Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-123

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

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 11381
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ. - Barrington Municipal HS: Health Problems - Rectify,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11382
Justice - Electoral Boundaries: Lun. Co. Communities -
Changes Oppose, Mr. D. Downe 11382
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation,
Hon. R. Russell 11383
Anl. Rept. of the Nova Scotia Health Council, Hon. J. Muir 11383
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Econ. Dev. - Rail America: Point Tupper to Sydney Segment -
Abandonment, Hon. C. Clarke 11384
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4659, Perioperative Nurse Week (11/10-11/16/02) - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir 11388
Vote - Affirmative 11388
Res. 4660, Maclean's - Univ. Ranking: N.S Universities - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 11388
Vote - Affirmative 11389
Res. 4661, Capital Health Research Awareness Wk. (11/12-11/20/02) -
Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 11390
Vote - Affirmative 11390
Res. 4662, Swiss Can. Cultural Assoc. - Establishment:
Swiss Commun. - Congrats., Hon. T. Olive 11390
Vote - Affirmative 11391
Res. 4663, Knockwood, Sara-Lynne: Athletic/Acad. Achievements -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 11391
Vote - Affirmative 11392
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 151, Education Act, Mr. W. Estabrooks 11392
No. 152, Université Sainte-Anne-Collège de l'Acadie Act,
Hon. J. Purves 11392
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4664, Coolen, Doreen - Remembrance Day Ceremonies (Can.):
Participation - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 11392
Vote - Affirmative 11393
Res. 4665, Inverness Mun. - Strait Area: Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 11393
Vote - Affirmative 11394
Res. 4666, Maclean's - Univ. Rankings: Riley, Dr. Sean/St. F.X. -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 11394
Vote - Affirmative 11395
Res. 4667, Perioperative Nurse Wk. (11/10-11/16/02) - Acknowledge:
OR Nurses - Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11395
Vote - Affirmative 11395
Res. 4668, Shepard, Steven: Archers Championship - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 11395
Vote - Affirmative 11396
Res. 4669, "New Generations" 2002 Preston Cultural Fest.:
Vols./Donors - Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 11396
Vote - Affirmative 11397
Res. 4670, Williams, Lorne - Shubenacadie Fire Brigade:
Service (40 yrs.) - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 11397
Vote - Affirmative 11398
Res. 4671, Maclean's - Univ. Rankings: St. F.X. - 1st Place Congrats.,
Mr. D. Wilson 11398
Vote - Affirmative 11398
Res. 4672, Babcooke, Kathy - World Firefighters Combat Challenge:
Participation - Commend, Mr. D. Morse 11399
Vote - Affirmative 11399
Res. 4673, Netherlands - Liberation: Sponagle, Clyde/Forgeron, Leo -
Efforts Thank, Mr. W. Estabrooks 11399
Vote - Affirmative 11400
Res. 4674, Savage, Dr. John - Can. Red Cross: Humanitarian Award -
Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 11400
Vote - Affirmative 11401
Res. 4675, Truckers (N.S.) - CCRA: Meal Allowance Taxation -
Fairness, Mr. B. Taylor 11401
Vote - Affirmative 11402
Res. 4676, Mercer, Capts. Jim & Michelle - Rockingstone School:
Meal Prog. - Thank, Mr. Robert Chisholm 11402
Vote - Affirmative 11402
Res. 4677, SMU - Football Huskies: Atl. Title - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 11403
Vote - Affirmative 11403
Res. 4678, Myers, Joyce MacDonald: Death of - Tribute,
Mr. J. Chataway 11403
Vote - Affirmative 11404
Res. 4679, Hincke, Col. Joe/Mason, Lt. Col. David -
12 Wing Shearwater: Commander (Past/Pres.) - Thank/Welcome,
Mr. K. Deveaux 11404
Vote - Affirmative 11405
Res. 4680, Lunenburg Foundry - Shipbuilding: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 11405
Vote - Affirmative 11406
Res. 4681, Truro Blue Bombers: Peewee Football Championships (N.S.) -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 11406
Vote - Affirmative 11407
Res. 4682, Agric. & Fish. - Pork Producers: Loan Prog. - Provide,
Mr. J. MacDonell 11407
Res. 4683, Ells, Art - Joints in Motion Marathon: Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 11407
Vote - Affirmative 11408
Res. 4684, SMU - Football Huskies: Atl. Univ. Champs - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 11408
Vote - Affirmative 11409
Res. 4685, Acadia Univ. - Students: Cancer Research -
Fundraising Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 11409
Vote - Affirmative 11410
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Agric. & Fish.: Pork Industry - Crisis, Mr. J. MacDonell 11410
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1252, Health - Long-Term Care Costs: Farms -
Relinquishment Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 11412
No. 1253, Econ. Dev. - C.B. Rail: Buyer - Details,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 11413
No. 1254, Health - Nursing Homes: Min. Info. - Inaccuracies Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11414
No. 1255, Econ. Dev. - C.B. Rail: CN - Commitment Fulfill,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 11415
No. 1256, Educ. - Barrington Mun. HS: Parents - Meet,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11417
No. 1257, Educ. - Barrington Mun. HS: Students - Attendance Explain,
Mr. D. Wilson 11419
No. 1258, Environ. & Lbr.: Inspections - Inconsistencies, Mr. H. Epstein 11420
No. 1259, Environ. & Lbr. - Scotia Fertilizers: Spill - Report Release,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 11422
No. 1260, Agric. & Fish. - Pork Producers: N.S./P.E.I. - Priority Explain,
Mr. J. MacDonell 11423
No. 1261, Justice: FOIPOP - Accessibility, Mr. M. Samson 11424
No. 1262, Econ. Dev. - Canso: Min. Assistance - Explain,
Mr. J. MacDonell 11426
No. 1263, Health: Recruitment Plan - Efficacy, Dr. J. Smith 11427
No. 1264, Environ. & Lbr. - Dorsey Report: Implementation -
Delay Explain, Mr. F. Corbett 11429
No. 1265, Agric. & Fish. - Pork Producers: Funding - Min. Response,
Mr. D. Downe 11430
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 142, House of Assembly Act/Elections Act 11432
Mr. J. Pye 11432
Mr. M. Samson 11440
Mr. F. Corbett 11451
Mr. D. Wilson 11453
Mr. K. Deveaux 11456
Hon. R. Russell 11460
Vote - Affirmative 11460
No. 146, Municipal Government Act 11460
Hon. A. MacIsaac 11460
Mr. D. Dexter 11461
Mr. B. Boudreau 11462
Mr. J. Chataway 11462
Mr. H. Epstein 11463
Mr. J. Pye 11466
Hon. A. MacIsaac 11467
Vote - Affirmative 11468
No. 143, Partnership Act/Partnerships and Business Names
Registration Act 11468
Hon. R. Russell 11468
Mr. K. Deveaux 11469
Mr. M. Samson 11469
Hon. M. Baker 11470
Vote - Affirmative 11470
No. 147, Volunteer Fire Services Act 11471
Hon. R. Russell 11471
Mr. F. Corbett 11471
Mr. B. Boudreau 11472
Hon. R. Russell 11473
Vote - Affirmative 11473
No. 148, Securities Act 11473
Hon. M. Baker 11473
Mr. F. Corbett 11474
Mr. Manning MacDonald 11474
Hon. M. Baker 11474
Vote - Affirmative 11475
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 149, Taker Estate Subdivision Act 11475
Mr. D. Hendsbee 11475
Mr. G. Steele 11475
Mr. M. Samson 11476
Mr. H. Epstein 11476
Mr. D. Hendsbee 11478
Vote - Affirmative 11478
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 13th at 2:00 p.m. 11479
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 43:
Agric. & Fish.: Pork Industry - Crisis:
Mr. J. MacDonell 11479
Mr. B. Taylor 11483
Mr. D. Downe 11487
Mr. D. Dexter 11492
Hon. E. Fage 11496
Mr. B. Boudreau 11500
Mr. J. Pye 11503
Mr. J. Holm 11505
Mr. M. Parent 11506
Mr. W. Gaudet 11509
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 4686, Nat. Res. - Mining Matters Conf.: Minerals Resources Br. -
Organizing Congrats., Hon. T. Olive 11512
Res. 4687, Regan, Walter/Sackville Rivers Assoc. -
Sackville River Watershed: Preservation - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 11512

[Page 11381]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, we have a list here of several introductions.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery we have today from the Barrington and Cape Sable Island area, Kim Goreham, Janet Smith, Amy Atwood, Norma Nickerson and Stephanie Isles. They are here today attempting to get answers to the health problems that exist at the Barrington Municipal High School. I would ask that they rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: You had me in full suspense there, Mr. Speaker. It's my pleasure to introduce in the east gallery, a former member of the Department of Finance who was assistant to the deputy minister and has moved now to St. F.X. University and I note that at St. F.X. since they have acquired him to be part of the staff they have moved up higher in the rankings on announcements down there, Mr. Ramsey Duff. I would like members of the House to give a warm welcome to Ramsey as he enters the gallery in the east wing. Welcome. (Applause)

11381

[Page 11382]

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

This evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Lunenburg West:

Therefore be it resolved that inaction by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is jeopardizing the pork industry in Nova Scotia.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege and honour today to introduce a petition on behalf of over 400 parents in the Municipality of Barrington. The operative phrase reads, "We, the Safe School Association, citizens of the Barrington Municipality, are deeply concerned about the unsafe environment of our Barrington Municipal High School. For some time it has been clear a number of students at the school have suffered physical complaints which are the direct results of air and environmental conditions within the high school building. We urge the Government of Nova Scotia to take immediate steps to rectify these important health problems." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby table a petition signed by approximately 184 residents of Lunenburg West, bringing a total of 926 signatures that we tabled so far. The operative clause is, "We the undersigned support the residents of the communities of Italy Cross, Middlewood, Crousetown, Petite Riviere, Broad Cove, Cherry Hill and Voglers Cove who oppose the proposed boundary changes in the final report of the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission Report dated August 2002 and request they go back to the original boundaries set forth by the Nova Scotia Legislature Assembly (1992) . . ." I table these petitions and I have affixed my signature to this as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on an introduction.

[Page 11383]

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery we have today a group of people from the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op. We have: Manager Pat Fougere; Captain Fred Gurney, President; Brian Parker, Treasurer; John Armsworthy, Vice-President; Doug Bond; Captain Gerald Lumsden; Edward Hanlon; George Ryan; Bill Quann; Adrian Richard; Wally Nickerson; Francis Richardson; Hiram Horton; and we also have with them today, Mr. Rick Gerrow, the President of the Temporary Mobile Shrimp Association. I would ask the members of the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

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

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report for 2001-02 for the Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to introduce a guest in the east gallery. It is, Ray Ivany, President of Nova Scotia Community College. He is here today because the college has just released its annual report, which I will table. The report shows the tremendous support the college is gaining among Nova Scotians all across the province and what a tremendous job the college is doing in filling the skills gap in Nova Scotia. I hope the House will rise and give a warm welcome to Mr. Ivany for all of the great work he is doing in the post-secondary sector. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Health Council for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

[Page 11384]

[2:15 p.m.]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, we now have the URB decision and it grants Rail America's application to discontinue and abandon the Point Tupper to Sydney segment of the line in April and May 2003 respectively.

This morning the Member of Parliament for Sydney-Victoria and I met with users

who will be affected by the potential cessation of rail service in the area. I will now share the substance of this meeting with you and my honourable colleagues here in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I called this morning's meeting to outline and discuss our next steps in helping to find a long-term, economically-sound and fiscally-responsible solution that will keep the line open. We know that there has to be a sufficient volume of traffic for the line to survive. The estimate for 2002 is about 1,000 cars for the year. According to Rail America/CBNS, break-even is five times that amount. Obviously, the service can and will only continue if there is sufficient demand from users.

Mr. Speaker, we've made a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia to be fiscally responsible. We're sticking to that promise. This government won't be operating a railway nor will it be subsidizing the operation. Last year, together with our federal colleagues at Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, we hired Bob Stevens, who is experienced in the short-line rail industry, to help us identify potential customers. Over the past year, we have had many meetings with key parties, including CBNS/Rail America and Nova Scotia Power to investigate options. We acted as a catalyst and facilitator in trying to arrive at a solution.

When we learned that Nova Scotia Power had decided against consolidating more of its coal shipments over the Port of Sydney, which would have provided an adequate volume of business to keep the line open, we were very disappointed and somewhat surprised. The volumes were there; apparently however, the two companies could not agree on price. However, we are not prepared to give up our efforts at keeping the line open as long as we believe that there may be an opportunity for a company to operate it.

Mr. Speaker, this is what we are prepared to do. Under the Nova Scotia Railway Act, Rail America/CBNS is required to offer the assets for sale to another railroad at market value and to the province at no more than the net salvage value. We will engage the Canadian Transportation Agency as a third party to determine an accurate assessment of the net salvage value of the assets.

[Page 11385]

Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to assign our right to purchase the assets at net salvage value to prospective buyers. In this manner, the province can help secure a private sector operator by making the railway available at the most competitive terms possible at a very attractive price. Another step we are taking in co-operation with the federal government is to conduct a market analysis of the requirements for rail versus other modes of transport for existing and potential Cape Breton businesses. Like us, the federal government is anxious to broker a solution. The cost of the alternatives and its repercussions for business will be very helpful for the business community and government in making long-term decisions.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of my discussions with Mr. Eyking, we will also be meeting with Premier Hamm, Minister Russell and MP Roger Cuzner this week. I will also be meeting with local CBNS officials. I have asked Mr. Eyking to arrange a meeting for us with federal Transport Minister David Collenette. Subsequent meetings will be arranged with senior CN officials.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to try to facilitate a business case solution, such that those with cargo and an interest in operating the line can find a way to make it work. This is the only way the problem can be solved.

Recognizing that we will do all we can to support the development of a business case, it is also important that we do not raise false hopes. This morning I encouraged everyone at the meeting to examine the situation closely from their own business perspective and urged them to talk to Rail America/CBNS and to CN directly about options that will best ensure the delivery of their products.

I will reiterate. We will not give up, yet we will not be rushed into making rash decisions either, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to work closely with our federal colleagues to gather the necessary information to assist with the decision-making. We will work closely with users of the line, Rail America/CBNS, Nova Scotia Power, CN and potential purchasers to help them find a long-term solution. The economic future of urban Cape Breton is far too important to do any less. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, how many times can you say the same thing - we're going to meet with the feds, we're going to meet with the stakeholders. They have had plenty of time to do this. They want to pretend that they're not the authors of the misfortune of that railway, but they certainly are and I will take you back to what I said last week. They had an opportunity when they came to government to invest in infrastructure and their option was no. It was no to the people of Inverness County. It was no to the people on the short line. That was their answer. That was their answer then and that's what it is today.

[Page 11386]

They sat by while URB deliberated and they did nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing to say, well, here is plan B. Now when it's ready to collapse - and we all know what they're trying to do, Mr. Speaker, they're going to raise the false hope - coming up this late Spring, early Summer, when it's coming onto election time, they try to raise false hope for the people of that area that that short-line track will be saved and we know what the end result of that is going to be. That will not be saved, not with the inaction of this government.

Now they're talking about other modes. Mr. Speaker, that minister must fly home every weekend. He can't be driving on the same roads I'm driving over. They're a mess. What's he doing? They don't want to invest in those infrastructures. They don't want to invest in rail. Do you know why? Why do they come, the Department of Transportation has done nothing for any other form of transportation in Cape Breton. They've let the roads down. We have no real investment in air travel in Cape Breton and now we see they're backing out of the rail. Well, you know, the minister says we've got a plan we're going to work.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we watched as that government there dismantled Sydney Steel with no plan behind it. We have watched the Liberals dismantle the coal industry with no plan to solve it, but what are we supposed to do now? We're supposed to say, okay, we will put our lot in with these guys again and now they come up with this idea of Emera, they're going to blame it on Emera now, when everybody knew that Emera had gone into partnership with Logistec and right now they're making application to the Department of Environment so they can stockpile more coal at the international pier and at the Lingan generating station. They're not going to use that short line. Quit trying to fool the people. We know what's going on and the people there know what's going on. Be straight with them, you know, you have nothing to do with the economic development in Cape Breton. You have nothing to do with the economic development of any place in rural Nova Scotia and then you come in with this kind of garbage here today to tell us, wait, we will fix it for you.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we've seen their economic fixes and we don't like it and the sooner they call an election and get that group out of there, the better off all Nova Scotia will be.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the minister for giving his statement in advance to the House here today and that's all I'm going to thank him for regarding this particular statement.

I thought last week when the Premier rose in his place to try to defend his economic inactivity in Cape Breton, that was the height of gall in this House and I said that. But, it's gone to new heights today with this minister's statement about what this government is doing

[Page 11387]

to Cape Breton. He just got one up on the boss, his Premier, in terms of gall when it comes to Cape Breton.

The statement the minister read in this House today is a whole lot of nothing. It's a sad day in Nova Scotia when a minister is standing up in this House and pretending to have a plan, simply so he can get re-elected. I want to tell you, he reads the same polls that we're reading when it comes to Cape Breton and he knows his Party is going nowhere in Cape Breton. Statements like this are just a desperate attempt to try to save that one seat in Cape Breton for that minister. It is no wonder that the Department of Economic Development has been reduced to an office status in this government and is not even a full-time ministry anymore. It's no wonder.

Mr. Speaker, if the minister couldn't find 4,000 rail cars for Rail America, what makes him think he can find 4,000 cars now? This government knew that the rail line was in jeopardy when Sysco and Devco closed. The government had three years to try and come up with an alternative plan for that railway and they have done nothing in that three year period.

There's been no attempt by this government or its Leader, the Premier, to make Canadian National Railway live up to its responsibilities affecting the short line to Cape Breton. Absolutely nothing from this government. CN is getting off the hook thanks to Premier Hamm and his government because they couldn't care less whether any goods get off or on Cape Breton Island as far as this government is concerned. It's a shameful event here today when a minister who represents a Cape Breton riding will get up in this House and try to pretend that everything is all right in Cape Breton and he has a plan when he has no plan. (Applause) That minister was in New York last week with 12 business people from Nova Scotia - only one of whom was from Cape Breton, while our Leader was in Cape Breton talking about the rail crisis. He was in New York last week when he should have been in Cape Breton.

The people of Cape Breton are not going to be fooled by this desperate attempt to hang onto the little political activity they have left in Cape Breton and I am suggesting to you that that minister should apologize to Cape Bretoners for this statement today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 11388]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 4659

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

Whereas November 10th to November 16th is Perioperative Nurses Week, a time to raise awareness about the role of operating room nurses; and

Whereas registered nurses and licensed practical nurses work with other team members to provide knowledge, compassionate care and support to patients and their families before, during and after surgery; and

Whereas this government is committed to supporting all nurses, including operating room nurses through Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy, which includes funding for the perioperative nursing certification program;

Therefore be it resolved that the House recognize November 10th to November 16th as Perioperative Nurses Week and thank all the nurses for their valuable contribution to our health care system and for their role in helping to save and repair lives across Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 4660

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

[Page 11389]

Whereas Nova Scotia has captured two of the top three spots in the annual Maclean's ranking of universities with St. Francis Xavier as the number one undergraduate university in the country and Acadia as third; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's consistently good performance in these rankings demonstrates the high quality of post-secondary education and quality of life in this province; and

Whereas this national recognition is also a testament to the 17,000 university employees in this province who contribute to a $1 billion industry;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the excellence achieved by Nova Scotia's universities and congratulate them on this 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 Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce three people in the east gallery who are very thrilled about St. F.X.'s standing in the Maclean's rankings, and they are: Dr. Sean Riley, President and Vice-Chancellor of St. F.X. University; Ramsey Duff, who was previously introduced here, but he's St. F.X.'s Vice-President of Finance and Operations; and Helen Murphy, Communications Officer at St. F.X. University. If they would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 11390]

RESOLUTION NO. 4661

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

Whereas Capital Health Research Awareness Week celebrates the world-class work being done by health researchers that directly results in better health for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas health research here at home helps to attract health professionals and is an important economic driver, creating jobs and attracting investment to our province; and

Whereas Research Awareness Week promotes the creation of partnerships to achieve better health care, such as the partnership between Capital Health and the Dalhousie Medical School;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize November 12th to November 20th as Capital Health Research Awareness Week and encourage everyone to attend the events and activities in celebration of health research.

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. 4662

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

Whereas the Founding Assembly of the Swiss Canadian Cultural Association was held in Dartmouth on November 11, 2002, to promote the bond among all Swiss Nationals, their partners and family members living in Nova Scotia, both residents and non-residents; and

[Page 11391]

Whereas the over 250 families of Swiss descent in Nova Scotia have come together to promote and enhance the awareness of their culture; and

Whereas under the direction of President Peter Kunz, Vice-President John Engweiler, Treasurer Hansueli Koller-Fanconi, and Auditor Casimir Hagmann, the SCCS support will be provided for new Swiss immigrants to settle into the community and the province;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the Swiss community of Nova Scotia in the establishment of the Swiss Canadian Cultural Association and wish its members all the best as they reach out to their community and Nova Scotians at large.

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 Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 4663

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

Whereas Sara-Lynne Rose Knockwood of Indian Brook First Nation, a Grade 11 student at Hants East High School, won a gold medal for individual sparring at the Tae Kwon-do World Championships in Miami on Saturday; and

Whereas she also took home two gold medals in the Pan-American competition in Quebec City in October; and

Whereas on Treaty Day in October, Sara-Lynne received the Chief Noel Doucette Memorial Youth Education Award and is featured on this year's Mi'kmaq History Month poster;

[Page 11392]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Sara-Lynne Knockwood on winning a world championship in Tae Kwon-do and maintaining a high academic standard while pursuing her athletic 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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 151 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96, The Education Act, to Ensure Air and Water Quality in Nova Scotia Schools. (Mr. William Estabrooks)

Bill No. 152 - Entitled an Act to Integrate the Université Sainte-Anne and Collège de l'Acadie - or in my not-so-great French - Loi portant regroupement de l'Université Sainte-Anne et du Collège de l'Acadie. (Hon. Jane Purves)

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery today of the President of the Université Sainte-Anne, André Roberge, and the President of the Collège de l'Acadie, Allister Surette.

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4664

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

[Page 11393]

Whereas Doreen Coolen was the Silver Cross Mother who represented all the mothers in Canada at the wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial this year; and

Whereas she undertook this responsibility despite the terrible loss she suffered when her son, Private Ricky Green, was killed so recently in Afghanistan; and

Whereas she represented every family with honesty and dignity on the day that Canadians stop to honour those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its appreciation to Doreen Coolen for her participation in Canada's Remembrance Day ceremonies, and affirm our condolences to her and to all who have lost their loved ones in war and in peacekeeping.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 4665

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

Whereas on October 22, 2002, the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards were held at The Creamery in Port Hawkesbury; and

Whereas this event is to focus and congratulate businesses which have made significant contributions to the economic stability of the Strait area; and

Whereas the Municipality of Inverness has won the Club 25 Award for Chamber of Commerce members who have had a presence in the Strait area for 25-plus years;

[Page 11394]

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate the Municipality of Inverness for their continued work towards the social and economic development of Inverness County and the entire Strait area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 4666

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

Whereas St. F.X. is as good as it gets, having ranked number one in the Maclean's rankings; and

Whereas this achievement is a tribute to the efforts of St. F.X. faculty, staff, students, Xavierian alumni, and the inspired leadership of university President, Dr. Sean Riley; and

Whereas Mount Allison and Acadia Universities finished second and third in the rankings;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly extend its congratulations to Dr. Riley and St. F.X., as well as Mount Allison and Acadia for their accomplishment, and we wish these universities continued success as they move forward.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 11395]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 4667

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 Scotia health care professionals are among the best Canada has to offer; and

Whereas surgical patients receive a broad spectrum of care from perioperative nurses throughout the province; and

Whereas November 10-16, 2002, is Perioperative Nurse Week, an event marked by the Operating Room Nurses Association of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge Perioperative Nurse Week and congratulate all operating room nurses for the excellent care they deliver to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 4668

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

[Page 11396]

Whereas this summer, Steven Shepard of Balls Creek represented the Cape Breton Bowman's Association while competing at the Traditional Archers of Nova Scotia Championship, a competition that is extremely challenging with each archer shooting two bows at 30 targets from a distance of 15 or 30 metres to score points; and

Whereas with a score of 756, Steven captured first place in the Junior Long Bow division, his first title since he began to compete; and

Whereas Steven will be competing as a junior for the next several years and fully intends to defend his title while he is eligible;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate Steven and wish him every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

REVOLUTION NO. 4669

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

Whereas the "New Generations" 2002 Preston Cultural Festival, a celebration of the history, culture and people of Preston will be held November 12th to November 30th at locations throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and includes events such as tonight, the festival's official opening, concerts, quilt exhibits, literature presentations and a gala ball at the close of the festival; and

Whereas the festival organizers include the Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia, the North Preston Cultural Association, the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children, the Preston Cultural Festival Society, the Preston New Millennium Cultural Initiative and the Voices Black Theatre Ensemble; and

[Page 11397]

Whereas the festival is sponsored in part by the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly thank the "New Generations" 2002 Preston Cultural Festival volunteers and donors for their assistance with organization and funding and recognize the festival's great contribution to the culture and artistry of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. I have also circulated information brochures to all members of the House to enjoy.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4670

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

Whereas volunteerism is alive and well in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas there is no greater gift to offer your community than your time, the one thing you can never get back; and

Whereas the Shubenacadie Fire Brigade celebrated its 40th Anniversary on November 2nd with an awards banquet, where they bestowed recognition on one of its founders and former chief, Mr. Lorne Williams, for his 40-year commitment to his community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join Shubenacadie in thanking former fire Chief Lorne Williams for helping found the Shubenacadie Fire Brigade in 1962 and the years of continuing service he has given to his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11398]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 4671

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

Whereas St. F.X. has received Maclean's magazine's first-place ranking for undergraduate university in Canada; and

Whereas St. F.X. has been known throughout Nova Scotia to have a strong academic reputation, it is an honour to be recognized across the country for the strong presentation, students, faculty and the supportive alumni; and

Whereas St. F.X. graduates are leaders of business and government, demonstrating where their talents the education received at this university;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate St. F.X. students, faculty and alumni for this honour.

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 monition please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

[Page 11399]

RESOLUTION NO. 4672

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

Whereas Wolfville Volunteer Fire Department Captain Kathy Babcooke recently participated in the World Firefighters Combat Challenge in Deerfield Beach, Florida, after placing in the top ten in the Canadian Nationals in Windsor, Ontario, in September; and

Whereas Kathy is a Grade 7 school teacher in New Minas and placed 14th in the world in the firefighters challenge with a time of 3 minutes 21.71 seconds; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas Kathy endured a challenge of mental toughness and sheer strength in an exhausting obstacle course in recording the 14th best time in the world;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly commend Kathy for her vigorous work and heartfelt dedication in competing in the World Firefighters Combat challenge and wish her every success in all her future endeavours in both the teaching and firefighting professions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 4673

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

Whereas the Dutch people have never forgotten Canada's role in the liberation of their country during World War II; and

[Page 11400]

Whereas the contribution of Canadian troops has been recognized by a medal from the Government of the Netherlands; and

Whereas Royal Canadian Legion MacDonald Memorial Branch #156 in Lakeside presented Dutch Liberation Medals to veterans Leo Forgeron and Clyde Sponagle on November 11, 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank Dutch Liberation Medal recipients, Clyde Sponagle and Leo Forgeron, and all Canadian veterans, for their efforts in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4674

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

Whereas on November 27, 2002, the Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award will be presented to Dr. John Savage; and

Whereas Dr. Savage has spent his lifetime supporting Nova Scotians through such efforts as establishing the first alcohol addiction treatment centre in mainland Nova Scotia; as a founding member of Halifax-Dartmouth Big Brothers and Big Sisters; founder of the first daycare centre in North Preston and as one of the key founding members of Feeding Others of Dartmouth; and

Whereas internationally Dr. John Savage has shared his immense talents with Niger, the Gambia and, most recently, Chuvash, a small republic of the former Soviet Union;

[Page 11401]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature congratulate Dr. John Savage on his becoming recipient of this prestigious award and wish him and his wife, Margaret, all the best in the times ahead.

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. (Standing Ovation)

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 4675

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

Whereas more than 250,000 men and women are employed in the Canadian trucking industry; and

Whereas a class action lawsuit is pending by these same truckers against the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in an attempt to get meal allowance taxation fairness; and

Whereas truckers are presently only allowed to claim $16.50 a day on their income tax returns - half of what they may actually spend in the course of a day on meals and a mere fraction of what federal employees are entitled to;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Nova Scotia truckers along with their Canadian counterparts in their efforts to obtain fairness in the taxation of meal allowances from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11402]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 4676

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

Whereas Captain Jim Mercer and his wife, Captain Michelle Mercer, both of Newfoundland, recently joined the Salvation Army Corps in Spryfield; and

Whereas a group of churches in the community, spearheaded by the Salvation Army in response to a needs survey, has initiated biweekly community dinners providing as many as 200 free hot meals at Rockingstone School; and

Whereas future goals for the Salvation Army in the community include the provision of a facility which would house recreational activities for children, a community kitchen, counselling services and a thrift store;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Captain Jim Mercer and his wife, Captain Michelle Mercer of the Salvation Army, and the Spryfield group of churches who provide a meal program at Rockingstone School and support them in their efforts to better 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 member for Clare.

[Page 11403]

RESOLUTION NO. 4677

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

Whereas on Saturday, November 9, 2002, the Saint Mary's Football Huskies, by virtue of its 63 - 14 win over St. F. X., captured the AUFC Jewett Trophy; and

Whereas this victory marks the fourth consecutive Atlantic title for Saint Mary's, an achievement that has not been equalled by Saint Mary's since their four-year run from 1987 to 1990; and

Whereas the AUFC champions, Saint Mary's Huskies will travel to Hamilton, Ontario this weekend to play the undefeated McMaster Marauders;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate the players, coaching staff and coach, Blake Nill, on their recent victory and extend our best wishes to all as they travel to Ontario to participate in the Churchill Bowl.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 4678

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

Whereas the recent death of Joyce MacDonald Myers in a tragic car accident shocked many in her sports communities of curling, tennis and badminton; and

[Page 11404]

Whereas Mrs. Myers was an ardent curler in Nova Scotia having won a MacDonald Lassie championship, three senior ladies' curling titles as well as acting as coach for numerous teams, including teams skipped by Penny LaRocque, Colleen Jones and Heather (Fowlie) Rankin and sitting as an official at prominent international curling events; and

Whereas she did not excel just in curling, she won 13 Maritime doubles titles and a dozen mixed and senior ladies and master titles in badminton, along with coaching many to their own championships. She also won numerous provincial tennis titles;

Therefore be it resolved that all members note this significant loss to our province of a leader in sports - a leader whose talents were recognized with her induction into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1996 and extend to her family, especially her mother, our deepest sympathies.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 4679

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

Whereas 12 Wing Shearwater has been an integral part of the community of Eastern Passage for well over 80 years starting with the founding of the Baker's Point Seaplane Base in 1918; and

Whereas in the past year 12 Wing Shearwater has again made us all proud with its efforts in the deployment of Sea King helicopters as a part of Operation Apollo, with crews and maintenance staff giving every effort to keep the wings for the fleet in the air; and

[Page 11405]

Whereas Col. Joe Hincke was the commander of 12 Wing Shearwater for the past 16 months, overseeing the efforts of the base to keep the Sea King helicopters in the air and on November 8, 2002, he passed command of 12 Wing on to Lt. Col. David Mason;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the work of Col. Joe Hincke as commander of 12 Wing Shearwater and welcome the new commander, Lt. Col. David Mason as he assumes his duties at the base.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4680

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

Whereas Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering Limited was established in 1891 as the Lunenburg Iron Company on the shores of Lunenburg Harbour and built cast iron stoves and domestic and marine hardware; and

Whereas Lunenburg Foundry was at the forefront of the modernization of the fishing fleet and at its peak during World War II employed some 530 people who were heavily engaged in naval refitting; and

Whereas during the post war period, Lunenburg Foundry, associated with Lunenburg Marine Railway, extended its shipbuilding operations to serve a greater variety of ships, a wider international markets requiring international quality standards;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Lunenburg Foundry, its founding members, the Kinley family, and all the employees past and present on over 110 years of success in shipbuilding operations in the national and international shipbuilding industries, along the shores of Lunenburg Harbour.

[Page 11406]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 4681

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 Truro Blue Bombers captured the 2002 Nova Scotia Peewee Football League Championship; and

Whereas the 2002 Truro Blue Bombers have compiled a perfect season winning 10 games and losing none; and

Whereas for the Truro Blue Bombers, this was their fourth Nova Scotia Peewee Football League Championship in the last six years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Truro Blue Bomber players, coaches and all in their organization on winning the Nova Scotia Peewee Football League Championship and wish the team success as they compete for the Maritime championship this weekend in New Brunswick.

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 11407]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4682

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

Whereas our pork producers face a crisis as prices continue to plummet in the marketplace; and

Whereas Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan recognized last week that their producers need help and brought in loan programs to assist them through the market crisis; and

Whereas our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries steadfastly refuses to provide our producers with a loan program, leaving them to the inadequacies of the existing agricultural safety net;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to show his support for our rural economy by providing a loan program for our distressed pork producers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 4683

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

Whereas on October 28th, Art Ells from Westmount completed the Joints in Motion Marathon in Dublin, Ireland; and

[Page 11408]

Whereas Mr. Ells, a novice marathon runner, completed this marathon in six hours and 19 minutes to both raise money and awareness in support of the Arthritis Society; and

Whereas the Joints in Motion Marathon takes a great deal of time and commitment, not only to develop the physical stamina to compete but also to raise the funds required to make the journey;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate Art Ells for his tremendous efforts.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 4684

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

Whereas this past weekend, Saint Mary's University football team, the Huskies, clobbered visiting team St. Francis Xavier University X-Men by 63 to 14 to capture the third consecutive Jewett Trophy as Atlantic University Conference champions; and

Whereas the Huskies are trying to become the first team to repeat as Vanier Cup champions since the Western Ontario Mustangs performed that feat in 1976 and 1977; and

Whereas a tremendous crowd of over 6,200 fans cheered both teams on Sunday showing just how popular this event continues to be for our region;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly applaud the Huskies team members and their coach for such a huge success this weekend and wish them the best of luck as they travel onward next Saturday to Les Prince Field in Hamilton, Ontario, to meet the unbeaten and number-one-ranked Yates Cup champions, McMaster Marauders.

[Page 11409]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4685

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

Whereas students at Acadian University held a pumpkin carving contest and pumpkin sale to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society; and

Whereas Carve for the Cure, along with a number of students who took part in Shave for the Cure, where students shaved their heads as a fundraiser, raised $6,000 to aid in cancer research; and

Whereas the Student Union of Acadia University has managed to raise much-needed funds and increase community awareness on campus;

Therefore be it resolved that each member of this House congratulate the students at Acadia University for their tremendous efforts of public awareness for cancer funding, research and programs.

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 11410]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Rule 43, I rise to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, the crisis in the Nova Scotia pork industry.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, even since this morning, when I sent you my request, I have new information that would indicate that instead of losing $50 per animal, pork producers are actually losing $65 per animal. Feed costs in Atlantic Canada are at an all-time high and, at the very same time, an oversupply in the United States has smothered markets for Canadian production. The industry did a cost-of-production study after alerting governments in May that the crisis would peak this Fall.

Nothing was done to help producers withstand the cost/price squeeze and survive the six months it is expected to take until the crisis has ended. Producers will be forced to liquidate assets so that they can buy feed for their animals and, unless the province acts, producers will go out of business, leaving Nova Scotians with fewer jobs and more reliance on imported food. Feed companies, machinery dealers and other industry stakeholders are at risk if there is no help for the pork industry. Many producers and industry partners only recently recovered from a similar crisis in 1998. Existing farm safety net programs do not work in this kind of crisis. It takes a special commitment to be a farmer, and this Legislature owes these pork producers its full attention, Mr. Speaker.

The normal give-and-take of Question Period and a possible late debate are not appropriate for a crisis that is so urgent. These farmers say they need immediate help from the province, and the Legislature should take the time to debate this urgent situation. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking in regard to the request brought by my colleague. I would certainly be in favour of that debate. Not only is it $65 under the new formula the hog producers are producing those hogs to market below their cost of production. The bottom line is that over 10 per cent of the market and 10 per cent of the production that we currently had a year ago in Nova Scotia has been shut down. Those producers have gone broke and they've been forced out of business. The industry is projecting another 10 per cent reduction in hog production in the Province of Nova Scotia this year if this provincial government does not find a way to come to the table and have a

[Page 11411]

loan guarantee provision that will allow the industry to be able to make it through this very serious cycle in the hog sector.

You find it very frustrating for farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia when provinces such as Saskatchewan are supporting their producers, and provinces like Prince Edward Island with less than 200,000 in the population, are prepared to support their producers, yet the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. According to the rules, the decision of the Speaker will be without debate on this matter - not for the honourable member, just for all the members who are questioning my interruption at this time. It is duly noted that the honourable member for Lunenburg West supports the resolution. (Applause)

The request by the honourable member for Hants East was certainly received within the time frame of the rules, at the Speaker's Office, within the two hours prior to the opening of the House. It is my ruling as well that the magnitude of this debate is within the scope of ministerial action of this government. I am satisfied the matter is proper to be debated at this time. With the agreement of the House, the matter will be debated this evening at the Adjournment hour, which is 8:00 p.m., for two hours, and a schedule will be drawn up by the honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The late debate at 6:00 p.m. this evening is on the same topic, so we are agreed to set aside that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. So the House would adjourn then at 7:30 p.m. - instead of a late debate, the House would adjourn at 7:30 p.m. for two hours?

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

There will be no late debate. The House will adjourn at 7:30 p.m. for the emergency debate, for two hours.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 3:04 p.m. and end at 4:04 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 11412]

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE COSTS:

FARMS - RELINQUISHMENT EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on Friday the Minister of Health paraded out a team of bureaucrats to defend his bureaucratic system designed to impoverish seniors. We're going to let the minister talk about the computerized assessments and about the financial review office. I want to talk about people. I want to talk about a family in Pictou County that has been asked to sell the family farm to pay for their father's long-term care. My question to the Minister of Health is simple, why are you asking people to give up their farms?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the objective of the technical briefing on Friday afternoon was so that those who attended would probably have a factual representation of the process that those under case are underway. In the case, or whatever the honourable member is referring to, he knows that it's not appropriate for a minister to comment on an individual case on the floor of the House.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I know that the minister doesn't want to talk about people, but we're going to talk about people anyway. Juanita MacKinnon's father entered a nursing home on October 15th. She and her brother remain at the family home in Durham, Pictou County. Your department is proposing the sale of the 185-acre farm and to leave Juanita the house only. The Minister of Health must be aware of this case, as the family members have already spoken with the Premier and with the member for Pictou West about the situation.

Mr. Speaker, these people have very little money. Juanita's only income is a small disability pension. They're only source of heat for that house is the wood on the land. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how does he expect the MacKinnons will heat their home if the department requires them to sell the farm and woodlot?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I repeat the answer I gave in the first question, it's not appropriate for a minister to comment on an individual case.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the fact is the people of Nova Scotia want answers about these questions. They want answers about the way the lives of seniors in this province are being affected and that minister has to answer the people of Nova Scotia. The MacKinnons are good people. They don't have much money. One of the few sources of their livelihood is the family farm and although it's not as active now as it could be, they still occasionally sell wood from the woodlots for a few dollars. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how can he justify a financial assistance assessment system that puts the MacKinnon's farm and woodlot on the line when it is the source of badly-needed income?

[Page 11413]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it's not appropriate for a minister to comment on an individual case before the House.

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

ECON. DEV. - C.B. RAIL: BUYER - DETAILS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. On a number of occasions our Party has called upon the Premier to take a leadership role in the rail crisis facing Cape Breton, but the Premier has done nothing. In fact, no political representation was even bothered with at the URB hearings. Now rail service is about to end in Cape Breton and the minister is doing little more than presiding over an extended wake for rail service in Cape Breton. Given that this minister has failed to convince Rail America to keep the rail line operating, what makes him think he can find a buyer now?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for that question because I think it begs an answer that speaks to the fact that we are not, unlike the Third Party when they were in government, saying we have a railway sold five times, like they did with Sysco, misleading people. What we're saying is we have an issue that's serious to the economy of Cape Breton and we're working through the business model and we are working with the businesses on the ground that are committed to work with the Government of Canada and the province.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I might remind this House that it was his government that closed Sysco in the first place, which was a very important customer for that rail line. What we have here is a minister fighting a delayed action so he won't lose his seat in the next election. It's interesting that the word is out on the polls that show the Tories in a dismal third place in Cape Breton and show that minister, that part-time minister, losing his seat in the next election. We know that and he knows that and that's why he's trying to bridge this phony plan for the next six months - to get him through the next election.

It simply doesn't make sense, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't make sense that he can find another short-line operator when the current one is abandoning the line. Could the minister enlighten the House as to what his plan is to save the businesses that are going to be adversely affected by the closing of the railway in Cape Breton?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, what we've committed to doing and we continue to do, is meet with the stakeholders, the business owners on the ground, as we've done again today.

There is nothing phony about getting back to the community with a full plan on the two approaches we have by mid-January. The last time I checked, I don't think the Premier alluded to a mid-January election, so we will be accountable before that, regardless of the decision before the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 11414]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister has been singing the meeting song for many months now in Cape Breton, trying to give the impression that he has a plan when in fact he has no plan. This government has seen fit to assist Sobeys, IMP and Xerox, but it won't offer - it hasn't offered - any assistance to any potential buyer that we've heard of, except he's going to try to make a deal, or for the businesses that are left behind. The highways are inadequate in Cape Breton; the environment will be adversely affected by the additional truckloads that are going to be on the highways. The government has wasted three years, and they've come up with nothing. Why is this government so devoid of leadership that it has not come up with a more workable plan to save the railway and the businesses that depend on that railway in Cape Breton? Tell this House why, Mr. Minister.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to add to that member, his own Leader's view to prosperity is that they're 14 to 40 years away. Well, this government doesn't take the Liberal approach to development. We're on the ground. The reality is that this government is responsible for ensuring and co-operating - and more jobs in Cape Breton than when that Party was in government. We will continue to create jobs; we will continue to work with business, and we will continue to grow the economy of Cape Breton and that includes the railway as a strategic infrastructure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES:

MIN. INFO. - INACCURACIES EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has repeatedly said in this House that 80 per cent of people in nursing homes don't pay for their care, but information released Friday by his staff contradicts this minister. A senior department official admitted that at least half of those seniors who receive subsidized nursing home care have already been stripped of their life savings by this government. Mr. Minister, you had to have known this. My question to the Minister of Health is, why did you repeatedly provide information in this House which you must have known was inaccurate?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the government does provide for 80 per cent of the nursing home costs in the province, and that is true.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that's not exactly what goes on in this province, and we're getting to the bottom of this. The Department of Health admits that on average a senior pays for the entire cost of nursing home care for one full year or more before they qualify for any government funds. That, on average, is $60,000 paid by a senior before this government kicks in one penny. Of course, if that senior passes away before the year is up, the government pays nothing towards the cost of their health care. Now, the Minister of Health has never admitted this. Instead, we learned it from his staff on Friday.

[Page 11415]

I want to ask the Minister of Health, why did you withhold this critical information from the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how one could say that any critical information has been withheld which has been a matter of public record for 35 years.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we now know that the majority of Nova Scotians will have to exhaust their entire savings before this government ponies up any money towards the cost of their health care in a nursing home. That's a fact, and it's a fact one would never have known before Friday's briefing, if they were listening to this Minister of Health. My question is, why won't the minister admit he withheld this information from the House because it would reveal the true extent to which he and this government are impoverishing seniors?

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: The government pays 80 per cent of nursing home costs. I'm delighted, quite frankly, that the honourable member for Halifax Needham went to the briefing because now, at least, rather than making up things as she goes along, she does have some sort of record to refer back to.

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

ECON. DEV. - C.B. RAIL: CN - COMMITMENT FULFILL

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My question, once again, is to the Minister of Economic Development. When news came down last week that Rail America has been given leave to abandon the Cape Breton portion of the rail line between the Strait and Sydney, this minister was on a trade mission in New York with one company from Cape Breton. The minute this minister heard the news of the Cape Breton rail crisis, this minister should have been on the first plane back to Nova Scotia to address the situation. While he was in New York, our Leader was in Cape Breton meeting with stakeholders while the minister was giving his regards to Broadway, I guess, or telling Americans about the Nova Scotia version of the Rumsfeld plan. At the very least, this minister should have been on the phone to Paul Tellier demanding that CN live up to its commitment to take over the Cape Breton portion of the railway. Why is this minister not forcing CN to come to the table to fulfill its commitment to the people of Cape Breton?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: The honourable member for Cape Breton South can allude to New York, but it's a good thing he wasn't there because he would be trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge like he tries to sell everything without any results. I was pleased to be in New York with 22 business people from this province trying to grow markets. Is he suggesting that Forest Insight Limited from Cape Breton doesn't deserve the attention of this

[Page 11416]

government? Well, he says what the Liberal Party thinks of businesses in Cape Breton. Because a business such as Forest Insight is in wood production and looks to transportation modes such as rail. That's what this government continues to do and I suggest he take example.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: When I was talking about the business of Cape Breton, I was talking about the quantity, not the quality. There should have been - if that minister was interested in the economy of Cape Breton, 20 businesses with him in New York. Not one. He would have had 20 there with him. This minister has said that in order for this line to be viable, the line needs 4,000 more cars. How does this minister propose to fill 4,000 more rail cars when he can't help Rail America?

MR. CLARKE: What we clearly said was that we will continue to work with our federal partners in this and we jointly recognize the severity of the issue before us. We have to do it in the proper process, in the right way, not making false promises or just jumping to a quick fix like they would have tried to do when they were in government. We are ensuring that we're working through it. The fact of the matter is that both Rail America and Nova Scotia Power did agree that there's enough volume - they didn't agree on price and we will look for an operator who will.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: That minister, nor the Premier, nor that government made any interventions to Canadian National nor did they make any to Nova Scotia Power. They just let this crisis come to the situation where we see it today. This is a sad day when a minister's blatantly trying to save his seat and pretending to help the people of Cape Breton. The polls show him gone, that's what the polls say. He knows that and the people of Cape Breton know that. The Premier and the minister have nothing to offer when it comes to Cape Breton and saving this railway. Why is this minister not pursuing options that he knows are important to pursue with regard to the Cape Breton railway; namely, forcing CN to come to the table and live up to its responsibilities? We have yet to hear from that minister or that Premier why they are not talking to Paul Tellier and CN. Is there another agenda there?

MR. CLARKE: It was clearly stated in our ministerial statement here today that we would be doing that. We have met with them before. We continue to move forward and that's no different today than it was previously. But the one thing that we're trying to do is ensure that we build the prosperity. Unlike Liberal Leader Danny Graham who suggests that we are 14 to 40 years away from prosperity. I would like to know what the Liberal agenda is.

Mr. Speaker, I can quote from Truro Daily News that said Danny Graham said his plan to turn the province into a prosperous place to live, he believes, will take 14 to 40 years. Is that how many years he's expecting to get into this House, Mr. Speaker? Because he

[Page 11417]

wouldn't come into this House when he had the chance. I did. That member said I wouldn't be elected and I was. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

EDUC. - BARRINGTON MUN. HS: PARENTS - MEET

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there's a number of concerned parents from Barrington Municipal High School in our historic House today. This Minister of Education, opposite, has broken a commitment to meet with them. In fact, her deputy minister takes the issue so seriously that he recently took a $2,000 helicopter ride to the Barrington area. He did a 20-minute tour of the building and despite all that expense, he couldn't fit it into his busy schedule to meet with these concerned parents. So minister, since you won't meet with them, they've come to you. I ask you as the Minister of Education, will you meet with these parents today? Will you listen to their concerns? Will you outline your government's plans to deal with the situation? Will you step out those doors in a few moments and show these people the courtesy and the respect that they deserve?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, before I answer that question, I would like to take the next three hours clearing up the misstatements the member opposite has made. I would like to make clear the deputy did a tour of the Barrington school back in the Spring when the issue first surfaced and he was there for some considerable period of time. The trip last week to which the member opposite refers was a trip to see three schools that had some deficiencies and he dropped into Barrington Municipal High as a courtesy. The member opposite keeps insisting that this was his first visit, it was not his first visit. He had visited before. He has talked to the the SACs, he has met with the parents on several occasions. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I'm prepared to meet with the parents but I'm not going to make them any false promises, because our plans for the Barrington schools have been clearly outlined to them.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I appreciate the minister's commitment, Mr. Speaker, and shortly after Question Period we will arrange that meeting. I will arrange it right here in the Red Room so there will be an opportunity. (Interruption) Somebody has to do it. We have a $21,000 report from a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, we have a $21,000 report from a consulting firm that the Education Department hasn't even seen fit to share with these parents. I want to table today an eight-page summary of the logs kept at Barrington Municipal High School between

[Page 11418]

September 11th and October 23rd when 112 different incidents were brought to the attention of the principal of that school; 112 different complaints.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The retrofit of the school however is not going to take place now until the year 2007. Well, 007 has no answers that are going to be acceptable to these parents.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Will the minister tell this House, does your government actually have a plan to deal with the issues or are you just flying by the seat of your pants in that helicopter next to the deputy minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, for the edification of the member opposite. In the Spring one wing of the school was closed. Portables were put in. Issues with the boiler stacks were fixed. There are portable air exchangers in every single classroom and we can put more in. Starting in the Spring of 2003, there will be a three-year renovation plan, not unlike the three-year renovation plan at the member opposite's school - Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I want you to know that if the member for Shelburne would be as active and stand up and fight for his school like the member for Timberlea-Prospect did, it might get some of the service. That is after all a concern that has to be addressed here in this House. That's the concern that's most important, the health of these young people, with the frustration of these parents. They honestly believe that they have received the runaround. They have spoken with their MLA, the deputy minister, the Minister of Health, the Occupational Health and Safety staff, the CEO of the school board, but they haven't spoken to or had the opportunity to listen to the Minister of Education. The commitment has been given, the time is present.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I encourage the minister to accept my advice and meet with them today when we are finished Question Period at 4:15 p.m. - an appropriate time, an appropriate setting, an appropriate message to those people.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Will you give us that commitment today?

[Page 11419]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, since I have already given that commitment, yes, I will give it again, but I would suggest that the member opposite, if he wasn't so busy encouraging people to be so concerned, that perhaps they would accept more factual answers to their questions.

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

Again, the questions are getting way too long and it infringes upon other members' time and I would ask the honourable members, if you don't want to lose your supplementary questions, to get to the questions.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - BARRINGTON MUN. HS:

STUDENTS - ATTENDANCE EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education and I'm glad that she has just stated that she will be giving more factual answers in this House. I look forward to them in this instance. We know that students at Barrington Municipal High School are suffering from rashes, headaches and respiratory problems. In fact, between 60 to 80 students at that school are suffering from ongoing health problems. Cleaning the school didn't solve the problem. The minister knows that and now the department is telling the students and parents that their retrofit won't be in the near future. My question to the minister is, can the minister then tell the students at Barrington Municipal High School why they are being forced to still attend a school that is making them sick?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the health and safety of students is extremely important to this government and to my department. We have had doctors in that school, air quality experts in that school We have the word and report on the air quality at that school and the air quality at that school is fine.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, is the Minister of Education telling us now that everything is fine at Barrington Municipal High School, that there are no sick children at that school? Is that what the Minister of Education is telling us? Part of Barrington Municipal High School is closed because of the environmental condition of that school and as a result the students are shoved into six cubicles. The students at Barrington Municipal High School deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, the minister's department has indicated that the required retrofit that's needed will take another five years. My question to the Minister of Education is, can the minister tell the parents and the students of Barrington Municipal High why their school is not going to get that retrofit for another five years?

[Page 11420]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said before. The retrofit will take several years and it will begin in the Spring. It will be retrofitted so the children will not have to be displaced any more than they already are and I would like to correct the word cubicles. Our portables are not cubicles. Portable classrooms are quite healthy places for a short time.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister should locate her office in a cubicle, but the fact of the matter is the children are still sick. You cannot make that sickness go away, Mr. Minister, with those answers. Now let me ask the minister - she's been asked to meet with council, parents and students to address the problem and provide some reasonable solutions. My final question to the minister is, what solutions is the minister going to give to solve the problems at Barrington High School?

[3:30 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we do have a multi-year renovation project, as I have outlined, if the member opposite would ever let his brains go to his head he would know (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's unparliamentary, point of order. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education and the honourable member for Glace Bay, I would suggest both comments are unparliamentary and I would ask both to rise in their place and withdraw their comments.

First, the honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I apologize.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay, even though it was not on the record, obviously the Chair heard it and I would ask you to withdraw it.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I withdraw the remark.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: INSPECTIONS - INCONSISTENCIES

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Labour would like us to believe that a recent investigation into his Valley office reveals only inspectors applying the law inconsistently. Well, inconsistently, that sounds like favouritism. We need to know what those words mean, but the minister hasn't released the report. The

[Page 11421]

minister's stonewalling reveals a dangerous pre-Westray attitude with implications far deeper than anything that could possibly be found in that report. What he has admitted is that his department often works with violators, handing out second and third chances instead of laying charges. Mr. Minister, your first responsibility is to protect the health and safety of all Nova Scotians. Is the investigation report saying you are always guarding instead the interest of polluters? Mr. Minister, what kind of inconsistency is at issue here?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, there must have been about two dozen questions there. I could just get up and answer yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, but instead I think I will just start by picking one of them. Before I was minister I had a chance to meet and talk with people who used the services of the department. It was suggested to me that there was not necessarily a consistency in the interpretation of the regulations between offices. This was something that concerned me. When I became minister, it was something I discussed with the deputy on that day and I discussed with the subsequent deputy, and we are taking the appropriate steps to address this.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, what I note is that there was no direct answer to my question. The Minister of Environment and Labour needs to come clean on this. He should release the Valley office report. Taxpayers paid for it, and it affects their health and safety. But instead of coming clean, this minister is playing politics, blaming his staff, even though he is the one who has been heading the Department of Environment and Labour since January 2001. It's time for the minister to release the report and tell us how he is going to fix his department. Mr. Minister, will you tell us when you will release this report?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I regret that the NDP take exception to trying to build a culture of continuous improvement in the department, but that is what we try to do in government and that is certainly what we try to do at the Department of Environment and Labour. The member opposite is suggesting that I'm holding back on the report. What I would suggest to the member opposite is that I had a briefing on the report, I look forward to the final report, and at the time that I get the final report, I would be pleased to share the action plan that flows from it with this House and the public.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is not adequate. The minister continues to reveal a very dangerous pre-Westray mindset. He has admitted that his department handles violators with kid gloves. That puts the health and safety of residents at risk. He's blaming his staff again, instead of taking responsibility. He has headed up the department for two years. What we need to know is this, is his failure to release the report an attempt to cover up his own inaction or his own interference in individual cases? Will the minister tell us that?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member opposite pointing out to Nova Scotians that when this minister noticed that there was something that could be improved in the department, he took action. I do appreciate him pointing that out to Nova Scotians. He's talking about compliance, and compliance involves many things. When we can bring about

[Page 11422]

compliance by working with people, making them aware of the fact there's a problem with the way they're operating their business, and if they will accept that and take the appropriate steps to address the problem we consider that to be compliance. If we don't get that type of co-operation from them, we move on.

We try to work with Nova Scotians so that they become in conformance with the legislation and the regulations.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - SCOTIA FERTILIZERS:

SPILL - REPORT RELEASE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour as well. In the last session of the House I raised the issue with regard to Valley Fertilizers Limited. In one report, given some information we received through a Freedom of Information request, it indicates that the fire chief for the area forwarded a report on May 21st saying that there was an ammonia spill at Scotia Fertilizers, yet in a briefing note to the minister May 22nd of this year we know that the minister was told that there wasn't a spill, rather it was broken bags of sand. This information clearly contradicts the report of the Kentville Fire Department.

Mr. Speaker, the importance of how the minister and his department inform each other of environmental problems is timely, given that a review was commissioned this summer to examine the ways the minister's department has responded to a series of controversies in Annapolis Valley. My question for the minister is, if the minister takes his responsibility within his department as seriously as he suggests, why won't he release the report and demonstrate this concern to the people in that area?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I appreciate the questions. I'm sort of surprised that the member opposite continues to bring up the question with Valley Fertilizers, which was a fabrication on his own part in the last session. The ammonia spill did not happen at Valley Fertilizers - he keeps confusing two incidents that happened on the same weekend. Mr. Speaker. I would ask him to go and perhaps check out the Eastern Protein file.

MR. MACKINNON: I'm not going to get into the ditch, like the minister there. Scotia Fertilizers, Valley Fertilizers, they're all interacting the same name at one point in time or the other, and the minister knows that. The fact of the matter is - and I will table the fire chief's report, which clearly indicates that there was an ammonia spill. -I will also table the report from an inspector in his own department that clearly indicates that there was an ammonia nitrate spill. On May 21st the Fire Department's report indicated that spill and on the 23rd of May a department inspector indicated that there was ammonia spilled, which I just tabled, and yet an interdepartmental e-mail indicated that there was no problem at the site at

[Page 11423]

all. My question to the minister is, could the minister please explain to this House why I had to file a FOIPOP application in July of this year before he was able to explain that there was indeed an ammonia nitrate spill at Scotia Fertilizers?

MR. MORSE: If anybody was following the mix of ammonia and ammonia nitrate from the member opposite, one would understand why he is so confused over this matter. There were two incidents - one involved an ammonia leak at a place called Eastern Protein, now the member is interchanging this with an ammonia nitrate, which is a component that is used in fertilizer, which was stored outside of Valley Fertilizers. In that case, there was a tarp over it, there were bags of sand holding it down, and there was a tear in a bag of the sand. That's what the big spill was about that he's talking about - it was sand.

MR. MACKINNON: If anybody's getting sandbagged, it's the people of Nova Scotia, by that minister. One week after I received the FOIPOP the minister says, mea culpa, oh yes, I'm sorry, I did make an accident, there was an ammonia nitrate spill. I will table both the letters, the one before I received the FOIPOP and the one after I received the FOIPOP. Clearly, the minister has indicated himself that there was a problem. Can the minister please confirm whether staff were politically influenced because the complaint was in the minister's backyard?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat surprised that both Opposition Parties keep on pointing out the fact that when I noticed a way to improve the operation of the department that I took the appropriate measures to address it. It seems strange to me that he would suggest that there was political interference when, in fact, I had taken steps to address something that was brought to my attention.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - PORK PRODUCERS:

N.S./P.E.I. - PRIORITY EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The pork industry is in crisis, and last week Prince Edward Island announced a loan program to help its producers survive the worst prices in years. I brought this to the minister's attention the very same day when I asked him why he's not providing similar aid to our producers, and he dismissed it. Saskatchewan also announced a loan program last week for its producers, like P.E.I., they recognize there's a real problem for their producers as well. My question for the acting minister is, why does the acting minister believe our pork producers are less deserving of aid than those in Saskatchewan or P.E.I.?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'm made aware that there is no Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in the House today.

[Page 11424]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is in Truro for a ministerial meeting. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East on your first supplementary, if you wish to carry on.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I do wish to carry on. Last week the minister said that the existing agriculture safety net had enough beef in it to carry our producers through this crisis. This week prices are even lower than last and there is no relief in sight. This question will go to the Deputy Premier. Does the Deputy Premier still maintain the minister's view that our pork producers don't need his help?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will pass that message on to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries when he arrives at the House at about 7:00 p.m. this evening.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Deputy Premier because, if he does pass that on to the minister, it will be the only message this minister has been able to get in three years. P.E.I. and Saskatchewan have acted to help their producers. They are tied to our national programs, as well as Nova Scotia is, but they know that their producers need more, and so do ours. Will the Deputy Premier commit today, in his relaying of the message to the minister, to ask the minister to implement a loan program to help our pork producers survive?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will pass that message on to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE: FOIPOP - ACCESSIBILITY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this government has demonstrated that it wants to run its affairs in private. One of the best examples of this is the fact there is an increase in Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy fees. The corporate plan that we released last week certainly helps Nova Scotians realize why the government has increased FOIPOP fees by 400 per cent. The plan includes what the government calls "every rule", which tells civil servants to make sure that every Nova Scotian is aware of its "wins". It is obvious that this plan is an attempt to hide and control access to government information that is not good news, such as the deplorable state of bridges throughout this province. My question to the Minister of Justice is, why does the minister believe that Nova Scotians should only have access to what the Premier believes are his government's "wins"?

[Page 11425]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased that the honourable member asked the question. The difficulty that the honourable member has is not that we are not prepared to share information, this government has shown its willingness to share information on an unprecedented basis; the honourable member is unhappy simply because this government has so many wins to show Nova Scotians.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are well aware, and it's almost laughable when the minister says his government has been more open and accountable when they've asked for $16,000 before they would release information on the state of bridges in this province. Now that is more open and accountable and maybe that's one of the wins the minister wants to get up and brag about, the deplorable state of our bridges.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the increase was clearly meant to limit the amount of information accessible to both the public and the media and the media has continually reported on incidents where that is the case, as is the case with all Parties here. The corporate plan outlines "that it is crucial" to control its stakeholders. It goes on to say that stakeholders are community groups and organizations, special interest groups and basically every Nova Scotian in this province. My question is, why does the minister believe that his government is fulfilling its commitment of an open and accountable government by controlling Nova Scotians and the information that they receive from this government?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. In point of fact, what the honourable member fails to appreciate is that we, as government, believe that every Nova Scotian is a stakeholder in our government. Every Nova Scotian has a right to know what good things government is doing for them. It's not only a question of talking about those things which need improvement. We also need to let Nova Scotians know what parts of our system are working well. I know the honourable member resents that. One of the things the honourable member is not very good at talking about is that he participated in a government which did absolutely nothing for Nova Scotian bridges for many years. He seems not to be very anxious to talk about that.

MR. SAMSON: Mr Speaker, the fact is that this government wants to limit information. The corporate plan released clearly tells the Civil Service how important it is to make Nova Scotians believe this government is doing well.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will believe this government is doing well when they receive good government. The message that they are sending to the polls is that it's time for this Party to stand aside and let someone else take over and provide the good government that Nova Scotians want and need.

[Page 11426]

Mr. Speaker, my question again to the minister is how can Nova Scotians possibly feel good about this government when the minister is attempting to control them and the information that they are able to receive by this government?

MR. BAKER: Again to my honourable colleague, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite apparently doesn't understand that part of the responsibility of government is to communicate with Nova Scotians. We, as government, are doing that. You see the Government of Canada, they're frequently communicating with Canadians about federal programs. We are doing just as the federal Liberal Government is doing. We are communicating with our stakeholders, all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

ECON. DEV. - CANSO: MIN. ASSISTANCE - EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. A tragedy is still unfolding in the seaport Town of Canso. The town appears destined to go the way of the cod fishery and this government appears ready to let that happen. So the minister's predecessor did nothing, so I want to ask the minister, will the new minister explain to this House what he has done to help Canso through these dark days?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for that question because he does highlight something of general concern to every member of this House, and that is the future of the Canso area. I am pleased to report to this member and to this House that we are bringing forward a response for that area. We have been in consultation with the mayor and council for both Canso as well as the District of Guysborough and that will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I look forward to the minister's statement at that time and I really hope that it has some quality and some quantity to it. My great fear is that Canso's fate is the fate that awaits many of our coastal communities unless this government takes action to save them. What we need is a little spine from this government such as taking steps to ensure that fish landed here are processed here. That's the law in Newfoundland. We don't need any more trucks taking our fish and our jobs out of this province. So my question will be for the Deputy Premier. Is the Deputy Premier prepared to support legislation that will help the Canso's of this province by ensuring that the wealth of the sea landed here is processed in our coastal communities?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to pass that question on to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries who, unfortunately, is not with us. So I presume I will add that to my list for the minister when he arrives back today.

[Page 11427]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, if that statement came from any other member across the floor, I would say that I could almost accept it. But, this is not only the Deputy Premier who gave me that answer, this is a member with a long history in this House and certainly a long history of Tory Governments in this House. So if any member should know, that member should.

With the farmers, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has turned his back on hog producers. The fishers and plant workers in Canso are not optimistic that this same minister will come up with a plan to save their jobs and their community. Since the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries won't give Canso the right to process fish caught here, nor will he demand stock allocations that favour the community, will the Deputy Premier explain why he and his government have turned their backs on rural Nova Scotia?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is one question I can answer. We are not turning our backs on rural Nova Scotia. In fact, this government has done more and put more emphasis on rural Nova Scotia than any preceding government in my history.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: RECRUITMENT PLAN - EFFICACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has stated in the Hamm/Rumsfeld play book - the fact that there are more nurses shows that the recruitment plan is working. According to the most recent annual report that we received in October of this year, 2002, the Registered Nurses Annual Report shows that there were 93 fewer nurses in active practice in 2001 than there were in 1999. My question to the minister is simply, how can the minister state that his plan is working if the number of active practising nurses in Nova Scotia keeps declining?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the nursing strategy that this province has has been endorsed by the nursing profession and by the nursing unions. It has been endorsed nationally and I can tell the honourable member our nursing strategy is working. We are retaining more new graduates. There are more nurses being employed in this province and being retained in this province and coming back home to this province than there has been for some years.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have to go on the information that we have, not what the minister says across the floor here because we found it to be very inaccurate when it comes to nursing recruitment and retention here in Nova Scotia. If you look at the statistics more closely you can see that not only is the minister's recruitment strategy not working, his ability to retain new graduates particularly is not working well either. In fact, last year almost 50 per cent, 49 per cent of the Nova Scotia nurses graduating didn't license here in the

[Page 11428]

Province of Nova Scotia. That is an increase of 10 percentage points since 1999 not licensing here in Nova Scotia.

My question to the minister, does the minister not see this disturbing trend as one being caused by the fact that he, in fact, has failed to create a positive work environment as was promised for year one in the infamous Tory blue book?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have provided a lot of support to nurses with our nursing strategy. Among the things that we've done is, obviously I won't mention the nurse practitioners, but that's getting support to student nurses. We provided, among other things,

90 third-year RN students $4,000 bursaries, sorry, for 50 fourth-year students we had 90 third-year students placed in co-op work terms. We have expended a lot of money in the relocation allowance. (Interruption) I agree with the honourable member, we're not where we would like to be, but I just want to remind the House that it wasn't this government that paid nurses to get out of the business in Nova Scotia.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the honesty of the minister when he states that he and the government are not where they want to be, and I'm pleased to find that because I would hate to find that they were accepting of the failure of the strategy. Yes, the bursary program is a positive, but it's not keeping up with other areas, as we've learned this last week. When you compare Prince Edward Island, for instance, a very small province next to us, on their Web site - for Nova Scotia, one thing stands out there if we compare the two Web sites - you can apply for the position on-line in Prince Edward Island, whereas in Nova Scotia you cannot. It's piecemeal, it's ad hoc, and we see this in other areas of health care recruitment.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, has the minister considered implementing an on-line process for application for nurses so it will be easier for nurses, nursing students and the facilities themselves that are recruiting nurses, to connect with one another in a very effective and cost-efficient manner?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we're willing to look at anything that will help this. I do know that vacancies are posted electronically and electronic addresses are posted for those wishing to contact employment agencies here in Nova Scotia. I just want to say that through the relocation allowance we brought 156 new nurses to Nova Scotia and through the re-entry program, which again is part of our nursing strategy, we brought almost 75 RNs back into the workforce over the last six months. If you add that up, that means that in the last six months it appears we have recruited more than 230 nurses to this province.

[Page 11429]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DORSEY REPORT:

IMPLEMENTATION - DELAY EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The minister was asked last week in this House about the Dorsey report. When it was tabled he said he wanted have 90 days to study it. Now it's six months passed and there is not even a hint of implementation of any portion of the Dorsey report whatsoever. I want to ask the minister, what's the delay? They have approved at the board level certain things, why are you holding it up?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for the question. The Dorsey report deals with two main areas: one is governance, which falls within the purview of this government; the other one is the actual insurance programs that are administered by the Workers' Compensation Board. We addressed the governance issues, including the appointment of a new chairman, which was also recommended by the Auditor General; and we have asked the Workers' Compensation Board to come forward with a plan to deal with the insurance recommendations.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as we know and injured workers were told by the chairman who was appointed by this minister that there would be a bill coming forward in this session of the House dealing with supplemental benefits. So I want to ask this minister, when or who is not telling the truth? If you aren't going to bring it forward, who isn't telling the injured workers the full truth?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the member opposite that not only has the chairman been meeting with the Injured Workers Association, so has the deputy and so has this minister. They're very interested in the implementation of the report. We've been working with them and have been very impressed with their leadership. I would say that I was not at the meeting the member referred to a couple of minutes ago, but when we get documentation from the WCB we will take the appropriate action at that time.

MR. CORBETT: So out of that I will take it that the chairman is not telling the injured workers the truth. He told the injured workers that he met with you and that you said there would be legislation coming forward this session. So I'm going to go back then and tell the injured workers in Cape Breton, in Pictou and in Halifax that the chairman isn't being straight with them, that you have not received that information.

[Page 11430]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify again what has transpired here. We are meeting with the Injured Workers Association, but at this point in time I do not have definitive instructions from the Workers' Compensation Board as to their wishes as to how to proceed with this at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH. - PORK PRODUCERS:

FUNDING - MIN. RESPONSE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Premier who is the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. I first want to state that I was not informed that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries was going to be away for Question Period and I find that very frustrating. Secondly, in a letter that I have received that came from Premier Hamm to the president and chair of the Nova Scotia pork producers, the letter states that the pork industry concerns have been brought up in Cabinet by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. He goes on in this letter and states that, they are encouraged that the prices have not fallen below the projected levels. Well, at this point in time, Deputy Premier, you know as a Cabinet Minister that those producers have lost $65 a hog on that basis. Then he goes on to state that there will be a triggering mechanism announced by bridge funding for the red meat sector.

My question to the Deputy Premier is, if producers can trigger that fund, the most they would ever receive is $8,000 and the majority of producers will not be able to exercise that because you haven't put the money in the fund and producers are losing $65,000 on average. What is your response to the pork producers of Nova Scotia with that in mind?

AN HON. MEMBER: I will pass that question on.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: No, I won't as a matter of fact. Mr. Speaker, there is obviously a lot of grandstanding going on here with regard to agriculture. We are going to be discussing and debating, as I understand, tonight at 7:30 p.m. for two hours the business of the pork producers of this province and I would suggest to the honourable member if he would hold his fire for another three and one-half hours, he can get all the answers he wants from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I don't mind holding some fire, but I can tell you there are bankrupt farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia losing their farms and their families and everybody else because this government sat on its duff and was not prepared to do something and needless to say all they want, the bottom line is producers in Nova Scotia are going broke. Ten per cent of the pork farmers' production in Nova Scotia is gone and another 10

[Page 11431]

per cent is expected to go. Why won't the Deputy Premier commit to do something for the hog producers? When the minister can't do anything, why can't he?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the honourable member that the present Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the future Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for this province will continue to make those decisions which will be best for the pork industry in this province.

MR. DOWNE: We will remember in Hansard, some two or three, three years ago, when that Party stood up in this House and talked about the need for rural development and rural investment in the pork industry and I will cite members who are there now what they said. They don't have the guts to stand up and speak for the hog industry now, but they sure did when they were in Opposition. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Lunenburg West will recall on a previous occasion I asked the honourable members not to use that word in the House and I would ask him to get up and retract that, please.

MR. DOWNE: I might say, yes, I will retract it to intestinal fortitude instead of the word guts.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for that. The time allotted for Question Period has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 142.

[Page 11432]

Bill No. 142 - House of Assembly Act/Elections Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North, you have approximately 32 minutes left. The honourable member for Dartmouth North will take the seat of the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, first, I want to say thank you to the unanimous consent by the Legislature on Friday, when I was speaking on Bill No. 142, to allow me to have the opportunity to sit to do my presentation. I want to say that a number of people, who in fact were watching Legislative TV, thought that it was a great move by the Legislature to allow me to have the opportunity to continue my conversation on Bill No. 142. They also found that it might be enlightening that the Legislature would look at this as a holistic thing, and incorporate some of their commitments to persons with disabilities into some of the election processes which take place.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to make a comment with respect to a misspeak by myself, when I was alluding to Prince Edward Island as having representation of four MPs and four senators as a commitment to, and I did state at that particular time, the BNA Act. It was not that at all, it was a commitment and agreement that, in fact, was given to the small Province of Prince Edward Island as a result of joining Confederation. At the federal level, they recognized the importance of representation, and although a province is a very small province it ought not to be ignored and ought to have, at least, the voices and a democratic process that can be heard.

Mr. Speaker, when I alluded to that, I also alluded to how important the public's perception is and also not only the public's perception, but the public's involvement in politics at that level, because I did state - and I'm just doing a bit of a recap, Mr. Speaker, if you don't mind . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is quite noisy in here, and it's very hard to hear the speaker.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I did state at that particular time the importance of making sure that we know that the kind of democracy that we have, and the kind of democracy that we can have, is reflective of the voting districts that we have. In Prince Edward Island, they're small, with four MPs and four senators. It allowed them to have their voice in the federal Parliament. As a result of that, it also allowed the participation in the democratic process to be much greater, because in Prince Edward Island, as I've said earlier, the involvement in the democratic process is some 90 per cent-plus when it comes to provincial elections; when it comes to federal elections, and in the municipal elections it's some 85 per

[Page 11433]

cent-plus. So there is a correlation that can be drawn between participation in a democratic process and the voter district that is carved out.

Mr. Speaker, I also wanted to do a recap with respect to the issue of persons with disabilities. As you know, we've changed the Elections Act, and the Elections Act now allows us to have a campaign for 30 days instead of the 36 days. That somewhat reduces and diminishes . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member for Dartmouth North would allow an introduction?

MR. PYE: Certainly.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity to introduce some people in the east gallery, who are very honoured people from Chester-St. Margaret's. We certainly welcome them all to this House. Basically, one of the main reasons they're here is because Bill No. 146 is possibly going to be discussed today, and will mean very much to all the people who live in Chester-St. Margaret's and many other Nova Scotians. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, these people are very interested in the future, and they don't always necessarily agree on all items, but they do firmly believe that Bill No. 146 would say, okay, if you're going to change a town's status everybody who lives in the area should have a vote and the majority should carry and that's what I think we all agree with. Thank you very much for coming.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We appreciate all the guests in the gallery who have come here to watch the proceedings. I recognize the member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: I too want to welcome the guests to this fine Legislature. We are, in fact, discussing democracy and the democratic process as it is now before us with respect to Bill No. 142, the report by the Electoral Boundaries Commission. I can certainly understand their concerns of being able to be involved in the democratic process and to be able to have a plebiscite. I believe that Bill No. 142, brought forward by the government is going to allow for a plebiscite for those people in Chester-St. Margaret's to be able to determine whether they want to continue to have village status or if they want to continue to be a town. I believe that's the kind of democratic process that this Legislature is all about. It's about allowing people to have a voice and a say in the direction of the kind of government that they want to have representing them. Whether that's village government or municipal government, in this particular case or if it's town representation and that's important.

[Page 11434]

I want to get back to the issue that I've been talking about and recapping with respect to the Elections Act and with respect to the voting district. We've recognized that some of those voting districts are extremely large. For example, the Guysborough voting district has expanded its boundaries and there has been some talk, because of the distance, there may be a need for satellite stations.

I also want you to know that this is critical for other persons - persons with disabilities, in campaigning in an election campaign. As you know, there are special requirements of individuals. For example, the deaf and hard of hearing may certainly want close captioned representation and there has been, I believe, some agreement with respect to the individuals who represent the deaf and hard of hearing. The Deaf Advocates Association of Nova Scotia - I believe there's an all-Party agreement on some of those issues with respect to televised campaign ads, those sorts of things.

But that does not go to the point whereby it allows those individuals to become a participant in the democratic process by allowing them to run for public office. There's the avenue that we need to make sure that there's an infusion of additional dollars. Also for the visually impaired, the blind, and those individuals, there is a need for Braille brochures, Braille pamphlets, Braille information. There's a whole need based on the varying degrees of their disabilities to participate in the democratic process as well by running for public office. I think that's important to know.

There's also the physically disabled individuals who may require special technical aids - wheelchairs and the like not necessarily covered by a government office, but there may be the need to make sure that some of those expenses are allowed in an election campaign and that some of those expenses are actually covered. I know this does not necessarily have to deal directly with respect to legislation - it can be policy by the government. It can also be recommended by the present Chief Electoral Officer, Janet Willwerth, with respect to having the flexibility to provide within policy, the opportunity for supports or special services needed for those individuals who normally wouldn't entertain or engage in an election campaign process. To have them available so that they can.

When I look at this Legislative Assembly and I look at the representation in this Legislative Assembly and I know that 22.5 per cent of our population is disabled, I know that's not reflective of this Legislature. I know that it was some seven years ago before I came to this Legislature that there was not another disabled person in the Legislature. The last one, I believe, was Jerry Lawrence. Jerry Lawrence was the last disabled person who came here prior to myself. I'm going to tell you that there is this sort of representation that needs to be seriously considered. I do know that the Electoral Boundaries Commission tried to reflect the community of interest by making sure there was full representation on the committee, but I don't recall any disabled persons serving on the Electoral Boundaries Commission. I think that in itself is significantly important.

[Page 11435]

[4:15 p.m.]

We look at the carving out of voter districts with respect to the francophone community, and I say good for them; they rightfully deserve to have those constituencies carved out, Clare, Argyle, and Richmond. And I say, with respect to the carving out of the voter district for the Preston area, for Black representation, good for them, because that is a carving-out district. Although it is not represented by a Black individual in this Legislature today, that doesn't mean that it can't be and will not be in the future. Also, there has been talk around Mi'kmaq representation in this Legislature as well. That's a decision, I know, Mr. Speaker, that they have to come to grips with, how they represent both on-reserve and off-reserve people in those communities. I think that's something important, and it is something important they should be looking at now with respect to representation.

I think it's very important that your government - I should say not necessarily your government but the Legislature should be reflective of your community. It should reflect what your community is all about. The only way you do that is by making sure that the voter districts are carved out in such a way that there is a logical, sensible approach to making sure that this can happen.

I know there are those in the community who talk about reducing the size of government. I ask you, what is their interest? Is their interest for us to become a government similar to south of the border, where you spend the entire year running election campaigns - I should say fundraising campaigns, and nothing else, just to simply continue to get yourself elected. I say to you that that is not what Canadians want and, in particular, what Nova Scotians want. I say to you that Nova Scotians want government that is going to be representative of them.

I'm going to tell you as well that it's significantly important that those voter districts be carved out in such a way that people know and understand that they are a part of government and that they can run for the political office. If, in fact, you have constituencies that are so large and unmanageable and you don't have the resources to manage them, then what happens is the democratic process itself falls apart, because people get less involved in it. People say why should we vote, nobody listens to us; why should we partake in the democratic process?

As we have seen consistently over the years, people have become disenchanted with being involved in the democratic process of getting involved in public office. You can find out, as you know, and if there's a chart available I'm sure the chart will indicate and demonstrate to you that participation on election day has significantly decreased over the number of years. There needs to be something said as to why that happens.

[Page 11436]

It's simply my opinion that the more people you involve in a democratic process, the more likely you are going to have individuals participate. That's when I hearken back to P.E.I., and P.E.I. is one of the finest examples of participation in the democratic process that I know of. When I look back at that Island and I see there are 36 municipal officials, 24 MLAs, 4 MPs, and 4 Senators, representing 135,000 people and the voter turnout on election day is 85 per cent at the municipal level, 93 per cent and 94 per cent and 96 per cent at the federal and provincial levels, then it should reflect to us that there is a need to be inclusive in the democratic process.

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why I sympathize with the honourable member for Lunenburg West. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has an excellent point with respect to representing his people and the people who may be hived off that Lunenburg constituency as a result of this electoral review or voter district review. I think it's important.

I also think it's important to recognize the situation that was caused in Cape Breton The Lakes, as well, simply because there is out-migration in the population of a constituency, does that mean it ought not to still have its full representation? If we looked at the Confederation issue with respect to Prince Edward Island, we would say no, but they've made sure that Prince Edward Island would be covered. So do we say that because of out-migration that Cape Breton The Lakes should not continue to exist? My opinion is that there may very well be.

Because the terms of reference that was crafted by the all-Party select committee said there shall not be any more than 52 seats in the Legislature, that bound the electoral review commission with respect to its limits as to where it could go. Those terms of reference were quite clear as to say that you cannot increase the number of seats within this Nova Scotia Legislature. You can go out there and you can do the jigging of the voter districts and you can make them conform as much as possible, you can make sure they don't exceed 25 per cent of the average, but nonetheless you cannot increase the number of seats in the provincial Legislature. That was the terms of reference given by the all-Party select committee. So there was no move for the Electoral Boundaries Commission to deal with that. There was also the fear that there may be a number of seats reduced. Well, I would certainly hope and support that that would never happen, Mr. Speaker.

I think it's important to note that when I look back and I see the Halifax Regional Municipality is now going under the same process, electoral boundary review, and the Halifax Regional Municipality is thinking or considering, and I believe there was a motion passed in the council that indicated they are going to recommend reducing their seats from 24 to 20. Now, I ask you, in whose interest is that? I can tell you the reason I did not run for the Halifax Regional Municipality was because I felt that the process was unfair, that people did not have an input with respect to the kind of government that they wanted - and we can thank the Liberal Government for that. We can certainly thank them for the underhanded approach in which they brought about municipal amalgamation in this province.

[Page 11437]

What I want to say to you is an awful lot of people felt disenfranchised in that purpose; however, I must say that in fairness to the Town of Bedford, the Town of Bedford did at least have a plebiscite on municipal amalgamation, and on that plebiscite 80-some per cent of the people out there did not want to join the Halifax Regional Municipality. Now, therein lies this whole picture.

It brought me back the other day when I was looking at this advertisement by Liberal Leader, Danny Graham, who said citizen-centred democracy, and this is paid for by citizen-centred democracy. I'm wondering what the Leader's view of citizen-centred democracy is, because I can tell you that we are far - and those individuals watching this Legislative Assembly today will tell you that the Liberals say one thing and they mean another when they get elected to public office. I can tell you that citizen-centred democracy will be a thing of the past when they get here. It's much the same as John Savage when he came here in 1993. I remember quite clearly how people were going to be part of that democratic process who never were. I just certainly hope that under this Bill No.142 people remember that citizen-centred democracy, as it is now referred to by the Liberal Leader, is something that Nova Scotians ought to watch very closely. They ought to keep their finger on this.

There is one point that I do agree with the Liberal member on this issue, and that's with respect to the term of office being a four-year term of office. Whether you're a minority government or not, there are some commitments that will bind you if you're a minority government to live out that term.

However, I do believe that there should be a defined term of office. I believe that allows a democratic process to prevail, because it tells people when they can become actively involved, when they can prepare for the next election, when they can get their house in order. It also gives them the opportunity to follow government, and for government not to be able to determine when it is their time to call the election. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I'm just being briefly interrupted here.

That's something that we have to be very careful of, Mr. Speaker, when those who speak are not in office, then you can say anything you want. Then, once you are in office you completely reverse the decision and say, well, this is not practical. All of a sudden it becomes not practical, it becomes not doable. These are the kinds of phrases and the language that is spelled out to the Nova Scotian voters. I would say one thing to those Nova Scotians who are now watching Legislative TV, are aware that citizen-centred democracy better mean what they think it means before they go to the polls under this new Liberal Leader. I think we ought to make sure that Nova Scotians fully understand exactly what it means.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that there are also the variables that exist with respect to constituencies and the particular needs of constituencies. There are some constituencies whose offices receive a tremendous demand from their MLA and the constituency assistants who manage these offices on a part-time basis. I want to tell you that there needs to be some

[Page 11438]

rethinking about how we provide support staff and support services to those constituency offices of MLAs.

For example, I brought to your attention the constituency that I represent that not only has some 15,000 eligible voters as a result of this new boundary review, but it also has a population of some 20,000 people, and it also has some 17,000 individuals who are employed there on a daily basis, because of the Burnside Industrial/Business Park. I think that's important to note. That comes with special consideration. Also, the constituency of Halifax Needham, and Halifax Bedford Basin, there is special consideration because of the size of the constituency; Halifax Atlantic, because of the size of the constituency and the demand. All these constituencies are reflective of the uniqueness and the differences between them.

I don't believe that people look at these particular voting districts as unique to each other, and there are certain requirements that each constituency may need over and above another. I know that, possibly, can be discussed at the Internal Review Board. However, I do believe, Mr. Speaker, it goes beyond that, it goes beyond this government, not only doing it through the Internal Review Board but also in consultation with the chief electoral officer, seeing that those demands are met.

I can tell you that it's extremely difficult for me to represent the constituency of which I'm very proud to represent, to represent it fairly because of the number of requests that come through that office. There needs to be some consideration with respect to full-time constituency assistants. The demands on those individuals when we are out of this office is something that we often take for granted. Those individuals are our voice when we're not there. They make decisions, and some decisions are extremely difficult, in a short period of time on our behalf. Yet we don't recognize those individuals for the contribution that they provide to the democratic process. I think we need to seriously consider, at some time in the very near future, the role of constituency assistants in an MLA's office, and the importance of having them there and the need for full-time constituency assistants.

Mr. Speaker, I think this goes a long way to making sure that the government operates effectively and efficiently. The reason I say that is because this is something that the Electoral Boundaries Commission would not actually get the opportunity to see and would not actually get within the presentations, simply because it would be looked on as having a conflict of interest if individual CAs went there and spoke with respect to their roles and responsibilities. I don't believe that's the case, much the same as I don't believe it's the case that MLAs have a conflict of interest when speaking before the Electoral Boundaries Commission. I believe that you call in the experts in the field when you want the information in order to guide you through a process.

[Page 11439]

[4:30 p.m.]

If we're talking in terms of medicine, we call a medical doctor in to give us the advice. When we talk in terms of policing services, we call in the police to give us advice. When the business community wants something, then they call in the business community to provide them with the expert advice that's needed. Then what is wrong with politicians, particularly longstanding politicians, presenting their experience with respect to voter districts, with respect to the expectations of the public. That would allow the commission to craft out and to round off better voter districts in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. It would allow them to think about how reflective they are with respect to the voter districts that they're about to bring forward.

I want to say to you that although I brought up the particular concern with respect to the voter district of Dartmouth North, which I have seen, the average number of voters across this province is some-13,000, and because Dartmouth North is within the metropolitan area, and although the metropolitan area did receive an additional seat, I think that you have to recognize that because of being 15 per cent above the average, I have now gone from 13,000 eligible voters to 15,000 eligible voters - plus, representing the constituency of Burnside Industrial Park, and I think that's a tremendous amount of responsibility.

I want to tell you that even though I think that's a tremendous responsibility, I want to say to you that the people of Dartmouth North have been exceptionally kind to me while running both as an alderman in city government for 11 years and as their MLA representing them in this Legislature and I'm very proud to be representing them. It is a constituency that's unique in its characteristics and one that presents to the purse of this provincial government tremendous tax dollars, not only to this provincial government but also to the municipal government as well. I don't know what the tax ratio is to the provincial government, but I do know the tax ratio is some-$35 million in real property taxes to the Halifax Regional Municipality and not counting grants in lieu of, monies like, for example, the Power Corporation, the Department of National Defense, the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the NRE, and the Nova Scotia Power Corporation, all who pay grants in lieu of taxes.

So I want you to know that there are tremendous dollars that flow out of that constituency both at the municipal and provincial level and, in fairness, the federal level as well. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I think we are what we make our governments to be and if we want to be inclusive - and I know that I only have a couple minutes left - what we have to say is, do we want a democratic process to prevail? If we want the democratic process to prevail, we need to make sure there's full representation in this Legislative Assembly for all Nova Scotians. I think the Halifax Regional Municipality, particularly in the urban area of Halifax, has been shortchanged by the review commission because, in my opinion, we certainly should have and could have more representing constituencies or voter districts carved out within this particular region.

[Page 11440]

However, having said that, I am not one who agrees that this should come also at the expense of other constituencies because of economic turndown or because of out-migration of those constituencies. I think that we need to say to ourselves in this Legislative Assembly, what is the kind of government we want? If that kind of government means that we need larger government and that we recognize that in order to maintain and keep the democratic process, it's going to be large, it's going to be cumbersome, it's going to be expensive, but that's the way it is and we had better set our minds to that. If not, we can certainly roll off and go in a direction which we have seen south of the border. Once again I want to reiterate where politicians spend 99 per cent of their time fundraising for the next election campaign rather than serving their people. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important issue - Bill No. 142 - and I want you to know that I still have my reservations on this bill and I will await until it comes from the Red Room back to this Legislature before I make my final decision.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today in my place to speak on second reading of Bill No. 142, the House of Assembly Act and the Elections Act which, to put it very simply, is the bill which is going to redraw the electoral boundaries in this province.

I had the opportunity to attend the first meeting of the select committee of the House which was in Port Hawkesbury. I also had the opportunity to attend the first round of consultation done by the commission and also to attend the second round of consultation by the commission after they had tabled their initial report.

I'm pleased to say, as the MLA for Richmond, I was very pleased to see the amount of presentations that were made, both by private individuals, by citizens that were representing organizations and by the municipal council itself which also made a presentation on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, the final report which was tabled and the bill itself has recommended keeping Richmond County as an electoral seat, as it was prior to the Electoral Boundaries Commission undertaking their review. Needless to say, for a whole variety of reasons, I am certainly pleased personally of this decision that was made and I want to take this opportunity to discuss a few of those reasons why that was the case.

As you are well aware, the first recommendation, if I can go even further, 10 years ago when the boundaries were reviewed at that time, a decision had been made to protect certain constituencies for certain merits. There was a riding which was created for Nova Scotia's Black population, which is Preston, there were three ridings set aside as designated Acadian ridings, which were Clare, Argyle and Richmond. There was a fifth one, the riding of Victoria, which was protected due to its vast geographic size and area. So, when we get

[Page 11441]

to this year's commission, 10 years later, when we saw the first report - as you're well aware, the first report decided to retain Preston, Clare and Argyle as Acadian seats, but recommended that Port Hawkesbury be added in with the riding of Richmond.

Many of the residents of Richmond County asked, why have Clare and Argyle been given designated status and Richmond has lost its status? I was looking forward in the report to see the reasoning for that and how they had deducted that and what was the reasoning behind it. Unfortunately, the report did not provide any reasons and when I appeared at the commission and asked them if they could indicate why this was the case, they also did not have any specific reasons to point to this.

The overwhelming majority of residents of Richmond County wanted to see Richmond be retained as its own seat as it has been for many years. At the same time, there is no doubt that Richmond County and the Town of Port Hawkesbury share a great many traits. We are business partners, we are social partners, we work together on a variety of issues which have a common effect for us. The Point Tupper Industrial Park and the Strait area waterfront itself, the Port Authority, are all areas of mutual concern which affect all of us. In one sense, if we had gotten the Town of Port Hawkesbury, certainly as the elected member, it would have been an added challenge, but at the same time the overwhelming majority in Richmond County wanted to see the riding be retained as it currently was.

Mr. Speaker, there are numerous reasons for that. I wanted to touch a bit on those. Under the terms of reference, one of the aspects they were asked to consider was the geography of the riding. There is no doubt that Victoria-The Lakes, the new proposed riding, will be very large. Inverness, itself, I'm sure the member who currently serves there can tell you how large that riding is, in fact it's probably almost one-third of the geographic area of Cape Breton Island, that one riding. I can tell you that Richmond County itself, under its current boundaries, due to its road structure and its various communities, is a very large geographic riding. If one goes from Point Tupper, which is a community just outside the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and follows along the road going all the way down to Forchu, following along the coast, that is nearly a two-hour drive. If you continue on the No. 4 Route, to go from Point Tupper, heading up to Irish Cove, which is the last community that borders on the riding of Cape Breton West, that in itself is almost an hour and a half drive.

So it is a very large riding. The communities are dispersed. They have their own identities, and it's a riding which is certainly difficult to provide the effective representation that we would like to see. I will give you, for example, some of the challenges of these large geographic ridings. I have one constituency office. It is located in Lennox Passage, which is a community just outside Louisdale, which is approximately the centre of Richmond County, not exactly but it's in that area. That is approximately 20 minutes away from my own home in Arichat, so I need to travel 20 minutes to get to my office. The reason for putting the office there was because it is the one area in the county, the 345-exchange, which is not long distance to the vast majority of the residents of Richmond County.

[Page 11442]

The reason for putting that office there was not only to be a central location, but as a cost-saving, it was the one number which was available to the residents of Isle Madame, the residents of Whiteside, Lower River, the residents of St. Peters, River Bourgeois, L'Ardoise. It would not have been long distance for any of those residents to call my office, whereas had I put my office in my hometown of Petit de Grat or Arichat, where I live, then the L'Ardoise area and all those areas east, going from there, would have been long distance. So putting it where I put it, we were able to avoid that.

Still, the communities, even with that, of Forchu, Framboise and Irish Cove are still required to use long distance to call my office, which is why I maintain a toll-free number. I think that's important, Mr. Speaker. I would be curious as to how many members in this House actually have to maintain a toll-free number for their office so that their own constituents can contact them at their office, their local office. That is a reality that we're faced with in these large ridings. I have no doubt the member for Inverness, probably, is faced with the same thing. I know a number of the members have more than one constituency office in their riding, because it is such a large geographic riding.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is it's important to realize, and for members to realize, we all get the same budget to run our offices. There is no difference, whether your riding is four square blocks, as I believe the member for Halifax Chebucto has indicated his riding is, or whether your riding is almost an hour and a half to two hours from one end to the next. For example, communicating with our constituents - the member for Halifax Chebucto may be able to walk and do a mail-drop to the houses in his constituency, but I can certainly guarantee you it would be quite difficult to do a household or mail-drop by walking to the houses in Richmond County. For example, cable television, which is one means I have used since I have been elected to communicate with my residents, through an MLA report, which is videotaped and which is played both in the Telile community cable station, which services the Isle Madame/Louisdale area and the St. Peters community station, which services River Bourgeois, Sampsonville, St. Peters and L'Ardoise.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of communities in Richmond County that do not have cable TV. They do not have access to this. In fact, I believe it's only been in the last few years that we no longer have party lines in Richmond County. There were still party lines a number of years ago that were in use and it is important to realize at how difficult it makes it for us to communicate with our constituents.

[4:45 p.m.]

I know a number of the members in this House use the Internet quite heavily, have their own Web sites and use it as a means of communication. The fact is, in Richmond County, we do not have broadband, high-speed Internet, other than at the campus of the Collège de l'Acadie located in Petit-de-Grat. The county right now, with my full support, has

[Page 11443]

been fighting to try to get broadband service for the residents of Richmond County, but many of our residents only have dial-up and some of them cannot even access dial-up service.

So that's another mode of communication that is not readily available to me to communicate with residents or for residents to communicate with me in return. That's important to keep in mind. So, cost wise, communicating for us in such ridings as Richmond is very difficult for us. Again, I remind you, our budget is the same as the budget of members in urban areas that certainly pale in comparison to the geographic size that we are faced with.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other aspects that the commission was asked to look at is community history. Richmond County has a proud history of provincial representation in this province. In fact, the county first became a provincial riding with the election of Mr. Laurence Kavanagh in 1836 and, if I'm not mistaken, Laurence Kavanagh was the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the House of Assembly here in Nova Scotia, being from Richmond County. For 166 years, since the election of Laurence Kavanagh, Richmond County has had its own provincial seat, with the exception of an eight-year period from 1925 to 1933 when Richmond had been merged with the riding of Cape Breton West.

Now the interesting note here, historically, is that it was reported that this was done, the merger of the two ridings by the government, to confine the miner's vote, which was anti-government, to Cape Breton East; in order to isolate it down there, to actually merge the two ridings of Richmond and Cape Breton West as a result of this. But, clearly, after eight years, it was realized (Interruption) Well, it was back in 1925. My recollection doesn't go back that far, but maybe the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre will remember that, but after eight years that was abandoned. Richmond went back to being its own county seat.

Other than that eight-year period, since 1836, we have had our own seat. The seat has always been based on the county boundaries. It has been from Point Tupper, down to Forchu, up to Irish Cove. So it is the same districts which are being used by our current municipal council. Right now, we have 10 municipal councillors who represent Richmond County. So, without a doubt, our community history of representation here in this House is there. Richmond has a proud history here and we're certainly interested in maintaining that.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other elements that was to be looked at was community interest. Now I can tell you, as I said before, that Richmond County has had its own boundaries for 156 years. The county has 10 municipally-elected councillors. The economy is a rural-based economy. It relies on both the fishery, on forestry, on farming and in many ways, it also relies upon the industrial park in Point Tupper, which has employers such as Stora, Statia Terminals, Nova Scotia Power. We had the gypsum wallboard plant, which employed 75 people. Unfortunately, the fate of that facility is bleak at this point. It has clearly been a riding where the economy has united our county from one end to the next.

[Page 11444]

Mr. Speaker, Richmond, itself, is made up of a collection of villages which have their own very unique history and have a common connection with all of the other communities in the county. The issues which affect the people of Richmond County from one end to the next are transportation, it's employment, it's our natural resources, it's the issues of taxation, economic development and, more importantly, community survival, which is a challenge for all of our different communities from one end to the next.

Mr. Speaker, it's also important to keep in mind what the challenges are for elected representatives in the rural areas compared to in the urban areas. For example, for most of the urban members transportation is not their responsibility, it's the responsibility of the municipal unit. I can tell you, and I'm sure any of my colleagues in the rural parts, that transportation is a major issue for us to deal with as MLAs. I can tell you without a doubt that transportation is at least 20 per cent of my case load, and in the winter it takes a significant increase. It's a tremendous challenge because our ridings are large. It's difficult for transportation with a limited budget to be able to address all of the issues that are out there. It's very frustrating for our residents and the fact is that in rural parts we need to make sure that our roads are in good condition because we rely on school buses to take our kids to school and rely on them to get them there in a safe and timely manner.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that it has now been four and a half years that I've had the privilege of serving the people of Richmond County. In my office I can identify over 1,400 files that have been opened for individual citizens, to work on their concerns and to represent the issues that they have. The amount of calls that come into my office, as many rural members will know, is a tremendous amount because where we are geographically located the people of Richmond do not have easy access to the Transportation Department, the Housing Department - there is a Community Services office, but for issues which should go to a ministerial level and other departments, they do not have ready access to that.

They can't just drive downtown and see the minister's deputy, or the minister's secretary, or an executive assistant. It is not an option for the people of Richmond County; therefore they do rely on their MLA to access information for them, to be able to convey their concerns to ministers and to departmental staff, and it certainly increases the burden that is put on us - I wouldn't say, I don't know if I would use "burden" but there is the added responsibility that is placed on rural members based on that fact.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that Richmond County is a very rural community. Only 30 per cent of our residents have municipal water and sewer service. We only have one community in fact, the community of St. Peters, that actually has sidewalks throughout the community. So we have a tremendous amount of challenges facing us. We have an unemployment rate of nearly 28 per cent in the county, which makes it a tremendous challenge to provide effective representation.

[Page 11445]

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you next to the unemployment office, or the Employment Office - I guess in Cape Breton we still refer to it as the unemployment office, but it's actually called the Employment Office - I believe after they have stopped there I'm the next stopping point because people are looking for direction, they're looking for opportunities. They're hoping that as their member not only will you be able to address their concerns, you're asked for letters of reference, you're asked to try to identify employment opportunities for them, and it is a full-time job which requires a tremendous amount of work and clearly what the people of Richmond said during this process is that they felt Richmond was large enough as it was for one member to try to provide as effective representation as possible.

Mr. Speaker, the other issue that the commission was asked to look at was the issue of minority representation and keeping designated seats as a result of that. Now, as I told you, in the first report , the interim report, it was suggested that Port Hawkesbury be added in with Richmond County. Richmond County has a whole myriad of different cultures within the county. We have a strong Acadian population; we have a strong Irish population; we have a strong Scottish population; we have a growing German population in the county; we have an American population which is growing in the county; and we have a tremendous amount of residents originally from Newfoundland, which many of them came over as a result of the fisheries, who now live in Richmond County.

To show you the diverse nature of Richmond County, I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to attend a "45s" card game held by the St. Francis de Sales CWL in Lower River, and the card play was $20 per player and it was a fundraiser for breast cancer, which I thought was quite an interesting idea. The Leader of the NDP asked me if I knew how to play. I can tell you that I certainly didn't walk out with the grand prize, but at the same time I'm pleased to say I didn't walk out with the prize for the worst player, so I was found somewhere in the middle of that mix. But the interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, is that before the game started - I believe there were over 200 people at the game; it was a tremendous fundraiser - when they were saying what the rules were going to be, the gentleman who was in charge actually had to ask that people only speak English during the card game because of the fact that there were so many different languages in Richmond County, from English, French, Gaelic, German, he actually had to ask that for the rules you only be allowed to speak English. Now what made it even funnier is that he meant to say English when he got up, but by mistake he said, you're only allowed to speak French which for a great many of us there thought what a wonderful advantage it would be for us to only be able to speak French, but he quickly cleared that up and said that it would be limited to only speaking English so that there wasn't any unfairness during the game. But that clearly shows you how distinguished a population Richmond County has, as do many other areas throughout the province.

Mr. Speaker, we do have approximately 30 per cent of our population which still identifies itself as Acadian, as French first language residents and because of that, we're certainly proud to have that designation. We have Acadian populations. One of the largest Acadian communities, other than Clare and Argyle, does find itself in Richmond County and

[Page 11446]

the communities of Isle Madame, Petit-de-Grat, Arichat, West Arichat, D'Escousse, Louisdale, River Bourgeois, St. Pierre, L'Ardoise, located throughout the county. Having been given this designation 10 years ago, as an Acadian protected riding, it was something that meant a lot to the residents of Richmond which they wanted to maintain.

I would submit to you that the people of Richmond County wanted to see Richmond County remain as its own seat and if it was going to be based on geographic reasons, based on community of interest or based on minority representation, the clear message they gave me and they gave in their presentations is that they wanted to see the county remain as it was and whichever one of the terms of reference that the commission wanted to use to keep Richmond as it was, the residents of Richmond were quite pleased to see that.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, as with everything, not surprisingly, the local Tories decided that this was an opportunity to possibly play mischief with the boundaries. A gentleman that some of the members opposite will know well, in fact, I believe some of the members over on my righthand side may know very well, Mr. Frank Sutherland, of Lynche River, Richmond County, but, also, formerly of Halifax, spent quite some time here in Halifax (Interruption) Oh, Sackville, I apologize. I was going to say Halifax County, but Sackville. Now, would you believe that in the three times the commission came to Port Hawkesbury, only one person made a presentation suggesting that Port Hawkesbury be added in with Richmond County. Now who would that one person be? Mr. Frank Sutherland, Lynche River.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I've said before, many of the members of this House will recall who Mr. Sutherland is. In 1993, I believe, he was the NDP candidate for Sackville-Beaver Bank. Then in 1998, he was the Tory candidate in Richmond County.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: He saw the light.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Preston suggests he saw the light. Well, he saw the light so well that in 1998, for the first time since Confederation, since Richmond has had its own seat, the Tory candidate placed third in Richmond County. So that was the light that he saw. Mr. Sutherland has gone on to serve as the President of the Tory Association and he has been very quick to enunciate his views on this. So he wanted to see the Town of Port Hawkesbury joined with Richmond. In fact, when the commission did come back and report in the Red Room, their first interim report, I noted that Mr. Sutherland and his wife were present when it was stated that the suggestion was that Richmond should be put in with Port Hawkesbury. So when the commission did return back to Port Hawkesbury, there were even more presentations made, especially by representatives of the Acadian groups, different individuals expressing their views and, in fact, on all three occasions, Richmond Municipal Council, which has councillors with different political backgrounds, whether they be Liberal, Tory or NDP, they unanimously stated that they supported Richmond remaining as its own provincial seat.

[Page 11447]

[5:00 p.m.]

It's interesting because when the second report came down, the final report, when it recommended retaining Richmond, and it took place in the Red Room, I noted that Mr. Sutherland and his wife were not present that day for that, but Mr. Sutherland went on to state in a letter to the editor of the Reporter dated Tuesday, September 17th, that I'm not convinced that the few vocal interveners represent the true rank and file Acadians.

Now, as I said, you had the municipal council that made a presentation unanimously, 10 elected councillors elected by the residents of Richmond County. You had the heads of Acadian groups that were elected and asked to go there. Yet you had the one lone wolf out there, the one lone sheep I should say, Mr. Sutherland who wanted to put Port Hawkesbury in with Richmond. Yet he is questioning what mandate the others were given to make their presentations. Clearly this is bordering on the ridiculous to say the least.

What makes it even more interesting politically is that one has to ask where the local Tory association stands on this position. To add to the twist, while Mr. Sutherland, a former Tory candidate, NDP candidate, maybe another Party candidate next time, not sure, while he made a presentation, he being the former president of the Richmond Tory Association suggesting Port Hawkesbury come in with Richmond. The current President of the Richmond Tory Association, Andre LeBlanc, spoke in favour of keeping Richmond as a protected Acadian riding. Locally I'm left to question what the Tory position is. We may never know, they may continue to speak from both sides and never give us a true position.

At the end of the day keeping Richmond County as its own seat is a victory for all residents of Richmond County from one end of our riding to the next; regardless of their backgrounds, they made it quite clear they wanted to keep their own seat. I am very pleased to see that that is what has taken place in this.

Mr. Speaker, on that same note, as I've said before, when we did ask the commission on their interim report why Richmond was not protected, we were not given any answers. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the commissioners - they had a terribly difficult job - but one of the aspects that I do find troubling here, and I find it important because when we have debates on these types of reports, often when someone is doing research or 10 years down the road, they may look back and say,"what was the debate at the time on the report, which is why I want to put on the record my concerns.

On Page 37 of their report under their recommendation, under Clause 3, it says, "The Commission recommends, during the next electoral redistribution, that the Provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission re-evaluate the method of encouraging minority representation." And that's it, they don't say why. They don't say what concerns were raised. They don't say what aspects of it they were not comfortable with. They don't say where this comes from. They leave it at that and I find that very troubling because if you're going to

[Page 11448]

make that recommendation then at least state your case as to why you feel there needs to be a review.

When I look back at the last 10 years, I can tell you that I believe that the idea of having designated constituencies has worked very well. I look at Clare, I look at Argyle, I look at Richmond, and the fact is I want... You know its important that members realize that in Richmond County, even though that it was given protected Acadian status, it is by no means a guarantee that an Acadian is going to be elected and that is not the idea, that there is a guarantee. I think the member for Preston stands out as the greatest example of how there is no guarantee, even though you have a protected riding, that you're going to be able to elect someone from a specific background.

If you look at Richmond County, for example, since 1933 you will see names such as G.R. Deveau, Donald Boyd, L.D. Currie, Earl Urquhart, Gerry Doucet, Gaston LeBlanc, John LeBrun, Greg MacIsaac, Richie Mann and now myself. In those years there was almost a 50-50 breakdown of people of Acadian decent and people of non-Acadian decent. It's interesting because 10 years ago when the Commission at that time was looking at the boundaries, one of the greatest defences and positions put forward for having Richmond designated as an Acadian seat was by Mr. Richie Mann who, at the time, not being Acadian, recognized the importance to the community, recognized that it was something that meant a lot to the Acadian community. He gave a wonderful presentation that I would encourage members to review that was given back at that time.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that having Acadians elected to this House of Assembly has been an advantage to the Acadian community. When you look at the services now available to the Acadian community in this province - and I give to you the example of the Acadian community college system, Collège l'Acadie; we have the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, an Acadian school board. We have schools throughout the province that have French immersion. In fact, as my colleagues here well know, we even have debate taking place in the French language here in the House of Assembly, which, I believe, has made this House a much better place as a result of that.

In Richmond County, because of the lobbying by the Acadian community and support it has had from its members and from different levels of government, we today have L'École Beau-Port, a Primary to Grade 12 Acadian school located in Arichat. We also have in Petit-de-Grat, a local campus of the Collège de l'Acadie, which is providing education to our residents in their own community, in their own language. The Collège de l'Acadie actually finds itself located within the cultural centre, La Picasse, which was a tremendous undertaking by the community and now services not only the Acadian college, we have the local branch of the regional library in there. We also have a CAP site, which provides Service Canada services and Internet service to our residents. We have Centre préscolaire de la Picasse, which is an Acadian pre-school and we also have incubator space in there, we have Tele Centre, which is also located there and we have a large cultural events hall. These have

[Page 11449]

all been achieved as a result of lobbying of residents, the hard work of many volunteers and leaders in our community and has no doubt been assisted by the support they have gotten from their elected members and both levels of government.

Mr. Speaker, those are the comments I wanted to make about Richmond County. As I said, I am pleased that Richmond will continue to have its own voice here in Halifax. On a personal note, I realize how difficult this process was for the commissioners and as a member from rural Nova Scotia, I am extremely saddened anytime we see a loss of voices from rural Nova Scotia. As a resident of Cape Breton, it saddens me to see that we will be losing a seat on the Island of Cape Breton.

Regardless of where it is, whether it be Cape Breton or anywhere in this province, when we lose a voice for communities in rural Nova Scotia, it is a loss to this province, it is a loss to this House, and it is a loss to effective representation. Regardless of where that seat finds itself, if it's in rural Nova Scotia, I find it an unfortunate thing. At the same time, the reality is we must balance the declining population in rural Nova Scotia with the growing population in urban areas and the importance of trying to achieve the relative parity of voting power and the fact that the city is growing.

I realize it was a difficult balance, I wouldn't have wanted to try to do it myself, but I do find it very unfortunate anytime - for the reasons I have listed, of the added challenges there are for our rural members - where any member is going to lose their riding, especially in the rural parts of the province.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to again thank those who did make presentations both at the select committee and both times the commission came to Port Hawkesbury. It is essential for us to stand up here and talk about the petitions we have signed, the concerns of our residents but it is essential when we have opportunities where our residents can come forward and make presentations, that they do so. I'm proud to say that the residents of Richmond, when they were concerned about what was going to happen to the boundaries, they did come forward and made their presentations directly, not through their members, but they told the commissioners themselves what their concerns were and I'm certainly pleased with that.

M. le Président, je veux juste prendre cette occasion pour encore dire, que je suis fière très content de voir que la commission à decider de garder le compter de Richmond comme une circonscription, toute seule la comme se soit même et je veux prendre cette occasion a remercier toute ceux et celle qui sont venus faire les présentations sur la part de la communautée Acadienne sur la part d'eux même comme des résidents individuels je veux prendre cette occasion aussi pour remercier, Jean Légère, de la Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle Écosse, qui est venus à la ville de Port Hawkesbury faire une présentation et qui a certainement soulevée la commission l'importance de maintenir la communautée de Richmond comme un circonscription protéger pour la communautée Acadienne c'est la

[Page 11450]

question que vue une fois qu'une communautée Acadienne le peuple Acadien ont pus, ont pus avoir un succès et un but ont pourrais dire contre la communautée as été protéger comme Acadienne c'était certainnement très important pour toute la communautée Acadienne pas juste à Richmond mais à travers la province de pas vouloir perdre le droit qui avait été acccomplis quand Richmond a été protéger comme communautée Acadienne je remercie Jean Légère et toute ceux qui l'ont assister des partenariats avec la Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle Écosse.

Et je veux remercier en avant de notre personnelle tout les gens de Richmond qui m'ont parler qui ont supporter ma position qui étais de garder le côter de Richmond comme sa propre circonscription j'ai comme question qu'à la fin de la journée que tout les citoyens de Richmond, soit qu'ils sont n'importe quel communauté qu'ils viennent de qu'ils sont très content de voir que le compter de Richmond qui a été sont propre compter pour au- dessus 165 ans que sa continue aujourd'hui.

M. le Président, j'ai eh j'attends pour voir les présentations qui vont prendre place au comittée Law Amendments voir si ils y a d'autres présentations qui vas être fais mais je veux aussi soulever encore en français j'ai un peu de problêmes avec la recommendation de la commission qui demande que la question d'avoir la circonscription de protéger à cause des droits minauritaires ou pour encourager la représentation minauritaires, que cette méthode de faire cela que sa soit ré-évaluer pareceque dans le rapport de la commission sa nous donne aucunne raison pourquoi ont fais cette suggestion, mais c'est cela une des aspects qui me trouve, troublant que dand dix ans d'ici quand la prochaine commission vas vouloir ré-évaluer les les circonscriptions que cela sera sur "answer man" mais "lego san" que moi je soulève comme le députer de Richmond que on n'a rien on n'a rien qui est présenter devant nous dire pourquoi les membres de la commission ont faite ses recomendations je trouve cela troublant eh je trouve cela important pour la communautée Acadienne la communautée Affricaine Nouvelle Écosse de Preston et les communautées à travers cette province de pouvoir faire de notre mieux comme une province comme une assemblée législative pour encourager la représentation des communnautées minoritaires et peuples minoritaiters et leur données une voix dans cette assemblées faire certain que les différents projets qui veulent poussers à travers du système les différentes idées qui veulent à voir soulever ici que qu'ils soit représenter qu'ils ont une voix forte ici dans cette province et c'est ma position Monsieur le Président si qu'on regarde au représentant que l'on as eu des circonscriptions Richmond, Clare, Argyle, Preston et toute les autres communautées que cette maison et que cette province as été très bien servis par les débutées qui sont venus ici qui ont fais leurs mieux pour représenter leurs peuples et pour représenter leurs circonscriptions et avec cela je vais prendre ma place mais je veux dire je veux féliciter les membres de la commission je sais que ce n'étais pas facile mais j'attend pour voir les débats qui vont prendre place aux committées de Law Amendments et j'espère d'avoir l'occasion de peut être faire plus de commentaire une fois que le projet de Loi numéro 142 retourne ici à l'assemblée Législative, Merci, M. le Président.

[Page 11451]

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I don't plan on talking long but I want to rise in my place to say a few words. I think it is important because I was part of the select committee and I believe with that I think it's important to say a few words.

[5:15 p.m.]

Starting off is that when we set out to go across this province as a select committee of this House, there were certain latitudes that we weren't given - part of it was we were sent out with a resolution that was passed unanimously in this House defining what the size of this House would be as it relates to seats in this House. It was clear - the resolution read that there would be 52 seats, with the ability if the First Nations people were so disposed, we could look at expanding it for one seat for a First Nations person. That wasn't to be, they didn't want to participate, at that point anyway, for whatever reason, so we're here with 52 seats.

What was interesting is that since we passed a resolution on that we've had two members speak about it. One member said there should be less, and there was another member who said there should be more, yet they all voted for the 52-member seat. When we set out, that was our mandate and that's all we could do; that was the mandate and so that mandate then had to be passed down to the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

I want to say a few words about that committee because it's hard enough to get people to serve their community and their province from time to time, and when people are called upon to serve it usually means having to break with the norm - whether it's your normal job or to be away from your family and friends for periods of time, and for very little remuneration. I want to congratulate the members of the committee who went out, and I think they did the best they could with the parameters that we, in this House, gave them. They went out and did the best they could.

Could they be fallible? Of course - they're human, but I don't think in any of their mistakes - if you want to be as bold as to call them mistakes - that there was any maliciousness in it. It was one of human frailty. The reality is that we humans make mistakes.

But they also are confined by not just the rule of this House, but the rule of law, and the rule of law says that in jurisprudence your vote has to be worth an equal amount somewhere. It has to be worth - my vote in Cape Breton has to be worth the same as in Halifax or in Richmond, so it has to carry somewhat equal weight. It can't be too imbalanced and that's what we were finding in our tour of the province through the select committee was that there was uneven distribution of population in this province. The reality is that the

[Page 11452]

largest portion of population is in metropolitan Halifax and we see a decline in population in many of our rural areas, and indeed in Cape Breton.

I - like I think every other member who spoke before me - do not feel happy that Cape Breton Island is losing a seat. I would make the bold statement that there are very few times that I've ever gotten up in this House that the people of Cape Breton haven't been foremost in my mind and what they mean to me. It's the reason we're here. Sometimes we're accused of thinking more as Cape Bretoners than as Nova Scotians, but the reality is that when you see we have - and we're legally mandated to reflect the population - the demise of major industries in Cape Breton such as coal and steel, and we were here today during Question Period talking about the possible loss of our railway, and these are all leading to depopulation - you know I jokingly said to somebody the same amount of Cape Bretoners are going to be voting in the next election, but the problem is most of them would be voting here in Halifax, Mr. Speaker, where the jobs are. I think before people get too far on their high horse in terms of losing that seat, I think there has got to be some looking in the mirror to see, you know, where the blame is. It certainly isn't in the stars.

So until people grapple with that, that there's a burden to be shared here of why there will be one less seat in Cape Breton, you know, they have to look at themselves. But we will soldier on and, again, I guess when we look to the loss of a seat, I think back in some ways to when government sought to amalgamate municipalities and felt that fewer seats in municipalities didn't matter, that you didn't need as many politicians at the municipal level, but when it comes to looking at your own backyard, you don't want any shrinking.

So, you know, that's kind of odd, but nonetheless it was done. There were a lot fewer municipal politicians after forced amalgamation, Mr. Speaker. So I think with all those things kept in mind, there is a depopulation going on in Cape Breton because of failed intervention by the two aligned Parties in Cape Breton to keep the economy growing, to spur that economy to real growth with real jobs. That's a problem and if people are worried about losing representation, then my challenge to them is to do serious economic development and not just pay lip service to it.

On a more localized position, Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the impact of the changes I will see in my riding because I'm gaining an area that was partly in the member for Cape Breton Nova's riding. I want to say this about the member for Glace Bay, I'm gaining two streets in the Town of Glace Bay which I would be more than happy to serve and to represent, but the idea of taking them out of the boundaries of the Glace Bay riding, I've got to wonder about the wisdom of taking two small streets out of that seat which I believe rightfully belong in Glace Bay but, again, those are things that we may be able to fix over in the Red Room at the Law Amendments Committee. I think that clearly members can speak over there and it's not a huge matter and, again, I want to be on the record as saying that if these boundaries didn't change, I would be more than happy to represent those people, but I think it's one of fairness and so on.

[Page 11453]

One change I was glad to see when they did the boundaries originally, they took the Kilkenny Lake Road and cut it up the middle. When I appeared before the Electoral Boundaries Commission in Sydney last winter, that was one of the few comments I made that, you know, you really do an injustice to seats in rural areas, or in county areas, when you put a line up the middle of the road because these are people who have concerns about road conditions, ditching and paving and so on and they are much more of a community, if you will, than if you took it and put a border line up a major highway which is much different. When I asked that and when they came back with the new boundaries and kind of what I would refer to as taking the boundary and putting it up the backyard instead of straight down the centre of the road, it makes a lot more sense for those people, Mr. Speaker.

So I said when I got up that I wouldn't be taking very long. I'm glad I had a chance to say a few words on the record. I will be looking forward to the passage of the bill and the new boundaries and to getting out to meet the people who have been added into the community. Again, I don't know whether the member for Glace Bay will be looking for my support on this or not, about those streets in Glace Bay, but I certainly agree with his position on it. We've worked together before, Mr. Speaker, but I won't tell you where and I won't tell you how, but anyway. He can be the brawn and I can be the brains in it. Mr. Speaker, with that, I will be taking my place, and thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I don't plan to take a lot of time at this point in the debate to speak on this bill, but, to begin with, to follow up on what the member for Cape Breton Centre was talking about regarding a portion of the riding of Glace Bay, I have talked with a number of residents in the area and I have also had a chat with a spokesman on behalf of the Cape Breton Metro Planning Commission. In order to protect and keep the integrity of the riding of Glace Bay what would have to happen is that a couple of streets in Glace Bay are being removed from the riding and thus put into the riding of Cape Breton Centre. Now, nothing against the riding of Cape Breton Centre, it's a fine riding, with fine people (Interruptions) It may lack a little bit in representation. (Interruptions) But I'm sure that will be corrected in due time.

Mr. Speaker, I recall at the time that indeed, the riding was renamed from Cape Breton East to Glace Bay that the good Minister of Finance rose in this House to say we're not sure what happens if the riding changes during a redistribution down the road and if it's indeed changed enough, perhaps it would not be all of the old boundaries of the Town of Glace Bay but would be added in large - or whatever. Well, it was great foresight, I must admit, on behalf of the Minister of Finance to see that (Interruptions) I'm not suggesting anything. Let's not go there.

[Page 11454]

What I'm saying is that the Minister of Finance had the foresight to see that perhaps a change could take place. The change has taken place. It won't affect the name. It's a very minuscule change. It will not affect the name because the name will still apply, the rest of the riding is still all within the boundaries of the former Town of Glace Bay but these two streets, historically, have been part of the old Town of Glace Bay. The border, the line that is drawn, Mr. Speaker - and again, perhaps this isn't the proper place to fully debate this and I intend to bring it up in the Law Amendments Committee as well, which I think would be the proper place, and to appear before the Law Amendments Committee. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the names of the streets, for your information, are Fraser Street and McLeods Crossing. Now, those two streets, I think the total number of eligible voters you would be talking about would be less than 300, which, as I understand the bill, would allow the chief electoral officer in the province to eventually deal, perhaps, with straightening out the boundary line in this case. According to metro planning, as well, it does not protect the integrity of the community, which is what we're interested in as well.

In other words, there was a line that was drawn on an old boundary involving a place called Cadegan's Brook. That line was then changed to go up to an intersection, the intersection of Phalen Road and Reserve Street. If indeed that line had followed a straight path, a straight line true to a certain degree, I'm no expert on mapping, but if the line had continued, it would have fallen along the lines of the old boundaries of the Town of Glace Bay, and those two streets would remain in the riding of Glace Bay instead of changing into the riding of Cape Breton Centre. It also affects a portion of Dominion Street in Glace Bay. If the line is to continue the way it is, that portion of Dominion Street would also go into the riding of Cape Breton Centre. Again, not to make a competition between one riding or the other, but for the sake of the integrity of the riding, it seems to make sense, and I think perhaps we can come to that conclusion at some point down the road that those streets remain within the riding of Glace Bay.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, having said that and, again, I repeat that I intend to make my case and to make the case on behalf of some of the residents of that area to stay within the riding of Glace Bay before the Law Amendments Committee when the matter does come upon them. But I guess I should raise the point that, again, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre raised as well - and I don't know if it was directed towards me or not -that some members of this House have perhaps indicated that there should be more than 52 members in this House. Well, let's not be hypocritical about it. Every member in this House has stated that there should be more than 52 members in this House. We've agreed to it. If indeed the Native people of this province said yes, we would have 53 seats in this House. So we have said that there should be more than 52. I am not the only person in this province to say maybe there should be more than 52, we've all said it.

[Page 11455]

The big worry here is not about numbers and let's face it, the metro members of this House know that with one neighbourhood with a couple of apartment buildings, you can put 20,000 people in a riding up in a period of a year or less, however long it takes to build those buildings and fill them through with Cape Bretoners. (Interruptions) Well, Mr. Speaker, those are the facts of the matter.

Do we say that at one point in time, 10, 20, 30 years down the road it's okay for all of the metro area to have all the members in the House of Assembly in Nova Scotia and to take them away from the rural areas. I don't think anybody here would agree with that. That's not representation, not the kind that we're looking for. So what do we do? We have not come to this conclusion, in my opinion. Certainly this bill hasn't come to that conclusion. The committee did some fine work. What else do we expect of our committees but fine work with fine people on them? But they have not come to the conclusion of what the solution is to solve the problem of areas such as Cape Breton that are losing people, whether they move to other areas, other provinces, other countries, what do we do for an eventual solution to this problem? It has become very political. Some people like to make it political.

Take a look at the situation in Cape Breton. Of course, we lose as Liberals, Mr. Speaker. It's a Liberal seat that's being eliminated. I'm sure you would be hearing the same argument from the NDP if Cape Breton Centre had been eliminated. As a matter of fact, you would be hearing such a large hue and cry that you wouldn't be - there is not one person in that NDP caucus who wouldn't be standing on their feet for an hour each, but that's not the case now because it doesn't affect metro Halifax. Everything is fine and dandy. (Interruptions) The honourable members of the NDP caucus have had their chance to get on their feet. Some of them have; some of them haven't. Some have put in five minutes, some have put in whatever they've had to put in.

The fact of the matter is, we lose based on the number of seats in Cape Breton. Of course, everybody knows there is only one NDP seat in Cape Breton, there is only one Tory seat in Cape Breton and the rest are all Liberal. (Interruptions) Did I make a mistake there? I'm sorry, I should probably correct that. I left out the Minister of Tourism and Culture. I forgot that he was actually a member from Cape Breton. (Interruption) If you would let me finish, I was going to say and a good member, as well. But, as usual, you have jumped to conclusions on the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, it is a problem, in all seriousness, that is going to face us whether it is 10 years down the road at another boundaries commission or whether it's five years down the road, whatever the case may be. This problem is not going to go away and neither are the rural parts of Nova Scotia going away. The integrity of rural Nova Scotia is not protected in what we're doing here today and what's being proposed by the boundaries commission.

[Page 11456]

Having said that, then again I wanted to reiterate that I do intend to appear before the Law Amendments Committee to speak, in particular, on the riding of Glace Bay, but I cannot in all honesty say that I will be supporting this bill when the time comes. Thank you very much.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 142 with regard to changes to the electoral boundaries for the province. I guess I just want to start, actually, following up on the member for Cape Breton Centre's comments and I know the member for Glace Bay was also raising this, and I was just speaking to the member for Timberlea-Prospect, but I can go into new subdivisions in my riding. I'm sure the member for Timberlea-Prospect or Beaver Bank or other areas can go and it's streets upon streets of Cape Bretoners who have moved up to the metro area. There are many Cape Bretoners throughout the province who have had to leave and have now decided to come to parts of metro.

I wanted to take an opportunity to particularly talk around my riding, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, and to talk a little bit about the boundaries as they now stand and some of the changes that - I can't believe I'm being heckled by my own member, Mr. Speaker, but that's . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you. I look forward to the member for Dartmouth North's comment on this at the Law Amendments Committee.

So, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage was the third largest riding before these boundary submissions were made. It was the third largest riding in the province, it had 19,000 voters and well over 20,000 actual residents. What happened with the proposal in May, was to dramatically change the riding, basically split it into two, which would have had Eastern Passage, Shearwater, South Woodside going in with what would have been part of the old Dartmouth South riding, which would have been Portland Estates and part of Woodlawn. The other part of the riding, which was Cow Bay and the Colby Village-Willowdale area of Cole Harbour would have partly been in a riding with Lawrencetown and the other part would have gone into a new Cole Harbour riding with Forest Hills.

That was a dramatic change and it would have resulted in a major rewriting of the map. As we've seen with the changes that were finally proposed in September, after more consultation, a lot of those changes were reined in and we had a more conservative, I think is the proper way of putting it, recommendation with regard to boundary changes.

[Page 11457]

But there is a real part of that, Mr. Speaker, that I wanted to particularly note. As I said in May, the proposal was to divide a particular community, and that community was Eastern Passage. Eastern Passage includes the communities of Cow Bay and Shearwater, 12 Wing Shearwater is a part of Eastern Passage. Particularly, it was a real difficulty for the community, because this is a community that, this year, has been together for 250 years, going back to 1752. It has a long-standing history both militarily and otherwise in this province and more recently, obviously, now it has become a suburban area of the Halifax Regional Municipality. It's a community that's very tight-knit, and this is something that came forward in the submission. I remember being there in Portland Estates Elementary School back in June and having an opportunity to speak. It wasn't just myself as an MLA, because I know that in many cases, whether we like it or not, the members of the commission will take what we say with a grain of salt. I think what was important about our submission that was made was that it was supported by all the Parties. I can note a few.

The Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage Progressive Conservative Association came to that meeting in support of keeping Cow Bay and Eastern Passage together as a community; the Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage Liberal Association, Carolyn Scott, I believe, specifically spoke on their behalf, came forward and noted that they wanted the communities to stay together. In fact, the former Tory Minister, David Nantes, who represented that area for 15, 16 years, also said that he wanted those two communities to stay together. As well, individuals in the community came forward and I just wanted to note a few. Harry Lownds, who is a gentleman in his 80s now, who has lived in the Cow Bay Dyke area very close to the skeet club. He's lived in that area most of his life, I think he goes back to the early 1930s. He came forward, he had a very funny comment I think the papers quoted and I was just joking with the member for Eastern Shore about this because he lives, actually, physically quite close to Cole Harbour, the actual harbour, and very close to West Lawrencetown which would be in the member for Eastern Shore's riding.

So literally they would only be a couple of hundred metres apart and he made a very good point, I think, that even though they live physically quite close to Lawrencetown and West Lawrencetown, in many ways they are strangers to the people from Cow Bay because physically they are so cut off. There is a waterway in between. There is no bridge. You have to travel through Cole Harbour, then down Lawrencetown, then back up. To actually physically get from Cow Bay to West Lawrencetown, if there was a bridge, would literally be a matter of one minute, but now with no bridge - and there hasn't been a bridge there since the 19-teens - it would take literally a half hour to drive from one community to the other. So there is that separation. It was one that was recognized.

I'm glad to see the commission, in coming back in September, recommended that the community of Cow Bay, the community of Eastern Passage and Shearwater remain together. It think that was vital. I also want to note a couple of other people who came forward. Neil Bowlby, who has been very active in the community over the years, came forward and spoke at that meeting at Portland Estates. Also Kelly Rambeau who is a principal. He grew up in

[Page 11458]

Eastern Passage, lives in Eastern Passage now, but he's a principal at Atlantic View Elementary School in Lawrencetown. He was able to talk quite eloquently about the difference between the two communities and I think that that was important.

Also important, Mr. Speaker, was the fact that the community itself rallied around this very point about maintaining a connection, the community of interest being there, and in one week 15 per cent of the voters in that area signed a petition. Over 1,100 people signed a petition within one week saying that they wanted the communities to stay together. Clearly the commission heard that. The commission listened to what we had to say as a community and were able to ensure that that happened. I think it's also important to note that whenever you draw these lines, and in some cases they are very arbitrary because I look at the Cole Harbour area of this, which if we make up the riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage - and originally my riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage when I was elected in 1998-99 made up about 50 per cent of the riding - it would be the south side of Cole Harbour Road - Colby Village, Willowdale, Innishowen, Atholea Drive area, Colby South, a new subdivision, all these parts were part of my riding. If and when Bill No. 142 passes, that will be cut in half and a line is drawn fairly arbitrarily, again in some cases going down the middle of the street.

The member for Cape Breton Centre pointed out how difficult that is in rural areas. I will grant him that, but even in a suburban area, the new boundaries will go through Colby Drive which is sort of the heart of the Colby Village community, Mr. Speaker, and people on one side of the street will be represented by the representative for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, the people on the other side will be represented by the representative for Cole Harbour and that's going to be difficult I think in the first period for them to understand that difference.

I also think it's important to note that there were submissions made to the commission early on before their first draft report recommending one riding for Cole Harbour - a good idea. I think it is important that there be one riding for Cole Harbour, but Cole Harbour is too big for one riding and what that resulted in was 25 per cent of the people of Cole Harbour will not be in that one riding for Cole Harbour. They will be in a riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage in which they will be 25 per cent of the riding and 75 per cent of the riding will be from Eastern Passage. I can assure you, although I haven't heard a lot of comments negative around the new proposals, I'm sure there are people in that part of Cole Harbour who will say that they're being left out of the Cole Harbour riding, that they are being put in a riding that is dominated by another community whose interests are different and I can assure you, if you asked anyone in Eastern Passage or Cole Harbour, they would assure you those communities are quite different and their interests are different.

Also South Woodside, which is a part of my riding, Mr. Speaker, a very good community, it was actually on the news the other night talking about its school and how important it is to that community in helping to develop students and helping them be educated properly. Well, that community will no longer be in this riding. That's unfortunate

[Page 11459]

I think. There was a real connection between South Woodside, Eastern Passage, Shearwater and Cow Bay that allowed that connection. South Woodside is physically quite separated from the other parts of Dartmouth South, the new riding. It will be quite different in many ways. It has five polls. It isn't a large community, but it is one that has a heart, it is one that has a real connection to each other because it is physically separated and I think that in many ways it would have been nice to see that community stay in with Eastern Passage, Shearwater and Cow Bay area, but the decisions are made. I'm not going to challenge that. I think it's important that it be reflected that they were and are a good community that needs good representation.

[5:45 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I guess I don't want to take up too much more time, just to note that this riding is small, as some may have noted in this. It will be 75 per cent or 80 per cent of an average riding in this province, which by metro standards will actually make it the second-smallest, notwithstanding Preston I think it will make it the third-smallest - Eastern Shore and Preston will be smaller - but this will be a totally suburban riding, and it will be the smallest one in the metro area.

I think there's a good reason for that in the end, because this is a riding that is growing and in the next 10 years, between now and the next boundary review, there will be a lot of new housing developments in that riding and it will eventually grow. That doesn't explain why Hants East, particularly, is so large and is growing as well, or maybe the new riding of Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville, or other ones as well, maybe it doesn't explain them, but in our case at least I know that that community and that riding will grow over the next 10 years, and that will give it that room to grow. So even if other ridings may have more population now, I suggest to you that in 10 years we can look back and we will show that the riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, if it's passed in its current boundaries, will probably be as large if not larger than some of the other ridings in the area.

That's why it's important to have that level of planning, so we can ensure that those ridings that may now be - and I think this is foresight on the part of the commissioners (Interruptions) Again, the member for Dartmouth North, thank you - I would say that this is foresight that allows them to recognize, and in some ways maybe it was done because some people came forward early on in the process and noted the number of housing developments and starts that will occur in that riding over the next 10 years, so they could appreciate that there is continued growth and that they were able to reflect that. I think that's an important component that has to be recognized.

Mr. Speaker, just before I take my seat I want to congratulate the commission on its work. From the perspective of the people I represent, I think they feel comfortable with the boundaries. Within the community of Eastern Passage-Cow Bay-Shearwater, they're very happy to be able to maintain those boundaries as a community. The people of Cole Harbour

[Page 11460]

who will be in that riding may feel a loss not being a part of the bigger Cole Harbour riding, but I know they will be familiar with the issues that will still be represented, whomever is able to represent them in the next election.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close debate on Bill No. 142.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 142.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 142. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 146.

Bill No. 146 - Municipal Government Act.

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of this bill. On June 28th, the Utility and Review Board, following the law as it is currently written, approved an application from residents of the Chester area for town status. No formal plebiscite was held, nor was one required to be held to determine if residents actually wanted town status. Following this decision, the people of the Chester area made it crystal clear that they want a say in whether their area became a town. This amendment will give them and residents involved in any future application for town status an opportunity to democratically determine the outcome of the application.

Today the Municipal Government Act requires a petition signed by 100 electors to trigger a hearing before the URB for town status. The Act leaves the holding of a plebiscite up to the URB. The URB may order a vote, but it is not required to do so and it is not bound by the results. This amendment fixes a gaping hole in the Act by proposing two things: increasing the number of signatures required from 100 to one-third of the electors in the area; and making a plebiscite mandatory for any instance where the URB feels town incorporation

[Page 11461]

should proceed. A majority of those who vote will be required in order for the incorporation to proceed; if there is no majority, the application will be dismissed.

In July, I received a letter from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities requesting that government adopt the measures contained in this legislation. With passage of the amendment, the URB's incorporation order for District 3 in the Municipality of the District of Chester will be set aside and a plebiscite will be held by February 28, 2003. The province will pay for the plebiscite and its result will determine whether the area becomes a town or not.

In the case of the Chester application, the URB followed the law as it is written. This amendment is not a statement about its decision. It is a statement about recognizing the need for local residents to decide for themselves whether or not they want town status for their community. Mr. Speaker, I'm also pleased to note that there are residents from that area in the gallery with us tonight and they are keenly interested in this legislation. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to take a lot of the House's time this evening in the debate of this bill, but I think it is important. I didn't know that there were residents here tonight, but I'm glad to see that they are. I had the opportunity over the course of the summer to go down to speak to the council and to speak with many of the residents of Chester. At that time, and I know, along with the MLA for the area, we talked about the necessity of the people of the area having the right to choose their own destiny, having the right to make the decision for themselves and not having that taken out of their hands. At that time, I said that if the government didn't come forward with this kind of amendment, then we were going to do it and made the point that it was an important way to extend democracy into the hands of people.

So I would say, first of all, that I congratulate the government for bringing this forward. It was the right thing to do and it was brought forward early on. I invited the Premier at the time to indicate that the legislation would come forward in this session so that the residents of Chester would know in fact what was going to happen. So for all those reasons, I supported the intention at the time.

I certainly am pleased to see the bill come forward and intend to support it wholeheartedly to the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. I know they worked on this and he made the point a couple of times when we were there that this was not a question of partisan political statements on behalf of everybody who showed up. I know that the Liberal caucus had people there as well. But it was a recognition of the power of the people of a community to have a say in the administration of their own affairs. So, in that sense, it was truly political in the small "p" sense, in the sense that it was a coming together of a lot of different groups to ensure that the right thing happened and I think that's what happens in

[Page 11462]

this bill. I'm pleased to see that and will be pleased to listen to the rest of the debate this evening. Thank you very much for your time this evening. (Applause)

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to go on record just to say a few things in regard to the bill. In fact, I want to indicate that I also attended a public meeting on July 14th in Chester in regard to this issue. As well, I want to recognize the efforts of the local MLA for the area. The local MLA, of course, contributed a great deal to this bill and he showed great interest on behalf of his residents to bring forth the concerns to the minister and to the Premier. We were pleased to see that the government has shown the interest to do something to, in fact, move forward and to present this legislation tonight. We feel it's very important because it will, of course, affect tax rates within the town, which will affect many of the residents.

I think the ultimate question goes to the core of democracy, in fact, and the government in this particular instance, we believe, should get involved and we believe this is a rare situation, of course, where government should be involved. However, we are looking forward to the debate on the bill and our caucus supports the minister's presentation. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Minister, thank you for the presentation. Mr. Leader of the Opposition, thank you very much for what you said. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, thank you very much. I certainly cannot excel anything that you've all said because I think it's very, very important to everybody in Chester-St. Margaret's, but to any riding that basically the people have a choice on what municipal government they have. There are three choices to be municipal government in Nova Scotia: you can be a rural municipality; you can be a town, and there are about 31 towns; or a regional municipality. It's very, very important that when the hearing's done and that's fine and an opinion is given and basically the people who live in the area should have the say-so for a positive recommendation.

I think it's wonderful that this bill would go through. My, my, this is a pretty important day for the MLA who represents the area. My goodness, thank you very, very much, because the other thing I think many people may not realize is that this issue has been going on for over three years in Chester Municipality and it sort of not necessarily tears a community apart more so than letting it be decided one way or the other and moving forward. I think everybody just says, okay, let us have a vote.

[Page 11463]

The way the law is, as Mr. Minister pointed out, the problem with the law as it is now, basically here's what it is. Some people decided, okay, the Village of Chester should be a town. They had about 170 all together - just over - out of about 1,500 people, who came and they had a hearing. Then of course, that's fine, three adjudicators came in and they listened for two weeks and then a year and a half later they wrote a report saying you should be this. Many, many people say, I'm sorry, I'd like to have a say-so on this too and this law will allow them, or anybody from now on, to have an opinion by plebiscite and it's very, very important for not only the people in Chester-St. Margaret's, but for everybody, for democracy.

Thank you very much. My goodness, if you want to say there's a pretty big smile on the person's face from Chester-St. Margaret's and I'm not sure, but this House is going to have to go a long, long way to make me smile even more happily. Thank you very much everybody. Thank you, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Opposition indicated, our caucus will certainly be supporting this bill. It's an interesting piece of legislation for a couple of reasons. It's worthwhile noting that it does two things. One of course is that it comes to grips with the particular situation in the rural municipality otherwise previously known in earlier legislation as the Village of Chester. It engages with that issue, it looks at the question of whether Chester ought to become incorporated as a town. It introduces the notion of a plebiscite to be held, a vote to be held by the electors in the local municipality in Chester itself.

It does a second thing, and what it does is it actually changes the rules for any future cases that might similarly come in front of the Utility and Review Board. So, it's not just a question of adjusting the situation for the local Municipality of Chester. What's happening in this bill is that the Municipal Government Act itself and its general rules with respect to how it is that rural municipalities might consider the possibility of becoming towns could be changed.

[6:00 p.m.]

It's worth noting that this legislation is unusual - at least it's unusual so far as it has to do with the Municipality of Chester, because in effect it's easy to look at this and say that what's going on is the Legislature is being asked to take a move to change a decision that's been made by the Utility and Review Board. Now, the Utility and Review Board of course is an independent, arm's-length, quasi-judicial body, and normally we wouldn't do that. Normally we wouldn't look at a decision made by that kind of tribunal or a court or any other legitimate, arm's-length decision maker and consider legislation that would, at least to some extent, interfere with that decision. But there are exceptions and it's not a uniform rule that

[Page 11464]

this Legislature should never consider the possibility of making changes when decisions are made which either strike us as being wrong or they bring to our attention the fact that there might be a process that's wrong.

I think we should make a distinction between that because in this legislation coming forward, so far as it affects the individual decision, a criticism is not being made of the Utility and Review Board. We are not looking at the decision of the Utility and Review Board and saying that they did something unfair; we're not saying that they did something illegal; we're not saying that there was a problem with the adjudication that took place at the board; we're not criticizing the board. What we are criticizing is the legislative framework that the board had to administer. We're looking at it and we're saying we now realize that there's probably a difficulty with this legislation, that this legislation ought not to exist in the way that it has for, at this point, four years under the new Municipal Government Act.

We're suggesting that some change to the framework is appropriate. We're also engaging with the particular decision that brought this to our attention, and that's fair and I think the right thing to do. Indeed, we are not in this bill thinking of the possibility of going directly to the Utility and Review Board and saying that their decision is to be reversed; that's not the essence of this bill. The essence of this bill, so far as it relates to Chester, is to say hold a vote. Take it to the people and let the people in Chester decide for themselves, having had the benefit of the guidance of the Utility and Review Board as to where the boundaries ought to be, if indeed there is to be a town. That's the issue that will be in front of the voters when the issue comes in a plebiscite sometime before the end of February 2003.

So that is an appropriate kind of step to take once this problem has come to our attention. The previous speaker noted that the decision seems to have been an unpopular one in Chester. We will find out and we will find out through the mechanism of a plebiscite that is to be held, and that is fine and that's exactly how it ought to be, that the opportunity should be given to our visitors here and to all of the other citizens of that municipality to take a vote.

Now it's certainly the case that they had the opportunity to go the Utility and Review Board and talk, but I don't regard that as a substitute for a full-scale plebiscite. I think that the plebiscite instrument is a very good one, and I hope that there's a good turnout for it. I hope that this issue, having been such a contentious one in the local municipality, is one which will carry forward a momentum and that people will actually turn out and vote when the time comes. I know that, probably in common with the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, I'm getting a very thick file of newspaper clippings with respect to this particular issue and it will be interesting to see how it finally resolves itself.

To turn from the part of the bill that deals with the issue in Chester to the part of the bill that actually changes the Municipal Government Act for future similar applications, I think we have to note that the bar has been placed very high with respect to the possibility of future changes to the status of rural municipalities. To actually get one-third of the electors

[Page 11465]

in a municipality to sign on to a petition is probably going to be quite a difficult thing. So that change from 100 electors to one-third of the electors is a very significant step and what that does, I think, is it rather sends a signal that the policy that the government now wishes to pursue is one that will tend to discourage any transformations from rural municipalities, previously known as villages, to towns. So you have to ask yourself why exactly should that be, what exactly is it about becoming a town that is problematic?

Now, there are two aspects to this generally. One, of course, is where the boundaries are drawn and that's something that the Utility and Review Board engages with when it hears an application, whether that's an application that comes from 100 electors as it is now or one-third of the electors as it will be after Bill No. 146 is enacted. So boundaries are always an issue and it's a serious issue because it has consequences. So the essence of the question is, what's the difference between a rural municipality and a town and the difference tends to be in the range of services that a town can offer. There's a greater range of services that a town can offer. Policing is an example. Organized planning is another example.

The implication of that, of course, is a tax implication. If you offer greater services, you have to have the tax base and you have to raise the revenues in order to spend the money on those services. I think quite clearly what was behind the concern of those who objected to the decision of the Utility and Review Board in the instance of Chester was the prospect of increased taxation on their property and that's a concern that everybody has wherever they may be located in the province. So the move tends to make it much more difficult for rural municipalities to even get the ball rolling if they want to start off and move towards the possibility of becoming a town and that's probably fair, however difficult it is. What it does is it says to the residents of rural municipalities that they should be serious about the prospect of changing and that they should already have thought about it somewhat before it moves to the stage of a full hearing in front of the Utility and Review Board.

It's certainly the case that the Utility and Review Board would have the jurisdiction, as things now stand, to reject the application from 100 electors if they thought it was a bad idea, but it's not clear according to what criteria they ought to exercise that discretion to make that recommendation. So these sections of the bill certainly do need some improvement and what we're going to see with the one-third of the electorate's requirement being put in place is that there will have to have been some active discussion among many residents in any rural municipality before the question even comes up. So to get one-third of the signatures of the electors is going to be a difficult act and it will have to be preceded by some form of active discussion and clearly that sets the stage for a plebiscite later on.

The process is now one full of hurdles: the first hurdle being the one-third requirement; the next hurdle being the approval of the Utility and Review Board as to whether this is still desirable as to the boundaries; and the third hurdle becomes the plebiscite because the plebiscite then becomes mandatory in all cases. It's not just for the rural Municipality of Chester that the plebiscite becomes a requirement. So I think we have to

[Page 11466]

anticipate that there will be relatively few, if any, rural municipalities in Nova Scotia that are likely to see changes in the future after the provisions of Bill No. 146 go into place.

What this drives us to is the recognition that the minister's department needs probably to be involved somewhat in educating people when these questions come up. It is one thing for 100 people to get together in a rural municipality and decide that they might get the ball rolling through a plebiscite, but for one-third of the people there has to be some kind of organized discussion and I know that the minister's staff are very resourceful. I know that there are very skilled planners on his staff and that they have a lot of experience in dealing with small municipalities around the province. So I hope that when a proposal comes for some other rural municipality in the future, that the minister's staff might assist those who are having those kinds of discussions at the time, initially; not at the end of the process only or not even a hands-off approach. I hope that the minister's staff might become involved in advising people, in detail, early on as to what the consequences are. That would be useful for them and it would perhaps even head off the necessity of hearings at the Utility and Review Board if enough people understand the consequences and decide, in effect, to reject them initially. Of course, if a petitioner is not able to get one-third of the residents signing the petition, it will never go forward.

So, with those thoughts I go back to the initial point. We'll certainly be supporting Bill No. 146. We will support it because of the aspect that deals with the particular situation in Chester and we will also support it because of the general change in the Municipal Government Act. I certainly do hope that the minister will find the opportunity to have his staff become involved in these kinds of issues very early on. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to go into the technical details of the legislation of Bill No. 146. I'm going to go into the democratic principle of Bill No. 146. I want to tell you that I want to read a section out of the Tory blue book that I think is very important. It is with respect to local government, "We believe municipal government is the cornerstone of democracy, because it is the level of government that is closest to the people." It's absolutely correct, so we can say that the Tory Government has taken a section out of its blue book and, in fact, listened to the people of Chester with respect to this very important issue, and that's why we're here.

Mr. Speaker, I want the members of the government to know that's why we're here, because we continuously support good legislation from this government. When good legislation comes across this floor, we continue to support good legislation. I will tell you, as rare as it may be, we do support that good legislation from time to time. (Interruption) You can say that we're in bed with the Tories, as the Liberals have said, but I want to hearken back to my comments earlier during the electoral boundaries review.

[Page 11467]

I made comment with respect to the Leader of the Liberal Party's comment with respect to citizen-centred democracy. I just want you to know and let Nova Scotians know, this is the new Leader of the Liberal Party with respect to citizen-centred democracy. I want them to be aware of what that kind of a phrase means when the election comes up in the near future. I want them to make that Leader accountable with respect to that phrase, because I can tell you that as a result of not having a plebiscite in Dartmouth when municipal amalgamation took place, we lost as a result of the Liberal Party. We lost the City of Lakes. We no longer have the City of Lakes in the Province of Nova Scotia. We now have the community of Dartmouth. That's what we have as a result of the Liberal's action towards the democratic process. I want to tell you that it's a pleasure to stand here today and see a government that's open and responsive to the democratic process and the people who are particularly concerned on this municipal issue. Allow me to finish on this particular municipal issue.

I want you to know that the member for Chester-St. Margaret's is quite right to be appreciative of this day. He has absolutely every right to be very appreciative of this bill passing or going through this Legislative Assembly and hopefully receiving Royal Assent after it comes back from the Red Room, because it's all about democracy, isn't it? It's all about being actively involved in the democratic process. It's all about having the right to say, the right to make choices about how your community will be governed. That's what it's all about, and a democratic process will, in fact, allow the citizens of Chester that opportunity at least, through this plebiscite and through the hearings to have that avenue to at least have their concerns addressed. It's something that I certainly did not have as a result of the Savage Government being elected in 1993, and the Minister of Municipal Services, Sandra Jolly, at the time. I can tell you that I certainly hope that it doesn't happen again, Mr. Speaker. With that, I want to say that this is certainly the kind of legislation that allows us on this side of the House to support, legislation that is reflective of people's decisions.

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations it will be to close debate on Bill No. 146.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank honourable members who have participated in this debate, and in particular I want to acknowledge the words of the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, and the honourable member for Dartmouth North, when they paid tribute to the efforts of the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's in what he did on behalf of his constituents with respect to putting forward and urging the government to come forward with this legislation.

[Page 11468]

Mr. Speaker, I can say that the honourable member has been most persistent with respect to this issue. I can tell you that I have had more conversations with him since this legislation was deemed to become necessary than I've had before that time (Interruptions) More than I've had with my wife, yes. (Laughter) The honourable member deserves a great deal of credit, and I appreciate the fact that the members opposite have seen fit to acknowledge his contribution with respect to this. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to close the debate, and I would move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 146. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 143.

Bill No. 143 - Partnership Act/Partnerships and Business Names Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 143, and in bringing the bill forward for second reading, to pass on the remarks of the Minister of Justice. I believe that this legislation is timely and extremely important for the business community in this province. The expansion of the Partnership Act provides for limited liability partnerships for certain professions. The legislation will offer limited protection to individuals from liability caused by the negligence or misconduct of the professional partners.

There is a caveat here, Mr. Speaker, they are protected from another's negligence only if they had no knowledge about the wrongdoing. Given the size and cross-jurisdictional nature of many professional partnerships we see today, this legislation simply makes sense. Currently, partners are at risk for the liability to the partnership, which could expose the personal assets of all partners, as well as the assets of the partnership.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation will provide limited protection to partners as long as they were unaware of the negligent or wrongful act, and they were not acting in a supervisory role over those who committed the wrongdoing. The bill also gives government the ability to set,

[Page 11469]

through regulation, the minimum amount of liability insurance that these partnerships must maintain. In this way, any losses can be covered and the consumer is protected.

Mr. Speaker, the types of professions that will be able to enter into limited liability partnerships are lawyers and accountants. They will be required to have a registered office in the province, which must be accessible to the public during normal business hours. They will also be required to provide a list of partners to anyone requesting it at no charge. Similar legislation is in place in five other provinces in keeping with our commitment to uniform law. We believe it simply isn't fair that someone be penalized for the wrongdoing of another, particularly when they had no knowledge of that wrongdoing.

As I indicated, this bill is good for business, it's good for the consumer and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your attention. I now move second reading of Bill No. 143.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity on behalf of the Official Opposition as the Justice Critic to speak for a couple of minutes on Bill No. 143. As the honourable Government House Leader noted, this is legislation that would be particularly supportive of the members of the Barristers' Society and the accountants. I assume it's chartered accountants in the province who particularly are requiring the ability to have limited liability partnerships, particularly because of the lack of the ability to incorporate, as well.

So, Mr. Speaker, our caucus, at second reading, doesn't have a problem in principle with this legislation. We think it's an important piece of legislation. We had an opportunity to meet with members of the Barristers' Society prior to this bill being introduced. They briefed us on it, having reviewed it, as well, and there are some key components, I think. We will be glad to hear of anyone at the Law Amendments Committee who has any concerns, but particularly the need for minimum insurance is vital in this type of legislation and I will be glad to know in the Law Amendments Committee or beyond any assurances as to what level of insurance has to be provided by the various professionals involved and professional organizations. But notwithstanding that, given the principle of the legislation, we don't have a problem with that and we look forward to it moving forward to the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to just make a few comments on Bill No. 143. Our caucus also had the opportunity not only to be briefed by some of the representatives of the Bar Society who came forward with this legislation, but I'm also pleased that we had staff from the minister's office who sat with us prior to today's debate just to go over the bill. I can tell you, it's a very helpful process, to say the least, when we can

[Page 11470]

sit down and look at bills with staff and have our questions answered before we get up for debate here in the House. I think it helps the debating mechanism move that much faster and certainly helps address our concerns in a more timely fashion.

But, clearly, Mr. Speaker, this is business-friendly legislation. As a lawyer myself, I can certainly see where it's going to benefit the profession, provide added protection not only to members of the Bar, but to members of the public, which is an essential aspect of this. So our caucus also looks forward to the Law Amendments Committee process to see if there are any concerns with the legislation that may have been overlooked or that need to be addressed and, if that's the case, we will certainly look forward to the debate at that point, but this is good legislation and I commend the Bar for bringing it forward and the Minister of Justice for helping it to be brought forward here to this House and we will see what comes out of the Law Amendments Committee and go from there. With that, I will take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the Minister of Justice it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the critics for the Official Opposition and for the Liberal Party for their comments. I appreciate the positive attitude and co-operation that's been involved in this bill. I can indicate to the honourable members that staff will be available with respect to, obviously, this bill and other bills in the future because I do think that sometimes some staff involvement assists, at least, everybody to sharpen the debate in the House if there are areas of disagreement and helps to avoid misunderstandings where, in fact, there is no philosophical disagreement as to the content of the legislation. I look forward, like they do, to the comments at the Law Amendments Committee and with that, I would move second reading of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 143. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

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

Order, please. It is very noisy in here and you can't hear.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 147.

[Page 11471]

Bill No. 147 - Volunteer Fire Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 147.

Bill No. 147 is a bill that is designed to clarify who is a volunteer firefighter. In our original legislation we spoke with the fire chiefs and we thought we had derived a formula based on the number of dollars that a volunteer firefighter could earn and still be a volunteer in the definition of the Act, but we found that there's a tremendous variety in forms of remuneration and a tremendous variety in the amount of remuneration that volunteer firefighters receive.

So, therefore, Mr. Speaker, we are going to enable the Executive Council by regulation to establish a definition of a volunteer firefighter and it will simply be a person who is certified by the fire chief of a fire service that that person is indeed a volunteer firefighter. There is no attribution of amounts of money in that definition. That way I think it's fair and it does not in any way I think diminish the true nature of volunteer firefighters who do indeed put in a tremendous amount of time and place their lives in hazardous situations for the benefit of their neighbours and they do so without any real financial gain. So I move second reading of Bill No. 147.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 147 comes from actually a bill that we passed in this House, Bill No. 134, that was never proclaimed. It was passed in this House but never proclaimed. I suppose we could have changed that in there and I guess that's the why around this, why we're not doing it in there. I find myself agreeing a great deal with the Government House Leader when he talks about the contribution of volunteer firefighters and I don't think there would be a person in this House, or outside this House, who would disagree with it, but I guess it comes back to some of the questioning from last week too of why they still make them pay for ambulance services when they're in there if they value them so much.

So I would like to get that on the record, Mr. Speaker, and we would allow that. (Interruption) You know the Minister of Health is chiming in. So we certainly invite him to join us in the debate and get his thoughts on record, but we will look at this in a favourable light, but I don't understand why we just couldn't change Bill No. 134, amend it, and move on, why we would need this as an OIC and, look for further clarification from the minister. Those are my comments for now.

[Page 11472]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place to make a few brief comments, of course, on Bill No. 147, An Act to Amend Chapter 13 of the Acts of 2002, the Volunteer Fire Services Act.

Mr. Speaker, I note in the original Act that volunteer firefighter has been defined. I also recall that the definition and the amount of compensation that a volunteer firefighter could receive and still be classified as a volunteer was much subject of debate. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, and myself, both of us, brought this issue forward in the Spring before this bill was tabled and we pleaded with this government to listen. We even suggested that we could amend this bill and the honourable minister indicated that he would fix this problem during the Spring session and here we are now, it's in the fall session, and it's frustrating and disappointing to see that this government hasn't acted before now to deal with this situation. I sincerely hope that volunteer firefighter is already defined in the original Act and is not just a ploy by this government to go back in time and make adjustments for the benefit of the government.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it would be interesting to know if the minister consulted with anyone before he put forth this bill, or if they merely hoped to do the change in secret. This Act was, after amendments that were made in the Spring, a reasonably good piece of legislation. If the minister had listened back then we wouldn't be dealing with this situation today. However, it is interesting to note that given that this Act had been passed in the Spring, there have been no regulations put into place. None in regard to the current Act, let alone the new regulatory power that further defined volunteer firefighter. October has come and gone; it's gone without a day being designated as volunteer fire service recognition day. So the minister has failed the volunteer fire service in this province.

It will also be interesting to see, Mr. Speaker, just how quickly the minister further defines volunteer firefighter, given that he has not yet put in place the other regulations that are required in this bill to get it up and running. I would encourage the minister to move now to provide these definitions and to encourage the minister to move forward on behalf of the fire service in this province. The minister, obviously through his comments, recognizes the value of the volunteer firefighters throughout all our communities in this province, and they deserve the recognition that this government is finally coming forward with here today. If they had listened, it could have been delivered to this fire service in the Spring, as I already indicated.

With that, Mr. Speaker, we will be looking forward to the government moving forward this legislation to the Law Amendments Committee and look forward to further debate on this bill. Thank you.

[Page 11473]

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

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable members opposite, as I say, there was a commitment made by the fire chiefs that they could derive a suitable definition of a volunteer firefighter, and that discussion took place at the time that this bill, Bill No. 134, was before the House, and we were having discussions at that time with the fire chiefs to determine if a definition could be reached. It was understood that sometime in the near future that would be done.

However, Mr. Speaker, with subsequent discussions with the fire chiefs it became apparent that we were barking up the wrong tree if we wished to define a volunteer firefighter strictly on the monetary value of the service and the real compensation, and the other compensation for expenses was going to be the determining factor. So we decided to go for a different definition, and the definition that we will be using, as I said a moment ago, will simply be a certificate or a letter from the fire chief certifying that a certain individual is indeed a volunteer firefighter.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the remarks regarding fire services week, which is in October, one day will be selected in that fire services week as the day for recognition of volunteer firefighters in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill now be read a second time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 147. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 148.

Bill No. 148 - Securities Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am rising on behalf of the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour. I will speak briefly with respect to this bill. This bill is basically a bill that deals with consumer protection. It deals with the right of investors in

[Page 11474]

corporations and securities to be protected from misrepresentations with respect to those securities. The bill comes out as a result of the securities commissions in this county which obviously meet and discuss matters involving investor security, and it was deemed appropriate, based on those discussions, to introduce this legislation, which we believe will enhance the level of consumer protection in securities in Nova Scotia in order to give right to people who are victims of misrepresentations to claim against the culprits and to recover all or part of their loss from those parties - the wrongdoers.

Mr. Speaker, one of my learned colleagues from across the aisle has described this as a good bill. I say it's a very good bill, and I would encourage the Parties opposite to look favorably upon this bill and to move it to the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again I think of a few words the Minister of Justice said previously about a bill he was sponsoring, he was talking in terms of - when there's no real philosophical difference - the ability to have staff come in and to do a briefing on it. While that has now been offered to us around this bill, and we will look favorably upon that, and we appreciate it, it goes some way to clarifying it. It is a consumer-advocacy type bill, and we appreciate it. It's purported to be styled on much of the B.C. legislation. What we're going to look at is, we have a few questions and, hopefully, I think staff will be able to allay them, and even someone of my limited capacity could understand it and we can move forward. Hopefully, if this bill does as is purported, then we will certainly be moving on to the Law Amendments Committee, but certainly we will be looking for some further explanation from staff and then making our position known more clearly at that point.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as House Leader for our Party and on behalf of our critic, the honourable member for Cape Breton West, we too will move to move this bill along to the Law Amendments Committee and Committee of the Whole House on Bills, where I'm sure our critic will probably have something more to add at that time.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of both members who spoke on the bill. I am sure that the staff, who I assure you can speak much more eloquently on this than I, can provide the technical explanations that may assist members while the bill is at the Law Amendments Committee. With that, I would move second reading of Bill No. 148.

[Page 11475]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 148. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 149.

Bill No. 149 - Taker Estate Subdivision Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to move second reading of this Private and Local Bill, Bill No. 149 - Taker Estate Subdivision Act. I could speak at length on what the purpose of the thing is but I have provided information to both Opposition Parties and I am sure it will be self-explanatory as well as being brought up in discussion and debate. So on behalf of the family, it would be an honour for me to move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in learning more about this. The member who introduced the bill has just provided us with the detailed background information. As one of my colleagues has just said, for a bill of this sort which makes an exception to a general rule that applies to the rest of Nova Scotia, it would be nice if at some point in the debate - and I don't mean this in a pejorative way - it would be useful not only for the members of this House but for anybody in future in looking at this bill to have on the record, in Hansard, from the member introducing the bill the reasons for this bill whereby a provision of the Municipal Government Act is stated to not apply to a specific individual. It would be helpful for that to be on the record. Having said that, we would be pleased to study the material provided by the member and consider this in future at the committee stage.

[Page 11476]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, we did get the information from the honourable member. I would point out that it was approximately three and one-half minutes ago when we did receive this. So it would have been nice to have received it beforehand. As I said earlier about the Minister of Justice, when we have an opportunity to be able to sit down with staff and with the proponents of legislation prior to debate in this House, we can avoid asking the questions and asking for the information that the member for Halifax Fairview just raised.

One would think that the member for Preston, especially considering some of the difficulties he has had in the past in getting legislation through this House, just might have thought of doing this a little earlier to avoid such an unfortunate situation once again.

I've briefly gone through the materials, Mr. Speaker. I guess the question does arise, as the member for Halifax Fairview has brought up, is this now something that we are going to have to do for estates from here on in that do fall under this same type of situation where the subdivision rules and the changes in the planning and subdivision Acts are starting to create problems for these types of estates. So there are some more questions to be asked here.

I don't have a personal problem with this particular situation. I don't think any of us are interested in holding up the distribution of Mr. Taker's estate, but again the question does become how are we going to deal with other situations that are certainly bound to come up in this House again if we are creating this sort of precedent in this situation. But we look forward to reading more into this, learning more of this matter. It is my understanding by looking through the materials that it was actually the member for Dartmouth South who was initially supposed to be the sponsor of this bill but due to his new and added responsibilities it was then passed on to the member for Preston.

So, Mr. Speaker, with that we look forward to learning more of the specifics around this particular matter as to how the government plans on dealing with similar situations which are bound to arise as a result of the change in the legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the comments of the two previous speakers. This is a serious matter and normally one wouldn't want to see a private member's bill come forward and interfere with the scheme for subdivisions that exists within the Municipal Government Act. Circumstances, of course, do vary and one is always prepared to turns one's mind to individual circumstances in order to try to understand whether there is a compelling reason to make an exception. We have to remind ourselves what subdivision is all about. Subdivision is all about the process of taking an approved lot of land and creating more lots out of that original lot. So this has serious implications.

[Page 11477]

The implications clearly would allow more than one structure to be built on the original piece of land, the original lot. In this case we are talking about three and it looks as if it's residential but I think we would like to hear more about the exact details here. Even residential, and I am assuming for the moment that it's not commercial or agricultural or some other form of enterprise, even given that, there is an implication for land use and residential uses require water and of course they have sewage, and of course there's road access, and of course there are implications for numbers of population and where population is going to go, which has implications for schools. One of the other things we don't know is how many other similarly situated pieces of property there might be. So, I have to say that at first look one has to be very cautious about moving forward. (Interruptions)

[6:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, one has to be very cautious about moving forward with the private member's bill to change the prevailing subdivision regulations, there are serious consequences. That said, I think anyone would be prepared to see this move forward to the committee stage so that at the Private and Local Bills Committee the detailed explanation can be looked at and the situation weighed up.

I think we have to advise the sponsor of this bill, the mover of the bill, that a lot of details should come forward including the question of how many similarly situated properties there might be in the province. This isn't just an HRM question even though the property is located in HRM because if the Legislature is prepared to make changes with respect to one will and subdivision regulations, there are subdivision regulations that apply throughout the province and we have to decide whether it makes sense as a precedent throughout the province and if so, whether we can now take the new rules that were adopted in the 1998 Municipal Government Act as essentially being modified in some circumstances.

So, with that warning to the sponsor, I say we're certainly prepared to have a detailed look at it, but there's a heavy onus on the mover of the bill. At this point though, of course, we're happy to see it go through second reading and put it to the detailed scrutiny of the committee stage. Thank you very much.

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

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 11478]

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the comments from my colleagues from across the floor. I do appreciate it and as I said earlier, the debate will be extended further in committee. For the record I should probably just read two paragraphs in this letter that was self-explanatory and have it for the record why the purpose of this particular bill. (Interruptions)

As stated in the will, Mr. Taker intended to leave the particular tract of land upon which he lived to his children and grandchildren. However, the Planning Act was repealed in April 1, 1999, when the Municipal Government Act came into effect. Section 268(2)(j) of the Municipal Government Act changed the law in respect to subdivision by will. It provided that the subdivision by a will that is executed after January 1, 2000, is ineffective. Wills signed on or before January 1, 2000, are unaffected. The change in law was apparently adopted because subdivision by will can in some instances create problems, for an example, road access.

The Taker estate is somewhat unique in that this will and subdivision land was drafted prior to January 1, 2000, but not executed until after January 1, 2000, due to the testator's illness. The only way around the new legislation for the Taker estate is to have the Legislature give approval for the subdivision as intended by the deceased. Under the current rules the Planning Department could not today approve such subdivision of land because there's no sufficient road frontage to meet their requirements for the three lots even though the lots themselves are large enough to meet the requirements.

The request for subdivision approval was then therefore taken to Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As a subdivision is a matter of municipal jurisdiction, it is the practice apparently to have the municipality consent to the bill of this nature and therefore Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations forwarded the matter to HRM for staff review and their request was then taken to regional council. The council approved the subdivision on May 21, 2000, and their reports are attached to the information I provided.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker it is indeed my pleasure to close second reading on this particular bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 149. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 11479]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government business for today. Tomorrow being Opposition Day, the Liberal House Leader will give us the business and times of sitting tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being our Opposition Day, we will be calling Resolution No. 4532 and also Bill No. 141.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: . . . until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow for Opposition business.

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 House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

We will now move into the emergency debate that has been brought before the House by the honourable member for Hants East. I understand we have a schedule where Parties will rotate 15 minutes and 10 minutes.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH.: PORK INDUSTRY - CRISIS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say it's a pleasure to rise to speak to this issue, but it's not. I remember back in 1998 actually standing in my place and encouraging the government of the day at the same time to bring support to the hog industry, which they did. I have to compliment them and I also want to compliment the members of the Liberal caucus who were willing to postpone their debate at 6:00 p.m. on this very issue so we could get to the emergency debate this evening.

[Page 11480]

"Mr. Speaker, the kind of situation we are in, we had better be committed, if this goes on longer than January, to commit some more funds because this is not about a Band-Aid. This is about ensuring that this industry gets through the crisis now. We have to be prepared to commit that kind of money and we have to be prepared to commit that kind of support because these people running these operations, they are family farms, but these are experts. They are experts in pork production worldwide, bar none. Breeding stock in this province, the expertise of 108 on the index, clearly indicates this province is a world leader."

Mr. Speaker, does that sound like something I would say? Well, I would like to think maybe it would sound like something I would say but, you know, other than just a minute ago, that's the only time I ever said it. That statement I just read was a statement by the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Ernest Fage, in 1998 when he was a member of the Opposition, actually a member of the Third Party at that time. So the question I want to ask is what has happened since 1999? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member not to be calling members by their names, but by their constituency, please, as is customary in this House.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to know what it is that has changed in the mind of our present Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, that he was willing to stand in this House and support a loan for the hog industry in 1998, but has been unwilling to offer that same support now and actually has been unwilling for some time. The industry has talked to him more than once. They have talked to staff in his department and to no avail. The minister has been blatantly reluctant to offer any support for this industry and actually someone who was a hog producer at one time himself. I'm not going to say that I have a whole lot of experience in the hog industry. I have raised three or four pigs I guess over the few years. I haven't done it for awhile and actually the last time I was involved with any kind of large operation was when I worked on Vermeulen Farms in Milford and actually one of their sons, Andy Vermeulen, had a hog operation in the North Salem area.

So, Mr. Speaker, and I would say that it must have caught fire because his brother continued that practice in farms in the Valley with a hog operation. I see that his hogs index as well as some of the best in this province, which is a credit to his initiative and his ability to pick up on what it is that those most effective and efficient operators in the province do try to get the most out of the animals they raise.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is an industry that hasn't changed a lot since 1998. In other words, the value of what it produces at the farm gate is about the same, in the range of $35 million for the province, roughly $100 million indirectly to the province in spinoffs, 1,500 jobs indirectly and somewhere in the range of 250 jobs directly on farm operations. I would

[Page 11481]

say that this government does not have a great history of job creation and yet here we have people who are committed to the province, have invested in the infrastructure, committed over a long period of time; if you're going into farming, you have to commit yourself for the long haul. This is not a five or a 10 year investment. In Nova Scotia, it's an investment over generations. So farmers in this province have shown their commitment, but governments have not always shown their commitment to agriculture. The statistics I have here are up to 1996, which show that we lose an average of 69 farms per year in this province. I know previously in this House, the minister has risen and spoken in his place and actually has indicated that the number of farms in Nova Scotia is down compared to when he became minister.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I envy the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I envied the previous Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, because I see these individuals in a position where they actually can bring about policy that should improve the lot of farmers in this province. Now if you're a minister in charge of a portfolio that looks at an industry and year after year the industry becomes smaller, then I would think that that minister would want to say, what's going on? I would think that when that Party formed a government and the Premier appointed his minister, that the first thing the minister would say is, I want to set targets for increases in the number of farmers in this province. He would go to his staff and he would say to them, okay, here's my goal, I want you to implement it. I want to know the barriers that are in place that will prevent this from happening and I want to know if there's a possibility for this government to have a policy and incentives to try to stop that. So, if nothing else, they at least would try to stop the exodus from the industry and then try to reverse it.

Now this seems most problematic due to the fact that the minister that we have is a farmer and we always think, well, let's put somebody with some experience in the job. It doesn't seem to work that way in this province. You can have doctors for Premiers and have the worst health care in the country and put a farmer in the job of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and have a minister that is as hard on the industry as any minister has ever been. Now why they would want to do that is beyond me, especially to be in the unenviable position to have a large number of their seats from rural Nova Scotia.

So in 1996, 42 per cent of farm operators were over the age of 55 and the average age was 52.2. Now you have to say, what type of policy do you have, and we have a new entrants program, but if the average age is 52 years of age, then we're not bringing in many young farmers into this sector.

[7:00 p.m.]

This should be a real problem. This should cause particular concern for a government. Here is a resource that's sustainable and renewable and it's one that we can do here, we have a history of doing it, and actually we only provide 65 per cent of the need for pork in this

[Page 11482]

province and 35 per cent is brought in here. So, farmers in Nova Scotia should be getting a premium. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I haven't noticed any reduction in the price of pork in the stores. So it seems that consumers certainly are willing to pay for the product. It's one that actually is quite saleable - pork has very little waste.

I have a little bit of experience in a meat store, helped run one, was a partner in one for a year after taking a meat cutting course at the Agricultural College. I would say that pork is one of those things that retailers can make money on. It's quite a bit more difficult to do that with beef because 25 to 30 per cent of it you have to put in the garbage pail right off the bat when you break sides down, but pork is one that Nova Scotians will pay for, that retailers can actually make a little bit of money on and I would say that hog producers should be able to make money as well.

Now, people will argue you can't really create a false living for anyone. People make the argument under supply management when it comes to dairy operations. They have this misconception that because we have supply management that somehow dairy farmers make a living they otherwise wouldn't be able to make under a free market system. Supply management doesn't secure efficiencies. In other words, there are those operators under supply management that are more efficient than others.

Nobody really is guaranteed a living. What they're guaranteed is a price for what they produce that is somehow related by a formula to their cost to production. This is something that the government is going to have to look at, I think, for hog producers as well. They're going to have to come up with a strategy that helps hog producers get their cost of production-plus, so that we don't always have these pits and hollows to fall into over time in trying to negotiate with the government in order for them to offer support.

It's a question of what vision does the government have for rural Nova Scotia. Do you actually believe that having a healthy, rural economy is beneficial to the province? You should believe that because it is. If you can keep communities alive, if you can keep young people in those communities, then you can keep your schools open, your hospitals open and you can do it in a cost-effective manner. You don't have to offer some other types of support in order to do that.

There is a positive spinoff to keeping communities viable, and hog producers are not asking for the government to bankroll them until the end of time. As a matter of fact, they're even asking for just a loan, something that they're willing to pay back. I want to say that the history of this government - earlier this year this government gave a $315,000 loan to Xerox Corporation, and Nova Scotia Business Inc. provided a payroll rebate of a maximum of $1.6 million, payable over five years. Between those two, you're looking at nearly $2 million in help for one company.

[Page 11483]

Mr. Speaker, this is a company that has $17 billion U.S. in wealth. I would say that they're considerably better off than hog producers in this province and probably don't need the help, but in a case for people who have made a long-term commitment to the economy of this province then I would say that this government, if they can do that, if they can give a $3 billion tax break to Sobeys, then they can offer some help to Nova Scotia hog producers.

Mr. Speaker, present safety net programs are not good enough, and other members may speak to that as time goes on. I want to say that I think the minister and this government are making a disastrous step here by not offering support to the hog industry. We will continue to pursue them to this effort, and I look forward to the interventions of other members as this debate continues.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to join in the emergency debate this evening. I recall not that long ago, back on December 1, 1998, when in Opposition, the Progressive Conservative Party called for an emergency debate. In fact, it was our Agriculture Critic from Kings North who made that request. I'm pleased tonight that my colleague, who is now the member for Kings North today, is again going to participate in this very important debate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the House. I'm pleased to explain the current situation and describe the various actions that this government is taking. Nova Scotia has some of the best programs for red meat producers in the country. We are focusing our efforts to make them work, and will continue to support developing the pork industry in Nova Scotia. As well, I hope to clarify some information around the recent announcement about the program regarding the pork industry in P.E.I.

Nova Scotia hog producers generate over $35 million in sales at the farm level and have an economic impact on this province of over $100 million. It certainly isn't small potatoes. It's nice that all members in this Legislature and all Parties recognize that. The hog industry is very important to rural Nova Scotia. There are more than 1,000 people in Nova Scotia who work full time because of the activity that the hog industry generates, and because the bulk of this employment is mainly agriculture, we know that it is concentrated in rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the importance of the pork industry is not being ignored by this government, nor would we establish programs that would jeopardize the pork industry in Nova Scotia. In fact, we know hog farming is important and that rural areas depend on it. We are only in a position to gain by having pork producers develop stable operations and a profitable industry in the province. (Interruptions) Well, I can understand that the member for Dartmouth North perhaps doesn't know a whole lot about the hog industry, but if he would just listen he might learn a little bit here this evening.

[Page 11484]

Mr. Speaker, we established programs that meet the long-term needs of the industry, rather than ad-hocery actions to normal industry problems. We have anticipated downturns in the pork industry. We experienced similar market conditions in 1998. Since then staff has been working with industry, and any knee-jerk reaction, like the kind that the Opposition would like to see in Nova Scotia, would not help the industry become strong and profitable, but only extend and hurt producers.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk a little bit, if we can, because it was mentioned here today in the House about the P.E.I. announcement. I would like to clarify the $7 million loans program that P.E.I. announced for their pork producers last week was important to the P.E.I. economy, there's no question about it, and very important to the pork industry in that province.

I couldn't help but observe, when the member for Hants East was making his remarks during this emergency debate, I was a little bit surprised - and I tried to listen carefully - that he didn't reference the NISA account and the fact that the member was present, as was I, for the Halifax East Hants Federation of Agriculture annual meeting. I think it was just a week ago this evening out in Carrolls Corner and we were privileged to entertain a presentation from, I believe it was a Ms. Pam Bremner, regarding NISA.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out that the federal-provincial program, NISA, or Net Income Stabilization Account, is based on a contribution ratio and the P.E.I. enhanced NISA program previously allowed for a 6 per cent matching contribution. However, P.E.I. eliminated this enhancement in the year 2000. They have gone back to the base program for the past two years, which is capped at a matching contribution of $7,500 per year. This limits their ability to grow their NISA accounts for the tough years.

Now, together the enhanced NISA and red meat NISA allow a red meat producer to put up to 8 per cent matching contribution into NISA, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: If you have it.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, yes, that's correct, if you have it. We have to recognize, Mr. Speaker, there will be, I guess, the same as in any profession, some who have it and some who don't have it. It's important to recognize that the ability in Nova Scotia to access a NISA account has been greatly increased. Now the breakdown of the $7 million P.E.I. announcement was $3.5 million to mitigate the low prices, $3.5 million for expansion programs and animal health programs. We do not believe that producers need more debt right now, what they need is to take advantage of income stabilization programs that have been custom-designed to assist farmers through periods like this, through the tough times.

[Page 11485]

Earlier this year the forecasted prices for 2002-03 were not favourable. Since then the price has picked up a bit to approximately $120 per animal in October, which is admittedly still a loss of about $30 per animal. I understand from conversations in the Legislature today that the loss is even greater as we're speaking and still climbing. Now the minister has met with pork producers several times over the past few months and we do have staff monitoring the industry and prices closely to follow the situation. The minister told them, Mr. Speaker, and he wants Nova Scotians to know that the programs that we are putting in place in Nova Scotia attract federal funding. We are leveraging provincial dollars rather than spending it. We are acting fiscally responsible by cost-sharing these programs; Nova Scotians don't want our government to use our money frivolously.

Mr. Speaker, here is more information about the Nova Scotia program, and I think all members who spoke in this Legislature back on December 1, 1998, and the Parties they represented, realize that in 2001 the Nova Scotia Government wrote off a $3.5 million loan to the pork industry, the loan from 1998. (Interruption)Well, the honourable member for Hants East again. I don't know if he will have another opportunity this evening, but he seems to want to clarify what we have learned from staff and folks over at Agriculture and Fisheries now - it used to be Agriculture and Marketing - and this is what we're being told.

Now, about NISA in 2000-02, enhanced NISA top-up federal-provincial contribution, was estimated at $900,000 for all commodities, and of course the hog producers were among the commodities. In 2001-02, red meat NISA, $960,000 was estimated for red meat producers. Now the provincial-federal bridge funding recently added $6 million to Nova Scotia NISA accounts: $3.5 million federal, $2.5 million provincial, and approximately $1.1 million of this went to hog producer accounts. The provincial $2.5 million will see a larger proportion. Approximately 40 per cent will go to target the red meat industry. Nova Scotia NISA account balances are not exhausted, they actually increase from $21.4 million in March 2001 to $26.5 million in October 2002, up $5 million across all commodities.

Mr. Speaker, we understand and recognize that a number of producers in the hog industry are going through some difficult times, there is no question about that, but the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board currently has some $18 million in loans to the hog industry and that $18 million in loans represents approximately 10 per cent of the total loan portfolio. These loans are used for expansion, new entrants and farm enhancement. Now, mind you, there are probably not too many new hog producers who are getting into the business these days, but the door is open for any individual to look at new loan opportunities. I'm not advocating loaning money for the sake of loaning money.

[7:15 p.m.]

We recognize too that the industry is in some very difficult times, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Well, you know, I've had an opportunity and I'm pleased that Herman Berfelo and Brian Berfelo, if I might use their names, I don't think they would mind, they didn't in

[Page 11486]

1998, and I believe Herman is the Chairman of Pork Nova Scotia and before Herman, his father used to farm that 500 acres of land just outside of Stewiacke, in Fort Ellis. Herman, I believe, is one of the larger producers of pork in Nova Scotia. He recognizes, advocates and strongly supports the hog industry in this province. Mr. Berfelo told me one of the problems in the industry is that not too long ago the United States, mind you, stopped being able to ship poultry to Russia and as a consequence a lot of the United States poultry is finding its way into Nova Scotia supermarkets.

Families today consider meat to be meat and when you're shopping - Mr. Speaker, we have no way of forcing people to buy, but I'm very pleased here tonight, just by way of coincidence perhaps, that on the menu tonight is a nice ham dinner and I was very pleased that the Legislature was putting on a nice ham dinner. I see a lot of honourable members used the opportunity to have ham tonight for their dinner and I would encourage, and this government encourages, Nova Scotia first and to buy Nova Scotia products, but one of the problems out there is that we are in a global economy, there's no way around it.

Mr. Speaker, I'm willing, and I know the minister is willing and all members are very willing to work with the pork industry and, in fact, my colleagues, the members for Kings West, Kings North and Annapolis, you can't use names, but I know we've had several meetings with producers in our constituencies. We have had opportunity to go over and meet with the minister, both at the caucus office level and at the Agriculture and Fisheries headquarters. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, you can't help but be pleased that the member for Cape Breton The Lakes is staying tonight for this emergency debate. I'm very pleased that he will be making a contribution to the debate this evening as I am that all members are going to bring dimension to the debate here tonight. It's an emergency debate. It's an important debate, but I do believe that we are taking active measures to position the pork industry well for competition and to weather market ups and downs and there are ups and downs. There's no question.

I don't believe ad-hoc programming is the answer. I think what we need to do is continue consulting with the industry, recognize that existing programs have to be enhanced. Some have been. Is there more to do? Yes. I'm not standing here tonight and I don't believe any member in this Legislature is going to take their place and suggest that all the programs that we have in place are going to solve the problems that the pork industry is facing here today because that would be misleading the House. Mr. Speaker, could you tell me approximately how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about two minutes.

[Page 11487]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, well, in conclusion and in wrapping up, I do want to say that I'm very proud of the pork industry in this province. I recognize that the solution to the pork industry hasn't been found. Having said that, I do want to again emphasize that rural MLAs in the Progressive Conservative caucus, and in fact the front benches, have been working very hard regarding the pork industry and the problems that the pork industry is facing. Never would I suggest that the government can somehow wave a magic wand and bags and bags of money will appear and I know members opposite (Interruption) Well, maybe the member for Dartmouth North may be suggesting that, but we know that can't happen. What we're trying to do is be responsible, be reasonable, recognize that we have to represent the farming industry, the agriculture industry, all commodities, we have to be responsible. This government has to deliver education, health, transportation, community services, natural resources programs, and on and on it goes. It comes down to priorities, but we are committed to providing $2.5 million to the APF fund and we have done that, we have announced that. We are committed to the NISA program that is currently established.

Is there more to be done? Yes, there's more to be done. With the will that my colleagues have to solve this problem, I'm confident that we can in fact do some things that would make the industry certainly understand that we haven't said to the industry that we have all the answers or we have the solution. We want to work with them, we want to continue listening to the producers in a riding.

Mr. Speaker, thank you and I thank all members for giving us the opportunity this evening. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand in my place in the House to debate the emergency debate that was brought forward by the member for Hants East. I compliment him for having the emergency debate tonight. I know we had planned a six o'clock debate and we changed that over together. We're working together on this issue because it's very clear to the farmers in the audience and to the Nova Scotians who are watching this on TV, that after listening to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley talk the way he talked about this issue, it shows an absolute insult to the farming community in the Province of Nova Scotia.

If anybody in this room should know better, it's that member when he stood in his place three years ago, when he was on this side of the House, and he talked about the hog crisis in the Province of Nova Scotia. I won't use a script like he did, I will talk from my heart because I remember what he said. He talked about agriculture being the backbone of rural Nova Scotia and that he would support the current government, the Liberal Government, to provide the funds to leverage the poor returns producers are having by lending them the money, guaranteeing it by the board. He said he supported the Minister of Agriculture to do it and he said that was what the PC Government and the PC caucus would

[Page 11488]

be wanting the government to do and that is to be there to help the industry that's going through a crisis.

Now he stands in this House and talks like he's got a picket fence stuck between his legs. He has no more facts about what he wants to do to the industry than the man in the moon and we don't even have the minister here to back that up.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. I know the honourable member for Lunenburg West is very passionate about the agriculture industry and I appreciate that. However, he realizes that he cannot indicate the presence or absence of a member. I would appreciate the honourable member to refrain from that.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you very much and I apologize for that. I want to say that that member who spoke just a moment ago lives in a rural community. He knows farmers very well and for him not to be able to stand up and fight on behalf of farmers and to say here in this House that the government is positioning the industry for the ups and downs. Why do we have the farmers in the gallery tonight? Are they there because they are saying that everything is fine thank you very much? Are they saying thank you to the minister and the Progressive Conservative Government for helping them out in a crisis that they currently are in?

The average hog farmer in Nova Scotia is losing $65,000 a year, that's on average. I wonder if that member lost $65,000 a year or had his neighbours lose $65,000, how long are they going to stay in business? What they have asked the government to do is come to their help. To be there in a compassionate way as a loan guarantee, and the board would back it up and they would sign it and they would pay it back on a check-off basis. The farmers aren't asking for something free. They're asking for a bridge through this crisis, not unlike the Saskatchewan farmers that got support from the Saskatchewan Government. Not unlike the Prince Edward Island farmers (Interruption).

Listen, it doesn't matter about politics here. We're talking about an industry survival. We're talking about whether we have the political will to support the industry in a loan, a repayable loan. We have no problem for this government and other governments to give loans to industry. Why do we have a problem giving industry loans to the pork industry in the Province of Nova Scotia? It was all right for the PC caucus, and I've got Hansard from the debate that took place three years ago today, well not today, but three years ago when we had this debate. I might say that the member for Hants East is consistent in his message but I could tell you something, when I hear the comments from the now Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley of three years ago and then hear them talk today, I wonder what happened to them. The members in their community, in the farming community, must be ashamed because they had one message

[Page 11489]

when they were over here and a different message when they're on that side of the House. It was a Liberal Government that went through and gave the loan because we believed what members said here was truthful. We believed what the industry told us was truthful. They needed that assistance and they were prepared to pay it back and they would have been able to do it.

Nor what we have done is said to the industry, thank you but no thank you, we don't want to do it. We've got this red meat NISA, the red meat NISA that's there to help the industry. I don't care if you call it red meat NISA or whatever you want to call it. When you're losing $65,000 a year on an average farm operation, you're not going to survive. This is about family farms that are going down that road. We've lost 10 per cent of the industry's production already - 10 per cent of the pork production in Nova Scotia is gone. There's another 10 per cent that will go again this year unless this government has some sense of stability, some sense of common sense about rural Nova Scotia.

It's interesting - this is the Progressive Conservative Government that ran a campaign about how they were going to be the heart and soul of rural Nova Scotia. I remember the debate very well. Let it be very clear in this Legislative Assembly, the Progressive Conservative caucus and government said very clearly they were the Party to represent rural Nova Scotia. They were the Party to represent the farming community. Well, I want you to know, if this is what you call representing the farming community, then you should be ashamed of yourself because this is not a representation of the farming community, this is the denial of the farming community. This is an abandonment of the farming community. This is a rejection of the farming community and this is an absolute disgrace that we don't even have - I can't say it that the minister's not here, I won't say it, but we can't even have representation by all the players on the front bench.

The bottom line, Mr. Speaker, you know the minister was cute the other day in Question Period and the questions were posed during the time about - and I quote the minister - ". . . being used by the honourable member . . .", he was talking about the so-called misleading question that was asked. "He talks in terms of projections of $50. Because the market hasn't followed these trends, instead of a $50 deficit . . .", was equal, ". . . to $86 a hog in October, the actual market price was $1.24."

The minister knows under the formula himself, they take a weighted average of the feed costs and a weighted average of the indexing of the hog. And that so-called $1.24 represents $1.1489. And guess what? Cost of production - $1.50 or $150 a hog. So the bottom line is, for every hog produced, we're talking a loss of $35 for the individual farmer. Yet, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries talks about how great thou art. Aren't we doing so much for the hog industry. Well, I'm sorry, but that doesn't add up to being able to pay the bills in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 11490]

Mr. Speaker, I get a little frustrated simply because the member just read the script and I know that member, I've seen him speak in action, he doesn't need a script. (Interruptions) Well, I have seen him in action when he was speaking, pardon me. I had the lawyer straighten me up. That's fine. I'm a little emotional about this and maybe some people aren't that engaged in this conversation, but I've seen that member speak on this side of the House about issues affecting rural Nova Scotians. Somebody didn't need to give him a script. He didn't need a written text from somebody's office to say what was needed to be said. He spoke with his heart and what his community and his neighbours told him. But now he's muzzled on that side of the House and I say, shame. I'd rather him not say a word than get up and read that stuff that he read into the Hansard. I'm sure his community will not be happy.

I have a letter sent by the president of the hog producers. We have a number of hog producers in the room here today and I know that they're going to be going home saying why in the name of heavens, what is going on? The chairman of Pork Nova Scotia wrote the Premier on October 11th. I will table the letter, after I finish going through it. The chair pointed out to the Premier the serious crisis that is going on in the hog industry. This is after meetings have taken place. He points out very clearly in the letter the number of producers that are being affected. They're losing, at that particular time, approximately 50 hogs. If you ship 50 hogs a week, they're losing about $50 on a hog, $2,500 per week, the average producer is losing; $65,000 an average farm is losing at the end of the year.

[7:30 p.m.]

The minister comes out and says we've got this red meat NISA. They haven't put any money into that program, and if they put the money into the program it won't be until the end of November. If they put it in by the end of November, most farmers can't trigger that program. The ones who can trigger the program, guess how much they're going to get? It's $8,000. We're talking about people who are trying to survive. I can tell you banks have no compassion out there. If anybody has ever run a business, when things get tough, banks will do their job. They will make sure they make a profit. I have to tell you, part of the compassion that we should be having is through the Farm Loan Board, farm credit, and a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that understands when the market is going through a cycle like we are in hogs, and NISA, if you're lucky to qualify - you're not going to be able to pay your bills.

By putting the money in, as I understand, at the end of November, it doesn't do anything to help the farmers in Nova Scotia today. Maybe the member over there thinks that's all right, to put money in after they all leave the industry or after we lose half the industry or 20 per cent of the production in the Province of Nova Scotia. If that is what the member is referring to, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is monitoring the situation to make sure the industry is secure, is he saying that they want to lose 20 per cent of the production of pork in Nova Scotia? It's not that we are the problem internationally, it's

[Page 11491]

an oversupply across the country. Who's there to help their farmers? Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island came out with a loan program. Not only did they come out with a loan program, they even came out with a program to help those producers upgrade their facilities so they can be even more competitive.

What does the Province of Nova Scotia do? The Province of Nova Scotia has taken the other side. We really don't want to do anything; we've done enough. So are they saying to the producers up there, who are working seven days a week, you aren't good enough any more? When they were on this side, when the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries sat on this side of the House, he was begging the government to do something, and we did. Now he's over there, and he's saying, too bad, too bad to the hog-producing industry in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, that's not good enough for me, and I don't believe it's good enough for Nova Scotians, when the industry is not asking for a freebie, they're asking for a loan, a repayable loan, the same as any other corporation that goes to government on a regular basis, and they will backstop the loan by saying they will pay it back on a check-off basis. It's not going to be tied to an individual producer per se but the total industry. The industry is saying, we have confidence in the future but, for heaven's sake, have confidence in us. For once, have confidence in the producers in rural Nova Scotia.

The minister says all the programs - if all the programs he's done are so spectacular, why do we have all these farmers in the audience tonight, in the west gallery? Why are they here? Why are we having this emergency debate? Why did I ask a question in the House today on this issue? Why did we want to have a late debate tonight before this? Why did the member for Hants East bring the issue forward?

It's because we know, in talking to the farm community, there is a crisis out there; there is a crisis and there's a problem, and it isn't being addressed. You can read all the scripts you want, you can read all the manifestos that the department wants to give you, but the bottom line is we have farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia who are hurting, not because they're inefficient, it's not because they're not productive, it's not because they don't work seven days a week, not because they aren't as efficient as anybody else, it's because we have an oversupply of hogs on the market across the country and the market prices have dropped. We don't have a floor price or a stabilization base that guarantees them a bottom line. They're out there in the free market, and they're hurting, they're hurting bad.

This isn't about good producers and bad producers. That all changed years ago. These are the core of the hog industry; these are the core people who know how to make this system work. Tonight, the reason I wasn't here right away was Susan Whelan, I believe she's the Minister for International Cooperation from the federal government. Her father was Eugene Whelan. Many members in this room remember the great man, Gene Whelan. She said, what are you doing tonight? I said, I'm over here talking to the Tories about the hog crisis that is

[Page 11492]

going on and about the lack of compassion and caring this government is showing - when the industry asked for a loan, the government said no, we've done enough for you. Go back home and figure out how you're going to make it yourself.

Well I say to the Progressive Conservative Government - and I know the former members, George Moody and George Archibald, when they stood in this House, spoke articulately about the need to make sure that the industry and government work together. I'm challenging this government to stand in their place and work together with the industry and find a solution. Don't let them starve to death, don't force them out of business and don't shut down rural Nova Scotia because somebody doesn't like the industry. Thank you.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly pleased this evening to have an opportunity to engage in this debate on this very important emergency debate around what is going on with the pork industry. I guess there are a number of things which have been said already which I guess come from members who have, perhaps, a great deal more familiarity with this than I do. I represent Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. It's an urban riding, however, you know and perhaps many others here know that I grew up in a very rural community, a little place called Milton, just outside of Liverpool. In fact, my father operated a small mixed farm and, in fact, after he retired actually did raise some hogs. I will tell you that I was gone by then and off to university, so I can't claim any kind of direct knowledge about that at all.

Like many people from rural Nova Scotia, agriculture is part of your everyday life, and whether or not you're engaged in it directly, you certainly are surrounded by people who are. Certainly growing up in those communities, as I did, you are involved in those kinds of organizations, like 4-H and others where you deal with people quite often engaged in the agricultural community.

I must say that I was really dismayed, I wasn't surprised but I was dismayed to hear the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and his submission, mainly because it is a continuation of what I consider to be an erosion of his ability to speak on behalf of people in rural Nova Scotia. Over the last three and a half, four years, we've seen him constantly having to back off of positions that he took while he was in Opposition. This is just the latest one of those. The reality is that when he was in Opposition he talked and railed on about fishing licences for seniors, and now a small charge is okay. He railed on about the motive fuel taxes and the need to use them on highways. Now, where is that? He talked about support for seniors, and now it's okay that he's part of a government that strips virtually every cent away from a senior when they go into a long-term care facility.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour indicated when he rose that he wasn't very familiar with the hog industry, and I concur with him that he is not, but he's not very relevant regarding the

[Page 11493]

debate tonight. The member should know, and I believe he was here in his capacity with the NDP as the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour when the Opposition Party, the Third Party, the Progressive Conservatives, brought this issue to the floor of the Legislature and forced the Liberal Government to do something, and we indicated tonight that we recognize there are problems in the hog industry and the pork sector in Nova Scotia. So for that member to digress on commitments and promises I made isn't sticking to the debate. I thought I should point that out. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, but it's a point before the House. The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: I don't blame the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for feeling the way he does about his performance in this House given that over the past number of years he has had to retrench on virtually every single thing that he stood for when he was in Opposition. Now, today, on the pork industry, what does he say to people engaged in that industry? He says, in essence, the strong will survive and those who are unable to get through tough times, well they will just have to go the way they're going to go. I mean he's a profound proponent, with respect to this industry, of economic Darwinism. He doesn't seem to care anymore.

AN HON. MEMBER: He's speaking for the government. That's the government's position.

MR. DEXTER: That's right, and it's because he's speaking on behalf of the government - I don't do this, unlike the member for Lunenburg West, out of anger - I feel sorry, Mr. Speaker, for the member because I know that in his heart he would really like to see the right thing done, because I know the member has a genuine interest in the promotion of this industry.

He went on to talk about ad hoc programming and how that wouldn't be of any benefit to the government, but the reality is it's not ad hoc to be flexible; it's not ad hoc to recognize a crisis; it's not ad hoc to prepare programming that will meet the needs of the people in this industry. It's not ad hocery, that's being a responsible, flexible government. That's providing leadership, and that's what's being requested of the government tonight in this debate.

It seems to me that when it comes to rural communities - and this point was already made by the member for Lunenburg West - but the reality is when it comes to rural communities we are pulling the underpinning right out from underneath those communities and it's not just in the agricultural sector, it's in other sectors as well. It's very obvious with the erosion of health care services in rural communities and the way that they're being pulled apart - and do you know something? If we keep going down this road we will destroy those communities; we will. We will do it because we failed to recognize what it is that keeps

[Page 11494]

those communities together, and that's part of the big problem that we have with the inaction of this government with respect to this industry. They're not recognizing the importance of rural communities to this province. (Interruption)

There's the Minister of Health and it would be good if he would join this debate, because of course he, too, represents a rural riding, but he's busy these days I guess with having his hands filled with what he's doing with seniors in long-term care facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate the impact on the economy from this industry is over $100 million annually; more than 1,500 people derive their income from this industry. It has been said - but I think it bears repeating - that in any industry you cannot continue to go through a situation where the cost of production is greater than what you're receiving for your product. And make no mistake about it, this to a large degree has its roots in the matters of international subsidies. The reality is that the Americans are providing huge subsidies to their producers, the result of which is that they are essentially flooding the market with product. It makes it difficult to get a fair price and this is part of the problem that exists today. I want to say, as I understand it, these low prices are expected to continue on perhaps for another six months, and I was interested to find out - I didn't know this - but I understand that we only at this point currently have about 65 per cent of our own market being supplied locally. So there is room within our own market to grow.

What should be clear to the minister, and it should be clear to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and to the member for Kings North, is that at present whatever the existing safety nets are, they are insufficient to meet the needs of the industry. Now at that point you only have two choices: you can either do something to remedy the situation or you can allow that industry to continue to fall apart. You can't sit back and say, we intend to make the industry stronger by putting in place programs that aren't going to respond to the need, and that is essentially what the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has said.

I will, of course, be interested to hear from the member for Kings North. Another member for Kings North spoke on this very subject years ago, but I would warn people that when you listen to the member for Kings North, you can be assured of one thing, that he will feel your pain, he will understand the crisis you're going through. Will he do one thing about it? Not one thing. This is what happened with the paramedics, this is what happened with the nurses, that when the rubber hits the road, there will be nothing that will come forward from the member for Kings North.

[7:45 p.m.]

That is the record, in fact, from most of the backbench of the Conservative Government. When they sat on this side of the floor, they had all the answers, they knew exactly what people needed, but as soon as they crossed the floor to government, they

[Page 11495]

immediately adopted all of the government policy positions and we have watched those make their way back into the forefront of government policy over the last three and a half years. I understand the cynicism of many people who say it really doesn't make any difference who is on the government benches. I know the member for Hants East has been wont to say before, the Tories like to say that government doesn't work, and then of course they get elected to prove that government doesn't work.

I wanted to talk for just a second, and I wanted to put this into the record, as well, because the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley talked about the Pork Risk Management Program and we received this, I believe, from Pork Nova Scotia, and I'll just read the last little bit of it to maybe clarify for the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley: "In 1998-99 the province loaned $3.5 million to our industry to sustain us through the worst price crisis in memory. It has been said that this loan was written off but fortunately the federal government's disaster program AIDA recognized that our provincial Pork Risk Management Program removed their liability to pork producers and the loan was paid off with these federal funds, not written off with provincial funds!" So that's the situation as I understand it, and I will table that so the minister and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley can have an opportunity to see it.

The member for Hants East mentioned, with respect to the stabilization account, that the Net Income Stabilization Account, which I understand is a voluntary program which was developed between the federal government and participating provinces, and of course it was accessed during the similar crisis in 1998. Now, as I understand it, since that time there have not been enough good years in production in order to replenish that fund, so it's not there in sufficient amount to be able to respond to the full need of the industry. Of course, it is therefore incumbent upon the industry, and I think quite reasonably so, Mr. Speaker, to propose to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries an implemented cash flow program to lend money to producers during the cash flow crisis, which they would repay based on a levy once prices recover. This seems like a very reasonable approach to put forward to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and yet the minister has refused. Again, he goes back to this idea that the existing safety net is sufficient to meet the task.

It has been mentioned, and I guess I would say again that other provinces are clearly responding to these challenges, both in Prince Edward Island and in Saskatchewan. I don't know this, but my bet is that the industry in Saskatchewan - just looking at the amount that they have invested - is considerably larger than the industry here, but nonetheless, on a relative scale, of no less importance to us.

I guess the other point I would make on this is that in 1998 the emergency debate at that time was actually called by the members of the Conservative Party and they asked, at that time, for the government to do just exactly what is being asked to be done today. There is nothing that we can find that is substantially different than the situation that existed in 1998. The only difference in this House is that the people who called the emergency in 1998,

[Page 11496]

instead of sitting on this side of the House, sat on the government side of the House where they have the power to actually do something about the situation that they recognized then as a crisis. I would say to everyone who's listening and who's watching this debate that if they fail in this responsibility, then they have failed in the responsibility of government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to join the debate tonight and I've heard the remarks of the previous speakers and I want to commend the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on his remarks because his remarks dealt with facts rather than conjecture.

Another thank you I also would like to give is to the honourable member for Hants East. The honourable member for Hants East rose in his place during Question Period last week and certainly in response to the low prices in the hog industry, he asked a question, unlike the honourable member for Lunenburg West who didn't realize there was a low-price situation until this afternoon. I want to commend the honourable member for Hants East for being involved enough with the industry and the rural community to take that opportunity because, certainly, the honourable member for Hants West asked many questions on a variety of subjects last week in Question Period but, certainly, I received no questions from him. So at least the honourable member for Hants East has been out and involved in the industry.

What I want to talk about tonight, really, is the plight of hog farmers because as a former hog farmer in this province, I know first-hand what it's like to be involved in an industry where prices are cyclic, where you go through some good years, most times from two to two and a half years, and then you go through some very poor times. The nature of the industry is that you have to put away some of the money from the good times to help you through the poor times and, also, you need support from government. I think I remember clearly back to the debate in 1998 when my colleague, the member for Kings North, asked the House to have an emergency debate because of those very circumstances.

I want to talk about history a little bit and factual history, Mr. Speaker, because I think that's important. The hog industry is going through a tough time right now and, certainly, my colleagues realize that and, certainly, the industry has been working on that and seeing after the 1998 situation and when we became government, we sat down and met with the hog industry; all requests government can't grant, but government can listen and government can try to make programs better. There was a NISA program in 1998 and it was a program that was inadequate at that time for a number of reasons, not only procedure and function, but the percentage that one could put into it.

Our caucus, I'm pleased as I mentioned earlier, was the one to raise the issue, had the emergency debate and forced the government of the day to take the situation of rural Nova Scotia seriously because this side of the House is concerned about rural Nova Scotia and put

[Page 11497]

in policies over the last three years to try to help address those chronic situations. With the hog industry, we sat down with the hog industry, we looked at and explored with them methods to make NISA better and make it work.

The outflow of that, Mr. Speaker, was that we took rural Nova Scotia, the hog industry and all of agriculture seriously in their concerns about programs and the inadequacies of programs, which the former government had virtually eliminated in their term in power. We've doubled since 1997 the amount of dollars going into income support and agricultural development. We sat down with our federal counterparts on behalf of the red meat industry and came up with enhanced NISA. That's an 8 per cent, not a 4 per cent like the previous, so there are actual dollars in those accounts. There is currently over $20 million here in Nova Scotia for non-supply management. That is a significant long-term achievement in trying to foresee, as the hog industry knew, there would be another down cycle. I, as minister responsible, my colleagues on this side of the House, the Conservative members, knew that there was another downturn coming.

We made sure those policies got in place, we made sure the money was placed, and we signed deals with the federal government that brought them into play, which even doubled the amount of money they were contributing. Those are extremely important long-term factors. We didn't stop there. When we discussed with the hog industry that an outstanding loan from 1998 for $3.5 million, which we had not required payment on, was an impediment for the next time they were in a down cycle if they had to repay that loan, prior to this downturn in the Spring of this year, I had my deputy deliver a cheque, with the Province of Nova Scotia on the cheque, for $3.5 million to the industry to eliminate that debt so they weren't faced with paying for that debt, the same as producers in P.E.I.

As the members opposite should fully realize, the $3.5 million in 1998 to P.E.I. is repayable; the same as the $3.5 million. If the member for Lunenburg West can use his former financial skills as a former Finance Minister, he would obviously realize that $3.5 million that you don't have to pay is $3.5 million that isn't taken out of your cash flow and is there for use for those individual farms in the industry when the times go tough. So we're very pleased as a government that we sat down with the industry and we had the foresight to make sure that $3.5 million was eliminated. That was a provincial government cheque, I will remind members opposite.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

[Page 11498]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member talk about misleading calculations and circumstances when he gave his 15 minutes, and I think that was certainly more than enough time for him to get serious about the industry today, so I will continue on with my remarks.

Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. If the minister had been here in Question Period, he would have had a question then but he wasn't here . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. You're off the record.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I was certainly pleased with the conduct of the member for Hants East last week in Question Period. He realized that hog prices were low. He was the only member of this House who asked me a question.

Mr. Speaker, in the P.E.I. circumstances, also, it's extremely important to deal with (Interruption) When I spoke with the minister in P.E.I. last week and the week previous, the minister in P.E.I. reminded me that they had to reduce their NISA because of financial situations last year, and they reverted to a basic NISA. So, it's a different set of circumstances in P.E.I.; a) it's a repayable loan and they've had to repay the previous loan; and b) the NISA is only a basic NISA and not an 8 per cent NISA, which we've had the advantage of here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, also, this government is in the proud position of being one of three provinces that negotiated and signed a new APF deal with the federal government this Spring, in June. Part of that was a $600 million transition fund this year. The federal government is paying $3.5 million to NISA accounts in this province. This province is one of three that contributed their $2.5 million share to pay to those NISA accounts. As a recognition of the difficulties the pork industry is going through right now, we wanted to make sure there is more money in those NISA accounts.

We allocated what is virtually a doubling of the red meat NISA sector share out of those $2.5 million funds; $1.1 million of that, as my colleague said earlier, is designated through that to the pork industry. Those are steps, those are recognitions, dealing within the program structure that we've established so that we get cost-sharing federal dollars to make sure there are funds available in those NISA accounts for our producers here in this province.

[Page 11499]

The other situation that I announced earlier this Fall, to help deal with this situation facing hog producers as well, is this year we will be using negative margins and CIFA which is a disaster program, which will allow producers to access funds if they fall below the 70 per cent level, in addition to their NISA accounts and in addition to the province having

issued the cheque for $3.5 million to pay off that loan so that producers in this province did not have to make loan payments over the last years since 1998 and didn't have to make loan payments going into the future. So, those are significant contributions to trying to help address the problem.

[8:00 p.m.]

Now, let's talk about the real problem facing the red meat industry and specifically the hog industry in Nova Scotia and not the politics of the situation, Mr. Speaker. There's no question the hog industry - with their large dependence on grain, cereal grain specifically. When the federal government - and I should add that it was a Liberal Government, of course - eliminated the feed freight assistance, for over 50 years that was the basis of much our monogastric industry here in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada.

It was a significant blow to our hog industry here, which has to track, and is part of the North American or global price. It's been a significant drawback and a significant impediment on their cost side to being able to address a break-even situation; it has been only since that time that pressure was caused by that, with that federal reversal and the federal government's inadequate funding of total agricultural programs.

We tap in and fund 60/40, but gone are the days of the five-year agreements. Gone are the development agreements that we can target specific industries. The province only has so much money. I'm certainly pleased and proud of my caucus and the government I represent that even though we've balanced the budget in the last three years, at least for this most important sector to the rural economy of Nova Scotia, not only have we been fixing the roads, but we've been making sure that we doubled the money that was previously going into income stabilization of risk management. Are they enough, Mr. Speaker? There's never enough. I don't deny in the least that it's a very traumatic and tough time for our farmers in the hog industry. We are making sure that there are significant funds going forward. Unlike the previous government, instead of 4 per cent NISA, we have 8 per cent NISA. We required or urged the previous government in the emergency debate to loan the $3.5 million. We made sure that those $3.5 million did not come out of hog producers' pockets; they came out of the pockets of the Department of Agriculture in the Province of Nova Scotia. Those are significant.

We've ensured that we made sure that transition funding was paid by Nova Scotia. We paid our 40 per cent; one of three provinces that paid the 40 per cent. We recognize that the red meat industry is having significant problems. We made sure that those funds were at double share, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 11500]

In connection with CFIP, we made sure negative margins are included to give the broadest coverage to our producers. We've also ensured, through producer meetings, meetings with the executive, that staff is available to anyone in the hog industry on an individual basis, whether it be with the lending agencies, whether it be with income support, whether it's taking an early draw in accessing NISA, or developing a business plan. All those resources, right down to farm management, are there and available for council, support and accessing funds, because part of the problems that it has been with NISA and various cost-shared programs is that accessing them at times, under the conditions that are written into those agreements with the federal government becomes tedious and difficult and producers become frustrated. I don't blame them because I become frustrated.

Those are the very issues on trigger points on how long it takes to access funds, how much of the draw can you take down, do you have to pay federal income tax on those NISA accounts if they're a Class 1 or if they're a Class 2 account, because they're treated the same as an RRSP. Those are problems that we have to continually work on and make sure that we correct with the federal government. They're procedure issues, but the bigger issue is ensuring there are funds available and there's a plan in place for when prices downturn in non-supply management commodities. I can assure you this government and my colleagues have been extremely concerned about that. That's why almost two years ago we started Enhanced NISA. We've made sure that there was a double share going in there. The caps were raised so that those individual producers had a chance to receive significant equal funding, matched funding, and those producers who chose to have it in their accounts, had the ability to get the maximum amount they could in there.

Are those accounts large enough? Are the caps the right amount? I don't think so, as minister, but I'm prepared to work with the industry and I have worked with the industry and will continue to work with the industry to ensure those adjustments are made so we can meet those challenges in the future. But, Mr. Speaker, we have program improvements and we have long-term program improvements that are there and there are dollars in those accounts and the producers want them there and we're prepared to move forward and help those producers. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that and I want to acknowledge the hog producers who are here tonight who have come in for the debate. For the hog producers this is a very serious issue. We have dealt with it in a serious manner and we will continue to work closely with the hog industry to do our best to meet their expectations in the future.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to speak here this evening, particularly with an issue like this that's so important, I guess after hearing the minister, I don't know why I'm here now if everything is so wonderful and I don't even know why the hog producers are here. Maybe

[Page 11501]

somebody told them something that wasn't true. Maybe there isn't a crisis going on, but we know better. We know better and after three years here in this House, I've learned first-hand not to accept what's being said from that side of the floor in particular.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, this is an extreme step which would not be happening if this minister had listened to the pork producers to begin with, if he had listened. That's all he had to do was listen. Pork Nova Scotia has met with this minister. They had contacted the Tory backbenchers and that was confirmed here this evening by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. They've met. It's obvious the minister is not listening and it's obvious after listening to the backbenchers here, that the backbenchers are obviously not very effective. If they have met with the pork producers and they've met with the minister and their government members and their Cabinet Ministers, then what are we doing here? Why am I standing in my place this evening and why is the gallery full of pork producers? Why are we going through this exercise? If the minister says there's no problem, then what is the problem?

Mr. Speaker, I would say there's a major problem. I would say there's a major problem and when my colleagues were in government, the member for Kings North at the time and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley were very concerned about the hog producers and their future in this province and they were strong voices. In fact, the member for Kings North took a very strong stand in the fall of 1998 and now the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, of course, is obviously pretty quiet by what he said here this evening and we all know that the member for Kings North has been replaced. The former member for Kings North at the time was a very strong voice for the pork producers in this province and I find it hard to believe that this minister does not share the concern of his colleagues, as indicated by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, that he does not share the concern of his colleagues, but we can only gauge his concern by his inaction because there's nothing else to compare it with. It's either his inaction or his inability to deal with the situation.

It's simple, Mr. Speaker. The minister knows full well that there is a crisis in this industry, he has said it and that the industry requires his intervention, his assistance, his ability to do what my colleagues did in 1998. But, obviously, this minister doesn't have the same ability as the minister in 1998 when he took the crisis that the pork industry was going through before Cabinet and won approval for the plan to, not save this industry, the government of the day didn't save this industry, they assisted the industry in a time of crisis. This industry worked itself out of the crisis it was in through the efforts, particularly, of the farmers and their employees.

We are not talking about a handout here. The pork producers are not looking for handouts, they're looking for assistance, assistance, and perhaps a helping hand. All that the industry is asking for is short-term cash flow, a measure that will be repaid in full. It's merely

[Page 11502]

a loan, Mr. Minister. Simply put, it's loaning the pork producers the money to get through this crisis, a loan that will be paid back in full.

In December 1998, the government of the day, who happened to be my colleagues on this side of the House, they moved to provide that help. Now more than ever, pork producers need assistance from this government, those backbenchers. This is indeed a crisis that threatens 20 per cent of our hog production in the province. It means fewer exports and fewer jobs. Anybody hear that word? Jobs in rural Nova Scotia. It means family farming will be abandoned in the hog industry as well, Mr. Speaker.

The pork industry is a net contributor to the Nova Scotia economy, representing over $35 million in farm-gate receipts alone, an overall economic impact of over $100 million per year and employs approximately 1,500 mainly rural Nova Scotians. Jobs. Do you hear what that means? Do you understand what that means, honourable ministers?

Providing a loan is the right thing for this minister to do because hog producers provide greater economic output than they ever requested. All they're asking for is support while prices are low and they will repay when the prices return to normal, an increase higher than what they are today. That is as easy a program as any government could create. It's as simple as ABC yet the minister either has an inability to deal with the situation or he shows no interest.

[8:15 p.m.]

Confidence in an industry, that is one major issue that this government should be providing to the hog farmers in the province. Confidence. If I look at the blue book of broken promises that the government submitted in 1999, there's one page on farming. Despite what the minister says, there is no mention of the hog industry whatsoever. Does that sound like it was or is being recognized as the vital industry that it is in this province? I will allow individuals in the hog industry to decide that. It is not for me to say. The loss for the average family farm, as my colleague, the honourable member for Lunenburg West indicated, is approximately $65,000 per year. Imagine one of us as MLAs losing $65,000 this year in this job that I have and then ask yourself how long you would maintain the seat that we're sitting in at a loss of $65,000 per year. I would suggest that there wouldn't be many individuals sitting in this Chamber this evening or any evening.

Mr. Speaker, what possible reason would this government have not to help the hog industry? Part of the problem, I believe, is in accounting. If the government gives support this year, then they may not balance their budget, perhaps, even though they can count on receiving this money back in future years. That's not the kind of activity this government really manoeuvres within. It's okay to do that with highway projects, paving projects, other infrastructure projects. But, no, we can't support the hog industry in the same manner. No, that's impossible.

[Page 11503]

This government has accepted more revenue as a result of the insurance industry in the same type of attention from that minister as we do from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries when the hog producers require assistance and attention and need. They receive the same attention as the consumers, the seniors, the low income individuals and people with disabilities who are mostly affected. They do nothing, absolutely nothing to show any interest to deal with the issues. It's the same activity from this government on this particular issue, absolutely no interest shown whatsoever.

That's not to say, Mr. Speaker, that this government has received more funding from the government in Ottawa than any previous government in the history of Nova Scotia, yet they still can't find the structure to support the hog industry. With all the available tools that this government has that the government in 1998 did not have, this government still cannot stand up and support rural Nova Scotia. This program would be of very little cost to the government, but just so that they can maintain their illusion of a balanced budget, they will not support the hog producers, despite adding $100 million to the debt in this province, borrowing $11,000 per hour. Yet, no help, no support, nothing in times of need for the hog producers, nothing.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated with the blue book - and I have the blue book - there is absolutely no attention given to the hog producers on the only page in regard to farming in the blue book. There is no mention whatsoever. The only thing they could come up with was to ensure that Ottawa lives up to their commitment. That's typical of a government that does not take responsibility for its own inaction.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to get up and be surprised - I'm not surprised here this evening, because all you have to do is ask the farmers in Cape Breton what kind of support this minister and that government provides them. Since 1999, despite a $20 million industry in industrial Cape Breton, the farming industry down there has begged this minister for assistance, yet no attention, absolutely no interest whatsoever in dealing with the interests. Whether he has interest in the industry or whether he doesn't have the ability to deal with the issues within his government, that's the question.

I know my time is just about up, so I will take my place so I can continue to listen to the debate here. I am very eager, Mr. Speaker, to continue hearing what the rural representatives over there on that backbench have to say, the government of rural Nova Scotia. I think it's about time for them to stand up and be counted.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, if you don't mind, I will be sharing my time with the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, and if you could let me know when my five minutes is up, I would truly appreciate it.

[Page 11504]

I think the most important significant venture here tonight is this emergency debate, a debate that should never have to happen, because the minister responsible for Agriculture should be able to come to this Legislative Assembly with a Ministerial Statement indicating that his government is prepared to address the issue with respect to the crisis in the pork industry. The minister should also be prepared to know that the other members of this Legislative Assembly would have supported such a Ministerial Statement.

I also take exception, Mr. Speaker, to individual members of this Legislative Assembly who stand in their place and imply that because you represent an urban constituency you have no knowledge or understanding of what happens in those rural communities. That is far from the truth, and I want the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to know that I have a limited understanding and knowledge of the pork industry.

In 1965-66, I worked on a pork farm in a community called Hillaton, Lower Canard, in the constituency of the member for the Kings North, about a kilometre away from the small town of Canning. In that community I worked on the hog farm, and I certainly know the kind of manual labour it takes to produce a hog for the marketplace. I'm not one of those individuals who walks into a store and thinks that this thing was packaged by some magical computer and so on and so forth, and all I have to do is stand out and prepare it for my meal.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that I've walked into those barns, I've watched the sows produce their piglets, and I've had the pig manure on my feet on many occasions, and I did the pig manure spreading out in those particular fields. I know all about that. I know about the hours that it takes to walk out there on the hog farm, when those piglets are being born, to make sure that none of them are smothered as a result of the sow falling over on the pigs, or something of that nature, and to build those special cribs that are needed to have those sows in there so that those hogs are safe and secure, and to make sure that the feeding of those particular hogs are on a timely basis and so on.

I resent when honourable members of this Legislative Assembly automatically impugn or imply that just by looking at an individual they have no understanding or knowledge of a particular industry. I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that I have sympathy with an industry that provides food for the table of the nation and of the province, and I also want you to know that often we take this for granted.

We have taken the fishing industry for granted, and look what we have witnessed. Small fishing communities, small fishing hamlets along Nova Scotia are not here today, they are gone. Think about those as pork producers throughout the entire Province of Nova Scotia, and think about what will happen then. They're gone, and if we don't do something with respect to feeding our nation, our people in this province and if we don't come to the rescue and the need of individuals when they need our assistance, then we don't act as a

[Page 11505]

government. We can't rely on global economy and people outside of our nation and outside of our province providing us with the meals on our plate.

That's not and should not be acceptable by any government in this country and it should not be acceptable by the Government of Nova Scotia either. I want to say that with those few comments - and I could speak here for about an hour on this particular industry because I want you to know that I have worked in the mixed farming industry and put my way through school in that industry and I have some knowledge of it. So, with those few minutes, I want to pass on my time to the member for Sackville-Cobequid and I want those pork producers to know that just because I represent an urban constituency, it doesn't mean that I don't understand their plight. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as I stand in my place I want to say that I do come from an urban community, I have lived all of my life in an urban community and I don't profess to have any direct knowledge of the pork industry in the province. But, that doesn't mean you can't have some common sense.

I say to the minister, I say to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I say to the member for Kings North, who is going to be the clean-up speaker for the government side, look up in the galleries, look into the eyes of the men and women who are here tonight. I ask you, if everything was working as well as you say, would they be here?

I heard platitudes from the minister, from the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and I'm sure I will hear from the member for Kings North his deepest sympathy and his understanding, but in terms of solutions, I heard the square root of nothing. No suggestions, no indication that you're even interested in proposing anything. We hear we want to work with the industry, but what I heard them saying is that in reality you are content for those weakest in the industry to go out of business. Simply disappear.

The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley pointed out that the industry, correctly, is worth $100 million a year when you take a look at the spin-offs that go with that. We've lost 10 per cent. Well, that sounds like $10 million to me. If we lose another 10 per cent, that will be another $10 million. Where's it going to go? We already import large proportions of the food that we eat in this province. We import 35 per cent of the pork products in this province, so are you content to have another 5 or 10 per cent coming in from the United States, where the Americans will get the benefit of our dollars being exported to them? (Interruptions) The States, other parts of Canada, Europe, they're not dollars that are being spent in Nova Scotia, supporting Nova Scotia families and Nova Scotia communities. It's feed that's not being bought in Nova Scotia. It's clothing and materials - farm equipment, et cetera - that the men and women and their families up above - not being spent in Nova Scotia.

[Page 11506]

Right now, we're debating a topic that is almost exactly the same as in 1998, a motion that was introduced, I believe, at that time by none other than the current Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, what the men and women and other pork producers in the province are asking for is a loan, a loan of approximately $3 million to carry them through (Interruption) A repayable loan, that's what a loan is, you repay it, to carry them through this difficult time.

But do you know Mr. Speaker, right now the government is bringing in - get this - approximately $0.5 billion more a year in revenue than they did in 1998, $0.5 billion. In terms of the money, and this was already mentioned, in terms of the amount of money that this government is getting in extra taxes from insurance alone, it's over double the amount that the producers in this province are looking for as a loan.

[8:30 p.m.]

Common sense, Mr. Speaker, do you want to invest in Nova Scotia? How about this? I say to the government members, let's say that the pork producers were to change their names, let's say that they're going to change their name to the Nova Scotia Pork Producers Call Centre? They've got all kinds of money for call centres. If they change their name, will you give them a loan? We're talking about investing in Nova Scotians. We're talking about keeping Nova Scotian families, family farms, family businesses, in operation. That's a reasonable suggestion. It's common sense and you don't have to live on a farm to understand the importance of protecting and enhancing the farming industry and the pork producers in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak on this. I will speak fairly briefly this evening. I want to also commend all Parties for agreeing to focus on this important item and for agreeing to this emergency debate and, in particular, I want to commend the member for Hants East for bringing this debate before us, for making this motion tonight. I also want to welcome many of the pork producers who are here, many of them from the riding of Kings North, and I recognize them and welcome them and glad that they're here.

This is an issue that, firstly, as a member representing Kings North, I've been concerned about for some months now and have had meetings with my colleagues in the PC Party, with colleagues such as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, with the member for Kings West who, with me I think, shares the majority of pork producers in the province, and we've had several meetings together as colleagues talking about this problem, trying to raise awareness of this problem. We have had several meetings as well with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and his staff, in addition.

[Page 11507]

This culminated in a large public meeting that the member for Kings West and myself jointly sponsored. We held it at Kentville Baptist Church and I want to thank the church for the use of this building. I went to them and asked them if we could use the building because it was an important issue for the community and they agreed to let me use it on October 22nd. At that meeting I think all of the people who are in the gallery here, at least 90 per cent of them, were there and we had the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries who graciously consented to come and spend the evening and also he brought two staff with him, a Mr. Alan Grant who's responsible for farm management and shared with us some of the projections and the models he's been working on, on how to get through this difficult time, and also Mr. Michael Johnson who's in charge of risk management programs and went through those quite in detail.

The meeting surprised me a little bit because it was about a three-hour meeting, Mr. Speaker, and I welcomed people and then my colleague, the member for Kings West, took over chairing the meeting. I suspected that most of the meeting would be taken up by concerns such as we've heard tonight, but actually most of the meeting was on details on how to access NISA, on how to leverage some of this money, on ways of dealing with off-calendar years, and on technical data. It was an interesting meeting for me, but it wasn't nearly the same tenor that we're getting tonight and it did surprise me, I have to admit to that.

At that meeting the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries reiterated an announcement that he had made earlier that day, I believe it was, that the province would direct - of the APF funding, the 40 per cent that we would control - to the red meat sector to help with the NISA accounts and we're grateful for that. My colleague, the member for Kings West, and I were glad to hear that. It's not a lot of money per NISA account, but it was an important thing I think that the province did.

The larger context out of my meetings with my colleagues and out of that larger meeting in Kentville, the larger context became clear to me, the context that we're in, and I know those in the gallery know this far better than I do, and Opposition members as well who have been working at this, but the pressure on our farmers is a pressure that seems to be growing. I shared in my introduction at that meeting a joke that one of my farmers, Eric Rand, since deceased, that we were sitting around, this is before I got into politics and joking about what one would do if one won the lottery and became a millionaire and Eric Rand with a wry smile on his face - he was a farmer, Mr. Speaker - he said, well, I would just keep farming until the $1 million was all gone.

This seems to be a problem that's endemic across the country. We're used to cheap food prices here in the Country of Canada and if you compare our food prices, and I think the honourable member for Hants East alluded to this, if you look at our food prices in Canada compared to particularly Europe, we have very low food prices and from what I've been able to determine, and I could be corrected, the majority of that is borne by the farmers. They're the ones who have been having really to, through being more efficient, through

[Page 11508]

cutting their profit margins, they're the ones who've really resulted in keeping the food prices at the level they are at.

I think as a larger society, Mr. Speaker, we need to value the food production that we have here. We've heard some talk about food security in this age of international terrorism and the importance of being able to provide food for our own society is a very important one that's been mentioned before. I think that, as the honourable member for Dartmouth North mentioned, too many of us just sort of go into the grocery store and think that the food magically will appear there and we don't give any second thought to it. So I think there is a real problem here, not confined to this province, as well.

The other larger context that came to me was the influence of government policies and how careful one has to be with government policies. I don't know if this is true or not, Mr. Speaker, and I heard it from different sources, one of the speakers that night was mentioning how the hog industry in Nova Scotia was the result of federal government policies that subsidized grain prices so that the hog industry could grow and then those subsidies dry up, the federal government withdraws and all of a sudden our producers are faced with higher grain costs and the only way they can cope is to be more efficient, really, than producers who are close to cheap sources of food for the hogs. I think that's a salutary warning as to how careful we have to be with government policies.

The third thing that came home to me and has been coming home to me over the past few years is the global nature of farming today. I remember before I got into politics being really blown away that a group of farmers in my area grouped together in a buying-producing group, Kings Produce, that they were entering into partnerships with co-operatives with other farmers in Cuba. Some of them were entering into co-operatives with farmers in Mexico in order to be able to produce and to supply the American market and to be able to compete. It's a global market they face and we need to, I think, at this stage, state a concern. I personally have a concern with the subsidies in the European Common Market with the farm bill in the United States and with the pressure that puts our farmers under.

Now what have we done? That is the gist of what people want to say. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has already gone through it, the loan write-off of $3.5 million, the Enhanced NISA top-up, the red meat NISA, the APF bridge financing and working with the Farm Loan Board in order to support the loans. Does more need to be done? Have we solved the problem? Obviously, the answer is no because if we had solved the problem, we wouldn't be here. So it's important, Mr. Speaker, as some of the speakers in the Opposition have said - the ones who have concentrated on the problem rather than lambasting members on this side - it's important that we have a wise, long-term solution, which I know is what the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is concerned about as well. It's important that this long-term solution not expose pork producers of the province to risks that would come back to bite them. It's important that we leverage federal funding through the NISA program as fully as we can, and I know that's one of the policies of the Department of Agriculture and

[Page 11509]

Fisheries. It's important that staff be there to provide information for individual producers. Still, more needs to be done.

I was hoping, Mr. Speaker - I know my time's running out - to hear more productive ideas from the Opposition, and maybe they will still come in the future, with the last speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words on this very important debate. When you see 20 or 30 hog producers in our gallery, there's a crisis in the industry. I can't understand why our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries fails to see and recognize there's a crisis. This has been ongoing. I see a number of hog farmers from my area who I had a chance to talk with. This goes back to last summer when they were telling me the industry is going through a hard time and they need some help from our provincial government.

Here we are in November. This Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, when he was on this side of the House - I remember quite well when we had this debate back in 1998 to try to help the industry - he was a very strong advocate on behalf of the industry then. Now he's sitting on the government side as the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. He has the opportunity to help these individuals who are facing bankruptcy, and he's doing absolutely nothing. He's blaming Ottawa; he's blaming those folks up there. Maybe for once this government should take and accept some responsibility.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member has said that I blamed the people in the gallery. Those words were never uttered out of my mouth, and nothing is further away from the truth. I acknowledged that the situation is serious. We have reacted to it with a number of program increases, many more dollars, long-term dollars as well as short-term dollars. For the honourable member to get up in his place and imply that I am blaming members of the hog industry for the price situation is completely false and I feel the member should withdraw those remarks.

MR. SPEAKER: Obviously it's not a point of order, it's a disagreement between the members and a clarification of facts by the honourable minister.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I don't expect for one minute that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for Nova Scotia has any control over the price market, has none; just like the people on this side of the House and the folks sitting up there, we have no control over the prices in this market.

[Page 11510]

Mr. Speaker, we have hog producers who are facing bankruptcy. Right now, I understand we've lost 10 per cent of our production. If this provincial government does nothing this year, and it's just about over, we're going to be losing another 10 per cent of our industry. The debate that is before this House tonight, there's no doubt, not could have, but will have serious effects, serious impacts on many of these pork producers and their families in the months ahead.

When you look at our hog industry in Nova Scotia, that we have had in the past and that are basically faced with this crisis as we speak, Mr. Speaker, this government has a responsibility. They have to make the final call. It's either Nova Scotia is going to continue with a hog industry or we're just going to import pork from outside.

Mr. Speaker, the future of many of these small farms and large farms in Nova Scotia are at risk unless this government decides to take some action, as we did back in 1998. (Interruptions)

[8:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, these people don't have that choice. They can't control the prices. They don't control the price on the feed. They can't control the price when they sell their hogs, when you look at the production costs and what price they're getting when they are selling these hogs, roughly $50 they're losing on each hog. You know, this doesn't add up. The industry is in a crisis and they need support from this minister and from this government.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to, for the record, this is a letter from the Chair of Pork Nova Scotia, Herman Berfelo, that was written to the Premier October 2002. It says that for most of this year the pork industry in Nova Scotia has been in a position of producing pork below our cost of production. This is caused by North American markets and excessive supplies of pork and it is beyond our control.

What doesn't the provincial government understand? To me these farmers are looking at their provincial government for assistance to help them through tough times. When you look at the total cost of production and the total cost that farmers are getting at the market, you cannot continue producing hogs for lower than what the actual cost is. So, these farmers are losing and they're looking for help.

Mr. Speaker, our Nova Scotia hog industry is asking for a short-term cash flow measure that will be paid in full back to the government. It's a loan that will be paid back by our hog producers. As I've said earlier, this is not the first time that the provincial government has been approached for assistance but, at the same time, here we are tonight, and I can't understand why the Minister of Agriculture did absolutely nothing and waited until November to bring this late debate, or this emergency debate to the House. (Interruptions)

[Page 11511]

This industry needs help now so they can continue with their operation. I'm not going to go through the stats, it was already brought to the floor of the House, the farm-gate receipts, there's over 1,500 people involved in this industry. I know there are a number of hog farmers in the gallery from my area, Clare. This is the backbone of our economy at home as, I'm sure, many our rural communities throughout this province. Hog farming, along with fishing and forestry, is the backbone of our economy in rural Nova Scotia. So here is a possibility of one of these major industries collapsing at a time when prices are low and costs to our farmers are high.

So, Mr. Speaker, to me the hog industry is going through some very difficult times, very rough times, very serious times, and I call upon our Premier, our government, our minister, you know the folks sitting on that side of the House, maybe the backbenchers, they might be able to lobby the minister or some ministers in the Cabinet to try to make this government understand that they need to come forward to help this industry or else there are going to be some major, major drastic actions that may come out of this. So, I hope that it's not too late for the minister to come forward, to commit to sit down with the industry and try and help the industry to regain its stability and its strength. You know, I'm sure I could have quoted from the Minister of Agriculture when he was sitting on the Opposition benches, the support that he provided to the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia.(Interruptions)

Now is an opportunity for that member, especially when he's sitting in the position that he's in, to come forward and help the industry that is hurting. These people, some of them I'm sure, are facing bankruptcy. Cash flow is certainly a big problem that most of them, probably all of them are facing, and here is an opportunity for government. Let's leave politics aside. We've heard the government talking about a balanced budget. We're talking about an industry that is providing 1,500 jobs to Nova Scotians, and every single job is important in rural Nova Scotia. So I call upon the government and I call upon the minister to please take one more look to try to help this vital industry before it's too late. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time for this Emergency Debate this evening has expired. I would like to thank the honourable member for bringing it forward, and thank all members for taking part in the debate this evening.

We are adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 8:51 p.m.]

[Page 11512]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 4686

By: Hon. Timothy Olive (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources is hosting the Mining Matters Conference in Halifax, November 13th to November 14th; and

Whereas this conference celebrates a proud tradition of providing information and technical assistance to the mining industry and heightening the awareness of the importance of our mineral resources to all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas technical sessions and posters will highlight the many facets of Nova Scotia's mining industry, such as prospecting and advanced mineral exploration, current geoscience research and how it relates to our everyday lives;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the staff of the Minerals Resources Branch of the Department of Natural Resources for their annual efforts in organizing this popular conference and the excellent work they are doing to promote mineral development opportunities in Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 4687

By: Mr. John Holm (Sackville-Cobequid)

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

Whereas the Sackville Rivers Association is dedicated to the restoration, preservation and enhancement of the Sackville River Watershed; and

Whereas that difficult task has been made that much harder by this summer's tragic fish kill that decimated the Little Sackville River; and

Whereas the Sackville Rivers Association will soldier on, however, under the guidance of its sterling leaders such as Walter Regan whose devotion to the cause are much appreciated by the community of Sackville;

[Page 11513]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and pledge its support of Walter Regan and the Sackville Rivers Association for their contributions to preserving the Sackville River Watershed.