Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-110

Commemorating the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, 2002

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://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Strait Richmond Hosp.: Physicians - Full Time, Mr. M. Samson 10399
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3985, Philae Shriners: Philanthropic Work - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 10401
Vote - Affirmative 10401
Res. 3986, Cape Chignecto Prov. Pk. - Attractions Can. Awards:
Nomination - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 10401
Vote - Affirmative 10402
Res. 3987, SMU: Anniv. (200th) - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 10403
Vote - Affirmative 10403
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 135, Nature Reserves Protection Act, Mr. Robert Chisholm 10403
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3988, Save Medicare - Lib. Party Leader: Importance - Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 10404
Res. 3989, C.B. Reg. Hosp. Fdn.: Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 10404
Vote - Affirmative 10405
Res. 3990, Aberdeen Hosp. - Orthopaedic Wing: Importance -
Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 10405
Vote - Affirmative 10406
Res. 3991, Gov't. (N.S.): Minimum Wage - Raise, Mr. D. Dexter 10406
Res. 3992, Veinot, Djasinda: Skills Comp. - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 10407
Vote - Affirmative 10408
Res. 3993, Dart. Book Awards: Organizers/Nominees - Congrats.,
Mr. T. Olive 10408
Vote - Affirmative 10408
Res. 3994, New Waterford Credit Union - Safe Grad Prog.: Support -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 10408
Vote - Affirmative 10409
Res. 3995, Lantern Hill & Hollow Beachfront Cottages: Owners -
Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 10409
Vote - Affirmative 10410
Res. 3996, Anna. Valley Apple Blossom Fest. (70th): Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 10410
Vote - Affirmative 10411
Res. 3997, Showcase Concert (Exhibition Park): Band Students -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 10411
Vote - Affirmative 10411
Res. 3998, Gouthro, Vic/MacDonald, Vince: Retirement
(Sullivan JHS) - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 10412
Vote - Affirmative 10412
Res. 3999, Anna. Valley Apple Blossom Fest. (70th): Exec. Comm./
Volunteers/RC Mint - Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 10412
Vote - Affirmative 10413
Res. 4000, Reynold, Tracey/Snarby, Kristopher - Astor Theatre:
Benefit Concert - Thank, Mr. K. Morash 10414
Vote - Affirmative 10414
Res. 4001, Knockwood, Noel - Talking Circle: Planning - Thank,
Mr. J. Chataway 10414
Vote - Affirmative 10415
Res. 4002, Pictou Co. Search & Rescue: Work - Commend,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 10415
Vote - Affirmative 10416
Res. 4003, Gov't. (Can.): Parole Policy - Examine, Mr. B. Taylor 10416
Res. 4004, Digby Elem. Sch. - Science Fair: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 10418
Vote - Affirmative 10418
Res. 4005, Savage, Dr. John - SMU: Honorary Degree - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 10419
Vote - Affirmative 10419
Res. 4006, Soccer (N.S.) - Int'l. Match (Wolfville): Efforts -
Congrats., Hon. D. Morse 10419
Vote - Affirmative 10420
Res. 4007, Digby HS - Envirothon Team: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 10420
Vote - Affirmative 10421
Res. 4008, Crosby, Stuart/Hurlburt, Justin: HS Programming Comp. -
Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 10421
Vote - Affirmative 10422
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1119, Environ. & Lbr. - Anna. Valley Water Supply: At-Risk Users -
Protection, Mr. D. Dexter 10422
No. 1120, Educ. - CACE: Concerns - Address, Mr. M. Samson 10423
No. 1121, Environ. & Lbr. - Anna. Valley Water Supply: Agric. Study -
Release Time Frame, Mr. G. Steele 10425
No. 1122, Environ. & Lbr. - Ammonia Nitrate Spill (Coldbrook,
Kings Co.): Investigation - Confirm, Mr. R. MacKinnon 10426
No. 1123, Educ. - BLAC Report: Recommendations -
Implementation Details, Mr. K. Deveaux 10427
No. 1124, Educ. - Special Ed.: NSTU - Concerns Address,
Mr. M. Samson 10428
No. 1125, Conservative Party - Smoking Ban: Proponents -
Donation Policy, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 10430
No. 1126, Commun. Serv. - Family Violence Prog.: Redesign -
Details, Mr. D. Wilson 10431
No. 1127, Dep. Ministers - Pay Raises: Publicity - Lack Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 10432
No. 1128, Agric. & Fish. - Water Strategy: Delay - Explain,
Mr. D. Downe 10433
No. 1129, Civil Service - Aboriginal Representation: Level - Changes,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 10435
No. 1130, Sports - First Nations Communities: Recreation -
Lack Address, Mr. B. Boudreau 10436
No. 1131, Fin. - VLTs: Non-Profit Locations - Removal Justify,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 10438
No. 1132, Health - ER Physicians (C.B.): Payment - Details,
Mr. P. MacEwan 10439
No. 1133, Fin. - Personal Income Tax Credit: Reduction - Explain,
Mr. G. Steele 10441
No. 1134, Agric. & Fish. - Farming: Viability - Ensure, Mr. D. Downe 10442
No. 1135, Educ. - Macdonald: Sir John A., HS: Review Release -
Time Frame, Mr. W. Estabrooks 10444
No. 1136, Educ. - Macdonald, Sir John A., HS: Air Quality Assess. -
Report Release, Mr. M. Samson 10445
No. 1137, Agric. & Fish. - Farming Competitiveness - Plans,
Mr. J. MacDonell 10446
No. 1138, Tourism & Culture - Bluenose II: C.B. Visits - Limit Explain,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 10448
No. 1139, Educ. - French Immersion: Equity - Require, Mr. H. Epstein 10449
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 3898, Leg. - Free Votes: Importance - Realize, Mr. D. Dexter 10451
Mr. J. MacDonell 10451
Hon. J. Muir 10454
Mr. M. Parent 10456
Dr. J. Smith 10458
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 10462
Res. 3924, Educ. - Special Ed. Review Comm.: Recommendations -
Implement, Mr. D. Dexter 10465
Mr. W. Estabrooks 10465
Hon. J. Purves 10468
Mr. J. Carey 10470
Mr. M. Samson 10471
Mr. K. Deveaux 10474
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 10479
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 10479
Private and Local Bills Committee, Mrs. M. Baillie 10480
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Gov't. (Can.) - Bedford: Environ. Assess. Process - Change:
Hon. P. Christie 10481
Mr. H. Epstein 10483
Mr. R. MacKinnon 10486
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 23rd at 12:00 noon 10489
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 4009, Ship's Co. Theatre: Efforts - Congrats., The Speaker 10490

[Page 10399]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Bedford-Fall River:

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature request the federal government to recognize Bedford's unique sense of history and change the environmental assessment process to allow for more public involvement.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 1,406 residents from the Strait area, from communities such as Petit de Grat, Arichat, West Arichat, D'Escousse, Port Hastings, Framboise, St. Peters, Port Hawkesbury, Port Hastings, Troy, Havre Boucher, L'Ardoise, Chapel Island, River Bourgeois, Louisdale, Evanston, Creignish and Dundee.

10399

[Page 10400]

The prayer reads, "We the undersigned residents of the Strait area are hereby requesting that the Minister of Health take immediate action to provide full time physician coverage at the Strait Richmond Hospital, Evanston. Under the present conditions the lack of both weekday and weekend physician coverage has caused considerable concern for life threatening emergencies and an enormous inconvenience for all area residents."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature and I'm pleased to table this petition on behalf of the 1,406 residents.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, through you and to all members in the House, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you, in our gallery, Westville High School, OPP, Occupational Preparational Program. They are accompanied today by Bruce Moore, he's a teacher there; Troy Reid; Karen MacGregor; and Lindsay Hale. I would like to welcome all those students, if you would join me, please. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today in the west gallery we have a distinguished visitor from Whitney Pier in the Sydney area who is a valuable member of the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board. He's here with a number of people today attending the House. I would ask Phil Best to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, we welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 10401]

RESOLUTION NO. 3985

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

Whereas the Nobility of the Philae Shriners, on May 21, 2002, celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the first Shriner's Hospital; and

Whereas among the guests were Shriner's Kids - children who are being treated and adults who have been; and the Imperial Potentate of the Shrine of North America, Imperial Sir Kenneth W. Smith and his Lady Shirley; and

Whereas in 2001, the 1,200 Nobility of the Philae Shriners in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island supported 365 local children by providing $235,000 in travel costs as well as contributions to the operation of Shriners' Hospitals;

Therefore be it resolved that all members thank the Nobility of the Philae Shriners for their continuing philanthropic work on behalf of children who need specialized medical treatment and congratulate the Shriners on the 80th Anniversary of the founding of the first Shriners' Hospital for Children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3986

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

Whereas winners of the Attractions Canada Awards, a national contest that recognizes the merits and excellence of Canada's tourism sites and events, will be announced next week, on May 30th, in Edmonton, Alberta; and

[Page 10402]

Whereas Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, a 4,500 hectare natural environment park, is one of 113 attractions from across Canada nominated for an award, specifically in the natural outdoor site category; and

Whereas a national jury made up of five representatives in the tourism, media and business sectors will choose the winning attraction from all Canadian provinces and territories;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House offer our congratulations to the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Agency and the Cape Chignecto Management Board, which manages and operates Cape Chignecto Provincial Park on behalf of the province, for being Nova Scotia's successful nomination in the outdoor site category.

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 on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a great privilege to have an opportunity to introduce to members of the House guests in our gallery today from various African-Nova Scotian organizations around the province. I would like to introduce them by name, as well as by their organizations, and then have them stand to receive a welcome from the House.

With us today are Charles Sheppard with the Council for African-Canadian Education; Dwayne Provo with the Black Educators Association; Raymond Tynes, who is the African-Canadian school board member with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board; Brad Barton, who is with CACE as well and is a member of the Order of Canada; Bernadette Reid, who is a member of the Halifax Regional School Board; Dr. Eghan, who is a member of CACE; Dr. Henry Bishop, who is with the Black Cultural Centre; Phil Best, of course, who we have already met, from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board; Althea Tolliver, who I believe is with the Home for Coloured Children; Doug Sparks, who is the African-Canadian school board member on the Halifax Regional School Board; Carolyn Thomas, who is with the African United Baptist Association; and Delvina Bernard, who is

[Page 10403]

the Executive Director of CACE. So I would ask them all to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Standing Ovation)

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

The honourable Minister of Education on a ministerial resolution.

RESOLUTION NO. 3987

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

Whereas in 1923, Saint Mary's University and other Nova Scotia universities were tempted to merge with the offer of $1 million from the Carnegie Foundation; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas Pope Pius XI personally intervened, forbidding the Catholic universities to even discuss a merger; and

Whereas if $1 million in 1923 couldn't coax a merger out of these institutions, I'm sure there's no chance for government to do it today;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Saint Mary's on its 200th Anniversary and wish it many more successful years as an independent post-secondary institution.

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

Bill No. 135 - Entitled an Act to Enable the Establishment and Protection of Nature Reserves in Nova Scotia. (Mr. Robert Chisholm)

[Page 10404]

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3988

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have shown time and time again they overwhelmingly support a properly funded public health care system; and

Whereas the encroachment privatization poses by creating a two-tiered health care system strikes fear in the hearts of ordinary Nova Scotians who know this will mean lesser health care for them; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Liberal Leader claims his caucus supports the five principles of Medicare, but will not support the national Save Medicare postcard campaign being conducted by the Canadian Health Care Coalition and other groups;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Party Leader explain why a national campaign to preserve our health care system isn't as important to him as saving his federal Liberal colleagues the embarrassment of his caucus' criticism.

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 Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3989

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

[Page 10405]

Whereas the Cape Breton Hospital Foundation has raised nearly $700,000 to help expand the emergency room at the Sydney hospital; and

Whereas the money will be used to pay for renovations that increased the number of examination and treatment rooms by 30 per cent and doubled the size of the waiting area; and

Whereas built to accommodate 30,000 visits each year, the regional hospital's emergency room treats more than 47,000 people per year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation for raising $700,000 and realizing the importance of the emergency room at the Sydney hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members to the west gallery. We have a visitor today from the West, Vancouver, a person by the name of Rick Downie who is with the Ronald McDonald House group. He's in Halifax for a meeting. He happens to be married to a good Halifax girl who happens to be my first cousin. So that's Rick up there, if you will give him a big hand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3990

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: I, too, welcome our guests to the gallery. Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the orthopaedic wing opened earlier this year with the addition of two new orthopaedic surgeons going to work at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow; and

[Page 10406]

Whereas the orthopaedic wing at the Aberdeen is fitted with 11 beds; and

Whereas the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation has played an instrumental role in the opening by providing slightly more than $88,000 in orthopaedic equipment to be used in the new wing;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the importance of the Aberdeen's new orthopaedic wing, extend our best wishes to the team of health care professionals providing the necessary orthopaedic surgery for northern Nova Scotia, and thank the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation for its excellent work in making this new wing a reality.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3991

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 NDP caucus invited Nova Scotians to speak out and make a difference by telling Premier Hamm and the Conservative Government what positive steps people want the government to take; and

Whereas one such suggestion from the constituency of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour calls for the Premier to raise the minimum wage substantially because the more people have to spend, the better the economy, the lesser the poverty, crime and dependence on assistance; and

Whereas the Premier has told this House that he can listen and learn from Nova Scotians;

[Page 10407]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Conservative Government should listen to those who call upon them to raise the minimum wage substantially.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3992

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

Whereas Park View Education Centre student Djasinda Veinot will compete in the 8th Annual Canadian Skills Competition held May 30th to June 2nd; and

Whereas Ms. Veinot received a Gold Medal in the interview category at the 5th Annual Nova Scotia Skills Competition in Halifax held on April 12, 2002; and

Whereas Ms. Veinot is the sole representative from the South Shore joining more than 300 students from all 10 provinces and three territories participating in the competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Ms. Veinot and wish her all the best when she competes at the 8th Annual Canadian Skills Competition in Vancouver.

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 10408]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3993

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

Whereas the week of May 18th to May 25th is recognized as the Atlantic Book Week and Festival; and

Whereas in its 14th year, the Dartmouth Book Awards, part of the larger Atlantic Writing Awards, celebrates the best works of fiction and non-fiction that have a Nova Scotian flavour; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Book Awards will honour several writers from the four Atlantic Provinces and bring their published works to the forefront for the public to appreciate;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House wish the organizers of the Dartmouth Book Awards great success in their ceremony and congratulate all those nominated for these esteemed awards.

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. 3994

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

[Page 10409]

Whereas many high school classes will be graduating this coming June; and

Whereas an important element of these ceremonies is Safe Grad parties; and

Whereas the New Waterford Credit Union held an auction for the Breton Education Centre Safe Grad Program that raised over $6,800 for the school party;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the employees of the New Waterford Credit Union for the leadership they showed in spearheading the very worthwhile Safe Grad Program at the Breton Education Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3995

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

Whereas Lantern Hill and Hollow Beachfront Cottages is a new tourist facility scheduled to open next month; and

Whereas Ingonish's newest seaside cottages and guest home features six winterized housekeeping cottages and guest house; and

Whereas this facility received assistance from Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and the Government of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the owners of Lantern Hill and Hollow Beachfront Cottages in Ingonish, and wish them continued success in all future endeavours.

[Page 10410]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3996

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

Whereas the 70th Annual Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival officially begins next Thursday afternoon in Windsor, with the theme of this year's festival being, Our Neighbours - Near and Far; and

Whereas the Apple Blossom Festival continues to enjoy national and international recognition, having been chosen by the American Bus Association as one of the Top 100 Tourist Events in North America; and

Whereas this year's festival has a number of family events scheduled, including the crowning of Queen Annapolisa, the Grand Street Parade through beautiful downtown Kentville, which you are all invited to, next Saturday, and a concert at Acadia University Saturday evening featuring Jimmy Rankin, Bruce Guthro and the Ennis Sisters;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend the efforts and long hours put in by organizers at this year's 70th Apple Blossom Festival and wish the festival good times, good cheer and happy memories.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 10411]

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. 3997

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

Whereas music and band programs play an important and vital role in school curriculum across this province; and

Whereas band conductors, Mark Cuming of Brookside Junior High School, Craig Reiner of Ridgecliff Middle School, Susan Mantin of Herring Cove, and Jeffrey Stern and Tobias Beale of Tantallon organized the Western Area Showcase Concert held on May 16th; and

Whereas almost 500 band students admirably performed that evening for an overflow crowd at Exhibition Park;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate band students who participated in this year's Showcase Concert at Exhibition Park and extend thanks to all their teachers for their commitment and dedication.

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.

Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 10412]

RESOLUTION NO. 3998

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

Whereas in June, Principal Vic Gouthro and Vice-Principal Vince MacDonald will retire; and

Whereas Mr. Gouthro and Mr. MacDonald are administrators at Dr. T.L. Sullivan Junior High School in Florence; and

Whereas to mark this significant event, staff and students of the school have planned an open house to be held on May 30th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Mr. Gouthro and Mr. MacDonald on their retirement and recognize their invaluable contribution to our education system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3999

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival and the Royal Canadian Mint will officially unveil a 50 cent sterling silver coin commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the festival, during the opening ceremonies in Windsor on May 30th; and

[Page 10413]

Whereas Nova Scotia artist Bonnie Ross designed the festival coin, which is the fifth in a series of 13 being unveiled by the Mint over a period of three years celebrating Canadian festivals; and

Whereas the Apple Blossom Festival 50-cent coin depicts Queen Annapolisa and the Church of Evangeline in historic Grand Pre on one side and a contemporary image of Queen Elizabeth on the other;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly extend our warmest regards to the festival's executive committee and the thousands of volunteers who will make the 70th Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival another outstanding success, as well as to the Royal Canadian Mint for recognizing the Apple Blossom Festival to be a national tourism treasure that it really is. Too long.

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.

Have respect for those in a position of authority. (Laughter)

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I'm not rising to move a resolution, but I would like to introduce a guest we have in the gallery today, in the west gallery, Mr. Charles Sheppard, who is a constituent of mine and a senior official with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

AN HON. MEMBER: His address.

MR. MACEWAN: His address is 53 Fisher Street, I don't know his postal code. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the distinguished gentleman to the gallery today. He probably can expect some more mail as a result of his introduction.

[Page 10414]

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 4000

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

Whereas Old Time . . . New Beginnings, a concert featuring local vocalists Tracey Reynolds and Kristopher Snarby, was recently held at the Astor Theatre; and

Whereas despite their young age, Tracey and Kristopher are a well-known duo in Liverpool where they started entertaining audiences as children and have continued entertaining them over the past 15 years; and

Whereas these university students returned to the Liverpool stage to raise funds to help buy a new security system for the Astor Theatre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Tracey Reynolds and Kristopher Snarby for their concert in benefit of the Astor Theatre, the place where they and other performers had their start.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 4001

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

[Page 10415]

Whereas while Nova Scotia was still being settled, Mi'kmaq helped Acadians to survive by teaching them how to hunt, fish, prevent scurvy, make snowshoes and trade furs, and offered protection during the Acadian expulsion; and

Whereas teachers and friends from the South Shore shared Mi'kmaq and Acadian history through a talking circle in February, the first gathering of its kind held in the history of the 2004 South Shore Celebration Association Education Committee; and

Whereas Mr. Noel Knockwood, Captain Grand Council, and Sergeant-at-Arms for the Nova Scotia Legislature, conducted the talking circle and was presented with gifts from committee members;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Mr. Noel Knockwood and all those involved in the planning and coordination of the recent talking circle for their work to increase cultural understanding and history appreciation in their 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 Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery a constituent of mine, who is a school board member in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, Mr. Raymond Tynes. I would ask him to rise. I want to tell you, Paul, I think his address is 87 Ford Street. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4002

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

[Page 10416]

Whereas the Pictou County Search and Rescue Organization was founded in 1996; and

Whereas since the formation of the Pictou County Search and Rescue, the group, comprising of approximately 80 individuals at the present time, has actively participated in . . .

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

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. DEWOLFE: Whereas since the formation of the Pictou County Search and Rescue, the group, comprising of approximately 80 individuals at the present time, has actively participated in 19 search and rescue operations; and

Whereas Search Manager Gary MacKinnon recently explained in a media interview that "the fact that someone is supposed to be missing for 24 hours before officials are notified is just an ole movie fallacy, and if someone can't be found in two hours 911 should be contacted, and the police will in turn contact search and rescue to assist if needed";

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House commend the excellent work being done by the Pictou County Search and Rescue Organization and wish them continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 4003

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

[Page 10417]

Whereas a new book by Nova Scotia resident Michael Harris, entitled Con Game, shows Canada's prison system to be in a state of chaos, including facts from a November 1999 report by the National Parole Board which show 37 convicted killers paroled during a 24-hour period killed another 58 people after their release from prison; and (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, it is kind of obvious that the Liberal caucus supports this sort of thing.

Whereas the book is presently number 8 on The Globe and Mail's top 10 list of best selling non-fiction books in Canada; and

Whereas studies presently show Canadian criminals serving an average of just 32 per cent of their time before getting day parole, and only 39.8 per cent before getting parole; (Interruption)

Does the member for Cape Breton The Lakes want the floor?

MR. TAYLOR: Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly urge federal Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay and the federal government to carefully examine this serious situation (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will ask the honourable member to start over again. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Order, please. Order.

MR. TAYLOR: Whereas a new book by Nova Scotia resident Michael Harris, entitled Con Game, shows Canada's prison system to be in a state of chaos; and

Whereas the book is presently number 8 on The Globe and Mail's top 10 list of best selling non-fiction books in Canada; and

Whereas studies presently show Canadian criminals serving an average of just 32 per cent of their time before getting day parole and only 39.8 per cent before getting full parole;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly urge federal Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay and the federal government to carefully examine this serious situation and implement the measures necessary to increase public safety.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 10418]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 4004

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

Whereas on Thursday, May 16th, the Digby Elementary School held the 14th annual science fair; and

Whereas events such as this foster and encourage the development of critical thinking and problem-solving strategies; and

Whereas the winners this year were Katherine Theriault, first place; Jeffery Doucet, second place; and third place to Keshia Stevenson, Derek Taylor and Nick Weir;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the winners, applaud the efforts of all the participants and commend all the educators, parents and other family members who supported and encouraged this worthwhile endeavour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 10419]

RESOLUTION NO. 4005

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

Whereas former Premier Dr. John Savage will receive an honorary degree from Saint Mary's University during Spring Convocation ceremonies on May 24th; and

Whereas a native of Wales, John Savage emigrated to Dartmouth in 1967 and made a valuable contribution to the city as a physician, a community leader, Chairman of the Dartmouth School Board, and Mayor of Dartmouth; and

Whereas elected as Premier of Nova Scotia in 1993, Dr. Savage has been actively involved with numerous medical and social organizations, with his most recent works focusing on international projects in The Gambia, Africa and Chuvashia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Dr. John Savage, all other honorary degree recipients and the more than 1,000 students who will graduate from Saint Mary's University and wish them all continued success in all 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. 4006

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

Whereas Soccer Nova Scotia confirmed Friday that Nova Scotia will stage its first-ever international soccer match July 5th in Wolfville; and

[Page 10420]

Whereas the game will be a women's under 19 match between Canada and Mexico and will be part of a Maritime tour leading up to this age category's World Women's Championship later this summer in Western Canada; and

Whereas the game will be played at Acadia University, with the executive director of Soccer Nova Scotia anticipating a crowd of almost 2,000;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the efforts of Soccer Nova Scotia in their determined efforts to land such a prestigious game for our province and wish all volunteers, leading up to July 5th, the very best with their organizational plans to make this event an outstanding success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 4007

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

Whereas for the fourth time in five years the Digby High School Envirothon Team successfully led the province and as a result, will be taking part in the Canon International Envirothon in Amherst, Massachusetts, in July; and

Whereas the Envirothon is an international program that tests high school students' knowledge in five categories: forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife and current environmental issues; and

Whereas this team activity requires a tremendous level of commitment: including additional time after school study and extensive field trips; from the students as well as from the staff advisors;

[Page 10421]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the team: Jill Balser, Diane Kung, Nicole Oliver, Katherine Dugas, Erin Balser; and their advisors, Anne Littlewood and Greg Turner; for this accomplishment and wish them every success in the upcoming 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.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 4008

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

Whereas on May 3, 2002, Saint Mary's University hosted the annual High School Programming Competition; and

Whereas 24 teams representing 15 high schools across our province were given seven problems to solve using one of five computer programming languages; and

Whereas Stuart Crosby and Justin Hurlburt of Drumlin Heights Consolidated School were one of the only two teams able to solve all seven problems within the four hour period;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Stuart Crosby and Justin Hurlburt on their hard work and encourage them to continue their academic excellence.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 10422]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make one more introduction. Also, in the west gallery now, sitting with her father, is Tamara Tynes, a resident of Truro, a student at Saint Mary's University and who was, in 1998, the first Miss Black Canada. I would ask Tamara to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 2:41 p.m. and end at 4:11 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - ANNA. VALLEY WATER SUPPLY:

AT-RISK USERS - PROTECTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of the Water Task Force for the Department of Environment and Labour made some very troubling comments this morning at the Public Accounts Committee meeting. In answer to a question from the honourable member for Halifax Fairview about nitrate levels in certain parts of the Annapolis Valley water supply, Andrew Cameron said that pregnant women and children under the age of six months should be drinking an alternative water supply. So my question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is exactly what steps has your department taken to ensure that pregnant women and children under six months do not drink the water in the affected areas?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I was advised that this came up this morning. I understand that it's an interdepartmental effort and I would appreciate the opportunity, if the member opposite wants a specific answer, that if he would give me a little forewarning of the question, I will see that I get him the answer. (Interruptions)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is the Minister of Environment and Labour's job to know when people are being put at risk because of the water supply. The chairman of the Water Task Force said that Valley water tested above the acceptable level for nitrates. He said the problem was particularly bad in the Canning area where nitrate levels were 30 per

[Page 10423]

cent above acceptable levels. The minister's department has not made any formal announcement that we can find warning pregnant women or children to avoid Valley water. So I want to know from the minister if he knows exactly how extensive the problem is in the Valley and ask if he would table for this House a list of all of the areas where people should be informed of this problem?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would inform the member opposite that the steps that were taken, effective October 1, 2000, do provide certain protections. Anybody that's relying on a private well for public consumption, which is defined as at least 25 people, does have to periodically report on the contents of their water and we've got over 1,100 people registered thus far. We've gone into the second stage of this program. We are now going out and we're further casting our net to make sure that everybody is making the appropriate submissions to the department. With regard to the specifics about the nitrate levels, I will endeavour to get the member that information.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's startling that the Minister of Environment and Labour does not know about this problem. They issued a release in April 2001 about a similar problem in Bible Hill. That release said that drinking water with high nitrate levels may contribute to a serious condition known as blue baby syndrome. Why hasn't the minister's department issued a press release similar to the one that was issued for Bible Hill warning Valley residents of the dangers to pregnant women and young children?

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am familiar with what's going on in Bible Hill. There is a long history there with the high nitrates and it's adjacent to the Agricultural College and a former municipal landfill. With regards to the Valley, I did undertake to get the member that information and I will get him that information.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - CACE: CONCERNS - ADDRESS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today we heard from representatives of the Council on African Canadian Education, representatives from the different areas of this province and school board members. Clearly the message was that they are very frustrated by the Minister of Education's inaction in implementing the recommendations of the 1994 BLAC report on education. My question to the minister is, what plan does the minister have to address the serious concerns raised today by the Council on African Canadian Education?

[Page 10424]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, when the BLAC report was introduced, not to go into too much ancient history, it received all-Party support in this House and I know it still does have all-Party support. The issue this year, although we were able to provide higher funding for CACE and for our African Canadian Services Division, we were not able to give them the amount that they wanted. Nonetheless, we remain committed to the BLAC report.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the representatives of the Council on African Canadian Education feel that the needs of the African Canadian students in this province are not being addressed and that on many occasions opportunities are being lost. Nova Scotia can be proud of the accomplishments made by both the Acadian and Mi'kmaq communities in this province in the field of education. My first supplementary to the minister is, does the minister personally support the recommendations set out in the 1994 BLAC report on education and will she commit the necessary funding to implement them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, all Parties are committed and I personally am committed. The matter of funding is a matter of patience. There are many, many groups in this province that need more funding and both Parties opposite talk about children with special needs, for example, as one example, and there are many people who need more funding in education, in health and every other way. That will come with time and we must all be patient. This year is not a year for huge capital spending or spending in any area because we are building the future of the province, the first step, balancing the budget.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, being government in this province is all about priorities and it's quite clear that this government, the Minister of Finance and the Premier are certainly not committed to having education being a priority in this province. Today the Council on African Canadian Education announced with regret that they will commence legal action against the minister and this government for failure to address the concerns of the African Canadian population in Nova Scotia. This is similar to legal action which was taken by Acadian parents over school construction and, most recently, legal action now commenced by parents of the École Beaufort. My final supplementary to the minister is, why does this minister continue to force leaders of education in this province to focus their attention on lawsuits rather than the needs of the students that they represent?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is regretful how litigious our society has become, but we do believe in the BLAC report and not to get into too much ancient history, but the lawsuit against the government began prior to our being elected.

[Page 10425]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - ANNA. VALLEY WATER SUPPLY:

AGRIC. STUDY - RELEASE TIME FRAME

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Environment and Labour. You know the problem of nitrates in the Annapolis Valley water is not a new problem. It has been known since the 1960s and we heard this morning that studies have been done every decade since then. The most recent study was completed last year. A representative from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries indicated this morning that these most recent results show that nitrate levels are still above acceptable levels. My question for the Minister of Environment and Labour is, how long was the minister planning to sit on this information before he released it to the public?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, the Water Task Force is an interdepartmental effort that's being led by Agriculture and Fisheries. I think maybe it would be appropriate at this time to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to answer.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, this morning at the Public Accounts Committee meeting there was an official present from the Water Task Force from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. That individual was there on behalf of the water strategy for the agricultural community, not on behalf of the overall water strategy from the Department of Environment and Labour. He's chair of the committee for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that works with the water groups, with the federation and other farm organizations. He was doing the assessment of available water quality for agricultural purposes.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the issue here is that the people of the Annapolis Valley do not seem to have been informed by their government of a very serious problem. What is stunning to me is that it seems like the responsible ministers don't know about it either. When I asked Department of Agriculture and Fisheries representatives this morning which parts of the Annapolis Valley are most at risk, the answer I got, to paraphrase, was that the risk covers the whole Annapolis Valley, although the degree of risk varies from place to place. The highest risk, we were told, is in the Canning area, where the level of nitrates is 30 per cent over drinking water quality guidelines. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, what is the government's public health plan to deal with this very serious issue?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member asking the question. I would say that one of the things, clearly, that we've been advocating for some time, and expect to do more so with the release of the water strategy in the coming weeks, is that we are definitely encouraging private well owners, because this is what we're talking about, to do regular checks on their water. There are certain steps that every prudent homeowner should do with

[Page 10426]

their well water and, indeed, those steps have been taken. We are going to enhance those efforts with the release of the water strategy.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that the minister understands what we heard this morning. What we were told this morning was that pregnant women and infants under six months old in the Annapolis Valley should not drink the water. That's what we were told. This government spares no expense when it comes to spinning their political message. The Premier's office is full of people. There are more spin doctors there than real doctors. My final question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, will this government pull their spin doctors off their political spinning and develop a communications plan so that people of the Annapolis Valley know about this nitrate risk, and are told what to do about it?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, by virtue of bringing up the subject this morning and, indeed, here in Question Period, it does give us a chance to ask people who are on their own private wells to please go out, check your well water, confirm that it meets the acceptable limits. That is the prudent thing for any private well owner to do, and we certainly encourage them to do so. We will continue to encourage them to do so.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - AMMONIA NITRATE SPILL

(COLDBROOK, KINGS CO.): INVESTIGATION - CONFIRM

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Ammonia nitrate is used in the making of fertilizer, but can be incredibly dangerous. My question to the minister is, can the minister confirm that the Department of Environment and Labour is, at this time, investigating a spill of ammonia nitrate in Coldbrook, Kings County?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I have not been advised of that at this point in time. If the member has a specific concern that he wants me to investigate before Question Period, I would be happy to do so. I will certainly ask the department if this is the case. There are thousands of investigations that go on every day, it's not possible to be aware of each and every one of them.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this issue was reported to his department several days ago. I'm very concerned. Kingston, Aylesford and now Kentville, with its new water system, rely heavily on a vital groundwater source in this general area. My question to the minister is, can the minister confirm if this nearby water supply would be in jeopardy and certainly (Interruption) Well obviously he doesn't know about the issue, so you can't ask if other officials are aware of it. But given the severity of the situation, can he confirm that an ammonia nitrate spill in that area would have an impact on the water supply?

[Page 10427]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest it would be prudent to allow the inspectors to go out and view the situation and look forward to their comments back. Clearly, it would not be appropriate to venture an opinion until I hear back from the investigators.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this is really sad. I spoke with officials in his department this morning who confirmed there has been an ammonia nitrate spill. They are now testing to see what the impact is going to be on the water supply. We are concerned and we do not want another Walkerton here in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit to initiating a complete and open discussion with both industry and local residents with a view to preventing any such spills in the future?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I would suggest that any time there's a spill of any nature that creates an adverse effect on the environment that the procedures that led up to that spill are investigated and recommendations come out as a result.

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

EDUC. - BLAC REPORT: RECOMMENDATIONS -

IMPLEMENTATION DETAILS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. In 1994, the Black Learners Advisory Committee Report, also known as the BLAC report, was presented to the Department of Education. It made 46 recommendations to improve the quality of education for African-Nova Scotian students. Nothing was done, so in 2001, the African Nova Scotian education summit was held and they reviewed those 46 recommendations with regard to how much progress was made. So I want to ask the minister for the record, can she tell us how many of those 46 recommendations her government has implemented?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member opposite starts off with some wrong facts. To say that nothing was done is absolutely untrue. As a matter of fact, in 1996, a number of things were done by the then Liberal Government to help implement provisions of the BLAC report. We have some things here in Nova Scotia in the Education Department that no other province has. We have done a number of things. The most important thing we have done since coming to office is to provide for the election of African-Nova Scotian school board members, something that Party opposed when we first brought it up.

MR. DEVEAUX: My recollection was voting for that, Mr. Speaker. A budget can be important, but it's been eight years since these recommendations have been implemented and it's wearing thin. I will table a portion of the Education Summit Report in 2001 that notes areas that were found lacking. One of them addressed teacher training and cross-cultural anti-

[Page 10428]

racism areas. That's a fairly straightforward, effective, inexpensive means of addressing the need to improve quality of education for African-Nova Scotian students and yet this government is still not implemented it. So I want to ask the Minister of Education, why is she not even implementing the straightforward, effective and inexpensive recommendations to help improve the quality of education for African-Nova Scotian students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, one of the relatively straightforward, relatively inexpensive things that we are doing this year is that we do have a racial equity policy. The first one ever produced and we are putting $100,000 towards this implementation this year. That's one example of one of the things we are doing.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: CACE has been forced to take legal action in order to address the need to bring in these recommendations that the government at the time and her government said that they want to implement. This Minister of Education is going to waste taxpayers' dollars defending her government's lack of action in court instead of ensuring we're implementing the recommendations to help improve education for African-Nova Scotians. So I want to ask the Minister of Education on my last question, why does the Minister of Education force legal action instead of doing what is just?

MISS PURVES: Justice takes time. Some of the things we are doing take longer than what some people would like. Again, the New Democrats are saying spend, spend, spend and do it all with borrowed money and be damned with the consequences. So, we will continue to move forward with the recommendations of the BLAC report.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - SPECIAL ED.: NSTU - CONCERNS ADDRESS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: In 1996, the government created a special education policy that provided support for classroom teachers to assist special needs children. The policy is commonly referred to as the policy of inclusion where special needs children now make up part of the regular classroom structure. Recently we have learned that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union at its annual meeting unanimously intends to withdraw its support of this policy. Not because they do not believe in it, but because they don't feel that the resources, training and support are available to adequately assist teachers or students. My question to the Minister of Education is, what plan does the minister and her government have to address the concerns on special education which have been raised by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union?

[Page 10429]

HON. JANE PURVES: The concerns raised by the Teachers Union are valid. They are not new concerns. The department remains committed to the integration of students and I'm sure most teachers do too. We spent many, many millions of dollars on special education and as time goes on, we will spend more.

MR. SAMSON: What the Teachers Union is asking for is a comprehensive plan and a vision from this government. The minister herself, shortly after assuming her post, put together her own committee to study special education and the needs around this province. She has now had this report for some time. The Teachers Union, the parents, the students are waiting for her to take action. It's obvious that teachers and teaching assistants cannot do their jobs with the resources that they're currently provided with. It is out of pure frustration that they felt compelled to withdraw their support for the special education policy as it currently exists. My question to the minister again is, when is the minister going to meet with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and other stakeholders to discuss possible solutions that will see special needs students getting the resources and the time they need for a proper learning environment?

MISS PURVES: Staff and I and the Teachers Union and stakeholder groups meet with great frequency to discuss these issues. We are moving forward with a great many of the recommendations of that report. Most of them non-monetary because there are many non-monetary things we can do to improve the schooling of children with special needs. If anyone has ideas that should be discussed, they can come forward and we will discuss them and we will do what we can over time.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, back in 1999 the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia was full of ideas and full of solutions to every problem that we had in this province. This minister has had over 900 days to be able to implement their ideas and to be able to implement their solutions which, clearly, they have failed to do. Currently, special needs students are forced to attend school without the necessary resources and tools to become effective learners. Parents from throughout this province are continually raising concerns about the quality of education that their children are receiving. My final supplementary to the minister is when is this minister going to develop a workable plan that will allow special needs students to become effective learners in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, funding has gone up year over year. Money - resources, teachers, teacher assistants - has gone up year over year for children with special needs. The needs are great. We do need more money but I do not take the view of the member opposite that no children are being helped, that every classroom is in chaos and disaster. There are many children and parents who are being helped by the public education system and that will continue to be the case.

[Page 10430]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

CONSERVATIVE PARTY - SMOKING BAN:

PROPONENTS - DONATION POLICY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Acting Premier. The Acting Premier will remember the generous donations made to his Party by bar owners and to the Liberal Party by corner store owners during the debate about whether and where to have legal VLTs. Now a similar issue is before the House, the anti-smoking legislation. Will the Acting Premier please tell the House and Nova Scotians what steps have been taken to ensure that the Conservative Party will not reap a harvest of donations from those who oppose a total ban on smoking in public places?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think, within its history, the provincial PC Party has ever reaped a host of contributions. It's always been a matter of going out and doing the normal things to get contributions. I can assure the honourable member (Interruptions) Well, this is coming from a Party that has a tie to an organization that collects money from everybody and donates it to one Party. Certainly in the Conservative Party we don't endorse those kinds of fundraising activities.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, anyone who has wondered whether tobacco plays a role in Nova Scotia politics will find that in the last four years, nearly $40,000 was given to the Conservative and Liberal Parties by tobacco companies and their subsidiaries and officers. 2001 was a pretty good year for tobacco money, the best year, in fact, and the biggest beneficiaries of the tobacco donations were - guess who? The Conservative Government. Now why won't the government ensure that the Conservative Party returns any tobacco money it has received as this legislation was being drafted and any further donations from the tobacco interests?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that member is imputing motives and she should be thrown out of this House. (Interruptions)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: The Deputy Premier got one part of that right. I am imputing motives, Mr. Speaker. The tobacco industry is in a class all by itself, profiting handsomely from a deadly, addictive product and if the Conservatives won't even draw the line at the tobacco company, I can't wait to see what kind of fundraising they are going to do among the businesses that lobbied for a partial ban instead of a total ban. I want to know, why won't this government make it absolutely clear that its smoking policy is not subject to influence from the highest bidder? Why won't it return donations from those who want to profit at the expense of Nova Scotians' lives?

[Page 10431]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, they talk about gutter politics and I guess we are getting a display of that right now. This Party is not directed by any outside organization, whether it be a tobacco lobby or a lawyer lobby or anybody else, but I can't say that for this Party over here (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: To have the Federation of Labour, who is their largest contributor sitting at their caucus meetings, that I would suggest (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

COMMUN. SERV. - FAMILY VIOLENCE PROG.:

REDESIGN - DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. As a result of great public pressure, the Minister of Community Services slowed down the process of redesigning family violence programs. Despite government's position that the $890,000 reduction in funding was about redesign, last week a departmental spokesperson said that there is a requirement to proceed on efficiencies.

Mr. Speaker, you know and I know that redesign is about how best to deliver programs, but efficiencies is nothing more than a code for saving money. My question to the minister is, when is this minister going to come clean once and for all and tell us if the redesign process is all about how best to deliver programs or is it about saving money?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I indicated to the meeting that I had with the groups involved that the honourable member has asked me about before, we indicated to them it was about getting core programs, how we were going to do that, and we talked about doing it in the most effective manner.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will take from the minister's answer that what it's all about is about saving money and, as we all know, it's about saving money on the backs of vulnerable women and children in this province. In fact, there appears to be some concern over the fact that the minister wants to hurry this process along. At first he didn't bother to consult with any of the groups, but now he wants to meet with them right away in June. My next question for the minister is, could the minister please indicate whether he and his department are committed to having a meeting with representatives this coming June?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as we started talking about how we were going to have meetings with the group, they indicated that they had a number of things coming along. First, they had most of their general meetings coming in June and people were going to be on holidays. We indicated to them that we would start the planning process, but we would

[Page 10432]

probably not be meeting until later on in the summer as we started to move on into this process.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it was also revealed last week that the minister is concerned about the number of people who participate at these so-called redesigned meetings. Now, maybe the minister feels that if you eliminate representatives it will be easier to tell them that you're no longer going to fund them. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay on his final supplementary, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is, will the minister please verify whether there will be 30 representatives at the table when he begins his redesign process?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the number will be in terms of the people who indicate they want to be involved. We've had indications from other groups that they want to be involved. We've indicated to them they can. So we're going to allow them to be part of the process. Whether the number is 30 or it comes to be more than that, we want all the people involved as we go forth.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

DEP. MINISTERS - PAY RAISES: PUBLICITY - LACK EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again my question through you is for the Acting Premier. In April 2001 the government announced that it was giving its management staff a 3.8 per cent increase over two years. What the government did not announce is that it provided extra pay raises for its deputy ministers. This government handed its deputy ministers an average pay raise of more than $13,000 a year. Can the Acting Premier please explain why these generous salary increases for deputy ministers were hidden from Nova Scotians?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, not only was that $13,000 raise hidden from Nova Scotians, it was also hidden, I would suggest, from the government. I would like to know exactly what the honourable member is addressing. When did this so-called raise in pay take place, and was it given to all deputy ministers? I don't know about it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we have obtained some information through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act about this. The government's own news release suggests that 5 per cent over three years was a fair increase,

[Page 10433]

yet the deputy minister in charge of stonewalling paid negotiators with the Civil Service got a 14 per cent raise over two years. These raises were so generous that total pay for deputies went up, although Tory downsizing means there is one less deputy minister. Will the Acting Premier tell Nova Scotians how big a pay hike the government intends to give its deputy ministers this year?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will have to take that question under advisement. If the honourable member is referring to some particular deputy minister, I wonder if she could give me the name of that deputy minister. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, I'm not sure if you're reading from the document that you had received as a result of an FOI or if you are reading from a question you had prepared. If it was a document, I would ask you to table that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I did not read from a document, but I would be happy to table a copy of the response from Alison Scott to our freedom of information request. It is the people of Nova Scotia who are paying these salaries, and it is the people of Nova Scotia who will decide what's fair, yet one of the lucky winners, Alison Scott, won't even say when the most recent wages were granted. The government wants to hide the next set of raises from the folks who pick up the tab. My question is, why won't the Acting Premier make a commitment here and now that all pay increases to deputy ministers will be made public on a routine basis?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the raise in pay for this fiscal year for deputy ministers will be 2 per cent. I have no idea what the honourable member is speaking about, and I trust that she will table a document which gives some substance to her wild and woolly claims.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH. - WATER STRATEGY: DELAY - EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. There are over 530 farmers less in the Province of Nova Scotia today than just five or six years ago. Perhaps one of the largest factors has been the drought that we've seen over the last four or five years in the Province of Nova Scotia, and we are still absent of a water strategy. In March, 1999, the Department of Agriculture and Marketing issued its annual report which stated that the water strategy was finalized in co-operation with the Environment Department and other government agencies.

Today, this morning in the Public Accounts Committee, we find the Department of Environment and Labour had sat on a strategy for over two years, almost two and a half years to be exact, before finally the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries got frustrated and said

[Page 10434]

we're going to take it over within our own department, the chairman of which is the chairman of the independent water strategy. My question to the minister is, could the minister explain why it has taken him so long for him to finally, as Minister of Agriculture in the Province of Nova Scotia, take action on a water strategy - farmers in this province are going broke while they are not doing anything?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question, I guess there were two of them there. The first one is, yes, the number of farms is decreasing in Nova Scotia. I guess on the positive side, though, over the last five years of the study, there were 22.4 per cent more people employed in agriculture over those five years, and that's a very favourable situation compared to other provinces. I don't believe that the honourable member's comments reflect, certainly, what the presenter of the water strategy said this morning in regard to his dissertation there. But the water strategy is dealing with water available for agricultural purposes. Certainly, forming a task force within our department that's aligned with the overall strategy of the Department of Environment and Labour is extremely important to agriculture; that's why we're moving forward and that's why we're the lead on that segment of water quality involving agriculture.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries was not here this morning when his staff told members of our committee that exactly what I said was true. What the minister just said is false. This Tory Party promised in 1998 that they would develop a water strategy as part of their election campaign. Again, in 1999 they said, we will develop a water strategy for agriculture in the Province of Nova Scotia. The previous government announced a $20 million fund for drought relief. Again, this minister announces that program over and over again. Drought relief does not, however, take the place of a long-term water strategy for the province. Farmers are losing their farms. My question to the minister is, when can farmers expect this government to act and present a long-term water strategy to help save the family farms of Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: The honourable member is quite right. It was this government that actually put drought relief forward to farmers and made sure those payments were made and the amount of income going to farmers doubled under our administration instead of decreasing by 25 per cent under theirs.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this is a minister that eviscerated the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. He reannounced the $20 million that our administration announced for farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia and he sat idly by when the Minister of Environment and Labour did nothing on a water strategy for the farmers of Nova Scotia. He has the gall to stand up here being self-righteous. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

[Page 10435]

MR. DOWNE: My question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, why won't the minister immediately move to implement a water strategy that will help deal with the chronic drought problems and situations facing farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I guess the honourable member needs a refresher course. This is the government that contributed $500,000 to the AWARD program that generated the water strategy for the agricultural community for the last two years. This is the government that formed an interim water committee that has worked with the agriculture committee and the Department of Environment and Labour. We hosted a national water conference not even two weeks ago. We are the government that convinced the federal government to put PFRA money, $300,000 last year, on drought and support to farmers of Nova Scotia. I think he should examine how much they did. Zero.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable members will get their chance.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

CIVIL SERVICE - ABORIGINAL REPRESENTATION:

LEVEL - CHANGES

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs. We have raised the issue before in this House about diversity representation in the Civil Service. Yesterday the government held a media briefing to explain its demographics. The diversity manager tried to present the picture that the Tories are trying to improve the situation, but we're not sure. For example, there are only 34 Aboriginal people working within the Civil Service. That number has stayed virtually the same since 1999. In fact, as an example, there are 11 people currently working in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and only two of those employees are Aboriginal. I want to ask the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs would he advise this House what it is that he and his government is doing in order to try to change this level of representation in the Civil Service of the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. The honourable member would be likely aware of the fact that one of the things we've done in government is to try to encourage more Aboriginal Nova Scotians to join our Public Service. Mr. Speaker, we've done a lot of things to make our environment more welcoming to Aboriginal people. We've, for example, had meetings with people in our Public Service and members of the Aboriginal community to make them more sensitive to Aboriginal cultural issues. We continue to work with communities to encourage Aboriginal Nova Scotians to come forward and apply. Those are just some of the things that we're doing to ensure that our workforce is more diverse.

[Page 10436]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hear the minister and I heard the minister say such things before, but let me tell you about Franz Kesick. He works for the Native Council's Aboriginal People Training and Employment Commission and since 1997, he's been helping Aboriginal people in Nova Scotia find work. Over the last year the council has forwarded more than 200 resumés to the Public Service Commission of the Province of Nova Scotia and the clients that he finds rarely get a response. He has repeatedly requested meetings with the Public Service Commission, but he gets no response.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the minister why he and/or his officials will not meet with an individual who is so directly involved with the employment of Aboriginal people in Nova Scotia in order to discuss his ideas and to overcome the barriers that clearly exist for Aboriginal hiring in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that I will take his information under advisement and will discuss with departmental officials what things we can do to further enhance our initiatives towards hiring Aboriginal Nova Scotians, as indeed we've done many things towards other minority groups in Nova Scotia, which have advanced their interests.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say to the minister that I've heard platitudes in this House before and I'm not suggesting that what he just said were platitudes, but I've heard them before (Laughter) by ministers of the government of both Parties. What I want to say to the minister is that there is a specific example of an individual who is involved in Aboriginal hiring in the Province of Nova Scotia who has attempted, on more than one occasion, to make representation to the Public Service Commission and he has been rebuffed. I ask the minister to back up the words that he spoke moments ago by ensuring that his officials meet with Mr. Kesick and that some progress is made with respect to the representation of Aboriginal peoples in the Public Service of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member opposite that I will take the information he has provided under advisement and will discuss with officials to make sure that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we meet with people who are interested in advancing the interests of Aboriginal Nova Scotians. I would certainly think that it's quite possible that that will lead to the meeting the honourable member would like.

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

SPORTS - FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES:

RECREATION - LACK ADDRESS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: My question is to the Minister assigned the responsibility for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission. Children and youth in Nova Scotia's

[Page 10437]

First Nations communities are three to five times more likely to develop diabetes than those of the general Canadian population; Aboriginal children are also now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition that in the past occurred mainly in older people. Physical activity has proven to help reduce type 2 diabetes and obesity. Recreation is lacking in some First Nations communities. My question, Mr. Speaker, is, what has the minister done to address the lack of recreation options for children and youth in these communities?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Indeed, it is something that I am very familiar with, having worked in a First Nations community as a physical education teacher, and I take that very seriously; indeed in our physical activity strategy that will be recognized with respect to our First Nations communities. As one example, we will be providing support to North American Indigenous Games this coming year.

MR. BOUDREAU: My question again is to the minister responsible for sport and recreation. Mr. Speaker, children and youth of the First Nations communities drop out of school at a higher rate than the provincial average and also have an above-average rate of drug and alcohol use. Physical activity is proven to increase self-esteem and raise performance in school. My question is, does the minister have a plan that addresses these issues, and assists with physical inactivity of children and youth in First Nations communities?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, the member raises a very good question. Indeed the physical activity strategy, which will be coming forward, deals not only with our First Nations communities but all communities across this province. It is important that we counteract the inactivity levels which we are experiencing across this province. Indeed, the steps we have taken in regard to our consultation, where hundreds of Nova Scotians provided input, will be shown in the physical activity strategy put forward this Spring.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs. For the last 30 years this province has played a larger role in Aboriginal issues. My question to the minister is, what steps has the minister taken to seek federal government advice in dealing with physical inactivity and poor health of youth in First Nations communities?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the honourable member, the Government of Canada has, in many areas, the primary responsibility on reserves. The Government of Nova Scotia, as the honourable minister responsible for sport and recreation indicated, does many things to help Nova Scotians all over this province, including reserves,

[Page 10438]

to be active. We, in the Government of Nova Scotia, act within our sphere and the Government of Canada acts within their own sphere.

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

FIN. - VLTS: NON-PROFIT LOCATIONS - REMOVAL JUSTIFY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government is going ahead with its plan to move VLT machines from low-revenue areas to high-revenue locations, even though this move will surely break numerous Royal Canadian Legions across our province. These not-for-profit groups, like the one in Upper Musquodoboit, in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, say they can't even afford to lose $10 a week from their current operations. My question for the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation is, since you're obviously planning to balance the books on the backs of gamblers, how can you justify removing these machines from non-profit locations where they actually do some good?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the reallocation, the machines that are being replaced, currently, are being replaced due to the fact that most of them are eight to 10 years old, and there's a requirement to replace them. At the same time, there is a review of how many people have machines that are operating. In many instances, they are operating at levels which are considerably lower than should be expected.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government is offering annual top-ups for non-profit retailers who will lose a machine. I will table a letter from the Upper Musquodoboit Legion, showing the minister's solution is no solution at all, according to these legionnaires. The Upper Musquodoboit Legion says a top-up once a year will not help with weekly cash flow, and it could financially break Branch 147 of the Royal Canadian Legion. My question to the minister is, why won't you work with these non-profit groups to find a solution that will help them stay afloat?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, this is not an issue just for legions, it is regarding non-profit organizations. There has been a decision that when we looked at the reallocation - and the reason the allocation was done is that many non-profit organizations are only open for very short periods of time and as such the machines aren't being utilized. There are two series of procedures being followed: one for the non-profit organizations where there was a maximum of only one machine that will be removed; the other issue is that there have been some provisions given for revenue guarantees over the next five years that these facilities will not lose any revenues.

We did meet with the Legion Command and informed them that another option over and above that will be offered to non-profit organizations whereby they can make a choice as to whether or not they want to keep that revenue guarantee or whether or not they would

[Page 10439]

like to have a one-time payment of $6,000 if a machine is removed. I want to say that the fact of the matter is that will be the choice of the Legions, that is an offer that was not made to the profit sector. We appreciate the non-profit sector whether or not they are Legions or whether or not they are community organizations that are located throughout Nova Scotia.

MR. ESTABROOKS: That plan is not acceptable from what the Upper Musquodoboit Legion is saying. Non-profit groups need these revenues. Your government in the Summer of 1999 championed this cause from one end of the province to the other. In fact, I would wager that the good member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley led the charge in his community on this particular cause. Now, that member and this minister - you're betraying that promise that was made in the Summer of 1999. So my question to the minister is, why is your government failing to live up to the commitments it made to Legions across the province and causing this financial hardship with a plan that they find unacceptable?

MR. LEBLANC: I go back to the points that I said in my earlier response - many of these non-profit organizations are having very low usage. We are replacing machines with new, expensive machines and the fact of the matter is that we have listened to the fact that the non-profit organizations should be treated differently. The fact is that we appreciate our Legions and we appreciate our community groups throughout Nova Scotia. The members opposite say that we are not doing so, but the facts speak for themselves. We have put two different options to them and the fact of the matter is that there is a maximum that will be removed if they don't meet certain expectations. I want to say one thing on behalf of our government and on behalf of our caucus - we support the Legion movement throughout Nova Scotia and no government has done as many things as this government has done since we came to power in 1999.

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

HEALTH - ER PHYSICIANS (C.B.): PAYMENT - DETAILS

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: My question is for the Minister of Health, who I see sitting over there looking like he needs some stimulation. My question to the Minister of Health is, the Cape Breton District Health Authority recently announced that it has agreed to remunerate the physicians working in the emergency rooms of the Glace Bay Hospital and the Northside General Hospital at the same rate as those doctors working the emergency rooms of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney until September. As it stands now, the emergency room at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital is the only one within the Cape Breton District Health Authority where doctors will receive a lower remuneration. The difference being $71.82 per hour at New Waterford versus $110.32 an hour elsewhere - a difference of $40 an hour. My question to the minister is, has the status of the New Waterford hospital already been predetermined and is the reason that the New Waterford hospital emergency room doctors are receiving $40 an hour less as a rate of pay the result?

[Page 10440]

HON. JAMES MUIR: The rate of remuneration for emergency room physicians was part of the contractual negotiations between the Medical Society of Nova Scotia and the Department of Health. In the case of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, pending a review of their emergency room services, they did some top-up at both the Northside and Glace Bay. To be quite frank, the note that I have indicates that this arrangement is being continued as is the arrangement at the New Waterford hospital until - I could go on, Mr. Speaker, I won't, okay.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The questions and the answers are starting to get a bit long again. I ask the honourable members to shorten up their questions and the answers please in respect of other members. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova on your first supplementary.

MR. MACEWAN: I will keep my supplementary short. The New Waterford emergency room is the only one within the Cape Breton District Health Authority that has experienced an increase in patients during the year 2001. The hospital's emergency room served over 11,000 people last year and took care of over 22,000 patients. My question to the minister is, as the Minister of Health, is he prepared to ensure that after September, the people who access the emergency room in New Waterford will be able to do so regardless of what hour of the day or night it is?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is referring to something called the Murray report, which is a review of the emergency room services in the Cape Breton District Health Authority. There were 44 recommendations in that report and 35 of those recommendations have been accepted by the Medical Advisory Committee of the District Health Authority. The other nine recommendations are being considered over the summer and therefore any move to modify hours in any emergency department in that board has been put on hold at least until September.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary would be, when are the people of New Waterford finally going to know the fate of their emergency room at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital? When will they find out?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the recommendations of that report was that the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital, I believe, operates something like 16 hours a day as an urgent care centre, as opposed to an emergency centre. There is a difference between the two. However, the Medical Advisory Committee has requested more time to consider that recommendation and there will be no change pending the decision of the Medical Advisory Committee, at least until the end of the summer.

[Page 10441]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN. - PERSONAL INCOME TAX CREDIT: REDUCTION - EXPLAIN

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. I'm rising in this House to bring forward yet another example of how the actions of this government are impacting ordinary Nova Scotians. Our caucus office has been contacted by the son of an elderly woman who has been providing care in her home to her brother for over 16 years. Both of these people are quite elderly. After completing her income tax for 2001, the result was, for the first time in her very long life she's paying more provincial income tax than federal income tax. Will the Minister of Finance explain why he has reduced personal income tax credits so that this elderly Nova Scotian is paying more tax to that minister than she is paying to the federal minister in Ottawa?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that that is not true. He knows that we have not reduced tax credits to this lady, and I'm not sure who she is. The fact of the matter is that the federal government has increased their's substantially. What he is saying here today is that the NDP is in favour of giving tax relief to Nova Scotians. He's in favour of saying that we should be moving forward with a plan that we as a Conservative Party are saying, and today he is endorsing everything that we stand for as Conservatives and I want to thank him very much for doing that.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, that was one of the most self-serving, partisan answers I have heard to a serious issue in this House in quite a long time. This is just another heartbreaking example of how this minister is attempting to balance his budget in the wrong places. We know that that minister converted provincial income tax to deny Nova Scotians the full benefit of federal income reductions, because that's exactly what he has done. Will the minister explain why he values family caregiving efforts of Nova Scotians less than the federal government does?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I go back to the comments that I made in my first comment. The fact of the matter is that the member has not explained the facts, as usual. What he stated is that this lady or this gentleman is paying less because of the fact that the federal government has increased his deductions. In other words, they have given more tax back to Nova Scotians. He's very well aware that we, as a province, have stated that people will pay the same amount no matter who they are until such time as we balance the budget. By making the statement that he is today - and my comments were said tongue-in-cheek - the fact of the matter is that he is calling on us, as a government, to give tax relief because that's in essence what he is doing. He is using one example saying where we should be increasing the tax credits and giving tax credits to caregivers. So in essence the NDP is supporting the platform of tax relief. He can say it anyway he wants, that's what he is saying.

[Page 10442]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, here's the real issue. Because of the changes brought on by that minister, the tax system is now set up so that this elderly woman has a tax incentive to put her elderly brother into care at public expense. That's the issue. So my question to the minister is, when is the minister going to tackle the inequities in the tax system that he created to remove the incentive for people to look after their loved ones at home and put them in care at full public expense?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I go back to my first few answers. The member opposite is asking us to give tax relief. That is what is happening here today, so he is supporting the four-year platform commitment that we, as a Party, stated. He is also supporting the initiative that we said, that we would give caregivers in this province additional tax credits. For once in his life he stood in this House and supported the Progressive Conservative Party, and for that, I am in your debt.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH. - FARMING: VIABILITY - ENSURE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this morning at the Public Accounts Committee meeting we had representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries speak to us about some of the serious issues facing farmers with regard to the drought issue. I am so surprised at the fact that the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries were not briefed on the outcome of that meeting. You know, last week we heard that the number of farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia had dropped by approximately 12 per cent; some reasons they provide that the farm numbers have declined are because of low margins, the high cost of financing, the high cost of farming, the price cost squeeze of agriculture and, of course, the issue of the drought.

Besides the issue of water strategy, to the minister, could the minister make comments and what commitments can the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries make to the farmers of Nova Scotia to ensure that farming remains viable in the Province of Nova Scotia and that we don't go through another 12 per cent drop in the number of farmers in the next six years?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's question is a very good one and I think you have to frame it in the context of the nation. The decrease in Nova Scotia was equivalent to or on average the same as across the country. What we've seen though are a number of things happening; 68 per cent of the decrease was in farms with gross incomes of under $10,000. We have seen an increase in the number of farms, 1.3 per cent, with gross incomes over $250,000, and that's part of some of the centralization and growth in the industry. We've also seen higher profit levels. We've seen an increase over that period in gross farm income, rising from $384 million to $460 million during that time, and those are positive things for agriculture.

[Page 10443]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Instead of nurturing the farm industry of this province, this provincial government seems to be doing more to destroy the agricultural community in the Province of Nova Scotia. Beef farmers, in particular, are experiencing serious problems. Recently we heard proposed regulations with regard to the freezer beef industry, as we referred to it. Those regulations are causing grave concern to farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Beef producers throughout all Nova Scotia are worried. Recently rumours still abound that the beef killing line at the Hub plant in Moncton may close, leaving our producers and our beef producers without federal inspection.

My question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, what specific plans does the department have to address the problems facing the beef industry in the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, there's no question the beef industry has had a number of difficult challenges over the last number of years and certainly this government, unlike the previous government, has moved forward to support those producers. We've put in a new loan program, we've established a young farmers program, we've established a prime beef policy for marketing issues, and we continue to work with the private companies involved in marketing across this province to ensure that quality products go to the consumers in this province. We're the ones who are actually supporting the farmers. That administration had no support for them. (Interruptions)

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my colleague is asking me to say we need more farmers and not more bull. The reality is that beef farmers are experiencing some serious problems. The minister has been on tour for about a week and a half. Farmers are still facing financial crisis. They're still facing a lack of support from the minister's department. Now, with the huge U.S. subsidies being put in front of the farmers of Nova Scotia, the industry feels threatened. In light of the 12 per cent reduction in the number of farms in the Province of Nova Scotia . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, what are you doing as minister to help bring stability to the farm gate and the farm community throughout Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, there's no question farmers in this province face challenges. We have had drought four out of the last five years. This government has responded with a doubling of income support and agricultural development. Is that enough? We will have to wait to see what the future brings. Every available resource that this side of the House, this government can bring to support the farming community, we're doing it, unlike the members across the hall.

[Page 10444]

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

EDUC. - MACDONALD, SIR JOHN A., HS:

REVIEW RELEASE - TIME FRAME

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Education. The status of the empty Sir John A. Macdonald High School in the growing constituency of Timberlea-Prospect is a continuing concern for parents and students. I will table a press release from the Department of Education on the second status report of Sir John A. Macdonald High School. The release states that it's too early to draw conclusions on the condition of the building, but a final report and recommendations are to be expected in late April or early May.

My calendar and your calendar and the Minister of Education's calendar say it's May 22nd, and there has been no public announcement on what the results of the review at Sir John A. Macdonald High School are. My question to the Minister of Education is, could you tell the parents, the teachers and, most importantly, the students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School when they will know the fate of their school?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, obviously that press release got out without my editing it, because I always take time references out of press releases. I was told this morning that the report should be released some time this week, so that could mean next week but it does mean very soon.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the second report was very vague on the possibilities for the future of this grand old school, however, parents and students expect the Minister of Education to know what the report means for the school. They expect this government to have a plan for a variety of possibilities, depending on the outcome, or maybe I should say the outcomes. Could the minister tell the House what options the parents and students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School have for the future?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have not seen the final plan, but I understand that it will contain options for the students at Sir John A. Macdonald High School depending upon what the long-term plan is, whether it will be a renovation of one type, a renovation of another type, a new school or whatever. That report will be released. There will be some options outlined, and then there will have to be a joint decision of the school board, the Department of Education and probably the Cabinet.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, another delay, another excuse and more community frustration. I know the member for Chester-St. Margaret's shares in these concerns and what is fine however is that they continue to call us as MLAs and we however have no answers. What is not fine is the limbo that parents and students and teachers have to live with while the department sits on this report. I want to table a progress report that

[Page 10445]

refers to school cleanliness as a concern, citing the lack of equipment, the custodial (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Several members are calling to question the length of questions and answers. Well I can tell you that I have it all recorded and you're welcome to come and look at them anytime. You may want to look at yourselves before you question anybody else.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your patience on this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Final supplementary, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I will get to the question immediately, further to your direction. Could the minister tell this House how her government plans to deal with such basic issues as cleanliness and safety in school and the problems at Sir John A. Macdonald High School when her government continues to cut spending on education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have increased spending on education and the member opposite knows that. Everyone here knows that. Cleanliness and safety are basic to all schools. There were some issues at Sir John A. Macdonald High School. That's one of the reasons the students aren't there right now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - MACDONALD, SIR JOHN A., HS:

AIR QUALITY ASSESS. - REPORT RELEASE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on March 4th of this year, more than 1,100 students from Sir John A. Macdonald High School were forced to attend split-shift classes at C.P. Allen High School in Bedford because of air quality problems. On April 16th of this year, the Department of Education indicated that the final assessment report and recommendations with regard to the air quality at Sir John A. Macdonald High School would be completed in early May. Clearly, to date, no report has been released from the Department of Education. My question to the minister is, has the air quality assessment been completed at Sir John A. Macdonald High School and will she commit to releasing the report before the end of this week?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all the assessments have been completed and I was told by the deputy minister yesterday that it would be released by the end of the week. I don't see that any further disruptions will happen. So that is my commitment to this House this week.

[Page 10446]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the Minister of Education for that commitment and look forward to that report and I hope she may even table that in the House so that members can have easy access to it. As you are well aware, last night a public meeting was held where parents, students and teachers of C.P. Allen discussed the effects of split-shifts on students. Many fear that the split-shift will continue into the next school year and are very concerned about the impact that split-shifts is having on those students. My question to the minister is, will the Minister of Education commit to the parents, teachers and students as to when classes will resume at Sir John A. Macdonald High School?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, no. That is one thing I cannot do at this time because the report will have to be reviewed by parents, the school board and the department and the various options for Sir John A. Macdonald High School will have to be discussed. I do realize that split-shifting causes problems. It's a good temporary solution; it's not a good long-term solution.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the minister acknowledges that because attending classes on a split-shift basis has had a huge impact on the more than 2,000 students of Sir John A. Macdonald and C.P. Allen High Schools. The split-shift schedule has meant early mornings, long bus rides and no extracurricular activities and, in many cases, no part-time jobs for students of both schools. Clearly, no student in this province deserves this type of educational experience. My final supplementary to the minister is, will the minister commit to the students, the parents and the teachers of C.P. Allen and Sir John A. Macdonald High School that they will not be operating on a split-shift basis for the 2002-03 school year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I believe that one of the options for Sir John A. Macdonald might include some split-shifting for part of next year. That would not be the preferred solution, but I'm not prepared to commit at this time that that would not be part of the solution.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East. (Applause)

AGRIC. & FISH. - FARMING: COMPETITIVENESS - PLANS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank those members who took out membership cards for the New Democratic Party. (Laughter) My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. In just five years Nova Scotia has lost over 500 farms; that's an average of 100 farms per year. In order to safeguard food security, ensure a viable agricultural industry, and protect our rural communities, this government must introduce strategic plans that will help our farm community survive. This week the United States passed a farm bill that will see billions of dollars pumped into the agricultural sector there.

[Page 10447]

My question for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, in light of global subsidies, what strategic plans have you introduced to keep Nova Scotia competitive?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member poses a good question because certainly the U.S. farm bill has serious implications for Canadian agriculture as well as country of origin product labelling that they're intending. I've had some discussions with the federal minister and my provincial counterparts as to possible solutions, the analyses of those particular subsidies, because they're very targeted, is occurring now. As well, in the last week I've had a chance to talk to my counterparts from across the United States and Mexico. We've signed an agreement with Mexico to look at ways that we can collectively work on the American farm bill as well as country of origin.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't elaborate on what those ways were that he has come up with in his discussions with his counterparts in Mexico, and it's obvious that he didn't come up with any agreement with his counterparts in the United States. Both New Brunswick and Quebec have aggressive programs which encourage young farmers to start. This province claims to have a program to boost the number of young people entering the industry, but it's underfunded and it's unsuccessful. So my question for the minister, given the failure of current attempts to attract young people, how do you plan to stimulate the industry?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. Certainly the program in Nova Scotia is extremely successful. We've had over 70 participants I believe - that's an approximate number - take advantage of the young farmers' policy that we introduced and we supplied the New Brunswick Government with our information so they could model theirs on our program and we've always been an industry leader in promoting young people into agriculture. As well, we've doubled the amount of money going into agriculture development and income support in this province, which has not occurred in any other province to help boost the farm incomes and support our farm families in this province.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I know the industry cannot depend on handouts and if what the minister is saying is true, that if you attracted 70 young farmers to the industry, that means that the number of people who left the industry in this province is nearly 600 instead of 500. Nova Scotia is losing its distinct farming identity and this government is doing nothing. Farm gate receipts have increased, which is good, but the number of farmers has decreased. The supply manage sector is the most secure, which should tell the minister he should be trying to implement a system to secure the price for those other commodities. My question to the minister is, when will you introduce a plan to stimulate the Nova Scotia farming sector that considers competitive markets, sustainability, and the future.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the honourable member those are the tenets of the policies that are now in place. I would also like to inform the House that there has been, during this five-year period, as the member opposite acknowledged, a dramatic

[Page 10448]

increase in gross farm income as well as net farm income. As well, year-round employment in the farming industry is up by 22.4 per cent. The industry is moving ahead. It has difficulties, but it's an industry that works hard and it's an industry that Nova Scotians should be proud of.

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

TOURISM & CULTURE - BLUENOSE II: C.B. VISITS - LIMIT EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Bluenose II is a provincial icon owned by all the people of Nova Scotia and by the way, cherished by all the people of Nova Scotia. Between June 1st and September 30th, 2002, the Bluenose II has 17 scheduled stops in Nova Scotia - the only Cape Breton visit is in Baddeck. No visits planned this year, again, for Sydney, North Sydney, Louisbourg, Glace Bay and other points of interest in Cape Breton. Yes, and western Cape Breton as well. The people of Cape Breton, particularly the people that I know, want to see the Bluenose II at least once in a while. My question to the minister is, why is there only one stop in Cape Breton this summer for the Bluenose II?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The topic of the Bluenose II is one that we have been actively working on as a department over the last number of months and indeed, you will see it in the front of our Doers and Dreamers Guide this year. Also to that effect, the Bluenose II will spend more time here in Nova Scotia than it has in previous years - not only under this government but under the previous government as well. Indeed, they try to switch around the various ports of call that they visit each and every year, but I will certainly take the member's question under advisement and look into the situation.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that this is another slight on Cape Breton Island. The Bluenose II is going to make at least a half dozen trips down in the riding of the Minister of Justice. The Bluenose II has no problem finding its way down in that area of the province this summer. There's no home port for the Bluenose II, the people of Nova Scotia own the Bluenose II. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South on his first supplementary please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a provincial icon. My question once again to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, it isn't often that the Bluenose II has a chance to remain in Nova Scotia during the summer. I want to ask the minister specifically, did the Bluenose II Preservation Trust that operates the ship for the government consult the minister when determining its schedule for the summer and who makes the final decision?

[Page 10449]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Indeed, the schedule for the Bluenose II does come through the minister's office. I want to go back to something the member mentioned about Cape Breton Island. The fact is that this government created more jobs in Cape Breton, they did more paving in Cape Breton, they did more for the Island of Cape Breton than that bunch over there ever did, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, not only is that government not creating any jobs in Cape Breton, but they can't even send the Bluenose II down to Sydney Harbour or North Sydney Harbour or Louisbourg because there aren't any Tories there, except in North Sydney and I would hope that the member for Cape Breton North takes note of what I'm saying here today, that the Bluenose II will not be in North Sydney this summer in his riding. That's how much that minister and that government think about Cape Breton Island. My final supplementary to the minister, is the minister going to ensure that Bluenose II is going to make stops in Cape Breton Island other than the one that's now planned?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I think we hit a button there, Mr. Speaker. I know the member's getting a little bit red. I can see why, this government created more jobs in his own riding - that's what this government did. That's what this government did. This government has been more committed to the interests of Cape Breton Island than that member and that government ever were during their time in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EDUC. - FRENCH IMMERSION: EQUITY - REQUIRE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to actually ask a question instead of joining in the fight and it's addressed to the Minister of Education. Amazingly, on April 30th the minister defended the discriminatory treatment of French immersion students. She told this House, "The school boards . . . in order to keep the program going - sometimes move the program from school to school." Now, we know from the survey of parents at École Beaufort that was just released, moving the program kills it. Less than half those French immersion students will stay if the school board divides them among three or maybe more locations. Why won't the minister require equity in every situation where numbers warrant, so French immersion students also have a school to call their own from P to Grade 6?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, that's precisely what our committee studying French immersion is going to try to do, to put some, perhaps, added fairness into the system, because some of the children in French immersion are being moved too often. That's precisely what we are planning to act on.

MR. EPSTEIN: I would like to know why the minister signed a federal-provincial agreement to increase retention rates, when she obviously has no intention . . .

[Page 10450]

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place on a point of order. During Question Period the honourable Minister of Education indicated that members of the NDP caucus had opposed the establishment of African-Canadian school board seats. Either the minister's memory is quite selective or she was misrepresenting the facts. As the Education Critic, several years ago I introduced a Private Member's Bill, the sole purpose of which would be to establish African-Canadian school board seats in the Province of Nova Scotia, something that this caucus wholeheartedly supports. I felt it was important to state the facts in the situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I do realize the NDP caucus in the end did support the legislation. When it was first introduced, the Education Critic at the time was quoted in the Chronicle-Herald saying the idea smacks of tokenism. That was printed in The Chronicle-Herald on April 28, 2000. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order, it is a disagreement of facts between two very honourable members.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I stand on a point of personal privilege. Today the member for Lunenburg West threw a shot across the floor earlier that I did not care for farmers within my region or within the province, and I would like to just put on the record that this member has worked with his local dairy, the only independent dairy left in this province, Cook's Dairy. I work with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and his department to implement a new product for the Cook's Dairy, since I have been elected. We work with the Tri-County veterinarian service to make sure that the farmers had veterinary service in our region. I have worked with the Federation of Agriculture. I met with all the farmers in our region. Enron Don or Revlon Don or whatever his name is, from Lunenburg West, maybe . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. Order, please. One at a time. As Speaker I am to rule whether there is a prima facie case of breach of personal privilege, and it is my ruling there is not. The other thing that I would like to mention is that it appears that as of late honourable members are starting to use, again, members' individual names, and I would ask the honourable members to refer to other members by their constituency.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the only point of order that I was going to make - you cleared it up - was the fact that the member is not here, and if you are going to rule on a point of privilege, I would have liked to have heard what the member had

[Page 10451]

to say in regard to the point of privilege, but you've already ruled on it so it doesn't make any difference.

MR. SPEAKER: It was not a prima facie case of a breach of personal privilege.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 3898.

Res. No. 3898, Leg. - Free Votes: Importance - Realize - notice given May 15/02 -

(Mr. D. Dexter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise to speak to this resolution in the little time I have left. Resolution No. 3898, which was brought to this House by the interim Leader of the New Democratic Party, says:

[4:15 p.m.]

"Whereas on June 17, 1999, after he defeated the Liberal budget and hours before a general election, the now Premier declared that anti-tobacco legislation was a matter of conscience and a free vote for Conservative MLAs; and

Whereas the Premier campaigned with a platform commitment to free votes by his MLAs; and

Whereas Conservative MLAs have confirmed what the record shows, that the Premier has never again declared a free vote of his MLAs on a matter of conscience;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should realize that matters of conscience are important every day, not just on the eve of an election campaign."

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting issue for all members, I would say particularly interesting for the public. We hear more and more often, actually, when we're on the doorstep campaigning, that one of the things that the public is turned off about with regard to politicians is the idea that they're feeling that politicians have to toe the Party line. They would like to think that whoever they elect will at least speak on their behalf and raise issues

[Page 10452]

of concern for them and actually, if it means voting against a piece of legislation that the government is bringing forward or that the Party is bringing forward, that they would have the right to do that to represent their constituents in an open manner.

Mr. Speaker, there are jurisdictions actually where governments run that don't have the partisan system, the Party system that we do. I think of the Island of Guernsey and the Island of Jersey in the English Channel where actually the government is really run by committees, and members who are elected run against a number of other individuals, none of which is carrying the banner of any particular Party. Upon discussions with some of these individuals at one of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meetings that I went to in 1998 in Malta, I found this concept to be rather interesting. I was thinking that this sounds like something that actually could work, that members that were not tied to any particular Party could speak their views and actually maybe accomplish more than we can in this partisan system.

Over a number of days in discussions with a couple of these individuals who came from those jurisdictions, one of the questions I asked was how do you get information out to the public? One of these individuals said, my God man, we don't get information out to the public until we've done what we want to do. That is where they really lost my support. Certainly, the system we have here, although as adversarial as it may be, the Opposition does have a role to get the message out to the public, which we try to do, but that still doesn't address the concern that the public has about whether or not their MLA is truly working to the benefit or being a voice for the constituents that they represent.

The legislation that the Minister of Health has brought before this House regarding smoking or restriction of smoking is one that seems to have generated some discussion within the public. It certainly generated discussion within our caucus and from all news reports, it seems to have generated some discussion within the Tory caucus. Since I haven't breached the subject with members of the Tory caucus in any great way, but it certainly would appear that the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank has concerns about the present legislation. He thinks that there should be a 100 per cent ban in public places, which I would agree with him on. The question is whether or not that member will actually get to speak to that or propose an amendment to the legislation before this bill finally is, I would say, passed by this House.

In my short political career, from 1998, which I would say there certainly are a good number of members who entered this House at that same election in March 1998 and, from that time, we have seen individuals who stood up and voted against the caucus they belonged to. The first one was the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, not the present honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, and I did use the term honourable. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, from all indications, when that member voted against his caucus, it didn't stand him in good stead with his caucus. We certainly recognize that. But he certainly felt that he voted on a matter of conscience and that he represented the people because the

[Page 10453]

platform he campaigned on was not the platform that he felt was delivered or the support that was delivered by his Party and therefore he voted against it.

Now last year, we also saw a member vote his conscience. As a matter of fact, we saw two members vote their consciences last year. The honourable member for Kings West and the honourable member for Shelburne each voted on the same day on a piece of legislation and they voted against the rest of their caucus colleagues, but this was not a major piece of legislation. I think the Premier had no problem allowing those members to vote in that direction. Certainly, it didn't seem to cause any great reaction. But on Bill No. 68, when the honourable member for Shelburne voted his conscience on that, we recognize that the member is still in the same seat and there are no obvious bruises or abrasions or scars from that vote, but we certainly recognize that his voting against the government, against his caucus, on that bill didn't win him a lot of favours with the government side.

So the question of whether or not this actually sends a message to the public, a message that the public will listen to and want to encourage, is certainly one that I think we've heard more than once. The present issue of free votes in this House, certainly I know the members opposite will say, well, it's great for you to say that when you're in Opposition. Yes, if there's anything great about being in Opposition, then we will say it. But I want all members to realize that this piece of legislation on the smoking ban does not go far enough. I would say that the Premier has every obligation to live up to his word. No wonder the electorate is cynical about politicians. They paint us all with the same brush. Here is a case, purely in black and white, where the Premier has said one thing and done another after he has been elected and has not allowed the members of this caucus to have a free vote on this very important issue.

If he wants to take a step not only in improving the health of Nova Scotians, but also in restoring some faith of the electorate in the political system, then this would be a very good time for the Premier to allow a free vote on this piece of legislation, allow his members to represent their constituents and their consciences. This is also an issue where we even have municipalities that have drafted stronger bylaws than what's in this bill and it's actually going to work to water down their bylaws. They've already made this decision. They've made this commitment and I would say that the MLAs who represent the Kings County area particularly, they, I think, would be well advised to represent their constituents there who have already made this decision, vote against this piece of legislation and encourage the government to bring in tougher legislation. This would be an opportunity, I think, not only for the Premier, but for the Tory Government to restore some faith in the political process by allowing their members to actually represent their constituents and allowing for a free vote. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat.

[Page 10454]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have a few words about this resolution. First of all, it was interesting to hear the honourable member for Hants East, speaking on behalf of the New Democratic Party, indicate situations on this side of the House where people have indeed voted their conscience and I expect that that will occur again. On the other hand, I am rather distressed with the resolution because I don't think it has anything to do with free votes. It's simply the NDP way of trying to get their name in the paper about tobacco legislation. It would be very interesting for you, Mr. Speaker, to take a poll of the New Democratic Party. Yes, I'm sorry, I apologize for that, I can remember the former Leader of the Party standing up in the House and correcting somebody from the Liberal side on that type of statement. (Interruption) I can't remember.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation which has been proposed is very strong. It's going to significantly reduce the exposure to tobacco smoke and to smoking. It's part of a seven point strategy. All of the anti-smoking groups in the province have endorsed this strategy. The legislation is a key part of that strategy and I want to know if the NDP is going to vote against the strongest anti-tobacco legislation in Canada? That's what I want to know and I don't think they will because I don't think, when we get into the final stages of this thing and we call for a recorded vote, that the member for Hants East, nor the member for Halifax Needham, is going to want their name in that record book saying, no, people in Nova Scotia, I don't support anti-smoking legislation. I don't think that's going to happen and I don't think the member for Dartmouth East is going to stand up and say, no, Mr. Speaker, I want it recorded that I don't support anti-tobacco legislation. That's what I want to know and I don't think they will.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think they will and that's what this is all about. This is all about a piece of legislation which despite the fact that people will say it does not go far enough, you have another group saying it goes absolutely too far, everybody recognizes, particularly the anti-smoking groups, that it's a tremendous step forward and I see the member for Hants East nodding his head and he agrees with that. I think you have to understand, and we've been talking about this, it's a part of a seven part anti-tobacco strategy. You know the research indicates that the single strongest deterrent to smoking and encouraging people to discontinue the use of tobacco products is a price increase.

My colleague, the Minister of Finance - albeit no question, the last increase was with the co-operation of a number other provincial Finance Ministers - we have increased the price of tobacco by a considerable amount. A package of cigarettes now costs about $7 and I can tell you, if you go talk to the people who are tobacco retailers, they will tell you that for a good many of them, their sales are down and one of the major reasons that their sales are down is, you know, just take this Legislature, I mentioned this the other day, there have been three or four people in this Legislature who have stopped smoking and one of the reasons that

[Page 10455]

they have stopped, they've all indicated was, hey, I don't want to be paying $7 a pop for a pack of cigarettes, you know, in addition to the health issues, but that was there.

The legislation which we are introducing, Mr. Speaker, is a first for Nova Scotia. It's a first for Nova Scotia. There are only two other provinces in the country which have extensive smoke-free legislation and ours will certainly be as strong as any of the other two provinces. Under this new legislation smoking is going to be prohibited wherever there are children present and most workplaces in the province will provide 100 per cent protection from second-hand tobacco smoke. As a matter of fact, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, we've calculated, has about 2,000 business members, approximately 75 per cent of the members of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce will be smoke-free. That will be repeated right across the province. I want to see the members on the other side of the House stand up and have their name entered in the roll and say that they're going to vote against legislation that's going to make 97 per cent of the workplaces in this province smoke-free. (Interruptions) Absolutely. They're going to stand up and they're going to vote against that legislation.

[4:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: I will.

MR. MUIR: That's what I said. You know, this is all a political game, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, he couldn't care less about health, he couldn't care less about tobacco legislation, he couldn't care less about free votes - all he cares about is getting his name in the paper.(Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. Order, please. Jamie, your, Mr. Minister, sorry. I do apologize. When the Speaker calls for order, there's no light on until the Speaker gets some order. Order, please. Once again, order. The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, thank you, and I should add at this time, I intend to share my brief period with the member for Kings North. We have a provincial conference for addiction staff and we will have that to make sure that drug dependency staff are up to date on the most effective ways to treat nicotine addiction.

There is a school-based program called, No More Butts. We partnered with the district public health and addiction services in the development of this program called No More Butts. It's a school-based program in which teens receive special training and they also then work with other teens to help them quit smoking. It includes incentives and prizes, all have been suggested by youth. It's now being piloted in over 20 schools in the province and it's planned to roll it out in all schools in September.

[Page 10456]

We also, as part of our tobacco strategy - and as I say, I keep going on the tobacco strategy because the legislation is one part of that. There are seven elements in that strategy and they all have to work. A fourth element in that is community-based programs. Our government partnered in the coordination of the first ever Provincial Tobacco Conference and it was entitled Nova Scotia Communities Taking Action on Tobacco and it was held in Cornwallis in October 2001.

Both the Premier and I attended that conference along with over 200 delegates from across the province. It was extremely well received and I know that all members of the House saw the press reports from that conference and the message from not only the people in Nova Scotia, but from the national experts that came in to consult with Nova Scotians and to talk with them about tobacco-control strategies, all said what an effective conference it was.

I want to say just before sitting down, we also provided funding to the district health authorities for community-based tobacco control programming. There have been a number of DHAs that have used that funding to hire tobacco coordinators to develop, implement and evaluate tobacco strategies at the local level. I just want to say, this legislation, it may not be all that anybody wants, the issue is not free vote, the issue is, is this good legislation? Is this legislation going to provide a major step up in the fight against tobacco addiction and exposure to second-hand smoke in this province? The answer from everybody is yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the Minister of Health that this resolution is probably more meant to embarrass than to elucidate, to titillate rather than to teach, to provoke rather than to promote discussion. However, leaving that aside, I will take it seriously that the topic under discussion is the topic of parliamentary reform and the whole issue of whether free votes are part of parliamentary reform. So I will take it on face value for what it is, although I suspect that the honourable minister is absolutely correct in his analysis of it.

First, I want to look at this issue in terms of the wider context of parliamentary reform, because this is an issue that has been looked at and is very current in various news articles, amongst political pundits and within political Parties across Canada. It's an issue that affects all the political Parties, and it's an issue that affects all the provinces and both the federal and provincial regions as well. I found it very fascinating, when I had the opportunity to be at a parliamentary conference of parliamentarians on P.E.I., that all of us from the various political Parties, when we started to talk about these issues, found ourselves in that forum where we could be nonpartisan. We found ourselves very much in agreement about many of the issues and many of the concerns we had about the parliamentary system.

[Page 10457]

The federal Tories have just put out, in co-operation with the rump from the former Reform Party or Alliance Party that is now dissolved again, a very good paper on parliamentary reform at the federal level, calling for about seven different changes, and I think in that paper marrying together our representational form of democracy along with issues of parliamentary reform. One of the things we want to avoid, I think, is moving too far in the American model, which has some very serious drawbacks, and yet that's the model, because of television, because of the size of the United States, that we often see. Free votes moves in some direction to that model.

To mention another, this time a provincial government, at the provincial level that's looking very seriously at this, the Quebec Government has actually struck a Commission on Parliamentary Reform that's touring the province, and their mandate is to look at - I will table this if you want - proportional representation, an unelected Cabinet, and elections at predetermined times, so other issues besides free votes but all under this heading of parliamentary reform.

Then the B.C. Liberals have also made comments about this, holding open Cabinet meetings, fixed election dates, et cetera. They haven't yet done it, because it's a lot easier to see the problems in our present form of parliamentary democracy than to see the solutions. That's something I'm very cognizant of myself. In my role as a backbencher, and that's the limited perspective I speak out of, I can see some of the places where the shoe pinches, but it's very much harder to see solutions that would help solve the thing, because it can't be solved, and I think the honourable member for Hants East alluded to this in his comment about his view of the parliamentary system he was referring to. It can't be solved, really. You tinker with one little bit, it affects another little bit. It's really quite a big problem when you think about it, and I think the solutions are very big as well.

That's the wider focus that we're looking at, the whole issue of parliamentary reform, but on a narrower focus - I want to say this, I will probably get roundly booed for this by the Opposition - in terms of free votes, I have sat in this Legislature and I have not seen a member of the opposite Parties, the Official Opposition or the Third Party, I have not seen one of them ever vote in favour of a bill put forward by the government, even though I know oftentimes they think it's a good bill. One would think, as Opposition members, where they are not in government, it would be easier for them to do that than it would be for those of us who are in government, who are under the spotlight that way, and I've not seen it.

I find it somewhat ironic. Now, I have limited experience, since 1999. I have seen it in our Party. I have seen it with the two members mentioned before, on the pension issue. I have seen it with Bill No. 68. I, myself, at the Human Resources Committee (Interruptions) Same sex benefits, okay, thank you.

AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't vote for the bill.

[Page 10458]

MR. PARENT: I voted for the bill. Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: We did. We did.

MR. PARENT: You did, okay. He's giving me (Interruptions) I, myself, at a Human Resources Committee voted against the members of the government.

So, there have been instances here, but I guess the honourable member has been telling me there is a time when there were people who voted, but I haven't seen it. I can't remember seeing it. I find it somewhat ironic that the Parties on the other side of the House are calling for free votes when they don't sort of practice what they preach. That leads me back to the wider issue, that really . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to Resolution No. 3898, a matter of addressing free votes and matters of conscience that would lead members to the matter of voting in support of a bill or lack of support of a bill such as the smoke-free places legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I have some time and I will use that time trying to address the issues of the resolution, and not stray too far to the bill that is still before the House. During the 1999 provincial election campaign the Progressive Conservative platform promised that if elected the Party would give members of the Legislature greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents. The newly-elected Premier followed up on that pledge by saying that his members would be allowed to vote their conscience on matters that were appropriate.

That message came only days after they had won that election. My question is, what happened to that promise? It ended up on the stack of other promises that this government has shelved over the last 991 days. I say that because the Minister of Health is here today, and he continually looks back at the previous government. If he can't find something to blame the federal government for, he looks back at the previous government. I would remind that honourable minister that 991 days is a pretty good run, so I think it's time that he puts his little blue binders away and just gets on with it, look more to the future. We need that type of leadership in this province right now in health care.

Matters of wellness and health are of paramount importance. I think they have to be enunciated and they have to be spelled out, as to what they mean, because they mean different things to different people. People are getting a lot of information from the Internet, they're getting a lot of information from so-called health books, and all the vitamins and all

[Page 10459]

the complementary and alternative medicines. There is some value in all of those, but people also need to have the correct information. Anyway, I will come back to the matter at hand.

Mr. Speaker, we hear numbers from that side of the House, to the right of the Speaker, can't vote their conscience because it's the Premier who is deciding which issues are appropriate. I use that term that it is up to the Premier, but I'm not so sure. I'm sure he has a few close confidants here, whether they are on the front bench, whether it is the gentleman who pulled the chair out from underneath the Premier that day when he fell down while he was waiting for his back surgery, or not. I'm not sure who he trusts, but I think he has to look around him some days. I am sure he is more careful now than he used to be.

However, we will say, for our purposes here today, that the Premier makes these decisions as to how the vote will be a free vote, it will be an open vote, you will be able to vote your conscience or not. We hear that the members from that side of the House can't vote their conscience, because it's the Premier who is determining what issues are matters of conscience.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to ask the following question. What issue would be considered more appropriate, and one based on conscience, since it's the one that goes to the health of all constituents in Nova Scotia, than this smoke-free legislation that we have before the House at this time? Yet, only last week we heard what the government's position will be on the issue of free votes when at least one Progressive Conservative member stated: I choose not to say what's going on in caucus - that's probably pretty wise - all I can say is that there's certainly an implication there that government members are expected to support the legislation; in other words, to toe the Party line. This is nothing new, considering how this government treats the issue of free votes and contradicts their election platform policy.

Let's look at one recent example last year. Last year when the Progressive Conservative MLA for Shelburne voted against the Party bill, Bill No. 68, the government made sure to discipline him for even considering voting against the bill. That had the effect of undermining nurses' right to strike. That was a matter of conscience, I'm sure, for that member and many others. He chose to vote with his conscience. The government promised free votes, but that promise is now a broken promise as we speak.

Consider the blue book campaign platform: "Give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents;" This is from the Tory blue book. Consider that on July 30, 1999, Premier John Hamm tells reporters he will allow MLAs in the Conservative Government to vote their conscience on appropriate issues. Consider also that on November 14, 2000, the Tory MLAs for Shelburne and Kings West voted against the law granting common law status to same-sex couples. What does the Premier do? He says they voted with their conscience, he does not discipline them - at least openly that we know of. Almost one

[Page 10460]

year ago, June 1, 2001, again the MLAs for Shelburne and Kings West voted against a bill that grants tax and pension benefits to homosexual couples - again, neither is disciplined, at least openly.

Yet, something changed. Consider that on June 27, 2001 when the MLA for Shelburne votes against Bill No. 68, the Premier later stripped him of the additional $1,500 a year he held as chairman of the Community Services Committee. That was less quiet and more open. Then only last week, on May 14, 2002, Premier John Hamm stated: I think if you look back at the records of the House, there have been instances when government members did not vote with the rest of the caucus.

The record is clear that members have voted with their conscience and, in some cases, without discipline. So why is the Premier refusing to allow a free vote on one of the most important bills, probably the most important bill before the House this session?

The Premier recognizes the fact that the records of the House show that there have been instances when government members did not vote with the rest of their caucus. Would this government further recognize that there are bills of such importance where members are trying to be faithful to their conscience or possibly even their voters, that the only option for them is that they must be allowed to vote freely? If there is one bill before the House today where that allowance should be granted, it is the smoke-free places legislation.

I just wanted to check my time, Mr. Speaker; I think it's 4:56 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately six minutes.

DR. SMITH: We have one gentleman here wrestling with his conscience. You know when they come to check their conscience, they come over to the Liberal side. There are good vapours here, Mr. Speaker. When a bill such as the smoke-free places legislation causes so much discussion as this bill has done, it seems only fair that the government follow its own previously-stated policy and permit its members to vote as their conscience tells them.

I raise this, does Premier Hamm consider the proposed smoke-free legislation, which does not go far enough - we all know that on this side of the House and I'm sure many on the other side of the House recognize it as well, if they've heard the presentations at the Law Amendments Committee, it does not go far enough - to protect workers in this province, an appropriate matter upon which the Progressive Conservative members can vote according to their conscience? Does he not consider that this legislation would be the appropriate type of legislation to allow his members to vote as their conscience dictates?

[Page 10461]

No, you see, Mr. Speaker, for the Premier of this province this is considered a health issue, it's not a conscience issue. I suggest to you that in many cases the two are not mutually exclusive, and I strongly believe in this case they are not mutually exclusive, as the government wishes to present it to the members of the House at this time. It's possible that a member from that side of the House wants to vote against a bill because his or her conscience is telling them that this bill does not go far enough to address the health issues of smoking. It does not protect people in the workplace. It will cause a lot of expenses to businesses.

We've heard this. With municipalities able to override, and many enlightened communities such as Cape Breton, Kentville, Wolfville - the Cape Breton region, I mean to refer to specifically - they have brought in legislation that is futuristic and with phased-in time frames that are very manageable and not causing great expenses to those people. Many of them have marginal businesses, business that a few thousand dollars, $25,000, $40,000 or $50,000, for ventilation is going to be required when this bill comes into effect and it will mean the end of those businesses. There are people practically in tears here at the Law Amendments Committee pleading with the government not to do this middle of the road that's going to please no one, Mr. Speaker.

That's the issue and that's why it's a matter of conscience that the members over there have got to cut through that. You have a government that can't make the tough decision and they're going down the middle of the road and they're hurting everyone on all sides of the issue. They will have to answer to that later, Mr. Speaker.

So in this case the members are going on the Premier's pledge of allowing his members to vote their conscience. It's also possible that a member from that side of the House wants to vote against a bill because they've listened to some of these presentations, they've listened to their constituents, and see exactly how the health workers will still be compromised, a 50 per cent increase in cancer of the lung, people working in the food services, particularly in the bars and restaurants and taverns, with smoking. Workers will still be compromised. These people have told them that they believe that nothing more than a full ban and complete ban is necessary for the protection of all workers' health. In this case, it is not doing what the government said it would in its platform - give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents and allow them to vote their conscience.

Mr. Speaker, the two issues that the Premier thinks are separate are in fact in opposition to each other. They are one and the same, that he thinks are separate, are not. They are not opposed, they are not in opposition to each other, they are one and the same, the matter of health for all people in this province and the matter of conscience of the MLAs as to how they vote. In many cases, the reasons might be the conscience is saying that there is something wrong with this bill. It may not be easy to identify specifically. It doesn't go far enough for health reasons. It doesn't protect everyone's health. Nova Scotians are ready and they deserve a total ban on smoking in the workplace and in public places. In many cases,

[Page 10462]

the reason would be the voters are saying there is something wrong with this bill. So while it's niggling the MLAs, they're hearing it. The people, while they don't fully understand it yet, perhaps, they have a feeling there's something wrong with the legislation. You can hear it when you go.

This afternoon, I was over in a community where the Lieutenant-Governor's medals were presented to Grade 11 students, and people are mentioning it there. They know that there are still some workers whose health risks are not being addressed and they could be, very easily, and this Legislature here has the opportunity to do something about it. Mr. Speaker, this issue won't cause the government to fall, although we over here in the Third Party and the Official Opposition may hope that it would.

I think it will indirectly, but it's not a monetary bill, it's a health issue, and allowing members to vote according to their conscience will not bring the government down. In fact, there's a position of some of the government's own members. One of the members has strongly stated that if in this case if it were not a finance matter, members would be free to vote whichever way they want. What is more important here is that there are some issues where it doesn't come down to partisanship. In this case there is tri-partisan support for a 100 per cent ban on smoking in public places and workplaces. Smoking is a health issue and members from all Parties of the House see it that way. Their vote should follow to do the right thing, a perfect opportunity for this government to live up to its promises that more free votes would be allowed and that each MLA would be able to vote according to his or her own judgment or take into account constituents' concerns as presently before the House. Do the right thing, members of the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to rise in my place and speak to Resolution No. 3898. I want to start first by saying that I think the honourable member for Dartmouth East got it absolutely right in terms of the concerns that the member who brought this resolution to the floor, the Leader of the NDP, was expressing in this resolution, unlike the Minister of Health, who ignored the sentiments and the concerns that are raised in this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution is not principally about free votes and it's not principally about the anti-tobacco legislation before the House per se. It's a resolution that asks the question about the Premier. It asks the question about what, specifically, has changed in terms of the Premier's leadership of his Party between June 17, 1999, and the current time. Just to review the situation, let's be clear; on June 17, 1999, Premier John Hamm, who was then the Leader of the Third Party, very clearly indicated on record in Hansard that members of his caucus were free to vote their consciences on an anti-tobacco legislation measure that was on the floor of this House and brought by the former Liberal Government. In fact, members of the Tory caucus did vote their consciences and several members, including the

[Page 10463]

present Minister of Health, voted against the provisions in the Liberal Government bill to remove tobacco products from pharmacies. The Premier very clearly went on record saying it was a matter of conscience.

All we are asking, Mr. Speaker, is, what has changed? We now have another piece of legislation on the floor of this Legislature that deals with tobacco in terms of tobacco control, and all of a sudden the Premier is no longer prepared to tolerate matters of dissension in his own caucus and in the backbench of his Party. In fact, I was quite disappointed, when we were at the Law Amendments Committee, when a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus who is normally a member of the Law Amendments Committee wasn't there to bring forward the amendments that he has freely talked about out in the hallways that he would like to bring on the anti-tobacco legislation. This member of the PC caucus, like members of the Third Party and members of the NDP, feels that the current tobacco control legislation does not go far enough and that it, in fact, will throw the province into some degree of chaos when the bill comes into effect on January 1, 2003, because the minister hasn't made the provisions for proper enforcement, adequate enforcement.

[5:00 p.m.]

We already hear various business owners talking about ways they intend to challenge the legislation and find ways to get around the legislation. This would not be the situation we would find ourselves in if the government had the courage to go the route of a total ban where there would be a level playing field and everyone would be in the same situation and, therefore, the concerns that some people are going to be advantaged and other people not, would not have the same degree of effect.

So here we have a situation where not so long ago, in a very short period of time, we have the Leader of the current government who stated publicly that anti-tobacco legislation is a matter of conscience and a free vote would be allowed and suddenly this has changed. Mr. Speaker, this, I think, needs to be pointed out to the people in Nova Scotia. Additionally, we all know, we've seen the Tales From The Crypt, the Tory blue book, which had a section in there that talked about ways to improve government, making government accountable, where the promises to the electorate that this government took to the doorsteps of Nova Scotians said during its first mandate, a PC Government will "Give Members of the Legislature greater freedom to represent the views of the people they represent."

Mr. Speaker, we have not seen the maintenance of that commitment in terms of members of the government benches having an opportunity to do what they feel is the right thing to do and, in fact, what members of the public and members of the electorate in their own constituencies are encouraging members of the government Party to do.

[Page 10464]

Now, in asking what has changed, members of this caucus certainly are looking forward to watching this bill and participating in this bill as it comes back to the floor of the House and goes through Committee of the Whole House. We're hoping that this debate today will be a catalyst to encourage members of the government and the Premier, himself, to rethink the position that he's taken that there will not be a free vote in his caucus on this matter and to think about the kind of message that he is sending to Nova Scotians, having already established on the eve of the election in 1999, that anti-tobacco legislation indeed was a matter of conscience.

If the Premier isn't prepared to allow a free vote, then, Mr. Speaker, at the very least he needs to account for why the flip-flop. What has changed? Why was anti-tobacco legislation a matter of conscience for members of his Party and his caucus in 1999 on June 17th, hours before his caucus voted against the Liberal Budget, bringing that government down, an action that the Premier would have been fully aware was part of their plan for the day? Why has he changed his opinions and his position and the leadership he's providing to members of his Party now? Why is it that today anti-tobacco legislation doesn't represent the same compelling claim on people's conscience and matters of conscience.

Mr. Speaker, we 52 members of this Legislature are probably the most privileged Nova Scotians in this province. We have had the unique opportunity of going out publicly in a competitive process and representing our Parties and our platforms and our own personal history to people in our constituencies, who were the ultimate decision makers about who would come here to represent them. This is an incredible privilege and an honour and once we are here in this place, we are given the position of responsibility and trust to govern the Province of Nova Scotia and to try to make a difference in people's lives.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot imagine a greater honour or privilege. Imagine, we 52 people are here in this Legislature today with an opportunity to improve the health of Nova Scotians, and we can do this without adding any financial burden to our health care budgets. In fact, we have the unique possibility here, opportunity, of contributing to a reduction in health costs in the province, and we can do this by acting responsibly and courageously and by doing the right thing. I think that's the motivator for the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, who understands that he has an opportunity to make a difference. Perhaps this is the most significant and the only opportunity that he and many of us will have as the time that we have in this Legislature draws closer and closer to another election.

Mr. Speaker, what greater contribution can any member make but exercise our right and our responsibility on behalf of constituents in our province to improve the health status of Nova Scotians? For no other reason than that we should encourage the Premier, each and every one of us, to allow to hear from all government members on this bill, to have a free vote, and to go back to the position that the honourable Premier took on June 17, 1999, that anti-tobacco legislation is indeed a matter of conscience and a free vote for all Progressive Conservative MLAs should be allowed. I think that Nova Scotians are tired of seeing the flip-

[Page 10465]

flops from the Premier. They are tired of seeing the broken promises out of the Progressive Conservative blue book from the election and I think they're looking for some indication that this government is listening and trying to learn from its mistakes. Certainly shutting down members of its own caucus who want to express, not only out in the hallway, but here on the floor of the Legislature in debate and holding a free vote is a part of demonstrating to Nova Scotians that they are listening and that this is the appropriate thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, we have had some very limited indications that the Premier will tolerate dissension in his caucus. I think we've had one or two situations. We've had a situation where there was a vote against Bill No. 68, and the member, in fact, was disciplined by being removed from the Standing Committee on Community Services. The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank isn't in a similar situation so that he can be removed in that fashion from any particular office. I would encourage the Premier not to go back on his word.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 3924.

Res. No. 3924, Educ. - Special Ed. Review Comm.: Recommendations - Implement - notice given May 16/02 - (Mr. D. Dexter)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with much pleasure that I take time in the House today to discuss this important resolution. I think it's of some consequence that I enter into the record, exactly, the important clauses contained in this resolution on this very relevant issue of inclusion.

This Resolution No. 3924 was introduced by the Leader of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Darrell Dexter, and it says:

"Whereas the report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee, delivered in June 2001 at the request of the Minister of Education, has not been implemented; and

Whereas in failing to implement the report's recommendations, the minister has dashed the hopes of the parents of special needs children for a real policy of inclusion in our classrooms; and

Whereas the minister not only fails to fund the existing program adequately, but also allows measures which indicate a return to segregated special ed classrooms;"

[Page 10466]

And here is the important part, of course, Mr. Speaker, as you are aware.

"Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Minister of Education immediately implement the recommendations of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee for a fully funded, truly inclusive education system."

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, there is nothing more emotional than a school graduation. You know that, of course, as a parent and as an MLA who has attended school graduations throughout your constituency. I can tell you, when a young person with special needs comes across that stage - and all young people, of course, are special, I know - and has reached the graduation moment for them, it's a special moment not just for them but for the many other students who are present. Those other students who have shared that classroom experience with those young people have made a big investment in the full, inclusive education of that young person.

Mr. Speaker, I'm speaking here from experience. I want to make it clear that I have not always agreed with the Dutch Village crowd that runs the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. In fact, I know I'm on the record in this House, that the NSTU and the Dutch Village crowd is far removed at times from classrooms and, of course, staff rooms all across this province. This is not an endorsement of another union that's made a statement. This is an endorsement of the fact that there had to be a line drawn in the sand on this issue.

There has been enough of this flying by the seat of your pants way of dealing with inclusion. I have worked in schools where physical education teachers have had young people who have been included in the regular program, where they should be, and let's be clear on that, that is not the issue, the issue is, of course, that these young people benefit immeasurably from being in what's called the mainstream. They give of themselves, and it's a learning experience for all involved, especially those students in the class who are, perhaps, more fortunate than this other student or students who have been included in their program and in their classes.

A physical education teacher has said to me on a number of occasions, I'm really left there on my own. I don't have the training. I don't have the experience, and it's really flying by the seat of your pants. Now as well-intentioned as that teacher is, as professional as he is - and he is still a practising teacher in the system and a recognized, excellent teacher, but the experience that he has gained from working with these young people who have been brought into the inclusion program must be tapped upon because he has much to give to other teachers. However, that's the communication gap that exists now between the Department of Education and classroom teachers or, in this case, physical education, gymnasium teachers. You can't introduce new programs time and time again in the school systems of this province unless you're going to pony up the dollars.

[Page 10467]

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, systems work, whether it's in the education system or in private business, because there has to be an infusion of funds. I know that people and parents understand that teachers need the resources. They need the training. They need the expertise. They need the help, and that's a major concern for parents and teachers all across the system. Yes, it is a dramatic statement that the NSTU has made, but this issue doesn't just revolve around what happened this weekend when the NSTU made that decision, because what we are talking about here is another review and another report.

Now surely, Mr. Speaker, you know from your experience and I can share with mine, all we need is another study, another review and another report. Because the issue is obviously there when it comes to this important issue right in front of the teachers. The teachers know and the parents know. The issue is that the funding has to be put in place. It's an obvious problem. The problem results in the fact that you have so many demands put on you as a classroom teacher. Now, I know that this will not turn into a sob story for how hard-working teachers are because if anybody suffers, perhaps next to lawyers, from a bad rap - oh, they have two months off in the summer; they have March break, all those things. Well, I challenge anyone who has not been a teacher to go into a classroom as they are in the year 2002 and deal with the multiplicity of issues that you deal with in the school system these days.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it seems that schools are the panacea for social skills and the correction of social evils. Perhaps you knew that last night at the Halifax Regional Municipality, they want staff to look at - they're now going to introduce a volunteer component, so the school system is going to take that one on. I remember being one of - you had to be there for this moment - those teachers who had to take a lead role in sex education for Grade 10 students at Sackville High School. Let me tell you, that first day, when I went in there nervously and began to take the lead on an issue of real importance, what was the experience that I had? I was suddenly going to take on another one of the mandates that was given to me by the board at the time. I was to deal with sex education for Grade 10s.

Mr. Speaker, we get one issue after another dumped upon us, whether it's sex education or, of course, issues of consequence like inclusion. But where do the teachers get the advice, the assistance and the help? Those things don't magically happen. You have to have the resources. You have to have the materials. You have to have the training. There's the issue. Do we need another report? Do we need another review? Those are delay tactics, but the report is ready. The recommendations are there and the key thing is that this minister must act accordingly and respond to these recommendations. The last thing that's needed is another study in the Department of Education that's gathering dust.

[Page 10468]

Aside from my comment earlier about the Dutch Village Road Teachers Union, far removed from staff rooms, let me tell you, those people in the ivory tower in the Department of Education are even far more removed, from my experience with them, on a limited basis, I must admit. Yet, there are experts out there. Those experts are practising teachers. That phys ed teacher who has had the experience of working with students included in the mainstream program - I know that the good member for Inverness with his experience as a classroom teacher and as a physical education teacher - that's the sort of experience that other teachers want to have the opportunity to learn from. But freeing those teachers, making them available, making sure that they can share some of their success-oriented stories involving young people who have been included in the school system - those are where we need the extra dollars to make sure that we can assist these young people.

The self-esteem and the personal growth that results from having these young people included in the regular program, there is no question about the wonderful benefits of having these young people in the school system. However, it is a demand upon the classroom teacher. In a classroom of 35 students, note the number Minister of Education, 35 students. If you have two students in there with high needs, then you must have the assistance in the way of a teacher assistant, you must have the materials, because you're no longer in the days when we were in school, when you went in and there was one lesson, one class and you taught the middle. It doesn't work that way now, Mr. Speaker. The levels that are in that one class are all over the map. That is a challenge for teachers. Teachers want these young people in their classrooms. Teachers know the benefits of having these young people in their classrooms. But the teachers across this province want that minister to step up and implement the recommendations in this report, particularly when it comes to appropriate funding to assist in the inclusion program of young people in the public school system of Nova Scotia. Thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this, of course, is a very serious and emotional topic, as the member opposite has suggested. I would like to start off by talking a little bit about the philosophy of inclusion because it is not a new philosophy in terms of the decade, but it is a relatively new philosophy when you look at it through the 20th Century. One big defining moment in Canada for the philosophy of inclusion was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That has brought us many good things, many things that other people would say are not so good. Here in Nova Scotia, there were various changes to the Education Act, but up until 1991 the philosophy was more or less that, yes, children with some disabilities should be taught in the regular classroom, but it was still up to school boards and other authorities to decide whether or not a child could, in fact, be helped. So, there were ways to exclude many children from the system.

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What I have here has been referred to as the Special Education Policy Manual; it was produced in 1996. I would like to read and I will certainly table this document, I would like to read part of a statement of integration that was made in 1991 that really defined the philosophical change that was happening at that time. Part of that statement on integration says that the issue no longer is whether most students with exceptional needs should or should not be integrated, but what support is needed for integration to be successful. Implementing integration requires a profound change in thinking and operating for the education system. The philosophy of integration involves moral, ethical, social and pedagogical values and practices. The implementation process must be approached with sensitivity so that all involved, adults, including parents, teachers and the wider community, work together to prepare students for successful school experience. It must be acknowledged that the implementation of integration is a long-term process and one that will require planning and the most effective use of available fiscal and human resources.

That statement was made by the Honourable Ronald C. Giffin, Minister of Education at the time. Mr. Speaker, the government in 1996 under the Liberal Minister of Education at the time, John MacEachern, produced a very detailed policy document, the one that the NSTU said on the weekend they could no longer support. It goes into more detail about how the policy should be implemented. The funding for special ed has gone up and up since 1991. Right now our funding, as tracked again yesterday by my department, stands at about $77 million annually. I'm not saying that it's enough, but I'm saying that it is definitely a lot. It has gone up $20 million since 1997. There is a lot of money, time and effort going into the education of children with special needs all across Nova Scotia.

That being said, it remains a very difficult area because the demands keep growing. It is not just a Nova Scotia problem. Recently, in Alberta, the Education Minister there was quoted as saying inclusion isn't working. The minister did not mean that he meant to end integration. He meant there were problems in implementing inclusion even in a province as rich as Alberta. So it would be wrong for any of us here and people across Nova Scotia to think that this issue is ours alone. That being said, we do live here. Our government is responsible right now and what are we doing.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution talks about implementing immediately this report of a Special Education Implementation Review Committee, and I did ask for that report the previous year. It is probably the most comprehensive report done in any province. It is a very good report. There are, in this report, 34 recommendations, I believe - yes, 34 - and in the funding category there are four recommendations; four out of 34 deal directly with funding. Some others do, of course, necessitate funding, but of the four of 34, even one of those detailing the costing we've been able to do. No, Mr. Speaker, we have not been able to provide an immediate injection of $20 million into the system, but together with school boards and with the universities, we are working on 20 of those 34 recommendations. We have not closed the door to more funding, certainly not. In this current year that is very, very tight, but that does not mean we can't work on the other recommendations, and we are

[Page 10470]

working on the other recommendations. Many of those involve communication, redoing manuals, the use of language, more involvement of parents in the system, and these are things that we can do.

Mr. Speaker, there was another issue alluded to in the resolution that I find not exactly disturbing, but quite problematic, and it referred to some kind of desire for resegregation, in a way, in schools and in classrooms. Of the complaints that come to me as minister, there are two that stand out in their number, and one of them is parents dissatisfied with what the individual program plans for their kids, and they want the education system to do a better job. This happens with great frequency.

[5:30 p.m.]

The other is parents who wish their children could go to other educational institutions. They want tuition agreements to be able to send their children to specialized schools. Bridgeway Academy would be a good example. They don't want that simply because the public education system is failing them per se, they do it because they believe their children with learning disabilities have to be spending time with a different kind of teaching method than what we currently offer in the public school system. In most cases that is true.

Mr. Speaker, obviously, I'm not a teacher. There are many teachers in this Legislature who would know more about this than I. There are times when children do have to be in separate classrooms to learn some of the things they need, depending upon what their disorder is and/or their special need. I wouldn't want to exclude the use of learning centres and special classes, where that is what a parent wants or where that might be to a benefit of the child, because I wouldn't want children not to receive an education because of some philosophical principle that we must have inclusion at all costs.

It is a difficult area, but it's one we're working on. It's not one that everyone in the public agrees with, that everyone in the school system agrees with, it's the way our society is. We must do the best we can to help these children. We are doing the best with the available resources that we have. That's not to say we can't do better. We try every day to do better. There are thousands of people involved in trying to help these children, and we will continue to do so.

Mr. Speaker, if I have any time left, one of my colleagues would like to share that time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, just to follow up a little bit, I've had the privilege of starting my career as a teacher, and although it was not a long career I have had the privilege of teaching a variety of groups. Back when I started teaching, inclusion was not a specific program, but we did have, of course, a great diversity of students in school. Watching these

[Page 10471]

individuals - and that of course is what it's all about, for individuals to progress so that they can gain knowledge and to see success. Success is different for every individual. The privilege of seeing each person achieve is what really brings joy to teaching.

When we have inclusion, which is being discussed here today, we do see that there are difficulties, but we also see the positives that come out of this when we see students who learn to work with people of different abilities, and they get to understand better, the different people in their communities. If you've been in a classroom, you realize, over the period of a year as you teach the children, they become almost like a family unit. They care for each other. Naturally they have their squabbles, as families do. I think it's important that we continue to have this financed.

As my time is short, I would just like to say that as a past teacher, I know that teachers need training to do this. It is not possible for people to continue to do this type of thing without the ability to have the understanding. And it's not for everyone. Not every person can go into a classroom and work with people of different levels of ability. I would just (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Richmond implied to the Chair that the member for Kings West could entertain some of that member's time, so the member is giving you an additional two minutes.

MR. CAREY: I thank the member very much. I just wanted to get the point across that it takes a community to educate and raise children. It takes all people. We have volunteers who go into the classroom to help find the proper balance. I just want to make sure that people understand that every person who goes to university, who wants to teach school, their personality may not allow them to adapt to working with various levels of handicaps or people who have various difficulties. So we have to be very careful that we find a balance and I know that the minister has continued to try to provide funding and it's that balance that is so difficult. If money was not an issue, then certainly things might progress faster. However, it's not just a question of money, it's a question of having the proper people in place to do the job and to get programs in place to do the job. I'm pleased to see that the new technologies and the new equipment that's available is being used. I will just, at another time perhaps, have the opportunity to speak on this further. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure to rise today and speak on an important resolution, Resolution No. 3924 and I was pleased to hear the comments from the member for Kings West and I could see that he was running out of time and not being able to complete his thoughts, so I was pleased to give him an extra few minutes. I didn't know he was a teacher. I thought that his comments were certainly relevant and certainly contributing to the debate on this so I was wanting to give him time to finish

[Page 10472]

what he had to say. I'm sure he could have gone on at length had he been given much more time, but such is the case with the times we've been given here.

As the minister has admitted herself, special education is one of the greatest programs we have and probably the most challenging program that we have in our education system here in this province. The minister has certainly alluded to that in her comments and I'm sure she can appreciate that for all elected members of this House, we've all had to deal with the frustration of parents who have children in the special education program and how frustrated they have been in working to try to have more resources for their particular child. The frustrating thing is that, while we may try to use a type of cookie-cutter approach for the programs we offer to the majority of our students, the fact is that in special education you cannot use the cookie-cutter approach. Each child has their own individual special needs. We all know that as members.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it's been four years now that I've had the privilege of being a member of this House and after 1,300 files that I have in my office, I can tell you I've met a lot of parents who I believe are truly committed to the education of their children. I have to say, parents of special needs children are by far the ones that I feel in my own experience, have been those most committed to the education of their particular child. They have worked very hard, they continue to work hard, both with the teachers, with the administration of the schools, with the school boards, even with the department in some circumstances to try to have special programs and special initiatives put in place to address the needs of their particular child. I've had the privilege of working with them. We've achieved successes in some cases, but I have to tell you, unfortunately, there have not been as many successes as we would like.

Again, it comes down to what the minister has admitted herself, what her own review committee told her - it comes down to a need for more money. We have heard the minister and we have heard some of the members of Cabinet in Question Period numerous times saying that the Opposition was always asking them to spend more money and spend more money. In this case, the minister has admitted herself, the Minister of Education, that it is her own committee that she appointed, that she mandated, that came back and told her she would need to make a further investment of $20 million. It's not the Liberal caucus that said that. It's not the Opposition - her own committee said that.

The reality is, the minister has told us and she continues to defend the statements of the Minister of Finance in stating that there is no more money to be put into education. That being the case we can sit here and just continue to lament the problem and have the minister lament the problem or we can say to ourselves, what is plan B? The minister has continually said I can't get an extra $20 million, so we will have to accept that. Some of us may have our doubts that she can't get an extra $20 million if she really wished to lobby for the Department of Education and really wished to lobby the Minister of Finance and the Premier on this issue that that money could not be found; many of us have our doubts on that. But if

[Page 10473]

that is the case, and we are going to accept that as the reason, then it becomes what is plan B? That's a fair question: if the money is not there, we know what the problem is, what else are you going to do?

The unfortunate part is, Mr. Speaker, there is no plan B. So basically we are just going to continue with the frustration, continue to have to deal with parents who are upset at the fact that they do not feel that their child is getting the necessary resources or the necessary programs which they would like because the minister is telling us the only solution is money and I don't have money. That is not acceptable at all. We must have a plan B to be able to deal with this. The fact is, with all due respect to the minister, she has had over 900 days to come up with plan B. There is no plan B after 900 days. That is the frustrating part of this, because we will accept her argument that the program would mean an extra $20 million, she doesn't have $20 million and she's not about to get it anytime soon, basically is what she's inferring. The Minister of Finance is certainly not giving any indication that he plans on handing over $20 million to her anytime soon. So what else is she planning to do? Where else do we go? Is she asking us just to go back and to tell those parents, there's not enough money, they know they need more money, they can't find it, and, look, we're really sorry.

That's not responsible, Mr. Speaker, that's gotten old. We've had to tell that to our constituents for 900 days while the minister was trying to work out a plan, at least we thought she was working on a plan. After she got the post of Minister of Education she said she was going to put in a review committee, she wanted to have a second look at it and she wanted some concrete suggestions on how to improve the special education policy in this province. She's had the report since June of last year. We were under the belief the whole time that something was being done here, she was working on something. The sad part is, today, nothing has been done. The minister continues to stand today and say we need $20 million more and we don't have it, so shucks, I'm real sorry. That's not acceptable.

Is there more that can be done, like the honourable member for Kings West said about teachers, resources, training, environment, structures? There is no doubt about that. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, two of my sisters are teachers and my oldest sister is a special education teacher, at least that was her training, and she has done a lot of work as a resource teacher working with children with special needs, working with other children who have some learning difficulties. I know of some of the different things that she's tried to do, that she's brought from her own home to try to help these children.

One example I will give you is a few Christmas's ago I had bought for my two little nieces this kind of a little tent that opened up and looked like a little house. It had little windows and a little chimney, it had a little door to come in and a little mail slot. It was something you could put in a playroom and they just loved it. They thought it was the greatest thing and they played house in there and everything.

[Page 10474]

As with all the gifts that we give to children, after awhile the shine kind of wore off it and they weren't playing with it as much, but she was having a hard time convincing some of the children in her class, some of those with special needs and that, to read. They were very distracted, having a hard time concentrating and they just did not want to read the materials. So she decided one day to take that tent and bring it into her resource room and put it in the corner. Immediately, when the children came there, they wanted to go in the tent and the rule was that you could only go in the tent if you're going to read while you're in there. Well, Mr. Speaker, those children never read as much as what they were reading when they got in there. That was her own way of trying to find a resource, trying to find a tool that she could bring into to assist those students. I can tell you that I know that there are teachers throughout this province who do the same thing and do everything they can to try to assist their students with special needs, those who have learning disabilities or any other difficulties in the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, today, what the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has done is once again send the signal to the government that something needs to be done. Our position, my statement today as the Liberal Critic, is to tell the minister, your own report is telling you to put in $20 million - not the Liberal caucus, your own report that you commissioned. My point is that if you cannot get the $20 million that the report says is required, find a Plan B and find it immediately in working with teachers, the Teachers Union, parents, and school boards so that we can address the needs of our special-needs students in this province and continue to make them an integral part of the learning classroom, of the learning environment, and assist them in whatever way we can to make sure that they get a healthy, productive and effective education, which is what we are all here to work for, not only for special-needs children, but for all children throughout the Province of Nova Scotia.

In closing, I just want to thank the minister for intervention again. I'm pleased that the member for Kings West spoke on this and certainly gave his own experience and some of his thoughts on this very important debate.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to stand on this resolution and discuss for a little while not only special needs, not only inclusion, but this government's own report that it requested with regard to special needs. But I will start by just reading the resolution. I believe my colleague may have done it, but I will do it as well just for the record.

"Whereas the report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee, delivered in June 2001 at the request of the Minister of Education, has not been implemented; and

[Page 10475]

Whereas in failing to implement the report's recommendations, the minister has dashed the hopes of the parents of special needs children for a real policy of inclusion in our classrooms; and

Whereas the minister not only fails to fund the existing program adequately, but also allows measures which indicate a return to segregated special ed classrooms;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Minister of Education immediately implement the recommendations of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee for a fully funded, truly inclusive education system."

I'm going to talk a bit about the history, Mr. Speaker, just so people have an idea. Many may understand that when they were in school, there was always that special ed class; maybe, in some cases, even longer ago, they might have been in separate schools, but there was always that special ed class when I was in school. That was the class where the children who had intellectual or physical or mental disabilities were put in the hopes that, obviously, they would learn to some extent, but on the other hand there was never that combination or integration of the children with those disabilities with the children who were typical, I guess, for a lack of a better term. There was always that divide. There was always that bridge, and we all know how that resulted in discrimination, prejudice, a lack of understanding and the limiting of the role of those children with disabilities, the opportunities to become productive members of society, to have independent living, and to be able to live their lives to the fullest.

I wish I could say that it was an enlightened government policy that resulted in the people of Nova Scotia finally getting inclusion, but let's be candid; it wasn't. It was the constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms and the family whose son was named Luke Elwood. They went to court, I believe under Section 15 of the Charter and argued that their son was not getting a proper education. I talked to someone the other day who used to teach little Luke Elwood, and I guess he just graduated a couple of years ago from Cole Harbour High School. I'm not sure what he's doing now, but he has had a dramatic impact on the lives of many families and children in Nova Scotia.

Under that Charter challenge back in the late 1980s, I believe, Mr. Speaker - it might have been the early 1990s - his family argued that they had a constitutional right for their son, because of equality, to be taught in the same classroom as other children. It's about more than that. It's about more than integration versus segregation. It's about the fact that children with disabilities, whether they be intellectual, physical or mental, need to have the opportunity to learn in the classroom so that they will be given the same opportunities as others, the opportunity to learn to the best of their ability, because when they're in a special ed class, when they're in another class, they're not going to be given those opportunities.

[Page 10476]

They're always going to be treated as second-class citizens. That was the argument and I think it's a legitimate argument.

The courts in this province recognized it and the Province of Nova Scotia was forced to implement inclusion. So it wasn't an enlightened government policy; it was a court decision. Now, the problem was . . .

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, perhaps a clarification. I was around in the days of the Elwood case, and it was a very traumatic time in the school system. That particular issue between the family and school board was settled, basically on the steps of the courthouse. It never did reach legal decision.

MR. SPEAKER: That's not a point of order, but it was certainly a clarification of the facts for the House.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of the Minister of Health, with his background in education and his many years involved in the education system, I appreciate his clarification. I wasn't here then, I was in Toronto at the time, studying law.

I think it's important to recognize, though, that it took the pressure of that case in order to force government policy to change. As part of that change my understanding is, the government closed a lot of those schools they used to have for children with very high needs. The Children's Education Training Centre, I think there was in Dartmouth and I think there was in Truro as well, they were closed, with the promise that that money would be diverted into the education system to give that money towards those children and other children with disabilities an opportunity to be integrated into every classroom.

Mr. Speaker, over the last decade, there have been problems with this system and we see more recently that some have recognized what those problems are. The Teachers Union, most recently, on the weekend said the problem was a lack of funding. They don't have a problem with inclusion, but they believed in the last 10 years that it just has not been funded properly to enable it to work properly. As a result, in the classroom, it's affecting not only the children with disabilities but, again, for lack of a better term, the typical children as well.

Mr. Speaker, that has resulted in - a couple of years ago, through this debate, the Minister of Education herself said we need to review special education needs. She requested this committee, her own committee, she appointed it, she selected it, the Special Education Implementation Review Committee. That committee laid out recommendations. Now the one that most people know about is $20 million. It's about more than that, though, and the minister herself will say that.

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There are other recommendations that aren't necessarily about money, there are recommendations with regard to special training. We saw most recently with the issue in Digby. I don't know all the facts of that case, so I'm not going to get too much into that, but there are many teachers out there who will tell you that they are not given the training. I spoke to one, as I said, on Monday, who specifically noted that when he was teaching children with special needs, he was given a pamphlet but very little else to help him if a child came in with a new disability that he wasn't used to. Maybe he had taught children with Down's syndrome, but now this year, in September, he was going to teach a child with cerebral palsy, for example.

Mr. Speaker, in those circumstances, there was very little support, very little training that was given to allow him to understand the special needs of that individual. That's not only because the child had cerebral palsy but because of that child's version of cerebral palsy that that teacher needs that training. Yet that has been lacking. That may not cost $20 million. I don't know how much it would cost on an annual basis, but to be able to give that training, to be able to give that support, I would suggest would go a long way to ensuring inclusion could work.

I have town halls in my riding on an annual basis, three of them.

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

MR. DEVEAUX: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce some guests who have joined us in the gallery. They are here to join us for the six o'clock debate. It's an issue of great importance to the people of Bedford. I would like to introduce His Worship, Mayor Peter Kelly, Councillor Gary Hines, Councillor Len Goucher, Don Lowther and Gloria Lowther, Lem Murphy, Eleanor Murphy, Bob Kerr and Dorothy Giffin. They are here to join us for the late debate at six o'clock. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today, and hope you enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the problem is that with regard to special needs education, it's not all about funding as the minister is so quick to point out whenever she's asked, it is also about support and training for teachers. It's about giving teachers that training for individual students, it's about giving them training with regard to how to cope

[Page 10478]

in a classroom that has children with special needs and children who are typical. Let's be candid. It's not only intellectual or physical or mental disabilities, there are children with behavioural and learning disabilities as well, who are in those classrooms and the teachers could use a lot of assistance with regard to that as well.

It's also about having support, whether that be resource teachers, whether that be speech pathologists or speech therapists, whether that be EPAs, education program assistants, as they're called in some places, Mr. Speaker. It's about those things as well, to ensure that inclusion works. The problem is that it is working in some schools. Despite this government's lack of a vision with regard to special-needs education or education generally, in some schools it is working, mainly because of the efforts of administrators and teachers who want it to work because they believe in the system. They believe in inclusion and they want it to work and they take that extra effort to make it work. But it's the Minister of Education's role, it's this government's role with regard to education to not have a patchwork of inclusion around this province where some schools have learning centres where the children may spend almost all their time in the learning centre. Some schools may have moved back to special education classes for all I know. Some schools have 100 per cent inclusion.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that is not what we want, but unless this government has the vision and the strength and the leadership to promote inclusion, that is what we are getting. We have schools where the administrators are committed to inclusion and inclusion will work. If you're lucky enough to live in the catchment area of those schools and you have a child with special needs, then you will have the supports you need to ensure your child will have a first-class education. If you happen to live in a different part of the city or different part of the province or different part of that school board with a different administrator who may not be as committed, then you're in a situation and you may unfortunately not be able to get the support and the first-class education that you believe your child can get through inclusion. That is what this is about. This is about a government who is committed and has the vision to ensure that every school in Nova Scotia has a consistent policy, has the supports, has the resource teachers, has the training for in-class teachers to ensure it can be done.

I was starting off before the introduction to talk about a town hall that I had been in, Mr. Speaker, and in one of them someone said how can I ensure my children will get special-needs education if they have special needs, the education they deserve, the quality education that they have the right to? I remember one of the principals of one of the schools in my area who said it's about training our teachers. It's about giving them the support and the training to ensure that they can do the job. That's why we had what happened on the weekend with the Teachers Union. That's probably why we have situations like Digby, because we have teachers who aren't given the supports. It's clear that not only individual teachers, but, as an organization, teachers are frustrated. On the other hand, there are parents who are very frustrated as well, who are taking their children out of school because there are teachers and

[Page 10479]

there are administrators who are not committed to the inclusion. It all goes back to a Minister of Education and a government that has the vision, the fortitude, the leadership to make inclusion work in every classroom.

Without that vision, without that leadership, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to have sporadic success with regard to inclusion and examples of disasters that happen. Until this government is willing to recognize - I mean this is it's own report, a report that it requested, and I encourage it to implement it so that inclusion is 100 per cent across this province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for debate has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if I could have the concurrence of the House to revert back to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: 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. 108 - Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: 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 bills:

[Page 10480]

Bill No. 106 - Guardianship Act.

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

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable member for Pictou West.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 118 - Municipality of Inverness Supplementary Pension Contribution Act.

Bill No. 130 - Lunenburg Common Lands Act.

Bill No. 131 - Gray Grant Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business will be Committee of the Whole House on Bills and the first bill under consideration of Committee of the Whole House on Bills will be Bill No. 125, the Smoke-free Places Act. Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow until 8:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

MR. SPEAKER: We've reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Bedford-Fall River, the Minister of Community Services, who wishes to debate the matter:

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this legislature request the Federal government to recognize Bedford's unique sense of history and change the environmental assessment process to allow for more public involvement."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

GOV'T. (CAN.) - BEDFORD:

ENVIRON. ASSESS. PROCESS - CHANGE

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: I'm very pleased tonight to have the opportunity to speak on this motion and to represent the people of Bedford in this matter. It certainly is an honour to represent the people of Bedford-Fall River and as the people come together on certain issues, it's my pleasure to be able to bring that to the House.

The issue in front of us tonight is the concern of residents regarding the problem of infilling what is referred to as Moirs Pond. I think before we talk about that particular matter, I would like to just take a few minutes and talk about some of the reasons why people are concerned and some of the history surrounding Moirs Pond.

Now, as anybody who knows Bedford, knows that Bedford has been a stopping place since the 1500s and indeed, Bedford's history as it started in the 1700s came about because of its location where the river met Bedford Basin. You will perhaps be aware that a lot of people, Native Canadians came down the river and that is why Fort Sackville was located as it was next to the Sackville River located beside Bedford Basin. So, it was oriented towards the water in its very early days and people used it to travel back and forth to what is now known as the City of Halifax and that area.

In the mid-1800s, Bedford started to develop, there were people doing manufacturing, doing logging and other varieties of things were happening there. One of the unique things that was happening there in the southwest corner of Bedford Basin was a company called the Moir's Box and Chocolate Factory. That, as the members will remember, stayed there until

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the mid-1930s. That factory was put there and history in Bedford will show that there are a lot of times where logs were floated down the river and they accumulated in what's known as Moirs Pond for them to be able to be used in the manufacture of boxes.

Another unique part of that history shows that they developed a power system; prior to electricity they used water to generate power and then develop electricity. That power station is still there as we speak - it's a provincial heritage site. So, that site has been unique and been associated with the Town of Bedford for a long period of time. Indeed, as people will go to the historic museums and to Fort Sackville, they will see a record of the box factory there and Moirs Pond in the development of the community, either doing logs or people skating or doing a variety of things there.

Over the same period of time, Bedford was developing as a community. It was becoming, from a small sleepy seaside community where people came, to a community to where people chose to live. Indeed, the community of Bedford has a long history of citizens' involvement as they developed over the years. About 1935, Bedford residents decided they would have a fire commission; they wanted to be able to develop and get certain things and they wanted to be able to take some control of their community. So they developed a fire commission. Later in the 1950s, they developed a model called the service commission and people will remember those days when you were in the municipalities or in counties, that you had the option of being a village or you could get a service commission and you worked with the local government.

In the mid-1950s Bedford chose to follow that model of the service commission and that allowed them to regulate and acquire fire equipment, do sidewalks and do a variety of other things. Of course, as history tells us, Bedford moved on and then in the 1970s, through a variety of things, one issue surrounding the community at that time was the proposed landfill for the community. The residents organized to become a town and they did become a town in 1980 and became the first town that had been created at that time in the Province of Nova Scotia in 50 years. So the residents of Bedford over the years have demonstrated a great need to want to be involved in their community, to want to plan their community and to want to have the variety of controls that they have.

Of course, one of the major undertakings when they became a town was that that allowed them to then become involved in a planning strategy and that permitted them to develop planning strategies and long-term strategies. Of course, the town did that and over the period between 1980, when they became a town, through to 1996, they developed their planning strategy and what they wanted to do.

Recently, Mr. Speaker, one of the proponents has come along and indicated that they want to infill Moirs Pond. What you have to do if you want to infill a pond, because this particular location is in a tidal area and because this particular location has a fish habitat, then you're required to notify the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the federal

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Department of Fisheries and Oceans will take the application. You're required to put in an environmental impact assessment, and they will analyze it. They will then analyze it and determine whether what you have proposed is good or bad for that particular area.

The other thing they do, Mr. Speaker, is if you're going to interfere with fish habitat, then you're required to replace two times the fish habitat that you are removing. Now, the citizens of Bedford have wanted to have an opportunity to speak on this issue and they've met at two community meetings. We have had meetings with the Minister of Fisheries, to the point being that the residents would like the opportunity to be heard and I would like to table here this evening a petition of 4,300 names from the community along with their newsletter which indicates their great concern. What they're calling on is the federal government, the Government of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional Municipality to ensure the infilling of Moirs Pond does not happen now or in the future. I will table those.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'm not quite clear whether during a resolution debate that it's actually the proper time to table the petition. I may ask the honourable member to maybe save it for tomorrow and table it during the tabling of petitions.

MR. CHRISTIE: Fine, I will do that. The issue, Mr. Speaker, is that the people in the community, what they want is an opportunity to be heard on this issue and they've been told by the Department of Fisheries that the department does not allow people to look at the proponent's application. The proponent puts in the application, but then you're not allowed to have a look to see what that is and speak to it. That's the frustration that the people in the community are experiencing. They have shown over the years that they certainly want to look at various things and how these are going to develop, but they do want to have the opportunity to make presentations and speak.

As I have indicated, they've had several community meetings where they've tried to meet with federal officials. They have gone to HRM and asked HRM to intervene and to take a position on this and they're now coming to the House today to express their concerns here and they hope to go to the federal House. So, Mr. Speaker, that is what the issue is today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I should say immediately that if I understand the issue correctly, then I don't find myself in any significant disagreement with how the minister has framed his problem. It seems to me that there's probably a positive obligation on the part of those branches of the federal government dealing with this application to make available to all the interested citizens, residents, citizens of HRM, residents of Bedford, all the information that they have that's pertinent to this application, and I can't understand why this is not happening.

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I do, however, think that the issue is a little broader than we've understood the minister to explain it, and I will say in just a moment why I take that view. But let me just observe, with respect to the federal environmental assessment process, that my understanding is that there is an obligation on the federal Environmental Assessment Agency to make available to people documents that are filed that pertain to the assessment that is undertaken with respect to any such project. My recollection is that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Section 55, requires that the agency maintain what's called a registry, a public registry, and the public registry is supposed to have on it all the documents that are relevant to any particular application.

Now it may be that I haven't understood what stage the process has reached, it may be that those who are listening here, who are more intimately involved in the process, may be able to suggest some reason why it is that this portion of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is not being followed, but it's a puzzle to me. In fact the Canadian Environment Assessment Act is very clear, both in its preamble and in Section 4, its stated purpose, that one of the purposes of that Act is to facilitate public participation in the environmental assessment process. That's why, as I said, Section 55 was set up, this public registry was set up, to manifest that purpose.

I don't know if it's a question of some branch of the federal government not following what it ought to follow or whether the right question hasn't been asked, I'm not sure, but I would like to make a suggestion to the honourable minister and to those who are here watching that they might pursue this very specifically with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, why it is that these documents aren't showing up under the public review. That said, I want to say that clearly I'm trying to be helpful here because I believe that indeed the public process that is so intimate to environmental assessment is one that should be respected, and access to information is a necessary precursor to proper, effective, informed public participation in something like an environmental assessment.

So far as dealing with that particular issue, I have to say I think the minister has it entirely correctly. I can't understand why it is that the federal agencies involved here are not complying. There may be some technical reason why they're attempting to avoid making the documents available, but it may be a question of having the lawyers try and sort that out, or lawyers in consultation with bureaucrats.

That said, let me observe something that I think is even more important about what we're seeing here today. Look at what we're seeing here today - we have a provincial Cabinet Minister accompanied by the mayor of our main municipality - our capital city, our capital regional municipality, HRM - the local municipal councillor and other citizens, and tabling a 4,000-signature petition in support of their position; a provincial Cabinet Minister is standing up and saying that he is having trouble getting access to information from the federal government with respect to an environmental assessment and an environmental issue in his community. That's completely appalling. How can that be? You know the lesson here?

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The lesson surely has to be that there is no good reason for those who are possessed of the information to hold it back. If they have a good reason, let them try to say what it is.

But I hope that this encounter with a situation of powerlessness vis-à-vis a government or its employees in possession of information suggests certain lines of thought to that minister and his colleagues. I hope that having found themselves in this position of relative powerlessness vis-à-vis those who have information is something that he remembers when he comes to consider the access by general citizens who don't have his power and position and prestige in society. It's amazing, and I hope it's amazing to the minister, that he has to come here to the floor of the Legislature in order to complain that he can't get some documents he wants from the federal government. What a phenomenal and amazing thing. This should not be, and it should not be not just for a Cabinet Minister and for prominent people like the mayor of HRM and his colleagues; it should not be for any citizen, no matter where placed, no matter what their circumstances, be they ever so humble. There should not be any kind of barrier of that sort unless there is some good, legitimate reason.

So I hope the minister reminds his colleagues around the Cabinet table of what his experience here has been and moves them to empathize with ordinary citizens in Nova Scotia who might sometimes run up against similar situations when it comes to trying to get access to information from his department or any other department, be it in the context of an environmental assessment or otherwise. I am reminded that the Environment Act in Nova Scotia is up for some review at the moment. It may be that when that review is undertaken by this minister and his colleagues, they will think about this and perhaps change the rules.

I have one other observation I would like to make that arises from the minister's resolution that he brought to us this evening, and it has to do with this. Although I am puzzled as to why it is that the information that he wants is not being made available, in general, lack of information is not one of the major problems of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. There are, however, various other serious problems with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that we ought to turn our minds to, because it's not as if it's a federal environmental assessment, it's remote from us. It can happen that it affects things in our very communities, as indeed we now see in the case of Moirs Pond. But we saw it with the Halifax Harbour, which had to go through a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment. We saw it with the offshore, which had to go through a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment when the SOEP project came forward. There are very real reasons to be concerned about weaknesses in the federal environmental assessment process.

Let me just give a quick list, because this is a fairly extensive subject. What I'm hoping is that the minister will, along with his colleagues, spend some time thinking about this and bring this to the attention of the federal ministers. Need for a project is one of the tests under the federal Act. It's not always taken seriously. Alternatives must always be considered. They're not always looked at in the sense of considering whether a project ought not to go ahead. Cumulative environmental impacts are not considered effectively. The decisions of

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panels, if they go to panels, are not binding. They're ultimately, of course, political decisions and can be overturned by elected officials.

I should pause just to say that, of course, there are different levels of environmental assessment: there's a screening, there's a comprehensive study and there are panel reviews. Things very rarely go to full panel reviews; that only happens occasionally. Unfortunately, the emphasis of the Act, as it is in our Act, is on self-assessment. That is to say it's the proponent who does the initial gathering of information. I want to read into the record, if I may, a statement from William Rees, a professor of environmental studies at the University of British Columbia, one of Canada's leading scholars of environmental assessment. He says, "self-assessment obliges the initiator/proponent to identify all the socio-economic and ecological reasons for not proceeding with his own enterprise. This provides little incentive for the initiator to be scrupulous in the identification of impacts, and leads to inevitable distortions in the interpretation of results, most likely in the proposal's favour."

That is a problem. There should be an independent agency that undertakes environmental assessments, that hires its experts and that doesn't rely on the experts hired by others. There are other problems, but that's it for now. Mr. Speaker, thank you for your attention.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to photocopy the page he read from that pamphlet, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature request the federal government to recognize Bedford's unique sense of history and change the environmental assessment process to allow for more public involvement."

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the honourable member for bringing this resolution before the House. It certainly gives each and every member an opportunity to discuss environmental issues. At the outset, I must say as well that I'm not as intimately knowledgeable of the issues surrounding this as the honourable Minister of Community Services who is the member for Bedford-Fall River. However, I have a pretty good sense of what the objective is and that is to certainly have the federal government be more open and responsive to the needs of the community and I think that's good. I think that's ultimately the objective of all public officials.

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My understanding is that for whatever reason, the federal regulatory process, i.e. in particular, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has already given consent, some type of either verbal or written consent for this application to proceed in the fashion that normally it has in the past and then with the unsettledness in the community, with the community not supporting this initiative, then obviously this is the issue. I believe my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, has identified quite correctly that there is provision in the federal Environmental Assessment Act to be able (Interruption) Halifax Chebucto, I do apologize. There is provision in the Act to deal with that.

There are a number of issues that are attached to that. The first, number one, what is the thought process that went into allowing the minister to get to that state, you know, where he would approve that. Obviously, he has to rely on the expertise within his department and I can speak from personal experience that I find that the officials within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, at the federal level, don't necessarily bring all the detail to the ministerial level that perhaps is sometimes required for an elected official to be able to come to the conclusion that would be more reflective of the community needs as well as just speaking to the application itself. That's the same at the provincial level here because he, being a minister, would know that you have to rely on the thought processes at the various levels because that's the issue of due diligence that one would expect. You can't go back and second-guess every official at every level within the bureaucracy; otherwise, you will be second-guessing every decision of every day and I believe the elected officials at the municipal level can understand the dynamics of that.

But that having been said, we have an outcry from the community here of significant concern and that is they do not want this infilling to proceed and from my perspective, I would say that's sufficient for the federal agency to take a second look at this. If there's something wrong with the decision-making process to date, then my suggestion, and certainly if I were the minister, I would say, put the brakes on, let's take a second look at this, and I think that's a reasoned approach. I think that's really what the honourable Minister of Community Services is asking the House, for approbation in seeking there. It would be interesting to see the paper trails that are in existence on this entire issue, on this file, both from the federal level to the municipal, from the federal level to the provincial, from the provincial to the federal, from the municipal to the federal, and sit down and look at the entire issue.

I have a bit of a concern with the Empire organization which is the parent company for the Sobeys family, the Sobeys group. Generally, I have always found the Sobeys family to be good corporate citizens. I'm at a bit of a loss as to why there is some single-minded and some doggedness on this particular issue. I think that's irregular, there's something just not adding up to this particular issue. I've done business with the Sobeys in the past myself, in my previous life, and I find they're hard-nosed businesspeople but they were generally fair-minded. This seems to fly in the face of all logic, so something is not right here - another reason to put the brakes on.

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So I support the honourable minister in his initiative and I know our caucus will certainly add our voice of concern and pass that on to the federal level, much the same as we're pressing the provincial government to get on board with the Halifax Harbour cleanup. The federal government seems to be on board, the municipal government seems to be on board, and on several occasions the provincial minister in the House here didn't seem to know about the alternate proposal that was submitted by Halifax Regional Council for harbour cleanup. I found it a little concerning. Then yesterday, when I raised the issue again in the House, on pressing the provincial government to make application to the federal office of infrastructure - because there's only $2 billion in that fund and it won't take very long at the federal level for that to evaporate if we don't get cracking and get that application in on behalf of HRM. So, that's the type of interactive conduct and business-like exchange that has to be ongoing to have all levels of government working together in harmony.

Certainly it's an opportunity for the provincial Minister of Environment and Labour - I think it would be prudent for the Minister of Community Services through his Cabinet, and whether it be by Cabinet Order or a single request to the Minister of Environment and Labour, it would be interesting to see if the Minister of Environment and Labour has flagged this issue with the federal minister, and if not, why not? That type of collaboration really does engender positive results at the end of the day. It's not just that - it's the Minister of Natural Resources with the fisheries issue, there's another perspective there.

There are so many different aspects to this that I'm sure that even I'm not fully aware. So I think if all the parties were to take a second, sober look at this, I believe that the resolve could be quite favourable to the residents and to the intent of what's in the best interests of the community and the development plan for HRM for that particular community. I think that's most important, particularly when you're trying to maintain the history and the integrity of all the components to that history that are so important and vital in the Bedford area, in particular in and around Moirs Pond.

With that, I would certainly give an undertaking to the Minister of Community Services. I, as the Environment Critic, I will certainly write to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or to the federal Environment Minister or to whomever else, but I would also encourage him to establish that paper trail. There's an old saying, Mr. Speaker, a man's word is only as good as he's willing to put it on a piece of paper, and I haven't seen a lot of paper trails on this to date and I'm sure there are some, but I'm sure there could be a lot more to ensure that the issue of due diligence has been dealt with.

What about an appeal directly to the Sobeys group from the provincial government as well? It would certainly, I'm sure, carry some weight. There are a lot of business transactions that go back and forth, and I'm not suggesting you get into a horse-trading situation but certainly to ensure a continued, professional, effective, efficient working relationship. I think a meeting of the minds could certainly be forthcoming, and I think a resolve could be quite favourable. Thank you.

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MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening. We're adjourned until noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]

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NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 4009

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Ship's Company Theatre was established in 1984 by co-founders Michael Fuller and Mary Vingoe; and

Whereas over the years the company has enjoyed tremendous support locally, regionally and nationally, while providing a very professional and credible service to the Parrsboro Shore area; and

Whereas this summer there will be the Atlantic Premiere of Massicotte's Mary's Wedding, July 5, 2002, and Chair maker: The Musical, August 2, 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the efforts of the Ship's Company Theatre and wish them luck in their future galas.