipal elected official in this province should take affront to that statement that this is a local issue and it means nothing provincially. Sure, as I said, it's local - from Yarmouth to Glace Bay. Everybody in this province, municipally, is going to be impacted one way or the other here. For the government to try to ram this through the House and say, oh well, this is just enabling legislation for municipalities. Remember what I said, the key word here is "may". So if they choose to maybe not do something and the government says they're not responsible to do anything anymore, who does anything? The person who's getting overtaxed still has the problem. I will tell you who has the problem, municipal councillors and mayors who have to deal with it because the government is washing its hands of it, like they're washing their hands of everything else.

I think this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Minister, in all due respect, should be pulled from the order paper here and held for more discussion with stakeholders in Nova Scotia. It's obvious when you have the President of the UNSM, when you have mayors, when you have municipal clerks, when you have government MLAs concerned about it, then I believe that this is an opportunity for the government to say we didn't give this enough thought. We have to go back and see if we can't rework this. We have to go back and see if we can't make a bill that makes sense out of this mess. This is what this is.

I don't know what bureaucrat put this together. But if they try to convince anybody in Nova Scotia with this legislation that it's a good and fair piece of legislation, they're not going to get away with it. I hope that government members opposite will use the opportunity that this bill presents to go back and talk to your municipal leaders and ask them what they think of this bill and suggest to those municipal leaders that they will help them out in trying to craft some kind of bill that's going to be equitable to all people in this province who pay taxes. Right now, this does not do that. This does not solve the problem for anybody. It creates a problem for municipal units, Mr. Speaker. It's going to strain relations between municipalities and this provincial government to the point that we've never seen before. It's going to drive a wedge between MLAs and municipal officials and government MLAs and their own front benches, the Treasury benches here.

[Page 9752]

This bill needs more consultation with Nova Scotians. It needs more consultation with municipal officials, the UNSM, with individual mayors and councillors that are going to be affected here. I believe the present configuration of this bill, the one that's before the House right now, is an affront to municipalities. Trying to ram this kind of legislation through here and then wash your hands of the whole problem with assessment of coastal properties, with taxation.

Until municipalities in this province have their own legislative authority to raise taxes through such methods as sales tax and income tax and that, like the provincial government does, then why should they be required to make arbitrary decisions on who's going to pay what in trying to balance their budgets? That's the responsibility of the parent here. The parent here is the provincial government; municipalities are children of provincial legislation. As such, in terms of the rules that are being set here, either give it to them outright and give them taxing powers they don't have so they can look after their own business or look after what they should be looking after - setting assessment rates for municipalities and allowing the municipality to deal with it. Now they want to set all kinds of rates so they can start a war between municipalities in the province and relieve themselves of the burden of having to be accountable here. That's exactly what's going on with this bill.

We had the opportunity to look at this legislation and we're going to say more about this as a Party. We can't support this legislation the way it's been put to the House and we're not going to support it unless there are substantive amendments made to this legislation or the government would see the wisdom of holding this legislation for more consultation and perhaps bring it back in the Fall in some sort of altered form that municipalities can put their stamp of approval on and the government backbenchers are satisfied with and that the Opposition Parties can support. Isn't that something that we should all try to achieve, all-Party support for this? Backbenchers who are comfortable with it, municipalities that can put a stamp of approval on it - isn't that what we should be looking for here? Instead, we have this that satisfies nobody and does nothing and I refer again to the word "may", "may", "may" - municipalities "may". Well, municipalities probably won't in some cases, but I'm going to tell you the government's going to pay a price for that. The government is going to pay a price for that. (Interruptions) I'm going to save that for another day. I know my good friend to my right here, just sitting to my right, he's certainly not to my right - there are some over there that are. (Interruptions) Oh, no, you're not to my far left either, Bill.

I got sidetracked there for a moment because I know how passionately the member for Timberlea-Prospect feels about this particular bill as well and the problems that he's having. It's very serious. It's a bill that I believe the government did not give sufficient thought to, and I believe that if the government's serious about doing something in this province, if the government's serious about trying to please Nova Scotians, that they would see the wisdom of pulling this bill back.

[Page 9753]

When we adjourn debate today on this bill, one of two things will happen with this bill: it will be still discussed in the House here or it will move on. I suggest that the Government House Leader has an opportunity if he feels that this bill is not moving, that he not call the bill again for continuance of second reading, that he leave it on the order paper and that he have a serious chat with the minister responsible, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, about changing the bill in consultation with municipal leaders across this province. After all, they have the most to lose here - the taxpayers of municipal units, not this government. This government has taken the responsibility and thrown it at them, saying, you figure it out and you make the changes.

I believe that there are a number of reasons why this bill should be delayed. I don't think there was enough consultation here - I don't know if there was any consultation here. Obviously not, if the bill came to us in this form. There wasn't much consultation, and I don't know who it would be with, some of the mandarins over in that department who seem to know everything about municipal affairs, and all they do is forget to talk to the people on the front lines, like the municipal mayors and councillors.

When I talked about the various quotes from public officials, there was some indication from government members they were interested in hearing those quotes because they picked up their listening devices and paid attention. I would have if I were them, too, because those quotes aren't coming from me, the member for Cape Breton South, they're coming from various municipal leaders across this province, including mayors, including wardens and including public officials at the municipal level.

If the government determines that the municipal units and other stakeholders are upset with this legislation, then why in heavens's name would the province want to proceed with it without further consultation? This particular piece of legislation is not going to pass this House any time soon. This is one piece of legislation that if the government persists in passing this bill as it is during this session of the House, we're going to be here for awhile, because come tomorrow we're going to start getting calls from municipal leaders, you're going to start getting calls from municipal leaders, and you're going to have to tell those municipal leaders why, once again, you're downloading responsibilities onto their shoulders to deal with, instead of taking your own position seriously as the government of this province.

But that's all we've seen from this government, Mr. Speaker, it's all we've seen - downloading this, privatizing that, shifting responsibility away, user fees, new taxes, broken promises on tax breaks, broken promises on no tax increases, gasoline taxes going up, and this is another example of the government trying to get out from under a problem here. There was a problem on increased assessment for coastal properties, and how does the government handle it? Download it to municipalities, let them look after it.

[Page 9754]

Well, I suggest that every MLA here go back and tell their mayor and warden that this is something you people have to do now, we have no more responsibility for this. Excuse me, but it's in your ballpark now. I don't imagine the MLAs who have to tell their elected officials locally are going to be met with very much enthusiasm after they pass that message along, but that's what this bill says.

It doesn't even force them to do it, it says they "may" do it. So who does what? Maybe nobody's going to do anything. Is this some kind of a stall to get this government through the next election, while they jockey back and forth to see who's responsibility it is? It appears to me that's the case. Why else would anybody come with this piece of legislation? This is the one piece of legislation that I think is going to upset a lot of public officials in this province.

I would like, at some point, when this debate finishes, in a month's time or so, if this bill is still on the floor here, that the minister will tell Nova Scotians, tell this House, and tell the municipal people about any other solutions he discussed with his officials. Or did the bright officials in that department just come up with this brainstorm, or is this a political fix to a problem they don't know how to fix? The political fix would be to do nothing for the next year. Fly this piece of legislation, let it make the rounds of the municipalities, let the arguments flow and try to skate through to the next election without anything happening. You know what? In a lot of cases there won't be anything happening because some municipalities are not going to touch this at all. They are going to say, that is not our responsibility; you are not making me the bad guy here. That is what some of the municipal leaders are going to say, you are not setting me up; it is your provincial responsibility, you are not putting it on my plate. That is what the municipal leaders are going to say. That is what Gerry Blumenthal said; that is what the Mayor of Colchester County said; that is what others are saying here. That is the message that some of the backbenchers have been saying here, the message they have been talking about.

[5:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: They have been silent.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, they have been silent publicly, but they were talking about it. They have been talking about it, and they are going to be talking about it when they go back home to their municipal units once this bill is out there for public scrutiny.

I believe there would be a lot of government backbenchers breathing a sigh of relief if the minister decided to pull this bill for further consultation and for some time in the future when, Mr. Speaker, we could reach a consensus on this bill, consensus between the government, the municipal leaders and other stakeholders, property owners and people in the province who are going to be affected, and, of course, the Opposition Parties, which have

[Page 9755]

some very firm views on this particular bill. One of the views we hold here is that this government is downloading everything they possibly can onto the municipalities that can ill afford it and, in most cases, don't have the legislative authority to do the kinds of things that this government is pushing on them.

Mr. Speaker, the opinion of our caucus is that this bill, in its present form, is not going through this House easily. Unless we see some substantive amendments to this bill from the government or a willingness for the government to entertain some amendments that will come from this side of the House, then I am afraid we are in for a long haul on this bill. I would suggest that the Government House Leader use his infinite wisdom and talk to the minister responsible. In the interests of getting out of this place any time soon, more consultation is needed on this particular bill. I am going to tell you, Mr. House Leader, that you are going to war with the municipalities over this bill. You are doing something to these municipalities that they don't want. You are not even forcing them; you are saying "may". So if they don't exercise it, who does? What happens if they don't exercise it? Nothing, nobody is responsible then. So it just goes on and on for another year or so; this government tries to skate through the next election with the resulting casualties that will happen because of this bill and others. Because these municipal people will get out there and get you people in the next election, you can be sure of that, if you keep downloading these things to municipal units.

The member for Preston would now like to get up and speak on this particular bill; he is an expert on municipal affairs. Maybe the member for Preston would like to get up and explain why this bill is good for municipalities. Maybe the member for Preston would like to enter the debate. I will give him the floor if he wishes to get up, but I think I would wait a few more minutes and then I will give him the floor if he wants it. Do you want to get up on this bill, member for Preston? (Interruptions) Any time?

AN HON. MEMBER: In time.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: In time? Okay, well, there is one former municipal councillor who thinks this is a good bill. Are there any municipal councillors, other ones, former municipal councillors, who think this is a good bill? Any other takers who want to get up and talk and say what a wonderful piece of legislation we have here that is going to download responsibilities to municipal units and put the burden onto the mayor and councillors of municipalities that can't afford it, that are struggling for their very existence right now.

So I would be very anxious, Mr. Speaker, to hear from other members on this side, both Parties here, but I would be more anxious, or more pleased I guess, very pleased, to hear from members opposite as to what they think of this particular bill. Now, this is not a bill that's going to have the result of getting members kicked out of caucus if they vote against this bill, or if they stand up and speak against it, because it's not what you would call a

[Page 9756]

Treasury bill here. It's not like voting on the budget. It's voting for something that makes sense or voting against something that's wrong, fundamentally wrong. Voting for something that makes sense, what makes sense is to send this bill back for future consideration and more consultation. That's what's needed here.

Mr. Speaker, I can't believe, you know, that this bill came to the House today for second reading. I wonder what's on the minds of the government when all these municipal people are out there saying it's wrong, when editorials in major papers in this province are saying it's wrong, when citizens on the street are saying it's wrong, when government backbenchers are saying it's wrong. Who is saying it's right? Nobody that I know of except the minister, who must believe it's right because he has brought it to the House, but I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, that this bill satisfies nobody. This bill satisfies nobody.

Mr. Speaker, this government doesn't need to make any more enemies than it has already made. It doesn't need to make any more enemies. They've got virtually everybody in the province upset with them now with all their measures, just the latest today now taxpayers are going to find out that they may not get a 10 per cent increase next year, or decrease. (Interruption) That's being modified now. So the 10 per cent cut in taxes may not happen for everybody. That was a revelation that came out today and the minister says, well, I said that last year somewhere, I modified that last year. In other words, I broke that promise last year, I didn't break it today, you know, I broke it last year. It broke the Premier's promise too.

So instead of that, now people are going to wake up tomorrow and they're going to find out that maybe we won't get that tax decrease even though the government has picked their pockets clean this year. The government has picked their pockets clean this year and now they're going to take this legislation and pick their pockets more, the municipal taxpayer, because as sure as I'm standing in my place in this House, that the minute a municipality moves to satisfy one group of taxpayers, it's going to impact negatively on the other group. In other words, somebody is going to have to pay here.

Some municipal taxpayers are going to have to pay or in some cases, Mr. Speaker, nothing is going to happen, absolutely nothing is going to happen. All of these moves suggest to me that this is the type of bill that's brought here because this government is not going to continue too long before they go down the election road. So they're pulling all this stuff out there, fooling Nova Scotians into thinking they really want to do something, like the 10 per cent tax cut, you know, that's not a 10 per cent tax cut, it's a maybe tax cut for some people, maybe not for others now, maybe we don't have the money. It's going to cost $140 million, but we don't have it, but we'll worry about that next year. We will worry about that when the budget doesn't come down because this crowd will have gone to the polls before Nova Scotians ever know whether this budget was balanced this year. They will be gone to the polls hoping to fool Nova Scotians into thinking it was balanced and also they're hoping they

[Page 9757]

can rag the puck on this for the next year by downloading. That's quite a stretch, a year from now.

Mr. Speaker, the way this bill has been called in this House today, we cannot support this bill in our Party. We can talk about it. I don't know whether this bill can be saved. There are amendments that can be made to this bill. There are some substantive amendments that can be made to this bill. There are clauses in this bill that maybe might be reworked. But the basic responsibility for this bill suggests to me that this government is doing nothing more but shirking its responsibility and downloading it to municipal units and that is what has to be fixed here. That is what has to be fixed.

I believe that it's incumbent upon the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to meet with municipal leaders at the earliest opportunity and to bring back something that we can support here, because we can't support this particular bill. We will demonstrate that before this bill ever clears second reading in this House. I'm sure that this government is going to attract some attention to this bill once this gets out in the public domain. For the government to ignore the advice of the president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, editorial writers, mayors in Colchester County, people from across this province, Mr. Speaker, it's own members, some who have said publicly, at least one that I know of, and others have confided in members on this side of the House that they wish this bill would go away. I know that because members here have told me who they've talked to and they wish this bill would go away and I don't blame them.

If I wasn't on the Treasury benches here and was sitting over there, I would be worried about this bill. This front crowd couldn't care a less. They're more interested in doing the will of the master, the Premier, Prince John, with the Sheriff next to him, fleecing Nova Scotians every chance they get. That's what that crowd is interested in doing, but the MLAs have to go back home and tell their municipal counterparts that this is coming and watch out because you're going to have to deal with taxpayers now, not us. You're going to have to deal with taxpayers in the future. You're going to have to decide who pays, who pays less and who pays more; mayor, councillor, your going to have to decide that, not me as your MLA. We've abandoned ship. We're out of here. You guys at the municipal units are going to have to pay for that and you're going to have to impose it. You're not going to get help from us to pay for it - the MLAs will tell their municipal counterparts - but you nonetheless have to solve the problem.

How do you solve that problem at the municipal level? You take from one and give to the other. So for every person you relieve a tax burden, you charge it to somebody else. That's what's going to happen. That's if you do anything. Some municipal units will look at this and say, I can't afford to touch that, so the end result is, nothing gets done. Government is not responsible, the municipal unit is not responsible, I guess nobody's responsible. So we have a tax system municipally here that nobody's responsible for.

[Page 9758]

So, having those few words today, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Government House Leader that our Party will not be supporting this legislation and will ask stakeholders in this province to come to Province House to discuss their concerns about this particular piece of legislation with the minister and also at the Law Amendments Committee, and perhaps we may even get into some extensive debate as some amendments may come on this bill in due course.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The minister, of course, wasn't here when the bill was introduced. He's not moving to close the debate, is he?

MR. MACISAAC: No.

MR. HOLM: Just to take part in the debate? I just want clarification, just in case.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not to move to close the debate, I don't think. We will find out from the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, but it's my understanding it's not.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, my comments were to (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACISAAC: . . . my first comments (Interruptions)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I yielded the floor to the next speaker who was the Critic (Interruptions) No, no. (Interruptions) He's introduced the bill, and it's tradition in this House that he can't speak on it once he introduces it before the Opposition Parties . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions) I was about to recognize the member for Timberlea-Prospect, who told me it was okay - he waived his right to stand - to recognize the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. (Interruptions) Order, please. The member for Timberlea-Prospect did indicate to me that it was okay to go

[Page 9759]

to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I'm not sure that the member for Timberlea-Prospect knew that the minister wanted to speak on the bill. What I'm trying to do here is get it absolutely clear from you, and a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker, because even though the minister, himself was not on the floor when the bill was introduced - it was introduced or called by the Government House Leader, but it was on his behalf, so therefore the minister, who is the sponsor of this bill, it was as if he had introduced the bill. The tradition is that the sponsor of a bill, when they get up to speak, that is to close the debate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make absolutely certain - absolutely - that there can be no confusion and that no motion to close the debate, if the minister is going to be permitted to speak (Interruptions) That there is absolutely no way, as I believe by the rules it would state that they would be allowed to close the debate. Therefore, I am requesting that the minister not speak at this time, unless there is unanimous consent of this House that the debate will not be closed by the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would ask you to make a ruling on this at some point, I believe that when the minister responsible for a bill opens debate he has the chance to speak on that bill - when he opens the debate - he has another chance to speak on the bill when he closes the debate. In between, members of this House have the option to speak or not to speak on the bill, and have a responsibility to place their views before this House. The minister cannot be getting up and interjecting himself into the debate during second reading. I would ask for you to rule on that, Mr. Speaker.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. To the point of order, as I understand the Rules of the House, a debate is initiated when a motion is put before the House. In my absence, the Government House Leader, I understand, moved that the bill be read for a second time. That is the motion. That is what initiates the debate.

Now, I was not in the Chamber at the time that motion was made. So, I felt it appropriate, since I missed the opportunity to give the remarks that would have been given at that time, to let the House have the benefit of my views with respect to the legislation, which is what I was prepared to do. In no way would I consider my intervention in the debate at this time to be concluding remarks with respect to the bill.

So my point of order is that it is appropriate since I was not the mover of the motion for me to participate in the debate. (Interruptions)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: You are the mover.

[Page 9760]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I will save the House the agony and time and yield the floor and make my points at another time, but I still feel that I was acting appropriately.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on the minister's point of order. I appreciate his willingness to withdraw his position in speaking at the present time, but I think that it is very important that we still have a ruling on this. Maybe you could confer with the Clerks at the Table with regard to this.

The issue is, Mr. Speaker, if the Government House Leader moved the bill on behalf of the minister, that in effect means that he is acting as the minister for that bill. The minister, for example, if he were to speak now, as he was proposing, then he couldn't speak at the end to wrap up the debate on the bill, either.

So I think to avoid any confusion, not just for right now as, I think that we have in a reasonable way resolved this and the uncertainty that exists, but I think that it is very important that we do have a ruling on this for future occasions. With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister again for making his comments and yielding the floor so that another speaker can take their place. I would request that his brief intervention not be considered him speaking on the bill because, if it was, then he wouldn't be able at the end to wrap up the debate because he would have already lost his place on the floor.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, just to better assist you (Interruptions) I think it's appropriate that I inform you that I did have the opportunity and the privilege to be in the Chair when the honourable Government House Leader did make the motion on behalf of the minister. The minister has agreed to that. As the minister for Sackville - the member for Sackville-Cobequid - I'm calling everybody minister today, has reiterated and repeated, the member for, in this case Antigonish, certainly does have an opportunity during second reading to speak and he can take up to an hour, the same as any member can and I think we all agree to that.

So I don't think, Mr. Speaker, there is any need for you to consult further. I think you can rule on the points of order and let us continue on with this debate.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I'm speaking on the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley's intervention. We all, of course, knew that the Government House Leader made the motion when you were in the Chair; that we will all agree to. However, the member refers to the minister as a member for Antigonish and he is, however he moved a bill or he is the sponsor of the bill as the Minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and not as a Private Member's Bill. Therefore, if that bill was moved on his behalf, if he speaks anytime after that, he then would, I believe according to our rules - and this I want to have clarified - have the ability to close the debate.

[Page 9761]

The normal practice is the sponsor of a bill only speaks as the last speaker. So therefore I'm not going to try and hold it up any more, but I ask again that you confer with the Clerks, with the rules, and make a decision on this so that we will be clear on future occasions, because he can't speak both as minister and as a private member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is need for some clarification. I will confer with the Clerks on the matter, and in the meantime, I think it appropriate that I recognize the member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, during the last five minutes I was up and down more than a toilet seat in a busy men's washroom I can tell you. I can also tell you something else (Interruptions) I can also tell you that I am going to use my 59 minutes and 59 seconds on this issue. This is an issue that I can assure you and I would like to quote my good friend from Cape Breton Centre who sets the tone for this caucus in many ways, when the message is pretty simple this is not a bill that should be tossed away lightly, it should be thrown away, against the biggest brick wall we can find, with great force. This bill should be in the trash can. During the next 59 minutes - and I know that the hour of interruption is going to take place here in a few minutes - I have a number of points to bring forward. I hope members opposite are aware of the fact where some of these messages are going to come from.

Firstly, I have to set straight the editorial board of The Chronicle-Herald, who have the record all wrong. We have to make sure that people across this province have their say in this place because the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations sure has it all wrong. If he is the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, my question is, Mr. Speaker - and I realize that this is not Question Period - who has he been relating with because I can assure you that in the last few days of the uproar that has resulted because of this piece of legislation. As my friend from Cape Breton South said, there are members opposite who are nervous about this piece of legislation because they know that it is poorly thought out; that it is a piece of legislation that when the time comes to go to the polls, it is going to hurt them.

Mr. Speaker, we are in the business of going to the polls once in a while. When that occurs, those members opposite are going to know first-hand, and perhaps this weekend they are going to learn the first lesson, that this bill is a flop. This bill is ill-conceived, poorly put together. I mean we went through a process of Volunteer Planning, where we went around this province and had the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. The interim report came in and it was so poor, so poorly received, that it was pulled back. Whatever happened to the initial chairman of that Volunteer Planning Group, Mr. Speaker? He is now gone and replaced by somebody else.

[Page 9762]

Just before we come to the moment of interruption I have one e-mail from Terry James that I want to bring to your attention and I will table it. Terry James has written to me and said - and Terry James, incidentally, is from Riverport. Now let's be clear, Riverport is not in Timberlea-Prospect; Riverport is not a coastal community from the Terence Bay gut to the Peggy's Cove light. I know that members over there say, well all he ever does is rail on about the Slaunwhites in Terence Bay or the Morashes in East Dover. I can tell you where Terry James is from - Riverport, and I believe it is in Lunenburg County. He says that this, ". . . Government ducked the issue with their jury-rigged Committee on Foreign Ownership (realtor Tony Walters represented our area...what a farce!)." You got that bang on, Mr. James, but we will come back to that issue. He says, "Now they're ducking again with this foolish hand-off to the municipalities....Please, give them both barrels!!" After the moment of interruption both barrels will follow.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject of the late debate tonight was submitted by the MLA for Cape Breton West.

"Therefore be it resolved that that Tory Government has effectively shut down rail service in Cape Breton."

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: C. B. RAIL SERVICE - SHUTDOWN

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this adjournment debate, " . . . be it resolved that that Tory Government has effectively shut down rail service in Cape Breton." At the outset I think there is a shared responsibility here. I think if I had listened to the presentation at the Economic Development Committee this morning before I had submitted this resolution, it would have been worded slightly differently, to be honest. But it does raise the flag. It gets the issue on the floor and I think all members will agree that having this issue before the floor is most important.

I'm very disappointed with the presentation that was made by the representative from RailTex this morning. Personally, I had the feeling when I left that committee meeting that we have a company here that has lost some business because of the downturn in the coal industry and the steel industry, but we're using that as leverage to pit one level of government against the other. I may be off-centre on this, offside on this issue, but that's the impression that I had.

[Page 9763]

I was equally disappointed to see the representative, Mr. Touesnard from RailTex, make a rather compelling argument in his presentation before the committee this morning outlining the impact of the Sysco closure, the cumulative impact of Devco and Sysco closures, labour costs and so on and so forth, but you know what was missing from the entire equation? They did not provide anything with regard to their revenue streams.

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, they're making a profit.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, they say that they're not making a profit and the claim is that they're not making this profit, but you have to ask yourselves how many carloads of goods and services are being shipped by RailTex between Sydney and Port Hawkesbury and perhaps even further?

I had someone from my office call RailTex this afternoon to get a price if I wanted to ship a boxcar of 2x4's from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury; how much would it cost? They said, call CN. They give the prices. Now, why is RailTex, a private institution, using CN to do their pricing for them? So right away the flag went up. So then I had my staff member call CN, and they quoted a figure of about $1,500 plus HST. Well, that was just about the figure that I think I circulated with a few of my colleagues after the committee meeting this morning, because back 28 years ago I could ship a carload of 8-foot pulp from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury for about $670. Taking in the cost of inflation and so on and so forth, I figured it would be around $1,500. Lo and behold, what was the figure that was given - $1,500? So I guess my math wasn't too bad on inflation.

If they had, for example, 10,000 cars a year of goods and services, that's $15 million. Their total labour cost is about $3.4 million. They said they intentionally didn't spend 5 cents on their capital maintenance costs, which would have amounted to about $8,000 a month. Multiply that out by 12 - not very much money. You're looking at the $15 million, so let's say the cost of fuel and depreciation on their equipment and so on. This company, in my view, is making a profit. It's making a profit. It may not be, as they suggested, the same profit they were making before. They said operating losses in excess of $40,000 per month, cumulative losses between Devco and Sysco. That's only $480,000 a year. If you put everything together, that's perhaps why they were refusing to put those figures on the table today.

That doesn't diminish what put us here in the first place and that is really that insatiable desire by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to privatize this line in the first place. That's what got us in the dilemma that we're in here. That's the situation that we're dealt and we'll deal with that accordingly.

[Page 9764]

On one hand he's saying there's great optimism for some container service products out of North Sydney going to Newfoundland, perhaps some of the container service coming from the Port of Halifax, and saw that as a viable entity. Well, that's great. He sees some opportunities for the offshore. That's great and I think that's a good initiative but, Mr. Speaker, equally so, they say, no, we're a private entity and we shouldn't come under the Utility and Review Board. It's just a review board, but they can't have it both ways. They're coming to the government saying we expect you to put bucks in here to keep us viable. We're not going to tell you how much money, revenues we have. We can only tell you our expenses.

Well, I don't like the smell of this, Mr. Speaker. I don't like the smell of it one bit. We can point the finger at the provincial government and its lackadaisical approach. We could point the finger at the federal government and say, well, why aren't you being more proactive, or we could point the finger in half a dozen different directions, but the fact of the matter is there are more unanswered questions coming out of that committee. So I would hope that all members would give that some serious consideration.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to share some of my time with our Transportation Critic who has some thoughts on this particular issue as well.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I sincerely wish there was sufficient time to give you my full penetrating insight into this issue. But since there are only four minutes left, I will have to say that I do wholeheartedly agree with the resolution saying, "Therefore be it resolved that that Tory Government has effectively shut down rail service in Cape Breton." Because who shut down the Sydney Steel Plant?

Mr. Speaker, I could look to my right, I could look to my left, but I think if I looked straight across the way I would see who it was who shut down the Sydney Steel Plant. It was this government. (Interruptions) We did, they say, and indeed they did and they'll take credit for it in the mainland, in Halifax, where they circulated a pamphlet which they put in every mail box in the City of Halifax saying, elect us and we'll close down Sydney Steel and thereby ensure the hospital beds will remain full and open and cost nothing, I suppose, to get into.

Then there was the closure of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. Now, who closed the Cape Breton Development Corporation? Well, I suppose the simplistic answer is that the federal government in Ottawa did, the Chretien Liberal Government. But who was keeping the Cape Breton Development Corporation open? Well, the answer is that the Honourable David Charles Dingwall, Q.C., PC, was. Who took him out of there? (Interruption) Well, our friends to the right, very much to my right said Ding won't, but Doc

[Page 9765]

will. So the people believed that propaganda. They took Ding out, they put Doc in, and did Doc deliver more than Ding? Alas, she delivered absolutely nothing.

Forgive me, Mr. Speaker, I'm wrong, I'm wrong. (Interruption) No, she delivered the closure of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, that's what she delivered and that's why we have the impact on the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, the impact of the Devco closure and the Sysco closure. The Tory Government effectively shut down the Sydney Steel Corporation. The Tory Government did not do anything to stop the closure of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, but it acted as an assister, got an assist on the play like in hockey. Doc scored the goal, the Tories got the assist. That's who closed down the Cape Breton Development Corporation in my view, by keeping the man who could keep Devco open out of Parliament.

So we have this twofold closure of Devco and Sysco impacting on the railway and we need the railway very much in Cape Breton if we're to have any hope there of recovery. If Sydney Steel is reactivated, and it could be tomorrow if you had an operator who had the know-how, the markets and the financing to do it because the plant is still there in an operational capacity, if not in an operating capacity. There is a difference. The mines are still there. The coal is still in the ground. The Prince Mine could be mined for another 15 years. The coal is there. It's just a matter of taking it out of the ground. The Donkin Mine could come onstream within three to five years and produce enough coal for both thermal power plants in Cape Breton plus the export market.

Instead of doing that, the Tory agenda is to bring in imported coal from the United States or from Columbia, or from South Africa, or some other such place more to their liking, and burn that in Cape Breton to make electricity so as to keep the lights on here in this House. Mr. Speaker, my time has run out. If I had but more time, I could greatly enlighten you further.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the honourable member for Cape Breton West for bringing this resolution forward because it gives me an opportunity to speak about the community and the economic growth that is occurring in the Strait of Canso region. Specifically, I would like to address the increase in rail traffic along the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway in my region. The rail traffic at the Strait of Canso has seen significant growth, boosted in part by the development in Point Tupper, as well as the continued offshore industry growth in the region.

Growth in the offshore is in no small part due to the hard work of this government in making the offshore a priority for future development. The rail traffic along the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway and the Strait area will no doubt see even greater rail traffic in the future to develop the Sable Offshore Energy Project. As natural gas liquids processed

[Page 9766]

at Sable's fractionation plant are shipped to other markets, we will see further increases in rail traffic along this portion of the rail line. The fractionation plant can process an average of 20,000 barrels per day of liquid natural gas in Point Tupper, which is broken down into propane, butane and condensate products. The natural gas liquids are piped to Point Tupper from the gas processing plant in Goldboro in Guysborough County.

The Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway can also ship other materials such as the construction pieces for the fractionation plant. As well, StoraEnso's expansion resulted in an increase in rail traffic in the region. In the six years between 1996 and 2002, there has been a great increase in the shipment of paper and scrap paper, as well as petrochemical materials along the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway. Paper products and petrochemical materials currently account for more than half of the revenue taken in by that railway. Of course, increased rail traffic means more jobs. Employment with the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway has actually increased, due in part to the rail traffic in the Strait area.

This government understands the connection between a healthy business environment and job creation. It understands the potential of the offshore. This government's strong economic development record becomes very evident when you look at the industrial activity going on in the Strait area. As future companies eye the Strait region to set up shop, the future looks very good for the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway in the Strait of Canso region. Mr. Speaker, I would like to share the rest of my time with my colleague, the member for Cape Breton North.

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

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank and compliment the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on the fact that he's looking and discussing the positive business developments that are resulting in his area and are being achieved by people who are working with a go-forward attitude for the growth of his area. In fact, I see that as being an anchor towards what can happen in urban Cape Breton as we try to ensure that the railway is sustained.

Mr. Speaker, the irrelevancy of the wording of this resolution should not be drowning out the importance of the work of this government to ensure that the stakeholders in Cape Breton and that the people who will be benefactors from the continuance of the service by RailAmerica through its CBCNS railway service is that we have to work towards where the new anchor activity is going to be. The member from the Opposition ranks in the Third Party may want to put blame on things, but I acknowledge that the federal government made a difficult yet necessary decision with regard with Devco, as did the provincial government, a difficult yet necessary decision when it came to Sysco.

[Page 9767]

We have to look at what those decisions resulted in in terms of volumes. Well Sysco in its peak was 2,100 cars, 2,100 cars versus 10,000 cars under the federal Devco operations. There's a great difference in the volumes that are there. Mr. Speaker, when this government took the decision to close Sysco, it also took the decision to make sure that the site redevelopment and going out and prospecting for new companies was there.

Thankfully, there's a real business, a multinational business with over $700 million U.S. in revenues a year that is now operating on the Sysco piers. That company has said it's very clear that rail is vital to its future. So, indeed, we have seen a company that would not make an irresponsible decision when government has made responsible decisions and they've done responsible things because Cape Breton is strategically positioned for that company and for any other company that wants to be part of a new and growing Atlantic Canadian economy as we work with our other partners and people in the offshore, whether that's here within Nova Scotia or now with Newfoundland, as we try to forge ahead.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when we look at where the railway is going, we can talk about all the history and blame we want, but I think what we want to do is talk about where the business lies. That's why this government has been working with RailAmerica, the stakeholders, Emera and Nova Scotia Power, as well as Provincial Energy Ventures. Those discussions have been ongoing, and I believe that today's meeting of the Standing Committee on Economic Development was further indication that the official from CBCNS also believes there has been positive movement - complimented this government on its efforts to bring things together.

Mr. Speaker, I also recognize that while this government has looked at how we look at divesting and putting in initiatives and incentives to offset those decisions we've had to take, I would wonder where the federal Liberals are in looking at where their divestiture and support is for this rail line as well. We have to go and look at where the areas of opportunities are. There's intermodal traffic - some have identified there's a potential through CN for 1,400 cars there - services for Newfoundland that CBCNS is trying to explore, and the petroleum and offshore supply, which CBCNS has recognized has been a major growth factor in volumes in the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury's area.

Mr. Speaker, they're continuing and haven't given up in looking at the Melford area and the gypsum mine as a potential for future business and volumes for them. Also, as we said with the development of the Sysco site, further opportunities. StoraEnso and the related offshore opportunities are key. But in and around Cape Breton, I believe there have been efforts that have been very well conducted and have seen that a business case for that anchor activity in the transshipment and movement of coal - using Sydney as a base and using the piers as a base and using the railway as a means for transporting that. We've also heard from the railway company that they are pursuing options with the transportation and trucking

[Page 9768]

industry. They've been very clear that they're looking everywhere and anywhere business opportunities lie. So too have this government and this member, in co-operation with other government members, been working and looking for new opportunities.

It is almost disgraceful, Mr. Speaker, that someone would get up and say that this Tory Government has effectively shut down rail service in Cape Breton. This Tory Government is leading the charge for a new and invigorated economy, and rail is a vital piece of infrastructure that we have recognized as strategic, not as something to be on some stump box by the Liberals over there going on with foolishness. It's about us dealing with the reality. The reality is that Cape Breton has a strong, vibrant future, and it's because this government is working with anyone else with a positive mindset. It doesn't exist over there.

Mr. Speaker, we, as a government, are ensuring that the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway has open-minded partners to ensure that the business case is realized. That railway has indicated that before a government committee today. The questions before it - indeed there are some challenges. There is a review process if that railway does not come to some conclusions that we already know. Why are they talking about offshore development if they're not interested in Sydney? Well, Sydney's interested in offshore development; this government's interested in offshore development and we're going to be pursuing that.

Mr. Speaker, coal has a future in Cape Breton. Aside from the efforts of Provincial Energy Ventures and the needs of Emera and Nova Scotia Power, there is also the fact that the Minister of Natural Resources said that once the lease transfers for coal come from the federal government, they will be open for development. So this government is a development government, not one, like the Liberals, that would effectively shut down anything good in Cape Breton. (Interruptions)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about this and talk about the reality. If things were that rosy, why is there an application in front of the Utility and Review Board to shut down that railway? That behooves me. If the sun is shining so greatly upon that railway and they have so much business, why are they doing that? You are burying your head in the sand here, folks. We can talk about these catch phrases that this government likes to use about moving forward and stuff like that and not looking backward but the reality is that we have a problem here. This government (Interruptions) Now he has moaned over there about the Liberals, now I'm up so he wants to moan about the New Democrats, which is fine, but that member has substantially done nothing. He will meet with these people, he has absolutely no power but he meets with them and nods, hopefully, in the appropriate places.

[Page 9769]

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about investment. He had the unmitigated gall to stand in his place here tonight and talk about the investment around the Melford gypsum plant. Now he sat in that same meeting that I sat in this morning, the member for Cape Breton Nova sat there alongside us, as did the member for Timberlea-Prospect when the president of CBCNS said they went to this government looking for investment for a spur line and were turned down flatly. When they tried to make a case for saying, here is what this is going to mean to added weight and responsibility on your highway system, we have heard in this House about the infamous Mayor of Port Hawkesbury wanting an interchange done and they are not getting that, the service over truck traffic, where this would have helped to save our highway system. As the president of CBCNS was clear to say today, we have to start looking from the perspective of it as the Department of Transportation, not the Department of Highways.

So, Mr. Speaker, for this member to get up and talk about what's going on there as it's all sunshine and roses, is wrong. We want to be supportive, I think the Third Party here wants to be supportive, but if you are going to go and navel-gaze and say oh, everything is fine, not realizing that there is a financial problem when that company is losing $40,000 a month on that part of the short line, there's a problem. Yes, there is a problem caused by the withdrawal of the federal government from the coal industry. Yes, there is a problem by the withdrawal of the provincial government from steel making.

We weren't there this morning dwelling on it, we were trying to find answers. It is interesting when the member keeps bringing those things up, saying we don't want to live in the past but then keeps heaping back when he has no real argument that would carry any water. What we have, Mr. Speaker, are some quotes from the Premier of this Province. This was from the Inverness Oran on August 8th, and I quoted this this morning: "'We are very, very conscious that to lose that rail line would be a devastating blow to the economy at this point, and we're working aggressively to try and find a short-term viable solution leading to long term dependent viability.'" Now that was the quote from the Premier. That was last August, August 2001.

So what has he done in the interim? He's realized how important that piece of infrastructure is. I am sure anybody above the age of five-years-old in this province realizes the importance of that railway to the economic viability of the industrial area of Cape Breton, but what's more amazing is that in this story the Premier goes on to say that a committee to deal with the issue is in place and includes representation and so on.

I asked the president of CBCNS today, I asked Mr. Touesnard, are you a member of that committee? He said no, never heard of it. He has met off and on with the Premier and certain members of this committee that no one seems to know, that the Premier has gone out and told people that struck - there's nobody out there who knows who is on this committee. It is unbelievable, yet they want to say, trust us.

[Page 9770]

Why should we trust them? They have done absolutely nothing for industrial Cape Breton, yet they are saying trust us, Mr. Speaker. Why would that Premier say that he has a committee and not include the major role player? The major player in that is the railway. Why wouldn't you do that? It tells you that what it is, is the Premier is kind of like oh, I will go to Cape Breton and make a statement and that will ease them for a month or two. Better still, I will make it down around Inverness County and people in industrial Cape Breton will never hear of this. Well, you know, I say to the Premier, give us more credit than that. Again, he says he's working with the railway in a committee. Who is this infamous committee? None of the backbenchers at the Economic Development Committee this morning knew anything about this committee the Premier has struck. Who's he meeting with? Who's on that committee? One of the most vital pieces of economic infrastructure we have going, that's one of the points I probably agree with the member for Cape Breton North on, is that it's a vital piece of our economic infrastructure, yet, the Premier doesn't tell him about any committee struck. Is the honourable member for Cape Breton North on that committee?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

MR. CORBETT: Was there anybody from CBCNS on that committee? No, but the Premier's telling everybody how important it is. The Premier's words are hollow. Those words don't feed a hungry mouth and that member should know that. Rather than getting up here and making some kind of innocuous statement about we're looking forward, we're not looking backward, he should be there realizing that what we're trying to do is everybody is trying to move this forward except this government. This government does not worry one iota about industrial Cape Breton. We know that by the infamous postcard. So we know that. So we were there today and the honourable member for Cape Breton North is trying to tell us that everything is fine. Don't worry about it. There's all kinds of business.

Provincial Energy Ventures is going to save them, Emera is going to save us, but nobody is putting their money where their mouth is. Nobody is saying, this is how much coal we're going to ship. It's all coulda, woulda, shoulda. The Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister of Natural Resources, what are they doing? The Minister of Natural Resources won't even give people in Cape Breton coal leases to mine the coal. He's hiding behind those. So to say that they're trying to move the economy forward on that railway is a lot of - to use the words of the Minister of Justice - bunk. What we need is a comprehensive study of what's going on. We have it with the Way Ahead. It's a strategic framework for coordinating transportation and development in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I'll read a paragraph from the Executive Summary, if you wish:

"Our gateway ports of Halifax and the Strait of Canso need attention to keep up with international competition. The Halifax International Airport is under capitalized and our regional airports at Sydney and Yarmouth need more business. Our ferries, small ports and rail need more consideration."

[Page 9771]

Yet this government has done nothing to act on that report. It has not helped any of the small regional airports. It has not helped the capitalization of the Halifax International Airport. It's done nothing for the highway infrastructure in any major way, I would say. Certainly, it's done nothing to help the railway system in Cape Breton.

This is a system that needs some sort of government support, Mr. Speaker. It needs to be done but, yet, they will have the member for Cape Breton North get up and blab on about what he thinks and yet he sat in, he's not part of any committee, the railway is not any part of any committee. All we can think of this is it's just a lot of bunk by the Premier who knows nothing, cares nothing about Cape Breton. He spent his whole three years in office trying to defeat Cape Breton and therefore there is nothing that should be trusted from that side. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for the late debate has expired. We will resume debate on second reading of Bill No. 128, the Municipal Government Act. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has approximately 56 minutes left.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 128 - Municipal Government Act. [Debate resumed.]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, 56 minutes - it will be difficult to deal with in this amount of time because I can tell you from the people that I've heard from, from one end of the province to the other. My good friend, the member for Dartmouth North, suggested that I take the next 56 minutes and try to relay to members of this House just the many e-mails, messages and letters and table them here and bring them into this House. I said to my friend for Dartmouth North, that's impossible, I couldn't get it done in 56 minutes. I couldn't get it done in 56 minutes as we review this "localized" issue.

[6:30 p.m.]

Excuse me as I drip with sarcasm, but there are some issues about this localized issue. This is no localized issue, this is an emotional, heart-rending issue that goes from one end of this province to the other. This is not a localized issue that you can now just simply wash your hands of it, provincial government, show a complete lack of leadership, walk away from the issue and download it upon the municipal governments in this province. The result will be - well, what will the result be? We're going to have an opportunity during the next few minutes to review some of the comments of prominent municipal leaders as they so quickly expressed their point of view. I look forward to hearing from past municipal politicians who are in this House. I know my good friend for, the member Dartmouth North, intends to speak on this bill, and I'm sure there are municipal politicians opposite who will take the

[Page 9772]

opportunity to speak on this bill, because the people who put them in these seats will expect them to speak, will expect them to stand in their place and have their say on this very controversial, emotional issue.

The issue revolves around, was there any input and from whom? This is the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, so did anybody in that department - or, heaven forbid - the minister himself pick up the phone and say, what do you think of this idea? This is what we're going to try to bring in as a piece of legislation. Were any of those phone calls made? Were there any relations at all with the municipal governments across this province? Well, I can tell you from the response that we've seen thus far, the answer is a resounding no.

Let's begin with a few comments. Jerry Blumenthal, the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities - and I will table these so members opposite can see what municipal leaders are saying about this legislation - says in The Daily News of May 4th, that the province made a big boo-boo by allowing municipalities to lower tax rates for people with skyrocketing waterfront properties. Jerry Blumenthal said yesterday that it's just another download onto municipalities. This is the president of the UNSM; this is the gentleman who was elected to that position by mayors and wardens and municipal politicians from one end of the province to the other, and Jerry Blumenthal calls it a boo-boo. Well, Jerry, you're being kind.

I would like to continue this review by looking at what Jack Wentzell, the Warden of the Lunenburg Municipality said in the May 3rd issue of The Chronicle-Herald, where waterfront landowners are reviewed and Mr. Wentzell says the province is throwing the problem right square back in our face and he thinks there would be administrative problems. Mr. Wentzell continues that they've put us between a rock and a hard place. Now, as we well know, Jack Wentzell represents one of the so-called hot markets, the hot real estate market incidentally, because that's the issue here, who has this government listened to - whether it was Voluntary Planning or whether it was Municipal Relations - they listened to the real estate market. They listened to the real estate agents, they did not listen to municipal politicians.

Brian Trask, Victoria County's chief administrative officer, and I hope members opposite, of course, realize Victoria County is part of Cape Breton, this is not a localized issue in Lunenburg County or the Halifax Regional Municipality - Brian Trask, Victoria County's CAO said that, people without waterfront properties may think it's unfair that other residents, too, get a tax break. This is going to be divide and conquer, déjà vu all over again, as we pit one municipality against another, as we have Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other face a patchwork quilt of regulations, a patchwork quilt of solving this problem of assessments.

[Page 9773]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn, if I may, to another article from The Daily News, written on May 3rd by legislative reporter, Brian Flinn. Mr. Flinn, the thorough journalist that he is, he knows who to ask for their point of view, not just municipal politicians, although it's important to hear from them. Brian Flinn in his good research has contacted Eric Creaser. You remember who Eric Creaser is. Last Fall in this House, Mr. Creaser gave us the permission in the NDP to bring to the floor of this Legislature his particular concerns, a piece of inheritance property that he wanted to pass on to his children. Mr. Creaser faced huge assessments on a piece of property that basically he was ready to pass on to his children.

Mr. Creaser is quoted in this article by Mr. Flinn, where he says - this is May 3rd in the Daily News - that doesn't impress South Shore resident Eric Creaser, a retired fisherman whose assessment jumped almost fivefold last year. Mr. Creaser said, don't you think they're just passing the buck to the municipalities? A 150-year old homestead at Hirtle's Point in Lunenburg County isn't getting any answer from this government, this minister and this piece of legislation.

I see it in the members' eyes opposite, they know in their heart of hearts that this is a piece of legislation that is not going to solve the ongoing problems for people across this province who have concerns about what happens to assessments, and furthermore, whether they are fair.

Mr. Speaker, it's disappointing. It's disappointing because of the fact that the opportunity was there to do it right, to step back from Voluntary Planning and their interim report, and realize Voluntary Planning's interim report wasn't going in the right direction, to step back as the minister responsible and the department officials to meet and consult with municipal leaders. In fact, would it not have been a novel step for the minister or his staff to meet this legendary Eric Creaser. I can assure you, he's quite a character. He's a straight shooter. He says what's on his mind. He makes sure that his views are known. What a novel way to look at solving a problem, but to consult with a Nova Scotian, to have the opportunity to listen to this gentleman as he tries to have some sense of fairness on a wonderful piece of property that he is ultimately going to be responsible for when his time of passing comes.

What do members opposite always do? Well, they dump on, criticize and point to the NDP with, well, what would you do? We're on the record with what we will do. We have introduced legislation in this historic Chamber, legislation that will really look at the issue and not pass the buck, legislation that will address a couple of important issues with the proviso that there will be consideration for inheritance properties, inheritance properties that are going to be passed on to the children and grandchildren of people who own this historic land.

We can talk about the Wentzells. We can talk about the Coveys. We can talk about the Slauenwhites. The issue comes down to the fact there has to be a provision, as was included in the legislation, as when I had the opportunity to introduce in this House, that Private

[Page 9774]

Member's Bill where I could stand in my place and say I would like to have this legislation considered by members opposite. Was that listened to? Obviously not. There is no provision in this legislation for inheritance property, for heritage properties, and I know members opposite - and I'm not going to mention their names, I know I was challenged earlier, well, tell us who they are.

In a moment of confidentiality, Mr. Speaker, a member opposite said to me, well, draft something up, Bill, so we can look at this inheritance clause. It's there. The opportunity is there because those members opposite know that this piece of legislation is unfair, that in turn any kind of increases, when it comes to assessments, should be attached to the Consumer Price Index. Now, there's a novel idea. The NDP never has anything to suggest, the members opposite say. There's a novel idea that this would, after all, be a fair, open and objective way to consider assessments in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment and I want to correct The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. I don't know how much time I have with this, but the editorial board says some things in Saturday's Chronicle-Herald, particularly dealing with me, that I have it all wrong, that I have this issue, that I have it all wrong. Now, let me tell you a quick history lesson on this MLA for Timberlea-Prospect.

Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, at this time you were not in the House, unfortunately - I know you were in another career -but at that time, the first time that I nervously stood in this House -actually I was at this spot here to my right - and asked a question of the then minister, who is now the MLA for Victoria, and the very first time I had the opportunity to speak in this House was on the issue of non-resident ownership and increases in assessments. I know members opposite are saying that's not the issue, don't go in that direction; I am talking about factors that make our assessments unfair.

The answers that I received at that time, the dismissive tone that I received at that time were disappointing to say the least, but The Chronicle-Herald says that for the last, how many years I have been here, since March 24, 1998, I'm going in the wrong direction. Well, let me tell the writer from The Chronicle-Herald I would like him to come to Terence Bay. I would like him to come to Riverport. I would like him to go to coastal communities across this province and they will straighten out the writer of that editorial pretty quick. I will share with any member present the e-mails, the faxes, the letters, the records of phone calls. Let's look very carefully . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Education on a point of order?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member for Timberlea-Prospect would entertain a question.

[Page 9775]

MR. ESTABROOKS: This is a rehearsal for a future life, I assume, is it? Of course, I would and especially if it involves The Chronicle-Herald.

MISS PURVES: I wonder, what makes him think the editorial writer was a he? (Interruptions)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, based upon the fact that the member for Halifax Citadel probably composed a few, a very valid correction, and I would make the offer to him or her to visit some of the communities that I have heard from. We are not going in the wrong direction on this piece of legislation. We are, after all, speaking up for Nova Scotians. Members opposite know and the minister knows that this is a piece of legislation that is absolutely flawed, yet I must say that when we have the rest of the Herald here, they do say a tax break with a view.

[6:45 p.m.]

The point is, of course, they dwell upon the fact that for some reason they believe that we in this party want to freeze all assessments, freeze them, froze them and don't touch them. Not the case at all. If they would review our comments over the past number of years, they would be aware of the fact that we suggested - and I have it here - an all-Party committee to tour this province and listen to Nova Scotians, and during that all-Party committee we said, freeze the assessments for that period of time. That's what we were looking at, but now it is after all that assessments will never go up? Of course assessments have to go up, Mr. Speaker, but they have to go up in a manner that's fair, that's calculated and so that people know why they received these huge increases in assessments. That's the concern that people have all the time. They want to ask, why; why us; why this huge increase in assessments?

The point is that it's pretty clear the minister opposite does not have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the crux of the issue. The crux of the issue is the problem of assessments and how it will be dealt with. This problem is not going to go away, and now we have a piece of legislation that comes in and says, oh, you may now appeal this to your municipal level of government and your municipal level of government will decide whether you qualify for this tax break or that tax break. In other words, here it is, you decide. What are the criteria? Well, the criteria are up to municipal government. The criteria could be different in Victoria County as the criteria could be different in Lunenburg County. The criteria could be different from one end of the province to the other. Now, is that how you solve the problem for Nova Scotians? Is that how you solve it from one end of the province to the other? The answer, of course, is no.

Let's point out the fact that I'm a friend of Joe Feeney's. Joe Feeney might even publicly admit that on occasion. Joe Feeney in a previous career, was a teacher I had the opportunity to work with. Currently, Mr. Feeney is the Mayor of Mahone Bay. Joe Feeney is quoted in the media, and Joe Feeney has very clearly said that this is no solution to the

[Page 9776]

problem he and taxpayers in his community face in Mahone Bay. Now, do we have to hear it from municipal leader after municipal leader? It's pretty clear, Mr. Speaker, that this piece of legislation is badly flawed. And municipal leaders, because obviously they weren't consulted, have said from the get-go that this is wrong and this is not the way to go, and after all, it is a time for leadership from this provincial government to deal with this long-standing problem.

The problem comes down that this government and that minister have abdicated their responsibilities. Why else did they set up Voluntary Planning, which toured the province, and then just pooh-poohed the report? Why else did they ignore the recommendations of people across this province? Whether it's Eric Creaser, Laurence Mawhinney, Bill Estabrooks, heaven forbid they listen to us. After all, they have the patent on all the good ideas. Is it not valuable on occasion to admit that maybe that inheritance clause on heritage properties is a good idea. We should include that. What about that idea about the consumer price index? Why don't we consider that idea? But, no, not this crowd. In turn, they have said, we are going to download it on the municipalities. And the municipalities - well, you've heard the response. I'm sure you're going to hear it from other members here; they're going to have their say too because this is a piece of legislation that sticks in the craw of Nova Scotians because it's unfair and it shows a complete lack of leadership.

I have some other comments that I want to bring to your attention at this time. Some of them are of a rather personal nature because comparisons are always made to other jurisdictions. We can talk about Prince Edward Island on a moment's notice. I know members opposite keep pointing out the fact, yes, but it's so small and it doesn't have some of the problems that we have.

Mr. Speaker, that is, again, an abdication of responsibility. You don't have to look all across this country, you don't have to look at what's done in Denmark, you don't have to look at what's happening in Great Britain on this issue, just across the Northumberland Strait, just across from the members for Pictou West and Pictou East, just across the ferry is an island that has the example that should be followed. We've heard that from Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians have said there's a worthy example that we should at least start with when it comes to the problem of land ownership, land development and control of our coastal resources, because that's what it is.

One of our greatest natural resources in Canada's ocean playground are those wonderful vistas and those beautiful views, that's why people come from all over this province. That's why people come from all over this country, excuse me, they come from all over this country to see and to feel and to touch some of the wonderful views and wonderful vistas that we have in this province.

[Page 9777]

Mr. Speaker, what happens? What happens is we are losing control of that great resource. Let's be clear, the Minister of Natural Resources or the Minister of Tourism and Culture, they should have their say on this issue. The Minister of Tourism and Culture should speak up on this issue, because he, after all, has done surveys on this matter and he knows why people come to this province, he knows why people come to various parts from one end to the other, and as you know, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, representing the beautiful community of Glace Bay, people come to other parts of this province and not just Halifax.

Let's face it, the tour buses arrive, the ships arrive, they come in here to Halifax, and where do they want to go? They want to go to Peggy's Cove. They want to go see the Swissair memorial in Indian Harbour and in Blandford. They want to touch what Nova Scotia is all about. That Minister of Tourism and Culture knows full well that in the community that he represents, this is not just a localized problem. I've seen the maps, and you, perhaps, have seen them too, the maps that show that we are losing control of our coastal communities that they are bought up by one developer after another. They are subdivided, the land is subdivided, in many cases, to people - if we can excuse the expression - from away who can afford to come in and pay these huge prices. Then the developer takes the money and runs and leaves.

Mr. Speaker, the result is if you happen to have a piece of land that is in close vicinity to this hot real estate market, what happens? What happens, an unfair assessment results, that's what happens, an unfair assessment that Nova Scotians are upset about. That good member for Inverness, the MLA for the area, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, should stand in his place and say, this piece of legislation is flawed. In fact, if he's looking at some of the reasons why it's flawed, I can tell him personally of some of the people from the community that he represents who have been in contact with me.

The Minister of Natural Resources, who looks at all the wonderful things that we have from one end of this province to the other, that are so valuable, that attract people here in tourism but also look at our greatest natural resource, our greatest natural resource in this province is our coastal properties. It's our coastal properties, and we must maintain control over those coastal properties. We must make sure that through a fair and open process of assessments, a fair and open process consulting Nova Scotians, that we continue to have control over these coastal properties.

Mr. Speaker, there are members opposite who served in municipal government, members who served and are aware that municipal government, in many cases, has an administrative system that, to put it quite bluntly, is overworked on many occasions. It's overworked because they don't have the resources to be handling some of the demands that have been downloaded on them by this provincial government.

[Page 9778]

Mr. Speaker, I'm concerned about the fact that the people of Nova Scotia are so frustrated with this government that - the members opposite have heard already some of the concerns that come from people in their constituencies. But the issue is there. I heard the member for Cape Breton South, and he promised this House again that he's going to do a roll call over there and his roll call is going to be based on who are going to be the one-term wonders. I know the member for Cape Breton South has more experience in this House than I do but I would like to give him this one piece of advice. You look, member for Cape Breton South, at those members who represent coastal communities, you look at the time bomb that's ticking here that's called unfair assessments in coastal communities and you will see that there are some one-year wonders looking at me with a glaze in their eye.

I would not, in any way, want to be a wagering man in this House, but I can tell you that the member for Eastern Shore had better stand in his place. The member for Eastern Shore must stand in his place on this flawed bill. He should say, this is a piece of legislation that is going to cause me problems in my re-election campaign. That's the member who says - and I heard him so passionately say in this House - that he speaks for the people, that he's going to have say for the people. Well, Mr. Speaker, this is the opportunity. That member for Eastern Shore not only represents coastal communities, he also was a municipal councillor, a municipal councillor who was recognized for having his say and speaking up on what he wanted to say.

Many times I know I used to watch the Tuesday night Gong - excuse me, that was a slip. I will not call it the Tuesday night Gong Show. We'll call it the Tuesday night comedy show, the HRM Council. That member stood so many times and passionately made his point. But if that member wants to be back in this House, he knows this is a grassroots issue. Municipal government is not prepared to deal with this issue. He knows it and this weekend I know he's going to hear it from people from one end of his riding to the other.

Now there are some good members over there, good constituency members over there - the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. The MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury knows this is a piece of legislation that is flawed. So I will at any time cede my place in the speaking order to hear from that member, because that member, unless he speaks up on this issue, unless he says to this minister responsible, this is a flawed piece of legislation and my municipality won't touch it with a six foot pole - or whatever expression that good member wants to use - then that member is looking at one term in this House.

Maybe some of those backbenchers won't speak up, and that will be their loss on election night. But I can tell you there's one member over there, one member I expect to hear from and that's the good member with the lucky coin in his pocket, the lucky coin that obviously was flipped on that night when he upset the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Huskilson, and the right call was made and that member for Shelburne knows unless he speaks on this issue he won't need a coin, because whoever is running for those Opposition Parties, they're going to bury him in third place because he is not speaking up on this piece

[Page 9779]

of flawed legislation. Now that member should stand in his place. That member should say, this is a piece of legislation that's going to hurt me. It's going to hurt our chances at the polls because it doesn't deal with the issue.

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, in the quick review that I made my introductory remarks with, in the quick review that I had of what municipal leaders are saying, that says to me that this piece of legislation is going to be poorly received in Shelburne. I encourage the people of Shelburne to contact their member because I know he will call them back. But if for some reason they don't get satisfaction with him, then you call the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, you call the honourable member for Dartmouth North, you call the honourable member for Halifax Needham and we will bring your case up here on the floor of this House, because this is going to be a long one. This is going to be an issue that Nova Scotians are going to want to have their say on. This is going to be an issue that it is important enough to make sure the opportunity is there to hear from Nova Scotians, not just Jerry Blumenthal, although I love to listen to Mr. Blumenthal, the ex-school principal that he was. I love to hear from municipal politicians on this issue and I encourage them to write letters to the editor, to write to their MLAs, especially if they are on the government side.

[7:00 p.m.]

You know there is a certain municipal leader who I am looking forward to placing a call to over the next couple of days, that is the ex-member for Queens, the local historian, the well-received Mayor of the Municipality of the Region of Queens Municipality, Mr. John Leefe. I will be intrigued with what Mr. Leefe has to say about this legislation. In fact, I would encourage the current member for Queens to talk to the past member for Queens, the current Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality, if you follow me through all of that, and I know you do, Mr. Speaker, I will be very interested in what John Leefe says about this legislation. What will it take the member for Queens to say, you know, John Leefe called me on this and I had better get up and have my say because one of the most respected members of this House, one of the senior members of this House when I came in here as a rookie, who on occasion would take me aside and who I would listen to - I know you find that remarkable, Mr. Speaker - but I would listen to for advice.

Yes, he was a member of the Third Party, but when Mr. Leefe spoke to me on how to handle something, how to speak on a certain issue or how to deal with a certain piece of legislation, I can say to you, Mr. Speaker, I welcomed the advice of John Leefe. So should we not now welcome the advice of the Mayor of the Region of Queens? What will the Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality say? Well, I encourage the MLA for Queens to stand in his place and bring his comments - that is Mayor Leefe's comments - to the floor of this House because the opportunity is going to be there.

[Page 9780]

This piece of legislation is not going to go through this House lightly. This is not going to be a piece of legislation that we, in this Party, are going to look at and say well, we will tinker with it, we will amend it, maybe they will change this. Uh uh, all bets are off; this one is in the trash can. This one is out; this is a piece of legislation that has no redeeming features, none, because of the fact that the minister had the opportunity to consult and did not. The minister had the opportunity to show leadership and did not. Now Nova Scotians are going to have their say. They are going to say, what does this do for us? The answer is, nothing. This minister has abdicated in his responsibilities. He has shown the lack of leadership which we, of course, knew that many members opposite were aware of. Now the problem is there; how will this piece of legislation help Eric Creaser? How will it help the Wentzells in Feltzen South? How will it help Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other, who have concerns about assessments?

Now, Mr. Speaker, thus far, as you can tell from my comments, this is a personal and an emotional issue. This pits municipalities against municipalities, it pits Nova Scotians against Nova Scotians. What is going to happen is that in one municipality the issue could be dealt with and in another municipality, perhaps in the Region of Queens Municipality, they are not going to deal with the issue at all. There is the problem. Do the municipalities have the administrative staff to be able to handle this? Do they have the expertise to be able to handle it? Are they each going to determine their own criteria? I mean that is not the way to solve a problem from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. The minister is absolutely off base. His comments that he made that day when the bill was introduced in the Red Room is, this is a localized bill, this is a localized problem and this bill will allow the people who know the local issues best to deal with it. That is absolutely false; this is not a localized issue, Mr. Speaker. This is an issue that affects the hearts and souls of Nova Scotians.

Although there are many people on the peninsula, and I am saying here in Halifax, they look forward to that weekend where they can get out to the country, where they can have a piece of property down on the Lunenburg coast, where they can get up to the beautiful Bras d'Or Lakes, where they can see first-hand what coastal properties in this province are all about.

Mr. Speaker, the licence plate says it best - Canada's Ocean Playground. Well, if that's what we're all about in this province, this provincial government should show the proper leadership and deal with the issues and allow Nova Scotians the opportunity to have their say. You know the idea was a good one I thought. The idea was one that was well-received in papers across the province, from the Inverness Oran to papers down in Queens, to along the South Shore. What ever happened to the all-Party committee? We know that all-Party committees at times are used to keep backbenchers busy; that's what has been said. Well, let's pick an all-Party committee. Why hasn't this ever been accepted?

[Page 9781]

If we can have an all-Party committee on fire safety, an important issue that Nova Scotians had their say on, and volunteer fire departments in particular, why can't we have an all-Party committee on this emotional issue? Surely the member for Shelburne could set up an immediate meeting in some popular locale down along the coast and we could have an opportunity to go and listen to the people from Shelburne on this piece of legislation.

What can we hear from the people of Shelburne? I will guarantee you it won't be a short meeting. I encourage the member for Shelburne to book the hall to at least midnight because there will be people there who want their say and they don't want to talk to somebody from Voluntary Planning. They don't want to talk to a select committee of well-heeled real estate types who are going to say, that's not a big deal, don't listen to Bill Estabrooks, he doesn't know what he's talking about. We are talking about a hot market here, an economy driven market, and I'm sure I'm going to hear from them. I'm going to get all the faxes and they're going to clog the phone lines in Timberlea. Well, bring it on because I can tell you the real estate market is not the only factor that can look at what assessments are in this province, that it's a simple one way to do it.

In fact, I think it would be of real consequence in Shelburne, or down on the Eastern Shore, or some other part along the coast, or heaven forbid, let's not forget Cumberland County, that we have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. You know, Mr. Speaker, the member for Cumberland South was quoted on CKDH Amherst Radio the other day that he had grave concerns about this piece of legislation. The MLA for Cumberland South, when I first was a rookie, he sat on the back benches. He stood in his place and he had his say. I remember that day he stood and so passionately made his case about the mining problem and the fact that there weren't the proper permits in place in the small, wonderful Town of Springhill, known for its community, known for all the wonderful commitments it has made to northern Nova Scotia, but even the MLA for Cumberland South is being quoted as saying this is a problem.

So if that member with his experience and his knowledge is publicly acknowledging it, surely members opposite also should take the opportunity to stand in their place and to have their say on this issue and say this piece of legislation should go in the trash can. It should not proceed through this House; and it certainly should not be allowed to go through to the Law Amendments Committee. I sit on the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you it's a valued tradition in this province, but I want you to know that we will have so many presenters that the Baker break will become infamous again because we will have to sit around the clock. The good chairman of the Law Amendments Committee will need more than one Baker break because when it comes to that opportunity to have Nova Scotians listened to, they will be lined up. Municipal councillors will be there; mayors will be there; wardens will be there; John Leefe will be there, I can assure you. But, more importantly, average Nova Scotians will be there, average Nova Scotians who want to have the opportunity to pass on a piece of land that has been in their family for a number of years, a number of generations.

[Page 9782]

Think about a piece of property, Mr. Speaker, that has been in your family since 1752 - Halifax was founded in 1749 - a piece of property that you want to be able to hold onto and, when the time comes, pass it on to an immediate family member. The provision was there in the piece of legislation that I had the pleasure of introducing that if for some reason that piece of property is sold to someone outside of the family, then you have a situation where assessments should be reviewed and assessments will increase.

But what happens to that piece of property? What happens to that piece of property that's owned in some of these wonderful coastal properties across this province? It's an issue of assessments that have to be fair. Assessments have to be fair and Nova Scotians have to perceive them as being fair. Nova Scotians will consider it fair if they have their say, if they have their opportunity, and the government doesn't listen to one particular side of the argument and say, oh, there are no problems with assessments. Assessments aren't a problem. We just go by market value. We let the economy go and decide what it's going to be. Oh, poor Eric Creaser. Too bad, Mr. Creaser. You're going to lose your land. You're not going to have the opportunity to pass that land on to your children and grandchildren because you don't have the money to pay the taxes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is an emotional concern that Nova Scotians are going to have their say on. They expect us to stand in our place. They expect us to speak up on their behalf. I can guarantee them that the members of this Party are going to do this. This is a piece of legislation that is going to take a long time to go through this House. This is a piece of legislation that Nova Scotians know isn't correct. It's just downright wrong. Let's not forget the earlier comment that I used when I began my comment before the hour of interruption. I would like to come back to it when I look at what Terry James from Riverport says. Terry James from Riverport says, Bill, give them both barrels. Well, guess what? We're armed and we're ready. We are going to give them both barrels on this piece of legislation. So if this gentleman from Riverport thinks he's heard the last from the NDP and the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, he knows such is not the case, because this is an issue that just isn't going to go away.

Did the minister honestly think that we could take this piece of legislation through here, over to the Law Amendments Committee, download on the municipalities, and there, it's out of sight, out of mind, we don't have to worry about it anymore. We can say, the next time we go to the polls, oh, don't bother us about the fact that you have to pay these huge tax increases. You have the right of appeal. You have the right of appeal, to go to your municipal councillor on that issue. Mr. Speaker, you know what the result about most Nova Scotians on that is - another level of bureaucracy. Nova Scotians call us on everything. They call us as MLAs, municipal councillors, and members of Parliament. They want our help, so when someone calls me about a concern, do I say to them, oh, no, that's not my issue? You call Councillor Rankin; you call Councillor Meade. Those are councillors in my area, Reg Rankin and Gary Meade.

[Page 9783]

No, Mr. Speaker, I deal with the issue as best I can. If I need advice from those two councillors, I call upon them. But we don't just pass the buck as MLAs. You deal with the issue. You make sure that you can give the good advice and point your constituents in the right direction. But instead, now when people complain and people want to know, what do I do about this huge increase in my tax bill? I say, well, because of Bill No. 128, you know, it's really unfortunate, but you have the right of appeal to municipal government. Do you know what the response in Nova Scotia is going to be? More bureaucracy, more government. That's the level over there that said red tape, we don't need any more of it. Well, guess what? This is another level of bureaucracy, another part of administration that many municipal councillors are going to say, we don't want to touch that. We want leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity here a couple of weeks ago to meet with the Mayor of HRM, Peter Kelly, in his office, with a couple of constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Pomeroy from Shad Bay. They own a piece of property that's assessment has jumped through the roof because I believe they have something like - and Mrs. Pomeroy is probably watching and Kim, I apologize for this, I think they have - 12 feet of shorefront property because the rest of that coastline, incidentally, is owned by the municipality. What did Mr. Kelly say to Mr. and Mrs. Pomeroy? He said, correctly, that this is an issue that the provincial government should take care of. This is an issue that your MLA should be speaking out about, Mr. and Mrs. Pomeroy. So, here we are. We are speaking about the issue today. Peter Kelly doesn't want this issue passed to him. Peter Kelly wants the issue dealt with at the source. He wants it dealt with by the people who have the power, who have the resources, who have the administrative talents to deal with the issue. I can tell you, that's only one example.

[7:15 p.m.]

Now, I see the member for Preston over there, shaking his head. In fact, I can hear him shaking his head. I challenge you, stand in your place and if you have anything more to say about the bill, you bring it on, otherwise let me have my say at this time. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, for speaking directly to a member opposite.

Backbenchers over there have issues to bring up. They have responsibilities to deal with, and here's one of them. I encourage members opposite to make sure that over the next number of days, because it's going to take that amount of time - I know the good member for Antigonish can't speak anymore, but I want members over there - to have their say on this issue, especially those members - and my friend, the member for Dartmouth North, brings it to my attention - with municipal government experience, and those members with municipal government experience who have coastal properties, with water views.

What's a water view? Give me the criteria for a water view. That isn't the way to solve this issue. There are municipal government leaders over there, municipal government officials who held positions of respect and honour that put them in this House, because, probably, they said in a certain constituency, in a certain municipality, well, you know, he

[Page 9784]

wasn't a bad mayor, he wasn't a bad warden, let's give him a crack at provincial government. Now they sit on the backbenches and they do not have their say on an issue that will prove whether they will be re-elected in this House. That's a shame.

Mr. Speaker, many of those municipal government officials had a reputation for speaking up and having their say. Now they sit quietly by as a member of the front bench takes a piece of legislation that they know in their heart of hearts is flawed, that they know is not a piece of legislation that deals with the issue, that they know is a piece of legislation that will not solve the problem, will not deal with the issue, the basic crux issue of assessments in this province.

There is a particular member opposite, and I sit on a committee with him on occasion, and I have had the chance to hear him speak. He stands in the Public Accounts Committee meetings and he speaks with passion, he speaks with expertise, and he speaks from the voice of a private businessman's perspective, but that member for Yarmouth was also elected because of his record in municipal government. His outstanding record in municipal government was based upon the fact that he would speak up and have his say. I would hope that the member for Yarmouth, representing that historic coastal community, would stand in his place and have his say. (Interruptions) And I see it now. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would like to bring to the attention of the House that the previous member for Yarmouth who sat in this House never, ever darkened the doors of any of the councils. This member, since he's been elected, meets with the councils twice a year, and he met with the councils last Saturday in Yarmouth on this issue. I don't know what that member is going on about, but this member deals with the people in his community. (Interruptions)

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

The member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, let the record show that's one of his longest speeches in this House, and I welcome his comments, although I disagree with them. It is of real significance that that member and other members over there should know - and I see him looking at us, I know they understand the fact that this piece of legislation isn't going to work. It is not going to solve the issue. It is downloading, it is passing the buck, it is putting the municipality between a rock and a hard place, and all of those other quick little sound bites.

Mr. Speaker, that's not the issue here, that's not the issue. The issue here is with Bill No. 128, why this government would have the nerve to bring it forward? Why would the government subject themselves to the abuse which they are going to receive? Not just myself, they are not just going to hear it from the member for Timberlea-Prospect, they are going to

[Page 9785]

hear it from their own constituents. They are going to make sure that they also hear it from their municipal councillors. This is a government in bad need of positive PR. So why would they allow this piece of legislation to go forward? Would it be, after all, well received?

Mr. Speaker, I have already told you it is not well received; whether it is Jerry Blumenthal, whether it is Brian Trask, whether it is Joe Feeney or any other municipal councillors or wardens or mayors that we can bring to your attention. In fact, I heard that the Mayor of the Municipality of Colchester, the resident of Truro, doesn't think too highly of this particular piece of legislation.

Now I am sure that Mr. Smith will be in contact with his MLA; Mr. Smith will make sure that he has his say on behalf of Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, time so quickly goes on this issue and I want you to know that I have mentioned one constituent, I mentioned the Pomroys from Shad Bay. I have files that I will bring to this floor, I have names, constituents of mine but, more important, Mr. Speaker, I have constituents from the members opposite. I should also point out that I have some constituents from the member of the Third Party who also have been in contact with me on this issue. I have been invited to speak in their community halls on this issue, and I have. I have taken the opportunity, I have had the wonderful opportunity to go to Riverport on that Saturday morning and sit in their elementary school and listen to the concerns of Nova Scotians. It was an honour and a privilege that I take with great responsibility, unlike some members opposite.

So, at this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to move "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: Bill 128, An Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998, the Municipal Government Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence."

I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion is in order and we will proceed to debate the motion on the hoist.

The honourable Leader in the House of Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, if there was ever a time to move a six months' hoist on a bill, this is it. Here it is.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard for probably the last year and a half about coastal properties assessments, taxation, property taxes. Time and time again we have heard the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, telling the municipal units in this province that he was going to table a solution to that problem in this House. Well, if you have to look at Bill No. 128, An Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998, the Municipal Government Act, if this is the best he can do, then I think personally, the Minister

[Page 9786]

of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations should take six months just to review this bill himself, let alone get on the road and start consulting with the municipal units around this province.

We have heard especially from units on the South Shore, we have heard from units in Cape Breton, we have heard here from HRM and others. There is definitely a real need to start the real consultation. I don't know if the minister was involved in earlier consultation, but I think from the reports that we have seen and people we have heard from, there is definitely a time and I think today, starting with this hoist amendment, certainly will allow this Tory Government to do what they should have done some months ago - get out there and travel this province and meet with the 55 municipal units around this province. This is a serious issue and when you're looking at Bill No. 128, Bill No. 128 does not even come close, doesn't even come close in answering some of these questions.

The sudden increases in property taxes have created a financial problem for many Nova Scotians. Many communities have come forward expressing those concerns. Looking at the government solution here with Bill No. 128, there is no doubt that what the government is proposing here doesn't even come close to fixing this problem.

This bill, Bill No. 128, doesn't do anything but download the responsibility for assessment on municipal units. They, themselves, are going to have to come up with the answer to this problem that many units are facing. This bill permits municipal units to set a lower residential tax rate for properties with waterfrontage. Now, there is no doubt that many municipal units that we have heard from are very disappointed in the action from this minister and this government. This government had an opportunity. This did not come about in the last 24 hours. This problem, coastal assessment, has been a matter of great concern for many of the residents here in Nova Scotia in many parts of the province. So, what does the government decide to do? Table a bill to throw it back to the municipal units - you guys fix it.

I don't think it's fair. Where is the leadership? I don't think it's fair for this minister and this government to throw it back to the municipal units in this province. They have an opportunity here with this amendment, the six months' hoist amendment, to do real consultation once and for all, to get on the road, talk to the municipal units and report back and hopefully - hopefully - to table a bill in the next session if there will not be enough time after the six months, but to table a bill that will probably respond to some of the concerns that have been raised.

This bill, again, certainly downloads the responsibility for assessment back to the municipal units. Municipal units were looking at the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations for some leadership and from this Tory Government. Instead of getting that leadership, they had the responsibility thrown back to them. They are now asked to come up with the solution that this government has failed to bring forward.

[Page 9787]

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this six months' hoist amendment would certainly give this Tory Government the opportunity to sit down with the municipal units around this province and once they heard from the different units around the province, then they can come back and table an amendment to this bill in order to fix the real problem, and not just pass the problem over to the municipal units.

Mr. Speaker, under this bill municipal units will have the power to set a lower residential tax rate for properties with frontage on, or a view, of the ocean, a river, or a lake. There's no doubt that this bill would in effect create more problems from one end of the province to the other, if this bill goes through to allow different municipal units to set their own tax rates, because in the end what we're going to have is a patchwork of different tax rates across this province.

So, Mr. Speaker, when you're looking at the different tax rates that exist today, if this bill is allowed to go forward just hold on to your hat, because we will no doubt have the biggest mess across this province with different tax rates among the 55 municipal units; this will be a nightmare in itself. So when you're looking at this bill that's before us today, there is no doubt that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations could use the next six months to sit down with his colleagues at the municipal level and hear exactly what they have to say with regard to this bill, and there is no doubt if we allow this bill to go forward, again, we're just allowing this mess to come out certainly ahead of the game.

So I think it's critical for members on this side to delay this bill by speaking on this hoist amendment to allow this government the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, something that they have not done, and they have had lots of time on top of that, this has not just come overnight. This is not an overnight problem; this assessment certainly has been out there for quite some time now. This has certainly touched many Nova Scotians in different parts of the province, especially with properties that have a water frontage.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think the fear here, when you look at what could eventually come out of this bill if this bill actually goes through the House at some time, the fear here is that there will be other residents in other coastal communities across this province who will be unfairly impacted with higher taxes by the suggested changes, rates. I don't think this is the leadership that the municipal units were looking at this government for, by introducing Bill No. 128.

I think the government had certainly an opportunity here to provide real leadership, to certainly meet, consult and come back with a proposal to be tabled in this House in order to address the real problem, and this bill does not address the problem. This bill sends it exactly back to the municipal units, and that's unfair. The municipal units have been calling upon this minister and this government to show the leadership, to show real leadership by

[Page 9788]

providing some real guidance when it comes to assessing waterfront properties. This bill simply throws it back to the municipal units and allows them to bring some rates forward, and more than likely we will have all kinds of rates from one end to the other end, along waterfront properties. That's the mess that's about to be created by Bill No. 128. This government has an opportunity with this hoist amendment to step back, do some real consultation and come back to table some real legislation that will help municipal units to address this coastal assessment problem.

Mr. Speaker, this government, by introducing this bill, decided they would deflect their responsibility in downloading this issue to be dealt with by the municipal units. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, when he introduced these changes, said, that this problem is not widespread across the province, it is localized, therefore it is best that it can be resolved at the local level. After all, resolving local issues is what municipal governments are all about. Well, unfortunately, I don't agree with the minister. This is not a local problem, it's not just a local issue with one municipal unit in this province.

We have heard, time and time again, wardens, mayors, from different municipal units, looking to and asking the provincial government for some direction over this matter. For some time now, we kept hearing the government promising that they would be tabling a solution that the minister himself talked about earlier, that a solution would be tabled in this Spring session that would help municipal units deal with coastal property assessments. I think that there is no doubt the expectations were raised, many, not just the municipal units, residents across this province were very hopeful that the minister had heard. I know that he certainly has been contacted, time and time again, over this issue by different people from different parts of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I think the expectations that this government created, was that during this Spring session the government would have tabled a bill that would certainly come to answer many of the concerns that were expressed. Well, unfortunately, the bill that's before the House comes very short in responding to those concerns raised, to those expectations that were created, and does absolutely nothing except send it back to the municipal units to more or less look at addressing this. In the minister's words, this is a local problem, it should be dealt with at the local level.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this minister forgot to realize that this is not just one problem affecting one municipal unit in this province. There are many residents being affected across this province. Bill No. 128 does absolutely nothing to help fix this problem that many of our residents in this province are being faced with. Again, I think this hoist amendment that's before this House is a great opportunity for this government to do something that they said back in 1999 they would do. They wanted to be open; they wanted to be transparent; they wanted to be accountable. What a great opportunity this government has with this amendment, something that they promised the people of Nova Scotia back in

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1999, yet we haven't seen much of that, especially when it comes to addressing the real assessment problem on property taxes.

Maybe this government should really consider taking advantage of this amendment, which offers the government six months to delay this bill - six months that the government, the minister and his staff, would have to travel around this province and hear what representatives from different municipal units have to say on this particular problem. So rather than throwing it back to the units, you are expected to come to a solution locally in order to address your local problem. This would be a great opportunity for this minister and his staff to spend some time doing some real consultation.

Unfortunately, we heard for quite some time before this Spring session began - the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations indicated that he would be bringing forward a solution to this problem that reaches out and touches many individuals across this province. Hopes were certainly raised; expectations were created. I know our caucus was really looking forward to what this government was planning to introduce. Anyway, I think that once this bill was tabled, it must have been the biggest disappointment that Nova Scotians again have faced with this Tory Government.

AN HON. MEMBER: A lot of those disappointments, aren't there?

MR. GAUDET: There have been a few lately. We heard another one today about the 10 per cent tax cut, but I'm sure we will have an opportunity to debate that one in the days ahead. But again, this amendment that's before the House today is to allow this bill to be delayed six months. I'm sure many people would welcome the opportunity after seeing what was in Bill No. 128 that was supposed to fix the problem or at least provide some direction to municipal units in addressing this coastal assessment problem.

What happened here? It's probably the question that we need to ask. Instead of the high expectations that were created, I think the government was looking for a quick exit. They probably weren't interested in getting down to address this real problem. Let's send it back to the municipal units that are being impacted by this problem. Again, the government has an opportunity here, a real opportunity, once and for all, to deal with this real problem. So if they did not have the time - and that's possible; maybe the minister did not have the time. Expectations were created; people certainly expected once the piece of legislation was tabled by the minister that at least it would provide some direction to the municipal units. So expectations were created and with the tabling of this bill, unfortunately, those expectations were not delivered on.

[7:45 p.m.]

So again, Mr. Speaker, by failing to bring a solution, this government again, you really have to ask yourself, where is the true leadership from this government? Time and time

[Page 9790]

again, we have seen this Tory Government, either they don't know where they're going - and I'm sure probably a lot of people in this province would agree with me. A lot of people in this province would probably agree that this Tory Government has no clue where they're going from one day to another.

Mr. Speaker, this bill that's before the House, again, it downloads the responsibility to the municipal units for them to decide, instead of the provincial government deciding, how this coastal assessment property tax issue should be dealt with. Again, unfortunately, the real direction that many people were expecting to see from this minister and from this government are extremely disappointed by what this bill contains. Furthermore, maybe what's more problematic in this piece of legislation is that this bill contains the word "may". There's a difference between "shall" and "may". So, again, there is no real direction for property owners, especially if this bill goes through and the municipal units themselves will have to sit down and arrive at a solution to this problem.

As I said earlier and a number of colleagues on this side of the House said earlier, Mr. Speaker, if this bill goes through, just imagine the different tax breaks that will exist.

AN HON. MEMBER: The confusion.

MR. GAUDET: Confusion. There's not a doubt that this will be one of the biggest messes that this Tory Government will have created during their mandate. They have created a few.

AN HON. MEMBER: Some pretty big ones too.

MR. GAUDET: Yes. A few come to mind, Mr. Speaker. But with this property assessment, this government certainly has an opportunity with this hoist amendment to do some real work in order to address this real problem. Unfortunately, this Tory Government decided to take the easiest way out. So rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting out there and sitting down with people from the different municipal units and hearing what residents have to say from one end to the other end of this province on this issue, they have decided to send it back to the municipal units.

Mr. Speaker, this bill only protects the waterfront property owners. Bill No. 128, this bill permits the municipal council to set a lower tax rate for properties with frontage on a view of the ocean, a river or a lake. This bill doesn't do anything to protect all property owners.

Mr. Speaker, there are other concerns raised, but they're not addressed by this bill and I will give you an example. People on the South Shore are concerned that they may lose their property or won't be able to pass it down to family members. This has been raised in many areas of the province. Again, the direction that people were expecting, the direction they were

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expecting to see coming from this government, unfortunately, this direction is not being provided under this bill.

Mr. Speaker, this bill doesn't address the concerns expressed by those individuals, that they may lose their property or they won't be able to pass it down to family members. These people deserve a solution from this provincial government. You know, again, for the minister to take the easiest way out, to table this bill and send it back to the local municipal councils to decide exactly how this should be dealt with, this is unfair. There's an opportunity here for this government to do something that is right for a change and this amendment, the six months' hoist amendment, allows the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, his staff and this government - if he needs more time to do some real consultation with those who are being affected - the opportunity to do some further consultation over this very serious issue that has been affecting many Nova Scotians in different parts of this province.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, because of parliamentary procedures in this House, we know at some point in time the vote on this hoist amendment will come before this Chamber.

We know that the members on that side of the House will have an opportunity to either support this amendment that's before the House, or to vote against this amendment and that's the scary part. That's the real scary part. If this government decides in the end to vote against this hoist amendment and this bill moves on after second reading to the Law Amendments Committee, I am sure the bill will be there for some time because I am quite sure it may take six months just to listen to what Nova Scotians have to say on Bill No. 128. Maybe that's an opportunity, if this hoist amendment does not go through, then once the bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee, the people of Nova Scotia will have a real opportunity to step forward and share with this Tory Government exactly what they think of this bill. I am sure there would be many frustrations expressed at the Law Amendments Committee, not just by property owners, but I am sure we will hear from representatives from municipal units from around this province as well. The municipal units were looking at this government for leadership, through leadership in addressing this real problem. Unfortunately, it did not happen with this piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure this bill will have an opportunity, once it is at the Law Amendments Committee, to allow people to come forward and express the concerns they have on this piece of legislation, that it does absolutely nothing to address their problems.

What is even more scary, Mr. Speaker, is that after this bill returns from the Law Amendments Committee and goes into Committee of the Whole House, again we will have an opportunity to further debate this bill before it moves to third and final reading. I cannot honestly imagine seeing this bill go through third and final reading in this Chamber without some amendments, major amendments. If this bill goes through this House without major amendments, I can only say expect a real mess out there in the days to come.

[Page 9792]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for debate has expired for today.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, the House Leader for the New Democratic Party will give us the hours and the business of the day for tomorrow, Wednesday.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure the government members will be pleased to know that the hours for tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The business - and we know that it is going to be a very co-operative day so, therefore, we hope to accomplish three pieces of business: Bill No. 52 and Bill No. 66, plus Resolution No. 3679. That was the one that was introduced on Monday evening. I'm not sure of the order but I would suspect that we will probably deal with the bills first, but that decision hasn't been finalized.

Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the House, to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]

[Page 9793]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3732

By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

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

Whereas a state-of-the-art theatre complex is gearing up to open in Millbrook this coming July; and

Whereas the theatre will employ over 100 jobs during construction and 35 full- and part-time jobs following completion; and

Whereas the theatre will include a party and games room in addition to its five cinemas, one of which will be able to turn into a conference centre with the screen available for presentations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Millbrook on the development of what will be both an entertainment facility as well as a positive community resource.

RESOLUTION NO. 3733

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas a sense of humour is necessary to participate in an oldtimers' hockey league; and

Whereas Doug Forbes of Timberlea was named as this year's winner of the Golden Goat Award in the St. Margarets Oldtimers' Hockey League; and

Whereas next hockey season Doug will also serve as the president of this hockey league;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Doug Forbes as this year's winner of the St. Margarets Oldtimers' Hockey League's Golden Goat Award with best wishes for a successful year during his upcoming term as the League President.

[Page 9794]

RESOLUTION NO. 3734

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas the Westchester Fire Department has recently hosted a pancake supper; and

Whereas this year the event drew several hundred people out to enjoy pancakes, sausages, beans and the area's famous maple syrup; and

Whereas guests were served by community leaders such as Westchester Fire Chief Justin Rushton;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Westchester Fire Department on another successful pancake supper and wish its members luck in their activities throughout the year.

RESOLUTION NO. 3735

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 45 has recently celebrated its 70th Anniversary; and

Whereas peacekeeping medals were presented to two veterans at the anniversary ceremony; and

Whereas one of the recipients of the prestigious medal was Bill Lorette;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Bill Lorette on the receipt of the peacekeeping medal and thank him for the hard work and dedication he put forth in serving our country.

[Page 9795]

RESOLUTION NO. 3736

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas April 22nd was recognized as Earth Day; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Lions Club took an active role in commemorating Earth Day; and

Whereas Neil Smith and Sid Francis collected nearly 50 bags of litter in their personal effort to clean up Pleasant Street;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Neil Smith and Sid Francis for their role through the Yarmouth Lions Club and their promotion of Earth Day.

RESOLUTION NO. 3737

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas the River Hebert Fire Department held its annual banquet on Saturday, May 4, 2002; and

Whereas firefighters, like the true heroes they really are, play a significant role in fire safety and can be called upon at a moment's notice to assist with an emergency in the community and surrounding areas; and

Whereas the River Hebert Fire Department is also an integral part of firefighting operations in Cumberland County as they supply assistance whenever it is required and the ladies' auxiliary work tirelessly in their fundraising efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly recognize the support offered by Chief Kelly Theal and the River Hebert Fire Department as well as the ladies' auxiliary to their local community and wish them every success in this upcoming year.

[Page 9796]

RESOLUTION NO. 3738

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Royal Bank of Canada recently announced various closures of branches across Cape Breton; and

Whereas the loss of the Port Hood branch in Inverness County will be a blow to those without the necessary transportation to travel to and from neighbouring communities to have to do their banking; and

Whereas the recent closures appear to be an ongoing trend of our major banks to shut down local service to loyal customers, a major loss especially for our rural communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the Royal Bank of Canada to refrain from reducing community service such as its branch in Port Hood and remember its loyal customers and staff who have supported the banks and ensured their financial successes enjoyed today.