Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-129

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

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4879, Downe, Donald: Public Service - Congrats., The Premier 11908
Vote - Affirmative 11908
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Vital Statistics of Nova Scotia, Hon. A. MacIsaac 11909
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4880, Traer, Dale/Pertus, Darlene - Medical Simulator Comp.:
Participation - Congrats., (by Hon. J. Purves) Hon. J. Muir 11909
Vote - Affirmative 11910
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 159, Health Services and Insurance Act/Hospitals Act,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11910
No. 160, Public Trustee Act, Hon. M. Baker 11910
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4881, Conners, Janet, et al - Blood Collection System:
Justice - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 11910
Vote - Affirmative 11911
Res. 4882, Hilchie, Paddy/Hoadley, Mark/Winters, Jeff:
Lifesaving Efforts (11/14/02) - Congrats., Mr. K. MacAskill 11911
Vote - Affirmative 11912
Res. 4883, Downe, Donald & Darlene: Service - Commend,
Mr. M. Parent 11912
Vote - Affirmative 11912
Res. 4884, Health - Nursing Home Costs: Seniors -
Prem./Health Min. Meet, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11913
Res. 4885, Eskasoni Native Commun. - Band Council: Election -
Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 11913
Vote - Affirmative 11914
Res. 4886, Nat. Res. - Christmas Tree Ind.: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. K. Morash 11914
Vote - Affirmative 11915
Res. 4887, Liberal Leader - Record: Help - Seek, Mr. F. Corbett 11915
Res. 4888, Downe, Donald: Service (N.S.) - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 11916
Vote - Affirmative 11916
Res. 4889, Cameron, Rodger/Cameron Seafoods Ltd.: Entrepreneurial
Achievements - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 11916
Vote - Affirmative 11917
Res. 4890, Shorney's Optical - Glasses: Donation - Thank,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 11917
Vote - Affirmative 11918
Res. 4891, Fitzgerald, Walter: Service - Acknowledge, Mr. W. Gaudet 11918
Vote - Affirmative 11918
Res. 4892, MacDonald, James/MacDonald, Carol/Purdy, Jane/
Sparks, Ray: Excellence in Teaching Awards - Congrats.,
Mrs. M. Baillie 11919
Vote - Affirmative 11919
Res. 4893, Health - North End: Issue - Assist, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11919
Res. 4894, Hebbs Cross FD - Service Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 11920
Vote - Affirmative 11921
Res. 4895, McBurney, Erica: Duke of Edinburgh Award (Bronze Level) -
Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 11921
Vote - Affirmative 11922
Res. 4896, Hand in Hand: Fundraising - Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 11922
Vote - Affirmative 11923
Res. 4897, J.L. Ilsley HS - Water Cleaning Method: Students -
Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 11923
Vote - Affirmative 11924
Res. 4898, Agric. & Fish. - Lobster Fishery: Participants (South West) -
Safe Trip Wish, Mr. C. O'Donnell 11924
Vote - Affirmative 11924
Res. 4899, Dartmouth Players - The Good Doctor: Production -
Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 11924
Vote - Affirmative 11925
Res. 4900, Lunenburg West MLA - Financial Accountability:
Contribution - Recognize, Mr. W. Gaudet 11925
Vote - Affirmative 11926
Res. 4901, Lighthouse Food Bank - Benefit: Organizers,
Mr. J. Chataway 11926
Vote - Affirmative 11927
Res. 4902, Liberals - Advertising: Contents - Read, Mr. W. Estabrooks 11927
Res. 4903, Musq. Rural HS: Band - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 11928
Vote - Affirmative 11928
Res. 4904, N.S. Hosp. Fdn.: Fundraising - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 11929
Vote - Affirmative 11929
Res. 4905, Swift, June - Brier Island: Habitats - Documentation
Encourage, Hon. G. Balser 11929
Vote - Affirmative 11930
Res. 4906, Bruce Chev-Olds: Atl. Can. Top 101 - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 11930
Vote - Affirmative 11931
Res. 4907, N. Queens Bd. Of Trade/Queens Co. Fair Assoc. -
Pavilion: Construction - Plans, Mr. K. Morash 11931
Vote - Affirmative 11932
Res. 4908, Florence Elem. Sch./Children's Wish Fdn.: Fundraising -
Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 11932
Vote - Affirmative 11932
Res. 4909, Ervanowitz, Ralph & Margaret: Anniv. (60th) - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 11932
Vote - Affirmative 11933
Res. 4910, Gould, Marjorie - St. FX: Honorary Deg. - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 11933
Vote - Affirmative 11934
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1333, Health - Nursing Home Costs: Unfair Practices - Cease,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 11934
No. 1334, Educ. - Students (Post-Secondary): Food Banks - Reliance,
Mr. D. Wilson 11935
No. 1335, Justice - Divorce Agreement: Legally Binding - Confirm,
Mr. K. Deveaux 11937
No. 1336, Health - Hepatitis B & C: Strategy - Table, Dr. J. Smith 11938
No. 1337, Health - Buchanan Mem. Hosp.: Nursing Recruitment Plan -
Effects, Mr. F. Corbett 11939
No. 1338, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Vehicle Compliance Officers:
Recognition - Refusal Explain, Mr. B. Boudreau 11940
No. 1339, Health - Ambulance Service: Revenue Generator - Explain,
Mr. G. Steele 11942
No. 1340, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Victoria Co.: Bridges Repair -
Time Frame, Mr. K. MacAskill 11943
No. 1341, NSLC - Private Wine/Specialty Stores: Number - Plans,
Mr. J. Holm 11945
No. 1342, Fin. - Restructuring Funds: List - Reveal, Mr. D. Downe 11946
No. 1343, NSPI - Customer Services: Decrease - Concerns,
Mr. H. Epstein ~ 11947
No. 1344, Prem.: Five Point Quality PSC Plan for N.S. - Basics,
Mr. P. MacEwan 11949
No. 1345, Energy - Distribution Scheme: Support - Explain,
Mr. J. Holm 11950
No. 1346, Health - Blood Satellite Clinics: Fee - DHAs Impact,
Mr. W. Gaudet 11952
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 144, Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2002) Act 11953
Hon. M. Baker 11953
Mr. K. Deveaux 11956
Mr. M. Samson 11960
Mr. P. MacEwan 11963
Hon. M. Baker 11965
Vote - Affirmative 11965
No. 154, House of Assembly Act 11965
Mr. M. Samson 11965
Mr. J. Pye 11967
Hon. N. LeBlanc 11968
Mr. M. Samson 11968
Vote - Affirmative 11968
No. 158, Elections Act 11968
Mr. M. Samson 11968
Mr. J. Holm 11969
Hon. A. MacIsaac 11970
Mr. M. Samson 11970
Vote - Affirmative 11970
No. 160, Public Trustee Act 11971
Hon. R. Russell 11971
Mr. J. Holm 11971
Mr. M. Samson 11972
Hon. N. LeBlanc 11972
Hon. R. Russell 11973
Vote - Affirmative 11973
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 2:47 P.M. 11973
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:11 P.M. 11973
CWH REPORTS 11974
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 146, Municipal Government Act 11974
Hon. A. MacIsaac 11974
Mr. H. Epstein 11974
Mr. M. Samson 11975
Mr. J. Chataway 11977
Hon. A. MacIsaac 11977
Vote - Affirmative 11977
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 11978
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Energy - Nat. Gas.: Distribution System (N.S.) - Establish:
Mr. J. Holm 11979
Mr. P. MacEwan 11981
Hon. G. Balser 11983
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Nov. 26th at 12:00 noon 11985
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 4911, Henderson, Rob/McLaughlin Truck & Trailer: Candlepin
Bowling World Champs (2002) - Congrats., The Speaker 11986
Res. 4912, Layton Fam. - N. Sydney: Contribution - Acknowledge,
Mr. B. Boudreau 11986

[Page 11907]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 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 Sackville-Cobequid:

Therefore be it resolved that the government should work with municipalities and co-ops to establish a Nova Scotia-grown distribution system for our natural gas, rather than using Nova Scotians' money to subsidize the taxpayers of Saskatchewan.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

11907

[Page 11908]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 4879

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 honourable member for Lunenburg West today announced that he will not seek another term; and

Whereas the honourable member has served his constituents with distinction since 1993; and

Whereas the honourable member also served Nova Scotians well as a Minster of the Crown in a number of portfolios including Transportation, Natural Resources and Finance;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the member for Lunenburg West on his years of public service and wish him and his family well as he pursues future opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Standing Ovation)

Certainly, to the honourable member for Lunenburg West, on behalf of myself, for the opportunity I've had to be with this member for the last number of years, I very much respect your position here, you advice over the years, and we wish you all the very best. (Interruptions) I might give him special consideration during Question Period.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 11909]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, inadvertently there was an item that was overlooked and I would ask the concurrence of the House to revert back to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I wish to lay on the table the Annual Report of the Vital Statistics of Nova Scotia for the year 2001.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 4880

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

Whereas two members of our air ambulance crew recently attended an international air medical transport conference in Kansas City, Missouri; and

Whereas flight paramedic, Dale Traer, and flight nurse, Darlene Pertus, competed in the conference's first medical simulator competition where teams are judged as they respond to staged adult and pediatric emergencies inside a mock helicopter and ground ambulance; and

Whereas our air medical flight crew tied for second place with Alberta;

Therefore be it resolved that we recognize this achievement and congratulate Dale and Darlene for all their efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11910]

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. 159 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 197 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Health Services and Insurance Act, and Chapter 208 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Hospitals Act to Ensure that Nova Scotians are Not Required to Pay for Medically Required Services. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

Bill No. 160 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 379 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Public Trustee Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4881

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

Whereas it is 10 years since Nova Scotians were first inspired by the courage of Janet and Randy Conners, who came forward to tell their story in an effort to gain justice for those who had contracted HIV through the blood system; and

Whereas only yesterday criminal charges were laid against those who were responsible for the blood system, when they should have first taken steps to prevent the spread of AIDS through blood transfusions; and

Whereas it can truly be said that Randy and Janet Conners made history in this province and in Canada;

[Page 11911]

Therefore be it resolved that this House affirms its respect for Janet Conners, her late husband, Randy, their son and all who battled to gain justice for people who have become ill due to the transmission of illness by the blood collection system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 4882

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

Whereas Paddy Hilchie, Mark Hoadley and Jeff Winters should be commended by this House for their selfless actions for rescuing a mother and son from a submerged automobile a week ago today; and

Whereas three men braved the ice-cold waters of the marsh to reach these people who were unknown to them at the time; and

Whereas all Nova Scotians should be proud of the three men who have been heralded as the "wingless angels" by mother, Shelly Yates;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Paddy Hilchie, Mark Hoadley and Jeff Winters and all those involved with helping to save Shelly Yates and her son from frigid waters a week ago today.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11912]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4883

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

Whereas it has been mentioned the MLA for Lunenburg West, Mr. Don Downe, has announced that he will not be re-offering for MLA in the next provincial election; and

Whereas Don Downe has been an excellent representative of his constituency serving constituents fairly and impartially in addition to his work on the provincial and national level, particularly his concern for the health of the agricultural industry in the province; and

Whereas Don Downe is a committed Christian, attending the Bridgewater Baptist Church faithfully, and has attempted to practise his faith in his political life;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Don Downe for his years of service, his hard work and dedication and wish he and his wife Darlene all the best in what God may place in his future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 11913]

RESOLUTION NO. 4884

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

Whereas in his State of the Province Address the Premier said "we can create a province where care for our seniors is of the highest quality, where the price of medicine doesn't break the family bank"; and

Whereas that speech was made to the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce because the Premier and Minister of Health have carefully avoided meeting with seniors around the province about the price of their health care; and

Whereas the NDP Leader this morning met the representatives of 14 seniors' groups at the Inverness-Victoria Council of Seniors;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Health Minister should themselves tour the province to meet with seniors and explain why they intend to keep making nursing home residents use their life savings to pay for health care.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 4885

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

Whereas the Eskasoni Native community held their election for Band Council with 3 people running for the position of chief and 55 people seeking one of 10 council seats; and

Whereas Chief Blair Francis won his second consecutive two-term election with almost 65 per cent of the votes cast, in addition to six members being re-elected, four new members being elected to the Band Council; and

[Page 11914]

Whereas almost 96 per cent of the band members participated in the election on the largest Native community in Atlantic Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that we, as members of this House of Assembly, congratulate the Eskasoni Band members for showing a strong commitment to democracy in our province.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 4886

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Christmas trees are famous around the world for their high quality, and the Department of Natural Resources says this year will be no exception; and

Whereas the Christmas tree industry brings $30 million into Nova Scotia's economy each year, and despite several years of drought, the quality of these festive evergreens is very high this year; and

Whereas Lunenburg County has been declared the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, with 40 per cent of the province's top-quality Christmas trees coming from this county;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the importance of our Christmas tree industry to the Province of Nova Scotia and express our support for this valuable industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11915]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 4887

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

Whereas on November 1st, the Liberal Leader said they made a mistake when, in 1998, the former Liberal Government adopted the Community Support for Adults guidelines that require payment of the value of virtually everything a nursing home resident owns; and

Whereas the Liberal Leader fearlessly added that he would not back away from admitting other Liberal mistakes; and

Whereas on November 20th, that very same Liberal Leader tried to claim that the MacLellan Government's 1998 policy was actually attributable to some decision in 1981;

Therefore be it resolved that since the first step toward resolving a problem is to admit that the problem exists, this House urges that whoever is the real Liberal Leader to stand up and make sure that the Liberal insiders seek help rather than engaging in a denial over their own record in government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 11916]

RESOLUTION NO. 4888

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

Whereas the member for Lunenburg West has announced he is leaving provincial politics; and

Whereas Don Downe has served his constituents and the people of Nova Scotia for the past 10 years as an MLA, and has held several Cabinet portfolios; and

Whereas Don Downe is indeed an exemplary example of what we should all strive for in holding public office;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Don Downe for his service to this province and wish him well in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4889

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

Whereas small businesses play a significant role in Nova Scotia's economy, with more than 50 per cent of Nova Scotians employed in small businesses; and

Whereas Cameron Seafoods Ltd. is an example of one such successful business, exporting seafood to 10 countries around the world and achieving millions of dollars in sales; and

[Page 11917]

Whereas in 2002, Cameron Seafoods was named as a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards; it placed 88th in Atlantic Progress Top 101 Companies of Atlantic Canada; and its owner, Rodger Cameron, has been named one of Atlantic Canada's top 50 CEOs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Rodger Cameron and Cameron Seafoods Ltd. on their achievements and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 4890

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

Whereas Lions Clubs throughout our province continue to meet Helen Keller's challenge to serve as "Knights of the Blind"; and

Whereas Lions collect used eyeglasses to assist those with seeing problems; and

Whereas the St. Margarets Bay Lions received a donation of over 300 used pairs of eyeglasses from Rob Billard, Manager of Shorney's Optical at the Halifax Shopping Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature offer its thanks to Rod Billard and Shorney's Optical for assisting the St. Margarets Bay Lions with their work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11918]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 4891

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

Whereas Walter Fitzgerald, more commonly known as "Googie" was honoured for his decades of public service as an elected official in both provincial and municipal government during a fundraising "Roast" for the Hepatitis Outreach Society; and

Whereas in addition to Walter's dedication to elected office, he worked as an extremely popular teacher, and later principal, at various schools throughout the former Halifax School Board, while his commitment to minor hockey is commendable; and

Whereas Walter's commitment to improving our province is indisputable, his ability to always entertain us is legendary;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the many years of service Walter Fitzgerald has selflessly given, and congratulate the Hepatitis Outreach Society, for a successful fundraiser, and for organizing this event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 11919]

RESOLUTION NO. 4892

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a dedicated and committed teacher can have lasting and positive effects on students; and

Whereas 12 teachers were recently honoured with Excellence in Teaching Awards presented by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and Pictou local of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union; and

Whereas James MacDonald of Pictou Academy/McCulloch school, Carol MacDonald of Pictou Elementary, Jane Purdy of Temperance Street School and Ray Sparks of West Pictou Consolidated School were among the deserving recipients of this teaching honour;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate James MacDonald, Carol MacDonald, Jane Purdy and Ray Sparks upon receiving Excellence in Teaching Awards and thank all teachers for the important work they do.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 4893

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

Whereas a recently released study into the health of Nova Scotians shows the North End of Halifax has one of the lowest life expectancies in the province; and

[Page 11920]

Whereas a report by GPI Atlantic shows a direct link between poverty and poor health; and

Whereas the people of Halifax North deserve to live full and healthy lives as much as any other Nova Scotian;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm Government commit in this House to working with the community to address this serious issue.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4894

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

Whereas Mike Ward, Aubrey MacCarthy and Douglas Bollivar of the Hebb's Cross Fire Department will soon be receiving longtime service awards; and

Whereas Aubrey MacCarthy has served the community of Hebb's Cross since 1971,

Douglas Bollivar has been dedicated to the fire department since 1973 and Mike Ward has been a firefighter since 1974; and

Whereas the Hebb's Cross Fire Department was established in 1966 and currently consists of 17 firefighters, two of whom are women;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Aubrey MacCarthy, Mike Ward and Douglas Bollivar on their upcoming longtime service award for their hard work and dedication to the Hebb's Cross.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11921]

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4895

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

Whereas Erica McBurney of Annapolis County was recently awarded the bronze level of the Duke Edinburgh Award; and

Whereas Prince Phillip established the award in 1956 and the program now operates in more that 100 countries; and

Whereas to be eligible for the bronze level part of the award, 30 hours of physical activity must be done over a 15 week period, along with 15 hours of community service, while also developing a skill and participating in a camping expedition once you have your certificate for first aid;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly extend our warm wishes to Erica McBurney for her determination in winning the Bronze Level portion of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, while also wishing her every success with her future studies and career plans.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 11922]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 4896

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

Whereas the service Hand in Hand has been operating in Spryfield since 1990 and in an average week serves 400 to 500 people who need second-hand clothing, household items and furniture; and

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Members are welcome to sit in the gallery and listen, but I ask you not to respond either positively or negatively to what's happening on the floor or I will ask you to leave. (Interruption) Well, then I will ask you to leave now.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, start over, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It's not often that people can't hear me.

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

Whereas the service Hand in Hand has been operating in Spryfield since 1990 and in an average week serves 400 to 500 people who need second-hand clothing, household items and furniture; and

Whereas the majority of the people served are single mothers, the working poor and people on fixed incomes who require inexpensive necessities of life or referrals to community agencies such as food banks, upgrading educational programs, or help with the cost of prescription drugs, bus tickets or fuel; and

Whereas Hand in Hand has embarked on a fundraising campaign to construct a new building in order to accommodate the ever-increasing need for services;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge with gratitude the dedication of the workers of Hand in Hand and wish them good luck with their fundraising efforts so that they may continue their service to the community of Spryfield and surrounding areas.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 11923]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 4897

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

Whereas James Beaton-Johnson, Elias Fares and Amy Trottier, students at J.L. Ilsley High School, are presenting their research using scallop shells to purify water at the World Youth Parliament for Water this week in Quebec City; and

Whereas the results of this research show placing scallop shells with their unique shape and molecular make-up in contaminated water will filter out coliform bacteria, among other things; have caught the attention of the National Research Council and Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas the results of these experiments have a tremendous potential, not only in Nova Scotia, but nationally and possibly on a global scale, encouraging these students to begin the process to patent their idea;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the success of James, Elias and Amy and wish them every success with their future experiments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 11924]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 4898

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas just four days remain before the opening of the 2002-03 lobster fishery in western Nova Scotia; and

Whereas live lobsters continue to be one of Nova Scotia's top exports - sent to over 40 countries around the world; and

Whereas the United States remains Nova Scotia's top market for the export of lobsters, but Nova Scotia companies are continuing to aggressively pursue new opportunities and open up additional markets;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House wish all the southwest lobster fishermen a safe and rewarding trip as they prepare to set sail to lay traps at the start of the area's lobster fishery.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 4899

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

[Page 11925]

Whereas the Dartmouth Players is an active organization which has been providing quality community theatre for several years; and

Whereas this fine theatrical organization recently launched its 2002-03 season with the Neil Simon production of The Good Doctor; and

Whereas this play will continue running until November 30th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the Dartmouth Players for putting on yet another fine production of which the community can be proud and wish them good luck in the rest of their season.

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 in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 4900

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

Whereas on June 4, 1998, the Minister of Finance, the member for Lunenburg West, introduced the document, Improving Financial Accountability: A Blueprint for Success; and

Whereas this document outlined a three-year timetable for the implementation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles which are now in use today; and

Whereas this document provided the blueprint which allowed the current government to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the member for Lunenburg West for his very significant contribution to financial accountability in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 11926]

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Order, please. I'm just wondering how many of these the honourable member for Lunenburg West wrote? Are there any more? (Laughter)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4901

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

Whereas Nova Scotians are well known for charity giving and volunteers are the backbone of many organizations; and

Whereas the 6th annual Lighthouse Food Bank Benefit organized by Jason McCorriston and his band, Short Notice, took place in Chester this past weekend with 16 local bands providing entertainment; and

Whereas this benefit raised nearly $2,500 that will go towards putting more food on the tables of families less fortunate than others in our area this Christmas;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. McCorriston and his team of remarkable volunteers for organizing such a unique and profitable fundraiser to support such a worthy cause.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 11927]

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. 4902

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

Whereas about 150 delegates from other provinces and territories attended the annual Premiers' Conference when it was held in Halifax this summer; and

Whereas the Liberal Party is spending its trust fund money on ads in which their Leader urges government to live within its means; and

Whereas nevertheless nine Liberal MLAs broke into applause when the Premier described a $41,000 Liberal dinner as, "A suitable program for visitors to our province.";

Therefore be it resolved that when the Liberal Party goes to all the trouble of buying expensive advertising to claim they will watch every penny, Liberal MLAs should take the time to read their ads instead of jumping up to defend lavish lobster suppers and every dime spent at Government House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a document that I intend to table. Concern has been raised with respect to the "per plate" cost of the Nova Scotia Lobster Supper at Pier 21 on Thursday, August 1st.

Indeed, the total cost of the Nova Scotia Lobster Supper at Pier 21 was $41,748.04. Almost half of this cost, $20,000, however, was covered by Canadian National. Another $13,500 was covered by applying additional sponsorship contributions - $6,000 from Oland and $7,500 from Irving. The actual cost to the Nova Scotia taxpayer was $8,248.04. Given that close to 300 people attended the event, that works out to $27.49 per head, a far cry from $140 per head. (Applause)

[Page 11928]

In addition, each delegate that attended the conference was charged a flat fee of $150 to cover off food costs. That resulted in $18,975 in savings to the Nova Scotia taxpayer. The annual Premiers' Conference represented an important opportunity for Nova Scotia to showcase its culture and hospitality and I will table that document.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 4903

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

Whereas as the member of the Legislature for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I had the honour of being master of ceremonies for a fundraiser last evening for the Musquodoboit Rural High School band; and

Whereas this important fundraising initiative was held at the historic Bicentennial Theatre in Middle Musquodoboit (Interruptions) Yes, the Tourism Minister has visited the Bicentennial Theatre and Bill Dooks; and

Whereas local Musquodoboit Rural High School student musicians perform in the bands Quest, Deep, and Evidence, who, along with some talented teachers, supplied the majority of the entertainment to a large audience;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the MRHS school band and wish them all the best while acknowledging the volunteer efforts of its fine students, teachers, and parents.

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 11929]

RESOLUTION NO. 4904

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

Whereas Tuesday evening the lighting of three trees in front of the Nova Scotia Hospital kicked off a week of events for the 11th annual Festival of Trees, a major volunteer- run fundraiser for the Nova Scotia Hospital Foundation; and

Whereas Robert Zed, Chairman for the past two years, and his phenomenal team of volunteers have worked diligently to make this an annual success, which is expected to raise over $200,000 this year; and

Whereas the week-long events will culminate this weekend with a spectacular gala on Saturday evening, where the Christmas trees on display at Sunnyside Mall will be auctioned, and a Silver Bells Tea on Sunday - both to take place the World Trade and Convention Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Nova Scotia Hospital Foundation - and Robert Zed - for 11 years of incredible fundraising efforts which, in total, have raised over $1 million to aid the Nova Scotia Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 4905

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

Whereas June Swift recently published her first book on the flora of Brier Island; and

[Page 11930]

Whereas she did this at her own expense, with the encouragement and support of her family; and

Whereas this publication is a beautifully illustrated exploration of the flora of Brier Island, and has received much praise from many highly respected naturalists;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage her to continue her work to document the unique habitats which exist on Brier Island.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4906

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

Whereas Bruce Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Ltd., located at 394 Main Street in Middleton, is once again one of the top 101 companies in Atlantic Canada, as recently detailed in the October edition of Atlantic Progress Magazine; and

Whereas since January 1, 1996, Les Barker has been the President and sole owner of the General Motors dealership, which began operations in Middleton in 1941; and

Whereas Bruce Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Ltd. presently employs 49 people and is a driving force in the economy of Annapolis County and western Kings County;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly extend our congratulations to Les Barker and his son, Justin, for their hard work and commitment to excellence in once again having their business, Bruce Chev-Olds, named as one of the top 101 companies in Atlantic Canada.

[Page 11931]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 4907

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

Whereas the North Queens Board of Trade and the Queens County Fair Association are teaming up to bring a pavilion to the Queens County Fair Grounds; and

Whereas the two groups signed a partnership agreement to form a management company called the North Queens Pavilion Group Inc.; and

Whereas this is the fair's 122nd year, with an additional 1,382 additional attendees from previous years, and also included 25 teams of oxen;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the North Queens Board of Trade and the Queens County Fair Association for their hard work and dedication to the community and wish them well in their plans to build a pavilion at the exhibition grounds.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 11932]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 4908

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

Whereas making more wishes come true for Cape Breton children with life-threatening illnesses was on the minds of nearly 300 young children, teenagers and adults who marched through downtown Sydney in the annual Children's Wish Foundation Parade; and

Whereas through this year's event in October, the Cape Breton Chapter of the Children's Wish Foundation raised over $40,000 - nearly $10,000 more than last year; and

Whereas that increase is due largely to the students of Florence Elementary School who raised almost $7,000 of that on their own;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the students of Florence Elementary School, along with the Cape Breton Chapter of the Children's Wish Foundation for their part in making sick children's dreams come true.

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 4909

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

[Page 11933]

Whereas a celebration was recently held to celebrate 60 beautiful years of marriage between Ralph and Margaret Ervanowitz of Grand Desert; and

Whereas Ralph and Margaret were married on November 9, 1942; and

Whereas their anniversary celebration took place at the Golden Coast Restaurant in Oyster Pond, Jeddore, on November 10th;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Ralph and Margaret on their special occasion, and wish them many more years of happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 4910

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

Whereas Marjorie Gould of Waycobah First Nation will receive an honorary doctorate of law from St. Francis Xavier University at its Fall convocation on December 7th; and

Whereas she has gained prominence and respect in the field of public education, particularly as it pertains to First Nations communities; and

Whereas Ms. Gould has served on numerous communities on the international, federal and provincial levels, including an international board concerned with Aboriginal education issues and a subcommittee on human rights, Mi'kmaq Canada-Nova Scotia Tri-Partite Committee;

[Page 11934]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Marjorie Gould for her selection as a recipient of an honorary degree and her lifetime of exemplary work in the field of public education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:43 p.m. and will end at 1:43 p.m.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSING HOME COSTS:

UNFAIR PRACTICES - CEASE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the John Hamm Government doesn't seem to understand the level of hardship they're inflicting on families with their punishing long-term care policy. I will table a letter from the daughter-in-law of a senior who was stripped of her entire life savings for nursing home care. Over three and a half years she paid $108,000, and it was only during the last eight months of her life that this government began to pay for her care. She died in May, penniless after a lifetime of hard work. I want to ask the Minister of Health, what's it going to take to get you to stop these unfair, unacceptable practices?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that I can't comment on any individual cases, but I do want to remind her and other members of the House that when this government came into office our priority in the long-term care sector, indeed, the whole continuing care sector was about care. We invested $90 million in better care for people who are residents of nursing homes, in adult protection, and home care - $90 million.

[Page 11935]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's been abundantly apparent to Nova Scotians that this government's priorities are budgets, not people. Sadly, it's not only seniors who require nursing home care. I would like to table a copy of a letter to the Premier from the husband of a woman who, at 49, had early onset Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home. He has been allowed $1,500 a month on which to live while this government is having him liquidate pensions and savings to pay $5,000 a month for his wife's care. Contrary to what the minister says, he has had to fight to keep his car, he can't help his son finish his education and he's not able to visit his 89-year-old mother who lives in England.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask, how much longer is this minister going to tear the lives of families apart by such an unfair system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in addition to putting $90 million more in the continuing care sector in the last three years, we have reorganized the section. We have put policies in. There are a large number of measures that this government has adopted and put into place that makes that whole process much easier, much more efficient, and provides much more care earlier than in previous years.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the record shows that the minister continues to avoid the questions. Another man whose wife has MS and must enter a nursing home, still has a 15-year-old at home. This government has grabbed 50 per cent of their life savings, leaving not one penny for the education of this youth. My question to the minister is, why can't he admit that the long-term care system is in need of far more than the half-hearted changes this government is grudgingly contemplating?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in terms of assessment, the Department of Health officials, those who do the assessment, did over 900 last year. There is a three-stage appeal process. I can tell you that less than 4 per cent of the assessments were appealed and that of those 4 per cent that were appealed, I think there were eight that went to the second level and two of those were granted.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - STUDENTS (POST-SECONDARY):

FOOD BANKS - RELIANCE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It has come to our attention that a student food bank has been established for students at the Centre of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown simply because some students can't afford to purchase food. Staff there is so concerned about the students, some have been bringing in food to feed them and, in fact, the entire community is so concerned they're buying groceries

[Page 11936]

for the students and having a potluck supper to show their support and a local businessman has even offered some students interest-free loans.

Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is, does the minister believe that post-secondary students in this province should have to rely on food banks and compassionate residents if they want to stay in school and get proper nutrition?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I regret, as I'm sure all members of this House regret, that any Nova Scotian has to rely on school food banks.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Centre of Geographic Sciences is not the only post-secondary institution that had to establish a food bank to help feed its students. The Nova Scotia Community College, Middleton Campus, also has a food bank and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design has one as well. Students in this province are in dire financial difficulty. They're struggling to remain in their programs but, unfortunately, some students have made the difficult decision to leave school simply because they can't afford to stay. Some students say that provincial student loans have not been processed. Others who have received their loans say they're not getting enough to cover the cost of living. They can't buy groceries. Students have access to loans and there's no cap on the amount they can receive.

So my question to the minister is, if there is no cap and all students have access, why are the students in this province forced to feed themselves at food banks, Madam Minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, post-secondary education, particularly university education, is expensive. It's more expensive in this province than other provinces. Students still want to pursue these degrees and diplomas because it will give them a better life. If the member opposite wants me to say that it is a good thing that students or anyone else has to rely on food banks, he's not going to trap me into this one. I very much regret the need for food banks in our universities and everywhere in Nova Scotia.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, we're not trying to entrap the minister into anything, we're trying to get the minister to help the students in this province. Simple, very simple, help the students in this province. So my final question to the Minister of Education is, how many more post-secondary institutions in this province are going to have to set up food banks so that the students can simply afford to eat?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, some students in this province have an excessive debt load. We recognize that and we'll be moving to help them.

[Page 11937]

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

JUSTICE - DIVORCE AGREEMENT:

LEGALLY BINDING - CONFIRM

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Not only is the long-term care assessment process unfair, it is forcing people in Nova Scotia to break the law. Here's a case in point. A senior and his wife were divorced two years ago. Under the terms of his legally-binding divorce agreement he's supposed to pay taxes and maintenance on the family home as long as he lives. Yet, the Department of Health is ignoring that divorce agreement. I want to ask the Minister of Justice, is a divorce agreement a legally-binding document in the Province of Nova Scotia and is it binding on the Department of Health?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, from the information provided by the honourable member, I'm not able to form an opinion. (Interruptions) No, certainly, a divorce agreement has legal effect between the parties to that agreement and if it was made part of a court order, it would have a broader effect. I'm just not able to comment because the information provided isn't sufficient other than to know that I would certainly be interested in taking the member's information and take it under advisement.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I go to the Minister of Health now. Mr. Speaker, we know that the Divorce Act applies in Nova Scotia and it should be applying to the Department of Health as well. Yet, when this gentleman was assessed for long-term care, the eligibility review officer refused to recognize the legally-binding divorce agreement and allowed no funds to be set aside to pay for maintenance, upkeep and taxes on the family home, something he was legally obligated to do by that divorce agreement. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, would he explain when provincial policies overrule legally-binding divorce agreements?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is an assessment process in this province for people who go into continuing care or need continuing care services. I cannot comment on any individual case.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, since I was talking about the policy, I guess the Minister of Health isn't very helpful, so I will go to the Premier on my last one. Mr. Speaker, this man's daughter has the power of attorney to deal with his bills now that he's in a nursing home. The Department of Health took all his funds, she has no means of paying for his legal obligations, and the Department of Health has nothing to say to her other than go to the courts and deal with it. So I want to ask the Premier, why is the Premier's government putting this family through unnecessary stress by ignoring the legally-binding divorce agreement that was signed two years ago?

[Page 11938]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings a serious issue to the case but obviously what he's looking for is a legal opinion and I refer to the Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that if he would be prepared to provide to me information about this particular matter, I can assure him that I will make an inquiry into the matter to determine whether or not all of the requirements of the law of the Province of Nova Scotia and of Canada have been respected.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to administering all our policies in a lawful manner and if we have the information we will determine whether there has been an error in this particular case that needs to be corrected.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - HEPATITIS B & C: STRATEGY - TABLE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last Spring this minister made a commitment to the development of a strategy for hepatitis in this province. I want to table that today. My question is, could the minister please table before the end of Question Period today his strategy for dealing with hepatitis B and C in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the position of this government is that we treat all people with hepatitis A, B and C. We provide care and treatment for them, we don't vary our care according to how a person contracted one of those diseases.

DR. SMITH: That part, Mr. Speaker, I understand. I'm asking the minister about this strategy. He made a commitment to develop a strategy, so where's the plan? National statistics show that it is likely that over 8,000 Nova Scotians have hepatitis C with two-thirds of them not knowing that they even have it. Given that the minister doesn't have a strategy, or he would have commented that he did, for hepatitis and given even that he promised one, my question to the minister is, will he at least commit some sort of health promotion money to advertise the warning signs of hepatitis C to Nova Scotians?

MR. MUIR: This government is concerned about persons who have hepatitis C and indeed any other disease. We do provide, through public health and other means, advertising for particular diseases. For example, one of the things that you've seen is the ads about cancer. We do it quite often in conjunction with and in partnership with other organizations who are particularly concerned with a particular condition. We will take that particular request under advisement. Whether we would do targeted ads on that thing or not, I would have to - but I think the honourable member knows that in terms of hep C, which he specifically asked about, is that there are no warning signs about hep C until you get sick.

[Page 11939]

DR. SMITH: We could debate that another day, Mr. Speaker. This minister has had four years to do something more concrete for a strategy on hepatitis. We know that those in advanced stages of hepatitis C are candidates - and this can come very rapidly when you speak about symptoms. This transplant - out of province, by the way - since this government got in, costs $84,000 plus many other costs to the individuals affected. The very least the minister can do is honour his commitment. So my question to the minister is, given the minister has been given large amounts of federal monies to this province, will the minister keep his promise and sit down with health professionals and the community to develop a hep C strategy before the end of this calendar year? That's my question to the minister.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, health officials meet regularly with representatives of many groups, including those who have hep C. Our position as a government has been to treat all people who have hep C equally, to provide services to them all, and not to target services based on how the disease was contracted.

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

HEALTH - BUCHANAN MEM. HOSP.:

NURSING RECRUITMENT PLAN - EFFECTS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the public was advised that Buchanan Memorial Hospital at Neils Harbour had to close its emergency room late last night because of lack of registered nurses. This health care centre provides a critical service to the residents north of Smokey and they also face on those conditions a treacherous drive to the next closest facility which is in Baddeck, or indeed in Cheticamp. So my question to the Minister of Health is, how much has your nursing recruitment plan helped the people who rely on Buchanan Memorial Hospital to save it and keep it open 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I regret that there was an interruption of service at the Buchanan Memorial Hospital. As the honourable member knows, it is up and running

at full speed today, and hopefully that gap in service will not reoccur. I can also tell the honourable member - and he knows this too - that the DHA authorities made sure that there were paramedics posted at that hospital, should anybody need emergency attention.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that indeed goes to the heart of the problem, because of the vital transportation links there and the problem with transportation at this time of year, through winter conditions. That may have closed temporarily, but this just joins another long list of facilities on Cape Breton Island, whether it's in Glace Bay, North Sydney, Strait-Richmond, hospitals are all forced to close periodically because of a shortage of staff, plain and simple. Now a lifeline to the residents north of Smokey is in jeopardy. I want to ask the

[Page 11940]

Minister of Health, when are you going to put adequate resources into funding staff in rural communities?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have a very good incentive program for both nurses and physicians who are willing to work in rural communities. We have the nursing strategy; we have the physician recruitment strategy. It's not an issue of resources or money with these rural communities, it's a matter of finding personnel. You have to have a match between the physician and the people who wish to have them. We will get those matches. For example, in the Neils Harbour area we have physicians up there, and we have nurses up there. There are, unfortunately, some areas of the province where we don't have adequate resources from time to time, but I want to tell you that this government is making good progress. Hopefully, working with the federal government and others, particularly with the professional organizations in this province, we will virtually have all of the deficiencies eliminated in short order.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, he spoke of a lot of what-ifs and so on. The reality is that emergency room had to close and it's severely cut back today, and those other emergency rooms that I spoke about. Your plan, whatever it is, has been a failure in rural Nova Scotia, and you have to own up to that. I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, what are you doing to ensure that health services remain in the communities, such as Neils Harbour, so residents can have protection, like everybody else in this province, that they deserve and they pay taxes for?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our government put in place a nursing strategy that was developed by nurses for nurses. I just want to refresh the honourable member's memory. There are more nurses working in Nova Scotia compared to last year, according to statistics released by the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia. Eighty per cent of the class of 2002 renewed their licences for another year, compared with only 51 per cent in 2001. Statistics show that there are 154 more nurses licensed to work in Nova Scotia, and that 282 more are working in permanent or full-time positions, compared to last year.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - VEHICLE COMPLIANCE OFFICERS: RECOGNITION - REFUSAL EXPLAIN

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

MR. SPEAKER: Good afternoon.

[Page 11941]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia vehicle compliance officers serve as a vital link in transportation safety for this province, but it would appear that this government fails to recognize that important contribution and how these members ensure the safety of all Nova Scotians travelling on our public highway system. Yet, despite these workers ensuring that Nova Scotia has one of the highest safety records in Canada, this government fails to recognize that contribution. Under a proposal to the federal government, this government requested to have the mobile vehicle compliance officers' duties transferred to the RCMP. My question is, can this minister explain to this House why he refuses to recognize Nova Scotia's vehicle compliance officers and the important safety contributions that they make to this province?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question, and I also want to thank him for pointing out the safety record that this province has. What we're attempting to do is to build on that safety record and improve it. And we will achieve that.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this government has committed to the downfall of the safety record built up by these hard-working vehicle compliance officers. We know that the federal Solicitor General rejected this government's request to turn this service over to the RCMP. Yet, what we see with this government, instead of accepting that decision, it decides to go back to the federal government with a new offer to try to convince them to transfer the mobile compliance officers' duties to the RCMP. This government has a responsibility to the people who have given Nova Scotia its high record of safety on its highways. My question is, if the federal government has been clear on this decision, can the minister indicate why he refuses to finally put to rest any plan to transfer these services to another organization?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the honourable member that, in fact, he's referencing a piece of correspondence that came from the former Solicitor General of this country, a gentleman whose ethical standards are beneath those of the author of Shawinigate (Interruptions from gallery)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Good bye.

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

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this government has the responsibility to ensure that safety is maintained on our roads, but they don't take that responsibility seriously. The federal government has already decided against this government's proposal not to allow the RCMP to take over this service, and the federal government has also indicated that they have been unable to support similar requests from other provinces. With that request denied, it would seem Nova Scotia's vehicle compliance officers could be assured . . .

[Page 11942]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: . . . that they will be the ones continuing to provide the level of safety on our highways?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor. The question, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: My question, Mr. Speaker, when will this minister be open and accountable with the vehicle compliance officers in explaining his actions and not let them dangle without any word on their future employment status?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. We are endeavouring to work with the RCMP in this province to find a greater integration between their work in patrolling our highways and ensuring the safety of our highways and to expand their capacity with respect to the trucking industry and the operation of vehicles in this province. One of the reasons the RCMP is very anxious to become involved in this is not only related to the safety of the roads and to the standards of our roads, but also there is a security issue which the honourable member for Cape Breton South raised earlier in this House and the matter of security, in relation to that matter, it is essential that the RCMP have greater access to the transportation industry in this province. We are working in that direction and the position of our employees will be respected throughout all of that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

HEALTH - AMBULANCE SERVICE:

REVENUE GENERATOR - EXPLAIN

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We learned yesterday to what degree this government is turning to the ambulance service as a cash cow. For the fiscal year ending in 1998, revenue was $1 million. That grew to $7 million for the fiscal year ending in 2001, and $10 million for the last fiscal year. That's a tenfold increase in four years and a 43 per cent increase in just one year. My question to the Minister of Health is, why do you believe that Nova Scotians in their time of sickness and need is the place to turn when you want to pump up your revenues?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows, I believe it was last week or the week before, that the dispatch centre out in Bedford was one of five to be accredited internationally. We have a very good service. I can tell you that the average cost for ambulance transport in Nova Scotia is slightly over $600. Although the revenue has increased, I think, if you check, you will find that the cost to the government over that period of time has gone up by about the same amount.

[Page 11943]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the reason that the revenue is climbing so fast is because of the government's unfair ambulance fee policy and hard-nosed collection practices. I'm going to table a document sent recently to an elderly gentleman. It's a final demand letter from a collection agency for $595 in ambulance fees. The invoice says: Settle this immediately. The problem is, the gentleman has an income of $1,000 per month and cannot even afford a telephone to call the collection agency. A friend has written to the government on his behalf begging the government to have some compassion - so far to no avail. My question to the minister, since this government has no trouble writing off annually millions of dollars of corporate debt to the government, how can you justify sending a collection agency after a poor, sick, old man?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that I cannot comment on individual cases, but I think all members in this House know it's very well to stand up and put these cases on the floor of the House with the knowledge that the government - and justifiably so - can make no response. Most people do understand that there are usually two sides to a story.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the answer, of course, is to correct the policy which is desperately unfair. In the last sitting of the House, I repeatedly brought to the minister's attention the unfairness of the ambulance fee system. The minister's response is demonstrating clearly that he is approaching the issue with no understanding of how insurance works and no compassion. My question to the minister is, when is your government going to review and revise its ambulance fee policy to make it more fair instead of sticking it to Nova Scotians again?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, anybody who is unhappy with an ambulance bill, there is an appeal process to go through. I have to say, I'm amazed when this man gets up on the floor of the House and says that insurance companies, for which we all pay, should not be required to pay for ambulance and medical services. Insurance companies not only pay for ambulance service, but every person in this province who gets insurance puts money into a health fund so that the insurance companies will have a pool to draw from when somebody's injured in a automobile accident. This man, he should turn off his scanner.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - VICTORIA CO.:

BRIDGES REPAIR - TIME FRAME

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the last time I raised hell in the House with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about a bridge in Victoria, I had a lot of success, so hopefully we will have the same today. A bridge in a state of disrepair poses an acute risk to public safety. In Victoria County, the bridge stock is very old. Two bridges in my riding are in a desperate state of repair: the Colin Campbell Bridge has weight

[Page 11944]

restrictions imposed on it, but it really needs to be repaired; and the Bay St. Lawrence Bridge requires $120,000 in repairs. Could the minister tell us today or indicate to the House, when could we expect these bridges to be repaired?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I suppose I could respond to the member somewhat flippantly that he shouldn't push his luck (Interruptions) But I wouldn't do that. Bridges are a very, very serious problem and one in which the government addresses on a continuing basis to ensure the safety of the travelling public. The Colin Campbell Bridge, I believe the weight restriction was placed on that bridge pending certain repairs which will be carried out on the bridge. The other bridge, I'm not familiar with, but I will get back to the honourable member with a status report on both bridges as early as possible.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister, through you. Nova Scotians deserve and are entitled to safe bridges. This is no less the case in Victoria County. It's far less likely that a collapsed bridge will hurt somebody more so than potholes. Let me ask the minister today, will the minister assure the House today that any bridge in Victoria County that has weight restrictions on it will at least see temporary repairs to meet the allowable weight of service vehicles, such as fire trucks and other emergency vehicles?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the safety of our bridge structures is paramount for the Department of Transportation and Public Works, and if there were any bridges in Victoria County or any other county in Nova Scotia that requires repairs and those repairs are necessary for the safety of the travelling public, the bridge will be closed. I can assure the honourable member that we've placed weight restrictions on certain bridges in the province for the safety of the travelling public, and that repairs are carried out as expeditiously as possible.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I know there are many bridges that I'm sure are on a priority list for the minister. While I understand there is a limited budget, the minister seems to still put the bridge safety on the back burner. Will the minister, today, personally guarantee that the bridges in Nova Scotia are safe?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to give the honourable member and the House and the travelling public in Nova Scotia that assurance. I should mention to the honourable member, though, far from putting the bridge repair, maintenance and replacement on the back burner, we are moving as rapidly as we can to coming forward with a bridge replacement program. Hopefully that will be in place in the very near future that will see the replacement of the majority of the old steel truss bridges in this province over a specified length of time.

[Page 11945]

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

NSLC - PRIVATE WINE/SPECIALTY STORES: NUMBER - PLANS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to address a question to the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. Today we know that the corporation awarded four permits for private wine and specialty stores. All of those successful bidders, of course, are located in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The minister has indicated he may not be satisfied with there only being four stores. I guess he doesn't figure the four stores can lose enough money. In documents obtained under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the NDP caucus got a copy of the letter from the minister in which he said: I would not wish to restrict us to a maximum of four stores. My question to the minister is, since you awarded the four outlets today, other documents we received show that the cost to the province will be approximately $1.7 million each and every year. I would like you to tell this House, how many more stores do you want to open and how much more money do you aspire to lose?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, the four specialty stores have been announced today. It certainly speaks well to this government's commitment to changing the marketplace we have here in the province with respect to the sale of liquor. I believe, certainly, that it has gone extremely well. You can talk to organizations such as the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, they speak well of the efforts this government has made. Among the consumers, things are positive. Indeed, these specialty stores will go over positively as well.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know that all Nova Scotians would necessarily agree with the minister. Maybe the minister should provide the document to the Minister of Finance in case the Minister of Finance hasn't seen it, and then maybe the Minister of Finance could tell the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation what the numbers actually mean. If those four stores operate, they're projecting a loss of $1.7 million a year or $8.7 million over five years, that's for just four and he wants more. So my question to the minister is, given the dire financial straits the province is in these days, why is the government willing to give away tens of millions of dollars?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that there has been a great deal of analysis done with respect to looking at what's happening in other provinces such as Manitoba and British Columbia. I will be happy to provide the honourable member and his colleagues with some of that material.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, and I would be very happy to provide the minister with a copy of the letter sent to him that said each and every one of the options proposed by the government had a cost to government, and which points out in his own document the loss of $8.7 million from four stores over five years.

[Page 11946]

Given that, I'm going to address my final question to the Premier. Given the fact that your government, you and your Minister of Health, say that you do not have enough money to address the health care needs of seniors in long-term care facilities, how can your government approve the hare-brained idea of your minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation which is going to cost Nova Scotians money?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't surprise me that the NDP doesn't have its facts right. The fact that he's holding up a letter - I haven't seen it, but I believe that's a two-year-old letter, I believe it's 2000, and in fact that doesn't surprise me, the NDP is behind the times with decision making with respect to the governing of this province. They don't have their facts straight. It doesn't surprise me. The member is trying to pull the wool over Nova Scotian's eyes and he is wrong, completely wrong.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - RESTRUCTURING FUNDS: LIST - REVEAL

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Two weeks ago I questioned the Premier and the Minister of Finance to table in the House a detailed list of what and where the restructuring funds have been spent over the last two years. At the time the Premier replied to the House and said I would say to him - and that is me - that this information will be forthcoming. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit today to reveal to the House an itemized list of where the restructuring funds have been spent and specifically on individual programs and individuals?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if I inadvertently made a commitment to the member that I neglected to carry out, I will check Hansard, but in the meantime I would ask the Minister of Finance to discuss the restructuring costs with the member opposite.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I indicated during the questioning that the restructuring costs are not divulged during the year's activities because they contain monies which are used for negotiations. It would not be in the interest of the province to have unions know how much money we have put aside for negotiations because, obviously, that's what they would ask. I endeavour, to the member opposite, that we will get that information as soon as possible. I have asked staff to bring this information forward; I made that commitment and I will honour it.

MR. DOWNE: The Premier knows all he has to do is simply ask his deputy minister to provide that information and the information would be forthcoming. Secondly, the negotiations basically are over in the last two years and we've already seen the outcome of

[Page 11947]

those, so the bottom line here is that while we do know that fund was used for - this so-called slush fund was used to bail out the Department of Education three years ago and it also bailed out the Department of Health. My question to the Minister of Finance is, why won't the minister simply tell Nova Scotians what specifically the restructuring fund has been spent for over the last two years or three years he has been in office?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very much aware that the restructuring fund was used for a multitude of items, one of which, of course, was wage negotiations. There was also some displacement of provincial employees who were offered severances and also other remuneration in a sense of trying to relocate them.There are also other components of the restructuring, a plan that the member opposite is asking for. I've stated that I will provide it and I will honour that commitment.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Minister of Finance. He indicates he will table that information. My question to the minister is, will you table that information before the House rises this session, this sitting?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, upon the question the other day from the member opposite, I asked the deputy minister to provide the information, get the information together. Apparently the list is long in the sense of the items that it does cover in specifics, so they're working together in groups, which will make the information meaningful to anyone else who would be reading it. I say, again, to the member opposite that I've asked the deputy minister to bring it forward, and when I receive it I will make it available.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

NSPI - CUSTOMER SERVICES: DECREASE - CONCERNS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are alarmed at Nova Scotia Power's difficulty in getting the heat and lights back on after the last few storms, but I have new information I'd like to bring to the attention of this House. In March of this year, NSPI quietly laid off nearly 40 apprentice linemen. These are young Nova Scotians who had spent up to $8,000 to take courses. These apprentice linemen had, in fact, more work that they could handle, even on non-storm days. The result of the layoffs is it takes longer to hook up the power, and storms cause longer outages. I would like to ask the Premier, why is Nova Scotia Power's decreasing commitment to key customer services not a concern for his government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings an observation to the House, but unfortunately, I believe he's looking at it from the wrong point of view. I think what we have to measure is the performance of the company in terms of dealing with outages. Have they dealt with unusual circumstances in a competent fashion? If the member wants to have that discussion, I think that's relevant. Does the member have any information

[Page 11948]

that suggests that this year the corporation is not responding as well as it did in times past? That is the issue at hand.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier should know that the comments I made the other day have in fact struck a cord with many Nova Scotians who are rushing to tell me that they agree with my observations. I would like to go to the Minister of Environment and Labour on a related point, because there's another issue here. These young apprentice linesmen are sitting at home waiting for work; yet, when the storms hit last week, they watched as power companies in New Brunswick and P.E.I. sent their staff to this province and did the work that these apprentices are trained to do. Now, the Minister of Environment and Labour is responsible to ensure a strong apprenticeship program, but when a major company, our public utility, acts this way, it shows the minister is not doing his job. These people are clearly needed, yet, NSPI has sent them packing, apparently with the blessings of this government. So I would like to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour whether he will speak with NSPI today about its treatment of these apprentice workers?

HON DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the honourable members concern. With regard to a private company, not being a director of that company or an officer, I'm not sure it would be appropriate for me to be assuming that responsibility. However, I do note the member's concern and I appreciate him bringing it forward.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it is exactly that hands-off attitude that worries us. I would like to go back to the Premier. The Premier has given NSPI his personal stamp of approval for their slow service and their treatment of their apprentices. So, I would like to ask him why he thinks its right that nearly 40 well-trained, hard-working Nova Scotians are left waiting for work, while power crews from New Brunswick and P.E.I. come in and do the work that these apprentices are trained to do? It's time for the inquiry I asked about, I ask the Premier that question.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is a lawyer and he should be aware of the responsibility to be accurate. I provided no approval of anything that the Power Corporation has done. What I asked the member, does he have any information to suggest that the Power Corporation has not responded in a responsible fashion? Has it not been able to restore power in a reasonable length of time compared to its history, and if that is so, present the evidence.

[Page 11949]

[1:30 p.m.]

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

PREM.: FIVE POINT QUALITY PSC PLAN FOR N.S. - BASICS

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: I would like to ask a question if I could, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. I would like to ask the Premier, as I contemplate the various promises and commitments that he and the PC Party have put forward over the last several years, I noted the commitment by the Premier, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, to a Five Point Quality Public Service Protection Plan for Nova Scotia. That's the name of it and my question to the Premier is, would he kindly enlighten the House as to the basics of this plan and how his government has introduced it into its policies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question because it is the intention of this government to do what the five-point plan says and that's to treat employees fairly. We did that. As a matter of fact, many of the constituents of that member are, in fact, recipients now of enhanced severance packages when the government made the very difficult decision to close the steel plant in Sydney. We not only did what their contract required, we did much more. (Applause)

MR. MACEWAN: I hear they're applying that same one to the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway which services Pictou County, by the way, Mr. Speaker, but the Five Point Quality Public Service Protection Plan for Nova Scotia had nothing to do with Sydney Steel. It is rather enumerated. I have all kinds of copies of it here, "A provincial public service will not be privatized or contracted to the private sector without public consultation and without demonstrable evidence that privatization will lead to improved services for Nova Scotians.", et cetera, et cetera, for five points but nowhere do you see Sydney Steel mentioned there and it says at the bottom, "I hereby support and endorse the "Quality Public Service Protection Plan." It is signed Dr. John F. Hamm, Leader of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, date - July 24, 1997. Having read all that, surely I can table this. All the copies there, we can even have one for the law professor. So spread them around.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, would you explain to this House where your government has consulted with the public sector before initiating plans of privatization within the Public Service?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is very proud of the way in which it has treated employees who unfortunately, through no fault of their own, are no longer in the employ of the government. On the other hand, I would refer this to the Minister of Human Resources who can perhaps refresh the memory of the member opposite as to how well this government treats employees.

[Page 11950]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member opposite this government did not freeze employees' wages, didn't roll them back 3 per cent. It negotiated fair contracts for the employees of this province and we're very proud of it.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, to that I would say hear, hear, and applause, but it's not what I asked for, nor is it the member that I asked my question to. My final supplementary is again to the Premier and I would like to ask him if, in implementing his five-point plan, to have a reviewing agency issue a final report and recommendations providing an analysis, that he, the Premier, would table to the House of Assembly and/or the Legislature's Public Accounts Committee. My question to the Premier is, would you like to inform the House as to the whereabouts of this report and table this report before the end of this current session? After all, it's going on six years since he signed that pledge and time is passing.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, that is my signature on that particular document and it was a pledge to treat employees of government fairly. We were pleased to be able to make that commitment to the employees. It was a commitment that the government of the day, of which that member served, wouldn't sign that particular document. They were not prepared to make that kind of a commitment to the employees of Nova Scotia. If the member opposite has an indication or a single case in which the intent of that document has not been fulfilled, I would suggest to him strongly that he table it.

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

ENERGY - DISTRIBUTION SCHEME: SUPPORT - EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to address a question to the Energy Minister. SaskEnergy's commitment to developing a proper distribution system in Nova Scotia is almost non-existent - 4,000 homes in 10 years and a requirement for a 14 per cent rate of return and a 25 year monopoly. To help them, the government will give SaskEnergy access to Nova Scotia's $20 million distribution fund. Let's be clear - what we have here is the taxpayers of Nova Scotia underwriting the profits for the Government of Saskatchewan. My question to the minster is, why are you so blindly pushing ahead with a distribution scheme that will likely end up benefiting the Province of Saskatchewan more than it will the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, everyone recognizes that it's very difficult to create an economic model that will see gas distributed in the province. The market development fund that the member opposite references is not provincial taxpayers' money, it's a fund that was created by the industry to support the development of a gas distribution market once a franchise was awarded.

[Page 11951]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a fund that could be used to develop a distribution system, whether it be Saskatchewan or SaskEnergy and their partners Heritage Gas that do it or somebody else, like the Government of Nova Scotia in partnership with Nova Scotia businesses. In 2000, SaskEnergy had profits of over $6.5 million. Over the years SaskEnergy has returned dividends of tens of millions of dollars to the Province of Saskatchewan. This company has clearly shown that Crown-owned distribution systems can return handsome profits and keep energy policy decisions in the hands of the government.

So, my question to the minister is, has your government done any analysis on the possibility of developing a Crown-owned distribution system for the benefit of Nova Scotia and if you haven't, why haven't you?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic that a member of the NDP would be talking about a Crown Corporation from an NDP province so that's a bit ironic. Having said that, if we look at the history of Crown Corporations not only in Nova Scotia but in this country, they are abysmal. The way in which we've structured the arrangement, allows communities outside of the franchise area to put forth an economic model - something that member would not understand because the idea is to end the day with a black bottom line, not a red one.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if the minister likes a black bottom line, maybe he should talk to his colleague in the Liquor Corporation who wants to give away millions of dollars a year. It's not ironic that I would talk about SaskEnergy. That's a Crown Corporation that is making, in a province that is run by the NDP, that recognizes that a properly run Crown Corporation can make millions of dollars for the people of their province. Something that this minister and this government obviously doesn't recognize. You'd rather give our money away. Mr. Speaker, it's conceivable that one day the Province of Saskatchewan will make more money from Sable gas than the Province of Nova Scotia. The Government of Nova Scotia, in partnership with Nova Scotia businesses and Nova Scotia municipalities could put together a distribution plan that would bring gas to far more Nova Scotians than the plan that is currently before the board. My question again to the Minister of Energy is, why won't you send SaskEnergy packing and put together a gas co-op that will ensure more widespread distribution of our gas in Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians can breathe a sigh of relief that that member is not Minister of Energy because we would never have a gas distribution system in this province.

[Page 11952]

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

HEALTH - BLOOD SATELLITE CLINICS: FEES - DHAs IMPACT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. During the budget process last year, the minister accepted proposals from some of the DHAs that would allow them to charge individuals for blood collection at satellite locations. We, as a caucus, argued at that time that this initiative was unfairly targeting vulnerable people living in their communities. My question to the minister is, does the minister still believe that charging a fee for blood satellite clinics has enabled the DHAs to perform services to the best interests of the patients?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, any place those satellite clinics have been set up there has been an alternative clinic there that people could access free of charge. This is a matter of choice, in terms of time, distance, and for some people, time is valuable, as is the price of travelling. Yes, I have no objection. In those places, quite frankly, other than the initial kerfuffle from the members across the floor, we've heard nothing negative about those clinics.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago the South Shore District Health Authority removed the fee for blood collection at satellite locations in Caledonia and in Chester. My question to the minister is, could the minister please indicate whether he is aware why this decision was made, given his keen desire to make health care decisions based on evidence and not on emotion?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that the actions of DHA 1, if they removed charges in blood collection clinics in Chester and whatever other location you mentioned, they must have felt that that was the best thing in that particular instance for them to do.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as we argued in the past, this is an issue of access and this is an issue of fairness. My question to the minister is, does the minister think it's fair for the people of the South Shore to access blood collection services free of charge while the people of southwestern Nova Scotia must pay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the residents of southwestern Nova Scotia have access to free blood collection services.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I rise just to point out to members that our colleague, the member for Dartmouth North will not be with us next week. He will be going into the hospital to have some knee surgery. I would just like for all

[Page 11953]

members to join me in wishing him well during the surgery and a very full and speedy recovery. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid for that.

The honourable Minister of Finance on an introduction.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Dartmouth North, I guess you could say, break a leg but I'm not sure that's a good idea when you're going into surgery. I want to bring to the attention of the members of the House some individuals from my riding, Mr. Peter Boudreau from Wedgeport; Mr. Norbert LeBlanc working with le Conseil scolaire acadien provincial; Mr. Clyde DeViller who works with le Conseil Acadien de Par-en-Bas down in my riding; and my former EA, Chris d'Entremont, who works with the Regional Development Agency. They're in the capital city for some meetings today, and I would like them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 144.

Bill No. 144 - Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2002) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise and speak on second reading of this bill. First of all I would like to talk about the bill. The bill is designed to improve the administration of justice and to ensure that our legislative framework is as current as possible. The Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2002) Act clarifies and improves a number of Statutes. Some of the most comprehensive changes are being proposed to the Summary Proceedings Act, and certainly these are the changes that I think it is fair to say have garnered the most interest by members in the House.

[Page 11954]

[1:45 p.m.]

Let me begin by underscoring the importance of these provisions. In a nutshell they are designed to keep Nova Scotians safe. In order to do that, I am prepared to ensure that the provisions we want outlined for investigative warrants more closely resemble those contained in the Criminal Code of Canada. We will also prescribe the Statutes under which these warrants can be obtained. I am also prepared to move in the Law Amendments Committee a definition of "exigent circumstances". Again, the objective is to improve and streamline the administration of justice.

Let me speak to the actual changes we've proposed. One change eliminates the ability to issue warrants to anyone other than a peace officer. The Criminal Code was amended in 1997 to prevent this, Mr. Speaker, and our legislation now reflects that practice. Investigative warrants will now allow police to use investigative techniques such as performing tests and taking measurements. They can also search computer databases.

There has been some discussion around investigative warrants. Let me give you an example of why the ability to obtain an investigative warrant is so important when dealing with provincial Statutes, particularly relating to occupational health and safety issues. Currently, if an inspector believes the offence has been committed, he or she is required to attain a warrant to further this investigation. The only warrant now available is a search warrant. This certainly allows an individual to search premises, but does not allow for other investigative techniques such as testing equipment. An investigative warrant would provide for this, which is usually important when carrying out the very, very important regulatory inspection function that I'm sure all members of this House would support.

The proposed amendment we are putting forward, Mr. Speaker, will also allow a judge, or a judicially-independent Justice of the Peace, to prohibit access and disclosure of information relating to the warrant. Obviously the integrity of the investigation depends on that confidentiality. The proposed change allows the laying of an information by phone or fax; currently we do allow for the laying of an information by phone or fax only where it is impractical to appear in person. Given the advancements in technology, this precondition is no longer warranted with respect to faxes and other electronic means which produce a writing, and therefore the reason for the proposed amendment.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation will permit experts to help police execute warrants and will allow police to act without warrant in exigent circumstances. Again, exigent circumstances will be defined. For example, there may be concern that evidence could be lost in the time it would take to get a warrant. There could be cases where evidence could dissipate with weather, be destroyed or removed from the scene. There may also be situations where an officer comes upon a scene by chance and has been observed by the offender, and there is concern that the evidence would be moved by the time an officer could return with a warrant. Let me stress the fact that the police could only act without a warrant in extreme

[Page 11955]

circumstances. There are checks and balances for police; it is very simple, it is the courts. Obviously if these provisions are not used properly, the courts will not tolerate that type of behaviour.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed changes also mean that a Justice of the Peace must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to execute a warrant between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Again, this is designed to ensure that in exercising police powers they are acting reasonably. Changes are also proposed relating to the retention, copying and returning of seized items.

The Fatality Investigations Act is being amended to allow medical examiners to collect evidence relating to death and removes the mandatory requirement that a warrant be obtained in order to enter premises. This is particularly relevant, given that in many circumstances there is consent to enter those premises. The proposed change will make it an offense to hinder or obstruct the work of the Chief Medical Examiner.

There is an amendment to the provisions of the Domestic Violence Intervention Act, proposed changes to the Lobbyists' Registration Act, omit police forces from the definition of public officer holders - Mr. Speaker, this is a result of an oversight because our Act was based on Ontario's, where they have, of course, the Ontario Provincial Police - we are clarifying the process for the Residential Tenancies Act and requirements for the Regulations Act and there are a number of minor changes dealing with typographical errors.

I should also close my comments, Mr. Speaker, by thanking my colleagues, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and the member for Richmond, for their diligence and cooperation in working with respect to I think identifying changes to the legislation, amendments to the legislation which continue with the government's original commitment to make sure that our police officers in Nova Scotia are armed with sufficient powers to protect the public and to ensure that offenses under provincial Statutes are adequately pursued while at the same time looking at the issues that were raised by those members in an effort to make sure that there's clarity and consistency. I would commend those honourable members for their efforts in that regard and look forward to working with them when this bill is at the Law Amendments Committee. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it's not fair when you're heckled by your own members. It's sort of against the Marquis of Queensbury's Rules. I think there must be some rule of procedure that prevents that from happening from your own benches.

Mr. Speaker, I would say in all candor that, and we have had discussions about this, which is the issue of consultation and I take very seriously the issue of consultation and have had an opportunity to discuss the broad issue of consultation, and I can indicate to the House that the government is committed to consultation, particularly with respect to Justice bills and we look forward to working with groups that would be interested, including the Bar, in

[Page 11956]

the future to ensure that consultation, while the chains of communication are good, continue to be improved in the future.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of the bill and look forward to this bill being considered at the Law Amendments Committee today.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have a few moments to speak on Bill No. 144. This is a bill that was introduced a couple weeks ago when we first came back for the Fall session. It has been put on hold primarily because of some concerns that have been raised, as the Minister of Justice noted, around the Summary Proceedings Act. Our Party doesn't have any problems with the other pieces of the legislation and I think it's important though to reflect on the process that led to where we are today; I think it's also important to put on the record that the minister's language was a little flowery.

For the record, he has made major changes to the Summary Proceedings Act amendments that he introduced on Bill No. 144, only two weeks ago. In some ways I appreciate his comments with regard to us working together to ensure the changes are made in an efficient and effective manner, but on the other hand, quite frankly, our caucus would believe that these are the types of changes, this is the type of discussion that should have been held before that bill ever was introduced at first reading in this Legislature.

I want to talk a bit about the consultation process because, quite frankly, there was almost no consultation with regard to Bill No. 144, and in particular the changes to the Summary Proceedings Act. This is a bill that the Public Prosecution Service wanted. You know, as a former prosecutor of provincial offenses in Ontario and here, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate, probably more than most, the need for inspectors under our provincial offense legislation to have the power to be able to go in and do what they need to do to gather evidence.

Mr. Speaker, it's quite funny because, unlike criminal matters where you have, in most cases, someone who is alleged to have committed a criminal offence, it's an individual, usually an individual - let's face it - who, in most cases, don't have a lot of money, they're impoverished or working class or maybe middle-class in some circumstances. And honestly, that makes the job of the police easier. They're not the people who are empowered, the people who are educated, they're not the ones who are able to call up a high-priced corporate lawyer who, at $300 or $400 an hour, can tell them what they can do to try to obfuscate or harass or prevent those inspectors from doing their jobs.

Mr. Speaker, that is why the job of being an inspector under the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Environmental Protection Act or a game warden under the Wildlife Act or a fisheries officer or a conservation officer is a very difficult job. They don't have the

[Page 11957]

necessary training as a police officer, they have some, evidence gathering and other things, but they have to face, in many cases, corporations and individuals with a fair bit of money who are able to hire high-priced legal talent to try to make their jobs much more difficult. Anything we can do to provide legislation that makes it a more reasonable opportunity for them to be able to go out and get the evidence they need, I think, is a good thing.

Mr. Speaker, that's where the line is drawn. In a society like ours, in a democracy, you must always balance the powers of the police officers and inspectors versus the power of defendants. I would be the last one to defend corporations who might be defendants under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. There are many people and many individuals who could be directly impacted on what was originally proposed under Bill No. 144. It wasn't just the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Environmental Protection Act or the Wildlife Act or the Fire Prevention Act, I don't think anyone would argue that these provisions are good for those pieces of legislation. Major provincial offences, borderline criminal offences could and would be committed and there's a need to have the power to go in and deal with them.

Mr. Speaker, the way this bill was introduced was not to apply to the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Environmental Protection Act, it applied to every piece of legislation in this province, 600, 700, 800 pieces of legislation. Even if you just take the ones where there are inspectors, we're talking 100 or 200 pieces of legislation. This government, instead of trying to focus in on specific individual legislation, tried to have a blanket ability for investigative warrants for every piece of legislation. Up until today, we had the government willing to propose that this legislation apply to such, quite frankly, frivolous legislation as the Imitation Dairy Products Act, the Bee Industry Act, the Tourist Accommodation Act and the Margarine Act.

This government was not prepared to budge on those points until push came to shove and they realized that's not what they need these powers for. Let's be clear, these are intrusive powers. These are powers that will come in and allow the police - in fact the language is quite clear - any technique, any procedure. That's pretty broad. It specifically talks about the ability to video surveillance and television surveillance. Are we going to do that for the Margarine Act, are we going to do that for the Imitation Dairy Products Act? I don't think those types of pieces of legislation or offences require that level of power amongst peace officers or police officers. That is why we had concerns.

Mr. Speaker, but to start, as I said, there was a lack of consultation on this legislation. The Public Prosecution Service wanted this legislation passed. There were recent changes in case law that were required, in order for the major pieces of provincial offences to be addressed, great, no problem with that. But why not take the time before introducing it here at first reading to talk to the defence bar, to talk to corporate lawyers, if they are the ones who are going to be defending their clients, to talk to members of the bench, possibly, to talk to members of the Barristers' Society, to talk to members of the faculty of the Dalhousie Law

[Page 11958]

School, but let's have an opportunity to discuss that. The problem with this piece of legislation is there was none of that consultation, and as a result we had one side of the story, one part of the picture, when this bill was introduced.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the original wording, I think, was unconstitutional. I say that because in Canada the Criminal Code has similar provisions, and those similar provisions have been found constitutional but the provisions in this bill when it was originally introduced went beyond the Criminal Code provisions. It didn't have as stringent a test with regard to investigative warrants. If a police officer or an inspector wanted to go out and get video surveillance of a potential incident occurring or offense occurring, the test under this bill as it was introduced at first reading and is now before us with the commitment from the minister to have it adjusted at the Law Amendments Committee, as it now stands, this bill would have the inspectors be able to meet a less stringent test than we would for criminal offenses.

[2:00 p.m.]

Criminal offenses, obviously, are important offenses. They're serious offenses. They're federal offenses, ones in which we need to know that the police have met a test. The test they would have to meet for these offenses, provincial offenses under this bill, would be different, would be less stringent. We would have a problem with that.

Specifically, I want to talk about a couple of those points in the bill as it now stands. Whether or not a Justice of the Peace issues those warrants or whether a judge - well, what does that mean? It means the difference between a judge who is appointed, a provincial court judge, a superior court judge, has a judicial function, has been given a mandate for practically life - at least until they're 65 for Provincial Court judges and 75 for Superior Court judges. That gives them that independence to know that they're not bias in favour of - in many cases, the worry is the government or in some cases, let's be honest, in favour of corporations. They're given that freedom to be able to make those decisions. That's one of the basis of our legal system.

Justices of the Peace, we have some of those in Nova Scotia, now that we have JP centres, now that we have JPs who are issuing warrants who have law degrees, some would argue it's not as stringent. That's a concern that we had because it was different from the Criminal Code.

In the Criminal Code it talks about if you want an investigative warrant to spy on someone, you have to ensure that warrant is in the best interests of the administration of justice. The bill, as it now stands, Bill No. 144, does not have that test. The minister has said that will be changed, and we're glad to hear that, but that was one of the concerns we had.

[Page 11959]

The Criminal Code provisions with regard to investigative warrants talks about only issuing those warrants where no other Act or provision can be used to get the same evidence. Our Act didn't have that stringent test, that sort of test that would ensure that it's a last case scenario in which you use the legislation.

Finally, in the Criminal Code, if you want an investigative warrant, strict conditions can be put on it by a judge. In this case, there was no requirement for those conditions to be put.

All of this led to what some call "boot strapping." Basically what it means is that the police, if they do not have sufficient evidence to get a warrant with regard to a criminal offense would find a violation of what could very well be a frivolous provincial offense in order to get a warrant, an investigative, a very intrusive investigative, warrant as a means of trying to reach in, get into the house or get into a location legally and on the basis of that, do a search of some sort that could find criminal evidence. We have a concern with that.

As a former Crown Prosecutor, I understand that police officers have to use the tools at their hands in order to get the job done and if someone is committing a criminal offense we want to ensure that the police are doing everything they can to catch them; but, on the other hand, we have to reflect on the fact of the balance between security interests and individual rights. I don't think anyone in this province would actually believe that Nova Scotians would want the police or inspectors to be able to enter a home through the back door, basically, on the premise that they're coming in because of a frivolous violation of the Margarine Act or the Bee Industry Act or the Off-highway Vehicles Act and then use that as a means to try and gather evidence of another offense. That is what could be done under this legislation, that is why our caucus called for it to be limited to a specific number of pieces of legislation instead of having broad power over every piece of legislation. That is why one of the concerns we had, we understand the Minister of Justice is addressing as well.

This legislation shouldn't have taken this long to come to second reading. It should have been dealt with sooner, it should have been dealt with before it was even introduced in this House at first reading. Some changes have been made. The definition of exigent circumstances is something our caucus wanted to ensure that there was some definition in which the courts could look upon, a Justice of the Peace could look upon in order to know exactly when they should or should not be allowing warrantless searches.

We need to know - there was a clause in here under investigative warrants that allowed JPs to issue warrants giving peace officers and police officers the power to make inquiries of someone, basically require them to sit in a room and answer questions even though we have in this country the right to remain silent. That could have been a conflict. That could have been unconstitutional. This government, from our understanding, has decided to withdraw that provision.

[Page 11960]

We think that was the right thing to do because keeping that provision in not only has concerns around how it would be used inappropriately, but also it just seems a little too much with regard to a lot of these provincial offences. I might add many of the specific legislation, whether it's the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Environment Act, or other legislation, Mr. Speaker, already has these provisions, has provisions that allow this to be the case, allows inquiries, requires people to answer questions. So there's no need for it to be in here.

Mr. Speaker, based on the government's commitment and the minister's commitment here today that the amended bill will basically gut the investigative warrant provisions and replace them with mirror provisions to the Criminal Code, our caucus tentatively supports this on the basis of allowing it to go to the Law Amendments Committee and see those amendments. We have confidence in the minister that those amendments will come in, the ones we have requested, to ensure there are some limits on the power. Again, balancing security issues versus balancing individual rights, that is what democracy is about.

We're glad to see the minister finally came to his senses and decided, instead of trying to fight this, to agree to the changes to at least put some limits on this legislation in the hopes that we can allow those inspectors to do their jobs while at the same time protecting individual rights, particularly in dwellings, from unwarranted access for frivolous offences. Again, in wrap-up, I would hope that this government in the future would take the time for even brief consultations with all members of the Bar, or organizations representing various members and components of the Bar, as a means of trying to ensure that these bills do not come forward and there's suspicion and there's paranoia and there are conspiracy theories.

Well, the best way of solving that, Mr. Speaker, is consult before the bill is introduced and everyone will feel better when the bill is being debated.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise as the Justice Critic to make a few remarks on Bill No. 144 on behalf of our caucus. As has been pointed out by the minister and the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, there has been a significant amount of discussion that has taken place between myself, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, the minister and the minister's staff on this bill to address some of the changes.

One of the points I want to put on the record again, Mr. Speaker, is that I've said it each time we've had one of these justice administration bills and I'm going to say it again, when you bring in these types of omnibus pieces of legislation where you're trying to change a significant number of Acts, it causes a serious problem in providing effective debate on it because in this case all of the changes that are being proposed to the other Acts that are contained in this bill, we don't have an issue with. The issue did come down to the changes

[Page 11961]

to the Summary Proceedings Act. So, you know, I even suggested at one point during the discussions, that the minister introduce a separate bill just dealing with the Summary Proceedings Act so we could get this bill through and make the necessary changes because there was not an issue there. But when you keep packaging these bills as such, you're bound to have one of the changes in there that causes concern and yet it holds up the entire bill and that's not our intent and it certainly wasn't our intent here, but it's another example of when the minister continues to bring in these types of Acts, we're going to run into these problems.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the concerns were primarily around the Summary Proceedings Act. I want to take this opportunity in my name, personally, on behalf of our Leader, Danny Graham, I certainly want to thank the number of concerned individuals who contacted our office, who made representations to us, who shared their opinion with us and in some cases provided us with detailed memos and went out of their way to make comments on this legislation and I would say that's democracy at it's best when we see citizens taking an interest in legislation that's brought forward here and providing us with interesting examples, outlining their concerns, providing case law, and certainly assisting us in the effective debate, both here in the House and outside the House, on this particular bill. So I want to take this opportunity again to thank those individuals who continue to provide us with their very valued opinion and their views on this piece of legislation, especially in regard to the Summary Proceedings Act.

As has been mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, the changes to the Summary Proceedings Act, the two major points are bringing forward, allowing warrants in exigent circumstances and also providing investigative warrants to be available to police investigators and law enforcement officers in regard to provincial Statutes.

As has been mentioned by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, there have been significant changes that have taken place to the proposed amendments - I think it's even safe to say that before the process of Law Amendments Committee is over in third reading, we may even see more changes taking place to these particular sections.

I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I didn't take this opportunity again to recognize the minister's staff, especially Jennifer Palov, who worked very closely with myself, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, and our research staff in bringing forward the changes there. Jennifer is always very helpful and the fact that this bill is moving forward is certainly a testament to her willingness at hearing our concerns, bringing forward the necessary changes and addressing the concerns that we had on these specific changes to the Summary Proceedings Act.

There are still some outstanding issues regarding these changes. I certainly would hope that at the Law Amendments Committee, individuals who are concerned about this will come and make presentations to us; we always look forward to that. It is my understanding that this will proceed to the Law Amendments Committee today, but we have an agreement

[Page 11962]

with the minister that it will continue in the Law Amendments Committee next week. So if there are any individuals out there who want to come and make presentations, there will be opportunities to do so again next week, and I would encourage them to contact the Legislative Counsel office should they wish to make their presentations at that time on these specific changes.

What we have here, the concern that we had was making sure that there was a proper balance here and that the necessary checks and balances were in place to make sure that while we want to provide our law enforcement officials with the greatest tools necessary to carry out their investigative duties. We also have to make sure there is a check there on protecting the individual private rights of citizens, of companies. and of businesses. So it's a very delicate balance and only time will tell whether we've achieved that balance here in this legislation, which I'm sure will eventually be brought up in different court cases and it's at that point that we will know for sure whether those checks and balances are in there. Certainly one would hope that if there is some oversight, that the government will be willing

to immediately bring in the legislation to make those changes.

As has been pointed out by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, we are a bit concerned over which provincial Statutes will be covered by these changes, as was mentioned initially. The government proposed to have these changes, exigent circumstances and the investigative warrant apply to provincial Statutes, which caused a great deal of concern for us. It appeared to be going a bit far, as has been mentioned by the member or Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. These warrants would apply, would be available under the Margarine Act. Now one can only imagine what great pressing need or exigent circumstances may arise in a violation investigation under the Margarine Act, so I'm pleased that the minister and staff have been reducing the list of Statutes that this will apply to. We look forward to reviewing that list again, through the Law Amendments process, before it is completed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to finish just by pointing out one of the greatest concerns that we had with this legislation was the lack of consultation that took place over this bill. Now we've been very complimentary I would say, towards the minister, especially with the number, pieces of legislation which have come directly from the Nova Scotia Bar Society. Where the Bar Society took its time, struck committees did the consultation on legislation, I give you for example one of the bills that's in front of us, the Limited Liability Partnership and Business Bill, that came from the Bar, there was significant consultation that took place around that and it is our position, our caucus, that these changes to the Summary Proceedings Act should have gone through that same process. It should have been sent to the Bar, it should have been set up with a committee to have some representations made by both defence counsel, prosecutorial lawyers, and corporate lawyers, as has been suggested, and have their opinions on these specific changes to Summary Proceedings Act.

[Page 11963]

I would still encourage the minister regardless whether this bill does go through the House, that he should still send these changes to the Bar Society, and ask for their input and advice on it. It's a bit like coming in after the fact, but just the same I think it's still an important process and would provide valuable comment to both the minister and to all members of this House.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, with that, I do look forward to the Committee on Law Amendments process. I should also mention that the minister did indicate that there was some internal consultation that did take place, both between the Public Prosecution Service and lawyers with the Legal Aid Service. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge their review of this legislation and the important input they provided. We still feel the minister should go the extra step, go to the Bar and make sure we're getting the best possible input on this specific legislation. With that, as I said, I look forward to the presentations being made as the Committee on Law Amendments. The minister has been very co-operative to date, and I have no doubt that that spirit of co-operation will continue as we all strive to make sure, as with all legislation, that we are putting forward the best legislation possible on behalf of those who have sent us here to represent them. With that, I would conclude my remarks on Bill No. 144.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't wish to prolong the debate. I agree with all previous members who have spoken on this bill. I agree with the Minister of Justice, when he confesses that the bill is probably not adequately thought out yet at this point, and he's brought it in in an incomplete fashion, and it's subject to revision and review and it will gradually be worked out the proper way down the road.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's not the way to do it.

MR. MACEWAN: Now, that's not the way to do it, says my friend, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, and I agree with that member too. I agree with everyone who has spoken so far this afternoon. I just want to tell you this, Mr. Speaker, that this is something on which the Legislature has to be careful. In all the years that I've been here, the bill that I think received the promptest and quickest passage that had the most major impact was the Automatic Assumption Bill of 1981, which received first reading, second reading and third reading in about one hour. It went down to the Law Amendments Committee, got the rubber stamp there and came right back here in about five minutes, and through it went. A large delegation of coal miners who were in the gallery were very impressed for once all Parties in this Legislature agreed on helping the coal miners. They went back home very satisfied.

[Page 11964]

Well, immediately after that law was passed, I undertook a campaign of finding potential people who could claim for the automatic assumption benefits, and we identified a large number of them, not only through my own efforts, other people were also involved, the United Mineworkers of America was certainly prominently involved and other organizations and individuals as well. In the first, oh, I would say, six months after that law was passed, I built up a file of, as I recall the number, 110 successful awards of automatic assumption to new people who hadn't been getting workers' compensation benefits of that type before.

Now the program worked well for many years. It wasn't an elaborately crafted piece of legislation, it simply stated that where a coal miner had worked at the coal face or in equivalent conditions for 20 years or more, that he would then qualify for testing to see if he had a demonstrable impairment of his lung. If the tests showed that, then he would be entitled to receive what was called automatic assumption. The automatic assumption being that the problem with his lungs was caused by having worked in the coal mines. There was no requirement for the diagnosis of a disease. There was no requirement to be prescribed or found as having pneumoconiosis . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would it be automatic to assume that the honourable member is going to speak to Bill No. 144, the Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2002) Act, please.

MR. MACEWAN: The debate is on the principle of the bill, and what I'm speaking to, sir, is the principle of improperly crafting legislation before it's put to the Legislature. (Interruptions) So, you can get the connection.

Now, to make a long story short, Mr. Speaker, after 30 years of successful operation of that Statute, the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal got hold of it in the year 2000 and invented a new definition of the word "year". Because the bill had been put together in a very quick way and had 18 pages of definitions attached, it just suddenly decided that if you have been a miner for 20 years, you qualify; and the board operated on that principle for close to 30 years.

When the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal got hold of this bill, it invented all kinds of new qualifications as to what a year meant and subtracted from the number of years you have put in as a coal miner any day that you were off work due to a strike, any day that you were off work due to being laid off, any day that you were off work due to being on workers' compensation, and a number of other such things, such as being off work due to attending a funeral, or whatever and, when you take all that away from 20 years, you ain't got that much left. Many miners were told you've only served 19.45 years as a coal miner, so you don't qualify. This only came down in the year 2000, which was 28 years after the law had been passed. The ruling was not retroactive, but it is now being applied. I am fighting cases right now before the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal on that very point - that

[Page 11965]

you cannot take away by regulation or by policy decisions, rights that are already granted by law.

I think the honourable Minister of Justice is nodding his head in agreement with that, or is it perhaps what he's hearing from the member to his immediate left? In any case, he is indicating assent. So I take it he's onside on this. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, to sum up, I would say to the Minister of Justice, through you, heed the principles that I've just outlined and then you won't go wrong. Have your bill properly drafted before you bring it in and then we will have a much better idea of what we're dealing with when we go through second debate or the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, or on third reading debate on this bill or, indeed, on any measure that comes before this House.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the honourable members for their intervention with respect to the bill. As always, I find the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova's comments interesting; informative might be too strong a word, but interesting at the very least. They were very interesting. I would thank all members for their intervention and, with that, I would move second reading of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 144. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 154.

Bill No. 154 - House of Assembly Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to say it's certainly an honour to stand here today. This is a first for me as a member to be able to bring forward legislation and sponsor a bill. I certainly want to thank the Government House Leader and the government caucus for calling this bill, which I believe is an important change to the House of Assembly Act, symbolic in many ways, and a change which I'm hoping, in the near future, possibly even after the next election, may actually prove to be a successful change in that we

[Page 11966]

may be bringing in more younger faces here to the House of Assembly. (Interruption) It has been suggested maybe an 18-year-old member for Richmond after the next election. I'm hoping that Richmond does continue to send young members, but maybe not an 18-year-old the next time.

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, the bill is one clause and, as has been pointed out in the explanatory note, it says that this Act lowers the minimum age at which a person is entitled to become a member of the House of Assembly from 19 years to 18 years.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, for a significant amount of years now the voting age here in the Province of Nova Scotia has been 18. Yet, the House of Assembly Act stated that you had to be 19 to sit as a member of the House of Assembly so fortunately, the situation has never arisen where we've had an 18-year-old get elected and then be refused entry in the House because the House of Assembly Act says you have to be 19. This is a common-sense change. With an election probably coming upon us some time in the near future, I think it's an important change to put in place before the election. This bill is also an attempt to send out the message to the youth throughout this province that we want them to be part of our political system and our democratic system here in this province.

As I said, when asked about this bill on the Rick Howe show, the comment I made is that we don't only want our youth outside this House protesting and shouting at us from outside, we want them to be here inside the Chamber debating bills, bringing forward legislation and representing the concerns of the young people throughout this entire province.

Mr. Speaker, it was an honour for me when I was first elected at the age of 25, I became the second-youngest member elected. The youngest member ever elected was Mr. Murdoch McRae back in the 1870s, who, ironically, was the member from Richmond County. Certainly it's an honour to be presenting this as the member for Richmond considering the proud history our county has of sending young members to this House. The MLA for Inverness himself, I believe, was 27 at the time he was first elected. I believe the member for Argyle, the minister, was 27 or 28 when he was first elected and my good colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova, I believe, was 27 when he was first elected a number of years ago. The member for Antigonish, when he first came to the House was quite young also and even the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is also still a very young member here in this House.

I'm hoping in the next election we will continue to see young candidates. I believe as a result of the members I have listed, we've clearly proven that you can get elected here in this province, you can represent your constituents with distinction, you can make an important difference here in this House of Assembly on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. This is a good piece of legislation, significant and symbolic and again, I thank the government for calling it and certainly hope that it will get speedy passage here in the House from all sides. Thank you, and I move second reading of Bill No. 154.

[Page 11967]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I too want to say that this is a good bill. It may be symbolic in nature to some people but I think it's a piece of legislation that is truly warranted. As you know, many young people become actively involved at a young age in high school through model parliament. Many of those young people understand the political process by being actively involved in that model parliament and I must tell you that since I was elected to this Legislature I've been more than surprised at the number of young people who partake in that model parliament each and every year at the Dartmouth High School in particular, the one which I have attended. I can tell you there's been well over 200-plus students participating in that model parliament each and every year.

As well, I want to tell you that in the City of Dartmouth we had one of the youngest persons ever to be elected to the Dartmouth district school board, a young individual by the name of Greg Napean who at age 18 ran for the Dartmouth district school board and became an elected representative to the school board. There were some serious questions because he was still in high school at the time, I recall, and in fact he was going to be the boss of the teachers with respect to the administration of the teaching programs and salaries and so on. Yet, I served on that Dartmouth district school board with this young individual and I must tell you that this young individual did an exceptionally fine job. I don't particularly relate this to age.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I will and I do know that my colleagues on this side of the floor will be supporting that piece of legislation. I want to tell you that it once again reflects the kind of legislation that crosses the floor of this Legislature, that from time to time, regardless of what side of the political fence you serve on, when it is good legislation, you do support it. That's exactly why we're here, to support that kind of legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to the House, Peter Wightman, who is standing in the gallery. Peter worked with the student union at Acadia University, went up to Windsor University in Ontario, and the Maritimes has called him back. He's seeking employment here. He's an excellent person, and I know that because he was a ward captain in Port Williams for the Kings North PC Association. So let's give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

[Page 11968]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my comments will be relatively brief for a change. I know the Opposition can't believe that. I do want to say that our caucus will be supporting the bill. I think it's probably long overdue. We have had some members elected at a very early age, the member for Richmond, obviously the member for Inverness, I think it was at 25 also - maybe 27, I'm not sure how old he was - the member for Antigonish. Maybe the wisdom doesn't necessarily come the first day, but some of us never get it anyway. The fact of the matter is it is an oversight, and I want to congratulate the member opposite for bringing it forward. With that, I will end my comments and say that it's a good piece of legislation and we will be supporting it.

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Dartmouth North for his kind comments and very relevant comments on this bill. Also, I thank the Minister of Finance for his support on this. I would be remiss if I didn't also take this opportunity to thank our research staff who were the ones who brought this forward to our attention as being an oversight. I certainly want to thank them for their hard work, not only on this bill but the hard work they do for us each and every day. With that, I would move second reading of Bill No. 154.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 154. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 158.

Bill No. 158 - Elections Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it was a tremendous thrill not only introducing my first bill in this House and debating it, but I get to relive it all over again with my second bill, Bill No. 158. Quite interestingly, after having the good speech that we had

[Page 11969]

from the member for Cape Breton Nova talking about bringing bills in, once we did bring the first bill in, Bill No. 154, the House of Assembly Act, it was quickly brought to our attention that, in fact, the Elections Act had a clause in it which said that in order to be nominated as a candidate you have to be at least 19 years of age. So it quickly became apparent that another bill was going to be required to make a change to the Elections Act to bring that in line also.

Again, the same logic, Mr. Speaker, if you can vote at 18, then we certainly agree that you should be able to stand for office at the age of 18 and be able to sit as a member of the House of Assembly at the age of 18. As I said in my previous comments, this sends out a strong message to the youth of our province. With an upcoming election it's certainly my hope that we will see nominated candidates 18 years of age and older who will be participating in the elections and, hopefully, even be elected as members here in this House in order to serve and join some of the members who had the pleasure of being elected here at a very young age.

I think it is possible to be elected at 18, and I certainly hope that in the next election we will have candidates out there who will be standing for office for the different Parties here and that they will have the pleasure of coming here and the distinction of being able to serve their province. With that, I would move Bill No. 158.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will be extremely brief, just to point out that certainly we in this caucus will be supporting the legislation and we congratulate the member for Richmond for bringing it forward. We think that it's common sense. It's a parallel piece of legislation and as the member pointed out, it goes hand in hand with the bill that we passed for second reading a few minutes ago, if it was even that long ago, and I would just point out that the comments that were made by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, on the last bill would also be applicable, I believe, to this particular piece of legislation and, therefore, I just point out that we certainly will be supporting this legislation on through the process and hopefully it will become law prior to the next election.

The only thing that I would point out is that maybe there are some members in here who are planning to seek re-election, maybe hoping that nobody at the age of 18 or 19, with all of their energies, will be wishing to run against them but, Mr. Speaker, we believe that it is extremely important that if you're able to vote, you're able to serve this country in so many different ways, and you certainly should also have the right to be able to serve as an elected representative and, therefore, we are supporting the legislation.

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

[Page 11970]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise in support of the bill. I want to say that when I arrived here for the first time, it was rather lonely for me because there weren't many people around who I found that I could socialize with, mostly the Pages because that was my age at that time, and I'm glad that the electorate of Nova Scotia have finally sent some people here my own age and I appreciate having them - the member for Inverness and the member for Richmond. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond to close debate.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Sackville-Cobequid for his remarks and also the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and MLA for Antigonish who, again, as I stated earlier, is a shining example of young people being elected to this House and I would say serving this province very well. His constituents back in Antigonish, I know, are proud of the representation he has provided because, in fact, they sent him here again a second time which is not a simple task as many people who have served in this House before can attest to.

Mr. Speaker, in closing I want to again thank the Government House Leader and the government for bringing forward this legislation. It is an important piece and an important change to make before the next election. Again, I think it sends out the message that we, as individual members here in this House, regardless of political affiliation, regardless of whether you're in government, Opposition, or in Third Party status, can make a change. The government is interested and the members are interested in looking at legislation coming from all sides of the House. It sends a good message and, again, I want to thank the government and all members of the House for supporting this bill and, with that, I would like to close debate on Bill No. 158.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 158. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to move Bill No. 160, Public Trustee Act, onto the order paper for second reading.

[Page 11971]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 160.

Bill No. 160 - Public Trustee Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 160.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to be uncharacteristically brief on this piece of legislation as well. I do want to thank the minister for introducing the legislation; it deals with an issue that I brought to the minister's attention on a few occasions. In situations when a person passes away and it's not possible for people to prove that there are no other living relatives other than those who are identified, the monies end up within the Department of Finance. If they are unable to satisfy the department in a period of time, without going to a very expensive court challenge, that money then reverts to the Crown and those heirs don't have access or can't get access to that particular money.

The situation that I became aware of dealt with a relatively small estate - I won't get into the dollar value here, but a relatively small estate - they were told, of course, that in order to try to go through the court process to recover it, if they were to be successful the court costs would in fact be greater than the value of the estate that they would be able to get for the particular heirs.

Mr. Speaker, certainly there are some protections in the legislation, a number of those to ensure that if another heir were to turn up that there would be recourse, but it will mean that those who find themselves in this kind of situation - I'm told the number could be between 1,000 and 2,000 estates - this will make it much easier for them to get access to their legal inheritance.

I just want to thank the minister. Sometimes you do have something, as one of my colleagues said yesterday, to thank the government for doing the right thing, and this is one of those occasions, and I want to thank the Minister of Justice for agreeing to bring this forward. He said that he would; he kept his word, and I do very much appreciate that.

[Page 11972]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I will also be very brief on this. I certainly want to commend the government for bringing in Bill No. 160. I want to take this opportunity to extend our congratulations to the member for Sackville-Cobequid who, I'm aware, is the one who made the representation on this based on some situation he was made aware of, where unfortunately people were caught in the loophole that was there and it was going to be a very costly procedure in order to be able to get back the money which was being held by the minister under the Public Trustee Act. As was pointed out, this is good legislation, and I commend the government for bringing forward this change.

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to briefly say that I was remiss when I spoke earlier about when we first introduced the House of Assembly Act. I had pointed out that it was indicated to us that there was a need to make changes in the Elections Act. Now for those of us who have been around this House for some time, we have sometimes heard complaints - I won't profess to having made them myself, or I won't admit to having made some of them myself - and we sometimes complained that members of the media sometimes aren't really interested in doing a great deal of research.

We've all heard those complaints before, but I want to point out that after having tabled the bill I received a phone call from none other than - a familiar face to this House - the CBC radio reporter, Jean Laroche, who had quickly looked through the Elections Act and noticed that the age was 19 to be a nominated candidate, and it was Jean who pointed that we should make the necessary change to the Elections Act. So I want to take this opportunity, here in this House, to thank Jean Laroche and all members of the media who often assist us in our deliberations here . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We might call it the Laroche Act.

MR. SAMSON: One member suggests we might want to call it the Laroche Act, but I'm too pleased to have the government calling a bill of mine to take my name off it, so unfortunately Jean won't get the opportunity to have his name on that particular bill. I want to commend and thank Jean for bringing that to our attention, an important change again, that the government has called today. Just on Bill No. 160, it's another good piece of legislation and we will certainly be supporting it and looking forward to its speedy passage here in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak very briefly on this. It brings up a point that oftentimes this type, if it happens, as Minister of Finance, obviously we're in charge of being trustee for these estates that can't be dealt with. Sometimes we find

[Page 11973]

it problematic. We get communications from people saying there should be a way of resolving this.

[2:45 p.m.]

The point that's brought up by this whole exercise is that it sometimes takes an Act of the Legislature to resolve it. It may be time to do some review to see whether or not there is a more efficient and less obstructive way of doing this activity and I will maybe have some discussions with my staff and also the Justice Department to at least try to have a review. There are a lot of things on our agenda right now, so if it doesn't get done in the short term, maybe even in the next few years, I think it would be beneficial to do this. I want to congratulate the member opposite for bringing this legislation forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, just before I close debate on Bill No. 160, I, too, would like to join in and congratulate the member for Sackville-Cobequid for progressing this matter which is one that is very, very important to not that many Nova Scotians, but those to whom this bill affects, it is a very important measure. I would like to move second reading of Bill No. 160.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 160. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, before we close the House, I think we will deal with Bill No. 149. I would move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

[The motion is carried.]

[2:47 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[3:11 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott resumed the Chair.]

[Page 11974]

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. 149 - Taker Estate Subdivision Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read 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 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. 146, the Municipal Government Act.

Bill No. 146 - Municipal Government Act.

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, as we indicated at second reading, we have no problem with this bill. We're very much in favour of it. It does two things - it puts in place a special procedure for dealing with the proposal that has come forward to consider the possibility of transformation of the rural Municipality of Chester into a town. It also deals with the general situation of what ought to be the framework when similar applications are made to the Utility and Review Board. What it does is introduce into the process the requirement of a plebiscite. It also increases the number of signatures that have to be on a petition to even start the process.

[Page 11975]

I made the earlier observation and repeat that it will now be the case that probably very few rural municipalities will even consider the likelihood of changing into a town given that one-third of the electors have to sign a petition. But, I have no problem with that. It seems to me that this bill deals with something that was discovered to be highly contentious in the area of Chester and that's the right thing to do. If something emerges and it turns out that it's contentious, we have to deal with it.

We're certainly not suggesting by adopting this bill that the Utility and Review Board did anything wrong. When the matter came in front of the Utility and Review Board, they dealt with it according to the laws that were in place at the time. They did exactly the right thing and made an appropriate decision.

What we are saying is that upon more mature consideration, we think that the process needs some working. Therefore we're suggesting that the process should be changed. We have no problem with this, both in the specific instance and in general, therefore our caucus will certainly be supporting this bill. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I just want to take this opportunity to make a few comments on Bill No. 146. Clearly, as we stated at second reading and at Law Amendments, our caucus also is in support of the changes that are being proposed here. Also I want to remind the minister that we're looking forward to him bringing in changes so that these new rules will also apply to annexation requests. The minister will be well aware of the situation that Antigonish finds itself in and the minister, I believe, has sent correspondence saying that he is referring this back to the UNSM for their input, but this is a serious issue for both the town and the Municipality of Antigonish. I certainly agree that the same rules should apply to annexation as should apply to incorporation.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the other comments I want to make, especially after the Law Amendments Committee, the presentations we heard there, the unfortunate thing that has happened here is that both in the media and even at some of the presentations at the Law Amendments Committee there has been continued reference that the application that had been brought forward to incorporate Chester as a town was a small group of people with money. That's how it's always being referred to, with money. That causes me a great deal of concern because it has left that impression out there that this group somehow bought the decision they got from the URB, or that their positions or their stature as businessmen or as individuals with their financial background was somehow the reason why this took place.

[Page 11976]

Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. As has been said by the member for Halifax Chebucto, the group that brought this matter forward followed the rules, the URB followed the rules and rendered its decision. As you're well aware, the laws of this province and our judicial system, the URB included, are set up so that it is blind to matters of race, matters of religion, matters of colour, your background or whether you're wealthy or whether you're poor, whether you live in a big house, whether you live in a small house or no house.

Mr. Speaker, I find it important to put on the record that the people who brought this matter forward - unfortunately, my own impression from what I've read and the presentation I've heard - have somehow been painted as villains in this matter. I do not believe that is fair. I believe they did follow the rules. We agree with the changes being made with the process today. We agree the process had some flaws in it, but I remain extremely concerned with those continual references that they were a small group with money.

Mr. Speaker, the rules that were in place were the rules that were followed. We do agree that those rules need to be changed. I think it's important to put on the record that those who brought this forward were honest, hard-working citizens of the Chester area. They had an idea they were bringing forward. They did follow the rules, but we do agree that the rules that were in place were insufficient to provide the necessary safeguards.

It is also important to note, Mr. Speaker, that what we did see at the Law Amendments Committee stage, was that on numerous occasions during this application process, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations was asked to intervene and to conduct a plebiscite prior to the URB decision, and the minister continually refused to do so, saying that the process that was in place was appropriate and there was no need to go forward with a plebiscite.

There was an opportunity throughout this application process for the government to step in and to address the concerns of the citizens of Chester. It did not do so, and it was only after the decision came down, after the outcry that came from the residents of Chester that, after the fact, the minister brought in these changes. It is important to note that the citizens' committee that applied for the incorporation did try to get the government to conduct a plebiscite and to get involved in this, to make sure that the people of Chester were heard and that they had an opportunity to speak on this. Again, it's important to point out that the minister refused to take action on this.

Those are simply some of the comments I wanted to make on this. I believe that the changes are good changes. They will be good for future applications made for incorporation, such as this one. Again, I would urge the minister to work quickly with the UNSM to investigate having annexation have the same rules as what has been required for a plebiscite. Certainly, I commend the people of Chester who have taken a very serious interest in the civic matters of their municipality and of their village, and I commend them for the public statements they've made, the representations they have made to us here in the House, which

[Page 11977]

certainly went a long way in bringing forward the good changes which we have here today. With that, I will conclude my remarks on this bill, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not intend to talk for a long time. In Chester, this bill has been talked about by many people for over three years. I think they were very thrilled, everybody will be thrilled that this law is getting passed. It does not

mean that everybody thinks one way or thinks that way. It basically gives everybody the right to vote and I think they're very much appreciative as well as anybody in Nova Scotia. If they have this status question, the status that they have now should have changed, yes, they've brought it in the report and the people who live with that new status, or not a new status, they should have a vote. Basically, the bottom line is, let's go forward with it and the faster the better. We certainly appreciate it big time. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank honourable members for their comments and their participation in the debate. Certainly, matters referred to have been and will be referenced to the UNSM. We look forward to hearing their comments with respect to those matters and we will take their comments under advisement.

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

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill 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, just one final piece of business. Could I have the permission of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 11978]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 152 - Université Sainte-Anne-Collège de l'Acadie Act.

Bill No. 155 - Workers' Compensation Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on Tuesday, November 26th, at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Third Reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Wednesday will be Opposition Day, if we're still here, from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. On Thursday, the hours - for planning only - will be from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. With those few words, I move the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until Tuesday at 12:00 noon.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon on Tuesday.

We have now reached the moment of interruption - the time for the late debate. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has submitted the subject for this evening's debate.

[Page 11979]

"Therefore be it resolved that the government should work with municipalities and co-ops to establish a Nova Scotia-grown distribution system for our natural gas, rather than using Nova Scotians' money to subsidize the taxpayers of Saskatchewan."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

ENERGY - NAT. GAS:

DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (N.S.) - ESTABLISH

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I know that this is the high point of the day when we get to have late debate topics. It's the time of day that everybody waits for anxiously so that we can have a particular topic raised. With that little bit of sarcasm out of the way, I want to turn to the topic today.

Mr. Speaker, the topic that I submitted for today's late debate is ". . . that the government should work with municipalities and co-ops to establish a Nova Scotia-grown distribution system for our natural gas, rather than using Nova Scotians' money to subsidize the taxpayers of Saskatchewan."

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to go down the road, at least not at the moment, to go into the failed Sempra gas distribution system and the fiascos that surrounded that. That's a topic that could take a long time and in a 10-minute debate there isn't sufficient time. I will point out, however, that I have raised the issue in Question Period yesterday and again today and, as I suspected, I got the ideological response from this government, which is opposed to doing anything that would be creative. I heard the Premier yesterday, when we raised concerns about the Heritage Gas - which really basically means SaskEnergy and their partners' proposal here in Nova Scotia - I heard the Premier come up with an erratic comment such as the NDP is opposed to every business, that we haven't found a business that we would like. I heard the minister today criticize me because I would criticize a company, supposedly from Saskatchewan, that was a Saskatchewan Crown Corporation with an NDP Government and he was suggesting that we were proposing that there be targets put forward, Mr. Speaker, like those under the failed Sempra proposal. Well, those thoughts are only in the imaginations of the Premier and the Energy Minister, because none of those things have been suggested.

Let's look first of all at what Heritage Gas is proposing - Heritage Gas, which is SaskEnergy and a few partners - they're offering us, they're saying that they intend to hook up, hope to hook up 4,000 households in Nova Scotia. Only 4,000 in a 10-year period of time and that same period of time in New Brunswick they're projecting that they will hook up

[Page 11980]

40,000 households using Nova Scotia's natural gas - ten times as many. Heritage Gas, Mr. Speaker, has said that they want to pick the plums; they want to be able to get those easily accessible industrial customers, but they aren't even willing, they aren't even looking at immediate plans to roll out in the largest area of metro unless they get commitments from the large anchor businesses, or customers like the universities.

They want access to the $20-million market development fund. Now, no, that wasn't Nova Scotia taxpayers' money, it was a small concession we got from the big oil companies that are exporting almost all of our resources to the United States; a fund of a mere $20 million, when they're making hundreds of millions, to go into a fund to help develop a distribution system in this province. That money wasn't given by them for the benefit of SaskEnergy, it was given to the province to be held for the benefit of Nova Scotians to assist in the development of a distribution fund.

What else do SaskEnergy and their partners in Heritage want? They want of course a 25-year monopoly; they want the right to make what, in this day and age, would have to be considered a very hefty profit - 14 percent. Do you know they're even opposed to the Strait area proposal, where that Strait area is unhappy with the proposal from SaskEnergy because of the length of time it would take to get to that area? So they're opposed to them coming forward with their own proposal.

Now SaskEnergy - I'm interspersing them with Heritage because they're the lead people in this - yes is a Crown Corporation in a province that is run by an NDP Government, but mark my words, Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I do that SaskEnergy's primary purpose is to make money for their shareholders and their shareholder is the Government of Saskatchewan. Their objective is to make as much profit as possible for the Government of Saskatchewan, and I'm standing in my place, here in Nova Scotia in the Nova Scotia Legislature, to say that my primary purpose is not to maximize the financial benefits for another province, whether I happen to be favourably inclined towards that government or not, it is to maximize the benefits for the people of Nova Scotia and for us to be getting the maximum penetration of our gas throughout this province for Nova Scotia consumers, whether that would be householders or businesses. That's my primary objective.

The minister was also at the chamber of commerce dinner where the President of SaskEnergy spoke, Mr. Ron Clarke, a fine gentleman and he talked about - of course he was in the chamber of commerce, their forum - their business plan, but being a friendly business audience he wanted to assure them that he had the business sense. He talked about, for example, how the company is in this to make a profit and how they developed a gas distribution - one of them, because they have experience outside of Saskatchewan and he wanted to point that out - system in South America, in a country where there were no regulations, which enabled them, of course, to make a very sizable profit.

[Page 11981]

[3:30 p.m.]

Now where I'm coming from, Mr. Speaker, is that I have to say, quite honestly, what SaskEnergy and their partners are proposing for this province is very meagre. If you take a look at other jurisdictions, like Alberta, like Manitoba, those areas out West, when gas distributions were set up and a company was given a monopoly for a long period of time, the system did not roll out into those less profitable - still profitable but less profitable - areas until the government actively took part and made it possible for groups like co-ops and so on and municipalities to set up distribution systems. It was a Tory Government not an NDP Government in Alberta that changed the rules, so that so many rural areas and small towns got it.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm saying - and the 10 minutes is flying too fast - to the minister is simply this, at least explore with municipalities, with Nova Scotia businesses, explore with them the possibility of setting up a co-operative so that working together we can actually develop a gas distribution system in this province that is going to get out to the citizens in this province. I'm not saying set targets, I'm not saying get it into 18 municipalities within x number of years, I'm saying set it up in such a way, with the government taking a key lead in this - remember, SaskEnergy is only promising to spend an average of $12 million a year over 10 years, for $120 million. That's small potatoes.

If we can set up a co-operative to do it ourselves, Mr. Speaker, the profits come back to the municipalities or governments, which can then be used to assist in the roll-out even farther to more Nova Scotians, Nova Scotia businesses. We're not talking about a huge drain on the finances of the province, we're talking about looking in a co-operative way at a common sense businesslike approach to make sure that Nova Scotians have access to our resource in a timely fashion. (Applause)

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I had not prepared any extensive speech on this subject, but the question the honourable member raises is no doubt a very important one. I know that former Premier Russell MacLellan considers this to be the most important issue on the political agenda in Nova Scotia. Had he remained in office somewhat longer, I think he would have had an opportunity to carry his plans forward and demonstrate what he had in mind and had fully envisaged. I know, as the NDP well knows, that to envision something and then to do it are two rather different things. One requires a flash of insight, the other requires much protracted time to carry out. Unfortunately the MacLellan Government was not left in office long enough to carry out many of its plans, action in this field being one.

Now, the honourable member has demonstrated a connection between developments in this province and those in the Province of Saskatchewan. I haven't done that research myself. I have done my best to bring to the attention of this Legislature the anti-labour

[Page 11982]

policies of the Saskatchewan electrical utility that is owned by the Province of Saskatchewan, whether their enterprise in the area of natural gas is that or another body, I do not know. I certainly know that there was much anti-labour activity carried out by the Saskatchewan electrical utility, and I used to bring the progress there - or rather, the lack of it - to the attention of this House in a series of daily resolutions, which I know you greatly looked forward to, Mr. Speaker, whenever that item appeared on the agenda.

This is an unfolding situation. It is a major one. What degree of control or involvement the government has in it is hard to fathom. It's not a matter on which we're reporting daily announcements here in the Legislature from this minister or the Premier indicating that anything is going on. They've been silent, I would say, on the matter.

We're soon going to come to an end of this session of the House and then it'll be home for Christmas. I will bet you this, Mr. Speaker, that the day after this session of the House is over, the silent government that has said very little and done very little during the last several weeks will suddenly be a flurry of activity as they come out with massive announcements and pronouncements on this, that and everything else under the sun. They'll be steaming with great, hot ideas as they march forward to the upcoming provincial election.

If they have all those ideas, it would be good to hear about them here in the House while the House is in session. The number of days are now limited. We heard from the Government House Leader the proposed agenda for next week, only three sitting days and the outlook is that will be that. There won't be any more session of the House until whatever they're going to do in the Spring. The Premier says there's going to be a budget and then, well, we'll see. That's the agenda of the government Party for next Spring.

That doesn't mean the House will sit next Spring, because you can certainly bring in a budget without having to actually have the House in session and table it. I remember, in 1994, we had a riot on budget day and it had nothing to do with the riot, but it took place anyway, on that day. The Minister of Finance was very upset because he couldn't table his budget that day if the House wasn't in session. I said, have you got a copy of the budget there under your arm? He said, yes, it's right here - this is actually the autobiography of Hughie Long, but I'm just using it to illustrate the point - I have the budget right here. Well, I said, then take your budget and give it to Rod. So he did. I said, there, you've tabled your budget, now go out and announce the happy news to Nova Scotia. That's all you have to do to table a budget. The House does not have to be in session nor sitting on the day that the budget is released. I just passed that on to help them in their ongoing plan.

The House may not ever sit again - this House - past Thursday of next week. If that's the case and we only have three sitting days left, surely this is now the time for the minister to unfold the good news and tell us here, while the House is assembled, rather than waiting until after the House is adjourned for Christmas and then try to share ice time with Santa Claus with all his good news that perhaps is more newsworthy than that from the Minister

[Page 11983]

of Energy. I rest my case at that. I'm not going to go the full 10 minutes, I just think this would be the better place and time to hear about it, than after we go home and Santa Claus is round and about.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. GORDON BALSER: I would like to thank the member for his contribution to this debate. It is good to get up and talk about this very significant issue, and I find it, again, somewhat interesting that the member for Sackville-Cobequid uses the late debate to bring forward this very significant issue. It's interesting that we have just gone through a very extensive hearing process that saw the URB entertaining submissions from any number of groups who are interested. In fact, the interesting thing is that the NDP actually sought an opportunity to participate. They sought intervener status in that process. Do you know the interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, they didn't show up. They didn't bother to attend to make known their concerns about the way in which this process would unfold, to raise the very issues that the member for Sackville-Cobequid has brought to the floor of this House. I think that's somewhat interesting, that rather than take part in a real process, they decided to use late debate to raise, after the fact, concerns.

Had they taken the opportunity to participate in that hearing process, they would have heard a number of submissions. There would have been submissions from the Strait area. The Strait area is a group of two municipal units that have come together to put a proposal forward to distribute gas in their area. They would also have heard input from SaskEnergy, which has in fact engaged a new company, Heritage Gas, that has Nova Scotia participation in terms of equity investment. They would have heard the challenges that exist around trying to create an economic model that works and I understand full well that the NDP have never really concerned themselves with the business case of any initiative. They feel that some way, somehow these companies should be forced to create an uneconomic model simply because it suits their philosophical purpose Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, distributing gas in this province is a significant challenge. In fact, I will speak to the Sempra experience, because it was a powerful lesson learned. The Sempra proposal saw uneconomic timelines, uneconomic commitments and at the end of the day a failure to deliver. They didn't fail because they did not want to deliver, they failed because they could not deliver. They could not finance that distribution system in any way that made economic sense, and so they abandoned the franchise and we, as a government sought input from companies such as Enbridge that the member opposite often raises as a comparison.

I can tell you that Enbridge Gas in New Brunswick faces significant challenges. They are in fact losing money at this juncture because of the capital cost associated with putting in place $200 or $300 million worth of infrastructure and that is a challenge. The member opposite talks about co-ops or municipal units being able to distribute gas. They would face significant financial challenges. One of the things that came through the URB process that

[Page 11984]

the member opposite failed to attend, was the Strait area gas distribution process and proposal was a challenge. They recognized early on in the process that they would have to have assistance if they were going to make this happen.

We at the Department of Energy, recognize that they were putting forward a proposal that would see gas distributed in the Strait area in a timeline that was outside the timeline being proposed by Heritage Gas, and we agreed with that, Mr. Speaker. We agreed that that made sense and we felt that they should be supported but we also said, you will need to demonstrate how you are going to make this model work.

Mr. Speaker, the only way that they can move forward is if they have an economic model that generates a rate of return. Heritage Gas is talking about financing, he's talking about the 25 years. They will incur probably $200 to $300 million worth of capital cost that have to be recovered. That's why they have asked for a 25-year plan, because they need to be able to amortize their investment in a way that returns dollars to them over time. They've also said that they want to be able to get gas to areas that have a commercial high end anchor for the line and that over time, the residential distribution will roll out through that process.

We envision that in the legislation and in the proposal we put forward. There is an

opportunity for areas outside of the distribution franchise to put together a working model

that may be municipal units. It may be co-ops, but it will have to make sense economically.

They will have to find equity partners. We have had discussions with some of the municipal

units that have looked to the potential of the Municipal Finance Corporation providing financial assistance. That would have an impact on the province and would undermine our ability to borrow money and may in fact impact on our credit rating. What we have said to those groups that are talking about creating an economic model is, go out, do your homework, find equity investors who are willing to participate and if it makes sense then it will be considered. In fact, there are groups already looking at models that would see gas pipeline distribution in place outside of the franchise area and which would ultimately lead to communities getting access to natural gas outside of the franchise area in a timeline much more accelerated than the one that Heritage Gas has put in place.

I'm pleased and proud to think that Heritage Gas has come to this area with a view that they would like to be part of the solution to a very complex problem. Part of the difficulty we have in Nova Scotia, particularly in HRM is geology. Everyone recognize that there is a great deal of rock in this area and a great deal of rock drives cost and makes the distribution model much more challenging, and again it's a point that the NDP fail to recognize.

We are committed to seeing gas distributed, and we recognized it was not going to happen unless we as a government put in place policies and procedures that assisted the potential franchisees in addressing their concerns. We believe in an open market model. We were called to defend Nova Scotia interests at a National Energy Board hearing in

[Page 11985]

Fredericton just this past summer and the entire debate was based on trying to rationalize an uneconomic pipeline and we saw clearly that that would not be in anyone's best interest.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the other challenge we face is using subsidies and the member opposite has talked about the $20 million market distribution fund and has sort of alluded to the fact that it is taxpayers' money. That is not the case and that is misleading. That fund was created by the industry to assist with market development over time and clearly there are other groups involved in the heating industry that have expressed very serious reservations about using artificial subsidies to drive an uneconomic model. We've heard them and we've talked clearly about the fact that this province's government is not prepared to use subsidy to create and sustain uneconomic models because we've seen our past history littered with failed attempts to make uneconomic models work and it has cost the taxpayers of this province hundreds of millions, in fact, billions of dollars. What we're saying, and it's something that we believe in, is that you have to have a sustainable economic market-based model that returns a revenue to the people who are willing to take the risk. That's the way entrepreneurism works. That's the way a market-driven economy works.

Mr. Speaker, it's short-sighted and, in fact, foolhardy to try to drive uneconomic models that pretend they can be sustainable because any government has challenges in meeting the needs of the people they represent. With $20 million, it would not be enough to even assist with a small distribution model and it is unfortunate that this individual opposite did not take the time to go to the URB hearings to hear how distribution should work in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this very important debate this evening.

We are adjourned until Tuesday at 12:00 noon.

[The House rose at 3:47 p.m.]

[Page 11986]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 4911

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Rob Henderson of Springhill, Nova Scotia, competed on the Nova Scotia bowling team of McLaughlin Truck & Trailer in Brewer, Maine, U.S.A.; and

Whereas Rob and his team captured the 2002 Candlepin Bowling World Championship title; and

Whereas Rob Henderson had a score of 377 helping to lead the way to a victory for his team with an overall total pin-fall count of 1,839, placing them first in the championship;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Rob Henderson and McLaughlin Truck & Trailer bowling team on winning the 2002 Candlepin Bowling World Championship and we wish them the best of luck in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 4912

By: Mr. Brian Boudreau (Cape Breton The Lakes)

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

Whereas in 1902 Charles Layton established the Layton Lumber Yard in North Sydney and Sydney Mines where today you can still purchase your building supplies from this independent family-run business; and

Whereas on November 8, 2002, the Sydney Mines Heritage Society held an open house to celebrate the Laytons' 100 years of service to the community and their customers; and

Whereas operating a family business is a monumental commitment, the Layton family has for generations worked in their family business along with employees they have had for over 50 years ensuring the success of their company;

[Page 11987]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature acknowledge the commitment made by the Layton family to remain an independent family enterprise along with the contribution they have made to the North Sydney economy for a century.