Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-102

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2002





TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 9893
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3770, Environ. & Lbr. - Westray Mine Disaster: Victims -
Memory Respect/Honour, Hon. D. Morse 9894
Vote - Affirmative 9895
Res. 3771, Educ. - Atl. Mem.-Terence Bay Sch.: CREATE -
Participants Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 9895
Vote - Affirmative 9896
Res. 3772, Nat. Res. - StoraEnso: Environ. Cert./ISO 14001 - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 9896
Vote - Affirmative 9896
Res. 3773, Environ. & Lbr. - Atl. Can. Golf Superintendents Assoc.:
Environ. Manual - Congrats., Hon. D. Morse 9896
Vote - Affirmative 9897
Res. 3774, Arbour Day - Events: Participation - Encourage,
Hon. E. Fage 9897
Vote - Affirmative 9898
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3775, Westray Mine Disaster: Repetition - Prevent, Mr. D. Dexter 9898
Vote - Affirmative 9899
Res. 3776, Westray Mine Disaster - Victims: Memory - Honour,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9899
Vote - Affirmative 9900
Res. 3777, Family Caregivers' Wk. (05/06-13/02) - Recognize,
Mr. T. Olive 9900
Vote - Affirmative 9900
Res. 3778, Sports - Active Lifestyles: Progs. - Develop,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9900
Res. 3779, Westray Mine Disaster - Families: Sorrow - Recognize,
Mr. D. Wilson 9901
Vote - Affirmative 9902
Res. 3780, Dicks, Ward - Lake Dist. Rec. Assoc.: Recognition -
Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 9902
Vote - Affirmative 9902
Res. 3781, Astral Dr. Elem. Sch. - Free the Children (Nicaragua):
Contributions - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 9903
Vote - Affirmative 9903
Res. 3782, LPNs: Work - Acknowledge, Dr. J. Smith 9903
Vote - Affirmative 9904
Res. 3783, Corey, Robert & Pam: Pioneer Organics - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Carey 9904
Vote - Affirmative 9905
Res. 3784, Westray Mine Disaster - Occ. Health & Safety Leg.:
Standards - Uphold, Mr. F. Corbett 9905
Vote - Affirmative 9906
Res. 3785, McLeod, Gary: Nat'l. Fishing Award - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 9906
Vote - Affirmative 9906
Res. 3786, Emergency Services Achievement Prog.: Participants -
Commend, Mr. B. Barnet 9906
Vote - Affirmative 9907
Res. 3787, St. Margarets Bay Lions: Arena Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9907
Vote - Affirmative 9908
Res. 3788, Cross, Jason/Smith, Michael - World Lifesaving
Championships: Representation - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 9908
Vote - Affirmative 9909
Res. 3789, Agric. & Fish. - Dairy Farmers (Old Barns): Efforts -
Commend, (by Mr. W. Langille), Mr. B. Taylor 9909
Vote - Affirmative 9909
Res. 3790, Maeda, Ms. Eriko - Mun. of E. Hants: Vol. Award -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 9909
Vote - Affirmative 9910
Res. 3791, Can. IT Wk. (05/03-12/02) - Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 9910
Vote - Affirmative 9911
Res. 3792, McCarthy, Joe - Macdonald, Sir John A., HS:
Nat'l. Volleyball Championships - Best Wishes, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9911
Vote - Affirmative 9912
Res. 3793, Conrad, Annette: Big Bike Award Winners - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 9912
Vote - Affirmative 9912
Res. 3794, Findlay, George - Mun. of E. Hants: Vol. Award - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 9912
Vote - Affirmative 9913
Res. 3795, MS Awareness Month (05/02) - Recognize, Dr. J. Smith 9913
Vote - Affirmative 9914
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1036, Environ. & Lbr. - Westray Inquiry: Accountability
Recommendations - Adopt, Mr. D. Dexter 9914
No. 1037, Health: Pro-Tobacco Stance - Explain, Mr. W. Gaudet 9916
No. 1038, Environ. & Lbr. - Frame, Clifford: Mining (N.S.) -
Disallow, Mr. F. Corbett 9917
No. 1039, Health - Tobacco Control Strategy: Ventilation Tech. -
Stance, Dr. J. Smith 9918
No. 1040, Justice: Lobbyists' Reg. Act - Proclaim, Mr. K. Deveaux 9920
No. 1041, Sports - Youth: Physical Activity - Promotion Details,
Mr. B. Boudreau 9921
No. 1042, Justice - FOIPOP: Administration - Cost Increases,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9922
No. 1043, Health - Smoking Policy: Municipalities - Effects,
Mr. D. Wilson 9924
No. 1044, Health - Care: Needs - Prioritize, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9925
No. 1045, Educ. - HRM: French Immersion Study - Time Frame,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9926
No. 1046, Health - Long-Term Care: Costs - Pay,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9927
No. 1047, Health - LPN/RN: Continuing Ed. Progs. - Eligibility,
Dr. J. Smith 9929
No. 1048, Sports - Rec. Facility Dev. Grants: Reduction - Explain,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9930
No. 1049, Health - Hfx. Harbour: Rec. Usage - Safety,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9931
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 134, Volunteer Fire Services Act 9932
Hon. P. Christie 9932
Mr. J. MacDonell 9933
Mr. P. MacEwan 9934
Mr. B. Taylor 9936
Mr. J. Pye 9938
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9939
Mr. D. Hendsbee 9944
Mr. G. Steele 9945
Mr. J. Carey 9947
Mr. B. Boudreau 9947
Hon. P. Christie 9948
Vote - Affirmative 9948
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 110, Provincial Fossil Act 9949
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9949
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9949
Mr. G. Steele 9950
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9950
Vote - Affirmative 9950
No. 117, Geoscience Profession Act 9951
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9951
Mr. G. Steele 9951
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9951
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9952
Vote - Affirmative 9952
No. 119, Canadian Information Processing Society of Nova Scotia Act 9952
Mr. T. Olive 9952
Mr. G. Steele 9954
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9954
Mr. T. Olive 9955
Vote - Affirmative 9955
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 132, Atlantic Blue Cross Care Inc. Act 9955
Ms. M. McGrath 9955
Mr. G. Steele 9956
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9957
Ms. M. McGrath 9958
Vote - Affirmative 9958
No. 131, Gray Grant Act 9958
Mr. J. Chataway 9959
Mr. D. Downe 9959
Mr. J. Chataway 9959
Vote - Affirmative 9959
No. 130, Lunenburg Common Lands Act 9959
Hon. M. Baker 9960
Mr. D. Downe 9960
Hon. M. Baker 9960
Vote - Affirmative 9961
No. 133, Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Act 9961
Mr. G. Steele 9961
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9962
Mr. P. MacEwan 9963
Mr. M. Parent 9964
Mr. G. Steele 9964
Vote - Affirmative 9964
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 3:17 P.M. 9964
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:20 P.M. 9965
CWH REPORTS 9965
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 72, Electronic Evidence Act 9965
Hon. M. Baker 9965
Mr. K. Deveaux 9966
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9966
Hon. M. Baker 9966
Vote - Affirmative 9966
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 129, Assessment Act/Municipal Grants Act 9967
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9967
Mr. J. Pye 9969
Mr. D. Downe 9970
Mr. J. Holm 9976
Mr. B. Boudreau 9979
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9986
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9989
Vote - Affirmative 9991
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. D. Morse 9992
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 10th at 9:00 a.m. 9993
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3796, Churchill, Jack/Yar. FD: Efforts - Applaud, Mr. R. Hurlburt 9994
Res. 3797, Rose Valley Trucking & Excavating: Safety Awards -
Congrats., Mr. Richard Hurlburt 9994

[Page 9893]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 9, 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 South:

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia has no plan for the future of industrial Cape Breton.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

9893

[Page 9894]

Bill No. 109 - Financial Measures (2002) Act.

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

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

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3770

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

Whereas today is the 10th Anniversary of the tragic Westray Mine explosion in which 26 miners were killed and the lives of their families were changed forever; and

Whereas this tragedy and the ensuing inquiry into its cause dramatically underscored the necessity for government, industry and all Nova Scotians to put safety in the workplace above all other considerations; and

Whereas the legacy of Westray will be remembered and appreciated every day a worker returns home safely from their workplace;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House respect and honour the memory of those who died at Westray and ensure that their memory continues to be an inspiration to remain vigilant in the cause of safety in Nova Scotia workplaces.

I would now ask that the members of this House rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of those who died in the Westray explosion.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9895]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

I ask all members to rise in a moment of silence for those who lost their lives at Westray.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Please be seated.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3771

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

Whereas throughout the month of May, teachers, parent volunteers and local artists join the students at Atlantic Memorial-Terence Bay School to celebrate the arts in education through its annual CREATE project; and

Whereas this colourful and unique event provides students with a wide range of multi-age, creative workshops that will result in many cherished works of art; and

Whereas on May 30th, Atlantic Memorial-Terence Bay School will proudly display the artwork and creative talent of its students through its annual CREATE showcase;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lis Coleman, CREATE coordinator; Principal Bill Matheson; and the teachers and parent volunteers of Atlantic Memorial-Terence Bay School for bringing the arts alive through education.

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 9896]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3772

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

Whereas environmental certification can be difficult for a forestry operation to achieve and involves having your woodlands thoroughly studied by both a Canadian and an American sustainable forest initiative program; and

Whereas StoraEnso of Port Hawkesbury has become the first forestry operation to receive this prestigious certification from both the Canadian and American certification bodies; and

Whereas the award was presented to StoraEnso at a special ceremony where it was also announced that they would be reregistered for an additional three years under the international certification of the ISO 14001 program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate StoraEnso for receiving this prestigious award from Canada and the United States, as well as the ISO 14001, and wish them every success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3773

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

[Page 9897]

Whereas after being in production for nearly two years, the Atlantic Canada Golf Superintendents Association and the Department of Environment and Labour have released their joint effort, the Environmental Self-Assessment Manual; and

Whereas the manual is designed to assist private golf courses in conducting their own environmental assessments in an attempt to prevent and minimize damage to the environment; and

Whereas the Environmental Self-Assessment Manual has been touted by some as the only one of its kind in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Atlantic Golf Superintendents Association and the Department of Environment and Labour on the release of this new and innovative manual and on their initiatives to ensure that golf courses are using sustainable methods while developing their land.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3774

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

Whereas today, May 9th, is designed as Arbor Day, the one day each year that countries throughout the world dedicate to tree planting; and

Whereas the intent of Arbor Day is to focus all efforts on conservation and the vital importance of ensuring a forest resource for future generations; and

[Page 9898]

Whereas schools, groups and other organizations are participating in Arbor Day planting ceremonies throughout the Province of Nova Scotia, helping to sustain this important resource and enhance our environment;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House encourage all Nova Scotians to participate in Arbor Day events throughout this province, as every person's contribution helps to ensure a forest resource for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3775

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

Whereas the events of May 9, 1992, at the Westray Mine have left a bottomless well of sorrow in the families of the 26 miners who perished that wet, cold morning; and

Whereas no amount of comfort can ever fully heal the wounds of the many left behind in the aftermath of a disaster that should never have happened; and

Whereas our duty to those gone and to those left clinging to the wreckage of their lives is never to forget that such pain and suffering must be prevented to the best of our abilities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commit its best efforts to prevent another Westray and send its deepest sympathies and regrets to the families and friends of the fallen 26 whose memories remain with us always.

[Page 9899]

[12:15 p.m.]

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3776

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: 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 this date, May 9, 1992, 26 miners lost their lives in an underground explosion at the Westray Colliery in Plymouth, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Nova Scotians remember with sadness today the 26 husbands, fathers, brothers and sons who have died in this most tragic explosion; and

Whereas this tragedy has deeply affected not only the families and friends of these miners, but also all communities of Pictou County and, indeed, all of Nova Scotia and Canada and touched many people around the world;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House honour the memory of the 26 men who tragically lost their lives in the Westray Mine disaster on Saturday, May 9, 1992.

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 9900]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3777

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

Whereas caregivers are a vital part of the health care system of Nova Scotia and society at large; and

Whereas every Nova Scotian is or may become a caregiver or will themselves be assisted by a caregiver; and

Whereas caregivers selflessly provide a very significant and important service to family, friends and neighbours in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly recognize the week of May 6 to May 13, 2002, as Family Caregivers Week in the Province of Nova Scotia and use this time to express our gratitude for the countless hours and priceless quality care offered by Nova Scotians who are in the vital position of caregivers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3778

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

[Page 9901]

Whereas Statistics Canada tells us in its latest study that Nova Scotia has a growing obesity problem that far outstrips that of other provinces; and

Whereas our obesity rate has surged 5 percentage points to 21 per cent of the population since 1995 and Statistics Canada attributes it to poor diet and inactivity; and

Whereas this government has shown no real commitment to funding programs that encourage Nova Scotians to become active and engaged in healthier activities;

Therefore be it resolved that this government commit to enrich funding for those sport and recreation programs that develop active lifestyles for young and old alike and are the best medicine of all - preventative medicine.

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 Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 3779

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

Whereas on this day 10 years ago a terrible explosion rocked the Westray Mine; and

Whereas the people of Glace Bay mourned the loss of the 26 men who died, including 42-year-old Bennie Joseph Benoit of Glace Bay; and

Whereas rescue workers from the Cape Breton Development Corporation worked tirelessly in the days following the tragedy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the sense of sorrow and loss of the families involved and the selfless efforts of the many rescue workers who participated.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9902]

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 Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 3780

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

Whereas on Wednesday, May 1, 2002, the Lake District Recreation Association honoured community volunteers in Sackville; and

Whereas Ward Dicks of Middle Sackville was honoured for his work with minor baseball and the Springfield Lake Recreation Centre; and

Whereas Ward can be relied on for his talents and efforts on any project he undertakes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ward Dicks for the recognition he received for his outstanding commitment to his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 9903]

RESOLUTION NO. 3781

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

Whereas Free the Children is an international network of children helping children that believes all children have the right to full intellectual, physical, emotional and social development, and counts among its advisors Bishop Desmond Tutu; and

Whereas for the past two years students of Grades 4, 5 and 6 and their families of Astral Drive Elementary School have chosen at Christmas to make a contribution to the Free the Children project in Nicaragua; and

Whereas their contributions have made it possible to complete nine small schools and the partial construction of a tenth in Mulukuku, Nicaragua;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all students at Astral Drive Elementary School for their contributions to the Free the Children project in Nicaragua and applauds the efforts of all staff, especially lead teachers Sally Connor, Debbie Swan, Karin Myers, Principal Dorothy Haley and Vice-Principal Art Hill.

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. 3782

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

Whereas today is LPN Day, a day to recognize the work of licensed practical nurses across Nova Scotia; and

[Page 9904]

Whereas licensed practical nurses (LPNs) care for the sick, injured, convalescent and disabled; and

Whereas the Practical Nurses Licensing Board is the regulatory body for LPNs in Nova Scotia, maintaining standards of professionalism for LPNs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the work done by licensed practical nurses and recognize the vital role they play on the health care team in our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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. 3783

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

Whereas over two years ago, Robert and Pam Corey of Waterville started an organic feed company, Pioneer Organics, to provide organic feed for farmers in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas since then, Pioneer Organics expanded and now produces organic meats, eggs and produce for distribution to small retail outlets; and

Whereas as of January 2002, Pioneer Organics is not only distributed throughout Atlantic Canada but as far west as Ontario, filling a gap in the market with their natural products;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Robert and Pam Corey on their insight into the market of organic meat and produce, and congratulate them on their recent expansion into Ontario.

[Page 9905]

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. 3784

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

Whereas the Westray Mine disaster of 10 years ago has left Nova Scotians with unforgettable memories of the needless, senseless deaths of 26 miners; and

Whereas if we have learned nothing else from this tragedy, it is that health and safety in the workplace require constant vigilance and strong enforceable regulations; and

Whereas corporate accountability under the Criminal Code and an enhanced Occupational Health and Safety Act would do much to prevent such needless carnage in the future;

Therefore be it resolved that this House resolve to work together to hold corporate directors and officers to the highest standard through Criminal Code sanctions and strong, enforceable occupational health and safety legislation.

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 9906]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3785

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

Whereas Greg McLeod, a Bridgewater scallop boat captain, was one of four Canadians honoured last week with a national award for responsible fishing; and

Whereas Mr. McLeod, who was named Atlantic Laureate at a ceremony last week in Ottawa, has been recognized for his work toward a responsible, sustainable fishery; and

Whereas the award recognizes conservation and responsible fishing practices by commercial fishermen;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly offer their congratulations to Gary McLeod of Bridgewater who was named the Atlantic Laureate and recognize his commitment to the fishing industry.

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 Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 3786

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

Whereas the Emergency Services Achievement Program offers firefighting and emergency training to young people from 17 to 22 years of age; and

[Page 9907]

Whereas the program hopes to interest youth in careers in emergency services, and also provides important structure and guidance to help them make important educational and career choices; and

Whereas the ESAP, under program coordinators Tom Arsenault and Dana Jackly, makes a positive impact on its participants and is also a fun and memorable experience;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the good purpose of the Emergency Services Achievement Program and commend the participants, Matt Harley, Michelle Gray, Latasha Williams, Shyla David, Kris Insley, Jennifer Ward, Tyler Parsons and Kyle Greefield as well as past participants Justin Pratt and Matt Hartling and wish them all a bright future in whatever their career choices are.

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. 3787

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

Whereas the St. Margarets Bay Lions recently hosted their first annual hockey tournament; and

Whereas all monies raised from this tournament will be donated to the expansion project for the St. Margarets Arena; and

Whereas over $5,000 was raised at this event;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank and congratulate the St. Margarets Bay Lions for their fundraising tournament for the St. Margarets Arena, an example of their dedication and commitment to the community they serve.

[Page 9908]

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3788

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

Whereas the World Lifesaving Championships are being held May 9th to 12th at Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.A.; and

Whereas Jason Cross and Michael Smith are the two Nova Scotian members of our Canadian national lifesaving team; and

Whereas these competitive swimmers have participated with distinction locally, nationally and internationally in swim coaching, competitive swimming, surf lifesaving and Ironguard competitions;

Therefore be it resolved this House recognize and congratulate Jason Cross and Michael Smith in representing Canada at the World Lifesaving Championships and wish them well in competition.

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 9909]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3789

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Colchester County leads the way in Nova Scotia in the production of dairy cattle with approximately 5,800 situated on 111 farms; and

Whereas the community of Old Barns in Colchester County is home to 16 of these dairy farms and a number of these farms have a rich family heritage of dairy production stretching back over a number of years; and

Whereas when you mention the words dairy or milk in southern Colchester County, the community of Old Barns is immediately thought of as a production leader;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend the tireless effort put forward by dairy farmers in Old Barns, Colchester County, leading players in Nova Scotia's dairy industry.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3790

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

[Page 9910]

Whereas experience shows that the quality of the volunteers often makes a difference between the success or failure of a program; and

Whereas for the last two years Ms. Eriko Maeda has assisted faithfully and regularly with the Building Blocks Pre-School Program in Kennetcook; and

Whereas Ms. Maeda was awarded recognition for her stellar work by the Municipality of East Hants on April 26th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Eriko Maeda for her volunteer award from the Municipality of East Hants for her work at the Building Blocks Pre-School Program in Kennetcook.

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 Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 3791

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

Whereas Canada's Information Technology Week began May 3rd and runs to May 12th; and

Whereas this week aims to recognize government, industry, education and community achievements in the area of IT in order to brand Canada as an innovative country; and

Whereas this week helps forge and celebrate partnerships at the local level and raise awareness of initiatives addressing digital divide in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize Canada's IT Week from May 3rd to May 12th and wish it the greatest success.

[Page 9911]

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.

[12:30 pm.]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3792

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

Whereas Sir John A. Macdonald High School student Joe McCarthy will travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this May to represent Nova Scotia at the national volleyball championships; and

Whereas Joe McCarthy is a hard-working, dedicated young man in our community; and

Whereas Joe always gives his all, both on and off the volleyball court;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Joe McCarthy of Sir John A. Macdonald High School with best wishes of good luck at the volleyball championships in Saskatchewan.

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 9912]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3793

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

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Big Bike Ride engages children across the province in raising funds for lifesaving programs and health promotion; and

Whereas the foundation recognizes its most committed young fundraisers with the annual Big Bike Award; and

Whereas to receive this year's award, Ms. Annette Conrad of Lunenburg personally raised over $1,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly recognize the achievements of Ms. Annette Conrad and other Big Bike Award winners for their efforts in promoting health in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3794

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

[Page 9913]

Whereas public libraries have been the repositories of knowledge and records for hundreds of years and have come a long way from the ancient days when Babylonian temples contained rooms filled with clay tablets; and

Whereas Mr. George Findlay has been a central figure in the creation of the Mount Uniacke Public Library, having done everything except write the books; and

Whereas on April 26th George Findlay was awarded recognition for his wonderful volunteer efforts by the Municipality of East Hants;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Findlay on his volunteer service award from the Municipality of East Hants and for his sterling efforts on behalf of the Mount Uniacke Public Library.

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. 3795

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

Whereas May has been designated Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month; and

Whereas more than 50,000 Canadians suffer from this chronic disease that affects the nervous system; and

Whereas the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Atlantic Division, is a charitable organization dedicated to finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and enabling people affected by MS to enhance their quality of life;

[Page 9914]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize May as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and commend the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Atlantic Division, for its ongoing efforts to raise funds and increase public awareness of multiple sclerosis.

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 12:33 p.m. and end at 1:33 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - WESTRAY INQUIRY:

ACCOUNTABILITY RECOMMENDATIONS - ADOPT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. A year ago the minister said that he would refer to counsel, and to what he called the proper consultation, the NDP proposal that this province finally adopt the standard of corporate accountability recommended by the Westray Inquiry. A year has passed, the law in this province still exempts those who were responsible for the conditions like those at Westray. My question is, why has this minister wasted another year so that today, on the 10th Anniversary, those with the ultimate responsibility for such a workplace disaster would still go scot-free?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, just for greater clarification, are you referring to provincially under the Occupational Health and Safety Act or federally under the Criminal Code? (Interruption) That should be in the Occupational Health and Safety Act but for a greater explanation I would refer to the Minister of Justice.

[Page 9915]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, the Province of Nova Scotia has pressed the Government of Canada, who enacts the Criminal Code, to make the changes to the Criminal Code of Canada that would encourage the kind of accountability that was recommended during the Westray Inquiry. All members of the House, yesterday, again endorsed the position of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. DEXTER: It is hard to believe, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Environment and Labour could on a day like today give an answer like that to a question about a situation in this province that cost the lives of 26 men. The minister has a solemn duty to those people, to their families and to this province. You know, another Conservative Government made excuses to avoid investigating safety at Westray before the tragedy. Now in the words Justice Richard used to describe Premier Cameron and the government of the day and the Liberals in Ottawa, he said they are alternately peevish, obstinate, aggressive and myopic. So I want to ask the minister, how can he look people in the eye and try to justify his refusal to adopt the Westray recommendation on corporate responsibility?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, there are two areas here. One is provincial, where we do hold directors and corporate officials responsible under the Occupational Health and Safety Act; then there is the area of criminal, which is something that is determined by the Parliament of Canada. That is why I referred the first question to the Minister of Justice, but there is responsibility under the Occupational Health and Safety Act within the confines of what is available to us provincially.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that the existing provisions do not meet the standards put forward in the Westray recommendation, but I'm not going to waste any more time on the Minister of Labour, whose moral failings in this regard are evident. My second supplementary is to the Minister of Justice. As Peter MacKay has admitted, the Westray prosecution failed due to errors by lawyers, not lack of evidence. But other health and safety prosecutions have also been problematic. Workers and their families deserve justice. When will the Minister of Justice take health and safety seriously enough to direct that a prosecutor be specifically assigned to deal with all health and safety cases, as was recommended by Justice Richard?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat concerned by the fact that the honourable member has tried to take advantage of the terrible tragedy at Westray by misrepresenting the facts, because, as the honourable member knew in his earlier question, the responsibility for the Criminal Code of Canada and the serious kinds of wrongdoings that were alleged there are the responsibility of the Government of Canada. We have a Public Prosecution Service in Nova Scotia that will adequately prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all offenses against Nova Scotia workers.

[Page 9916]

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

HEALTH: PRO-TOBACCO STANCE - EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, media reports today show that the Nova Scotia hospitality industry is taking credit for thousands of hours they spent lobbying Cabinet Ministers to win compromises preventing a total smoking ban. Part of this lobbying effort was from the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia and their Courtesy of Choice program. That program claims, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, smoke bans are unneeded; according to them all you need is some good ventilation. Guess where the funding came from for the Hotel Association's Courtesy of Choice program? It was funded by $3.2 million from the Tobacco Manufacturers Council. Congratulations, Mr. Minister, you just got lobbied by big tobacco. My first question to the Minister of Health is, why is your government so pro-tobacco?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to be quite frank, and I probably shouldn't be admitting this on the floor of the House, but I had never heard of the program that he referred to until he just mentioned it, so who it was sponsored by or funded by, I didn't know who it was. It's news to me. I can tell you that the legislation that was introduced is among the most extensive in this country, and it will make a difference.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I find it kind of interesting that the Minister of Health doesn't know. For the record, I'm just going to try to remind him. This was a report that the Minister of Health tabled at the Cornwallis gathering in September 2001 entitled, The Economic Impact of Smoke-Free Workplaces. This is his, not ours - it's his. We have a Lobbyists' Registration Act that has never been proclaimed, we have a group funded by big tobacco praising their success over the government, and we have a government that backed away from a total ban on smoking. My question to the minister is, why don't you admit that the health of Nova Scotians is of a lower priority than satisfying lobby groups?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have not been influenced by the pro-tobacco lobby, if that's what you want to call it, but I can tell you maybe that honourable member, as Leader of the Liberal Party, or at least the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party, would care to explain to Nova Scotians why they had legislation proposed for six years and introduced nothing. Perhaps it was the tobacco lobby that got to them.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, in today's Daily News, the Nova Scotia hospitality industry takes credit for preventing a total ban. Maybe the Minister of Health, when he gets the chance, could look at today's paper. My final question to the minister is, can the minister explain why he backed down from a total ban?

[Page 9917]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would prefer an answer from that member, actually, why for six years they promised legislation and did nothing. We're obviously not going to get that. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to imply that we backed away from a total ban is inaccurate. What we did was we received advice from a lot of groups, we introduced legislation which is workable, it is strong and it will reduce the exposure to second-hand smoke in public places considerably. That bunch over there did absolutely nothing. They're hypocritical to do that. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - FRAME, CLIFFORD: MINING (N.S.) - DISALLOW

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we remember today the loss of 26 lives, men who were fathers, who were brothers, who were husbands, who were sons. That tragedy of 10 years ago, May 9th, today, is still playing itself out. We learned today that the Westray mine operators would never be brought to justice. We knew that. Now that tragedy is brought home even more today, in the fact that Clifford Frame attempts to start a mining operation in this very province. I want to ask that Minister of Environment and Labour to show some fortitude for once, Mr. Minister, and tell Mr. Frame that he will never be allowed to do mining business in this province ever again.

[12:45 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up an absolutely excellent point and the point is that we care about the health and safety of workers in Nova Scotia and furthermore, not just to one individual but any company that would ever consider coming and operating a mine or any business in the way that they ran Westray would not be welcome in Nova Scotia.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, since the Minister of Environment and Labour is not going to stand up to him, I'm going to ask - Clifford Frame's company, PanAmerican Resources, said publicly today that it will almost certainly be looking for provincial financing to reopen the dormant zinc mine. I want to ask the Acting Premier, will you tell your ministers that if Clifford Frame has the gall to come in to look for another handout, that you will throw him out on his backside.

[Page 9918]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if I'm Acting or Acting Acting Premier but the question the member opposite brings is a valid one. The fact of the matter is that any requests that come forward from that individual would not be received warmly by this government and I think that the people of Nova Scotia would expect nothing else of it. The fact of the matter is, his past performance here has a lot of questions to it and I'm not going to argue that. I know that I, as a member of Cabinet, would not look on it with any favour and I'm certain that my colleagues who are here - I'm not predetermining any application that comes forward, but with regard to that one individual, I know that I would not be supportive.

MR. CORBETT: You know, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the sincerity of that answer because that's more than what I get from the Minister of Environment and Labour. The word Westray is synonymous with tragedy in this province. The name Clifford Frame is synonymous with greed. So, Mr. Minister, will you call Clifford Frame right now and tell him we don't want him to come here on vacation, let alone to reopen a mine?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for his passion and I share his passion in caring for the workers in Nova Scotia workplaces. What I would say, Mr. Speaker, is that, again, anybody who would contemplate operating any business in Nova Scotia like Clifford Frame did with the Westray Mine would not be welcome in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - TOBACCO CONTROL STRATEGY:

VENTILATION TECH. - STANCE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The minister, when he was in Opposition, was in favour of tobacco companies and now that he is in government, he's still in favour of tobacco companies. Last fall the province held a tobacco conference in Clementsport and the Minister of Health, and the Premier were there. At the conference information was presented that ventilation technology, sometimes known as smoke eaters, did not provide any protection from second-hand tobacco smoke. My question to the minister is, does the minister agree with the findings of his own tobacco control strategy, namely that ventilation technology provides absolutely no protection from second-hand smoke?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the thing. I wasn't going to do this but I guess I'm going to have to. This file - which I will table and I will request copies - is a file of broken Liberal promises about smoking legislation. I will show you one of those for interest. The former Minister of Health, Smith promises smoking bill which never came. (Interruptions)

[Page 9919]

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Minister of Health table the documents that he read from, please? (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the difficulty with this line of questioning is that it implies that the bill that was introduced is not about health, and it is. This bill that's on the floor is going to be among the very strongest pieces of legislation in the country. It will significantly reduce exposure to second-hand smoke in public places, hopefully, 99.9 per cent of the time, and unless somebody is in their own home, if children are there they won't be exposed to smoke.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in case there's any confusion, there are a lot of Jim Smiths in this world, and I am the Jim Smith that he was talking about. I was a member of a minority government that didn't have his support - that person over there voted against taking cigarettes out of pharmacies. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on his first supplementary, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if we want to get "I said, we said, and they said," that person over there is the one who voted against taking cigarettes out of pharmacies. So my first supplementary to the minister is, Honeywell Incorporated is one of the leading industrial manufacturers of ventilation products. However, according to the U.S.-based campaign for tobacco-free kids, that company will not stand behind any claims for its products to be used for health protection. My question to the minister is, if the very companies that make smoke ventilators won't make any claims about protecting people's health, then on whose information does he base his belief that enclosed smoking rooms are safe?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the idea of an enclosed smoking area would be to reduce, certainly significantly reduce, and hopefully 100 per cent prevent, those who are not smoking to be exposed to second-hand smoke. In other words, they won't be in the room where there's smoking.

DR. SMITH: The strongest part of that legislation and the only one that is recognized as being strongest is the one to that illegal justice issue that he brought in about young people possessing tobacco. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, according to a May 2001 University of Toronto study on ventilation technology, there is no scientific evidence or consensus on any safe level of second-hand smoke. We're not just talking about children here, we're talking about all persons. It's a workplace issue. The study also is quoted in the minister's tobacco control strategy.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 9920]

DR. SMITH: My question very simply, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, why are you ignoring the advice of your own smoke-free workplace study?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the legislation which has been introduced is among the very strongest any place and it will provide significant protection to people from second-hand smoke and, hopefully, you know, in 99.9 per cent of the cases, if children are present, they won't be exposed to second-hand smoke. Now, what I would like to do is to encourage all of those who are smokers in their own home to go outside and smoke, or something like that, so if they have children they won't be exposed.

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

JUSTICE: LOBBYISTS' REG. ACT - PROCLAIM

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this government must act now to proclaim the Lobbyists' Registration Act that it has failed to proclaim. Members of the Nova Scotia hospitality industry are saying their lobbying led to a softer anti-smoking bill that is now before this House; they say an extensive year-long lobbying effort led to the government compromising. Business organizations spent thousands of hours lobbying the government, they claim, and last week the government introduced a bill that has fallen short on what the public demanded. So my question to the Minister of Justice is, when will we proclaim the Lobbyists' Registration Act so we know who's lobbying your government with regard to smoking legislation and other legislation as well?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, October 1st.

MR. DEVEAUX: . . . Mr. Speaker, given the fact that we have anti-smoking legislation - supposedly anti-smoking - that's too late. This is something that was passed in the Fall session. We should have had it proclaimed immediately. The Tories hinted at a total ban on smoking, but they didn't follow through. Members of the hospitality industry have said that they lobbied to force that compromise. It's clear the province needs lobbyist registration, not October 1st but now, as soon as possible, so we know who's talking to that minister and every other minister in that government. My question to the Minister of Justice is, why won't the minister admit that lobbying by various organizations, including TIANS, caused his government to water down its smoke-free legislation?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Health has indicated, we have in Nova Scotia perhaps the strongest anti-smoking legislation in the country. To suggest that the bill is anything less than that is absurd. In answer to the honourable member's suggestion, the Lobbyists' Registration Act, we were told that we needed an on-line system. In fact, that was one of the things that we were made - to tell the Opposition, they wanted an on-line system. It takes time to set up such a system. Such a system will be operational by October 1st of this year.

[Page 9921]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the anti-smoking legislation that's before this House, clearly the Lobbyists' Registration Act hasn't been proclaimed, but it's important that we still find out who lobbied this government with regard to that legislation. So I ask the Minister of Justice, will he come clean and bring forward a list of all those organizations and individuals that lobbied him, the Premier, the Minister of Health, or anyone in the government with regard to smoking legislation, and when they did it?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I find it incredible. There are literally hundreds and thousands of Nova Scotians who have spoken to every member of this House about the smoking issue. It's absurd to suggest that we should have to list all the members of all the organizations and the individuals who have talked to every one of us, including my constituents and the honourable member's.

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

SPORTS - YOUTH: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY - PROMOTION DETAILS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for sport and recreation. Healthy children should lead to healthy adults. The Stats Canada report indicates that 21 per cent of all Nova Scotians are obese, compared to a national average of 15 per cent, and that only 43 per cent of Nova Scotians exercise regularly. It is clear that our children are not being taught the importance of physical activity. My question to the minister is, will the minister tell the members of this House what his government is doing to encourage our young people to be physically active?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity. First of all, there are many programs within the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission directly related to our young children in this province. Indeed, if the member would have taken a look, last year, we had our Active Kids, Healthy Kids: Proposed Vision and Goals for a Nova Scotia with Physically Active Children and Youth. Indeed, we will be releasing the physical activity strategy this Spring.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, again my question is for the minister responsible for sport and recreation. Saskatchewan has almost twice as many kids involved in sport, and it has a population similar to Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan spends five times more than Nova Scotia on sport development. In this province, the government collects more money in taxes from sport than it puts back in. You get what you pay for. My question to the minister is, will the minister explain to the members of this House why his government has cut funding from the budget of sport and recreation when the benefits of physical activity are so obvious?

[Page 9922]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, as I've said, the previous government would not take a stand on this issue. I can tell you what we're doing, Mr. Speaker, I hear a member hollering across. Indeed, we have stood in our place; we are putting in place the physical activity strategy. We are doing the appropriate research, I might add, scientific research that is on the leading edge in North America.

MR. BOUDREAU: It is clear that physical fitness leads to higher self-esteem, better performance at school, and overall better health. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit to the long-term wellness of Nova Scotians by investing new money in programs that encourage our children to be physically active?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Indeed, this government makes significant investments between education, the Department of Health and the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission. As a former phys ed teacher, I take this issue very seriously. (Interruptions) Well, perhaps. Maybe so, but the fact is by stepping forward, putting our vision and our goals forward and now putting forward a physical activity strategy, which will be put in place this Spring, indeed we are showing. In addition, let's take a look at the previous Liberal Government, what they did with P3 schools; we're still dealing with that mess for the community use of schools through the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission, something that government obviously didn't care about, our children in our areas.

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

JUSTICE - FOIPOP: ADMINISTRATION - COST INCREASES

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: My question is for the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice has stated that the cost to administer the freedom of information applications is $700,000. I want to table documents my office received today, and they reveal that the Department of Justice originally estimated that the cost for freedom of information applications was only $450,000, but an e-mail from a senior official at the Treasury and Policy Board said that this number - she didn't like it, Mr. Speaker. She said, "Seems awfully low." Those documents will be tabled. In response, justice officials, jumping very quickly, jacked the costs up by a few hundred thousand dollars in a matter of hours after receiving that e-mail from the Treasury and Policy Board. So my question to the Minister of Justice, why has the minister's department inflated the cost of administering the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act after intervention from the Treasury and Policy Board?

[Page 9923]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I'm not sure about the exchange of correspondence. Of course, I don't have it and I will have a chance to look at it after, but I can make it very simple for the honourable member. Whether it's $450,000 or $400,000 or $700,000, it's a very significant sum of money that it costs the people of Nova Scotia to provide information.

MR. DEVEAUX: I would suggest to you that it's the cost of democracy and it's a cost of open and accountable government. The minister of injustice and his department inflated the cost of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act applications to justify his fees. He did this at the request of a top official at the Treasury and Policy Board, and this begs the question, who really wanted these fees increased? Well, the documents I tabled point out that the original request in estimate for freedom of information applications came from the Premier's very own communications director, Dale Madill. My question to the Minister of Justice is, why is this minister allowing freedom of information fees to be driven up by political staff in the Premier's Office who believe that they have to shut the door on freedom of information applications to ensure that their boss gets re-elected?

MR. BAKER: There's a lot of speculation that goes on on the Opposition's benches, and I will give you an example of the speculation. One of the speculations has been that as a result of the increased fees, there would be a complete ending of all freedom of information applications. In point of fact, preliminary numbers indicate that there has been no significant change in the number of applications since the implementation of the change.

MR. DEVEAUX: Maybe the Minister of Justice, as Chairman, wasn't listening when the review officer for freedom of information was there yesterday, but he pointed out in the Law Amendments Committee that the preliminary review requests in April went from 18 down to four. That's a significant drop because of the fee increases imposed by this government. In an e-mail, the justice official who came up with the cost of $700,000 said that this is "a guesstimate" the $700,000 figure. You can't introduce user fees based on a wild guess. This was done to satisfy the Premier's political staff.

My question to the Minister of Justice is, why won't the Minister of Justice simply withdraw the fee increase until he has a basis upon which there is something other than politically-driven requests for that fee increase?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as one can appreciate, it's very hard to estimate how much money will be produced by the fees that will be implemented. I did speak, however, to one person in the Department of Justice today who is familiar with this area and he indicated to me that as a result of the increases, there would be a negligible increase in actual revenues. It is only going to be a small part of administering the cost of this program that is being charged to the consumers.

[Page 9924]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - SMOKING POLICY: MUNICIPALITIES - EFFECTS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We learned today that Kentville is softening its anti-smoking by-law to bring it in line with a bill introduced by the province two weeks ago. I will table this story from the Canadian Press to that effect. The by-law will also allow for smoking in any part of a licensed establishment after 9:00 p.m. The town administrator says the amendments put Kentville on an even playing field with neighbouring municipalities that will be governed by less restrictive provincial guidelines. So my question to the minister is, will the minister now admit that his new policy on smoking is dragging municipalities in this province backwards when Nova Scotians are looking for some leadership?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the smoking legislation that has been introduced is among the strongest in the country. It will significantly reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. It will just about, I think, in all cases, protect children and youth. I was informed of that story when I came into the House today. I don't have it in detail and it's been orally passed on to me and I can't comment in detail on that.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister and that government should learn that they can predict these things are going to happen. You should know that, Mr. Minister. You and that government are incompetent when it comes to this issue. Much has been debated on the issue of the leadership role that municipalities have taken when they have shown the courage to lead on the issue. My question to the minister is, has the minister been involved with discussions with municipalities to encourage them to stay the course, that means you too, Mr. Minister?

MR. MUIR: There is a group called Smoke-Free Kings, Mr. Speaker, and I've had conversations with them. Actually, the last conversation was prior to the introduction of the bill, if that's the group to which he is referring. The answer to that would be no, I guess.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, all that minister and this government have done is try to blame somebody else. Blame another government; blame somebody else. The fact of the matter is, that is the government, that is the minister in charge right now. That's the minister who backed down to the tobacco industry. That's the minister who caved in on this whole issue. Municipalities are now being hung out to dry and communities such as Kentville or Berwick or Wolfville and New Glasgow have shown the courage to move toward a 100 per cent ban on smoking in public places. Will the minister now do the right thing and encourage municipalities to continue exhibiting strong leadership in the absence of his leadership when it comes to a 100 per cent ban on smoking in public places?

[Page 9925]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I just received some information which indicates that what the honourable member said was slightly short of being accurate. Kentville, I understand, has decided to wait to see what happens in the final legislation before they make any final decision. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay has already had his final supplementary. Thank you.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - CARE: NEEDS - PRIORITIZE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House I asked the Minister of Health why his department is ripping the hard-earned assets from families simply because a family member requires nursing home care. His response was typical of this government - there is no money.

Well, I don't accept this, Mr. Speaker, it's about choices. This government chooses to spend money on highly-paid consultants and extra spin doctors, but they can't pay for the health care component of continuing care. I want to ask the minister, why is his government putting public relations and consulting fees above the health care needs of Nova Scotians?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government makes a significant contribution to long-term care and, indeed, the projected expenditure this year I think is roughly about $220 million and that represents an increase of $24 million over last year. To indicate that this government is not supporting people who need to go into long-term care is a gross misrepresentation of what is occurring.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister's response yesterday to my questions was telling. He said, "I'm not so sure that families accumulate wealth to pass on to somebody else and turn themselves over to the state."

Now, Mr. Speaker, this government seems to think that those who require continuing care and who legitimately feel they shouldn't have to pay the health care component are simply looking to sponge off the system. The minister should be ashamed. My question to the Minister of Health is, why don't you just admit that the only thing seniors represent to your government is a drain on resources?

MR. MUIR: It's clear, Mr. Speaker, that the honourable member did not listen to my colleague, the member for Kings North, in his comments on the bill last night where he gave a very articulate and good account of the steps that this government has taken in relation to improving relations in making things better for seniors. Our government probably has been the most progressive government ever in taking steps to make the seniors a more integral part

[Page 9926]

of our society. We have done what we can for seniors. I said in the House yesterday I would love to pay for 100 per cent of the long-term care. We simply can't afford to do it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, nobody is talking about 100 per cent of long-term care. They're talking about the health care component of long-term care and the minister knows that full well. If a civilized society is measured by how it takes care of those in need, this government indeed is in for a day of reckoning. I ask the Minister of Health, how much longer are you going to bully Nova Scotians into giving you tens of thousands of their hard-earned dollars in order to get the health care they need?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, her comments show a fundamental lack of understanding of the finance in the health care system in Canada. If she would care to read the submission our government made to the Romanow Commission, she would find, and perhaps she knows, that one of the things that our government has said - you didn't understand the words - is that long-term care is not an insured service under the Canada Health Act. We believe that the health care portion should be and we have lobbied Mr. Romanow and, hopefully, that will be one of the recommendations in his report. I would love to be able to pay the health care costs for those who are in long-term care. Indeed, we pay about 80 per cent of them now.

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

EDUC. - HRM: FRENCH IMMERSION STUDY - TIME FRAME

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It has been two weeks since the Minister of Education announced that she would be setting up a committee to examine the future of French immersion in the Halifax Regional School Board. However, the mandate, terms of reference and committee members remain a mystery to the public. I will make it clear to this minister that parents are anxiously waiting to see what this committee will say. Parents need to know what is happening to French immersion so they can make a decision in the next months as to whether their children will be continuing to take French immersion. My first question to the minister is, why has it taken you two weeks to establish the terms of reference and mandate of this committee to explore French immersion in the Halifax Regional School Board?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the mandate of the committee was announced in the press release that announced the committee. That was done. To the best of my understanding, the committee was to have a meeting this week, but I will get back to the honourable member on the details of that.

[Page 9927]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, last Monday the Minister of Education met with the Chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board to discuss the terms of reference for this committee. In an interview aired last Wednesday, the Chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board made it absolutely clear that he holds a bias towards parents for French on this committee. He intended to write a letter of concern to the minister. My question to the minister is, did the Minister of Education receive this letter from the Chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board, and does this minister recognize that the real bias exists with the school board and not the parents for French?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak to the bias of individuals. Certainly, the chairman of the school board did make it plain that he considers the Canadian Parents for French biassed. Canadian Parents for French are going to be on that committee. They have a very strong interest in French immersion in Halifax and in the rest of Nova Scotia. The idea of this committee is to get people with, perhaps, differing ideas together to come out with the best possible solution for all the children taking French immersion in the Halifax Regional School Board.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the timeline for the committee to explore French immersion in Halifax has not been set by this minister. I would suggest that the report of this committee be made public before the end of May. This will ensure that parents are given meaningful time to make decisions about the future schooling of their children. My final question to the minister is, if the committee report shows that the delivery of the French Immersion Program fails the spirit of the Education Act, what commitment will this minister give to intervene in the program delivery of French immersion by the Halifax Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly the committee's report will definitely be made public. Whatever recommendations it makes about the delivery of French immersion in Halifax will be carried out to every degree we can, depending upon any financial commitment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: COSTS - PAY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have one example of the frustration faced by families with a loved one in continuing care. The families at Mountain Lea Lodge were hit with two increases in less than six months this year. Some of the spouses of the residents can barely make ends meet. Unfortunately, this is the story repeated at extended-care facilities throughout the province. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how much more does he expect families to take before his department takes action?

[Page 9928]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our department has taken action. Indeed, this government has taken action to the tune of about 24 million additional dollars for long-term care this year.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the new rate at Mountain Lea Lodge is $120 a day, that's nearly $44,000 a year. If the province paid for the health care component of continuing care, the burden on families would be dramatically reduced. The majority of Canadian provinces pay for the nursing and health care portion of continuing care. My question to the Minister of Health is, why doesn't this government do the right thing and pay for the health care portion of long-term care as is done in many other provinces?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this province makes a significant commitment to long-term care; indeed about 80 per cent, I believe, of the cost of long-term care in this province is picked up by government. In answer to the honourable member's question - and I have mentioned this to her on a number of occasions - quite frankly our province is not in a financial position to do that; if we were, we would probably do it. Now that we have balanced the budget and are trying to get the expenses under control, and we have the expenditures under control, these are things we may be able to address in the future.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well this government always claims to be the poor cousin when it comes to supporting programs it doesn't have the political will to support. Could the Minister of Health please explain how it is that other provinces in Canada with the same population and the same GDP can find the resources to pay for the health care portion of extended care but we can't?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would refer that question to my colleague, the honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to try to answer this question for the member opposite. What we have here shows a lack of understanding by the NDP when they stand up in the House today and they talk about the fact that we should be expanding the amount of money that we're spending in long-term care. (Interruptions) When the minister has stated that we have spent another $23 million . . .

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the reason the heckling is coming across the floor is because they know I am right - you can't be all things to all people. Other provinces have put their House in order first. The fact of the matter is that when they say that we should be spending more in every single program, they can't look the people in the eye and tell them that's doable and that's the difference between our government and that bunch on the other side.

[Page 9929]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - LPN/RN: CONTINUING ED. PROGS. - ELIGIBILITY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, one of the key components of the provincial nursing strategy is continuing education and training for nurses. The nursing strategy document states that continuing education and training are an important quality of care issue and also a quality of work life issue. My question to the minister is, are all nurses in the province eligible to apply for continuing education programs?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I would have to take that question under advisement, Mr. Speaker. The licensed practical nurses, I know there are pharmacy upgrades and whatnot they are eligible for, but whether they would be for eligible for the full range, if the benefit is identical, LPN and RN, I don't believe they are.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer, but we have information that the Victorian Order of Nurses are unable to access continuing education programs despite the fact that they play an integral role in caring for patients in the community, hence saving the health care system valuable taxpayers' money. My question to the minister is, why is the minister showing such a lack of respect for the VON nurses by not allowing them to access continuing education programs?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would have to, again, take that question under advisement. I would expect that if what the honourable member indicates is the case, it's because the VON are employed by private agencies as opposed to public agencies.

DR. SMITH: But the minister does know, Mr. Speaker, that the VON plays a very, very integral, comprehensive part of the Home Care Program throughout all of Nova Scotia. The minister, to me, is saying that some nurses are more important than others. They're all valuable, despite what kind of work they might be doing. So some of these nurses want to move into the acute care facilities here in Nova Scotia from the Home Care Program as a VON. So my final supplementary question will be, will the minister recognize the valuable contribution made by VON nurses and treat them as equals with regard to the nursing strategy so that they can maintain and upgrade their nursing skills?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes the value of all the nurses and, indeed, all health care professionals in this province. As I said, I don't know the answer to that. I do know that VON nurses, probably - or a lot of them - would be privately employed. I would have to take that question under advisement.

[Page 9930]

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

SPORTS - REC. FACILITY DEV. GRANTS: REDUCTION - EXPLAIN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have some of the worst health rates in this country and the fastest growing obesity numbers. Health workers, the public and even this government say diet and inactivity are the root of poor health. Yet, this government has cut recreation facility development grants by over $1 million and they plan to spend $2 million less than they did last year. That means that communities like mine will not have the money they need to build and conserve the facilities and recreational trails needed to stay healthy. My question to the Minister assigned the responsibility for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission is, it's obvious there is a need, Mr. Minister, so why are you now cutting recreation facility development grants?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: I would like to thank the member for the question, Mr. Speaker. Indeed, we are making a significant investment in recreational facility developments across the province. We have had fiscal challenges in the province, as the member knows. We have gotten the books in order for the province and I hope and I believe that in additional years, because we got our house in order, there will be additional dollars for our recreational facilities.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, over the last three years this government has left a trail of studies behind them. Last year's youth study showed that two-thirds of youth are not active enough. That minister, as an ex-phys. ed. teacher and probably a phys. ed. teacher in the future, knows that is the case. The Sport and Recreation Commission said that physical inactivity is a major problem but yet this minister has said - you said you want to make Nova Scotians more active, you want to help communities provide recreation facilities and yet you can't give people substandard P3 fields, you're forcing communities to use inadequate gym facilities, you're making them pay more because of the lack of leadership from that Education Minister. When will you stop paying lip service and ensure that Nova Scotians have the facilities they need to stay healthy in growing communities, in particular, like Timberlea-Prospect?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, the member raises a good point and that is with the P3 school concept under the previous Liberal Administration. That has caused many communities to not have as much access as we would like to see in our schools. We are working closely with the Department of Education on a community use for schools policy, and that's moving along quite nicely. But indeed we're moving forward with regard to the physical activity strategy, which we will be announcing this Spring, that being done after many consultations across this province. The results of that, I believe, will show forward in the next year and the years to come.

[Page 9931]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Further consolation, further consultations. You can exchange the consolation agreement, you're sitting too close to the minister next to you. I don't want to hear we're going forward together. That's not what I'm interested in. I and the people that I represent and in the growing communities that we represent and members on that side want to know what you are going to do about it. Why, for example, have there been no funds made available to the St. Margaret's Arena, yet funds for the Yarmouth facility are there in a heartbeat?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's quite a simple question to answer, because it was announced under the previous government and we're fulfilling that commitment. Yes, they did, they announced the Yarmouth arena and I've no problem acknowledging that. Like many things, the previous government announced and didn't follow through on, we followed through on. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell that member is that very shortly we will be announcing the funding for our RFD and the projects. Many of those projects will come in his own colleagues' ridings and I am sure he will stand up and support this government on those initiatives when we bring them forward in the next few weeks.

[1:30 p.m.]

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

HEALTH - HFX. HARBOUR: REC. USAGE - SAFETY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last week when I asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations about their involvement with the Halifax Harbour cleanup project, he seemed to be somewhat oblivious to the facts. Earlier today, a media report indicates that a John Winters fell into Halifax Harbour and his doctor advised him that he could be suffering from possible viral infections connected with the e-coli symptoms. So my question to the minister is, what is his government doing to ensure that the Halifax Harbour will be safe for recreational usage by the citizens that use it?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I can tell him in response to that, the medical officer of health has responded and his response is that Halifax Harbour is safe for recreational purposes, although I'm not so sure he was counting swimming in that response.

[Page 9932]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it's a known fact that if you're in a boat, canoe or a kayak, invariably, at one point in time, it will tip over if you're in there long enough. So I wouldn't expect the Chief Medical Officer to advise all residents to keep their mouths and their noses pinched when using the Halifax Harbour. My question to the minister is, for the residents using Halifax Harbour for recreational usage, does the Department of Health do regular testing and if so, will the minister table those results for members of the House?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would have to take that question under notice. I don't have that information with me today.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, right and short to the point because I know you don't like long preambles. How can the minister continue to encourage Halifax residents to use Halifax Harbour for recreational use if it's so polluted that one cannot even consume so much as one mouthful of water without developing the symptoms of e-coli?

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 134.

Bill No. 134 - Volunteer Fire Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Who's moving second reading?

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I move second reading of Bill No. 134.

[Page 9933]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to speak to this bill. I have to say that I applaud the government's initiative in this piece of legislation to take care of families of volunteer firefighters. I would say that certainly for people who give of themselves and do so with no remuneration, it's only their feeling that their community is worth their effort and that they will put themselves at risk and thereby put their families at risk to go out at a moment's notice to help others in their moments of need.

I think this is a very good thing that the government has done. I want to raise only one point and that is around their definition of a volunteer firefighter. It seems to me that an individual performing services for a volunteer fire department who does not receive, in respect to those services, money or any other thing of value in lieu of compensation in excess of $500 per year, I would suggest to the government that perhaps they would want to look at that figure and raise it. I would say that $500 a year, if volunteer firefighters receive anything at all, which I know certainly lots of them do not, but I would tend to think that even if they received $600 a year, or $1,000 a year, depending on what the particular volunteer fire department's position is for funding, that this number seems particularly low, to me. It may actually rule a certain volunteer firefighter out of the compensation that the government is intending to bring forward here in this piece of legislation, that if anything was to happen to them, if they're killed in the line of their duties as a volunteer, that the compensation to the family would not be forthcoming by the government if this person was in receipt of over $500 in compensation throughout the year.

That seems terribly low if we're considering the estate of that firefighter could be in receipt of $100,000 from the province if they're killed. So to waive that sum by an excess of $500 throughout the year, I don't understand the government's thinking there. The only thought I have is that they may feel that there is a certain number of people who are in excess of $500 of compensation and they're already writing them off for their estate not being able to receive this lump sum. So that is something I would like to see discussed at the Law Amendments Committee and as this bill moves forward. It is an issue and I don't want to see this piece of legislation turn out to be something that on the surface looks very good, but in reality cannot offer really any compensation to families if a member of that family, particularly the breadwinner of that family, is involved with volunteer fire departments.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I will take my seat and would support this legislation going forward. I would like to have the government think about my comments and I will let other members speak to it.

[Page 9934]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is simply a pleasure for me to rise in my place today to introduce to all members of the House a couple - at least one individual who is pretty distinguished here this morning. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes on an introduction, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I will try to start all over if I may.

MR. SPEAKER: Start over again, please. Thank you.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it's an honour for me to rise in my place today to introduce to all members of the House two very distinguished individuals, one in particular, I bring your attention to the west gallery, Mr. Johnny Reid who is a school teacher, local school teacher down in Sydney actually, in the CBRM. More importantly, accompanying him today is his daughter, Vanessa. Vanessa attends Halifax West High School and actually she's also the lead in the play Grease. Grease is a major showcase for Halifax West that is occurring at the Mount Saint Vincent Mother House tonight, tomorrow night, and Saturday. Most members may have recognized Vanessa from Breakfast Television this week. I ask all members to bring a warm welcome to both Mr. Reid and Vanessa. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I was most encouraged to hear the recent expression of support for the bill from the New Democratic Party. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works held a press conference the other morning or afternoon - no, 11:30 a.m. it was - to explain this bill to those who were interested and those who came to his press conference. The media were well represented there and there was one other member of the Legislature present at his press conference, and that was yours truly. I was there, but I did not see anyone there from the NDP.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a very dangerous business to start talking about who turns up at . . .

MR. MACEWAN: I am not speaking about the House; I am only speaking about a press conference, Mr. Speaker, not a session of the House. Therefore, with reference to that press conference, it was interesting to note who was there and who was not there, and I'm glad to see that the bill has attracted some further expressions of interest since that time.

[Page 9935]

I've always been interested in volunteer firefighting departments. I've had a number in my constituency since I was first elected over 30 years ago. They've come and gone, some of them, as constituency boundaries have changed. But I've always had the New Victoria and South Bar volunteer fire departments in my constituency, and I had, at a past time, the Scotchtown Volunteer Fire Department, and today I have the Grand Lake Road Volunteer Fire Department, and all of those have invited me annually to their installations of officers, where I've had a chance to meet all members.

Mr. Speaker, the hubbub is rather loud here this afternoon. It's hard to labour over.

MR. SPEAKER: I agree. Order, please. I ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside, please. It's very difficult to hear the speaker who is on the floor. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: I was outlining my personal connection with volunteer fire departments and saying that through those contacts, I've had the opportunity to meet their members, from the chief down to the newest recruit and the retired members that are now - I don't know if emeritus is the proper word to use, but they are honorary members, in any event and to meet their families and hear from them as to their various concerns.

One measure that the government I was associated with undertook was the provision of free licence plates for volunteer firefighters. I recall when my good friend, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, introduced his budget in 1999, that budget which the NDP condemned without ever having seen it or ever having read it. They said we're voting against it no matter what's in it; we will read it later on. One of the things that was in that budget that had them that much incensed was the provision of free licence plates for volunteer firemen. And it was because of that that I circulated a pamphlet, which I admit has nothing to do with this bill, headed PC, NDP Axis Combined to Defeat Free Licence Plates for Volunteer Firefighters. I circulated that literature wherever it would find a ready market, which was in many places.

Now, having come from that day to this, we're now at this bill. I know (Interruption) I didn't get defeated yet, Mr. Speaker; they've tried nine times to defeat me and failed every time. Now, getting back to this bill, this bill attempts to provide further protection and benefits to volunteer firefighters who might lose their lives accidentally in the course of their duties. It's true that some of these people are covered now under the Workers' Compensation Act, but it's equally true that some others are not. It's also true that there may be other benefits that they may qualify for, if there's an insurance plan in effect taken out by the municipality or the volunteer fire department, but in other cases, there isn't. So the bill is an attempt to address that, and to that extent, I have no difficulty in supporting the bill. It's an expression of intent, as I was saying last night on another bill.

[Page 9936]

[1:45 p.m.]

Any bill that comes into this House and goes through second reading, the debate on second reading addresses the principle contained in that bill, the statement of policy, the statement of intent. This bill is a bill to assist volunteer firefighters. I agree that it only has nine clauses, and it doesn't cover every last subject that could be raised. I'm sure that if any of us were perpetual motion machines, which I'm not, that they could probably come up with another 300 or 3,000 or 3 million pages of additional benefits for volunteer firefighters, if they had the time to compose those and put them down on paper.

Mr. Speaker, what the government has come forward with here is a good piece of legislation insofar as it goes. No bill is able to say and do everything, that's self-evident. So, for those reasons, I have no hesitation in attempting once again to try to speak out over the (Interruptions) My goodness, this is hard. There's more noise in the House sometimes than there is at a hockey game, from the stands rather than from the players who are out on the ice trying to score goals and win the game. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to attempt to berate the House for the next half hour on these matters. I just wanted to make those comments, which I think are valid under the circumstances, to indicate support for the bill. There may be some other members who may want to speak on this. I see the Minister of Health getting up out of his place, and we wouldn't want to hold him back. (Interruptions) I won't comment on that interjection, Mr. Speaker, I trust you didn't hear it. In any event, I think the honourable members who want to assist our volunteer firefighters and their organizations will be in support of this bill.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, without question, our government is not only supporting, of course, Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act, this government is very proud to bring Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act to this Legislature. We're very proud. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, he's been around here for a number of elections, he's the longest-serving MLA and all that kind of good stuff. I congratulate the honourable member, but during his dissertation, as brief as it was, he did say something that certainly was not factual, unless I misheard and that could be possible with the din in here, sometimes you do mishear. The member for Cape Breton Nova indicated, and I almost jumped to my feet on a point of order but knowing that I would have this opportunity I reserved myself a little bit.

The member, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, tried to claim credit for the volunteer firefighter registration exemption. Well, I don't want to confuse the honourable member with the facts. The fact of the matter is that that caucus, during an election campaign, espoused

[Page 9937]

that we will bring it in, but we have to go to the polls and bring in legislation, when the fact of the matter is that it could have been done and was done by regulations.

Mr. Speaker, do you know what the point of order is? It was this government, not that crowd that did it. It was this government that did it. (Interruptions) Now, the honourable member is correct that during the bill briefing - and I recognize that in the House you can't refer to the presence or absence of members, but during bill briefings, as the honourable member articulated - yes, a bill briefing, press conference - he was certainly well within his rights to indicate what Party wasn't present during the bill briefing. I congratulate the member for bringing that forward, because it is an important fact.

I appreciate the support of the Liberal caucus for this Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act, and I trust that the NDP caucus - although the member who got up first and spoke on it criticized it - will also support this very important piece of legislation. One of the consequences of that tragic event back on September 11th in New York City, is that many of us now fully appreciate and better acknowledge that the real heroes in our communities are our volunteer firefighters, the men and women who agree on a daily basis to put their lives on the line. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, it's not movie stars, it's not recording artists, it's not professional athletes who put their lives on the line every day, it's our volunteer firefighters. It's very emotional for some of us when members talk about the volunteer firefighters, because right across this province, from one end of Cape Breton to the end of Yarmouth, are volunteers - volunteer firefighters, especially - who are ready at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist in any type of an emergency. We're very, very fortunate in this province to have volunteer firefighters.

In my constituency, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Mr. Speaker, we have 14 volunteer firefighter organizations. Now, I would like to say that I know you represent Cumberland South. I had the very real privilege of going to Upper Stewiacke one evening when one of your constituents - and I apologize, well, I know his first name was Paul - made an excellent presentation. He had overheads and slides. He showed the people in Upper Stewiacke, the volunteer firefighters, through that illustration and through his verbal presentation, what it was like at ground zero in New York during the aftermath of that terrible disaster on September 11th. He brought those very, very heart-grabbing scenes to the people in Upper Stewiacke at the Upper Stewiacke firefighter's hall. It further highlighted for me, and I'm sure all the members present, just how important our volunteer firefighters are.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to spend much more time speaking about this very important good legislation. It does remove, or at least it limits, the liability against our volunteer firefighters and their organizations. It does provide for a death benefit. This bill assists volunteer firefighters and I'm very proud that our government has brought this

[Page 9938]

legislation forward. It's supported fully by this caucus. Just in closing, it wouldn't be fair unless I pointed out that this government also, when they approved the Registry of Motor Vehicle registration exemption, they also approved it for our very important Ground Search and Rescue contingents across the province, those organizations. So we're very proud of our Ground Search and Rescue people. We're very proud of our volunteer firefighters across this province. With those few remarks, I will take my place and await further comment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise on Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act, as well. I had not intended to get up and speak on this bill, but I think that when innuendos are made in this Legislature with respect to who does not attend bill briefings, I think there is something remotely wrong with that kind of information being presented across this Legislature floor. Let me tell you, there are many bill briefings in which I attended when members of other political Parties were not present and they sent their staff instead. In this particular case, it is unfortunate that we did not attend that bill briefing session, but we weren't there and I am not making any apologies for it.

I want to tell you that I stand here and I support the Volunteer Fire Services Bill and I know that my colleague . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to point out by way of a point of order that we're talking here today about Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act. I don't think the volunteer firefighters out there want to hear bafflegab and innuendo like you are articulating here about the fact that the NDP didn't attend the bill briefing. The volunteer firefighters out there probably don't give a hank. Are you supporting this legislation or are you voting against it? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable members will bring themselves to order or I think we will take a short recess. Just for the honourable member for Dartmouth North's information, those last comments you made are not on the record because I never recognized the honourable member.

At this point in time, we are debating second reading of Bill No. 134 and I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the principle of the Bill No. 134 please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: I do say that I should not get involved in the emotion of the debate. I just wanted to bring forward a particular concern that I had with respect to members of this Legislative Assembly implying that because individuals do not attend bill briefings, there is some kind of implication that they are not interested in the legislation that comes forward. I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that there are many times when members of political

[Page 9939]

Parties do not attend bill briefings, but send their staff. This by no way ought to be implied that, in fact, we do not support legislation.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that I've represented on Dartmouth City Council when there were still volunteer firefighters there. I've attended the volunteer firefighters banquets and I also know what volunteer firefighters do with respect to fundraising ventures for the burn unit of the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children here in Nova Scotia. I can tell you their contributions are second to none. In the summer of 2001, I attended a meeting on the Eastern Shore at the volunteer firefighters' facilities. The member for the Eastern Shore can very well attest to that. We were there and we were there to hear particular concerns about those volunteer firefighters.

So I take exception when someone speaks about the way my political Party represents itself with respect to particular issues because I'm telling you that we are all here and I say we are all here for the best interests of all Nova Scotians with respect to any particular legislation. There is legislation that we have supported from that political Party that has come forward that we have supported in this House and from the other political Party when it was in power that we've supported in this House. We've also made recommendations with respect to amendments to legislation that ought to have been supported as well. The government of the day supported those amendments. So, what I'm saying to you, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is equally as important to me as it is to any other member of this Legislative Assembly and to imply otherwise is totally wrong. I want to make that point.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and make a few comments on Bill No. 134. I'm not even going to try and test the waters on that previous dissertation. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. I want to remind all honourable members that we're here debating a very serious bill which is before this Legislature at this time, second reading of Bill No. 134, the Volunteer Fire Services Act. I call upon the honourable member for Cape Breton West for his debate on the second reading of this bill.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise on Bill No. 134. It's a very important piece of legislation and I believe it goes without saying our caucus will be supporting this particular piece of legislation.

[Page 9940]

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, furthermore, just a few general observations about volunteer fire service and the need to give full commitment to volunteer firefighters, and indeed the search and rescue personnel across this province. I think for too long we in government, whether we're on the government benches or we're in the Opposition, whether we're at the municipal level or at the federal level, we, in my view, take volunteer fire service and search and rescue for granted a little too often.

Annually, we attend firemen's banquets, the installation of officers, we support them in different fundraising activities that they do, but I think sometimes we don't really appreciate the depth of the commitment that they make to their community when they put their lives on the line. I have 14 volunteer fire departments in my constituency alone; at one time I had 17, and then when the redistribution took place about 10 years I lost three.

Mr. Speaker, as a rule I would attend at least one function in each of those fire departments every year, whether it was their annual installation of officers or not. It was amazing to listen to the stories, the acts of heroism, not the grandiose things that would generally command media attention, like what we saw in New York, but in small rural communities where firefighters would give up time on the job at a moment's notice, give up their pay to go and do some good for their neighbour, their neighbourhood, and for the community at large.

Mr. Speaker, as well, the fact is that volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel have to go through an immense and intense amount of training on a regular basis to be able to keep pace with all the changes, not only in technology but certainly in terms of the demands on their service in terms of qualifying through the regulations that are put forth, not only under the Fire Prevention Act - and we have a new Fire Safety Act before this House, and hopefully that will be given its final approbation before the House rises - but also through the Occupational Health and Safety Act and a lot of other Acts and regulations that have not only put increased pressure and demands on them for additional training and a greater degree of expertise in their service, but it also means in the final analysis, in most if not all cases, volunteer firefighters, if they don't have the fundraising capacities, those volunteer firefighters and their families will take the money out of their own pocket to buy the equipment, to buy the boots, to buy the uniform, to buy the hats or whatever is required, not to mention the fuel that they put in their gas tanks to drive to a fire or to a fire station to embark on training and so on.

AN HON. MEMBER: The extra insurance they . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely, the additional insurance, and so on, and so on.

[Page 9941]

Mr. Speaker, now I heard several members embark on a bit of a debate, as to who is going to take credit for the licence plate issue. Let's be realistic, I was the Minister of Labour at the time when we articulated that we included it in our budget. It was voted down, and then it was brought back after the provincial election and the Minister of Finance included it in his budget. As the Minister of Finance, if you will check the present Minister of Finance's comments, quite clearly, what he was doing was essentially reintroducing the Liberal budget, so let's not be naive; but that's yesterday's discussion. It's approved, it's a benefit for all Nova Scotian volunteer firefighters, and that's a good thing.

It's certainly a far cry from what the government had promised when they were on this side of the House through Bill No. 122, the Volunteer Benefits Act, introduced by the Honourable Michael Baker, the member for Lunenburg at that time, Mr. Speaker. What happened to that? That didn't go anywhere. What about the $500 tax credit that was offered at the time? Well, certainly if it was good enough that they could offer it when they were in Opposition, it should have been good enough to offer when they got on the government side.

Mr. Speaker, that was their flagship. Now, that in no way, shape or form is to diminish the importance of Bill No. 134, which we now have before the House. It's a very important piece of legislation and anything we can do for our volunteer firefighters is a plus. I also want to flag with the Minister of Community Services, who's stepping in for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works on this particular piece of legislation, because there are a couple of other issues that we have to speak to for volunteer firefighters and the search and rescue personnel in this province, and that is that out at the firefighters' training centre in Waverley, they're running a private trade school there. Between last year and this year they're going to generate close to $600,000 in revenues. The provincial government puts $190,000 through its annual grant to that fire school for the purpose of helping to train volunteer firefighters.

Now, if a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources are being extracted to run this facility as a private training centre for pre-employment, full-time firefighters, then that takes away from the volunteer fire service and that's an issue that has to be addressed. I would ask the minister and the government to take notice. Now, perhaps it really doesn't take away from them; I could be ill-advised on that. I could be misreading the circumstances.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not likely, though.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, having served in that department, I don't think I am; I'm not going to be too far off, but I mean I was really disappointed that the minister responsible for that fire training school, for that department, didn't even know that those training exercises were taking place, and that's public record. That's not Russell MacKinnon from Cape Breton West saying that; that's the Minister of Environment and Labour saying that. He didn't know and he was asking us to approve a budget to give another grant to help volunteer firefighters when, in fact, that facility was seconded to run a private trade school.

[Page 9942]

It would be even more interesting to find out how skewed the numbers are in terms of who is being accepted for that pre-employment training program and the screening process.

As I suggested to the head personnel at the firefighters' training school in Waverley, a potential conflict of interest that I believe is in existence and again, I don't want to digress too much, but if we're going to be helping volunteer firefighters, let's do it and let's be consistent. Let's not give with one hand and take away with the other, and I think that's a legitimate concern that certainly could well be addressed through Bill No. 134.

Mr. Speaker, another issue that I believe has to be spoken to is the issue of workers' compensation premiums. Volunteer firefighters, volunteer fire departments, have to do a tremendous amount of fundraising every year to be able to run their departments. Now with the issue of liability more in the forefront than it ever was before - I'm going to take a guesstimate, I believe it's 325 volunteer fire departments in the province representing approximately 8,000 volunteer firefighters - they have to go out and do fundraising to be able to get the money to pay for the premiums. Now, again, and my colleague, the honourable member for Kings West, who served as chairman of the Select Committee on Fire Safety review of that particular piece of legislation, can certainly correct me if I'm off on the numbers a bit, but I think the average cost for a volunteer firefighting department is between $2,500 and $3,000 for workers' compensation premiums.

If they're not fortunate enough to be within a municipality that has the resources to be able to cover off those costs through their municipal administrative division within their fire service or some type of an allotment, they have to raise that for themselves. Because of all the additional training components that are now imposed on them because of changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, now the new Fire Safety Act that's coming, this is going to be a real cost that will force many of them to decide whether they want to continue as volunteer firefighters. That's my concern. You're looking at less than $1 million province-wide.

Now we have some of the larger divisions, such as CBRM, HRM, they have paid fire service. So all these costs are covered off through their tax base. Consider the scenario, Mr. Speaker, about the volunteer fire service that provides, in many cases, much comparable service for individual homes, commercial enterprises, industrial complexes and yes, even government agencies, for example. I will give you an example, the Sydney Airport when there was a chemical leak, it was the volunteer fire service that was first on location. Take any one of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works' garages or outlets across the province. Many of them are in rural Nova Scotia. Who would you expect to show up first to fight the fire? Volunteer fire service. So, in effect, they are providing a very vital service to the employers and to the businesses and to the individuals across Nova Scotia.

[Page 9943]

To look at the total payroll for this province, it's approximately $6.4 billion. That's the estimate through the workers' compensation system, and that doesn't cover it all. That only covers the payrolls that are covered through the system and that only represents, I believe, about 75 per cent of the total payrolls because some are on contract service, some are the small mom and pop businesses where they only have one or two employees themselves, so they don't fall within the umbrella. If you were to take one-half of one penny for every $100 of assessment in this province, just on that one component alone, that's $6.4 billion. You would have enough to cover the workers' compensation for the entire volunteer fire service in this province.

Wouldn't it be a worthy position to go and ask the employers, the stakeholders at the Workers' Compensation Board and in the system, industry and labour alike, and find out if they would be willing to assist government in ensuring that their businesses, their place of business, where they make money and they provide employment, is safe. The very history of firefighting service in this province comes from that very notion.

[2:15 p.m.]

If you go down to - I'm not sure if it's in Lunenburg, or Bridgewater; it's somewhere on the South Shore, anyway - where they have the Firefighter's Museum that shows the history of fire service in Nova Scotia, and at one time you had these fire brigades that would go around the province, or go around their community. They were hired by a particular insurance company, or a particular business, to make sure that, let's say all the businesses on one block were protected. So let's say on the east side of the street you had businesses A, B and C and this volunteer service or this fire brigade would, in fact, make sure that if a fire started, that they would be there on a moment's notice to protect their business and they would be paid a fee. Now, if the fire started out on the west side of the street, well, unfortunately, those businesses might burn down because they weren't contracted to do that.

So a lot of things have evolved over the years and I think we've taken just a little too much for granted with our volunteer fire service and the search and rescue in this province and yes, Mr. Speaker, I applaud Bill No. 134. Every step in that direction is a step in the right direction, but does it go far enough? No, it doesn't, and I guess my only regret, having served in that department is, having served in a minority situation where there were a lot of limitations and if we had more time, I feel very confident we could have done a lot more. This Bill No. 134 speaks to perhaps some of my philosophy on helping volunteer fire service and I commend the government for that, but I raise those other issues because I think it's something we can do so much, for so little; one-half of one penny would help all 8,000 volunteer firefighters on the cost of their labour security through the workers' compensation system. That's not a lot to ask.

[Page 9944]

So on those points, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and make those comments. I know I've made some of them before and I think sometimes in the House we have to raise the same issue over and over again before it sometimes connects with the broad population of the House of Assembly here, but these are the types of initiatives that I think we could offer to our volunteers in the province and I thank the minister for bringing it on. It will be interesting to see what will come at the Law Amendments Committee and the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today to speak on Bill No. 134, an Act to Recognize Volunteer Firefighters and to Protect Volunteer Fire Departments. It is indeed an honour for me to rise to speak on this bill because of the important role the volunteers play in our society. We know the invaluable service that all these citizens provide to our communities, but nothing is more important than that of a volunteer firefighter. They take the time to learn the latest techniques and life-saving skills when combatting fires and also taking the time to learn whatever medical assistance they can provide at accident scenes.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about my particular fire department in the Lake Echo and area volunteer fire service. They are a composite department where they have some paid staff, but they also have a large core of volunteer firefighters. Next year they will be marking their 30th Anniversary and also this Saturday they will be having a volunteer appreciation night for the firefighters, but what I'm glad to see in this particular bill is, once passed, a day in October will be recognized as Volunteer Fire Service Recognition Day. I think it's important that we also recognize, and not just one day in October but every day, the invaluable service our firefighters provide for us. They will risk their lives to save a neighbour. They will go, no matter what the circumstances may be, to be on call.

Mr. Speaker, we had a situation in my own constituency just a little while back where one of those volunteer firefighters did respond to a call and was killed on his way, on duty. Mr. Ron MacDonald was on his way to an accident scene on Highway No. 107 by Exit 19 in Porters Lake. In responding to the call, he never thought of anything else but to get there as soon as possible to make sure he provided service to his fellow citizen who was hurt. On the way he untimely met his own demise. The fire department in Lake Echo was greatly saddened by that loss. Something that we do have to acknowledge Mr. MacDonald's contribution is that the fire department in Lake Echo put up a monument to recognize Mr. MacDonald's contribution. I believe that may have been the first time the Halifax Regional Municipality may have lost a volunteer firefighter in response of a call.

[Page 9945]

So, Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to see that this legislation will recognize, if that occurrence should ever happen again in the future that the province will be giving a death benefit to the estate of that fallen firefighter. I would like to thank the minister for bringing this legislation forward and I'm looking forward to bringing it to third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to briefly address this bill today, which is a good bill and deserves the support of every member of the House. The reason I'm rising is because of my previous experience as an employee of the Workers' Compensation Board. I wanted to address the gap that this bill is filling. Many people don't realize, I think, that volunteer firefighters are not automatically covered by workers' compensation and it's precisely because they are volunteers. They are not employees of the fire department or the municipality in which they serve.

They're one of the few occupational groups that work on a volunteer basis that have the option to have coverage under workers' compensation, but the option belongs to the municipality. I don't think it's widely realized in Nova Scotia that not every municipality has applied for coverage for its volunteer fire departments. Not only is it up to the municipality to decide whether to apply or not, but it is up to the municipality to decide what wage rate to designate for their volunteer firefighters. This is an important matter because the Workers' Compensation Board, by regulation, sets a minimum and a maximum, but within that range, it's the decision of the municipality about what to deem the volunteers wages to be.

Now the reason that this is so significant, of course, is workers' compensation assessments are based on the actual wages or the deemed wages, so the municipalities have a financial interest, if I can put it that way, in choosing a deemed wage for their volunteer firefighters at the lower end because that reduces their workers' compensation assessments. This is a serious issue because many volunteer firefighters are employed full time or part time at other work and if they're injured on the job and they're disabled from their regular employment, they face this dilemma that they have no insurance to cover their regular employment and the deemed wages at the volunteer fire department really can be very insufficient to cover the loss from the workplace.

That kind of thing happens in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. It happens too often. It's a serious issue that I personally would liked to have seen addressed because, although this legislation covers death benefits, which are certainly very important and necessary, the fact is that far more volunteer firefighters are injured on the job than are killed. So the government has taken a very good step in moving forward here to fill a gap, to fill a very important gap, and that is the lack of any coverage for volunteer firefighters under Workers' Compensation for death benefits and that's a very good thing. I would like to commend to the government's attention and consideration of this issue of how volunteer firefighters who are injured on the job are compensated for their injuries in the service of their community.

[Page 9946]

I'm not saying I have the answer, I'm not sure what the answer is. What I do know is that it's an issue that deserves serious attention.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the honourable member for Hants East, raised another issue in the bill. I know we're talking about principle, but it's worth going over a few of the issues of principle here. There is a definition in this bill limiting the application of the bill to anyone who gets $500 or less. As a member of the recent Select Committee on Fire Safety, I'm virtually certain that we were told that some volunteer fire departments pay honoraria of more than $500. The honoraria paid by volunteer fire departments are not a great deal of money and certainly don't even come close to recognizing the contribution that many volunteer firefighters make, but nevertheless I am virtually certain that some fire departments pay an honorarium of more than $500. I hope that the government is aware of that issue, and I hope the government is sure of itself in setting that as a limit below which people get the extra benefits in the bill and above which they do not get the benefits. It struck my colleague, the member for Hants East, and myself as perhaps too low, and it may unwittingly be excluding people who are intended to be covered.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I note that this bill is subject to proclamation. One of the things that the volunteer firefighters who appeared before the Select Committee on Fire Safety impressed upon me and all of the other members of the committee is that when there are necessary legislative changes, there is no room for waiting. The volunteer firefighters who appeared before the committee made it very clear to the member for Kings West, the chairman of the committee, and myself and every other member of the committee that they needed these changes, they needed them now, and they couldn't understand the reason for any delay with respect to the proposed Fire Safety Act.

Mr. Speaker, I would take that thought and apply it to this bill as well. It's not clear to me what it is about this bill that would need some delay before the bill comes into force. The bill is complete and whole in itself without any regulations; there's only the most general regulation-making authority. The bill covers volunteer firefighters the day it comes into force. If it's not in force, they are not covered. I'm just wondering, over the course of debate on this bill, if the government could explain why it is that it appears some delay is necessary before this very important and necessary coverage is offered to volunteer firefighters in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, with that thought, I am pleased to indicate my support and my caucus' support for this bill. It's a very good step, which doesn't mean that there aren't other issues that could be addressed to provide more complete protection for the volunteers who serve in our community.

[Page 9947]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, I will just take a moment. I'm certainly pleased to see this legislation come through. As a volunteer firefighter for 31 years, I have waited that long to have this type of thing come through. I can say, from our community, that we have people who have given volunteer service and members who have been there for 55 years. Volunteerism is so alive and well in the fire service that it just does our heart good. We must consider the value of what these people contribute to our communities.

I would just like to point out that different municipalities, as has been stated, handle things in different ways, but workers' compensation is not universal throughout the province. A lot of the communities have insurance for their members, to cover their wages in the event that there is an accident or so on. It's something that the municipalities would have to work together and change, but it works very well. To the best of my knowledge, most communities have some type of coverage. Although there is workers' compensation available and so on, it is certainly not a practice that's carried out throughout the whole province.

In conclusion, I would just like to say how pleased I am to see the insurance benefit because, certainly, should a firefighter lose their life in the line of service, it's much-needed support that has not been there. I really appreciate having that in place, and I am sure the fire service will. On those few comments, I would thank you for the opportunity to speak.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it's an honour for me to stand today to speak on the bill. Actually, as most members of the House know, I spoke on the bill prior. I'm still disappointed that my former colleagues over there didn't stand up and bring forth the municipalities' issue on this bill because unfortunately this government is downloading the cost of enforcing this bill onto the municipal units. It's another example where this Premier and this government have failed Nova Scotians.

I will be supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker. It's a major step forward. The bill may not be perfect, as my colleagues there have indicated, however, it is vital that we pass this bill in its present form to ensure that the fire service does continue to move forward so that we can develop a system in Nova Scotia that is second to none, as it is today. Our firefighters provide a tremendous amount of effort, volunteering their time and ensuring that we have a very professional fire service in all our communities in this province.

I'm very proud to have had the opportunity to sit on the all-Party committee that was chaired by the honourable member for Kings West. I would, for the record, like to recognize his ability as the chairman on that committee. He was very professional, courteous and he

[Page 9948]

extended all members equal fairness. On the committee, he was a very valuable asset to that committee because of his knowledge of the fire service, as were all the presenters, the fire officials and the firefighters who did make presentations. In going from Sydney to Yarmouth on this committee, I encountered many of the firefighters and community members in these meetings and I want to say that I am very grateful for the hospitality that they have shown me and my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West. In all parts of this province, people were very courteous and professional and it surprised me how knowledgeable they were on this particular issue. I think, although they were frustrated that the bill was not passed in 1999, they are very grateful that this government has decided to bring this bill forward because they recognize that this bill is necessary to ensure that we have a future for firefighters in this province.

In closing, again I want to thank the member for Kings West for his ability and his courtesy extended to me, and my colleague the member for Cape Breton West and I want to thank all Nova Scotians in every community that we visited for the hospitality and the courtesy that they've shown to me and my colleagues. I think I could include all colleagues on that committee. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to close the debate on behalf of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. We certainly will take the comments that were made here today and I will pass them along to him. We look forward to having this go to the Law Amendments Committee and hearing from residents. With that, I close the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 134. 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 9949]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 110.

Bill No. 110 - Provincial Fossil Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today to speak on behalf of the honourable member for Cumberland South who has brought forward this bill to declare Hylonomus lyelli the provincial fossil. Hylonomus lyelli has long been recognized as the oldest, earliest fossil known in the world and considered the ancestor of reptiles, including the dinosaurs and even mammals. Discovered in the 19th Century, Hylonomus has drawn international attention for more than 150 years. Known only from its discovery in Nova Scotia, specifically in the cliffs of Joggins, this fossil is part of our heritage - a heritage that all Nova Scotians can share with pride. This bill is part of that pride.

This bill also supports the committed efforts of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs World Heritage Committee, who are actively working to have the cliffs of Joggins designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something which would have significant economic development benefits for the region itself and for the province, generally. This bill supports that goal and acknowledges the importance such designation would have.

Mr. Speaker, Hylonomus lyelli has profound scientific significance and symbolizes the importance and rarity of the cliffs of Joggins. This bill supports the community of Joggins, the committee seeking the UNESCO Heritage designation and I am proud to speak on the bill on behalf of the honourable member for Cumberland South.

I am proud to move Bill No. 110, the Provincial Fossil Act, for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly thank the honourable member for that.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and make a few remarks on this particular bill. How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have an hour, sir.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I just want to rise and congratulate the honourable member for Cumberland South on introducing this bill and I'm going to try a pronunciation here as well, Hylonomus lyelli. Is that it? Close enough?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

[Page 9950]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I believe that the honourable member for Cumberland South has done a great service to the people he represents in bringing this bill to the House today. Some would say there are some bills that perhaps attract more attention in the House or attract much more debate, perhaps unnecessary, but a particular bill like this is important to the people of the area that it represents because it is a recognition of something that is indigenous to this area of Nova Scotia. I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, being the honourable member for Cumberland South, for bringing this bill forward. I certainly would concur that our caucus will certainly be in support, and I want to congratulate you again.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, sir, very much.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise to simply associate myself with the remarks of the honourable member for Cape Breton South and congratulate the honourable member for Cumberland South, and we look forward to supporting this bill through all stages. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Pictou East it will be to close debate on Bill No. 110.

If I could, to all honourable members, thank you for your kind words on Bill No. 110. It does mean a lot to the area of Joggins and to the future designation of the UNESCO area site for that part of the province. Mr. Don Reid of the area and Mr. Mark Boone are very hard workers in that area on this bill and on that designation. I thank you for your comments.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, thank the honourable member for his kind comments and would like to close debate on Bill No. 110.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 110. Is the House ready for the question? 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 9951]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 117.

Bill No. 117 - Geoscience Profession Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased today to rise to move second reading of Bill No. 117, the Geoscience Profession Act. The purpose of this bill is to register this profession and the practice of geoscience in Nova Scotia. The association will be respected for registering professional geoscientists under a professional board. The association has, for several years, registered under the Societies Act, as there is no legislation requiring any member to register. Conversely, members felt that also meant there was no means for discipline and other matters of concern if there is no demand to be a member.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that we should not continue to force Nova Scotia professionals to register in other provinces. They should be registering here in Nova Scotia. On behalf of the more than 70 members of the association, I am pleased to move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, once again, the government can count on the support of the NDP caucus for this bill. Any time that a profession receives legislative recognition, it's a very important and meaningful step for that profession. The geoscience profession is now joining the ranks of many other professions. It's also a great responsibility to have responsibility for professional discipline and for management of the reputation of the profession. I'm sure the geoscience profession will work hard to maintain those high standards that are being granted to them by legislation today.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to congratulate the member for Pictou East for bringing this bill forward. We did have some representation by people who are concerned about this bill. I would like to say a few words in support of Bill No. 117. As is evident, it is a few pages shorter than its original, Bill No. 16, the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act - that's how it is now registered. In today's society, it is most important to recognize the professionalism exhibited by certain professionals, whether they be nurses, doctors or geoscientists.

The profession of geoscience is quite interesting. A geoscientist, for those who may not know, is someone who studies the Earth's physical makeup and history, gathering and interpreting data about the Earth for the purpose of increasing our understanding and improving the quality of human life.

[Page 9952]

This bill monitors the practices of its members and sees that professional discipline is respected. I believe that's a very important consideration with this bill. According to this bill, every geoscience graduate must be first admitted as a geoscientist in training, and that was outlined to me at some length by the people who were making representation to various members of the House regarding this bill. In that respect, this is a good bill. The disciplinary process is well documented and we certainly will be supporting the bill as it moves through the House.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Pictou East it will be to close the debate on Bill No. 117.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to hear the comments of both Opposition Parties and the honourable members. I would like to, consequently, now close debate on Bill No. 117.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 117. 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 119.

Bill No. 119 - Canadian Information Processing Society of Nova Scotia Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 119, an Act Respecting the Practice of Information Processing. I would like to make a few comments, if I may. It's interesting and probably quite appropriate that this bill is being moved during the Canadian Information Technology Week, which is May 3rd to May 12th.

Mr. Speaker, the Act Respecting the Practice of Information Processing - just by way of background, the Canadian Information Processing Society was established back in 1958, and over the years it has grown and become the voice of information systems professionals with 8,700 members in 28 sections across Canada. It initiated the information systems professional program as a national certification program in 1989. The standards of the

[Page 9953]

certification program are Canada-wide and are regularly reviewed and updated by the National Certification Council.

The objects of the society are to enhance the professional standing of its members by actively promoting the designations reserved by the bill through a program of education and support within the province and by emphasizing the benefits of the designations to members and employees alike, and provide such program, in co-operation with the Canadian Information Processing Society's national and local sections, and also to promote ethical practice in the field of information technology in order to protect and serve the public interest.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this process of establishing provincial bodies to administer the designation began in 1994 with the incorporation of CIPS Alberta. The Canadian Information Processing Society of Nova Scotia, CIPS Nova Scotia for short, was the second provincial body established. It was incorporated on December 29, 1994. Since 1994, provincial bodies have been established in other provinces and four provinces - British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick - have enacted legislation giving right to title of their respective provincial bodies to the I.S.P. designation.

Mr. Speaker, this proposed legislation would establish similar legislation here in Nova Scotia as in the other provinces. In Nova Scotia there are currently 61 information systems professionals who have achieved certification; that is, they hold the I.S.P. designation and are therefore members of CIPS Nova Scotia. The CIPS Nova Scotia organization, over the last number of months, has held consultations with other professional associations and industry groups, and they have received 100 per cent response from all of those organizations. They all have indicated that they had no problem with the proposed legislation and, in fact, fully endorsed it.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to outline the names of those associations for the benefit of you and the members of the House. They are the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia, the Society of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Association of Architects, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia, the Society of Management Accountants of Canada, the Certified General Accountants, the Canadian Association of Management Consultants, the Information Technology Industry Alliance of Nova Scotia, and the Project Management Institute.

Mr. Speaker, on those words, it gives me great pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 119, an Act Respecting the Practice of Information Processing.

[Page 9954]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to indicate my support and our caucus' support for this bill, but once again I would say that it's a very important moment in the life of any profession when they're given legislative recognition; there's also a great responsibility that goes with that when they're given the right to discipline people and exclusive right to title.

Our job in the Official Opposition is to take good legislation and make it better. That's part of our job, at any rate, and in that spirit, Mr. Speaker, I would note that when I was reviewing the legislation, I noted that, very unusually among professional designation legislation, there's no actual definition of what this profession is. That really matters when the organization established by this bill is given the right to dictate who's allowed to use a certain title and who is not and also to punish for breach of ethical standards. It's very important that everybody understand the scope of action of this particular designation, so I offer that to the government simply as a helpful suggestion. That's fairly standard in professional legislation. It's not here. I would simply ask the government to consider whether such a definition might be appropriate for this legislation. But with that small caveat, this is a proud moment for those who practice information processing and I'm pleased to indicate our support for this legislation.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of this particular bill brought forward by the member for Dartmouth South. This legislation will allow individuals working in the field of information technology to be recognized as professionals in their field and therefore to market their skills and services on a much broader level, including within the United States. Currently, information system professionals who complete their educational programs in Nova Scotia have to travel elsewhere for professional designation. Professional designation can take up to four years' experience in a related field, depending on the individual's educational background - for example, accredited/non-accredited university program, accredited/non-accredited community college program. If information technology graduates from Nova Scotia's post-secondary institutions are able to receive professional designation in their home province, they will not be forced to leave upon graduation.

This legislation will allow for a standard of ethical conduct to be established and enforced, protecting the public, Mr. Speaker. The Provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Ontario already have legislation that is similar to the proposed legislation for Nova Scotia, and other provinces are making rapid progress toward registration of information system professionals, including Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

[Page 9955]

For those reasons, I again congratulate the member for Dartmouth South in bringing this forward and our caucus will be supporting this bill as it moves through the House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Dartmouth South it will be to close the debate.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: I thank the member for Halifax Fairview and the member for Cape Breton South and their respective caucuses for supporting this legislation. I appreciate the comments, particularly from the member for Halifax Fairview regarding the importance of the professional designation and the comments from the member for Cape Breton South in relation to the ability now to have the training done in Nova Scotia which is always an important issue. Having said that, I close debate on Bill No. 119.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 119. Is the House ready for the question? 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 132.

Bill No. 132 - Atlantic Blue Cross Care Inc. Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: I rise today to speak for a few minutes on Bill No. 132, an Act to Enable Blue Cross of Atlantic Canada and Maritime Medical Care Incorporated to Amalgamate to Form Atlantic Blue Cross Care Inc.

[Page 9956]

This legislation is necessitated by the fact that both of these companies, Blue Cross of Atlantic Canada and Maritime Medical Care were originally incorporated by special Statute. Maritime Medical operates the MSI and the EMC businesses in Nova Scotia; Blue Cross is the Business Insurance Benefits Management and administers the programs across Canada for Veterans Affairs, the RCMP, the Department of National Defence among others. Three years ago these two companies entered into a joint venture agreement and created Atlantic Blue Cross Care Inc. They've appointed a common board and have completed the integration of operations to the extent that the existing legislation will allow.

The existing Statutes are now inflexible and outdated and the legislation before us is to correct that problem. This legislation is subject to proclamation and will require that the superintendent of insurance will review the memorandum of association and the articles.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I would move second reading of Bill No. 132.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: A few words on this bill, Maritime Medical Care is a great Nova Scotian success story of a non-profit society incorporated a number of years ago that has grown to be a major employer in Nova Scotia - administering not only the Medical Services Insurance program in Nova Scotia but also offering a wide range of private insurance benefits.

A few years ago in 1998, the company formed a strategic alliance with their counterpart in New Brunswick and for reasons they thought best at the time, it stayed as a strategic alliance, there's no change in the formal corporate structure. What this bill does is it recognizes the practical reality of what's been going on over the last few years and forms a new company under the Companies Act to allow this Nova Scotia success story to continue to grow and expand.

We approach this bill, not without some questions. I wouldn't even pitch them as high as concerns, but questions which I have raised with the government and I know that they will endeavour to get answers to questions, but the most significant one, I think, is that Maritime Medical Care was incorporated as a not-for-profit society under an Act of this Legislature. In fact, that's why this bill is before us today is because in order to change the corporate status, they have to change the legislation that created them.

This not-for-profit society has grown to be a major player in the Nova Scotia health care system. They are administering literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year in medical services payments. So although it is a private society, it is not part of government. They are a major player in the health care system. What this bill does is it opens the door to them changing their status from being not-for-profit to being for-profit.

[Page 9957]

The company has assured us and we accept absolutely that the company has no current intention of changing their status from not-for-profit to for-profit. My point only is that this bill allows them to change at any time in the future at a time of their choosing and without any need to have any recourse back to this Legislature. Now, of course, if they had incorporated under the Societies Act in the first place, they could do this without asking anybody's permission. It's not entirely clear to me why this company or any company would choose to be set up by an Act of the Legislature, because it puts real constraints on them.

I'm not suggesting for one second that this is a reason to oppose the bill, not in the least, but it is a reason to raise a question, which I know the government will endeavour to answer, about what the implications are for Nova Scotians of the possibility - that this bill opens up - of the company becoming a for-profit entity.

Mr. Speaker, I can't let this bill go without remarking upon the fact that this company is also the monopoly service provider of ambulance services in Nova Scotia, or strictly speaking it is a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary that runs the ambulance system in Nova Scotia. As we know from independent studies we have one of the best ambulance services, not just in the Maritimes, not just in Canada, but in all of North America, which is something that we can be very proud of.

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding that, as members know, over the past couple of months now I have been raising serious concerns about the ambulance fee system, ambulance fee policy. Certainly, I can't resist saying that this bill, I think, provides an opportunity for those questions to be raised again about the unfairness and unreasonableness of certain of the ambulance fee policies promulgated by this government and administered by EMC, Emergency Medical Care, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Maritime Medical Care, soon to be Atlantic Blue Cross.

With those thoughts, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see what public representations, if any, are made on this bill, and to see what answers the government is able to provide to the questions that I've raised. This is a great Nova Scotia success story but, because it's a great Nova Scotia success story, it doesn't mean that in the public interest certain questions shouldn't be raised and answers sought, and given.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise for a few moments on this particular bill, Bill No. 132 to say to you that we, as a caucus, will be supporting this bill. I want to refer you to a headline dated November 13, 1998, a marriage that took place there, Health Insurers Tie Knot. This is not something that's recent nor is it something that's new. What it does is just formalize the marriage between Blue Cross and Maritime Medical by reorganizing their corporate structures. We see nothing wrong with that. There's nothing of

[Page 9958]

special concern here in the bill that would give rise to our Party's delaying this bill any length of time.

What it proposes to do is make reality what is already in practice, the amalgamation of the companies involved. It simply incorporates a new merged company in Nova Scotia. Nothing in terms of lawsuits, responsibility, or liability is affected as a result of this change. For information purposes, Atlantic Blue Cross Care was created when Blue Cross of Atlantic Canada and Maritime Medical Care joined operations in early 1999. According to their Web site, Atlantic Blue Cross is a leading provider of quality individual and group health, travel, life and disability benefits. With over 1,400 employees in all areas of our business, Atlantic Blue Cross is one of the largest private-sector employers in Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker, for all of those reasons we feel that we can support this bill. It was interesting, at our caucus meeting when we were going over these bills, one question that came up was why was the member for Halifax Bedford Basin proposing this bill. No one seemed to know why in the caucus - maybe she drew the short straw or something over there, or maybe she might, in her closing comments, tell us what is the significance of her bringing this bill forward to this House.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin it will be to close the debate on Bill No. 132.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I note the comments from the members across the way. I am sponsoring this bill because I was asked to do so. It is private, it has to do with private companies and therefore is not a government bill. With those words, I would move second reading and close debate.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 132. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 131.

Bill No. 131 - Gray Grant Act.

[Page 9959]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I feel very honoured to ask the House to give second reading to the Gray Grant Act for Private and Local Bills. The full title is An Act Respecting the Title of The Gray Grant Society to Certain Lands at Chester Basin in the County of Lunenburg. I would move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to rise and indicate our support in the caucus for this bill. I want to congratulate the member opposite for bringing it forward. It's great to see him actively pursuing legislation for his own riding, and I congratulate him for it and want him to know that we will be supporting this Private Members' Bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's it will be to close debate on Bill No. 131.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the member for Lunenburg West for saying the kind comments. Basically, The Gray Grant Society acts always for the benefit and the enjoyment of residents of the municipality and, in particular, the residents of District No. 4. This certainly makes their job easier and they very much appreciate this bill being passed. It's basically a very nice recreational property, so I think all people, certainly those I have the honour of representing, feel it's a step ahead. I feel very much honoured to move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 131. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 130.

Bill No. 130 - Lunenburg Common Lands Act.

[Page 9960]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to briefly, and I assure you very briefly, speak to this bill. For members of the House who may not be aware, when Lunenburg County was created in 1753 and the Town of Lunenburg was created, actually, on the model that was used for Halifax and before that for Boston, and part of that was common lands set aside for the use of residents who were settling in the communities. Those common lands, although they have been reduced in size over time, Mr. Speaker, still exist to this day. The Lunenburg common land, in particular, is an area of Blue Rocks and garden lots that is primarily in my riding, and large parts of that have still remained in relatively pristine condition for the use of residents of the area.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is designed by the trustees to protect those lands against encroachment and for the benefit of the use of the residents of the area. So with that, I would like to encourage all members to support the bill and I move second reading of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand to give our support to Bill No. 130. As the member opposite had reported, this committee, I believe, that has been struck, the committee itself is in excess of 100 years old that actually deals with the common lands. Your Worship is secretary to that committee and, in fact, the community is saying that they would like to make sure that before any of these common lands - which are basically, as indicated, in Blue Rocks and Stonehurst areas - ever change use or are used for any other purpose than what they currently are, there would be public meetings. I believe that will actually be enshrined through this legislation. I want to indicate our support to the member who brought it forward and to the community that has requested this to go forward. So we will be supporting the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Justice it will be to close debate on Bill No. 130.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I thank the honourable member for his intervention and for his support of the bill. As was indicated earlier, I think that the common lands are sort of a part of unique heritage of our province and I think that the community should be commended for wanting to support and protect those lands. With that, Mr. Speaker, I would close and move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for reading of Bill No. 130. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 9961]

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 133.

Bill No. 133 - Antiochian Maronite Catholic Church Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, before I move second reading, I would like to make a few comments on this bill. This is a bill to slightly reorganize the affairs of the corporation that governs Our Lady of Lebanon Church, which I'm proud to say is in my constituency of Halifax Fairview. Many people don't realize that the vast majority of Lebanese-Canadians are in fact Christians. The Christian faiths of the Lebanese people are divided between two branches - the Orthodox and the Maronite. In Halifax, the Maronite predominate and their church is located on Dutch Village Road in Halifax.

The first Lebanese immigrants came to Canada in the 1880s, and there were successive waves after the two World Wars after the dislocation caused by those wars. As I'm sure we all know, because they live in all of our constituencies, there were many more people who came to Canada in the 1970s and 1980s as a result of internal strife in Lebanon. The result of these various migrations are that there are about 6,000 Lebanese Canadians in Halifax and the surrounding area and about 7,000 more in the rest of the Maritimes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a brief quotation from a book recently published about the Our Lady of Lebanon Church and knowing these Lebanese-Canadian members of my community as I do, I can say that every word of this quotation is true. It says, "The Lebanese immigrants who have come to Canada offer a great deal to their adopted country. They are hard-working citizens and full of pride and dignity. The Lebanese immigrants in Canada wish to live in peace and harmony in their adopted country to compensate for what they have lost in their homeland Lebanon.

They desire moreover to enrich Canadian Culture by contributing to it from their own rich heritage. The Lebanese people desire to become an active part of the ethnic mosaic and be a part of its greatest assets that make Canada a beautiful harmonious country." I can say without reservation that that certainly is an apt description of the Lebanese-Canadians that I am privileged to know and also to serve as their MLA.

[Page 9962]

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to make reference to one more thing in this book, this really very informative book about the Our Lady of Lebanon Parish in Halifax, and that is the description of the parish crest, which I will hold up for members to see on the back cover of this book. This is an explanation of why they chose the crest for the church that they did, for the church that this Legislature is considering today. It says, "We chose the Crest for our Parish, The Cross, the Maple Leaf and the Cedar of Lebanon, crowned by the official name of 'Our Lady of Lebanon Parish'

The Cross represents our love to God . . . The Cedar of Lebanon: symbolizes Our Lady, and expresses the attachment to our Christian and Lebanese roots.", and "The Maple Leaf: represents our love and respect to our adopted Country, Canada."

Mr. Speaker, I think that is as good a summary as one could have of the Our Lady of Lebanon Parish, of the Lebanese-Canadian people who attend there as their parish church. As the MLA for the constituency in which that church is located, I would say on behalf of my friends, my neighbours, my constituents, who are Lebanese-Canadians, that I'm very proud to move second reading of Bill No. 133.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) When my good friend to the right is finished his dialogue on what's going on in the church society, I will continue. Anyway, thank you very much for your helpful hints.

I would like to rise in my place to support this particular bill. This bill has more than a passing interest to me because I have a large Lebanese community in my riding, that great riding of Cape Breton South. Indeed, I grew up in a section of the city which is affectionately known as the Gaza Strip in Sydney where most of the Lebanese people live, and I was born and brought up right in the middle of that community, and count as some of my closest friends members of the Lebanese community in Sydney.

Mr. Speaker, the Cedars Club, which is both the religious and the social club of the Lebanese community in Sydney is my home base, politically. All of my functions and all of my events that take place in Cape Breton South take place in that great community hall called the Cedars, with its Liberal tradition from the Lebanese community in Sydney. I want to congratulate the member for Halifax Fairview for bringing this forward. Certainly, it is important to his community as well. I recall, and I stand to be corrected, I do believe it was last March that Maronite Catholics in the Atlantic Provinces welcomed the Patriarch of their international church, His Beatitude and Eminence Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal SFeir. This Cardinal represents a strong spiritual national identity of the Lebanese people and it certainly was an honour for Halifax to play host to this Cardinal.

[Page 9963]

The Liberal caucus is in favour of this legislation, and we want to congratulate both the proud Lebanese community in all of Nova Scotia, but in particular those who will be positively affected by this bill making its way through the House. The Lebanese community in my area have been valued participants in community life, and throughout the province, and I'm sure that's same in the community that the member for Halifax Fairview and for all members who are fortunate to have Lebanese citizens living in their communities.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if all members of the House want to rise to speak to this bill, but I would like to say a couple of words on it. I know the author of this pamphlet, Monsignor Aoukar and I know something of the work of the Maronite Church, perhaps not as much as I might. I know that it has a very ancient origin within the Christian world, because anyone who has ever read or studied the Acts of the Apostles will know that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch I know you could say that the faith began in Jerusalem but it was at Antioch that it was first called Christian.

From there it spread elsewhere. The Antiochan and Orthodox Church, or I should say Catholic in this case, is a separate rite within the Catholic Church. It has its own liturgy, its own canon law, and its own church year, which is somewhat different from the church year that is observed in most other churches. It's the only church in the world, to my knowledge, that still uses the language of Aramaic in its liturgy, which is the language that our Lord spoke. That was pointed out to me by Monsignor Aoukar. That's the source of that information.

There was a Maronite Church in Sydney for some number of years, called St. Patrick's. I don't know how St. Patrick got into it, but anyway that was the name of the church. It no longer functions. The building is now used as a historical museum, but it did function in Sydney throughout the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and some of the 1950s. It's a church that has had impact in the community that I come from. I can certainly testify to everything that the member for Cape Breton South said. I attend most of his meetings at the Cedars Club on MacKenzie Street in Sydney and they're usually quite well attended and the same gentleman is usually in the front row falling fast asleep about half way through the addresses that are given. But the meetings are well attended there and everyone knows where it is and it stands as a reflection of the commitment of the Lebanese community to the Sydney area. Having built that hall, I recall it having been expanded over the years considerably and it now stands as a first-rate social centre.

So having said all those things, I would indicate support for the bill and certainly wish the community that the bill supports every success.

[Page 9964]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to very briefly speak in support of the bill on behalf of our caucus. The Lebanese Maronite Christians are a very ancient group that have contributed much to the Christian family and have suffered much over the years, actually. So with those brief words, I just wanted to indicate our support for this bill, our support for that community, our support for the witness that they've played over the years and the centuries in the wider Christian church.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, it will be to close the debate on Bill No. 133.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable members for Cape Breton South and Cape Breton Nova for reminding us of the long-standing and marvellous contribution of the Lebanese community to Sydney and area. Also, the honourable member for Kings North for his remarks. I think we can all agree that this is a community that has made a large, long-standing, significant contribution to life in Nova Scotia. So with those thoughts, I would like to move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 133. 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 Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAMS DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[3:17 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[Page 9965]

[3:20 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 98 - Volunteer Protection Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall this bill be read a third time?

AN HON. MEMBER: On a future day, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Ordered that this bill be read for a third time on a future day.]

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 72.

Bill No. 72 - Electronic Evidence Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, there has been some discussion about this bill. This bill was changed from a separate Statute into one amending the Evidence Act of Nova Scotia based upon the intervention of honourable members and I want to give credit for that. I think it's a good change in our law which will certainly update the law in Nova Scotia. With that, Mr. Speaker, I would move third reading of this bill.

[Page 9966]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the words of the Minister of Justice on third reading and some day in the future, if there's some lawyer or law student reading Hansard, let the record show that it was the member for Halifax Chebucto who had suggested that we have all the provisions with regard to evidence be in the same Act. I think that that's logical and well-meaning. For anyone who practices law or is studying law, to have to go to two or three different Acts makes it much more complicated. It is one small change, but it will make it a lot easier for people in the future and, again, we're glad to see this legislation coming through to deal with electronic evidence.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our Justice Critic and our caucus, we will be supporting this bill at third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Justice, it will be to close the debate on Bill No. 72.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all members and all Parties for their support of the bill because I think it is one of those things that we can all be proud of - taking a little step forward in modernizing the law. With that, I move third reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 72. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 9967]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 129.

Bill No. 129 - Assessment Act/Municipal Grants 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.

Mr. Speaker, there are two parts to the bill. The first, of course, deals with the Assessment Act and the matter of defining structure. Structures have been assessable in this province since prior to the province taking over assessment in 1977. However, the Assessment Act does not define what a structure is and that is what the bill is addressing. There was a regulation passed in 1999 that defined structure. However, the right of the province to assess structure was challenged in the appeal process. Therefore, it is appropriate for us to put the definition of structure within the legislation itself and that is what the legislation is intending to do. Bill No. 129 puts into legislative form the definition that is currently in regulatory form. As I indicated earlier, the oil and gas industry challenged the government's authority and right to pass Regulation 5/2000 which defines structure and also challenged the validity of Regulation 5/2000 and in so doing challenged the province's right to assess structures within this province.

Since the introduction of the regulation in 1999, Mr. Speaker, which clarified the assessments' past practices on how structures are assessed, there have been no appeals filed by any heavy industry properties setting forth as a ground of appeal that assessment has added on machinery and equipment as being assessable that was not assessable prior to the passing of the regulation. So there hasn't been any activity as a result of that regulation.

Bill No. 129 represents business as usual for the Assessment Services Division in Nova Scotia and represents no change in the methodology or manner in which structures are or were assessed within the province.

I want to conclude my remarks about assessment by emphasizing some aspects of the bill with respect to what it does and what it does not do. Bill No. 129 clarifies past assessment practices on how structures are assessed. Bill No. 129 is not legislation assessing manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment. Manufacturing and processing equipment will no longer be assessed as of 2004 and any new manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment put in place after December 1, 1988 is not assessable in Nova Scotia and will continue to be non-assessable in this province.

[Page 9968]

I want to just read into the record and I will table the document that I'm reading from, just a confirmation of what the bill does and what it does not do and this is from a letter to the Canadian Property Tax Association and it's signed by John C. MacKay, Executive Director of Assessment Services.

"Bill 129 will not eliminate the upcoming Nova Scotia property tax exemption on machinery and equipment within Nova Scotia. The intent of the bill is to clarify through legislation the past practices of assessment. This legislation has not been introduced to change the way assessments are done but rather give a legislative base to past practices. We will continue to assess machinery and equipment the same way as we always have and look forward to its elimination in 2004. Bill 129 represents business as usual for the Assessment Services Division in Nova Scotia, and represents no change in the methodology or manner in which structures are or were assessed in Nova Scotia."

Another paragraph.

"Although structures have always been assessable, the Assessment Act (NS) did not define a structure. Regulation 5/2000 passed in 1999 defined structure. Now that the assessability of structures has been challenged, it was necessary to put in formal form our past practice. Bill 129 is putting into legislative form a regulation which was passed in 1999. The effective date of January 1, 1999 reflects the effective date of the challenge to the Regulation."

One last item from this document.

"The Nova Scotia government strives to make this province an attractive choice for new business and a prosperous choice for those already established. Bill 129 supports this vision by ensuring that all Nova Scotia businesses have certainty with respect to assessment practices and are assessed fairly within Nova Scotia and consistent with other areas across Canada."

I have already tabled that particular document.

The final part of the bill deals with the uniform assessment and as members would know, major properties in this province have been under appeal with respect to the assessment of the fractionation plant and the gas plant at Goldboro as well as there was a question with respect to the pipeline. We believe that the pipeline issue will be settled and there will be certainty brought to that situation. We are very hopeful that we can bring certainty to the fractionation plant and the gas plant at Goldboro. However, the certainty will be backdated to 1999 and as a result, there will be adjustments in the uniform assessment.

[Page 9969]

As a result of those adjustments, if the values decrease - which is the likely outcome of any settlement - if those values decrease, then the uniform assessment that formed the basis of those municipal units' contribution to education costs and to the costs of operating our jails would have been higher than they would have been had the appealed value been in place from January 1, 1999. So what the second part of the bill does is allow an adjustment to occur so both municipal units will in fact be able to recoup the contributions that they had made since 1999 toward those items. It is legislation that was requested by the municipal units affected, and we indicated that we were prepared to put it in legislative form as opposed to regulatory form.

[3:30 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, that is the essence of the bill. I look forward to members' participation in the debate and hope that they will see fit to bring this bill forward to the Law Amendments Committee. I know there is considerable interest in it from some quarters. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I get the opportunity here to speak on Bill No. 129, an Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Assessment Act, and Chapter 302 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Municipal Grants Act. I just want to say that the minister is correct in saying that it's looking after the definitions of structure, but it's looking at the definition of shelter as well. It looks to me as though this bill is attempting to close a loophole or expanding the application of this tax. The definitions are very technical and it is difficult to figure out what it is they are talking about within the bill. It appears, though, that this is about adding to buildings and protecting equipment et cetera from weather. It also would appear to apply to roofing, which might cover the loading dock, for example. Those areas would now be included in the calculation of a business occupancy tax.

This also suggested that the business occupancy tax may have been assessed on these shelters without clear legislation or legislation of authority in the past. I believe that's what the minister has been talking about when he said there have been decisions that in fact reflect that. It also deals with the base of the cost and the depreciation rates of related pipelines. The pipelines are taxed, Mr. Speaker, by the municipalities where the pipeline is located. They are taxable in the event that the land under which they are located is not taxable. The value is based on the cost of each class of the pipe less the depreciation. For example, both the base cost and the rate of depreciation to be established are in regulation.

This amendment, Mr. Speaker, and I don't want to go through it clause by clause, but this bill enables the regulations to apply to the tax calculation for the taxation year 2000 and onward, as the minister has already stated. They should have stated the effective date when they made the original amendment on this subject in the year 2000. What it should have been

[Page 9970]

is actually an effective date in which the original amendments on this subject in 2000 should have been. Also, I want to say that this bill, as the minister has also indicated, sets forth how the uniform assessment is arrived at, and that this uniform assessment is used to calculate the equalization grant and is therefore extremely important to the municipal units receiving such equalization grants; and we ought not to forget, and the minister did make mention of that.

This amendment, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, is a positive one, but I'm going to wait until this goes through the Law Amendments Committee to see the presenters or the witnesses before the Law Amendments Committee and what they have to say. It allows the uniform assessments to be adjusted downward when the assessments go down after an appeal, but it is only triggered when the reduction is 3 per cent or more. I would like the minister to be aware that there are small municipalities that could be drastically affected by a 2 per cent reduction in the overall assessment value. I don't know if the minister has taken that into consideration, but when he has reflected municipalities throughout the province and he has mentioned that some of these municipalities, particularly in the rural communities like Guysborough, Goldboro and those areas, where there is the potential for the fractionation plant to have an impact on the overall assessment of that particular community, then the minister knows the kind of dramatic effect that this reduction would have.

Mr. Speaker, having made those particular comments, I want to say that I will await the bill coming back from the Law Amendments Committee before I make any endorsement upon this bill, Bill No. 129.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today, indicating that maybe the minister feels very comfortable about this legislation and feels that it's good. I would like to rise to raise some areas of concern, because there are levels of concern out there across the business community in the Province of Nova Scotia. The minister read into the record here today a letter outlining the intent from a Mr. MacKay, Executive Director, Assessment Service.

It's interesting that he talks about intent. If it's so much the intent of the government, then why isn't it specifically stated in the bill, with regard to the issue of potentially going back three years and then starting to put a tax on machinery and equipment? In other words, if it's bolted down, it will be taxed. That's how most people understand what this bill is all about. The minister said I believe in his statement, when he announced the bill, that this would bring clarity and stability to the tax structure.

I don't understand how the minister can say it will bring clarity and stability when, number one, we're talking about a retroactive bill, going back three years; and, number two, when in fact you're now going to be, potentially, taxing machinery and equipment in facilities. The minister might shake his head, but I don't see anywhere in the bill that it is

[Page 9971]

absolutely stated that there will be no tax on machinery and equipment in the Province of Nova Scotia.

If this is the way the government wants to run it, it sends a very clear message: No matter where you go in this country, the Province of Nova Scotia from this day forward will no longer be open for business. It's a huge issue, one that I hope the minister and the Minister of Finance and others in this room will take and listen to these arguments, because it is an issue.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . probably like a loophole in the dispute they've got with the courts.

MR. DOWNE: Well, if it's a matter of trying to plug a loophole in a court issue, then that's another issue.

I want to know a number of things. Virtually, as I understand it, there's no province, Manitoba or Saskatchewan or Ontario or Quebec or Newfoundland or P.E.I. or New Brunswick, that would have legislation that you can come in the backdoor through the structure process to start taxing equipment that is bolted to the facility. In effect, that's exactly how the definition of this bill could be interpreted. It might very well be interpreted that way whether it's this assessor or that assessor, today or tomorrow or the next day and that's a huge problem.

It's a huge problem, because what if you were a farmer and you have a milking parlour and you have your equipment in that building, and because it's bolted into that building then, all of a sudden, technically, that could very well be charged as part of the assessed value of that structure. There's nothing to stop that. What about equipment in the area of processing facilities in agriculture in this province, whether it's a poultry processing facility or a livestock processing facility or a horticulture or vegetable processing facility? If it's bolted in the building, this bill does not categorically define the fact that equipment in that building will not be taxed. It can very well be interpreted that way.

What signal does that send to the farm community throughout rural Nova Scotia? What does that send in regard to the issue of the fishing sector in the Province of Nova Scotia, when you have fish processing capabilities throughout the Province of Nova Scotia in a very competitive market? Just think, if all of sudden, because the equipment inside that building that is bolted there, then it's going to be taxed, then that raises a huge issue in regard to the issue of processing facilities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The fact that this bill has the capability of being retroactive sends a signal not only to the individual companies that are here, but to the companies that are looking to come here, that the issue will very well be that capital will all of a sudden start doing one thing and that's running away. The issue here is that one of the biggest cowards in the world is capital and

[Page 9972]

if capital gets scared, it runs away. In Bowater Mersey, in a company that supports Bowater Mersey, all of a sudden says that we're going back three years into capital construction or the equipment that's inside that building and they have the potential of having it taxed in Queens County, I want to know whether or not the members who sit around the board of directors at Bowater Mersey would be interested in spending more money in capital infrastructure in that facility. They're going to say, this is crazy.

This bill is going to turn business away from investing in the Province of Nova Scotia if, in fact, the interpretation is understood to be this way. This is a bill that not only has the potential of taxing that equipment no matter what the minister says, unless he can show directly in this bill by stating it categorically that no equipment and machinery in a structure will be taxed, then it's still no matter how the intent is or isn't meant to be, intent is all well and good, but I tell you when it comes to legislation, it is what is written in the document that makes the law.

I think there's an area of concern here. I don't know if the minister is aware of that concern, but whether you're a farmer or whether you're in food processing, whether you're in fish processing, whether you're in forestry - I will talk about forestry for a second. What about our pulp and paper operations and our saw mills in the Province of Nova Scotia? If those individual organizations are being taxed in regard to machinery and equipment that is bolted to that structure - I just wonder how many conversations we have going on in here, Mr. Speaker. I'm trying to make a point.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We only have one that matters and that would be the honourable member for Lunenburg West who has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that very much. Thank you. If you are in the forestry sector and you're in sawmill operations or if you're into the pulp and paper operations in the Province of Nova Scotia and all of a sudden this government - in the fact that they do not clarify in this legislation - could go back and reassess the machinery and equipment in that building for three years past and tax it, what is that going to do to rural Nova Scotia? What is that going to do to economic development in rural Nova Scotia? What is that going to do for the Minister of Finance with regard to the growth of the Province of Nova Scotia? Because, capital will run and hide. Capital will run and hide if it gets scared. That, to some degree, is what my concern is about not so much what's in the bill, it's what's not in the bill in black and white.

My colleague mentioned a minute ago, maybe it's for other purposes. I don't know - maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but when the minister says it brings clarity and stability to the tax structure, I would like to know how clarity and stability over here relates to the fact that now we have retroactivity and we have a possibility of taxing machinery and equipment that is affixed to the structure in which this bill is talking about.

[Page 9973]

So for that, I think the minister shouldn't have said this brings clarity and stability - this brings to me confusion and uncertainty in regard to economic development throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. Whether it's in the resource sectors, in manufacturing, processing, they will all be affected. What happens if you happen to be a grocery store? Does this mean that . . .

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

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. DOWNE: What happens if you're in the grocery business? In the retail business and because you have a building, a structure, and inside that structure, let's take the Superstore and Sobeys and all those operations - what does that mean to them if all of a sudden the municipalities will be able to put in place a tax on machinery and equipment. How many dollars does that mean to those businesses? What impact will that have on the retail sector in the Province of Nova Scotia? What happens in regard to manufacturing in the Province of Nova Scotia? I think all of us realize that manufacturing is very important in this province, and we need even more if we're going to talk about exports and so on and so forth. If this bill means that people can come in the back door of a structure to be able to start causing a tax increase to that business, then what does that mean to the business?

I think, Mr. Speaker, this bill might have the greatest of intentions, but it misses the boat. It misses in the fact that if the minister stands up and reads into the House the intent, if he's that determined to do that, then why isn't it written categorically in here that no matter how the assessment is done, machinery and equipment will not be taxed - period - whether it's bolted, whether it's sitting there, or hanging from the rafters, it will not be assessed for taxation purposes?

Now, I wonder about it in the fishing business. I wonder how down in southwestern Nova Scotia people who have a fish-processing operation and all of a sudden they come in and they start, because this bill does not state that machinery inside the building . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If he wants to talk about the fishing industry then I will talk about it, but the Act as it is, machinery and equipment is exempt from assessment. The fact of the matter of what we're talking about here is a member's alarm about whether or not this is specific enough and how clear it is. When the minister brings in his closing comments, I am sure he will address that. (Interruption) In the legislation today they are exempt. Let's put the facts on the table. If you want to have a debate, let's talk about the facts.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, it is a clarification of facts.

[Page 9974]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Well maybe the Minister of Finance is now taking over for the minister who presented this bill, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, but I think the minister responsible can speak for himself without the need of having the Minister of Finance hold his hand.

If I want to talk about fishing facilities and processing facilities in southwestern Nova Scotia or if I want to talk about the processing of fibre in eastern Nova Scotia or if I want to talk about processing and manufacturing anywhere in this province, or whatever I want, I have the right to do that in this House. I don't think that minister over there has to stand up just so he gets his nose in the minutes of the Legislature with his halfwit comments - he's obviously looking for a little attention; he's a little lonesome over there, I guess.

Bill No. 129 has concerns throughout this province. Obviously, when this moves out of this Chamber and goes over to the Red Chamber for people to come and . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe.

MR. DOWNE: Maybe - to come and present their position, then clearly we will hear what people have to say. But there are legitimate concerns out there; I am not fabricating this. People are concerned about whether or not this bill will allow the possibility of equipment inside the structure to be taxed. For that, I think it has to be addressed.

The other issue, when one does a little research, it asks the question how many other jurisdictions around this country have similar types of legislation? I don't think there are too many; in fact, I believe that the only area in the country that has done a similar type of tax is the area of Alberta. They've put, I believe, a small levy on some aspects and it was meant for education. But I don't believe any other province has a bill that can do just what is the concern of many people in Nova Scotia in this regard. Some people are coming awake on this bill now, others maybe don't even realize the ramifications of this bill.

I found it interesting, reading over some of the government's statements, it says, "During its first mandate, a PC government will ensure that Nova Scotia regains its position as the most business friendly environment in Atlantic Canada -- the best place to do business. We will do this by:" - and it goes on - "Making Nova Scotia the most attractive place to do business in Atlantic Canada by guaranteeing that the costs imposed by government are the lowest in the region;"

That was their commitment to the private sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. Then along comes Bill No. 129 with the possibility of very much blowing this right out the window with regard to creating a better environment in Nova Scotia. It goes on, "Guaranteeing we have the most attractive tax structure in the region. Nova Scotia will have

[Page 9975]

the lowest overall business and personal taxes in Atlantic Canada." Well, that's certainly gone out the door. "No other province in Atlantic Canada will more aggressively pursue new opportunities for growing our economy than Nova Scotia through the tax structure, ease of start-up and through aggressive marketing;" of Nova Scotia businesses.

Well, maybe the people who called me and the people I've talked to and the people I've called, are overreacting. I don't know, but we will see down the road whether or not the concerns I've brought forward are legitimate. I bring them here for no other reason than to make sure that the record is clear. There are business people within your caucus, and a few of the people whoever owned a business understand the importance of the fact that a tax regime that is consistent and dependable and predictable is important.

What we have here now is we're going into a piece of legislation that is retroactive, retroactive for three years for the purposes of taxation. I note with interest that we have people, the business community is starting to have confidence about trying to make some investment. This sends a shockwave across the board, a number of boards in fact, a number of private sector boards that wonder whether or not in fact if this can be interpreted this way by a department whether the intent is or is not there, the fact that it doesn't categorically state it in the legislation that there will not be a tax on manufacturing equipment and processing equipment, period, and defined in a way that the industries across the board feel comfortable, then I think we have a problem.

If the boardrooms across this province and the boardrooms that are associated with companies in this province are worried that this government is coming up with this type of legislation that could very well start taxing them out of business, then we have a problem. We talk about comparative advantage, and we talk about the need for us to be competitively positioning ourselves. I ask the question, does this bill allow us to be comparatively beneficial in regard to being competitive?

If it's interpreted the way that some are, then it questions the ability for us to be able to grow the economy. That is a legitimate concern. I think the minister would agree with me that if in fact that is true, then it would be a concern, and if it isn't going to happen then maybe there could be an amendment or a stronger statement in the bill that clarifies that point, clarifies that point to the people who have looked at it. The lawyers and all the others who deal with this on a regular basis are concerned.

I bet you've even heard comments, or other members on the government benches have heard concerns. I'm sure you have; I'm sure members of the backbench have probably heard concerns. If they have, then I think we need to address that issue. I would say if in fact this government is trying to do an end run on a court case, well that's one thing, but if in fact we're trying to provide - and I don't know if that's the way to deal with that - but if we're trying to bring in a bill to clarify and bring stability to the tax structure and the assessment structure in the Province of Nova Scotia, I don't know if this bill, the way it's written, does

[Page 9976]

that. I think it adds more questions than it provides benefit. Maybe it's clear and clarified to the minister, but I don't believe it's clear and stable for the private sector investors in the Province of Nova Scotia. Whether it affects agriculture, mining, forestry or the manufacturing of goods in the Province of Nova Scotia, or whatever it does, it could have ramifications that will dry up capital investment in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I have heard that - you know, what does this do to companies, if in fact this is the way it is, to companies like StoraEnso? The government goes on to say that - wink-wink, nod-nod - this probably won't affect you. Well, if it doesn't affect anybody, then why isn't it categorically stated in the bill to the degree that it should be? I appreciate the letter that the minister tabled here today. I appreciate that, but if he needs to put a letter out to clarify the intent, then why aren't we simply putting it in the bill, so that everybody understands it, in black and white? Because if we need a letter of intent of what the bill is doing, then it poses the issue that people must be confused. It says then that if you need to clarify the intent of the bill, it has areas of grey in regard to understanding what the bill is all about.

So if that's the case, Mr. Speaker, then why don't we just simply clarify that aspect of the bill? I'm sure when and if it goes further, we can find that particular issue out by the fact that individuals would probably be making presentations with regard to their concerns. So I wanted this not to be shoomp through the House. I think there are some areas that need to be looked at. They need to be clarified, and undoubtedly, the minister has probably heard the similar kind of concerns that I have. Because, undoubtedly, if I've heard them, he's heard them, and if he's heard them, then they're coming from a variety of sources in a variety of industries in a variety of sectors of the economy in a variety of geographic locations in the Province of Nova Scotia.

So if he is, then clearly if those people are concerned to contact him, a letter of intent doesn't really do it for me as much as having it written in black and white in the bill so people don't have to worry about whether the intent could or could not be interpreted that way. I think that is an issue that needs to be addressed. So, Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I will now take my place. I know I have a colleague who would like to speak on this. I understand the Official Opposition would like to speak on this matter and I will now turn the floor over to them. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I listened with a great deal of interest to the previous speaker. As I was listening to the previous speaker, quite honestly, I picked up the piece of legislation again and I looked at it. I started to look at it in the context of what the previous speaker was saying. I have to say, in looking at the legislation, if you're looking at it alone, the amendment that is before us, you can certainly see that there could be indeed some confusion.

[Page 9977]

Mr. Speaker, I do remember being here in 1998, I believe it was, when the former government made amendments and exempted equipment and machinery from taxation. So when I was looking at the legislation initially - and I still have been trying to figure out what some of the words really mean or how it is interpreted under the definition of Clause 1(u) in the bill, under the term "structure".

Mr. Speaker, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not one of those who is learned in the law like the Minister of Finance. We sometimes have to depend upon people.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to point out that I am not a lawyer; I'm an accountant. I just wanted to correct that for the record.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. First of all, on that first one, it is not a point of order, but it's a clarification of the honourable member's profession.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe the Minister of Finance indicated that he's not a lawyer and I agree, but I don't know if he's a chartered accountant as well. Could he clarify that, you said you were an accountant?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I didn't say that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. All honourable members are equal here and we're all honourable members.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what they are, but I can tell you I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an accountant, I was a teacher.

AN HON. MEMBER: The key word is "was".

MR. HOLM: Was, yes. But, Mr. Speaker, when I say that, I also recognize that my abilities are somewhat limited as to how the courts would interpret legal language. I have been around here long enough to know that when I look at pieces of legislation, that it often, I think, says something, only to find out that in the legal world, it is actually saying something entirely different. When I look at something and I see one piece of legislation and one amendment, I think, well, that will cover something, but then you find out that there's another piece of legislation or another amendment, or another definition somewhere that overrides that. So there can be some confusion. I want to make a suggestion to the minister because I'm taking the minister at his word and the minister in his comments said that this

[Page 9978]

was not intended, and really hoping to clear up confusion, that it is not intended to have the tax apply to equipment or machinery.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we have on many occasions in this House inserted clauses in pieces of legislation and the clause would start out with words something to the effect, "and for greater certainty". The Clerks at the desk could tell me if my terminology is correct, but I think it is. It says "for greater certainty" so if there is any possible confusion, we can state clearly what it doesn't apply to.

Under the clause that's in the bill, and we're not doing clause by clause so, hopefully, the Speaker is not paying too close attention as I do this, Mr. Speaker, but I just want to point out one clause. It says, "'structure' means an improvement consisting of one or more component parts that are affixed to or permanently resting upon land or buildings and that enhance the value of the land or buildings or improve their usefulness for the purposes for which they are used . . .", and it goes on. Certainly a lot of machinery is affixed. A lot of machinery is attached. Equipment is attached and it cannot be moved, it really cannot be moved, and it increases the value of that structure.

So, Mr. Speaker, if the minister, who I know is paying close attention to the member for Cape Breton North, he might, before I sit down, notice that I am speaking, but I will slow down in my comments until I think he has actually noticed that there is somebody trying to talk to him across the floor. (Interruption) Thank you, I say to the Acting Government House Leader, I will speak to the minister through the Speaker in an attempt, honestly, to be helpful.

If the minister in his closing remarks on the bill, and I'm not planning to try to hold this up, that's not my intent at all, but I say in an attempt to be helpful, if honestly, and I take the minister at his word, this is not intended to get around the exemption on equipment and machinery for taxation purposes, and that's what the minister, I believe, has indicated, we could very easily insert a clause, the government can insert a clause, (u)(a), and just simply state for greater certainty this does not include and it would be the same things that are already exempted in the Act by the 1998 amendment or, for greater certainty, this does not include those items excluded by whatever the clause number in the bill.

Mr. Speaker, if that's the government's intent, that it's not going to be covering those, it's very easy for those who are learned in the law and who make their living crafting the legislation that we put before this House, there could very easily be a clause inserted. It would solve any confusion that exists out there in the business community; if there are those who have spoken to the previous speaker, those in the business community who have concerns about what that clause does, it's a very simple matter to solve it.

All I would ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, that in the minister's comments, if it is genuinely not intended to cover those things, if he would agree to have the legal people look at it and, if there is any potential for confusion, agree to put in a "for greater

[Page 9979]

certainty type of clause" to ensure that any confusion that might exist would be rectified. I don't think that's an unreasonable request and it would certainly put the clarity that the minister said this bill is supposed to ensure, it would ensure that that clarity is actually in the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on for a considerably longer period of time. I didn't get to my feet to hear myself speak this afternoon, I got to my feet only because of the comments that were being made by the previous speaker, and because that caused me some confusion, because I thought that amendments that we had voted on in this House before had resolved that. He did make a point that I think was a valid one and, if that confusion exists, then I think it is a very simple matter for those who are learned in it, bring forward a simple amendment. It can be moved by the government in the Law Amendments Committee, wherever.

All I'm looking for from the minister is assurance that it will be looked at in the legal context, and if an amendment would then clarify that without changing the intent, ask him in his comments when he wraps up debate to indicate that they will look favourably upon doing that. With those few brief words - I won't go into the retroactivity and all those other things that could instill or inspire one to speak for some time.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I don't know, I'm not sure, I think the NDP just got it. They finally listened to my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, and now they're onto something here. The lights have come on in their caucus over there, and they're in the fast-track thinking mode over there, and they're going to - I don't know what they're going to do.

Mr. Speaker, this bill virtually eliminates the property tax exemption on machinery and equipment. It virtually does that. I will tell you how it does that, if my honourable colleagues in the opposite caucus want to listen. It eliminates it by broadening the definition of structures. It's simple, very simple. Anyone, even I - I'm not a teacher, I'm not an aid or an accountant or whatever he said he was. I'm not a teacher, I'm not a doctor, I'm an auto mechanic and I can figure this one out, even I can figure this out. For heavens sake - a message for the NDP - get your thinking cap on, because it's required on this bill and this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, this minister knows darn well what he's proposing. This is smokescreen legislation. It's to fool the people. Sometimes you can fool people, but you can't fool all the people all the time. This will increase the cost and put Nova Scotia at a competitive disadvantage to provinces which have an exemption on the machinery and equipment for municipal tax purposes. It's quite simple. I don't know why my colleagues in the NDP caucus, or my colleagues - my former municipal colleagues by the way, over there, they're

[Page 9980]

supposed to have experience in municipalities and municipal politics. These guys are supposed to be providing direction and advice to that minister and that other gang of front-line ministers over there.

Mr. Speaker, that's what's so disappointing to me since I became a member of this House. Now, for almost three years, all I've heard over there is silence. They have no stamina whatsoever to be counted. I wish I could be a fly, not an auto mechanic, a fly on the wall in their caucus meetings because I simply don't know what these honourable gentlemen and ladies discuss at caucus, because if I can figure this out there are other individuals over there if they put some effort into it they would see immediately what this minister is proposing to do in this province and it's wrong. Those backbenchers over there better start smelling the coffee earlier in the morning, because this just does not fit; it doesn't fit. Virtually every jurisdiction in Canada, every one that I'm aware of, has such an exemption.

The most disgusting part of the bill, Mr. Speaker, is that it is retroactive until 1999. Why? Businesses that were attracted to Nova Scotia, mostly by my former colleagues and prior to 1999, want to know what the ground rules are before they get established in jurisdictions right across the province. Imagine those businesses that have been here since 1998 or 1999, or even in the year 2000, they look at this and that government over there believes that these businesses are not going to feel like they've been abandoned by this government? This government and this minister knows full, hearty well what they are presenting here, right here, and they know it. It's a detailed plan that they have to eliminate the exemption for machinery and equipment - and I will say this again for my NDP colleagues - and they're going to do this by broadening the definition of structures. That is how it is being done.

Mr. Minister, you may be trying to fool your colleagues over there, but there are some members of this House who have experience in municipal politics other than what's over there, and you're not fooling this one. I can assure you of that; you are not fooling me one ounce. There's a smokescreen being created here and it's a plan, detailed plan. I don't know if he presents these to fool the Opposition members or if he's doing it to fool his backbench over there, because the honourable gentleman has to have a plan. If the rules keep changing, as in this case, that drives investment away from the province, this drives investment people who are willing to invest in our communities away from our province. They won't even consider looking at Nova Scotia, and certainly in the business climate it chases jobs away from our communities.

[4:15 p.m.]

This particular bill contradicts, of course, the Tory blue book and it promises the following, I will read into the record what it says. "During its first mandate, a PC government will ensure that Nova Scotia regains its position as the most business friendly environment in Atlantic Canada - - the best place to do business. We will do this by: Making Nova Scotia

[Page 9981]

the most attractive place to do business in Atlantic Canada by guaranteeing that costs imposed by government are the lowest in the region;" The lowest in the region, minister, and you come in here and table this bill? This promise continues and I will read exactly the wording in the book, "Guaranteeing we have the most attractive tax structure in the region. Nova Scotia will have the lowest overall business and personal taxes in Atlantic Canada." In Atlantic Canada. "No other province in Atlantic Canada will more aggressively pursue new opportunities for growing our economy than Nova Scotia through tax structure, ease of start-up or through aggressive marketing;"

Just for the record, I will table a copy of the page of the blue book for my honourable colleagues over there to read because it's obvious that they haven't read their blue book either. I think it's about time that they took the time to read the blue book. To read it and see first-hand the commitment that Party and that Leader and that Premier put forth and promised Nova Scotians in 1999. Yet, what do we hear? Silence. Silence. It's like silence of the lambs over there.

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

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. From the Speaker, that's right. Honourable members, I would like to bring your attention today to two honourable gentlemen who are sitting in the east gallery, Councillor Gerald Read and Councillor John Kellegrew, two elected officials from Cumberland County, from an area well renowned for electing great officials to represent them in Cumberland County. I would ask the two members to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, please. Thank you. (Applause)

We welcome you gentlemen to the gallery today and I hope you enjoy the proceedings. Welcome.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you. I am overwhelmed that you have some municipal colleagues in the House here this afternoon and I'm sure that they would be eager to go out for supper with you, especially if you're paying.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the two County Councillors and myself just had an invitation on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. We will gladly accept that at the restaurant of your choice. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

[Page 9982]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there's no secret, you likely have a budget for that and I don't, sir, but we're not going to get into that right at the moment. I would suggest that you really, seriously, take these two individuals out and at least have a coffee and perhaps seek some advice. Seek some advice, Mr. Speaker, because it's always important for me to recognize that you, sir, are a member of that caucus over there and perhaps you can get through to your colleagues over there in the backbenches. Because it's obvious that we can't. We can't. We can't even get them to think over there. We can't get them to think. Look at them - they're former wardens and deputy mayors, mayors and everything else over there and there's nobody can figure out this bill that the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has brought in here.

They can't figure out that this gentleman has found a way to eliminate the exemption on equipment and machinery in municipalities in Nova Scotia and I am shocked to realize that my former colleagues over there haven't got the ability anymore, obviously, they don't have the ability anymore to provide advice to the ministers over there, especially that minister. When it comes to providing advice to that minister, I don't know where he gets it. I don't know where he gets it, but he's obviously, and I don't want to sound like I'm beating up on my former colleagues over there because I said it many times in this House, I have a great deal of respect for those individuals. I've seen them through their municipal careers, they've worked hard for the people they represented and, obviously, I believe the people they represent recognize that also.

That's why they're here, Mr. Speaker, but they haven't done anything since they got here. They've got to get that fire when they used to be working in the municipal world. Where's that fire at? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. While I'm concerned about, some of us backbenchers with municipal experience not having any productivity or nothing, I'm proud to say I've been able to pass two Private Members' Bills in this House so far this session. So there's some productivity.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but certainly information for the House.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: It's not even worth a comment. Mr. Speaker, if that honourable member was to catch the fire that we used to witness when we saw him at council meetings at the HRM, then I would suggest that that government would get some direction at least, or some advice at least, on what to do on issues like we have before us here today. It's obvious that this minister is confused over the assessment issues in this province. He couldn't deal with the one - no consultation. You know, really, if this minister truly believes that he's the

[Page 9983]

know-it-all of Nova Scotian politics, then why would he need the UNSM and all those other municipal units out there?

You never know what they're up to next, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians, at least where I represent them, have learned for two and a half years not to trust that gang over there and when we see the honourable Finance Minister rise on a point of order like he did when my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, was speaking here before, it's silly. It's silly. It really is, it's silly but, you know, at least we were successful today in turning the light on for someone. At least the NDP now get why we are concerned about this bill and that at least is an improvement.

Mr. Speaker, I do recognize and realize that the minister is paying attention here and, hopefully, he will get the message because I don't know who's providing advice over there, but it's simply not advice that will progressively move this province forward and those MLAs over there who have municipal experience, they know that. They know that. Those members over there spent more time in their ridings when they were municipal representatives because it's no secret. It's no secret, Mr. Speaker, municipal government provides the closest government to the people. They're in the community each and every day. In fact, the minister will recall yesterday when I indicated that the honourable warden - I'm not going to get into names - but the honourable members of the municipal world that we spoke to this week in regard to the assessment issue, this minister is not listening. He has to get some hearing aids. If he needs some help with hearing, you know, hearing aids are available. He must start to listen. He must. This is a major issue for this province and it's not

a joking matter. This minister doesn't have to accept my advice. I can accept the fact that he feels, you know, I'm over here and he's over there and they have a majority government; we've witnessed it now for two and a half years. They have a big swat over there that they can whack every once in awhile, and every Nova Scotian knows that when the vote comes down, they will win the vote.

But, Mr. Speaker, if this government is serious about providing good government to the people they represent, then all this minister has to do is go to the UNSM and talk to the administrative people there. Put together a committee of municipal councillors from across this province. I can assure him that they do have the abilities; they've proven, day in, day out, on various issues. They have shown the leadership that's necessary to move their communities ahead so that our children will benefit, but this minister refuses to tap into that source. They're the greatest resource that minister has, the municipal units throughout this province, the many municipal councillors who undoubtedly, day in, day out, hear the chorus of taxpayers in this province. All that minister has to do is sit down with those individuals. If he does not want to listen to me and my colleagues over here, we can accept that, but please sit down with the people who have the experience, the knowledge and the ability to provide the best possible legislation that we can put forth so that our beautiful province can move forward in a very positive manner. That is what the people in Nova Scotia expect this minister to do.

[Page 9984]

Mr. Speaker, he ignores the ability of the various municipal councils right across this province. There's no doubt that the minister probably has two or three councillors or mayors or wardens or whatever in one area of the province who he phones and has a little discussion with over a cup of coffee, then he hangs up the phone and stands up in this House and has the gall to claim that he has consulted with the municipal world. It's wrong. When something is wrong, we have to make it right. We have that responsibility. The honourable minister over there, his intentions may be well. I'm not certain. But his intentions, in my opinion, are suspicious. When that minister will present a bill creating the type of smokescreen that he has created here, which will ensure that machinery and equipment, the exemptions that are in place for those issues right now by this minister, with this minister broadening the definition of a structure, he is eliminating that exemption for property.

Mr. Speaker, if the minister is serious, as he indicated here in the House yesterday, he would go forth to the UNSM and discuss with the various units. He did commit to that yesterday here in this House in response to a question that I posed to the honourable minister, and I congratulate that minister for doing that because, Mr. Minister, that shows some leadership; when you recognize something is wrong and you've done something wrong, it's not a bad thing to say look, perhaps we should go talk to the people with the experience, the knowledge and the ability to deal with this type of issue. Perhaps I should sit down and discuss this with the UNSM officials, and really sit down seriously and come up with a constructive piece of legislation that will move this province forward and it will not impact the business world with such a negative effect.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is what this minister's responsibility is. Most importantly, that is what Nova Scotians expect from that minister, as well as all ministers. Just because you come in here and sit down and you have a majority government, you can't start pushing Nova Scotians all over the map, and we've seen this time after time after time. (Interruptions) If there is such a thing, over there, I would hope that they wake up, pinch themselves, go to that honourable minister, explain to the minister that this bill will not do the things that he says it's going to do. It will not do what he proposes that it will do.

Mr. Speaker, I see all my former municipal colleagues over there peeking at me around whatever they're doing over there; they're obviously not paying too much attention, but they're peeking every once in a while. You can tell that they know I'm right, when I look at the former wardens over there, rural Nova Scotians. This is going to hit municipalities pretty mean. This does not fit; it doesn't fit.

Mr. Speaker, if that backbench allows this minister to push this legislation through this House, then all the gains that we've made in the last eight years will be gone, will be lost. A recent KPMG study praised Nova Scotia as a low-cost place to do business. I would

[Page 9985]

suggest that's because of the direction my former colleagues took up until 1999 and this bill jeopardizes that plan.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier committed to ensuring that Nova Scotia continue on that road of growth. We haven't seen any activity to date to see that that will in fact happen. Businesses throughout Nova Scotia, small to large, will be affected by this bill. The most insane part of the bill will drive poor municipalities to tax businesses at a higher rate, thereby making their downward spiral accelerate. There are businesses like Copol down in Cape Breton, a plastic manufacturing company. It will likely be hit with even higher costs, costs made worse, of course, and contributing to that by the abandonment of the local rail service in Cape Breton. Companies like TrentonWorks will not be able to get back on their feet because of high taxation, and businesses like ECI Manufacturing in Bridgewater will have to find ways to make up for the increased costs.

Mr. Speaker, how does this create a healthy environment for business? Family farms could also be in jeopardy, any with small businesses, of course, and in my area, most family farm operations do have a facility there to buy fresh vegetables. I would add that I like to brag that we have just as good vegetables and farmers in our community as anywhere in Nova Scotia. I would be the first to admit that farmers right across the province are very skilled at what they do.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will go to the Law Amendments Committee, but there is great doubt in my mind that we can even consider supporting this bill in its present form. So, hopefully, the minister will recognize some of the things that were said here today and do something about it, finally. When it became clear that the bill and the assessments that the minister put forward here last week in the House, when the municipalities made it very clear that they were not in support of this legislation, the minister stood up and said, well, so what? If it's not a priority with my colleagues, we will pull the bill. We will put in the background. What kind of a responsible response is that to an issue that's creating such hardship for many Nova Scotians who live in coastal communities in our areas, in our communities. What does that do for those people?

Mr. Speaker, what this minister must do, and it may be your two friends are going to take you out for supper this evening, but, for heaven's sake, all the minister has to do is sit down with other municipal leaders with an open mind and pick their brain, because that ability is alive and well. Our municipal councillors in this province are very well versed on how to deal with this issue and many other issues if the minister would only listen. As I said before, hopefully, he doesn't need hearing aids in order to hear Nova Scotians. Thank you.

[Page 9986]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm just going to speak for a few moments on this particular bill. I might say to you and to members of the House that this bill, like Bill No. 128, is of concern to Nova Scotians. It's a concern, as I stated when I opened the debate on Bill No. 128, to members of this House, both on this side of the House and that side of the House. We have been in discussion with members of the House from all three Parties regarding this particular bill, some who have outlined their concerns to us regarding this bill. I just wonder whether or not the people on the government side of the House who are concerned about this bill would make their concerns known to the minister, rather than making them known to other Parties in this House, because I would think that would help the minister when he's trying to determine whether or not he should be going forward with pieces of legislation.

I think it makes some members nervous and virtually this bill, in its present context, and I believe, Mr. Speaker, and I'm not going to speak too long on this bill today, but I believe that the minister should give some serious thought to some amendments on this particular bill as it makes its way through the House. In that regard, I agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, who earlier today suggested that perhaps an amendment for greater certainty in this bill might be appropriate. We would have to take a look at some amendments that might be presented but, certainly, I believe there should be some room for amendments here.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that perhaps the government may want to lift this bill, as they've done with Bill No. 128, and suggest that it's not a government priority at the present time and it deserves more consultation with stakeholders. I want to stay that some of those stakeholders could be franchisees in this province, could be car dealers, could be people like Tim Hortons restaurants and those kinds of things that could be impacted here because what it does, it virtually eliminates the property tax exemption on machinery and equipment by broadening the definition of structures. The advice that we're receiving is that that could mean that it could open the door to increased taxation for some of these concerns that I mentioned.

I believe an exemption should be there, virtually every jurisdiction in Canada has this kind of exemption, Mr. Speaker, and I would hope that not only would the minister give some consideration to some amendments that he may want to propose, himself, on this bill in order to - if he's that anxious to get the bill through the House in this session. I would say that if that's not the case, then I think this bill is going to, again, cause some concern with this side of the House, our caucus, at least, anyway, and I feel from the House Leader of the NDP that may be the case with their Party as well. We would have to debate this bill at length because there are some concerns coming in as we speak today.

[Page 9987]

People now know that this bill is before the House and I don't see why this government couldn't, in the interest of getting more consultation and in the interest of telling stakeholders in this province exactly what it's going to mean to them, that this bill could be held until the Fall session of the House. I'm not going to try to delay the bill unnecessarily, because I think the bill is salvageable, but with amendments. Unlike Bill No. 128, which I think is gone, at least, it's gone for this session, I would be very surprised if it shows up again here, and rightfully so. There are sections of this bill that are probably salvageable with some amendments.

I don't know who the author of this bill was, I hope it's not the same author of Bill No. 128 that recommends this to the minister. The people in this province who have contacted us, the citizens who are concerned regarding Bill No. 128, are now back on the phones again about Bill No. 129 expressing similar concerns. I would suggest, again, and when I opened debate on Bill No. 128 the other day in my place here, I suggested that backbenchers on the government side talk to business people in their constituencies, talk to concerned people who may be affected. As I did with Bill No. 128, I'm doing the same thing here with Bill No. 129. This bill deserves some discussion with stakeholders in this province, the people who may be affected; some of them who may be affected, Mr. Speaker, very substantially, financially.

I believe it's for that reason that the government should perhaps use caution in proceeding with this particular bill. I suggest that the government may want to examine some amendments that could make the bill palatable to all Parties of this House, make the bill something that stakeholders out there could live with and I believe leave some sense that the government is not trying to put some hidden taxes on business in this province, rather they're trying to define certain clauses in a particular bill that would be a benefit to Nova Scotians and to business in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, business invests in this province or any province or any jurisdiction where there's certainty, where they know there's certainty in tax legislation and where they know there's certainty in the business climate, that they don't think the government's going to get in their face, they want to know that every time they turn around government's not going to try and make it more difficult for them to do business in this province.

As I said, I don't want to speak too long on this, but what I want to make the House aware of is what the blue book said, the infamous blue book. "During its first mandate, a PC government will ensure that Nova Scotia regains its position as the most business friendly environment in Atlantic Canada -- the best place to do business." Well, that's a pretty compelling statement, a pretty bold statement. I just wonder how virtually eliminating municipal property tax exemption on machinery and equipment is fulfilling that mandate. I wonder. I think Nova Scotians have a right to wonder. Keeping a friendly business environment does not mean that you eliminate tax exemptions on structures by broadening the definition of structures. Sounds to me like it's the reverse, that you're trying to make it more difficult for people to want to be comfortable about doing business in this province.

[Page 9988]

It makes me wonder what's behind this. Is there something behind this that we're not aware of? Such as, is this perhaps a future tax grab on equipment used in offshore activities, oil and gas, onshore? What's behind the bill?

[4:45 p.m.]

I can't understand why the government would not, for greater certainty, tell what's exactly going to happen with this bill, who it affects and who it doesn't affect. Again, I refer to the comments made by my colleague in the NDP, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who says that maybe some amendments might achieve that goal in this particular bill. I still think that this bill may be salvageable, but certainly it's not in its present context. There are too many uncertainties here. Our people, our researchers, tell us that this could be a very dangerous piece of legislation for the business climate in this province if it's allowed to go through in its present form. (Interruptions) And the helpful hints from my colleague in the NDP over there, if he can't see a Tory Government doing that.

The Tory Government did say, though, Mr. Speaker, that they would provide the most business-friendly environment in Atlantic Canada. Well, the way not to do that is to allow for exemptions to be eliminated . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They certainly did that for oil and gas. They gave it all to Newfoundland.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . that's very dangerous. So, Mr. Speaker, I certainly would like to see the government go forward with this bill and suggest some amendments at the Law Amendments Committee on their own.

AN HON. MEMBER: We can do it for them.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You know, I think, if I could make one more statement that I feel is very appropriate to make here today, this bill could position Nova Scotia as the most expensive place to do business in Atlantic Canada. It could. It's enabling legislation that could make it the most expensive place to do business in Atlantic Canada. All the gains on exemptions over the past eight years could be lost, and I believe that business from one end of the province, whether it be big or small, could be affected.

It's for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I would like to see that if there are concerns brought forward by business people in this province, that they do that at the Law Amendments Committee. Again, I would like to have the opportunity to hear what business is saying at the Law Amendments Committee, and it's for that reason that we are going to watch this bill very closely.

[Page 9989]

If it comes back to the House and the government does not proceed with any amendments that are satisfactory to our critic and our caucus, we're going to introduce some amendments on this bill ourselves and then we're going to be in for some prolonged debate on this particular bill because in its present context, we don't think it's a good bill to proceed with. We think that Nova Scotians, particularly those who are now doing business in Nova Scotia or who want to do business in Nova Scotia, should have the right to come before the Law Amendments Committee and express their concerns, but they should also be made aware of the possible implications of this bill because it could have some very onerous implications for their ability to do business in this province in a friendly business atmosphere in the future. It could be very detrimental to the performance of our economy here and that's how important this bill could be.

So I'm hoping, Mr. Speaker, that the government will introduce amendments to make this bill one that we can all support. If that's not the case, we certainly plan on making amendments to it ourselves when it comes back to the Committee of the Whole House.

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'm very happy to have an opportunity to close the debate on this piece of legislation. The whole purpose of this legislation is to bring certainty and clarity to the issue of assessment within the province. The bill does not address specifically the issue of machinery and equipment because the Assessment Act, under Section 43(3), specifically states that machinery and equipment to which Section 42 does not apply is not assessable property. Nothing in the legislation would change the provisions of Section 43(3). That was in the minds of the framers of the legislation as they put it together for presentation to the House. The fact there is some suggestion relative to the broadening of the definition of structure, it's not broadening it relative to the issue of machinery and equipment, but rather it's making a definition that has application . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the minister would entertain a very brief question?

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable minister, it's your call.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 9990]

MR. HOLM: I appreciate what the minister is saying and his explanation, but there does appear to be some lack of certainty, whether or not it could be interpreted, possibly, another way. I'm not a lawyer; the minister's not a lawyer. What I'm asking is whether or not the minister would at least seek legal advice from those within his department or possibly those in the Legislative Counsel office to see if another amendment could be added that would just simply state that for greater certainty this definition does not alter, and then refer to the clauses that he just simply mentioned. That would, in that same section, provide assurances that the exemptions that the minister talked about would still be covered. In this piece of legislation, that would then provide the kind of clarity that people are asking for.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member were just a bit patient, I intended to come to those things in my remarks. I was only two minutes into it. I believe I'm allowed an hour under the rules. (Interruptions) If the honourable member would be a bit patient (Interruptions) Some of my colleagues are afraid I might decide to use it. No need to.

Mr. Speaker, as I was indicating, the purpose of the bill is to bring certainty and clarity in an area where the issue of what is a structure was not defined in legislation in the province. The legislation of the Assessment Act, which I inherited as minister and which this government inherited in 1999, did not define structure. We felt it appropriate to bring forward a regulation, and we did so in December 1999, which defined structure for the purposes of the Act. We thought that would be sufficient.

We had to come forward with the legislation because we were challenged with respect to the issue of structure. We did that. I don't know - I have a document here, I hope it doesn't mean that we're going to be here for another hour. No, it's on another matter, it's not on this. We inherited this legislation that failed to define structure. It was appropriate to provide a definition of structure for the assessment purposes so that we could continue to assess property in this province as it has been assessed for years. That is the purpose of the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, if it were not for the challenge, I suppose the issue would never have arisen. There is nothing in the legislation that in any way alters the current legislation with respect to machinery and equipment. We have received inquiries in my department relative to this issue. I'm sure similar inquiries have been received across the way. A number of the people who have approached us with respect to the issue, when they discussed it with us, were satisfied with the explanation and understood the process.

We even had one call from somebody who said, could you help me out? I'm told that you're altering the definition on the issue of machinery and equipment, and I'm reading your Act and I can't find anywhere in the Act where it says anything about machinery and equipment or any of the changes. Could you tell us what it is that's changing? We, of course, were able to say to them that there isn't any change, and the individual said that's what I thought was the situation when I read the Act.

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So I don't know where this smokescreen is coming from, Mr. Speaker, but it's not valid in our view. If we're able to continue to satisfactorily address the issue, then I think people will be assured that it is not our intention and the bill does not in any way affect the issue of machinery and equipment. If there is a need for greater certainty and clarity, then certainly we would want to address that issue, because we don't want people in the province to be going forward and being concerned about the impacts and there being question marks needlessly, in effect. So we will evaluate the situation and look at it very carefully.

Again, I want to say in defence of those who put forward the bill, because they were in fact challenged a little bit here this afternoon, they did not feel it was necessary to address that because Section 43(3) of the Assessment Act is in no way being altered; that is the reason that it was not brought forward. I want to point out to honourable members, Mr. Speaker, that failure to address this issue, if we fail to address the issue and if there was a successful appeal in the court system, then the municipalities which the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes is so concerned about would suddenly find that their revenue base has deteriorated very considerably. Properties which are currently assessable would all of a sudden have their values be diminished considerably, and that would be a real crime and that would be a real deterioration of the assessment base of municipalities within this province. So that is what the legislation is designed to address. I want to say that by bringing certainty and clarity, we will continue to ensure that this province is one of the best places to do business.

Now the honourable member - I can't resist this, Mr. Speaker - for Cape Breton The Lakes suggested that I should have a hearing aid. I'm fortunate that I do not yet require one, although my wife doesn't always agree, but I'm fortunate I do not yet require one, but one of the benefits of a hearing aid is you can turn it off. I want to thank honourable members for their participation and the suggestions that they have made and, certainly, if further clarity is required with respect to the legislation, we will ensure that it is addressed and clarity is brought to the situation. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 129. 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I ask for the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

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MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

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

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

Bill No. 105 - Elevators and Lifts Act.

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

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

Just before I recognize the honourable Deputy Government House Leader, there is an agreement there will not be a late debate this evening.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise and the hours for tomorrow will be 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., or until Government Business is finished. We will be doing some Public Bills for Third Reading, Private and Local Bills, Private Members' Bills and possibly some Committee of the Whole House on Bills as well. So I move that the House now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House rise until tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

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The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 5:00 p.m.]

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NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3796

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas fire has destroyed an historic landmark in downtown Yarmouth overnight where 60 people were employed; and

Whereas the fire began around 6:00 p.m., with Trask employee Jack Churchill first smelling smoke and calling 911 before ensuring approximately 12 people still working in the L.G. Trask Insurance Building got out safely; and

Whereas Yarmouth firefighters remained at the scene until approximately 4:00 a.m. this morning battling the stubborn blaze while keeping it from spreading elsewhere in the downtown core;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the efforts of L.G. Trask employee Jack Churchill for ensuring everyone got out of the building safely, as well as the work of the Yarmouth Fire Department for their rapid response and professionalism in keeping the fire contained to the one building.

RESOLUTION NO. 3797

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas Rose Valley Trucking and Excavating is a family business that originated in the early 1960s; and

Whereas on April 26th, Rose Valley Trucking and Excavating received honours for being one of the five safest places to work in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Jim and Ed Rose credit their employees for all their hard work and thank them for the way that they work;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the owners of Rose Valley Trucking and Excavating and their employees on the receipt of this prestigious award, and wish them luck in their future initiatives.