Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-127

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 19, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Nursing Homes: Seniors' Care - Cover, Mr. D. Dexter 11717
Tourism & Culture -McNabs/Lawlor Islands: E. Passage -
Connection Ensure, Mr. K. Deveaux 11718
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Big Lake: Address - Clarify,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11718
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 11718
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Public Trustee Annual Report, Hon. M. Baker 11719
Law Foundation of N.S. Annual Report & Financial Statements,
Hon. M. Baker 11719
Annl. Rept. For the Ombudsman, Hon. R. Russell 11719
Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Financial Statements,
Hon. D. Morse 11719
STATEMENTS OF MINISTERS:
Health: Drug Use 2002 Survey - Findings, Hon. J. Muir 11719
EMO: IWK Poison Ctr. - Partnership, Hon. T. Olive 11723
Nat. Res. - Boston: Christmas Tree - Donation, Hon. T. Olive 11725
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4793, Sports - SMU Football Huskies: Achievement - Applaud,
Hon. J. Purves 11727
Vote - Affirmative 11727
Res. 4794, Veinotte Fam. - Boston Christmas Tree: Provision -
Applaud, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 11727
Vote - Affirmative 11728
Res. 4795, Winter Safety Day (11/20/02) - Recognize, Hon. R. Russell 11728
Vote - Affirmative 11729
Res. 4796, Aberdeen Hosp. - Evacuation: Patients/Organizers -
Congrats., The Premier 11729
Vote - Affirmative 11730
Res. 4797, Addiction Serv. Wk. (11/18-11/22/02) - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir 11730
Vote - Affirmative 11730
Res. 4798, Col. Reg. Hosp. Aux.: Anniv. (80th) - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 11731
Vote - Affirmative 11731
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 155, Workers' Compensation Act, Hon. D. Morse ~ 11731
No. 156, Workers' Compensation Act, Mr. F. Corbett 11731
No. 157, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
Mr. K. Deveaux 11731
No. 158, Elections Act, Mr. M. Samson 11732
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4799, Fitzgerald, Walter "Googie" - Pub. Serv.:
"Googie" Roast Fundraising - Organizers Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 11732
Vote - Affirmative 11732
Res. 4800, Veinotte Fam. - Boston Christmas Tree: Provision -
Applaud, Mr. D. Downe 11733
Vote - Affirmative 11733
Res. 4801, Aberdeen Hosp. - Evacuation: Organizers - Salute,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 11733
Vote - Affirmative 11734
Res. 4802, Chadda, Dr. Ricky - Gov't. (U.S.): Release - Urge,
Mr. J. Holm 11734
Vote - Affirmative 11735
Res. 4803, Commun. Serv. - Reform Process: Status - Table,
Mr. W. Gaudet 11735
Res. 4804, NSPI - Storm (11/07/02): Employees - Efforts Thank,
Mr. F. Chipman 11736
Vote - Affirmative 11736
Res. 4805, Farrell St. Pk. & Walkway: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 11737
Vote - Affirmative 11737
Res. 4806, Gov't. (N.S.) - Smoke-Free Ban: Indecision - Effects,
Dr. J. Smith 11737
Res. 4807, Nelson Whynder Elem. Sch. - Sobeys Stars of Christmas CD:
Inclusion - Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 11738
Vote - Affirmative 11739
Res. 4808, NSPI - Emergency Service: Adequacy - URB Investigate,
Mr. H. Epstein 11739
Res. 4809, Gould, Marjorie - St. F.X.: Honorary Deg. - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 11740
Vote - Affirmative 11740
Res. 4810, Festival of Trees (N.S. Hosp.): Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. T. Olive 11740
Vote - Affirmative 11741
Res. 4811, Leroux, Adam - Hershey Int'l. Youth Track & Field Meet:
Bronze Medal - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 11741
Vote - Affirmative 11742
Res. 4812, SOCAN - Awards (2002): Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 11742
Vote - Affirmative 11743
Res. 4813, Riverport Elem. Sch. - Reading Prog.: Organizers -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 11743
Vote - Affirmative 11743
Res. 4814, J.L. Ilsley HS - Water Cleaning Method: Students -
Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 11744
Vote - Affirmative 11744
Res. 4815, Kinsmen Clubs - Efforts: Commitment - Thank,
Dr. J. Smith 11745
Vote - Affirmative 11745
Res. 4816, Weymouth FD - Service Awards (40 yrs./25 yrs.):
Recipients - Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 11745
Vote - Affirmative 11746
Res. 4817, Porter, Carlene - Nursing Home Petitions: Dedication -
Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 11746
Vote - Affirmative 11747
Res. 4818, Commun. Serv. - Housing Crisis: Response -
Failure Explain, Mr. J. Pye 11747
Res. 4819, Coolen, Doreen: Sympathy - Extend, Mr. J. Chataway 11748
Vote - Affirmative 11748
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1300, Health - Nursing Homes Assessment Form:
Seniors' Signing (Enforced) - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 11749
No. 1301, Agric. & Fish. - Pork Ind.: Loan Prog. - Implement,
Mr. D. Downe 11750
No. 1302, Health - Acute Care Outpatient Unit (N.S. Hosp.):
Closure - Action Justify, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11752
No. 1303, Health - Physician Recruitment Plan: Success - Confirm,
Mr. W. Gaudet 11753
No. 1304, Commun. Serv. - Quikcard Solutions: Contract - Reasons,
Mr. J. Pye 11754
No. 1305, Health - Care: Plan - Adequacy, Dr. J. Smith 11756
No. 1306, NSPI: Linemen - Adequacy, Mr. H. Epstein 11758
No. 1307, WCB - Supp. Figures: Info. - Table, Mr. R. MacKinnon 11759
No. 1308, Educ. - Post-Secondary: Tuition - Freeze, Mr. W. Estabrooks 11761
No. 1309, Educ. - Loan Remission Prog./Budget Balancing:
Priorities - Explain, Mr. D. Wilson 11762
No. 1310, Health - Nursing Homes: Rate Increases - Justification,
Mr. D. Dexter 11763
No. 1311, Health - Smoke-Free Legislation: Municipalities - Effect,
Dr. J. Smith 11764
No. 1312, Agric. & Fish. - Pork Producers: Assistance - Lack Explain,
Mr. J. MacDonell 11766
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 143, Partnership Act/Partnerships and Business
Names Registration Act 11768
Hon. M. Baker 11768
Mr. K. Deveaux 11768
Hon. R. Russell 11769
Vote - Affirmative 11769
No. 147, Volunteer Fire Services Act 11769
Hon. R. Russell 11769
Mr. J. MacDonell 11770
Mr. R. MacKinnon 11771
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11772
Hon. R. Russell 11773
Vote - Affirmative 11773
No. 148, Securities Act 11773
Hon. D. Morse 11773
Mr. G. Steele 11775
Mr. R. MacKinnon 11776
Hon. D. Morse 11777
Vote - Affirmative 11777
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 2:35 P.M. 11778
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:37 P.M. 11778
CWH REPORTS 11778
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 155, Workers' Compensation Act 11779
Hon. D. Morse 11779
Mr. K. Deveaux 11780
Mr. R. MacKinnon 11787
Mr. F. Corbett 11795
Hon. D. Morse 11796
Vote - Affirmative 11796
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Committee on Private and Local Bills, Mrs. M. Baillie 11797
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Tory Promise: Broken Promise - Equivalency:
Mr. D. Wilson 11798
Mr. J. Carey 11800
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11803
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 20th at 2:00 p.m. 11805
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 4820, McGrath, Patrick J.: Order of Can. - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 11806
Res. 4821, Glace Bay Firefighters: Lifesaving (06/30/02) - Commend,
Hon. C. Clarke 11806
Res. 4822, Chester Dist. Elem. Sch. Choir (Grade 4-5) - Sobeys
Stars of Christmas CD: Inclusion - Congrats., Mr. J. Chataway 11807
Res. 4823, Southwest Properties - Bishop's Landing: Achievement -
Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 11807
Res. 4824, Deveau, Louis - NSAC: Honorary Deg. - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 11808
Res. 4825, McCorry, James - Nat'l. Food Safety Comm.: Co-Chair -
Appt. Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 11808
Res. 4826, Caribou - Sinking Anniv. (60th): Gov't. (N.S.) -
Representation Urge, Mr. D. Wilson 11809
Res. 4827, Commun. Serv. - Capt. Spry Lodge: Elevator - Install,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 11809

[Page 11717]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 NOON

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, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Glace Bay:

Therefore be it resolved that a Tory promise is equivalent to a broken promise.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause which reads, "We the undersigned hereby ask the Premier, government and Legislature of Nova Scotia to end this unfair treatment of nursing home residents and their families by agreeing that the Department of Health will cover the health care provided in nursing homes just as it covers health care provided in hospitals and in home care." There are 357 signatures, bringing the grand total to 19,220 signatures of Nova Scotians. I have affixed my signature.

11717

[Page 11718]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the constituents of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage of which the operative clause reads, "We the undersigned want to ensure the development of McNabs and Lawlor Islands reflects the fact that the islands are a part of the community of Eastern Passage and therefore any development of the proposed park must ensure that integral relationship is maintained and promoted." I have affixed my signature and there are 420 signatures.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the community of Big Lake. The operative phrase is, "Our address is Big Lake, Prospect Road, not East Dover. There is such a community and the signs indicate it to visitors and residents alike." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 146 - Municipal Government Act.

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

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

[Page 11719]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to table the Public Trustee Annual Report for Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of tabling the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia Annual Report & Financial Statements for 2001-02.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on your behalf, I beg leave to table the Annual Report for the Ombudsman from April 1, 1995, to December 31, 2000.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Financial Statements for the for the year ended March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this is Addiction Services Week in Nova Scotia, thus this is an appropriate time to inform the members of the House about the results of the Nova Scotia Drug Use 2002 Survey. I'm very pleased to report that fewer students are smoking cigarettes and those who are smoking less. The smoking rate among our province's students has dropped by 13 per cent since 1998. This is a significant drop. The decrease in smoking is great news for Nova Scotia and for the many groups, over the past four years, who have worked tirelessly to reduce the smoking rates among our young people.

[Page 11720]

All of this would not have been possible without the good work of these people, who are working to help Nova Scotians be healthier through the prevention and treatment of addictions. The study shows that the hard work of our prevention workers and the actions taken by the government as part of the tobacco strategy are having an effect on youth smoking rates. More specifically, the increase in taxes on cigarettes and greater emphasis on smoke-free environments account for much of the decrease. The decrease in tobacco use has also resulted in an increase in the percentage of students in this province who are not using drugs.

Mr. Speaker, 40 per cent of our students are now drug-free, 40 per cent of students from Grades 7 to 12 are not smoking, drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis, or using illicit substances. These are kids we don't hear enough about. We need to do more to support these young people as they continue to make healthy choices. At the same time, we also need to provide support for those who are experimenting with or having problems with drugs. We believe the recently-announced funding of $1.8 million for enhanced addiction services for women and youth throughout our province is a major advance in these supports.

Mr. Speaker, we are encouraged by these positive results as we move forward with the tobacco strategy, smoke-free legislation, and enhanced addiction services for youth. We're working toward a healthier Nova Scotia, where our young people receive every opportunity to live long, healthy, and happy lives free of addictions. There are many staff, volunteers, and community groups who deserve credit and thanks for the positive results of this survey. Their knowledge, dedication, and commitment are truly an asset to the province.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to introduce a number of people who have been responsible for these contributions, before taking my seat. I would like to draw the attention of the members of the Legislature to the east gallery where we have Mr. Brian Wilbur, who is the director of Addiction Services; Nancy Hoddinott, the Tobacco Strategy Coordinator; and, Carolyn Davidson, Coordinator of Treatment Services, Addiction Services. These are all employees of the Department of Health. I would ask the House to recognize these people by giving them a warm round of applause. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome our guests to the gallery. In particular, I draw to the attention of MLAs present Brian Wilbur, certainly a great source for myself, as a school principal, and the work he did and has done with the school system should be recognized. Mr. Wilbur and your other people who are here, I welcome you to this historic Legislature.

[Page 11721]

It is addiction week and addiction week, of course, refers to a number of addictions - tobacco, alcohol, street use of drugs, other types of substances abuse and, of course, gambling, let's not forget that particular addiction. Mr. Wilbur, I know you will take this comment in light of where I'm coming from as a school teacher - I hope that we don't, sort of, break our arms patting ourselves on the back. When I hear a statistic read from the minister who just said, and I'm going to quote it directly, I may, Mr. Speaker, "40 per cent of our students are now drug free, forty per cent of students from Grade 7 to Grade 12 are not smoking, drinking alcohol, smoking cannabis or using illicit substances."

That is nothing to celebrate, because it means 60 per cent of those young people are involved in those activities. I understand there's been some great efforts. I attended the press conference. I had an opportunity to look at the statistics and I want you to know that there are some revealing statistics included in those numbers, particularly when you look at the breakdown of young women in the teenage years as compared to young men. When you look at some of the problems when it comes to addiction in this province and, inevitably - and I know Mr. Wilbur will understand where I'm coming from - it goes back to the school system. I hear of a new program, but inevitably it's the school teacher who's going to have to deliver it. Inevitably that means more time away from some of the very basics that this Department of Education continues to insist upon.

[12:15 p.m.]

You can have all the advertising, you can have all the educating in the world, Mr. Speaker. What we need are positive role models within our community, not necessarily just on the TV screen, not necessarily on the radio, we need positive role models in our own communities. I can tell you of an instance when I had to confront a friend of mine who drove his daughter home drunk and it was his daughter who called and said, dad, I'm in a tight situation, I need a drive home tonight because I don't want to go home with so and so because he's drinking. Can you come and get me? This close friend of mine arrived to pick his daughter up under the influence. Then when she came to school on Monday, she came to me with it.

Mr. Speaker, those role models start across the kitchen table. They start in our own home, in our classroom, in our athletic coach. We have much work left to do. I know Mr. Wilbur and his staff will continue to do that work. It does concern me, however, that we must look very realistically at the fact that sex, drugs, booze and rock and roll are alive and well among teenagers in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

AN HON. MEMBER: He said it all.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, what can I say. (Interruptions)

[Page 11722]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the minister has said I should have been at the press conference. I will just tell that honourable member he can take whatever leeway he wants to with the time he has of this House, but I was attending the Law Amendments Committee on behalf of our caucus at that very hour. If he wants to trivialize some of these important issues that Nova Scotians are working hard on and take the credit for what he was able to do in his other life, that's another matter.

But anyway, Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place. I want to thank the minister for his release of the statement that he was making in the House this morning and also the package that I have received from the press conference this morning and was able to read. I agree there's good news in this survey throughout the Atlantic Region and here in the province. We must be careful though that we're not selectively looking at some statistics that follow from this survey. Despite the fact that there are improvements, it's still a concern when 50 per cent of youth have a challenge with alcohol and 60 per cent are involved with drugs of some sort.

I would point out the issue of Ecstasy, the use of that is a concern. I think there's always a lag in reporting when one of these new drugs comes to our communities. I think the fact that this has risen and 4 per cent is still a lot of people in this young age group who are using this medication. As we know, Mr. Speaker, it often is accompanied by the use of other medications and also unplanned sex which, as the survey points out, the lack of condom use during those times leaves those persons, the females particularly, open to unplanned pregnancies, the males as well, of course, but also the issue of HIV AIDS and STDs, sexually transmitted diseases. It's a new phenomenon that we haven't really got a handle on and I think that's an area that deserves attention.

Mr. Speaker, there have been improvements on the tobacco use and I would like to congratulate the staff of the Department of Health, and particularly Addiction Services and the volunteers for their dedicated services in this area. Perhaps there's a message to be taken from dedicating efforts, the message being that when you do focus your attention on issues after they've been identified and you plan your programs to deal with those issues, you can be successful and I think that's the story here today.

A couple of the other concerns, I notice the issue of gambling relative to sports events and I think that's a word of caution in this particular young age group. I will just make a final plea, I encourage the government and this legislation. I know tonight in HRM Council there will be a public meeting on the smoking legislation. I think this points out that it does work and this government should finish; the people are ready, the survey indicates the needs. They should go forward with complete smoke-free legislation in the Province of Nova Scotia and not put the burden down to mixed messages and to mixed legislation throughout the municipal units in this province. The young people need it. They are crying out for it. They

[Page 11723]

will respond, Mr. Speaker. I would ask this government to get on with it and make Nova Scotia a smoke-free province in public places. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery we have two individuals who I would like to introduce. First, Herman Berfelo who is Chairman of Pork Nova Scotia, and Henry Vissers who is the Executive Director of Pork Nova Scotia. This morning, there was a meeting with the Premier pointing out the crisis that currently is facing the pork industry, as members of this House are aware. I ask members of the House, through you, Mr. Speaker, to give a warm welcome to both of them in the west gallery. I would ask them to stand and have the applause of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the east gallery. We have with us today Ms. Charlene Thomas. We, in Community Services, announced a new initiative, Community Support for Adults Renewal Initiative and Ms. Thomas has agreed to work with us and spearhead that. She is the Administrator of the Pictou County Adult Residential Centre in Riverton. She and her staff have developed best practice service delivery models which has received international recognition. She has presented this model to national and international conferences of the disabled in Vancouver and most recently in Warsaw, Poland. She has been recognized in our province for her work and her commitment to people and we are delighted to have her joining us in this initiative and heading up that team. I would ask her if she would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I had the pleasure of announcing a new partnership between Nova Scotia's Emergency Measures Organization, the provincial entity responsible for 911 services in Nova Scotia, and the IWK Regional Poison Centre.

Since the 911 emergency reporting system was implemented province-wide in 1997, Nova Scotians have been encouraged to call 911 if they need police, fire or ambulance because of a threat to someone's health, safety or property. With yesterday's announcement, the IWK Regional Poison Centre now joins fire, police and ambulance with equal status as an agency of priority.

[Page 11724]

In the event of a poisoning emergency, when every second counts, dialing 911 is the fastest and best way for Nova Scotians to get the assistance they need. The 911 call taker will directly link callers to the poison centre, instead of the past practice which was to direct these calls to ambulance dispatch. The evidence is compelling that linking poison centres with the 911 services is a fiscally responsible step to take in the provision of an appropriate emergency response. Studies show that significant cost savings to the health system can be realized by creating a direct linkage between a poison centre and the 911 emergency reporting system. In fact, poison centres across North America report that approximately 80 per cent of poison-related emergencies that are reported to a poison centre can be successfully diagnosed and treated over the telephone without the need for ambulance transport or a visit to the hospital emergency department. Ultimately, collaborating with the poison centre will lead to improved access to emergency services for all Nova Scotians and more efficient use of our emergency health care resources.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to respond to the minister's statement. Unfortunately, the member for Cape Breton Centre, I'm speaking on behalf of - this is obviously good news. It's important that it be an opportunity for 911 to be tied into the poison control centre. Personally, having two young children, I appreciate knowing the safety and security of being able to pick up the phone, dial 911 and have an opportunity to be able to access the poison control centre in a crisis situation. It's good news. I'm glad to see it's being done. I wish the IWK and the 911 facility and Emergency Measures Organization the best of luck in continuing to proceed to ensure that Nova Scotians know that they have a number they can call and feel safe. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for informing our caucus that he was making this statement. I think it's very important that this is before us today. I think it's very important that the public has readily-available access to emergency services. I believe combining 911 with Poison Control means that people will have quick access to this service, and that's what we want. I only hope that this is being used as a service improvement, rather than a cost-savings measurement. This government has taxed our telephone services significantly over the last number of years to pay for improved services, and that's what Nova Scotians expect.

I also want to take this opportunity to point out that 911 and our first-class Emergency Measures Organization and emergency services were the result of a Liberal Government, and that the critics at the time are now taking credit for Liberal efforts while they are now in government. I know Nova Scotians know better but, again, I'm glad the minister has made this statement today. I think it's an advancement and a move forward for Nova Scotians.

[Page 11725]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to announce that Nova Scotia's donation of a Christmas tree to the City of Boston has been generously donated by the Veinotte family of West Northfield, Lunenburg County. The tree has been donated in memory of the late Ervin Veinotte. The 40-foot white spruce was grown on his property in Lower Northfield, which is now owned by his sons, Kevin and Allan. Ervin started in the Christmas tree industry over 40 years ago, starting with a two acre lot. Today, after many years of clearing and planting, the lot is over 80 acres. Ervin Veinotte was also a long-standing member of the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers, and was a director from 1986 to 1989.

Mr. Speaker, the donation of a native evergreen has been a tradition for the Province of Nova Scotia since 1971. This heartfelt donation was initiated by a Natural Resources employee and the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association. It is our way of saying thank you to the people of Massachusetts for their assistance after the 1917 Halifax Explosion. The explosion killed and seriously injured thousands of people, and left many others homeless. Many Nova Scotians also made the trip to Halifax to help with the aftermath, including Ervin Veinotte's father-in-law, Harold Feener. Several years ago, Mr. Feener also donated a tree to Boston from his property.

Mr. Speaker, many people have been involved in this year's annual Christmas tree donation. The Department of Natural Resources was responsible for finding the perfect tree, Transportation and Public Works will truck the tree to Halifax, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is providing truck escorts, SPM Container Line will ship the tree to Boston, and Tourism and Culture is involved in the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Boston. In addition, students in the forestry program at the Nova Scotia Community College, Lunenburg Campus, helped prepared and cut the tree.

Mr. Speaker, it is because of the efforts and co-operation of many people that we are able to continue to say thank you to the people of Massachusetts for their assistance during the Halifax Explosion. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his statement earlier. I want to say to the minister that there can be nothing but goodwill around this announcement and the donation. I congratulate and offer best wishes on behalf of our caucus to the Veinotte family for making this donation. Certainly, I think we would all assume that there should be no problem to get the perfect tree in Nova Scotia, but it does take some looking to find a tree of quality that you would want to send to Massachusetts.

[Page 11726]

[12:30 p.m.]

I would say this has been a good idea for Nova Scotians to remember and acknowledge the efforts of the people from the Eastern Seaboard who offered help to Nova Scotia at the time of the Halifax Explosion. It only sends a message of our long history, of our commitment to support one another, and certainly the Veinotte family deserves to be commended not just for the donation of this tree, but for their long commitment to the Christmas tree industry in this province, which has a great deal of value to the economy of Nova Scotia. I thank the minister and I offer best wishes to the Veinotte family. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for sending over the notice to our caucus office and with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to extend, on behalf of our caucus, congratulations to the Veinotte family.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to congratulate the minister for sending the statement over and giving us a chance to take a look at it. Coming from the Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World, Lunenburg County (Interruption), the world, I am very pleased to congratulate the minister and, more importantly, congratulate the Veinotte family. I knew Ervin for many years as a member of our community. He was very much a leader in the Christmas tree industry in Lunenburg County and both of his boys, Allan and Kevin, are carrying on that great tradition.

I also want to say that the Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Christmas tree producers in Lunenburg County, have worked together for many years in making sure that this Christmas tree lands in Boston - I think it was 1971 when that started. It's our way of saying thank you, but it's also a way of promoting our product. So on behalf of our caucus it's my pleasure to congratulate the Veinotte family for their donation on behalf of our great Province of Nova Scotia to the great people of the Boston area, and to congratulate the minister for bringing this again to our attention, and I congratulate the staff of all the departments that seem to be working so well together in making sure that this tree gets down there safely and protect it, and above all to share a light showing how much we care about the people of the New England States. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 11727]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 4793

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

Whereas Saint Mary's University is recognized as a leading teaching and research institution with an enviable record in collegiate sports competition, particularly football; and

Whereas this is the result of years of dedication to excellence by the players, Coach Blake Nill, Athletic Director Larry Uteck, President Colin Dodds, and all the staff and faculty; and

Whereas this past weekend, the Saint Mary's football Huskies trounced the number-one ranked MacMaster Marauders to win the Churchill Bowl, and will defend the Vanier Cup this Saturday against "the other Huskies" in Toronto;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and applaud the achievement of the Saint Mary's Huskies and wish them much success on Saturday, November 23rd, in defending General George Vanier's cup.

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 Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 4794

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

[Page 11728]

Whereas today a 40-foot white spruce tree was prepared and cut in West Northfield, Lunenburg County, on the property of Allan and Kevin Veinotte; and

Whereas this tree will be shipped to Boston as Nova Scotia's annual gift to the people of Boston as a thank-you for their assistance following the Halifax Explosion; and

Whereas the tree will be lit on December 5th during a ceremony on the Boston Common which will also feature Nova Scotia entertainers;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House join me in thanking the Veinotte family for donating this tree in honour of their father, Ervin Veinotte. (Interruption) And, Mr. Speaker, I will be staying in a motel there, as the NDP are asking, and I will fly down as well.

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 Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 4795

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

Whereas winter weather can create difficult driving conditions for motorists and safety issues for plow operators; and

Whereas education is an important tool in the effort to raise awareness about driving and playing safely during the Winter months; and

Whereas our snowplow operators will once again visit thousands of elementary school students throughout Nova Scotia this month;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Wednesday, November 20th as Winter Safety Day in Nova Scotia.

[Page 11729]

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 4796

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier) : Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow was evacuated last night after receiving a bomb threat; and

Whereas staff moved quickly to safely transfer more than 90 patients out of the facility, in just over 30 minutes; and

Whereas thankfully patients have now been moved safely back into the hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that we thank the patients and their families for coping so well and extend our gratitude to the following people and organizations who helped coordinate the evacuation and care for the patients: staff and physicians from the Aberdeen Regional Hospital, the New Glasgow Fire Department, the New Glasgow Police Department, the Emergency Measures Organization, the Red Cross, Summer Street Industries where most of the patients spent the night, the HRM Bomb Squad, community volunteers, neighbouring hospitals and nursing homes, Lawton's Drug Store from East River Road and Emergency Health Services.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 11730]

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. 4797

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 18th to November 22nd is Addiction Awareness Week, with a focus on "Taking Control. Making Changes. Keeping Your Dreams Alive."; and

Whereas the week is a time to raise awareness about addictions, provide information for people with all types of addictions and recognize addiction workers across the province; and

Whereas this government is committed to enhancing addiction services as demonstrated in the Tobacco Strategy and recent announcement of $1.8 million for enhanced prevention and treatment services for women and youth in rural areas;

Therefore be it resolved that the House recognize November 18 to November 22, 2002 as Addiction Services Week and thank all those individuals and groups working to support persons, families and friends affected by addictions.

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.

[Page 11731]

RESOLUTION NO. 4798

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 Auxiliary of Colchester Regional Hospital is celebrating its 80th Anniversary; and

Whereas the exemplary service of auxiliary members has made a significant difference for the hospital and the community; and

Whereas the auxiliary's fundraising has been fundamental to the hospital's operations, providing equipment and improving the quality of life for patients;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank the volunteers of the Auxiliary of Colchester Regional Hospital for their vision, generosity and solid commitment to our community over the last 80 years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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. 155 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Workers' Compensation Act. (Hon. David Morse).

Bill No. 156 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Workers' Compensation Act, to Provide for Increased Supplementary Benefits. (Mr. Frank Corbett)

Bill No. 157 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. (Mr. Kevin Deveaux)

[Page 11732]

Bill No. 158 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 140 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Elections Act. (Mr. Michel Samson)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4799

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

Whereas Walter 'Googie' Fitzgerald, one of Halifax's most colourful characters, devoted 30 years in the public service of Halifax and later the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas last evening's roast of the former Liberal provincial Cabinet Minister and Mayor of HRM provided an evening full of goodwill, tall tales and camaraderie; and

Whereas the very successful tribute to 'Googie' was all made possible by the Hepatitis Outreach Society;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Walter 'Googie' Fitzgerald on his illustrious service to the public and Dr. Kevork Peltekian, Chairman of the Hepatitis Outreach Society, and all the volunteers who made last night's 'Googie' Roast a fundraising success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Page 11733]

RESOLUTION NO. 4800

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

Whereas the Veinotte family of West Northfield, Lunenburg County, has donated a giant evergreen to the annual Boston tree lighting in memory of Ervin Veinotte who began the family's Christmas tree business more than 40 years ago; and

Whereas Lunenburg County is known around the world as the balsam fir Christmas tree capital of the world and is proud to be involved in this year's Boston tree lighting; and

Whereas the Boston tree lighting tradition began in 1971 when Nova Scotia offered one of its evergreens to Boston as a gift of thanks for helping to provide the city after the 1917 Halifax Explosion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the Veinotte family of West Northfield, Lunenburg County, for donating an evergreen in memory of Ervin Veinotte for the annual Boston tree lighting.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 4801

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

Whereas a bomb threat was received at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow last evening, necessitating the evacuation of nearly 100 patients; and

[Page 11734]

Whereas with professional dedication, the New Glasgow police, the HRM bomb squad, and fire officials searched the hospital; and

Whereas medical professionals worked to get patients settled at the makeshift hospital ward set up at Summer Street Industries and paramedics from many neighbouring communities navigated through high winds to get the patients the care they needed at Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House salute the Aberdeen Hospital administrators, medical professionals, police, and fire personnel for their grace under pressure and success in safely evacuating the hospital in an efficient and professional way.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 4802

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

[12:45 p.m.]

Whereas Dr. Ricky Chadda grew up in Nova Scotia, received his degree from Dalhousie Medical School and practises emergency medicine in the United States; and

Whereas Dr. Chadda has been imprisoned by U.S. Immigration authorities without any charges being laid against him, due to an apparent mistake concerning his identity; and

Whereas Dr. Chadda's parents and many Nova Scotians are understandably concerned that a fellow citizen would be subject to such treatment by a friendly nation;

[Page 11735]

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Government of the United States to immediately release Dr. Chadda and to ensure his future safety from unwarranted imprisonment by the United States and that Mr. Speaker convey a copy of this resolution to the Consul General of the United States.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 4803

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

Whereas as a result of community outrage over last year's budget, the Minister of Community Services was forced to postpone the implementation of his own created plan to dismantle services to women and children at risk; and

Whereas this government's continuous and ominous silence on the status of the "reform" plan is causing confusion and concern across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas given that the 2003-04 budget planning process in his Department is based on a "hold the line" hypothesis even for critical and life-saving services;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister table with this House the status of the reform process being conducted by his department, including the costs associated; the proposed date that Nova Scotians can be informed of the results of this consultation; and the nature and scope of services likely to be affected by the announced government cuts for the remainder of this budget year and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11736]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4804

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

Whereas the snowstorm on November 7th wreaked havoc in parts of Nova Scotia and left thousands of citizens without heat or electricity, making for the largest power outage in Nova Scotia for at least the last decade; and

Whereas through the diligent and tireless efforts of Nova Scotia Power employees like Peter Ritcey, Errol Meisner, Mike Stennett, Glenn Luddington, John Todd, and Eugene Blackburn, power was restored as quickly as possible; and

Whereas many other employees of Nova Scotia Power worked extended shifts in treacherous and at times, dangerous conditions, to restore service to customers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House say thank you for the excellent service provided by these fine Nova Scotians employed with Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 11737]

RESOLUTION NO. 4805

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

Whereas the Halifax Regional Municipality and Neighbourhood Watch for District 9 have been working together to build safe communities; and

Whereas Halifax Regional Municipality and Neighbourhood Watch for District 9 teamed up with Nova Scotia Power Inc. HRM Parks and Recreation, HRM Police Services, the Community Response Team, G&R Kelly, Conrad Brothers, Asplundh Tree Services Inc., Dartmouth Boys & Girls Club, and the Freedom Foundation to clear and sod Farrell Road walkway; and

Whereas this project has made it much safer for residents to use the Farrell Street Park and Walkway;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate all those dedicated to building safer communities, particularly the Neighbourhood Watch for District 9 and the other participants, for their wonderful work on the Farrell Street Park and Walkway.

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. 4806

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

Whereas in bringing forth its flawed smoke-free places legislation, this government has failed to protect Nova Scotians from second-hand smoke in public places; and

[Page 11738]

Whereas this government's decision to not bring in a total smoking ban shows it lacks the necessary political leadership when it comes to protecting the health of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas as a result of this government's failure to show leadership, municipalities such as Halifax Regional Municipality are being put in the awkward position of debating whether it should repeal by-laws or alter its plans to bring forward stronger by-laws;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that if the government had shown real leadership by bringing in a 100 per cent smoke-free ban, they would have reduced this burden on municipal units and, at the same time, would have done a great service to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 4807

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 Nelson Whynder Elementary School Choir in North Preston was recently chosen to be included on the 2002-03 Sobeys' "Stars of Christmas" compact disc, the result of a lot of hard work, auditioning and many hours of practice on the part of the choir members and their teachers; and

Whereas the double compact disc Sobeys' "Stars of Christmas" fundraising project directly benefits the schools of all contributing choirs; and

Whereas Sobeys is a very proud supporter of regional and national projects that contribute to the betterment of communities throughout Nova Scotia;

[Page 11739]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Nelson Whynder Elementary School for its appearance on the 2002-03 Sobeys' "Stars of Christmas" compact disc and thank Sobeys for its sponsorship of this important program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 4808

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

Whereas in the aftermath of a terrible November 1997 storm that afflicted Nova Scotians with severe power outages, the Utility and Review Board reported that the reduction by NSPI of its line workers prolonged the blackout; and

Whereas since that 1998 report, NSPI further cut its line workers from 253 to 196, a reduction of over 20 per cent; and

Whereas this month has seen Nova Scotians suffer a number of prolonged power outages, but NSPI claims that it has actually improved its ability to respond to outages in spite of its dwindling number of field workers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House request that the Utility and Review Board investigate NSPI's ability to respond adequately to prolonged power outages in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11740]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 4809

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

Whereas Margorie Gould of the Waycobah First Nation in Cape Breton has dedicated her life to furthering the cultural interests and educational opportunities of First Nation communities; and

Whereas Ms. Gould, a St. F.X. graduate, has served the Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey educational authority for nine First Nation communities as Executive Director in addition to her teaching and work as a counsellor; and

Whereas Ms. Gould will be recognized with an honorary degree during the Fall Convocation December 7, 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Margorie Gould on receiving her honorary degree.

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. 4810

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

[Page 11741]

Whereas the south end of Dartmouth will light up this evening at 6:30 p.m. as hundreds of lights from Christmas trees situated on the front lawn of the Nova Scotia Hospital will be switched on; and

Whereas Crothall Services Canada Inc., led by President Robert Zed, has been sponsoring the Festival of Trees for the Nova Scotia Hospital fundraiser for the past five years; and

Whereas this fundraiser usually raises $200,000 for the Nova Scotia Hospital Foundation, which supports everything from patient care to education and research for Nova Scotians dealing with mental health issues, for many, an invisible illness;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Robert Zed, Nova Scotia Hospital Foundation Managing Director Myrtle Corkum, and the numerous volunteers for their time and commitment in raising funds and awareness of mental health issues during this special time of the year.

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. 4811

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

Whereas Adam Leroux of Stillwater Lake, a Grade 7 Tantallon Junior High School student, captured a bronze medal in the 800-metre race at the 25th Annual Hershey Youth International Track and Field Meet in Pennsylvania; and

Whereas this annual event attracts almost 500 competitors from all over North America; and

[Page 11742]

Whereas Adam's time of 2:23:94 was his personal best;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Adam Leroux of Tantallon Junior High School on winning the bronze medal in the 800-metre race at the 25th Annual Hershey Youth International Track and Field Meet and wish him the best of luck in future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4812

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

Whereas the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada recently held its 2002 SOCAN awards which recognize the Canadian songwriters whose music receives the most radio, film and TV air time throughout the previous year; and

Whereas Jimmy Rankin, formerly of the family group the Rankin Family, is one of this year's SOCAN winners for his first single as a solo artist, Followed Her Around, co-written by Gordie Sampson; and

Whereas Myles Goodwyn of Dartmouth and the front man for the 1970s hit makers, April Wine, has been honoured with the National Achievement Award for a career that began in 1969 and includes 13 albums and many hits;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate these Nova Scotian artists for their achievement and contribution they have made to the Canadian music industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11743]

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. 4813

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

Whereas students at Riverport Elementary School are participating in an innovative program that encourages reading; and

Whereas students at Riverport Elementary School are reading their way across Canada in an effort to read one book for every two kilometres they would have to travel from Riverport, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia; and

Whereas participating students are receiving incentives such as provincial pins for each province they reach as well as receiving one entry for a book prize draw for each title read;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate volunteer librarians, Faye Walters-Mossman and Janet Rimmington for developing the program and all student participants at Riverport Elementary School.

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.

[Page 11744]

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 4814

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

Whereas three Grade 12 high school students from J. L. Ilsley High School have successfully pioneered and are in the process of patenting a method of cleaning polluted water using scallop shells; and

Whereas the students have attracted interest at the National Research Council, and the Institute for Marine Biosciences and have successfully used the water cleaning method to treat contaminated McIntosh Run River and a Lower Sackville sewage treatment plant; and

Whereas these students from the Spryfield area will join 100 other teens from around the world in Quebec City to showcase their work at the World Youth Parliament for Water Conference;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize James Beaton-Johnson, Elias Fares and Amy Trottier for their significant contribution to scientific research and extend congratulations to these three students, science teacher, Greg DeLaLis, mentor Laura Brown and to the J. L. Ilsley High School from whence this idea began as a school science project.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 11745]

RESOLUTION NO. 4815

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

Whereas the Halifax Kinsmen provided $100,000 for community projects and up to 400 Christmas presents to children in need, are celebrating 65 years of service to the community; and

Whereas each year the Halifax Kinsmen do one large project to benefit the community, this year a group of 20 raised $40,000 for the construction of a much-needed playground on the grounds of William King Elementary School in Herring Cove; and

Whereas without the dedication of people involved with the Halifax Kinsmen, many playgrounds would not have been constructed throughout the city, whether it is the playground at the IWK hospital or Elizabeth Sutherland School, many children would not have a safe place to play;

Therefore be it resolved the members of this House extend a thank you to members of the Kinsmen' clubs, associated groups throughout Nova Scotia for the tireless commitment they have to improving communities from one end of the province to the other.

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.

[1:00 p.m.]

The honourable Minister of Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 4816

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

[Page 11746]

Whereas on November 2, 2002, the members of the Weymouth Fire Department honoured five of their colleagues for their years of service and dedication to the department; and

Whereas they presented awards to Jeremie LeBlanc for 40 years service, Donald Jubin and Terry Melanson for 25 years service and Basil Brittian and Charles Thibodeau for 20 years services; and

Whereas this demonstrated life commitment is a vital part of the protection and security of our communities;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join the citizens of the community of Weymouth in expressing their appreciation for this devotion to the welfare of the 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 Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 4817

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

Whereas more than 19,000 signatures are on the petitions already tabled in this House asking that nursing home residents no longer be required to pay for their health care; and

Whereas Carlene Porter of Digby reports that she has personally gathered 1,100 signatures on this petition through her efforts in the Town of Digby; and

Whereas Carlene is a family caregiver who knows from personal experience how families and friends strive to ensure dignity for loved ones who need chronic care;

[Page 11747]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates Carlene Porter for her public spirit and her dedication to dignity and fair treatment of nursing home residents.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4818

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

Whereas homelessness and poverty are at a very critical stage in the City of Halifax; and

Whereas in response to this growing and serious development, a coalition of homeless people, working poor, social activists and community organizations have come together in an attempt to support each other and find solutions to address their needs; and

Whereas this coalition, the Halifax Anti-Poverty Initiative, aims to mount a long-term campaign for construction of affordable housing, rent control, the right to an adequate living wage and other poverty-related issues which have been ignored and neglected by this government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services explain why he has failed to fulfil his responsibility to address the current housing crisis by providing a strategy to assist many people living on the streets of Halifax and other cities within this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11748]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4819

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 Silver Cross Mother is chosen to represent all mothers who have lost children in our country's military service at the National War Memorial wreath-laying ceremony; and

Whereas Doreen Coolen suffered the terrible loss of her son, Private Ricky Green, when he was killed in Afghanistan last Spring; and

Whereas Ms. Coolen was awarded the Canadian Memorial Silver Cross in recognition of her son's sacrifice and did her duty to attend the national ceremony or the day we stop to honour those who have served in military conflict and peacekeeping missions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly affirm our sympathy to Ms. Coolen and to all mothers, daughters and wives who have lost, but not forgotten, their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for all Canadians.

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.

[Page 11749]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 1:04 p.m. and end at 2:04 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES ASSESSMENT FORM:

SENIORS SIGNING (ENFORCED) - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I will begin by tabling a form used in the assessment process for seniors entering long-term care. Under "Involuntary separation:", it reads, "Following my admission to the above facility, my spouse will remain in the community. As a result we wish to change our marital status to be 'involuntarily separated'." This is an unfortunate wording. Seniors who have been married 50 or 60 years do not like to declare themselves to be involuntarily separated. This is contrary to their tradition and in many cases to their religious and personal belief. My question to the minister is, why does he force seniors to sign a document that degrades their commitment to their spouse?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I asked that question myself when I found out about the wording. I was informed by staff that it has something to do with the Income Tax Act and is, indeed, an advantage to the individual to do this and this is fully explained when they sign the paper.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister needs to open his file and have a look at it. In Saskatachewan the provision is worded this way: my spouse and I live in separate dwellings because of reasons beyond our control. However, our marital status has not changed. My question to the Minister of Health is - surely you are aware that the language in your form upsets seniors - why are you continuing to force them to sign a document that degrades their relationship to their spouse?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I don't agree with his remarks that it degrades relationships. But I think the answer is that I understand that the wording at face value may cause some consternation. But I have been assured that it's a good thing and our staff fully explains to them and once it is explained, people understand and accept it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear that the Minister of Health isn't an expert in these matters but let me assure him that federal legislation is the same in Saskatchewan as it is in Nova Scotia. He could make the change if he wanted to. This is required by HRDC and allows a spouse remaining at a home to receive a share of the benefits. But the wording on the form was chosen by the province and it is inappropriate. This form doesn't have to be worded this way. The minister could change it tomorrow. So

[Page 11750]

I want to ask the Minister of Health, will he commit today to doing what other provinces have done and change the wording of the assessment forms to support relationships, not degrade them?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, certainly there is no intent to degrade relationships and I think I have made that clear in the response to the first two question. But as I informed the House there are a number of things about the assessment process that we are taking a look at now and that is among them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. & FISH. - PORK IND.: LOAN PROG. - IMPLEMENT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, this morning you had the opportunity to meet with farm leaders representing a number of commodities, one of which was Pork Nova Scotia. The President, Herman Berfelo, is here to attest to the fact that you had that meeting. During that meeting I understand you were brought up to date on the fact that the hog industry is in a crisis. We've had debates in this House about the crisis and yet the Minister of Agriculture regrets for some reason that he cannot do something about helping the pork industry. I want to table later today the financial statement from the chairman of the board when he shipped hogs last week to show that his return was $101 per carcass. His feed cost alone was $102. He didn't even get enough to pay the feed bill less any other part of the costs of his operation. My question to you, Mr. Premier, is will you implement a loan program, as the hog industry has requested, by your government to allow a repayable loan for the pork industry to help them through this crisis? That repayable loan will be paid back by the industry in full. Will you implement a loan program for them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes I had an opportunity, along with the Minister of Agriculture, this morning to have an extensive briefing by the Federation of Agriculture. During that briefing a number of sectors that are key to the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia made presentations through their federation to us. The sector of the community right now that is in the most dire circumstances is the pork-producing sector of the industry. I had an opportunity, along with the minister, to listen and to receive some of the information actually that the member opposite tabled today, and we're taking that very, very seriously. We are determined that we will search out with them a way in which we can provide more sustainability to the pork-producing industry.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. Looking for a way to find more stability and sustainability to the industry is not what is currently being proposed to the industry. What the minister has repeatedly said to the industry, of what we're going to do for you to help you, is not addressing the problem. The crisis is real, the problem is real, the triggering mechanisms aren't being met, the individuals are going broke - 10 per cent of the industry

[Page 11751]

is gone and another 10 per cent will go this year. The crisis is real, the issues are real. They're asking this government that, by the way, spoke on this side of the House only a few years ago saying help the pork industry . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. DOWNE: . . . now they're silent. My question to you, Mr. Premier is - this is not about what you've done, what you've done is not answering the problem - will you, or will you not, implement a loan program for the hog industry that's in crisis? That's what they're asking for and that's what they need.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one statement cannot go unchallenged and that statement is that the government has not taken significant steps to in fact enhance red meat production in this province, and I would refer the question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: The honourable member's question is a good one. Yes, this government does take the issue of the pork industry seriously and that's why we've adopted a number of new support programs since the previous crisis. That's also why this government issued a cheque for $3.5 million to cover the previous loan so that wasn't hanging over the heads of hog producers, and we continue to work with the hog producers. There are a number of solutions that can be found, not just a one-alone program.

MR. DOWNE: My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. The industry is saying very clearly to the Premier and to the minister that what you're doing doesn't work, it is not meeting the needs of the people and the family farms in Nova Scotia. You can say all you want about all the great things that you're doing, but I can tell you something, that does not pay the bills. It does not pay the bills that these farmers are in crisis about. The banks are shutting them down. Everybody is shutting them down. They're going to the Tory Government for help . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West on the question.

MR. DOWNE: My question is, will you listen and revisit this crisis, and address the problem of the hog industry today because they are not going to be here tomorrow?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that we are listening and we are working with the industry.

[Page 11752]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - ACUTE CARE OUTPATIENT UNIT (N.S. HOSP.):

CLOSURE - ACTION JUSTIFY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, two months ago the Minister of Health closed the Acute Care Outpatient Unit at the Nova Scotia Hospital, leaving patients stranded. Shan MacDonald, a mother of four, with bipolar disorder was one of these people. She was given a two-week notice letter and told she would be taken care of, but her support never came. The Cole Harbour Mental Health Unit, where she was supposed to be transferred, didn't know who she was when she contacted them; she had to fight for an appointment.

Mr. Minister, when you closed the acute care program, your department promised transitional support; instead people in crisis were forced to fend for themselves. I want to ask the minister, what possible justification does he have for this action?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows the Nova Scotia Hospital is under the Capital Health District and that was a decision made by the Capital Health District. It was made because the current best practice is to move people out into the community and have community supports rather than hospital-based supports where possible.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot wash his hands of his responsibility in this matter. This is about the community supports not being there when a program is closed. Shan MacDonald used to receive daily treatment, now she sees her doctors once every two weeks. Fortunately, she's on the road to recovery, but others aren't. Why won't you just admit, Mr. Minister, that your entire mental health policy consists of stonewalling, shuffling people and building waiting lists?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government has made considerable strides in mental health services and what we are doing is building a mental health system that will take care of Nova Scotians throughout their lives. That new system is being constructed with the advice of professionals and based on best practices.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, for two years this minister has been spinning his wheels in the mental health field; 36 mothballed reports fill his offices, all written in the last 10 years on the needs of mental health patients in this province, but this minister still needs more time, apparently, to get the job done. He gave Shan MacDonald two weeks' notice knowing that most psychiatrists in the metro area have six-month waiting lists.

[Page 11753]

Mr. Minister, you are either completely unaware of the stakes or you simply don't care. When will you address the mental health needs in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the fact that there were a number of reports sitting on shelves gathering dust is something this government became very quickly aware of when we assumed office. Actually, the Bland Dufton report was released and, following that, a steering committee was established to develop a strategic plan in implementing its recommendations. The steering committee has now, as I indicated a couple of weeks ago, completed draft documents that lay out a plan for implementing those recommendations. The documents are being reviewed now by senior leadership in the Department of Health and they will be phased in as we are able to do it.

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

HEALTH - PHYSICIAN RECRUITMENT PLAN: SUCCESS - CONFIRM

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. According to the Tories' playbook, the government has a physician recruiting plan that they say is working. However, the Southwest Nova District Health Authority has had to hire two recruiting firms because the province's recruitment plan isn't doing the job. This means that the DHA has to spend precious resources that could be used towards health care in the area. Last week I tabled a petition requesting assistance for Dr. Donald Westby, located in Weymouth, who is serving approximately 3,000 patients and is in dire need of assistance. This government is doing very little to help the people of Weymouth and surrounding communities. My first question to the minister is, if this minister's recruiting plan has been so successful, why did the Southwest Nova DHA have to hire two recruiting firms to recruit physicians?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the physician recruiting programs of this government and of the various communities in Nova Scotia means that Nova Scotia has the second-highest number of doctors per capita in the country. Having said that, we're proud of our recruitment efforts, but I do know there are communities in the province, and Weymouth happens to be one of them, where recruitment has been difficult. I can tell the honourable member that my colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, reminds me of this on a regular basis, and we have an incentive program in there which we are confident will lead to success in placing a physician in Weymouth before too long.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the truth is, this minister has created a fragmental health care system where DHAs are pitted against one another in order to recruit doctors. We only have to look at the situation that occurred in the Strait to see that this is the case that was brought to the floor of the House. It also means that taxpayers serviced by this DHA are being forced again to pay for doctor recruitment twice. That, in itself, is not right and it's not fair. My question to the minister is, does this minister believe that the taxpayers serviced by

[Page 11754]

the Southwest Nova DHA should pay twice to recruit doctors so that their health and safety will be protected?

MR. MUIR: I'm really astonished that that member would stand in this House and say that it is the government alone that is responsible for physician recruitment in this province when so many communities and other facilities recognize that it is a partnership that works best. Mr. Speaker, shame on that member.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the minister fully knows that their government's plan is not working and they're dumping these responsibilities on the district health authorities across the province, to do their dirty work, that's what this minister is doing. My final question to the Minister of Health is, this province has DHAs competing with one another and a provincial recruitment plan that is ineffective. The bottom line here is this government is failing to meet the health and safety needs of Nova Scotians. The Southwest Nova DHA has had to resort to using funding that should be going toward health care rather than going on recruiting firms because the physician recruitment plan is a failure. My final question to the minister is, how can this minister see success in his recruitment plan when the Southwest District Health Authority has had to spend precious resources in doing a job that is supposedly being done by his department?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the recent statistics released refute the myth of a general physician shortage in the province. Now I recognize that Weymouth is short a physician, there are lots of other communities, including my home community, that could use more physician resources and we continue to work at that. As I said, we have more doctors per capita than almost anybody in Canada. About 94 per cent of Nova Scotians indicate that they have a family physician.

The recruitment efforts of the department, in conjunction with communities, have resulted in more physicians coming this year than last year and site visits are up as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - QUIKCARD SOLUTIONS:

CONTRACT - REASONS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. In July 2002, a private company named Quikcard Solutions took over the billing for dental services of people on employment support and income assistance. We've learned through a freedom of information request that this company gets over $13,000 a month, under this five-year contract, to authorize procedures for a dentist that does any work on a patient. Ever since this company took over, we are getting calls from people who have been denied necessary dental services with nowhere to turn for answers. I ask the Minister of

[Page 11755]

Community Services, why is your department spending $13,000 a month for someone else to break bad news to your clients?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member indicated, the process of people accessing dental care is through Quikcard. Those arrangements have been made with them so that people are able to access those services, they are able to know what services are available, and they're able to access them quickly - that's the purpose of having that system.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister should man the phone line and listen to some of the calls that come through there. It is an escalating contract - and every member of that government should know that this is an escalating contract - which gives the company nearly $15,000 a month by the fifth year. I will table a letter sent to the clients that says, "If you are experiencing pain or suffering or if you think you require dentures, here are the steps you should take: . . ." and here's the letter. It later says, "Your dentist will then contact Quikcard Solutions Inc. to verify the service you are requesting is covered . . ." I ask the Minister of Community Services, if someone is experiencing pain or suffering, shouldn't having something done to stop this pain be a given?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, that of course is one of the stipulations under our policy, for pain and suffering that is what you come to the plan for and that is what it is there to provide, to be able to provide that access. You have to provide assistance for those people to be able to access that service. They have to be able to access it through the dentist and that is what the Quikcard system is supposed to do, allow them that access Quikcard.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this is a government that boasts about trying to save money for taxpayers of this province. It could have hired caseworkers to have personal contact with these individuals and do that job. Seniors with broken dentures are told that they are over their limit for help even though they have no way to chew their food; people suffer needlessly and they don't have the money to pay their 20 per cent share of the bill. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, when will you admit that you hired a by-the-book company and took the caseworkers out of the mix because they actually showed compassion to the clients and fought for their rights?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, this did not replace any caseworkers. The case-workers are there that they can (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please! The honourable member had the courtesy of the House to ask the question, I would ask you to give the same courtesy for the minister to respond please. Thank you.

[Page 11756]

MR. CHRISTIE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This provides, along with the caseworker, the opportunity for people to know what the programs are, to be able to access those programs. It is not in place of caseworkers, it is in addition to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CARE: PLAN - ADEQUACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. (Interruptions )

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: A couple of weeks ago the Hamm-Rumsfeld playbook stated that government has a plan for health care and it is working. Well, Mr. Speaker, family doctors in the capital district have expressed concerns about the government's so-called plan. On November 13th, the Capital District Health Authority responded to complaints that have been expressed for months now, complaints of obstacles in accessing specialists and diagnostic work which, in turn, is resulting in "prolonged wait time", and I would like to table a letter from the physicians concerned.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister simply is if this minister has a plan and it's working, why are residents in the Capital Health District having to experience longer wait times because family physicians cannot access specialists, as documented in this letter?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I have not seen that letter, but I can tell you we are making progress on wait times. Some of the times you are talking about, wait times, would be waits for CAT scans and MRI and things like this. We have effectively crippled the MRI capacity in the province; we have enough CAT scan capacity in this province to do a couple of other provinces as well. We have put in a provincial osteoporosis program. There are areas where we must move forward. We have made progress and we will continue to make progress. There is nobody who can stand up and criticize us, they can't say we aren't making progress.

DR. SMITH: The family physicians in the capital region don't think you're making progress, Mr. Speaker.

The letter from them goes on to say that in order to find solutions to this problem and ensure that similar ones aren't created in the future, the Capital Health District will be forming a district council of family practice. So my question to the minister is, if his government's plan is working so well, why is it acceptable for family doctors to take precious time away from patient care to solve the problems that this minister and his government have created?

[Page 11757]

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I assume that the physicians to whom you are speaking are

going to work with capital health, because we do recognize that money is not going to solve all of these problems. There are things which need the co-operation of the practitioners in the field and we have made a lot of strides with that. Let me give you one example. When there was a shortage of nurses, to help remedy that we got together a group of the nurse stakeholders who developed our nursing strategy for us, and our nurse strategy is working. The reason I mention that is, if these physicians are willing to work with people at capital health to solve these problems, they're going to have a great boost because we've just announced three-year funding, so they know what kind of money they're going to have for the three years.

DR. SMITH: What essentially the minister and his government have announced, Mr. Speaker, is decreased funding for three years. So I agree with the minister when he says that money doesn't solve all the problems, but this government said that $1.5 billion was enough to manage the health care system. That's what they told Nova Scotians during the pre-election runoff.

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

DR. SMITH: It works pretty well, Mr. Speaker, every time you say order, a light goes off, it's good.

MR. SPEAKER: It's supposed to.

DR. SMITH: I was wondering if you had a string there.

MR. SPEAKER: I do. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on his final supplementary.

DR. SMITH: I better be careful . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on your final supplementary, please.

DR. SMITH: It worked again, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Forget the light, the final supplementary.

[Page 11758]

DR. SMITH: Seriously, Mr. Speaker, this government said before the election that health care needed no new money and $1.5 billion was enough. So, now, at almost $2 billion, what do we see - a system where family doctors cannot access specialists and diagnostic services in a timely manner and, in turn, translates into longer wait times for patients. My question is simply, why won't he simply admit that he does not have a plan for health care? Simply admit that.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to remind all members of this House of the recent study that said that the Capital Health District was the fifth best in the continent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

NSPI: LINEMEN - ADEQUACY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: My question goes to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are becoming increasingly alarmed about the length of power outages in this province. We know that since the Tories privatized Nova Scotia Power, the private utility has gone from 322 linemen down to 196. Power outages can occur during severe storms and there's not much NSPI can do about that, but what NSPI can do is ensure those outages are dealt with in a reasonable time. Well, we know that during last night's storm some areas were without power for much of the night. Does the Premier believe that NS Power has an adequate supply of linemen to deal with severe outages like we've seen in the past few weeks?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, the weather has been unusually tough on the infrastructure that Nova Scotia Power uses to get power into our homes. I think rather than look at numbers, what we have to do is analyze whether or not outages are occurring more often? Are outages being corrected in a reasonable length of time compared to times past? I don't think the only analysis that should go on is the number of linemen. I was particularly impressed with the amount of resources that Nova Scotia Power was able to marshal from outside the province to deal with this last severe outage.

MR. EPSTEIN: I don't know that bringing in repair people from outside the province is exactly what we need. Mr. Speaker, what we do know is that the Utility and Review Board reached the conclusion that the power company needed more linemen back in 1998, but then NSPI turned around instead and cut its complement by another 57 linemen. Nova Scotia Power makes about $100 million of profits each year and instead of investing that money in improving its ability to deal with power outages or other things, the utility actually cut linemen. Mr. Premier, will you instruct the URB or appoint some other form of independent body to conduct an inquiry into whether NSPI has the adequate resources to deal with large-scale or recurring power outages?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Energy.

[Page 11759]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier indicated in his first response, simply equating it to the number of linemen is too simplistic a solution. Obviously what we need to do is an analysis of how long power interruptions are in place and how quickly they can respond. It's not simply a matter of putting more linemen in place to correct the problem.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we're asking for. We're asking for a detailed analysis that the URB could do. I believe Nova Scotians are becoming increasingly worried about the time it takes to get the lights back on after a major power outage. Now, if Nova Scotia Power is not making that choice to put the money into those resources and beefing up its complement of linemen and is instead reducing it, we can do something about it. So I would like to ask the Premier again, why won't he order an inquiry into whether Nova Scotia Power is able to adequately deal with widespread power outages? Why won't he?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Energy.

MR. BALSER: The Department of Energy worked closely with Nova Scotia Power looking at this very issue so there's no need to have a full-blown inquiry into this particular issue.

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

WCB - SUPP. FIGURES: INFO. - TABLE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. On Page 8 of the Dorsey report which examined the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation program - it was a review, as we all know - it states, unhappily that some data provided by the Workers' Compensation Board changed during the review. The changes confounded the committee and extended discussion. To the committee's chagrin, in one instance involving the number and profile of persons receiving supplementary benefits, the data changed significantly after the committee had paid for costing based on earlier data supplied by the board. The report contains the most recent data supplied by the agencies.

Given that rather disturbing information, I would ask the minister, when was the last time that he received information on supplementary figures and would he please table that information for all members of the House?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I will do better than that. I'll explain the inconsistency that the member speaks about. The problem is, in one instance, the board answered the question by giving a snapshot of where it was at a particular point in time, like a balance sheet.

[Page 11760]

The other time the answer was over a period of time, in other words, like a fiscal year. The number does fluctuate up and down depending on their circumstances and that's why there was a different answer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, it was a good question.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, also on Page 8 of that report, Mr. Dorsey quotes, "The committee met informally with the Minister of Environment and Labour, the Auditor General, the boards and directors of the Workers' Compensation Board and the chief workers' advisor." He indicates as well there were other issues of concern that were raised with regard to the figures provided by the board. Would the minister be kind enough to outline for members of the House as to what those other concerns were?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I did discuss the report at some length with Mr. Dorsey, both throughout the process and afterwards. The only case that came up for discussion was the one with regard to the supplementary benefit numbers. That was the only one.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will table a report prepared by Morneau Sobeco dated December 14, 2001, and eventually revised in January 2002 which speaks to many more issues than what the minister has just suggested with his discussions with Mr. Dorsey. It speaks of the issue of commutation upon demand, it speaks on issues such as the administrative challenges with the two-fifths factor and the board, all these issues that were discussed with the minister as I understand. I will table that report because in that report it's quite clear that there are significant differences of opinion between the figure provided by the board and what Mr. Dorsey is suggesting.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, why is the minister refusing to acknowledge to the House that these issues are real issues of concern to the employers and the employees of this province and not stating factual information as required?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I will refer back to the answer to the first question. There was a discrepancy based on how they were to measure those numbers with regard to the number of injured workers on supplementary benefits. There are a number of other matters that have to be considered when you ask a question, you know, what are the assumptions under which the question is asked, what are the conditions, so those conditions, the criteria, determine the answer.

[Page 11761]

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

EDUC. - POST-SECONDARY: TUITION - FREEZE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Education. In the last 10 years university tuition in this province has risen more than 111 per cent. Students from a four-year program last year owed an average of nearly $22,000. Now, higher tuition combined with no debt reduction programs means young people from lower and middle income families are three times less likely to pursue a post-secondary education than those from upper income families. Other provinces have recognized this challenge and they've moved to address it while in Nova Scotia this minister has been all talk and no action. So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Education, I want the minister to tell this House when her government will take the only reasonable first step and freeze tuition in Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to elaborate a bit on one of the member opposite's statements and while it's true university tuition has risen, it's far too high in Nova Scotia, it is a nation-wide phenomenon and I wouldn't want members of this House to forget that and we will not be freezing tuition.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this minister's assertion that they are supporting universities is almost as incredible as the Liberal Party's inability to get their facts straight on this issue. Other provinces are taking action with student debt - Manitoba, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island. In fact, in the 1998 election the Leader of the Liberal Party at that time, Russell MacLellan, supported tuition freezes. Will the minister tell the House how Nova Scotians are expected to stay competitive when other provinces are prepared to make investments in students, but this government, as the previous Liberal Government, is not?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect raises a very good point that has been raised often. We do need a debt relief program for students, but we have made considerable investments in post-secondary education in our innovation trust fund, increased funding to universities in the two years previous, and increased funding to the Nova Scotia Community College which people must not forget about when talking about post-secondary education.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, tuition fees have increased by over 125 per cent since 1990. A real expenditure on post-secondary institutions has dropped by 25 per cent by this government and the previous Liberal Government. Neither governments had the foresight to make a meaningful investment in post-secondary education. So I want to ask the minister, is the real reason you refuse to freeze tuition fees is that you don't hold enough sway at the Cabinet meeting or that you're afraid you will have to start adequately funding post-secondary institutions in this province?

[Page 11762]

[1:45 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the main reason we are not going to be freezing tuition is we don't want this province to end up like B.C. under the last NDP Government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - LOAN REMISSION PROG./BUDGET BALANCING:

PRIORITIES - EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Ever since becoming Minister of Education, this minister has promised university students a loan remission program. Recently, the minister told students that a new debt relief program will be announced within weeks. But, last week, she told students it wouldn't be announced until next year because it would interfere with that government's balancing the budget. This government is willing to balance the budget on the backs of students who are the very individuals who are the future of this province. My question to the minister is, why is the minister responsible for students in this province allowing those same students to be sacrificed for a balanced budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is going to be for the benefit of all citizens of Nova Scotia, including students.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question again to the Minister of Education . . .

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

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister has been saying for years that her department has been working on a plan for student debt. The minister has allowed students in this province to hold this country's record for having the highest tuition in the country - the only province in the country without a debt relief program and now they have the record in this country for being the students most mislead by their Education Minister. My question to the minister is, why has this minister continuously promised a debt relief program for students only to continuously tell them, not now students, not now?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance announced in last year's Budget Address that there would be a plan announced within the next 12 months. The Premier has said the same thing. A debt relief program will be announced, we are all committed to that.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my final question is for the Minister of Education. The minister says her department is working on a plan, it's going to announce student debt relief for students in this province, but she has yet to consult with the students in this province

[Page 11763]

about what should be in that plan. Since that plan is still being finalized, it has not been announced, it is not too late to consult with student leaders in this province before announcing that program. My question for the minister is, will the minister commit here today, right now, to meeting with student leaders across this province before announcing the new program?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I'll tell you what our plan for students and universities does not include. It does not include some of the Liberal record in this province during the 1990s of cutting funding-minus 4.3, minus 3.7, minus 6.9 and minus 4.5. We have been putting money in.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES:

RATE INCREASES - JUSTIFICATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians face the highest nursing home rates in the country. In addition, there is no protection in place preventing per diems from increasing dramatically without prior notice to residents and their families. For example, Armview raised its per diem from $131.33 a day to $172.82 a day in June; that's an increase of over $40 a day. I ask the Minister of Health, the Department of Health approved this increase, how can you justify allowing a $1,200-a-month jump in prices literally overnight? (Applause)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is a business planning process for the long-term care facilities in this province. The plans are evaluated identically; whether they are for profit, not-for-profit, everybody is treated the same.

If there are increases, then they have to be justified. In the case of that one, I'm not talking about the relative, I'm sorry, the specific dollar amount because I don't know what it was. Like everybody else, they submitted the business plan that was evaluated by the Department of Health officials, and of course that was one of the facilities that had a tremendous upgrade done to it in these past two years.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Fairview had a similar jump in rates following a recent renovation. Not all the increases are as dramatic, but they affect seniors who are already paying thousands of dollars a month for health care in nursing homes.

Mountain Lea Lodge in Bridgetown just announced its third increase in 8 months,

Glen Haven has raised its rates four times in a year and a half. I ask the Minister, why is there nothing in place to limit how often or by how much these rates can be increased? (Applause)

[Page 11764]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, effectively there is, but one of the things that the honourable member mentioned in first question was that our nursing home rates are a lot higher here than they are in the rest of the country, and the average price of a nursing home bed here in Nova Scotia is about the same as it is in the rest of the country, which is around $140.

To say when rate increases are about to be announced, the budget has to be approved by Department of Health Officials, and to say that they are happening every three months, I don't think so.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, some full-pay seniors have been notified that increases are retroactive, and they now have to pay a hefty bill. I will table documents from the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home dated May 10, 2001, that informs residents of a rate increase retroactive to April 1, 2000.

My question to the Minister of Health is, why won't you commit right here and right now to the seniors of Nova Scotia to end the practice of retroactive billing for nursing home residents. (Applause)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that wasn't very good when we came in, in the long-term care sector, which is a whole business planning process - and the honourable member is right, when we came in there were some cases where retroactive increases did go back.

When people are admitted, they know about the possibility of retroactive increases.

It doesn't make anybody happy to get one, but it's not something that is sprung upon them. But I can say that the process has improved a whole lot now and that should not happen in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - SMOKE-FREE LEGISLATION:

MUNICIPALITIES - EFFECT

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Tonight the HRM council will begin debating whether to forgo its own smoke-free bylaw in favour of adopting provincial smoke-free legislation, and this government's lack of leadership is forcing some municipalities to just throw their hands up in the air and say that enforcement is a provincial responsibility. My question to the minister is, will the minister now admit and take responsibility (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 11765]

DR. SMITH: The honourable member for Preston has some urgent matters that he would like to bring before the House. He failed as a councillor and now he is back there (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: My question to the minister is, will the minister now admit and take responsibility that his lack of leadership is forcing some municipalities to water down their own stronger bylaws?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the tobacco legislation is part of a tobacco strategy and had the honourable member been able to attend the press conference earlier today about the statistics about addictions here among young people in Nova Scotia, he certainly would be standing up here and applauding out tobacco strategy.

DR. SMITH: Strategy is one thing, legislation is another, Mr. Speaker. So in August, HRM was faced with two options, they could repeal the bylaw and adopt the province's legislation or it could go smoke free. So the minister has placed an unfair burden on the municipal units when they have to alter and reconsider bylaws which are not in the best interests of the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.

My question to the minister is, will the minister show leadership on this issue and remove the burden he has created for the municipal units by bringing forward changes to the Smoke-free Places Act and will ensure that there will be 100 per cent smoke-free places come January 2003?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the tobacco legislation is among the very strongest in the country. It is a huge step forward in terms of protecting people, particularly young people, from second-hand smoke. As was indicated this morning in the statement that I read, the decrease in youth smoking was, on straight numbers, 13 per cent. It went from 36 per cent down to 23 per cent. Indeed, that is about a 38 or 39 per cent decrease. That's pretty darn good, Mr. Speaker.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on my supplementary, I would like to go to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, this Premier, as a previous family physician, is more than aware that he has failed the people of Nova Scotia when it comes to protecting the health of individuals from second-hand smoke. My question to the Premier, will the Premier show leadership and ease the burden on municipal units by bringing forward changes to the Smoke-free Places Act that will ensure that there will be 100 per cent smoke-free places come January 2003?

[Page 11766]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, as a former physician, I'm very aware of the ravages of smoking on the population. On the other hand, the group that we must influence are the young people growing up in Nova Scotia to create a generation of non-smokers. That's where this legislation has been directed.

The member brought the issue by way of his question of leadership. I would like to point out that this Minister of Health did show leadership and brought forward legislation while that member, when he was Minister of Health, had a piece of legislation in the drawer that he never, ever brought forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - PORK PRODUCERS:

ASSISTANCE - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. In late debate on November 6th, the member for Kings West thanked his government for providing aid to Larsen Packers in the Valley, now a member of the Maple Leaf Food organization. He claims this aid helped stabilize the food processing facility and proved to be a good investment in rural Nova Scotia, and that it gave folks in the Valley a sense of optimism. Now the member for Kings West sits mute while the pork producers who feed that plant are in trouble.

So my question for the minister is, why is it, Mr. Minister, that the minister finds Maple Leaf Food - a $270 million corporation with international markets - more worthy of assistance than the family-owned Nova Scotia farms that supply it with pork?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I thank the honourable member for his question. Obviously, the honourable member would desire to have the plant here in Nova Scotia, I assume. Dealing with environmental concerns or upgrades is the Department of Economic Development, in the Department of Agriculture we deal with risk management and provide millions of dollars of provincial support and we have doubled our support in our three years. That's our commitment to the farming industry.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister may deal with risk management, but farmers in Nova Scotia have been dealing with mismanagement from this government. Tories, like the member for Kings West, can try to paint a rosy picture that all is well in rural Nova Scotia, but it won't work. Family farms are in trouble, particularly pork farms. The Premier met with pork producers today so he can't deny their plight. So will the Premier stop washing his hands of the pork producers' troubles and admit today that his government is failing them in their hour of need?

[Page 11767]

MR. FAGE: I thank the honourable member for the question and I note that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member directed that question to the Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the issue that the pork producers bring to the attention of government, and obviously bring to the attention of all members, is one that the government takes very seriously, but we will work with them to provide a plan that allows that industry to be sustainable.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier is waiting for a plan that will allow that industry to be sustainable, he must be waiting for an NDP Government in this province which is what's going to happen. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Hants East on his final supplementary.

MR. MACDONELL: So, Mr. Speaker, now we know that the Premier did meet with the hog industry this morning. I want to ask the Premier - and this will be a question that he won't be able to pass off to the minister - if he would really do something for the hog industry in this province and for farmers in this province, would he remove that minister and replace him with someone who actually cares about agriculture in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have been continually impressed by the knowledge that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries brings to his portfolio. He, himself, is a farmer. He, himself, has been a successful farmer. He brings a level of understanding that this government is pleased to support. The member opposite by way of his preamble talks about the sustainability that they would bring to the pork industry. If you look at the record of NDP Governments in Canada, they have not provided any kind of sustainability for their provinces. That's why we don't have an NDP Government in Nova Scotia at this particular time. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Earlier today the minister indicated that he had only discussed one issue with Mr. Dorsey re the financial actuarials that were provided to him. My discussions with Mr. Dorsey directly by telephone indicate quite to the contrary, that all issues in this report were discussed with the minister. So what I would like to ask the minister is, on Page 4 on the issue of universal coverage, if universal coverage was provided, will he not confirm that the rates will be reduced by 39 cents on $100 of assessment?

[Page 11768]

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise and obviously speak in favour of the bill on third reading. I appreciate the co-operation that has been demonstrated by members of both Opposition Parties in supporting this bill. It's a good piece of legislation, one that modernizes our commercial law in Nova Scotia and one which is a uniform piece of legislation consistent with legislation in other provinces in this country. It places Nova Scotia businesses in the same position as businesses in other jurisdictions while at the same time providing consumers of services with protection through mandatory minimum insurance coverage and the like. So with that, I would move third reading of the bill and thank the Opposition Parties for supporting it.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, as the Justice Critic for the Official Opposition, I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to put on the record with regard to Bill No. 143 - Partnership Act/Partnerships and Business Names Registration Act - these changes are good for professionals in Nova Scotia who do not have the ability to incorporate. In particular, as someone has suggested, the Barristers' Society and the Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia are the ones that will benefit greatly from this. Even this weekend I was speaking with a former chartered accountant about why they would need some of these changes. I think they're good as long as we ensure, as we do in this bill, that there are minimum insurance requirements because the people who can be, quite frankly, left out in

[Page 11769]

the cold by this, are clients of an individual who is a partner and does not have enough liability insurance.

I hope, through this legislation, we will continue to see adequate insurance being provided by the professional societies that want this legislation, to ensure that Nova Scotians, and those particularly who are somehow affected as clients or others of professional - are going to be able to ensure that they have access to the liability insurance to be able to recover any costs they may lose because of negligence or something else on the part of a professional.

Having said that, our caucus supports this legislation, we're glad to see it go forward and we look forward in a few years to seeing how it's being implemented. Thank you.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 143 now be read for a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third 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 the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 147 - Volunteer Fire Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I now move that Bill No. 147 be read for a third time. This is a bill that is straightforward in that it provides the Executive Council to define what is a volunteer firefighter. I think, as I explained in second reading, this amendment has come about at the request of the volunteer fire chiefs across the province and

[Page 11770]

it removes from the definition remuneration that volunteer firefighters receive in the performance of their duties.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like, for the record, to make a few comments in support of this legislation. I think all members in the House, and certainly those in rural constituencies, are aware of the impacts on the lives of volunteer firefighters - and I know the minister addresses the issue of the definition - the fact that most volunteer firefighters certainly do this with no remuneration and they give purely of their time for the betterment of their community.

I think that when we consider what it is that these people do, it's not just the time they take to go to fires. We tend to always think of volunteer firefighters as those who try to extinguish fires, but we have to consider, Mr. Speaker, that for most volunteer fire departments that being the first responders during times of accidents, et cetera, health issues, medical emergencies - more and more in my constituency, volunteer fire departments respond in cases of medical emergencies and actually, upwards of 40 per cent of the calls they respond to in a given year now are in terms of medical emergencies.

I think it's important that the government recognize the impacts of lack of support for these people. I think it's important that all of us recognize that it's not only in the middle of the night when volunteer firefighters leave to protect the rest of us, but it's the time that they spend in training, away from their families, because there's basically nothing they can do that doesn't require that they spend hours upon hours in training for the use of particular pieces of equipment, fundraising, et cetera, in order to see that they have the equipment they need to do the best job they possibly can.

Mr. Speaker, this has a major impact in a personal way on them and their families, in particular. We never think much about their spouses or their children, the people who have to do without them while they give of themselves to their communities. We are all beneficiaries, because having a well-equipped, well-manned fire department within a reasonable distance of any of us has an impact on the insurance rates that we pay on our properties. I think this is certainly something that has hit the news recently, the increases of insurance. I would say that it's to all our benefit to offer support to volunteer fire departments across the province, that those men and women actually have what they need and are somehow given support for what they will do on their own time.

I want to say that it's been raised in this House, and I know that I actually contacted the minister in terms of an individual who was a volunteer fireman who was injured in the actions of carrying out his duties, and then got a bill because he had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. I would say that it seemed inconceivable that the province would allow people who were giving up their time, offering their service and actually risking their

[Page 11771]

lives, in some cases, and not being paid for that, that they would actually expect them to pay a bill for the ambulance service to take them to the hospital.

I would say this is something that I would firmly expect that the minister should act upon. There's no clear indication to me, as yet, that he's going to see to it that this cannot happen. This is something, if he's expecting insurance to cover those costs, which seems to be a big issue with him - people have insurance so therefore we will let them pick up the tab - well, we all pay for those premiums that are increasing as a result.

With those few comments, I want the minister and the government to know that we're in support of this legislation, because we think that it actually supports volunteer firefighters and, in that way, supports us.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and support this amendment, because it's a housekeeping measure, obviously. It also allows us an opportunity, in support of this, to remind the government that we're still disappointed that they didn't bring forward that $500 tax credit that they said they were going to bring for volunteer firefighters. I don't know what happened, that seemed to have escaped the minds of many of the members of the Executive Council on the front benches and in the second row.

Mr. Speaker, also, I am a little perplexed as to why this particular piece of legislation is over with the Government House Leader and not with the minister responsible for volunteer fire service in the Province of Nova Scotia, that is the Minister of Environment and Labour. To his credit, given the legislation that he introduced here today, I think it would have only been appropriate that the Minister of Environment and Labour introduce this, because, I believe, sometimes the government underestimates some of the good work that is being done by that minister. I know too, sometimes I'm a little critical, but this is one instance where the minister could have really stood up and done something good, as what was introduced here today.

Mr. Speaker, that having been said, looking at that particular portfolio and the fact that we have that particular piece of legislation - and no, I'm not going to let him off the hook that easy. If we really want to do something good for the volunteer firefighters in this province, look at the issue of the workers' compensation coverage that all these volunteer fire departments have to provide to their membership. There is certainly sufficient provision and cause to be able to include that through the accident fund. I think the cost on $100 of assessment would be less than one-half of one cent to ensure that protection. Surely to heavens we don't have to wait, as is suggested by the government, that a volunteer firefighter should lose his or her life before they're provided any type of protection or benefit for their family.

[Page 11772]

With those few words, Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge our caucus and Party support for this friendly amendment and we will be voting in favour of it. Thank you.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes in the House during this important debate to add our support as a caucus to this piece of legislation. I think it's very indicative that in growing communities that I represent, in particular, they continue to be served by volunteer firefighters. They perform a role of vital importance in all of our communities. Not just as my friend, the member for Hants East, correctly pointed out, not just in terms of the fire services in responding to house fires and various other emergencies, but as first responders.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, Highway No. 103 goes through part of the riding of Timberlea-Prospect as well as the busy tourist route along Highway No. 333 to Peggy's Cove. On many occasions the first responders to accidents in the community that I represent are our local firefighters. In fact, I've recently had the opportunity to attend a number of events in the community where I have personally been able to recognize firefighters and it's a real honour to be in the presence of these young men and women. I say that because I want to draw the attention of the House that the Chief of the Prospect Road Fire Department is Barb Sawatsky and she is an excellent firefighter and has an excellent group of men and women who respond to her direction. Locally, of course, Tim Ackles is the fire chief in the community I live in. Let me tell you, Tim Ackells is the very sort of exemplary volunteer that we need more of in our community.

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, I have the occasion to play a recreational sport called old timers' hockey. I want to share this quick anecdote with you if I may. I play on a team that has a number of firefighters on it. It's very important you recognize the fact that these young men each take their beeper - if that's the correct term - out to the bench with them and they put it on the bench and let me tell you, there have been occasions, depending on the arena that we're playing in, when that beeper goes off and the reminder is there, three of these young firefighters leave from playing hockey at that occasion and off they go. We come in afterwards with their hockey equipment still spread around the room and they have responded to an emergency in our community. I know, as an MLA, I take my cell phone as far as the hockey dressing room door and then I turn it off. That volunteer example firefighters offer me, shows the dedication of these young men as they continue to serve our community.

[Page 11773]

So I would like to respond by saying that this is a good piece of legislation, we're proud to see that the government has responded to volunteer fire chiefs in asking for this piece of legislation, and it certainly has the support of the NDP caucus. Thank you very much.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill No. 147 and call for the question.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 147. 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 do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 148 - Securities Act.

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members for the swiftness with which Bill No. 148, a bill to amend Nova Scotia's Securities Act has moved through the House and committee. The province's securities legislation protects investors in Nova Scotia from any practices and activities that tend to undermine their confidence in the fairness and efficiency of securities markets.

Through the Nova Scotia Securities Commission, this legislation builds on the rules for capital formation, adding protections that will help to build a healthier and more prosperous Nova Scotia. The amendments outlined in Bill No. 148 provide greater protection to investors and provide them with additional remedies to sue for damages or seek rescission of contracts that were based on a misrepresentation or a misstatement by those selling or

[Page 11774]

issuing the security. At a time when major global corporations are being exposed for serious corporate fraud, it is more important than ever to shore up our regulations and protection for Nova Scotia's venture capital investors.

I am pleased that one of the improvements is the addition of a definition of the term "unfair practice". This is defined as putting unreasonable pressure on a person to buy, sell or hold a security, taking advantage of a person's inability to protect his or her own interests, or imposing terms or conditions that make a transaction inequitable. This improvement will help to protect seniors and others, such as persons with a physical or mental disability, low literacy levels or those unable to understand the nature of the decision he or she is being asked to make, because many of these documents are not written in plain language and can be misleading to those who are not knowledgeable in the field of securities.

The second major amendment to the Act is the addition of Section 132.1. This legislates an individual's right to legal recourse should a company misrepresent itself in a disclosure document, such as a financial statement, a business prospectus or even an advertisement. This amendment provides important protection for those investors who must rely upon the information contained in these documents to make sound investment decisions. These amendments come at a time when the federal government is exploring the possibility of a national initiative for securities regulation.

Investors and businesses have expressed concern that Canada's current securities regulatory structure is inadequate and an obstacle to growth. They have urged reform to ensure that businesses can efficiently access the financing they need to grow and to assure Canadians they will be treated fairly when they invest. The government is open to federal initiatives. In fact, our Premier has championed co-operation at the most recent Council of Atlantic Premiers meeting. Our desire is to ensure that Canada has the modern and efficient securities regulatory system it needs to compete in today's markets. While this process is explored, we have a responsibility to keep our legislation current and to protect investors.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 148 raises the standard yet again for Nova Scotia securities regulations. The amendments proposed through this bill will strengthen our legislation and respond to the needs of Nova Scotia investors, but it also reaches far beyond investors. By protecting investors, we provide the support they need to increase investment activity in this province. That makes it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to access equity capital and grow. These improvements to securities legislation will help strengthen our business climate and will lead to a more prosperous Nova Scotia. I want to thank the members again for the support for these amendments, and I would move third reading of Bill No. 148.

[Page 11775]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, of course, our caucus supports this bill, and we are pleased to support it. I did have just a few remarks, but I did have to say, in response to what the minister just said, that sometimes I wonder who writes the stuff for that minister and the government ministers. You would think, from the way the minister talked, that this bill, by itself, is going to make Nova Scotia more prosperous and improve the business climate.

Mr. Speaker, the bill is an awful lot less than that. There are two substantive provisions in this bill - both initiated, I would like to underline, by the Securities Commission, not by the government - two relatively small changes in the nature of consumer protection. So these are to protect consumers from some of the more outrageous, some of the more fraudulent practices that are perpetrated on unsuspecting purchasers of securities in Canada. The Securities Commission already has a range of tools to deal with the fraud artists, but they felt that they needed a couple more and this bill provides it to them. One section defines unfair practices and then says simply that no person or company shall engage in an unfair practice.

Well, that's fine. The challenge in this area, as with so many other areas, is not the rule - anybody can write down a tough rule - it's enforcement. What do you do when you get a high-pressured sales phone call and you don't even know where it's originating from. It could be somewhere else in Canada, it could be somewhere else in the United States, it could be anywhere around the world - the high-pressured boiler rooms, what do you do about those? What do you do about those, it's the enforcement that matters, not the toughness of the rule. It's whether you've got the resources and the means to track these fraud artists down and shut them down and of course there's nothing in this bill about enforcement.

The Americans have a great phrase, it's called "unfunded mandate", which I particularly like. It's when you give somebody the power or the authority to do something, but don't actually give them any money to do it - an unfunded mandate. Now, the Securities Commission thinks this is going to be useful to them, but my question, my challenge to the Securities Commission is how exactly are you going to enforce this when somebody is outside the province? The other substantive provision allows some people besides the seller of the security to be sued if there's a misrepresentation, known misrepresentation in an offering memorandum and that's fine; that's an extra tool for the consumer, an extra tool for the purchaser of the security.

Mr. Speaker, I was just going to say when I stood up that this is fine, it's a small step, it's a step along a road of continuing vigilance, trying to increase our powers in enforcement, until the minister stood up and tried to claim a lot more for this bill than is actually in it. The bill is a great deal less than what the minister said, nevertheless, it's a step forward and we're pleased to support it.

[Page 11776]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, our caucus will be supporting these amendments to the Securities Commission, but I, too, would like to just touch on the comments by the minister because I think any time that we provide a legal framework in place to protect investors in this province, particularly those, as the minister has suggested, with regard to venture capital. I think that's very important because in many cases individual Nova Scotians take their life-savings for the most part and through their RRSPs program and so on will invest in the venture capital program in one form or the other.

But I think we have to look at the big picture and given the fact that less than 2 per cent of all the venture capital in this country is invested in the Atlantic Canada region as I understand it - and I stand to be corrected - whether this particular piece of legislation will have a big impact on unscrupulous business individuals or not, I don't know. It's not for me to say. I don't have the experience of those who specialize in this, the powers that be and the experts within the Securities Commission, and those who are the stakeholders investing capital.

I notice even with regard to the exports from Nova Scotia, we seem to be at the bottom of the list in terms of that and, if you're talking about venture capital, then certainly this is an area that would have that cause-and-effect relationship and to protect Nova Scotians from such unscrupulous acts as the minister has suggested.

[2:30 p.m.]

So again, I would like to reiterate the comments of my colleague, who spoke previously. The legislation itself will not be the panacea. That's only the legal framework to achieve the goal if, in fact, the appropriate action plan is in place. That sometimes requires tough measures by government. From my very limited experience, I know it's very difficult to sometimes reach out and hold those unscrupulous individuals accountable. I recall back a number of years ago, when a bill was brought before this House - I believe the former Minister of Economic Development, the honourable Donald Cameron, was the sponsor of that particular piece of legislation - where there were a lot of questions about the corporate veil and holding people accountable because they were hiding under company names. As directors and shareholders and operating officers of the company, they were making decisions that really weren't quite as honourable as they should have been.

I think that's the best terminology to use. They would hide under the corporate veil. Of course, issues would come up, issues on due diligence and accountability and liability, and that's why those changes were made then. I would hope that what the minister said here today, even though it's a different piece of legislation, would be an extension and a support mechanism for what has transpired in years past. We're quite fortunate in Nova Scotia, to the best of my knowledge, that there has been very little of this type of unscrupulous act. Maybe

[Page 11777]

it's because we're a smaller province, maybe it's because we have a better legal framework and enforcement process. The Securities Commission is right on top of things. Maybe we have more honourable people in the marketplace than other jurisdictions. I'm not sure what all of the factors are, but I'm sure each and every one of them contribute.

In short, we support these two amending measures. I think they're good for the province, and we would encourage the government to continue to move in that direction and not only put them in legislative form but to make sure that they're acted upon.

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

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill No. 148.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third 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 do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that this bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, earlier today, Bill No. 146, the Municipal Government Act, was returned to the House from the Committee on Law Amendments. I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to have that bill now considered by the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I do agree with that particular point the Government House Leader made, but I would also raise the matter of Bill No. 155. Earlier today the Government House Leader introduced Bill No. 155, and I'm wondering why the minister has not asked the House for unanimous consent to proceed to second reading on that particular bill. It's not without precedence that that be done. I certainly wouldn't object to it, because here we are, the Order Paper is still very thin and we have three hours to go on today's sitting yet. I think it would be to the better use of the time of the House to debate second reading on Bill No. 155, a bill that's very important to injured workers in this province. (Interruptions)

[Page 11778]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. With regard to the point of order that's before us, certainly the bill that was introduced by the minister is very similar to the bill, only ours is slightly better (Interruptions) On workers' compensation. Quite obviously, we're prepared to debate that at second reading. Certainly, we want to make sure that the legislation gets considered, gets through the Law Amendments Committee and definitely passes during this Fall session.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We had a motion on the floor for the unanimous consent of the House, so we will deal with that first.

Is it agreed that we will allow the bill to go to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I just want to place on the record that the government would be quite prepared to bring forward Bill No. 155 for second reading this afternoon.

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

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

The motion is carried.

[2:35 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker, Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[2:37 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

Bill No. 146 - Municipal Government Act.

[Page 11779]

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

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

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. 155.

Bill No. 155 - Workers' Compensation Act.

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize that the Opposition Parties allowed this to move forward to second reading today. I think that speaks well for them in recognizing what we recognize as a government, that this is a long-standing issue. I would like to speak briefly to it and then listen to the comments from the members opposite.

I would like to start by providing a little background on Bill No. 155, which was introduced today. It will improve benefits for Nova Scotia's workers injured prior to March 23, 1990, also known as the pre-Hayden group; Hayden being the landmark case that recognized that the workers' compensation system should be based on an earning-replacement basis as opposed to what was formerly known as the meat chart. These workers currently do not receive those same wage-loss benefits that are paid to workers who would be injured today.

I introduced an amendment to Section 227 of the Workers' Compensation Act that will enable the Workers' Compensation Board to adjust benefits under the Supplementary Benefits Program. I'm pleased to say that this step is being taken at the request of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Compensation Board which unanimously approved this action at their latest board meeting. After receiving their request, we began to take immediate action to correct this long-standing grievance.

Specifically, this amendment will increase benefits to the pre-Hayden group to one-half of Nova Scotia's average industrial wage. This will bring the new yearly maximum up to $14,558. This improvement will benefit injured workers who are in the greatest financial

[Page 11780]

need in this province. In total, over 860 people are expected to benefit directly from this change. This increase will allow all of them to better support themselves and their families. This bill addresses a long-standing grievance that most agree needed to be addressed.

On the broader front, the Workers' Compensation Board will soon be holding round-table meetings with key stakeholders to develop a strategic plan that will put the workers' compensation system on a solid foundation going forward. This government, in its response to the Dorsey report, focused on governance and accountability as the key issue to create this solid foundation. As part of the strategic planning process, stakeholders, and indeed all Nova Scotians, will be invited to play an active role in improving workers' safety and the insurance system.

We expect this work to accumulate in a further report to government in the next year which may advance a more comprehensive set of amendments to the Act in the future. This increase in benefits is a significant improvement to many injured workers who are attempting to raise families and meet basic living expenses on very low incomes. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to have received the endorsement of my caucus to bring it forward, and the Opposition caucuses to expedite second reading here today, to introduce this bill in anticipation of a speedy passage so these Nova Scotians can receive their cheques before Christmas. With that, I move second reading.

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. 155. It has been a bit of a whirlwind day with regard to workers' compensation. I know our caucus wasn't even aware that this bill was coming forward as of 11:30 this morning and our critic in this area isn't here at the moment so I'm getting up to speak on it.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's an important piece of legislation. I'm glad we're starting the debate. I think it's important that this proceed as quickly as possible. For the record, our caucus doesn't have a problem with the principle of Bill No. 155. It clearly is an opportunity to increase supplementary benefits for those who do need that extra income. I think it's also important to reflect that what this government is doing is producing a patchwork with regard to workers' compensation. In fact, there was an overhaul of the workers' compensation system in the early 1990s. That's what created the change from - as the minister noted, as they used to call it - the meat chart to the earning loss.

To put that in simple terms, it used to be if you got injured before March 23, 1990, Mr. Speaker, they would determine what your injury was, a broken leg, arthritis, a back injury, you would get a percentage depending on the nature of the injury. There would literally be a chart that would be consulted by the doctors and where you were on that chart would depend on what kind of pension you got. It didn't matter if you ever returned to work or not. Many did return to work and they continued to get their full income plus a pension

[Page 11781]

while others who were unable to return to work because of the exact same injury, and let's face it, in some cases that wasn't unusual, those people would receive the same pension as those who actually went back to work. Now, that was generally considered unfair and that's why the system was changed. That's why it was overhauled in 1993-94.

Unfortunately, at that time, and I haven't researched back to Hansard at that time when it was debated, but I suspect what my caucus said then is not unlike what will be said now, we had concerns with how the system was being developed, not the earning replacement system, that is good because then you're reflecting, you're focusing the assets of the Workers' Compensation Board on paying benefits to those who need it most, those who are unable to return to work, but there are many other changes in that legislation, Mr. Speaker, that I know our caucus had concerns with, we continue to have concerns with.

I know as a workers' adviser for a little over two years, Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to represent injured workers and I saw the implications of that legislation in 1993-94 and the dramatic impact it had on workers, not because of earning replacement, again that was good, it was those workers though that because of the system weren't able to access earning replacement benefits, and there were a lot of other ticking time bombs, so to speak, in that legislation that later on we found out were unconstitutional, or were overturned, and as a result of that we ended up having Bill No. 90 come forward which when I was here in the Legislature, it would have been in I think, March 1999.

We were in here, Mr. Speaker, you would remember that. We were debating the legislation at that time as a result of a court decision in 1997 or 1998 - now it's starting to slip my mind. There was a decision of the Court of Appeal of Nova Scotia that threw a monkey wrench into that overhaul of the system because it didn't address chronic pain in an appropriate manner. There are a lot of workers with benefits who weren't getting those benefits. I will talk about that more in a minute.

[2:45 p.m.]

Because of that court case we had Bill No. 90 come forward and under Bill No. 90 we had a huge debate here. Minority government - the Liberals wanted to get it passed, there was a lot of horse-trading, a lot of discussion, a lot of debate about what was right for the workers of Nova Scotia, the injured workers of Nova Scotia. A lot of that stemmed from the select committee that went around this province. The Premier was at that time the Leader of the Third Party, we had the Pictou County Injured Workers Association occupying the Premier's office in 1998. As a result of that the Premier, then the Third Party Leader, moved a motion to have it dealt with in order to clear so that we would have a good debate. I was able to attend one or more of those sessions. I know our colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, did, as did many of the members of this House. A lot of people came forward with a lot of interesting points.

[Page 11782]

Unfortunately, what happened with Bill No. 90 was a lot of those were ignored. So a lot of the problems we had in 1993-94 from the overhaul of the legislation, come 1998 when that committee was reviewing, were ignored when Bill No. 90 was introduced. Instead we saw the same political compromises that, quite frankly, hurt - pardon the pun - injured workers again; re-victimized them; forced them to have to deal with problems that they shouldn't have had to deal with.

Now we see that is being challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada. I believe it's the Martin case that's going, in December, for argument in the Supreme Court because again, the government tried to fix a problem with a patchwork. Instead of looking as a policy as to what was best for the people of Nova Scotia, for the injured workers of Nova Scotia to ensure the system was fair, they listened to a few Nova Scotians and used that as an opportunity to fix a problem by putting patchwork over it, sticking their finger in the dike hoping the dam wouldn't break. Well, the fact is, this happens over and over again with regard to workers' compensation, political solutions that are not necessarily based on sound policy, not based on good law and in many cases, it's injured workers that end up bearing the brunt of that.

All of us as MLAs know full well, we get phone calls all the time with regard to people who are involved in the workers' compensation system. I feel fortunate in some ways because when my constituents come to me, I at least have a bit of a background that I'm able to help them with, but in the end, in many cases you can see the marks on the foreheads of those injured workers because they're banging their heads against the wall of a board and a system that constantly throws roadblocks up to their ability to be rehabilitated.

Talk to any of these workers. They don't say, I want to stay at home on a reduced pension of minimal amount, they want to work. They're frustrated by the system that won't allow them to work, that doesn't allow them to be able to get the training they require to return to work. How many times have I heard vocational rehabilitation officers who try to push people back into jobs - jobs that they're not ready to go to because of health reasons, jobs that they can't do because of health reasons, yet these workers are forced to try these jobs in order, in good faith, to be able to explain to the Workers' Compensation Board that they truly are trying. Because, God forbid, that those workers actually refuse to go and try a new job or try new training that they know, physically, they're not able to do because the board then will definitely make note of it and will make their life more difficult. I've seen that anecdotally many times.

But, we're here to talk about supplementary benefits and I want to focus in on that. Supplementary benefits are for workers who used to be under the old meat chart system because some of those workers, if they weren't able to work, were not getting enough income to survive. They couldn't collect EI because they're not working, maybe CPP disability, but the test for that is more stringent. Maybe they weren't able to get that as well. These workers

[Page 11783]

had nothing. They were injured workers until the system developed supplementary benefits so those workers could have a decent living.

What we have here today is legislation based on the Dorsey report which was a requirement to review the legislation after a set period of time. Mr. Dorsey, as the chairperson, went around, reviewed the legislation, listened to workers, listened to injured workers, listened to employers, listened to other stakeholders and determined, amongst other things, he had lots of recommendations, but one of them - was with regard to supplementary benefits. This government has acted on this based on a recommendation from the Workers' Compensation Board to increase those benefits approximately $3,000 a year, from about $12,000 to about $15,000, and presumably will continue to go up as time goes on. I want to talk about that in a minute as well.

Mr. Speaker, clearly anything that we can do to help those particular workers and increase their benefits, I say, is good for those workers. But I will also note that there are many other workers in this province - and not only workers, let's not forget the workers' compensation widows who tried in vain for a couple of years to get this government to recognize their rights to more benefits because their husbands - mostly husbands - their spouses died on the job in a period of time that was technically outside the bounds, but morally, politically, it was the right thing to do and this government turned a blind eye. That was unfortunate. So supplementary benefits help a small portion of those workers who are mired in the workers' compensation system.

There are many more, Mr. Speaker. I can think of the workers with chronic pain who, quite frankly, have had to deal with a mishmash of solutions to the problem, pre-Hayden, post-Hayden, pre-1996, post-1996, pre-Bill No. 90, post-Bill No. 90; now it's before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Martin case, again to be litigated, and could very well result in this Legislature being brought back next year to deal with the ramifications of what the Supreme Court of Canada is going to say. They could easily decide that this whole Bill No. 90 was unconstitutional because it recognized if you had chronic pain - depending on when you have chronic pain - in a certain window period of time, your benefits are greater than they are for other people. That's not a matter of good politics or good policy, it was a matter of drawing a line in the sand. It could very well be discrimination under Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we don't know, that's for the Supreme Court to decide.

This government, and other governments before it, have allowed those kinds of patchwork decisions to be made, depending on when the workers' compensation system becomes a political problem. Instead of trying to address it as a whole in a way that allows the workers of Nova Scotia to be protected - let's remember, Mr. Speaker, this is the only system they have. They aren't allowed to sue their employer if they're injured at work, they aren't allowed to sue others. They lose that right. We started that back in the early 1900s because they thought it was the just thing to do at the time. There are some now who may

[Page 11784]

question that, but for now it's the only system we have and it's one we must continue to try to ensure is there for injured workers.

So I mentioned chronic pain. Those with chronic pain have been desperately treated by this government and the previous government before them, since the overhaul of the system in the early 1990s. Those are the workers who are most feared. You should watch the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Speaker, you should listen to what they do when a worker with a back injury takes a little too long to get better. They start red-flagging files, they start saying someone has chronic pain, they start sending them to certain doctors, they start trying to shut them down for fear that they are going to be a chronic pain patient, and therefore they're going to be on the system in the long term. They don't care about the patient, they don't care about the client, they don't care about their needs, they just want to make sure they get them off the system. So many of these workers are left behind and they need fixing of the system as well, yet this minister and this government have been unwilling to do that.

I might note, in the Dorsey report he makes specific recommendations to ensure that Nova Scotians and those with chronic pain are provided with enhanced benefits and a system that works for them, is better for them, yet this government has ignored that recommendation. There are many people who have said they have had concerns about the medical opinions being ventured by the doctors who work for the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Speaker. Those doctors, quite frankly, are getting up and making opinions about people they've never met; again, anecdotally you hear that all the time. Dorsey made recommendations with regard to that and this government has ignored those recommendations.

Environmental illness is an ongoing problem, one in which Nova Scotians, of all ages, are affected. Most Nova Scotians know someone who suffers from environmental illness. We've had some serious problems, whether it be Camp Hill, whether it be other locations. Again, I had clients who suffered from it and this government has done nothing to ensure that those workers are provided with the benefits they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, clearly we don't need another patch, another quick fix. We need this government to take a long-term look at the workers' compensation system. The minister promises a review, that sounds like an election gimmick to me. That sounds like, we'll promise a review and when the election is over, if we're lucky enough to win, then we'll worry about it after that.

Mr. Speaker, there has to be more to it than that. There has to be an overhaul of the system to reflect the needs of injured workers in this province. That is what has been missing. It would be good to start with having injured workers actually on the Workers' Compensation Board. Yes, there are labour representatives; yes, there are employer representatives. Why don't we talk about having a seat for injured workers so that they can

[Page 11785]

have someone who can speak for them. They are the ones most directly impacted by this.

I think it is also important to note, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotia has the highest assessed value, assessment rates, and the lowest benefits. Some will argue that's because we had so many years of unfunded liability. That monster has been tamed, yet, still, injured workers are getting the lowest benefits in the country and the employers are paying the highest assessment rates. It's time for us to look at that as well. Again, ignored by the government. If you were downstairs at the press conference you heard the minister say, I want this bill passed fast so those workers can get their cheques for Christmas. That's what he said, for Chrismas.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I've never heard of a more blatant political ploy in the world. We all know the oldest trick in the book for a government is, just before an election, start getting cheques back. Start getting the cheques in the mail, make sure that they get a cheque in the mail with the Nova Scotia emblem or something on it, so they know they got something so that when the member from Pictou East or the member from Sackville-Beaver Bank, or any other member of that government goes to the door and they're an injured worker they can say we did something for injured workers; but there are so many other injured workers.

I'll tell you, every member across there, for every person you run into who happens to be on supplementary benefits, you're going to meet three or four injured workers who have environmental illness, chronic pain, who have complained about the medical opinions of the board. There not on supplementary benefits. What you are passing here today does nothing to help them and they're going to remind you of that. We will remind you of that as well. This is one fix. There are many other big problems that need to be dealt with in this system that this government tends to ignore.

Mr. Speaker, also, not getting into the specifics of the bill, but the calculation in this legislation is worrisome. It talks about supplementary benefits being based on one half the Canadian industrial average wage, which, calculated now, as of August 2002, would be a little over $15,000. That is a fair bit of money, but what this government defines as one half of the average industrial Canadian wage is based on what they define it in regulation. They can define it as anything. Regulations aren't passed by this Legislature. If there was no precedent maybe we could see that the government would be honest and honourable in what they're doing here. What I think of every time I think of that line is minimum wage. When the minimum wage first came in in this province and across Canada it was supposed to be a living wage. It was supposed to continue to go up, but they said it will be done in regulation. What happened over the past 15, 20, 30 years, is that the minimum wage has not become a living wage, it's become a wage that puts people in poverty.

The government always go back on the fact that they need to issue the order through Cabinet, they need regulations in order to do it. The fact is, they rarely do it unless there is political pressure. Why not make this legislation, such that on an annual basis, the rate

[Page 11786]

automatically goes up as legislated. That is what our legislation would say, Mr. Speaker, that is why we introduced a similar bill today.

Mr. Speaker, this government hasn't done that. Instead of insuring the supplementary benefit - and, by the way, I might add that right now, I believe, the supplementary benefit will go up every year as the Act is now written because it's tied to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for Old Age Security. Whenever the federal government raises it, their's goes up as well. By getting rid of that definition and putting in a definition that requires Cabinet to have to approve on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis or once every ten years, we're taking it away from an annual trigger that's in the legislation to Cabinet having to make that decision. All it takes is a little pressure from a few employers waving around the fear of their assessment rates going up for the Cabinet, one year, two years, five years, ten years, to agree not to increase that rate, and we're taking it out of the sphere of legislated annual increases that are triggered automatically, they're take out of the hands of politicians, they're putting it into the hands of politicians.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's a small point, but it's an important one, because it will, I suggest, have a dramatic impact on supplementary benefits in the future. There will be employers out there, maybe not this year but in coming years, who will pressure the government to not increase it because they will say that's one more reason why my assessment rate is going up, that's one more reason why I don't want to continue my business in Nova Scotia. As an employer those are legitimate points, it's their assessment rates that pay for the workers' compensation system.

But, Mr. Speaker, if we truly believe that supplementary benefits are important for those workers who need it, if that's why we're passing this legislation, then let's depoliticize it, let's take it out of the hands of Cabinet, let's take it out of the hands of politicians and say there will be an annual trigger, so when employers come back and ask the government, ask ministers, ask government MLAs, this year, it's only one year, why don't you forget about raising the supplementary benefits this year, that it's just as easy to say that's in the legislation, we would have to change the legislation, that's too complicated, we're not prepared to do that.

Now we have the opposite. With this legislation, we will have the government having to make a decision each year as to whether they want to increase that supplementary benefit, and I think that is worrisome. It politicizes the process, and that's not something that our Party can support with regard to this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I'm only going to speak for a couple more minutes, but I think, in summary, this government has missed an opportunity. The Dorsey report has been out now for awhile and the people of Nova Scotia have had a chance to look at it, injured workers

[Page 11787]

have had a chance to study it, employers have had a chance to study it, and instead of using this as an opportunity - and I would suggest to you, yes, there's an election coming, everything becomes more political - why not use this as an opportunity for this government to really show its commitment to injured workers in this province?

They vote, they are active in their communities, and they want to ensure the legislation is there to benefit them and that they have a fair shake at what they deserve. They worked hard, they didn't choose to get injured, they didn't want to get injured, but because of some reason, whether it's negligence or whether it just be accidental, they were injured and as a result of that many of them are unable to work ever again, or at least are not able to work in the profession or career that they chose. That is devastating and, if it happened to anyone of us, we would be devastated.

Instead, we take these workers, Mr. Speaker, and we throw them on the scrap heap and we say we're not going to do anything for you. Patchwork of the legislation is not the answer. Some workers under this legislation, a few, will get extra benefits through supplementary benefits, but there are many more workers in this province, through chronic pain, through bad medical opinions of the Workers' Compensation Board, through environmental illness and many other serious problems the Workers Compensation Board fails to address, that this government fails to address, who aren't benefiting.

It's time that government take a wholesale look at the legislation, take a look at what they're doing and how injured workers can be provided with what they need, whether that is another member on the Workers' Compensation Board to represent injured workers, whether that be accepting the Dorsey recommendations with regard to chronic pain and medical opinions, or whether that be a serious review of overhauling the legislation to ensure injured workers are treated fairly. All of these things can be done, must be done. If this government is serious about going into the next election, if those backbenchers want to go door-to-door and praise what they've done for workers' compensation, then this legislation alone won't do that.

There will be a few workers who will get their cheques in the mail and will be happy, but there will be many more who are getting nothing and are still complaining, are still upset about how they're treated by the system, and the system is not being fixed. Instead of continuing to put their fingers in the dike, I encourage this government to start building a new dam and seeing how workers in this province can be truly treated with respect.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in support of this particular piece of legislation. It's a very important piece of legislation that I believe all members of the House will conclude is a benefit not only to the injured worker - although, most importantly, it's a benefit and a very worthy benefit for these injured workers, but it

[Page 11788]

will also benefit all Nova Scotians because through this no-fault insurance program, Mr. Speaker, essentially what we're doing is protecting the injured workers of the province and ensuring that should any Nova Scotian fall victim to accident or injury in the job workplace, then they will be afforded that protection. It is very unfortunate actually that the minister had to be dragged before this Legislature pretty well, figuratively speaking, to introduce this particular piece of legislation.

As we recall, in the previous two weeks, Mr. Speaker, questions were asked by both Opposition Parties about the implementation of this legislation and as late as last Wednesday when the question was put to the minister by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova, he indicated quite clearly that he hadn't even received a formal request to provide supplemental benefits, but what he didn't indicate to the House was that he did receive an informal request. My understanding is that the minister wasn't interested in receiving a formal request, that is something in writing, and that's very disappointing because it was quite obvious, as I indicated after the minister's press conference today, that clearly what the government was doing was to use 850 or so injured workers in this province as a means of trying to score some cheap political points come election time. Because when the Spring session of the Legislature rolls around, in keeping with the Premier's promise that we would have an election next year and presumably some time in the second week of June next year, that would fit quite nicely that the government would say look at all these wonderful things we're doing for Nova Scotia, including the injured workers.

So that's a pretty good strategy and perhaps there would be certain politicians who would like to take advantage of that and not just the Minister of Environment and Labour, but that having been said, they were exposed for really what their political agenda was and now the injured workers are going to see their benefit and, hopefully, this will be good not only for the injured workers, but also for the Workers' Compensation Board, notably mentioning the employers of this province because at the end of the day it comes down to the bottom line and the cost of doing business.

Mr. Speaker, the minister is aware that there were six options put before the government as to how to proceed with this particular piece of legislation. He has indicated that he had discussions with Mr. Dorsey on that and indicated in the actuarial analysis these six points were outlined and I will reiterate, Mr. Speaker, for all members of the House. First of all, we have to know really, for the layperson and those who aren't overly familiar with the system, we have to know what supplemental benefits are all about, what this program is all about. It's essentially to bring the level of income for our long-term disabled, pre-Hayden, that's 1990, up to an acceptable standard of income as was intended through this Hayden tribunal that worked its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now, I know the question was raised as well, you know, should we be grandfathering this particular piece of legislation to go from 2002 back to 1990. Well, realistically, I think the cost associated with that would almost make it cost prohibitive and the premiums to

[Page 11789]

employers would be quite substantive. We may or may not want to agree. We may not want to acknowledge, but that's the reality, and I think the more we put this type of information on the table, both for injured workers and for the employers and for all Nova Scotians, the easier it is to get resolve on issues like this because that's part of the problem. People don't know, and governments, and what we have here today is another example of why people really become unsettled.

All the minister had to do, in my view, was when this issue came before his department, was say, yes, we've had discussions about this, when a formal request comes in, we'll deal with it. We have had informal discussions and we're considering some of the options, but when the final option comes, we'll deal with that. At least that would have been a half-way acknowledgement that, yes, I'm aware of the situation, we're seriously considering it, we're reviewing it with all our stakeholders, employers, injured workers, the Workers' Compensation Board, those who are crunching the numbers and so on and so forth. People get really unsettled when they feel that they're being somehow manipulated for one reason or the other.

So, just to identify what these six options are - and the government hasn't indicated clearly in the legislation and I do stand to be corrected, which of the options that the government is going to proceed with.

Option number one states that the enhancements will include only 50 per cent of Canada Pension disability pension and the total income used as an offset to the current income threshold of $12,120. Well, that obviously would have one cost implication. The second cost implication would be to increase the income threshold from $12,120 to $14,965. Option number three, increase the income threshold from $12,120 to $13,924. Obviously, this option is excluded by virtue of the minister's comments. Option number four, increase the maximum amount payable from $424 per month to $504 a month. Based on what the minister has indicated, that may apply to some, but not to all and I will go into more detail on that. Option number five, increase both the income threshold to $14,965 and the maximum to $504. Finally, option number six, eliminate the current maximum of $424.

So what we see is that, depending upon which option you look at, that would have a cost implication to the board and it would also have an implication to the injured worker, depending upon the level of income for that injured worker. I tabled those figures a little earlier today because I felt that we need clarity on what the minister was trying to say - not just by the terminology in the legislation, but we also need some clarity on this figure of $14,500, I believe was the figure that the minister used.

Clearly the figures that were laid out in the Dorsey report are a little bit different than what the minister has suggested. His figures are somewhere in the mix. What Mr. Dorsey has indicated is considerable concern about the figures that were being provided by the board. The minister has indicated the total cost would be approximately $4 million a year for the

[Page 11790]

employers of this province. My question would be, is that $4 million based on the figures that were supplied by the Workers' Compensation Board? Is that $4 million based on figures that were provided by the actuarial partners to Mr. Dorsey? Where did those figures come from and how solid are those figures?

I think that's a fair and reasonable question, particularly not only for the injured workers because we want to ensure that the injured workers are really getting the fair deal that the minister says they are. The general optics would be yes. I would have to conclude, yes, on that, but are they being short changed? Could they be getting a little bit more? We don't know that, because based on what Mr. Dorsey and his report has indicated, in many cases, Mr. Speaker, the Workers' Compensation Board has continuously provided figures that were not consistent with his findings and, in many cases, to frustrate the work of his committee well after the fact that they had commissioned these figures from the Workers' Compensation Board and well after they had been paid to provide those figures. Now, why is this a continuum of concern for Mr. Dorsey and the committee?

[3:15 p.m.]

The first question I asked when that report was put out, Mr. Speaker, was why weren't there figures attached to each of the options that were laid out in terms of revamping the system, providing amended legislation to make the system work a little more cost- effectively? There were no cost factors to anything. What I discovered from Mr. Dorsey was that we couldn't rely on those figures. They were so out of whack that he just couldn't rely on those. So how do we know today that the figures that the minister has given us - and I don't suggest for a moment that the minister would have one set of figures and provide another, I think he's doing much the same as what I did when I was minister, he's acting on the best possible advice that's being provided to him. My position is, based on experience and based on the information that has come forward since 1993-94 and based on the amending legislation back in 1998-99, I think the minister has the benefit of those who walked before him in questioning these figures.

Mr. Speaker, the issue on a wide range of issues are issues of concern for Mr. Dorsey. The issue of the two-fifths factor, for that two-day waiting period, as the minister well knows what I'm referring to, the board had one set of figures. The cost to the administration was so overwhelming that it was cost prohibitive to do it, to make the change, but, yet, that wasn't the findings of the actuarial experts that Mr. Dorsey had worked with. Why, on two major issues, was there such a dramatic difference of opinion?

That's just two; look on the issue of scope of coverage. I think there was a little more harmony and thought on that but, most interestingly, Mr. Speaker - and this is an issue that I had to grapple with and we were in the process of moving towards that, and I would have favoured that - providing universal coverage outlining which ones would be exempt for targeted reasons. For example, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and that's because they have

[Page 11791]

their own sick benefits and disability policy and death benefits policy and so on, it's rather comprehensive. Not every organization has that benefit, but there are many corporate citizens in this province, for example, the banking institutions. I still ask this question, why aren't the banks providing workers' compensation protection?

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Bill No. 90.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Bill No. 90, if the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre had listened to the earlier dialogue on the points that I was making he would come to follow, but his point is very well taken - Bill No. 90. Mr. Speaker, that was enabling legislation to address that. Was it a perfect document? No, it wasn't a perfect document. Was it a lot better than what we had before we started? Sure. If we can put $40 million in the hands of injured workers in this province and eliminate that backlog as we did, I would say that's progress. That's darn good progress, and there was a good collaborative, collective will by all three Parties. I respect the fact that the NDP didn't support the legislation. I don't agree with it, because there was more good in that than there was not so good, but that's their prerogative, so be it.

Mr. Speaker, talk to the injured workers who benefited by that piece of legislation, many of them, particularly those who were taken out of the backlog, dealing with the issues of chronic pain. I raise those points because the minister has a rather unique opportunity, not just to listen to the employers - and don't listen just to the injured workers either - because everyone has their own point of view. The workers, as one of my colleagues has suggested, feel that they're grossly underpaid, and in many cases they are. The employers feel that their premiums are too high, and in many cases they are, when you go sector by sector.

But one of the things that we did, Mr. Speaker, through the Occupational Health and Safety Act, was to actually make it better for the employers and the employees of this province. We did that because of the due diligence factor and the educational programs on occupational health and safety. When you look at the cost of that program to the department, for the two years that I was there, the two budgets that I was involved in, the cost to the workers' compensation system, i.e. the employers, was far less than the cost-benefit saving to industry as a whole.

The net saving was there to the tune of, I believe - and I stand to be corrected, I am just going to use some round figures - approximately $4 million, maybe $4.5 million, and the net saving was, approximately, between, $6.5 million and $7 million. Again, I don't want those numbers to be definite, but that kind of paints the picture about the net benefit, not only the fact and that's because of the reductions of preventable acts claims to the board through this program.

[Page 11792]

That's why I raise considerable concern about the shift of responsibility from the Department of Environment and Labour over to the Workers' Compensation Board. I certainly wouldn't want to see what happened in Ontario, where just recently we saw media reports where employers were putting pressure on the employees, even though they were not able to go to work - they were really injured workers - they were actually encouraged to go to work, kind of clip in their time sheet and then go home, and they would still get paid as if they were at work, just so certain employers would be able to keep their accident rating very low, in other words, enjoy a good low premium.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to this issue about universal coverage. The average rate - I think earlier today I indicated $2.52 - is actually $2.54 of which approximately 70 cents of that automatically goes to the unfunded liability. That's to pay down that $675 million debt that was left because of the mismanagement and the politicization of the workers' compensation system under the John Buchanan Administration. (Interruptions)

Well, the Minister of Health is saying be nice. I am being nice. This is one of my better days. So, enjoy the benefits. Mr. Speaker, we were fortunate enough to be able to make some tough decisions that saw that turn around. That unfunded liability, I believe, is somewhere around $325 million, maybe a little less. The employers should be in a position to enjoy, in the not too distant future, a reduction of their rates. In fact, if the economy is faltering somewhat because of the international pressures and other factors surrounding Kyoto or international trade or NAFTA or just a general downturn in the economy, I think the government, with the Workers' Compensation Board, should consider a reduction in the premiums for the employers of this province, and still not have a negative impact on the long-term strategy for reducing that unfunded liability.

Mr. Speaker, at the rate we're paying it down, we're going to pay it off in about 16 years as opposed to the 45 years that was laid out. That's how well it was managed. Some of my colleagues on the socialist bench would say maybe that's why the injured workers weren't getting the benefits they should have. We were all giving the benefit to the employers. But, if we hadn't taken the action that we did, there would be no workers' compensation system. The minister knows that.

On the issue that was put out by Mr. Dorsey in his report, the actuarials showing that if you go to universal coverage, you could reduce the premiums from $2.54 to $2.19. That's a considerable reduction in premiums. Now, is it fair to allow the banking institutions, the financial institutions to get off so free? I don't think so. It would have a negligible impact on their bottom line. When you consider, number one, with all the mechanization that's going on across the board with these ATMs and the reduction in staff and everything that's so computerized, my heavens, here's an opportunity for the government to actually help injured workers on this issue of supplementary benefits and still be able to provide a benefit to the employers of this province.

[Page 11793]

Mr. Speaker, it wasn't until 1999, when we cast the net to cover the non-Nova Scotia interests. Prior to 1999, with Bill No. 90, which the NDP criticized so much, the employers from outside Nova Scotia could come in and do business in Nova Scotia for up to six months and did not have to pay Nova Scotia premiums. Is it any wonder many of the employees, the construction workers across this province were protesting about losing contracts to non-Nova Scotia firms and not being able to be hired, and the work crews were being brought in from other provinces. They had legitimate complaints.

What did we do? We brought that waiting period or that administrative period for employers, companies coming from outside the province, down to five working days. That generated millions of dollars for the workers' compensation system. It helped Nova Scotia businesses to go on an even playing field, with a competitive edge. It helped provide more money for injured workers, many of the 2,600 who were locked in the backlog. This is the type of policy decision that should be made in concert with all stakeholders and not this static approach that we seem to be viewing.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to delay the issue too long, but it's important to note as well, with injured workers, I will give you an example, with regard to the injured workers who had appeals before the Workers' Compensation Board, workers who were former employees of the Sydney Steel Corporation. I understand there were, approximately, between 45 and 50. Now some of those who had outstanding issues before the board had applied to go before what we call the ADR Program or the Alternate Dispute Resolution, whereby both the employer and the employee would agree to go into an informal session with representatives from the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal, a representative of the Workers' Advisers Program, just an informal type of session, where they could arbitrate a resolve to the problem.

Now, when this government took over one of the first things they did was to get rid of the ADR Program, which had, on average, a 75 per cent success rate for both employers and employees. The government says that it wants to help injured workers. What's the first thing they did when they got on that side of the House? They cut the ankles from under this program, which was a very effective program. Many, both employers and employees, who had agreed to go before this tribunal, surreptitiously the Minister of Justice put an end to that program. I think that's very unfair.

Mr. Speaker, is this a good program, this program of providing additional supplementary benefits? Absolutely, the lower the income, the better it is, and some injured workers were pitifully below the poverty level. I don't want to go through all the figures, I have tabled those figures for all members of the House. I would encourage members from the government backbenches, particularly those who run their own small business - would be very interested in these figures, they would be very interested in the cost analysis that was carried out by Mr. Dorsey and his team.

[Page 11794]

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the benefit, on average - I'm not going to go through every option because the minister knows what I'm referring to and the document is now tabled, but if you were receiving less than $5,000 a year you would receive about a 12 per cent increase under option number five.

Just to recap, I believe we're dealing with option number two. So we'll go back and look at option number two and here's what would happen. If you were making less than $5,000 a year your income would go up to about $7,770 a year. If you were making between $5,000 and $7,000 your income would go up, your benefits - I shouldn't say income, it's a benefit, it's a disability benefit - would go up to about $11,376. If you were making between $7,000 and $10,000 it would go up to $13,724. If you were making between $10,000 and $12,120 your benefits should have gone up to $14,965. Well, the minister used the figure $14,500, so there's been a little bit of tailoring of the numbers, so to speak. I don't know if that's because another set of figures came in from the board or if in fact this is just an arbitrary mix of satisfying differing opinions.

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the minister to bring some of these issues forth as quickly as possible. Don't get caught up in the political game that politicians sometimes do. I think the minister has a unique opportunity to stand tall on this particular issue. He will stand tall on this despite that fact that he was pretty well dragged in here by a hook to introduce this legislation. But that's yesterday.

We finally got him in here, kicking and screaming, we got him here and he was good enough to introduce the legislation; a little bit disappointed that he won't score the political points he wanted to next Spring, or, at least, the Premier will be disappointed because it doesn't fit into the Rumsfeld plan that the government was putting forth, trying to score as many political points as close to the election as possible and make everybody feel good. (Interruptions)

Pardon? Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is trying to communicate, but I just can't hear what he's - the Minister of Health, as best I can interpret is saying, I'm on the right track and to keep up the good work. I think that's what he said and I appreciate his support.

Mr. Speaker, with those few points, I would like to indicate that our caucus will be fully supporting this particular piece of legislation, but be very careful on how the regulations are defined and are articulated because it could very well be a very good thing for the minister or it could be a very bad thing for the injured workers and the employers. The bottom line is, there are 30,000 small businesses in Nova Scotia that contribute to this. I know the large stakeholders, for those who aren't aware, is the alliance of manufacturers and exporters of Nova Scotia. They contribute about 60 per cent of the total cost to the board, so that's a major issue.

[Page 11795]

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the minister to be very diligent and not to be political in the articulation of those regulations governing this particular amendment and I would also encourage the minister to seek the input and, hopefully, the approbation of the employers of the province directly through their various spokespersons and the injured workers who would have a direct stake in this because we do not want to go back to the Buchanan days whereby the taxpayers of this province will have to bail out, in part, the workers' compensation system.

I know the good member for Yarmouth, who runs his own business, knows full well (Interruption) He used to. See, that's what being under a Progressive Conservative Government will do to you. You have to give up your business, you see, and let somebody else take up the torch. (Interruption) No, that's not correct. Any non-member of Cabinet can run his own business directly and the NDP don't really understand that because they've never been in government and never will, but that's another issue. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it's too tempting to pick on the socialists because what would I do for the other 59 minutes? I'm not going to waste that much time, you know, the frivolous debate, but this is a very serious piece of legislation. I know the injured workers support it. I know the employers of the province support it and, obviously, there's indication that all members of the House support it and I would certainly encourage it to be moved on to the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, just a few words on Bill No. 155, I want to basically thank the minister for bringing this bill forward. You know, again, it's something that we don't - do we agree with it in its entirety? Not really, I mean I would have liked to have seen the bill go somewhere where the bill our Party introduced today, keep it in the legislation, and follow raises through there as opposed to in the regs but, nonetheless, we're here where we are today because of the diligence, I would have to say, around the injured workers' groups across this province who have really pressured the government, pressured the board, pressured the other two Parties, to bring this forward. The one thing they realized that the board had agreed to around the Dorsey report and we realize there are many things in the Dorsey report that should be coming forward and the minister and I have disagreed over this, the slow implementation of that process but, nonetheless, we're here today to talk about the introduction so Bill No. 155 can go forward.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that will help those pre-Haydens as they're referred to, who are living on subsistence-type pensions. These men and women are just eking out a living and I was talking to a gentleman last week and at this time of year he literally debates with himself whether it's getting fewer groceries so he can get a bit more oil in the tank or

[Page 11796]

vice-versa and they're not going to live in the lap of luxury. I think it will go down to giving these injured workers a bit more dignity and I think, as many of us in this House are aware, the women and men that work in various industries in this province realize that everyone is just a work day away from being an injured worker.

Mr. Speaker, we have to be ever vigilant, and we have to be ever vigilant in the form of workplace safety, and that also has to show up when those types of accidents happen, that the safety net that we call the workers' compensation system is there for them. It's there for them in many ways, not the least of which is it will be there in a way that we will not see these injured workers economically harmed. It is, by all accounts, a no-fault system. No one should be punished for being hurt in the workplace. By virtue of no-fault, we realize the employers can't come to harm because of this, so it should not be of any economic harm to the injured workers.

There has been much said, before me, about certain aspects of changes in the board in the last few years and around legislation. Some of it I agree with, other statements, I have to say, are more in the realm of the Brothers Grimm. We could go on ad nauseam about the chronic pain situation and where we find that piece of legislation before the Supreme Court of this country. It wasn't as rosy a picture as was painted by some of the previous speakers.

Nonetheless, I will not take up too much of this House's time today, Mr. Speaker. I want to say that while I would have liked to have seen some different things in that bill, I agree with it in principle, and I think our job here today is to provide speedy passage to see this go to the Law Amendments Committee and to bring some dignity to some people who have been forgotten by past bills.

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

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not seeing anybody else getting up from the Opposition, so I would like to get up and again thank them for allowing this to come forward in second reading today. I think the fact that they have kept their comments relatively brief, considering the importance of this piece of legislation, speaks well of them, and as such I would move second reading of Bill No. 155.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 155. 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.

[Page 11797]

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

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

Bill No. 149 - Taker Estate Subdivision Act.

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

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, this concludes the government business for today. Tomorrow being Opposition Day, I would like to pass to the NDP caucus, the Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Opposition business for tomorrow will be Bill No. 145 and Bill No. 157. I would like to move that the House do rise until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The subject for tonight's late debate is:

[Page 11798]

"Therefore be it resolved that a Tory promise is equivalent to a broken promise."

[3:45 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

TORY PROMISE: BROKEN PROMISE - EQUIVALENCY

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on this resolution. I certainly would invite any or all of my colleagues in the Legislature to join in the debate, but in particular, extend an invitation to the member for Yarmouth to perhaps get on his feet today and join in the debate since he was such a vocal member during Question Period earlier today. This would certainly be a good time for the member for Yarmouth to stand up and be heard; look forward to hearing from him.

I'm sure that this resolution will be upsetting to members on the government side of the House, but as the saying goes, sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth hurts. You can even base it on an old saying that a promise is actually a promise. I'm sure we've all heard that saying from one time or another, or you can picture the little child who looks up at their mommy or daddy and says, but you promised. You know, mommy or daddy, a promise is a promise, you can't break a promise. Well, you can if you make a Tory promise, Mr. Speaker because if you make a Tory promise what you have is already a broken promise, in effect.

Three and a half years ago, the group that now sits on that side of the House, that now finds itself bereft of any original ideas whatsoever, that promised the moon or promised the sun and the stars just to get elected, they had no intention of honouring all of their promises from the very beginning. They knew that. As a matter of fact they probably made a lot of promises knowing full well that they would break them, that they would not keep them.

Along with the old saying that a promise is a promise, there used to be some other great sayings that would be used from time to time, such as your word is your bond and it goes on. All of those, of course, don't apply to the current group that holds the position of government in this province.

I would give you an example that nowhere is the truth more evident than in the field of post-secondary education today, where students are still waiting for a replacement for the loan remission program that this government has promised. I'll go into a little bit more detail

[Page 11799]

on that Mr. Speaker, but before I get into that, there were some bigger promises that have been made as well.

The main promise of this government when it came to power was to fix health care and they said that it would cost $46.5 million. The Premier, at that time also said that $1.5 billion was enough to run a health care system. Those were the promises that were made. That's what was said. The truth is that now we're spending $2 billion on health care and still the services aren't any better.

I don't need to look any further than my own riding where emergency rooms are shut down on the weekends, depending on the availability of doctors. You don't have to look any further than the Strait-Richmond area where the fiasco involving a doctor who was supposed to locate in the Strait-Richmond area has still not been resolved to this very day.

Look no further than those two examples of the fact that that promise has been broken from day one. Even after $500 million more in health care the government still wants more money from Ottawa. It's still not enough. It's still not enough. To make it worse, let me give you - there are plenty of examples where this government has spent money for medical equipment, money that came from the federal government, provided by the federal government, and then went around claiming it as its own. You claimed it as your own. Many announcements were made in hospitals throughout this province where Tory Cabinet Ministers were patting themselves on the backs saying this is what we've done with our money. If the truth be known, it was federal money.

Mr. Speaker, the health care promise has been one of the promises that has been so blatantly broken. To make matters worse, the Premier has said as well that he would not add to the debt of this province and after three and a half years in office, the government still continues to borrow more money than it takes in and that's to the tune of $100 million a year. Now, the Premier can quote all the supporters he wants, and he has been doing that of late, but average Nova Scotians will never believe that this government is living within its means. How can you believe that a government is living within its means when it borrows $11,000 each and every hour?

So, Mr. Speaker, the other great myth is that this government claims to have made some tough decisions to balance the budget and everyone knows that they have not. The government has raised taxes and user fees. It continues to borrow money, but it says that it has made the tough decisions.

AN HON. MEMBER: The nurses.

MR. WILSON: Well, you're right, there have been some tough decisions made, but that depends on who you are. Nurses are a great example. We all know what happened here with the nurses' situation, the paramedics' situation. We saw what happened and we debated

[Page 11800]

for hours and hours on end during Bill No. 68. The Health Minister can spend money hand over fist in health, but no result, and we've seen time and time again, especially of late, the example the Transportation Minister sets. He can borrow hundreds of millions of dollars of more money and he's in a budget bind but, as I said and as I referred at the beginning of my remarks, Mr. Speaker, to post-secondary education, if you're a student in one of our universities or colleges throughout this province, then by this government you're out of luck. Now, it's a fact and it is the truth that the first act of this government was to cancel a loan remission program and they did not put any other program in place of that loan remission program.

They also cut funding to universities as well, Mr. Speaker, and now despite - and here's the word again - a two-year promise, another promise by the Tories to implement a tax program for students with high debt loads, they did nothing, absolutely nothing. When it comes to the students in this province, they know, perhaps better than anyone else, that a Tory promise is indeed a broken promise. Those examples alone should lead you to the ultimate conclusion, I would think, that indeed sometimes, even though in our innocent youth I would suppose we hold dear to the premise that a promise is a promise, not something that you make and not intend to keep, but indeed if we're taught at a very tender age that you keep your promises and you honour your promises, then it certainly has not rubbed off on the government of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, a little over three years ago our government was elected to office with a clear mandate to put Nova Scotia on course for a better future. On August 16th of each year our Premier has provided Nova Scotians with an update as to the progress on our plan - Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course - a report that shows we are a progressive and accountable government, a government that is focused on the priorities of Nova Scotians. Finally, after 40 years of living beyond our means, we have the power to do a little more of the things we know are crucial to making life better for Nova Scotians.

Three years later the plans are in place. The work is well underway and the benefits are beginning to show. Just over three years ago we made commitments to Nova Scotians, and three years later we continue to fulfill and move on those commitments because unlike those members opposite, we feel a promise made is a promise kept.

Since it appears they've forgotten many of these initiatives which we have fulfilled,

I'll refresh their memories. We've invested in many ways in our health system; for example, we have more nurses. In 2001, the province's first nursing strategy was established, which has resulted in more nurses working in Nova Scotia. (Applause) The statistics show that 154 more nurses are licensed to work in Nova Scotia today, and that 282 more are working in permanent full-time or part-time positions compared to last year.

[Page 11801]

We got government out of the steel business; we finally were able to close Sydney Steel and ensure former Sysco employees received appropriate pensions and training.

We invested in health care. This year alone we invested $130 million more to secure and improve health services. And the Premier, during his State of the Province Address, announced secure funding to the province's health authorities for three years. For nearly a decade, nobody in health knew how much money they were getting from year to year, leading to annual funding battles that created fear and anxiety throughout the province. Now, by securing funding on an ongoing basis, we are doing something no other government in Canada has done. Now those within our health care system will be able to plan and manage for the long term. (Applause)

In education, while the Liberal Leader talks of holding a summit, we're doing something now. We are putting more books, technology and resources in the classroom. (Applause) The Learning for Life Plan is improving the quality of education by adding more than 100,000 new books to the Active Young Readers program, along with 3,000 professional resources for teachers. (Applause) Our Education Minister has announced smaller class sizes, more teachers. We have a three-year plan that will see classes in Primary, Grade 1, and Grade 2, limited to 25 students. (Applause) This plan includes $18 million and more than 170 teachers over the period.

We're boosting Nova Scotia's growing tourism industry. Our government re-established a Department of Tourism and Culture. Nova Scotia's tourism industry is a major economic driver, contributing $1.22 billion in revenues last year. This year visitations and room nights have sold, were up over 4 per cent to the end of September, another good accomplishment from this government.

As opposed to the former government, which let our roads go into disrepair - many members of that government still sit across the floor - we are investing in our roads.

The last budget marked the third consecutive year that our government increased capital funding for roads and bridges. It's furthering a commitment to increase funding for road construction by $31 million over a three-year period; that on top of the additional $10 million in annual maintenance funding for rural roads.

We're building on our economy in so many other ways. With our document, Opportunities for Prosperity, as our guide, we are reducing barriers to employment. Our government is providing Pharmacare, child care, transportation and other supports, to help people on assistance find meaningful employment.

Of course, no government could ever satisfy all of the Opposition's demands that we spend tens and tens of millions more dollars; that the NDP talked of freezing tuition fees today is but one example.

[Page 11802]

Of course, most of their demands ignore the fact of whether we are able to afford these demands or not - we have to be able to pay for them - ignoring completely who would dearly pay if we listened; that would be our children.

Our government increased spending in many areas of government knowing we were investing in Nova Scotia's priorities - protecting our children's futures and advancing Nova Scotia's future prosperity - and we still deliver on our promises to bring in a balanced budget in three years. (Applause)

In order to secure vital social programs in Nova Scotia's future, in order to secure greater opportunity for more Nova Scotians to live and work at home, we have no choice, we need to live within our means. Good government is just not about the bottom line, good government is about a lot more.

[4:00 p.m.]

As our Premier said in August, our government knows it's about making the right decisions, measuring needs against wants, cost against benefits, the future against the past.

It's about fairness. It's about having the courage, the vision and the foresight, to do that which is right, but is not always popular; what you know in your mind makes sense, and what you know in your heart, is right. It's about thinking ahead, thoughtful planning, a lot of hard work.

Mr. Speaker, for three years we've been working hard to provide Nova Scotians with good government, and that's exactly what we'll continue to do. Earlier I mentioned just some highlights of our first three years in government, just some of the commitments, we made and kept. There are many others: more support for autistic children and family caregivers; more money for accessible transportation; more on-line services; new investments to help our children get off to a good start; to promote healthy living; and a new skills agenda to name just but a few.

In fact, "Strong leadership . . . a clear course, Three Years Later", identifies our program in fulfilling more than 150 of our commitments. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll be adding to that list, and building on our progress.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member opposite, for bringing forward a motion, that I might have the opportunity to say a few words. (Applause)

[Page 11803]

MR SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I believe it was Robert Service who said, or probably wrote, that a promise made is a debt owed. Well, it seems to me that we have examples in this House of that government there and that crowd there, as a previous government of lots of debts owed.

I'd like to begin this debate by noting that of the 243 promises made by the John Hamm Government in the 1999 election, the Conservative Party has followed through on less than one-third of those promises, since they've been elected. That's right, you heard me correctly, this government has only delivered on 32 per cent of those Tory blue book promises. They didn't deliver on homes for special care, they didn't deliver on a student relief program, the right-to-know adoption legislation. Remember that one Mr. Speaker? Well, we haven't seen the light of day on that, nor did they deliver on measures to make life better for seniors, and many other things?

It is a sad commentary. Some 68 per cent of the Tory promises remain unfilled as this government keeps its head down and coast towards the election. It's little wonder that the public is getting even more cynical about politics and politicians, when they have this example staring them in the face every single day; that's every single day that they have the courage to call this House into action.

This is isn't the only Party in this House that breaks its promises. The history teacher in me wants to remind you of the former Liberal Government, which in many ways was a great role model for this current government, with regards to this sort of promise - promise and then get elected and forget it. After all, it was the MacLellan Liberals that set a blistering pace for the John Hamm Government to follow when it came to breaking promises. Not only did they break promises, but they're still in the habit of speaking without having their facts straight.

I want to take a few moments and get the facts straight for a few members of that caucus, on a particular topic that's important to me, as the father of a daughter attending university, and as a teacher of young Nova Scotians, who recruited them to go to various universities and post-secondary institutions. It's from that perspective, that I would like to correct the honourable member for Richmond, with a few important facts; after all, never let facts get in the way, when you are a member of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

The MLA for Richmond has gone on the record saying he believes a tuition freeze is unworkable and unrealistic. In fact I heard him today, by way of tape, from The Hawk down in Port Hawkesbury as he spoke to a reporter. I would like to tell Nova Scotian students who are struggling under the weight of massive student debts, that the Liberal Party has no plan to support tuition freezes in this province.

[Page 11804]

Mr. Speaker, that's a sad commentary. The member for Richmond, on November 8th, told The Hawk radio station that tuition freezes have not been undertaken in other provinces; there are no freezes in other provinces. I say it's time for him to get the facts straight. I know saying, Liberal research, is an acronym, it's something like Tory promises, which is the very subject of today's debate; however I find it absolutely astounding that the Liberals can make such a statement without care to the facts, although I guess that's not surprising - consider the history of that Party and the previous government in this province. (Interruptions)

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. In assisting the member for Timberlea-Prospect in my comments, what he did fail to mention is I also made the comment that the Leader of the NDP and their Party wouldn't know an original idea if it hit them in the side of the head. I just thought I would mention that also.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think that's a point of order.

MR. ESTABROOKS: These Liberal members, many of them were part of a previous government which presided over a 75 per cent increase in tuition in this province. They cut funding to universities, they cut the bursary program for students in 1993, and they've allowed student debts to double under their watch when they were the government. I would like to note that during the 1998 election campaign, former Liberal Leader and one-time Premier of this province, Russell MacLellan supported the idea of a tuition freeze, which was brought forward by the NDP at that time.

Then, of course, there are the hapless Tories on the other side of the Chamber. Led by the Minister of Education they cut the Loan Remission Program in 2000; they will add $30 million to the debt of students in this province, and by the time they bring it back next Spring - conveniently, isn't it, Mr. Speaker, just at the time of the election - if they bring it back, the amount of broken promises this minister has made on this issue alone, on this important issue to post-secondary students in this province, is absolutely scandalous. This government has frozen funds to universities, they are using the federal money through the Millennium Scholarship Fund as an excuse to cut back on their own funds to the students.

So let's revisit history here; let's look at some examples. In Manitoba, tuition fees were frozen at the 1999 levels and rolled back by 10 per cent. The good member for Cape Breton Nova would have immediately begun to know, ah, Manitoba, and he would remind us of who the government was and what political stripe they were. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the tuition fees have been frozen at Memorial and at the College of the North Atlantic since 1998, and they were reduced by 10 per cent in 2001, and a further 2 per cent in 2002.

[Page 11805]

In Quebec, tuition fees have been frozen for 15 of the last 20 years, and incidentally, Mr. Speaker, Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in this country. Prince Edward Island, little old Prince Edward Island with its Tory Government, froze tuition fees in 2000-01, an example for that Minister of Education to follow, someone of her political stripe freezing tuition fees on Prince Edward Island. In British Columbia - that's the example of course that the Liberals love to bring up - tuition fees were frozen for five years, and the government funded a 5 per cent reduction in the 2000 provincial budget.

Perhaps the new, shiny Liberal Party Leader, the senator's good son who watches the debates from the public gallery, perhaps . . .

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think the member for Timberlea-Prospect knows that when he was teaching, if his students had had that many inaccuracies in their reports, he would have given them a failing grade.

MR. SPEAKER: I think that's a dispute between two members, it's not a point of order.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the senator's son smiles on. Will he acknowledge in his future statements, or perhaps one of the Education Ministers - I notice the [former] member for Clare is present on occasion in this House - how wonderful it would be to have Robbie Harrison in this House on occasion, perhaps as a visitor - not as a Minister of Education, let me assure you - who would clarify some of the statements of this current crowd when it comes to the need for a freeze on student fees in this province. Or, perhaps, the Minister of Education would be best should she not accept the gauntlet that has been laid down here many times on this topic and follow the example of Prince Edward Island.

You know, it seems the Liberal Party's only idea to support university students is to be involved in the reinstatement of the Loan Remission Program. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's a no-brainer, we've been saying that since day one, but the NDP has a plan. As you know, the honourable Leader of the Opposition introduced a bill in this Chamber on November 8th which would implement a fully-funded tuition fee freeze and it would require the Minister of Education to develop an action plan for sustainable funding within eight months of the freeze. Now, there's a commitment, there's a plan, and there is some hope for young students across this province. Talk about broken promises, talk about the fact that debts erode, Robert Service would have much to learn from the Liberals and the Tories. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for debate has ended.

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 4:11 p.m.]

[Page 11806]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 4820

By: Hon. Jane Purves (Education)

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

Whereas Patrick J. McGrath of Halifax was invested into the Order of Canada by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in a ceremony held at Pier 21 on October 26, 2002; and

Whereas Patrick J. McGrath , a psychologist and researcher at the IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University, has been recognized for his pioneering work on pain management for children and newborns living with cancer; and

Whereas Mr. McGrath was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada, recognizing his national service and a merit of a high degree;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Patrick J. McGrath on his investiture as officer into the Order of Canada.

RESOLUTION NO. 4821

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas on Sunday, June 30th, Glace Bay firefighters responded to a structure fire at 9 Dolphin Crescent; and

Whereas the situation quickly became critical when firefighters were informed that someone might still be trapped inside; and

Whereas four Glace Bay firefighters, upon learning of this situation, donned breathing apparatus and entered the burning home to rescue a 20-month-old girl from the structural inferno, this after a neighbour and two police officers were turned away by heavy smoke;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend Glace Bay Fire Chief Arnold McKinnon and his firefighters for their tremendous response that resulted in saving the life of a 20-month-old baby girl.

[Page 11807]

RESOLUTION NO. 4822

By: Mr. John Chataway (Chester-St. Margaret's)

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

Whereas the Chester District Elementary School Grade 4-5 choir was recently chosen to be included on the 2002-03 Sobeys' Stars of Christmas compact disc, the result of a lot of hard work, auditioning and many hours of practice on the part of choir members and their teachers; and

Whereas the choir's performance of the song Keeping Christmas was selected to be included on the CD; and

Whereas the Sobeys' Stars of Christmas compact disc, a double CD set, is an excellent fundraising project which benefits the schools of all contributing choirs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Chester District Elementary School Grade 4-5 choir for its appearance on the 2002-03 Sobeys' Stars of Christmas compact disc and thank Sobeys for its sponsorship of this important program.

RESOLUTION NO. 4823

By: Hon. Jane Purves (Education)

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

Whereas Bishop's Landing is a landmark in Halifax's architectural history because it is the only residential complex on the harbourfront; and

Whereas the 2.8 hectare site of Bishop's Landing was a former fish plant and the property's development marks the waterfront's return as a place to live and play as well as work; and

Whereas Southwest Properties, the developers of Bishop's Landing, has received top honours from the Waterfront Centre in Washington, D.C., after they reviewed 70 submissions worldwide for the Excellence on the Waterfront Award;

[Page 11808]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize and applaud this achievement by Southwest Properties in addition to helping restore the Halifax waterfront to a former glorious past and an even better future.

RESOLUTION NO. 4824

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas Mr. Louis Deveau is the founder and chairman of Acadian Seaplants Limited which is a seaweed manufacturing, cultivating and processing company specializing in agri-chemical, animal feed, food ingredients and cultivated edible seaweed products; and

Whereas over the past 30 years Mr. Deveau has been a leader in his field, developing his small technology-based business into an international company which exports to over 65 countries; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agricultural College recognized Mr. Deveau with an Honorary Doctorate for being a leader in the life sciences economy during its annual Autumn Assembly on October 23rd;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Mr. Louis Deveau for his commitment to science and innovation within the agri-food and fisheries sectors and congratulate him for his most recent achievement of receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

RESOLUTION NO. 4825

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is an active member of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Food Safety Policy which leads the country in developing food safety standards and policies to protect and improve Canada's food supply; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has already received national recognition as leaders in food safety and public health protection; and

[Page 11809]

Whereas James McCorry of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Food Safety Section has recently been elected by his colleagues as co-chairman of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Food Safety Policy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. James McCorry, Food Safety Analyst, on his appointment to lead the national food safety committee and for his commitment to the health and well-being of his fellow Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 4826

By: Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

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

Whereas on October 14, 1942 at 2:40 a.m., 136 people, passengers and crew died when the ferry Caribou was attacked and sunk by German submarine U69 in the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Caribou was on the regular run from North Sydney to Port-aux-Basques; and

Whereas this past October, hundreds of veterans and dignitaries attended a service aboard the modern-day Caribou to mark the 60th Anniversary of that tragic night; and

Whereas unfortunately there were no representatives of the current government at these ceremonies;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the government to ensure that our province is represented at such important events by elected officials on the government side of the House.

RESOLUTION NO. 4827

By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)

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

Whereas the Minister of Community Services and HRM appear to be listening to the voices of the 710 people who signed the petition urging action by this government to install an elevator in the Captain Spry Lodge at 6 Arnold Drive in Spryfield; and

Whereas the community and residents are pleased that action may finally be taken to right this wrong; and

[Page 11810]

Whereas given the fact that people have been fighting for so long they won't be fully convinced until they actually see some action;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister do the right thing and assure the 40 seniors residing in the Captain Spry Lodge his department will immediately begin installation of an elevator on the premises.